Long Absence

April 16th, 2012

I haven’t posted in here in a good three weeks, but as I noted then, the original plan for this blog has somewhat disintegrated. Since last week, I’m no longer working at Hub Bicycle (and after all that promotion here!).

I haven’t mentioned it in a while, but I finally got some inspiration to close up the case on my bike light, and I plan on actually testing it out soon. Here’s to hoping my “off the shelf” lighting works, and is quite bright!

Another bike related project I’m looking at is making the TB Designs panniers. While my own design is functional, it has a small problem with keeping its shape. I suppose I could retrofit it with some aluminum bracing, but I really like the idea of the TB Designs: have a separate bag and rack-mount. I think the benefit he touts is that you can make the bag of very light material to cut a little weight off. I like the idea of being able to transport cargo of many sizes and shapes and then be able to easily take it offer the bike at your destination. After many readings and re-readings of his page, I understand what’s going on, and I’ll try to post my own instructions once I make it.

My other project was to turn my (and the fiancee’s) Surly Crosschecks from double chainrings to triples. This went off pretty smoothly, with the exception that going off the current Surly parts list is very confusing: in the last year they switched derailleurs from having a double (i.e. the front derailleur is only compatible with two chainrings) on the stock bike to a triple (to make this conversion easier, presumably). After a few hours scratching my head, I looked up the parts on the 2010 model to confirm that in fact, it had a double derailleur. A few trips to the semi-local bike shop got the parts I needed and put me back in business.

Flat Fixing; Cool and Wet

March 29th, 2012

Today I had the now unusual occasion to ride my bike into Boston. At the foot of the Longfellow Bridge, I met another commuter who was walking her bike. I stopped, noticing the flat tire on her bike. I offered assistance, in fact giving a step-by-step explanation of the flat fix process. She was grateful, and we both went on with our days. I’m going to start carrying a patch kit to expedite (?) the process – I wonder how many people get flat tires on the popular routes into Boston on a given day. It might be fun to ride back and forth over the Longfellow for an hour in the morning and in the evening to find out. I noticed the debris and sand was noticeably swept into the shoulder (bike lane) today, so that might have spiked the number of flats.

If you’re concerned about flats, you should pack a flat fix kit, or a good lock and a T pass. For the former, you’ll want a tire levers and a pump, as well as either a spare tube (that fits your wheel!) and the tools to remove your wheel, or a patch kit. For a pump, I’ve been using the Road Morph, which is awesome.


This week the weather has been more like it was in the winter: lows in the 20s, highs in the 40s and sometimes 50s. A spring jacket is definitely too little: one needs gloves and at least a few layers. There’s been sporadic rain and water on the road. There’s also more than enough sand and dirt to go around. If you understand the benefits of fenders, now is the time for it.

I’m not usually a list person, or if I am, I prefer prose. Today, I’ll make an exception and try to summarize the top things someone new to transportation biking should be aware of.

  1. Learn how to ride safely on the road. My mantra is be visible.
  2. Get a bike that fits, and keep it in working condition. There are lots of factors for a good bike fit, but for commuting and getting around, generally you want a bike that keeps you sitting more upright so you can see and be seen (how fashion-conscious!) on the road. If you hear squeaks of agony (from the bike) or the brakes aren’t snappy, get that taken care of by a shop.
  3. Figure out routes that work for you. You’re going to be taking different roads than if you were walking or driving. While Google Maps has biking directions, I find them to be generally pretty bad because of their slavish devotion to marked bike routes (a nearly meaningless distinction, usually). Find what works for you be trial and error and talk to other bikers.
  4. Decide how you’re going to carry things. Don’t put things on your back if you want to arrive presentable. Don’t put things on your handlebars if you want to survive. Instead, get a rack with panniers or a basket.
  5. Figure out dress that works for you. I know this is particularly an issue for ladies, but you’ll have to prepare by wearing much cooler outfits (when you’re rocking and rolling along) and much warmer outfits (when it’s windy or cold and you’re not generating as much heat).

That about sums it up. Now I can stop blogging, forever. 🙂

In other news, I posted my instructions for the Large Panniers for CETMA rack. Whether you make these bags or a different roll-top type pannier, I hope these instructions are helpful.

Weather (from 3/20)

Temperature: 81

Road condition: Dry

Clothing: Long sleeve T-shirt, jeans, loafers (w/o socks)

Comfort: Awful. As you might imagine, the best way to deal with this temperature is light fabrics and short sleeves. I was in a black T-shirt and jeans. Don’t do that.

If I were commuting to an office at a morning temperature above 70, I would neatly store my button-up shirt, and untuck the undershirt, and take it slowly. Or, if you’re going far enough, plan on changing clothes.

