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.