Field Tested: Blackburn Outpost front rack


Since the 1970s Blackburn has been making high quality touring equipment that has traveled the world over. A resurgence in the popularity of touring in recent years has led to a renaissance in products from the brand, including the new Outpost front rack.

Unlike traditional low-rider racks that mount to dedicated eyelets, the Outpost can be mounted in several different ways. The lower mounts can be bolted to fender or rack eyelets at the dropout, or the wheel’s skewer can run right through it, though you need an extra long skewer that’s not included. The height is then adjusted to fit 26-inch, 700c or 29-inch mountain bike wheels.

BlackburnOutpost_watermarked630-3 BlackburnOutpost_watermarked630-2

The secondary supports are then mounted to the rack structure and can be bolted to lowrider eyelets, mid-fork eyelets, even cantilever/V-brake bosses. The can even be attached via hose clamps or the included P-clamps if your fork doesn’t have any mounts, assuming the fork is strong enough, of course. The best part about the design is that you don’t need to bend or cut anything to make it fit. I put it on two bikes and the setup on each took only minutes.


The rack itself is made from Easton 6061 aluminum, and has been plenty sturdy when loaded up. Keeping the top attached must certainly help with the overall structural rigidity, and is a handy place to strap lighter items or even a U-lock for commuting. Panniers can be affixed on either the top rail or the second rail, depending on how deep they are. I’ve mounted a pair of Ortlieb rear panniers to the front on the lower rail with no problems.


The $100 Outpost is a perfect match for my Surly Karate Monkey, which I use as a commuter but isn’t equipped with rear rack mounts. Plus having the weight up front and down low keeps frame flex to a minimum. Loaded up it certainly does affect the steering, but it only took a few minutes of getting used to. It is rated to 45 pounds and I wouldn’t hesitate to put that much weight on it. There is also a matching rear rack available if you’re going on a long tour.

Editor’s note: This review originally appeared in Issue #32 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss a product review, order a subscription and you’ll be ready for the everyday cycling adventure.



Field Tested: Madsen kg271 cargo bike


The kg271 is Madsen Cycles’ latest version of its fully equipped longtail cargo bike. The rear bucket—which straddles the rear 20-inch wheel—has been its signature look from the beginning. I’ve been curious about this design from the first time I saw it, and I’ve been stoked to haul my kids and stuff around for the last few months in this thing.

My kids have named almost every cargo bike I’ve reviewed in Bicycle Times, and the Madsen affectionately became the “bathtub bike”. Adults seemed equally as stoked on this bike, with comments about either the feasibility of filling it full of ice and beer and/or a rolling hot tub party. Could this be a commentary on the company I keep?


The Madsen’s molded plastic bucket has always struck me as a practical and simple kid and cargo solution, and after this extended test, I can confirm is certainly is. The bucket has a pair of padded bench seats at both ends, with seatbelts for four kids. The benches are held in with hook and loop material, and can easily be pulled out for more cargo space.

Ride quality

The bucket is bolted to an obviously proprietary steel frame with what may be the world’s longest chainstays. Unlike most longtail cargo bikes, the rear axle sits behind the cargo area, which puts the entirety of the rider, passengers and cargo between the axles. Combined with the low passenger seat height afforded by the 20-inch rear wheel, the result is the most stable two-wheeled cargo bike I’ve ever ridden. I was able to ride at walking speed (or below) with no worries of tip over, and even do a short trackstands at intersections.

Madsenkg271_watermarked630-8   Madsenkg271_watermarked630-7

The bucket has a very stable centerstand, which pops back into place with a push forward on the handlebars when everyone is ready to go. The reach back to deploy it may be difficult for shorter riders; keeping a solid grip on the bars and seat while stretching a foot back for the centerstand was strech for my 5’6” neighbor. But once it’s down it was secure enough to allow my 10- and 8-year-old to climb in and out without an adult to hold things steady.


The stock drivetrain is a 1×9 speed SRAM set up. I was fine with the stock gearing, but long-term I would want a double ring up front for lower gearing. The frame has the necessary cable stops for a front derailleur and shifter, but the handy chainguard would have to be removed. When the time came to replace the drivetrain, I would also opt for an 11-34 cassette instead of the stock 11-32.

Editor’s note: This review originally appeared in Issue #32 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss a bike review, order a subscription and you’ll be ready for the everyday cycling adventure.


