LHT 26″ Wheeled Build PT2…

31 05 2011

Starting to add the ingredients for a great bike...

Before you order your new frame make sure it has enough clearance for the tires and fenders you intend to use. It’s not rare for people to change their view of what size tire they want to use on their bikes or decide that fenders are a good idea. With generous clearances in the frame and fork you can always run smaller rubber, but if you start with your tires taking up all your spare room and decide you want to install fenders you are out of luck.

I’m a fan of bigger tires. They aren’t as slow as people think they are – in fact they can be downright fast if you get a light supple set. They provide a comfortable ride on rough ground and can handle mixed surfaces much better than narrow rubber. For a 26″ wheel a something in the range 40-50mm provides good balance between speed, comfort and good handling. I don’t like narrow tires on 26″ wheel as the ride is harsh and the handling can be nervous.

Schwalbe Big Apples 26 x 2.15" of rubber...

Surly designed the LHT to fit decent size rubber so it was easy to mount up some 2.15″ Schwalbe Big apples. There is room left over for full fenders. I decided to give the Big Apples a try since they were hanging up in my garage from Sharon’s city bike’s first incarnation. I mounted them up on some wheels that I had left over from previous bikes. The front wheel is a nice custom built unit with a XT hub and a Velocity Aeroheat rim. The rear wheel is a low end WTB disc hub mated to an unbranded rim. It’s a bit of a pig and not something I’d want to use long term, but I figured I might as well roll with it for now until I decide what I want to use on the rear.

Fatties do fit fine...=-)

Custom wheels are nice, but they cost a lot and aren’t needed for most applications. You can buy lower cost machine built wheels that will be fine unless you are very hard on your gear or very picky. If you do buy machine built wheels get something using mid-grade hubs/rims and have a human go over them to ensure the tension is even. That last step is low cost [$10-$15], but is the difference between having all sorts of problems and being satisfied with an affordable set of wheels. Don’t skip it!

I’m not going to get too hung up on the wheels for this bike until I try some 650B hoops with Grand Bois Hetres 42mm tires. If I stick with 26″ wheels in the long run I’ll get a better rear wheel and probably run something like a 2.0″ Schwalbe Kojak for better speed.

I moved the Brooks Champion Flyer saddle and seatpost over from my 700c LHT. The tan leather will add a touch of class to this black frame that will get built up with silver fenders and components. I’ve even considered using leather bar tape, but we’ll see that may be one step too far for me!…=-)

Moab Meet Up?

30 05 2011

Hard to beat this scenery...

I’m keen on heading to Moab this fall – probably the first week in October. Sharon was going to come with me, but she’s thinking about saving her holidays for the dead of winter to get away someplace warm. I don’t blame her! I’m not super stoked about mountain biking alone so I thought I would throw out an offer to meet up in Moab to anyone who reads this blog that’s into trail riding. If you’d be into a Moab road trip drop me a line via email or leave a comment on this post.

I love desert riding...

You don’t need to be amazingly fit or an expert level rider as I’m neither. You do need to feel comfortable on intermediate terrain and be able to handle a bit of bouncing around. With Arches National Park right there you’ll have some great day hiking options if you want to take a break from biking.

If you want to get an idea what the riding is like you can check out the photos from my last trip to Moab in 2009.

La Salle mountains...

You can rent bikes in Moab if you don’t have a squishy mountain bike. There are all levels of accommodations available from free camping through nice pay campgrounds to hotels.

Sharon – Bike Commuting…

30 05 2011

Sharon and Donkey off in the morning!

Sharon has become a hardcore bike commuter. I’m impressed at her determination and zeal for the pedal to work. She’s progressed from a non-cyclist to riding her bike 4-7 times a week while her car collects dust in the driveway. She’s not just a fairweather cyclist either. Freezing temperatures and light rain don’t deter her. About the only thing that will keep her off the bike is heavy persistant rain or snowy/icy roads which is pretty lousy for biking to work. Happily that’s not very common here in Victoria – only a handful of winter days are truly horrible!

I will give myself a bit of credit for Sharon’s biking enthusiasm in that I helped make sure she always had a comfortable, reliable bike to ride that was setup for carrying gear and all weather day/night riding. When your gear is dialed it makes everything easier and more fun.

I will also give the City of Victoria some credit for the excellent bicycle infrastructure that makes Sharon’s commute safer and more pleasant. For about half the year we’ve been here she had to ride across town to the Royal Jubilee Hospital using various surface roads – many with bike lanes. Now that she works at the Victoria General Hospital she rides the Galloping Goose Trail [a paved MUP] almost all the way to work which is about as pleasant as it gets living in a city.

Finally I’ll give the Vancouver Island Health Authority [VIHA] for providing lots of secure covered bike storage for the hospital staff.

You know someone is riding a lot when you buy tires for their bike 4 at a time! Go Sharon…=-)

Hartland MTB Park

30 05 2011

Kurt up close...

Another great session Sunday afternoon at Hartland Mountain Bike Park. It blows my mind that we have such awesome trails so close to my house [15min drive] and that we almost never have anyone on the same trail we are on. World class riding is one thing. World class riding you don’t have to share is another!…=-)

Cruising Hartland...

I had one of my best days at Hartland yet. I was getting into a good rhythm and finding a way to work my Santa Cruz Nomad over obstacles reasonably gracefully. I’m more at home in the wide open terrain of Utah, Arizona and Alberta – so the tight, narrow and dark forest riding here on Vancouver Island is taking some time to adapt to. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t dream of a road trip to Moab & Sedona, but the riding here is stellar I just need to spend more time on my local trails.

Happy to be riding the lush trails of BC...

My office gets so hot by 3pm in the summer that it’s hard to work so I plan on keeping my MTB loaded in my truck for the trip out to Hartland. Riding in the shade of the forest will be an ideal way to deal with the heat and to hone my MTB skills. I’m only an average recreational MTB rider and I’m okay with that. I just want to be a good average recreational MTB rider!…=-)

Feeling at one with the bike...=-)

Kurt’s been volunteering for trail maintenance with the South Island Mountain Bike Society [SIMBS]. I need to get off my lazy ass and do something to contribute towards the trails that I am ripping.

Ripple Rock 600K Start

29 05 2011

Mike C gives the riders a pre-start briefing...

I helped out at the start of this weekend’s BC Randonneur Vancouver Island 600K. 

A bent and a bunch of cool rando DFs...

I saw my first Vancouver Island rando recumbent. A Barcroft being ridden by Luke Galley. There were also 3 Berg custom bicycles in the pack.

Socializing at the start...

I showed up at the start to see the riders off and then ran a secret control early on in the ride. That allowed me to be useful and still get away to Nitnaht Lake to kiteboard this weekend.

Luke's Barcroft rando bent...

The weather looked great for the start. I hope the riders have a fun weekend on the road.

Riders' eye view of the start...

This is my second 600K of the year – without actually riding a bike! Next year I’ll have to enter the event…=-)

Rando-fied Kuwahara...

I’m planning on heading over to the finish to see the riders come in when I’m back from Nitnaht Sunday.

LHT 26″ Wheeled Build PT1…

28 05 2011

Rustproofed and ready to be built...

I bought my sage green Surly Long Haul Trucker frame back in the day when the only option was 700c wheels [for frames 56cm +] and complete bikes were just a dream. I was really pleased to see Surly introduce a 26″ wheeled trucker in the larger sizes recently. The 26″ wheel size allows you to use parts that are ubiquitous due to the proliferation of the mountain bike and to fit massive rubber plus fenders into the frame for a strong wheel that rolls like it’s on a cloud. If you are headed off paved roads or to a destination where roads are more an idea than a reality 26″ wheels/wide rubber make sense.

