Thursday, 9 June 2011

Bicycle adjustments

A bicycle is rarely complete when you roll it out of the bicycle store, however. There will be some adjustments to be done. Obviously, the seat needs adjusting, and possibly also the steering wheel. Time and time again, I have also experienced the need to adjust gear and brakes immediately after the bicycle leaves the store. Also, with new wires and everything, you should expect to adjust these again within few days, as the wires will stretch.

With this bicycle, absolutely everything needed some adjustments pretty fast. Only the wheels and gears seemed to be properly fastned. Every other screw were not tightened properly: seat came down slowly, steering wheel was suddenly not aligned, etc. And the gear wire was going slalom between a couple of screws - no wonder it needed tweaking!

I did not have a checklist, however. The tip is, just begin in one end and check every detail you encounter. It's not rocket science, even though there are some clever patents involved. When you look these things up on the Internet, you'll find plenty of guides.

However, most of these guides are in the form of a recepie. But actually understanding the mechanics is probably the best guide you can have. Understanding usually comes with experience, so the time spent ahead of time experimenting comes in handy.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Finding a bicycle in Paris

I started my search for a bicycle on the Internet. This, apparently, was a mistake. First, I never found the "right" bicycle online. Second, the bicycle store that could offer me the "closest match" to what I wanted didn't actually sell bicycles. They showed them off on their website, but the French franchises of the chain did not, in fact, sell anything but clothes and children's bikes.

So I asked. And with the locals chatting back and forth, I got to "Go Sport" in a shopping mall. And they happened to have the perfect bike: the bike that fit the description of my wife's bicycle. Because obviously, I don't need a second bicycle. But my wife needed one.

This was a woman's 21 gear bicycle, flower patterns on frame and seat, shock absorbers on front wheel, quick release, adjustable steering wheel, 700C tyres narrow enough to not make much resistance, wide enough not to puncture just by looking at them. Perfect. This bicycle was not on any web page I had visited. It was better than my own, at half the price of my own, and came with a one year "we'll fix it anywhere in the world" guarantee.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Philosophy: To bring or buy a bicycle?

In the planning stage of the trip, I searched the 'net for bicycle stores in Paris and asked around in various online forums. The bicycle professionals urged me to bring my own bicycle on the plane, because it was such a long trip. "It would be better to use a bicycle you know."

After buying the plane ticket, however, I found out that I would need to spend a huge amount of money on bringing my bicycle. Enough money to by a new one. Yet, I was urged to bring a bicycle I know well.

When I bicycled Montreal-Toronto in 1997, I had a 6-gear hybrid. Compared to the 18-gear road bike Hugh was riding, I was struggling. I now have an 18-gear hybrid, and understand completely the difference this makes on a long trip. Or a short one, for that matter. So stuck to my own philosophy: adapt.

I'm not in a competition. I have plenty of time. There is a backup plan. Completion is not a requirement. And most importantly, the journey is by bicycle, but the bicycle is not the journey.

The last few months before leaving for Paris, I pulled my old rusty bicycle out of winter storage and started on the spring cleaning and repairs. Instead of pulling it into the local store for a fix-up, I needed to learn every little detail myself. It's not rocket science. And it's time well spent for anyone who owns a bicycle. Not only can you do all the adjustments yourself, but the more you understand the subtleties of the mechanics, you get better use from your bicycle, and you take better care of it. You have everything to win.