Although today is a springlike day, I thought I would reflect on the EVO Drone gloves I’ve been wearing. The exact product name escapes me (and google is no use), so I’ll have to fill that in later. They’re made of thin Nylon fabric, which is pretty good about not sucking up rain. They have the “hunter” thumbs and index fingers, which are good for checking your phone without taking the gloves off. What makes them truly useful is the attached outer mitten – I’ve found this allows you to stay warm and extra 10-15 degrees of outside temperature by defeating the wind and holding in heat. It’s an air impermeable synthetic that is sewn into the wrist of the glove and folds into the top when you’re not using them. (If you’re neat, they don’t look bulbous, either!) Although the seam on these covers has a bad habit of ripping under normal use, this hasn’t compromised the performance of the glove. You can see in the attached picture how I can get a few fingers through that cover after a few months of riding. They’re not too expensive (around $30?), and Hub Bicycle Company in Cambridge carries them. Of course, now that it’s just about spring, you’ll have no occasion to use them…

EVO Gloves

The gloves do a great job of keeping your hands warm, despite the covering sprouting some holes.

I suppose now that I’m overtly recommending products, I should announce that I’m moving from my current, non-bike related job to start working at Hub Bicycle Company. I’ve been going there as a customer since a few months after the shop opened two years ago, and as I became disenchanted work in the soul-stealing financial industry, I also discovered that I’m cuckoo for bikes. I can safely say – as a customer – that it’s an awesome bike shop, but don’t believe me, believe Yelp. I’m going to be working there full time starting later this month, which means I’ll be reporting more second hand on bike commuting (on customer attire, as the shop is walking distance), but there will still be plenty of errand running and general transportation riding.


Temperature: 57 degrees

Road condition: Dry

Clothing: Light spring jacket, timberland shoes, light Pearl Izumi gloves, messenger bag

Comfort: I was definitely too warm. Every time the weather changes I relearn the lesson: slow down, wear less. Today would have been OK without a jacket.

It was windy today, and should be more so later, according to the forecast. There were tons of bikers out, and I expect many, many more next week.

I won’t harp on it any more, but on Friday night I made a matching really big pannier of the same design (Woo! Party!) as my original. It was fast and easy; I also took the back rack off my commuter. I’ll report back after loading up the front with a ton of weight. I also have a page in the works for the design on the pannier. I’ll try not to bore you too much more on this subject, dear reader.

After last week’s snow riding, I let my bikes sit in an enclosed area for three days so they could breed surface rust. I cleaned the commuter yesterday; I’ll need to bring the mountain bike in to get a wipe-down, probably tonight.

Finally, let me apologize for the lack of pictures: after I figured out a system to get photos off my cell phone, my fiancee lent that computer to a friend. I can’t help but think of my pictures in the phone as the pudding that Homer Simpson has trapped in the can forever. (“A Streetcar Named Marge” – look for the songs in that episode!)


Temperature: 29

Road condition: Dry

Clothing: Heavy winter coat, timberland shoes, light Pearl Izumi gloves. I forgot my Nutcase helmet at home, so I had the traditional Bell Venture today: my whole head, but especially my ears, were notably colder.

Comfort: Aside from the ears, perfect! I rode pretty hard without working up a sweat at all.

On Saturday, I finished up my home-made pannier project. It’s a simple roll-top design, made of 430D Nylon pack cloth (a fabric on the lighter side, it turns out), and is absolutely gigantic. For example, I carried three bags of groceries in it. It compromised my steering less than you would think…

Large pannier filled with groceries
My home-made pannier: it is meant to roll at the top, but it was so full that instead I just clipped it shut and then used a cable to keep it from tipping over.

I made the pannier for my Cetma rack, as there didn’t seem to be good commercial options for it. It attaches by four velcro straps around the fork and rack strut, as well as straps that reach down from the rails on the rack. The idea is that I could still strap items to the rack deck itself while having loaded panniers.

Empty pannier with grocery bags

The pannier, unloaded and clipped shut: I put four or five rolls in the top to close it to its rough "design" size.

When I first completed it, I thought it was too big. However, I like being able to move the kitchen sink. I’m going to make a matcher, and then probably remove my rear rack and start looking for a two legged kick stand that fits on the Crosscheck. After the second go-around, I’ll try to put out some how-to for any other home-made gear enthusiasts.


Temperature: 41

Road condition: Dry

Clothing: Heavy winter coat, timberland shoes. I took off my gloves (light EVO ones) pretty quickly.

Comfort: I was riding pretty fast the whole way, so I ended up getting a bit too warm. Otherwise, lovely!

Yesterday was the inaugural meeting of Boston-area bike bloggers (or in internet parlance, BABBA). Some of those in attendance were (the people behind) Bike Safe Boston, Commonwheels Coop, Hub Bicycle, Bikeyface, Boston Cyclists Union, Steve Miller and, obviously, theHumble Cyclist, as well as a variety of non-blogging bike enthusiasts. A good time was had by all, and those who stuck until the end of the night had a little convoy north of the river, where many of the “Boston” bike bloggers seem to reside. Following on our discussion of promoting road safety with blogs, no traffic laws were broken on the ride home; I also observed an unusually high number of people able to do track stands. I don’t know when the next meeting will be, but I encourage all to attend as either blog readers or writers!

Following yesterday’s promise to “portage” one bike with another, I managed to follow through without too much fuss!