I’ve been curious how different a 26″ LHT would be compared to my 700c frame. A side by side comparison was on my mind for a while, but it took a little while to make it happen. Well I’m stoked to say I’ve got a 58cm black LHT frame in my work stand finally.  My plan is to try out a few different builds on this frame over the summer and compare them back to back with my 700c Trucker.

Some ideas I have:

  • trying 38mm and 50mm 26″ rubber
  • trying drop bars and Jones Loop H-bar
  • trying 650B wheels & 42mm Grand Bois Hertre tires
  • trying a porteur rack up front to see how the bike handles
  • possibly setting it up in lightweight mode with 650B tires as a rando rig

New Surly LHT dropouts...

One thing I really like about Surly is that they don’t trying and upgrade their frames needlessly each year like most companies just for the sake of giving you something new to buy. They come up with a solid design, test it thoroughly and then stick with it. The LHT has seen only a couple changes over the years. The rear dropouts are different from my LHT. The rack/fender mounts are supported much better in the new dropouts which is a plus if you carry very heavy loads on rough terrain.
The rough looking finish on the dropouts in the image above is due to rust proofing I didn’t clean off – not a problem with the powder coat.

Nice tall head tube...

The other difference I noticed is that the new LHT’s head tube is ~9″ tall vs. 6.5″ on my older LHT to accomodate the lower front wheel.

The blue LHT...

One thing I’ll be doing differently this time around is to document and post about each stage of the build so that someone who has never built a bike from a frame can see what’s involved. For this post let’s talk about sizing a frame and frame prep.
How to size a frame?
I’m no expert at this and I occasionally goof up, but my system works most of the time!
  • if you have a similar bike you like measure it
  • if not go to a LBS and find a similar bike that fits well and measure it or grab the specs from the net
  • if that’s not working for you ask your LBS to suggest a size
  • use the top tube length as the primary criteria
  • then check the stand over to make sure you aren’t going to have any issues straddling the bike [I have zero stand over on my LHT and it’s no problem]
  • get a second independent opinion [hopefully it agrees with your initial sizing result]
  • if you are not confident in the answer you get take your time and keep looking into it
For a bike like the LHT most people can ride two sizes comfortably. I like my 58cm LHT, but I can easily fit on a 56cm frame, but a 54cm frame is too small.

56cm LHT w/ 26" wheels - Photo: Hiawatha Cyclery...

Frame Prep:
  • inspect for any damage
  • clean threads [BB, braze ons]
  • face BB shell [for external bearing cranks]
  • face head tube and fork crown
  • rustproof inside of frame
I’ll be honest I’ve tried going nuts on the frame prep and not doing anything at all. I haven’t noticed much if any difference in outcome. I’ve read the same thing online from a lot of other folks so it’s not something I stress about. I had both my old trucker and the new frame rustproofed by the Fairfield Bicycle Shop. The cost was low and it seems like a reasonable precaution for a bike used in a wet climate. If you are not sure if you should get your new frame fully prepared by a bike shop find out how much it will cost and compare that to the cost of the frame.
You can always go back to your LBS for some frame prep help if as you build the bike you notice some issues with stuff like excessive powder coat on the threads. However, you do need to deal with rustproofing while the frame is bare so once you start the build it’s too late to reconsider without having to strip the frame again.
While you are at it look the frame over very closely for any obvious problems with the paint, welds and alignment. Most frames are shipped well packaged, but I’ve had 3 arrive with some form of damage. If you have to return a frame for replacement ideally you want to figure that out before you waste time/$$ preparing the frame and installing the headset.

Raleigh Wisdom…=-)

27 05 2011

A nice Raleigh I saw downtown...

Top tube wisdom...

The Year of the Book!

27 05 2011

Another pile of books and another exam...

I may have mentioned during posts from my winter kiteboarding trip to Baja that one mission I had while away from home was to study for a certification exam. I studied most days for 3 weeks while in Baja and then studied for another 3 weeks or so when I got back to Canada. I wrote my Project Management Professional [PMP] certification exam this month and scored well. So I am now a Professional Engineer and Project Management Professional. Not particularly exciting stuff for blogging material, but quite useful when I am working or looking for work.

Although I wasn’t super stoked about studying for my PMP exam when I decided to get certified last winter I must admit I enjoyed the process much more than I had expected. Having been away from school for a decade it’s fun to get the rust of those learning skills and get the positive feedback an exam provides. Work has been and looks to continue to be slow this year so I’ve decided I’m going to keep myself busy by writing another certification exam I’ve been interested in.

This time around the focus is quality management and the certification is called Certified Quality Engineer [CQE] which is administered by the American Society of Quality. Quality management was one element out of nine areas of knowledge for the PMP exam. So this exam will focus in far greater detail solely on quality management which is an area of particular interest to me. The CQE exam date I’m shooting for is early December 2011.

My plan is to read all the material shown in the photo over the next 3 months to get familiar with all the exam topics. I’ll figure out any areas I’m weak in and do some additional studying in those areas. Then starting in September I’ll begin an iterative cycle of writing practice exams and using the scores I get to focus additional studying. I’ll keep that cycle going until I’m confident I’ll pass the exam.

Since I have a lot of reading to do and I find simply sitting at a desk studying to be fairly boring I’m think I’ll be bringing study materials with me on my various trips this year. I’ve already got an idea for a cycle camping/study tour with both physical destinations and study topics on the agenda. The bike riding time is a great time to review material in my head to ensure I fully understand it. In the same way a trip to Lake Nitnaht to kiteboard has lots of quiet time in the mornings to study just like I did in Baja. Since I get up early and have many ritual cups of tea when I am camping a book to read is a natural compliment to that process.

Biking/kiteboarding & studying – I love it…=-)

Surly LHT Update

25 05 2011

Behold the Long Haul Trucker MK2...

My Surly Long Haul Trucker is one of my most ridden and definitely one of my least modified bikes. Given my tendency to tweak and try new things that says a lot. It was custom built from a frame back in the day when Surly didn’t offer a complete trucker. The LHT worked so well for me for so long I have to admit I felt a bit hesitant to tear the bike down in case it somehow didn’t ride so beautifully for me when it was reborn. My goal was to clean the trucker, upgrade a few parts and keep the same amazingly versatile fun personality.

Fender and mud flap bling...

I wanted to replace the beat up SKS plastic fenders on my bike with something nicer and bit more functional. Sharon had complained about getting spray off the short rear SKS fender so I wanted to ensure the revamped LHT had a nice long set of mud flaps on it. I used the custom flaps I got from Buddy Flaps which fit the Velo Orange fenders perfectly.

Nice fender lines...

As I posted a couple days ago the Velo Orange hammered metal fenders [45mm] went on easily and it was simple to get a decent fender line. I’ll ride the bike for a week and then cut the fender struts when I am 100% on the fender position. I cleaned up the rest of the rear end and reinstalled everything. I love the OMM racks and the Schwalbe Marathon XR tires.

Velo Orange fender up front...

The front fender also got a custom mud flap. You can make DIY mud flaps for free, but I have to say I am really liking having a bit of customization on my bikes and the cost is modest. I’ll probably order a few more sets of mud flaps from Buddy Flaps for some of my other bikes. After some cleaning I reinstalled the cranks/pedals and the rarely used front derailleur.

Dynohub & light...

Most folks will home in on my lovely new metal fenders, but the discerning observer will notice the new B&M Cyo IQ Plus tucked under the OMM Cold Springs rack and connected to a Shimano DH-3N80 dynohub. It’s hard to overstate how useful a high quality light [with vertical cut off] with a dynohub is for 24/7 lighting when you need it. I don’t ever miss using unfocused battery powered headlights and the folks I don’t blind when I’m riding around at night also don’t miss them! I used a light bracket from Rene Herse to mount the light at the front left side of the OMM rack.

