Replacing Rohloff Hub Oil Seals…

9 05 2013
Leaky Rohloff...

Leaky Rohloff…

The Rohloff IGH in my Surly Big Dummy has been leaking oil for a while. This doesn’t really matter a whole lot as the Rohloff continued to work just fine, but I knew it was something I should sort out. So I collected the parts I needed and specialized Rohloff tools last year and finally got around to making it happen last week.

Most of what I needed...

Most of what I needed…

Here is what you need:

  • Hub oil seals x 2 = #8244
  • Tools for mounting hub seals = #8503
  • Paper gaskets = #8710
  • Loctite = #8347
  • Oil change kit = #8410
  • Sprocket removal tool = #8510
  • Rohloff instruction manual
  • Torx 20 driver
  • 3mm, 5mm & 8mm allen keys
  • large adjustable wrench
  • chain whip
  • paper towel
  • q-tips
  • rubbing alcohol
  • beer x 6
  • music

Before getting started wash your hub/rim/tire and let dry. You don’t want to have chunks of dirt fall into the open hub and it will be nicer to work with a clean wheel.

Axle side oil seal removed...

Axle side oil seal removed…

Like all Rohloff projects I’ve embarked on it was much easier than I had feared, but complicated enough that I ran into a couple glitches. Here are some instructions on how to replace the hub oil seals.

You will also need to read up on:

  • removing/installing the disc brake [assuming you have one]
  • removing/installing the shifting mechanism
  • removing/installing the drive sprocket
  • how to do an oil change

It’s worth reading all the way through so you can be sure you have all the parts and tools you need.

Staying organized...

Staying organized…

I started on the axle side where the shift box attaches. Pulling off the disc brake rotor and the shifting mechanism was easy. The hub oil seal was in pretty tight so it took me a few tries to get it out. It helps that you can destroy it in the process since it’s headed for the bin anyways.

New hub seal...

New hub seal…

With the Rohloff tool installing the new hub seal is dead easy. Just make sure you clean out the old seal mating surface before installing and don’t get crazy with the Loctite around the new seal. You don’t want to contaminate the hub.

Seal installed...

Seal installed…

Once the hub seal is installed just reassemble the axle side of the hub. It’s a bit fiddly so read the instructions first and then tackle it.

Paper gaskets...

Paper gaskets…

It was about this point that I realized I was missing 2 small paper gaskets I needed to reinstall my shift mechanism. I was a bit bummed because I didn’t think I’d be able to source them locally and figured I might be waiting 2 weeks for mail order parts to arrive. Happily I went down to the Fairfield Bicycle Shop and they had exactly what I needed in stock. Awesome! ūüôā

It’s really nice to have a LBS who services Rohloffs in town. If I ever have questions I can talk to them and they carry the parts I need for any projects.

The video above shows how to remove the sprocket from a Rohloff hub. These sprockets are threaded onto the hub and continuously tightened by your pedalling action. So they are a bitch to get off.

I tried....

I tried….

I tried to loosen the sprocket at home, but failed. So I carried the hub down to the kind folks at Cycles West my neighbourhood LBS. They used their bench vice to hold the hub and spin off the sprocket with a chain whip. Thanks guys – you rock! ūüôā

The video above shows how to replace the hub oil seal on the drive side of the hub.

SLX brake parts...

SLX brake parts…

I cleaned the brake rotor with rubbing alcohol to remove any traces of hub oil that may have gotten on to it. I sanded down the pads and then set them ablaze for a while in a pool of rubbing alcohol to clean them up as well. I probably need new pads, but I’m a bit lazy so I’ll use these for now until I get some freshies.

My Big Dummy repair stand... ;)

My Big Dummy repair stand… ūüėČ

With the hub back together I pumped some cleaning solution into it as the first part of an oil change.

The video above explains how to do an oil change.

Time to haul...

Time to haul…

I needed to work the cleaning solution all through the hub so I figured I might as well go get some groceries.

Checking everything out...

Checking everything out…

The ride let me check that the hub was working correctly in case I had goofed something during reassembly. As it turns out the IGH was purring like a kitten! ūüôā

My buddy Steve...

My buddy Steve…

I ran into my buddy Steve so we talked cargo bikes and he checked out the passenger deck.

Fresh oil...

Fresh oil…

Once home I let the dirty oil drain out and then I injected 25ml of the clean stuff and buttoned up the Rohloff.

See you in 5000kms...

See you in 5000kms…

Since my Big Dummy doesn’t see big mileage these days and lives inside I won’t be messing with this Rohloff for a few years.

Ready for summer...

Ready for summer…

Now that I have been through it all once I could replace a set of Rohloff hub seals in 1hr – assuming I had the parts and a bench vice at home. Sadly I’ll probably forget everything I just did by the time I need to do it again! ūüėČ

Big Dummy DIY Tail Wheels…

25 02 2012

Photo: Everyday Adventures Blog

Click on the image above to jump to the Everyday Adventures Blog and read about a DIY tail wheels project for enhanced Surly Big Dummy mobility. Even if you don’t own a Dummy you’ll¬†appreciate¬†how simple and smart this concept is.

Weekend Mash Up…

13 11 2011

Scott, Ben & I...

I had hoped to be surfing this weekend in Tofino, but Sharon’s got ankle & knee injuries from playing squash and I wasn’t motivated enough to spend the $$ to drive up alone. Ben was visiting Victoria so I went out with him and Scott for a few beers while we discussed world domination plans.

Ben and his Surly Big Dummy...

Ben rode his prototype Surly Electric Big Dummy Black Ops Urban¬†Assault¬†rig over to the island with some help from the ferry. He’s got a¬†sweet¬†bike with a Rohloff, e-assist and general awesomeness…=-)

What a sad day!...=(

I rode my Bike Friday NWT to the pub to meet Ben and Scott because it has a dynohub to facilitate lighting up the road. Sadly my 4yr streak of never having a flat on a Greenspeed Scorcher tire came to an end due to a beer bottle shard…=-( These tires have¬†performed¬†extremely well for me over the years and are all I use on my Bike Friday folders, but it was nice being able to proclaim a zero flat record despite so much urban riding. I was too lazy to actually fix the flat so I just pumped the tire back up and rode towards home – repeating that process 3 times until I got to my driveway. I’ll get around to fixing it on a sunny warm day.

Rustproofing my Pugs...

Friday was a rain-fest so I rustproofed my Pugs which was a very very very messy job!

Ben and Aaron at Fairfield Bicycle Shop...

With the weather looking grim I met up with Aaron, Ben and Scott down at Fairfield to get some supplies for my Pugsley rebuild. I must give the Fairfield Bicycle Shop big props for always having all the odd little bits and¬†pieces¬†that are a pain to stock, but vital to my bike needs. This time around they had a set of bearings in stock for my Pug’s 100mm square taper Phil Wood’s BB and installed them for me without hassles. They also had a Shimano 9spd barcon lever so I can complete a missing shifter set I had. Thanks Fairfield you rock!…=-)

Sharon sold her Mini Cooper and wrangled with local Honda dealers for a new CRV.

Goodbye little red buddy!

