Friday, December 31, 2021

Fighting like hell to get in one more ride in 2021

It got up to 36F by 10am today, and the sun came out, and the sky was beautiful and winter swirly.

So, against my knees’ protestations, I pulled down the singlespeed, pumped up the tires, and took a little ride around the neighborhood.

I didn’t go very far, because even bundled up I was shocked by the cold. But I made it several blocks down Dekum and took a little loop through the park before turning around and going home.

It felt like a very tiny  hours later, my knees still hurt. I’ll have to slather them with CBD balm tonight at bedtime. And I don’t care. It felt good to get outside anyway. And when the weather warms back up into the 40s next week, I just might have to do it again.

Happy new year.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

I’m trying to believe in spring

 It has been a little over two months since I rode my bicycle. 

This is not so much a confession as it is an observation.

I admit that Covid — the last twenty months, the whole mess of the lockdown and the resulting isolation, and the forced immobility brought on by health issues and aging — has taken a HUGE toll on me physically, mentally and spiritually.

I’m not sure what it will take for me to get back on my bicycle, even for short jaunts around the neighborhood. (To be clear, while I used to love riding in sub-freezing weather, that was longer ago than I’ve given it, or myself, credit for; and I no longer see the sense in riding when it’s below freezing outside. Neither do my knees.)

I assume that warmer weather will help. 

I hope that the return of longer days will help. 

I miss who I was when I rode every day. Some of that will never return. I’m older and slower and much creakier now, and lately I am also dealing with occasional moments of vertigo that have made bike riding, well, scarier. 

There was a time when I believed I would never slow down, when I thought my energy would remain high and my legs remain steel-like.  This much be what aging feels like for those of us who seem “eternally young” to those around them. And in some ways, I remain youthful and wacky and fun-loving. In other ways, my body is sending me messages (often preceded by the words, “hey, sucker!”) that in fact I am getting older, it’s been sending me those messages for over a decade and I’ve only paid attention when I was forced to.

So tonight, after weeks of looking at photos from my bike-riding friends of their recent adventures, I went into the entryway and looked at the bike I last rode, my lovely singlespeed, and the remaining ephemera of two decades working in the belly of the bicycle industry.  

The truth is that I WANT to return to riding. 

The truth is that I WANT to ride again without feeling nervous or shaky or creaky. 

The truth is that I am sad about the slowness of this time I find myself in, and I desperately hope I will be able to ride again when things warm up and lighten up. 

So for now, I dream of spring.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

My last entry for the time being.

 I haven't given much time to this blog. I also haven't given much time to bicycles or to cycling.
The truth is that Covid changed a lot of things for me, including my relationship to bicycles and to riding. The shutdown made it impossible for me to enjoy riding because there was no one to ride with for a very long time, and because there wasn't really anywhere to go.

Now that things are opening back up, the fact is that I am tired, fatigued -- from both the length of the shutdown and from the lack of physical activity that it brought into my life. With no work and nowhere to go, my wanderlust has pretty much fizzled out. I no longer have any meaningful reason to ride my bicycle when it's frankly easier to walk or take the bus.

I take naps now, almost every day. How much of that is aging, how much is depression and how much is the lingering effects of the shutdown I cannot know, and in the end it doesn't change my fatigue. Over the last twenty months I have been hard pressed to find work I can do without running to the bathroom hourly or without needing to sit down after an hour or two on my feet. I'll grant that a lot of this has been the change in my daily routines, brought about by Covid and by a lack of work that I can do. But at least some of it is simply that I don't have the physical energy I once did. I'm seeing doctors about various things and trying to understand what's going on. So far all that anyone can tell me is that the aging process can be amplified by autoimmune disease; and that perhaps some more tests are in order to rule out anything extreme.

And I guess I'm done with this blog. Bicycles stopped being my profession nine years ago, and in the last two years they've ceased to be much of a hobby as well. So I have nothing new to report on the state of the bicycle industry (except that I think it's kind of gone to hell, with its increased racing trickle-down of parts that ordinary people don't need and can't really afford), and little to report on the state of my bicycle riding, at least for now.

