Jan
19
2012

Build a Bike or Buy a Bike?

This is a question that gets asked quite a bit on the internet and in bike shops. There’s nothing wrong with building a bike, just know that it will almost ALWAYS be more expensive than buying a bike. I learned this first hand yesterday when I put together a spreadsheet for a mountain touring 29er build. I had an idea that I could build a “poor man’s” Salsa Fargo 2-ish clone. After about 20 minutes it became clear, that even after choosing a frame/fork that costs $300 less, and using lower spec components, that my “poor man’s” build was just as expensive as buying a complete Fargo 2 and resulted in less bike for the same price. For the record, I’m talking new builds and wholesale cost in both cases, not retail.

So what do you do if you want a semi-custom build? My recommendation would be to find the closest stock build you can, pull parts you don’t want immediately, sell them to your friends or on eBay and then buy the parts you want to customize.

Jan
14
2012

Bicycle Times & Dirt Rag Magazine

Just a short post to drop some props on Bicycle Times & Dirt Rag magazine. Two great publications, the former being my favorite for plain clothes cyclists like myself. Also a thanks to both as I won a Minewt 600 light in their 2011 year end sweepstakes. My favorite 2011 article would have to be the “Touring with the Family” article in Issue 13 covering one family’s journey on the 335 mile C&O Towpath / Greater Allegheny Passage trail that runs between Pittsburgh, PA and Washington D.C. I hope to ride this trail in 2012, planning to build a mountain touring rigid 29′er for the journey.

Jan
6
2012

Cygolite Hotshot 2 watt rechargeable rear bicycle light

It’s not often I talk about specific products in a review style manner. This one however, deserves some attention. We got Cygolite’s Hotshot rechargeable rear light in the shop and it’s fantastic. First of all, rechargeable. I’ve been rocking rechargeable front lights for 5+ years now. No more batteries! Second, standard Mini USB type B connector cable to re-charge from a wall brick, computer, USB solar panel, auxiliary USB battery pack or 12v socket. Your typical techie has several Mini USB cables lying around at any given time. Third, TWO WATTS (bright!). Fourth, adjustable flash rate (in flashing modes) and brightness (in always on mode). Fifth, super dim setting offers up to 500 hours, FIVE HUNDRED HOURS! of light for emergency lighting, map reading, etc *and* since it’s red it preserves night vision. Sixth, only $10 more than a Planet Bike Superflash Turbo. Seventh, do you really need any more reasons to check it out?

Oct
11
2011

Stop Driving, Start Pedaling; a response to GM

Bike vs. Car

Bike vs. Car

I own a motor vehicle, though certainly not a GM. I use it regularly, more than I’d care to. However, there’s no reason for any company or individual to imply that riding a bike is embarrassing in any way. Bicycles are way cooler than motor vehicles. Though the title of this post may imply that one should go car free, that’s not what I’m advocating. I advocate choosing the bicycle when possible, and taking steps towards making it easier to choose the bicycle more often. There are many benefits to riding a bicycle that a motor vehicle cannot afford. Find them using Google. Also, recent statistics show that the number of bicyclists is increasing. Sadly, there are many factors that hinder choosing the bicycle such as our car-centric culture/infrastructure, and unfortunately, the marketing efforts of GM and other companies/individuals that hate on the bicycle. This needs to stop!

Sep
19
2011

Interbike 2011 Recap

A great time, once again. Judging by the swag, bicycle companies had a better year. SRAM probably gave away $10,000 worth of product including 4 top of the line full mountain component kits, a handful of their new 15xx gram 29′er suspension forks, bunches of carbon handlebars and countless hats, t-shirts, etc. Best beer goes to Nuun for pouring Rogue Dead Guy. Two things that stood out: The amount of carbon fiber has increased significantly, and utilitarian cycling is becoming more of a market segment. Bike-packing / mountain touring is a growing niche. POC offers a fluorescent yellow version of their Trabec for 2012 and I have a weak spot for fluorescent colors. Electric assisted bicycles made a bigger showing this year and the electric bike test track seemed to be a crowd pleaser. One company showed a small electric powered trailer that hooks up to any bike in mere minutes, offered decent speed/range and even provided cargo space in the trailer as the battery/motor only occupied about 1/3 of the volume. 20 gram co2 cartridges have hit the market. I have enough chain lube samples to last me another year. The new Specialized Purist water bottle with the Watergate valve is nice, perfect high flow bottle for the desert heat. Cygolite displayed a 10,000 lumen light straight out of their R&D department. Props to Fuji for bringing back a classic steel line, complete with vintage logos. This year’s World Bicycle Relief number is 87,265 and one of these days I’m going to get a Seersucker bike rack just because they’re mounted with big ass suction cups.