The Mini was a fun car to drive, but it didn’t really fit our lifestyle all that well or my tall frame for that matter. I called my position in the¬†passenger¬†seat The Praying Mantis…=-)

She looks so nice in white...

The Honda CRV will offer a bit more traction, ground clearance, leg room and cargo space without a punishing fuel bill.

Scott and Sharon trying not to buy any new bike bling at Fairfield...

We had a tasty lunch on Cook St at a Thai place Aaron suggested before heading home to wrench some more on my bikes and settle in for some Netfilx in the PM.

New flaps!

I put some Buddy Flaps mudflaps on my 26″ wheeled Long Haul Trucker which completes the Velo Orange fenders nicely while expressing my pro-pirate sentiments….=-)


Once we got on the pirate tip I had to explain to my cat why parrots riding on a Pirate’s shoulder worked so much better than a cat.


She didn’t believe me so she jumped off my shoulder in disgust and went on a nap-strike. Her “no cuddles for you!” message was received loud and clear.

What would Gary do?

I started the order process for a set of bags for my Surly Pugsley from Scott at Porcelain Rocket. Trouble is he has so many options that I tried to skype with the always fashionable Gary Fisher and get his take on what colours/options would best suit my fat bike. Unfortunately Gary was getting his goatee styled all weekend so he wasn’t available. I may just get on the Devo train and go camo for my bags….not sure yet????

I wish I was there...

This morning I’m drinking my 3rd cup of tea thinking about the beach in Baja while I try to decide if I am going MTBing or if I want to brave the cold water and kiteboard.

Doug & Family’s CETMA Tour of the KVR…

23 10 2011

Doug and Fiona with their CETMA...

Doug is my uber-CETMA riding buddy from Calgary who went on a great tour of the Kettle Valley Railway [KVR] this summer with his wife and two kids. He posted a cool trip report over at the SPOT website that shows his route, has a slideshow and a write up of their trip. Just click on the pic above to jump there.

Doug and family on the KVR...

The Tao of Wow!

19 10 2011

Person, paddle and SUP - all you really need...

Over the years I’ve been exposed to a number of spiritual traditions.

  • My dad is Hindu.
  • My mom is Protestant.
  • I went to a Catholic high school.
  • I practiced yoga daily for over 3yrs when I was younger.
  • I’ve read extensively about¬†Buddhism¬†and other Eastern traditions.
  • And I’ve had friends that came were on many different spiritual paths.

Now that I am in my 40’s I find myself spending less and less time reading books about this topic or going to places where spirituality or religious experience is the focus. Not because I have no interest in that part of my life. In fact as I get older it seems to me that this is the whole point of life – to get a handle on your life and what it means. I’m finding that the most rewarding place to explore the¬†experience¬†of my life and to understand what it means to me is not in a yoga studio or in a temple, but in the everyday moments I live. There is no spiritual guide to help you down this path. Surfing and cycling don’t have a religious dogma to learn or spiritual instructional program. But, there is no reason that you can’t connect with God just as well flying through the air kiteboarding or gliding along in your sea kayak as you can in a yoga studio or church.

In fact I think that engaging in the direct experience of all that life has to offer in these ways has a benefit. Since there is no book, no manual or lexicon your mind is not being channeled down specific paths of thought. Your experience is beyond the bounds and constraints of language. Without words or a set of ideas someone else taught you you can engage with your life on a deeper level.

That lets paddling a SUP become a moving meditation. A consciousness expanding voyage into your reality. An appropriate metaphor when you picture a tiny SUPer floating on a vast ocean.

Your bike can be rolling along on two big prayer wheels as you pedal.

The wave that rises up behind you and pushes you along on your surfboard has travelled from halfway around the planet to interact with you in this one brief moment which makes it easy to appreciate the infinite connections we have with everything else.

Just to be clear I’m not down on churches, yoga studios or any other spiritual tradition. I figure there are so many flavours of humanity out there not everyone is going to get turned on to the same thing. Find what makes you passionate and embrace it.

Ortlieb my secret weapon!

17 08 2011

High visibility black...

I went to collect my mail at my UPS Store mailbox downtown yesterday. The lady who grabbed my parcels knows I usually come on a bike so she was concerned I wouldn’t be able to get two decent sized boxes home without a car. I told her it would be no problem as I shrugged off my large Ortlieb backpack and started loading it up. Once I had both boxes inside I showed her that there was plenty of room left for more!

Boxes are no problem!

The Ortlieb Messenger Bag Pro is designed for professional bike couriers and that pedigree shows when you are stuffing bulky boxes inside or trying to keep large envelopes flat and undamaged. If you are looking for a way to haul stuff on your bike without the hassle of panniers and racks this is a bag worth considering. Especially if carrying bulky items and having a waterproof enclosure are important to you.

RIP Val…

12 08 2011

Sad news….=-(

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…=-)

The right Rohloff for your Big Dummy?

7 05 2011

A Big Dummy love a Rohloff!

This is is a repost from an old blog. I figured it would be useful to have here in case someone was searching for Surly Big Dummy Rohloff information.

One problem with buying a Rohloff hub is that there are a TON of options to navigate if you want to get the right hub. In this post I’ll run through the options to let you know what works and what I chose.


  • available in¬†red, black and silver
  • the anodized cases [black and red] should withstand salt and other elements a bit better than the polished aluminum case
  • cases are now laser engraved. If you see one with a sticker on the hub it is older stock.
  • I chose black for the stealth Big Dummy look
Internal or External Gear Mechanism:
  • the external gear mechanism is a box that attaches to your hub and your cables terminate there
  • this means you can easily detach it for removing the rear wheel
  • cables are run fully covered to the external gear mechanism so they are immune to the elements
  • it is easier to field service the external gear mechanism
  • the trade off is the shifting is slightly less smooth
  • you cannot use disc brakes with the internal gear mechanism
  • I went with the external gear mechanism for the ease of maintenance and so I could use disc brakes.
Disc Brakes:
  • you will need to use the external gear mechanism
  • you will need to specify disc brake use when ordering your hub
  • you will need a¬†Rohloff specific disc rotor
  • you can use a Rohloff disc hub on a rim brake bike as long as you use a rim with a braking surface
  • I went this route as I wanted to use Avid BB7 disc brakes on my Big Dummy
Torque Support:
  • without any torque support the hub will want to spin and will not drive the bike forward
  • you can get a Rohloff with the following torque support options:
  • you need to be sure you get the OEM2 axle plate
Accessories you’ll need:
  • chain tensioner¬†– you’ll need this as the Big Dummy has vertical drop outs. Keep in mind there is a standard and DH version. You want the standard version.
  • Tandem length cables – due to the length of the Big Dummy you’ll need the longer tandem length cables.
  • Rohloff specific disc rotor – you cannot use the rotor supplied with your brakes as it will have the wrong bolt pattern.
Accessories you may want:
  • chain guide¬†– keeps your chain on the front ring
  • oil change kit¬†– you’ll need one of these every 5,000kms so it migt be easiest to buy one or two when you get your hub.
  • Sprockets¬†-all hubs come with a 16T sprocket. You can also get 13T, 15T & 17T sprockets.
Non-Rohloff specific parts you’ll need:
  • 38T or larger front chain ring that will fit on the outside of your cranks – same position as big chain ring on a MTB triple. You want a ~54mmm chain line. This chain ring does not need to be pinned and ramped. You’ll be able to flip it around and use the other side when it wears out.
  • 2 chains – you’ll only use 1 and a bit, but you can save the extra portion and use it dnotw h road. You’ll also be able to flip your chain and rear cog around when things start to wear out and get more miles out of your drive train. I bought two 8 speed SRAM chains as they were cheap.
Rohloff Part Numbers

