Which bike project did I choose for 2020?

A post I wrote back on October 5 I mentioned there are two bike projects I want to do in 2020. Both were significant upgrades to two bikes I currently have, one a bicycle and the other my moto bike. I want to do both projects. Each is an exciting, and expensive project. Unfortunately I can only afford one. The other will have to wait until another year. Depending on the day, I went back and forth between the two projects. It took me until March 19th decide on one. That’s when I committed to the moto bike project and ordered 95% of the parts I need.

My moto as of three days ago. Waiting for Spring.

I announced my decision on my Instagram account then. I thought I should update the blog since this is where I first talked about it.

What was the deciding factor? Two things. The first was something a friend said to me back in October. He said the changes to the Brompton, while very cool, won’t change the way I use that bike. However, the changes to my Honda CB500X will fundamentally change the way I use that bike. The second thing is that I have spent nearly my entire disposable income on bicycles for the past 15 years. I now have five bicycles dialed in for the riding I do. I don’t need, or plan, to buy any new bikes for awhile. It’s time to spend some money on something else for a change.

85% of the parts I ordered from Rally Raid Industries in the U.K. They manufacture and sell specific parts for my model of motorcycle. Most parts were in stock and came last week. I’m doing a complete Level 2 suspension kit and wheel kit, as well as a few other upgrades and accessories. Here’s some of the parts I’ve received:

I received tires and a custom radiator guard from other venders:

Two items were not manufactured yet; the wheel set and levers:

As of right now I have no idea when I’ll receive these parts. In normal times they take 4-6 weeks to produce orders. I don’t know how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect how the order gets processed. Once the wheel hubs are machined and the wheels are built they get sent to Bartubeless in Italy for a tubeless set-up. Not sure if that can happen right now.

Anyway, once I have everything, I can get it all installed. This will transform a very good budget street motorcycle into a very capable All-Road Adventure bike. It will have a fully adjustable suspension that can handle pavement as well as off-road riding. I can adjust it for the added weight of camping gear. I intend to use it for exploring the 100’s of miles of dirt and gravel roads in this region including several million acres of National Forest lands nearby. I’ll be able to scout bikepacking routes ahead of time, if I choose to. Overnight camping trips are a definite possibility when I’m not feeling like pedaling a bicycle. Last summer I struggled with the heat and lack of stamina on multi-day bikepacking trips. The moto gives me an option to still get out when I don’t want to be out on a bicycle.

This upgrade gives me the motorbike I really wanted when I bought my Honda. I thought the stock bike, marketed as an Adventure bike, could handle more off-road then what it really can. Now it will be able to take on anything within my skill level.

Getting in the drops.

My custom drop bar all-weather commuter bike.

My love of drop bars dates back to my first 10-speed bike. I got it for my 13th birthday in 1976. It was a dark blue Paris-Sport with racing handlebars. I rode that bike everywhere and everyday that summer. We lived in Ross Township, a northern suburb of Pittsburgh. I would ride it to North Park and ride the 5 mile bike path loop around the lake. By summers end I was riding 5 laps each time there.

The next summer I started racing it at the local Thursday night club races of the ACA, Allegheny Cycling Association. They had a 1K, four corner criterium course in the parking lot of the Pittsburgh Zoo. I raced every Thursday night. That summer I also did my first week long bike tour through the mountains of Western Pennsylvania.

That’s me in the white jersey (100% wool) at the 1979 USCF Illinois District Junior Men’s Championship race.

In 1978 I saved all my money from snow shoveling and lawn mowing gigs and with a little help from my parents I bought a real racing bike, a champagne colored Nishiki PRO. I got my amateur racing license from the USCF, or United States Cycling Federation and moved up into the “A” race at the Thursday Night Races. I was racing and learning from the best racers in Pittsburgh. This included future National Champion Matt Eaton, brothers Danny and Tom Chew. Danny would win the grueling Race Across America or RAAM twice in the 90’s. Also there was a first year Senior, a 19 year old Davis Phinney, who would later become America’s winniest racer. I was 15 and racing against this group once a week. I never won, but Mote importantly I never got dropped. And I learned how to race from those guys. I ended up qualifying for National Championships by placing second at State Championships. I finished 13th in the field sprint at Nationals in the Intermediate Boys Race.

At the end of that summer we moved to the Chicago area. I never found a racing community to replace what I had in Pittsburgh. I tried to race one more year and then lost interest without that supportive community.

My racing years formed my ideas of what bikes should look and feel like for the next couple of decades. Any bike without drop bars was silly to me. It took a very long time to move on from that.

Drop bar mountain bike set up as commuter bike in 2005.

Even the mountain bike I commuted on from 2002-2005 had drop bars on it. In fact all my main commuter bikes from when I was car-free between 2002-20015 had drop-bars. Drop bars have always been, and still are my favorite bars to use.

Drop bar LHT
Drop bar Belt Check (A custom Surly Cross Check)

Now if you were to ask me how often I ride in the drops, I would honestly have to tell you I can’t remember the last time I did. Perhaps in some nasty headwinds back in 2006 or 2007 when I was putting in big miles training for the Arrowhead Ultra 135. I was about 18 lbs lighter, younger and a bit more flexible during those couple of years.

As I have gotten older I am less comfortable in the drops, I’ve gained some weight around the waistline, I’ve lost some flexibility and my handlebar stems have gotten taller. But I still love riding drop bars. I like riding on the hoods, behind the hoods on the curve, and on the flat bar section. I don’t use the drops anymore…….