It's been fun. I've loved bicycles and bicycling for a long time. If I love it less now, it's only because it hurts my knees ad there's no meaningful relief I can afford on the horizon. So Thanks for reading, and thanks for your comments. I'll leave the blog up for awhile so people can still read the articles; and I'll decide what to do with it in the longer run later on.
I hope I can enjoy riding again by getting some help with my knees, my gut and my head. But if I can't, I won't feel sorry. I've lvoed bicycles since I was very little and have ridden them my whole life. If at some point my body says to walk instead, I'm okay with that. For now, I'll wait and see.

Happy riding.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

My god, people are positively freaking out.

My neighbor, who was out of town at the time, got angry that I hadn't informed him immediately of my diganosis. He doesn't want to breathe my air -- from inside my house, through the screen, over the fence and into his house through the screen, where he or his wife could get sick, because he can't risk breathing my air even though it's coming from at least thirty feet away.

He outed me by name and address to at least two of our neighbors, which crossed a line. So far I don't think he's sorry for it. So right now we're not speaking.

Meanwhile, friends a few miles away are double-masking inside their house and not going anywhere beyond their yard. Are the vaccinated? I think so. I hope so. I don't honestly know. At least one of them filters health care through a very heavy lens of surviving childhood abuse and a great mistrust of western medicine, so who even knows where their head is at right now.

My doc followed up with a check-in by phone today, and glad to hear I was free of symptoms and feeling much better. I asked several questions, including:
-- Can I travel? Yes. Wear a mask anywhere they require you to. If you're distanced outside you don't need it but otherwise wear a mask.
-- Will I get Covid again? Not anytime soon. I'm good for at least a year, maybe longer. Don't rush out and get a booster right now or anything. Just be sensible, wash your hands and avoid massive crowds -- you're not passing anything, but it's just a good idea to avoid crowds for now.

I finally got my doc to admit that they only know what the CDC tells them, and frankly, we haven't had Delta around long enough for the CDC to know much yet.

What I DO know is that the fall and winter are going to be a massive cluster of mask and vaccine battles and I may well struggle to earn a living if we have to live with Covid another year or two because people can't get their shit together and reclaim the social compact.

I guess that after Sunday I can go bike riding again, though it will be short and local riding and nothing ambitious. Sadly, it will also be solitary; I don't want to wear a mask if I don't have to, so I'll ride alone.

And I'll start in on the Diamondback frame, which is going to be a nice bike when it's built up.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Aaaaand that's my summer of riding. Done. Kaput.

I'd been doing reasonably well. I rode when I could, when I felt like it; I rode when the heat waves didn't threaten to kill me with sunstroke. Not a lot, but enough to still feel like a bicycle rider.
I even got to participate in Shawn Granton's cool little Rambleneuring adventure, complete with a tiny little control booklet I had to fill out with notes and drawings (drawings!) of my bicycle at various stops.

I sent my booklet back in time and finished, which was nice.

And then, the gigs came, outdoor gigs at pubs and an indoor gig (carefully masked and distanced) at a synagogue, and it began to feel like things might have turned a corner.
But just as I'd begun finding my new groove, after months of not gigging, and not bicycling much, I got sick. Fever, chills, sweats, a cough that wouldn't leave for a whole day and night, and a very sore throat. That was followed by sneezing and a runny nose, which made me think it was allergies. Just to be sure, I called my doctor, and she immediately asked me to come in for a Covid test.

I went downtown today, feeling the best I'd felt since Monday evening, and let them swab the inside of my nostrils. After twenty minutes, the result came back: I had tested positive for Covid-19, most likely the shiny new Delta variant. OUCH.

Just like that, all the gains fell away. No gigs for a couple of weeks. No more visits to the day camp I'd been doing music for on the eastside. Between all of those, a significant chunk of lost income, which meant I'd have to go back hat in hand and beg the State for more Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
The doctor assured me that, assuming everything clears up while I self-quarantine at home for 14 days, I should be able to resume my normal activities (masked indoors, of course).