A hard Brooks B17...

I put the uber hard Brook B17 that I softened a bit using neatsfoot oil on my LHT. Since I ride this bike a lot I’m hoping I’ll get a chance to break it in the rest of the way so it’s as comfy as my older/softer Brooks saddles. Since all my taillights [Planet Bike and Radbot] use the same mount I just check my light before a ride. If I find a weak one I put it in a pile for recharging and grab another light. I have enough on the go I can always put my hand on a charged one in 5 seconds.

Front lighting detail...

I’m pleased with how the rebuild has progressed. As I noted above I embarked upon this project with some reluctance, but I felt the changes would be an improvement worth undertaking. Now that I can look at the finished bike I think I achieved a nice balance between the old faithful trucker and the new trucker. The dynolighting is a key upgrade as are the metal fenders with full mud flaps. I can still see my old bike in all the components I transfered over to the new build as well as in the scratches and scuffs in the paint. I think keeping the classic sage green paint for a few more years was a smart move. It really anchors the great memories I have had with this bike to the promise of new adventures that the upgrades bring.

An upgrade worthy of a trusty steed...

A few things left to do:

  • minor adjustments after a week or so of riding
  • touch up paint or clear nail polish on scratches
  • polishing frame with Pedros Bike Lust
  • cut fenders struts
  • ride for another 7yrs!

Hang Pro Wetsuit Hanger

25 05 2011

Hang Pro wetsuit hanger...

In the winter I’m surfing and in the summer I’m kiteboarding. Since I don’t live on Maui that means wetsuits all year round. Since I spend so much time in my wetsuits I buy quality items that fit me well and are made specifically for the water sports I enjoy. So naturally I’m interested in protecting my investment. One issue is drying and storing wetsuits on normal hangers puts a lot of stress on the suit as it is pulled down onto the sharp edges of the hanger by its own weight plus the extra weight of any water when wet.

How to gently hang and dry your wetsuit...

My friends Sean and Deanna gave me a couple of the Hang Pro wetsuit hangers shown above that they picked up on their globe trotting travels this year. These hangers let you easily hang your wetsuit by the waist and have a very wide curved edge the suit hangs from to ensure it’s not damaged.

Hang Pro in action...

The hanger is a robust product that’s made in the US. For the cost of a decent 6 pack of beer you can get one and it should last pretty much forever. Hanging your wetsuit this way is easy on the suit so you can store it like this for as long as you need to.

Hanging a wetsuit on a normal hanger...

You can see the same wetsuit on a normal hanger in the photos above and below. Keep in mind the suit is dry so it’s pulling down less than a suit that’s wet.

Eventually you'll stretch out the shoulders and damage the seams...

How hard is it to install metal fenders?

24 05 2011

Velo Orange hammered bling...

I just finished installing a set of Velo Orange fenders on my Surly LHT. This is my second set of VO fenders. Having previously installed a couple sets of Berthoud stainless fenders which required a lot of DIY I was ready for a decent amount of work to install these VO fenders. I was pleasantly surprised when they went on as easily as a typical set of plastic fenders, which is to stay pretty easily with no drilling or difficult setup that I could mess up. Taking my time I managed to install both fenders and mud flaps in about an hour on my LHT having a bit of practice on the first set.

Clearly VO put a lot of thought into how they could make a fender set easy to install on a variety of bikes. They provide a lot of hardware including leather washers which are a nice touch. Especially given the reasonable cost for a set.

You can read VO fender installation instructions here.

If you’ve been thinking about metal fenders and been concerned how much hassle they’d be to install I recommend giving them a shot. They’ll be on in a flash and they add a very functional bit of bling to your ride.

My LHT with new VO fender installed...

I can’t deny how sweet a nice set of Honjo fenders is, but given they cost 2-3 times what an equivalent set of VO fenders sell for I’m likely to use VO fenders on most of my bikes and save the Honjos for a few select rides like my Boulder Bicycle All Road. Happily the Fairfield Bicycle Shop is a local Velo Orange dealer that stocks quite a lot of their products so I can buy these fenders locally on short notice most of the time.

What is Kite Bar Pressure?

23 05 2011

Your interface with the kite...

If you are new to kiteboarding you’ll read kite reviews talking about bar pressure as well as hearing other kiters discussing the subject. So what is bar pressure? Well you are connected to your kite through the front and rear lines. The front lines go straight to your harness via your chicken loop [black loop closest to you in image above]. The back lines are attached to your control bar and you use them to steer the kite with. Additionally the control bar sliding towards you or away from you changes the angle of attack of the kite [how much air it catches] which increases or decreases power from the kite. The design of the kite and the bar will determine how much force you feel at the bar in at a given windspeed with a kite. Some kites really pull hard on the rear lines so you have to pull back hard to keep the bar where you want it and you have to pull harder on the bar to steer the kite. Some kites are in the middle and some kites offer very light bar pressure.

Here are some examples:

  • Ocean Rodeo Rise: you’ll feel very little pressure at the bar for a given windspeed with these kites. I generally fly mine with one hand just lightly on the middle of the bar and I can steer the kite with 1 finger.
  • Naish Code: you’ll feel a ton of bar pressure compared to the OR Rise. My arms get tired after a 2hr session on one of these kites.
  • Liquid Force Havoc: this kite is between the two kites above. It pulls hard enough you get lots of feedback from the kite, but it’s not obnoxiously hard to hang onto.

OR Rise = so light you forget it's there...

What’s the best?

There is no right answer when it comes to bar pressure. Some like it hard, some like it light and some want medium pressure. If you are a weaker rider or have tendonitis issues you’re likely to want a kite with light bar pressure. When you are learning having a moderate to high amount of bar pressure can be good because it lets you know where the kite is and you won’t steer it with light accidental input to the bar. Before you buy a kite make sure you try it and understand what it feels like to fly it – keeping in mind there are many designs and they feel quite different from one another.

LF Havoc = medium bar pressure...

What do I like?

I really like light bar pressure when I kiteboard. Partially because I have chronic tennis elbow issues and partially because a light bar lets me control my kite very easily for gracefully intuitive riding. When I demo a kite the first thing I notice when I’m out on the water is how hard to I have to pull on the bar. My test is after 30-45mins of riding with a new kite am I thinking about the bar or is my attention on the board and the water? If the bar is pulling too hard my focus is on the bar and I don’t like that. If the bar pressure is light I’m flying the kite with one hand and my arm is relaxed so my brain shifts to the important part of the experience the terrain I’m riding and my board. The kite starts to fly itself and I love that feeling.

My friend is stronger and stockier than I am. He doesn’t notice or mind a kite with high bar pressure. So you really have to try a few kites to see where you fit in.

More pressure = more power?

You can have two different kites that are both equally powerful, but one has very light bar pressure and the other pulls your arms out of their sockets. Remember that the energy that moves you around the water is transfered to your body via the front lines through the chicken loop attached to your harness. The back lines are for control. So don’t assume a kite with lots of bar pressure is necessarily an extremely powerful kite compared to one with light bar pressure. The reality could be exactly the opposite.

Nitnaht Lake First Session…

22 05 2011

I was seeing red at Nitnaht!...=-)

Kurt and I got out to Lake Nitnaht for a great early season kiteboarding session on Friday. We took a chance as conditions this time of year are not reliable, but our gamble paid off as we had epic conditions and only two other kiters on the whole lake. I got onto my board in the shallows and was riding for 30mins before my first wipeout. I was pretty shocked how cold it was…brrr! Being on top of the water wasn’t bad, but as soon as you went down it was chilly. I was wearing a 5/4/3mm Pro Motion kiteboard wetsuit which was fine, but I’ll be using my Ocean Rodeo Predator drysuit next session which has a hood. Kiteboarding is more passive than surfing so you don’t generate as much body heat since you aren’t paddling and if things go wrong you can be in the water for a long time getting things sorted out or just floating towards shore. I was super impressed when Kurt came in and wasn’t wearing surf booties or gloves – he’s a trooper!

