Hi folks. Today’s post is by Emma Orton, who lives in Australia and works for Yakima. Hence the UK style spelling of the word “Tire”, as well as the link to Yakima’s website in the text. It’s the least we could do. I’ve added a few photos of my own bike trips in an attempt to illustrate the story.-Ed.
It’s never easy to go biking in the rain, but there’s no denying that there is a thrill to it. Pushing the pedals while the rain hits the ground, braving the cold and foggy weather and splashing waters sound like a whole lot of adventure for those who love the outdoors and those who can tolerate the cold.
However, as exciting as biking in wet weather may sound to some, it is crucial to take the necessary safety measures to ensure that your cycling adventure does not land you in the hospital. After all, the risks are much higher as the thrill increases.
Below are some of the most useful tips one can follow to stay safe when biking in wet weather and avoid any unwanted consequences:
Invest in waterproof clothing
One of the most important ways to keep yourselves dry and avoid getting sick is to invest in high-quality waterproof clothing, especially a jacket. Sure, it’s not possible to stay completely dry when out in the rain, but it is possible to reduce how much water gets on you, and the best way is to invest in breathable, waterproof jackets that control body temperature.
Never forget overshoes and gloves
Hands and feet are the first victims of the rain and cold weather when biking, which can affect control on the handles, brakes and pedals. However, with overshoes and gloves, it is possible to keep the water and cold away while maintaining dexterity on the limbs. It is important that the material used for these are thick enough to keep out cold and water, but flexible enough to not hamper control.
Always carry spare clothes
As mentioned before, it’s never really possible to stay completely dry when biking in wet weather. Even if it’s not raining, there is a high chance of getting wet from puddles and splashes from other riders. This is why always carrying a change of clothes, including spare socks, is a great idea.
Keep the dirt away with mudguards
Mudguards may make an annoying rattling noise, and they may not look appealing, but they do a wonderful job in protecting the biker from dirty water splashes, helping in keeping not only dry but also clean. A mudguard at the back and front will keep dirty water away from the feet and legs, the most common victims of dirty splashes.
Reduce your tyre pressure
Tyre pressure must always match the terrain – a basic knowledge among bikers. Mountain biking requires less tyre pressure, while road biking requires higher tyre pressure. However, while biking in cold, wet weather, the pressure must be lower than the usual tyre pressure in normal, dry weather conditions. This is because more grip is required when biking on slippery grounds, and this is achieved by deflating the tyres to increase footprint.
Make sure you are visible to drivers
Wet weather tends to increase the risk of driving. Not only are the roads slippery and wet, but the visibility also greatly reduces due to the fog. As such, it is crucial for bikers to make sure they are visible to other drivers by wearing high visibility rain jackets and other attire, or keeping the front and rear lights on and flashing at all times.
Avoid puddles and standing water
Standing water must be avoided at all costs. Even if it looks like a harmless puddle that will only create a small splash, there is a high chance that underneath the water is a deep pothole, and this could lead to disastrous consequences.
Don’t use the brakes and change direction suddenly
It is important to be careful when using the brakes while biking in wet weather and slippery roads. It is also advisable not to change direction suddenly without first inspecting the trajectory and what risks could be lying right in front. A biker should never lose control of the bike while biking in wet weather.
Use the right gear
It is recommended that you use the right gear when riding in tough conditions. You can check out bike gear including racks here, it’s important to stay safe and keep your bikes safe while traveling in the rain. If you are driving to a location to cycle then there are plenty of great gear options to choose from.
Always degrease chains
After biking in the rain, degreasing chains is a must as this can significantly increase the lifespan of the chain and prevent future complications. Make sure to cover the chain in a degreaser and thoroughly wipe it off using a rag until it is completely dry.
Choose less risky paths
It may seem obvious, nevertheless an important reminder. Safety should be a priority; even it means losing speed. Always stick to paths that pose the least risks and hazards.
Dorothy is an 80’s chrome Ross Mt. Whitney mountain bike I obtained from my old pal and frequent Dirt Rag cover artist, John Hinderliter. Purchased from Abridge Bike Shop in 1983, it was the top-of-the-line model at the time. When I came into her, she was converted directly to use as an urban assault vehicle for fun use. As many accouterments as possible!
First and foremost is the “Dorothy” nameplate I picked up at a bicycle swap a while back. My Mom’s middle name. Much like the bicycle license plates you can buy with popular names on them (Except “Maurice”), there was a day when you could buy sticky tube emblems with all the popular names on them. Except for Maurice. The chrome has seen better days, yes?
The most O.G. part on Dorothy is the original Shimano Deore (Meaning Deer) derailleur that’s still on there, serving me well. And Spokey Dokeys. For the unfamiliar, these are beads that snap on to your spokes and slide up and down to make noise when you roll at a slower speed. Popular in the 80’s yet still available in some form to this day…
So many wonderful parts. I once visited Jack Witmer in California and scored these sweet Cook Brother’s not-cruiser bars. They provide a sweet upright lean-back position but render Dorothy untalented when it comes to climbing hills for sure. Props to Wilderness Trail Bikes for their Trail Grips, Honka Hoota for their awesome yet sun-damage-prone horn, and whoever invented the tassle.
Check out my siren. I do need to put an activation cable on there though. These were illegal in many places due to their police car siren sound. Note FAT Schwalbe Super Moto tires and Shimano dynamo hub.
D.O.R.c. or Disgruntled Off Road Cyclists of Pittsburgh.
The whole enchilada. Seen on a wonderful ride above Pittsburgh, PA, home of Bicycle Times!
One of the misunderstood concepts of regular bicycle maintenance is cassette wear. Typically, one might go through 5 chains for every quality, name-brand cassette – or about 10,000 miles. But there are also stories of Campagnolo Record cassettes lasting a decade or more, and other stories of people riding hard in sandy areas having to replace a discount-brand cassette every 2 chains. -By Scott B. Wilson
Here are some common cassette questions that I will try to flush out:
What does it mean that a cassette is worn?
In normal usage the rollers of a chain rub against the cassette as it rotates around and around while you pedal. Usually there is a lubricant in between such as chain oil, but even so, every time the chain rubs on the cogs of the cassette, wear grooves into the leading edge of the cog’s teeth. Sand, grit, and an un-lubricated chain increase friction and thus increase wear. In the most extreme cases, the teeth of the cassette will be rubbed down and cause the chain to skip under pressure. In a less extreme cases you’ll experience quicker chain wear because the space between the teeth has increased and the chain no longer fits perfectly. Also, shifting performance will reduce, especially under pressure because the little pick-up ramps on the sides of each cog wear down and won’t be able to help the chain climb up to the next cog. See how there’s a little lip on the side of the tooth? That’s wear…
How do you know if a cassette is worn?
The easiest way to see if a cassette is worn is to compare it to a new cassette of the same make and model. They should look identical, but if they don’t then one is worn. If there’s no new cassette on hand, methods to determine wear still exist.
First, clean the old cassette until it shines, then look at the cogs in the middle. These are the ones you use most often and they get the most wear. Look straight down from above (see the pic on the bottom of this post). Does it look like the leading edge of the tooth is mushrooming out a little? That’s from the metal being rubbed down and compressed by the chain.
Think of it like a roll of cookie dough. If you slap it down on the table, the bottom will spread out but the top will remain intact. The metal of the cassette acts the same way.
