Saturday, October 15, 2016

New Bike on the Way, and a Ride

Since getting back into cycling a few months ago, I've been kicking myself for putting my old Nishiki road bike out by the curb last year. Although my Trek 820 mountain bike with 1.5" wide slicks is good for the local multi-use paths, even Forbidden Drive, a road bike would allow me to ride further and faster. So, I started looking around on Craigslist and eBay for older road bikes with steel frames.

Lo and behold, after a couple weeks of looking, this popped up on eBay:

(Picture from the eBay auction.)

It's a mid-80s (probably an '86) Nishiki Olympic with the same frame size and color scheme of my HS graduation present. The Mavic wheelset isn't original, however. After a few minutes hemming and hawing, I bought it.

The 1986 Nishiki Olympic was a 4130 chrome-moly steel framed bike with Araya aluminum wheels, Diacompe brakes, Shimano derailleurs, downtube shifters, and a Sugino VP crankset. Assuming the Mavics on this bike weigh about the same as the originals, it'll come in at about 23 pounds. It should be a fast bike. While riding my old one with a friend who's Trek 520 tourer was fitted with a cycle computer, he clocked us going about 50 MPH on one extended downhill run.

Unfortunately, I'm still waiting for it. I got a message from the seller who found that one of the crank arms was stripped, where the pedal is attached. He discovered this when he began to prep it for shipping. He offered to either knock $25 off the price, or replace it with an original part. I opted for the latter, so I'm hoping it'll ship early next week.

After I get it I plan to rewrap the handlebars, replace the toe clips (one is broken), and of course verify that the derailleurs and brakes work properly.

In the meantime, I picked up a couple items to help me maintain my family's bikes. First, a copy of Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance. In conjunction with YouTube videos, this should help me learn how to work on them. The second item was a Bikehand Pro Mechanic Bicycle Repair Rack Stand.

I tried out the repair stand for the first time this morning, before I went on a ride. I used it to hold the Trek while I cleaned the chain. It worked well. The stand feels fairly robust and folds up, so that it doesn't take up too much space in my shed.

After cleaning and lubing the chain, I went on my longest ride this year, 12.23 miles, at an average speed of 10.9 MPH and a max speed of 16.1 MPH. Considering I'm riding a mountain bike with aerodynamics slightly better than a brick, I'm happy.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Bike Ride at Dusk

After work tonight I took a ~6 mile ride, which reinforced why it's prudent to wear bright clothing, have reflectors, and lights on your bike.

My ride was on the Schuykill River Trail between Miquon and Shawmont and by the time I got there it was dusk. There was some group run going on so that trail was crowded. A lot of runners were wearing dark clothing and as it got near 7:00 PM they got increasingly hard to see. Those wearing a safety yellow/green shirt were a lot more visible.

Likewise, only about half the other cyclists had lights and many of them didn't have any kind of reflectors.

Something the younger folks need to be aware of is that while you may be able to see just fine around dusk, those of us over 40 often start losing our night vision. (I noticed mine starting to go when I was 35.)

When I got back into cycling this summer I picked up these lights. They are cheap and at least in dry weather, work well. I put a set on my daughter's bike and with the rear set to alternately light one of the three LEDs, I was able to see her from over 200 yards away.

I also encourage the use of reflectors. Yeah, they're uncool. They are less uncool than getting hit by a car or another cyclist because they couldn't see you. Incidentally, I tested the supposedly-reflective sidewall lettering on my Bontrager H2 tires after getting home and was not impressed.

Finally, brightly colored clothes help make you more visible. I wore a bright orange Champion Powertrain T-shirt and I also have one in "reflector green." These shirts are lightweight, wick away moisture, and dry quickly. I have a few others in more subdued colors that I wear in the woods or in colder weather as a base layer, so they are multi-purpose.

Added a Mirror to the Bike

One of the things I've noticed riding on the local bike paths is how easily a faster cyclist can come up from behind without being heard. It would also be nice to check on following riders in a group ride, so, I decided that adding a rear view mirror would be a good idea. The one I chose is a Mirrycle MTB Bar End Mountain Bike Mirror. Amazon also lists a two-mirror set if you want one for both sides.

A closeup:

The mirror mounts via a split post much like older handlebar stems. It requires you to remove the end plug or cut a hole in the grip. I had conveniently lost the plug from the left end of my handlebar when I crashed earlier this summer, so that was already take care of for me. Doh.

The unit is mostly plastic so I'm hoping it'll hold up. As long as I don't clip it on something or crash on the left side it should be OK.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Bushcraft USA Silnylon MEST Poncho

Last week I noticed the Bushcraft Outfitters got some more of their silnylon MEST (Multipurpose Emergency Survival Tarp) ponchos in stock. I ordered one of Friday and it came yesterday.

Along with the poncho I ordered a tube of McNett seam sealer to prevent leaks on the hood seams. I sealed the seams last night. The sealant was a little tacky, so per the instructions on the packaging I dusted them with some talcum powder, which can be seen in the pictures below.

I took some pictures of the MEST poncho with the Chinese-made USGI-style poncho that I've been carrying strapped to the bottom of my HPG Tarahumara day pack.

The MEST is about 1.5" longer and 1.5" narrower than the old poncho.

Notice that the MEST has nylon webbing loops sewn on, rather than grommets. This allows you to make field repairs with a needle and thread.

