Sunday, August 30, 2020

Sub-24 hour overnight, Urban Edition (see also #swiftcampout)

Inspired by friends who seem to have no issues cranking off a bike overnight whenever the mood strikes them, and by the 2020 edition of the #swiftcampout going entirely solo/socially distant, I had always decided that Crohn's and arthritis would make things too complicated for a real camping trip anymore; my bathroom needs and the the risk of a bowel emergency out on the open road were simply more than I had the energy to deal with, especially in the Summer Of Covid -- when safe public restroom options would be far fewer.

But still feeling the pull and the desire to do even a short trip by bike, I decided a couple weeks ago to crank out my own sub-24 hour overnight. I hadn't done one of these in several years -- back when I was in MUCH better shape and still tracking my mileage every day. But I had the gear, I had decent legs, and I figured that if I could arrange to pitch my tent in my sister's yard, I'd get in what for me was a decent ride each way and a night alone under the stars, an "Urban Edition" tailored to meet my needs and let me exercise the wanderlust that still tugged at my heart. So, with Sweetie's encouragement and my sister's enthusiastic "YES!", I arranged it, and signed up for the remote Swift Campout. Since the Jewish High Holy Days would effectively prevent me from riding during the "official" dates, I told the nice folks at the Swift Campout registration page that I planned to do it earlier, and report here afterwards.

I left Saturday afternoon around 4, with the plan to meander on residential side streets and N-S alleys until I arrived at my sister's place in Parkrose Heights.My normal route there runs about ten or eleven miles. With traffic and a few stops along the way, I planned to take around two hours or so to get there.

Remembering how much I'd overpacked for my week-long campout back in 2004 (which I never finished), I decided to see how little I could get away with and still be comfortable this time.
I also gave myself permission to have a dinner of snacks out of my sister's kitchen, to save time and energy.

I set out with my bike loaded nicely, but not too heavy to carry down the front steps of the house. In my saddlebag went my very little tent, a change of clothes, a warm shirt for the evening, a little camp stove and fuel tablets and some reading material. In the front basket went my hiker-bike bag and a 3/4 ThermaRest pad, plus some snacks to grab easily along the way.

Riding with this light load was not difficult at all. I enjoyed meandering along tree-shaded residential streets, stopping here and there to take pictures of interestingness.

The weather was perfect, with highs in the upper 70s and overnights lows projected around 50F. I'd be comfortable but not freezing.

A few pictures along the way:
Above: Plateaued hills up to Alameda Ridge; and a subtle reminder of why every day is precious.
At left: A gorgeous sunflower, one of dozens blooming along the way.
Below: A porch in Roseway

Rose City golf course.

Below: I've had this little pocket map of Portland's Bikeways since 2014. It's slightly outdated but still useful, and I like its small size. Also, the few ways to cross I-205 and I-84 are still few and far afield, so I find it useful to glance at it and get an idea of how I want to go, depending on time of day and traffic flow.
Once I figure out how I'll I'll get over the freeway mess, I head south to Glisan, walk my bike a few blocks up the very sttep incline, get on and resume riding into mid-Multnomah County.
Fewer trees, smaller, plainer houses and a lot of browned, unmanicured grass.

Below: Also a few old, dead cars here and there.
When I get to where I want to cross over the freeway, I have few choices that won't be a little dicey, or that will take me somewhat out of my way.
I choose the short bridge Glisan that is fairly flat, knowing that I'll have to come all the way back north to get to Parkrose Heights. It will add probably 2 to 3 miles to my ride, but it's a nice evening and I'm in no bug rush.

Along the way, I see more signs of how Portland's homelessness has mushroomed in the past few years, with tents parked at every possible location and debris left over from various police sweeps. It saddens me to pieces, but I have no idea what to do about it other than try to elect officials with the political will to steer us away from the most brutal aspects of capitalism. Individually, we can try to get to know our neighbors and help each other in small ways, and work very hard to make sure we don't become homeless ourselves. It's a long, hard slog.
I make it to my sister's place after two-plus hours of meandering. There's still enough daylight left to enjoy putting my feet up on the back patio and set up my tent before it gets too dark.

I set up my tent on a soft bed of unmowed grass out of sight from the street. It's a tiny thing, a cheap kids' tent I got for five bucks
when I needed one foa three-day charity ride I did back in 2007. For once in my life, I can be thankful at NOT growing as tall as my sister and cousins; at 5' 7" (and shrinking!), I fit in the tent diagonally with room for my things on either side.
As the sky darkens, dinner is announced. I've messaged ahead of my arrival saying I didn't really need a full-on dinner; but my sister has made a delicious dinner of flank steak, baked potato and glazed carrots. How could I refuse? With a bottle of ginger beer to wash it down, I feel sated and, after a couple hours of lovely conversation (punctuated by tiny sips from my little flask of homemade citron vodka), I'm ready for bed.

