25 November 2011

The jury is still out.

DRAFT (come back later)

What bike should I commute on, touring bike or mtn bike?

This post is for my benefit, but the ten readers might find this post interesting or useful. ( This blog originally started as more of a journal of my trips, it has changed, but not sure what it is right now.)

Above is 1970's Raleigh Grand Prix touring bike.
-skinnier tyres, so faster , easier on smooth roads
-fewer gears, yep you read right and I will explain below.
-light (see below)
-Many hand positions

-No racks yet, harder to mount the front rack, will need brazing
-high off ground
-skinny tyres not good on rough roads, sand , mud
-mud sometimes cakes inside fenders
-No granny gear for the really step roads

Above Trek 6500 ~year 2000 Mtn bike
-Racks front and back
-Fat tyres for rough road
-low gearing
-shock in front for rough roads
-tyres thicker, less flats

-No fenders yet, harder to mount the front one.
-No light yet
-fat tyres slower on paved roads
-fewer hand positions

A bike is a bike right? Well, sometimes but I am a bit complicated, I could get by with one bike (i have 3 now). But I could see owning more also . The bike setup for overnight bush bashing is different from the bike for a 4 hour mtn bike ride. Road riding with club is specializied.

I have points to make about a commuting bike:
-Is weight important? Not all that much as I carry loads anyway.
-Was the theft of my old bike a good thing? NO but I have had a wider experience with bike setup and types, and it is pointing me to a better bike. Like something is different about the raleigh. My hands dont go to sleep! With my expensive road bike they do. Why? Curved fork, narrow handlebars? different fit?
-gearing. It is way overrated having lots of gears, wide range and properly spaced is what i need . On the Raleigh if i could have smaller front chainring it would be great.
-Weight should be in front. I have read that proper touring bikes are more stable when there is load in front. So far i find it better than just the rear.
-can I get by with one bike? Yes but I will have several.
-Fenders!!!! yeah. They are important, but there is the issue of caking mud. But fenders going to work are required now.

The Trek mountain bike cost me $200 from the Goodie's used bike and spare shop in town. (His operation is a blog post in itself). Then I spent a few more dollars for front and rear racks. I dug around for bar ends and new cables. It needs some partial fenders and shifter and rear cassette are not quite compatible.

After riding it a few days I looked at the bike more. It is a Trek 6500. I am not a weight weinie. I add on so much stuff to a bike that it is senseless to buy a bike for lightness, when i am going to permanently add:
-front and rear racks
-frame triangle pack
-light mtns

However I noticed two days ago the frame says "ultralight frame" . I have been wondering why this bike seems faster than my old bike.

It also slows down faster and smoother. The brakes are really smooth.

So I had pretty much decided that my commuting bike would be the 1970's Raleigh, a heavy large framed road bike with full fenders. I haven't managed to get racks, and am tired of a backpack hung over the handlebars, so i have ridden the mtn bike as a commutter and now i dont know what to do.

I do know now that the commuting bike should :
Full fenders. Even the standard fenders are not long enough, especially the front, it should extend way far below the bottom bracket. This stops spray on the shoes and keeps bottom bracket drier. The mountain bike, i could figure out full fenders, but what happens off road? fenders get clogged up with mud.
Simple. few gears, less maintainence.
Lots of cargo capacity.
Front Rack. I finally have a front rack on a bicycle of mine. Yes it is better. Jan Heine publishes the only magazine i subscribe to, and he says start putting weight there.

Simple is better. with the raleigh i could get by with the 5 rear gears. I never use the large chain ring commuting to work.

wheels. The road bike might be slightly faster on the paved roads, but i have 1 km of trail and rough dirt road, where the mtn bike excels.

I found this dynamo and light at the used bike store. It is setup to be one unit but i split it.

Tonight I try it out on the ride home.

Free Dress day for a commuter

The younger bicycle commuter has free dress day today at school. As long as you pay your 1000 shillings and follow the theme you get a day off from the school uniform. Today it is mismatch day.
It is another excuse to show off how cool her commuting bike has become. She is also a cool kid.
Normally the commuter looks like this below:

21 November 2011

Number 25!