To make your life easier here are the part numbers you can use to ensure you are getting exactly what you need when you order your Rohloff hub:

  • Silver disc brake CC External Gear Mech OEM hub [specify OEM2] – #8025
  • Red disc brake CC External Gear Mech OEM hub [specify OEM2] – #8026
  • Black disc brake CC External Gear Mech OEM hub [specify OEM2] – #8027
  • Axle plate OEM2 [if you forgot to ask for it like I did and got an OEM hub] – #8227
  • Tandem Length cables – #8267
  • Chain Guide – #8290
  • Avid/Shimano 160mm disc rotor – #8281S
  • Hayes 160mm disc rotor – #8281H
  • Magura 160mm disc rotor – #8280
  • Oil Change Kit – #8410
  • 13T Sprocket – #8219
  • 15T Sprocket – #8220
  • 16T Sprocket – #8221
  • 17T Sprocket – #8222

Velo Orange Polyvalent…

29 04 2011

Velo Orange Polyvalent...

Update: Polys may be in stock later this year. See comment from VO attached to this post.

My Boulder Bicycle All Road is a lovely 650B randonneur frame that’s well priced in terms of quality/function, but it’s not a cheap option for someone who wants to try a low trail 650B bike out. The Velo Orange Polyvalent is a deal at $400.00 for the frame/fork or $595.00 for a kit that adds wheels, seatpost and brakes. One of the local BC randonneurs rides a Poly ¬†and it looks like a lovely bike.

The only issue that concerns me is how to deal with full coverage metal fenders and the forward facing¬†horizontal¬†dropouts? Metal fenders don’t have a lot of give so you’d either have to install them with loads of clearance which may not even be possible using 650B x 42mm tires or letting the air out each time you remove/install the rear wheel. The later option may not be such a hassle seeing as I would be unlikely to remove the rear wheel unless I got a flat or I was¬†overhauling¬†the bike. Hopefully neither would happen frequently.

Pumpkin Polyvalent...

A few Polyvalent notes:

Don’t get too excited about buying one of these frames though. I asked VO when they’d be back in stock and the response was 2012 – that could mean Dec 2012! Rawlands Cycles has a couple frames that may work for your 650B builds. The Drakkar has a 50mm fork offset with 73 deg HT angle and runs only disc brakes with rear facing horizontal dropouts. The rSogn has 63mm of fork offset with 73 deg HT angle and runs rim brakes with vertical dropouts. Both Rawlands frames sell for ~$600.00-$625.00 even better Rawlands has some stock of Drakkars and the rSogn is available in the near future.

Marla Strebs’ CETMA…

21 04 2011

Photo: Baltimore City Paper - click on image to read article...

Cargo bike day…

21 04 2011

Making the GF happy!

Sharon was getting cranky about my vast bottle collection that has been growing since 2010. I was holding out for a few more to justify my cargo bike run, but I decided it was time to get on with it. For loose bulky loads the CETMA is ideal. Just pile everything in it and roll. No boxes, no straps, no hassle – sweet!

Cycling to recycle...

Although the load was bulky it was light and the CETMA made short work of it.

Johnson St Bridge closed for good..=-(

My next bike mission was a multi-errand run into downtown. I didn’t need to ride the Big Dummy, but it’s a fun bike to cruise on and it’s easier to just grab this Surly than load up a lighter duty bike with panniers.

That blue bridge sticking straight up in the air was a key link for me to get from my house into downtown – in fact it was a key link for 4,000 cyclists and 3,000 pedestrians each day. Sadly structural damage has made it unsafe so they raised it and it will never be used again. The good news there is a $80M replacement bridge on its way with dedicated pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure. The bad news is that won’t be ready for 3 years. So for now there is a clumsy detour onto the main bridge deck. This will put cyclists in contact with cars a lot more on this key transportation link. I actually think that will be a good thing despite the minor hassles involved for both parties. Victoria will become very aware of its transportation cyclists.

That buckle should be attached to the bike...

I was disappointed that as I was loading up my Xtracycle Freeloader bags at home a key buckle popped off the bike. The velcro strap attaching it to the frame failed. Given that these bags have seen about a dozen uses since I installed them that’s not good. My old Freeloader bags seemed to be less durable than these new ones, but they never failed me in many years of hard use. In fact I¬†scavenged¬†a velcro strap from the old bags to get these ones back into service. I’ll have to carry a spare strap and hope this is not a sign of things to come. A utility bike has to be reliable or it doesn’t have a lot of utility!

My Surly Big Dummy hanging with his pals...

The Big Dummy was a blast to ride. I have fun overtaking people on a cargo bike and watching them do a double take as I pass…=-) The Rohloff hub is a pleasure to use as are the Porcelain Rocket frame bags my Dummy sports for storing small items.

CETMA Cargo Bike Upgrades…

8 03 2011

Jacking up the CETMA to install a rear fender...

My CETMA cargo rig needed some fenders. I had a set of Planet Bike Cascadia ATB fenders that were not being used. The rear went on with no issue. These fenders are ~60mm wide with loads of room for a 26″ x 50mm Schwalbe Marathon Supreme. The fenders didn’t fit the outline of the tire well, but they bent easily to get a reasonable fit. I won’t be using this bike for a ton of rain riding so fender perfection isn’t important here.

I also added a Brook B17 saddle as I stole the Selle Anatomica Titanico for my rando bike. I don’t need 15hrs+ saddle comfort on a cargo bike. I’ll probably replace this Brooks with a decent plastic saddle by the summer as even the Brooks is overkill for the length of rides I’ll be doing.

Rohloff off!

I took the opportunity to wipe the¬†old¬†girl down and adjust the brakes. I’ve got a front disc brake wheel and Shimano SLX caliper/lever I’ll put on soon. I’ve decided not to bother with a disc on the rear.

Not perfection, but good enough!

The back end of the CETMA is pretty standard so you don’t need anything¬†unusual¬†to get a fender mounted.

Coroplast DIY attempt...

The front of the CETMA Cargo Bike is not¬†standard¬†at all and needs a customized approach. With a Schwalbe Big Apple 20 x 2.35″ tire on there clearances are tight. I figured a DIY coroplast fender in memories of Kent Peterson style might do the trick.

Amazing what you can do with zipties and electrical tape...=-)

My DIY project wasn’t very satisfactory and rubbed on both the tire and the steering stop so I scrapped it.

Power tool upgrade!

