Saturday, March 30, 2013

Gardens, suspension bridge and frogs

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Globe bike is out of commission, so the bike ride we planned on the Redmond Trail was off.  We decided to go for a long walk to the Bellevue Botanical Gardens.  Round trip was somewhere between two and three miles.  This was my daughter, wife and myself.

Trail Head
It was such a nice day for a pleasant walk.  We have a nice wooded park that includes two baseball fields, a playground, soccer fields, miles of trails, and of course the Bellevue Botanical Gardens.

The frog statue near the visitor center.  A little girl kissed it as we walked up!

Is that a hobbit hole??

Last year the gardens added a suspension bridge over a little ravine.  It is pretty cool to see and walk across.    

It was a great day for a pleasant walk through the park.  If you have not been to these gardens, they are very beautiful when everything is in bloom.  They occasionally have concerts at the park in the summer as well.  In December they decorate it with thousands of light and call it the Garden D'lights, that is pretty awesome as well.  The only negatives are that you cannot ride your bikes in the gardens, though you can always ride to the garden and they go by foot.  The other negative is no dogs, so we had to leave Chip, our big yellow lab, at home.  He was bummed to see us going for a walk without him.  Hopefully next weekend we can get in a good ride!!


Friday, March 29, 2013

Happy Birthday!

Well its my birthday and I had a fun day.  Since Good Friday is a stock market holiday, I got the day off as well, so I slept in!  Yay!!  My wife took me out for lunch at the Mediterranean Kitchen in Bellevue and OMG, it is the best!  It is one of our favorite restaurants.  They also made me dinner and dessert!  I am lucky.

I spend the afternoon working on bikes so we could go for a bike ride as it is supposed to be near 70 tomorrow in the Seattle area.  It was sunny today, so I was working outside in shorts.  I put training wheels on my daughters bike.  I got my wife's Trek down from the rafters, pumped up the tires and made sure it was ready to ride.  I checked the tires on the comfort bike, still good.  Thought I would hop on and take it for a spin around the block, but the chain would not go around!!  I look down the rear derailleur is all bent out of shape as well as the chain.  What the heck!!!  I just rode it the other day. I didn't drop it and I don't recall anything hitting it in the garage.

It is hard to see in the pictures, but obviously  it will need to be fixed or replaced.  The chain needs to be replaced for sure.  Examining the derailleur, I see why it is important to have quality parts on your bike.  I got this bike for comfort and it had been a long time since I had even thought about bikes and components.  Really I should have done my homework.  Obviously this could happen to any bike, but I have had bike bumping around my garage for years getting hit, bumped, dropped, kicked, etc.  I have never had a damaged derailleur believe it or not.  But I have always bought quality bikes and parts until now.  I may have a replacement derailleur, but it would be 20 years old, so not sure if it will cover the gear range or not.  Think I will let the shop deal with it since I have not done too much work bikes in years, but I see a new Park repair stand in my near future, hmm, someone has a birthday...

I got my old Bridgestone MB-3 mountain bike down out of the rafters.  May try that if they cannot do a quick fix on the Globe 3...  Maybe I can swap the seats, so I can have a little comfort.  I was really excited to ride tomorrow too...


Training Wheels

Last year I purchase my daughter her first two wheeler without training wheels.  She never got the hang of it and is very scared about falling.  We took her to the park so she could fall on grass to no avail.  Since we really want to get on the bike and since I want her to ride with me to keep me motivated, we bought some training wheels to add to the bike.  I don't know how wise this is, but I figure she will get used to riding.  When she looks comfortable and it does not appear she really uses the training wheels, I will pull them off.  Here it is with training wheels installed:

Hopefully this will get her riding!


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Randonneur Style Bikes (I think I want one)

OK, admittedly, this is getting a bit ahead of myself.  My main goal is to lose weight and build up to longer rides this year, but I can't seem to stop dreaming about that next bike I would like to buy.  So I tend to get caught in a "rabbit hole", as my (much) better half likes to say, researching seemingly endlessly on the internet for bikes and equipment.  All really pointless until I lose some more weight I think, but it sure is fun, right?

In the past, I rode a Ciocc racing bike.  It was quick and very responsive, however, on a long ride, I would get sore.  It had a rougher ride and you could feel all the bumps.  For a few years I rode my Mercian Vincitore touring bike, though admittedly, I did not put all that many miles on it.  It definitively was more comfortable, but I remember thinking it felt a little dead.  Clearly it did not have the same get up and go I was used to in my Ciocc.  The comfort bike I am riding now is very comfortable, but it is not responsive and it a way I find it harder to ride because you cannot really stand up to power up hills and such.

