Hard to believe it's October already and things have been busy around here. We had our fourth annual kid's cooking class campout and organic pumpkin sale. We had some trees come down in the yard and were able to get some good fire wood for the campout from one of the dead trees. Puppy is now four years and is nice to have him behaving with the kids. Had a chance to work on the workshop and get it ready for some more bike repair and build projects and am excited at the possibilities with some of the old fixer uppers I've been able to find for converting to bikes for touring and commuting. Have a fund and safe Happy Halloween.
As mentioned in a previous post regarding the Top Four Bike Trailers here is the review of the Aosom Single Wheel Bike Trailer. First of all I want to say I like it and for the price of less than a hundred bucks including shipping it's excellent. Secondly it's the perfect trailer for anyone who has some aptitude for working on their own bike maintenance and repairs and this review explains why that is.
The trailer shipped incredibly fast and arrived within a couple days of having ordered it which barely gave me enough time to complete my top four bike trailer review. I worked late amidst a bit of a mess in my workshop to assemble and assess the overall quality of the packaging and contents. Every part was nicely wrapped securely with tape and bubble wrap but the dropouts were protruding out the end of the box, in photo above they are sticking through the cardboard on the right side. No big deal everything looked to be in order for a quick assembly of the product. Despite the sloppy english translation of the included instruction manual the photos are descriptively accurate.
In summary I would recommend this trailer for anyone who is either an avid DIY person or take the trailer to your local bike shop for assembly including upgrading rim tape, tire and coating axle with grease. Any other repair needs that might occur during shipping can easily be repaired at a local bike shop. For less than a hundred bucks this trailer is a winner. We have had fun test riding this little trailer with our own dry bag and cargo net that I used with my nashbar trailer. The Aosom Bike Trailer's rather basic suspension has proven to work good enough in absorbing small bumps through pot holes and handled very well at the local bike and skate park where we took it for a good test ride.
Links related to this article:
Top Four Bike Trailers for Touring and Commuting
Nashbar Cargo Trailer Review
Selle Anatomica, New Designs and Options for Touring and Commuting
Selle Anatomica could be producing the best saddle for a touring bike. Since 2007 when the Selle Anatomica introduced their Titanico saddles with patented slot design there has been praise for the absolute comfort and quality of craftsmanship in a simple effective design which appeared to be made to last. If you're one of the many bike touring folks who has been following the company's products including production and design changes you probably understand why.
Fortunately for me I have not experienced any of the common complaints regarding the original Selle Anatomica Titanico which consisted mostly of premature stretching resulting in a "hammock" like shape after the tensioning bolt had been used to stretch the leather for tautness until there were simply no more threads remaining to adjust the slack out of the saddle. A second criticism has been the saddle rails being a bit weak or flimsy with customers complaining how their saddle rails bent or broke. And the third criticism has been that the saddle is squeaky, creaky and noisy while riding.
This photo is of my original 2007 Selle Anatomica Titanico Watershed shows the current condition of my saddle after seven years of ownership and I have no complaints about it whatsoever. Part of my success with owning this saddle has been that first of all I only used it for intended use which is on a road touring bike where I ride with drop bars and do not place all or the majority of my body weight directly over the saddle. Secondly, I have weighed less than 160 lbs. during the time I have owned this saddle and I have plenty of miles on this saddle most all of which have been road riding. Reviewers of this saddle who put it on a mountain bike or went off to do some heavy duty rough riding of any sort would surely find themselves disappointed as this particular saddle wasn't designed for that type of riding. Which probably explains why Selle Anatomica developed the NSX Series for both mountain biking and heavier riders as it does not have the patented slot design (NS means "no slot"). Though the slotted design undoubtedly contributes to the saddle's reputation for comfort it has most definitely contributed to the "hammock effect" of being mashed out over time.
