Today's weather forecast, and that of the next several days, is bleak for those of us dependent on two-wheel outdoor activities for recreation and fitness. Hopefully, my ever-alert readers took advantage of the window of opportunity to log a few miles last week when we had a few days of fine conditions between the thaw of the Christmas blizzard and the current blast of rain and cold. If not, woe to your expanding waistline, you missed your chance and you're now faced with deciding how you will spend the next few days. You can open a beer, grab that bag of Cheetos and wallow in your remorse or you can do something productive. ('Scuse me while I lick my fingers. I'm getting salty orange stuff all over my keyboard.)
Here are a couple of suggestions of worthwhile activities for the house-bound rider:
(Note: If you are one of those sickos who can enjoy time on a trainer, knock yourself out. This is directed at normal people.)
Wrap it up: Look at your bike. Is your bar-tape feathered, tattered, dangling, incurably dirty (yeah, Euro-white is cool for a while.), or otherwise unlikely to make it through a season in acceptable condition? If so, go to your local bike shop, select some bar tape and then go home and wrap your bars. The bike shop is also a good place to see some buddies and hang out for a bit on a rainy day while being tempted by new bling. There are many on-line tutorials for this simple task. I selected the Bicycling link because it is pretty straightforward and the guy has some killer sideburns. You've got time on your hands, so check out a couple of sites before you get started. You'll be learning and you can pick the instuction method that is most comfortable for you.
When selecting tape, if you have no established preference, go with something basic but of good quality. I've probably use Cinelli more than anything else over the years, though I have enjoyed some gel tapes for their vibration damping and I am going to try some Lizard Skins, perhaps today! The Lizard Skins tape is expensive, probably overly so, but I bought it on a whim and a recommendation from a friend. You can get perfectly good, quality tape in the $12-25.00 range. Warning: resist the temptation to get all matchy-matchy with your tape, saddle and tires, unless all are black. A white saddle and tape may be acceptable, but remember that you don't have a team crew to keep all that shit spotlessly clean.
A lot of folks have convinced themselves that they are too inept to do anything remotely mechanical to their bike, but the only tool required for taping the bars is a pair of scissors (yes, you can use your rounded point school scissors if you're not to be trusted with sharp objects), and the experience will make you a little more familiar with your bike. Bar tape comes with strips of adhesive tape to finish off the end of the wrap, but I suggest using 3M electrical tape. 3M will cost a couple of bucks more than the cheap stuff, but a roll can last for several years and is well-worth the cost difference.
Most bar tape is very forgiving and can be easily unwrapped and re-done if you find that you've left a gap or have come up short at the top of the bar. Inspect before you cut, especially if you have more than a few inches of tape to trim! You may have shorted yourself on the overlap. The most trying bar-wrap experience I've had involved some pink leather tape that I volunteered to install for one of Diane's cute co-workers. The material had no stretch and had to be perfectly aligned to lay flat in the curves of the bars. It caused me some frustration, but it looked good when I finished, totally suited character of the rider, and did not fall into the overly-matchy category. Be patient and you will enjoy a clean-looking cockpit and the satisfaction of learning a new skill.
Clean it up: I save my serious bike cleaning for days when I can put the work stand outside and use a hose. Lubes and degreaser can be a little stinky, but you can still take the opportunity to wipe your bike down with a wet rag and, while doing so, inspect your tires, cables and drive train. If your bike has mud and grit on it, be gentle so that you don't scratch the finish in the course of your cleaning efforts.
Sort it out: Though it is beyond belief for those folks who have seen my desk, I'm pretty organized when it comes to my bike kit and gear. Even with my penchant for organization in that part of my life, it pays to periodically just go through everything.
Whether you keep all of you stuff in a specific drawer and closet space, or store it where it falls in floorboard of your minivan, etc., use some down time to take everything out, clean the dust bunnies from the corners and start over. You will likely find some piece of gear that you gave up looking for last summer or that pair of winter gloves that had fallen out of rotation and simply been forgotten.
One month ago, I picked the last of our cherry tomatoes and Diane cut zinnias before our first hard freezeWe enjoyed a long, warm fall before winter set in, and we will be back in the sunshine soon enough, so use this time wisely. You won't want to take the time off the bike on those pretty days of spring.