Next, look at the pick-up ramps. If they look like they’re being rubbed away, that’s a clear sign of wear.
Lastly, there is a phenomenon called “Shark Finning” where the leading edge of a cog tooth will start to curve inwards, making it resemble a shark’s dorsal fin. In time this will erode the top of the tooth and cause the chain to skip. A “shark finned” cassette…
Can I ride a worn cassette?
Yes. It’s not dangerous to ride a worn cassette, but it will lead to premature chain fatigue, which will lead to more cassette wear and chain ring wear and bad shifting and occasional skips and loss of efficiency and loss of friends and ugly shoes and bad hair and so on.
How can I make a cassette last longer?
Cleaning and lubricating your chain whenever it’s dirty or dry is the best thing you can do for overall drivetrain health. I like to take a rolled up towel and floss between cogs every so often too. Besides that, make sure the derailleur is correctly tuned – if there is too much or too little cable tension the chain will want to jump between cogs, creating wear on the tips of the teeth and pick-up ramps. Chains and cassettes are designed in tandem to work together, so it’s best to use chains and cassettes made by the same company. Some cheaper chains are a little bit wider than Shimano or SRAM and tend to rub on the side of their cassettes. This will cause premature wear to the pick-up ramps. Also, remember to shift. Don’t just grind away in the same gear all the time; shift, spin, and be happy.
The below cassette was owned by a professional road and cyclocross racer. As you can see, the profile of the chain embedded itself into the side of the cassette over several thousand miles of hard use. It’s possible that her derailleur had too high of tension or the derailleur hanger may have been bent, causing the chain to ride a little too close to the next largest cog. This cassette is totally hosed.
What cassettes last the longest?
There are a lot of good cogsets out there. Higher-quality cassettes will typically make use of different alloys for different cogs: titanium in the middle cogs for wear resistance, aluminum on the big cogs for weight savings. Mid-level cassettes are typically made of hardened steel, which will outlast most lighter alloys. Cheaper cassettes may use a nickel plating over low quality “mild” steel. Generally, you get what you pay for. If you ride a lot you should get the better cassette, it will save you money and headache in the long run.
Here you can see the cogs that the rider liked to use the most. The third and fourth cogs down both have lips, while the second one down doesn’t…
The right side of the tooth has a lip because that’s where the chain made contact…
My new cassette is missing teeth. WTF?
Is it a ten-speed SRAM cassette? If so, that’s fine. They used to do that to improve shifting or reduce weight or something. They don’t do that on the new 11-speed stuff though. Even on Campy and Shimano cassettes some of the teeth will look different, and that’s OK. The lesson I want you to take away is that it’s OK to look different.
Remember, everything wears and everything breaks. However, if you buy quality and do the right maintenance steps, a cassette will give many miles of problem-free use.
Last question, what do you wear under bike shorts?
Nothing’s worn! It all works fine. HAHAHA!Tweet Print
Here’s something that hasn’t happened before. Texan Kirk Gillock has finished a 4,250-mile solo cycling tour around America in the shape of a large heart.
The purpose of Gillock’s “Heart for America” campaign is to help heal some of the division our country is feeling right now. He believes that it takes both sides, the left and right, to be a stronger country and, just like riding a bicycle, we need balance to keep moving forward. “If we lean too far left or too far right, we will fall and we will fail.” said Gillock. That is why he has his bicycle decorated red on one side (Republicans) and blue on the other side (Democrats). To symbolize the balance our country needs right now.
In 2003, Kirk decided to volunteer as an English teacher in Thailand for a few months but ended up staying 14 years. While there he founded a helmet promotion charity and opened a school to help improve Thai quality of life through education and road safety. After returning to the USA last year, he saw how divided his own country was and decided to do something, not only to reconnect with America but to help reconnect his fellow Americans. Kirk would like us to remember that we all love America, no matter what our political beliefs, and that if we can work together we will all be happier and better off.
Gillock left Austin, TX on August 2nd, 2018 and began cycling northwest along the heart shape route he created, including every type of paved and unpaved road you can imagine. He cycled through west Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, and Arkansas. He averaged about 70 miles per day and lost over 20 lbs. Some nights he would sleep in a tent but he also stayed in motels, or with friends, whenever possible.
He returned to Austin, Texas on October 26th at 4:35pm, after cycling a total of 4,233 miles and 13 states. Along the way, he met many friendly people and gave them all American heart stickers. Everyone he met loved the message he is promoting.Kirk suffered extreme heat exhaustion, cycled over a 10,100-foot mountain pass, was almost hit by cars (and horses). And he did the whole ride without accepting sponsorship or donations. Bravo!
I’ve been poking around the “Free To Use” section of the Library of Congress website and it’s pretty cool. Lots of old photos, which are available for use and enjoyment, royalty free. So I started looking for bicycle-related shots for this bicycle-related site and found tons of interesting stuff. Like this…
The Title reads… Curtin Hines. Western Union messenger #36. Fourteen years old. Goes to school. Works from four to eight P.M. Been with W[estern] U[nion] for six months, one month delivering for a drug store. “I learned a lot about the ‘Reservation’ while I was at the drug store and I go there some times now.” Location: Houston, Texas.
Whaaaa? Let’s filter this a bit…
Digging deeper I learn that the photographer, Lewis Wickes Hine, was instrumental in changing the child labor laws back at the 1900’s. After stints documenting arrivals at Ellis Island and working conditions in Pittsburgh, PA, Hines was tasked by the National Child Labor Committee with documenting child labor conditions around the country. He did this from 1911 to 1916, approximately.
The Masters of The Universe knew that reform was coming, and were already ignoring existing labor laws, so the risks were high for Hines. Hines had to disguise himself and snuck into factories where child labor was taking place. If he were caught he might face physical recrimination.
Earle Griffith and Eddie Tahoory, working for the Dime Messenger Service. They said they never knew when they were going to get home at night. Usually work one or more nights a week, and have worked until after midnight. They said last Christmas their office had a 9 yr. old boy running errands for them, and that he made a great deal of money from tips. They make about $7 a week and more, sometimes. Said “The office is not allowed to send us into the red light district but we go when a call sends us. Not very often.” Location: [Washington (D.C.), District of Columbia].
Messenger boy working for Mackay Telegraph Company. Said fifteen years old. Exposed to Red Light dangers. Location: Waco, Texas.
Is that a pipe in his mouth? Also note stylish seat position.
Marion Davis, Messenger #21 for Bellevue Messenger Service. Fourteen years old. “Been messenger, off and on, for two years. Not supposed to go to the Reservation under sixteen years, but I do just the same. The boss don’t care and the cops don’t stop me.” Location: Houston, Texas.
Hine’s ghostly presence blows my mind.
Danville Messengers. The smallest boy, Western Union No. 5 is only ten years old, and is working as extra boy. He said he was going to be laid off as the manager told him he was too young, but an older messenger told me the reason was that the other messengers were having him put off because he cuts into their earnings. See Hine report on Va. messengers for data about the tallest boy. Location: Danville, Virginia.
Percy Neville in the heart of the Red Light district. Just come out of one of the houses with message (which see in his hand). He said gleefully “She gimme a quarter tip.” See also Hine report on Louisiana Messengers. Location: Shreveport, Louisiana.
