Fenders for love…

28 02 2011

These were my LHT's fenders....*sigh*...

I got Sharon’s belated Christmas Surly Cross Check commuter bike built up finally.  The only thing missing was fenders.  She had decided on hammered metal fenders from Velo Orange, but they would take a few weeks to come in at our LBS.  Since she is a daily commuter she needs fenders.  I realized the VO fenders I had bought for my Long Haul Trucker were the same size we needed for her CC [700c x 45mm] since she has 32mm Grand Bois Cypres tires on her rims.  My LHT has SKS fenders that work fine on it I gave up my VO fenders for the cause and will just wait until the ones we ordered come in.

The sacrifices I make for love…*sigh*…=-)~





Bike Friday New World Tourist Select

27 02 2011

A sweet looking Bike Friday NWT...

Bike Friday will be offering a line up of their core bikes in a special specification which, if my memory serves me, is going to be called Select – as in Bike Friday NWT Select.  These bikes will feature a number of colour and contrasting cable/rack choices to make them look sweet.  This bike doesn’t have the exact build being offered….I’ll post it when I have it, but it does give you a feel for where they are headed.  These bikes will be available from Bike Friday dealers for sure and I’m assuming direct from Bike Friday.

One thing for sure is that the contrasting rack/cable colour is very eye catching….I love it…=-)

I'm starting to get a jones for H-bars...

Contrasting racks and cables look hot...

and contrasting decals...

Wide range gearing for touring or grocery hauling...

Dual water bottles on main frame + one on seat mast = 3...

and even red panniers...=-)

One final glamour shot...





The trouble with custom…

26 02 2011

Welding a Bike Friday...

I’ve ordered some custom products over the years [including a bike frame] and to be honest I’ve been disappointed almost every time.  The problem is that we have this fantasy in the bike world that a custom bike will be our “dream bike”.  It will fit us perfectly and ride perfectly with every feature we could possibly want.  Because of these unrealistic expectations it’s easy to see how someone could be less stoked than they expected about their custom bike.

I’ve read a lot of reviews of custom bikes online and in many of them you can hear the implicit and/or explicit criticisms of what was supposed to be the owners ultimate ride.  For many people they’ll only ever be able to afford a single custom bike so there is a lot of pressure to love it…both from themselves, their wives who supported the purchase and the bigger cycling community.  It’s almost not possible to tell the world your custom bike sucks – even if you feel that way!

Now to be fair I’m not suggesting custom builders are turning out junk left, right and centre.  Most custom builders make a quality product.  The trouble is being human they can’t read your mind so the bike that they build is what they think you want, but is rarely exactly what you had in mind.  That’s a normal function of human communication and we see the same thing played out around us on a daily basis in everything we do.  The other problem is we assume that a $7K custom bike has to ride 7 times better than the $1K production bike we own.  But, what if the production bike is a pretty nice bike that was well made with decent parts?  Is it possible to make another bike 7 times better? – probably not.

I’d also add there are definitely people out there who buy custom bikes that love them.  So it’s something that can be achieved.  How do you ensure you get a custom bike you love?

  • build a prototype first
  • pick a builder who has built bikes very close to what you want and tell him which one of his previous bikes you loved
  • work very hard on communicating with the builder in person ideally
  • be honest about your need for a custom bike…maybe semi-custom will do?
  • have realistic expectations for the result
  • trust the builder’s vision

Prototyping

Consider spending the extra $$ to have the bulder weld you up a frame that’s got the geometry/features you want without spending the time to make it perfectly pretty.  Look at it and better yet ride it.  Give him feedback and let him build the final version for you.  This will cost more, but you will know what you are getting and be able to dial in the result very closely to what you want.  The builder may well be happy to do this at a discounted rate because he will know the result will be better and may enjoy being able to give you precisely what you want.  This technique is valuable when what you are asking for is unusual and the builder is working in unfamiliar territory.

Work from an existing bike

Using a builder who has built bikes very close to what you want is like getting much of the benefit of prototyping without the extra cost.  Firstly you are asking for something that is well within the builder’s area of expertise.  A guy that builds mainly racing bikes can build a touring frame, but he won’t be as skilled at it as someone who only makes touring bikes.  Maybe you can ride the bike in question or at least talk to the owner so you can provide the builder with as much feedback relative to the previous design as possible.  Some beautiful bikes have average ride quality and some average bikes ride beautifully.  Looking at a picture is great, but not the same as pedaling a bike.