The good news is that Selle Anatomica will replace the leather on the saddle for approximately a hundred bucks last I checked. And they will replace it with the newer Titanico X Series which as I understand is of a thicker leather and laminate technology. Photo of my current touring bike saddle is the Mahogany color with copper rivets which are showing some nice aging which is natural after seven years of being exposed to normal all season riding conditions. Photo at left shows the few threads remaining for adjusting my saddle. Over the past seven years most if not all customer complaints regarding the original saddle designs have been resolved. There were a lot of new changes for 2014 including introduction of the T series for riders who weigh less than 160 pounds. Information for Selle Anatomica's three series of saddles which consist of the T Series, X Series and NSX Series are shared below. All saddles have the following new improvements for 2014:
New Hex Key Tension System
For folks interested in purchasing a new Selle Anatomica Saddle it can be a bit confusing and hope this information helps to inform and inspire confidence in considering a new saddle purchase.
Links related to this article:
Selle Anatomica Titanico NSX Mountain Bike Saddle Review
Some bike accessories are so simple they seem boring and thereby potentially taken for granted. Such is the case with my pair of Delta Compact Panniers. I own other higher quality more expensive panniers with locking attachment mechanisms that are excellent for the rigors of bike touring. However when I want to conveniently toss on a pair of bike bags for some commuting errands on short notice I don't want to mess around by having to fiddle with some gadget mechanism no matter how wonderful the products' claims. I also appreciate the fact that these bags are not too big nor too small for items I like to have stored in my commuting panniers while at the same time having extra space to pick up some miscellaneous items such as (but not limited to) groceries, small hardware store items and such.
These bags are not waterproof as I haven't felt the necessity of a waterproof pannier due to the convenient use of adding dry bags of various sizes. Roll top dry bags are nice to have for backpacking as well and not only help to protect items from getting wet in water resistant panniers it also helps to organize stuff
Versatile Single Wheel Bike Trailers Reviewed
Of all the various bicycle cargo trailers including those offering two wheel designs for bike commuting and touring we prefer a single wheel bike trailer for its' versatile maneuverability. Riding narrow bike lanes, multi use pathways and casual trail riding a quality steel frame trailer is both fun and practical for carrying gear or groceries with a single wheel design. Another advantage to the two wheel design is the tire is less likely to get a flat.
One and only complaint I have ever heard from fellow bike folks is "it's a pain to load the trailer and connect it to the bike" due to the single wheel design where a two wheel trailer doesn't flop around. An easy fix is to install an Pletscher Kickstand which provides sturdy balance for the bike while connecting the trailer and loading it with gear. Photos above and left show the now discontinued Nashbar Trailer connected to my Touring Bike with the Pletscher Kickstand. Despite the mixed reviews of that old trailer I never had any problems with it other than it was a bit limiting as the attachment system made it difficult to switch the trailer between different bikes.
When Nashbar decided to discontinue their uniquely simple but at the same time kinda funky attachment system I started looking for a replacement. I have always appreciated the Bob Trailer knowing of their proven quality and reputation for having set the standard of single wheel bike trailer design. Consequently a lot of bike folks refer to all other single wheel bike trailers as "knock offs" of the original Bob Yak Trailer.
Photos above display some very nice bike trailers all of which are of good quality and thoughtful designs for both bike commuters and touring bikes. First photo of the Maya Bicycle Cargo Trailer features an integrated kickstand design at the front of the trailer which consists of two legs which fold down designed to help the cyclist attach their bike with less hassle. There is also a fold out set of handles above that which enables the bike trailer to be used in a wheel barrow like fashion and has a cargo weight capacity rating of sixty six pounds, pretty cool. Next is the Bob Ibex Suspension Trailer which is essentially the original Bob Trailer with three inch adjustable suspension added at the rear of the trailer to eliminate road shock and is very thoughtful for use with a mountain bike on trails and a suggested max cargo weight of seventy pounds. Then Topeak entered the bike trailer niche market with the Topek Journey Trailer which is designed to be lighter weight than its' competitors with an aluminum frame, improved attachment system and keeping up with cargo capacity rating of seventy pounds. Prices for the trailers listed above start at approximately $225 for the Maya Cycles Trailer and up to $500 bucks for the Topeak Journey Trailer. All of these bike trailers have their place in offering different features within the same basic design of a single wheel bike trailer.