Jul
29
2011

The “modified” Sheldon Brown Bike Locking Strategy

Sheldon Brown’s Lock Strategy is often referred to as a preferred method for ease and security. It involves using a mini u-lock to lock the rear wheel to a bike rack between the rear triangle of the bike frame. This accomplishes two things, it secures the rear wheel (2nd most expensive part of the bike) and the frame cannot be stolen unless the rear wheel is completely sawed through. See Sheldon’s page for detail.

In real world situations I’d say it’s not likely a thief is going to saw through your rear wheel, but as this Youtube video shows, it can be done quite quickly. My main gripe about his method is that visually, it doesn’t look as secure as it could.

Lastly, Sheldon’s method does not secure the front wheel. This isn’t a significant issue if your front wheel is bolt on, but most bikes these days use quick release wheels. Sheldon’s method leaves your front wheel vulnerable.

As such, this is my modification of the Sheldon Brown Locking Strategy.

Modified Sheldon Brown Lock Strategy

Modified Sheldon Brown Lock Strategy

This shows an OnGuard mini u-lock securing the rear wheel and frame (via one chain stay). The front wheel is secured using a 4′ accessory cable. It is locked to a 2″ pipe, the same diameter tubing used for most bike racks. If you lock your bike like this, chances are it’s going to be the most securely locked bike on the rack. Now, cables can be cut using a hand tool in less than 30 seconds, but I feel comfortable saying that many thieves will not cut a cable just to steal a front wheel, unless your front wheel is really nice. If it is, I suggest an additional u-lock for the front wheel. Alternatively you can purchase a long shackle u-lock, remove the front wheel if quick release, and place it next to the rear wheel and secure it with the u-lock. The Kryptonite Evo lock is also very popular. If you plan to carry an additional u-lock for the front wheel and weight is a concern, consider the lightweight Palmy u-lock.

To prevent quick release seat theft, remove the seat from the bike and thread the cable coming from the front wheel through the seat rail before looping it into the u-lock. Alternatively, affix a seat leash.

Jul
21
2011

ASU about to shaft College Avenue bicyclists?

Word on the street is that redevelopment of the large ASU owned parcel on College Avenue between 5th Street and University Drive, includes elevation plans that show complete REMOVAL of bike lanes from College Avenue running the entire stretch between 5th Street and University (the north end campus entrance).

Approval of these plans by Tempe would be a major blow to the horde of cyclists, many of which are students, that use College Avenue to access ASU campus after de-boarding the METRO light rail at 5th and College. This outright removal of bicycle infrastructure contradicts the Bicycle Friendly Community designation Tempe has held for many years. The city is listed as a Silver Level Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC) by the League of American Bicyclists.

To add insult to injury, there’s talk of ASU placing signage requiring bicyclists to dismount at the entrance to campus at College/University and walk their bicycle, but it is unclear whether this means a ban of cycling on the ASU Mall and if so, whether it would only be the main North/South Mall, the East/West walkways as well, or all pedestrian areas campus-wide?

I’ll be presenting this to the Tempe Bicycle Action Group board for immediate advocacy action.

Jul
10
2011

What kind of bicycle tools do I need?

I see this question posed on various bicycle related sites on a regular basis. I have answered it more than once. Therefore, I decided to put together a document which provides a comprehensive listing of tools based on “must have”, “nice to have” and categorized by type of work needing to be performed.

Bike Tool Recommendations [PDF]

Jun
24
2011

POC Trabec Helmet Review

Received my POC Trabec helmet the other day. Fits as comfortable as I recall it fitting at Interbike. Had a short ride with it in 100 degree heat and I’m quite happy with it. A friend had mentioned it doesn’t look like it’s very well vented, but I find it to be vented adequately. As you can see in the last picture there are three channels that run front to back. The channels on each side of the center are ventilated by two vents hidden under the visor. The center channel is ventilated by the vent directly above the visor.

On the scale, my Medium/Large helmet weighs 344 grams with the visor and 304 grams without. Not exactly a featherweight. The Trabec Race is slightly lighter but I don’t have it in front of me to measure how many grams it shaves by using more aramid fibers.

And while the design is funky, an aspect which I like and accentuated by choosing the two tone green color, POC helps prevent funky odors by using Polygiene permanent odor control technology in all their 2011 helmets. Also noteworthy is the inclusion of a second set of pads and a carrying bag, not to mention the requisite manufacturers sticker if you wish to give them some free advertising.

POC Trabec

POC Trabec

POC Trabec

POC Trabec

POC Trabec

POC Trabec

POC Trabec

POC Trabec

Jun
9
2011

Being in a bike lane doesn’t mean you’re safe

Here’s another gem from Reddit. Guy was ticketed in NYC for not riding in the bike lane. This is not illegal. You are not required to ride in a bike lane if it’s not safe to do so. There are many reasons to avoid the bike lane. Debris, obstacles, visibility issues, etc. It appears they’re particularly hazardous in NYC. Here’s a video which explains why.