Comunicate Effectively

If you are going to get a custom bike work very hard on communicating with the builder.  Use as many methods of communications as possible.  Show him photos of bikes you like, sketch stuff that’s important to you, describe how you want the bike to feel and what it should be able to do, ask him to tell you what he thinks you want, listen closely to what he says since this is your chance to steer him towards your vision and if at all possible go visit his shop so you can talk face to face.  What if the builder is busy and doesn’t want to spend the time talking to you?  If it’s a builder you really want to use offer to pay extra for the time spent communicating.  An extra $500 perfecting your $7K bike is well worth it.  If that doesn’t work you really have to ask yourself if it’s worth the risk using a builder who isn’t going to spend the time taling to you to understand what you want. The best craftsman can only create what he thinks the customer wants.  If he’s wrong than the result will be a disappointment.

Semi-Custom?

The beauty of a fully custom bike is you can ask for anything, but that same aspect of the process is what causes the problems since anything is possible the people involved have to communicate far more to describe what is being requested.  Production bikes are almost always what you expected because there is little or no choice.  I can order a blue 58cm Surly LHT with 4 words and get the bike I’m after.  However, you can have the best of both worlds if you don’t really need fully custom.  Perhaps what you really need is a Surly LHT frame that you’d like to paint pink and assemble using a Rohloff hub and extra heavy duty wheels?  Rather than trying to get this done as a custom bike buying a production frame and repainting it before you build it up with your parts is much cheaper and faster than getting a custom frame built plus it will have less risk of not being what you want as each component is well understood.  Another way to get a semi-custom bike is to find a company that builds stock production bikes that’s willing to tweak a frame for your needs – perhaps adjusting the tubing to meet your sizing needs or adding some feature like Rohloff specific vertical dropouts?  Again you are working with well understood components and just changing them slightly to better suit your needs.

Being Realistic

A steel production frame and a steel custom frame will ride quite similarly if they use similar tubing and have similar geometries.  Expecting a custom steel touring bike based on the LHT to ride many times better is simply foolish.  It might look much nicer with lugs and a custom paint job, but it’s not going to be a radically different machine despite the huge difference in price.  Having said that if what you want is not available in a production frame and you’ve test ridden a bike similar to what you are asking for so you understand what it will be like a custom bike is the way to get something unique that meets your specific needs.  If you are asking for a bike that is radically different from what the builder normally makes and is something you have never test ridden be okay with the idea that what you actually get may not ride and feel like what you have in mind.  If you can’t be okay with that back off from the order until you can throw a leg over something similar and/or you find a builder who has enough experience in the area of interest to guide you.

Trust the Builder

A good builder will not build junk.  If you tell him what sort of bike you are after, what you’ll do with it and give him your measurements he’ll build something great.  The trick is not to get attached to a bunch of specific details.  If you only will be happy with a bike with 35mm of trail this approach won’t work, but if you are open minded and are happy seeing someone’s creativity flourish maybe taking a hands off approach will lead to a beautiful bike you would never have ordered in the first place?

Bike Friday NWT semi-customized for me!

What would I do?

I’m at the point now where I know what I want and I know that a fully custom bike is my last resort to get it.  The cost and risk of fully custom isn’t worth it to me unless I absolutely can’t get what I want any other way.  Having said that I am picky and I like things that aren’t available as production bicycles.

So what I do first off is see if I can buy a production bike and tweak it. That’s always going to be the cheapest easiest way to get where I want to go.  I can often test ride a production bike and the components are sold at a huge OEM discount when you buy a full build.  My Bike Friday Tikit is such a beast.  I swapped in a few parts such as grips, tires and a custom front rack, but most of the bike is stock. It suits me well and is one of my favourite bikes.

My second option is to find a production frame that meets my needs and build it up with specific parts I want to use.  This will cost more than tweaking a production bike, but I can get the parts I want and it will be far less expensive than a fully custom frame.  Additionally it will be faster to get a hold of and I can read a bunch of reviews online from owners of the same frame to help ensure it’s the bike I want.  My Surly LHT is an example of this as was my Thorn Nomad.  I love my LHT and have barely modified its original custom parts build.  On the other hand when I owned the Nomad it turned out it was far too heavy duty a bike for my needs even though I thought it was what I wanted.  Since it was a production frame I was able to sell it at a modest loss without too much trouble.  Had it been a fully custom bike [I had thought about such a beast when I was looking at the Nomad] I would have either kept it and tried to love it simply due to the cost or had to sell it a much greater loss.

My third option is to find someone who makes a bike along the lines of what I want who will tweak it for me.  My Bike Friday New World Tourist was built that way.  It’s a long standing design of Bike Friday’s that was custom sized for me and then built to my parts spec.  The changes make it better suited to my needs, but it doesn’t stray far from other NWTs out there reducing the risk that I’m going to get something I didn’t want.

