Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Freecycle Bicycle

Introducing my latest folly (number 3, if you’re keeping count). This one was the cheapest yet – totally free – but has the potential to end up costing more than the other two, which would qualify it as a true folly. I have no intention of letting that happen, however (fear not, dear husband).

I've been looking for an inexpensive secondhand bike for my daughter to keep at the summer house we share with my family, and I finally found something suitable. The bike is a kid’s (24-inch wheels) Diamondback Recoil DS of unknown age. It was acquired from a member of my local Freecycle group a few weeks ago. (Freecycle is a network of people whose common goal is to keep usable items out of landfills by offering them free of charge to others in their local area. Find a group near you on the Freecycle website.) I had replied to an offer of a “Girls 24-inch Mountain Bike”, and when I arrived to pick it up, I had no idea what to expect, as I hadn’t asked any questions about it. I was pleased to see the Diamondback brand and the simple style of the bike, but not so thrilled to see some rust and mud. Still, it was free, and I could always Freecycle it again if it needed more work than I could handle.

My daughter had a lukewarm reaction to the bike’s appearance, but was still excited that she had just received a “new” bike. When we took the bike out to start cleaning it last weekend, she had already devised a plan of action to improve its appearance. The faded neon pink decals just had to go, she said, so she plans to peel them off and replace them with white tropical flower decals from the automotive aisle in Target. However, we both agreed that this guy should stay:

Before we put any time or money into the bike, I tried to do a quick assessment of what needed to be done and whether it was worth keeping. Two things were obviously needed – new grips on the handlebars (the current ones are worn through the ends) and at least one new tube (the back tire is about halfway deflated, but we were unable to get any air into it because the valve is damaged). Although my daughter would prefer to get rid of the knobby tires, they seem to be in good condition and will stay for now. The frame is steel and quite heavy, but I saw no signs of rust there (only on the wheel rims and hardware such as screws and bolts). The saddle is faded and has a small tear, but is still in good shape. I was relieved to find that the seatpost was not stuck in its current position. I adjusted the saddle height and then asked my daughter to take a very slow ride around our house on the grass to test the gears and brakes. She reported that the gears worked fine, but the brakes were “grabby”. I’ll have to consult my Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair to learn how to adjust the cantilever brakes, but at least we know the rear derailleur is working (we’ll test the front one after we replace the tube). I’m hoping the cables will just need lubrication, but I might attempt to replace them myself with more help from the book. I will also have to do some research on the suspension fork, since I know nothing about them. Hopefully, it won’t be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. So far, the bike seems worth keeping. At the very least, it will give me a lesson in evaluating used bikes. At the very most, it will become a safe, comfortable bike for my daughter at very little expense. Like any fixer-upper, though, it may have a few surprises in store for us.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Mother knows best about spring cleaning

Mother Nature has been graciously lending me a hand with my spring cleaning lately. Last week was cold and rainy, leaving me quite content to stay home and catch up on our post-vacation laundry and housework. Beautiful spring weather arrived just in time for a Friday night Phillies game with family and friends. Saturday was warm enough to put on our flip-flops and shorts and spend the afternoon in the driveway cleaning our new old bikes. I have been waiting for the chance to start working on my Raleigh, and my daughter was eager to join me. She parked her new old bike (which will be introduced in a separate post) next to mine, and we spent all day scrubbing and chatting. She enjoyed my lesson in finding the right cleaning tool for different parts of the bike. Her favorite tool became the baby bottle brush with sponge tip, while I stuck with the old standby my mother had introduced to me, the toothbrush. Poor Daddy doesn't have (or want) a new old bike to clean, so he took off for a ride on his favorite trail. Sunday was slightly cooler and cloudier, but Daughter was anxious to make more progress on our bikes, so another afternoon in the driveway followed. Once again we worked until dinner time, just as a chill came into the air to signal that the weekend was ending. This week's forecast is almost a carbon copy of last week's - cold and rainy during the week, with a beautiful weekend to follow. I'm looking forward to getting more greasy bike grime under my fingernails, although I'm still trying to clean out this weekend's accumulation. An old toothbrush should do the trick.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bike spotting in Disney World

First, a brief explanation of my last few posts. Before we left for Disney World, I noticed a link on the Blogger dashboard inviting users to try mobile blogging from their cell phone or mobile device. Thinking it may be useful since I don’t own a laptop, I decided to give it a try, and followed the steps to coordinate my cell phone with my Blogger account (basically sending a text message and confirming an email). After arriving in Florida, my first attempt to send a photo to my blog failed for reasons unknown, but my husband confirmed that the next photo sent a few days later had appeared within minutes. Boy, did I feel like Techno-Mama then! Mobile blogging from Disney World, what could be easier?

Dealing with the massive crowds at Disney World, however, was not something that could be made easier with modern technology or gadgets. Only stamina, patience and comfortable footwear would get you through that endurance test. We expected heavy crowds during the week before Easter, since most schools are on vacation then, but no one was expecting record-breaking numbers this year. On Tuesday, the Magic Kingdom theme park reached its capacity at one point, and the gates had to be closed for a short time until enough visitors left. It is not easy to navigate through such crowds with a group of 7 people ranging in age from 9 to 76. But with a few early morning and late evening visits, we managed to get the kids on nearly all of their most-wanted rides.

Enough about the crowds, on to the bikes! The Disney decorators seem to have a fondness for bicycles in their still life arrangements. This scene greeted us on our first day as we walked to check-in at the reception:

We spent our second day enjoying the pool and water slide in the heat of 86F. I checked out the bike rental area and decided to wait until later in the week when I knew the layout of the resort better and temperatures would be cooler. Unfortunately, I never had time again. I only saw two people on rented bikes during our stay.

Animal Kingdom was my favorite park, and I must admit the bikes had something to do with it. I didn’t see any bikes in the African area of the park, although we didn’t get to see everything there, but the Asian area had plenty:

Taking these photos amidst the sea of people was not easy, and I was grateful to have my daughter’s assistance. Somewhere ahead of me, I heard her calling out, “Mommy, come here, it’s a Raleigh!” and she had the shot before I even caught up with her. Here's her photo:

And here's mine:

In Magic Kingdom, I could find only this sign near Main Street:

I saw no evidence of bikes anywhere in the countries represented in EPCOT, not even in China, although I admit the crowds prevented us from exploring every nook and cranny.
As the week was ending, we decided to skip the Hollywood Studios theme park completely, since none of the kids' top-listed rides were there. Anyone know if we missed any bikes there? Or anywhere else?
Back to life, back to reality.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Friday, April 3, 2009

Spring vacation time

After neglecting my little blog for two weeks, I'm taking another week off while daughter and I head down to Disney World with her cousins, aunt, uncle and grandmother, and half the population of the United States, it seems. Poor (lucky?) dad is staying home to pay the bills and enjoy the peace and quiet and sole custody of the TV remote.

Luckily, there are bike rentals available where we are staying, so I can escape the world of make-believe at some point and enjoy my favorite kind of ride.

Happy spring!