And she reminded me that, thanks to my joining Club Mod[erna], my experince with Covid wouldn't be deadly or even life-threatening. That remains something to be thankful for.

I contacted everyone I'd hung out with since July 30th ("Hi. I've got Covid. Get tested. Oh, and Shabbat Shalom." Ugh). And then I lined up a sub for at least one of my pub shows so the owners wouldn't lose too much money (live music IS a draw, and never let anyone tell you it isn't).

And now, what might have been some extra time outside riding bikes -- at least between heat waves, and another is coming next week -- will instead be spent in the house, practicing for High Holy Days (which I should still be able to do when my symptoms end) and cleaning up stuff.
I'll also think long and hard about downsizing my bicycle world a bit further now that Mister I'm-No-Pro-But-I'll-Fix-Your-Bikes-For-Free has taken virtually all of my neighborhood business away. What's left? It's hard not to feel a little morose when both avenues of one's livelihood have been knocked down and all that's left is begging or petty larceny.

So it's not all bad. I'm taking delivery on the frame that my be my final bicycle. I just scored an early 80's vintage DiamondBack frameset, Champion tubing and lovely lugs, original patina and a sexy, sexy fork crown. It's got the same long, loopy geometry as my old Peugeot did, but in a 17-inch size. If I love the result I may well sell my Rivendell, because honestly I just don't need that much bike anymore and I'm kind of burned out on the hype anyway. (Rivendell mostly lost me when all their frames became dedicated to 650b and they stopped supporting 26"/559.)

Here's some sneak peeks.

This is going to be fun to build up. And I'll probably start in on it as soon as it arrives, since I can't go anywhere and I can't ride (if I need a bathroom I can't stop anywhere except my house, so that is pretty much that for summer riding of any length beyond the end of my block).
Stay tuned. I could end up having the bike I'd always wanted and should never have sold, but in my size this time.

Go have a nice bike ride on my behalf. And wear a mask. And get a vaccine if you haven't already. Because if I hadn't gotten the vaccine, this blog post could have had a very different and very sad ending.
Happy riding.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

When downsizing works: Burley Travoy in action

 On Friday, I towed my guitar to the Eastside Jewish Commons to teach music for a local day camp.
THIS was the purpose for which I'd sold my kiddie trailer and acquired a used Burley Travoy.
It worked like a dream.

Tying the guitar down was easy, using the gaps between the plastic backing and the aluminum frame to weave a couple of John's Irish straps (available from Rivendell Bicycle Works) and a really long strap left over from my Surly Big Dummy.

Next weekend, I have two gigs that will require me to bring the guitar, a mic stand, a vocal mic and a small amp with all the cords. I will probably just toss the mic and cords in my saddlebag, put the mini-amp up front in the basket and tow the guitar as shown here. I'll try and get photos to let you know how it all works out.

Happy riding!

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Transitions and changes: the value of labor, the value of bicycles

It's been awhile since I've had anything meaningful to offer here.

I have not had a lot of motivation to do anything bike-related this summer, including both riding and repairing bikes. I have a small number of bikes that I've bought in order to fix up and flip, but lately the parts have been harder to come by and I am running out of free time to throw into them; because music venues are opening up and I have to try and make a living.

Meanwhile, a new twist has just been thrown into my micro-local bikeiverse: a fellow who moved into the neighborhood this summer has just hung a shingle, advertising that he's available to repair bicycles for free. He says he's an "experienced amateur," which could mean anything; and you still have to buy parts (which he apparently doesn't have a lot of on hand). But maybe it's a sign that it is time to scale down my bike activities and perhaps my stock of bikes, parts and tools.

High Holy Days are early this year; Rosh Hashanah falls on Labor Day. Plus I need to pour more energy into hustling for gigs, since that IS my day job.

Yes, I'm still depressed. No, I'm not planning to end my life. Yes, I know that even with the limits of Medicaid and age I still have it way better than about two thirds of the world.

