Flat tires happen to everyone, usually at the most inopportune times. But you don’t need to fret, since it’s much easier than you might think to fix it yourself. We’ve put together this simple guide to fixing your own flat tire, specifically by patching a tube.Tweet
As a student of the world and a practitioner of The Manual Life it’s about making time to do things that you love and the things that need to be done, and allowing that process to take as long as it needs to, whether you’re changing a tire, making a drawing, or fixing a toilet.
As a kid, I painstakingly recreated surf, skate and punk rock band logos in pen, marker and paint. Capturing every nuance, I transcribed them onto backpacks, skate decks, t-shirts, book covers and hand-made patches.
The thought then was “I could just make that” and so I did, spending hours getting things to look right (at least in my mind). The time it took was secondary to the want of making it correct (and cool, if I’m honest).
Somewhere along the line, probably in college, I started trading accuracy for efficiency and began trying to get things done in the shortest amount of time possible. While my teachers loved me for getting things in early, it started a trend of taking the easy “A” at the cost of growth and self-discovery.
Now, I argue with myself that, because I now have kids and a job, and a dog that needs to be walked and a hundred other things that can be seen as time bandits, that I have to do things fast just to get them done, but that’s B.S.Tweet
The new Bend H-bar from Jeff Jones builds on a legacy of creative tinkering started over a decade ago by the man himself. The idea behind the new $85 Bend H-bar was to create a svelte version of his signature Loop H-bar without. Less material means less places to mount things like GPS, lights, bell and other gadgets, but, like Swedish design, sometimes cutting things down to their essence makes for a better product.Tweet
For me, the hitch mounted tray rack is what you graduate to after toying around with other, lesser types of bike carriers. The Holdup 2 from Yakima is an excellent example of what a bike carrier can and should be.
The Holdup comes in two variations for receivers of either 1.25-inch or 2-inches. Yakima supplies you with a hitch bolt and lock for said bolt. The bolt screws into a receiver inside the rack itself and tightens, eliminating side-to-side sway.
For an extra $285, you can get an extension (the Hold Up +2) complete with extra trays and wheel locks for two additional bikes. Making your potential carrying capacity 4 bikes, though not without paying for it.Tweet
So maybe riding around in the winter doesn’t appeal to you, or you find yourself with a limited amount of time each day to ride or you want to put in some focused training to gear up for a big ride in addition to an outdoor training regimen. Whatever the reason, you’ve decided that getting on the trainer is a good idea. I can sympathize.
Here I’ve outlined some things that help me get on the trainer, maybe they’ll help you too.Tweet
When the folks at Fairdale put together the Flyer, they were thinking of people who ride their bikes occasionally, and casually at that. The intention was to create a bike you can pick up and ride with little fuss, little maintenance, and be happy about the experience. This bike is just as comfortable cruising the strand as it is rolling over rail-road ballast and everything in between.
Company founder (and BMX freestyle pro) Taj Mihelich says, “the whole point of Fairdale is to try and get people to find their love of cycling… I spent a lifetime on bikes and I want to create bikes that help other people experience some of that. It’s sometimes counter-intuitive to put a casual rider on a singlespeed bike. However, inexperienced riders are often confused by derailleurs and their required maintenance. Having a bike that they can keep going is a huge key to keeping them riding.”Tweet
By Stephen Haynes
When the folks at Fairdale put together the Flyer they were thinking of people who ride their bikes occasionally, and casually at that. The intention was to create a bike you can pick up and ride with little fuss, little maintenance, and be happy about the experience. This bike is just as comfortable cruising the strand as it is rolling over railroad ballast and everything in between.