I thought all my biking this spring would have made me ready for a day of kiteboarding, but when I got up the next day I was so sore. My legs barely worked and my abs were screaming! It seems like I am always a month behind the fitness power curve..;-)~

Kurt is flying green...

The pain was worth it. I can’t wait for another trip out to the lake. Talking to Mike C it looks like I can run a control for him on the 600K and still get out to Nitnaht for the weekend. Now I just have to pray to the weather gods for sunshine to power the thermal winds!

Velo Web Reader’s Rides…

22 05 2011

Boulder Bicycle All Road action...

Raymond Parker publisher of The Velo WebLog was kind enough to add my Boulder Bicycle All Road to the Reader’s Randonneur Rides section of his site.  Thanks! Since I haven’t published a full review of this bike yet the material posted on Raymond’s site is a nice concise summary of my experiences so far.

Yes I am Lazy!

The remains of the rando year?

21 05 2011

My gang colours...

Back at the start of March I plotted out a brevet schedule for 2011. So far I’m mostly on track except that I replaced one 300K with a different one and I missed the Highway to Hell 400K. My goal for this year was to ride a 200K, 300K & 400K on my new upright rando bike. Keeping in mind all my previous brevets were on a recumbent so even a 200K is new territory on DF [diamond frame]. I’m pretty happy with how things are going so far. I’m comfortable on my bike. I’m navigating the courses well enough. My equipment is reliable and performing well. My fitness sucks, but I know what the solution to that problem is even if I don’t want to utter the “T” word at the moment.

Looking forward my plan is to ride the following:

  • Nanimo Populaire 100K – 25 June
  • Make Up Brevet 400K – 16 July
  • Fall Islander 200K – Sept 11
One fly in the ointment is the likelihood I’ll have to travel to Ontario for work most of July. So I may miss the 16 July 400K. I won’t know until July comes around so I’ll just keep planning on riding it and see what happens. If I can’t participate my back up plan is to drive to Port Hardy at the north end of Vancouver Island and ride the ~450kms back home with a hotel sleep stop in the middle. Not a 400K brevet, but I wanted to tour the island anyways and it will give me a handle on riding a 400K so that next year I can keep my progress rolling and try my hand at a 600K.

It began with a KLR650…

20 05 2011

Kawasaki KLR650...

I used to ride motorcycles. I spent about 15yrs on various bikes. My favourite was the one shown above – a Kawasaki KLR650. Interestingly I think this bike got me started in online review posting that eventually morphed into blogging. Back in the day I hacked around with HTML to build some basic sites and put my KLR650 related reviews on them. I found two that I think are my very first online reviews. I don’t know why somebody took the trouble to copy them and rehost them on a new site as I think the products must no longer be available, but I guess it might have some historic/archival value to folks who are into that sort of thing.

KLR650 Reviews:

Sharon’s friend Laura wants to get a motorcycle and we went with her to look at them. I have to say I got a bit of stoke back for my old KLR650. They still make ’em and they are still a killer deal for a fun versatile bike. I kept all my expensive KLR650 accessories [ie. Ortlieb motorcycle panniers] because I figured one day I’d get another bike. We’ll see how my will power holds out…=-)

Awesome Surly Pugsley Fenders!

20 05 2011

Click on image to jump to original site with more info...

The Lazy Rando Review Policy…

19 05 2011

Testing stuff the hard way...

I figured it was about time I published a review policy I could point people to should the topic be of interest to them. I buy about 90% of the products reviewed on this site. Companies give me the other 10% of the product to review [ie. the Donkey Boxx or Scruzol].

Why don’t I buy 100% of the stuff I review?

Well partly because I have a limited budget to spend on gear and partly because I may well already have something that fills the roll of the product in question. The best reviews are those that contrast and compare similar products. For example I own a Berthoud rando bar bag which cost me $300 [ouch!].  I’d love to try out 3 or 4 more rando bags from various companies [Velo Orange, Swift Industries, etc..], but paying $200-$300 a pop with a decaleur for something I already own is not likely to happen. However, if the companies with similar products want to send me something to test it makes some great reviews possible. You get a review that wouldn’t otherwise happen, they get some PR for their product and I get to retire before I’m 90! Sounds like a win-win-win to me…=-)

Can you trust a review based on free product?

First off I’d say don’t trust any review from anyone 100% without critically thinking about it. Evaluate their expertise in the field, their motivation to mislead you and their track record. The more a reviewer/site is sponsored and has advertisers to answer to the less the reader’s needs will be at the forefront of their thoughts. Does the site have anything negative to say about products or is everything they touch AWESOME!! ? Do they have a tendency to always slam products that don’t fit their narrow definition of good? Personally I find it pretty easy to spot the lame reviews that are on the net. Looking at the Donkey Boxx I got recently the value of the product is ~$30. I’ll end up spending around 20hrs of my life writing a couple of reviews, photographing the box and talking to folks about it afterwards. That doesn’t include all the time Sharon spends using it, but we’ll ignore that for now. So I get about $1.50/hr value out of the deal. If I was doing it for the money I’d be better off working at 7-11. More expensive products tend to be more complex and I invest more time in the review process so my dollar/hr value doesn’t sky-rocket for say a $120 bike light. So far nobody has paid me to do a review and I’m not interested in getting advertisers for this blog.

Does that make me objective?

No. I don’t pretend to be objective. I have my own biases. I know people in the bike & kiteboard industries by their first names. Heck I know some of their kid’s first names. On the other hand I’ve been blogging almost daily for 6yrs now and my content sees over a million views a year [thanks for reading BTW!…=-)] so I’ve got a track record for generating useful content and a reputation to protect. How valuable/applicable a particular review is to your situation is something you have to determine.

Stuff I buy:

  • if I buy it I’m going to review it and post the review without any contact with the company who made/sold it. That’s not because I’m a jerk, but I already spend a lot of my free time on this blog and engaging every company whose product I review would add significantly to my workload.
  • I don’t moderate my blog’s comments [other than for SPAM and nastiness] so a vendor is always welcome to leave a comment in response to my review.
  • in fact anyone who wants to say something about a review can leave a comment. Whether you agree or disagree I want to hear it and your comment will help other folks evaluate my review.
  • if I reviewed a product you sell and you find my review objectionable you can also email me off the blog and I’ll talk to you about your concerns. I’m totally open to amending a review with new material if the discussion leads me to believe I made a mistake or if there is more to the story.
  • Internet reviews can linger on Google for a long long time so I want to be fair to everyone and report things accurately.
  • if you don’t like a review of your product and don’t have a sensible rebuttal I’m sorry, but that’s too bad I won’t edit a review to make you happy. You should just be happy I bought your product!