Hamisi, finishing number 25 works at my company, full time. Hamis and #42 and #44 are all in Arusha Cycling Club and on the Tanzanian National team. Juma is from Zanzibar

#25 doesnt sound all that hot place to finish unless you know this:

-There are 10km laps, if you get lapped you are out. 30 were dropped
-The winning time was 44kmph over 140km. That is speed of top European races.
-elevation is 7,000 feet
-At that speed if you lose contact you are out.
-I would venture that all but 10 in that 50 are professional or fully funded by their governments
-All the other coaches later told our coach they didnt expect our team to hang on.
-Our coach was never able to get water to our team, as we didn't have domestiques and our car was 12 cars back. They did that on their one water bottle.
-Our guys work jobs and ride in their off time.
-Hamisi had to take his vacation days for this race.
-Afterwards, the head of UCI (middle second pic) , MacQuaid says he will give Tanzania 5 high end bicycles, slightly used by pros in Europe.
-There are pros who ride for big European, Austrailian teams in this race.
-The wheels, bottom bracket and crank off my low end racing bike were on Hamisi's bike.

The coach for Rwanda, Jock Boyer, called our coach on the last lap and said our boys are doing great, right with them. Jock Boyer was the first American to ride the Tour de France in the 70's.

right now they are at Tour of Rwanda for 8 days tour.

Passing the baton

Last week two of my age mates schemed to ride bikes up mtn meru, then do a recce by foot on "old routes" up the mountain.

We tried to get their 20-30 year old boys to come, one my godson, but they opted for clubbing the night before. I think the real reason is they know we are old, and we are slow. We thought different at the time.

" Yeah we can do it"
" Yeah man , instead of straight up 7 switch backs, lets go up on West meru plateau with bikes."
"That means we can ride bikes higher"
"Yeah then we can be above tree line fast' "
"Dude lets do it"

So Tadayo, Maiko, and the usual meet before dawn my house and ride in the dim light. No mechanicals but my tyre needs pumping twice before the slime takes over. (BTW I can buy slime in a couple of different shops in town now! Way cool.)

Where was I? Oh yeah, so we cross the ngaremtoni river canyon. Complaining about how steep and rocky it is . you carry and lift the bike. Suddenly the green turns to dusty forest and we slog up the logging road. Luckily, there is no traffic.
We stop for our first view, below, but as serious adventurers we keep going to breakfast up on top. You have read of my physical deficiencies, but other people have one year old fake hips, and another has a leaky heart valve.
Lousy phone camera. I need a camera mom! The last one Bernice (mom) bought was really nice, shock and water proof and took better pictures than I can snap.

I swear Thadayo is on that road over there. We take this contouring road to avoid passing through a forest gate up on the plateau. It is also fun to ride level and look down on Lengijave and Kilima Moto hills.

We get back in to a rain pattern and pass a peach grove. Yep you read right. Unfortunately we are a month early. Peaches grow fairly well up here and worms seem less of a problem.

We pass back into national forest that has been clear cut and planted with potatoes.

Now I know why the 20 year olds opted out. They know we are damn slow. They will party all night wake up at 9 am catch us at noon. We are moving pretty slow now and keep checking if the brake is rubbing or there is a flat, or a buddy is holding onto the seat for a tow. Something is making the bike heavy.

We had stopped down there in this valley. Just to catch our breaths but ended up laying down and eating some snacks. Not breakfast mind you. We are serious and need to keep going. I adjust my rear deraileur so that the 7 speed shifter shifts on the higher 7 gears of the 8 speed cassette. Confused? I needed the smallest gear. I was pretty impressed, I was able to do that in about 30 sec.

Ffinally up on the plateau in a short section of native forest. Mike carrys his hiking gear in a backpack! I have everything on the bike.

The plateau is still plenty of uphill, infact mostly up hill. Even the flat started to be hard work. Bionic man is suffering understandably. Time was he was the crazy fit one. This is him below, on a flat stretch trying to coast. We now have turned the cornor and are in heather country. Old fire cleaned out the trees. Moor land is fun to be in except we are now 2800m.

