Friday, January 11, 2013

Can't Have Too Many Bikes

I love to ride and I love my bikes. This is a convenient blending of affections that makes a bicycle lifestyle more acceptable and maybe even logical. OK . . . not logical.

Most of my comments have been about the Novara Safari I acquired in anticipation of touring. In a year and a half I have made significant changes and additions to make it more suitable for its purpose. The changes and additions have been chronicled here. What I haven’t talked about is the other bike. That bike, a 1986 Schwinn High Sierra, served as the platform which allowed me to appreciate the flat terrain and temperate climate of Florida and presented the reality of commuting by bike.

I acquire the High Sierra as a replacement for the Puch ten speed I totaled when a FedEx truck gave me the opportunity do a face plant on its side. Upon full recovery from assorted fractures, dislocations and abrasions and significant research, I purchased the Schwinn over the more popular (and, at the time, much pricier, Specialized Stumpjumper). It helped that Ned Overend (a great name for a mountain biker) was riding for Schwinn at the time and using stock High Sierras and Paramountains.

After too many years of inactivity I resurrected the Schwinn and slowly enabled its evolution from mountain bike to urban commuter. I took economic shortcuts initially to avoid seeming too frivolous, buying inexpensive street tires at Wal-Mart or from Performance and Nashbar. Even now the rear tire is a 26x1.5 Nashbar Streetwise. Both wheels have been replaced along with the rear derailleur, cassette, left crank (twice), and seat post and saddle. The middle chain ring needs to be replaced but the large and small are still original Biopace.

Cosmetically the bike shows its early heavy usage when I was younger and more inclined to take kamikaze plunges down unfamiliar single tracks, but the original graphite color paint still predominates. As a daily commuter it has the capability to out perform me. Its only shortcoming is a lack of fenders. The worn middle chain ring is a very minor inconvenience.

I added a Blackburn Crossrack soon after I bought the bike for convenience sake and it's as useful now as then. Secondhand handlebar extensions add some comfort for longer rides. My first venture into panniers was to buy a pair of Nashbar Euro Compact Panniers and they are adequate bags, though the integrated rain covers do nothing to keep things dry. Someday I may try their waterproof bags, but as anyone who has read previous entries knows I have an absolute belief in the value and functionality of Ortlieb bags.

One of the nicer additions to the High Sierra was my FrankenBrooks saddle. When one of the rails on the B-17 saddle I was using on the Safari broke it was replaced by my FNBS (friendly neighborhood bike shop), Bikes and More as part of the warranty. I’d broken in the decease saddle for many months and it fit like a Brooks saddle was supposed to fit. <sigh> Some weeks later Paul of Bikes and More called and offered me the resurrected B-17. He’d replaced the broken rail parts and reassembled the saddle using aircraft screws rather than rivets. For the cost of the replacement parts I could have the old saddle, sans warranty, of course. How nice it is to have a commuter bike with a perfectly broken in B17 saddle!

Eventually I hope to add fenders, replace the chain ring, and, maybe add Schwalbes. With the Burley hitch on the seat post and a few more upgrades it will be the perfect lifestyle companion, but the Nashbar bags are adequate for typical trips to the grocery store. Yes, the Safari will remain the long ride bike, but the Schwinn will never remain stationary very long.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Duh Moments and Brief Pettiness

With age comes the ability to add to life’s “duh moments”  and I have managed to create and collect an abundant supply. Rather than deny them it is helpful to reflect and review increasing the possibility of not repeating and replicating any. Some of my favorite and recent ones are listed below.

“What do they need your MOS (military occupation specialty) in Vietnam for?” That’s what the recruiter said when I inquired as a callow nineteen year old in October of 1965. By July of 1966 I knew well what the need was and what the likelihood was of returning. One bit of justice and perhaps a duh moment for the recruiter was his receipt of orders to Vietnam soon after I returned Stateside in July of ’67. How fortunate was he to get to be there in time for the Tet Offensive launched on January 30, 1968? Anyone curious about that time should read Nelson DeMille’s outstanding novel Up Country, a detective novel which touches dramatically on his experience with the 1st Cavalry Divison (Airmobile).

