Cycling

If it needs to be said, all this is just my opinion, take it with a grain of salt, all advice may not apply to you, use it at your own risk, your mileage may vary, etc. etc. I'm collecting this here for my own reference and so that I can point people here if they ask about stuff I do, or own.

History

I've been riding a bike since just after I could walk. I vaguely remember rickety training wheels on a pink bike, ridden up and down the trailer park in Quebec. The training wheels where then moved to a bare bones red one speed when we moved to BC. I feel off that red bike while I was just learning to ride without training wheels (again in a trailer park, luckily fell on pine needles and wood chips) and the bare metal bar end ripped up the skin on my throat - this marked the first time that I recall seeing my mom cry. I healed up without a scar, though I remember the 4 inch long red mark hanging around for a couple of months at least. Around this time, my younger sister got a three speed bike, and lo, I was envious. I think I jumped to a 5 speed, and she got a 7 speed, then I got a 10 speed and she got a 12, it was annoying. :)

We moved to Ontario and my bike became my primary mode of transportation, especially when I hit grade 7 and my new school was just a bit too far to walk to. The high school was even further away, and so were all my sources of entertainment: the pool and the pool hall. :) This period is marked by the reason I have a deep seated fear of high curbs: I rode too close to one and tore most of the skin off my right ankle. Luckily, again, no scar. The MPs were also rumoured to be stopping cyclists and warning them that they had to have lights and bells on their bikes, so that's when I started keeping those accessories as standard accoutrements. My dad had an 18 speed bike with panniers that I was envious of, and he'd occasionally let me try to ride it (he's only about 2 inches taller than I am), and we'd have a blast going out the rolling hills along the artillery range road to Lisle - I remember him getting up to 60kph/38mph one time, and I was close behind him, scared out of my socks that I'd hit a rock and go flying off the road.

After high school, I moved into a dorm room at my university and didn't take my bike with me. I eventually gave my parents permission to sell it at a yard sale, after I got a shiny new one, but they ignored me and I'm pretty sure it's still in their basement. :) I think I got a hand me down bike when I moved downtown - I remember riding it to York *once*, it was around 18km or 11miles, and I was exhausted by the time I got there (granted, it was all uphill). It eventually got stolen, while chained up on my front porch, one day when I was out at the Ontario Science Center. I was heartbroken, and kept the pieces of cut chain to remind me to keep my bikes safe thereafter. I moved to Brampton for a while, and a friend loaned me a 10 speed to ride to work - the last bus left at 6, and I would often work late, so the bike was perfect. The drivers, however, were not, and I got a flat tire riding on a section of rare sidewalk while trying to not get killed. The flat stymied me for quite a while, my bike repair skillz were zero.

I joined a gym and part of the sign up package was a new mountain bike. I had to get a friend to drive me into downtown Toronto to a sketchy warehouse to pick it up, but I loved that bike. I lived on the 4th floor of an apartment building, and I'd haul it up the stairs every day after work. It came with me when I moved back to downtown Toronto (kept it safe to avoid theft, but I was carpooling to work back in Brampton (and hating the driving)) and then to Boston. I ended up getting a bike from a shorter friend of mine and passing this one on to another friend who needed one. The smaller bike had correspondingly smaller wheels and while it was comfortable to ride (though it needed regular maintenance - at one point a brake cable snapped), I was getting a bit annoyed at being passed by all the other cyclists. :)

Bikes

Here are my most recent bikes, where I've got a bit more detail still embedded in my brain. :)

Trek 7300

My first new bike in years, I bought a Trek 7300 hybrid from Ace Wheelworks. I remember working out the cost for public transit over the time I'd been riding to work in Boston and realising that $500 for a bike was cheap at the cost, never mind comparing it to owning a car (I sold mine when I moved, didn't need it, and wasn't allowed to import it anyway). I rode this thing into the ground. I took my first bike maintenance class through
Bikes Not Bombs and tore this thing apart and then put it back together again. Found out that the front stem was worn and that caused the front wheel to list to the side. Also found that the shocks it came with on the front fork were useless - they wore out and became dead weight, as they're not maintainable. I did a couple of long rides on this bike, taking it on the carriage roads in Acadia National Park (awesome place to go in the fall), and riding from Rockport back to Boston with some friends (that was the ride that cemented my need for a new bike - I just couldn't keep up with everyone).

Marin Kentfield

I'm currently (2006+) riding a 2006 Marin Kentfield that I bought new at Broadway Bikes in Cambridge, MA. I picked the frame because it fit my 5 foot 3 frame without undue stretching to reach the handlebars, but swapped out some components: I specificially got the version with no front shocks, but did get an in seat post shock.
The picture is of my Marin all kitted out for the first ride to work. I carry a change of clothes, my lunch, my purse, usually a book, and emergeny repair tools in the panniers. My work laptop will also fit in there, but it's heavy and I get really nervous riding in traffic with it.

My boyfriend built me a new front wheel with a generator hub after my bike got hit, and now I've got an electric headlight and tail light. Before he announced that, I had ordered handbuilt wheels from Tyler at Paramount, and am still running that rebuilt back wheel.