Thorn Nomad built from a frame...

Would I go fully custom?

For sure…don’t let anything negative I’ve said here steer you away from a custom bike if that’s what you really need and/or want.  My comments are aimed to make you aware of the risks involved so that you can mitigate them ahead of time and also to make you aware there are other options besides fully custom that might satisfy your needs better.  Personally I can’t see what sort of bike I woud want/need that would have to be fully custom…perhaps a full suspension ultra fat 4″ tire titanium mountain bike???…=-)…but if I did want something that I couldn’t get by tweaking a production bike or getting something semi-custom done I would get it made from scratch.  I’d be very careful and take my time.  I would only use a builder that has built something like that before. I would work very hard to communicate with the builder and to make sure my expectations were realistic.





Bicycle Karma…

25 02 2011

Photo: Axel Buhrmann from Flickr...

This great story was posted to the Randon Group recently by H.R. and shows how being a bike angel can pay off in unexpected ways…

“In 1996 at age 40 and weighing 487 pounds I had a heart attack. They wanted to do quadruple by-pass the next morning. Having also smoked for 25 years I knew I could not survive it. I opted not to have the surgery. To make a long story short – I stopped smoking that day completely and with the help of my bicycle – I lost 250 pounds over the next 18 months. I ran a couple marathons. I was released by my cardiologist 3 years after the attack. But I kept riding my bike.

On one group ride, the Cross Florida ride I ended up pulling a large group for miles.  I even had one rider come up to me near the end, after about 175 miles that day and ask me “do you take American Express” I always enjoyed pulling because I knew the benefits I was getting personally.

Again long story short. I ended up having a bout with lung cancer 10 years later.  Again I beat it – thank God.  But I stopped riding for a couple years with the distraction of the treatments.

Recently I decided to get back on my bike.  I worked myself up to thinking I was ready again for a century ride. I found one and registered. The day of the ride I did struggle after about 50 Miles. While at a sag stop, I was literally trying to decide whether to finish or not.  A rider came up to me and said “hey not sure if you remember me but you have pulled me 200 miles across the state of florida into that relentless head wind a couple of times a few years ago.”  It was Mr. American Express!  I told him how I was feeling that day and he said “if you want to ride on my wheel to the finish I will consider it an honor!” I did and I finished that ride.

It might not be today or this particular ride but someday you might need a bit of help. I consider cyclist a big family and just cannot understand the mentality of “get out of my space” between each other. Even from our selfish little brothers and sisters.

As my father would say. “Just play nice you all!””





Bicycle Safety!

24 02 2011

A chuckle found on BROL...





Win-toria!

24 02 2011

12" of snow fell in less than 24hrs...

It went from spring to winter overnight in Victoria with ~12″ of snow in my neighbourhood.  Sharon’s Mini was stuck so I drove her to work in my 4×4.  The roads were totally chaos like they are any place that rarely sees snow and then gets a load of it.  The snow will be gone in a few days, but for now it’s time to stay warm and enjoy the winter wonderland.





Tour de Victoria…

23 02 2011

Tour de Victoria...

I’m just bookmarking this for myself.  Looks like a fun way to get Sharon exposed to a mass start ride. Tour de Victoria!

I hope for $175 you get a jersey, a gourmet meal and a massage…=-)





Seattle March 5th Weekend!

23 02 2011

 

See you soon Seattle!

My plans for the SIR 100K populaire in Seattle on Saturday March 5th are on track.  I’ll be taking the ferry over from Victoria on Friday the 4th and leaving Monday the 7th in the morning.  If hooking up for the 100K or just for a coffee ride Sunday is of interest drop me a line and we’ll sort out the details.

 

SIR 100K Route Map...

Someone offered to let me stay with them in their place downtown, but I’ve managed to lose the contact info!!  If that offer is still open and you read this please drop me a line…=-)  Otherwise I’ll have to find a bike friendly hotel in Seattle.





Velo Orange Hammered Fenders…

23 02 2011

VO fender review - click this image to read...

I got a set of these VO metal fenders for my Surly LHT.  The price was right and they look good with excellent coverage.  I’m just waiting on a sunny warm day to spend installing them…=-)

My LHT deserves a bit of bling...





3 Speed One Way Tikit…

22 02 2011

Want a Bike Friday Tikit that's fixed gear, but have some hills to contend with?

Wished you didn't have to choose?

With the new Sturmey Archer 3 speed fixed IGH you don't have to...

I've tried it and it works like a charm...

With these dropouts you can run a regular IGH or add a derailleur later...

