Monday, December 15, 2008

Wanton Vandalism.

As I mentioned, I leave my Fuji Kyoto outside when I park at the subway station. Well, some idiot took a liking to my front hub generator light and tried to rip it off. Turns out it’s bolted on pretty firmly. He couldn’t get it off. Nonethless, he ripped the cover off and ripped the wires that connect the hub to the rear tail light. Now, my lights don’t work.

I’m pretty sure I can re-attach the wires somehow and glue the light cover back on. I’ll probably uglify it with some duct tape to (hopefully) deter other would be vandals.

Still, I can’t understand the mentality of someone who would try to steal someone’s light then seeing that he can’t have it, destroy it so that the owner can’t have further use of it. It’s like the line in the movie when the bad guy says, “If I can’t have it, nobody can!”

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Dedicated commuter: Review of the Fuji Kyoto 2.0

As I blogged about previously, I have been commuting on my Schwinn GSD (review). I called it my “go to” guy and it is a very good commuter. However, my recent experience with my Brompton has introduced me to Internally Geared Hubs (IGH). I had heard that IGHs were good for city/urban commutes, but personal experience with the Brompton has shown me that they are outstanding. I encounter frequent stops on my commute which is where IGHs shine. Being able to shift at a stop is a great benefit for urban commuters. You can shift down to an easy gear then up shift to the higher gear when you get rolling.

Because of this, I began to explore full sized bikes with IGHs. Bikes with IGHs are not readily available at local bike shops (LBSs). Many times you have to special order a bike with an IGH. I’ve seen some very nice built up from scratch bikes with IGHs on the bike forums site. These are beautiful machines with fancy accessories like leather wrapped handlebars, leather saddles, beveled fenders etc. Unfortunately, these can run up to a $1000+ dollars. Nice, but if you just want a reliable ride to get you back and forth to work, these kinds of bikes may be overkill. Even more, I’d be worried if someone would steal a bike like this and I’d be out all that money.

Luckily, I found an LBS that carried 2 bike models that have an IGH. One was a Giant TranSend EX and the Kyoto 2.0. The TranSend EX was similar to the Kyoto except it had a more advanced IGH Shimano Alfine 8 (one more gear) and it had disc brakes. The Alfine hub and the disc brakes cause the price of the Giant bike to be about $200 more than the Kyoto. Price was the primary reason I went with the Kyoto BTW.

I’ve been riding this bike for just over 70 miles and here are my impressions:


IGH: (As I mentioned above) Being able to shift at a stop. This is a necessity when encountering the number of stops most urban riders encounter. Believe me, your knees will thank you for it when taking off in a low gear.

Dynamo powered lights: This bike comes stock with a front headlight and a rear red tail light that is powered by a dynamo front hub. No batteries required! Both lights turn on when you start moving. And, there is no (or at least minimal) drag from the front hub that slows you down. In addition, the wires running to both lights are out of the way and unobtrusive. The wires to the rear light run through the fenders. Ingenious! My only worry about these nice lights is that some idiot will come by and rip them off thinking he can install them on his bike or sell them. Or, he can decide to smash them after unsuccessfully attempting to take them off. After all, I do park my bike out in the open. A slight negative, the rear light is a constant red, not a blinky red type light. And, after a long ride the red light remains on for 2-3 minutes then dies. The front light turns off when you finish pedaling regardless. Finally, the light given off by the front light is not that strong so it won’t illuminate you 1 block down. However, it is meant for cars to see YOU primarily.

Accessories: The bike also comes with custom-fit fenders (a commuting necessity) and a custom fit chainguard. Manufacturer provided fenders fit a bike like a glove and this bike is no exception. I commute in “regular” clothes so the chainguard is a requirement for me.

Rim Brakes: In my previous review of the Schwinn GSD I raved about the disc brakes. Disc brakes work great in wet weather and they don’t wear out your rims. I was prepared to be less enthusiastic with this Kyoto because of the rim brakes, but I’m not. I am pleasantly surprised. These brakes are quiet, stop on a dime and don’t wobble and hit one side of the rim over another. They are perfectly centered.