What type of bike to get next???  I have been trying to find a bike that would have some speed if I want it, but also one that is comfortable on a long ride of up to 100 miles or more. (Yes, I know I am thinking way ahead here).  I have come across a number of websites and blogs that talk about randonneuring.  The Randonneurs USA website defines randonneuring like this:

Randonneuring is long-distance unsupported endurance cycling. This style of riding is non-competitive in nature, and self-sufficiency is paramount. When riders participate in randonneuring events, they are part of a long tradition that goes back to the beginning of the sport of cycling in France and Italy. Friendly camaraderie, not competition, is the hallmark of randonneuring.

A bike designed for randonneuring is meant to be capable of speed if needed, but also for comfort on a long ride.  They are designed to carry weight up.  A rider wants to have everything they need to be accessible while riding, so this necessitates a bag on the front of the bike.  While the the design makes the bike stable with a front load, most riders (that I have read about) describe the bike as more stable and comfortable in general, even without a front load.  Many say they do not notice a handling difference when loaded versus not, which would seem to be the point, right?  I won't talk about geometry here, but there are different areas of thought on the subject.  Some believe the bike should have a low-trail, which has to do with the fork angle and rake, but I don't profess to be an expert, so I will not try to explain it here.  There are some very polarized views on the subject.  In general, a bike set up for light touring should work as a start.  A comfortable saddle is a must.  I have never owned a Brooks saddle, but I understand that once broken in, there is nothing more comfortable.  I have used Selle San Marco saddles, but those were more or less for racing, not comfort.  I would also like to try a Selle Anotomica saddle.  They say they do not need to be broken in and are very comfortable.

Brooks B17

Bigger diameter tires can also help make the bike more comfortable.  My Mercian has 23mm tires, but for randonneuring and comfort, a tire diameter of 32-42mm (or bigger) can help considerably.  They run at lower pressures and provide a more comfortable ride.

I may consider a customer bike as a reward when I reach my weight goal.  We shall see.  When I was younger I would drool over the custom Davidson Bicycles, a local Seattle builder or Rodriguez, another Seattle custom bike builder.  But while these bikes would be fully custom, I still need to figure out exactly what I want because a customer racing bike is different than a custom touring bike.

I may play with my Mercian. It is a touring frame and is relatively comfortable.  I can swap out the saddle with one of those above.  I was considering switching to 650b wheels, to have the ability to add a larger diameter tire, however, I realize I have plenty of clearance between the fork and tire, so I can probably try a larger diameter 700c tire.  Taking some crude measurement, it even appears to be a low-trail bike, though at the upper end of the range.  However, it will likely become more neutral adding bigger tires.  Fortunately I have another set of Campagnolo Nuovo Record hubs, so I can keep my current wheel set and have some built with wider rims to handle a bigger tire.  I believe I currently have a racing freewheel on it, so I would likely put a freewheel with a larger range on and maybe switch to a triple crank in front to give myself a wide range of gearing.  While I could get a newer style hubs that could handle a 10 speed rear cassette, that would require work to my frame and would move it too far from it vintage state.  I would prefer to keep this bike as vintage as possible.  Now if I go with a custom bike at some point, all bets are off.  Sram, indexed shifting, oh my!  As a side note, I have never used anything other than friction shifters on the downtube for shifing on a road bike.  When Campagnolo Ergo and Shimano STI shifters came out in the early nineties, I drooled and couldn't wait to try them, but never did.

My Mercian in its current state

I guess that is enough for now, I need to escape from my rabbit hole...

For more information on randonneuring, randonneuring bikes and low trail bikes visit:

Jan Heine's Blog, Off the Beaten Path or try subscribing to his Bicycle Quarterly magazine.

Rivendell Bicycle Works, makes comfortable bikes, some for randonneuring

Also, check out the Lovely Bicycle! blog, written by Veluria (Constance Winters), who also writes for Bicycling Magazine.  She compares several different randonneuring style bikes, talks about what low-trail bikes are and compares Rivendell and a Jan Heine style low-trail bike.

Velo-Orange has quickly become one of my favorite sites as well, with lots of great accessories and even some randonneuring style frames at reasonable prices.