The long run of chain is kept in check with an upper and lower chainguide, a nice touch, and it keeps the whole bike very quiet. A front disc brake is matched to rear v-brake mounted under the chainstays; the design of the frame in the rear leaves very little space for a disc brake mounting tab  Plenty of braking power all around, but I still wish there was the rear disc option for foul weather use. Full metal color matched fenders come stock, and my tester has the Front Basket option installed, a $95 option. The front rack mounts to the frame, and doesn’t turn with the front wheel, so heavy loads have much less effect on steering. The front rack was handy for book bags or extra large trips to the store.


Parting thoughts

As an everyday option to the car, the Madsen is a winner. I’m a big fan of the turnkey nature of the Madsen, it is ready to haul kids right out of the box. I’ve used various front loading box bikes in the past, and loved the ease of dumping kids and bags and groceries in the box and rolling off, no need for extra straps and bags and lashing. The Madsen has most of those advantages, while taking almost no time to adjust to the handling. Since the box has a central channel and tapers from top to bottom, cargo space can get tight with two kids and a weeks worth of groceries, but for daily runs to school there was plenty of room.


I have very few complaints about the Madsen. One drawback to all that stability is a distinct lack of speed, but one can’t expect a minivan to accelerate like a Ferrari. The chainguard could use a little more coverage and rigidity, my pants still snagged in the chain at times, and it was easily bent far enough to rub on the chainring.


The reach to the bars felt just about right for my 5’11” self, but my shorter neighbor was more stretched out than she wanted. The stock stem is 45mm, which is about as short as they come, so bars with more sweep or a zero offset seatpost would need to be used to get things set up for shorter riders. The step-through frame is a very welcome feature for riders of all heights, as swinging a leg over the box or children’s heads is not a good option.

Madsen will soon be offering a fold-away rain cover option, and has a layaway program, too. 2015 models can be pre-ordered right now, and for the price and feature list, I would recommend this bike to families looking for a car replacement option. There are aftermarket options for an electric assist, but I’m hoping we see something like the Bosch mid-drive as a stock option in the future. In the near future I expect to see more bikes like the Madsen on our roads. Simple, approachable, easy to ride, lots of cargo space, and a price that is easily justified, the Madsen is ready for a starring role as cargo bikes become prime time.

Vital stats

  • Price: $1,875
  • Hauling Weight: 600 pounds (rider + bike + load)
  • Sizes: One

Field Tested: Shimano jacket, jersey and shorts


My favorite rain jackets are ones that can do double duty on and off the bike, something the Shimano Storm jacket does very well. Despite what the hang tag may say, no jacket is entirely waterproof and super breathable, and usually falls somewhere in between. The Storm jacket sits at the dry end of the spectrum, with great protection and coverage, but it’s too thick and warm for summer use.

The engineering in the $120 Storm jacket is impeccable. The hood is generous, but not actually large enough to cover a helmet—which is a bonus in my book, since I’m far more likely to use it when I’m not riding my bike than when I am. It’s also removable via a few Velcro tabs for quick stow-and-go.The extended back flap is also optional, as it can be folded up and secured when you don’t need the extra coverage on your booty. It has a built-in elastic hem too, to hug your curves.


The finishing touches include a simple vent in the upper back, two zippered handwarmer side  pockets, an extended inner cuff and an inner mesh zipper pocket for easy access to small items.

Available in sizes XS – XXL and in three colors (electric lime, electric blue, and black), the Storm jacket is a great all-purpose piece that can do double duty in your closet. At $120 I think it’s also a great value compared to some rain shells that can easily run $200 or more.


Explorer Jersey ($75) and Shorts ($80)

The Explorer jersey and shorts offer a fit and features for cyclists who fall somewhere in the middle between full mountain biking or road racing. The cut of both is form fitting but not snug, and the shorts hit above the knee—a bit higher than most modern mountain bike shorts.

The jersey includes a small loop to hang your eyewear from and an absorbent wipe pad on the hem to wipe them clean if they get smudged or fogged. The full-length zipper is easy to use, and the three rear pockets are augmented by a small zippered pocket for keys or other valuables.

The shorts have limited visual detailing except for the colored zippers and reflective hits. A pair of slash pockets in the front add versatility when you’re off the bike, the large cargo pocket keeps bigger items handy, and the zippered rear pocket gives you peace of mind if you carry your wallet there. The waist is adjustable with simple Velcro straps and the four-way stretch fabric is soft and comfortable. The included chamois liner is nice too, with a large pad that’s perfect for casual to spirited riding.


Both items are available in sizes XS to XXL, and the jersey is available in black, electric blue or amber orange.

All of these items fall into Shimano’s Lifestyle Gear collection of apparel and accessories.

Editor’s note: This review originally appeared in Issue #32 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss a product review, order a subscription and you’ll be ready for the everyday cycling adventure.