Bike Friday being seductive....lol...=-)

These H-bars could be a future upgrade for my Tikit...

I like all the hand positions...





First Ride…

22 02 2011

My Bike Friday NWT ready to roll...

Coming back to Canada from Mexico I was stoked to have so many choices of bikes to ride.  Sharon and I had a number of errands to do in town so naturally we decided to ride our bikes.  I rode my Bike Friday New World Tourist.  With a fleet of awesome bikes why ride the NWT?

  • the small size was easiest to wrangle out of the packed garage
  • the NWT is a nimble bike ideal for city riding
  • the Nexus 8 IGH meant that I knew shifting would work without any fuss
  • the NWT fits me great and is very comfortable
  • it has dual racks so carrying stuff is a no brainer
  • the flat BMX pedals are street shoe friendly
  • fenders provide protection from road spray should it rain
  • dyno headlight provides 24/7 lighting without fussing with batteries
  • battery taillight doesn’t need attention often
  • rear view mirror makes mixing it up with downtown traffic easier
  • supple 40mm tires make the ride fast and comfortable
  • v-brakes with salmon Koolstop pads provide reliable all weather braking
  • small bell is nice for politely getting people’s attention on the MUP

Some of these things are specific to a high quality folding bike like the NWT, but a lot of them are additions/upgrades you can make to any bike to make it more practical.





Behind a great day is…

21 02 2011

Sunshine boozing at Victoria Harbour...

…a bicycle.  What you don’t see in these pictures are the bikes that we rode all day to cruise around town between coffee, errand and shopping stops.  Sometimes your day is about the bike, but often the bike just plays a supporting role in the action. Not the star of the show, but without the bike this day would not have been as much fun – nor would we have developed the same lusty appetite for Thai food at the end of the day.

Time to Thai one on at Siam Thai...

Thanks bike – you rock…=-)





Lazy Rando Google Group

21 02 2011

Isn't Paris that way?

I started a Google Group for Victoria BC Area randonneurs of the less hardcore variety to arrange for training rides and discuss brevet plans.  Thinking about it anyone else who is a beginner randonneur or someone with some brevet experience that is getting back into the swing of things anywhere in the world is welcome to join and discuss issues that affect us at the slower end of the spectrum.





Planet Bike Turbo…

20 02 2011

Photo: EcoVelo

Eco Velo posted a review of the new Planet Bike Turbo Superflash 1W taillight recently [EcoVelo's photo above].  Kent P also reviewed it on his blog.  Jun did a test of Radbot and 0.5 Superflash run times on his blog that Kent P. confirmed.

I’ve been posting a bunch of articles about how bright bike lights may actually be a problem – a topic I’ve thought about over my time in Baja and have some addition posts in the pipe about this when I get motivated to spew some more about bike lighting.

I haven’t seen the new PB Turbo in the flesh.  I don’t get advanced copies to test sadly…=-(

I’m interested to see if the slower flash mode is less blinding than the current model’s seizure inducing strobe.  The Radbot 1000′s slower flash is actually fairly reasonable for a flashing ultra bright bike LED.

I’ve got more than enough taillights in the fleet at the moment so I won’t be getting a Turbo anytime soon.  I don’t really see a need for a brighter taillight than the Superflash, but if the Turbo’s slower flash mode is easier on the eyes I may end up recommending it over the current Superflash for that reason alone.

Planet Bike Blinky 7...

Ironically as the ultra bright LED bike light wars continues to escalate I’ll be using a single old skool 7 LED Planet Bike light on the back of my rando rig this year.  Kind of funny that my most demanding night riding will be using the oldest least bright bike light technology I own.  I’m glad PB still makes them and I may stock up on a couple more just in case they stop selling them.

I’m interested in testing the runtimes of this light to see how it stacks up against the brighter lights that Jun & Kent P. have tested.  My hope is I get much longer runtimes due to the lower power draw and that allows me to get through my longer events without messing with battery swaps.





Flower Power!

19 02 2011

Belated Valentine's Day flowers...

I was traveling over Valentine’s Day this week so I grabbed some flowers for Sharon and steaks for the BBQ.  Sharon just got herself a set of Ortlieb front panniers and I was happy to demonstrate how they can carry all manner or cargo.  Now that we are home from our folding bike errand ramble it’s time to fire up the grill!…=-)





Got a 20″ Woody?

19 02 2011

I like red, but I LOVE these wood fenders!...

Curved for proper coverage and beautiful...

Really beautiful - great product Bike Friday...

Mounting hardware was stiff and quiet...my New World Tourist is jealous!

…”]

Naturally they are expensive ~$275 [I don't recall exactly

If I owned only 1 or 2 bikes I'd get a set for sure...