The National Child Labor Committee collection contains more than 5,100 photographic prints and 355 glass negatives, given to the Library of Congress in 1954 by Mrs. Gertrude Folks Zimand, chief executive of the NCLC. Here are 64 taken by Hine.Tweet Print
By Paul de Valera
Every Thursday I ride with a couple guys that I would describe as normal white dudes. They have nice bikes, motorcycles, dune buggies, marriages, mortgages, children etc. All the things in life I want nothing to do with. I can see we are worlds apart as they snap bong loads and drink beer before the ride as they share their ideas about the world which are divergent from mine. I don’t share their substances nor their ideas, but they say I’m like a wise old owl even though I’m younger than them. That is funny I guess. They have been riding together since they were kids, wielding Schwinn Varsity bikes with BMX handlebars through vast tracks of now-developed land all over the San Fernando Valley when mountain biking was just for an esoteric few clusters of people throughout the country. In that scope of perspective, I am a relative newcomer to them and to off-road cycling in general. When I met them they had identical Klein Bicycles with 1” threaded forks and cantilever brakes, one green and one maroon. The friendly rivalry between friends had spanned for decades. Pairs of 29er Stumpjumpers came next. While I can look at myself next to these guys and not feel a connection on many levels, the shredding of trails was what we all had in common, the thing that mattered the most. I stopped looking at people and seeing how they did not fit into my world and started seeing how they could, I disconnect my own faulty worldview, setting it aside to see where things do come together. I’ve met some amazing people through a shared interest in bikes; we don’t have to connect any other way to have a connection.
Paul is the proprietor of Atomic Cycles, publisher of Chicken Head Records Zine, promoter of the Coaster Brake Challenge and purveyor of cruiser bits at genuinebicycleproducts.com. This all takes place around the San Fernando Valley in southern California. -Ed.Tweet Print
By Erik Mathy. Erik carries an entire 4×5 view camera on his bicycle journeys. Let’s check out some of his recent work…Ed.
Above: The Ferry Building, San Francisco. With giant polar bear.
The San Francisco Bay Area is a funny place. I’ve been riding up to the top of Hawk Hill, which overlooks the Golden Gate Bridge, pretty consistently in the mornings before work. It’s a nice climb with a couple of good punches for out of shape, slightly overweight guys like me. More importantly, there is also a decided lack of car traffic in the mornings which we cyclists can always appreciate. Anyways, for the last 2 months I haven’t been able to see the bridge from the peak of Hawk Hill. The fog is just too thick in San Francisco during the summer months.
But come September? The clouds part, the sun comes out, the Golden Gate is fog-free and our already fine Bay Area cyclist life gets all that much finer. For me, that’s because I’m almost always packing a camera when I ride. All that extra sunshine in September and October make from some fabulous photography.
A few years back some friends of mine and I did a big spate of long bikepacking trips. Crescent City to San Francisco. Klamath Falls to the Deschutes in Oregon. Fruita to Moab on the Kokopelli Trail. Those trips made me realize that I was not, nor would probably ever be, a very fast cyclist. I’ll never go back and race the Tour Divide like I tried to do way back when. I’ve found that what I love isn’t trying to keep up with the fast guys. It’s riding my bike and taking photographs.
Bicycle Times has been kind enough to ask me to send them over some photographs from my various rides each month. There’s a big 1200 mile photography bike tour on my horizon, and I’m working getting my camera setup down. I’ll be taking a self-made camera lens and an old, 50’s era Speed Graphic that shoots sheet film. I’m looking to scratch a pair of itches on this trip:
Do more creative work with my hands.
Make photographs that have a distinct, old look and feel to them.
And that’s the down low on my first, but hopefully not my last, edition of Ride Slow, Take Photos here at Bicycletimes.com. Enjoy!! Technical specs below…
San Jose Airport, San Jose, CA
Newmark Tennis Stadium at night, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
Burned out homeless encampment, Oakland, CA
Police, Oakland, CA
Motel, Oakland, CA
Skate Like A Girl, Town Park Skate Park, Oakland, CA.
Skate Like A Girl, Town Park Skate Park, Oakland, CA.
Immigration Station, Angel Island, CA
Tiburon – Angel Island Ferry, San Francisco Bay, CA
Harry Bridges Plaza, San Francisco, CA
I shoot with a 1950’s era 3.25×4.25 Speedgraphic press camera. The lens is a handmade 140mm f/4.5 Dollar Bill Lens made with surplus optical glass elements and, yes, dollar bills. Film is Kodak X-Ray film. Its red light safe so I can cut it down safely from 8×10 to the oddball 3.25×4.25 size. It shoots at 50asa, just like normal film. The best part is that I can buy 100 8×10 sheets for $115, which makes for 400 sheets of 4×5 or smaller. It’s the cheapest way to do large format, by far!
Look for more of Erik’s work as he travels around, camera in tow. His next project is going to be epic! -Ed.
Hello Bicycle Times readers! Welcome to this sponsored post. Yes, this content is provided by Civia Cycles, and written by Matt Pacocha. Matt has some good ideas about E-bikes. Take a moment to check it out, and help us pay the bills!… Ed.
E-bikes are everywhere.
Or they will be soon, here’s why.
I live at 9,000 feet. Last week, my wife and I did a social ride with some new friends. We just moved to a mountain town with our two sons to partake in small-town living with easy access to what we love to do: riding in the summer; skiing in the winter.
I digress from my personal situation. As we finished our ride with friends and rolled up to one of our favorite eateries after our human-powered ride, we noticed two e-bikes out front and we sat down next to the owners. These two had just ridden to 11,600ft over nearly 30-miles with 2,500ft+ of climbing… in 4 hours.
Mind you the riders were a couple in their 60s. This wasn’t the gnarly, extreme, picture that jumps into most established ‘riders’ heads when they think of ebikes tearing up their beloved pedal-bike trails. Nor were they the type that would bob and weave through traffic like a picture ebike anti-advocates may paint. No, these riders were absolutely going slower than most fit cycling enthusiasts, but the point is, they were out there doing it.
There I think. Technology doesn’t need techno. E-bikes can be easy listening; we just need to start somewhere. We need to start talking about them and we need to start thinking about how and where they fit. What if Lyle Lovett had an ebike… guarantee he wouldn’t have written a song about a boat, and that’s about as far as you can get from the adrenalin infused techno image of that most of us may think about when someone says ‘ebike’, especially those of us who haven’t had a chance to ride or understand them yet.
Ebikes can be about new beginnings. They’re a solution. They give people a chance to commute when they think it’s too far. They provide people with health issues the freedom to get out and feel the wind in their hair again. They’re about giving new riders the courage they need to venture out of the driveway and beyond the neighborhood. And they’re going to help us all stay in our sport longer. So where do we start?
Civia Cycles may be a place to start.
This city bike brand is just entering the ebike category, and they’re bringing some new ideas. Civia’s new Parkway offers a place to start for both riders and shops that are new to and curious about ebikes.
First off, they fit into a category that no-one can argue—the city category where ebikes fit easily. Here, they make sense. Here, they’re for those of us who need the courage or the range that an electric assist can offer. They can help get us get there on time and without being sweaty. They can help us come back from injury or those years of neglect that catch up with you in your 40s and 50s. They make getting back on a bike attainable, regardless of your need for an assist.
