Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Rough Ride

I had known the remote mountain road would be battered after the winter. But I did not predict it being this stunningly bad. It was not a matter washboards or potholes. The whole thing was a pothole. More of a ravine than a road. More of a riverbed. As I plummeted, bouncingly, down the mountainside, mud and water sprayed everywhere. Stones slingshot from under my tyres in all directions.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Basket Case: How Do You Secure Your Wicker?

It's a sure sign that spring is on its way and the new bike-buying season has begun, when people start to email me about baskets! Specifically, over the past weeks I've had a few questions about the best method to attach a basket to an upright transport bicycle: Does the basket require a front rack? Some other form of support? Or are the buckle straps that often come with baskets sufficient to hold them up?

And as is often the case, my answer is: 'It depends!' Because really, so much in cycling is context-specific. Speaking broadly, a bicycle will always handle better when a front load is tightly secured and well-supported. And the more performance-oriented a bicycle is, the more important this becomes. So, for instance, on a touring bike on which you ride many miles over mountain passes, do quick winding descents on, lean into corners at speed, etc., absolutely: a front rack is ideal. But is it necessary for the bicycle you will be riding <5 miles to work and back? Allow me to make the bold suggestion, that probably not!

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Cyclist Rest

Here is a local tidbit to brighten your Monday! Every time I post a picture of this pub on social media, it is greeted with such enthusiasm and so many questions, that after passing it again yesterday I vowed to finally write about it here.

The Cyclist Rest is a pub in the village of Fahan, Donegal. Now, some people have tried to find its address and then emailed me when this proved impossible, so allow me to explain: In much of rural Donegal there are no street addresses as such. No postal codes, no house numbers, often the roads don't even have names. So, say you wanted to mail something to the pub? Its official postal address would be simply 'The Cyclist Rest, Fahan, Co. Donegal, Ireland.' And if you wanted to find it physically, you'd need descriptive directions. Luckily, in this case it is pretty easy: From the start of the Inishowen Peninsula at Bridge End, head along the main road toward Buncrana (R238). After about 5 miles, coastal scenery will open up on your left. The pub will be across the road on the right.

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Reluctant Roadbike Commuter

When I moved to rural Ireland, lots of people said (or wrote) to me some equivalent of: Aha! There’s no way you will continue commuting on an upright step-through bike. Those distances, those hills, those wind speeds? A roadbike will be more efficient and faster.

And they weren’t wrong about those factors posing a challenge for plain-clothed transport cycling, as I had hitherto known it. However, I resisted the switch. Not out of principle. But because for transport, I genuinely feel more comfortable, more relaxed, more at ease, on an upright step-through bicycle - pedaling at moderate speeds, wearing my street clothes and shoes, arriving at my destination refreshed but not bedraggled.

And so, despite the challenges of my new environment, I never changed my ways. And three and a half years later I still mostly commute on upright step-throughs. There are, however, times when even I must concede this is not a suitable option. When my destination, for instance, lies over a mountain and time is of the essence. Or the wind is so strong, that an upright bike would mean traveling at walking speed. Or even when I want to get some exercise and do not have the time to cycle for transport and sport as separate activities.

On those occasions, I do use a roadbike to get around. And while it's not exactly ideal, I try to make the best of it. And as I rarely discuss this particular topic, today I thought I'd share my setup with you here.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

On the Dating Scene

It's a situation which some people enjoy quite a bit, but which I, frankly, hoped to not find myself in again. I mean, the stress of it. The awkwardness. The expense. The uncertainty about future compatibility. And of course, that question most of us dread to even ask... What if he, or she, is French?

That's right dear reader, I am back on the dating scene.  This time around I am older, possibly wiser, and - most importantly - armed with calipers.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

I Sell Fluffy Things

So, dear readers! I have been threatening to do this for - what - over a year now? And at last I am here to annoy you with an announcement of my little side project.

As you might have noticed, there is a new sponsor on the sidebar. And that sponsor is ...me! Well, the knitting version of me, now known as LB Handknits. I will leave you to guess what the LB stands for.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Curious Case of the 3-Speed Hill Climb

For a good few years after I first began cycling, I was quite weak at climbing hills. For steep gradients in particular, I needed low gears, a lightweight bike. And by 'needed' I don't mean preferred; I mean that I would be walking otherwise.

Three years of living in Ireland changed that. I am not the strongest cyclist out there by far. But I've adapted to my surroundings. And my surroundings are hilly! If I'm riding long distance, I sill prefer to have (and use) low climbing gears. But when it comes to each hill on an individual basis, I no longer strictly speaking 'need' a super-low gear to scale most of the ones within commuting distance.

Monday, February 20, 2017

When They Were Good

A friend of mine owns a late 1980s Claud Butler roadbike. And whenever I have occasion to look at it, I experience a mix of feelings that, for the longest time, I could not quite place.

Once in a while the bike is extracted for show-and-tell. Neighbours gather round.

"Ah this one's from back in the day," one says, "when they were good." And he points to the lugs, the Reynolds 531 decal on the frame. Others nod understandingly.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Sticky, Squishy Love, Part II: Of Tubeless Tyres, Their Joys and Sorrows

On the heels of a certain holiday which celebrates all things heart shaped, I thought it apt to post this second installment of 'Sticky, Squishy Love.' In Part I, as you might recall, I shared some notes on my experience with tubular tyres. Allow me now to share my experience with tubeless setups.

By way of a basic introduction, the term ‘tubeless' refers to a clincher tyre and rim setup, which foregoes the use of an inner tube. Instead, the tyre is inflated directly. To the naked eye, a tubeless tyre and rim look identical to an ordinary clincher setup. However, it requires some modifications. Namely, the rim needs to be completely sealed to ensure no air leaks from any part of it. Also, a valve needs to be sourced, since the tube it would normally be integrated with is absent. Finally, a specially formulated sealant is pumped into the tyre prior to inflation.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Yesterday's Champagne

In college I had a friend who was known for one curious thing. Any time she would attempt to throw a party, some inexplicable calamity would halt the festivities. The causes were as varied as they were dramatic. A fall necessitating a trip to the ER. A flood in the building. The death of a relative. A cat giving birth in the basement. Food poisoning. Leaking carbon monoxide. A hurricane. Those of us close to her grew so used to this state of affairs, we did not even bother to show up for whatever event she'd invite us to. Instead, we would come on the following day, to help clean up and sip on stale champagne whilst listening to her recount what had happened. It was all a rather hilarious, pathetic mess. And truth be told, we enjoyed it more than the more 'successful' parties we had gone to.