Cycling Jerseys

For all of my lack of attention to the finer points that cycling aficionados care about, I’m a little picky about jerseys (and tights). In general, I don’t like jerseys. It’s the pockets.Russ loads his up, I don’t like to have anything sliding around on my lower back. I didn’t like it before I started slinging my camera there, and I don’t want to wear anything tight enough to keep that from happening. I like the extra length a jersey gives in back, but I don’t want much of anything in the pockets. That renders jerseys pretty much useless to me. If I had one that fit, it’s possible I might like one. I have some merino sport shirts with small side pockets and they are fine, but fit is a challenge for me. That goes for bike shorts, tights and knickers too. I’m a little heavier than most serious cyclists, and more athletic than most heavy cyclists, so my shape/size combo isn’t the common.

My favorite Smartwool as baby moth food. That sleeve with all the loose thread had never been out of the package before I washed it to make sure I wouldn’t store it for the summer with moth eggs.

I don’t worry about it too much because I’m all about Smartwool, or some other brand of merino. 100% wool is so comfortable. The range of temperatures when it’s good to wear it is much larger than people who don’t wear it would suspect, and it breathes so well. It doesn’t give me the prickly heat type rash that nylon tends to put on my upper body. I see ads for bras and panties made of merino, and if I ever decide to spend $80 for a bra, I’d like to give one a shot. Bras, panties, undershirts, tights, you name it, I’d like to give them all a try. I thought I wanted silk long underwear at one time, but I’m always doing something that damages my skin, whether its creative, dishes or gardening. Silk just sticks on my hands and reminds me that my hands have little roughnesses that I didn’t notice until I rubbed them across.

There is a problem with wool though. Moths love even better than I do. Last week I washed some of my heavier pieces. I wanted to make sure there were no moth eggs in them before I put them away for the summer. Some had damage that didn’t show, and after washing it did, big time. I now have 4 pieces lost to moths. They are Smartwool pieces I bought all about the same time from REI. The holes showed on the first wash for each garment. I wondered if they were damaged before purchase. There were pieces in my closet, in the same drawer with no damage that were older, but there is no way to know really. Regardless I was crushed. I pay the money for Smartwool because it lasts for years, except for when it doesn’t.

I am thinking more about color than I normally do. One day I was behind Russ while he was wearing a bright green jersey. It disappeared into the nearly glowing vibrant trail foliage. I thought about how useful it might be to go with chroma key colors for the bikes and kit. We’ll ride together, but, if we have the cameras, we’ll both recording and separate enough to be out of each other’s video (but not so much that we are guaranteed never showing up in each other’s video). Matching the background, or being a color that is easily removed could be useful if we ever go on to edit any ot the footage for future projects.

Fantasy Island

A cedar storage closet for my merino? I really need a Tardis so I’ll have a place to put that closet (and all that stuff in my basement too). I thought about designing a project team shirt/jersey. Decent T-shirts are pretty easy to get at reasonable prices, I lean toward raglan three-quarter length sleeves during the comfortable seasons, that’s doable, and t-shirts are fine for both of us while riding the recumbent. Jerseys can be ordered printed too, though I don’t have experience with brands on those, so getting a quality jersey with the right fit could be an experimental bother.

It’s probably worth it though. In my mind, the design will be custom created by Don Moyer who started Calamityware with a Kickstarter (no, he doesn’t know me, or anything about this. I just love his art and this is the Fantasy Island part of the program). I see a design that reflects both of the trails. The first thing I came up with is a comet with a feather tail or coma). When you look close, you’ll see it’s made of robots and Pterodactyls, a mosaic of “things could be worse” or, maybe done in a way that is somewhat reminiscent of something Salvador Dali would do with ants and lilies, probably a mash up that includes some small images tailored to the trail would work best. The Chief Ladiga Trail part of the imagery is the challenge, finding something appropriate that also communicates that trail, there’s just one image of Chief Ladiga that people are familiar with. Maybe the design could have that image of Chief Ladiga inside the ball of the comet. Yes, I think I like that. It could be a single color with glow in the dark ink for safety. It would be on the front so it didn’t interfere with the potential to use the chroma key idea (if you catch your riding partner on video, it will be from behind). Yeah, that’s it. That would be pretty cool.

Racking it Up, Bicycle Racks

Racks are pretty quick and easy to talk about. Through the years, I’ve tried a variety of different kinds of options. As a kid growing up in the rural south, riding my bike always started at home. I never went somewhere else to ride. But then traffic became more crowded and less likely to yield, even in the country, and the distance I wanted to ride grew longer.

