Saturday, June 28, 2008

More Bike Thoughts

Wednesday night on the ride home, my bike seat partially detached itself. Not in a painful scrotal-injuring way, thankfully. My seat is held up by two springs in the back, and a bolt in front, and the bracket on the bolt tore loose. I don't think it's the sort of part you can easily buy a replacement for, so I found some scrap 14-gauge galvanized steel in the basement, broke out the tool collection, and machined a new one. The complex metalwork took about two hours, but the piece I made is much more solid than the piece I replaced. No problems at all since then; it was a solid repair.

This started me wondering -- what kind of tools should I take with on a long ride? I couldn't possibly prepare for this kind of problem in advance, unless I towed an entire spare bicycle behind me. In Lennard Zinn's book on road bikes, he lists the tools and spare parts you should bring on rides of varying lengths. For a day ride, the collection looks awfully bulky and heavy. I suspect I'd have to buy saddlebags (or "panniers", as cyclists call them) just to carry my emergency kit. I'm already traveling with a tire pump and a set of hex wrenches; for the Kokomo trip I think I'll add a pretty basic assortment of bike-specific tools, plus some zip ties, duct tape, a spare tire tube, and some wire. If I have any problems more major than this can handle, I've always got my phone and a credit card.

I'm also wondering if my bike is right for a long trip. It's not a road bike, but I don't really know how much road-bike features will make a difference. I think skinny, high-pressure tires probably pedal easier, but I don't know how much easier. And the hunched posture enforced by road-bike handlebars: does it make pedaling easier or reduce back strain? Or is it just useful for cutting wind resistance? Do pedals with clips really simplify pedaling? I have no idea about any of this stuff. It's somewhat academic, since I won't be getting a new bike in any case. One thing that's in the realm of pre-trip possibility: saddlebags. Do they make the bike harder to ride, either by adding weight or drag, or by affecting handling? I'd probably like a pair if I'm going to make Kokomo an overnight trip, since a backpack's less comfortable (and pretty sweaty) for longer trips.

I mentioned earlier that I really liked Zinn's book. One thing I learned in the book, that I hadn't realized until I read it: my bike is the wrong size for me. He's got a chapter about selecting the right frame size, and mine's a bit too small. I don't know how much difference it really makes, but it's good to know. Also, since reading his book, I've spent a lot of time fiddling with adjusting my bike's fit -- the tilt of the handlebars, seat height and tilt, things like that. I'm assuming when I get everything properly adjusted, I'll fly on the bike. Or at least be more comfortable on long rides.

Laura and I bought our bikes off the rack. It was a nice rack, but still, we didn't do any comparison shopping. Someone recommended the bike shop, and we picked our cycles from the selection they had in stock, without really doing much research. We didn't particularly pay attention to things like frame size or gear ratios. I don't know which bike I would've chosen if I had it to do over again; the Navigators are nice bikes, we're happy with them, but we really didn't know much about bikes or cycling at the time. I also wasn't expecting that, five years later, it'd be my primary means of transportation....

No comments: