02 October 2012

Taking The Trek To Work

Today I commuted on the Trek 560 I just built.

In a way, I picked one of the worst possible days to ride it.  When I started, the day was cloudy.  The weather forecasters hinted at a chance of rain.  But I figured I'd get to work before the precip. 

We all know how such plans work out--especially when you're riding a bike without fenders.  I didn't mind the bike getting cruddy--after all, the paint is pretty rough on the frame.  

When weather reporters say "passing showers", what they really mean is that you  are passing through the showers.  Such was the case for me today:  I think that once the showers came, they stayed.  I'm the one who had to pass.

Oh well.  At least I know two things:  The tires (Panaracer Ribmos) grip well.  And using a coaster brake on a rain- (and, in stretches, oil-) slicked street is another skill I'll have to master if I'm going to keep the bike as it is.

One thing that worked surprisingly well was the Nelson Longflap bag on the rear.  For one thing, as this frame is larger than the others I own, there is less seatpost protruding from it than on my other bikes.  So I wasn't sure whether there would be enough room to mount the bag and fill it without it rubbing against the tire.  And I don't have any kind of rack or bag support on the bike.

Because of the bike's geometry and the saddle position, the bag mounts almost horizontally, so that the flap opens almost at the rear.  (Rivendell's Sackville saddle bags seem to be designed to work that way.)  So, I put my U-lock in the "bottom" (the back, if the bag were mounted vertically) of the compartment.  It acted as a reinforcement that kept the bag from sagging--just enough.  On top of it, I stacked folders with students' papers, books, lunch, my purse and a pair of dress shoes.

The bag stayed put.  And, although the bike felt a bit squirrelly in the rear, it was still more stable than I expected it to be with the load, which the frame--at least in terms of geometry-- is not designed to handle.

If I were to commute regularly on this bike, I'd probaby install some sort of rack or bag support.  And, although the coaster brake itself is unaffected by the weather, I'm not so sure it'd be my first choice on a regular commuter.  I don't know whether this is a common trait of coaster brakes, but when I stop, sometimes I have to pedal about half a rotation "in neutral" before I can accelerate the bike.  It's similar to what happens when you shift a three-speed into the nether zone between gears, or when it's out of adjustment.  Plus, using handbrakes is more of a natural reflex for me than kicking back to brake.

Anyway, taking the Trek to work was an interesting experience.  I might try it again--on a day when there aren't "passing" showers!



  1. IMO, the debut of a new bike is on the same level as the first jump into a swimming pool. You know it's gonna be a shock - and perhaps more so if you have done it many times before. Still, after a momentary hesitation, you simply do it and then begin swimming, er, riding.

  2. Steve, you're right about the debut of a new bike--even if it's an old bike. This is the first time I've commuted on it: Previously, I took one joyride and a couple of errand runs. You might say that this was the first "test" of the bike. Even though it has a short wheelbase and chainstays, I'm still surprised at how stiff the rear is.

  3. Any thought of "junk up front"? I can definitely see this bike with a front basket or porteur rack, esp. with those bars. Just saw that Wald (!) has gotten into the "porteur" market with their Multi-Fit Front Rack. Saw one at a local store and the tubing is definitely stouter than what comes on their baskets.

  4. Adventure!--The great minds think alike.;-) I was thinking about a basket or rack on the front, should I decide to keep the bike. The only problem is that there are no eyelets in the front dropouts. I know there are various work-arounds, but they aren't as convenient as having fitments for racks or baskets.

    1. Justine--Wald baskets and racks are old school, and designed to mount to the front axle. It comes from the era when no American bikes had eyelets, so baskets/racks and fenders all mounted via axle.

  5. That's a good suggestion, adventure!, and I'm considering it.