Stuff I get for free:
  • If you want to send me something and I’m pretty sure I’ll hate it I’ll tell you upfront and suggest we skip the review. If you insist I’ll do the review, but don’t get mad at me if it turns out badly.
  • If I do a review of a free item and there is a significant problem I’ll talk to the vendor and incorporate their feedback before the review is published. To be clear that doesn’t mean I won’t talk about the negative issue, but it does mean they’ll get their chance to give their side of the story right in the review. I figure that’s fair.
  • I don’t return review items. The cost of doing the review in terms of my time is already significant. Pulling the product from a bike, packaging it and shipping it back to a vendor adds significantly to the cost of a review. Assuming my time is only worth $20/hr [I’m a professional engineer and professional project manager so hopefully you’ll agree I’m being conservative] and a review takes 20hrs – that’s $400 of my time spent on the review. I’m not eager to add more time to that total. Keep in mind this blog earns me $0/yr in advertising or other payments. A vendor gets a considerable amount of exposure for their product in exchange for the wholesale cost of the item. Again I think that’s fair.
Review Period

I try to review stuff for a minimum of 12 months so that I can get a comprehensive impression of it and report my short, medium and longer term observations. Where possible I’ll just keep using and reporting on products. It’s hard to find quality longterm reviews online and let’s be honest – it’s way easier to be stoked by something on Day 1 than it is on Day 1000. I’d like to think this is one way I can really add value for people that find my reviews.

A Note to Vendors

If you are thinking about sending me something to review and trying to decide if it’s worth it I’d suggest you evaluate the situation critically just like I think a reader of this blog should evaluate a review. My content sees about 1 million views/year targeted at bike tourists, bike commuters, randonneurs, kiteboarders/surfers. Many of my reviews come up on the first page of related Google searches. Consider the wholesale cost of your item + shipping cost vs. the potential benefits of having content featuring your product in front of this particular audience. I can’t promise you a positive review, but I can promise you a fair & comprehensive review. I can also offer longterm feedback on your product which can be useful for product upgrades/development. I’m always open to discussing a potential review so feel free to drop me a line and chat.

I’m a New World Tourist!

18 05 2011

My Bike Friday NWT chilling by the gorge waterway...

In Calgary I was a Tikiteer for sure and my Bike Friday NWT was a fun bike to ride, but if I had to choose I would have picked my Tikit. Lately I’ve realized that I am grabbing my New World Tourist for most rides into town and if you made me choose I’d stick with my NWT.

Why the change?:

  • in Calgary I lived right downtown and ride were short and frequent with high theft potential at each of the many stops.
  • in Victoria every ride into town is a minimum 8km round trip and theft potential is lower.
  • so now I ride into town less often, but I tend to save up errands and hit a bunch at once.
  • I can load up my NWT with a ton of stuff with its burly racks.
  • My NWT has drop bars which I am into at the moment and prefer for longer rides.
  • My NWT has a dynohub and light so I’m always ready for rides that extend into the PM.
  • I don’t have any lighting for my Tikit now that I am not using my Dinotte lights if I can help it.

Loaded and ready for more!

The only thing I want to do to my NWT to perfect it is install some full coverage fenders. I have them in my garage – in fact I’ve had them for 2 years! But I am finally getting motivated with the wet winters here to install them. The Bike Friday fenders do a decent job and are much easier to travel with if you pack your bike into a suitcase. I’m more a fold and trow in the truck kind of guy so I don’t need that sort of packability and I do need optimized fenders.

Well actually there is another thing I need to do to my NWT – it’s time to replace the grubby white bar tape. Using the NWT a ton means that the gleaming whiteness of her beauty is somewhat less gleaming!

Ode to the Surly Big Dummy

17 05 2011

Gett'n Surly with my Big Dummy...

A long load...

Heading to the LBS for some suspension maintenance...

Big Dummy Yukon touring…

Big Dummy surfing...

Loving the Dummy Life...

Getting loaded...

Torture testing the BD...

A loaded Big Dummy on tour...

Hauling a new bike for my friend Ursula...

Loading the Big Dummy....

Designed for versatility...

Here are links to Surly Big Dummy content I’ve posted online:

Off road Dummies...

Nice fender line on my BD...

Donkey Boxx Initial Impressions…

16 05 2011

Donkey Boxx installed on Sharon's Cross Check...

The folks who make the Donkey Boxx low cost coroplast bike pannier sent me a sample to test. I’m a gear snob and I tend to buy high end items, but I know that’s not practical and frankly not necessary for everyone. I also know it has a downside – do you think I’d leave an Ortlieb pannier on my locked bike when I leave it downtown?…no way! Coroplast is the same stuff they make election signs out of. It’s lightweight, durable, strong and waterproof. I’ve seen folks make stuff out of coroplast before, but it’s always been a little frankenstein looking. The Donkey Boxx is a very clean well made box that looks as elegant and classy as coroplast will ever look – which is to say pretty nice.

Since Sharon is a daily bike commuter and I’ve been complaining how awful the Basil pannier she was using looked on her bike [I call it Flopsy because it looks like a dead rabbit has been attacked to her rear rack] I offered the Donkey Boxx to her for this review. She gave it the once over and agreed it was nicer than Flopsy! She puts all her work stuff into a soft shoulder bag now and simply drops it into the Donkey Boxx for the ride to work. At work she takes the bag out and leaves her bike with Donkey Boxx locked up.

Donkey Boxx zip tied to top rail of rear rack...

Installing the Donkey Boxx took me less than 5 mins. I zip tied it to the top of Sharon’s rear rack taking a second to make sure her foot wouldn’t hit it [they provide a handy measuring tool with the Donkey Boxx]. They provide enough zip ties for 3 on the top of the box, but I went to town for added reliability and security.

A couple zip ties at the bottom...

A couple more zip ties at the bottom and the Donkey Boxx isn’t going anywhere. Clearly you won’t be installing and removing this box 5 times a day, but at the same time it’s a hassle for a thief to steal as well. If Sharon wanted the Donkey Boxx on another bike for the weekend moving it around isn’t a big deal and I’d do it a few times a week without any problem.

Once attached to the rack there is a bit of velcro you stick on to keep the lid closed enroute and a couple reflective stickers for the front/back of the box. The box surface is sticker and paint/marker friendly so it provides a nice canvass for artistic expression or advertising if you run a business. The more unique the box is the less likely anyone would even contemplate stealing it.

Sharon ready to roll...

Sharon has used it a couple times already and likes how sturdy and light the Donkey Boxx is as well as the fact it looks nicer on her bike than Flopsy. The fact the Donkey Boxx is made from waterproof material is a bonus – Flopsy is made of cotton. Having said that you need to seal the seams and holes in the box to make it really waterproof vs. just being water resistant.

The Donkey Boxx is a bit wide...

The Donkey Boxx is wide and rigid which means you need to be able to fit it through any openings it goes through as you won’t be popping it on and off each trip. I think one Donkey Boxx and one removable pannier is an idea setup. Sharon has her own Ortliebs or Flopsy her Basil bike bag and she’ll throw that on the left side of the bike if she is carrying a mega load. Two Donkey Boxxes probably wouldn’t get through the gate into our yard. OTOH if you have a garage access from the street and carry a ton of stuff all the time two Donkey Boxxes would be a fine idea.

Sharon and Donkey on a date night ride...

Like any rigid bike pannier if you put a bunch of hard loose items in the box there will be a rattle so wrap your multi-tool, tire levers in a dirty rag. Not only will it keep them quiet, but when a thief peers in the box it will look gnarly and they’ll leave it alone…=-)

Boxx details...

The Donkey Boxx has a metal reinforcement around the top to help keep its shape and the construction is held together using a heat welded pseudo rivet. This lets the box be strong and light with a clean shape. These boxes are made in the US by a company that provides jobs for folks with disabilities and they use 80% recyclable materials when fabricating the box. Assuming you don’t crash the Donkey Boxx should last many years and can be fully recycled when the end of its lifespan arrives.

Donkey and Cross Check...

The Donkey Boxx sells for $28 and can be bought online or through a dealer. Personally that price is ideal for a nice looking bike box/pannier. Anything I tried to build would take me long enough and look crappy enough that it wouldn’t be worth saving $28.

Donkey Boxx from the rear...

I’ll let Sharon use this box for a couple months and we’ll see how well it performs for her.