Field Tested: BMC Granfondo GF02 Ultegra Disc


Mixed-surface riding is a pleasure every cyclist should partake at least once a week, because most neighborhoods offer the proper terrain if you look hard enough. The BMC Grandfondo GF02 is a wonderfully capable machine to handle most anything in its path, and the time I spent on its saddle was never uncomfortable.

The Granfondo GF02 set me up for success rather than ill-fitting failure, with its medium-length 57cm top tube, longer 102.6cm wheelbase (than a standard skinny-tire road bike), and lower bottom bracket height for confident handling in all situations. My 58cm tester also had a 176mm long head tube, an ideal height for using both the tops and drops. In short, very traditional geometry, which—like a nice pair of wingtip shoes—never gets old.

Ride quality

I may be partial to lightweight steel frames, but BMC’s multi-shaped and uniquely engineered triple-butted anodized aluminum somehow provides crisp handling without shocking my spine like aluminum frames of old. Part of this is due to the rather svelte and tapered seat stays, offsetting the bulbous downtube and chainstays. This helps with straight tracking through softer off-road curves and when standing is the best way to grunt up a hill without wasting energy.

Descending is fairly effortless and stable on the GF02 as well because I never worried about that noodly feeling typical of most lighter steel road bikes (this isn’t a lightweight, mind you; at nearly 20 pounds some might consider it kinda heavy, which I prefer for rough riding). Climbing in the saddle—my prefered style—never felt sluggish or top heavy, especially when the pitch really got steep in the dirt. My hands also settled in comfortably all over the bars, providing ample grip and access to the shifting and brakes regardless of my speed. The GF02 really shines when pushed to a moderate speed on small gravel and sand.


We’re seeing several new models with disc brakes grace the Bicycle Times California workshop this season, and we couldn’t be happier because they scrub speed in all conditions with less effort. The GF02’s aluminum frame is bolstered up front with a full carbon fork with tapered steer, and in the middle with its carbon seatpost cousin in a svelte 27.2mm buzz-killing diameter.

Fight progress all you want, but 11-speed gearing is upon us, and the standard compact crankset (50/34) mixed well with the uber low geared 11-32 cassette. I’ll never complain about the overall quality and performance of Shimano Ultegra mechanical components, although I’m spoiled by the electronic Di2 version I’ve ridden on other bikes this year. The GF02 is also future proof, with ports to retrofit electronic wires internally if you so choose.

Editor’s note: This review originally appeared in Issue #32 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss a bike review, order a subscription and you’ll be ready for the everyday cycling adventure.

The 35mm wide Continental Cyclocross Speed tires have the right amount of fine file tread for all surfaces, which I ran at 58psi across the board without any traction trouble or fussy flatting. My test editor Eric and I first rode this model in April with 28mm tires, but props to BMC for speccing a proper tire rather than leaving room for something fatter. There are fittings on the lower seatstays and inside the chainstay brake bridge  for fenders, but none for a rear rack. Maximum tire clearance is 38mm.

The DT Swiss X-1900 wheels run a standard quick release when other brands have chosen the stouter thru axle. The jury is still out on whether more riders prefer one over the other; we have no beefs with the standard.

For those interested in a full carbon diet, the GF01 Disc Endurance models come specced with a choice of top-of-the-line Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 electronic, Ultegra Di2, Ultegra or 105 mechanical. The caveat? Less tire clearance, and stock 28mm slick tires with little clearance for bigger rubber.

Parting thoughts

Overall, the GF02 strikes a nice balance between latest tech and old-school handling. There’s a unique space-age look of the multi-shaped aluminum tubing with the bulldog front and teeny rear, but it works. The aesthetic is pleasing to the eye after a long journey, once the bike is resting against the bench outside the convenience store and your mind and body have had a chance to process the experience.

That’s the beauty of a proper mixed-surface bike: plenty of design moderation, which factors in performance without sacrificing comfort over the short, medium or long haul, something that a pure thoroughbred racing machine often neglects. Why race through a ride when you should just enjoy the journey? Mix in some offroad clipless or lightweight platform pedals, and the $3,999 BMC Granfondo GF02 could be the one bike you grab if necessity dictates just one bike in your garage this year.

Vital stats

Price: $3,999

Weight: 19.6 pounds

Sizes: 48, 51, 54, 56, 58 (tested), 61cm


Field Tested: Abus high security locks

bt-field-tested-logoLosing a bike to theft is not fun. Even though I’ve managed to not have a bike stolen since I was a child, I’ve been playing it safe, and no longer use cable locks to secure my bikes.