I may let this blog go at some point, because I don't really have a lot to offer about bicycles anymore. We live in a different world now, and my relationship with bicycles is changing rapidly. I no longer believe they'll help us save the world, because there are too many powerful and wealthy interests lined up to keep that from happening. But on a cool summer evening, a bicycle is still lovely thing to ride around the neighborhood, to hear crickets and say hi to neighbors, and that's something.

Happy riding.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

In the Brain Trust: minor adjustments required

I got this Burley Travoy last year and I really like it.
Only problem is, the trailer hitch won't work on my seatpost. But fear not! Burley has thoughtfully provided an adapter so the hitch can be mounted on top of a full-size rear rack.
And that has definitely made it possible for me to use and enjoy the trailer.






The only issue is that, when mounted according to the (easy-to-follow) instructions, the hitch sits very low -- TOO low -- on smaller bikes, meaning there is a less-than-optimal engagement between the hitch and the trailer arm.

So after looking at the thing for awhile, I hit upon the idea of making a riser block from some scrap wood, and inserting it just above the rack and below the top half of the adapter.

I cut a section from a large piece of scrap plywood of roughly the right thickness, sanded it, and applied primer and paint.

When it was dried, I then used the top of the adapter as a template and drilled holes for longer bolts to go through.

Then, I reassembled the adapter on the rack, with the riser block where I wanted it.
The plywood was cheap and old, and still broke off a little bit after all the filling and gluing and painting. So I wrapped that end with gaffer tape, poked holes, and proceeded.

It definitely improves the angle of entry for the trailer arm, though it's still not quite optimal.

But it's much better than it was, and hopefully will lessen the strain on the nylon piece that feeds into the hitch. I'll live with it for awhile and see what happens.

If I think it's still not working well, I swap in a nicer, taller block of hardwood to further improve the hookup.

Today, I take a load of drums up to WestCraft Drums for refurbishing anmd see how the trailer handles the load. It's the last nice day for riding before we get hit with a few 90-degree days.

Happy riding!

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Out of breath and out of shape

A entire winter off the bike (from those eye surgeries), combined with Seasonal Affective Disorder, IBS and Eating My Feelings has led to where I am now.
I am trying gamely to ride my bike every day. Once I've gotten going it'sa pleasant and enjoyable, though horribly slow. But the first half-mile is awful. My knees hurt, I am out of breath and out of shape, and I resent myself for all the ways in which I've let myself go.

This narrative alternates with the one where I feel lousy and underslept (almost every day), where I still can't eat a balanced diet because of my autoimmune issues, and where some days I get so depressed and/or fatigued that it is all I can do to get dressed and leave the house.

Somewhere in the middle is a more accurate combination of all the whys and hows that got me to this point.

Still, the days are longer now, the longest they'll be all year very soon, and the weather is warming up. As more people get vaccinated, masks are coming off. We had a lovely visit in the yard today with my Mother-In-Love (who was finally able to fly up and see us and HUG us after 15 months) and a dear local friend whose husband died in January. Masks off, hugs, smiles and stories.

Last night we went out for dinner to a favorite restaurant whose seating indoors and out was so spacious that no one wore masks once they were seated. And it felt, well, normal again.

Sweetie and I are going to visit her mom next month, one of several visits to help her clear out the pile of detritus left over from Roger's death (and lifelong penchant for saving everything). If possible, I may play a gig while I'm there; or just take my guitar into town and busk a few hours each day.

It has been very challenging to come up with new material, to write new songs, without self-censoring every five minutes. But I'm hacking away a little at a time and hopeful that eventually the creative juices will flow again.

COVID has done a serious number on me, on my life and livelihood and well-being. I wonder if I will gain back everything, or even most of, what strength and flexibility and endurance I've lost.

Tomorrow, I'll go for a ride and try to get myself back a little bit more again.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

I tried to have faith, but it made me nervous: update on Nitto saddlebag Q/R

Some months ago I invested in a Nitto saddlebag quick-release unit for my All-Rounder. My hope was that it would make it easier for me to deal with wanting to tow my Burley Travoy and have a Carradice Saddlebag on my bike. But having to mount the bracket on the saddle springs made me too nervous to keep it there for too long; and the fact remained that I still had to remove my saddlebag in order to tow the trailer.