Bolt-on wheels: IGHs are usually secured with bolt-on wheels rather than Quick Release hubs. Bolt-on wheels are better theft deterrents. I can use a simple cable lock to secure this bike to a tree or lamppost via the frame triangle. This would be good in a pinch, but I will use a U lock when I leave my bike locked up outside just to be safe.


Weight: This bike is heavy. It weighs about 32 lbs. This is heavier than the Schwinn GSD. I don’t understand why these IGH equipped bikes are so heavy. This bike does have a front fork, which contributes to the weight. And, the IGH adds a pound or two. Maybe they use heavy aluminum and strong sturdy parts on these bikes because they are supposed to last forever and be indestructible. Here, the option of building your own IGH bike looks attractive. Get a lightweight frame , IGH it, go bare bones and you can have a 25lb or lower weight bike. Even though the bike is heavy, riding it feels really light. Maybe it’s the tires (Continental) that have little surface contact with the ground, but it feels very agile. It is only when you lift the bike that you notice the heftiness.

One last improvement: I've rigged a bottle holder on the rack so I can hang my workbag. See pix below:

Friday, September 19, 2008

There here! Rental bikes for locals.

I did an entry earlier about this rent-a-bike scheme coming to my area ( Well, they’ve arrived. I saw my first Smart Bike DC location when I was downtown earlier this week and snapped some cell camera pix. In a nutshell, you pay $40 a year which gives you unlimited rides (up to 3 hours) throughout the year. If you don’t return the bike, you get tagged with a hefty charge ($500, I believe). There are 10 designated return areas/kiosks throughout the city.

As one can see, the bikes are rather utilitarian. Internal 3 speeds, chainguards with fenders and an upright riding style. The bike style offered means that anyone from a young rider to an old lady can ride them. Also, no mention about wearing a helmet anywhere near this kiosk I saw.

This is exciting. $40 is really cheap for what this gives you. It’s like an all you can eat buffet of bike riding for one year. If you want to keep your bike more than a 3 hour period, just return the bike to a kiosk. Then, re-rent another one for another 3 hour period. I hope this program is a big success so that other U.S. cities can copy these efforts.

See for more information.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Airbomb Not Da Bomb.

Review of online retailer.

I frequently look for bike parts mostly online because they tend to be cheaper than going to an LBS. I try to get the part online and either install the part myself or have the LBS install it for me. Even when you include shipping, items tend to be cheaper online believe it or not. I have bought stuff before from places like Pricepoint or Performance and they have provided fast top notch service. I compare prices using Google shopping comparison site (used to be called Froggle). A site that kept coming up with low prices was I decided to give them a try and ordered a rear cog. What a mistake.

Here’s the chronology:
8/15/08 placed order
8/16/08 received order email acknowledgement
8/20/08 received a “confirmed and in process” email
8/27/08 received a “short order delay” email
9/2/08 received an “extended backorder notification” email

After the last email, I called them and cancelled the order. I spoke to someone named “Caroline” and said that was no problem. Later, they shipped the order that day!

Eighteen days to fill an order! That’s not too good. They drag the customer along and, if he/she cancels, they fulfill the order. Nice business model. Bottom line: Avoid

Friday, August 29, 2008

Review of Mirrycle Mirror: Best Mirror I've Found.

I have this Mirrycle handle bar mirror that I can’t recommend more highly. I tried other mirrors and they just can’t compare with this Mirrycle. There was one I tried that you had to stick into the handlebar and had some sort of expanding rubber to hold it in place. I think it was called the Cateye handlebar MTB mirror. It wobbled too much as you rode. You had to constantly readjust it so you could have the appropriate line of sight. Not with this Mirrycle. It has an expanding cylinder (with two handlebar width sizes) that will hold this mirror firmly in place. The kit comes with a L-shaped hex key to adjust. In addition, you can adjust it once and forget it. It pretty much stays the way you left it. I wouldn’t tighten it too much because if you bike falls over or you hit a parking meter or something you may break it. Better that it be slightly loose so it can “give” in case you rub it against something.

I’m also not a fan of those stick on mirrors that you put on your glasses or on your helmet. I’ve only got one pair of glasses and I’m pretty rough with them. I toss them when I take them off and I don’t think a protruding mirror would last too long with the way I treat my glasses. Same thing with the helmet mirror. These usually stick on to the outside of the helmet. I toss my helmet in a small shelf in the garage when I remove it. Again, my rough treatment could cause these small mirrors to come off.