I’ve been using these three high security locks from Abus. All three use Abus’ Granit X Plus key system, which is highly pick resistant, and comes with two keys and a code card to replace lost keys. Each lock is scored as a 15, Abus’ highest rating for bicycle security. Each of these locks is part of a family, with less expensive, and less secure models available for areas of lower risk.


U54 Mini – $110

It might be a bit of stretch calling this lock “mini”, but is smaller than a full size u-lock, while being large enough to still fit around almost any pole, including reinforced parking meters. It does not fit into a back pocket though.The shackle locks on both sides, so a thief would need to cut both sides to free your bike, and the locking mechanism is claimed to be very resistant to leverage and striking attacks. I used this most often when running errands solo, and I knew where I was planning to lock up. Weighing in at 3.5 pounds, the U54 is a solid but not overly heavy piece of protection.


Granit City Chain 1060 – $200

This thing is a bruiser, and from a visual standpoint, this thing will probably make most thieves move on to less sturdy looking looks. The City Chain isn’t all looks, with 10mm thick square chain links, and a direct connection between the lock and chain, no separate lock to lose or create a weak point for attack. A heavy fabric sleeve protects your bike’s finish, and this brute weighs in at 4.6 pounds. I mostly used this to lock bikes on my porch or on days when I had both a cargo bike and kids bikes to lock up, as the 33-inch length was big enough to handle multiple bikes.


Bordo 6500 – $170

The Bordo series of locks has a lot of fans here at the Bicycle Times. A cross between a u-lock and chain, this folding lock is by far my favorite. It’s the same length as the Granit City chain, but the folding nature of the lock can be more frustrating to use. I’ve managed to lock up three mountain bikes outside a bar, and felt secure enough to head inside for drinks without constantly checking on the $15,000 worth of bikes every three minutes. It’s the same weight as the U54 U-lock, but can fit around more bikes and larger poles. It even comes with a nifty carrying case that can mount into water bottle bosses or Velcro around a frame tube. And when locking up alone, the Bordo (and City chain) is big enough to secure the frame and front wheel.


Each of these locks is a solid investment in a long relationship with your bike. For all around use the Bordo 6500 is easy recommendation for me to make. For the highest level of security and for locking up at established bike racks, the U54 U-lock is the best bet. For groups of bikes, difficult locking situations, and looking like a bad ass, the Granit City (which is also part of Abus’s motorcycle security line) get the nod.

Editor’s note: This review originally appeared in Issue #32 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss a product review, order a subscription and you’ll be ready for the everyday cycling adventure.

Keep reading

Take a behind-the-scenes look at how Abus locks are made in our tour of its factory in Germany.



Conquering Colorado’s Poor Man’s Pass

Poor Man's Pass Map

By Adam Perry. Illustration by Stephen Haynes.

It’s a gradual and gorgeous climb from downtown Boulder heading west up the Boulder Creek Path and Fourmile Canyon to the legendary Poor Man Road. Just a few miles of asphalt and gravel—and, in the winter months, ice and snow kissing not only your tires but also the cliffs and peaks all around—and the Poor Man challenge is yours for the taking. Even Poor Man is brief, really; just over a mile of malleable dirt, rising and turning while gleeful, masochistic cyclists, who make their way up Fourmile Canyon on all kinds of bikes, grind out the climb to earn the immaculately beautiful flight down Sunshine Canyon back to Boulder’s quaint city center.

Even the slowest riders, like myself, need under 15 minutes to knock out Poor Man’s twisty, rugged ascent, which makes subsequent climbs on paved roads seem much easier. But for newbies, especially those with lungs not used to Boulder’s mile-plus elevation, Poor Man is a humbling adventure. I was once one of those humbled newbies.

Having moved from San Francisco to Boulder what seems like ages ago, I was an avid, long time commuter with delusions of mountain-cycling grandeur, thinking that mastery—on a single-speed Kona Lanai built by Box Dog Bikes in the Mission of San Francisco’s steep, but short, hills would translate into slaying Colorado climbs with ease. But in a land where even hour-long lunchtime quickies include 2,000 feet of climbing, years of blasting up Duboce Avenue and other heart-bursting SF favorites meant nothing the first time I greeted Poor Man. Even on a 27-speed Marin hybrid.

At the first switchback, which offers a breathtaking view of the climb riders must complete before reaching Poor Man, I stepped off my Marin and walked for a minute. Maybe 40 yards later I walked a little again. This was repeated a few times more. Then, after trying in vain to get my wheels going up Poor Man’s unforgiving dirt incline once more, I started walked up the final, toughest gradient before I even knew the finish—a mile-long , flat, dirt-covered link to Sunshine Canyon—was in sight.

