Thursday, December 1, 2011

We Are Now Experiencing Technical Difficulties....

First of all, in non-bicycle-related news, I have a new short story in this season's issue of Ideomancer. Do you like depression? Then you'll love this story, people, even if there's no mention of bikes and I don't know why I'm even posting it on my bike blog except I'm so excited.

In bicycle commuting related news, I've hit a snag. Not a snag that would cause me to stop riding (that will not and cannot happen... I have a job now and I don't have another form of transportation!), but something that makes getting around by bike a little less convenient. Both of my bikes have "technical issues." The three-speed sort of sucks on hills, and while that's not a problem usually, I live at the bottom of a pretty steep (for Baltimore) slope, so I'm finding that I have to walk it up the worst part of the hill, until I get to a part where I can easily start it from a stopped position. This adds an extra two or three minutes to my commute, and sometimes, I don't have the time. Not to mention, I really hate walking my bike.

What's the fix? Seems like it might be to lower the gearing, which I'll have to go to a bicycle shop for. Since I was already going to go to one for help with installing my new dynamo, I can just ask about this while I'm there, too. Another fix is to just get stronger leg muscles, but man, who has time for that? I ride my bike almost every day for at least forty minutes, these legs are as tough as they're going to get.

The hybrid, which has a derailleur, can climb hills like a mountain goat (and not the kind that writes awesome songs and has the best Twitter feed ever), but it has no brakes. Well, it does have brakes, but they seem to fail whenever the bike is left out in the rain, which unfortunately I have to do because job + no indoor parking + no other form of transportation. And even after they dry, they don't work well. Actually, they haven't worked well at all for a few months, but it's just now getting to the point where I feel very unsafe riding the hybrid. By which I mean, I almost got hit by a truck, and probably made at least a dozen people hate cyclists in a two-minute span. (Great job, me!)

I did some digging into bicycle brakes, and discovered that the brakes on my hybrid are what are called "V-brakes," which I believe is short for "very poorly designed brakes." The brakes are operated by pulling a "noodle" through a small hole, and they worked just fine when I first got the bike*. However, with heavy use (and I have probably put enough miles on the hybrid to go halfway across the country by now), the hole that the noodle goes through can get bigger, leading to epic fail.

The answer, once again, is to find a good LBS and ask them about new brake pads or even an entirely new braking system. Even though the Raleigh Sports is now my daily commuter, I still need the hybrid for recreational riding and big grocery runs, and if there's one thing worse than being almost hit by a truck, it's almost being hit by a truck while carrying twenty pounds of kitty litter.

*And this is where I start to wonder if the hybrid isn't a lemon. When I went back to the (sporting goods) store I bought it from for a tune-up, they were shocked at how much I rode it. Were they impressed at my stamina... or surprised that someone who bought an entry-level hybrid uses it for more than a few hours a month, that they would ride in all conditions, that they would use it as a primary vehicle? I don't think they intended any of their bikes to be used as vehicles! From here on out, it's dedicated bicycle shops or Craigslist all the way. My bike is not a "sporting good."

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