Sunday, March 13, 2016

Errandonnee Part 2: Going Car-Free (bike build begins)

It doesn't take much for me to get excited about building a new bike. I have a traditional road bike. Thinking that it wasn't quite appropriate for taking on the train or riding around town, I built a single-speed. Steel frame, belt drive, disc brakes but otherwise, it's a normal urban bike. But it's not quite right for many of my errands because the only real cargo capability is my backpack.

Thus begins my next bike build. I started by thinking about what I wanted to carry and how. Pizza, beer, groceries and bulky, heavy stuff from the farmer's market - that's what I need to carry. I decided I would prefer to have a front rack. It seemed better for awkward and heavy cargo. Buying local, I ordered a porteur style rack from Pass Stow ( Recycling (or re-using) an old 26-inch Trek Navigator 200 from 20 years ago seemed appropriate. The rack will work well, so the project gets the green light.

Of course, this is still the middle of the Errandonnee Challenge.

March 11, 2016, Errandonnee #7
Doctor's Appointment (category 1. Personal Care)
I took a vacation day to do a few errands. I probably would have done this even if I wasn't planning to bike to them all. First up was a doctor's appointment for a routine skin cancer check. I didn't have any particular concerns but I'm in my mid-fifties, have fair Scandinavian skin, burned all the time when I was a kid, and spend a fair amount of time outside. So I have risk factors, but no family history. I got a thorough check and everything is fine. 11.5 miles round-trip, including coffee where I happened to meet an old co-worker from 25 years ago. Yet another uncounted "social call" errandonnee.
Observation: Apparently, you can detect skin cancer on your forehead by the roughness - even before you could see anything. I have a large forehead, but fortunately, it's smooth.

March 11, 2016, Errandonnee #8
Powder Coating Facility (category 3. You Carried WHAT on Your Bike)
I didn't want this new cargo bike to simply be my old bike with a rack - which it is - so it needed a fresh coat of paint. But paint that isn't baked at the factory and sealed afterwards tends to chip easily. Powder coating is super tough but it is more of a specialized thing. Fortunately, there is a powder coating place about 12 miles away (23.6 miles, round trip to be exact). As you can see, it's not exactly easy to transport a bike frame on a bike! I used a bungee cord and my backpack, with the fork inside the backpack. It was surprisingly secure and well-balanced. Next time, I'd attach it sideways because it kept bonking me in the head! I got surprisingly little attention or commentary along the way. It probably happens all the time. Meh. Whatever, it's not like I crave the attention.
Observation: It hadn't rained on the way over, but my luck ran out on the way back. It poured and the wind howled. So, the return leg of the trip was much more difficult than the outbound. Second observation: rain pants and waterproof socks - good choice.

March 11, 2016, Errandonnee #9
Pick up new rack (category 5. Non-Store Errand)
Errandonneering encourages you to buy local. When I built my previous bike, I had a custom fork made by a local bike builder in San Francisco. I follow him on Instagram (coffeeandeggs). On one of his photos, I commented about shopping for a rack and he responded with a comment about his friend's company. He's in Oakland, so on that recommendation alone, I ordered a rack and offered to pick it up so I could see his shop. Pass Stow Racks is not a store, for sure. There's no sign, no front door, really. It's just a couple guys in warehouse space a block from the BART station (our rapid transit system). Today, since it continued to rain, I was happy to get on a train! I biked across town to our BART station and got off at his. He met me on the sidewalk and guided me through the labyrinth to where the magic happens. I'm a big fan of metalworking and truly appreciate good welding. We talked about bikes, racks, bags, commuting, fountain pens, to-do lists - you know, guy stuff. He showed me an unfinished rack and then gave me mine. It's gorgeous (if you're in to that sort of thing) and amazingly light. It's 4130 cromoly steel, so you could carry a person on it - but don't.
Actual non-train distance worked out to be 11.9 miles. When I first loaded my ride on Strava, it was 57 miles. But Strava doesn't give you tools to edit out the middle. So I wrote to Strava and within a few hours they had fixed it. Wow! So many observations on this trip, but...
Observation: A lady on the train thought I was funny for taking photos of my rack.

March 12, 2016, Errandonnee #10
Breakfast with Goats (category 9. Wild Card)
A half-mile from my house is an area that hasn't been purchased by developers and converted to suburban housing, thankfully. Along one paved emergency vehicle access road are a couple of little goats. My wife started feeding them carrots on her runs. So I grabbed a few carrots and went to see them. "Wild Card" almost works as a category - if they were wild goats, it would be perfect.
Observation: Goats have really crazy eyes.

March 12, 2016, Errandonnee #11
Future Blog Research (category 2. Personal Business)
I use this blog for many topics, but mostly cycling stories. I also like history and sometimes I write posts about the history of cycling. A surprisingly popular post was about a particular hill that we call "The Wall". And I included a few tidbits about the person for which one of the side-roads was named, Downing. I continue to be intrigued by the pioneer Downing family and know that they lived in my little town of Pleasanton. So I rode over to the Pioneer Cemetery and found their family grave site. Lots of Downings there along with the dates that might help me write a future blog post. Distance: another half-mile.
Observation: Judging by the prominant location and the size of the main headstone, I'd say they were moderately important people back then.

March 12, 2016, Errandonnee #12
Farmer's Market (category 5. Non-Store Errand)
I know these two posts are long, but the trip to the Farmer's Market was key to this whole "Errand Bike" idea. Yes, it undermines my whole rationale if I can take any old bike there and bring fruits and vegetables home. But what if I wanted a watermelon and a dozen funny-colored eggs? That would not work out well with a backpack. Today, of course, it's still late-winter or early-spring so there's not much at the market. I bought oranges, almonds and cauliflower.
Distance: about three-quarters of a mile.
Observation: Fruits and vegetables can get heavy.

That completes the Errandonnee Challenge. As short and simple as many of these errands were, a few of them were difficult. And if the rules committee throws out any of them, I went from the Farmer's Market to a coffee shop. And I commuted all week (an additional 150-some miles). And I went to the LBS to check on my road bike (routine maintenance before a Brevet in Utah, need a new chain and a lot less gravel in the bottom bracket). So I've got several back-up errandonnees. But again, I opted out of riding to the SPCA. This time it was the elements, a tight time schedule and the possibility that I would need to pick up our college student from the train station. Perhaps next week.

In my quest to go car-free, I've proven that living in the suburbs doesn't mean that you need to drive (solo). The bike in combination with mass transit works very well in all kinds of weather. I've proven that most short errands are easier on a bike. I've proven that "'s awkward to carry..." is an excuse that can be eliminated with a little planning (and the right bike). And I've proven that cycling is simply more fun than running errands by car. Well, I've proven these things to myself.

This is where I say "your mileage may vary" with just a touch of irony.

Coffeeneuring / Commuter Bike at the Local Bike Shop, there is not a tandem in my future.

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