I hung my head. As I walked, my boss—a seasoned long-distance cyclist who has been in Boulder for over 30 years, save a few years in law school—rolled down Poor Man on his Pugsley fatbike, having already finished the climb, to check on me.

“Don’t show off,” I said with a wry grin, as he wheeled around and finished Poor Man’s final hill a second time.

The next day, and the day after that, I used my lunch break to cycle up to Poor Man alone and complete it without walking. At both turns I stood and breathed deep for one minute, resting but never walking. The following week I did the whole climb, including the way up the canyons from downtown Boulder, without stopping at all, using my lowest gears to finish Poor Man.

It’s incredible what a body can learn. Cycling, especially in Boulder—where choosing a ride on any given day feels like being a foodie who can order for free from any restaurant in New York—presents seemingly endless chances to surpass what you thought were your limits.

Within months of that first embarrassing Poor Man ride/walk, I no longer needed my granny gear to get up the final ascent. Lately, even when I take a mountain bike up Poor Man in winter, I complete the entire ride without even leaving my largest front chainring. My next goal is slaying Poor Man on a single-speed.

It’s been a proud, meaningful rite of passage, or a series of them. I’ve discovered a lot about myself alone on Poor Man Road, and in the canyons that lead to it. My legs pump; my lugs charge; in that hour away from my office, my mind intermittently focuses, wanders and grows.

December is the only month in which I haven’t climbed Poor Man, and sometimes I even think Poor Man is where I’d prefer to die, but perhaps a bench at the top with my name on it is a bit more rational.

After several years of regular Poor Man rides, I’ve met some fun paved challenges—like the Col de Jamen in Switzerland; Super Flagstaff in Boulder; and Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County, Calif.—that no doubt seemed more gentle because of my extensive experience on the Poor Man dirt. It’s become a familiar, helpful part of me, and I’ve become the cyclist who riders less familiar with extended climbs, as I once was, hate to love.

Editor’s note: This feature originally appeared in Issue #32 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss a bike review, order a subscription and you’ll be ready for the everyday cycling adventure.

For instance, when my older brother, Jeff, visited Colorado for the first time, two years ago, he rented a 27-speed Trek mountain bike, having cycled off and on since our childhood in Pittsburgh and completed a couple of 150-mile two-day rides in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

On Jeff’s second day in Boulder, he happily followed me up Boulder Canyon and Fourmile Canyon on his rented Trek on the way to Poor Man Road.

“Make sure to save your lowest gears for Poor Man,” I turned around and said to him when we were about a mile from the sharp turn from Fourmile Canyon onto the dirt wall that kicks off Poor Man.

“I’m already in my lowest gears,” Jeff replied. “I don’t have any left.”

“Oh no,” I thought, and immediately recalled my first time up Poor Man, with my boss.

“Well, you can do it, Jeff,” I urged. “If you need to take a break at any point, just go ahead, no problem.”

A few moments of competitive brotherly silence, except for his heavy breathing, ensued. Before he was halfway up the first hill, Jeff got off his bike and started to walk. He didn’t get back on his bike until Poor Man’s mile-plus of dirt ascent had ended; I waited for him at the top. The first thing he said when he knew I was within earshot was, “I hate you.”

Then he smiled—not a wry smile but a real one—and said, “That was awesome. I’ll get in shape and ride the whole thing the next time I’m out here.”

Maybe I should’ve stopped, too, and walked with my brother. Maybe I should have given him more than one day to get used to the elevation. Maybe I wanted to show off. Mostly, I wanted to add to my Poor Man memories.

On the way up Fourmile, Dan and I happened upon an older cyclist, probably in his mid 50s, on a mountain bike; the white-haired, joyful man complemented Dan on his artisan late-’90s titanium road bike, and quipped that he could tell I was a Boulder cyclist when I saw that I take a big u-lock and panniers on a climb.

Last week I took a Denver friend, who had previously joined me on a Boulder-area ride up to Jamestown via Lee Hill and Lefthand Canyon, up Poor Man. He’d been “defeated” by Poor Man when he first moved to Boulder five years ago and sincerely felt haunted by the experience, which ended at the first turn, when he decided to roll back down the way he came and return to Boulder.

Two weeks ago, Dan told me it meant a lot to him to attempt Poor Man again after all those years, like it was a lingering injury he felt he could finally heal for.

On the way up Fourmile, Dan and I happened upon an older cyclist, probably in his mid 50s, on a mountain bike; the white-haired, joyful man complemented Dan on his artisan late-’90s titanium road bike, and quipped that he could tell I was a Boulder cyclist when I saw that I take a big u-lock and panniers on a climb. The man asked for directions to Poor Man Road, and I said, “Just ride with us.”