If you’re a regular commuter you should make a rearview mirror as one of your top 3 accessories to outfit your bike with. Using my mirror, I’m always looking behind me to see traffic approaching. Generally, I try to take the lane as much as possible to 1) avoid being “doored” from cars on the right and 2) to more be more visible to traffic. When I spot a car coming up behind me, I move slightly to the right to allow them to pass me. Although I’ve never been hit from behind, I think a rear mirror would also allow me to jump off or leave the bike if a car does strike me.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Adding a chainguard/trouser guard to my Dahon Yeah.

Dahon equips most of their bikes with these cheap plastic ring chaincovers/bashguards. I broke my off my ring cover from my Yeah when I rubbed it accidentally with my foot. See this old pix of my Yeah with an unbroken chaincover:

Since I ride with "normal" clothes, I have gotten quickly tired of tucking my pants into my socks or wearing a velcro band around my right leg.

The Yeah has 52T front single ring. I set about looking for a aftermarket chainguard that would fit the front ring. I quickly found a good candidate in the Sun chainguard from Velo Orange: ($19 + shipping). I corresponded with Chris from Velo and he assured me that this chainguard is thin steel that can be bent to fit a lot of bikes. The chainguard came with P clamps that were too little to fit my Dahon's tubes esp. the front ring area.

I improvised a solution by using this plumbers strapping tape to make a clamp. Plumbers use this tape to fasten PVC pipe to walls and joists in a house. This metal tape is highly malleable, has holes and is rust proof. The clamp I made rests on the slots where the rear cables go through. I used a small screw to hold the chainguard between my clamp (see pix). I lined the inside of my makeshift clamp with a cut up piece of inner tube. I had to expand the front part of chainguard so that it wouldn't rub against the chain.

For the rear, I bent the chainguard flat and fastened it with a handi-tie. Using the P clamp for the rear made it stick out too much and caused rubbing with the crank arm.
I am really pleased with the result. I now have a chainguard that runs all the way back so a flapping trouser leg won't rub against the back part of the chain. Those bashguards just protect the immediate area around the ring. Also, the Dahon's fold will not compromise this chainguard. Not that I fold it that much anyway. The strapping tape was a real find, as well. I bought a small roll of it. I can see it being useful for other bike projects where I have to fasten stuff to a variety sized tubes.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Packing A Brompton M3L Into An Airline-Approved Suitcase.

10/19/08 Update. According to poster snod911 below, a brommie with a rear rack WON'T fit in this case. Mine doesn't have one, but perhaps you can remove it before you travel if you do. Thanks, snod911.

8/2/08 Update. It worked! I just came back from a trip to Alaska and had no problems taking the Brommie in this suitcase. Upon check-in, the case weighed 42 lbs. The airline person didn’t measure its dimensions. They did tag me with a $25 2nd bag fee (jerks). On the return trip, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) looked at it because they left one of their pamphlets in the case. No problems! I wrapped it crosswise with a luggage strap, but the case may not have needed it. BTW, I flew Northwest airlines.

As I mentioned earlier, I bought the Brompton M3L because I wanted to be able to quickly pack it in a suitcase and take it with me on my various business trips. After researching the various options on suitcases, I think I’ve found THE one: the Delsey Axiom Suiter 29”. It is a hard-sided suitcase. Even though many recommended the Samsonite F’lite, it was too small. The largest F’lite is 31” but even that was too small.

As you can see from my pix, the M3L fits nice and tight in there. Not loose at all. This should be an advantage as a bike that is loose in a case could tend to be more easily damaged in transit. Maybe I’ll pad it further with some clothes or foam to make it more snug. I plan to get a luggage strap to wrap around the case just to be sure it won’t break apart if some baggage handler launches it like a shot put.

I was a little disappointed that I had to remove the saddle in order for it to fit, but I guess that’s the compromise with going with an airline-sanctioned suitcase. I will have to pack a wrench to remove and attach the saddle. This is certainly better than the type of disassembly some folder riders have to do with their bikes, though. The Brompton weighs about 25 lbs and the case is about 10 lbs I should still be under the 50 lb limit.