Company founder Taj Mihelich (and BMX freestyle pro) says, “the whole point of Fairdale is to try and get people to find their love of cycling…I spent a lifetime on bikes and I want to create bikes that help other people experience some of that. It’s sometimes counter-intuitive to put a casual rider on a singlespeed bike. However, inexperienced riders are often confused by derailleurs and their required maintenance. Having a bike that they can keep going is a huge key to keeping them riding.”Tweet
By Stephen Haynes
In my first month or so on the Swobo Otis, I’ve come to enjoy this bike’s understated aesthetics and ride. This aluminum bike has a lot of functionality and a compliment of modern conveniences at a price ($800) that makes it easy to love.
Smaller, 26-inch wheels make for quick acceleration and nimble handling in traffic or on crowded mix-use trails. A Shimano Nexus 3-Speed hub provides enough range to get up and go from a standstill and stay at a respectable cadence before spinning out.
Rear rack mounts have come in handy and have made the Otis an easy choice for mid-week grocery getting. While I haven’t yet had two fully loaded panniers on the back, the bike hasn’t lost any zeal or handling ability with small loads.
The Otis gets up and over most hills in my neighborhood really easily. I could say something about wider bars, or more gears, but I think that would be silly. This bike provides enough of a low gear to be more than capable in most uphill situations, even with a case of beer tied to the back.
A simple, silver paint job and lack of flashy graphics will appeal to those who wish to remain incognito while out and about, yet will inspire the sticker whores of the world to go berserk. Look closely at the Otis though, and the Swobo branded items become clear, tastefully gracing a few select parts.
I’m enjoying my time on the Swobo Otis and I look forward to the rest of my review period. Check out the full review in an upcoming issue of Bicycle Times.
By Stephen Haynes
There are very few cycling goods out there that live up to the perceived reputation inherent in the name given to them. The Wolvhammer winter boots from 45NRTH are a fine example of performance actually meeting perceptions.
“We started from the conceptual standpoint of making a mountaineering boot work for cycling, rather than taking a cycling shoe and trying to make it warmer” says Daivd Gabrys, brand manager at 45NRTH, a rather new brand that specializes in cold-weather cycling products. It is this focus that makes the Wolvhammer boots stand out from the competition.
The inner boot is lined with 45NRTH’s Monster Fur, a super soft and warm layer that makes me think of some masochistic plush doll hugging my feet. The inner boot is laced up with a cinch closure that can be tightened up with gloves on. No need to tie laces. The Aerogel Jaztronaut insoles are noteworthy as well for their suppleness and resistance to the cold coming up through the bottom of your foot. These insoles can be purchased separately for $50.
Getting my feet into the inner boot has been the biggest chore for me. There is a little pull tag to gives you a little purchase while cramming, but it always seems to be a bit of a struggle. I hardly consider it anywhere near a deal-breaker though, more like the price of admission, and a pittance at that.
Once you’ve got your feet secure in the inner boot, the three-part (Cordura, Sympatex, and fleece), water-resistant outer zips up with a water-resistant zipper that is locked down with a Velcro strip. A Velcro ankle strap also secures the upper of this mid-calf boot.
A nice mudguard on the heel, over the toe and surrounding the lower foot, keeps the really nasty splashback at bay. These things even have a gaiter hook should you need extra protection.
An SPD-compatible Vibram sole rounds out the bottom of the boot and reiterates the fact that “robust” doesn’t seem adequate it when talking about these things. On the dozen or so rides in the Wolvhammers they’ve not yet disappointed; keeping my feet both warm and comfy (and this from a guy who generally has cold feet issues). I can confidently say that they are, without a doubt, the most comfortable riding shoes I currently own as well.
The Wolvhammer’s are stiff yet responsive while pedaling. What I mean is, they interact well with the pedal as far as stiffness is concerned and seem to spring board you out of each pedal stroke. Plus, they’re oh-so-squishy comfortable. The one setback I’ve had while wearing them is walking in them. Despite looking at the construction from a mountaineering boot point of view, they hike more like a cycling shoe. Which is ok because, well, they’re cycling boots!