Giant Boulder

I had to buy a bike right quick when I had a collision, and ended up getting a red Giant Boulder mountain bike off of Craigslist. It came with a rack, but I ended up putting an old saved rack on, as the metal of the mount points was so thin, the mounting bolts were hitting the rear cassette. The woman selling it had only ridden on the Minuteman bike path, it was pristine, and she threw in the rack, nylon panniers, a lock, lights, and a floor pump.
I rode it for a month to work, but it's a bit too long for me, so I'm retiring it until I can go off roading on it and use my now repaired Marin.
Nov/09 got a shorter headset to go between the steering tube and the handle bars, swapped out less knobby tires for city riding.

Gear

I ride all year round, in all weather conditions. I've face planted on icy concrete (vitamin E lotion kept me from scarring, and my teeth were only loose for a little while :) ), and skidded around a corner due to wet crosswalk paint (unfortunately, though the scar is almost gone 3 years later, the ligament trauma is still plauging me - it's not torn, but my right knee ACL is not a happy camper). The gear I was wearing probably saved me some injury - full face balaclava for the winter riding, and waterproof rain pants for the wet days. Here's my current gear list, honed through the years.

Constants

Always wearing these:
If it's not too cold or hot:

Cargo

I can't wear a backpack or messenger bag, so the bike gets to carry everything.

Night Riding

Wet Weather

Hot Weather

I hate the heat. No really. I get cranky and miserable. But I still ride.

Cold Weather

I'll bike as long as it's -20C or above, I can't stay warm if it's colder than that. If the roads are clear enough for cars to drive on them, I can bike on them. Boston doesn't get enough snow to warrant studded tires, so I just use "all season" non slicks and ride carefully. Only ice will make me stop if it's over -20C, but I've ridden through blizzards and lived to tell the tale. It's actually pretty fun once you get the hang of going with the skids, but I hate getting snow flakes up my nose.
Ice Bike has lots of great cold weather tips, if I don't get pogies or moose mitts to keep my hands warm, I'm thinking of investing in the Vulpine Adaptive IceBike Mitt (crap, may not be available any more), as usually, it's my fingers getting cold that makes a winter commute miserable. Also check out Bike Winter for more resources.

Collisions

Ironically enough, the day after I advertised this page to my friends, I got hit by a car while riding home from the movies. Fri Nov 2nd, 2007 marked the first time a car has managed to actually hit me, I'd been really good (and lucky) about avoiding their attempts until then. I'd met my boyfriend in Harvard Sq to get dinner and then see a movie, and as we walked out of the theatre, he offered to put my bike on the car roof rack and give me a lift home. I scoffed at the idea and
kitted up to ride home. I was in the bike lane on Brattle St at Sparks when a Lexus sedan driver failed to see me as she entered the intersection. I tried to swerve and/or brake but no dice, her bumper hit my bike, it went into the street and I hit her hood, then the pavement. I lay there for a bit catching my breath, a guy asked me if I was okay, the driver helped me get my bike to the side of the road. I was mostly bruised, but someone called 911 anyway and a Cambridge police officer and an ambulance soon arrived. The officer took our statements and ended up waiting with me while my boyfriend came to pick me up. The EMTs were great, but all they needed to really do was give me an ice pack and a soft place to sit (I'd landed on my butt). I signed the waiver saying I didn't want to go to the emergency room, and they took off. I lost it a bit when I had a friend there to cry all over, but the most annoying fall out has been that my bike's wheels need to be replaced, as well as the crank. I took the bike to Paramount to get the wheels trued again and Tyler said that they were both toast. I rode it to work once, regretting it almost immediately as I found the bent crank arm was hurting my knee. I bought a very good condition used Giant Boulder mountain bike off of Craigslist and used that to get to work while waiting on my hybrid to be repaired. Took it to Ace to get a formal quote. Also went to see my doctor for a checkup and lower back xrays, just to be sure. Dealing with the insurance company, and getting some free legal advice from a lawyer affiliated with MassBike.

I'll most likely be updating this as I gather my thoughts about the incident. If this happens to you, I'd recommend actually going to the emergency room to get checked out - it'll probably be easier to do it right then rather than waiting.

Update C+1month: the bike is finally back, two new wheels and a crank, and it feeels really funny to be riding a hybrid again after a month on a mountain bike. But bonus: no knee pain. Still no sign of a payout from the insurance co for the bike repair, though they've been quick enough to cover the medical bills. A minor hassle was that Ace couldn't do an insurance quote after Paramount tried to fix the wheels, so I had to bring it back to Paramount for the quote, then home while I waited for the parts to come in, and then back again for the installation of the new parts, and then again to go pick it up. Lots of time wasted due to that one instant of collision. :/

Update: the insurance company paid for the quoted bike repair 4 months after the collision. No long lasting injuries for me, but my replaced rear brake cable housing has been giving me trouble ever since. The bike's due for an overhaul before winter hits again, so that should take care of that.

Resources:

Useful Links

A work in progress, sorted alphabetically.

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