Category Archives: GP

How many bikes?

Sometimes, the wife asks me a silly question.  “How many bikes do you have now?”  This is not a question of curiosity.  It’s a mixture of mild contempt and disbelief.  If you’re married and you have bikes, or cameras, or some other obsession hobby that encourages collecting stuff, you’ve seen the look which accompanies this question.  There is an underlying desire for me to part with at least some of the gigantic pile of crap taking up space in the basement.  And on the porch.  In the foyer.

There are several ways to answer this question.  Some of them are even honest.  Fewer are answers given to wives.

  • N+1.  This means that the proper number of bikes is always one more than the number on hand.
  • N-1.  This means that a divorce is imminent or the rent is two months behind.
  • 7, or 9.  This is from Rivendell Reader #42, page 6.  “Seven is good.  A beater, a bomber, a single-speed, a touring bike, a lightish road bike, a do-all racked and bagged bike, a mixte, a loaner, and a work in progress.  Seven?  Make it nine.”
  • 6.  Beloved Cycles has 6 different frames, each intended for a different purpose.  A road bike, a porteur, a commuter, a touring bike, a randonneur, and a mixte.
  • Maybe you’re a roadie and you need a different racing bike for different conditions.  Racing, training, raining, cold raining, warm raining, might start raining.  At least one each of crabon, aluminium, and steel.  Maybe titanium.
  • That frame without wheels isn’t a bike.  It’s a bike part.  Don’t count it.

There are a zillion ways to answer the question, but I think I may have it figured out.  The true answer and other secrets of the universe are revealed below.  Keep reading!

One of the ways I’ve looked at bikes is to classify them based on use.  In other words, they need to do certain things and I have to figure out which bikes can do what, and which needs are currently unmet.  These are the things I commonly do on a bike.

  • Just riding around.
  • Grocery shopping.
  • Towing the girls to school, dance class, etc.
  • Bicycle club rides.
  • Camping.  Going, not just riding around once I get there.
  • Dropping books off at the library.
  • Rail trail riding.
  • That one time I rode a metric century.
  • In the future I’d like to commute to work (if/when I find a job), maybe go on an extended tour, and possibly ride a brevet series.

Grant Petersen’s 7 or 9 is a good place to start for this type of justification.  At one time I had a bike with a porteur rack, a touring bike, a mountain bike, fixed gear, city, and probably a couple others.  Right now I have the lightish road bike, a beater, a bomber, a do-all, tourer, and a couple works in progress.  2 or 3 are ride-able at any given time.

I had considered paring it down to the Beloved 6, but couldn’t figure out how to slot my existing frame sets into their classifications.  Plus, I have more than 6 bikes.

This is dumb.  (You were thinking that all along.  Admit it.)  I can do most of what I want to do on a bike on any bike.  Maybe I shouldn’t pull a trailer full of kids on the lightish road bike, or ride a metric century on the Collegiate, but there’s a hell of a lot of overlap.  I can certainly take any of them on an S24O or on the slow club rides I sometimes lead.

I think it comes down to handlebars, and I think you/I/we need 3 bikes.  Three.  One, two, three (3).  Thuh-ree.

Circling back around to Grant Petersen and Rivendell, those guys have sold 3 types of handlebars ever since 1994.  Some sort of drop bar, an upright, swept back bar, and the infamous mustache bar.  I’ve read a lot of GP’s writings, and I don’t recall him ever saying “you need one bike with each of our handlebars”, but I think he meant to.  Or maybe he knows it, but doesn’t want to just come right out and say it.  I don’t know.  Doesn’t matter.  But in a round about way, I think he’s on to something.

Get a drop bar you like.  I like the Nitto B115, the Nitto Randonneur, and the Salsa Cowbell.  Pick something you like and set it up in a way that’s comfy.  Higher for an off-road-ish bike, lower for lightish, fastish.

Get some city bars.  Wald 8095, there’s something called a Promenade, maybe Albatross bars.  Pair them up with a leather saddle or a sprung saddle.  Maybe both.

Get another bar.  Mustache, Mary, those weird trekking bars.  And that’s it.  That’s all you need.

Put the porteur rack on your bike with city bars.  Now it’s your shopper, S24O’er, townie.  Or follow Jan Heine’s lead and put it on your drop bar rando bike with fat tires.  Now it’s an “urban bike”.