The Delsey Axiom is widely available in most independent luggage stores in my area. I was able to take my Brompton and drop it in both the Delsey and the Samsonite to do a comparison test. Most online places sell the Delsey for around $200 but I was able to find it for a little over $100 at a luggage shop in New York (w/free shipping). Local shops wanted around $250 for this Delsey.

I have a big trip coming up in July to Alaska. It’ll be the maiden voyage for this case and Brompton. I’ll report back to see how it goes.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

More Like a Road Dampener: Review of Thudbuster LT 3G

8/21/08 Update. At the suggestion of one of the Cane Creek guys, I switched to the softer elastometer combo (Blue-Brown). The result? It does give you a softer ride, but I still think you’d get the same result from a good sprung saddle. I expected the kind of ride you get from a full suspension MTB, but this does not approximate that.

MSRP: $139
Price paid: $120

I had heard good things about the Thudbuster LT 3G so it got me intrigued and I purchased one. Some reviewers said that it was like giving your bike a rear suspension spring. Others said that it was a great on MTB trails as well as urban jungles. My review is less than enthusiastic. I installed the Thudbuster LT 3G on my primary commuting bike, the Schwinn GSD. I give it 2 out of 5 stars.

First, it is important to make sure that your seatpost diameter is the same as the ones that Cane Creek (the manufacturer) sells. My first try was by going by the specs from Schwinn. These turned out to be wrong. Your diameter is usually engraved on your seatpost. That is the right size. Cane Creek also gives you shims in case you have a non-standard seatpost.

Installation is straightforward as you just remove the seatpost and put in the new one. It is a good idea to pre-install your saddle on the Thudbuster LT 3G before you put it in. I switched the QR clamp on my post to a bolt-on one to deter theft. (This is always a good idea in urban areas as saddles are thief magnets.)

The Thudbuster LT 3G comes with these cylindrical elastometers that are keyed to your weight. You must pair them up to give you the support you need. My weight is 170 lbs so I went with the blue/blue elastometer combo. Different colored pairs are keyed to different rider weights.

The ride after the Thudbuster LT 3G was a little underwhelming. I expected a springy type experience like a suspension MTB, but I didn’t get it. For example, coming from the sloped end of a driveway to the street curb is a significant bump. The Thudbuster LT 3G doesn’t really soften the bump. You still feel it. I still raise my rear when I leave my driveway. No different than before. If you go through a lot of those road veins/cuts/mini undulations that are not that high and in succession, the Thudbuster LT 3G will “dampen” the ride, but that’s about it.

I considered going to the softer elastometers, but Cane Creek warns against doing this. I guess they fear that a big bump will shred them esp. if your weight overstresses them. You could have an accident and Cane Creek would, theoretically, be liable.

All in all, I would recommend that you save your money and get a spring saddle. It gives the same effect at a reduced price.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Some mods/upgrades to the Brompton M3L.

I'm really enjoying my new Brompton M3L even though I have just a few miles on it. It is a solid riding bike. For a lot of new bikes, I always make adjustments after an initial riding period. Adjust the brakes, tighten something...not with this brompton (at least not yet). The only adjustment I've done is for fit. I moved the handlebars slightly towards me. The suspension, basically a rubber circle in the rear triangle, is perfect for my weight. Not too stiff and not too squishy.

Anyway, let me report on some upgrades/modifications. First, I replaced the stock brompton seat, which was hard and uncomfortable, with a Bell MTB bike seat. Ok, I bought this seat at walmart, but it has served me well on other bikes. It has an anatomical dimple/hole and no springs for suspension. I was kinda worried that I would have to invest in a pentaclip, which promises to make every saddle compatible with the brompton seat tube. As I mentioned earlier, Brompton accessories tend to be pricey. I didn't need to get the pentaclip. The Bell seat came with a saddle adapter that fit perfectly on the seat tube. These adapter clamps are also available at your LBS for about $2-3. They look like this:

Second, I ordered and installed the Brompton front carry block ($30), which allows you to fit a number of bags to the front of the brompton. I followed the instructions from Channell Wasson (see:). Channell is the top dealer (perhaps the only one?) for Bromptons on the west coast. Basically, you just have to tighten it so you won't lose the bag as you're riding. For my first bag, I purchased the folding basket ($99). This is a open basket with a built in lower support bracket. I can use it to put my work bag there as well as groceries or other things I can carry around.

