Sharon’s Bike Commuter Update

25 04 2012

Sharon and her Surly Cross Check commuter bicycle...

Sharon’s bike commuting skills have been steadily improving since we moved to Victoria. At first she rode a few days a week. Then she rode every warm dry day. Then she started riding when it was dry and cold. Finally she’s now riding even with some rain in the forecast – which means far more days on the bike.

I’ve been careful not to push her or to say much about her bike commuting other than to give her a high five after she comes home on a particularly gnarly day and help with some bike maintenance.

Ortlieb Downtown - click for info...

Part of the process of riding in more demanding weather conditions and more often in general has been the addition of some new biking gear to Sharon’s quiver. Although I have helped narrow down the options and discussed the pros/cons of each choice she’s been the one to pick what she wants. She’s made some very smart choices such as:

I took the photo at the top of this post yesterday. As you can see Sharon is still rocking her Shower Pass Portland jacket. It’s ideal for days when there is some chance of rain, but it’s not likely to pour. She likes it because it fits well, is comfortable for a wide range of weather conditions at a moderate exertion level. She appreciates that it doesn’t make her look like a traffic cone when she’s riding or has to walk to her office. If the forecast is more on the rainy side she just bought a Gore Bike Wear shell which she uses instead as it’s more appropriate for those conditions.

The Ortlieb Downtown Bag attaches to her bike like a normal pannier, but when you pull it off the pannier frame stays on the bike and you just have a reasonably stylish bag to take with you to your meeting. It’s waterproof which is essential around here and holds enough to be useful for a bike commuter without looking like you are going on an expedition.

Thumbs up for Donkey Boxx...

We are coming up on a year with Sharon using a Donkey Boxx on her bike. It stays on there 24/7 and is her main pannier. She then adds a second soft pannier on the left side of the bike for additional capacity. The Donkey Boxx has survived a serious bike wrecking crash with minimal abrasion marks as well as being generally banged around and bumped over our rough roads. Not only is the Donkey Boxx trucking along just fine, but Sharon really digs it. I took it off her bike after the crash to get repairs done and as soon as it was ready to ride again she wanted the Donkey Boxx reinstalled immediately.

Overall the Surly Cross Check itself has been working great since we repaired it from Sharon’s crash last summer. It’s comfortable, speedy and with fenders and bags can carry Sharon to work with her stuff in most weather conditions. The Nexus 8 IGH means that the only maintenance has been adding some air to the tires and lubing the chain. I think it’s about time that I put the CC in my workstand and give it a once over just to make sure the fenders are tight and nothing needs fixing before the summer. I know she wants new bar tape as she is over the pink and it’s getting pretty grubby looking.

One hassle with this bike is playing the battery game with Sharon’s headlight. For her birthday this year I’ll install a dynohub and B&M light. If I am feeling very motivated I may wire in a tail light as well. That way she should have lights 24/7 without thinking about it which will be nice.

One pedal stroke at a time!



13 responses

25 04 2012

Does Sharon leave the bike outdoors at work? I like the idea of getting a Donkey Boxx (or something like it) but I’d need a mesh lock for it in case it’s easy to take off the bike.

25 04 2012
Mack Hops

Nice! looks like she’s super happy. I am putting the final parts on my 1976 peugeout- today for a new and improved touring rig!!! I feel her excitement.


25 04 2012

@Diane – you’d have to cut 10 zip ties to take that box off. At work it gets locked in a covered bike cage, but we’ve left it downtown for hours at a time while we were in a pub and nothing has happened to it.

As I recall they are worth $25-$29 so not something I would spend a lot of money to try and secure to the bike.

You could plaster it with stickers to personalize it that would likely make it even less of interest to thieves.

If someone was going to steal anything from Sharon’s bike it would be the $100+ Brooks saddle you could easily resell.

@Mack – congrats…send me some pics when you are done.

25 04 2012

Very cool setup on the bike!

Glad to see that donkey box held up so well. I had questions about the durability when you first installed it, but it clearly performed like a champ!

Question: Are you going to build up the wheel yourself for the dynohub

25 04 2012

@Ty – Not sure what will happen with that dynowheel. If I am not loving my 700c LHT I will likely take the dynohub wheel and light from that bike to put on Sharon’s CC. If that doesn’t happen I’ll get a LBS to build me the wheel.

The cost to build a wheel is low and it’s a skill best honed by building lots of wheels. I might build 1 or 2 wheels a year if I did all my own builds. Not enough to get good at it.

I hav built 2 wheels in the past so I would understand what it was about and so that I could do my own wheel repairs in the field.

If you gave me the parts I could build a set of wheels that would roll okay even if they weren’t the best possible result.

25 04 2012

Glad to see Sharon is loving her bike. Besides the “battery game”, how has the Ixon been working? I have been considering one since you first posted about it, but the price is a bit steep…

25 04 2012

@Jason – she loves it and it has been flawless other than needing to stay on top of the batteries. The cost seems right in line with any quality bike light I’ve seen.

She’ll probably keep using the Ixon even with a dynolight just for more firepower in the winter, but with two lights it’s not a huge deal if the battery one dies halfway to work in the AM.

