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 :(.