Civia’s Parkway is attainable, too, both step over and step thru models hit a price that’s well under $3,000USD. These specific bikes are also easy to ride and live with. Case in point Parkway is roughly 5-10-pounds lighter than anything it competes with, and it’s equipped with a power plant from Bosch’s new Active Line. This new motor is Bosch’s smallest and quietest to date; offering smooth power delivery and a top speed of 20mph, which keeps it within the ‘Class 1’ ebike designation—within the realm of human performance—and without limits for use on bike paths or other regulated metro areas.
On the dealer side, Civia Cycles is available through nearly any reputable bike shop in the United States as they’re distributed by Quality Bicycle Products, the largest distributor of bicycle parts and accessories in North America. This is worth noting for a couple of reasons, but the highlights include readily available parts and support by a brand that will stand behind the product (no Kickstarter or obscure Euro brand gamble here) in the US.
So where do ebikes fit for you?
We don’t have the answer, but before you write them off, try one. See what an ebike can give you the courage to do.
Get more info about ebikes and Civia Cycles at www.civiacycles.com
Let’s take a moment out of this busy Humpday and listen to Luka Bloom, the Irish folk singer, as he sings a song about bikes that will chill you out. It’s called “The Ride” What’s your favorite bicycle-related tune?
PS: The guy with the big stick means you no harm.
Think I’ll go for a ride
Take the bike out of the shed
Make a fresh start
Get out of my head
When the head spins
There is no joy
Put me on the saddle
And Im a little boy
A little boy on a mission
Like the Tour de France
Were like Fred and Ginger
When theyre doing their dance
To the sound of rubber
Out on the old bog road
Through the gorse and the heather
Im as free as a bird
It helps me remember
How good it used to be
Feeling like a king
The bike, the road, and me
Think I’ll go for a ride
Every ride has victories
Challenges and trials
You hope the skies dont open
When home is many miles
You think youre just cruising
Life is flowing along
Then you know youre vulnerable
At the mercy of the wind
With every hill you climb
You begin and begin and begin
Begin to be a spokesman
With the freedom of the road
You see the Wicklow Mountains
And you know you have to go
I think Ill go for a ride
Summer evenings on the road
The cool breeze in my hair
Poetry in motion
On two wheels around Kildare
There are cycling heroes
Each one is my pal
They inspire me when Im pedaling
By the river or canal
Some days Im like Sean Kelly
Some days Im David Byrne
Pedaling through Dublin
Or Portland Oregon
Mic Christopher in dreadlocks
Donal Lunny and Olwen Fouere
Cycling through the city
Waving to them all there
By Grant Peterson
When Genghis Khan and the other 800-year old Mongolians rode horses in battle, they were isolated enough from the gallop to shoot arrows with half a chance of hitting foes.
Good form and good shot, Genghis!
For a thousand years, Mongolians have been the smoothest riders in the world, the most at home on a horse. Horses are their lives—always have been—and even now they start riding at age two. By five they ride care-free, smooth as Kessler whiskey, one hand on a rein, the other flailing the giddyup switch as they glide over the steppe unaffected by the churning horse legs below.
A Mongolian’s horse is a bit bigger than a pony, and with stout legs to handle the rough-ground galloping without twisting its ankles and knees. To prepare the horse for riding, the rider lays down a woven horsehair pad, made by specialty Mongolian craftsmen. It’s cushy, waterproof, and breathable, and water runs through it like it does through a plastic pot scrubber, so it can’t get soggy like a cowboy blanket.
On top of that goes a saddle that looks wrong but works great. A Mongolian saddle is nothing at all like the long, broad, shallowly dipped saddles favored by the Marlboro Man and John Wayne. Wayne just ambled along with his cows, sitting on the saddle of his Hollywood horse like a topply sack of rice.
The Mongolian saddle evolved for the athletic, Mongolian style riding required to chase down foes and herd wild Mongolian horses on the steppe. This saddle is short, deep, and U-shaped. Wayne wouldn’t have fit. The front part of the U is the pommel, (ancient Latin for fruit or apple), the equivalent of the knobby apple-sized handle on a cowboy saddle (but it has another function too, coming up). The rear of the U is the cantle, an old word for corner. Mongolian riders use short stirrups, which allow them to stand high above the valley of the U, even with bent knees. Their articulated legs tense and relax as needed to soak up some of the bumps, and the big air gap between their crotch and the bottom of the U gives the horse something to bounce up into without banging the plumbing. The high pommel and cantle keep them centered on the horse. If Mongolians rode this way on a cowboy-type saddle, they’d flop forward and flip back. To complete the Mongolian system, they put metal studs on the seat of the saddle — an idea, it’s said, that Genghis Khan came up with to keep his team riding high and smooth and fast.
This isn’t trivia or irrelevant history. If you ride a bicycle on trails, it couldn’t be more relevant.
There are two ways to look at a trail. When speed or stunts are goals, you see the trail as your arena, and the earth’s texture as the enemy. You push your limits, so you armor up with a technologically advanced uni-purpose bike, and wear armored motocross-style clothing just in case. The mountain bike you ride has bump-nullifying mechanicry so you can ride careless and rough and pay less for it. That’s the point of modern mountain bike technology. To most riders it’s a plus, and it that becomes their style.
When travel, exploration, and fun are your goals, you see the trail as an ally that gives you access to beautiful distant places and makes getting there possible and fun.
Can you ride like a Mongolian on a suspended bike and combine the benefits of mechanical and organic suspension to reach some kind of super smooth nirvana? Only hypothetically. While Red Bull acrobats must combine them to even survive their “rides,” but when you or any other traveler rides on trails, it’s more likely you’ll sit lower, stiffen some, and grab the bike harder, while the technology kicks in below you. The bike you ride affects how you ride it. A bike designed for aggressive riding tends to bring that out. You go faster over rougher terrain because that’s what the bike was designed for.
To ride your bike like a Mongolian rides a horse, you need an unsuspended bike. It’s the better teacher because it selects and reinforces good technique, and gives immediate feedback when you’re blowing it.
Down a bumpy trail, stand on the pedals like a Mongolian in stirrups to create a pocket of protected air between saddle and crotch. If the descent is steep, lean a bit back, and squeeze the flared rear of the saddle with your thighs. That flare is like the Mongolian saddle’s cantle, just rotated 90 degrees. Then you can half sit on the saddle not on your crotch, but with your upper inner thighs. By varying the squeezing force with your thighs, and shifting weight from pedals to saddle, you fine-tune the shock absorption. Your flexing legs will soak up some absorb shock. Your bike saddle has no pommel, but the handlebar serves that same purpose. You might as well be a Mongolian.
On a steep descent, it helps to lower the saddle a few inches, push against the handlebar (your pommel), then sit on your thighs and hang your butt low off the back of the saddle — to weight the rear wheel for better braking. You’re playing the bike like an instrument. Your body stays loose and your head stays steady as the bike bounces between the trail and you, the shocks being absorbed by air, thigh fat, and articulating body joints, like a Mongolian on a horse.
When the climb or descent is too steep, don’t see it as a challenge to overcome. Get off and escort your horse up or down it. After a lot of strain riding, nothing feels better than a nice bike-walk. Mongolians walked their horses sometimes, to rest their legs, and you can walk your bike to rest yours. Bike-walking is so underrated.