When we turned on to Poor Man and began the first dirt ascent, Dan and I joked that the end of the four-mile climb felt like taking someone up that first slow rise on a rollercoaster before it flings you into unknown terror. But the fear Dan felt, especially with his asthma struggles, was mostly fear of an unknown that wasn’t terrifying at all when he faced it again. And, as I told him when the Poor Man grind began, “It’s not that hard; it’ll be over before you know it.”

And it was. Dan completed the ride, from downtown Boulder up to Poor Man and the rocket burst down Sunshine Canyon without stopping once, save for the moment Poor Man’s dirt ascent was safely over. He smiled big, gave me a fist-bump, and hunched over as if to throw up.

After two or three minutes of laughing with Dan while he recovered, the older rider joined us in taking the dirt link to Sunshine Canyon. But just before Dan and I began the descent to downtown Boulder for coffee at Trident Café, our new friend made a snap decision to “blow off work” and go in the other direction, up Sunshine Canyon and over to Lefthand Canyon.

Of all the things I’ve learned on a bike ride, that moment provided perhaps the most obvious: I realized what I want to be when I grow up.



Ask Beardo: Do I need to wear Lycra?

Editor’s note: Beardo the Weirdo is our resident spiritual advisor and greasy wrench expert. You can usually find him in the pages of Bicycle Times but sometimes he fires up the dial-up modem and logs in here. Ask him anything at [email protected]—ANYTHING—and he’ll answer you. Be forewarned.

Beardo Minor Threat


I’ve begun riding my bike more often for fun, not just to and from work. Is it time to buy some Lycra? I want to ride more with other people, and that seems to be the acceptable norm.


Watts Hunter


Clothing makes the man, right? Or woman? Or womyn? Considering the t-shirt and shorts uniform that has taken over the tech world, maybe not so much anymore. In fact, it makes it hard to keep things straight about who is who anymore. Which is the way it should be. Best to open that book up before judging the cover.

The idea of keeping things straight might be the main reason so many serious recreational cyclists wear lycra. Much like the pairing of vintage goggles with cast-off high school band uniforms and fur makes the wearer recognizable as a Burner (or steampunk? I get confused); Lycra, no matter how ill-advised, says the wearer is serious about cycling.

So should you dip your toe in the Lycra waters? Are you racing at a high level? Since you’re asking a puppet with at cardboard head for advice on how to dress, I’m going to guess you aren’t standing on podiums anytime soon, so there’s no need for aerodynamic clothing on your rides.

The other reason claimed for the full Lycra suit is comfort, one which I find suspect, but whatever; you want to wrap yourself up like a sausage? Have at it! But going on group rides without some form of ‘kit’ to fit might leave you looking like the black sheep from the cover of Minor Threat’s “Out of Step”.

But much like that sheep—while you might look different—you are at the core still a sheep. Or cyclist. Or whatever. Sometimes it seems my metaphors start to break down too quickly. Maybe it’s because my attention span is shorter than the average Minor Threat song? Maybe listening to more opera would help.

Remember that some of the issues we have with the cagers is due to the ‘Us vs Them’ mentality that Lycra creates. Lycra superheroes are “the other”, making it easy to hate on cyclists as a generic, homogenized group. It seems the only thing the populace loves more the self-righteous indignation is a good ol’ polarized ‘Us vs The Commie Bad Guys’ showdown.

Anyway, wear what you want, but remember that millions of miles are ridden every year in all kind of weather in clothes that don’t look ridiculous off the bike. Hell, some of the toughest riders I know manage to survive riding all winter in jeans, a cotton hoodie and wool gloves. And contrary to the opinion I read recently online, Lycra isn’t earned, it’s something anyone can buy, and I wish less people would.


Portrait of Yours Truly by Stephen Haynes



Planning Your Dream Bike Tour


By Beth Puliti. Photos by Beth Puliti and Justin Kline

Pinpointing our fears—and taking steps to address them—will help us overcome them and move in the direction of taking that first pedal stroke. Worried about getting robbed on the road? Invest in a bag set-up that will keep your valuables securely out of sight. Afraid of wild dogs taking a chunk out of your haunches? Get a preventive rabies shot before your trip and attach a small horn to your bike. Anxious about camping in a place foreign to you? Do a bit of research to find alternative, affordable accommodations.

If you can’t point to one specific fear, you just might be afraid of everything, like I was. This is more appropriately referred to as “fear of the unknown.” It’s when our mind won’t let us move forward until we know what lies ahead. This, my fellow wanderlusters, is where planning comes into play.