I need to spread the bling over my whole fleet so these fenders must wait...

But you know I'm dreaming of them...=-)





My new favourite Bike Friday Tikit colour…

18 02 2011

Yellow Bike Friday Season Tikit seen during my recent visit...

Of all the Bike Fridays in the showroom this colour jumped out by a mile...

It looks much nicer in person - the day was dreary when I took these photos...

Shimano Nexus 8 IGH - nice fit for the Tikit...

Fenders, v-brakes and an IGH...my kind of bike...=-)

Ring guard and metal folding pedals...

The view from the rubber side of the beast...

Up high at the control end of things...lovely...=-)





Scruzol 1.5 Month Update

17 02 2011

Having used the Scruzol on my Baja trip I thought I’d update my initial posts about it.

What I think:

  • small form factor is nice
  • no mechanical parts to rust or get jammed
  • lightweight
  • easy to swap bits
  • easy to grip
  • bright colour is easy to see when dropped or to find in a bag/box
  • occasionally I miss rachet action of my bigger multi-bit screwdriver

So far I’m pleased.  For trips I’d definitely take the Scruzol due to the compact size.  At home I’ll keep it handy as well for quick jobs.  I might grab my bigger multi-bit screwdriver for bigger jobs where I might prefer to have the racheting function.

I haven’t used the drill bit functionality yet.  I don’t use a drill much so that isn’t so important to me.





Burning Bush 2011

16 02 2011

When in doubt let some air out of those fatties!

Every year in La Ventana there is a party called Burning Bush.  It’s held in mid-January and my description would be – kinda like Burning Man, but 500 times smaller, 50 times more dangerous and no dust!

I had to keep swerving to avoid the odd rogue wave...=-)

The night of the event I took a nap and got up after dark.  I wasn’t sure where it was being held or how to get there as this was my first time attending.  I walked from my tent to the beach and could see flames 5kms away at the bottom of the bay, but I didn’t know how to get there by road and given it was a “party” night I didn’t really want to be on the road.

Eventually I could see the flames clearly and knew I was almost there...

Since I had a Surly Pugsley with me and the party was on the beach I just aired down the tires for beach riding and started pedaling - well not until I had filled my Ortlieb pannier with beer, ice and limes!

Fire + beer + music = Burning Bush

The tide was headed out so the sand near the water’s edge was relatively firm and easy to ride on.  I cruised right into the party and checked out a few bonfires before figuring out where to stash my Pugsley.

I didn't realize right away I had locked my Pugsley to a structure they planned on burning!

I locked up my Pugsley to a wooden structure with a screen they were projecting videos onto.  I found out later it was going to be burned so I kept my eye on it so I could rescue my bike in time, but that particular structure didn’t get burned till much later.

More fire and people...

There were many burning installations.  Lots of people and music.

Balloons with LED lights inside floating in the sky with the moon...

Lot’s of clever art installations – some that didn’t even burn…=-)

Danger!

Did I mention the fire and danger?

KIds and fire!

and the kids?

Dr.Danger...=-)

I ran out of beer a bit early [poor planning], but I was ready to ride back to my tent and hop in my sleeping bag before I caught fire!  The Pugsley ride there and back were super fun and made attending the event uber easy.





Lezyne Classic Floor Drive Pump

16 02 2011

Classic Floor Drive Pump...

I reviewed the slightly more pimp CNC version of this pump on my Bow Cycle Blog last year. I liked it a lot and should probably have just bought the one I was testing, but I didn’t so when my cheap-skate MEC floor pumps failed me again I had no one to blame!  Fred’s tip on replacing the nozzle on my old MEC floor pump meant that I kept it working, but I don’t trust it!  It was time for a new pump so I bought the Lezyne Classic Floor Drive pump.

Very pretty...

You can read all the tech specs at the Lezyne website. It does everything I want from a pump – fills tires easily and quickly. Not essential, but the fact it looks pretty sweet is bonus…=-) I hope it will be trouble free for many years!

I carry the MEC pump in my truck on road trips and save the Lezyne for home where it won’t see so much abuse.





Liquid Force Havoc 2011 Kite Review

15 02 2011

Liquid Force Havoc in the air at La Ventana Baja...

I got the chance to fly 10m & 12m 2011 Liquid Force Havoc kites courtesy of the fine folks at Bellingham Kiteboarding [aka Kite Paddle Surf Bellingham].  After having checked out the 2010 Envy and the 2011 Envy I was really curious how this kite would perform.

Liquid Force makes one of the best kite bags I've used...