Grant Peterson is the proprietor of Rivendell Bicycle Works. Rivendell makes bikes for Mongolian-style riding, so you can see why he’s telling you all this. -Ed.
We believe in the capacity of youth to lead.
We believe in the power of the bicycle as a catalyst for positive social change.
We believe in the importance of a diverse, multi-cultural and equitable movement.
We believe when youth ride bikes, our communities are healthier and more sustainable.
We believe that sharing & learning together will make each of us stronger.
Right there are some core values we can all share. Making the world a better place. So Bicycle Times is more than happy to share this press release for the Youth Bike Summit!
The Youth Bike Summit (YBS) is a 3-day national conference bringing together students, educators, advocates, researchers, policymakers and community leaders in order to: gather and share ideas; give youth a voice, and; encourage civic engagement and advocacy. Through workshops, presentations, keynote speakers, discussion, and visioning, we transform dialogue into action. Right?
The last Youth Bike Summit, hosted by Phoenix Bikes in 2016 attracted 500 youth, educators and activists from around the country. The next event will be hosted by Bike New York in Queens, NYC Feb 15-17th. There is a lot of excitement here, so it promises to be just as larger or larger!
That’s it, kids, short and sweet! Now click these…
By Evan Bachner
My husband, Ed, and I have always been cyclists. I’m not a racer (Ed rides much faster than I do), and I’m not a top rider in any category – I’m just a civilian rider who’s always loved biking long distances. My love for cycling took on much greater significance in the mid-1990s when I realized it could be a tool to generate positive change during a very dark time. This was in the midst of the AIDS epidemic, and it started when I first came across an ad for what is now Cycle for the Cause. (Which Starts this Friday Sept 21st! -Ed.)
Since the early 1980’s, HIV/AIDS overshadowed everything I was involved in, everything I did. The LGBTQ community, particularly where I lived in New York, had long been fighting against the government’s indifference and the public’s aversion to even talking about the disease. As we moved into the ‘90s, thanks to intense activism, social stigma around AIDS finally began to wane – but the disease itself was still considered a death sentence. There was no cure (there is no cure), and the medications that make living with HIV a manageable condition were a couple of years in the future. When I learned about Cycle for the Cause, however, I had hope that the years that had filled up with protests, volunteer work, and watching my friends becoming sick and die could make room for something positive.
Cycle for the Cause is a 275-mile, three-day bike ride from Boston to New York City that raises money for the fight to end AIDS. It’s a project of NYC’s LGBT Community Center, and the funds raised during the Ride are what enables them to deliver HIV testing, prevention services, and access to treatment for so many people infected and affected by HIV.
Back when I saw that ad for the very first Ride in 1995, I was not only encouraged by its mission; I was also intrigued by the ambitious idea of a multi-day, hundreds-of-miles long biking event. As it turned out, Ed’s and my experience with long-distance riding was useful; there was no training program to prepare participants for such a long ride. So, we put one together from scratch. We started slow, because many participants, while galvanized by the cause, were not experienced cyclists. We began by guiding scores of riders on a 20-mile ride, then pushed them to do a little more, then a little more, and 10 weeks later we were riding 100 miles on a Saturday followed by 80 miles the next day. By our second year, we were leading over 100 people on the century training ride. We were ready.
Fast forward 23 years, and here I am preparing for another Cycle for the Cause this month. Now, I’m riding alongside most of my closest friends. These are people I’d never met prior to their first training rides, but a shared love for biking and a determination to end AIDS once and for all quickly drew us together. The most amazing thing to me is how deeply connected the whole ride community has always been. We don’t just ride to raise large amounts of money; we are all HIV/AIDS activists. Every one of us knows exactly what life-saving services we are helping to provide, with each mile we push through.
We’ve reached a time when HIV/AIDS testing and treatment is more accessible than ever before, but nobody’s job here is done. These days, people have a tendency to think the epidemic is over – it’s not. People are still getting infected, undergoing lifelong treatment with the potential for severe, long-term side effects and there is still no cure. While it’s easy to dwell on these realities, I’m grateful for the work that we’re able to do.
I’ve never lost that sense of freedom that you get from your first bike ride. Cycle for the Cause allows me to enjoy that sensation to its fullest, because it’s not just about how I feel when I’m on the bike – it’s about the thousands of people the ride benefits, those waiting for us around the next turn who cheer us on, and our loved ones who greet us at the end of the ride, all of whom have gotten a piece of their own freedom back, thanks to the Ride.Tweet Print
By Paul de Valera
Not to say a disparaging word about any contemporary bike shop, but it is just my perception that “back in the day” there was more of an inclination for repairing things rather than just being a glorified parts swapper. Sure, bikes have become more complicated with a myriad of component and frame materials and the next “new standard” ever looming on the horizon. Still, there is a certain satisfaction in being able to take a bicycle that needs repair and being able to reverse the damage. And a lot of old bikes from the 60’s through the 90’s still roll through my doors all the time. Are you going to remove that cottered crank with a hammer? Do you even know what that is? At their rudiments, a bicycle has functionaly changed little in the last 100 years or so, it’s just that the details of that function have been altered. Here are some cool tools that I’m glad to possess. Several of them come in handy more often than you’d think.
First, some homemade goodies…
I usually wind up using simple homemade tools a lot in my daily wrenchings. The first one here is just a tube that I cut out of a Murray for added leverage in getting stubborn bolts and pedals off. I simply slide whatever wrench I’m using into the tube and apply Archimedes basic theory of leverage that would give even some chicken-armed roadie gain the strength of a titan. You can also use it to straighten out a bent crank arm. I also use the bar that I bolt by back door as a big lever when faced with really stubborn stuff, which is always a fun one for people to watch. “Is it going to come out?” they ask. “Does this look easy to you?” I blurt out between deep breaths. A good lever is an asset in the bicycle mechanics’ arsenal.
Another homemade tool is an awl that you can use to hog out the ends of a freshly cut cable, fish out a small objects, and other forms of small, detail work. Made from a spoke and piece of cable housing, I wind up using this tool all the time every day. You can make one by filing the end of the spoke into a sharp point and then sliding the housing over it. Simply bend the spoke so the J bend of the spoke catches the housing in a loop configuration. A free tool that will serve you time and time again.
Next, we move onto some old school tools that as far as I know are no longer made. Like the Brute.
I love this tool! It is a modified bumper jack that is used to straighten forks. You place one end on the bottom bracket and the other in the front wheel and just like a car jack, one clicks away until you get the fork straight again. You typically have to go one past where it looks straight as the metal will flex back some. Best to make sure the fork is not cracked anywhere and you can’t fix any fork that has a creased tube, but for those run into curb head-on type of scenarios this thing will save the day. I have saved so many forks with this tool; it is surprising that no one makes it still.
Flat spot pulling tools.
Made by the Overland Inc, a company long gone as a far as know, this tool is designed to pull a flat spot out of a rim. You loosen the spokes in the damaged area and then place the fingers in the worst part and tighten the clamp against the rim. These tools work ok. I have made many a 1970’s BMX rim much better than they were with these tools. You know you can’t always expect it to be 100% again but you can make a wheel that was crooked as a politician useable once again. I’d say a wider area where the tool contacts the rim and longer handles would make a better tool but this one’s a good idea none-the-less.