The fourth bike trailer reviewed here is based on finding a replacement for the budget friendly nashbar cargo bike trailer. At one time nashbar was selling their trailer for less than one hundred dollars and I wasn't so sure we would be able to find a suitable replacement until I came upon the Aosom Solo Single Wheel Bicycle Cargo Trailer also referred to as the Frugah Bike Trailer. As I have noticed this bike trailer sells online for less than one hundred dollars and some times approximately seventy bucks I have decided to order one despite the mixed reviews at amazon. Due to the fact that the attachment system seems to be very simple with included quick release skewer option this could allow me to use the trailer with my different bikes. I have been looking for a trailer like this where I can easily swap out the attachment for use on my commuter bike or touring bike as needed. As an avid bike mechanic I feel confident that because the trailer is made of steel I can easily resolve any of the issues discussed in the reviews including replacing bolts or hardware as necessary. One reviewer claims to have used this trailer for bike touring and has completed a 500 mile tour without issue other than one flat tire. He used this trailer with the original wheel and tire and is very satisfied with the trailer's performance hauling weight of fifty pounds easily. Manufacturer suggested maximum cargo weight is eighty eight pounds when compared to my old nashbar trailer that's more than twice the cargo weight capacity. I am also very interested in determining if the suspension system located on the stays of the trailer's wheel is of any benefit. I have ordered the Aosom Bike Trailer and paid a bit more than $70 which included the dry bag shown in photo and standard shipping. I'm excited to see overall quality of this bike trailer and will add a link here to my review of the trailer once I have had an opportunity to check it out.
One of the joys of owning a bike is personalizing it with practical accessories and since most all accessories for bike commuting are designed with some form of practical advantage it's easy to do. With new technological advancements and efforts to make folks app happy there are still some things that an app would have a very difficult time replacing for example a bike bell.
Accessories and gear for bikes often seem to be excessive and expensive. Here is one item that can be purchased very inexpensively of good quality and is both fun and practical. Ever heard of a bike bell? Sure, most have and might think of them as silly, kinda like putting streamers on the handlebars. However, bike bells are a very practical accessory especially for bicycle commuting on shared use paths and to alert fellow bike travelers of your presence.
Bike bells are fun, they come in a variety of shapes and sizes with different simple mechanical methods of creating the renowned sound which everyone recognizes as the presence of a bike. It's a friendly sound, not at all like a car horn, though air horns are available but are prone to wearing out and are not as dependable as the simplicity of a bike bell. Of the top five bike commuting bells there are three designs consisting of lever strike bell, ratcheting type bell and spring arm action
Here's some information on the Symbolism of bells: "Bells are also ancient symbols of protection and ringing them have long been considered a way to ward off negativity". And that is precisely the intention of using a bell on one's bike.
Some of today's bike bells are a bit more sophisticated with "ratcheting" type of action used by pulling the tab or lever with index finger. Bells pictured at right though they use this same type of mechanism sound very different with some being louder than others due to the shape and size of the bell and the washers which roll around inside the metal casing and strike upon a small ridge in the bell housing's casing. There are also methods for making these types of bells louder if necessary. I won't get into all that, our friend has already looked into that at Majster Kowo site.
Here's a quote from "how to make a bike bell louder" article.
"I can’t imagine getting around the city on a bike without a bell.
I tried using a rather loud bike horn for almost a year, but it didn’t quite work out, unfortunately. Yes, it was much louder than any bell, but pedestrians wouldn’t move away upon hearing it, instead choosing to stop and look back to check what all the noise was about. ;) The bell sound is indeed rooted deeply in peoples’ minds, and there doesn’t seem to be a better warning signal around for a cyclist to use. Moreover, the bell sound is relatively high-pitched, so it’s much better heard amidst the city buzz than the horn, the sound of which gets lost within the noise of passing cars".
Click on any of the following photos for information or purchase of any of these quality bike bells for commuting.
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