The best thing about the front carry block is that it is connected to the frame, not the handlebars. That way, you can carry as much stuff in your basket/bag and it won't interfere with your steering. Most of the front baskets sold nowadays are attached or clip on to the handlebars. This affects steering and can make your bike ride more twitchy or wobbly. It's a weird feeling at first because you steer to the left and right and the basket does not move with it.

Brompton takes a lot of heat for its expensive accessories, but I'm really impressed with the quality and workmanship of these two items. So far these two have been money well spent.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

It's all about the fold: Brompton M3L Review.

Pros: compact folding size, stays folded, surprisingly speedy, reflective tires

Cons: price/pricey accessories, saddle, plasticky shifter

I have only ridden this bike for three short rides and I am very happy with my purchase. I am surprised with the speediness of this bike. You make a pedal stroke and off you go. You also want to keep going. This is probably due to the high pressure tires of the Brompton. They take up to 100psi.

I had expected twitchiness when handling the bike as other first time Brompton users have encountered. I found little to none. I got adjusted to the ride rather quickly. The ride does feel bumpy when dealing with bumps and undulations of the road. Perhaps this is due to the saddle, which IMHO is low quality, or maybe the hardness of the high pressure tires.
Besides the saddle, the two little wheels that allow you to roll the bike kept interfering with my pedal stroke. That is a nuisance. I kept hitting those mini wheels with my heels. I’ve developed an inside-out pedal stroke to compensate for this when riding this Brompton.

Another negative is the shifter. It shifts fine, but it doesn't look that durable. The material looks like cheap plastic. I'm afraid that I'll hit a parking meter and I'll break it.

The fold is the best feature of this bike. There are other ultra portable folders like the A bike or Strida, but those are very small wheeled, funky looking bikes. They look like a stack of 2x4s held together. This is a true bike that folds small. If you want a compact-no mess-quick fold, this is the bike for you. The chain is enclosed in the fold so there is very little danger of staining your clothing as you carry it. It is the most perfect fold I've ever seen. It stays folded! You can carry it for short distances, but the weight is heavy (25lbs). You can also roll it when folded, but the wheels are rather small and this can only work if you had perfect flat pavement.

Here are some examples of multimodal commuting this Brompton gives you: You bike in to work, you don’t want to ride home, you take a cab home (with your bike with you). You ride a while, get tired, fold up your bike, take a bus or cab to where you’re going. You ride, have a flat, call a friend for a ride or take cab/bus to your destination (with your bike with you). A lot of other possibilities.

This bike is a 3 speed. This is my first internally geared bike. The rear hub is a Sturmey Archer. One thing I was not expecting was the clicking coming from the hub. It is not loud, but is different when coming from relatively quiet externally geared bikes. I understand this is quite normal with SA hubs. A three speed may not work in very hilly cities like San Francisco. You’d probably need more than 3 gears there. Here in DC, which is moderately hilly, the 3 gears work fine for me.

A definite negative to this bike is the price ($950 USD). I am hoping that Merc is able to sell their bikes here in the future at half the price of a Brompton. That way, a lot of bike enthusiasts can discover what a great solution a multimodal folder can be. Competition between the two can ensue and maybe Brompton prices will drop. Brompton keeps production of their bikes in England, which contributes to their high prices. Also pricey are the accessories to outfit a Brompton. You can’t simply swap a rail saddle to a Brompton. You have to buy a Pentaclip adapter ($30). Ouch. The same goes for a front carry bag, which will run you about $100 (a front “carry block” + bag). A positive about the accessories is that they can be retrofitted to older and newer models (at least Brompton has promised that).

The Brompton “parked” state takes some getting used to. The back wheel folds up and the bike rests on those small wheels. This is a “resting” position for the Brompton. I have gotten used to lifting all my other bikes (from the rear) when pulling them up a curb, moving them to get closer to a pole or bike rack etc. The bike rear wheel comes up as you lift it! There is a clip that prevents this, but, again, this is probably expensive. To compensate for this, I’ll try to lift the bike from the front wheel from now on.

My M3L is a 2007 model.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

How I Came to Choose the Brompton M3L.