For the last 3 or 4 years I’ve been using a battery powered dremel rotary tool to do jobs like cutting off excess metal fenders. It was a pain since the low capacity battery would barely make it through a single fender strut and a recharge was 60mins. That made a simple fender install an all day procedure. So I finally coughed up $20 and got a plug in version. Had I known they were that cheap I would have done so much earlier! It was nice to cut 4 fender struts in under 6mins…=-)

Beggars can't be choosers...

My next move was to try the front PB 26″ fender on the CETMA. It works – sort of. Looks a bit fugly, but at this point I don’t have a better option at hand. I hope Lane at CETMA scopes out a fender for the front end of these that will work with a 2.0″ and/or 2.35″ Big Apple plus disc brakes. It’s one part that is specialized that every owner could use.

Ok for now...

I’m going to live with this for now. I’d have to refit it with a disc caliper so I’ll come up with a better plan by that time.

Time for a test ride...

My GF’s mother is in town so I loaded her up for a ride to Swan Lake for a short hike. We are calling the CETMA the Fox Box to make it sound more appealing to my lady passengers. I gave her the option of the CETMA or the Big Dummy and she said Fox Box all the way…=-)

Hike it up!

The visit to Swan Lake was a success. It’s quite nice there. I think I’ll pack a lunch on less busy days and bike over when summer comes.

Maybe it should be called Duck Lake?

We didn’t see any Swans!

Bikes taking a rest...

Biking to a hike is much more fun than driving.

I wore my high visibility gray bike gear...

Riding with an adult passenger is no problem on the CETMA. The frame is plenty strong and the Rohloff provides a wide range of easily accessed gears.

Cruising back home on the MUP...

Margo the Mini-CETMA…

23 01 2011

Margo the mini-CETMA...

Lane at CETMA has a new smaller lighter faster version of his cargo bike he is calling the Margo. ¬† I don’t have all the details on how it differs from the original CETMA that I have besides being smaller. ¬†I do know that the back end is the same so you could order a Margo front end and have two different cargo bike configurations for way less than the cost of two bikes.

Margo in action!

Margo in Green with the original CETMA in white...

I’ll get the details from Lane about the Margo and post them to this blog. For now just enjoy the cargo bike porn…=-)

Two sizes of platform...

If you don’t haul fridges around and want a more mobile cargo bike the Margo might be a great option. ¬†Lots of room up front for a kid and a week’s worth of shopping.

Is white right or are you green with envy?

I do like the green colour something fierce, but I’m glad I have the bigger rig. ¬†My Big Dummy is a good medium capacity cargo bike while the CETMA takes over when things get stupid heavy.

Same back end as he original now standard with an EBB...

Since I can use the same back end I may have to get me a Margo front sometime and conduct some extensive comparative testing!

Eccentric bottom bracket...

If I had an EBB I could ditch my Rohloff’s chain tensioner…*sigh* next time…


Margo – the same great CETMA flavour – just less filling…=-)

650B or 700c?

6 12 2010

Photo: Chris Richards

I’ve been enjoying the bike porn on the Rene Herse website [such as the fine bicycle above click on the image for many more lovely photos]. Between bikes rides and surf sessions here on the west coast I’ve been pondering a fantasy build of a low cost Boulder Bicycle Randonneur. ¬†Low cost and fantasy build – is that possible? Well I guess lower cost is more appropriate since the Randonneur frame/fork are still ~ $1300…not cheap, but much cheaper than a fully custom Rene Herse.

One detail that I cannot settle in my mind is the choice between 650B or 700c wheels.


  • I have some decent light weight 700c wheels I can put on the frame so my cost is much less
  • I have 700c tires I can use as well
  • My Surly LHT is 700c so I can share wheels, tires fenders between them [ie. only have to build 1 dynohub wheel]
  • I’d use 30mm Grand Bois Cypres tires on a 700c Randonneur which is a proven fast comfy road tire I like
  • If I’m on the road and need to buy spares in an emergency 700c is well supported at LBS
  • can’t use uber wide tires and can’t try out 650B to see what it’s like


  • frame has clearance for tires up to 41mm with fenders for supper comfy fast riding on road or dirt
  • I’d likely start with 35mm Grand Bois tires and see what they are like
  • I’d try 41mm tires depending on how the 35mm tires were or later when I felt like tinkering
  • I’d need to build a custom wheel set incl. a dynohub that wouldn’t work on my other bikes
  • I wouldn’t be able to share wheels. fenders and tires with my LHT
  • If I needed spares away from home I’d have to carry them or get someone to overnight me parts
  • I’d get to tryout 650B which is a wheel size I’d heard lots of good things about

Here are some build ideas I’ve had [PB = already have in my spare parts bin new = need to buy]:

  • drop bars [Salsa Short n’ Shallow] – PB
  • Deore V-brakes – PB
  • Cane Creek drop bar v-brake levers – PB
  • Salsa stem – PB
  • FSA Orbit XL-II headset – new
  • seatpost – new
  • Selle Anatomica Titanico saddle – PB
  • Honjo hammered fenders [always lusted for a set of these] – new
  • 700c wheels Shimano R500 [from previous bike] – PB
  • 700c dynohub wheel built up later in year – new
  • 650B new custom wheels with dynohub – new
  • Grand Boise tires [30mm Cypres if 700c, 35mm if 650B] – new
  • custom front small PR rack from CETMA – new
  • DIY removable coroplast front rack box – new
  • dynohub headlight BM IQ CYO- new
  • Planet Bike Superflash Stealth tailight – PB
  • platform pedals [not sure which ones] – new
  • 1×9 drivetrain from parts bin [not sure exactly what yet]
  • bar end shifter

I had thought that a Shimano Alfine 11 might be a good match for this bike, but I have tried every¬†conceivable¬†way to mount IGH shifters to a drop bar and the only one I like is the JTek bar end shifter. ¬†Unfortunately they don’t make one for the Alfine 11 yet – although that could change. ¬†Based on my experiences with 8 speed IGH drivetrains and my fixed gear bike I think a 9 speed wide range cassette should be fine for this bike as I won’t be riding it with a big load [I won’t even install a rear rack so I am not tempted]. If I end up wanting more gears I can always add a second ring and derailleur up front.

Please do me a favour and don’t bring this post to the attention of the folks at Rene Herse. ¬†If I decide to place an order for one of their frame/forks in 2011 I don’t want them to know what sort of franken-bike it will become. ¬†Gauging¬†by the super sweet looking rigs they show on their website I risk being blacklisted due to my DIY coroplast rack box alone!…=-)~….j/k!


2 12 2010

My LHT hauling wetsuits...

One thing I have learned slowly over the years is that an efficient bicycle is really important if you want to use your bike for transportation and utility. ¬†As a cyclist you have a limited amount of energy to expend riding and if you make poor or uninformed¬†choices¬†you are really limiting how far, how often and how much you can carry when you bike. ¬†People often say they aren’t racing or ride for exercise to justify bikes that are slow and inefficient. ¬†I would argue that even a Sunday recreational cyclist would benefit from a more efficient bike. They could cover more ground for the same energy expenditure and see more of the world from their saddle. ¬†Not only would they get the same workout, but because their bike is easy to ride they might start to think that riding to work or to run some errands is a possibility.

