I look forward to putting a blog post together of our favorite bike commuting photos of the month. This month with all the heavy rain, flooding, downed trees which threatened my little dome workshop and other little challenges life had for us, we didn't just "get through it", we had fun with it. Most of these photos are from the beautifully talented Lisa Piper.
As we roll into October it will soon be time for us to get our large order of pumpkins for the Store. Looking forward to cooler temperatures and less mosquitos as we say goodbye to summer. In our part of the country that means better weather for bike touring. Looking forward to getting lots of riding in for a nice long spring bike tour.
Quality Waterproof Fabric Maintenance
It's getting to be that time of year of rain and depending on what part of the world you live in that might mean rain, rain and more rain. For most bike commuting purposes it's a necessity to have at least some waterproofing methods for fabrics and a way in which to maintain the waterproofness of those fabrics. Some things can't handle getting wet, though I'm not one of them it's important to protect some of your belongings while on bike touring or commuting. Our two favorite products to help achieve that goal are discussed here and for less than twenty bucks will provide years of quality waterproofing and maintenance.
In previous blog articles the topic of finding excellent deals at thrift stores regarding water proof or other cycling apparel is a lot of fun and saves money. Also discussed was being able to add waterproofing to most popular fabrics which are water resistant. Another very important product to keep on the shelf is Atsko Sport Wash. This is especially important for restoring various water proof and water resistant fabrics found at thrift stores, which more often than not were not properly cared for and is why most folks donate them
Not only does Sport Wash work effectively to restore waterproofing it also works just as well for down sleeping bags that have lost their so called "loft" which is due to clumping or improper storage. I have used Atsko Sport Wash to maintain the loft of an old North Face down sleeping bag for restoring its' temperature rating. Information provided below, click on photo for more information or to purchase. Another inexpensive item for your bike commuting apparel is Kiwi Camp Dry. I have mentioned this in a previous post and is an excellent waterproofing product. After treating fabrics with Kiwi Camp Dry, maintaining the water proof treatment can be maintained when washed with Atsko Sport Wash.
Kiwi Camp Dry Heavy Duty Water Repellent is excellent for waterproofing tents, panniers, hydration packs, cycling jackets and more. Some of my favorite panniers from Axiom are water resistant but not waterproof. And often times I prefer some of the mounting systems or versatility of the more water resistant panniers as opposed to the day glow pvc type panniers like ortlieb and such. Adding a coat of Kiwi Water Repellent really helps to add a lot more waterproofing than may or may not have been applied at the factory. Two products which have been used by lots of bike touring folks and all sorts of outdoor enthusiasts for years are tried and true products that work. And when these two products are put to work together it is even more effective for maintaining water repellency for bike touring and commuting.
Links related to this topic:
Axiom Cartier Panniers, Water Resistant Good Enough
Bike Commuting in Wet Weather
Columbia Outer Wear for Bike Commuting
Rain and wet weather don't have to keep a person from riding like the gal in the photo above with her Rain Cape or Poncho. Folks who bike commute in Portland, Oregon would hardly ride at all if they refused to ride in the rain. Ironically, Portland has become known for its bike friendly atmosphere where bikes frequent the everyday commuting scene.
Having lived in Portland, Oregon I have some experience riding in wet weather. Rain in Portland is most frequently a light drizzle where the air is permeated a good portion of the year in a blanket of grey clouds and moisture. Now that I live along the Gulf Coast of Texas when it rains it's usually more of a torrential down pour with considerably warmer air temperatures than found in Oregon.
In Oregon I would commute on cold rainy days in a wool sweater from Nautica that stayed dry on the inside as it has good wicking properties, so that I rarely needed anything more than that for rides which included some pretty intense hill climbing. I still have that old sweater as it performed exceptionally well when commuting in Colorado with a lightweight nylon shell over it.
This year while looking at my cycling apparel that had been packed away I found a ten year old bike jacket from Craft. I hardly ever wear this jacket in Texas as it isn't necessary except during the winter when it cools down a bit and have been using a Columbia waterproof shell instead for the heavier rains. Obviously, cycling apparel needs vary between warmer to colder or wet to drier climates. There is no shortage of quality bike jackets on the market and having a good rain jacket is quite affordable these days. Some of my best and favorite clothing has been found at thrift stores. Including products from Nautica, Columbia and others. It's also fun to find things you wouldn't find shopping online. As small businesses owners we promote and appreciate the "shop local" idea. However we also find that researching products and making purchases based on that research makes shopping online very convenient. That's how I learned of Atsko Sport Wash. If you're someone who enjoys shopping for thrift store treasures treat the fabric to a dose of Atsko Sport Wash for restoring its' waterproof qualities.