Got an old mountain bike?  Albatross bars and racks and baskets and now you can tour, camp, grocery shop and commute on it.  Mustache bars and pretend it’s an XO-1.  You’ve always wanted one of those.

Get three different bars and put them on three different frames and go from there.  You’ll figure out which bike does what.

You need three bikes.

Maybe a fourth, just in case one of them is in the shop…


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!

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!

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.

The MB-2, reborn

I’m channeling Grant Petersen and Charlie Cunningham at the same time.  On the same bike.

Not long ago I found a 1987 Bridgestone MB-2, 58cm (just my size!).  It was in a pile of other cast-off bicycle frames, undoubtedly put there because its previous owner didn’t want to deal with the roller-cam brake under the chain stays.  The original front cantilever and rear roller-cam (sans cam) were both intact, and the fork was held in place with a zip tie from the crown to the down tube, and all the other parts missing-in-action.  Gray and black and calling my name.  I had forgotten Christie’s rule about bringing home more bikes.

Once home I went to work assessing what she needed and what I had.  The stock specifications were compared to pictures of Jacquie Phelan riding Otto and the gaps were filled with parts I thought I could sneak in under the radar.

The handlebars were described in a previous blog entry.  They’re now appointed with old Dia-compe levers, Suntour bar end shifters and blue tape.

The wheels were cast-off cheapies, probably the same age as the frame.  They’re shod with new Kenda knobbies and a 14-28 freewheel.  Alpha-5000 derailers guide the chain.

The Suntour XC Expert cranks came from a fellow iBOB and the MKS Sylvan Track pedals from a dumpster bike.

I gave up on the roller-cam brake and installed a U-brake from Tektro.  It works surprisingly well, providing not only plenty of modulation, but also the ability to lock up the rear wheel.

Top it off with a WTB saddle.

She and I went for an inaugural ride yesterday through mud, water, ice and slush.

I think I’ll keep her.

In the bag

Grant Petersen over at Rivendell Bicycle Works has a lot to say.  If you’ve never heard of GP or Rivendell or the iBOB mail list you’d do yourself a great disservice to continue on in ignorance.  I don’t always agree with everything the big man says, and neither should anyone else for that matter, but he’s been around the cycling industry for a long time and his words carry some weight.  He’s worth listening to, in my opinion, even if you don’t like what he has to say.

That said, I’ve been mulling the idea of responding to some of GP’s writings here on the blog.  I’m not out to agree or disagree, or to start flame wars or get under anyone’s skin.  Just to compare and contrast and maybe learn a little. There’s a new “GP” tag for this post and I’ll use it in the future when it’s called for.

“In the bag”, the title of this little entry, is a reference to the article about bag contents in issue 41 of the Rivendell Reader.  Page 40 is where it all begins.  Those guys carry some interesting stuff, from the normal tube and multi-tool to rubber gloves and what appears to be one of those little sacks that hold tent stakes.  Here’s mine:

Spiraling Clockwise from the top left.  Yellow tire levers.  A tube still in the box.  Notepad with pencil from the last club ride where they decided I should lead so I wrote down everyone’s name just in case I led them over a cliff and someone needed to identify the bodies.  Park multi-tool (with it’s own tire levers).  Two spoke wrenches (I doubt either fits).  A sliced-apart Hannah Montana free download card next to the carabiner it was attached to when I found it on the road.  Super glue (still sticky, as I so gracefully found out).  A Brooks saddle spanner (the saddle is on a different bike).  A little baggy with random odd nuts and bolts and a brake cable.  A Clif Bar wrapper.  And a patch kit.

Holy batflaps!  Ironically, the bike these were on has a solid rear axle, but I haven’t been carrying around the wrench that will actually let me drop the wheel if I get a flat.  Go figure.   My little Nashbar front rack bag has become my bicycle’s glove box.  Going back in are the multi-tool, tube, patch kit, tire levers, spoke wrench (if one of them fits) and a 15mm box end for the rear wheel.

What’s the moral of this story, you ask?  That Scott is a pack rat, that’s what.  De-cluttering now.

Now I just have to figure out which Hanna Montana song I want.