I look forward to many more rides with the Wolvhammers. I only hope that our winter here in Pennsylvania gets a bit more winter-ish to give me the opportunity.
By Stephen Haynes
P.R.O. Series Transfer Thermal
Zip Neck LS Base
- MSRP: $80
- Country of Origin China
- Lifetime warranty
The Pearl Izumi Transfer Zip Neck LS Base is part of the brands’ multi-tiered system of baselayers and outerwear. Athletes can choose from three levels (Select, Elite and P.R.O) to fit their personal needs. The levels range in both price and form starting from the lower tier Select, moving to the upper tier P.R.O., while maintaining the intended purpose of each item (i.e. a waterproof P.R.O. jacket is also waterproof in the Select line)
The P.R.O. Series Transfer is at the upper end of technology and warmth. Constructed with P.R.O. Transfer fabric that incorporates volcanic matter known as Minerale to aid in the transfer of heat and moisture. Volcanic matter is very porous and thus aids in the materials breathability and is claimed to be up to two times more breathable than Gore materials.
The XL fit me snugly around the chest and forearms and the material, though breathable, isn’t super stretchy so check the measurements online before you buy. Thermal fleece lined, this long sleeve base layer was almost too warm for me. Personally, I would reserve this piece for the very coldest days or perhaps as a standalone piece. An 8in zipper on the front of the piece is mandatory due to the non stretchiness of the material.
Elite Thermafleece Tight
- MSRP: $135
- Country of Origin China
- Lifetime warranty
The Elite series Thermafleece Tights make you feel invulnerable to the cold. I used to get the same feeling when I’d climb into my wetsuit as a kid before surfing on cold “Dawn Patrol” sessions. Slightly heavier front/rear quad and knee panels keep your pistons insulated and an 8in zipper makes them easy to put on or take off. A silicone strip on the ankle keep the lowers in place. Riding in the Thermafleece tight was great; strategic panels over the quads and knees made for great articulation through each pedal stroke. I paired these with the Elite Barrier WxB Pant for and incredibly warm combination down into the teens and would sever you well even colder I’m sure. A simple drawstring waist keeps thing secure up top and the Elite 3D Chamois is as good as any of my riding shorts. Reflective IP logos and strips on the calves round out a very well equipped pair of tights.
Elite Barrier WxB Jacket
- MSRP: $300
- Country of Origin Vietnam
- Lifetime warranty
The Elite Barrier WxB Jacket is a water resistant, cycling specific soft shell designed to ward off the worst of what Mother Nature can throw at you. The fabric itself is made of three layers. Two layers of stretchy material that PI calls “titanium thermo-regulating technology” sandwich a third middle layer that has been treated with polyurethane to make it waterproof. In the 2012/13 version of the Elite Barrier Jacket, PI will employ the same volcanic Minerale material used in the Thermal Base layer in place of their titanium thermo-regulating technology. This will allow for greater breathability.
Taped seams further ward off moisture and are employed on the full zip front and the jackets two pockets as well. Speaking of pockets, there is one larger-ish pocket on the back, good for energy bars, wallet, keys, bigger stuff. There is also a pocket on the left chest, big enough for an mp3 player and has a little cut out for internal headphone routing. While I like jackets with pocket on either side of the front, the storage capabilities found here are ample enough for just about any outing and are bike specific.
Overall the jacket fits well. A somewhat sporty cut is comfortable without being overly tight or overly flappy. The collar is a tad higher in the front for good coverage and has snaps in the back for a hood you can purchase separately. The back of the jacket extends lower than the front as do most cycling specific jackets, but the Elite Barrier has an auxiliary drop down that can be used for and extra 5in. worth of posterior coverage. The flap can be folded into the jacket and secured via Velcro when not needed.
The waist has a cinch chord and the wrists have a half elastic half Velcro closure that works really well. The first 6in. of wrist also have an extra interior sleeve of stretchy fabric that locks in heat around the wrists. I found this to be just a tad too much warmth personally and resulted in super sweaty wrists.