The old poncho came with a stuff sack but I generally rolled it up. I took pics of it both ways to show how much smaller the MEST is when stowed.

Aside from being much smaller, the MEST is maybe half the weight of the rubberized nylon GI-style poncho. The MEST could easily be carried in a cargo pocket. Combined with some utility cord or 550 cord, and some lightweight tent stakes, it'll make for a light, compact shelter.

Now all I need is some rain to test it out.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Back on the Bike

August in SE PA was so hot and unpleasant that I haven't been on my bike for a month, until today. Before leaving I checked over the bike and inflated the Bontrager H2s up to 80 PSI. I'd been riding with them at about 65 PSI and wanted to try out higher pressure for less rolling resistance. I also played around with my seat adjustment because the last time I rode I had some discomfort down below.

The difference in how the bike rides with higher tire pressure was immediately noticeable. Rolling resistance was much less at the cost of a harsher ride on Forbidden Drive's packed gravel surface.

My ride was cut short after only a little more than a mile, by two trees that had fallen across the trail. I didn't want to try climbing over them because there's a good chance that there would be poison ivy mixed in.

 It looked like the half rotted out tree on the right feel and took out the other tree on the way down.

I wasn't ready to go home yet so after getting back to my truck I drove over to the Spring Mill train station and hopped onto the Schuykill River trail, where I had a pleasant ride. The section I was on is paved so compared with the packed gravel in Valley Green I was flying. The extra 15 PSI of course helped quite a bit and I seem to have got my seat adjusted correctly, too.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Dinner on the Mountain

Yesterday Amanda and I went up to the Conrad Weiser State Forest for a few hours, and had dinner on the mountain. (It's not much of a mountain, but hey, we're in southeast Pennsylvania.)

We used my Esbit CS985HA cookset to boil the water for our noodle soup and heat up some Vienna sausages.

It's a versatile cookset. The 33.3 oz./985ml main pot has volume graduations stamped into it, which can be read from the inside. The 15.9 oz./470ml smaller pot can be used as a lid, or as shown above, as a saucepan. Both have folding rubber-covered folding stainless steel handles.

The pot stand/windscreen has four rubber feet on the bottom which would keep it slightly elevated off a table.

The set allows you to cook with either the included brass, Trangia-style alcohol burner or using Esbit hexamine fuel tablets. A small platform to put inside the pot stand when using the tablets is included. The pots, tablet platform, and pot stand are made from hard anodized aluminum.

You could burn sticks and twigs in the pot stand but it's not really designed for that. E.g., the bottom has a large opening so you'd want to sit it on a rock or cleared dirt.

For use with the alcohol burner, a simmer cap/snuffer is included. There isn't enough room in the pot stand to use it as a simmer cap but it works well to extinguish the stove. You want to use it instead of the screw-on cap for the stove. If you use the cap to put out the stove you'll damage its O-ring, which will let the stove leak if you carry it fueled and ready to go.

All the parts nest together and can be stored in an included mesh bag. I line the pot with a plastic bag before nesting everyting else inside to keep it clean. Also, if I use hexamine tablets the outside of the pot will get a coated wth soot. The plastic bag allows me to keep that off the rest of my gear.

The total weight of the Esbit cookset is 15 oz., not including fuel. I keep the brass burner filled with denatured alcohol, three or four Esbit tablets, a bandana, and a small box of matches packed in the kit.

Our campsite is not near a water source so all of our water had to be packed in. Amanda used an Osprey water bladder in her pack, while I used three one-quart canteens. One is a 1945-vintage aluminum USGI canteen that I found several years ago at a gun show.  The other two were Nalgene Oasis canteens, which have the same exterior dimensions as US military issue canteens, but which are made of a better plastic, weigh a little less, and don't impart any taste to the water.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Further Seasoning of the Bromwell Frying Pan

I cooked breakfast in my Bromwell this morning. The bacon didn't stick but my eggs did. So, this afternoon I seasoned it more with flax seed oil (food grade linseed oil). I gave it a very light coat and heated it on the stove until it smoked, then let it cool down. Repeated this for a total of about 5 or 6 coats until I got tired of doing it.

The pan should only get better with use.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Bromwell 7" Pressed Steel Frying Pan

Something I'd been looking for was a lightweight, pressed steel frying pan to take camping. After reading a thread on Bushcraft USA with a link to eBay, I ordered a 7" Bromwell pan last Sunday. It arrived on Wednesday for $16.95 shipped. Note that 7" is the diameter across the top, not the base. The seller also lists some 6" Bromwell pans but that's a bit on the small side for my taste.

The pan is plain pressed carbon steel with a handle similar to the old "Cold Handle" type that you can frequently find a garage sales. Whatever rust preventative Bromwell used worked well but required a lot of scrubbing and soaking to remove.

I seasoned it today by first giving it a coat of canola oil then cooking up some bacon for lunch.

Mmmm. Bacon.

It'll need more seasoning, which of course gives me an excuse to cook more bacon.

This was my first time using a skillet with this kind of handle. It stayed cooler than I'd expected but I still used a pot holder. A bandana or shemagh would work in the field.

The small size allowed a lot of splatter outside onto my stove. The next time I use it I might do so outside, perhaps over my Emberlit stove.

It's a heck of a lot lighter than a same-sized cast iron pan would be. It's definitely back-packable.