Strap on Racks

I started with the inexpensive type that you strap to the trunk or the rear door on a van or hatchback. The benefit to that is cost and the are usually compact to store. The drawbacks are that it takes time to install. Futzing with the straps is time consuming, and if you use it very often, it can become irritating.Some bikes, especially mountain bikes don’t fit very well and can fall of, and they eventually leave dimples in the car body. If you don’t strap it exactly the same every time, there will be dimples in more than one place. So, it’s the low budget option for infrequent use, for the owner who is willing to get a couple of new dimples in their auto body.

Hitch Mount

After growing out of that variety, I moved to hitch mount racks. First I only used them when I was going to use the truck. Later I started putting trailer hitches on my cars. I don’t tend to drive cars that are designed to tow, so I’m really protective of them. The car bike rack hitch only holds bike racks. I never tow a trailer. I never even put on a cargo tray. Why? Because cargo trays get overloaded. Bike racks have only enough space for the bikes, so they will never be loaded over the weight of those bikes. Ours ar not the super light carbon bikes and they weigh quite enough.

I never consider anything other than a hitch mount any more. I had the kind with an arm that swings out and the bike hang from it. That rack was a Thule similar to this one, well loved, but not as great at Interstate speeds due to vibration and the resulting movement. The bicycle tie-down straps seemed to disappear for a while too, but replacements weren’t expensive and eventually the disappearance seemed to slow. The hanging racks aren’t good for mountain bike frames though. The bike crossbar is at too great an angle and we’ve had to stop to secure my grandson’s mountain bike multiple times of the same trip to a race.That’s not relevant to this project because a mountain bike will never be the right bike for the job. It is relevant to my grandson though, and to date, we’ve never budgeted the cash nor the space for more than one bulky rack. In fact the hitch mount rack only comes off my car when I’m getting it serviced, driving through the carwash, or putting in on the truck instead. The nice part about selling the Thule with the arm though, it brought almost half of what we paid for it.

We’re now pretty committed to hitch mount tray racks. Russ got one at a thrift store for $20. We really liked that rack, but someone in a parking lot backed into it and ended it. We had to replace it really quickly because the mountain bike season was on. My dream rack is the 1 UP aluminum rack. I’ve wanted one since the first time I ever saw it. They’re the high quality, low weight, easy option with fast on and off. People I know who have one say that they don’t know why they waited so long to get it, and no one I know has ever complained about anything related to them. We were considering finally getting that dream boat that every owner loves. Spending almost as much on a rack as I did on a bike was a sticking point though. I know that says more about the cost of my bike than it does the cost of the rack, but still, that was the only reason we don’t have my dream 1 Up, that and the REI Garage sale.

The Garage sale is when REI sells returned merchandise. There are often missing parts, but they will allow you to assemble whatever you’re considering to find out and sometimes the deals are awesome. Clothing is usually not the great deal that some other things can be. I’ve seen things with big holes that are not marked down much. I’m not sure why anyone would purchase that. At this sale, I didn’t even head to the bike racks because missing parts are common and I wasn’t expecting a discount that reflected whatever the condition was. Also, I had that 1 Up on the brain. Russ found a Kuat tray rack, and it was a huge discount. At the time, his idea was that he’d buy this one, and when we found a 1 UP second hand, we’d sell the Kuat for near what we paid. Well, it’s not the 1 UP, but it’s a solidly good rack and we haven’t found the 1 Up second hand (could be that’s a pipe dream, I’ve never met an unhappy owner). If I were spending full retail and making a new purchase decision, I’d probably go ahead and get the 1 UP because there isn’t so much difference in the full retail prices, but when the less expensive rack is selling for half price… The Kuat is a nice rack, but when you use it frequently, that little extra bit of extra effort in putting the bike on the rack adds up over time. The Kuat isn’t extendable either. That hasn’t mattered as much over the pandemic, because we’ve been avoiding the crowds on the Greenway at Big Creek. We used to all go out together and we would ride the Greenway while my grandson rode the MTB trails. Eventually, hopefully soon, we’ll all be going out together again soon. It better be soon, else he’ll be driving himself and he’ll have a job. I’d like to think we’d give him the Kuat and we’d finally get the 1 UP, but the reality is, he’ll get a job and say no thanks. He’ll buy the 1 UP, and we’ll still be using our temporary find.