Having experience with daily bike commuting in a few different climates, each with their own sort of "extreme" I have learned that knowing how to effectively layer provides the most versatility. This is important for bike touring where one's travels may encounter unpredictable weather conditions.
Here is a "bike geek" photo Lisa took of me wearing my favorite old Columbia Watertight Packable Rain Jacket. Back in the late 80's I worked at Portland's very own Larry's Sports Center. It was a time when everyone in the ski department fell in love with "Mother Gert Boyle" and her characteristic signature tag inside most of the clothing.
It isn't just sentimentality as to why I like Columbia Sportswear products so much, it's mostly because the stuff performs as described. When shopping for the best performing wet weather outer wear I look for Omni Tech Waterproof, Breathable Fully Seam Sealed. There's a lot of grey area between waterproof and water resistant these days and when something waterproof breathes like a garbage bag resulting in moisture staying trapped from perspiration it's worthless. Rather than have me go on and on describing all the various forms of layering for different climates I have provided a link with photo below to one of the folks who knows this topic best.
Clipless, Platform Pedals for Touring Bikes and Bike Commuting
There are different pedals for a variety of riding styles and conditions and there are plenty of opinions on the matter. This discussion is more about evaluating your own riding style, considering what type of riding you want to do and what sorts of situations or conditions you might find yourself pedaling through.
First and foremost is the ever popular "to go clipless or not to go clipless" question. Let's get one thing made clear clipless pedals are for riders who "spin" their pedal stroke. For most bike commuting and touring conditions this how you evaluate your own riding style regarding your pedal stroke. There are some seasoned riders who will tell you they could "never spin worth a damn" but can "mash" their pedals all day every day. These are the two basic categories of determining one's own pedal stroke. Cadence or pedal rhythm, fore and aft position of pedals all get learned from experience and time spent on the bike and has much more to do with riding a clipless pedal. For those who don't know what a clipless pedal is, it is a pedal designed to be worn with special shoes in which the cleat matches up with the pedal receiving the cleat. Shimano SPD system being the most popular and typically most affordable for beginners to try first and is all that will be discussed for the purpose of this article.
For a "regular pedal" I always recommend a nice big platform pedal for both touring bikes and bike commuting. For casual trail riding or off road use or for wet weather, a slightly studded platform pedal is excellent for maintaining foot to pedal contact under varying conditions. This includes frequent stop and go riding such as when waiting for traffic. There are plenty of experienced bike folks who enjoy both bike touring and commuting and prefer to use platform pedals for their commute and clipless pedals for their bicycle tours.
How about a pedal that offers both options in one pedal? Yes, they are referred to as dual pedals regarding ability to ride either side of the pedal, one side being clipless for a cleated shoe and the other side a standard cage type pedal. This dual style of pedal is available from several manufacturers at a wide price range of twenty dollars to around one hundred dollars. I have no experience with the cheaper models and cannot say how long the bearings would last and are most likely not sealed bearings. Or if the clipless design offers a way to adjust the clipless mechanism for cleat tension. Being able to adjust cleat tension is very important for first time clipless pedal system riders.
Reason I like these so much for bike touring is that if for any reason some mishap such as losing a cleat screw from a shoe or wanting to take a break from riding clipless due to "hotspots" causing foot pain or numbness simply put on some flip flops and pedal on the flats for awhile. For bike touring and commuting the more versatile and convenient the options of a component or accessory the better.
Getting back to Platform pedals or "Flats" they are excellent as a winter commuting pedal. Riding on show and ice while wearing boots for example a big solid platform pedal does the trick especially on steep, winding country dirt roads that can get real nasty in the winter.
I like platform pedals on old classic cruiser style bikes where strolling along with a handlebar basket simply does not require a clipless system. I have some nice pedals from Wellgo installed on a few bikes from my shop and if I know the person doesn't ride clipless and are in need of new pedals this is the pedal I put on. For twenty bucks they've held up fine for trails and urban curb hopping. I can ride them wearing work boots, flip flops, whatever, flat pedals are offered in different materials including manganese and can cost anywhere from twenty to over a hundred dollars. As most of these style of pedals have been designed with downhill, BMX and mountain bike riders in mind the pedals ore very stout so that when used for everyday bike commuting they will most likely provide solid performance for several years or more.