Bed turns out to be less comfortable than I've hoped. Reading for awhile is nice with a small flashlight; and gives me some deep things to ponder as I prepare for the High Holy Days (which begin in less than a month!).
I toss and turn and sleep in big gulps of time, stirring awake to turn over. The pad is reasonably comfortable, but getting in and out of such a tiny tent (which I need to do twice, thanks to Mister Gut) is really hard on my aging, arthritic joints. I pause to stare at the stars overhead before ducking back down into the little tent. I understand why my Sweetie had given up on tent camping several years ago, and I wonder if it's time for me to consider more glamorous options going forward. I return to bed and sleep fairly well after that until almost 8:30.
After a quick breakfast of coffee and two pieces of last night's pie (which I've opted to save for breakfast), I pack up and ride home, taking a more direct route and stopping less often.
Left: Crossing back over I-205 at head west. Rocky Butte overlooks it all. I did not have the energy to include Rocky Butte in my trip this time, but hope to get in a day ride to the top before the weather turns too cold and wet.

Below: Tents crammed into a small area between the turnoff for 82nd Avenue and the onramp to I-205.

Boulders under the 82nd avenue overpass, placed here after homeless campers were swept out by police. The boulders were placed there to prevent people from returning.

Coffee break next to Rose City golf course, which was pretty busy in spite of the shutdown. Most of the golfers on the course were solo or in pairs, and very few were wearing masks.

At 57th and NE Sandy, I stop and look in all directions, enjoying views of a sweet little flatiron building and a glimpse of downtown.

In spite of all the challenges and problems, I love my city and hope we can make things better here.

Below: the reality of bike camping with Crohn's disease. Sometimes I have to go and so I ride up and down residential streets and look for a porta-potty. Thankfully, lots of people here can afford to remodel because there are several to be found. The trick is to find one that doesn't have a padlock on it. I luck out not too far from home.
In addition to a recently cleaned toilet, I also found leftover paint set out front, free for the taking. Knowing that I needed to re-paint a few bare spots at home before the rainy season, I found a reasonable shade of blue and a can of Killz. Mixing the white into the blue would give me a close enough shade to deal with the back side of the house, and hope that next summer we can afford to paint the whole thing.

I got home around 11:30, unpacked and put everything away, hung up my bike and stretched a little bit.
By the time that was done, I felt utterly wiped, and glad to be done.

Now, at 10pm, I'm showered, fed and ready to sleep. A good ride, and even with the limitations involved I had a great time. I'll do it again.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

keep it or let it go? (another singlespeed)

I bought a three-speed earlier this summer for fifteen bucks.
The hub and shifter worked, but the hub was laced into a rim that was literally corroding away, the rust falling off in big flakes as the metal disintegrated.

So I decided to save the frame and ditch the wheels in favor of turning it into something else.

And that's when a rusty-wheel three-speed became a coaster-brake singlespeed.

I swapped in a pair of 26"/559 wheels, including a rear wheel set up with a coaster brake.

A friend is giving me a front brake and lever for it.

At this point, there's still a slippy three-piece cottered crankarm that either needs a new cotter pin (I hope!), or a whole new spindle and everything.
If I can't fix this with a new cotter pin, I'll need to decide wheter it's worth investing in a whole new bottom bracket. Because cottered bottom brackets are hard to find in good shape.

It gets better.

Today I scored a FREE, large-sized front cargo rack from my local Buy Nothing network.
It's not fancy but it looks like it could handle a small bag of groceries.

And if I fix the bottom bracket problem and install this rack, I am not going to do the sensible thing and sell this.

I cannot resist singlespeeds.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

improving a bikle through increased simplicity: friction shifting

A bike came in with all original parts, including seriously corroded and stuck index shiufters that could not be brought back with all the lube in the world.

So what to do?


Apply pure friction shifters. Sure, they're cheaper than almost anything, but they're mostly metal, plenty durable, and VOILA! You'll never have parts compatibility issues again.

Result: One really easy-to-shift bike that's a hoot to ride.

(Friction thumb shifters can be found through most bike shops for less than $20 a pair.)

They're easy to mount and hook up to your existing derailleurs -- and in some cases you can even re-use the original cables if they're not old and/or rusty.

A little drop of oil dribbled into the friction points of each shifter, and another added to the cable head before pulling inside the recess of the shifter lever, will help everything run smoothly.

Pro tip: I like to add a wrap of cloth handlebar tape under each shifter clamp to give it better purchase on the handlebar. (And if you work on your own bike, keep a roll or two of cloth handlebar tape handy for this and other quick fixes.)

Have fun and happy riding.