Road Bikes and Recumbents

Bikes are the big scary question mark right now. Not only do we have bikes in need of repairs (me) and an overhaul (Russ), but we’re also going to need recumbents to ride half time so we can vary our physical positions, body stresses and sit spots to stay healthy and riding. I’m not really sure what we’re going to be able to do about it either. In the comparatively low end bike price range, the repair or replace decision comes at a lower price point simply because it doesn’t take many parts to add up to a purchase price, especially when there are service costs as well. But, the photo above is the stock that was available when I took my bike in for repairs a few months back. It kind of makes the decision for you, as long as there are parts to be had. I haven’t been in super recently, but, I’m still hearing cyclists talk about waiting several months for ordered bikes.

There are certain maintenance activities we’ll need to be doing constantly. For instance, tires will last between 1,500 and 2,500 miles without road damage. That’s 7-10 weeks at the rate we will be riding when we’re up and running in full project mode. I’m keeping my eyes open in the used market. That search will likely be constant so that equipment never causes us down time. Unless we move up in price range, we will likely make several repair or replace decisions over the course of the project. It is harder to find second hand bikes that are compatible for riding together, especially with our above average height requirements.

To back track for a minute, our current bikes are Giant brand. They are good bikes when in repair, well above department store quality, but ours are at the bottom end of what good bike shops offer and serious cyclists expect. Giant is considered a pretty good quality in the lower price ranges, but a lot of brands make good bikes, and fortunately, we’d happy with any of them too.

I have two bikes. One is a hybrid that I was riding the first time I trained for a century. Later, I bought a road bike, to be able to keep up with Russ on his road bike. Speed is increasingly important the more mileage a rider does, not just because we’re riding together and pacing each other. It’s also about number of hours in the saddle.

Recently I was without the road bike for almost a year and I brought the hybrid back from my mother’s where I was using it when visiting. Riding it again felt like an old friend and early photographs of this project might have either bike. I need the faster bike though. So, I sucked it up and made the appointment to fix the road bike. Shop repairs where I bought the bike are by appointment through the pandemic.

I spent about three quarters of the original purchase price on parts and service. It was much closer to the repair or replace mark than I realized. I’ve broken spokes without obvious cause recently and it may need new wheels soon. That could be due to the rough riding surfaces when the trail was full of storm litter though. It could just be that the wear parts have worn. I’m riding it exclusively since the repairs. One thing I noticed when I got the road bike back is that it was quieter. Keeping the adjustments properly made and replacing the cassette as soon as it’s worn will be important to reducing unwanted ambient noise while recording (and it helps to keep the bike faster too :). We’ll need to get better at doing that ourselves.

Russ’ bike, was at the repair or replace point before he crashed it. I really think he would have replaced if they had any stock, or even had any on the way. Then the question is, would he have crashed his new bike, or would the new bike have handled the road trash better and kept him from crashing?

The pandemic rush on bikes could result in a flood of second hand bikes at just the right time. Our second hand search handicap is not knowing enough about bike brands and models to know which bikes/models might be better. Bicycle Blue Book could help to know what the right price should be, but I’ve heard some scepticism on it’s accuracy and we don’t know enough to have our own opinions. My pet peeve is quickly becoming people who sell bikes without listing the size.

Then too, I learned from experience that it’s easy to accidentally get a bike that needs a lot of repairs, and the shops don’t cut you any deals on repairs if you didn’t buy the bike from them. I’m afraid that the combination of Russ’ height needs (he’s 6’6″), current market availabilities, and our need to be on bikes that perform well and similarly enough for us to ride together will push us higher in price ranges.

Recumbents

Choosing a recumbent is daunting, and not just a little. Really. There are good guides, but many recumbents are order online propositions and we’re talking about the difference between book knowledge and experience. When I buy a regular bike, first, I have experience riding one and second, I’m at a shop where I can test ride it in the parking lot. They’re too expensive to experiment. I need to get it right on the first try. I joined some facebook groups to see what I could figure out, but they were different enough in focus as to be unhelpful.

We narrowed it down a little. We thought about tandems from time to time, but finding one of those in the right size is likely to mean custom, and I’ve always been a little afraid I’d be a slacker (without intending to) on a tandem. A tandem could be fun for a lark on some other occasion, but when I consider that one of us might need to go for help or the car, that settles it. Sticking with separate bikes/recumbents also leaves us open to put cameras on each bike, potentially doubling our videos without doubling travel cost or time.

So, bike or trike? I like to maintain core muscles and all things being equal would choose a two wheel recumbent, but I think the three contact points of a medium to long wheelbase trike will offer greater camera stability, and smaller micromovements. What I mean by that is the midpoint between all three wheels. Needing less camera image stabilization is a huge factor in producing good video and that is the point.

