Preying Mantis

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This little fellow wanted to go along on a bike ride the other day.
Preying Mantis, originally uploaded by Nick David Wright.
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Tire size

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So I feel like a complete idiot.

The Trek bikes we had before had 700×35 sized tires. The 35 standing for 35mm wide.

The old 3-speeds we have now have 26×1-3/8 inch tires. Which are, obviously, one and three-eighths inches wide.

Just going by memory, I would’ve sworn that our current tires were wider than the 700x35s. And I’ve been attributing our greater success riding gravel roads to having wider tires.

Tonight I got to wondering exactly what the relationship was width-wise, so I plugged the numbers into a conversion calculator.

Anyone wanna hazard a guess what happened next?

I found out that one and three-eighths inches is just about almost exactly … 35mm. :^]

Beach cruisers

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I’ve been looking at a lot of beach cruisers lately. And I have completely fallen in love with the entire beach cruiser esthetic.

The upright ride. The big fat tires. The awesome designs of the bikes.

I also got to thinking about the whole “speeds” thing. I was thinking about how on that last long ride of ours (before I hurt my foot, which is doing much much better by the way) I stayed in that one gear the whole time. I enjoyed that immensely but the idea of getting a bike with only one gear gave me pause because I was worried that I might not like whatever gear the manufacturer chose to put on. Then I realized that it is very easy and inexpensive (better than installing a 3-speed hub anyway) to swap out cogs on those kinds of bikes. So if I got a bike and decided I didn’t like the gearing it was built with, it would be a simple matter to change the gears.

So I am very excited about getting a single speed beach cruiser bicycle. There are lots of options available to me now that I’ve discarded the three-speed requirement. Torker makes very nice looking bikes. But I’ve really been falling in love with the designs from Nirve. (Addendum: I’ve just now discovered Felt Beach Cruisers, very nice bikes, very nice prices) The only problem is that they are just out of my budget right now. I’m thinking that one of those bikes may be my Christmas gift to myself.

But for now, I’ve decided that I’m going to perform a little experiment. I’m going to take a very close look at the Huffy Cranbrook’s for sale locally. If I find one without flaws in the welding, I’m going to purchase it just to see how it stands up to my style of riding. Obviously, I’ll blog about my observations here.

The reason that I’m going to do this is because I believe in value. Yes, I know that the $300-plus bikes are substantially better. The question is, “Do I need better?” It’s much the same with cameras, in my career I’ve used everything from 30-year-old Pentax K1000s, to brand new $5,000 digital SLRs. But lately I’m pleased as punch grabbing the Fuji point-and-shoot I bought 3 years ago for $80. The more expensive cameras are better, it’s just that the cheap one fills my need perfectly.

I’m interested to see how the cheap bike holds up. It’s not like I’ll be riding across the country on the thing. I’m talking about riding the loop around Milo (which is only a square block) in the evenings, and the occasional 5-10 mile jaunt down the dirt road. Oh, and throwing them in the back when we visit Noel’s sister in KC. It’ll be a fun trial.

Glenn’s Complete Bicycle Manual

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I got my new book in the mail!

Last year, I purchased the “Bicycling Guide to Complete Bicycle Maintenance and Repair: For Road and Mountain Bikes.” As the title indicates, it is fairly strictly geared (hehe) towards newer road and mountain bikes. Since I currently own no road or mountain bikes and do not foresee owning any in the near future, I find it’s not as useful to me as I thought it would be (I wish I’d had it when we had the Trek hybrids). Sure there’s the basic stuff that can be applied to any bike, but it conspicuously lacks any information concerning things like coaster brakes and three-speed hubs.

So I dug around on the net trying to find a book that would get me up to speed (I’m just full of em today, folks!) on the kinds of bikes I do currently own and am very likely to keep on owning. On one of the bicycle forums folks were recommending the book, “Glenn’s Complete Bicycle Manual.” When I saw them used at Amazon for about $3 I placed my order right away, and it came in the mail today.

Giving it a quick glance through, I am very impressed. I was surprised at how thick the book is, I guess for $3 I was expecting something much smaller. Inside I see a good deal of talk about coaster brakes and three-speeds. I am very excited about the detailed photographs of different components in various stages of disassembly. The photos are very high quality, and should make figuring these pieces out much easier.

Very pleased with my purchase.

Welding

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Last year, when I moved back to Missouri. The first job I found was temp labor at a local factory which made metal shelves like you see at big box stores holding product. It was a rough, hot, generally unpleasant job that I left as soon as I started driving the school bus.

My recent conversation with Aaron about bicycle quality made me realize that I picked up a major skill while working there though. I never did learn to weld, but I did learn to spot bad welding. Until Aaron mentioned the bad welds on his Huffy Cranbrook, it had never occurred to me that I should be looking for that kind of thing.

While I hope to never have to do that kind of work ever again, I am thankful that I was able to learn something useful because of it.

Bikes bikes and more bikes

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Aug 6 bike ride - 04

The past couple weeks, I’ve been looking at a lot of bicycles.

I’ve come to a couple of conclusions that I thought I’d put into writing.

