Gear Up for Tour de Farm: Basic Bike Maintenance Tips from Blue Sky Bicycles!

1.       Keep your chain clean and lubed.

The easiest way to clean your chain is purchase a bicycle chain cleaning kit.  The kit comes with a plastic clam-shell case that will enclose the chain while you pedal it through cleaning solvent. We strongly recommend a citrus (i.e. biodegradable) cleaning solvent.

Without a chain cleaning kit, use a sponge or soft bristle brush to wash your chain well, paying special attention to outer plates on the chain.  Rinse the chain with clean water and wipe dry with a clean cotton rag.  Re-lube the chain by dripping a recommended lubricant (e.g., TriFlow or ProLink) on the top of the chain as you pedal backwards slowly.

Let the bike sit for 10 minutes to allow the lubricant to work slowly into the chain.  Take a clean cotton rag, hold it loosely on the chain and pedal backwards again.  This allows the lube to work into the pins while removing any excess lube from the other plates of the chain.

Learn how to fix a flat bicycle tire!

2.      Maintain correct tire pressure.

Check your tire pressure regularly and top off as needed.  If you run low tire pressure, you have a much higher chance of getting pinch flats and will need to replace tires long before the tread is worn due to the cracks in the sidewall.  Purchasing a good quality floor pump with a gauge is highly recommended and will save you aggravation and money in both the short and long term.

3.     Remember to schedule regular tune-ups and replace parts as they wear out.

Schedule a yearly tune-up before the start of each riding season.  Replace brake pads and cables as often as necessary.  Depending on the type of bike, your style of riding and variety of weather conditions being ridden in, this might be every 2,000 miles or less.   We strongly recommend a complete overhaul every 3,000 – 5,000 miles to keep your bike rolling.

4.      A clean bike is a happy bike. 

Keep your bike clean.  If you get caught in the rain, dry your bike off when you get home and re-lube the chain.  After a ride, wipe down the frame with citrus degreaser, then use a polish (e.g. Pedros Bike Lust) to protect the frame.  A clean bike looks great and clean parts last longer.  Don’t be lazy.

5.      Empower yourself:  take a class!

Blue Sky Bicycles offers FREE Fix-a-Flat and Basic Maintenance classes twice a month.  Check the Events Calendar at http://www.blueskybicycles.com for the full schedule.  Remember:  flat tires will occur, but they are no big deal if you are prepared.

The Basic Maintence Clinic at Blue Sky. Handy!

Get in Shape with weekly rides with Blue Sky Bicycles, a TDF Sponsor!

Looking for some fun people to ride with? Blue Sky Bicycles is leading a series of weekly group rides to help you achieve your fitness goals. Be it Beginner Mondays, Tuesday Night “World Championships,” Wednesday Women’s Rides or Mountain Bike Thursdays on the SMBA trails, make it a point to come out and improve your form and boost your fun factor. Consult Blue Sky’s Events Calendar for full details:  http://www.blueskybicycles.com/community/events.asp

Two New Stops!

We’re pleased to announce Ensign Brook Farm and Booth Farm as two new exciting stops along the 15-mile route.

A beautiful sheep farm, Ensign Brook has three different registered flocks – Romney, Merino-crosses, and Cheviot – which yield whole range of fibers.  This variety allows for interesting and unique yarns and roving, which are spun in small quantities to ensure quality.  Also available are watercolor and landscape paintings by Karin, the farmer herself!  You won’t want to miss what will surely be a fun stop!

Booth Farm has an interesting history and currently produces compost for sale.  From their website: “Six generations of Booths have run a dairy farm along the Hudson on what was originally part of the Schuyler Land Grant. The growth of the dairy business raised concerns for the surroundings, especially the beautiful Hudson River. Kevin Booth began experimenting with composting to better manage the animal waste. Today, after many years of experimentation, education, and determination, Booth’s Blend compost, an all natural product, is available to help you create beautiful plantings.”  Their farm overlooks the Saratoga Battlefield, a sight you won’t want to miss!

Tour de History

“Tour de Farm” is perhaps a slight misnomer, because the ride rolls through areas rich with significant historical influence.  “Tour de Farm and History” better represents the tour, but is also a mouthful!  On the tour, not only will you see farms, but also many Revolutionary War historic sites.

In 1777, American soldiers fought two fierce battled against the British and forced surrender on the land which is now the Saratoga National Historical Park.  According to Sir Edward Shepherd Creasy’s The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World: from Marathon to Waterloothe Saratoga Battles rank as the 13th most important battles in world history.

On the 35-mile route, you’ll pass through (and stop by) historic houses, farms and, significant sites of the Saratoga Battles, which include:

The Schuyler House

The Schuyler House is located 8 miles north of the Battlefield.

The Schuyler House is the restored country house of American General Philip J. Schuyler, a hero of the Saratoga Battles, both before and after the Revolutionary War.  The original house was actually burned by the British; the one that stands today was built in 1777.

Sword Surrender Site

“Surrender of General Burgoyne” by John Trumbull, 1822.

Faced with overwhelming numbers, Burgoyne surrendered his sword to General Gates on October 17, 1777.  Burgoyne’s depleted army, some 6,000 men, marched out of its camp “with the Honors of War” and  stacked its weapons along the west bank of the Hudson River at the Field of Grounded Arms.

Freeman Farm Overlook

The view from the former farm site. Although the view is mostly obscured from heavy tree growth, the view remains similar to what it was in 1777.

Major fighting took place on the land leased from farmer John Freeman, a loyalists who went north and joined British forces, on September 19, 1777.

The Neilson House 

From the Neilson House, one has an almost 360-degree view of the battlefield.

Built by John and Lydia Neilson in 1775 or 1776, the infamous General Benedict Arnold used this house as headquarters in 1777.  Today, it looks much the same and will be host to a “Progressive Encampment” during Tour de Farm.

Think you’ll be tired from all that biking? Imagine these soldiers and their families who marched many miles on foot!

The Saratoga National Historical Park was first authorized as a New York State historical preserve in 1927 and was made part of the National Park Service when authorized by Congress in 1938.

A Case for Farmland Conservation.

Twenty-four year old Michael Kilpatrick, of Kilpatrick Family Farm, has been farming in Washington County since he was a fourteen.  He recently shared his testimony to the House Committee on Agriculture for the 2012 Farm Bill on the National Young Farmers’ Coalition blog.  Among many impending issues for young farmers, such as regulation and farmer education, Michael makes a strong case for farmland protection.

As a farmer who leases land on from four different properties, Michael understands the value of making prime farmland affordable.  He says,

Part of America’s greatness is in its amazing soil. It fueled the Westward Expansion, and even now its products are a major part of our exports and competitive edge. Good farmland is not cheap and it is being gobbled up by development companies at an alarming rate–over 1,200,000 acres in 2011 alone. That is 1,200,000 acres that will probably never be farmed again, that is forever lost to urban sprawl, shopping centers, or factories.

He also cites the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program as an essential part of farmland conservation:

Protecting our farmland is also vitally important. The Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) administered by the United States Department of Agriculture has been a significant partner in this effort. The main goal of this program should be to protect at risk, working farmland for active agricultural production.

The testimony is compelling, well written and worth a read, especially if you’re interested in the issues today’s farmers face.  Read Michael’s full testimony here.

In addition to running a CSA, Kilpatrick Family Farm sells at the Saratoga Springs and Glens Falls Farmer’s Market, as well as resturants Beekman Street Bistro, 50 South, and Four Seasons Natural Foods.