As someone who owns a vehicle as well as rides bikes I can tell you on a busy day driving is tempting sometimes.  One of the factors that is very effective at getting me out on my bike is knowing I have a fast efficient ride in the garage that will make good use of my energy. A bike that can cover a lot of ground quickly and still carry enough stuff to be useful.

Is there that big a difference between bikes? ¬†I haven’t done any experimental studies, but looking at my average speeds on different bikes a 30% differential is easy to achieve and none of my bikes are junkers. ¬†That means the difference between riding 12 miles or 15.6 miles in an hour.

Why are a lot of cyclists buying inefficient bikes?

  • cycling culture is full of¬†erroneous¬†myths such as: stiffer frames are more efficient, narrow high pressure tires are more efficient, tires need to be inflated to max pressure to roll fast, wheels are weak so we need really strong wheels to avoid spoke breakage, etc…
  • many cyclists are insecure about their knowledge of their rides so they figure it’s best to err on the side of caution which equates to heavy, stiff and slow.
  • lack of comparison…the reason I became aware of this topic is not because I’m super smart and worked it all out from basic principles. ¬†I was a belt and suspenders cyclist for sure. What got me thinking I may be wrong was riding different bikes back to back and noticing that some bikes were so much easier to pedal around town at higher speeds than others. ¬†I have the luxury of owning 10 bikes at any given time and trying lots of different setups. Most people don’t and therefore have no point of¬†comparison.
  • Other than racing bikes which aren’t much use for transportation/utility [in general anyways] bike shops and¬†manufacturers¬†don’t sell or market efficient stock bikes very effectively.

What makes a bike inefficient?

  • slow heavy stiff tires
  • poorly inflated tires
  • overly stiff and/or heavy frame/forks
  • poorly fitting or laid back riding positions
  • heavy wheels
  • poorly maintained wheels/drivetrain/brakes
  • excess unnecessary accessories/tools/spares

Don’t assume that I mean everyone should ride road racing bikes or that I’m a weight weenie that¬†obsesses¬†about each gram on a bike. ¬†If you look at my bikes it’s clear that’s not the case – however – just because you aren’t counting grams doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t care about bike weight or what tires you are running.

Let’s look at my Surly Long Haul Trucker. ¬†It’s my oldest bike and it has survived many waves of change in my bike fleet for 3 reasons: 1) it’s comfortable 2) it’s practical [fenders, racks and some decent cargo capacity] and 3) it’s relatively efficient.

The mighty Trucker...

What makes the LHT efficient?

  • comfortable riding position that allows me to generate good power
  • aero position on drops to allow me to deal with headwinds
  • medium duty wheels [32H LX hubs with Mavic CXP 33 rims] are strong enough for touring and cargo, but not excessively heavy.
  • strong, but light OMM racks – best of both worlds
  • medium duty frame for a touring bike
  • practical trekking crank with wide range cassette
  • reasonably fast touring tires inflated to an optimal pressure
  • bike is well tuned and maintained
  • I carry minimal tools, spare parts and locks appropriate to the needs of a specific ride

As you can see the LHT is not an anorexic carbon road bike.  She has dual racks, fenders, a sprung leather saddle, sensible wheels and tires, a mirror, practical pedals, etc..

How I could have wrecked my LHT’s efficiency?

  • installed flat MTB bars with no aero position
  • built up some bombproof touring wheels with heavy duty hubs, spokes and rims
  • installed heavy touring racks [ie. Surly Nice racks]
  • used slow heavy flatproof tires [ie. Marathon Plus]
  • inflated my tires to max rated pressure
  • add 15lbs of tools, locks and accessories to my LHT and carry them all the time
  • not maintained my bike well

The same bike can be fairly easily converted from efficient to slow and ponderous.

My LHT on a light tour...

My current setup lets me ride at 30kph unloaded without strain and I can carry a week’s worth of groceries or tour across the continent. ¬†However, there is room for improvement – I will be¬†replacing my Marathon XR tires with Grand Bois Cypres 700c x 30mm tires which are the fastest most comfy 700c tires I’ve found. ¬†That should give me a significant speed boost and I can always swap the XRs back in for a tour that features a lot of tire eating debris.

Efficiency¬†isn’t¬†everything¬†though. ¬†You’ll notice I’m not pulling the front rack, fenders or the sprung leather saddle to save weight. ¬†I’m not trying to use lighter wheels. ¬†Doing these things would compromise the functionality of my LHT and that’s not a good trade off. ¬†In fact I’ll be adding a dynohub and headlight to my LHT which will mean a slight extra bit of drag and some extra weight. ¬†However, having a bike that’s ready to roll day or night with zero thought is worth those trade offs.

How to make your bike more efficient?

How to buy an efficient bike?

  • be honest with yourself about your needs. Don’t buy a bike designed to carry an expedition load if you are rarely if ever going to do that.
  • test ride several different models and use a watch or GPS to work out how fast you are going on similar terrain
  • be critical about everything you buy for your bike…don’t buy the heaviest expedition racks if you really don’t need them, if you need touring racks be aware that there are strong light racks available not just strong heavy ones.
  • you don’t need a heavy duty wheel set to have reliable wheels…getting a pro bike mechanic to tension your wheels is far more important than having 40 spokes or expedition touring rims
  • stock bike tires are typically slow – swap them out immediately and sell them or save them for some other use
  • make sure you get fit properly on your new bike so that your body can generate power for you
  • don’t buy the stiffest frame you can because you think you’ll be faster…you won’t be

Anna rocking along on her speedy LHT...

Up to now I have been equating efficiency with practical things like speed and range. ¬†These are good reasons to have an efficient bike, but there is one even better reason – joy! ¬†A bike that responds easily to every pedal stroke…that leaps away from each red light…that is easy to flick around when you are negotiating obstacles puts a huge smile on my face. ¬†I ride faster on my efficient bikes not just because they turn my body’s leg power into speed with little loss, but also because it’s such a great feeling to have a bike respond to my inputs so readily. ¬†I want to feel more and more of that so I pedal faster and faster. ¬†Not only do I arrive at my destination more quickly I don’t feel the exertion is as taxing simply because I’m so enthusiastic about how my bike rides.

What about the Dummy?

You might be reading this and thinking aren’t you the same guy that rides a Surly Big Dummy cargo bike? ¬†Isn’t that a heavy duty beast that is breaking all the rules I outlined above? ¬†Yes and no. ¬†Firstly I would suggest that for a cargo bike my Big Dummy is efficient. ¬†It doesn’t feature anything excessively heavy duty for the missions it undertakes and it has proven to be suitable for long rides and at reasonable speeds – again given the fact it can carry a passenger or 200lbs of cargo. ¬†I would also note that by having multiple bikes it’s possible to have specialized rigs that address a particular need without compromising the rest of my riding. ¬†I can ride my LHT when I don’t need a ton of hauling capacity and grab my Big Dummy when it’s time to move a bigger load.

