Friday, September 20, 2013

Trunk When You Need It; Coat Guard When You Don't

A story about storage.

When I first purchased Fleur back in May, I had grand plans for her. She is the full-on car-replacement bicycle option in my developing fleet (I will get the mountain bike and 10-speed into "transportable" state by adding fenders and rear racks, but want to preserve their off/on-road nature pretty carefully). I have tweaked her as need, gifts, and my budget allow.

Fleur came with her rear rack and Fenders. I immediately stole my husband's red bungees (free) and bought a new U-Lock ($50). The bungees allowed me to strap my U-lock to the outside of the rear rack, where it was FAR more secure than on its bracket -- and besides, brackets and and racks and things are almost always designed for diamond-frame (straight top-tube) bikes, rather than slopey/swoopy loop frames, like the Dutchi has. 

The next step was great lighting. I opted for Serfas lights ($200 for front and rear), and so far I've been super-pleased. They are easy to mount and remove, sufficiently bright, and recharge via USB cord. I have had them since June and have not had to recharge them yet (though I really haven't done much night riding). They really have been great lights and make me feel visible while lighting my way home when the sun sets.

For my first few rides to work, I used a diaper bag (which I'd purchased to use as a camera bag due to the bottle-shaped pockets working well for lenses and the fact that, when traveling, it suggests I'm carrying diapers instead of fancy camera equipment). The straps that let you attach the bag to stroller handles also allowed me to attach the bag to my rear rack. This worked just fine as a pseudo-pannier, but the soft shape meant that I was often adjusting things to ensure nothing touched my spokes or tires, and it meant I didn't have a dedicated camera bag. 

This issue was resolved when I received my front rack for my birthday in July. I specifically chose the Linus Delano model, because of the drink ring. Again, due to the shape of my frame, there's not a convenient place for a drink (water, coffee, whatever). My diaper/camera/pannier bag had a mesh pocket for drinks, but I couldn't access that without getting out of the saddle, and it often collapsed once the drink was removed, which required both hands to replace it. Not the end of the world, but once again, not ideal. This basket solved the soft-bag and soft-drink-pocket problems for me. I can access things easily, there's a place to throw my helmet when I'm locking up or not riding, and to carry bags, cardigans, and other things while I'm riding. Huge improvement

Unfortunately, as anyone with a front basket quickly learns, extra weight on your front wheel (the basket mounts to the wheel, not the frame, in my case) makes steering...different. As in, It's really hard to remove a hand to signal to turn without the bike wanting to veer off in either direction. I realized quickly that I do require the front basket for convenience, but do not enjoy carrying heavy loads on the front of my bike. The other issue I found was that the open-cage design on the basket meant that I still had to tuck my phone safely away, making mid-trip photos (while stopped, of course) virtually impossible, and also hampering my access to the phone in the event of an emergency (flat tire, assault, whatever else might happen). Also, YES, you can technically strap anything down with just a rear rack and bungees, but I dare you to figure out how to transport a loaf of bread that way. WITHOUT SQUISHING IT. Exactly. If my bike is really going to function as a car alternative, it needs a trunk for my junk.

So I purchased two things for my bike recently: two rear, folding Wald racks ($50 for 2), and an inexpensive handlebar phone mount ($5). Installing both was easy as pie. The hardest part - by a mile - was unlatching the folded baskets because they desperately needed some oil for the latch to move. Once I oiled them up (and the rest of the moving parts on the basket), they worked smoothly.

The baskets, awaiting attachment.

The basket is just hanging from the rack at this point.
I then used the screws provided to attach the top of the baskets securely.
Tip: I skipped the metal loop provided to attach the bottom of the baskets and used black zip-ties instead.
There was no real way to access the screw to tighten the metal tie-downs, making them essentially useless.

Before I strapped anything down too tightly, I ensured that there was clearance between my heel and the basket.
This is especially tricky on my bike since it's a small frame and shorter overall.
I have clearance, but may move the baskets back just a scosche to give myself a little more room.
My foot position varies based on my footwear. 

Tadaa! Mounted baskets.

Baskets, folded.
When folded, the baskets function as a dress/coat guard. Yay for multi-tasking!
The downside is that it means the U Lock now lives on top of my rack, which is fine,
but unhooking everything to access the baskets can be a slow step.
A general reminder with bungees - practice safe securing.
Those suckers can get you good if they snap back.

View from the mounted camera (before adjusting).
This shows my little Yakkay helmet/cover, and my pouch of "bikey essentials".
I carry this to hold my tools, lights (when I remove them from the bike) and lots of lip balm.

Strange angle, but you can see the camera mount.
I was able to record my ride to church the next morning, and carry my music in the rear basket.
I want to edit it down, in part because it's 20 minutes long (I'm slow), and in part because it's super-jiggly.
(For the record, I did have to move my foot forward on the open-basket side twice due to heel-
strike, so I WILL be adjusting both baskets a little closer to the rear of the rack this weekend.)

All-in-all, Fleur is just about perfect now. I toy with the idea of upgrading to a Brooks saddle, or maybe purchasing this gorgeous bag as a casual and bike-friendly alternative to my leather work-tote (especially for days or trips where I'd be inclined to use another bicycle with just a rear rack), but I feel like she's in pretty good shape at this point. For future FYI, I am considering swapping her rear wheel and shifter for an 8-speed IGH (306% ratio vs 186%; could be very nice with hills, especially because Fleur now weighs about 40 pounds with her extra baskets and the U Lock before any extra cargo). The three is functional, but I do find myself wishing there were steps between 1/2 and 2/3 and something above 3. (I spend 50% of my time in 3, 45% of my time in 2 and about 5% of my time in 1). Alternatively, I wonder if tweaking the cogs for the current 3-speed set-up might work without utterly disabling the granny gear when I need it... I'd like to go faster on flat terrain in order to address the major slowdown on hills. That said, I plan to get my mountain bike and my mom's old 10-speed up and running for alternative transport before I determine if that is really necessary or ideal.

As far as the rest of the "fleet", I'm hoping to take the mountain bike (a 1996 Trek 8000) in to have a once-over and find out about installing fenders and a rear rack (both jobs I am disinclined to tackle). I also need some chain grease. 

The ten-speed bike (a 1970s Peugeot Mixte) has been given a once-over by my brother, who has determined that she needs new tires, tubes, brake pads, and brake hoods, and probably new cables. I am hoping to pick her up toward the end of October.

In riding news, this week was a bust (other than riding to church on Sunday, my schedule and weather conspired against me), but next week looks perfect: highs in the upper 70s, lows in the 40s-60s, and clear. I'm so excited to get back on the bike and take advantage of the new baskets and phone mount!

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