Editor’s note: This column originally appeared in Issue #32 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss a bike review, order a subscription and you’ll be ready for the everyday cycling adventure.

While you certainly won’t ever know exactly what awaits around the next curve in the road, you can take steps before you depart on your tour to familiarize yourself with the area you wish to explore. Pour over online journals of cyclists who have ventured where you dream to. Make notes in the pages of a detailed guidebook. Order a local road map and highlight intriguing attractions and accommodations. Other practical things to consider are:

Time of year: Unless you are product testing swanky rain gear, chances are you don’t want to be cycling through Asia during monsoon season. Obviously, you can’t predict an unusually stormy summer (like we’ve been experiencing this year in Europe), but a bit of research beforehand will ensure you are pedaling in the most ideal weather possible.

Cost: If you plan on doing a fair amount of eating out and sleeping in hotels, you might consider spending time in parts of the world that are known for their affordable accommodations and tasty, inexpensive cuisine like Southeast Asia.


Culture: Each region of the world has its own beliefs and ways of life. Seeing these firsthand is part of what makes travel so fulfilling. Traveling to Albania? It might benefit you to know that cuisine is meat-oriented and society is patriarchal. Having a foundation of knowledge before you enter a country may help to ease any anxiety you may have surrounding the customs of a particular area—or steer you in a different direction completely.

Time: Don’t try to fit too much in a short amount of time. You’re not going to be able to see the world in a month, or even a year for that matter. So, it doesn’t make sense to pedal yourself silly trying. Terrain, climate, visa logistics and sightseeing are all things you should consider when planning how long it will take to get from point A to point B.


Route: Is it important to know if roads are busy with traffic? Yes. Or if they actually exist, like our recent experience in Macedonia? Of course. But don’t be set on sticking to an exact route before you roll across the border. Chances are you’ll meet locals who will suggest a quieter, flatter or more scenic road.

The very best way to begin the planning process is to set a date. Nothing will motivate you more than a looming departure date to start your dream bike tour. You’ll be pedaling before you know it!

One final thought: While planning can help get the ball rolling—or wheels turning, in this case—figuring out every last detail in advance can be restricting. Find a balance and be open to veering from the plan in the name of adventure. You may be pleasantly surprised at just how much you enjoy those “scary” unplanned parts of your journey.

Beth Puliti is a freelance writer traveling on an open-ended bike tour with her husband, working wherever there’s Wi-Fi and sleeping wherever her legs give out for the day. Visit



Made in Austin

Photos by Justin Steiner

With an official city slogan of “The Live Music Capitol of the World”, it’s easy to see why Austin is an epicenter of cool and trendy. In addition to playing host to a number of the country’s most well-attended music and tech festivals, Austin is also the most bike-friendly city in Texas with a Silver rating from the League of American Bicyclists. Here are three of my favorite things made in Austin.


Traveller Slim Straight denim jeans – $225

Traveller Denim Co. is the brainchild of founders Selenia Rios & Erik Untersee, proud Austinites who wanted to make something cool and lasting in a world increasingly filled with disposable products.

Starting with USA Cone Mills 15oz redline or Japanese selvage denim, the  Slim Straight jeans have a tailored upper block and leg with a mild rise, and are individually produced on vintage industrial machines by hand in Traveller’s Austin storefront.

TravellersJeans_watermarked630 Stephen_WheelMill_watermarked630-2

Offering several styles, Traveller keeps a small stock on hand that can be shipped to you directly, though for the full experience, they suggest you stop in their Chestnut Avenue storefront for a proper fitting. Four to six weeks for delivery.



Fireman’s Texas Cruzer 29er – $1,400

Since 1998 Fireman’s Texas Cruzers have been cranking out bikes inspired by Cruiser Class BMX bikes of the `80s. Offered in three wheel sizes (24, 26, and 29-inch) the 4130 chromoly frames are made to be bashed around, and though the 71-degree head tube angle and 66-degree seat tube angle sounds a bit wonky, the bikes are a blast to ride. Also available as a frame set for $750 + S.H.


In addition to making cool bikes, Fireman’s Texas Cruzer has partnered with Real Ale Brewing to bring you a couple swell choices to swill.

The Sword – Gods of the Earth

In the tradition of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and the more contemporary High on Fire, Gods of the Earth (2008) is the second studio album from the Austin-based heavy metal band The Sword.

Playing on classic fantasy themes like “How Heavy this Axe”, “The Sundering” and “The Frost-Giant’s Daughter”, Gods delivers 11 tracks of bombastic, head-bang inducing, distorted goodness.

