Saturday, November 27, 2010

Holiday gift giving

You have a bike nerdy friend/family member/sig. other/frenemy/boss/secret gift giving recipient who needs some stuff. Bike folks can be hard to find a gift for, because there are lots of different types (commuters, recreational roadies, charity riders, randonneurs, competitive roadies XC mountain bikers, all-mountain mountain bikers, cyclocrossers, vintage aficionados, and so on...), so how do you know what to get them? Don't worry, here are a few suggestions, broken down by category, that are reasonably priced, practical (two of my favorite things) and are good for all types:

Cleaning and fixing:

All bikes get dirty and need some maintenance. If your cyclist is particular about the cleanliness of his/her bike, you know, a type-A type (I'm talking about roadies...) then bike cleaning brushes would be an especially thoughtful gift. We've got a few sets here, each with different brushes for getting at different greasy parts, gears and whatnot. $20-ish.

If you've ever gotten a phone call that goes something like, "Oh hey, are you busy? I was out on a ride and I got a flat. I was wondering if you'd come pick me up..." You might think about gifting a flat fix bottle. It's everything you (or someone else) needs to fix a flat out on the road- patch kit, tire levers, presta adapter, CO2 inflator and cartriges all in a water bottle! Then you can say, "No, I'm not busy. But remember that present I got you?" $20

Multi tools are always a fine choice for folks who like to make their own adjustments. From the basic allen wrench set, to a super set complete with torx wrench and chain tool $14 to 35-ish

Lava soap is always a nice stocking stuffer for any hands-on bike cleaner, flat fixer, or home mechanic. Your regular soap just won't cut it for bike grease. You can pick it up at almost any grocery store for a couple of bucks.

Beverage accessories:

I worked with a guy (a real surly mechanic type) who claimed he only drank 3 liquids: coffee, water and beer. That's a theme you see run through the world of bicycles.

Coffee- I like the PDW Bar-ista. It attaches to your (or someone elses) handle bar, and holds a standard coffee-shop-coffee-cup steady with a little layer of foam rubbery stuff. Simple and slick. $20

Water- Most cyclists can never have too many H2O bottles. Just like they can never have too many pairs of cycling socks. Both of these humble cycling necessities take a beating, get neglected, and end up smelling like feet. Get 'em a fresh one. $5

Beer- If you want to drink a beer from a bottle, you (or someone else) needs to open it. There are approximately 8,293 different bicycle related bottle openers available. You could open your beer with this little guy, made locally from 100% recycled stuff- even the packaging. $7

Gift Certificates:

When in doubt, a gift certificate always works. Available in what ever amount coincides with how much you like your gift receiver. Now through December 24th all gift certificates come with a free(!) Hub Bicycle Co. water bottle (see above: Beverage accessories> Water), for creative gift delivery.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Angry Skeletons

The most frequently asked question I get this time of year is "What should I do to get my bike ready for winter?" To which I usually respond, "Are you going to ride through the winter?" Let's pretend you just answered, "Yes." (Check here about tucking your bike in for a long winter's nap). Cool, so you're going to brave the winter. Good choice. What you need is chain lube.

A neglected chain sounds to me like an angry metal skeleton chasing you down the road. That sound hurts my heart. Not only does it sound angry, it also wears out faster. What causes a chain to sound like that? The short answer is winter. With it's rain/sleet/slush/snow/salt/sand and whatnot.

Lubing your chain is the best and easiest maintenance you can perform to keep your ride rolling through the winter. You have to think moderation here- too little is not good, and too much is not good. Here's how I do it:

1. Drip chain lube along the inside of the chain as you backpedal the crank with your other hand to coat the whole chain.

2. After you've coated the chain, continue to backpedal for a while (20 seconds-ish?) to let the lube work its way into the chain.

3. Wipe off the extra with a rag. You just want it on the inside of the parts where the friction happens. Lube on the outside will attract dirt, which wears things out faster, which defeats one of the points of this exercise.