I do a fair amount of airline traveling and I have been considering taking a bike with me on my trips. I own the 20” wheeled Dahon Yeah folding bike (see: ) but it’s portability is not super. It is fine for folding into the trunk of your car, but packing it into an airline regulation-sized suitcase is not that simple. I’ve seen pictures of this being done, but it requires a lot of disassembly. This involves removing the wheels, the seatpost, the stem and other sundry parts. You also have to protect certain parts from damage and (less important) scratching. Extensive assembly/disassembly is something I did not want to do. Ideally, I’d like to remove nothing, or maybe one part, to pack it in a suitcase. I certainly did not want to carry tools/wrenches with me on my trip(s).

Thus, I set about to look for a smaller wheeled (16”) folding bike that I could take with me on trips with minimal disassembly. Quickly, my choices came down to the following: Downtube mini, Dahon Curve (3 speed), Brompton M3L and the Merc 3 speed. I did see a Curve in person, but the folded state seemed a little bit large. Although I didn’t see the Downtube, I saw some good pictures of it on the 'net and the bikeforums site. Frankly, the fold did not seem as compact as a Brompton. The mini did have more than 3 gears (I think 7) a plus. The prices for the mini ($450) and curve ($350) were much lower than a Brompton. Even with the low prices, and the number of gears on the Mini, I did not think that either of these bikes would have been quickly packed in an airline-approved suitcase .

This left a choice between the Merc and the Brompton. Mercs are basically Asian-produced clones of the Brompton. Mercs are regularly available from an ebay called “Merc folding bike spares” based in the U.K. The folded state of the two bikes is the same. The Mercs components are not as high quality as a Brompton, but they do include extras like a front bag and a carry case. For the light infrequent riding I was planning to do, the Merc looked attractive.

As in many things, cost was a consideration. With the current weak dollar, a Merc would have cost $400 British pounds (shipped), which equates to about $800 USD. This Brompton cost $950 USD; $150 more. Brompton seems to sell its bikes for as close to U.K. prices here in the United States. This has something to do with the dealer network and the mass quantities it ships here. In the end, I decided to go with Brompton because of the “name” of the Brompton, even though it is more expensive. I surmised that the Brompton would hold its value better than a Merc. In addition, there is one Brompton dealer in my area, which can come in handy if I have any problems with the bike. A few years ago, with the dollar stronger, my choice would have probably been different.

I will post an entry of my folded Brompton in a suitcase when I take it on my first trip.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Review of the Next Avalon Bike.

4/24/08 Update: After riding this bike for approximately 25 miles, this experiment is over. I’m getting rid of this bike. I could never get quite comfortable in the cockpit. It truly did not fit me like it should. You may have to be around 5’ foot tall to have this bike fit you. After riding it, my quads hurt, my lower back hurt, it was difficult to pedal. I did the adjustments to the seat and the handlebars, but could not get this bike “dialed in” for me. Sorry, Walmart. I’m leaving my original review for reference purposes.

Pros: Price, chain cover, cushy ride, rack eyelets, bolt on wheels

Cons: Handgrips, fit (one size will not fit all), kickstand is too far back

First, I get really excited when I see commuter-friendly bikes. That was the case when I saw this Next Avalon bike. The thing that drew me to this bike was the chain cover. A chain cover! Remember when I paid almost $100 to put a chain cover on my current everyday commuter (see: For the price of this bike ($99), I get a chain cover with an entire bike attached to it! I had to buy it.

I did purchase it at the king of all mass-market retailers, Walmart. I know that a lot of bike enthusiasts have no respect for Walmart bikes. They are always panned for being shoddily put together. And, of course, Walmart pays its vendors peanuts. This should equal lower quality. Well, why not perform my own long-term test to see if what "they" say is right? That's what I will do. My plan for this bike is for short errand running or trips to the ATM or grocery store. I plan to add a trip computer to track the mileage and the kinds of problems that I encounter as the bike piles up the miles.

Thus far, I've taken it for a short neighborhood ride and the bike seems to perform like it should. The handlebars didn't fall off. Everything is ok. The brake pads were rubbing on one side of the rear wheel so I adjusted them. The ride is very cushy. It has a springy neoprene seat as well as and single spring rear suspension. It also has a suspension front fork.