26 04 2012
rkt88edmo (@rkt88edmo)

Vik, have you been seeing any feedback on the velo orange dynohub? I ran across a german/dutch? page the other day that said the OEM manufacturer had a disc model ready to go but VO was being coy about whether or not they would buy a run of disc hubs with the clutch. Hadn’t heard if there was a general opinion formed on the non-disc hub they rolled out yet.

26 04 2012

@RTK88edmo – I haven’t heard much about the VO hub. My gear budget got slashed pretty hard at the start of the fall last year so I’ve been limited as to what stuff I could buy and test out. The VO dynohub never made it into my hands.

22 05 2012

I find it interesting how so many of us bike commuters view it as a skill or as something special, yet how many of us would say that our car commuting skills are improving? I wonder if looking at it from this light is cause for many folks never even attempting to commute by bike?

Don’t get me wrong, there are skills involved in cycling, but I have a hard time personally putting them into the same category as, say, woodworking or computer programming, or bike building. These are things that people spend years learning to do and then perfecting. Bike commuting is really not much more than riding a bike with a bit of planning.

I find that I spend far too much time reading bike blogs and often wonder if the way we present on topics such as bike commuting are more harmful than helpful. I don’t know.

I enjoy your blog and look forward to getting your take on this idea.

22 05 2012

@Philblo – driving a car to work requires to specialized skills, clothing or any physical fitness. That’s why we don’t talk about it. The other issue is that driving to work generates no camaraderie so you don’t get folks gathering together to share their car commuting experiences.

Riding a bike to work once doesn’t take too much planning/effort if your commute is short and you own a bike. As you ride more often and in worse weather you do need to learn skills and gain experience to be successful.

I would say being a competent all weather year round bike commuter is a skill/achievement that’s every bit as notable as learning to program a computer, building something from wood or welding a bike frame.

23 05 2012

@thelazyrando – I’ll give you that a greater level of fitness is required for the bike commuting effort, but I disagree with the specialized equipment statement.

First, I agree that specialized equipment – breathable fabrics, bike-centric shoes, etc. make the commute experience more comfortable, but disagree that even in the dead of winter that they are “required.” Example – I bike commute year-round in Anchorage. Thus, I live where it is cold for a good portion of the year. I own various hats, gloves, coats, insulated pants, a variety of wool and poly under layers, and snow boots.

These are normal parts of living in this type of environment. My first winter bike commuting, the only piece of specialized equipment I purchased were ski goggles and studded tired (discounting the bike gear I already owned). I was able to commute comfortably every day in temps as low as -20 F.

I guess there is a bit of skill needed to ride in 6 inches of new powder with a skinny-ish bike, but I still, on a personal level, have a hard time lumping bike commuting in the same basket as those things which I have spent years learning and attempting to perfect. Bike commuting is just something I do.

23 05 2012

@Philblo – you can go winter hiking in jeans and you may do fine on a given trip, but if you want to be comfortable outdoors in a wide variety of conditions and keep your bike running reliably when it’s used daily in all weather that takes some skill/experience.

I would also point out that if you come to bike commuting as a seasoned outdoors person and cyclist that’s a whole different ball game than starting from scratch. Sharon didn’t really even ride a bike until 3 years ago. Let alone ride to work all year round. She doesn’t backpack or spend much time camping unless it’s from a car.

Then you’ve got to consider that not all bike commutes are equal. Distance, weather, traffic, route options, hills, etc… Some folks have a dead easy commute and others have really really challenging ones.

Looking at it another way I can teach someone to program in a few days and you could teach me to weld bicycle tubes in a few days. Would I be a superstar? No, but I could do it.

In the same way when I was deep into alpine climbing you’d get some yahoo who gets to the top of a moderately challenging route with borrowed gear and little skill. It’s easy to say there is nothing to it. What skill?

Now I am not suggesting that a 2km SoCal bike commute for a person whose SO is a bike mechanic is the same thing as Rick Hunter fillet brazing a NAHBS winning frame. There are degrees to everything.

“First, I agree that specialized equipment – breathable fabrics, bike-centric shoes, etc. make the commute experience more comfortable, but disagree that even in the dead of winter that they are “required.” :

I could argue that once someone can hack together a chunk of code that gets the job done or welds some steel tubes together that can be ridden as a bicycle everything else is unnecessary. And frankly that’s where the skill lies…in the perfection and optimization of a task.

My buddy rides a Rick Hunter fillet brazed 29er. I ride a cheap mass produced AL tig welded 29er. Someone else is riding a homemade steel franken 29er made from salvaged pipe. If we all roll down the same street or trail on them then your logic would say they are equivalent and the extra skill/effort of the more refined frames doesn’t really matter.

Blogging is just something I do. I don’t think about it. It’s not hard. Anyone can do it. Yet very few do and many of the ones that try give up after a few weeks of mediocre blogging. I’ve had many friends who got interested in blogging and none that were able to do it. I was a bit shocked since it seemed so simple/obvious to me. I’ve come to realize blogging is a skill. Some folks, like me, just happen to fall into it with the right skill set from other parts of their lives to roll along easily. But, for most people it’s a serious challenge.

Now is what I do on my blog as challenging as building a bike frame? I think so. Not Rick Hunter level challenging, but certainly if my blog was a bike she’d be rideable….=-)

Does it take skill to be a good runner? I mean all you need are feet and you can run. You don’t even need shoes. Yet there are clearly folks that get the most from their natural abilities and others who run that don’t.

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