Bottom Bracket Removal Tool
Made by Kingbridge. I use this tool so much I made copies of them. If you have a stubborn or cross threaded bearing race in your threaded bottom bracket (remember those?) This tool will be essential in getting it out. How it works is you’ll have to first get one side of your bottom bracket out and then insert the tool in the shell. Then taking two wrenches, tighten it against itself as tight as you can, see the leverage bar above if you need more gusto. Then, using a large wrench you can break the stubborn shell free. Sometimes I’ve had to whack the wrench with a hammer for an impact wrench type effect or use a giant bar to break loose some Walschwinn factory installed cross threaded mess. Generally, the tool wins. I’ve near worn mine out I’ve used it so much and I gather it is older than I am and was used when I got it, such a good durable tool, if you could only say the same thing about that 1000 dollar fork you just bought…
Cottered Crank pin removal tool
Made by Park, tool #4 I think if I can make out the number on the casting. Here’s the deal with cottered cranks: They work. They work ok. I had a 1950 Olmo with cottered cranks that I rode to the top of every mountain with some heavy ass steel cottered cranks so I know they can take a beating. There are lots, I mean LOTS of different pins and crank pin hole diameters, angles etc. being this crank interface has been used and is still in use near a 100 years or so, not 100% sure once again did not “google it”, so forgive the blurry line on that one. The tool allows you to press out the pins on a cottered crank without damaging them so you can reuse them. I have a whole box full of pins and still get bikes in with pins that are different than what I have. One just lines up the tool to press out the pin and it pops out like magic. I think someone is reproducing this sort of tool again but not sure on that. Hope you enjoyed and will perhaps look to fixing things on your bicycle before replacing them next time around.
Paul is the proprietor of Atomic Cycles, publisher of Chicken Head Records Zine, promoter of the Coaster Brake Challenge and purveyor of cruiser bits at genuinebicycleproducts.com. This all takes place around the San Fernando Valley in southern California.
By Lettie Stratton
Cycling can be a meditative and spiritual experience. Nothing leads me to a space of quiet contemplation and reflection more reliably than focusing on the whir of wheels on pavement and the steady rhythm of pedals repeatedly rotating around a crank. The intermittent squeaks of an unsatisfactorily greased chain and the occasional squirrel blocking my path are the only interruptions to my meditation.
I didn’t always know cycling could lead me to this place. It wasn’t until I found myself pedaling uphill with full panniers in my lowest gear into a relentless wind for what seemed like forever that I discovered I could be content with discomfort. Now, I find that I can get to this meditative state rather quickly on a bike, and bicycle-inspired musings are a given whenever I go for a ride.
Now back to the wind. Cycling into the wind presents its own set of challenges, both physical and mental. Personally, I found the mental aspect to be more challenging. Feeling like you’re moving backward with every pedal stroke is not the most fun thing in the world when you’re one hour into a six-hour day of biking and halfway through a two-week cycling trip through New Zealand’s South Island. There is literally nowhere to go except forward, and “forward” seemed to be a place I could not go.
No matter how beautiful the scenery (and New Zealand offered some of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen), feeling like you’re on a stationary bike when you’re actually on a real one is far from ideal.
Finally, though, I relaxed into the struggle, pedaling not just to reach the top of the pass but rather to just pedal for the sake of pedaling and enjoying the ride. This was a new concept for me. I found it easier said than done to enjoy the journey and not just the destination. But somehow I surpassed my point of struggle and settled into the discomfort.
“Sure, this hill may be the steepest and longest I’ve encountered so far,” I thought, “but why just wish for the top? If I do that, I’m missing the experience entirely. I’d rather be present, even when the going is tough.”
I think that had this happened on day one, I would have remained in struggle mode. Something tells me that I earned my reprieve through many days and many miles of pedaling, pedaling, pedaling — all day long. My newfound wisdom of settling into discomfort was something I had to pay my dues to receive.
Long-distance cyclists are familiar with certain mental blocks that must be pedaled through. Every day or every hour on on the bike is not necessarily the epitome of a good time. Some days are perfect — the wind is at your back, you have a delicious mid-afternoon snack in your pannier, and the sun is shining (but not too brightly).
Other days, you grit your teeth, do a series of bicycle-specific hip-opening stretches in hopes of helping yourself make it over the mountain pass without cramping, put on a trash bag that you fashioned into a makeshift rain coat, pack up your essential cycling gear (I never leave home without my Lifestraw and travel pump — and good thing because both came in handy on my windy day), get in the saddle, and hope for the best.
Halfway up the hill, perhaps the only thing that sustains you is thinking about all the calories you burn biking and how you’ll be able to replace those calories in the form of ice cream when you reach your destination (if you ever reach it!).
Breaking through these blocks and coming out on the other end not only unscathed, but better because it was hard, is one of the greatest joys of long-distance cycling.
At its core, cycling is simple. Push on the pedals and your bike will be propelled forward. Just keep riding. Sometimes I see this as a metaphor for life. The simplicity of cycling helps me find what’s important in life. In the saddle I’ve realized things like how few material possessions I need to be happy and how unnecessarily complicated we often make our lives.
When it’s just you, the bike, and the passing landscape for a long period of time, it’s difficult to distract yourself from what’s really going on in your head and your life — especially when you’re cycling into adversity, like a strong headwind. Even when you think you can’t go on, you somehow find a way to keep going, settling into discomfort and pushing forward.
Lettie Stratton is a writer and urban farmer in Boise, ID. A Vermont native, she is a lover of travel, tea, bicycles, plants, cooperative board games, women’s basketball, and the outdoors. She’s still waiting for a letter from Hogwarts.Tweet Print
By Jessie Bird
“Racing: A Need for Speed”- an emotion that we’ve all felt and the title of a recent exhibit at the Mercer Museum in Doylestown, PA. This exhibit followed the evolution of this need for speed from footraces to horse races to bicycle racing to motor racing, with a special insight into local Bucks County and Delaware Valley history. Artifacts, photographs, stories, and some interactive displays steered the visitor through the exhibit to see how each iteration of racing has built on previous generations. Have you ever raced the Philly Phlyer road race that happens every spring and thought about the shape and history of the course? Probably not when you’re facing heavy winds and just trying to hold on to someone’s wheel, but in this exhibit, you could see where this race borrows part of its course from 1920’s auto-racing in the same area. As I walked through this exhibit with Davey Dawson, a pro-cyclist for Delaware Valley’s own Team Skyline (a different and helpful perspective to add to my experience), we started to see how the races and rides that we know and love today evolved from a rich racing history in the area.
It turns out that the Belmont Plateau is not only the urban mountain biker’s best friend but used to be known for its horse races. One placard in the exhibit quotes a local newspaper from 1881 about the excitement surrounding a particular horse at the Thursday night Belmont race. Mountain bikers resumed the Thursday night racing tradition with their new mechanical steeds in 1989 and continue to shred into the present day. Photos of the Tour of Somerville (New Jersey) from 1964 prompted Davey to share his experience coming in top 10 in that same race this year. The Tour of Somerville started in 1940 and is still considered one of the most prestigious races in the area today.
However, some artifacts of the exhibit remain in the past, for better or worse. The text panel introducing the “Bicycle Racing” section laments the quick rise and long decline of the American cycling craze. In the now industrial wasteland of South Philadelphia near I95, there existed the thriving Point Breeze Park Velodrome that disappeared along with the waning revenues generated by cycling.
