Category Archives: Bicycle

Tips for group rides

Over the last 4 or 5 years I’ve been a member of the Harrisburg Bicycle Club. Most of the group rides I’m able to get to are the slower, social rides that range anywhere from 10 to 13mph average, and from 10 to 30 miles. During my time on these rides, I’ve picked up a few tips that seem to work well and formulated my own opinions that sometimes run contrary to the club’s culture. Here are my tips for social group rides, all of which are rooted in situations I’ve either had to deal with or witnessed. These may not apply to hammerfest, just-like-Lance, sprint-for-the-county-line rides.

  1. Your bike.  Make sure it works right.  Newer riders often show up with semi-functional hardware and might be looking for advice about how to maintain or fix their bike.  This is fine, and clubs are a good place to learn a little about wrenching.  But if you’re a regular, your bike shouldn’t be the one causing us to stop every mile or so.  Keep it maintained or get it to a shop once or twice a year.
  2. Pedals.  You really don’t need clipless pedals on a social ride.  You don’t.  I promise.  In my time with the club I have personally witnessed no fewer than 4 falls that were due to riders not being able to get their feet off the pedals.  Social rides tend to spend time in neighborhoods where there are stop signs.  Expect to start and stop a lot.  Flat pedals and comfy shoes are ideal.  If you still insist on riding clipless pedals, see rule #1.  Make sure they’re properly adjusted and get some practice before you fall on the poor guy next to you.
  3. Tools.  You need a few basics.  A multi-tool or a set of loose wrenches that fit the fasteners on your machine.  A patch kit.  Tire levers.  Pump.  Usually, the group will have all of these things collectively, but being that guy who always needs something every time he has a problem is not cool.  Carry a spare tube.  If you regularly ride sweep, bring a few spares in two or three different sizes.
  4. Lights.  Most social rides occur during the day, but it never hurts to have some lights on your bike.  If you’re not the sweep, and your tail light is on, don’t make it flash.  Some people find it irritating if they have to stare at a blinking blinkie.  Epileptics who are sensitive to flashing lights might not like it either.  If you are the sweep, flash it up if that floats your boat.
  5. Don’t litter.  This ain’t the BORAF (Tour de France).  No one is coming along behind to clean up your mess.  Don’t leave Clif wrappers, tubes, water bottles, or CO2 canisters on the side of the road.  Littering gives us all a bad name.
  6. Stop signs.  We often roll stop signs at empty intersections.  You could possibly get a ticket for this, but you won’t get yourself squashed and you won’t hurt anyone else.  If there are cars or cyclists approaching from other roads, play by the rules.  Stop and take turns.  If the person in front of you stops, don’t blow past them.  Drivers will often wave the whole group through, but don’t expect it.  If there’s lots of traffic go through in twos or threes and regroup on the other side.
  7. Red  lights.  Don’t run them.  Don’t.  Not ever.  Stop and wait.  Sometimes the light won’t change for a cyclist.  If this is the case, after you’ve stopped and made sure there’s no cross traffic, proceed carefully.  The law in most places allows for this.  Red lights are not the place to socialize.  You don’t need to talk to the guy 3 bikes back.  You don’t need to fish your kid’s picture out of your wallet to show the ride leader.  You need to be ready to go when the light turns green.  Sprinting is not necessary, but ride like you have a purpose.  It should not take 30 seconds to get 6 riders across the line.  Resume the social aspects of the ride once you’re on the other side.
  8. Falling down.  More often than not, if there is a crash on a slow ride it’s because someone bumped into someone else, or lost their balance starting or stopping.  Mostly, these crashes result in a scraped elbow or a bruised ego.  If the fallen rider is not injured, get them and their bike off the road.  This takes one helper and/or the sweep.  Everyone else should continue on and find a safe place to stop and wait.  Someone should tell the ride leader what happened.  You do not need to gather around in the middle of the lane.  If there is a serious injury that precludes moving the rider the sweep should direct traffic, if necessary, and someone else should call an ambulance.  Check if anyone on the ride or passing by can administer first aid.
  9. CAR BAAAAACK!.  If you’re calling out something like “car back”, you don’t have to yell.  You just need to say it loud enough for the person in front of you to hear.  We don’t need to turn a quiet neighborhood into a shouting match.  It’s OK to let other riders know about cars approaching from side streets or at intersections, but don’t rely on it.  Check for yourself.
  10. Traffic.  When cars are passing a small group on a narrow road, it’s often easiest to form a single file line on the right.  If you have a big group, splitting into a few smaller groups on busy roads is a good idea.  Staying two-abreast keeps the line shorter and makes it easier to pass.  Move with traffic and don’t needlessly impede other road users.  Be a group, not a gaggle.
  11. Road hazards.  Debris, storm drains, potholes, etc.  Different clubs have different ideas about how to handle these.  There are two predominant methods – point at the hazard or point where to go.  I don’t like being told what to do, so the HBC’s method of pointing at the debris works for me.  Just point at it as you pass.  There’s no need to be dramatic or shout.  The rider behind you can make their own decision about how to navigate it.
  12. Have fun.  That’s what social rides are for.

