Thursday, July 10, 2014

Bike Living Notes #1: I Know This Much Ain't True


I intend, somewhere in the 2020 timeframe, to ride a bicycle from the Atlantic to the Pacific (literally -- I plan to start at water's edge, with the waves lapping at my feet, in St. Augustine or thereabouts and end with my front wheel in the Pacific).

That gives me plenty of time to get with the essentials -- ramping up to riding long distances, learning how to maintain a bicycle myself and planning/setting up a "tiny house on a bike" rig.

Right now, I'm riding a $100 single-speed Huffy Cranbrook cruiser and I already know it's not a bike I can count on for a 3,000-mile tour. I had hoped to keep it going for another couple of years (it's about 18 months old right now), but I'll probably knuckle under and move to the next bike around the end of this year.

Have you ever tried to "true" bicycle wheels? I didn't even know it was a thing until I went looking. Once I did go looking and then turned the bike upside down and spun the wheels to learn that both front and rear were way out of lateral true, I went to work using web tutorials.

It took me about an hour to throw up my hands and decide it's not something I'm going to be able to do well myself. And looking at a local shop's prices, I see that "major truing" on two wheels will run me $50. On an 18-month old, $100 bike. By the time I replace the tires too (they're not bald but they're definitely showing wear), it would be like buying a whole new (cheap) bike!

So what I'm going to do is nurse this baby along awhile longer and just buy that new bike (it won't be quite as cheap, although if I find it used it may be less expensive ... as usual, watch me suddenly find a great deal on Craigslist and decide not to wait five more months). I'll cannibalize the old one for lights, bell, rack, basket and probably seat (it takes awhile to break a seat in right -- why not take it with me?) ... and I'll check how true the wheels are on the new one before I buy it (I'm pretty sure this one came with wheels out of true, although they've probably gotten worse over time), baby the new bike more, get an annual "tune-up" that includes "minor truing," etc.

I expect (read: Hope) the next bike will last for four or five years and that I can replace it a few months before the Big Trip (in time to shake down/break in the trip bike). In between now and then, I'll be riding longer distances and perfecting my "tiny house on a bike," as I expect to camp along the way almost every night (other than e.g. visiting friends and relatives en route). I already have a rear rack with a milk crate attached, but I'll be adding panniers (they hang off the sides on the rear) and so forth. Minimum weight and bulk for maximum utility is the goal there.

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