Crazy weather continues in Vermont. Today the temperature reached 50 degrees. It was cloudy and rainy for the most part though from time to time the sun found holes and for brief, brilliant moments bathed us in light and shadow. Brownie and I went to do errands in South Burlington. Keene Medical Supply had a nice bike rack for parking. When I expressed my appreciation for it they told me that the city has an ordinance requiring bicycle parking! Stopped on the way back to my folks’ house to visit grandpa and in Shelburne to pick up a few groceries. The rain came and went. Fortunately I drip dry. Speaking of which check out my back side. Over 20 miles of wet, gritty, oily, salty riding, and look Ma, no black line!! No sand on my neck and no wet but. Brownie has very long and very effective fenders. Or should I say mudguards. After all she is of English heritage. No matter what you call them, all-weather city riding calls for them. It is worth every ounce of weight to stay warm, dry, and unchaffed.
After a little snow last night the temperature rose into the mid 30’s and by noon the sun came out to flirt with the clouds. At 3 o’clock I rode the 8.5 miles into town to visit my 101 year old grandfather. Brownie (the name of my “new” bike) carried me well on this rare and memorable January ride. I am tempted to say the pictures tell it all but I’d be lying. They don’t capture the sound of birds, the cool breeze blowing steam from my sweating cheeks, the beating of my heart as I crest a hill. Or the huffing and puffing that dissolves to a gasp as the day’s last light sprays Mt Mansfield purple. Get off the computer and go for a ride!! There is nothing like it.
A trip to the Old Spokes Home has been on my list for some time. (No, I’m not going geriatric quite yet, though retro is fun.) This small, unique bicycle shop, located in North Burlington, Vermont is part museum, part store, and part can do repair shop. They relish those jobs that make other shops shudder. “Can you fix my red 1962 Triumph that was uncool in 1970 so I put drop bars on it and took off the chain guard only now I want to ride it upright while wearing pants and by the way it’s been sitting in my father’s barn for the past 30 years and the Sturmey Archer hub was regularly oiled with 3-in-One and has never been overhauled….” Actually that is one I’m working on now. Anyway, I know The Old Spokes Home could handle it because I’ve been there and got to meet the owner Glenn Eames. You won’t find much carbon in his shop but lots of steel, and a fair amount of rust. His young staff have lots of patience and a passion for what they are doing. They have an extensive selection of ready to ride used bikes and If you want a new bike they carry Surly, Jamis, and Salsa among others. So whether you want to drop a few grand on a Surly Moonlander (I want one of these in the most irrational way…) or a couple of C notes on an old 3 speed this is the place. At the same time you can see an amazing array of vintage bikes including the largest number of bone shakers I’ve ever seen in one place. Check out the museum online.
Finding myself unexpectedly here in one of the warmest and most snowless Vermont Januarys on record I was looking for a bike to get some exercise and enjoy the unseasonable weather. I chose a 1970s Raleigh Sport modified to a 5 speed with rear derailleur. Wasn’t sure I’d have quite the range I need for the hills with a 3 speed.
After a night of cold rain today dawned sunny and the temperature quickly rose to almost 40. It felt more like April than January. I set out from Charlotte to Shelburne on Mt Philo road. The south wind blew me into town on my new old wheels. Its been a couple of weeks since I’ve had the thrill of pedaling two wheels. The Raleigh did not disappoint me. New chain, and freewheel with perfectly adjusted bearings, I felt like I was flying. A few rattles here and there and a bit of rust only add interest to this classic ride. I stopped for some excellent butternut squash soup at Barkeaters and wandered around the village cemetery enjoying the sunshine. After that it was up hill and against the
wind back to my parents house. Blue sky, brown fields, birds, a gorgeous day all the more appreciated on a bicycle!
Yesterday was one of those great stay at home and spend the day in the shop days! Darren and Nikki Miller stopped by with some bikes. Nikki has recently returned to Bemidji and is a year round bike commuter. She brought her trusty 1998 Trek in for some TLC. She learned how to overhaul hubs, install cassettes, change tires, and adjust brakes! Watch for her riding her blue bike around town and volunteering at the bike rodeo and other events. Along with the bikes they brought a six-pack of home brewed nut brown ale – beer, the traditional and much appreciated gift for your bicycle mechanic! Really good stuff. What a fun way to stay out of the cold!