There are, of course, exceptions, but I think that putting these tips into regular use can make social rides easier, safer, and less stressful.  If you have any other tips, I’d love to hear them.

Core dump

This is one of those multi-topic, Spring cleaning posts.  It’s a bunch of random clutter I need to sweep out.  You’re the dust pan.

April was #30daysofbiking.  I finished the month with at least one ride daily and 206 miles.  The bulk of that was getting the kiddos to school.  I didn’t lose a single pound.

Speaking of weight, I tend to get hungry when I exercise.  That means I eat.  So instead of burning fat, I’m burning the stuff I just ate.  When I don’t exercise, I eat then, too.  I like starchy things.  They go right to my tummy and stay there.  For the last two days I’ve been not eating within an hour of riding, before or after.  And I haven’t been eating bread or sugar.  Guess what?  I’m losing weight already.

Grant Petersen wrote a book.  It’s called “Just Ride“.  You can get it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble or better bike shops.  The evil LBS doesn’t have it.

  • He and I disagree about underwear.  In my experience, seams in the wrong place hurt.  They bunch up into my nooks and crannies and rub me the wrong way.  Seamless undies and shorts without rear pockets work well for me.
  • Part 7 was a snoozer, which surprised me.  I can talk bike parts and geometry and tire suppleness all day long until you’re bored to death.  Apparently, I like talking parts more than I like listening to someone else talk parts.  I’ll talk less parts next time.
  • Other than that, GP is spot on.  You should get a copy and read it.  It’s worth more than the 14 worthless Americanos.  I’ve already started using the wobbly bike method when cars approach.  I think it might just work.  Will report back later.

The rSogn continues to be a work in progress.  It’s currently sporting Gary II bars, which I just put on two days ago.  Haven’t ridden it yet.  Will report back later.  I also measured the 38mm Col de la Vie tires with a digital caliper.  36.2-ish at 3 bar on Velo-Orange Diagonale rims.  That’s less than a 10% margin of error.  I can live with that.  It also got some Eggbeater pedals and I put cleats on my shoes.  This experiment is probably coming to an end soonly.

The Pacer is back in rotation, but not as the Bio-Pacer.  105 double rings, drop bars, plastic sneaker pedals.  I really like the pedals and am considering trying out some of those RMX sneaker pedals or Grip Kings/Lambdas.  They allow me to ride in canvas Chuckie T sneakers, which I can’t do on rat traps like the MKS touring.  The Pacer is a fun bike.  It climbs better than anything else I own and the side pull brakes stop better than anything else I own.

There are two new Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch Me Baby Just Like That Turbo Rocket Ship Super Duper Special Edition phones on the way.  We’re also ditching T-Stationary in the process.  Android’s been good to us for the last two years.  I’m looking forward to it being even better starting tomorrow.

I finally got around to ordering that part for the refrigerator.

Ride bike!

Sometimes I’m Dr. Jekyll…

…and sometimes I’m Mr. Hyde.

All hail the Bio-Pacer.