I’ve said it during each Liquid Force kite review – they make killer bags. Easy to carry, easy to load and very tough while being attractive.  I travel a lot with my kites so I appreciate a sweet bag.

Liquid Force CPR system bar...

The Liquid Force bar features what they call their CPR system.  Essentially it means that your below the bar leash connects to one of the front lines [blue line in this picture].  So when you punch out of the chicken loop you can flag out the kite 100%.  That’s complete depower like a 5 line kite, but without the 5th line hassles.  Very cool.  I’m going to do a post just on this bar as it’s a significant advance in 4 line kite safety.  Beyond the CPR the chicken loop quick release is all plastic for maintenance free use even on sandy beaches.  The bar is light and comfortable in your hands.

Reinforced wingtips for durability...

Once I got these kites out of the bag it’s hard to over state how well they are made.  Reinforced in every critical spot including making the entire wingtip area out of dacron.  This is an ideal kite for someone who is not kind to their gear.

Strut detail...

Although this kite is made from heavy duty fabric the 4 strut design keeps it light.

Understated graphics and 4 strut design...

I’m a fan of the understated graphics.  Low key, but attractive. Great for riders that want to let their riding speak for itself.

Pro tip – the Bellingham Kiteboarding pro riders gave me a rigging tip that really improved how the kite flew.  When rigging the back lines hook them up not to the light wind setting or standard setting, but one knot higher than either…basically at the bridle.  This tightens the rear lines and give you more power and responsiveness – without a hint of back stalling.  If you want to detune the kite on the water just pull in the depower line – this is like hooking up to a lower knot as it slackens the rear lines.  Having tried all the settings I’d never rig my Envy or Havoc a different way.  Thanks for the smart tip Bellingham Kiteboarding!

Hitting the water with the Havoc...

So how does it fly?:

  • with kite rigged like I explain above with tight rear lines it’s very fast and turns nicely with constant pull around the turns.
  • it feels like a slightly more stable version of my Ocean Rodeo Rise.
  • water relaunching was easy
  • the kite is light enough if you do crash it floats back a bit in the window and gives you time to recover without any drama
  • bar pressure was moderate without being excessive
  • it jumps well and provides good hang time
  • I didn’t try any of the safety systems on the water

If you are in the market for a rugged easy to fly advanced beginner/intermediate kite the Liquid Force Havoc is worth a look.





Hollywood Sign Hike

14 02 2011

Our goal...

My friend Christina Pasadena near the bottom...

The sign from behind...

These grasses are all over LA and are really beautiful...

Proof I made it to the top...

Meeting other hikers on the way down...

Christina givin'er...

Team Hollywood!





Westfalia Freaks?

13 02 2011

1989 VW Westie...

On the off chance there are some readers that are VW freaks…how much would you pay for a VW Westfalia that:

  • was in average condition
  • 1989
  • 250,000 miles
  • as shown above

How much would you set aside to upgrade it to trouble free operation?  I’m assuming that would mean a rebuilt engine, new clutch and transmission.





Bicycle Quarterly Baby!

13 02 2011

All 8 volumes of Bicycle Quarterly...

I enjoy reading Bicycle Quarterly Magazine.  I’ve been a subscriber for 2 or 3 years and bought individual issues around those subscriptions, but sadly I could only put my hands on a few copies of BQ lately.  I suspect some got lent out and not returned and others lost or misplaced.  I recently decided to bite the bullet and order all the back issues of BQ.  Since I do have some old copies this gives me a few duplicates, but the buy all 8 volumes button was far easier then going through and trying to get only the issues I needed.

I know Jan Heine isn’t getting rich off this enterprise and if I want more BQ to read I have to support him so the extra copies are a small price to pay.  If you want to check out my BQ collection you are welcome to do so at my house, but I won’t be letting them leave the property!

I also wanted to get Jan’s Golden Age of Hand-built Cycling book, but decided to wait until the summer since I’ve got months of bike reading already with these BQ back issues.  By waiting I can also justify getting his Competition Bicycle book which looks great as well.

If you have some spare $$ and were thinking about buying an upgrade for your bikes consider back issues of BQ.  Knowledge is power and you will probably get more benefit from reading BQ than a titanium spoke wrench…=-)





Thanks Fred…

12 02 2011

MEC floor pump and Fizer replacement nozzle + hose...

I posted a while back about being pissed off my cheap floor pump stopped working reliably.

New hose and nozzle installed...

Fred was kind enough to leave me a comment letting me know MEC sold a replacement nozzle and hose from Fizer that would work with this pump for $9cdn.  I went down there and bought it.  5mins of easy work at home and I had a working pump that was better than before – sweet!  Thanks Fred you rock!…=-)

New nozzle...