See that junk on the rag? Not only did you lubricate, but you also cleaned it. A twofer!

What kind of lube should you use? Good question. There are plenty of choices, and I bet if you asked 10 bike mechanics what their favorite is, you'd get 10 different answers. My favorite is Boeshield T-9 (or just "T-9" to its friends...). I like it because it's light, and clean so it doesn't attract a bunch of junk. It's also good for lubing cables/housing, and flushing out various moving parts (shifters, derailleurs, whathaveyou...). It's even good for non-bike things. Like this little guy I fixed today:

I also like Tri Flow. It's a little heavier, but still pretty clean. The original stuff smells vaguely of bananas. It's the smell of my first real job...oh, the good ol' days. The thing about these lighter chain lubes is that you need to apply them more often. Hear those angry birds again? Get caught in a rain/sleet/snow storm? Time to reapply!

Alright folks, Charlie and I are off on adventures next week, so we'll see you on the 27th. Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 11, 2010


I've been able to ride my bike! I mean, between the cool weather slowing things down in the shop, and Charlie helping out, I've had a little room in my schedule for mountain biking. And because bike mechanics are like swimming sharks- if we don't have a bike project going, we'll die, I've put together another bike for my newly acquired trail time. It's not a new bike, per se, it's been re-purposed from other bikes and parts. You know, like recycling. I'm being very green about my project bikes.

Big wheels. Tiny, adorable dog.

Why didn't I set up this bike for off road riding in the first place? Oh, I don't know... I had a bunch of dumb excuses. I wasn't sure that a 29er would be a good fit for a short-ish gal (although, technically I'm taller than the average woman). 29ers are getting to be popular, and I'm anti-popular (scarring left over from being named in the top three of the middle school 'dork list'). The frame I had is on the heavy side (and in my humble opinion, on the ugly side). I'm trying really hard to eliminate bike purpose overlap in my collection- I already have a single speed mountain bike. You know, excuses, excuses. I really like riding a single speed off road, but my 26" rigid bike, is a little rough to ride on my favorite trails around here. Well, it was one of those really rough rides that motivated me to try out the 29er.

So what's the verdict? I really, really like it! All of the things in the 29er 'pro' column are true. Better traction? Yes. Better at tackling obstacles? Definitely, even without suspension, I noticed this right away. Higher bottom bracket? Yes, very enjoyable. What you find in the 29er 'con' column (like increased rotating mass of the larger wheels slowing things down) has to do mostly with speed and weight of the bike. I'm not fast, and the frame/fork aren't light to begin with, so those drawbacks don't bother me. I haven't taken it out to any super technical trails yet, but so far I don't have any complaints about how it handles in tight, twisty stuff. Overall- two thumbs up. It looks like I'm going to have to re-purpose my other SS MTB... Oh well, it's good to have a project going.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Fells are for everyone.

The Middlesex Fells are used by all types of folks. Walkers, hikers, bikers, dog walkers... It's a great resource for all kinds of activities. Mountain bikers have gotten the shorter end of the stick here- fire roads are alright, but single track would be more fun. There are plenty of trails for sharing, but groups like the Friends of the Fells have kept the good stuff for themselves. They falsely believe that biking on trails has a different (worse) impact on the environment. So for a bazillion years things have been unequal and unfair. Now the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) has a new draft trail plan that brings things closer to fair. Closer to fair and equal rights, responsiblities, and expectations for all user groups.

The plan calls for better signage, more shared use trails, and a different winter closure plan among other changes. If you'd like to read the full draft plan you can get the PDF here.

The draft plan is a draft, that can and will be changed based on public comments. It's important that the DCR receives comments in support of the plan.