Crunchpoundhash 30 Days of Biking

April is #30daysofbiking.  That means ride a bike every day.  Even if it’s just around the block or down the hall.  Get on your bike, their bike, a bike and ride it, at least a little, every day in April.  This is my second April participating.  It’s kinda fun.  You should try it.  Even if it’s too late for the official thing, you can still get in 30 straight days of riding.

I’ve been tracking my rides with Daily Mile.  You can go have a look at what I’ve done.

On a side note, the rules.  I have some slight additions and modifications to the rules.

  • First, if you can help it, don’t be a roadie.  However, if dressing up just like Lance, showing off your junk in your lycra shorts and riding a carbonplasticwunderbike are the things that make you want to ride, well, it’s better than not riding.
  • Rules 4 and 5 are, without question, spot on.
  • Rule #29.  A tool roll is acceptable.  In fact, it’s dumb to carry tools in your jersey.  Have a tube, patch kit, tire levers and a small set of wrenches or a multi-tool for every bike.  Leave them on the bike all the time.  Attach the roll to your saddle with a toe strap.
  • Rule #30.  No pump peg shall be left unadorned.  The full sized frame pump, the one that fits between two pump pegs, or between that little nub on the head tube and the joint between the top and seat tubes, is the one pump to rule them all.  If your bike has pump pegs, you shall acquire a frame pump.  If this is unacceptable to you, get a different bike.
  • Rule #31 should be revoked.  See the modification to rule #29.  There are no exceptions for Lezyne man-purses.
  • Rule #39 should be revoked.  Go try to find a photo of Eddy with glasses.  Try.  Go ahead.  We’ll wait.  If he didn’t need them, if his peers didn’t need them, you don’t need them.  The I’m-a-douche eyewear fad started by Lemond should have died when he retired.
  • Finally, the frame material pecking order, from highest to the lowliest of the low.  Steel, titanium, aluminum, plastic.  One could possibly argue that aluminum ranks higher than titanium at certain price points.

The refendering of the rSogn is still on deck.  Stay tuned.

Spring cleaning

A few things have happened since the last installment.  We bought a house, moved our stuff, cleaned the old place, and tried really hard to not pull all our hair out.

Bicycle miles for March are pretty close to zero.  As such, I kinda didn’t finish the Utilitaire 12.  I suppose I could have, and probably did, get in enough riding to do 12 utilitaires.  But they were mostly out of necessity and time didn’t allow for much variety.  I did, however, get a big ol’ Honorable Mention from the ever-so-lovely MG.  And that was super cool.  Thanks, MG!

I’ve had to do some plumbing.  The new (old) kitchen required a new faucet and dishwasher.  The new (new) bathroom needed a new shower head.  I have yet to figure out why in hell anyone would voluntarily choose to become a plumber.  Furthermore, I don’t understand how anyone with less than 7 joints in each limb can make a living out of it and not have to hand over their entire pay check to a chiropractor.  Eugene Tooms could have been a good plumber.

The rSogn is getting closer to done.  I’ve attached a Nitto M12 rack and an Ostrich handlebar bag.  Speeding down hill with a front load and no hands is wicked cool.

I just received a snazzy new set of stainless fenders from Velo-Orange. Anyone want to see a pictorial installation how-to? I’ll try to get that done within the next few days.

A slow, easy S24O is coming up.  Tentative plans have us heading down to the Lower Allen Township park and forcibly ejecting anyone else camping along the Yellow Breeches.  If you’re near Harrisburg, PA for the second or third weekends in April and would like to come along, lemme know.

I think that should just about wrap things up.  Tune in next time for co-ed naked alligator wrestling in a mud pit.

Utilitaire 12, Week 3, Controle 6

I’m cheating. Well, actually, I’m taking advantage of a technicality. The Utilitaire 12 rules state that only once can I hit two controls in one day. Since I hit the first control of the week yesterday and was unsure of today’s schedule, I waited until after midnight and went to the grocery store for control 6.

The scenic route afforded me 2.5 miles of wind and cold; a stark contrast to yesterday’s high of 50-something. Once again, I forgot to take the photo on my way out, but remembered before I left the parking lot. So I doubled back and snapped one, charged lights and all. Unfortunately, my phone’s camera crapped out again, and there’s no photo. This is getting old. On the plus side, my contract is up with T-Stationary (because there’s no service if I go anwywhere), so I should have a new one soonish.

