Bike Different

When routines are disrupted, surprising changes take place.  With the COVID-19 pandemic creating so much fear, sorrow, and loss, it’s sometimes difficult to focus on what still remains.  My own cycling patterns have changed.  I’ve had to “bike different” (sorry…Apple) now that human behavior has been altered by the crisis.

Some of the changes are good.  I’ve noticed that I now want to ride a bike that can handle a lot of “different” situations, and can give me a relaxed riding position as I go about altering my usual routes.  With pedestrians “taking the lane” I needed to find other routes for my usual commute.  And, I stopped doing many of my leisure ride jaunts due to crowding on narrow paths.  A not so good change is how many aggressive drivers are out on the road, as compared to the previous amount of way too many.  All of these shifts have meant that I’ve been riding my Rivendell Appaloosa much more frequently.

I had originally built up the frame with a full complement of vintage SunTour components, including a Cyclone rear derailleur and a Sprint double crank, with a Superbe front derailleur.  That system worked perfectly, except for not offering low enough gears for the bike to become a regular grocery hauler and errand bike.  I had reserved it only for pleasure rides, it being fairly pleasurable!

So it was time for a triple crank.  I wanted to continue using vintage SunTour but couldn’t find a SunTour crankset with the right BCD to allow for smaller rings.  Fortunately, this Sugino AT triple fills the bill with its interesting spider and self-extracting crank bolts.  After all, Sugino is the actual manufacturer of SunTour cranksets, so its kind of still SunTour anyway. I set it up with 45/38/28 rings, but still had to add 3 spacers to the 127mm bottom bracket spindle to provide enough clearance with the Appaloosa’s wide chain stays.  The bike is definitely meant to be used with very small rings, kind of mountain bike style.

I could no longer use the superb Superbe front derailleur, so needed something to handle the triple crank.  I decided to “think different” and try out a SunTour BlueLine front derailleur, designed for a double and for larger rings.  It works perfectly with this triple crankset.  Many times I’ve found that components work as not originally marketed.  This BL derailleur is just one example of a vintage component that works outside of its targeted range.

I also replaced the pretty constructeur rear rack I had originally installed with this heftier model taken off a 1980’s touring bike.  Because of the Appaloosa’s long chain stays, I added some extra brackets to get the rack stays attached to the frame.

I’ve been using this Brooks Cambium C-19 saddle, which is quite lovely, and the shape is reasonably comfortable.  However, the rough pattern in the non-leather cover causes chafing.  I’ve been hoping for the saddle to wear smooth over time, but so far that hasn’t happened.

And, part of biking different means alerting walkers and runners to my presence in a more pleasant manner than “on yer left”.  So the Riv has a new brass bell, courtesy of Velo-Orange.  I’m not sure if its reverberating ring is any less alarming to pedestrians than my vocal warning, but it looks nice.

It’s definitely more challenging to cycle right now.  It’s more challenging to do all of the things we normally do.  But, by biking different, I think we’ll come out on the other side of this pandemic with a new found respect for non-vehicular modes of transportation.

5 thoughts on “Bike Different

  1. You are right about the leisure bike paths and normal exercise areas are now flooded with people. The weekends are the worst. I have had better luck riding on less traveled roads with bike lanes because traffic is somewhat less than before. I put triples on my older steel bikes and love Suntour front derailleurs. I have not had trouble getting the Suntours to shift front triple cranksets. On the other hand I use Shimano Shadow tech MTB rear derailleurs on everything including my drop bar road bike. I respace the rear forks for 130mm or 135mm spacing and use 10 speed cassettes. I equip most of my bicycles with Dia Comp center pull brakes because they are so easy to set up and very strong brakes. Stay safe in these trying times.

  2. Yes I too have changed my cycling habits. As I said in my previous post, no multi use paths just bike lanes as I was taught in cycling class at Ventura college in the seventies. I use a vehicular cycling style of riding. I like the bell idea as well , the old “ on your left” or “rider back” wasn’t always accepted by pedestrians. The bell gets more “thank you” comments. If I see ear buds or headphones I know to add caution because they can’t hear anyway! Now in city limits , runners and pedestrians are moving away from sidewalks out into bike lanes , pushing us out into traffic. Certainly different times , I , like you , prefer to look at the happy side and just keep pedaling and ring the bell!

    • Interesting! I’ve always been amazed at the controversy over vehicular cycling. For me, it’s a style of riding that I naturally adopted early on without any prompting from anyone. Now, being forced off of cycle paths and out into traffic it comes in handy.

      • Yes, handy indeed. It is controversial, but really as it should be. We are vehicles of sort. I rode today and used the same turn boxes as the cars and have mostly maintained a “vehicle” style of riding. Bike paths and multi use paths are fine but here in SoCal they can be frustrating.

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