Thursday, March 27, 2014

Get Ready for Spring! - From Tim's old Patch Column

 It's been suggested to me that I should "re-print" some of the columns I wrote as the Vienna Pedaler on the Vienna Patch. Here's one from February of 2012, about getting ready for spring. While it seems to never get here, it IS on the way, so here are some thought about it.

Spring will be upon us before you know it, and it’s time to start thinking about riding your bike again. This year, many of you might have kept riding through this unusually warm winter, but I’m guessing most folks have left their bikes in the garage or shed most of this season. Well, it’s time to get ready for the warmer, longer days of spring!

To start with, now is the time to make sure your bike is ready to roll. I can’t tell you how many people walk into their local bike shop on the first warm, sunny weekend in April, asking to get their bikes “tuned up” for the season. Many are surprised and disappointed to learn that they may have to leave their bike with the shop for a week or even more. The simple fact is that when “the season” hits, most bike shops are simply overwhelmed by the sudden influx of bikes in for service.

So how do you avoid this? First and foremost, plan in advance. Sure, it may be several weeks, or even a month or more, before we get consistently nice weather, but if you take care of your bike now, it will be ready at a moment’s notice. So now is the time to pull it out, dust it off, pump up the tires and maybe put a little lube on the chain. Remember though, you should check the tires again when you’re ready to ride, as they lose pressure over time, even if unridden.

If it’s been a year or more since you’ve had your bike looked at by a mechanic, and you don’t have the skills yourself, now is also the time to bring it to your local shop. Trust me, they will be more than happy to help, and will probably be able to get your bike back to you within a couple of days at most. You may even be told the bike doesn’t need any work at all, and you’ll be ready to go, and have the peace of mind of a clean bill of health for your bike. That way, when that sunny weekend arrives, you can just hop on and go!

Well, that is if YOU are ready to ride. Depending on your experience and preferences, you may simply be ready to hop on the bike and go when that lovely day arrives. Some of us, however, might have special clothes, equipment, or other items we like when we ride. 

Now is a good time to dig out your bike clothes and check them over for wear and tear. Gloves in particular lead a hard life, and you might want to consider a fresh pair going into spring. If you wear special bike shorts, these too might need some attention or replacement. Is the padding still holding up and giving enough comfort? If your wear “skin shorts”, make sure they still have enough stretch, and aren’t getting pills or worn spots. Shirts and jerseys and jackets don’t get the same kind of beating, but check them as well. Nylon and other synthetics “age” under sunlight, so check them for any signs of wear and age as well.

It’s also wise to check over any accessories you use when you ride. If you ride with a cyclocomputer or GPS unit, check to see the batteries are still good and that the unit reads when the wheels go around. Check the batteries in your lights as well, so you’re not caught out without lights after dark. Finally, if you carry any sort of bag or have a rack or basket mounted on your bike, make sure they are in good condition and solidly attached to the bike. It’s never fun to have a ride spoiled by a rack or bag coming loose and knocking around.

Well, now that you’ve checked over your bike and gear, all you have to do is wait for that glorious season of warm weather and lots of sunlight. In the meantime, you can start planning and daydreaming about where you will ride.  Next column I’ll throw out some ideas on that. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions in that area, please post them here on the Patch, or email Tim directly.

Obviously, since my Patch column is no longer published, post any comments here, or on Facebook, or email

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Cruising with Bromptons!

Tim and the Bromptons, on the docks in Nassau, Bahamas
And by "cruising" I don't mean a casual, local ride around town...  No, I'm talking about taking an ocean cruise, and bringing Bromptons along for use in the ports along the way!

The trip was an eight day adventure, with four days at sea and four each in a different port - Port Canaveral, FL, Nassau, Coco Cay (the cruise line's private island) and Key West. From previous experience on a cruise to Bermuda Christy and I knew that having our Bromptons with us would give us more flexibility and opportunities for exploration than if we had to rely on other forms of transportation in port. And it's just a lot more fun to ride around on a bike than sit on some tour bus or in a taxicab!

And here's Christy with the bikes... the smile says it all!
On this trip we found that Nassau and Key West were the most sensible places to use the bikes.  Coco Cay is basically one endless beach, and Port Canaveral just isn't very bike friendly... heavy traffic on highways, essentially. Nassau was a bit challenging, due to some heavy traffic and the fact that they drive on the left there, but we did find it a lot easier to see the things we wanted to see by bike rather than walking. KeyWest, on the other hand, seems to be just about perfect for exploring by bike... the streets really encourage drivers to go slow, and there are lots of folks getting around by bike. I was pleasantly surprised by just how many bikes we saw, both on the streets and parked all over town.

Nassau, near the Queen's Staircase
Sunny, warm days, beautiful scenery, interesting towns... and all so much better by bike! I highly recommend adding some cycling to any cruise you might take, and especially if you can bring a folding bike. You'll want to check with the cruise line you book with, and I recommend getting their policy in writing, just in case. Keep that with you when you get on and off the ship, just in case someone questions you about the bikes. And be prepared to be the center of attention as you get off a fully loaded cruise ship, surrounded by other passengers and folks on the dock, as you unfold your bike and ride off on your day's adventure. We found ourselves with an audience pretty much everywhere we went.