Number one is that I have to have an upright riding stance. The Huffy Sea Trails I’ve been riding (pictured above) is better than the hybrid Trek 7000 I rode before, but I feel as though I want to sit up even higher. Last time I visited my Grandmother, Noel and I took her beach cruisers for a spin down to Walgreens about a mile away. I loved it, very upright no stress in my back or shoulders. That’s what I want.

Second observation is that I do not need — or want — more than three speeds. During our entire 8.5 mile ride last night, I did not leave the lowest gear. I’m not sure if it’s first or second because something in my shifting system is out of whack. But I thoroughly enjoyed tooling along at our slow pace. Which it turns out wasn’t all that slow since we covered the distance in about an hour including many many picture stops.

None of the hills that we hit last night were terribly steep. But we never really felt them. We just pedaled. Sometimes we pedaled a bit slower and more forcefully, and sometimes we coasted a bit. It was immense fun not worrying about it.

Not to mention that 3-speed internal hubs are extremely simple and reliable.

I had been thinking that I wanted a really fast road bike or a goat-like mountain bike. But that’s just not how I ride. I’m not into the adrenaline thing. And while I think long cross-country tours are really cool, I don’t see myself ever doing such a thing. I want to explore the back roads close to home. I want bikes to strap on the back of the camper or throw in the pickup to ride when we get where we’re going.

My thrill comes from poking along with my Beloved seeing the sights, or getting the groceries.

Thirdly, I still believe I want fatter tires. Last night our 26×1-3/8’s did okay. But I feel the balloon tires of a beach cruiser would add a bit more comfort and a lot more sure-footedness.

Finally, I want something that looks good! Something with some style! Know what I mean?

So to this end I spent last night trying to find all the beach cruiser style bikes with three-speed internal hubs that I can. And I have to say that I’m rather discouraged at what our options are, there just aren’t many good quality cruisers (that I can find).

The Trek Drift looks okay, especially in the “driftwood brown” scheme. But it has an aluminum frame and I prefer the steel and it also has no matching women’s frame. And I would really love it if Noel and I could get matching bikes.

I’d buy a Trek Calypso. I love the paint scheme, and the women’s frame is a perfect match. But it’s aluminum and it has a derailleur shifting system.

The Torker Boardwalk 3 is a strong possibility. Steel frame, internal 3-speed, matching women’s bike. My only caveat is that bright red paint, but it’s not necessarily a deal breaker.

My strongest candidate however may come as a shock to any “serious bicyclist” who finds their way to my humble blog. It is the Huffy Cranbrook. It has a steel frame, fat tires. Comes with metal fenders. I absolutely love the looks of it, and there is a (somewhat) matching women’s model. And it sells for only $75 at my local Wal-Mart.

I would ordinarily be pretty wary of such a cheap bicycle. But shortly after Noel and I were married I sold our car and bought us two Huffy mountain bikes to get around town on. One summer I commuted every day to work from Niceville, FL, to Destin, FL, on that $100 bike. The one way trip was about 15 miles. And it held up to that abuse without a single complaint. So Huffy bikes hold a place of respect in my heart.

The only problem is that it’s not a three-speed. I figured I could buy the appropriate hub and rebuild the wheel. Then I found these folks on Amazon who have done just that. They sell a 26-inch wheel with three-speed hub and all the necessary levers and cables, etc. All I have to do is swap the wheels out. Before going through all that trouble though, I intend to just ride it. I might find that I don’t even need the three speeds!

So it looks like there’s a nice, comfy beach cruiser in my bicycling future.

Though I feel a little funny, buying a $75 bike and throwing a $175 rear wheel on it. Oh … and let’s not forget my $100 saddle!

PS – Oh yeah, can’t forget, we have to get wicker baskets for them!

Country ride

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I’m not really sure why I thought our tires would not be good on gravel. Since my last post on that topic, we’ve been doing a number of short little rides on gravel and have had no problems. So this evening we struck out to see how far we could go.

Here’s a map of our route:

Aug 6 bike ride map

We were going to head out and bicycle through the Osage Prairie Conservation Area, but we got to Highway 71 and stood waiting for about 5 minutes. U.S. 71 southbound was a solid, non-stop stream of cars. I said “no way” and we turned around and headed out east where we wouldn’t have to cross any major highways. We’ll save the Osage Prairie adventure for some early Saturday or Sunday morning when 71 is deserted.

Aug 6 bike ride elevation graph

The neat little elevation graph comes from VeloRoutes.Org. Very neat web site.

Took some time out to get some better photos of my Huffy Sea Trails!

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It was funnier than heck to me, we really spooked the livestock. I don’t think they’d seen anything like us before!

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And we made sure to take our time and enjoy the sights!

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Corn should be ready to harvest soon.

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And here we are rolling back into Milo shortly before sunset.

According to VeloRoutes we rode about 8.5 miles round trip. And going by the time stamps on my photos we were out for little more than an hour. Not a bad pace, especially seeing how we were seriously taking our time and enjoying ourselves! This was the best ride we’ve had in a very long time. And I’m upset that we haven’t been out exploring like this more often.

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