Reflective accents along the arms and back round out this very capable jacket. Look for a mountain bike specific design in the coming season, which utilizes the same high-tech features and may sweeten the deal for those willing to cough up the coin for this well made jacket.
Elite Barrier WxB Pant
- MSRP: $250
- Country of Origin Vietnam
- Lifetime warranty
The Elite Barrier WxB pant utilizes the same semi-stretchy “titanium thermo-regulating” material as does the Elite Barrier jacket, giving them water resistance and breathability. The semi form-fitting cut of the pants is great in that they are performance oriented, but are loose enough that modest folks needn’t blush.
Fully taped seams keep water from sneaking in and an 8in zippered ankle makes getting in and out of them easy, even with shoes on. On the interior portion of the ankle there are abrasion patches that help keep contact with moving parts from being destructive.
A bonus feature is that these pants have zip off lowers, allowing you to covert them to shorts should your ride heat up unexpectedly. The waist has elastic around the back and elastic belt-like tabs on either side that allow you to tighten up as needed.
These pants are super comfy and versatile whether it’s cold outside or if the forecast calls for rain.
Elite Barrier MTB Shoe Covers
Country of Origin: China
The 3mm, neoprene, fleece-lined Elite Barrier MTB shoe covers were a welcome edition to my cold weather kit. I can generally keep my body warm but my extremities always suffer when the thermostat takes a dive. Being that I don’t yet own a pair of cold weather riding boots, shoe covers seemed like a good interim step.
My size Large fit over my size 9.5 shoes well. The Kevlar bottom has enough give to squeeze your foot into place and is hearty enough to withstand continued abuse. Your shoes are held securely in place by way of a toe closure and a band across the arch of your foot. This is enough to keep things tight while allowing you to use your preferred clipless setup. Reflective accents along the sides and back of the covers make them versatile on road as well.
A 7”x 3.5”in. Velcro closure on the back secures the cover in place and while it seemed like it would be a pain to operate at first, is actually quite easy. The whole process of jamming your foot in, shifting as needed for desired fit and closing up the back takes about 30 seconds per foot, totally worth it in my opinion.
By Stephen Haynes
I’m a huge nerd for things in small packages, especially if the small packages are incredibly useful. I also love Altoids. So it should come as no surprise that I’m a major fan of DIY kits that utilize Altoids tins. I’ve poured over the DIY survival, first aid, zombie apocalypse and fishing kits made by industrious people over at www.instructables.com and have made various kits for myself which I use often.
The thought of making a bicycle equivalent to the outdoorsy survival kit has circulated through my mind several times and I was happy to see someone employ the idea. I ran upon this one the other day made by Instructables member SMART. I really like a lot of what SMART is doing with this kit and I think anyone could use it as a jumping off point for there own bicycle minded survival kit. In fact, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
What follows are the ingredients that I used and the process by which I made my bicycle survival kit. This isn’t meant to be a be all end all kit. In fact, if I did this ten times I have ten different kits. Have fun and use my experience as a jumping off point for your own custom kit.
What you’ll need (Kit items):
- Some cash
- Antiseptic wipe
- Spare house/bike lock key
- Band aids
- Vulcanizing liquid
- Electrolyte packet
- Zip ties
- Tube patches
- Altoids tin (or something like it)
Tools you’ll need to make the kit:
- Xacto knife
After collecting all of your essentials you need to find a way to make them fit in your tin. You could simply shove all the stuff in there, throw a rubber band around it and throw it in your bag, but where’s the fun in that. Most of the joy in these things, for me, comes in the process of making them, so bear with me…
1. Cut your chipboard/cardboard to size. Trace two outlines of the tin onto your chipboard/cardboard and cut them out. Cut a little notch in one corner of each so you can remove them as needed later. You may have to whittle the edges of the board down a bit before it fits properly.