Links related to this Article:
Kent's Bike Blog "Clipsplaining Explained"
To Go Clipless or not
Bell Metro Helmet Available for Purchase!
There isn't a whole lot to say about this helmet as it has been discontinued by Bell and replaced with the Muni. Not exactly sure why that is as this helmet is considered the best bike commuter helmet ever made considering the optional bike commuting accessories. My article regarding the Muni attempting to replace the Metro discusses many of the finer points of the Bell Metro for commuting and touring.
Photo below is of my '05 Bell Metro with optional winter accessory kit and visor mirror. Amazon now has one Bell Metro Helmet, size medium available for purchase with a matte black finish. Click on photo or any of the text links to purchase.
A quote from one of our reader's comments from a previous post highlights some of the practical qualities available with the Bell Metro including longevity of the product and how other bike commuter's snatch up this helmet when available. If I had an extra sixty five bucks I would get this helmet myself for winter commuting.
Link related to this Post:
Bell Muni Replacing Bell Metro, Not for Me.
Amazing that the 10 year old Bell Metro is so superior to the Bell Muni. The Muni doesn't fit me near as well as the Metro, but luckily I found a place in England with new Metros (but sadly all gone now). According to some tests the BHSI performed, bike helmets don't deteriorate much with age, so your '05 Metro should be good for some time! - See more at: http://biketourings.com/3/post/2013/09/bell-muni-replacing-bell-metro-helmet-not-me-by-rideon.html#comments
No wonder Axiom dubbed this handlebar bag the "Atlas" it's perfect size and functionality make it a nice complement for most bike travels.
We had been looking to replace an older worn out rack trunk bag and decided to try a handlebar bag instead. We were also looking for a bag that could be used for everyday and any time of day or night bike commuting. This meant having a handlebar bag that would mount beneath the front light for night time commuting.
W e have found that most bags and baskets prevent the front light's ability to provide ample lighting for seeing on dark unlit roads. This is frequently due to quick release mechanisms mounting brackets placing the bag or basket at an awkward height above the handlebar for proper front light use. Having the convenience of a quick release mounting system is very popular among many bike commuters for good reason. Being able to easily remove the bag to prevent theft or simply being able to have the items with one's person while at work or running errands. After much research and trying different bag options we decided on axiom's Atlas Handlebar Bag for its cargo capacity and versatility.
First of all we determined what items we wanted to be able to tote around. A rain jacket, wallet, keys, large cell phone or small tablet, a couple energy bars or dry snacks and some extra room for movie rentals, small grocery items like a few avocados. For safety reasons we wanted nice reflective accents and convenience of carrying the bag while off of the bike.
With its' 323 cu. in. cargo capacity, removable shoulder strap and ability to easily remove the bag from the handlebars we found a winner with Axiom's Atlas model and it also happens to look good. It turned out to have more cargo space than we had anticipated and realized it is very useful for our over night bike camping outings as well. We can fit our C Crane Solar Observer Radio and charge our small devices while riding, pretty cool. Bungee type chord wraps around the head tube of the bike if needed to prevent the bag from bouncing around too much during casual trail rides and off road bike touring conditions. Some other models we considered didn't have the protective fabric covering the zippers nor did they include a rain cover for the same price or more. We like to treat our bags when they are new with Kiwi Camp Dry for added water resistance, something I like to mention as I don't see many bike folks including it as an inexpensive way of adding water proofing to bags and panniers.
Of course, we like the axiom guarantee should there be any defects with the product.
Links related to this topic:
Bike Pannier Kit for under Two Hundred Dollars
Axiom Cartier Pannier Review
Axiom Phoenix Handlebar Bag Review
Most bike geeks agree that steel lugged frames are so elegantly funky that their aesthetics are worth the process of restoration and make for fun riding.
If you're one of those bike folk who enjoy finding grand dad's old well kept barn bike being sold off for little to nothing then you know that most of the wheels and tires on those bikes are 27 x 1 1/4". There's a lot of confusion in bike forums with folks referencing ISO diameters believing it necessary to determine proper tire and tube replacement. I hope this article helps to reveal that this is actually a fairly common tire size and can be purchased at any local bike shop, on amazon and some department stores.
Over the years of working in bike shops the rare occasion of odd tire sizing was mostly found on older Schwinn models with obscure 26 x 1 3/8" tire sizes in which case we would special order tires for replacement by using Schwinn's own tire size coding at the time. Other than the occasional 650c tire those were the only instances of having to "special order" a tire to fit the exotic wheel size.