I wanted both.

So today, I removed the Nitto bag support-mini rack from underneath, and removed the Q/R unit from the saddle springs. Then I installed an older, very nice Blackburn touring rack that sat very close to the top of the rear fender, meaning that I now had all kinds of room for the trailer's tow bar.

I then used the adapter to install the trailer hitch directly onto the rear rack, which positioned it lower and further rearward. The end result is that now I have both, at the same time; I can tow my Travoy without having to remove my saddlebag.

It still isn't perfect; I have to lift the back of the bike a little bit to wiggle the trailer into the hitch. The trailer's tow arm attachment is nylon, and the hitch is metal, so at some point the nylon part may wear out or break from heavy use; but I actually don't use the trailer that often. Also, the trailer sits almost a foot farther away (rearward) from the bike than it used to. That doesn't seem to be as big an issue, since the narrow Travoy tracks so well behind the bike.

All I have to do now is secure the adapter so it doesn't get stolen. Probably the way to do that for now is to put a little blue locktite on the threads of the bolts, and then stuff the allen key holes with tinfoil.
I think this will work for quite awhile. 

Brooks Flyer springs, with Nitto Q/R saddlebag bracket removed.

I suppose the springs are stout enough to have handled the stress, but I didn't really feel comfortable testing how much stress over a period of time, especially considering the cost of the saddle and wheter or not I'd be able to get replacement parts when I needed them.

With the Q/R bracket gone, I could once again run the bag's straps through the saddle loops.

Above: The adapter allowing the hitch to sit on top of the rear rack. This requires a full-size rear rack for the hitch to clear the saddlebag it's there to support.
Because I insist on using a Camper LongFlap  (the largest saddlebag in the Carradice line) with a 53cm frame, I need the support from a rack underneath.
The repositioned trailer hitch sits behind the saddlebag with enough room to open the bag while the trailer is attached.

The end result is not bad at all.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Today in the Brain Trust: Bike hacks

I love making bike hacks, for my bike and others' bikes.

Today, It was both.

1. Before handing off my Bridgestone to a new human this evening, I replaced the thumb shifters with pure friction shifters that would be reliable and smooth. But one of the plastic ferrules at the end of the cable housing broke into pieces, and I did not have a replacement on hand.
So I made one out of a Presta valve cap by carefully poking a small hole in the top, ran the cable through that hole and then through the housing and down to the derailleur. The cable tension holds it in place and causes no hangups when shifting, making it a suitable replacement for 4mm shift housing.

2. The primary flap straps on my Carradice Camper LF bag have been showing wear for awhile -- the bag is over 15 years old -- and so today I replaced one that was about to give way. I used an orphan leather strap left over from another saddlebag, cutting it down and making pinholes for the needle to pull through. I used waxed dental floss to sew it on. It worked well.
They don't match, but whatever.

Even as we prepare to open up more this summer, and I prepare to (hopefully) play out more, I'll be working on bikes all summer. So I am still here to take old, dead bikes and make them work again, to answer your bicycle questions, and to tune up your bike if needed.

Happy riding!

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

70 degrees? At the end of March?

Yes. Today, Portland's high was 70F.

So of course I made it a point to ride somewhere.

This has been hard during the shutdown. Usually when I ride I have somewhere to go, and ideally somewhere to hang out a little while. The absence of places to hang out -- to eat, to read and write, to use the restroom (and don't even get me started on that last one!) -- has made it hard to find reasons to ride.

Thankfully, I had places to go today.

The Post Office

The Credit Union (bonus points for their Bike-Thru window -- I LOVE this town!)

And lunch at Mio Sushi. Since today was also really sunny, I tried out my new sunglasses.
Sunglasses. What a marvel. I'd never had the luxury of regular sunglasses until now; in the past I had to find clip-ons that would fit whatever prescription frames I had at the time. (There were the two seasons I raced with Velo Bella and enjoyed a massive discount on prescription sunglasses, but when I needed a new prescription they became useless.)