Could I get by with just the Big Dummy as my only bike? ¬†Sure. ¬†I could commute with it, tour with it, carry cargo and do fun rides. ¬†The difference would be that the Dummy can’t cover as much ground as my LHT in a given period of time and it’s not as much fun to ride unloaded as my LHT. ¬†So some days I might drive to get stuff done¬†because¬†I don’t have time to ride the Dummy or I simply have to do less that day if I am riding since I can’t get around as easily. It might mean a long commute to work wasn’t feasible or that I would have to get up earlier and come home later from work to ride the Dummy.

Surly Big Dummy Frame Bag #2

1 12 2010

My Big Dummy with a new Porcelain Rocket frame bag...

I’ve been using my triangular Porcelain Rocket Big Dummy frame bag [lower bag in photo above] since April and loving it. ¬†It fits my bike perfectly and provides a very useful amount of storage for smaller items I want to grab during the ride. ¬†The obvious question is do I really need more storage on a cargo bike? ¬†The answer is yes – for small items. ¬†The back end of a Big Dummy will swallow a huge box and another bicycle at the same time or 200lbs of dog food, but it’s not a great place to try and keep your cellphone, wallet and snacks.

Porcelain Rocket frame bag porn...

The new frame bag Scott [the man behind Porcelain Rocket] made for me attaches on top of the Big Dummy’s chainstays and only about half is visible when mounted. ¬†Looking at the photo above the left half of the bag is actually out of sight under the Xtracycle deck and the bag is internally divided in half. ¬†This gives you some semi-secret storage for valuable items or stuff you don’t need often. ¬†I’ll be using this¬†hidden¬†storage for tools, tubes, a $20 emergency bill and my Pinhead¬†locking¬†QR key. ¬†The upper compartment [to the right above] is a great place to stash stuff like a windbreaker, gloves, energy bars, etc…

A fully bagged Surly Big Dummy...

The bag mounts in seconds with generous velcro straps and fits the Dummy perfectly.  It looks like it belongs there and makes great use of otherwise wasted empty frame space without affecting my access to the cargo end of the bike.  The rear water bottle cage mounts are not obscured so you can carry a bottle back there.  My Big Dummy can still carry 3 water bottles with only the middle cage mount obscured by my triangular Porcelain Rocket frame bag.

Top notch construction...

Scott is a highly skilled craftsman and this bag exudes quality and robustness. It matches the lower frame bag perfectly using burly ripstop nylon and waterproof zippers with red pulls for a touch of flare. ¬†My previous bag looks like new after 7 months and I expect this bag will last as long as my Big Dummy is rolling. ¬†The fabric is waterproof as are the zippers. ¬†The bag ins’t¬†seam sealed¬†so in an extended downpour it might let some water in at the¬†stitching. ¬†The triangular bag hasn’t leaked yet, but it is a bit more protected from rain my the frame. ¬†I’m going to see what happens and if I get any water inside I’ll take the 30 minutes necessary to apply some seam sealant.

A peek inside...

The interior features a yellow lining so you can find stuff easily and a rigid plastic frame sheet for stiffness. There is a small mesh pocket on the right side of the bag to keep keys and coins from getting lost. The bag has an interior divider to keep the upper and lower contents separate.  The elastic loop on top will accept many brands of small pumps.

Upper velcro straps...

From the images above and below you can see that this bag isn’t going anywhere. ¬†The 3 underside velcro straps take some effort to¬†located¬†and undo which should stop a lazy snatch and grab thief. ¬†So far nobody has messed with my¬†triangular¬†frame bag on this bike when I have left it unattended.

Lower velcro straps under bag...

As you can tell I’m pretty stoked to have this new bag for my Big Dummy. ¬†I’m a fan of high quality gear and getting something custom made for my bikes is a real treat.

The business end of my Dummy...

Scott does fully custom bike bags so no matter what make/model of bike you ride or what your needs are he can make something beautiful and functional for you.  Contact him through his Porcelain Rocket website.


29 11 2010

I must have been thinking ahead to 2011!

Every year I have at least one project bike and try out some new gear that’s been on my mind. ¬†My main focus for 2011 will be to upgrade and improve my existing rides. ¬†Here is what I am thinking of for 2011:

  • I’m going to put some energy into learning to unicycle. ¬†Paul lent me a couple unis to try out. ¬†I haven’t got to the point where I’m for sure going to take this up, but I should know by the end of 2010. ¬†If I do I’ll score a uni for myself.
  • Sharon has realized that although her cruiser/city bike is nice to look at she needs a more efficient ride if she is to cover a lot of kms riding to work and for errands. ¬†So I’m going to build her a Surly Cross Check [in Robin’s Egg Blue] using the main parts from her cruiser. ¬†The more aggressive riding position and option to go with drops should be useful while still ending up with a nice looking ride. ¬†Assuming she loves it I’m thinking of adding a dynohub wheel and headlight in the fall of 2011 for her birthday as her commutes to work start getting darker.
  • We’ll save Sharon’s city bike frame and any parts we don’t swap over to build up a SS Burning Man bike for 2012 when we head to the playa again.
  • My trusty Surly LHT is going to get a dynohub and dyno headlight for 24/7 light action. ¬†I’ve really enjoyed the dyno setup on my Bike Friday NWT and it’s time to give my LHT the same treatment. ¬†I’ll use a Shimano dynohub, but haven’t settled on a headlight yet. ¬†My LHT will also get some smooth fast rolling Grand Bois Cypres tires. ¬†I’ve been waiting until the existing Marathon ¬†XRs wear out, but that is taking forever so I’ll pull them and save them for when I need a heavier tire on a tour. ¬†If I get really into it I’d like a bigger/longer mudflap on my LHT, but that would be a luxury…the existing one is adequate.
  • My Surly Big Dummy will get a dynohub [a 26″ Shimano dynohub wheel I used on my Thorn Nomad] as well as a dyno headlight. Not sure about the headlight yet. ¬†I’m thinking I’ll probably get an uber nice one for the LHT and a nice, but reasonably priced one for the Dummy. I can always swap them if I need a killer light on the Dummy. ¬†I’ll probably swap the Jones Loop H-bar into the Dummy to test it out.
  • My CETMA cargo bike will get a¬†hydraulic¬†disc brake on the front wheel to address the spongy brake action caused the long convoluted cable run. I still haven’t mounted fenders so that has to happen and I think, given the short rides I do with it, I’ll mount a less expensive SDG saddle and save the Selle Anatomica for a rig that sees bigger distances. ¬†I’m considering pulling the Rohloff hub from the CETMA and replacing it with a cheaper Nuvinci IGH. ¬†I feel like the Rohloff is kind of wasted in that bike and I’ve been interested in the Nuvinci so this would be a good opporttunity to try one out in an application where the smaller gear range and higher weight isn’t an issue.
  • My Bike Friday NWT will get some full coverage Planet Bike Fenders and some¬†fresh¬†white bar tape. If Solidlights is still doing the XB2 light upgrade I may send my Solidlights dyno light back to the UK to get the upgrade from brighter LEDs and a focused optic.
  • My Pugsley needs a saddle [I stole the Selle Anatomica for the CETMA from my Pug]. ¬†Rather than put the SA back on I’ll replace it with SDG plastic saddle unless I take it on tour where the SA would be appreciated. ¬†I’d also like to swap in some MTB riser bars from my spare parts bin for the Titec H-bars to get a better relationship between the brake levers and the shifter/grips. ¬†Right now I can’t have my hand on the grips fully while braking which is a problem in technical terrain. ¬†I have a set of Surly Larry knobby 4″ tires I will be installing on the Pugsely in 2011 to improve traction in the wet.
  • My Bike Friday 8spd Tikit has a new stem riser waiting on installation. ¬†The new one piece unit replaces the previous separate stem and steering riser combo. ¬†I’ve got to replace the whole drivetrain on this bike since it hasn’t seen any love since new. ¬†It also needs a new set of Greenspeed Scorcher TRs.
  • I’d like to get a tour of Vancouver Island in this spring…from Port Hardy back down to Victoria.
  • I’d like to fit in more mountain biking. ¬†Kiteboarding dominates my summer weekends, but I can fit more mountain bike rides in during the week.

