Thursday, October 17, 2013

a bike on every continent

Years ago when I worked at Citybikes, Monica Huggett was a regular, if infrequent, visitor to the shop. She was a friend of the shop's founder, and a Baroque musician and conductor who traveled the globe giving concerts. As director of the Portland Baroque Orchestra, she spent about half the year in Portland. She arranged for Citybikes to store and maintain a lovely old city bike for her use, and she paid the shop for the year-round storage space. It was a beautiful old Bottechia mixte and she rode it for several years. She told us that she tried to keep at least one bike in every country she visited regularly, but because the United States was so large she had to keep one on each coast.

Fast-forward to here and now. I have just been invited to return to Kansas for a repeat of the work I did for them last summer, meaning another three weeks of riding back and forth between the synagogue and wherever the homestay will be. Last year a congregant kindly loaned me a bicycle for the three weeks. It worked fine; I gave it a little tune-up as my way of saying thanks and it served the purpose. But the bike was too small for me, even with the taller seatpost I'd swapped in; and I returned home to a month-plus of knee tweaks from riding a bike that I was too tall to ride in the first place.

Since that first trip to Kansas, I've been back two more times, and each time there was the prospect of having a bicycle to borrow for my visit.

Now that I know I will be returning, I have decided to try and see if there's a way to bring a bicycle with me for the three-plus weeks I'll be there. I had obtained this bike from my employer. It had been abandoned against the side of the building, and had a bent frame. I was invited to take the bike away and try and repair it (or to strip the useable parts and donate them somewhere).

I took the bike home in early September. I was able to re-align the frame to where it was at least reasonably straight (if not perfectly so) and safe to ride.

During test-riding I realized the frame was a good fit for me. I measured it -- 18", which is the exact size of mountain bike frame I want for city riding! When I was invited last week to return to Kansas next summer, I knew I had a bike I could take with me that would fit.

So this week, I went ahead and retro-fitted the bike to make it more comfortable for me.

I removed the original handlebars and shifters, and swapped in swept-back bars and friction thumb shifters (which would make accurate shifting easier on a bike whose frame had been bent and was never going to be perfectly aligned again). I also swapped in some flat pedals and trued up the wheels a bit. If this bike had been brought to a shop, they would've turned it down because of the liability involved in straightening a bent frame (ther ear triangle and derailleur hanger had both been bent out of whack). But at home I managed to get it back to where I could get good shifts and it rode safely again.

 In addition to the Misfit Psycles Riser bar (no longer available, if you're adding a sweeper bar try the Wald 8095 for similar size and shape) and Suntour friction thumbies, I decided to add a whole lot of reflective tape to the frame. When I rode home at night in Kansas the streetlighting was sometimes good and sometimes non-existent and I know I will want to be visible there! I ran out, but plan to get a little more to add to the rear seat says and the crank arms. Reflective tape is cheap and it definitely helps me to be seen.

When it rains in Kansas in June, I've been made to understand that I don't want to be out in it because the rain is heavy and often accompanied by lightning. That said, It might not be a bad idea to rig up a cheap rear fender anyway, in case I get caught in a shower.

At left: The original version of the rim now known as the ZAC-19. A perfectly awesome rim for an affordable price. I have a wheelset built on the ZACs on my cargo bike and they're great.

I rode the bike into town today for an appointment and it seems fine. It still needs a little more love, including an overhaul or the bottom bracket and headset, and a good drive-train cleaning; but otherwise it's a perfectly fine transportational bike. And it fits me, which means that if I can take with me to Kansas next summer my knees won't hurt this time.

Now all I need to do is see if it will be okay for me to store a bike there in the longer-term (it seems sort of safe to consider the question since they keep inviting me back, but I want to tread lightly here), and if it is I will need to figure out the best way to ship it. Amtrak has package express for something like $60 bucks one way, but that would require someone to drive into downtown KC to pick up the bike. Another option is to have it shipped FedEx directly to the synagogue (being sure to enclose a few tools for reassembly), but that will cost a lot more. I have time to research it.

I doubt I will ever be famous enough to need a bike in every city, but the prospect of having one in Kansas makes me smile.

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