Giving the Pursuit a Second Chance

One topic I’ve been interested in cataloging about my biking adventures is the ride quality differences between the mixte and the road bike. But as I was riding the Raleigh Pursuit, I started having problems with the rear wheel slipping in the drop-outs and causing the tire to rub the chain stay. Bummer. So the Pursuit sat in a corner, collecting dust for a couple months.

With a move into the city a couple weeks ago, into a tiny studio apartment, I could no longer overlook the Pursuit. I see it no matter my location in the apartment. Staring at me, longing for a ride. But I felt betrayed, let down by the fact that we had had so many great rides, and then when I really needed it, it failed me. But I itched for a different ride. Sure, the mixte has served me well – it’s been a fantastic companion to my daily adventures. We ride everywhere together, I can trust her. But as with most things in my life, I get bored after awhile — longing for a change, something new, refreshed. So this morning I decided to bike in with the Pursuit.

Now, my new commute is much different than the old one. Previously I rode 7 miles from Crystal City, VA into Dupont Circle, DC. There were trails, roads, side walks, hills, flats and never-ending headwinds from the Potomac (don’t miss them!). This new commute has me riding 1.5 miles down hill from Adams Morgan into Dupont Circle on the way in, and about 2 miles up hill going home. It’s short, sweet, filled with people shoaling. It’s a nice ride, mostly, though sometimes it feels too short.

But I digress. The feel. The ride of the Pursuit. When I purchased and built up the Olympian mixte, I had naive notions that it would ride similarly to the Pursuit. They were both from the same year, both lugged steel road bikes of similar proportions, just one had double slopping top tubes and the other a straight top tube. Oh how wrong I was. Getting on the Pursuit this morning awakened that biking fever I caught back in October. It was me, it felt like a part of me. Squirrelly and unsure on it’s legs, but itching to push forward and explore. It was me. It is me.

The tiniest movement sets her in a different direction. She’s a bit slow to stop, but eventually she gives in. (I think I just need to tighten the cables after not riding her so long.) It requires a different set of muscles to keep level and smooth, but when she gets going the biggest grin slips onto my face and I want to ride down the streets like a crazed scofflaw. But riding her this morning took me back to when I first got her and couldn’t stay off. I would go out on the dark streets at 10:30PM to ride around like a maniac, testing my ability, finding my place on the bike and honing my love for riding.

This is not to say that I don’t love the mixte. But I’m realizing they are two completely different styles of bikes despite sharing a maker. And I’m excited to give them two distinct roles in my life.

Grand Bois Hetre

The Grand Bois Hetres have been on my radar for a couple of months, but I left them to the side, knowing it was silly since they were 650b and my bikes have 700c and 27″ wheels on them. It was just my luck that the mixte can’t fit fenders on the 700c tires it is currently sporting and not wanting to go away from the awesomeness that is cream tires, the Grand Bois Hetres were the first tire I thought of. I flip-flopped for weeks on the purchase — they aren’t cheap by any means — but ultimately knew that I loved the bike and wanted to give the tires a try rather than just do what I could afford in the moment (a selection of black tires, ew!). I believe in saving up for the things you really want instead of sacrificing and being unhappy with a knock off or lesser product. As a result, the order for the delicious Hetres has been placed. Now I just need to talk to BicycleSPACE about getting some rims for them!

Photo by protorio

The Bikes of Warsaw

Dzień dobry! A couple weeks ago I was in Warsaw, Poland for a web conference and a couple of days of respite. Being that it was my first time to Europe, I had high expectations that the biking scene in Warsaw might be a bit better than that of DC. I had grand notions of taking my free day to sight-see by bike, but ended up spending it with my coworkers seeing the sights of Old Town Warsaw.

While GoogleMaps led me to believe there were protected bike lanes all over Warsaw, in reality there are very few. But that didn’t stop all cyclists from riding like they owned the road, whether on small side roads or busy round-abouts. There were all sorts of bikes — mountain bikes fit for the cobble-stone roads, roadies getting their laps in, and casual cyclists who probably wouldn’t consider themselves ‘cyclists’.

Most cyclists I saw were helmet-less, in fact, I think I only saw one or two out of the hundreds I saw with a helmet on. The roads seemed no safer, perhaps just controlled chaos in motion but all riders seemed confidant and took the lane with gusto. All riders, with the exception of the roadies obviously training, were wearing their regular clothes, even on the warmer days. In fact, many of them were very stylish as they rode along, like the couple below on matching Dutch bikes.

In fact, there were plenty of Dutch-inspired bikes that put a little bug in my ear that won’t quit telling me, “Laura you neeeeed one, think of how nice and relaxed the ride will be!”

Though my favorite bikes were the matching set of Gazelle’s locked up together along Nowy Świat in Old Town. Looking back on it, I believe they are the same bikes from the earlier photo of the stylish couple – these photos were taken 20 minutes earlier, before we sat down for a beer in the shade. Brooks saddles, grips, full fenders, they had the works. And they were gorgeous.

Other than the pretty bikes, I had a good time in Warsaw. It wasn’t in my top… anything of places to visit in Europe, so it was nice to go somewhere I wouldn’t have expected to go and see a place that isn’t overly touristy. I wish I would have had an extra day to bike around some of the parks I saw in passing, but I’ll have to save a Europe biking excursion for my next adventure overseas!

