Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Pack Mule Conquers Rockford’s Rugged Roads

It came, it saw, it conquered! Well, it dodged potholes, anyway.

It came, it saw, it conquered! Well, it dodged potholes, anyway.

I’ve been walking for exercise lately, since the presentable nature of the Blackhawk Valley Campground has been making for a pleasant enough little hike. But with all the recent rain, mosquito hatching has taken place, and a grunt up the steep forested entrance drive makes for an unpleasant enough little hike. Indeed, with the river just a few yards away, an evening stroll anywhere in camp is beginning to become an exercise in priorities.

Evelo Aurora to the rescue. Rockford is a rather gritty, sprawling burg, so there’s no “distance to town”, per se. You pass little pockets of businesses until you find one with the type of store you want, and there you are. My self-assigned mission was to locate and acquire cuff straps or clips, the things that keep your pants leg from wiping against the chain and sprocket, or getting caught in same. One is good, two are better – the left cuff won’t get caught on anything, but will interfere and wear against the crank.

So I set out for Kegel’s Bike Shop, the only one within a practical biking distance of camp. Maps showed it to be accessible from workable secondary roads. The only trial would be the camp’s entrance drive. Apparently, enough people have nearly killed themselves on this tree-lined slope to convince the camp to prohibit riding a bike up or down it. That’s not a problem – except for the mosquitos. With my pumper, sprinting up it is not a possibility, but at least the Evelo is able to power itself up at any speed desired. All you have to take care of is your own carcass. In reality, the hill is no issue at all for the Aurora, which is able to carry a rider up easily. Coming back down, either one of the disc brakes can take care of business, solo. But, I didn’t want to risk the wrath of the clerk on duty, or set a bad example for any other bike owners in camp. So, I did what any decent fellow citizen would do: I walked the bike up to the bend near the top, fending off bugs. Then, once out of sight of the office, I climbed aboard and gunned it the rest of the way up.

Two dogs behind a fence were all that I encountered this whole trip, and the pavement was mostly wide enough and lightly traveled enough to make the ride pleasant. There were of course pockets of truly awful pavement along the edges, but nothing that couldn’t be worked through. Along the 6+ mile distance, I found a barber shop and a supermarket, two types of errands that could now transition away from the big Ford.

In the ancient days, bike shops often used to be cramped and dirty little holes, with bicycles stacked like cordwood on linoleum or bare concrete floors, and mechanical parts in boxes and marked-up cardboard bins behind the counter. These days, it runs more toward airy glass and carpeting, spacious and colorful displays of equipment, and an atmosphere more akin to a health club than a parts depot.

I was a little concerned that they wouldn’t have any cuff clips or straps, but there was little point in calling first, since this trip was for exercise. I could enjoy the suspense, such as it was. See, what with the transition to hobby riders wanting to look like sponsored, professional racers, few people ride in street clothes any more. Basically, today’s hobby riders pay for the privilege of wearing corporate advertising printed on Lycra, which financial process the wily pros have always reversed. Those riders that do wear street clothes, wear shorts. About the only ones left are like me: bike as transport. You’d think that all commuters fit in here too, but many of those bike in one set of clothes and change upon arriving at work. So, few there are, who carry on the battle against greasy black pants cuffs.

The norm at one time was a thin stainless steel C-clip that simply slid on and held your pants leg tight and away. In the intervening years, this became too mundane and at times, too aggressive, and someone got the bright idea of sewing Velcro to a nylon strap so that you could wrap that around your pants, however thin or thick they were. It works. Trouble is, it only works for awhile. Then the Velcro wears out, and it becomes unintentional road litter somewhere along the way. This isn’t helped by the fact that all of them are too short, so only a small area of Velcro is actually engaged. These straps are apparently sized for children, who are about as concerned about getting their pants cuffs dirty as a master chef is about running out of light bulbs. I’ve worn out and lost three straps in the last two years, swapping in RV awning edge straps when poorly-stocked bike shops came up empty. I had a stainless clip years ago, but misplaced it, and have rued the day since.

13+ miles for a bright red strap?

13+ miles for a bright red strap?

Fortunately, Kegel’s had a few cuff straps, though the checkout clerk had to ask the owner for help on locating them. She’d never heard of them, which was not surprising. I bought two but, knowing their future, asked the owner whether stainless clips were still made. He looked them up from his distributor’s list, and they were actually cheaper than the straps. Made in China, no doubt. I ordered two, and they should show up in a few days. We’ll see how they fit. Not surprising that when I applied a new strap to my pants to return back home, I saw fresh oil already there. Like chain guards, chainring shields are a stopgap that often fails.

Now and then, I realize how out of place one garb may seem when worn in another place. In the case of street pants and cuff clips, that’s one thing. But I was wearing my Southwestern setup for protection: shoes, long pants, long-sleeved white dress shirt, cycling gloves, broad-brimmed vented sun hat, sunglasses, and DSLR camera strap slung over my shoulder. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but here, it’s the norm to wear a T-shirt, shorts, and sneakers or sandals so that you can get all the sun you can. Not a good idea for me, not at all. I suspect I have that “desert rat” look. Either that, or that “suspicious character” look. Whatever. The owner noticed my “McHenry County Vintage Car Gazette” camera strap and asked about what I did. He guessed correctly that I photographed old cars at shows and cruise nights, but I told him I was retired now, and crisscrossed the country in a old travel trailer. Life is hard. Sure.