Finally we stop for breakfast about 11;32 am. We carefully put our bikes aside and sprawl on grass. Grass about as cushiony you can imagine. It is like sitting in a bean bag chair. We talk about our aches and about how tough and strong we are. We change the objective from "walk above vegetation line" to "Lets walk for about an hour or so."

Thad remembers from 20 years ago that you have to whack through here and eventually get to animal trails. We bush whack, back track, and eventually are on a old faint track that sometimes seemingly dissappears.

We walk up on top of one ridge and about 1300 decided we should wisely turn around as even coasting down might be difficult in our state.

Once on the bike it was about 90 minutes to Ngaremtoni, 95% coasting, 1/2 on bone jarring rocky road. It is tiring on the arms. My headset losens up.

We cycle through the trashy urban sprawl of Ngaremtoni, unfortunately this is what Africa is like folks. It isn't so much filthy, it is dust and trash that has blown around on the roads. There is a huge sea of humanity on these roads. Get the picture?

We make it home around 1700 and the boys arent too keen to start driving and loiter over a glass of koolaid and a look at Bernice's rock garden. Tadayo takes a cutting and discusses plants.

12 November 2011

Bothering me

"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing about." -Benjamin Franklin.

Read more: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/b/benjaminfr133951.html#ixzz1dSySRyyY

I am bothered by the second one. I don't write that well, but I used to do stuff worth writing about. I have gotten to busy building around the house and then losing my mountain bike put a spanner in the works of doing "something worth writing".

Tomorrow, tomorrow, i will try to do something worth writing about.
I rode the "new" mountain bike to work yesterday. There are some kinks to work out but it promises to be a good bike. It feels smooth and i swear it pedals easier.

07 November 2011

For awhile I thought I would never be back to normal, back to my normal . I am talking about losing my bicycle , lights, rain gear, pump, bags, etc to a &^*@$&^ thief and my reaction was to freeze, unable to cope, at least for a week.

Another week and I will not miss the bike, I am still way bummed about losing the stuff, like camera, pump, lights, and rain gear. It is not convenient to acquire here. And finding all the extras for the bike is taking awhile, like good bell, mud guards and fenders, bags.

The 1970's Raleigh (previous post) is turning into a great bike. I have changed to aluminum rims and lengthened the front fender since I last wrote. I am finding it is a superior bike for commuting, so even if i got my bike back this is my commuting bike. This bike is much faster and cleaner to ride to work. It has pretty fat road tyres so the rough road to the highway is not a problem.

For last Wednesday's club ride I was unable to use my modern 20 speed road bike. I rode this old touring bike with the 4 Tanzanians going to the African bike championships in Eritrea today. ( Some of the parts from my bike were on one of their bikes, extremely light carbon frame.) That is a story in itself. Remind me to go on vacation next time our club gets into something like this. I have spent way too much time for someone else's dream.

They of course start out in Zone 3, at 60% and I had no problem until just before the police post at Oldonyo Sambu. That was after about 500m of elevation gain. My point is the bike is not that much different than my new one. I performed about the same.

I also notice my hands did not go numb, and my foot maybe a bit better. I rode 2+ hours without stopping. I wonder if the narrower handle bars is the reason.

What I really need for this touring bike is a front rack and maybe full frame triangle pack, and of course the lights.

Over the past week I have been in charge of getting the bike's ready for the Championships, and in the end we called in the best mechanic in town. We were done and he saw me messing with the truing of my touring bike and like that he did it up for me. I think now I can ride no hands. I will use him more often for fixing some stuff.

A week ago I sprung 330,000 shillings or about $200 for a used 8 speed Trek hard tail mtn bike. Maybe 6-12 years old. The second hand shop fixed it up fairly well , it works but I have been spending a week rebuilding it. I still have a ways to go but it is starting to get there. Yesterday I found that a bearing race in the headset was upside down, and I got the racks on firmly and some bull bars. At 6pm i road around the neighbor hood and was shocked how much better it felt than my old bike. Could this be, or i have just forgotten?

Hopefully I will now have some bush adventures to write about now.