……until yesterday!!! I rode comfortably in the drops. What changed? Sooo many things in the past few years. I haven’t had the built in daily workout of bike commuting. My base fitness level isn’t at a high level all the time like it was when I was commuting by bike daily. I’m aging and I’m in those years where it’s much, much harder to maintain fitness.

Last year, for the first time in my life, I really felt like I didn’t have the base fitness to do want I wanted to do. I’ve always loathed gyms and “working out” indoors. But I realized I need to listen to the experts on aging. This past October I decided to join a gym and try strength training. It’s been 30 years since I did any serious strength training. I went and did my strength workouts consistently for four and a half months until last week when my gym closed for the Covid-19 virus.

What did four and a half months of strength training do for me?


The strength training combined with 7 lbs of weight loss helped me do something I never thought I’d do again, ride in the drops on a drop bar bike.

Ride your bike (and do some strength training).

Best part of my day….

Over on Instagram today I posted this picture with the caption the same as the title of this post. We’re in the very beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic locally, like many locations in the U.S. The first two confirmed cases in our county have just been announced in the last day. The world around us changes daily and sometimes hourly. It’s unsettling.

My place of work closed down on March 19. That was only four days ago, but feels like a month. We were told it will be for 10 working days and we will be paid. I doubt we’ll be returning to work on April 2nd, the anticipated return date. Susan works at the hospital. The floor she works on is being readied as the initial Covid-19 treatment floor. She’s been packing up her office and moving to a temporary location. She is considered an essential employee but can work remotely.

We have a full freezer and enough other food to have at least something to eat for some time. So we haven’t been stocking up. But with rumors of a “shelter in place order” coming soon I decided to venture out today and see if I could pick up a few items. I headed out by car at 11 am. The roads were eerily deserted. The two grocery stores I went to were stocked. A few non-perishable items were out, but I was able to get everything on my list. From what I’ve been reading, I wasn’t expecting that. Bonus was both stores produce departments were fully stocked. Must be people stopped cooking good food and are eating stuff out of cans of and boxes.

I even picked up a 6 pack of TP and kitty litter. Don’t want to run out of either.

Why did I go to two grocery stores? With two special diets in the house that’s our normal routine. Shopping only at one store limits our options.

By time I got home I was so ready for a bike ride. I needed to do something that felt normal. With a sunny day and a temp of 48F degrees I had to get out. That’s the warmest temperature I’ve ridden in this year so far. I headed up to Skyline Parkway because there is no one up there in March. I know that as a fact because it was part of my daily bike commute for 14 years. I was shocked to see bicyclists, runners snd walkers along the whole way as well as more cars than normal. I guess with everything closed people are discovering the outdoors. It was nice to have company, at a distance of at least six feet of course.

I returned from my ride tired but mentally refreshed and ready to fix dinner for Susan and myself.

Stay safe, healthy, and ride your bike.

My first “no-snow” ride of the year.

After announcing yesterday I would no longer be risking injury by riding my non-studded fatbike on the local icy trails, I ended up out on a bike ride. I broke out the all-weather A-train and had a nice ride on perfectly dry roads. The sun was shining and a brisk wind was blowing. What a joy it was to ride quietly along on a drop bar bicycle for a change. Don’t get me wrong, I love my snowy fatbike rides, more than any rides I do all year long, but the change of pace was refreshing. It’s good to mix things up now and then.

This is what I woke up to this morning. Not an unusual sight for us this time of year. We still have two months before Spring blossoms and things greening up. Spring arrives very late in the Northland.

Ride your bike.

Snow biking cancelled for the rest of the season.

One week ago.

I’ve had an amazing time this winter on my Pugsley, the 14th winter of riding on the purple beast. I’ve gotten out most every weekend and some weekdays after work for most of the year. We received a lot of snow in late November and December. That snow pack has survived a mostly mild winter and warming temps the last three weeks. Each week I expect it to be the last week, but enough snow is hanging on to keep me out on the Pugsley.

We’ve had warming and then cool downs that get well below freezing. I didn’t expect to be able to ride this weekend, but realized it would still be possible. There’s still snow to ride.

But I’m choosing not to ride snow today despite the temps staying below freezing all day. Really it’s perfect out right now.

We’ve had the usual freeze/thaw cycle that we get this time of year. It creates icy spots on the trails where ice flows form or spots that get a lot of direct sunlight. It’s the only time of year I could benefit from studded tires on my fatbike. I’ve never gone to the expense because there is so much riding I can do throughout most of the winter where I have no need for the security of studded tires. Last weekend I figured studs would only have been needed for about 5% of the distance I covered. That amount is easy enough to ride, or push, my bike around.

With some light rain and drizzle earlier in the week combined with more melting, I expect more ice. Most years I just head out. Sometimes you just have to get out and see for yourself if it’s rideable. If I start falling down because of ice I just turn around and go home.

This year I’ve decided that tactic would be irresponsible. With the local hospitals gearing up for an influx of COVID-19 patients, the last thing they need is to use resources to treat me and a broken bone.

As hard as it is to not ride snow when there is snow to be ridden, I’m choosing not too.

That doesn’t mean I won’t be out on dry roads or out on dirt or gravel when the snow is gone. My plan moving forward is to be more aware of the conditions and take fewer risks.

Ride your bike and stay safe.