Ride bike!

Utlilitaire 12, Week 3, Controle 5

We’re down to the last 2 days for week 3 of Utilitaire 12 and I hadn’t done any riding at all. Deciding to have Neato Burrito for dinner was easy. I’m always up for burritos. Riding there is kind of a prerequisite. Otherwise, I can’t justify the calories. We didn’t eat our lunch until after 4pm, so I’m calling this dinner for the purposes of filling out the control card. Also, a friend turned me onto Strava yesterday, so this is my first use of that service. Here’s the ride map.

So far, Strava is pretty cool. The Android app uses the GPS to track the ride and then automagically uploads everything to their site. In the past I’ve used either a dedicated GPS device or the My Tracks app, and then fiddled around with uploading a GPX file to a service like Ride with GPS or Daily Mile. This Strava thing is much easier.

As usual, the Sloth’s brain is running on the slow side, and I forgot to take a photo at Neato Burrito. So I took one at home just before unloading the basket. There are two burritos and two sodas in that bag.

The bag is one of those semi-reusable 99¢ shopping bags from the local supermarket.  I bought a few of these a couple years ago and they’re still holding together.  They each have a stiff plastic insert on the bottom, which helps it stand up when it’s full.  These things fit damn near perfectly in the bottom of my Wald basket.  I generally fold it down, lay the cable and lock on top, and then cover the top of the basket with a bungee net.  This setup is very handy, and ensures I can carry just about anything that fits in the basket.

Ooh!  I have to rant about bags.

Grant Petersen thinks my bag makes me look like a hobo.  My bag costs a buck and lasts at least 2 years.  His is $60.  I can get 120 years of cycling out mine for $60.  Who knows how long his will last?  I don’t care if someone steals mine, so I leave it on the bike all the time.  The $60 bag might grow legs if I left it outside.  Mine may make me look like a hobo, but his makes me look like I’m carrying a purse.

So there.

Ride bike!

Utilitaire 12, Week 2

Now that week 3 is drawing to a close, I figure it’s time to jabber about week 2. If you don’t know what a Utilitaire is, read my previous post or just go to the source at Chasing Mailboxes.

Controle 3 was the local True Value hardware store on February 9th.  It’s in the same strip mall nightmare as Isaac’s (from last week’s entry), and still not close enough to the lone bike rack, so I locked it to a downspout just in front of the hardware store.  This was, without a doubt, the most miserable ride of the year.  I was sick, it was cold, and I didn’t want to go.  There’s nothing like swollen sinuses and a bad attitude to make a bike ride last forever.  2.66 miles.  At night.

I’ve been working on a modified front rack for the rSogn, so I can start using my Ostrich handlebar bag, and needed some 1/4″ p-clamps.  They had some plastic clamps that will work for fitting and mock-up purposes, but I’ll soon have to find some in steel.

As you can probably tell, this ride was after sunset.  The rSogn’s lighting system consists of a Novatec hub dynamo wired to an IQ Fly N Plus headlight and a 4D Lite Plus taillight.  The headlight has its ups and down.  It’s certainly bright, and it has 3 detents for aiming the light.  This is an awesome feature that makes it easy to adjust the beam angle depending on conditions.  I’ll point it down it a bit on multi-user paths so as to not blind pedestrians, but aim it high on unlit rural roads to really light things up.  On the down side, it’s hideous and there are brighter options out there.  I’m please with it overall, and  have no plans to replace it.  The taillight is nothing special.  It’s not bad, and if you don’t have a rear rack it’s a good solution.  The B&M Toplight Line Plus is a far better taillight.  If I had a rear rack permanently mounted, that’s what I’d use.

My 4th controle was the supermarket 2 blocks away on the 12th.  I took the scenic route and made it an even 3 miles round trip.  This one was also at night.  Unfortunately, my phone’s camera dumped core just after I took the photo.  When I got home and tried to upload, there was no picture at all.  So you’ll have to imagine the next two days’ worth of groceries piled high in the front rack.