There is also some stuff that I’m less certain about that is bouncing around my brain. ¬†These items may not happen, but who knows?

  • Getting a tandem. ¬†I’m continuing to do research and will hopefully get some test rides in over the next few months to confirm our interest in riding on the same bike. I’ve got a few possibilities on paper right now, but nothing that is so compelling I’d rule out other options.
  • Alfine 11 – I’d like to try one out, but I haven’t got a solid idea of where I might use one.
  • Carbon belt – I’d like to try out a carbon belt drive at some point. ¬†I’m not 100% sold on them, but without trying one it’s hard to speak about the benefits vs. a chain.
  • Trying out a BQ approved 650B rando style bike. ¬†I’m curious if I’ll come to the same conclusions as Jan Heine and the only way to know is to try one. I’m not ready to spend top of the line custom $$ on one so I’d be looking at something that’s in production like the Boulder Cycles Randonneur.
  • I’m contemplating riding some more brevets this year…if I do it will be just the shorter ones [100K, 200K and 300K]. ¬†I’ve got to find my love of long solo¬†training¬†road rides. ¬† I’ve also done all my previous brevets on a recumbent. ¬†I don’t own a bent and I don’t see one in my immediate future so I’d probably press my Surly LHT or BBC 24 into service.
  • I’m considering building a bike storage area in my yard to free up garage space. ¬†It would be a concrete pad with eye bolts sunken into the pad for locking points. ¬†It would have a roof, but not be fully enclosed. ¬†I’d lock up my more sturdy bikes there [like my Surly Big Dummy] giving me more room in the garage and also making getting rolling on these bikes faster.
  • I may get rid of one of my two fixed gear bikes to free up some space. ¬†I love the fixed gear experience, but one bike would meet all my needs.

The beauty of being prepared…

21 11 2010

Ready to roll...

I would love to tell you I never drive when I could bike, but that’s not true. ¬†I do bike a lot, but there are times like last night when I’m tired, it’s dark and cold out, rain is likely and I need to run out to get something from the grocery store. ¬†Do I jump into my truck or do I ride?

It was a close call.  I ended up riding my Bike Friday NWT because:

  • it’s a bike I am stoked about
  • it fits me well
  • I can wear any shoes with it
  • it has fenders and racks
  • it has a dynohub and light that never needs charging
  • it has two tailights on it that rarely need batteries so one will always be working
  • it gets ridden enough that I know it’s tuned well and the tires have enough air
  • I keep grocery panniers by the door
  • I keep bike locks by the door
  • I keep all my bike/outdoor clothing organized so that grabbing the right gear takes little though and is fast
  • I have spares so that when two pairs of fleece gloves are in the laundry from a wet bike tour I can pull out a ratty 6yr old pair and keep rolling
  • I have bike¬†friendly¬†routes planned to all my usual destinations
  • I have safe spots to lock my bikes at all my usual destinations
  • I remind myself that biking is good for me and I’ll be glad I rode

When you look at that list it starts to become obvious that you don’t end up riding a bike by accident. ¬†If I had to look for some charged batteries and swap a light over from another bike then look for my SPD bike shoes and search for a pair of gloves to wear and then I couldn’t remember where the grocery panniers got put away I might just say screw it and drive. ¬†However, because at every turn when I have to make something happen it’s easy then I don’t get deflected from my goal to ride.

If you want to ride your bike next week you need to start putting the pieces together today.

Be prepared…

14 11 2010

Getting a little carried away...

One of the first things I do with most of my bikes is to fit front and rear racks.  When you have a couple dedicated cargo bikes it may seem excessive to have dual racks on so many bikes.  The thing is I tend to get carried away when I run my errands and with racks on your bikes as well as a few straps you can turn any bike into a hauler on short notice.

Small wheel - big load...

I also take a perverse pleasure collecting things along my ride and having people exclaim “…you can’t carry that on your little bike…” just to have me prove them wrong…=-)

Xtracycle Freeloaders [2010] and Flight Deck…

2 11 2010

My baby's got bling...

My Surly Big Dummy is one of my favourite bikes. ¬†It has not seen the kind of love it deserves from me. ¬†I ride it and put it away – wet, dirty, unmaintained. ¬†*sigh* ¬†=-( ¬†Well I decided to upgrade my Big Dummy a bit to show it that I care. Putting a kickstand a few days ago was step one. ¬†Then I went all out replacing the ratty Xtracycle Freeloader bags with a new set of the 2010 version. ¬†Not stopping there I also replaced the beat up Snap Deck with a 2010 Flight Deck. ¬†I don’t think my Big Dummy knew what hit it.


Here  is a rare naked shot of the rear of my Big Dummy.  I contemplated cleaning the filthy parts that were exposed for the first time in years, but the lazy side of me decided since I was just going to cover everything up again so why bother?!

Freeloaders buckle on...

The new Freeloaders buckle on. ¬†This works just fine. ¬†It makes them a bit¬†easier¬†to steal, but you’d have to know your way around an Xtracycle to know how to get them off.

I had to DIY the lower bag straps...

The lower bag straps [front and rear] are designed to work with the newer Big Dummy/Freeradical design that has some bolt on attachment points that mate with the plastic buckle shown above. ¬†My Big Dummy was one of the first made and it doesn’t have this feature so I used some zipties to DIY the buckles to my frame. ¬†This works fine and I don’t really see any need for quick or frequent removal of these bags – unless you are stealing them!

Big Dummy bagged...

The new Freeloaders are made of tougher waterproof material compared to the previous version. ¬†The quality of construction is excellent and the design remains similar which means they are still very functional. ¬†There is a large inner¬†pocket¬†in each bag that I use to store my tie down straps,Long Loader,¬†Footsies, Wideloaders, etc.. ¬†My only complaint with these bags is they are not available in black or woodland camo to go with my MASH 4077 theme. ¬†The grey colour I went with isn’t bad and you can also get them in blue and a burnt red colour.

Flight Deck upside down showing Super Hooks...

The 2010 Flight Deck is made of heavy duty plastic.  It comes with a set of Super Hooks.  Why are they super?  Well when tightened down they actually hold your deck to the bike without extra straps.  The old Snap Deck would pop off at the slightest bump unless you strapped it down.

New and old decks...