REI Verita Cycling Rain Jacket…

11 02 2011

REI Verita Jacket...

So after all that consideration I grabbed a REI Verita rain jacket on my way through San Diego.

I figured:

  • cost was reasonable
  • looking like a pumpkin wasn’t all bad
  • reviews are positive
  • packed size was on the smaller end of things
  • fit was perfect [men's large]
  • if it all goes pear shaped I’ll return it on my next trip to the US and get a Gore jacket

The lack of vents kind of freaks me out, but I’m willing to give it a shot.  I tried on a Gore softshell and the men’s large fits me well, but they didn’t have any of the Gore waterproof/breathable jackets in stock.  Strangely the Shower Pass Club Pro men’s large fit me great while the Elite 2.0 I tried on in Victoria didn’t fit well.

Thanks for all the feedback.  I’ll let you know how it works after the spring is over on Vancouver Island….=-)





Thanks John & Kent P…

10 02 2011

Dahon with Radbot rack mount and a PB Superflash mounted...

John for letting me know MEC sells rear rack mounts for PB Superflash lights and thanks to Kent P for letting me know each Radbot 1000 box came with a rear rack mount that fits either light.  I was looking for a way to attach a light to Sharon’s Dahon and this advice was just what I needed to solve the problem.  Thanks – one of the great things about this blog is the stuff I learn from clever readers…=-)





Prana Titan Pants

9 02 2011

Prana logo...

I’m hard on clothing and very picky about what I wear.  It has to be tough, look good [to me!] and be low maintenance.  Stuff that gets wrinkly easy or that looks dirty after one day on a trip doesn’t last long in my wardrobe.  My favourite outdoorsy pants for the last few years have been Prana Titan pants. I’ve got 3 or 4 pairs I bought at MEC.ca.  Usually about once a year I treat myself to a fresh pair.

2 weeks since their last wash...

I like the fact that the material is tough and doesn’t show dirt/wear easily.  It’s also soft enough to feel good against your skin and doesn’t hold wrinkles.  I like wearing them around town without feeling like I’m about to go on an expedition, but when I’m hiking or biking I don’t regret wearing them.  I’ve got some The North Face pants I like as well, but they definitely have that “I’m about to summit everest” look to them…=-)   They roll up and stay rolled up with a couple buttons on the legs for warm weather and/or biking missions.  The material breathes well so you don’t get sweaty and dries fast when you fall into the ocean!

My oldest pair is 3yrs old and looks great.  These will be around for the long haul.

Definitely Vik-Approved…=-)





Going solar…not going green…

8 02 2011

Solar not necessarily green, but useful in remote spots...

First off I need to get one pet peeve off my chest. Solar power is not inherently green.  I get a good laugh when I read that someone has festooned a couple tiny solar panels on their bike so they can run 7 unnecessary gadgets and then claims one of the benefits is reduced environmental impact. Typically the accompanying photo shows their bike parked outside a connivence store where they stopped for lunch or a snack break.

If you want to be green as a priority:

I’m not saying solar can’t be green…it just isn’t green on the scale of one tiny panel used to power an iPad when there is a large scale electrical grid 2′ away.  You can certainly build large scale solar power plants that make sense environmentally.  Trying to put solar panels on individual homes I’m not sure about, but I’m willing to give that level of solar project the benefit of the doubt. I’m not 100% sure it makes sense – worth a close look.  Patagonia put solar panels over their whole parking lot and only manage to supply 10% of the power their HQ needs.

My feeling is that we need to pool our resources to work on:

  1. making existing power plants cleaner [fossil fuels are not going anywhere for a long long time]
  2. start developing green power options on a large scale so they are cost efficient and environmental impact efficient
  3. take a hard look at smaller power generating situations [ie. small hydroelectric] and determine when it makes sense and when it’s just a “feel good” move

Let me reiterate buying a 2′ x 1′ solar panel at REI is bad for the environment. The toxic materials used to make it, the transportation cost and the fact you’ll probably buy two more gadgets so you can charge their batteries in your driveway to impress you friends all add up to a bad move for the environment.  If you want to be green start by reducing the stuff you consume and then reducing the impact of the stuff you consume [such as buying locally grown produce].

You may be thinking what a hypocrite I am given that my blog talks mostly about unnecessary stuff and doing unnecessary things.  I’d agree with you whole heartedly if I made lots of green claims about my lifestyle.  I don’t ride bikes because it’s good for the planet.  I ride bikes because I like doing that and it’s good for me.  Just so you don’t think I am some planet hating prick I should note that I actually do have what I consider a sensible green lifestyle plan.