I like that this bike has bolt-on wheels. This is a good wheel theft deterrent. All you do is tie your lock cable to the frame and not worry too much about your wheels being stolen. I probably won't like this when I get a flat, but I'll deal with that when it comes.

I've added the rack so I can put stuff back there. It does have rack eyelets by the rear dropouts, but none by the seat part. I attached my rack to the rear seat stay with some P clamps. I also plan to add some fenders to it when I find them cheap or used. I don't plan to put a lot of money into this bike. I will replace the hand grips, though. They are the hard rubber kind.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Transporting a Pizza: The Bicycle Version

I guess that you could carry a pizza using your free hand and the other hand to steer and brake. That would be easy, but slightly hazardous. What if you wanted to carry more than one pie? And, what if you had to travel a reasonable distance and wanted your pie to be as close to hot as it was when it came out of the oven. Voila! Here’s my method:

First, make sure you have a rack on your bike (mine is of the rear variety). Second, get yourself some kind of other square holder to put your pizza on. I found my holder behind a supermarket. I think it may have held bread or pastries that are sold at the supermarket. It is the perfect size as it can hold the large pizzas from Dominos. I fastened my bread holder to the bike rack using Velcro strap ties. These are sold at dollar and computer stores and are meant to tidy up the mass of cables coming out of your computer or TV set. Third, buy a “Hot/Cold” bag. I bought mine at my supermarket and it cost $2.99. You can also find them on ebay, but they are more expensive there. There are other cheaper ones, but I think I bought the most popular brand. They come in 3 sizes (Small, Medium, Large) and my kind is the Large. Finally, bungee straps hold the pizza to the bread rack.

As you can see, my pix shows a slight bulge at the top. I confess: I ended up getting the 6 piece wings (yes!). The max I have carried is 2 pizzas, but I think I can squeeze 3 pies in there.

I ride slow and try to avoid the bumps in the road when carrying a pizza. The first time I tried my method I had visions of the pepperonis sliding off the crust and on one side of the box. That didn’t happen. I just kept it slow and steady and didn’t make any sharp turns. Enjoy!

Monday, March 10, 2008

2007 Schwinn Voyageur GSD Review.

MSRP: $379
Price Paid: $299
8.27.08 Update: I just reached the 500 mile milestone on this bike and I couldn’t be more pleased. The components are holding up and it does a great job in getting me around. It seems like the bike has adapted to me rather than the other way around. The fenders I’ve attached have really kept the bike looking sharp. It seems like dirt and, of course, rain does not run up on the bike if the fenders weren’t there. Thus, it still looks mostly shiny like it did when I first got it. The shifting is still silky smooth and the disc brakes stop very well. At about 250 miles I degreased and lubed the chain. Before that, it was lightly squeaking when I turned the pedal. The lubing eliminated that. You can always “hear” bikes that never had this kind of basic maintenance by the sound they make when riding past you. The bike isn’t that noisy now about 250 miles later so that lube must be pretty good (maybe degreasing/lubing can a future post topic?). It could also be that my chainguard is keeping dirt off the chain and cogs.

Is that a ladies frame/girls bike? Are you wimping out? Wife’s bike, right? Those are the kind of comments I expect to hear from people (but I haven’t heard yet) from my latest commuter. It is a 2007 Schwinn Voyageur.

My counter from the responses above is: No, it’s a U-Framed bicycle. Or I could try, “It’s a unisex frame.” Will those comebacks work? Who knows. As I may have mentioned before, I am short distance commuter (6 miles round trip). And, I commute in work clothes: Nice shirt, slacks, a dress coat or blazer. Not many bikes are sold in this country to accommodate me. The stock bike and the changes I made to this Voyageur make it the perfect commuter for my purposes.

I am evolving as a bicycle commuter. A couple of things happened when I was commuting in my Fuji Crosstown. One, I tore a couple of dress pants when I straddled the Fuji and, two; I got really tired of putting an ankle strap on my pants leg or tucking my right leg pants into my sock. Thus, I had my LBS install an after-market chain guard on this bike (see the review below).