The Flight Deck bolts on easily and looks nice. ¬†It has handles at both ends which is useful for a passenger if your bike [like mine] doesn’t sport stoker bars. ¬†It has lots of holes pre-drilled so you can mount a kid’s seat securely or any other DIY project you have in mind. ¬†It should be a lot more¬†durable¬†than the wooden Snap Deck it replaces. ¬†It is also very secure once installed.

My Big Dummy looking spiffy...

Overall I’m quite pleased with both products. ¬†They represent clear upgrades to the items they replace. ¬†While not cheap they seem to be worth the asking price and should deliver years of service.

Good job Xtracycle!

PS – let me know when we can get the Freeloaders in woodland camo…=-)

PPS – I also finally took care of the awful bar tape on my Dummy’s H-bars. ¬†I can park my Dummy with other bikes and not be ashamed!

The best $7 I ever spent…

31 10 2010


Holding up a full touring load in the mud...

This $7 aluminum kickstand should have broken a long time a go. ¬†It shouldn’t be as useful as it is.

My amazing silver buddy is back for [hopefully] several more years of bike holding up service. ¬†After talking it off to try the Xtracycle Kickback¬†center-stand I used my Surly Big Dummy without a stand for a month or so. ¬†Until I put my¬†trusty¬†kickstand back on recently. ¬†It really is handy to be able to stand your bike without leaning it against something or laying it down. ¬†It’s also really handy to be able to swap in your Xtracycle attachements with a stand to hold up your bike rather than a stand that not only doesn’t hold up your bike it gets in the way.

I'm back!

Testing out lots of gear can sometimes be a PITA and can definitely be expensive, but one thing it does for sure is let you know what works and what doesn’t. ¬†Back to back¬†comparisons¬†don’t lie. I put this stand on my Big Dummy when I built it up as a stop gap measure until I got something better. ¬†As it turns out it has been a rock star bit of gear from me.

I didn’t fully appreciate this stand back when I installed it, but now I can’t give it enough praise.

Thanks little buddy!

Sup? No Problemo!

Bike Locking Case #1

28 10 2010

My Big Dummy locked during a coffee stop...

I use lots of different locking strategies with my bikes depending on the¬†circumstances¬†of each situation. ¬†I tend to be lazy so I carry and use as little locking equipment as I feel I can get away with. ¬†I haven’t had a bike stolen in years so I must be using¬†reasonable¬†precautions. ¬†I’ll be sharing my thoughts on specific locking situations over the next month or two.

In the photos above/below I was riding my Big Dummy around town picking up and dropping off various items in a big To Do List push. ¬†I stopped at a cafe for an¬†espresso¬†and muffin. ¬†Since I was only going to be inside for a few minutes I decided to just lock the frame to a¬†metal¬†railing next to the cafe. My wheels weren’t locked and the rear is a $1500+ Rohloff so that could be expensive, but trying to get the rear wheel out of a Big Dummy is a PITA if you know what you are doing because of the Xtracycle bags. ¬†I didn’t think anyone would even notice there was an expensive hub on the bike, care about a Rohloff and then go to the trouble of trying to steal it.

If I was going to leave the bike for a longer period I’d add in a heavy duty cable through both wheels that joins up with the chain lock. ¬†That would be reasonably secure given the threat in Victoria BC for bike theft. ¬†Someone could still steal my Brooks saddle or other components, but at least the bike itself would be secure.

Kryptonite chain and padlock...

One thing you can’t see in this picture is that there is a patio full of coffee drinkers sitting in view of the bike who saw me ride up on it and walk inside. ¬†I’m confident that if anyone tried messing with my bike someone would make a fuss on my behalf – especially in a bike friendly town like this.


Grocery Run…

20 10 2010

Only two panniers?

I took a quick run to the grocery store yesterday. ¬†I was supposed to just grab a few things for lunch and dinner, but I’m so used to riding a cargo bike that I kept adding more and more large items to the cart. ¬†I was getting a bit concerned as I packed my panniers at the checkout that I might have to sling some bags over my bars. ¬†Luckily I just got everything to fit.

It’s pretty funny when a touring bike feels puny!…=-)

CETMA Light Upgrade

16 10 2010

Thorn Accessory Bar...

My bikes are, for the most part, all weather day/night machines. ¬†Mounting a taillight to my CETMA cargo bike was no problem. I used one of the Radbot lights I reviewed a few weeks ago. ¬†a front light was a bit more hassle. ¬†Putting a light on the bar didn’t work very well as the cargo box and passenger [if I had one] got in the way. ¬†So I mounted a Thorn Accessory Bar I had in my spares bin above the front wheel.

Wheel's eye view...

This worked great. ¬†There is room for two Dinotte 200L-AA lights or just about any other bike headlight that attaches to a handle bar. ¬†The mount is very secure and doesn’t get in the way when I don’t need to use it. ¬†You can of course achieve the same effect with an old stem and a cut down section of handlebar.

Ladies can't resist a well lit cargo bike...

Dual Dinotte LED lights provide a ton of light up front. I added a some battery powered glowstix for some bling. ¬†The CETMA was a total chick magnet…=-)

CETMA lighting in full effect...

Longloader 101

11 10 2010

Tanya and her shelving unit...

Sorry for the lack of posts….=-(¬† I have been and still am super busy in the far north!

Tanya needed a shelving unit picked up recently so I rode over on my Surly Big Dummy and strapped it on using a Xtracycle Longloader and a Wideloader to keep the front end of the box away from my left leg so I could pedal normally.¬† This works great and they are the same accessories I use when hauling a bike box or a SUP on my Big Dummy…very handy.

Room to pedal!

I keep my Wideloaders, Longloader and a bunch of tie down straps in the pockets of my Freeloader bags so I am always ready to roll on a cargo mission.  I keep a set of Footsies in there as well so I can collect passengers along the way!

CETMA Bar Swap

26 09 2010

CETMA sporting KORE riser bar...

I didn’t love the swept back city bars I tried on my first¬†iteration¬†of my CETMA cargo bike build. I felt like I wanted a wider bar for more leverage so I grabbed a KORE mountain bike riser bar I had kicking around. ¬†The install was super easy and I definitely like these bars better.

Old and the new bars...

I was¬†surprised¬†to find out the swept back bars were actually wider then the new bars. ¬†I guess wider was not what I was after…the difference in sweep must have made more difference than I had expected.

Ergon Rohloff Avid happiness...

So far so good. ¬†I’ll keep the KORE bars and given them a good test run.

Goodbye Sexy!

15 09 2010

I love the curve!

Gone is that sexy curved top tube on the Big Dummy…=-( ¬†The new version is no less practical and probably cheaper to manufacture, but not nearly as nice to look at. ¬†I’m glad my green beast is in good shape for many more years of cargo biking and other heavy duty mischief!

Straight edge!

Surly sez:

“No more swoopy top tube (come on, get over it.) New straight top tube increases torsional stiffness, reduces weight (a little), and is theoretically stronger. Standover is about the same.

New spec brings complete bike price down ‚Äď Deore, Truvativ, etc ‚Äď still Surly approved for durability.

Frameset MSRP: $950  Complete bike MSRP: $1840

ETA: Frames November, Bikes December”