Before I forget to mention it a 700c x 32cm tube and be used to replace a 27 x 1 1/4" tire. Also, lots of folks opt to replace 27 x 1 1/4" wheels with slightly smaller 700c wheels, which consequently may require fitting longer reach brake calipers to accommodate the slightly smaller wheel size.
These days getting a high quality wheelset of 27 x 1 1/4" is impractical as such a wheel size would have to be hand built with custom components. Leaving it up to "decent quality" wheel replacements in this particular wheel size incurs limitations in mostly bolt on rather than quick release and gearing options as most rear wheels are the threaded freewheel style rather than more modern cassettes. None of this is to imply or say that all 27" wheels are cheap, junk and were only put on lesser quality bikes. I recently sold a Razesa road bike another steel lugged beauty with Columbus tubing, Campagnolo crankset and Mavic 27" wheels. In that case there was no point in converting the bike to 700c wheels as the Mavics were in excellent condition though the Ultegra brakes would accommodate 700c wheels. Why bother with all this? Steel Lugged frames are expensive to purchase new and there are a good number of old steel lugged frames to be picked up used for a very reasonable price.
It's Friday night with thunder and clouds threatening to dump much needed precipitation while I smugly appreciate my extra efforts last night to get some fenders on my Bridgestone MB 1.
Wanting to thank United Bike Supply for providing these uniquely designed as well as uniquely inexpensive fenders for 26" wheels. I have had this set of fenders taking up some much needed work and storage space in the Dome Workshop for almost a year. Like most bike geeks I have a way of accumulating bike accessories and components "so that I have it". These Fenders are just such an item and were still int original packaging tossed into a spare parts box as cheap and not quite worthless.
Earlier this year while we were beach camping in Matagorda, TX and hitting the trails we found ourselves removing fenders to get extra mud clearance. Luckily we had tools with us so it wasn't an issue but having the option for tool free fender removal as needed is exceptionally nice. Photo at right shows steel bracket plate with fender being easily slid off by pushing the fender forward. If the bracket were mounted the other direction the fender might work itself loose and slide off.
Another thing that I find unique to these fenders is the full coverage of the rear fender protecting the front derailleur, which is really what I like in a rear fender to reduce a bit of maintenance for commuting. Many full coverage rear fenders require extra stays particularly for 26" wheels.
Maybe it's because I'm from Portland, Oregon where fenders and coffee are the norm and I get excited about getting a bike for touring and commuting ready and it just doesn't feel complete without fenders. Cheers! to United Bike Supply of Oregon, pleasant surprises and of course TGIF Thank Goodness I have Fenders. After posting this article I found these same fenders on Amazon listed as XLC Clip on Fender Set MTB Black. The XLC set at Amazon seems to be identical to the set I received from United Bike Supply exception being my set doesn't have the XLC logo on the fenders.
Seems like most bikes I use for commuting get coffee spilled onto frame, good thing it doesn't stain. If it did I might start looking for a coffee cup fender and with all the gadgetry and novelties in today's bike market I could probably find one.
Links related to this topic
Link to Purchase these Fenders on Amazon
Fender Favorites for Bike Touring and Commuting
Shop Bike Tourings for Fenders
United Bike Supply Fenders from this Article
Maybe it's do to the grey beard or my sun hat and sunglasses but after considering the comment I decided it was the handlebar basket. Today while running an errand on the Dahon Mariner (I was test riding it with a new chain). "Hey, you're the food co-op people, I don't see hippies very often around here".
Geeze, I really don't know about the hippie comment as I have been exposed to the "hippie lifestyle" and spent some time living what might be described as a Bohemian lifestyle. However, I don't identify with any of that and realized perhaps it's the bike style that says it all. Miles of weathering effect can take it's toll and time and life have a way of showing some wear, which is why I replaced the chain in the first place. Then I considered the "handlebar basket effect". That's what I'm calling it now as it seems to invite commentary from total strangers. Within the past three days one gal said "I love y'all's baskets", she's from Texas and another passerby uttered "I guess that might work if it's big enough". Haha, oh boy, if I put a larger basket than the Sunlite Rattan on my little Dahon it might be like having a bit of bike with the basket.