Rolling Jackass Stand Goes Prime-time!

15 05 2011

Rolling Jackass for sale on the Xtracycle Store...

Val came up with this awesome centrestand for the Xtracycle/Big Dummy. You can read why I think it’s great in my previous posts about Big Dummy stands.  I’m happy to see it for sale on the Xtracycle web shop. Good job Val and good job Xtracycle…=-)

Ocean Rodeo Mako 150

15 05 2011

2011 Ocean Rodeo Mako 150...

I tested a 2010 Ocean Rodeo Mako 150 in Baja this past winter and really liked it. I had planned to buy another Mako King, but a Slingshot Tyrant surfboard snuck into my quiver so I switched gears and went with the Mako 150.

Somewhat lame 2011 OR graphics...

Ocean Rodeo made a couple nice changes to the Mako 150 for 2011 – they upgraded the core to wood from foam for better durability and they added inserts for a mutant 3 fin option with the pads set back towards the rear of the board. Sadly they changed the graphics from a clean sharp look in 2010 to something I find pretty uninspiring – especially the craptacular logo. The Mako 150 is such a great kiteboard that I wouldn’t let mediocre graphic design put you off, but come on OR you can do better!

The bottom of the Mako 150...

Happily Ocean Rodeo didn’t change the amazing bottom shape or board outline of the Mako 150. It still has a ton of rocker and concave to give that uber smooth ride that loves to eat up chop and swell of any size. If I ever hear they are making a change I’ll buy two spare Mako 140’s and at least one Mako 150 so I’ll have Mako loveliness to ride for years to come.

If you haven’t tried a Mako you have no idea what you are missing!

Trying to capture the bottom shape...

So why not get another Mako King the big 165cm x 45cm member of the Mako family? Well I blame it on Andy at Kite Paddle Surf Bellingham! He rides a lot of kiteboarding gear and is very smart about figuring out what gear is the best in term of performance and price. Anyways he turned me onto a Slingshot Tyrant surfboard last season which I had a blast on in Baja. So I have a larger soul riding wave slashing board. He is also quite devious in that he puts a lot of gear out on the beach for folks to demo. I demo’d a Mako 150 in Baja and loved how it was a killer mix of the Mako 140’s nimbleness and the Mako King’s stable smooth soul riding vibe. Although I resisted for a few months I ended up buying a Mako 150 from Andy.

Resistance is futile!

Liquid Force LFX...

While was at the shop lusting after kites and boards Andy showed me the board he is super stoked about at the moment – a Liquid Force LFX twin tip. He says it’s got a lot of the smooth freeride vibe of the Mako lineup with the load and pop [due to the board’s flex] of a freestyle board for explosive airtime and cranking tricks. My will power was just good enough to leave the shop without buying one, buy based on past experience with Andy I bet this board will end up in my quiver for my next kiteboarding season.

BTW – if you are wondering why a kiteboarder in Victoria BC would buy their gear from a kiteshop in Bellingham, WA it’s simple – the folks at Kite Paddle Surf provide the best prices, awesome customer service and they are so stoked about kiteboarding that it’s fun to deal with them. They’ve got free shipping to Canada on orders over $300 now which is any board or kite. Since there isn’t a local kiteboard shop in Victoria Kite Paddle Surf is my local shop.

Tandem Perspectives…

14 05 2011

Down low...

This is the same moment in time captured from two different perspectives. I like how the choice of camera positions totally changes the relative importance of the Bike Friday tandem vs. the person in the photo and sends a very different message to the viewer.

Up high...

Since digital photos are essentially free take a few of every scene you want to document. Vary the camera postion and viewing angle. I’d rather select from 4 options and throw 3 out than have to use the only image I took and not be stoked about it.

I really like the reactions of the folks in the background of the image above…=-)

Yehuda Moon Rando

14 05 2011

Image: Yehuda Moon - click to jump to original...

Sierra Design-ed to last…

14 05 2011

My trusty SD tent at Lake Nitnaht...


I posted a while back about repairing a 20yr old Sierra Designs tent and putting it back into service. I used that tent at Lake Nitnaht for most of last summer’s kiteboarding season. It probably saw nearly 60 days of action which is more than an average camping tent sees in a few years. Everything went well until a particularly vicious wind storm [this is a lake we kiteboard at after all!] broke one of the main poles…=-( Not the tent’s fault. The wind was strong and it wasn’t guyed out particularly well. The great thing about this tent is that the design is a simple “X” with two main poles of equal length crossing over to give it it’s shape. That meant that I could walk into MEC and buy a new pole section for $5, cut it to length and have the tent back in action with minimal muss or fuss. Sweet!…=-)

That middle pole isn't supposed to do that!

Compared that with the Marmot Hypno tent I used in Baja a few years back. It was a lightly used [less than 15 days use before that trip] modern tent with a cool shape that provided a lot of vertical interior living area for its size & weight. That was made possible by a bunch of special custom bent poles that you can see above. Trouble was after several weeks of daily wind camped on the beach the center pole broke. I went back to REI where I bought it and inquired about getting a replacement. Since the tent was 3yrs old Marmot didn’t make that design any longer and they had no spares. Without the ability to easily custom bend a replacement pole REI just gave me a brand new Marmot tent. That was very generous of them and I appreciate it, but if I had bought that same tent from another store I would have been out of luck.

Orange section is the new replacement pole...

Now I’m not posting this as a suggestion to only buy simple old school tent designs. There are benefits to the new ultralight designs with custom bent poles, but there are also downsides. These very light materials are not as robust as heavier fabrics and lightweight custom poles will likely not be replaceable when they get damaged. I have a few tents on the go at any one time and I wear through tents faster than most simply because of the many days I have them setup in a given year. So what I do is I save my ultra lightweight tents for trips like bike tours where the compact size and low weight really matter. For base camping I use heavier more robust tents that are easily repairable since these tents see far more UV and wind being setup day after day.

I’m happy to have my SD tent ready to rock for this summer’s camping missions at the lake. I expect it will see at least 4 or 5 more years of use before I wear out the zippers and/or the tent fabric is destroyed by UV. I may have to replace a few more broken poles in that time, but I’m okay with that…=-)

How to navigate a brevet…

13 05 2011

Navigating in the dark in the rain - what fun!

Rando Disclaimer: I am not an expert randonneur. I am just a guy who has ridden a few brevets. I’m average and I am okay with that! Use any info on this blog at your own risk.

Staying on course is far more important to me than training for a brevet. Going off route and having to do bonus mileage isn’t fun and if the mistake is not caught early on can lead to a DNF. Even if you are on course, but not confident of your navigation skills it can ruin an otherwise fun ride with anxiety.

Assuming you are totally new to riding brevets:

  • find a cue sheet online for a route close to you that starts in a city/town
  • ideally it will have a bunch of turns close together to get you out of town
  • follow the first 10-20kms of directions on your bike as if you were riding the event
  • don’t use a GPS to help you even if you plan to use a GPS for the actual events
  • figure out where you’ll place your cue sheets so you can read them on the bike day/night, dry/rain, strong winds, etc…
  • cue sheets are navigated using your bike computer so ensure you have entered an accurate wheel roll out value
  • if the directions start okay, but the mileage on the turns starts to vary more and more the further you go your bike computer needs adjustment
  • if you are a GPS person ride the same route again using GPS and confirming with the cue sheet that you stay on route
  • once you’ve got this far it would be a great idea to ride a 50K or 100K route to really hone your navigation skills

Sample 100K event map...