Today was a banner day for Shifting Gears. After weeks of email tag Dan DeVault and I finally got to spend the better part of a day together. Dan is a young man from the Leech Lake rez who is currently studying Law Enforcement at the Tribal College. He got into biking a couple years ago, is a dedicated bike commuter, and self taught bicycle mechanic. He loves fixing up cast off bikes for family and friends and has done some bike fixing clinics on his own. A man who hates exercise, he gets how biking keeps us active and fit while enjoying the outdoors, saving money, and getting where you need to go. He writes Ditibiwebishkigan, a blog on all things bicycle and he has the most awesome Raleigh commuter bike you would ever want to see. And here is the best part. He is teaming up with Shifting Gears and Peoples Church to expand the mission of getting low income folks on bikes to the Cass Lake area!
Thanks to Dan and space in Peoples’ newly acquired building in downtown Cass Lake Shifting Gears is able to accept a generous donation of a couple dozen used bikes from Concordia Language Villages. Dan will help organize workspace and fix up these bikes for distribution in the spring. We are looking forward to bike clinics, bike skills classes for adults and children, expanding the adult trike program, and lots of other Shifting Gears activities in Cass Lake. And who knows, maybe Dan will figure out a way to open a bike shop in Cass Lake to take advantage of all the out of town cyclists who show up to enjoy our beautiful trails and provide a boost to the local economy.
So we spent this beautiful January day checking out the bikes at Concordia, touring the home shop, and scoping out the digs in Cass Lake. I am really excited about having Dan on board with Shifting Gears. Welcome Dan! I think we’ll be seeing a lot of each other.
Nine brave riders showed up at the Cabin Coffeehouse at 1PM on New Years day to pursue cycling passion on the first day of the year! Earlier in the week it looked like we were going to have warm temps and clear roads but Minnesota came through just in time with several inches of snow, 17 degrees, and a 33MPH wind driving the windchill to minus 1F. After all it wouldn’t be as much fun if it was easy!
We started out on the nicely plowed trail by the lake to the Green Mill, the wind at our back, ahhhh! Then things got interesting. The portion of the trail from the Mill to Sanford had been used by fossil fuel powered vehicles and we quickly learned that snowmobile tracks make cycling nearly impossible. Once we abandoned them and plowed through the snow we could at least make slow and steady progress. I was very impressed with the performance of the 1970s Schwinn Tandem in the snow! At Sanford the three young guys headed off around the lake. They took to the road and made it around in less than two hours! Way to go. Sean Crampton got some awesome video of the feat.
The rest of us turned around into the wind and made it back, cold and proud, ready for the sugar cookies and half price beverages provided by Noemi Ayelsworth of the Cabin Coffee House. (She and Harry did the ride too! Second year for each of them!) All riders received prizes from Shifting Gears. Noemi and I took the opportunity to do some planning for an exciting upcoming event: In July Bemidji will be host to the The Ride Across Minnesota (TRAM) 2012. More on that later. Now, check out some pics of winter riding in MN!
2011 was a great year for biking, not so good for blogging! I’ll try to catch up during the winter which finally arrived today. I parked at the C Store in Cass Lake this morning and biked the 6 miles to the hospital for rounds. By the time I was done it had started to snow and the shoulders were greasy with a half inch of fresh, heavy snow on top of the usual shoulder grunge. The trip back to the car felt like 20 miles and took me over an hour in embarassingly low gears. No problems with getting cold. The new winter bike was rock solid stable with great traction and as always it feels great to get where you are going on your own power. Biggest probem (other than a worn out engine) was I couldn’t get going fast enough to allow my glasses to defog! Looking forward to the 3d Annual Brrrrmidji New Years Bike Ride tomorrow, 1PM at the Cabin Coffeehouse. See you there!!