As Good a Time As Any

I’ve been traveling a lot lately – Warsaw, DC, San Francisco, DC.. The grocery store.. So the bikes have been collecting a bit more dust than I would have liked. In fact, the Pursuit (black road bike) hasn’t seen any action since I got the mixte. It’s sad, it actually has dust on it.

When I came back from all this traveling, I wanted to try out the old porteur bars that used to be on the Pursuit just to see how they would look. I figured it wouldn’t be too difficult, since there was no bar tape, just easily unscrewable pieces and the handlebars. Sadly, this proved to be wrong. Everything came off fine, but the second I tried to put the cork grips on the porteur bars, not realizing they were different sizes, it slipped and chipped off! Sad panda.


Doh! Well, at any rate, the cork grips were starting to make my hands sweat in the warm weather — though, the warm weather we had the last time I rode (2.5 weeks ago) is nothing compared to what we have now!

Knowing I’d have to get new grips/tape/whatever anyway, I decided to give the Dia Compe reverse brakes a shot while I was at it. I’ve briefly tested it and plan to take some pictures in better light tomorrow so you can truly get a sense for what they look like. The bike has taken on a much sleeker look, here’s hoping it rides the 6.5 miles to work just fine.

A Visit to the Mothership: Velo Orange Garage Sale

I’ve been a huge fan of the products of Velo Orange since I got into bikes and the restoration of them. After placing my first order at the beginning of the year, I have since made a few other purchases and continue to appreciate the aesthetic and quality of the products. So when I heard they were having a garage sale, and knowing they are only an hour from home, I knew I had to hit them up to see the goods in person. I literally acted like a kid on Christmas Eve all night, tossing and turning in bed, waiting for the alarm to go off.

The shop is in an industrial park on the outskirts of Annapolis, MD. It was a drizzly, grey, but fresh morning when we arrived at 8:45am, 15 minutes prior to their doors opening for the sale. There were already about 10 people waiting to get in.

I have plans to take the Olympian down to 650b mostly for fender placement. I attempted to install the fenders from the Pursuit last weekend and found that the clearance was too tight to allow the tire to run freely. After some conversation with Ed (@dailyrandonneur) and Alec over at Velo Orange, I found out they did have some 650b stuff included in the garage sale. So when the doors opened, the first thing I did was hustle to the wheels to find what I needed. Luckily I found a front wheel, but after walking around with it for 20 minutes, decided to just put it back since there was no match. I’m a stickler for parts that match, and I had no guarantee that I would ever find it’s mate, so I left it be.

The sale included many random bits and bobs, some useful, some not (to me anyhow). Plenty of fenders, cranks, cogs, handlebars, shifters and odds and ends for the build-it-yourselfer.

Despite being in an industrial park, they had a decent little show room. I imagine most of their business is online, so there was no need for anything fancy. But they did include their latest bike builds, walls of parts, and the perfectly branded (orange) espresso machine. They even had some gorgeous vintage chain protectors—I would have loved to buy one for the mixte!

So what did I end up with? Well, no 650b wheels, but I managed to get away with some Zeppelin fenders for when the 650b conversion finally happens, some Dia Compe reverse bar-end brakes that I’ve been eyeing for months, a taller Nitto stem (for only $10!), some single cog bolts for my front-end cog removal project, and a couple leather flaps for the fenders when they finally go on.

Everything I bought was used in some way except for the bolts. Some people mind that, but as long as the damage isn’t too bad, I actually like that the first hits have already been taken and I can just enjoy the worn in look the various bits have. The wear on those mudflaps? Delicious.

All in all it was a fun adventure, and I look forward to visiting for future garage sales. I was truly amazed at the courtesy the bike crowd had. It was definitely crowded in there, with people wielding fenders and wheels and other pokey objects, but it was orderly and polite, a welcome change of pace. Thanks go out to the folks at Velo Orange for supporting a great community, and having such an awesome little sale.

My Kind of Morning

The weather has had a hard time making up it’s mind lately. One day we’ll have glorious sunny, 65 degree weather with light winds, the next it will be the same but with 25mph winds, only to then go up to the high 80’s with the same amount of wind and suddenly drop the next day down to the low 50’s, dreary and drizzly. I suppose this is indicative of Spring in this region, give or take the 80-90 degree days that have been brought on by global warming. (You can’t tell me it’s not real.)

I’m leaving for Poland next week for a week of site-seeing, and while I’ll be sure to rent a bike and enjoy European biking for the first time, I knew going into the #30daysofbiking challenge I would miss the last week of April due to the trip. I also missed the last two days, because I wasn’t feeling it on Tuesday and Wednesday it was gross and I’m having trouble getting the fenders to fit on the bike. That’s a story for another time. Maybe during our layover in Copenhagen (how cool is that?). 

Really, I wanted to gush about how nice of a morning it was for a bike ride. Despite feeling the stickiness in the air that DC is known for (it was built on a swamp afterall), it was a quiet and refreshing morning to bike. The wind was low, the sun was warm and surprisingly, there weren’t many people on the trails. Gun-shy from the ‘rain’ last night maybe? Not sure. But I’ve decided that around 8:00-8:15 am is my favorite time to bike, and high-50’s with 5mph winds is my favorite temperature. It’s quiet, there is a misty fog over the city, everything is fresh and new again. It was a lovely morning, the kind of morning I look forward to everyday.