2. Write your important info on one of the pieces of chipboard/cardboard.
3. Start packing. After you get the chipboard/cardboard to fit, start packing the stuff in the tin.
4. I separated my stuff into two levels. Secret Stash level (emergency funds and a spare house/lock key) and the Emergency Level (everything else).
5. Put the key and cash in the tin and lay the first piece of chipboard/cardboard over top of them.
6. Carefully put all remaining items in on top of the first piece of chipboard/cardboard. Clever folding may need to be employed here. Also, the things you need/find to put in your kit will inevitably be a different size from what I’m showing here so be patient and be creative.
7. Put the remaining piece of chipboard/cardboard (the one with your emergency contact info on it) on top of the rest of your stuff and call it done!
8. Hopefully everything fits neatly in the tin for you but if it doesn’t employing a few rubber bands to hold everything together doesn’t have to be a deal breaker.
Got any bicycle survival tips, tricks or kits of your own?Tweet
By Stephen Haynes
The aluminum-framed Castro Duo folding bike from Tern takes urban transportation and adds style and functionality for a nice, simple bike anyone can feel comfortable riding. Part of Tern’s mission is to provide utilitarian urban transportation and to promote sustainability. Each year the company donates one percent of its net profits to social and environmental causes.
As the name “Duo” implies, the Castro Duo has an automatic, two-speed hub (more on that later) with a coaster brake. The coaster brake gives a clutter-free cockpit, with no brake levers or cables. The bike’s 24” wheels mean a smoother ride but also add bulk to the folded-bike package. The swooping, one-size-fits-most frame is complemented by a long seat post and adjustable stem, so it’s easy to size up just about anyone. I found the adjustable “Andros” stem to be a great way to dial in the ride feel, and it’s so easy to use, you can micro-adjust at any point.
The Castro Duo employs what’s known as “N-fold” technology to fold down. A joint near the center of the frame and another on the stem create what looks vaguely like an “N” when folding. Once the two halves are unfolded for riding, a large lever locks the joint in place. This sounds complicated, but is actually very intuitive. The whole folding procedure takes about 10 seconds.
The Castro Duo comes equipped with full fenders and a chainguard as well as an integrated rear rack. Folding pedals are a nice touch as well and decrease the Castro Duo’s girth when folded, and a center kickstand can hold the bike upright either folded or unfolded.
While the Castro Duo may seem rather Spartan at first glance, there is room to grow. Cable routing and linear-pull brake bosses on the fork give you the ability to add a front brake and increase your stopping power. Also, Tern has worked with the German company Klickfix, specializing in quick-release adaptors, to install its integrated rear rack and luggage socket on the head tube of all their bikes, so that one can easily add bags and baskets that employ the Klikfix attachment system.
Optional front and rear battery-powered lights ensure your ability to see and be seen for an extra $20 each. The front light nestles snugly between the adjustable stem and swivels around the axis of the handlebars so you can point it where you need to. I’m told that the front light will also be offered in a dynamo version.
The SRAM automatic two-speed hub is an interesting little gadget that detects your speed and shifts into a higher gear for you. The shift point for the Castro Duo is set at 12mph, and once you reach this speed, the second gear engages and suddenly you’re going faster than you were before. Pretty cool, but also kind of weird.
There were a few times I wasn’t anticipating the shift and my knees paid for it. Also, when building speed to go up hills, the hub will shift at what seems like the most in- opportune time. You can disengage the second gear by quickly back-pedaling; once I realized I could do that, hills became less of an issue. Still, if you live in a very hilly region like I do, you may want to check out the Castro Duo’s older sibling, the Castro P7i, which features a Shimano Nexus 7-speed hub.
My average ride on the Castro Duo consisted of going to and from the store a few miles away. This seems to be the bikes’ bread and butter, if you’ll pardon the pun. The bike is great for short easy trips to the office, school, store, or destinations less than five miles away and is ideal for flat-ish terrain where the ease of use and the second gear really shine.