Fantasy Island

I don’t even know what Fantasy Island looks like for the bikes. There are so many uncertainties. Fantasy Island doesn’t include automatic shifting (I’ll never learn to do it better myself that way) or electric assist. I”d like for us to ride road bikes in one direction, store them, and ride a recumbents in the other direction. That way, we won’t need automobile back up and will get good temporal spacing on videos. I haven’t decided if I want to try to set up cameras at the same height for both bikes, or if I want to have two different perspectives. I’m leaning toward different perspectives for practicality and variety. Any helmet cams or chest cams will clearly be at different heights. But those things will sort once we see what we have to work with.

The bikes need to be strong, fast, quiet, stable, safe and comfortable. We’ll need panniers for the road bikes I don’t usually care about color unless it’s heinous. I did notice Russ riding in front one day in a lime green Jersey. It looked so much like chromakey green that I thought about coloring everything, kit and equipment in chromakey green so that they could be easily removed at some point if anyone wants. I don’t know that anyone would, but options sometimes turn into actions.

Getting Real About Gear

I didn’t expect to be so heavily into needing to make gear and equipment decisions this early on. It’s beginning to feel like my wax rubbing Kickstarter. Never heard of that? It was going to be the small Kickstarter that showed I am earnest and will deliver before branching out on bigger ones. Of all my many and various ideas, it might have been the most difficult to reward supporters, so it probably wasn’t the place to start.

The plus was that I learned a lot of what people learn on a first project, even though I never submitted it. I tried some experimental alternative products, read up on doing a successful Kickstarter, spent more money than I planned to ask for in the first place, then read something that advised to ask for enough money to be taken seriously. I could revisit and revise it sometime in the future, but I have a more timely and more important idea I think.

It’s video-riding project that’s jumped to the forefront. That might seem odd at first. I have an aversion to being on screen, especially if I have to talk. I like being behind the camera. I have things to say, but I have trouble bringing me along with all my ideas.

Staying mostly in my comfort zone works for the project, but it’s a big challenge for the kickstarter video. Not only am I camera shy, I’m also really intimidated by the extraordinary professional level of talent and expertise in some of the Kickstarters. Finding where I fit among the likes of them is intimidating. But, then there’s the potato salad guy. Kudos to him BTW. Supporters had fun and everybody got what they expected, or more, and some people got fed. I hope there’s a place for me, for us, somewhere in there. I think we have a solid idea with a good purpose and I know we have strong commitment. It should be fun for supporters too.

My vision for this project was that, at its lowest level, a small Kickstarter would make a big difference to the base project, and it might even fund the ultimate goal. That’s still the hope, in part. But with the pandemic there have been so many changes. My MO for buying equipment has gone awry. I am most often the antithesis of an early adopter. Early adopters are great because they fund R&D, but I’m your original clearance section girl. I ride the bike that’s high on value per dollar. I don’t know what I would ride if money were no object, but I am very comfortable not riding the bike that is the biggest target for someone to steal. If I have the latest anything, the store was going out of business, or it was one of those rare things that I wanted or needed enough to pay early adopter money. I was the first person among my user group to buy a particular model of Garmin once, and then took all the smart people who bought it next as confirmation I made a good choice. I can’t think of another time I spent new release money on anything. On the whole, I’m not looking for the cool factor. I used my last bike seat until the leather was streamering and the gel was oozing. Literally.

But, the age of our gear in miles caught us as unprepared as the pandemic and both have thrown a wrench in my normal purchasing habits. I just had a near overhaul and Russ is due for a complete overhaul. His crank has been damaged for some time, and he’s been putting it back together with Loctite every now and then for 2 or 3 years. He wasn’t riding so much and it stayed long enough for him to forget about it, so it was a real surprise when his pedal arm fell off mid-stroke recently. He took it to the shop where I’ve bought family bicycles for three generations. The repair estimate put the cost up around the range where you make the repair or replace decision, (a decision that comes at a lower price point when you ride an inexpensive bike). But, the shop sold out big time when hitting the trails was the only pandemic possible cure for cabin fever. They didn’t have a new bike for Russ’ extra tall needs. Some shops said that extra-large was the frame size that was still around, but of course, they’re not more plentiful than they ever were. They’re just still around in some places for the same reason they were hard to find in the first place. Not many people are 6″6″.

So, every gear decision is colored by what is available now at today’s prices.