So on went the cheapo sunglasses I got on closeout from the Blue Devils Drum Corps online shop -- at five bucks they were a bargain I couldn't pass up. Even if they are too big for my face.

I'll probably just live with them for now. They work fine.

I rode around the bend along Willamette until I found a bar on Greeley that wasn't open yet, and I sat down and enjoyed my lunch there.

After that, I meandered up and down cross streets to enjoy the warmth and see what's blooming in Piedmont Neighborhood.

I took the scenic loop along Willamette until I could turn towards Woodlawn and home.
On the way, I admired some street art, courtesy of PBOT (Portland Bureau Of Transportation) and the neighborhood, respectively.

Tomorrow marks the start of #30daysofbiking and I'm signed up to participate and share ride reports. I'll post most of them in short form with photos at the Joyful Riders Worldwide FB group. If there's anything really special I'll also put up a longer ride report here.

Tomorrow it's supposed to cool down again, with highs near 60F, but I think I can handle it.

I just needed to kick myself in the rear and go outside.
Happy riding.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Rebooting: A ride a day

Today, I had to take a very large package to the FedEx depot, roughly a mile from home.
The day had started out very cold, with temps in the mid-30s. By 2pm, the sun had broken through the clouds and temps had warmed up to around 50. So I pulled on a vest and strapped the package into the flap of my very old Chrome Citizen messenger bag. It's the oldest Chrome bag I own; I bought it used about thirteen years ago, when it had been in much nicer condition. I used the bag to haul music gear, books, groceries and all sorts of things for years, until it became clear that my shoulder needed a break. I switched to a backpack and reserved the shoulder bag for heavy loads by car.

But today it was the perfect bag for this load.

The ride was slow. Pedaling up the first large hill was still hard -- and I suspect it will be for awhile, even as I try to ride a little each day now -- but after that things got easier and more pleasant. The bag held the long, heavy parcel perfectly. After I dropped it off, I got a snack and rode to 13th and Holman "pocket" Park to eat it.

The air was still brisk but it was nice to sit in the sun.
When I got up to go home, I enjoyed the rush of clouds across the blue sky, and the bright colors of daffodils and crocuses against the green grass. And I was glad I'd ridden.

Monday, March 29, 2021

The truth about me and bikes this Spring

It's been a very cold, long winter. The sunny days are slowly increasing, but the overnight lows this week are still in the 30s.
I have not taken good care of myself over the winter. I've gained weight, probably at least ten to fifteen pounds. Having nowhere to ride TO, it's been hard to motivate myself to just go out and ride around and then come home on the cold days in January; and before that I couldn't see well enough to ride much at all.
My skin is pale, perimenopausal-zitty; the bags below my eyes have grown into steamer trunks.

I have hardly been a nutritional role model, I'll admit it. Too many carbs and not enough vegetables.
And my knees have been hurting from the cold and arthritis and maybe from inactivity and who knows, honestly?

But today, the sun came out. So I went out for a short ride. I had something to drop off at FedEx and the sun was out and I figured I could stop by Upcycles and pick up a few inner tubes and make the whole thing a nice little loop.

So in a fit of optimism, I pulled on a flannel shirt over a t-shirt and pants, pulled down the singlespeed and headed out.

It never warmed up all that much. In fact, the warmest part of the day was probably at the start of my ride, and as I kept riding it kept getting colder. So I pedaled harder, at least until my right knee howled again. I warmed up a little this way, and it felt good enough that I extended my loop by adding some back-and-forths on the East-West streets. But it was still cold, and my knees hurt. So I went home.

But on the way, I stopped to notice beauty in the big, swirly-clouded skies and the deep purple flowers that dressed up a fire hydrant, and to admire a couple of ducks -- geese? -- in a neighbor's yard. And even though I'm slow, and heavier than I've ever been, and so tired I can't sleep normally anymore, and even though the world is still pretty damn sideways, I'm glad I went for that little ride.

If it's not raining, I just might do it again tomorrow.
Happy riding.