A final note, I have no affiliation with any of the referenced websites or links.  I do not advertise or receive any compensation for recommending any products.  All opinions and ideas (right or wrong) were generated through my own "rabbit hole" research.  I don't profess to be an expert on anything, so always get a second opinion.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Working out and some neat websites

I did get to the gym again today to rid the bike, so I was happy about that.  An actual ride would have been more fun, but was not in the cards today.

Yesterday the sun peaked out for a little while and it appeared to be a great day for a ride!  The wind however was brisk and chilling, so I wavered until it turned kind of nasty and did not end up going for a ride. I did put some bicycle items on eBay however, so I was happy to get that done, though I have lots of old bike stuff, both new and used, that I have been storing for the last 18-23 years that I would like to thin out.

I discovered a great website for a company called VeloORANGE that makes and sells cool items for the bicycle tourist and randonneur.  It has lots of items to complete that classic look for a touring bike as well as other items to make bicycling more comfortable.  I really love their hammered fenders and chromed racks.  When I am ready for a new frame, I may consider one of their modestly price frames as well.  I want to get a comfortable frame with some responsiveness to it, but that I can use for light touring or maybe I can try some randonneuring (sp?).   Check out their website, its pretty cool.  By the way, I have no affiliation with them of any sort, which is the same for any other products or websites I have mentioned or will mention in the future.  I only mention things I like personally.  I also found another neat website called Adeline Adeline.  It also has some neat vintage looking items, though not as much as VeloORANGE.  I would love to hear about other websites in a similar vein, that offer vintage like items for bikes, touring and randonneuring.

Until next time...


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Hit the gym

While I have not been riding much, I did manage to hit the gym to ride the bike there.  It may not be the same thing, but I hate to admit, I have always been a fair weather rider.  Tough to be a fair weather rider in Seattle, since it rains so much.  Anyway, it still felt good to get the heart pumping and to turn the crank.  I have never tried the spinning bikes before, but did get a chance to try one out after my workout.  I may have to try that in the future.  It feel more like a real bike.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

iPhone Bike Computer

Sunday, I had planned to go to the Seattle Bike Expo.  Due to a last minute family emergency, I was unable to make it.  One of the vendors I was keen on seeing was Wahoo Fitness who makes products that allow you to turn your iPhone (or other smartphone) into a bike computer.  The company makes cases and mounts for your phone as well as heart rate monitors and speed/cadence sensors that will transmit data to your phone via ANT+ or Bluetooth.  If you want to use their case, you can purchase one with an ANT+ receiver built in or one without, so you can use Bluetooth.  They also have an ANT+ receiver you can purchase to attach to you phone if you have another case/method of mounting you phone.

Bike Case and Mount with built in ANT+ receiver

Bike Case for use with Bluetooth (no ANT+ receiver)

ANT+ Receiver Key for iPhone

One issue I  have read about when using your smartphone as a bike computer, being always on and constantly receiving data, is battery life.  It will drain your battery quite fast, as as all of us iPhone users know, it seems to drain quite fast all on its own through regular use.  Wahoo Fitness does offer a solution for this by providing an extra battery that integrates with the case.  It has about 1.5x the capacity of an iPhone, so if your iPhone is fully charged, you will get 2.5x the standard battery life which should get you through most of your rides.  If you utilize another mount and case for the phone that will allow access to the charging port, there are cheaper options available, but you would have to figure out how to mount the battery.

Wahoo's Battery option

Here is a pic showing how the system mounts with battery:

Wahoo offers a Speed and Cadence sensor as well as a variety of options for heart rate monitors.  At this point I have not done enough research to know whether or not there are other options for Bluetooth or ANT+ speed and cadence sensors, though I suspect there are.  There are cheaper alternatives for Bluetooth heart rate monitors though.

Speed and Cadence Sensor

Speed and Cadence Sensor Mounted

Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor
This looks like a very neat option for a bike computer.  They offer apps to allow you to see all the data real time and I believe the sensors will work with other apps that are out there as well.  As far as the case and mount goes, I did see cheaper options on and at lease one would allow you to use an external battery source provided you can mount it.

If I decide to move forward, I will definitely provide details of the experience.  If anyone out there has any feedback on the Wahoo product or other solutions, please feel free to provide feedback.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Seattle Bike Expo

The Seattle Bike Expo, put on by the Cascade Bicycle Club is this weekend.  Be sure to check it out!

Here is a link:

I plan to go on Sunday to check it out!