So when I returned to the shop I decided to put this article together regarding the Sunlite Deluxe Quick Release Rattan Bicycle Basket. I acquired this basket approximately five years ago after my stepfather had purchased it for my mom's cruiser bike. He subsequently knocked the bike over (perhaps after a bit of Scotch) while the basket was on the bike consequently bending the shape of the basket and breaking a small plastic piece in the quick release mechanism. He removed the quick release assembly and offered the basket to me before throwing it out. I was able to repair the quick release with some adhesive and bent the top hoop part of the basket to proper shape so that the handle could be used. I have since then used the basket to tote a considerable amount of weight including a six pack of beer. This basket has also survived two or three other mishaps since including crashing on pavement and having to be bent to shape including the metal bracket where the quick release mounts to the basket.
None of this need apply to the "handlebar basket effect" suggesting handlebar baskets effect proper maneuvering and causing a rider to crash. No, not at all. In fact if anything I often times feel spoiled with easy access of my Detours Town and Country Handlebar Basket and bag with convenience of tossing my stuff in and easily retrieving whatever I want or need.
I did my best to provide a nice "hippie basket" portrait showing my DIY handlebar basket on the '60's Puch Bergmeister. Just check out the rake on that fork, complete with new retro Velo Orange Porteur Bars and brake levers. Ya baby, that's smooth and groovy, which is the "handlebar basket effect".
Links related to this topic include:
Detours Town and Country Handlebar Basket
DIY Handlebar Basket
Porteur Bike Basket Design
Replaceable USB Lithium Ion batteries with option to use AAA batteries, adjustable beam for spotlight or flood, aluminum construction, waterproof with a lifetime guarantee. That's right, all these features including two high quality versatile tail lights for less than a hundred bucks.
The folks at Magnus Innovations have put together a very high quality bike lighting system that I like even better than my Cygolite Metro 300, which is really saying something about the quality of the front light. Cygolite does not supply replaceable Li-ion batteries and most front bike lights don't that are rechargeable via USB. Magnus Innovations has provided not only the ability to replace the batteries should they wear out but also provides ability to swap out the battery if it should dim on your commute home. Photo at left shows the two USB rechargeable batteries with removable caps, the front light only requires one to run. What is not shown in the company's product photo is the AAA battery pack which can be used in place of one of the supplied batteries shown. The AAA battery pack requires three AAA batteries, not included in package.
For typical bike commuting this light kit is more than enough and for safely navigating dark unlit streets the lumens are at least equal to that of the Cygolite if not more. Last week I had some errands to run and was riding home after dark when I noticed the Cygolite was beginning to dim with the steady flash mode I was using in combined lighting situations. I thought it would be nice if I could swap a battery in for the rest of the commute as I wanted to take the more quiet but unlit side streets. One of the reasons I like this option from Magnus Innovations better than the Cygolite.
For bike touring and camping this is a real boon for us as we can easily recharge a Li-ion battery with our C Crane Solar Observer Radio which is another fun addition to a Bike Camping Kit. Though I can recharge my Cygolite the same way, I have to wait for it to recharge before I have a front light that is ready to use. Not so with this kit. And if both Li-ion batteries should need charging there is of course the AAA Nimh rechargeable option.
Photo at right shows the adjustable beam from Magnus Innovations by simply turning the end of light as you would a mag lite, another feature not found on my Cygolite. A swivel base like that on the Cygolite is more of a ratcheting sound and feel with the Magnus light. With the aluminum construction it feels sturdier and much more solid than any other bike light I have seen at this price range. Threaded metal clamp not only provides a sturdy solid feel but also makes it easy to adjust to different handlebar widths with tough foam rubber padding.
As if all this weren't enough there is more quality to be described in the two included tail lights. These lights require a simple button style battery and are turned on and off by pressing on the light's lens as a button. A rubber adjustable strap for mounting mean the light can easily be removed for either theft prevention or for putting on another bike.
I bought this kit for Lisa who lacks good night vision. She would routinely complain and have to reduce commuting speed significantly to feel safe at night. I had purchased the Planet Bike Beamer 5 for her a couple years ago and I was always using the swivel action on my Cygolite to help light her way. Now that she has this new bike light kit she actually commented that the strobe was so bright that it was a bit annoying. There are three modes of strobe, steady and brighter steady, which has proven to be more than sufficient bike commuting light for any situation including bike touring and camping.
I enjoy finding affordable quality products to share with Lisa as gifts and getting to write these reviews is fun too. As I continue to add appropriate gear to her "new to her" restored '89 Peugeot Canyon Express I have plenty of reviews to look forward to.