Day 16 - Two Jagged Peaks to the Southwest

Boulder Travel Blog

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Rest Day
Distance: 26.7 miles
Money Spent: $12.97

Explored Boulder. Admired the three large, jagged peaks to the southwest. I did quite a bit of tweaking and fixing on my bike; adjusted the handlebars to a less aggressive tilt, raised the seat post, moved the seat forward on its rails (so my knees are more directly over the balls of my feet), lubricated the rear wheel bearing that kept squeaking, moved the saddlebag to the back cup-holder (it was too hard to access before, between the vertical bar and the rear fender), and moved the rear reflector from the seat post to the back of the rear rack (it was covered up by the tent, which sits atop the rear rack, before) as well as the mount for my emergency blinker (and in the process, was able to throw out the mounting apparatuses for both the reflector and the blinker). Finally, and most importantly, I did fix what was wrong with the rear derailleur. It was neither a problem with the cassette nor the chain.

Paul explained to me that shifting and brake cables on stock bicycles are not pre-stretched, and tend to lengthen over the course of use. This was the case with my rear shifting cable. Derailleurs (the shifting, or chain-moving mechanism) work by being pulled in one direction by the shifting cable tension and in the other direction by a spring. When you shift, you either tighten or loosen the cable; move the derailleur in or out. My cable had stretched just enough, loosening its tension, so that the spring and cable no longer balanced the derailleur perfect over every cog on the cassette. The rear derailleur set the chain between, rather than right over, the four largest cogs. The clicking noise was the chain jumping from one cog to the next and back again, trying to figure out which cog to sit on.

Rectifying this issue is beautifully simple. Each derailleur and brake has a barrel-adjuster or two. These tighten or loosen the cables by tiny increments by twisting them. They are usually black, plastic barrels sitting somewhere along each cable, with knobs around the circumference so you can grip and twist them.

Satisfied with my tuned-up bicycle, I hit the myriad trails throughout Boulder with a map Kristen and Paul lent me. If I thought Denver's trails were great, Boulder's are wondrous, if both cities' systems are less than magnanimous. You can go anywhere and everywhere in Boulder and never leave a bike path or bike lane. Almost all the paths here are made with sidewalk-grade pavement. Millions of dollars... millions... are spent each year maintaining the paths, building new ones, and constructing under- or overpasses where cyclists once had to cross an intersection. I actually got to the other side of town only crossing one intersection. I went under or over at least fifteen others. The crews even go around every year shaving the pavement where the cracks are too uneven. It feels kind of like you're on an amusement park ride as you loops up and down and around, passing through extensive tunnels. Streams flow every which way, falling into convenient man-made canals and then flowing free once again. Trees play London Bridge all around you.

Paul recommended hole-in-the wall bike shop Vecchios on Pearl Street because he knows them. "They know what they're doing there, and they have tools for everything. They won't try and sell you something you don't need." There, I had my chain measured for stretching (it's just over the hill, with the link pins about 1/16th inch offset) by a "surly" mechanic while a couple of regular customers, one with two large dogs, looked on, their conversation interrupted for a moment. I also bought a Brooks saddle cover to protect during wetness.

I take a pit-stop back at the house, then get out to explore the Boulder Reservoir. I take 26th Ave. north, Jay Rd. east, then... I forget which is it to go north on... 53rd or 54th? I ride into a neighborhood called Gunbarrel and start going north, testing my luck. After riding around some winding roads for a bit, I turn onto Sleepytime Lane, which sounds familiar. Soon, I see a bear in nighties and a sleeping cap curled up. I've happened upon Celestial Seasonings headquarters by accident. It all comes from here.

I ask a woman how to get to the reservoir and she tells me it's actually 51st north. Once I find it, it's only a couple of miles to the reservoir, but they expect money in order to get in for the beaches, so I turn around and come home.

Paul shows me how he gets his mountain bike pack down to 16 pounds. He's sewn his own panniers. They're actually just bags and don't require any mounting racks or hardware, so already that's 20 pounds saved vs. my setup. He only brings a couple changes of woolen clothes, kind of like me. Obviously he doesn't have the 6.5 pounds of computer. He made his own tent out of Tyvec and another sheet of it as a ground cover; a grand total of 10 oz. vs. my 3 pounds of tenting and accessories. His sleeping bag is as light as mine. He carries no toiletries other than a toothbrush and just enough paste. I carry a whole cadre of things to protect my skin, along with a toothbrush, floss and mouthwash. His map holder he also made himself with a little piece of plastic and a clear sheet that weighs no more than an ounce. My map holder is a large piece of plastic with fabric woven into the sides for durability, plus it sits on top of a handlebar bag and its mounting hardware. In addition, I keep a healthy stash of food in it while Paul, despite his size, apparently eats little, and crams what he does have into one of his small sacks.

During dinner, Paul talks about what he's looking for in a job. He wants to work at a bike shop. He doesn't care what he does or how much he gets paid, for the most part. He just wants to know what gear they sell so he can get an idea of what he will be able to buy at wholesale price.

After dinner, Paul refills his inner-tubeless mountain bike tires with sealant fluid. "One shot of this will last a whole season and you won't get any flats." He holds up a bottle of the it. Apparently, it also stops any punctures. "There's no inner-tubes, either, so you save weight there." Paul also replaces the rim strip on one of the wheels and gives it a new tire. We talk casually about how some people don't know anything about bikes. He tells me a story about this guy who had the chain tool, but didn't know how the chain went back on the bike. "He couldn't figure out how the chain wrapped around the whole thing again." I suggest he never had bothered to look at his drive train to see how it works. Paul tells me a story of these guys who he stopped to help: "They had a deflated tire and didn't have a pump between the three of them, so I let them use mine," he says, shaking his head. "They didn't even say thank you." We discuss the ridiculousness of one-time use CO2 pump cartridges. "If you mess it up, you're screwed. You're walking, then." You also have to buy a new one every time, which I never understood. "People just don't want to carry a pump because they think it's heavy." In reality, the one-time use CO2s are just as heavy as a pump, if you have two or three of them. "I enjoy catching up to these guys out at 5 in the morning, with their 8000 dollar road bikes, getting ten metres in front of them, and just holding steady." Paul is finishing up putting on the new blue rim strip. "These people don't train with their legs, they train with their wallets."

"Ted, it takes a lot of experience to get a pack this light. I've been doing this awhile," says Paul, crumpling up his homemade bags into a ball he can hold in both holds. This didn't need to be said. It's clear Paul lives for this, and is every bit as DIY as someday I might be. I think about how much I learned about my bike earlier today.

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photo by: five11d