The rSogn has low trail front geometry.  What this means is that there’s a fairly steep head tube angle of 73°, coupled with a fork offset of 63mm.  This is a good combination for carrying loads above the front wheel.  My grocery run was probably the 2nd heaviest load so far and the handling was just fine.  Having a basket and a net, front or rear, is much easier than dealing with panniers.

Ride bike!

Utilitaire 12, Week 1

For those of you who live under a rock, the lovely MG over at Chasing Mailboxes has challenged the whole, wide world to participate in the Utilitaire 12.  I missed the Coffeeneuring Challenge (because I was living under a rock).  Anyway, the short, short, paraphrased version is “go ride your bike to get stuff done.”  You should really click the 2nd link in the first sentence.

Last week, on the 2nd, I did my two-fer.  First, I rode the rSogn to the library and donated some books for their annual-ish book sale.  This is the Cleve J. Fredrickson Library in Camp Hill, PA, but my phone died before I could get a second photo with the sign.  You’ll have to take my word for it.  3.54 miles round trip.

The rSogn, with its cushy 650b tires and low-trail geometry, handled the 20 pounds of paperbacks with ease.  I’d like a better front rack, but for now it’ll do.

Later, I scooted over to a nearby suburban-hell shopping center to have lunch with the wife.  2.66 miles round trip.

That yellow grate thing attached to the green post is part of Isaac’s branding.  I have never, ever seen a bike locked to it before, but since the only bike rack in this hole of a strip mall is clear down at the other end, I locked up here.  After we ate there was another bike locked to it.  WIN!  If you look close and squint, you can see it behind mine.  “If you park on it, they will come,” or some such.

So that’s my first week and first 2 Utilitaires.  I need to get my butt in gear for this week.

A few notes about my S24O kit

For those of you who still don’t know, S24O means “sub-24-hour overnight”.  It’s bike camping.  Dig out your old hiking gear, lash it to your bike, ride a couple hours, camp, come home.  Do it in less than 24 hours.  It’s a nice substitute for touring if you have kids.  Or bills.  Or a job.  Or kids and bills and a job.

Quite a bit has been written about S24O within the last few years.  Here are a few links if you’d like to read a bit more.

The Adventure Cycling interview with GP.
Rivendell’s articles about traveling by bike.
Bikepacking is the MTB crowd’s way of doing it.  There’s some good info about creative ways to attach things to your bike.

Plug it into Google.  You’ll find lots more.

Right now I’d like to lay out what I typically bring along and how well it has worked so far.  The most recent trip’s kit, over Running Gap, looked like this when packed on the bike.

I’ll move from left to right.

I use two Lone Peak P-099 Sundance panniers.  They’re about the same size as an Ortlieb Front Roller, but not waterproof.  Lone Peak bags are made in the US of, what appears to be, heavy duty Cordura nylon and tough-as-nails zippers.  The locking system is damn near fool-proof and super easy to use.  The hooks come in 2 sizes.  Blackburn racks and copies need the smaller hooks and modern racks, like Surly’s Nice Rack or anything from Tubus, take the larger hooks.  Be sure to tell your retailer which ones you need.  I like these bags a lot and won’t hesitate to recommend them to anyone.

Moving on to the stuff in the panniers.

My cook kit consists of a grease pot with lid, homemade windscreen, aluminum pot gripper and Esbit stove  The grease pot is light, holds the rest of the kit and is cheap.  It holds about a quart of water, which is more than I ever need to boil.  I made the windscreen out of a turkey basting pan from the grocery store.  The pot gripper is the standard cheap one that can be found in Wally-Mart’s camping aisle.

The Esbit stove is the heart of the system.  It’s about the same size as a deck of cards and can hold 4 fuel tablets when folded.  One tablet will bring 2 cups of water to a boil faster than any alcohol stove I’ve ever seen, and burns long enough to make a cup of coffee and a pack of Ramen if you’re quick with the pouring.  For an overnight or long weekends the Esbit is superb.  The fuel is easy to light and burns in any weather.  It can even be used as a fire starter if your fire building skills are as bad as mine.  But perhaps it’s not the best solution for extended travel, as the fuel is rarely available at Bubba’s Gas ‘n Git.  Fortunately, this is my S24O kit.