Editor’s note: This originally appeared in Issue #32 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss a bike review, order a subscription and you’ll be ready for the everyday cycling adventure.


In Print: Essential skills and equipment for bike touring

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Editor’s note: This feature originally appeared in Bicycle Times Issue #32, which is on sale now. Grab a copy at your local newsstand, order one here, or best of all, order a subscription and never miss an issue.

By Damian Antonio

Have you ever wanted to be one of those freewheeling bicycle tourists that seems to roll with the wind? Those that travel with an exhilarating spontaneity? Those that ride for the journey, not the destination?

Well the fact is that those freewheelers aren’t as freewheelin’ as they might seem. While it may sound like an oxymoron, most have planned meticulously on being spontaneous.

Spreadsheet after spreadsheet of checklists for bicycle parts, camping gear, maps, climate information, visas and vaccines – they’re prepared for every contingency. This allows them the freedom to change their intended destination on a whim, travel at their own pace, and invite the magic of the unexpected into their journey.

So what planning is required to be successfully spontaneous*? Well like most things in life, you need skills, equipment and local knowledge.

*Note that being unsuccessfully spontaneous includes ending up hopelessly lost, irreparably broken down or frozen to death.


The most obvious skillset required of a bicycle tourist is cycling! But you’ve been off your training wheels for 20-plus years, so you can tick that one off, right? Well, it’s not that simple. We’re not talking about a Sunday morning pedal down to the corner store. Depending on your destination, you need to be able to stay upright on a fully loaded bicycle, on roads that are a chunky soup of gravel and mud, and occupied by truck drivers who treat cyclists as you would a mosquito.

Other essential skills are those hands-on ones required to keep you on the road: bicycle repair. Should you find yourself off the beaten path, the health of your steed may be the difference between you cycling back to civilization over a day versus walking back over a week.

Do you need to become a human encyclopedia of all things bikes? No. But you do need knowledge that is commensurate with where you are going and the duration of your trip.

And finally, for any spontaneous bicycle tour, you need coping skills. Things are not always going to end up as expected. That’s the whole point.

Sometimes traveling spontaneously will work in your favor and you’ll find yourself in a remote hill tribe village in Laos, celebrating a crazy festival by getting drunk on homemade rice wine with the locals. Other times you’ll be climbing seemingly endless switchbacks on a Chilean mountain in horizontal rain, while wishing you’d stayed home to binge-watch Game of Thrones on the couch. The only way to enjoy the festival is to learn to cope with the rain.


The above skills are essential when touring spontaneously, but almost useless without the associated equipment. It’s no good knowing how to change a tire and not having a set of tire levers.

When selecting which spare parts and equipment to carry, think like a teenage boy with condoms on prom night. You need to consider the likelihood that you’ll need them, their availability in the place you’re travelling, the potential consequences of not having them, and the amount of space they take up.

You should be able to compile a fairly compact kitbag that will get you out of just about any jam, without feeling like you’re lugging your entire shed up every hill.

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If it doesn’t, or if you’ve taken the notion of “riding with the wind” a little too literally, you may find yourself stranded for the night. Or worse, lost.

That is when you need to be thinking about the bare basics: food, water, shelter, warmth and means of navigation. If you can pull all of those out of your panniers, you should be okay.

Local Knowledge

The most exciting thing about spontaneous touring is the unexpected surprises. Like rounding yet another brown corner in the high-altitude desert of northern India, and coming to a village oasis that looks like Hobbiton from the Lord of the Rings.

The idea however, is to never be too surprised. You don’t want to discover that far from being the home of Frodo and Bilbo, the village is actually the stronghold of a separatist militia whose M.O. is to kidnap and behead western bicycle tourists.

You need to have a reasonable understanding of the local environment and its dangers before you go capriciously traipsing about in them. These dangers can range from the explicit (man-eating bears) to the subtle (daytime and nighttime temperatures) to the seemingly trivial (distance between towns), but all can be equally deadly.

The best source of local information is of course, the locals. So speak to them. The language barrier can make it difficult in some places, like Vietnam. Or Alabama. So make the effort to learn at least a few key phrases in the local language. Although, having no idea what anyone is talking about really would make for a spontaneous tour.

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Video: Tracing a stolen bike to eBay

In the new issue of Bicycle Times, #32, we sat down to chat with Reed Albergotti about life as a cyclist and as a reporter at the Wall Street Journal. Like many cyclists, he has a familiar story to tell: the theft of a bike. But unlike most, Albergotti was able to track his bike to eBay. When he asked the company about finding a way to get it back, he was effectively stonewalled.

He discusses his experience in the video below:

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