Want to show your support for the pro-mountain bike/pro-equal access parts of the current plan for the Fells? The fine folks at the Greater Boston chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association (GB NEMBA) have made it sooo easy for you (the public comment period ends on Nov 19th, so get on it!):

I could go on about how important it is to make sure all users have equal access and participate equally in responsible trail maintenance... If you want to learn more about the good work being done by GB NEMBA in the Fells, and elsewhere check the website. It's a great resource. And, finally, here is a picture of a turtle I met in the Fells last fall:

She/He's pro-MTB.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

It's dark out there.

I've mentioned a bit about lights before. They're important, and they're about to get more important as we sink into the darkness as Daylight Savings is over (remember to 'fall back' this weekend). Let's talk about rear blinky lights today.

Why is it important to have a rear light? The shortest answer is, so that you don't get run over. If drivers know where you are, they know not to be driving in that spot (I would hope). The longer answer includes that it's the law and it's your responsibility. There are lots of blinky options out there. Rear lights are red, just like in motor vehicles.

The Planet Bike Superflash has been the gold standard in rear blinkies, in my humble opinion. That 1/2 watt strobe is retina searing (in a good way), even in the day time. I've had one clipped to my backpack for a good long time now.

Despite my love for the Superflash I'm pretty excited about the Danger Zone, from the fine fellows at Portland Design Works. It's not your average blinky. Here, watch this video(pay no attention to the man without(!) a helmet). The idea is that a constant blinking pattern gets lost in a light heavy environment, like a city, and that by making the blinking pattern crazier (slow/pulsing & fast/strobe-y) it'll catch human (drivers, peds, other cyclists) attention better.

Want something a little sneakier? The Planet Bike Spok is just a little guy that attaches to your bike (or helmet, even) via velcro strap. Here's where Charlie likes to put his:

When it's not turned on, you don't even know it's there. It's a nice way to have a light on your bike when you don't want to take it with you, but you also don't want it stolen. It's a single LED, so it won't knock your socks off, like the other two, but it gets the job done. All three of these a solid mode, but I only ever use the blinking modes, so they won't get lost in the city landscape.

Pretty soon some (many?) of you will leave for and return from work in the dark. I'm sorry about that. It is kind of a bummer, but it's no reason to stop riding your bike. Just grab some lights. No matter which blinky you choose, it's just important that you use one.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Too many bikes -or- This bike is for sale.

Oh man. I just realized that my last post was also about selling stuff. Sorry. Next one will be about not being a bike ninja/ bike lights, I promise (Timely, because of daylight savings. Get it?).

On to the bike for sale... I have too many bikes. There I said it. And like a parent who's just realized she has too many kids, I've been really struggling with the idea of removing one from the collection (No. I know it's nothing like that...). People often ask me 'why have more than one bike?' My short answer is that bikes are like shoes. You can't wear ballet shoes hiking, and you can't dance ballet in hiking boots. If you want to do both, you probably should have two pairs of shoes. And there's no ultimate shoe- one you can wear for work, hiking, playing basketball, white water kayaking, clogging, and black tie parties. Sometimes you make one pair work in a couple different situations (hiking and playing basketball?), but sometimes you just need the right shoe for the job. And sometimes you realize you have too many shoes for the same job. Or just too many shoes. So enough about me trying to justify too many bikes...

I have more than one commuter bike. So it's time I set one free to find a new home. Here he/she/it is:

It's a 17" (or medium, if you prefer) Specialized Hardrock frame, in weathered red. The highlights include, but are not limited to, a new Sturmey Archer S2C (C is for coaster brake) 2 speed kickback hub(!) hand built rear wheel, street tires, a red/black color scheme, front brake & coaster brake for safety, and cool BMX pedals that have a great back story (story is free with purchase).

Actually the story is really about the guy I got them from...

And if you've never tried a 2 speed, come check it out. It keeps the bike nice and simple for around riding around town, just like a single speed (it even looks like a single speed to the untrained eye), but gives you a nice bail out gear for hills.

All this can be yours for $275. Stop in, call, or email if you have any questions.

I only hope I can find a good home for it soon, before I convince myself to keep it.