Sunday, April 19, 2015

Inaugural Rides on the Betty

Have I really not posted anything since November? I guess the main bike activity I've had going on since then was building up my new bike. I'll probably post about it soon, now that we've finished and I have more to say than just, "we watched this YouTube video on dialing in a rear derailleur."

Anyway, we (mostly D, but I helped some) put together the bike in PGH, and I finally brought it to DC when I got back last Sunday. This was great timing because it appears that the weather has finally turned the corner, judging by the tree outside my windows:

April 8
April 18
D took the bike through its paces when he was fine-tuning the shifting, but I hadn't really gotten to ride it beyond going up and down the street. This week was the first time I actually really used my bike, and I got a couple of rides in.


Of course, the first thing I did was run a few errands after work. I didn't have to go very far, maybe 3 miles overall, so it seemed like a good way to start getting a feel for the bike. Getting out the door was a comedy of errors though. There's a step right when you walk out of my building, and I caught my front fender on it, so that the stays came off the little bracket holding them in place. Oops. Before I even got on the saddle, I already had to pull off to the side and do a little maintenance, but luckily I could force them back in with minimal force. Then, when I got to my first destination to mail a package, I was pulling out my U-lock keys when one fell off of the zip tie holding it. A zip lock fail!  For the one key for which I don't have the serial number! (I have three back-up keys, but still).

Luckily the rest of my errands didn't involve any further equipment fails, but apparently I'd forgotten the little ritual involved in locking up my bike and gathering my various bags and possessions. There's a proper order of operations to make the process less awkward and it becomes habit after a couple of rides, but I've been riding my Brompton mostly so I've avoided all of that. I did get my bike parked at the grocery store, but it look longer than it should have, and then I ended up leaving my front light on the handlebars! My light was a gift from D, and it's wonderful and bright, so I would have hated to lose it. I didn't realize what I had done until I was already in the check-out line, but luckily when I got back to the bike my light was still there.

So, I got everything loaded up and made my way home. I took some quiet streets and confirmed that there was in fact a weird periodic rubbing sound coming from my bike. Also, the front rack mounted directly above the wheel feels more stable than a standard Wald front basket, but you can definitely still feel the weight affecting the handling. Otherwise, all the groceries made it back home in one piece.

Post-gocery run

Nitto Big Back Rack: An endorsement/review
Let me take a moment to put a plug in for the Nitto rear pannier rack. I had thought about maybe skipping the rear rack and saving myself some money and cutting weight, but now I'm glad I got it. This model in particular is fantastic; I believe it's an updated version that has an added rail running under the "platform" on top (I'm guessing on the terminology). Because of this, I can bungee my very large U-lock to the platform, but it doesn't interfere with the panniers clipping on to the rail. Without that second rail, this would not have been possible. Also, there's a little place at the bottom for my bungees to hook on to. This is curiously missing from the larger version (mine is the medium, there is no small)--couldn't the bungee hooks just slip off? Plus there's a place to mount a rear light, which I think is much more visible than having it on my seat post. This rack is just about perfect for my usage, and it was very easy to install too.

Rack w. bungeed U-lock and pannier 

Out on the Trail

I haven't ridden for any distance in several months (it's been a rough winter in many ways), but I want to get my legs back and some endurance so I could attempt a full bike commute home again. I had resolved that this weekend I would try to build up to longer rides. I live near the Georgetown Branch Trail (which I had mistakenly been calling the Capital Crescent Trail last year, not realizing that Bethesda marked a name change), but I had only ever ridden a half-mile of it as part of my commute home last summer. I wanted to see where it went, especially as I had heard that there was a nice bridge over Rock Creek Park that was part of the trail. Luckily, Saturday cooperated, what with the nice weather and me waking up early and not being able to fall asleep again. 

I am not a morning person, especially when my caffeine hasn't had time to kick in. As noted above, I'm still off my riding ritual, so of course I walked out my front door and locked it before realizing that I had forgotten my helmet. And then I was already a mile or two away from home when I remembered that my water bottle and toolkit were still sitting at home. Luckily neither of these was an issue for the rest ride. Actually it was pretty uneventful, though that at that hour of the morning the streets/paths are full of people who are outdoors for fitness reasons. I'm more of a gym person myself (please don't tell me that riding by itself is somehow equivalent to strength training; also riding for me is not about exercise), but I was wearing yoga pants so maybe that counts.

The other week, @sharrowsDC had a great post about city people and country people. I am decidedly a city person. Not that I don't appreciate parks and green spaces, but I prefer these to be near an urban setting. My thoughts as I was traversing the Georgetown Branch Trail:
  • Hmmm there's that weird rubbing sound on my bike again
  • I think I smell skunk
  • Is that a leaf stuck in my fender?
  • That's definitely a twig stuck in my fender (twice)
  • Is that mud? Can I avoid that?? Note: My fear of mud may be because the first time I ever really fell off my bike was when my wheel got sucked into some mud.
  • Is this yet another golf course? Are there seriously two in the Chevy Chase area?? Note: Seriously, there are two golf courses within a mile of each other along Connecticut Ave., meanwhile it took several attempts for me to find an acceptable meandering route from the northern part of Bethesda heading southeast home. I find this not cool.
  • Oh god, I'm going to get stuck in previous bikes' tracks, why isn't this trail paved???
  • I should really adjust my mirror when I get home, I don't need to see that much of my hand and arm
I still enjoyed myself though, and when I got to the bridge the view was not bad:

Rock Creek Park looking South toward DC 

Rock Creek Park looking North towards the Beltway

Not that I don't have anxiety when riding the city, but it's somehow different. For example, last year we rode to see the cherry blossoms during their peak weekend which coincided with the Cherry Blossom festival, and there were people everywhere and we had to keep dodging them on the path. I don't think D was too thrilled, but it was the city next to the water and we rode by the Kennedy Center and into the Tidal Basin, and I remember it fondly. Actually, maybe I'm not a city person, but rather a water person--I'll gladly ride along any body of water (Rock Creek doesn't count).

So, I didn't get all the way to the terminus of the trail because ewww mud, but I wasn't that far from Silver Spring, and maybe when it's dry I'll try again in a few weeks. I have to say though that I enjoyed riding around the neighborhoods more. For one thing, the roads are paved, and the geography is more varied. As much as hate hills, I know some of them are actually good for me.

Anyway, it was a good ride, and felt like my first real ride on my new bike. I even ended it at the perfect place, the local farmer's market where I got some tulips and my favorite breakfast sausages. All in all, not a bad first week with my Betty.

Observation: I have a not yet said much about the ride quality of my new bike. I'll have more to write later, but for now I'll observe that this bike takes hills noticeably better than my silver step-through. D said I shouldn't be surprised, and in theory I'm not, but the difference is still amazing to me.