My green plan:

  1. as a baseline I use the average middle class family in Canada’s environmental impact
  2. my goal is to keep my total lifecycle impacts below that baseline
  3. I balance my driving on long trips off against using bikes to get around town
  4. I don’t buy a lot of the typical consumer goods other folks do like – furniture, TVs, fashion clothes, big houses,etc…
  5. I use the energy/impact reduction to buy bikes and my outdoors gear
  6. gear I don’t use enough I sell so it can be fully utilized by someone else
  7. I spend a lot of time outdoors so I can actually gauge what’s happening in natural spaces
  8. I spend a lot of time outdoors so I care about damage to the environment more than a typical city dweller who takes one weekend camping trip a year
  9. I am choosing not to have kids – although I do have a cat, but she’s not breeding either…=-)
  10. I try to enjoy as much of the moments in my life as well as I can so that their inherent environmental impacts are at least well spent

Okay the funny thing that was just the preamble to what I wanted to post about…=-)

I’m keen on getting a portable solar setup together so that when I am working or camping away from the power grid I can run a laptop, stereo, fridge and lights.  I’ve been wanting to do this for a while, but the cost and complexity has been putting me off. As this Baja trip approached I wanted to go solar again since that was a major drag for me last year.  I had to keep hunting for power to run my laptop.  Since I was working on that trip like I will be on this trip [don't let the beach front tent fool you this is no holiday] I need to use at least one charge of the laptop per day and sometimes two.  Hiking around town begging for power gets old fast.

Unfortunately December has been busy with many work and fun things which has meant no progress on the solar front.  Wanting to make something positive happen I decided to buy a 75 amp hr deep cycle marine battery plus charger.  I have a small 1KW Honda generator from work.  So for this trip I’ll bring those items along and use the generator once a week to recharge the marine battery. That shouldn’t piss off anyone I’m camped near too much since it’s a very quiet generator and will only have to run for a few hours a week.  If grid power is not too inconvenient I may also skip the generator and find someplace to plug in my battery & charger once a week.  I’m willing to drink 6 beers in a bar if that’s what it takes to get more efficient cleaner power…=-)

My next move will be to get a truck portable solar pannel with stand and charging circuitry that I can hook up to my marine battery.  After that I need a high efficiency 12V fridge I can use while camping.  Not those cooltronic coolers, but an actual keep stuff frosty fridge.  I’ve seen them in Baja, but I need to track them make and model down.

So if you have any suggestions for:

  • a high efficiency truck portable solar panel
  • a robust stand I can put it on and angle towards sun
  • high efficiency electronics to get from panel to battery and keep it charged
  • a high efficiency fridge

I’m hoping the 75 amp hour battery will be enough for my needs, but it won’t be hard to tell if it isn’t. I also don’t know how much power I need on an average day from the panel to keep my battery charged enough to deal with my power use.  Given that 5′ x 2′ is probably as big a panel as I can cope with I’ll just get the best producing one I can afford and see what happens.

BTW – just so we are clear I am not suggesting in any way that using a laptop in the forest while listening to my iPod played over a stereo all run from a solar panel is green.  It’s not, but it’s convenient and I like it!





Bike Locking Case #4

6 02 2011

Bike locking ring in downtown Toronto...

What is missing from this bike locking example?  Hmmm…the bike and lock!

Safely inside with me...

The most effective way to avoid having your bike stolen is to not lock it up and leave it in the first place. You’ll need a folding bike to do this and preferably one that folds and unfolds quickly.

For me that means a Bike Friday Tikit.  It’s so easy to fold and unfold that I’ll do it 10 times in a day without thinking about it or feeling like it’s a hassle.  In over 3 years as a Tikiteer I’ve only been asked not to bring my biker inside once and they let me bring it in when I told them I had no lock and would cancel my appointment.

The great thing about riding a Tikit in town is:

  • I don’t carry a lock
  • I don’t organize my day around where I can lock my bike
  • I do whatever I need to and just fold up my Tikit and take it inside with me
  • when I’m in a friend’s place or business I’m not worried about my bike or trying to rush so thieves have less time to try and steal it
  • I’m 100% focused on whatever I’m doing and my Tikit waits patiently for me until I need her to take me to my next stop
  • if I run into someone with a car or I need to hop on a bus I fold and go without hassle

Bike Friday Tikit on a roll...

If you worry about your bike getting stolen think about a new way to solve the problem with a folding bike. You can carry a week’s worth of groceries with one, go on a 2 week bike tour or ride 25kms across town for dinner.  Don’t let the small wheels fool you – these are serious bikes that can perform.