“I’m envious!” he called out as I opened the door to leave, surprising me. Like any other way of life, full-time RVing has its own challenges, but for me, it appears to be a pretty good fit overall. Many dote on the social aspect of camping with friends and meeting new ones along the way. Me, I appreciate the available solitude of boondocking, and the belated introspection it allows. In a sense, as the “Accidental Philosopher”, I can now observe and consider, which is of great value to me at this stage. Life is good.

Kegel's was fairly busy. The Mighty Aurora is leaning on the bike rack, at right.

Kegel’s was fairly busy. The Mighty Aurora is leaning on the bike rack, at right.

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8 thoughts on “Pack Mule Conquers Rockford’s Rugged Roads

  1. Hey Doug. Nice to know that you are in the area again. I really do not miss the mosquitos. When we lived in the countryside they were always around from spring to fall. They just do not give up. They may vary in number but they are just always around. Their persistent buzzing a reminder that you will be theirs soon enough.

  2. PamP on said:

    Doug; Yes indeed, bike shops have changed a lot in the last 20 years or so. They used to be kind of shabby, not the upscale enterprises they are now.

    Like you, I summer in the mid-west. The mosquitoes are a hungry lot. I donate blood every time I go out, but they’re never satisfied.

    I was concerned that the recent rains had swept you away. Glad the river hasn’t gobbled you up.

  3. flybiker on said:

    Somewhere in your posts you probably stated why you chose the Evelo Aurora rather than the Aries. I’m a full time van dweller and I’m planning on replacing the small motorcycle on the back of the van for an electric bicycle and I think you have convinced me in going with Evelo but am trying to decide between the Aries and the Aurora. Having a 29″ inseam may be the deciding factor for the Aurora…not sure.
    I enjoy your blog.
    Thanks, Flybiker

    • Thanks for taking the time to read and ask, Flybiker. I’m hoping you have scanned over the “Evelo Pack Mule” Page – the tab for it is on the top of the home page, like Mailing Addresses and the Contact Page. On it, I don’t spare the praise, but I don’t pull any punches, either. You can also click on the Evelo Pack Mule Category on the right to find other related posts.

      Apart from that, the prime reason that I picked the Aurora was from Evelo’s Customer Service. After I described exactly what I planned to do with my e-bike and the conditions I would use it in, that’s the model they wound up recommending. The Aries, I believe, would have issues dealing with a single-wheel trailer because of the demands it would place on an articulated rear suspension. That goes for any bike with a rear suspension, not just the Evelo brand. I have a 31″ inseam, and the Aurora works just right, but the seat can’t go any lower as long as I have the seat post rear rack in place, which takes up more than a couple of inches of that post. Without it mounted, a believe a 29″ inseam would be fine, possibly even a 28″. By appearances, the Aries may accommodate this, but your distance to the ground may be higher because of the suspension. I’d write or call Customer Service with the issue just to make sure, and not necessarily settle for just a blanket happy answer. A surprising number of technically exact answers are floating around there, and what you need is the minimum seat to lower pedal distance so that there are no surprises. You will need a minimum that is at least an inch shorter than your hard contact inseam, so that your leg is properly bent at the knee with the ball of your foot on the pedal. Best approach would be to take a tape measure on the seat setup you use on your bike now (or a bike you borrow for a minute), and be sure you can match it. I would prefer the Aries myself because of the cushy ride on washboard trails, but with a single-wheel trailer, it’s one of those things that would work for awhile, but then I’d wonder why the bushings back there have loosened up.

      From a selfish standpoint, it would be nice if you entered their website via a link on my site even to look, but if they do not currently have a discount of at least $100, then if you decide to order, key in “StrollingAmok” on their order page for a $100 discount off list. Whatever. I’m a little surprised that my Aurora is still going like clockwork, because I don’t protect it at all. I just noticed this month that the sun is giving the clear plastic cable sheathing fits, but it doesn’t seem to be affecting functionality a bit. Sooner or later I’ll bring it up with Evelo, but for all I know, a quality bike shop may be able to cobble up more hardy replacements.Clear plastic is just not the best option for sun exposure. Not too many bike riders abuse their bikes like I do, and you sound like another candidate! Enjoy!

      • Norman Bjornstad on said:

        Hi Doug, Thanks for the quick response. Next time I visit the site, I’ll do it from your blog….didn’t realize you would benefit from it. I was planning to mention your blog next time I bugged them with a question. I’m also looking into converting one of my current bicycles to electric via the Bafang mid drive kit. Pretty good reviews and looking at the Youtube videos, it doesn’t look that difficult to do. I do have a BOB Yak in my storage container in AZ so it might work well with my old Cannondale Hybrid. At any rate, it’s too hot down there yet so I’ll be doing more research until I return in 6 weeks or so.Norm AKA Flybiker.

        • Norm, the Bafang mid-drive kit looks interesting since you already have a bike that you like. The AZ dust jammed my Raleigh’s derailleur pretty quickly, but that doesn’t mean it will bind up yours. That’s just part of the mix that will do the job in the kinds of places that you use your bike. I’m a little concerned about the cautions on suddenly applying a lot of power to the Bafang’s gears, but I would think that’s really unlikely unless you get a lust for hot rodding it. I’m glad you’ll be taking the time to research the heck out of your various options – there’s too much money involved for this to be an impulse purchase!

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