Sunday, March 1, 2015

New Shoes for Gwendolyn

Ever since I got a second (and then third) bike, I've wondered whether I can truly call my dependable '58 Raleigh Sports my "daily." Sure, it's not the one that I choose to take out every single time, but I also don't base that choice off whether or not the bike will get dirty or wet.  I've treated all of my bikes as all-weather, all-purpose commuters and they are all outfitted with at least fenders, a rack, and lights.  For better or for worse, I have liked all of my bikes so far to be good for everything.  I fear getting stuck in the rain without fenders and I never again want to walk my bike a quarter mile because there's no other way for me to carry food during Ray's Red Hots' Dollar Dog Happy Hour.  If I look at how I treat my bikes and what I use them for, I guess all three of them are dailies.  They all get ridden at least once or twice a week regardless of weather and are washed only occasionally.  However, they still receive the maintenance and love they need to continue taking me places for years to come.

A couple weeks ago, I suddenly remembered how I would sometimes buy a pack of cheap Kroger drinks and bring some to my studio class last year.  I was feeling nostalgic and went to buy some once more, but I had other stuff to pick up during the grocery trip. I ended up piling what must have been over 25 pounds of liquids and frozen foods onto the back of the Sports.  It is the heaviest load I have ever carried and I think I will never do that again until I build a trailer.  We got home successfully but it was extremely hard to handle with the rack jiggling and swaying behind me.

After I finished building the green Superbe, Gwendolyn, the Sports, rested quietly as I looked for bugs to work out from the new bike.  The day I sent the new wheels to the shop to double check the truing was the day I took the Sports to class for the first time in a week and boy, was I excited.  After my usual trips to and from class, I rode a few miles west to go pick up some photos that had been developed.  About a mile from my destination, the ride suddenly became floppy and shaky and before I hopped off, I knew what had happened: my back tire was flat, 5 miles from home.  I should have expected this.  The last time I made Gwendolyn sit still for a long time, she threw a fit and gave me all kinds of shifting problems until I bought a new shifter.  Anyway, I ended up carrying all 40 pounds of steel to the store and then to the nearby bus stop.  I carefully placed the bike on the bus's rack and we headed home.

Since this was maybe my third or fourth flat within a year that I got with the cheap Sunlite/Kenda Hybrid tires, I took this as my chance to upgrade to Delta Cruisers.  I started thinking about it after hearing good reviews last year and all of the good word was confirmed when I started riding the Superbe with the cream Delta Cruisers.  Plus, the gumwalls were cracking and the tread was starting to wear down after something like 800 miles; winter riding didn't feel as safe as it did a year ago.

Changing the tires was a messy process.  Even after degreasing and washing the entire exterior of both wheels and hubs, I got black oil stains on my hands that are still here after four days.  Regarding the oiling of the Sturmey-Archer 3-speed hub, nobody really knows how much is appropriate; some people say a little and not very often is good enough and some like to top it off at the expense of cleanliness.  I prefer to make sure there is always oil washing around in the hub which means about 5 ml every four or five weeks, much of it slowly seeping out of the bearings and making a nasty mess on the entire rear wheel.  I like to think of it as an oil change since the oil that comes out is completely black.  I'm sure this is overkill but there really is no harm in it; the oil on the rear wheel doesn't seem to hinder braking power too much and if anything, it helps prevent rust.

As I said in an earlier post, Schwalbe Delta Cruisers are known for their shock absorbing capabilities and the kevlar puncture protection draws no complaints.  They're also said to be lighter than the heavier-duty Schwalbe Marathons.  The gumwalls on the tires I just bought are actually painted on.  In the old days, gumwall tires were popular because they were softer and rode more smoothly than the black walls.  On the downside, they cracked and decayed more quickly if you didn't maintain them with a jar of latex.  Pretty much nobody does that anymore and I didn't do that either, so the gumwall Kendas that had been on the Sports for the past year were starting to crack.  With the advancements in rubber technology, you can get long-lasting tires that ride like gumwalls.  I like how the Delta Cruisers have the classic look of gumwalls and the durability of black walls.

My test ride of the gumwall Delta Cruisers yielded surprising results.  Whereas the cream ones were silky smooth and extremely cushy at their full 65 psi, the gumwalls felt noticeably harder.  I guess this can be attributed to the rubber compound for the different colors as well as the different characteristics of the steel vs. alloy rims.  At first I thought the new tires transmitted even more road vibration than the old Kendas did due to higher pressure, but I found that the bike now had a certain lightness over bumps.  The Sports more or less went crashing over shallow holes with the old tires, but it now bounds over them with ease and I don't have to slow down as much.  I do have my speculations, but I'm not completely sure why this is.  All I know is that tires are not something to cheap out on and Delta Cruisers are a good buy - easy on the wallet and easy on the bike.

The Delta Cruisers have better grip in the snow than the old tires despite their lack of knobbliness.  This might have to do with the fact that the tread is not parallel anywhere, discouraging the bike from sliding at a certain angle.  Another thing I noticed with the new tires is how little rolling resistance they had compared to the old ones.  I went on a shopping trip with my friend the next day and the moment I stepped on the pedal, I went surging up the hill.  I know the ol' girl likes to go but I never anticipated this much pep; I didn't even break sweat during the ride.  Even the cream Delta Cruisers don't feel this fast.

After changing tires, I added an indicator cap to the right axle nut.  I'd been looking for one for a while and I was lucky the one that came on the original rear wheel of the Superbe was still there.  Since the Superbe is now a 5-speed and the AW hub is sitting unused, I "borrowed" its cap for the Sports.

As I left my apartment today to return home for spring break, I noticed something kind of eerie.  As the saying goes, most of us end up being like our parents when we grow up, whether we like it or not.  My family's cars are black, greenish gold, and metallic green.  These are colors that my parents purposely picked out.  My bikes are black, greenish gold (a little less green), and metallic green.  The interesting thing here is that only the green one was chosen for its color; the other two just ended up with me in those colors.  Also, the green vehicles are the ones that have had the most money invested in them.  My green Sable wagon was bought brand new by Dad for full price and obviously, since we've owned it the longest, it's had the most maintenance money spent on it.  The other two cars were bought used for a fraction of their original price but still in new condition.  As for the bikes, the green Superbe has all new hubs and stuff and consumed my entire paycheck whereas the gold and black bikes probably have a combined $200 invested in them.  On the other hand, the ages and colors of each vehicle are the opposite.  Going in order of black, gold, and green, the bikes date from November 1958, February 1979, and July 1979.  The cars date from 2006, 2004, and 1999 respectively.  Weird, innit? I know I always read too deeply into this stuff but I like thinking about things that don't matter.

EDIT 5-30-16: I was wrong, the Schwalbe gumwalls are indeed gumwalls. The interior of the tire is black but there is thickness to the "gum-colored" part of the tire. Whoops!