Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Commuting year draws to a close

Here comes the end of another year on the bike. Getting to work. Getting out at the weekend. Even a holiday on two wheels. The more I've cycled to work, the easier it has been and just seems the logical thing to do. The weather is no longer a deterrent and can be looked forward to. Rain, snow, frost are all perfectly bearable and can be positively invigorating. After all, there's nothing quite like heading off into the rain of a dark night as an antidote to the brain mangling a day at a computer screen creates. The only weather I'm not too keen on is strong crosswinds but those are relatively infrequent.

For three months now, I've been commuting on an old steel frame Raleigh mountain bike with slick tyres on. This was my stand-in bike whilst I restored my 28 year old Raleigh road bike I've used for the last 8 years. The winter weather and road salt had taken its toll on the paintwork and having neglected it for so long, I decided it was time to give it a new lease of life.

The mountain bike, without the knobbly off-road tyres, worked well as a commuter apart from there being no mudguards. I see people using similar bikes without mudguards to get around. They must suffer the same problem of spray getting up their backs when it is wet. Not something I like, so to combat it, I've cycled slower when it is wet to try and prevent it.

The road bike is ready to take up commuting duties again, thankfully just in time for the new year. Christmas eve was the last outing for the mountain bike in its current form for commuting. That morning, I got it out of the (damp) shed to be greeted by a picture of fresh rust and lack of lubrication. The previous few rides had been in particularly bad weather. With no protection from the tyres, most of the mechanicals had been sprayed with a salty muck from the road and this was still on the bike along with the new rust a couple of days later. With little time to do much more than oil the chain, I set off enjoying the light traffic. The schools were closed and many people had finished work for the Christmas break. The heaviest traffic seemed to be shoppers picking up turkeys from butchers and getting their seasonal vegetables. I was looking forward to an enjoyable quiet ride to work, but ironically half-way there, I suddenly noticed a strange noise sounding something like a leaf rubbing the back tyre. I hadn't gone more than about 30 metres when it became obvious I had a puncture.

I pulled over and set to to replace the tube. Passing shoppers all looked but nobody said anything. They must have thought it a strange sight seeing this chap stripping his bike down first thing in the morning on the pavement outside the shops. Having checked the inside of the tyre for sharp objects, I got the new tube in and was soon on my way. I got to work about 5 minutes late and was quite pleased it hadn't delayed me much.

When I got home, I decided to wash the bike to remove the corrosive salt mixture. The frame on this bike is in a similar state to the road bike and rust is showing through the paintwork especially around the bottom bracket and chain stays. After washing it, I decided to mend the puncture in the inner tube and put it back in the tyre. I then noticed a broken spoke in the rear wheel. This is the wheel I practiced my wheel truing skills back in September. It was one of the old spokes that failed. Luckily I still had some new spares so I could fix it quickly. I also tightened some loose spokes in the front wheel. It's surprising what happens when you're not looking so cleaning a bike is a good opportunity to have a look around and make sure everything works as it should. I put the repaired tube in the rear tyre and pumped it up to the maximum pressure and discovered that the puncture site had three small holes, one of which was sufficiently large that it revealed the inner tube, one of the others had some glass embedded in it. I tried making an internal repair to the tyre, but I don't think it will be adequate so this bike is going to be in dry dock until I can decide what to do with it.

It's a year I've enjoyed, both cycling and gaining experience maintaining bikes, attempting previously avoided tasks. It has made riding them more enjoyable and given me satisfaction as I gained new skills. 2008 has been a good year on the bike with regular commuting, more day rides and a cycle tour in the summer.

Hopefully 2009 will be a good cycling year for you. Happy new year.

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