Category Archives: Equipment

This Little Light ‘o Mine

I’ve been thinking about bicycle lighting and touring lately.

A lot of tourers don’t use expensive lights, for a number of reasons.  First has to do with the fact that most tourers don’t ride at night, so there is no need for a fancy setup.  Having ridden on many a rainy, or even misty day, I don’t buy it.  Having some good lights on to be seen and catch drivers’ attention is a well tested strategy in the commuting world, and should be just as sound for a pavement tourer.

Reliability.  Meh.  Maybe 10 years ago you could be genuinely concerned over a halogen light or a dynohub failing while in the middle of nowhere, but today’s offerings and technology is far more robust and dependable.  Several hubs are now field serviceable, and more shops are becoming familiar with better lighting setups as commuting grows.  Maybe this argument has some traction with adventure tourists who are traversing the outbacks where there are no shops, and the gravel takes a harder toll on gear.

Weight, space, bother.  Come on… I’ve seen guys carrying rather complex solar/battery systems that require far more care and feeding than a basic dynamo system.

So…if money were no object, and I were building up a bike to take me on the road for months at a time, I think the time is right to include some major electronics built right into the bike.  Ultimately, there would be lights, and power for a phone/GPS, a small computer, and whatever else might be needed.

Here is my list:

SON 28 Dynohub – robust, high output, field serviceable = $250

Tout Terrain Plug2 – this seems to be the least obtrusive power converter supplying USB-level current.  I like the fact that it fits right on the headtube = $221

Cache Battery – This presents a number of advantages, biggest of which is evening out the current available to flow into your devices.  They can also be charged off of any USB source.  It seems like the bike specific units are way overpriced, but there are a number of very high storage units to be found on the web = $50

Supernova Airstream Battery Light – Very pricey, but super bright, well built, can be charged off of USB, can be taken off the bike quickly when not needed or parked somewhere, and can double as a camp flashlight = $240

Supernova Airstream Taillight – plugs into the headlamp, and can be “permanently” hardwired to the bike for theft deterrance = $61

So there you have it.  For a mere $822, you can roam the highways and byways while still being completely connected to the world, and see where you’re going.  Add your Ipad, GPS, Blackberry, etc…, and you can enjoy the simpler, less complicated, non-materialistic world of life on the road.

I’m Ready!

The Swift panniers showed up.  Most beautious and lots and lots of room.  The bedroom (bag and pad) take up the right, and the kitchen takes up about half the left, leaving plenty of room for food and clothes.  Awesome.  That’s the tent on the front rack, and all of the other doo-dads tucked in the various pockets.

Took a very short test ride (was too tired from the ride this morning), and it felt great.  They latch on to the rack perfectly, and the low position leaves plenty of room for the saddlebag.

Can you say S24O?

X Wrenchin’

I spent about two hours last night working on the X bike.  Both sons have outgrown it, I’ve run out of things to currently tinker with on the LHT, and it bothers me to see the bike sitting.

My thoughts are to start with the parts bin and put as much of a lighter weight fast tourer together as I can.  I use the term fast tourer because it currently looks like a brevet bike, but I doubt it will ever see one.  No racks, but drop bars, fenders, and a Carradice Barley.

I’m going to try the Bontrager drop bars off of the Trucker, thinking that the shorter top tube on this bike might make the setup more comfortable than when it was on the LHT.  If it doesn’t work out, then I might ultimately look for some upright bars like a pair of On One Marys.  But that would also mean new levers and shifters, so I’m not in a great hurry.

Everything is pretty much together, but I need to tape up the bars; and I want to swap over the Grip King pedals for testing.  After using them for so long, the smaller Dimension platforms seem odd.

It will be interesting to see how it works out, given my obsession with an upright position now.  I’m also curious about running narrower tires (32’s) given how it seems if anything, the local roads are getting worse.  In the words of that great sage…We’ll see.

Pics to follow.

I Just Can’t Help Myself

What can I say?  As much as I might tout the greenishness of my bicycle riding, it all comes down to me being a consumerist pig.  I like cool stuff, and I am a certified gear head, and when I get my mind stuck on something, I gotta have it.

But I am partially redeemed!  Recently I cleared out a bunch of unused bike and camping gear through the miracle of Ebay.  With my Paypal balance burgeoning, assisted by the spare change jar on my bedroom dresser, I have ordered a pair of Swift Industries Short Stack panniers in Waxed Canvas, and pretty much broke even.

A picture almost identical to what I ordered…(It’s protected so I can’t grab it.)

Why Swift?  I wanted external pockets.  I wanted a way to carry tent poles without strapping them to the frame.  I wanted them deep enough to carry both a compressed sleeping bag and larger pad, and then some, inside.  They’re water proof – no need for yellow rain covers.  They have quick lock buckles rather than leather straps.  And I really, really like the classic look.

Yes, they were expensive.  More than I probably should have spent.  And they will probably outlast me by quite a few years.  But it’s an addiction and I just can’t help myself.

I hope to see them in about 2-3 weeks…and yes, I am looking through the garage, basement, and shed for other stuff to sell.

