One Bike to Ride Them All

If you read my previous posts you can review the on-going evolution of my hybridized mountain bike. I decided that I want just one bike for local errands and recreation. I live in Seattle and the region has many rail trails and local governments that promote cycling.  So my bike needs to handle city streets and the obstacles as well as asphalt and gravel trails. Comfort, maneuverability, and load-carrying take precedent over speed.
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Wasn’t it just August? Layering for a cold November ride

Now to start with, I AM a Seattleite (the denizens of Seattle really call themselves that). I’m used to cool, humid, wet, gray winter days. It rarely gets below freezing and very rarely in the teens Fahrenheit (the record low of 0°F was in 1950). We get a big wet sloppy snowstorm once in a while and a couple inches of snow bring this hilly city to a halt.

So today it was sunny and cool and I thought I should get out for a ride. My days on the bike have slacked off since September and it takes some extra initiative to get out. Sunny or just rainless days are rare and I should make every effort to ride when the weather is better. The weather stats are pretty typical for a winter day: 45°F, 50% humidity and it was windy today with winds from the NNW at 15-25MPH. I felt the 15MPH wind at least and had the total pleasure (NOT) of getting headwinds coming AND going on this trip. Note the humidity was rather low today, with high humidity levels being common (and temperatures in the mid-forties Fahrenheit).  Continue reading

Bike Rack Hacking: Mounting a Rear Pannier Rack on the Front Fork

I have used the Sunlite Gold Tec front rack on my bike and it works well with a small dry bag or mounting a small basket with zip ties, but a 9.25″ overall length, it is just a bit short for most rack trunk bags.  I do like the mounting system, with one bolt at the rear and one to each of the unused V-brake mounting bosses on my disc brake equipped bike. It is dirt cheap, light and simple to install.

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Suburban Seattle Rail Trail Labor Day Bike Ride

I didn’t get out of town for Labor Day weekend and with the weather improving, I decided to go for a good ride. This time I headed north on the Burke-Gilman and Sammamish River rail trails, entering the trail near Matthews Beach Park in the northeast corner of Seattle and passing though the bedroom communities of Lake Forest Park, Kenmore, Bothell, a side trip into Kirkland and turning around in the town of Woodinville.

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An Afternoon Bike Ride on Seattle Streets and Rail Trails

I was up for a good urban adventure last Wednesday, so I loaded up the bike and took off for a loop through downtown Seattle using as many rail trails as possible. I live in the northeast quadrant of Seattle and it is about 7 miles to the downtown area by the most direct route, but using rail trails and some connecting streets, I made a trip to the west side of the city, along the waterfront, back through the city center and back home in a 27 mile loop.

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Chain Bicycle Locks

I have been using an OnGuard Pitbull Mini LS U-lock along with an 7′ Kryptonite KryptoFlex cable  to secure my bike. The Pitbull purchase was driven by cost and I found it on eBay at a good price. The cable was purchased used as well. The recommended way to use a U-lock is to go around the seat tube and rear tire and an immovable object like a bike stand or street signpost. The distance between the seat tube and the rear tire on my bike is too wide, so I normally went around a handy part of the frame and the immovable object and tied off both wheels with the cable looped onto the legs of the U-lock. I have bolt-on skewers as well. I use a small Abus 1500 chain for a seat lock and for “no ride-off” protection only at my local grocer or the post office.

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New tires: Continental Country Plus 26 x 1.75

I’ve been running Schwalbe Big Ben 26 x 2.15 tires for most of the time I have owned my Novara Bonita bicycle. It originally came with WTB WeirWolf Comp 26 x 2.1 trail tires. I travel pavement and gravel rail trails and I don’t need an off-road tire; in fact, they are noisy and slow on hard surfaces and I got two flats in one 25 mile gravel trail trip from blackberry thorns.

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On Bicycles and Tools

noun: tool; plural noun: tools
1. a device or implement, especially one held in the hand, used to carry out a particular function.

I like tools. They help me earn a living, to keep my life in order, give me some independence, and aid creative output. And I like tools just for the design, the form and function. Some are quite beautiful and clever. I know how to use tools, so having them is an extension of my knowledge and ability. I’m smarter with tools at hand, so more is better— maybe.

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The Snoqualmie Valley Rail Trail

We got out for a ride last week on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail, between the towns of Duvall and Carnation, Washington. We got a late start and the weather was cloudy and gray and threatening rain. We had walked a few miles of the southern portion of the trail a month ago and I was curious about this northern section that follows the Snoqualmie River. The banner photo above is from the trail a couple miles south of Rattlesnake Lake at the north end of the trail. This section runs very flat and mostly straight for about 11 miles between McCormick Park in Duvall and Tolt-McDonald Park on edge of Carnation.

We started out about 1 PM on a Wednesday afternoon and found the trail nearly vacant, which is so different form our usual experience on the heavily traveled Burke-Gilman and Sammamish River Trails. We had a leisurely ride out through the pastures, corn fields and wetlands of the valley.

The path surface is mostly 5/8″ minus crushed gravel and packed down well. There is some forest duff or dirt mixed in on some parts. We are both running 32C tires with a touring/randonnuer tread and I didn’t know what to expect. Neither of us have any real experience riding off pavement, so this was a bit of an experiment. I figured we could always turn around if the going got too rough. We did ride the Interurban Trail south of Bellingham, Washington earlier this summer and this is fairly similar– just a bit rougher overall. We did notice that the rougher surface effects speed and coasting power. The only time we felt at all challenged was where loose gravel collected at the ends of the short bridges.

We rode along at 10-12mph and took in the fresh air and views, traveling just 22 miles round trip. It is odd to be on a road that is so straight in this area. With all the hills and waterways, there is no lack of twisting curves. On the path there were sections that you could it going off into infinity for a couple miles.

We like to hike and these more rural rail trails are much more like forest hiking. I have one fat tire bike in the project cue and I’m looking for another. These trips are short enough that we really don’t need expensive technically sophisticated bikes to enjoy them, but a little more traction and cushion from fat tires would be great.


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A typical farm road crossing on the trail
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There are sections that run arrow straight for a couple miles across the countryside. You can almost feel the old trains rumbling along.
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There is a suspension bridge at Tolt-MacDonald park leading to the campground. The bridge is not part of the trail.

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