Bike on bike portaging: good luck parsing the mess of tubing

I did put some scratches on the “top” bike from its rubbing against the wheel axle (lesson: don’t put the removed wheel against the frame), as well as somehow getting grease on my pants (lesson: if you handle the dirty bits on a bike, you will get dirty). I consider these minor costs to advancing the world’s bike mobility!


Temperature: 37

Road condition: Dry

Clothing: Heavy winter coat, timberland shoes, EVO gloves

Comfort: Worked well; the wind-breaking covers on the EVO gloves warmed up my hands after I started the ride without them.

Everybody got scared off by the weather forecast today (it is currently snowing!), although the snow didn’t start falling until after 9 am, and should be done by the evening.

Helmets; Cool and Dry

February 23rd, 2012

I cringe at the frequent sight of people wearing broken helmets or mis-adjusted ones. Last year, I saw a man riding with a helmet whose strap had been cut (I wonder if it was stolen off a locked bike?); I regularly see helmets pushed too far back or with straps dangling three inches below the chin; sometimes a person is riding an ancient helmet which doesn’t have a plastic outer shell. I always wonder to myself: why don’t these riders take helmet safety seriously? I know that I am unusual in say, religiously reading manuals, however it seems obvious that a helmet pushed way back on your head is both uncomfortable and useless. Why even bother?

As with most things I write about, I’m far from the first to do so, and I’m also probably going to do the least research. In this case, there are many guides out there. The NHTSA has one such guide. Searching for “helmet fit” should turn up many more.

I’ll save the discussion of whether or not to wear a helmet for another day. See also the recently written and very thorough post on Steve Miller’s blog for why to wear a helmet.

I left my commuter bike at work yesterday and chose to ride again today, so I think I will try moving two bikes home today! I’ll try to remember to take pictures of the set up.


Temperature: 49

Road condition: Dry

Clothing: Rain jacket, timberland shoes, messenger bag.

Comfort: Very much so, thank you.

I hate to repeat myself, but bright lights are for safety. With a few days of riding on my new dynamo light, I now have another anecdote to share. Yesterday, while riding down Mass Ave north of Porter Square, I was about 30 feet behind and to the right of a car. As they prepared to turn and, presumably checked their mirror, I had something that rarely happens, and almost never at night and from that distance (about 45 feet behind their mirror): they stopped and let me pass. In fact, on more than one occasion on that ride did I have vehicles stop and let me turn rather than cutting me off, but this was the most memorable.

Following up on yesterday’s post, I had another close call, this time from a car running the light. In close proximity to my previous anecdote, I started to ride when the light turned green. However, a car going in the other direction had sneaked through the intersection on a dying dedicated turn phase (or something like that). Luckily, he saw me and stopped. In addition, another kind biker called my attention. (The driver then proceeded to honk at either the other biker or a crossing pedestrian.)

Finally, I thought I would add a little spice with a picture of my commuter bike from yesterday.

My commuter bike

I pack the full complement of equipment: two racks (Cetma 3-rail half rack up front for big cargo, Toba rear rack for panniers, both purchased from Hub Bicycle Company), Planet bike Cascade fenders, dynamo hub and Blaze 1-watt, Kryptonite lock bracket, water bottle holder, and even a cycle computer (I mount it under my seat so I don't check it compulsively). With this set up, including lock, it weighs in at 40 lbs. Camera phone apparently only makes blurry pictures...


Temperature: 41, but feels like 50 🙂

Road condition: Basically dry

Clothing: Rain shell jacket, timberland shoes, cotton Pearl Izumi gloves, Timberland shoes. It’s so lovely outside today! I meant to wear the bike shoes for some variety, but forgot.

Comfort: Lighter clothing and still cool weather means you can ride harder, but managed to stay mostly cool.

I got the Blaze 1-Watt Dynamo Light this week, and got to installing it last night. Wowza! Dynamo lighting is everything I imagined, and more! (Well, it’s pretty cool, anyway.) I had it on while riding in this morning, and definitely noticed the extra drag; once I switched the light off, I could feel a little boost going up the Longfellow Bridge.

I’m still waiting for more inspiration on my homemade light; now that I have a baseline light for comparison, it should be a little easier to push myself to finish it up. I think for iteration 1, I will just attach a 350 mA buckpuck (cheating, I know), and save stand lights and voltage doublers for another time. I may also rely on some tool help to get the mounting for the light all set up.

Weather and Clothing

The beautiful conditions this morning call for a “fair weather” tag on this post. It was definitely on the lower end temperature-wise, but I could have gone down to a spring jacket and been quite happy (with gloves). With a high of 54, the day today is undeniably good for biking.

Temperature: 41

Road Condition: Mostly dry, still wet on the Longfellow Bridge for some reason.

Clothing: Heavy winter coat, EVO gloves, Timberland shoes

Comfort: I didn’t zip the coat, and I was still pushing the upper limits of comfort. Tomorrow will call for some lighter clothing (and rain).

I’m back on my commuter bike, with only a back rack (the horror!), although I rarely load anything onto it aside from panniers. Last night I switched back to my 3-season tires and ditched the studs, which will have to wait a while to see some ice.