All in all, the Castro Duo is a great little bike. Although not ideal for the area in which I live, I think this would be the perfect solution for a college kid in a dormitory or working professional living in a small urban apartment. It folds down small enough to be inconspicuous in a small place and can alleviate potential theft by giving one the ability to take it inside with them.
As a father looking at the prospect of sending a teenager to college next year, I’m definitely looking at the Castro Duo as her primary means of transportation.
- Age: 34
- Height: 5’11”
- Weight: 225lbs.
- Inseam: 30”
- Country of origin: Taiwan
- Price: $800
- Weight: 31.5lbs.
- Sizes available: one size
By Stephen Haynes, photos courtesy of the SLO County Bicycle Coalition
The first thing that comes to my mind when I hear the term “Kidical Mass” is an aggro group of elementary school kids finger wagging drivers as they congest the streets of metropolitan USA.. This vision, however, couldn’t be further from the truth.
Kidical Mass is a fun, safe, law abiding way to get more kids, parents, caregivers and neighborhood cyclists on the road, having a good time.
A typical Kidical Mass ride starts at a park, or other centrally located place and ends one to four miles later at an ice cream parlor or, somewhere similar, to reinforce the happiness of the event. Ride leaders go at an easy pace and a sweeper makes sure no one gets left behind. Helmets are required in most states for children under the age of 16 and adults are encouraged to wear them as well as a way of teaching the youngsters safe practices by example.
Started in Eugene Oregon in 2008, Kidical Mass has taken off in popularity and is enjoyed in many cities throughout the US and around the world. Whether you are a parent looking to do some riding with your children in a safe, supported environment, or a cyclist searching for a way to connect with your neighbors, Kidical Mass is worth exploring. If you don’t have a ride in your community, think of starting one! For more information check out www.kidicalmass.org.
Editor’s note: Read about our ride from Pittsburgh to Washington here.
By Stephen Haynes, photos by Stephen Haynes and Jon Pratt
Several months back Bicycle Times editor Karen Brooks asked if anyone was interested in riding the C&O Towpath and GAP trails that link Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh to and from the National Bike Summit. Having ridden portions of the GAP trail on a few occasions, I was eager to try and link the two trails and test myself it what would be my longest bike-packing excursion to date.
I chose to ride in the return leg, which was designated the more casual of the two. I’m not the fastest guy on the best of days, but certainly not with a fully loaded touring bike. Plus, I didn’t want to be in a hurry, there is a lot of history along those two trails and lots of things to look at as well.
As the departure day grew closer and the gear to be reviewed started to roll in, my confidence began to wane. I hadn’t done any significant training rides over 15 or 20 miles in longer than I cared to remember and the very real threat of rain (or worse) weighed heavy on my mind.
Nevertheless the day came and I found myself on an east-bound train at 4:30 a.m. following the trail I’d be riding back over the next five days…
As is often the case when ones eyes are bigger than their stomach, I did not make it the entire distance. I called in for reinforcements and departed the group in Cumberland, Maryland, leaving Karen and Jon to carry on over the GAP trail, back to Pittsburgh.
While I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to complete the whole length of the two trails, I was happy with my accomplishment of successfully navigating the C&O Towpath. It also gave me a better sense of bike packing and the pace at which I am comfortable. I saw a great abundance of wildlife from fish to frogs, turtles, snakes, beavers and eagles but I feel like I could have seen more.
Next time, and there will certainly be a next time, I’ll do the trip on a rig that doesn’t weight nearly 90 lbs., I’ll plan for a lot for less miles over more days, I’ll bring an empty sketchbook and plan to fill it (as was my secret hope for this journey) and I’ll train (at least a little bit more) before beginning.
Thanks to Karen and Jon for their encouragement and guidance and also to Chris, Libby, and Family for being so hospitable to us before the trip.
For more: Read about our southbound trip here.