However, I felt less disappointed to see other artifacts stay in the past. No matter how beautiful the welding is on an 1868 Velocipede, I’m glad that the industry has developed lighter alloys and designs that bring us beyond the “boneshakers” of yore.
For a fun mixing of past and present, the museum mounted a mini-high wheel in a gold sprint type set-up and challenges visitors to test their speed. I asked Davey to be the guinea pig and comedy ensued as his pro-cyclist legs almost torqued the museum display out of its platform.
Overall the exhibit flows well and showcases the underlying human desire for speed and entertainment that gives runners, equestrians, cyclists, and drivers something in common. Each sport has built off of the other as technology advances and human limits push further and further. The exhibit ended with a bang on September 9th, the same day as the Bucks County Classic. If you’re in the area I highly recommend checking out the cycling events and making some time for the incredible Mercer Museum and all of its exhibits.Tweet Print
By: Mark Greiz
You ask me why I pedal to far away places;
I smile and close my eyes,
Words can’t describe the reason why;
The blue water glistens, the birds fly high.
January 29th, 2018. Although it was the height of summer, it was a cold and windy day in Punta Arenas, Chile’s southernmost city in the region of Magallanes and Antartica. My plan, cycle north over ten thousand kilometers (6,300 miles) to Guayaquil, Ecuador within the five months I allotted myself. Several miles out of the city and as I headed inland from the coast I was blasted with powerful direct headwinds of up to 80 kilometers an hour. My legs cramped up and my progress came to a standstill. I barely rode 60 kilometers that day and slept in an abandoned wood shack on the side of the road.
I did not know that those headwinds would be with me for most of the journey, taunting me, punishing me and testing the limits of my patience.
For me the allure of extreme cycling touring is more than a mere physical pursuit, it’s a form of spiritual cleansing and renewal. As a marketing consultant and adjunct lecturer in New York City, I know what it is like to lose touch with nature, to live within our own secure bubbles, daily routines and mundane pursuits. Although New York City is a megapolis, it is easy to feel claustrophobic and to feel disconnected from life. Cycling alone through remote regions, sleeping rough in the wild and challenging my body both physically and emotionally, not only humbles me but also lets me peer deep within my soul. It grounds me, it brings me an inner peace, often times fleeting, but easy to conjure back up in my time of need.
On this most recent trek across South America, I cycled 10,400 kilometers (6,500 miles) and encountered some of the strongest and most consistent headwinds I have ever experienced lasting for days and weeks on end. I cycled through hailstorms, through deserts and towering mountains in the Andes. I camped rough on the side of the road, in deserted shacks, in my tent tucked away in the woods or the desert sands, in abandoned trailers and forsaken structures. I was sideswiped by a motorcycle in the Argentinean Pampa, having to pick my bruised and bloodied body off the road to continue riding in the scorching heat. I cycled on long stretches of deserted road with nary a car in sight, as well as through dreadful traffic with tractor-trailers speeding by inches from me. I experienced the mystical allure of the high Andes as well as the raw beauty of the Patagonias.
Starting the trip in Punta Arenas in the Southernmost region of South America, I cycled north through the Chilean and Argentinian Patagonia, passing remote regions were I encountered punishing headwinds daily, as well as some of the most scenic spots on this trip. While I feel that cycling the Carretera Austral in Chile is overrated and filled with cyclists heading south on short excursions, for the more intrepid cyclist there are still some very technically challenging and unfrequented routes to take, one of them being the off-road stretch from Chile Chico on the shores of the majestic Lake General Carrera to Puerto Guadal. After cycling north on the Carettera Austral I turned back to Argentina and crossed the border near Futaleufú, a beautiful area surrounded by pristine nature and fast flowing rivers.
Crossing the border back into Argentina, I cycled to the quaint European style city of San Carlos de Barloche on the shores of Lake Nahual Huapi and then onward to the charming Spanish colonial city of Salta, Argentina. What stood in the middle between Barloche and Salta was 2500 kilometers of mostly remote, flat and arid scrubland. Averaging 100 kilometers a day, I cycled this whole stretch within 24 days taking only one rest day. The riding was dull and monotonous and I encountered daily headwinds making for long, hot and arduous days. Villages were few and far between in this part of Argentina where numerous estancias occupy the barren land and fences run the length of the terrain. Most nights are spent sleeping meters from the side of the road hidden behind some thorn bushes, fighting off insects and watching rodents scatters about here and there, the sound of nocturnal animals adding to the midnight chorus.
Argentina is rife with visible wildlife from guanacos, lizards, wild boar, different types of rodents, tarantulas, fox and large birds related to the ostrich. There is no shelter from the sun during the day and there is no choice but to cycle into the wind for hours on end enduring the heat and rationing droplets of water to quench an unending thirst. Cycle, sip, sweat, sleep, cycle, sip, sweat, sleep, cycle, sip, sweat, sleep on the side of the road, day after day, week after week.
After having cycled over 2500 kilometers in flat arid plains and ready to depart Salta, it was time to climb into the mountains as I headed back to Chile. The route I chose was through Argentina’s Puna region to the desolate border at Paso Sico. The Puna region or Atacama Plateau stretches from North West Argentina into southern Chile. It is an arid and remote area consisting of high plateaus with elevations between 4000 to 5000 meters. The road from Salta to San Antonio de Los Cobres was several days of climbs on windy, paved and often winding roads, then there were 150 kilometers off-road were I cycled on gravel, rocks, and sand as I made my way to the Chile border at Paso Sico. The region is stunning in a rugged, harsh, yet calming way; alpacas roam freely and nary a passing vehicle is encountered on the whole road to Paso Sico. As I camped out nightly in the windswept and freezing high plateau, the night skies lite up with a myriad of stars, I was mesmerized by the sight and humbled by the majesty of this otherworldly landscape.
As I sat outside one night starring at the sky, pen in hand I began to write…
Sleeping under a glowing moon,
There is no other soul for miles to see;
What does it take to still your mind,
to set your body free?
Sleeping under a glowing moon,
From the daily grind I chose to flee.
The only companions present now…
are the stars, the sand, the gods and me.
Having crossed back into Chile at Paso Sico, the region was equally barren and stark, the roads winded up and the headwinds were fierce. It is a rough region to cycle in and an equally brutal region to sleep out in. As I slept out at high altitude in frigid temperatures amid violent winds I found comfort knowing that in a few days time I would begin my descent in the Atacama desert and arrive in the land of espresso, cold beers and pizza- the oasis of San Pedro de Atacama.
Days later, drained and ragged from a period of poor eating, long arduous climbs and sleeping out in harsh conditions, I cycled into town a zombie on my steel horse. As I cycled through the maze of dusty, narrow streets of San Pedro De Atacama I was overwhelmed, there was a cornucopia of activity, tourists on rented mountain bikes, artisans hawking their wares, backpackers sipping lattes chatting away about their most recent adventures and poseurs, the kind of which of might see in Pai, Thailand flaunting away on the corners.
I felt out of place, like I didn’t belong.