I also keep my sleeping bag up front.  It’s a Lafuma Warm ‘n Lite 600 down bag, rated to 40F, which packs down to the size of a small canteloupe.  So far, in the 4 or 5 times I’ve used it, the overnight temperature has invariably dropped below 40F.  It’s not warm enough to sleep in shorts and t-shirt at 40F.  The last trip’s low of 24F was a bit too cold.  I ended up sleeping in every piece of clothing I had with me.  Two layers top and bottom, two pair of socks, a fleece pull-over wrapped around my feet and a fleece stocking cap on my head.  I stayed warm enough, but the bag felt cramped.  It’s not particularly roomy to begin with, but my large frame covered in multiple layers left very little wiggle room.  This isn’t a bad bag, but it’s definitely for warm weather.  I’m currently considering a Big Agnes system for every season except summer.

The remainder of the front pannier space was taken by spare clothing, food, toiletries, wallet and keys, and a few random small bits.

Moving right.  There are 3 water bottles in the cages.  These are 16oz Kleen Kanteens.  They’re water bottles.  Not much to say, other than I do prefer the stainless steel to plastic.

On to the rear rack.  Perched atop the rear-mounted front rack is a Minnehaha Medium saddle bag.  It’s just big enough for a tool kit, patch kit, spare tube and my Thermarest Prolite 4.  I got the saddle bag on sale.  It’s not a bad bag, but it’s also not worth the current retail price, ATMO.  A big online retailer blew these out last year for $25.  I wouldn’t pay more than that for one today.  Pros – it’s durable, looks pretty good, and has some steel d-ring lash points on the flap.  Cons – the buckles are in an awkward spot unless you routinely stand on your head, there are no provisions for attaching a light, and it’s medium-ness is either too big or too small and never just right.  For the purposes of S24O, it’s too small.

The Prolite 4 was Thermarest’s top of the line self-inflating mattress for a long time.  It’s discontinued, but they replaced it with a similar product that is supposed to have even better insulation.  Pros – it’s durable, easy to inflate and provides excellent ground insulation.  24F on mud was no match for it.  The Prolite does exactly what it’s supposed to do.  Cons – it’s not thick enough for my fat butt.  This is more my fault than the pad’s.  I can’t sleep on my back.  Drunk, drugged and exhausted, I’d lay there wide awake if I couldn’t roll onto my side.  This does not complement a thin, firm pad.  My arm and shoulder will go to sleep, which wakes me up.  Then I have to roll over.  I’ll do that a dozen or so times over the course of the night.  I simply need more cushioning.  If I could sleep on my back the Prolite would be perfect.

Lashed to the back of the saddle bag are my tent, pillow and rain jacket.  The tent is a Eureka! Spitfire.  I purchased the tent mostly because it was on sale and met my needs (on paper).  This tent is frustrating.  It’s not difficult to set up, but I have to make about 4 circles around the damn thing in the process.  The included stakes are those crappy aluminum rods that bend if you look at them harshly.  The vestibules are tiny and the right side is not accessible from inside the tent.  I have just enough room for my shoes on the left.  On the plus side, it’s well made and waterproof.  The ventilation system works well.  My Prolite pad fits perfectly on the bathtub floor and is slightly wedged at the corners, which means the pad doesn’t move around.  It’s also light – about 3 pounds.  I’ll keep it for now, but when the time comes for a new one I’ll probably shop around.

I also can’t sleep without a pillow, so I brought a small throw wrapped in an ancient pillow case.  Cramming my clothing into a stuff sack is never very comfortable, and on the last trip would have been impossible since I was wearing all of it.

My rain shell is an O2 Rainshield.  It’s a slight step up from Tyvek and costs about $25.  My first one lasted two and half years, including daily use as a wind shell for two winters.  It’s light, packs small and adds to the visibility factor.  On the other hand, the front zipper is the only means of ventilation.  I’ve not found this to be a problem, but I know some folks prefer pit and back vents.  For the money it can’t be beat.

I think that just about covers it, though I’ve probably forgotten something important.  Feel free to ask questions.

Next time, I’ll detail the new rSogn and discuss why I sold the Trucker.