ALPS Compression Sack

Last fall I visited my sister out of town, and I drove my truck.  She spotted the Backcountry.com goat decal on the window and asked me about it.  Then for Christmas, a Backcountry gift certificate shows up.  Sisters are great.

I ended up ordering a bunch of small stuff from the discount outlet, and to get me above the $50 for free shipping, I bought this compression sack for $7.00.  What I like about it is that it compresses the length of the bag, rather than from end to end.  So you get a tube, rather than a ball.

I didn’t really need another compression sack, but I pulled out my Lost Ranger bag and stuffed it in.  Then, without really leaning on the straps, I was really surprised how small it compressed.

The bottom bag is the sack with the Lost Ranger, the middle is a Dualcore pad, and the top is a fleece bag liner compressed with a girdle.

As soon as I figure out what I need it for, I might just order one or two more.

Bodum Travel Press

I got turned on to french pressed coffee last year and have been hinting for months that a press would be a good gift.  I got one for Christmas that works well in the house, and then this one turned up for my birthday, which is going to be perfect for camping.

It’s the first press I’ve seen that doubles as an insulated travel mug.  You can press your coffee, add whatever, and then sip from the top.  It also slides perfectly into a water bottle cage, so carrying it along with the fixin’s inside should not take up any extra room.

I had been looking at metal ones, where you could heat up the water right in it; and also the GSI Personal Press, which is insulated but has a separate drinking mug.

My test mug involved using my backup stash of drip grind and the hot side of the local water cooler.  It worked great with just a minimal amount of blowby, which was probably my fault.  Rather than stirring the grounds in I gave it a shake, plus the drip grind is smaller and the powder made its way through the screen.  I have a bag of press grind at home.

So now I can keep this one in the office and plan on bringing it home for camping trips.  Bodum travel press – thumbs up.

If…2011

So every so often I do a post on “if I could have my pick of bikes”…  This is another one.

I think for my first list, I had something like six bikes.  I was going to road tour, wilderness tour, day tour, get groceries, ride trails, goof off, and go fast.  The next list got a little shorter with rationalizing that, if properly set up, one bike could perform multiple functions.  The list after that got shorter still, realizing that I probably won’t be inclined to do half the type of riding I previously described, so why bother lusting after a bike that would never see any miles?

So here we are.  December 2010 looking at 2011.  Right now the stable consists of the LHT, which represents 99% of my riding and you’re all pretty familiar with.  It’s my exploring/exercising/grocery getting/touring/camping/get out of the house bike.  Since buying it three years ago, it has close to 5K miles on it.  The trucker went through some major changes this year that have only increased my liking of this machine.  If I need to ride some rougher trails, I can swap out the wheelset to a pair of knobbies; and if I need to go on an extended tour, I can switch out the rear rack to add a second set of panniers.  I’d buy another one as my “go to” bike in a heartbeat.

The second machine in the stable is the X bike.  This is supposedly available for son#1; but at 6’2 1/2″, he has outgrown it and isn’t using it lately.  I currently have it set up as a “go faster” bike with a lighter wheelset and 32c street tires.  Since I took them off of the LHT, I’m planning to swap out the Nashbar drops for the 46cm Bontrager cross bars.  Once that is done, I’ve made a mental note to ride this bike more next year just to change things up a bit and get the occasional “sportier” bug out of my system.  I think that because it has a shorter top tube, its a bit more comfortable with drop bars than the larger LHT.  I don’t feel like I “need” this bike, but it’s there and I might as well use it.  I might be inclined to buy/build it again purely to have available as a back-up if the LHT needed some major work.

Bike number 3, or maybe 2 1/2, is the Cannondale.  I don’t know if this rig will ever see the light of day again, but given the large frame size it would be a good candidate for either of my sons.  If I do decide to ressurect it, my current thinking is leaning towards lightweight, low gear, upright “cafe” style bike.  Single ring front, maybe a three speed rear; and if I’m really feeling crazy, single speed.  I’m not going to put any money into this bike though, as this would be a purely “for the fun of it” project.

So that covers what we have (there are two other family bikes in the garage that aren’t really part of this equation), but not what else…

If I had deep pockets, I’d replace the LHT with an Atlantis; but with reservations.  I love the look, although I’m not crazy about the Seafoam green, but I’d constantly be fretting over any dings or scratches.  Not that I beat the bikes I have, but…well, you know what I mean.

And finally, what other bike would I want?  This is new, and a bit of a surprise, even to me… a folder. 

There.  I said it.  I want one of those strange little wheeled bikes that are only a step above recumbents on the weirdness scale.

Why?  Well, something to ride when we go on vacation and I don’t have to worry about bike racks, security, etc…  Nothing fancy or expensive; just a compact bike that I can lash down to the roof rack, throw in the back seat, or take on a train.  I’m not worried about commuting or touring, so probably a 3 speed internal geared is fine.  It could be a Brompton, Tikit, Dahon, or whatever – each brand seems to have a rabidly loyal following.

So I guess my ideal stable is down to two bikes, maybe three.  Far too practical.  The LHT and a folder.