Monday, August 10, 2020

part of the normal we're never going back to

These wheels showed up for sale online today.
They are everything that is stupid about the bicycle industry, wrapped up in one photo.

And they are, for me and so many others, a part of the old normal that most of us will not return to as bicycle riders.

COVID is a dress rehearsal for so many other situations we are only seeing the first real stirrings of here in the United States: global warming, climate migrations, scarcity of resources, and general real-life safety wherever we find ourselves.

I don't believe I'll be around for the end of the Anthropocene Age, but I'm here for those first stirrings -- of nervousness, of anger and fear, or late-stage capitalism, of nations and their nationalism raging against the dying of the light.

I raced some ten years ago. I had fun. No one saw anything like this coming. We thought we would live forever, or at least for a really long time. I rode like I was twenty years younger, and had the time of my life.

But racing on a large scale is part of the old normal, and a whole lot of amateur racers won't be coming back after the pandemic ends. Because they won't be able to. Either they'll be disabled or killed by the virus; or they will have to scrabble for some kind of livelihood in a future where bike racing's importance is greatly, and perhaps permanently, diminished.

These wheels were stupid-light before the world caught on fire; today they're even stupider and therefore horribly sad. Think of the time and energy and resources that went into making these aircraft-grade wheels, wheels so light that one crash or bump would render them no longer raceworthy. Thousands of dollars for a wheelset that will be retired after one or two races.

Today, I and so many of my bikey friends have turned to "gravel" bikes; or, if we don't have that kind of scratch, an older mountain bike. My bike takes 26" wheels, holds a big bag in the rear and basket up front, and weighs close to 35 pounds including the lock. My wheels run 36 spokes front and rear. And they'll last a lot longer than these silly, spindly things.

So when you consider your bicycle future, consider all the stupid-light cool stuff that we have as a result of racing's trickle-down reflects a normal that isn't coming back for most of us.
And let's just ride the bikes we have and make them strong, sturdy and ready for anything.
Keep it real out there, friends. And keep riding.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Randi Jo Bartender plus, and an iced mocha recipe

I've seen these on handlebars all over town and even tried working with a cheap factory-made version that didn't work out. Finally, Finding myself with a little discretionary income and wanting to try the real deal, I sprang for a limited-edition version offered by the Tarik Saleh Bike Club, and made by Randi Jo Fabrications.

It arrived yesterday, and I mounted it right up using the straps provided.

It fit right into the corner created by my handlebar and basket, and the straps could be pulled tight enough to keep it from wobbling.
It does make my bike look a little over-accessorized, but since my rides are mostly urban and utilitarian, that seems a very small quibble. Mostly it puts my coffee in a perfect place without me having to mount another bottle cage. And my cockpit is long enough that even when pedaling it's not in the way at all.

Th\is cool little number came with a Tarik Saleh Bike Club patch sewn on the pocket and cost me $55. It was a limited run and Tarik is out of them. But you can always get a patchless version directly from the maker, Randi Jo Fabrications. She calls it the Bartender Plus and it has all the same features as mine except the TSBC patch.

I carried a tall Klean Kanteen insulated bottle with a sip-top in mine today, filled with my own iced mocha recipe. It's delicious, and far cheaper to make at home than to buy from Starbucks:

In an insulated mug, combine
-- five frozen coffee cubes (make them in your tray at home, and use coffee -- not water -- so your drink won't lose flavor as the ice cubes melt)
-- equal parts leftover coffee and water
-- one big scoop of your favorite chocolate ice cream (here, it's Umpqua ice cream, best in the world)
Screw on a secure cap and shake vigorously until the ice cream has mostly been absorbed into the mix.
Replace with a sip-=top and enjoy while you ride.
Hope your rides are all safe and fun!

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Stompy, version 4.0? Maybe.

I cannot believe I did this, but I think I built myself another singlespeed.

This may or may not have been the original plan -- I can't deny that I've missed having a singlespeed mountain bike -- but there was also the strong possibility that when this was finished I'd sell it. The bike was a donor frame with seriously crappy parts and no wheels; I stripped all the the parts except the handlebar, stem and canti brakes, cleaned the frame and found it to be straight, and decided to make it a singlespeed.

It turned out fine. The brakes are pretty lackluster and I may swap in some cheap V-brakes for better stopping power. But swinging a leg over it instantly brought back all the glorious reasons I loved singlespeed to begin with. So now I'm torn.

Do I sell it?
Or do I keep it as a knockabout bike, for the days I don't want to feel so encumbered?

UPDATE: After a few days of pondering, I realized I wouldn't be able to enjoy it the way I wanted to. My knees have gotten too creaky for singlespeed. So I sold it to a younger and stronger paiur of knees. Unless someone askls me to build one for them, I've probably set up my last singlespeed.