Friday, January 18, 2013

Handmade Rando-Style Handlebar Bags

So, a little plug here. My wife has been sewing up some really gorgeous rando/boxy style handlebar bags and is taking a shot at selling a few on Etsy.

Here's mine sitting on the bike right now:

She has a few for sale at her shop here: 

I have been riding my Soma San Marcos with a Velo Orange Rando Rack with one of her bags for the last year and love it. Having on-bike access to my stuff, never having to worry about if I have room to grab something at the store, it's like a mini cargo bike.

You should go check them out, really.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Baby on board! Ellsley's first bike ride

Yea!  We recently decided that E was ready for the jogging stroller (makes mom very happy) and the cargobike (makes dad very happy)!

I had previously discovered that our existing infant car seat wouldn't fit into the box on the cargobike, so we had to do some additional planning.  Some online research will tell you that typically Maxi-Cosi infant seats are smaller than many other brands, so I found a Craigslist special.

I made a few warranty-voiding modifications that involved a hacksaw.  Just needed to get the base/back a bit smaller to fit in the box.

At the recommendation of Zach and the good folks at Totcycle we picked up an Uppa Baby Bubble sunshade.  Here it is on E's Maxi Cosi.

The Uppa Bubble has mesh sides and a mesh front zipper flap.  Then there is a solid blackout sunshade that goes over the top.  Two things I don't love about the bubble:  

1) It's pretty akward to get her in and out of it.  The mesh screen only moves up to as far as it is in the above picture, so you sort of have to slide her in and out. This also means I have to put her in the carseat and then put the carseat in the bike.
2) Mesh sides let in the sun.  So we have been draping a blanket over the sides to keep out the sun.

Baby in carseat, carseat in bubble, and then carseat in cargobike!  At first I thought about putting anchors into the base of the box and using the Latch system on the carseat, but decided to just go with a seatbelt.

I got a regular lap seatbelt at the auto parts store for $15 or so.  It is bolted through the box into existing holes and down through the kickstand attachment.  This way I didn't have to drill additional holes in the box and the final anchor goes through some metal rather than just plywood.  The seatbelt secures down over the carseat just like it would in a car!

In the bottom of the box you see a rubber exercise mat that I cut to fit to help with noise, vibration and to keep the box from getting too beat up.  That cost me about $10.  We have also been putting down a blanket under the carseat to help with vibration.

So far she's been on two rides of 8-10 miles and loved it!  She tried pretty hard to fall asleep on today's ride.  Would love to have naptime happen on the bike.

Don't report me to the Elizabethton, TN, police department, ok?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Ergon PC2 Pedals reviewed

(Full disclosure: the PC2 pedals were provided to me at no cost as part of the 2011 Ergon Commuter Team).

At last!  Ok actually I got these more than a few weeks ago but I've been backed up on the blog. That said, aside from the BC3 backpack, these are the product I have been most excited about getting my hands on.  I knew I had the perfect application: the cargobike.

Meh.  Look at those unexciting Wellgo platforms.  We can do better than that!

While the PC2 is dubbed a commuter pedal, I knew that my riding style and touring bike wouldn't be the right application for these pedals.  Here's why:

They are pretty big.  Below, in the now-familiar eco-friendly Ergon packaging:

And, for a bit more perspective, here they are on the cargobike.

The PC2s come in two sizes, since the contact platform is shaped to ergonomically (GET IT?) fit your foot.  So I have the large size since I wear a 10.5US men's shoe.  

Here's the real deal about the PC2s: once installed, they require no thought at all.  Your foot just slides into where it is supposed to go, and you're off.  The contact platform is slightly concave, so it holds the ball of your foot.  There is a raised edge on your instep, so your foot can't slide too far in to the pedal.  Finally, somehow, Ergon is the only (?) company to have figured out that 3M knows a lot about surfaces, and the pedals have this amazing non-slip tack coating on the contact patch. (Seriously you guys should make a slimmer, rugged version of these pedals for gravity dorks, bmxers and Danny Macaskill).

I ride my cargobike in whatever footwear happens to be nearest the door.  Usually that is flip flops.  Sometimes a pair of trail runners.  It all works, and my feet stay right where they should be.

Here's the downside:  they are really big.  Did I say they are big already?  Cuz they are really big. My Surly LHT has a pretty low BB, and I would not put these pedals on that bike.  I already occasionally scrape my pedals riding too hard on that bike. But any bike that is ridden more casually or has a decently high BB would be a great candidate for these super-practical pedals.  

They are great on a cargobike.  Just ask GT.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ergon HC1 gloves tried and tested

(Full disclosure: these gloves were provided to me for free as part of being on the 2011 Ergon Commuter Team.)

One of the perks of being on the Ergon Commuter team this year was a chance to try out a pair of Ergon's new gloves.  The lineup includes short and full finger gloves for "Racing Grips" (GS/GX) "Performance Comfort" (GP/GC) and "Technical" (GA/GE).  Since I am not much of a MTB'er I went with short-finger HC1s, which fall under the Performance Comfort group.

(Already well-loved HC1s.  Yes, that is sweat.)

I have a hard time with cycling gloves sometimes.  I have long skinny fingers and frequently find myself with gloves that fit in length but are huge around my hands/wrists.  I took a chance when ordering my HC1s and went with a medium instead of a large, hoping they would stretch a bit like every other pair of gloves I have owned.