So you’ve confirmed you can navigate with the cue sheet and with your GPS on a practice route and you have your first 200K coming up in a week or two:

  • check your rando club’s website for a cue sheet and/or map
  • if you have a discussion group for the club you can ask there for any navigation resources members might have posted online
  • if you can get map review it for a general sense of the route
  • if you can get a hold of any ride reports from previous year events read them to get the flavour of different parts of the route and note any discussion of navigation challenges, bonus mileage or getting lost
  • read the cue sheet in detail for any areas that look difficult to find your way through..if there is no map use Google Maps to help you visualize the directions
  • if you are going to use a GPS either locate a electronic route online or make your own using the cue sheet
  • keep in mind usually the only official version of the cue sheet is the one that they hand out at the start so be aware there may be changes to your planned route
  • ride organizers will usually let the club know a week or two in advance if the course is radically different from previous editions of the same event
  • if you get to the start and something has changed don’t panic!
  • just note where the official route differs from the one you studied/programmed into your GPS
  • when you get there ignore the GPS and follow the cue sheet until you are back to an area where your GPS is navigating the correct route

The navigation station!

During the event:

  • get to the start early and chat with the ride organizers about the route
  • mention which cue sheets/maps you used in preparing so they can correct any big problems for you
  • make sure you get the official cue sheet
  • find some experienced local randos who are likely to know where they are going
  • make a note of any new people or out of the area randos and keep them in mind as they are not as likely to know where they are going
  • with a big group start it’s okay to roll along with the crowd and enjoy yourself without stressing about navigation
  • it’s highly unlikely the entire group will go off course at km 5! and often the most complex navigation is at the start of the ride to get you out of town
  • as the ride progresses the group will break up…make sure you are on top of your navigation by then
  • don’t ride too fast to stay with people who know the route
  • this will hurt you later in the ride and navigating alone during a bonk is no fun
  • trust yourself and your skills….ride your own ride
  • use both your GPS and your cue sheet
  • at the first sign of disagreement between them stop and sort it out
  • if in doubt your GPS is wrong and the cue sheet is right
  • stay sharp for any areas that during your route prep you noted were tough to navigate through
  • it’s okay to ride with an experienced local rando and let them navigate, but continue to read your cue sheet just to be sure everything is cool
  • if things do go wrong – stop riding, figure out where you went off course, figure the easiest/fastest way back to that point and get on with it
  • there is usually plenty of time for a goof up in a brevet so again don’t panic
  • if things went wrong it’s everyone’s fault in the group not just the person who was navigating
  • if you choose to follow someone and not read the cue sheet take responsibility for the mistake yourself
  • remember who the new folks and out of town folks are…have less confidence in them being on route
  • keep your route sheet dry
  • if the event calls for a lot of rain see if the organizer has enough cue sheets for you to have a second set and put it away somewhere safe

GPS technology...

If you use a GPS:

  • the route you program on your computer and the one your GPS navigates may not be the same!!!
  • your GPS has navigation settings that you may need to play with to get the route from your computer to happen on the GPS
  • you may also need to use more route points than you thought to get the GPS to follow the correct route
  • either program the route yourself turn by turn or use a route you downloaded, but confirm it’s correct using the cue sheet and checking each turn
  • you will only learn the real deal about your GPS by using it on rides and comparing the GPS route to the cue sheet
  • eventually you will learn how to best program a route and where it is likely to fail
  • don’t ever trust your GPS 100%
  • if you are ever in doubt assume the GPS is lying
  • the smart plan is to let the GPS run and navigate using the cue sheet
  • when they are both telling you the same thing you are solid
  • when they disagree it’s time to think carefully
  • be aware of how fast your GPS eats up batteries and bring spares
  • if you are on a long easy section of the route turn off the GPS for a few hours to save power
  • don’t get lazy at night and just rely on the GPS because the cue sheet is hard to read
  • reading the cue sheet at night will keep your brain active at a time when it wants to get sleepy

Rando essentials...

Navigational Etiquette:

  • this stuff is personal and only represents my personal take on stuff…YMMV
  • like energy levels people have high and low points on a ride in terms of navigation
  • if you are solid and on track share that navigation energy with those randos riding with you
  • if you are feeling, tired, confused or just need moment to regroup it’s cool to tag along with other people
  • do what you can to help the group
  • don’t just expect the person at the front to show you the whole way around the route while you sightsee
  • when you are back on track and feeling better offer to navigate
  • if you were following and things went off track accept the bonus mileage with grace
  • if you are leading a group signal turns early and be aware not everyone behind you is at 100% mentally
  • if you are leading a group and not confident you are on the route stop ASAP and figure it out

Riding Loaded!

12 05 2011

My Berthoud bag equipped Boulder Bicycle...

I remember reading a blog post years ago that Kent Peterson authored. I want to say it was in the preparation phase for his first GDR race. He noted that he didn’t really train in the conventional sense of the term, but instead rode his bike with all it’s race kit for fun in the months prior to the event. That seemed like a lot of work at the time and while I can certainly relate to not getting into the whole HRM/intervals/cycling coach training thing riding a loaded bike all the time seemed excessive. Of course he was making a lot of sense I just didn’t have the sense to make full use of that advice when I first read it. I’ve become smarter over the years and I can certainly agree that riding your “event” bike setup for the event in question is the way to go. Not only do you get some extra exercise when riding it around, but you are learning how to handle the bike loaded and how to make the most of it. A naked bike feels nice, but you can’t muscle the loaded bike around the same way so it seems like a good idea to ride the bike with everything you’ll carry in the event. And of course you get to test out all your gear so that if something is going to be a problem it’s much better for that to happen 2kms from home on a Wed PM a week before the big day rather than 20kms into the event.

Berthoud handlebar bag...

I got my Boulder Bicycle All Road 650B randonneur bike with the Berthoud handlebar bag shown above. It sits on a Nitto M12 front rack. I really like this bag because it is so lovely while being 100% functional. I can open it on the bike while riding, it’s waterproof in extended heavy rain, it provides a useful place to store my cue sheet for navigation and the decaleur [QR] I got for it is very secure. I’ve seen decades old bags just like this that are going strong so I expect it will last my entire randonneur career.

Front bag profile...

Other than a couple short test rides when I first assembled this bike I have always ridden it with a loaded bar bag. It was designed for that and I always want to have a few items with me. A blog reader asked me what the bike handled like without the bag and my reply was “…I don’t know…why would I ride it without the bag?”

Front view with Edelux headlight...

For a shorter ride – say up to 200K with decent weather I just use the front bag and I’ll carry:

  • spare 650B tire
  • spare tubes x 2
  • tire levers, patch kit
  • multitool
  • fiber-fix emergency spokes x 2
  • small bit of duct tape
  • reflective sash & ankle bands
  • energy bars & other food
  • rain jacket [I never trust the forecast completely – maybe I’d skip this at the peak of summer]
  • cue sheet & control card & pen
  • iPhone
  • Visa & cash & ID
  • spare GPS batteries if the ride is long enough
  • as things warm up I’ll throw spare clothing in the bag

Decaleur detail...

The decaleur [bag QR] attaches to the stem and then the bag is placed on the rack with a leather strap looped over a small hoop of metal that sticks up from the rack. A metal rod is pushed through the decaleur parts on the bike and on the bag [bolted through the leather]. Once in place  a retention pin is used to secure it. I’ve used a thin bit of keychain wire in the photos above.

Other side of decaleur...

This style of decaleur is a bit of a PITA to use as you have to line up three metal parts and slide the QR rod through them, but it’s cheaper than the other faster decaleur options and it’s very secure. When I crashed pretty hard on a 200K the bag didn’t budge. This system is also more theft resistant and you’d have to really examine the bag to figure how to take it. If I am leaving my bike at a brevet control I just grab my money and my iPhone and leave the bag in place. It’s too much hassle to remove and reinstall it each time. I’m not sure if I would spend the $$ for the faster QR decaleur option that just drops onto the bike with no retention rod. I guess if I was headed to PBP and wanted to take my bag with me at each stop I would. For BC brevets that doesn’t seem necessary.