Why would I expect someone proud of never having to pay for unemployment to treat me differently from anyone else? “Duh” on me for thinking that her statement “Do what you need to do” was encouragement rather than a challenge.

OK . . . maybe I am being petty . . . Nah!

I had a duh moment while cycling today and that stirred thoughts about other moments when I should have known better or anticipated the result. The above have little to do directly with cycling, but the following comment about Messenger Mirror does. Thanks for bearing with my tangents.

I have used Messenger Mirror exclusively when riding my Touring bike and I do so because the little thing works. My single criticism was that it vibrated significantly on rough roads. Still, I observed, that did not prevent me from knowing something was behind me, only that I could not determine the make and model of what was following.

On my ride this summer I had less vibration, even on South Carolina’s sometimes corduroy-like roads, because the way I wore my helmet caused the metal arm to touch its underside. This contact point reduced the vibration significantly. Back home, where I frequently ride the Touring bike sans helmet in open defiance of common sense, the vibration returned. Apparently I was also wearing my helmet differently. I didn’t make the obvious connection until I was adjusting the Messenger Mirror’s positioning on my Opticnerve sunglasses. Now I have no criticism. Helmeted or not MM works just fine! Below is an image of my current use of this neat thing.

I also have failed to include enough comments about Aero Tech Designs, a maker of bicycle clothing and accessories. Located in Coraopolis, PA, their stuff is American made and fully competitive in price and quality with any brand of cycling gear. Before my summer tour I purchase three of their Tech Cargo Short - Padded for Bicycling, two in black and one in charcoal. The fit is fine. They are comfortable and utilitarian, allowing me to enter convenience stores without attracting stares and even to go into restaurants and look almost like other customers. The padding in the tight undergarment is more than adequate.

I also acquired a set of Aero Tech’s Stretch Fleece, Double Layer Knee, Leg Warmers because sometimes it actually gets cold in this part of Florida. Since many days start in the 40s then warm into the 60s and 70s, tights seemed like overkill. I prefer wearing shorts as often as possible and leg warmers looked like a viable option even if I choose to wear ordinary shorts when I am commuting or just going to the grocery store.

Standing six feet four inches I figured I needed to order XL Tall which have a non-stretch length of 32 ¾ inches. My inseam is a bit longer than that. After getting and using them I guess I could have managed with L Tall, but the length is not at all a negative as I like the way the length allows the warmers to fit. As far as cold functionality, they are ideal. I cannot imagine it getting cold enough here (20s, being the usual lowest temperatures and then only for a matter of a few days) to warrant wearing anything else. They fit well enough and tight enough to work under jeans without causing constriction and bunching.

Another of the products like Messenger Mirror that just do what they are supposed to do. Both Messenger Mirror and Aero Tech’s clothing are worth having and using.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Honor and Betrayal

I spent weeks contemplating my bike tour then more time preparing. Among the things that made preparation pleasant was the support of people who knew me personally and people with whom and for whom I worked. The general manager’s expressions of concern for my safety included good natured cautions that I was not permitted to die on the bumper of a pickup truck because I was expected to return and help continue the efforts to grow the business of my employer.

Over the years I developed an understanding of the business and the marketplace and became good at talking to customers and prospective customers. Returning to market the company’s products was appealing, but returning to typical daily responsibilities was satisfactory.

Now, after months of delays and excuses by the company, I am faced with appealing my denial of unemployment compensation because the general manager claims that I retired. After a half century of working entering retirement would be appealing except for the economic reality that I cannot afford to be without gainful employment. Perhaps I should have anticipated this because of the general manager’s boasts that the company had never had to pay for unemployment.

I accept people at face value and presume that my honorable efforts will not be confronted by deceit and deception. It’s just another lesson learned. We can define honor anyway we choose, but like right and wrong, honor has an intrinsic meaning. Some people have it and live it. Others do not and perhaps never will.