So far that has really paid off.  After a few months of daily use they are still snug but comfortable.  I can't attest to their prowess on a MTB, but they have been great performers on my drop bar touring bike.  They are wearing in nicely and construction quality is excellent.

As others have noted, they lack a terrycloth snot wipe on the thumb/back.  I really would prefer this.  Instead they went with a microfiber-ish fabric over the thumb which suffices but is not really ideal.

If the proof is in the pudding, here it is: 

If I am going out for a ride of 5+ miles, I go looking for these gloves, every time.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Denver Cargo Bike Race

This week I had a crazy idea:  racing our cargo bike against other cargo bikes.  What is not to love about this idea?  So I talked to Chris and he thought it was a swell idea too.

Here's what I am thinking initially.

1) All kinds of cargo bikes welcome.  Xtracycles, Utes, Madsens, Big Dummies, Mundos, Bakfiets, whatever you've got.

2) You'll have to carry some stuff.  Probably even load and unload your bike.

3) Most likely a lap race so lookers-on can have a central place to hang out.

4) Somewhere in Denver, central-ishly located.

So, if anybody out there has a cargo bike or has a friend that has a cargo bike, and you feel like hanging out with the owners of some other cargo bikes this summer, let me know.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Commuting Gear: Can't live without this stuff

I've been riding my daily commute for almost 4 years now.  In that period of time, I've collected some gear that has become essential for me, stuff that I am absolutely thrilled with.  I thought I would share those thoughts with you, dear reader!

1) Surly Long Haul Trucker

I love my LHT.  It is not fancy or decked out.  But it works, all the time.  Bought stock in 2008 I have made very few changes.  I added a cheapo rear rack, Jandd low rider front rack and Planet Bike fenders.  Recently I switched out the Tektro Canti's for Avid V-Brakes which I have been very pleased with.  When my stock tires wore out I put on some Schwalbe Marathons (700x32), and I have of course replaced the chain, cassette and middle chainring.  She was also graced with a Brooks Pro saddle that was given to me last year.  The LHT is just a champ.  I imagine she ticked over 10,000 miles recently although I haven't any proof of that.

Would I buy the LHT again?  In 2008, yes.  Today, I would give some serious consideration to two bikes that did not exist at the time:  The Salsa Vaya and the Civia Bryant.  Both are similar to the LHT but with some changes, namely moving from canti's to disc brakes.  If I wrecked the LHT tomorrow I would probably buy a Vaya frame and move over what components I could, and spring for BB7s.

2) Jandd Commuter Garment Bag

(images stolen from Jandd)

I have reviewed the Jandd Commuter Garment bag before and again I will say that it is fantastic.  I work in a professional office and wear a tie every day.  My commute (currently) is long enough that I don't want to ride in work clothes, so the Jandd bag allows me to take a change of clothes every day.  Also in this bag every day I stuff the following:
  • Lunch
  • Book or eReader
  • ipod
  • spare hat/gloves for changing weather
  • occasional work papers, etc
  • sunglass case
  • tire levers
  • tube
  • patch kit
Also it should be known that Jandd is one of the highest quality companies around.  The bags are built to LAST and worn-out parts can be replaced on the cheap.  I also have a set of Mountain Panniers, one of which lives on the LHT and the other lives on the icebike.  They have also both been on a bike camping trip and the capacity is surprisingly large.

If something happened to my garment bag, I would buy another one immediately.  This may be the highest quality bike item I own.  If you are looking for utility or touring panniers, I would start with Jandd.

3) Bush & Muller Ixon IQ

I have to start with a hedge.  Yesterday (yes, yesterday) my Ixon IQ fell about a foot out of my pannier onto the floor in my office and the clasp that holds the battery compartment closed broke.  It is a very small piece of plastic.  I talked to Peter White and he said the piece is replaceable and he is sending me a new latch.  I was disappointed that the light is currently useless, but I am hopeful it will be an easy fix.

That said, the light has performed flawlessly for me for over 18 months now.  Here's why I love it:
  • AA batteries.  This was a huge factor for me in looking for a battery-operated headlight.  I didn't want to spend $150-$200 on a light system that was tied to a proprietary battery that would eventually render the light useless.  The batteries that came with my Ixon IQ finally bit the dust last month so I spent $10 on 4 Eneloop AA's.  $10 and my light works like it did the first day.
  • LED light.  The bulb will last practically forever, and allows for a bright light from the power of 4 AA batteries vs. the high draw required for a halogen bulb.
  • In-light battery charging.  I have a hard time expressing how great this is.  The light acts as a battery charger.  Simply plug the charger into the light body and it charges the AA batteries without taking them out.  I can (and do) easily charge the batteries every night without removing the light from it's mount.
  • Well-engineered light distribution.  Some people are going to look at the Ixon IQ and say "a 1W headlight for $100?  I can get a PB 1W Blaze for $40."  Let me assure you, these are not the same thing.  B&M has actually made an effort to control the spread of the beam coming from the headlight so none of the 1W of power is wasted.  No light is thrown into the eyes of oncoming cars, bikes or pedestrians.
I have a good amount of other commuting gear, but most of it is replaceable. I've had several different tail lights and while I like my PDW Radbot 1000, it is not irreplaceable.  Pedals, helmets, grip tape, shoes and clothes all come and go.  These three things above are an integral part of my daily commute.