Small Berthoud saddle bag...

I wanted to free up some room in my bar bag so I got the small Berthoud saddle bag shown above. When it arrived it was a bit smaller than I had hoped so I’m not sure how much use it will see. I’ll probably put it on another bike like my Surly LHT when I complete the rebuild/upgrade I’ve got underway.

I used it for the 300K last weekend and carried:

  • spare tubes x 2
  • tire lever & patch kit
  • small roll of duct tape
  • fiber fix emergency spokes x 2
  • multi-tool

Small saddle bag profile...

It’s a nice size for a spare tube or two and a few tools which may suit a lot cyclists. I did free up enough space in my bar bag to be helpful when the day got hot and I wanted to strip off a lot of my cold weather gear.

Large Berthoud saddle bag...

So I called up Mike at Rene Herse and he sent me a large Berthoud saddle bag. This is an older model as the new ones all come with a QR bracket rather than a leather strap. I actually prefer this model as I won’t be removing it from the bike during a brevet.

Enough cargo capacity to be dangerous...

I’ve packed the larger bag to see what I can fit in and will carry the following in it for a 400K+ brevet and perhaps for some fast credit card touring:

  • spare 650B tire
  • spare tubes x 2
  • patch kit & tire levers
  • fiber fix emergency spokes x 2
  • multi-tool
Overall I’m quite pleased with the quality, functionality and aesthetics of these Berthoud bags. If you are in the market for bicycle bags and don’t want to go the modern Ortlieb route these are worth some consideration.

Boulder Bicycle All Road MK3…

11 05 2011

Getting close to perfection...

I’ve had a number of small tweaks I wanted to make to my Boulder Bicycle All Road rando rig. I finally got my butt in gear the last couple of days and wrenched on my bike while I watched some playoff hockey on my computer.

Lazy - that's me!

I got some custom Buddy Flaps made for my bike. They are sold as a set with the rear flap made with reflective material. My front Honjo fender is so long I couldn’t use the front Buddy Flap so I DIY’d one out of that big piece of stair tread material I have on hand. I’ll use the the now spare front “lazy” flap on another bike. The rear flap is more burly than needed, but it looks cool and provides perfect coverage. If you are a weight weenie you may want to stick with a chunk of milk jug and use a sharpie marker to customize it!

Front DIY mud flap...

The Honjo ultra light mud flaps that I got from Boulder Bicycle are indeed very light, but only offer minimal protection. I prefer to have more protection and I’m okay with a little extra weight to get it.

Berthoud large seatbag...

Acorn may not want to sell bike bags to Canadians, but Berthoud has no such qualms! I got a large Berthoud seatbag which I will use for longer brevets. This is actually an older version without a QR. I prefer attaching the bag to the saddle with a leather strap rather than the complexity and dead weight of a QR I’ll never use. I have my spare 650B tire, 2 tubes and my flat change/patch kit in there. Since I rarely need these item it frees up room in my bar bag for extra clothing and food.

I'm seeing red...

My white bar tape was getting grubby so I replaced it with some red tape that should last a while longer. I have a line on some washable white tape that doesn’t hold dirt, but couldn’t get it in right away. I’ll shelf it when it arrives until I’m feeling in a white mood!

Ding! Ding!

Almost every ride from my house starts with some bike path KMs. Having a bell to get the attention of dog walkers, roller bladers, etc.. is a nice thing. I found this Electra steerer mounted bell which doesn’t take up any bar real estate and looks nice on the bike. I also cut down the steerer a bit so I just have a minimal spacer above the stem.

B&M Baby!

The Blackburn rearview mirror I was using worked well, but it’s bulky and I have to put my hand on it when on the hoods which was not ideal. I installed a small, but effective B&M mirror on the end of the bar. An equally effective, but more elegant solution.

Dura Ace downtube shifter...

I still haven’t shifted out of the middle ring on a brevet. So I decided to ditch the bar end shifter for the front derailleur and instead install a downtube shifter. That freed up the left bar end for the B&M mirror I wanted to use and still gives me the option of the granny or big ring should I feel the need.

The Un-Belt Drive…

10 05 2011

Hebie Chainglider...

The belt drive is the bicycle industry’s latest darling. I can’t blame anyone for that. They look slick and they are so high tech it catches everyone’s attention. The cycling press needs fuel and anything new that can be sold is fodder for that appetite. I haven’t seen a belt drive on a bike yet in the wild. I think they’ll eventually reach the same people that will spend $1.5K on a Rohloff – which is to say a few folks, but not that many. The hold up in my opinion will be the cost and the specialized frame that’s required. Unless you sell a ton of a particular component the cost can’t be reduced beyond a certain point. This is why you can get a car tire for less than the cost of a decent bike tire. It’s why a mid-grade derailleur drivetrain will always cost so little compared to any IGH setup. And it’s why a belt drive will always command a premium over a chain drive – all other things being equal.

The main advantages advanced for the belt drive are:

  • clean
  • low maintenance
  • silent
The main disadvantages most people agree on are:
  • high cost
  • requires special frame
  • requires precise chainline alignment
  • requires precise tension and fairly high tension
There have been some folks who had problems with their belt drives in snowy winter conditions like Doug from MN who went back to his chain drive setup for the winter. I’m not clear on what the service life of a belt and the associated cogs are yet, but I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Even if there are some issues initially the belt manufacturers will do their best to resolve them over the next few generations of products.

SRAM 8spd chain on my Pugsley...

My Pugsley sees the worst riding conditions of any of my bikes:

  • beach sand
  • salt water
  • corrosive playa dust at burning man
  • road salt & sand in Canadian winter
  • slush
  • desert sand/dust
So far my $16 SRAM 8spd chain has held up for years with no maintenance beyond 3 or 4 lubrications and adjusting the tension 2 or 3 times. It’s silent in operation. It doesn’t requires any expensive modifications to the frame. When I do need to replace the chain it will cost another $16 and last a bunch more years. The only real downside is the chain isn’t clean to the touch. However, neither is the bike [most of the time] I get around this problem by simply not touching the chain. Like most cyclists I find that  it’s not very hard to keep one’s clothes clean while riding with minimal effort. The other thing to think about is the belt and front cog will be exposed to all the crap your wheels and tires will be exposed to. So in many areas that means they’ll get dirty even if it’s not from chain lube and you won’t want to wear light coloured pants with an unprotected belt.

Norco Corsa ST...

Now you might ask “….wouldn’t it be great if they made something that would let you run a low cost easy to work with chain, but kept your clothes clean?…” Happily they do. In the photo at the top of this post you see a Hebie Chainglider which seals your chain away from dirt and your clothes. A fully enclosed chain is essentially maintenance free – just ride the bike. If you wanted the clean clothes part without sealing off your chain completely you can get a partial chain guard like you see in the photo above. This doesn’t keep the chain perfectly clean, but it does keep you clean and frankly a chain on an IGH will keep turning around for a very very long time before it needs any attention. The nice thing with a partial chain guard is it can be used with a rear derailleur for a very low cost drivetrain.

Chain guard and derailleur...

So is there a slam dunk reason to buy a belt drive bike? For most people I would say no. If you want low maintenance just get an IGH and you are good. If you want to stay clean add a chaincase or chain guard to your ride. A couple applications where I can see the benefit of a belt drive over a chain would be for folks that travel with their bikes that pack/unpack their rides frequently and folding bikes that don’t put the chain on the inside of the fold.

Ultimately I think the lack of market penetration from belt drives won’t be because they aren’t great. It will be because chains just work so well for the cost that they are nearly impossible to displace.