The result: it is my “go-to guy”, everyday commuter. The U-frame makes it easy on my clothing to ride this bike to work. I don’t have to pull my leg over the entire bike to straddle it. On my other bikes, lifting my leg up worried me that I could rip my pants along the crotch area. The chainguard protects my pants and, more importantly, removes my daily chore of adding an ankle strap. I’ve logged about 125 miles on it and here are my impressions:

DISC BRAKES: I really love the disc brakes on this bike (Radius mech 7.0 mechanical discs). This is my first bike with disc brakes and I am thoroughly impressed. They work great when braking in wet conditions. With the exception of the bikes of my youth, which came with coaster brakes, all my adult bikes have had traditional rim brakes. Some rim brakes have been better then others, but all had something in common: squealing. Not with these disc brakes. They stop very well and are quiet when applying them. Because of my experience with this bike, disc brakes will be one of the plus factors that will sway me when comparing features on a future bike.

FRONT FORK: The suspension front fork is not a necessity on this bike in my opinion. Since you don’t really lean into the handlebars like you do on a mountain bike, for example, I don’t think you need this suspension fork. I’ve found the fork helpful when I jump a curb, but I don’t do that too often. I should probably replace it, but since they last a few thousand miles I’m guessing it will be a while.

HANDLEBARS: The bars bend towards you, which contributes to an upright riding style. As I’ve mentioned before, being upright and seeing all around you esp. cars is a key feature in a city/urban commuting bike.

SHIFTERS: I also like the bar twist-type shifters (SRAM ESP 3.0 COMP). I have been riding this bike in the winter with gloves. With winter gloves it is hard to have any dexterity for using those trigger type shifters or the ones where you use your thumbs. The twist kind are perfect for winter riding.

SADDLE: The stock seat is a very good Schwinn comfort-tuned saddle with a dimple in the middle. The Voyageur comes with a suspension seat post, that honestly, I can’t feel it making much of a difference. It has 35mm of travel. My picture shows a Brooks B67, but I am back with the Schwinn comfort tuned one. Everyone raves about Brooks saddles, but maybe I’m too lightweight to benefit from a Brooks (maybe a future posting subject).

TIRES: I was glad to see that this bike came with 700c tires (700cx40). These are the thin type European tires that have less surface contact with the road and are faster than 26” tires that are on most MTBs.

MODIFICATIONS: As you can see I added fenders to it. The fenders are essential for riding in the rain or on just rained on, moist streets. The stock Voyageur does not come with fenders, but the frame has the necessary holes/eyelets for them. The frame has the requisite eyelets for the rear rack and I added a rack to the Voyageur. I also looped 2 hose clamps on the handlebars to hold a very good 2AA LED flashlight to the front. Of course, I have a blinky light hooked up to my back rack.

SUMMARY: All in all, I’m very happy with this Voyageur. I realize that I’ve put on some costly accessories on this bike (esp. the chain guard) and that has affected the bottom line price I paid. However, when you compare the ready-made commuter bikes that are similar to this Voyageur you can see that I’m still below those prices. These bikes are: Breezer Villager ($650 MSRP), Trek T300 ($899 MSRP), and Specialized Globe ($770 MSRP). The math on this Voyageur is like this: Bike ($299) + chainguard ($100) + fenders ($25) + hose clamps/flashlight ($12) + rack ($40) + blinky ($9) = $485.

You CAN outfit a nicely equipped NEW commuter for much less than a brand new one from someone like Breezer, Trek or Specialized.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Mom was right: Scarves do help.

I posted the following entry at the Bikeforums site ( Thought I'd reproduce it for my blog:

"It wasn't that cold out this morning (upper 20s), but the wind was really whipping up. I think the weather guy said last night that the wind chill would make it feel like the teens. On a lark, I wrapped a beaten Old Navy scarf around my neck that I happened to see at the bottom of my closet. I think it made a great difference. My face didn't seem to grimace as much considering the wind. Also, putting your scarf on seems to immediately flush up your face with warmth."

I got some further pointers from my fellow bike commuters when they responded to my initial post. They ranged from some riders using the scarf to cover your mouth (good idea!), some use a balaclava (sounds expensive!) but is like a full-head on wrap, some use a simple hanky/bandana, and others use a neck gaiter (like a turtle neck without a shirt).

The bad news is that now that I'm getting used to biking in cold weather, the season is ending! One day this week, the temperatures will be in the 60s :(.