After just a couple of days in town and having eaten my fill of quinoa, pasta, salad, and pizza, I felt the long lonely stretches of road beckoning me once again. San Pedro De Atacama is like a trap and it was time to leave its grips before it was too late. From San Pedro I would continue my descent through the desert to the coast, sleeping in abandoned shacks on the side of the road or camped in the desert sands. For days, I followed the scenic northern Chile coast north passing seaside shantytowns where the locals eek out a living from fishing and seaweed harvesting until I reached the coastal city of Iquique. From there it was a few more days to the Peru border.
After crossing into Peru at the Arica border, I followed the coast north then turned inland. Leaving the coast I would now need to contend again with high peaks as I made my way to Arequipa and then Cusco. The road from the coast to Cusco is mostly climbing with elevations between 4500-4800 meters with a mixture of different conditions; there were stretches of dreadful traffic and utter mayhem as hundreds of lorries would pass in waves of caravans inches from me and other areas off the beaten path where Alpaca graze freely in the high Andean plateaus while Quechua shepherds tended to their flocks.
Cusco is a beguiling city; once the capital of the Inca Empire, the city center is filled with Spanish colonial architecture, trendy eateries, and hordes of tourists. It is easy to get seduced by her charms and I knew I had to leave after only three days or else I may have never left. After departing Cusco I cycled north on the Andes route passing small Quechua villages and larger cities including the charming city of Ayacucho with its historic city center. This city retains much of its old world charm but lacks the foreign tourists that crowd into Cusco. Cycling north on route 3 is a continuous cycle of slow climbs with elevation gains of 2000 meters in one shot and fast descents with numerous passes between 4500 and 4900 meters.
While most cyclists on the Andes route continue on to Huaraz, I decided to take a lesser-known, far-flung road and make my way back to the coast. At the small village of Shelby on route 3N, I decided to head east to the compact coastal city of Chancay, some 200 grueling kilometers away. The majority of this road is rocks and dirt with an arduous and long multi-level climb with the highest pass topping out at approximately 5030 meters (16,500 feet). It is a wild, rugged and awe-inspiring landscape where Alpaca graze casually next to crystal clear mountain lakes and not a soul for miles around.
As I stood at the high pass at 16,500 feet, I noted the dirt road snaking its way down the mountain. I took solace in the fact that this was my last climb of the trip as well as my last portion of off-road riding. I stood silent, gazed into the distance, mesmerized by my surroundings, relishing the solitude.
Descending to the coast was technically challenging as the roads were steep, winding and mostly rocks. As I descended from over 16,000 feet to sea level the topography slowly changed from cold wind swept arid plateaus, to lush mountain vistas with fast running rivers and then to the heat, stench, and pollution of the Peruvian coast. From Chancay it would be about another 1600 kilometers to Guayaquil, my final destination. Although this part of the Pan American Highway is filled with trucks racing up and down, for the first time on my trip I had no headwind and even some days with a slight tailwind. My progress was quick, almost too quick beckoning the end of the trip. I cycled hundreds of kilometers mostly through desert and then up the coast to the Ecuadorian border, sleeping along the way in dreary, dirty towns and alone in the desert wilderness.
Crossing into Ecuador I cycled for days through mile after mile of banana plantations in the heat and humidity. As I approached Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city I knew my trip was coming to an end. My emotions were mixed; I was glad that the trip was coming to an end, yet feeling incomplete, that there is still more riding to be done and more places to see. I turned 50 years old on the day I crossed the border into Ecuador-“maybe I am getting to old for this,” I thought to myself. Sleeping rough off the side of the road for days on end does not excite me as much as it used to, but the cycling life is constantly enticing me back. There is a little voice in the deep recesses of my brain often urging me to pack up my bike and head off to some distant land. My thoughts were running rampant as I cycled through the traffic-clogged roads. As I made my way over the bridge that crosses the Guayas River into downtown, my rear pannier swiped a truck tire on the side of the road and I went flying. My arms and legs bleeding and swollen; I was in pain and disbelief that an accident would welcome my entry into town.
I picked my bicycle up, reflected for a moment, “maybe I am getting too old for this.” I got back on my bicycle and rode through heavy traffic into downtown Guayaquil; the trip was over.Tweet Print
Here’s something cool, Laird Rickard’s Tallbike-chopper-tallbike. Sometimes it’s a chopper…
Other times it’s a tallbike. As you might guess from the photos, Laird lives and rides in the Bay area. Yes that is a trombone, cuz ya never know when a jam might break out.
There are certain advantages to riding a tallbike. Being high above the crowd is one. That people are trying less hard to kill you is another. Tallbikes seem to bring out the best in people, friendlier reactions, and less hate. Plus a better view of where Flock Of Seagulls are playing later.
I had never seen such a thing, so I was rather impressed. But apparently, there’s a bunch of information on the internet provided by people who do this sort of thing. Yes, It’s a thing. A thing that “Makers” make. You know how to weld? And grind? If so, all you’ll need is a “Huffy” or other department store suspension frame, steel for the extensions, and gas shocks for the up and down motion. The gas shocks come in different lengths and strengths, so you will need to be careful about selecting the right shocks for your weight and the bikes geometry.
And you’ll need to be able to fabricate an extension to the fork to create a chopper fork. Back in the day we used to cut the legs off of one fork and jam them onto the ends of another to create a chopper. But heck, if you can weld you can do pretty much whatever you want.
Simple as pie. Right? Well, you also need to extend the rear triangle. Laird did this with a piece of rectangular steel, but I’m sure you could use something else as long as it is strong and not too heavy.
Check out the video…here…Tweet Print
Everyone rides a dropper post right? Bicycle Times contributor Scott Wilson is a believer! Let us listen for a second as he shares this novel idea-Ed.
By Scott Wilson
You ride up to a red light and all the other jokers in the bike lane line up in various states of immobile balance. Someone has both feet flat on the ground and bike in between, reminiscent of the kid who drops his shorts all the way to his ankle at the urinal; another has one leg down and one up on the pedal, like a Lycra flamingo; the worst of them tries to track stand, fails, lurches forward a pedal rotation then tries again but halfway in the intersection this time.
You’ve seen it; you’ve been there.
Now imagine if you could just flip a switch to lower both feet onto the ground without removing your butt from the saddle. Imagine: stoplights become a pleasure, a chance to sit comfortably and inhale the vibrant world around you. Imagine the awe of your fellow commuters, watching, transfixed, as you lower yourself like some kind of technologically advanced alien sex god.
This dream can be your reality, but before you jump straight into the bike tech avant-garde, here are some of the little details people tend to overlook that will determine your success with the drop.
Before you buy, these are the measurements you should take.
Tools needed: Calipers and tape measure. Maybe some hex keys.
- Stock seatpost diameter and/or seat tube inner diameter. If they don’t make a dropper post to match your frame: dang.
- Distance from seat tube collar to saddle rails. Seatpost companies advertise 100mm drop or 120mm drop, but that’s just a measure of how much the saddle goes up and down, it doesn’t account for the size of the saddle cradle or the crown at the base of the stanchion. The minimum height for the “100mm” dropper post in the picture is actually 158mm when fully extended.
- Internal seat tube depth. There are mysteries inside the bike frame. I’ve found Chinese candy wrappers, cigarette butts, and all kinds of mischief in brand new bikes, but if you have a small frame the most worrisome obstructions are the things that can’t be removed: water bottle bosses and fender braze-ons. To find what’s in there, loosen your seatpost collar and let your stock seatpost drop as far as it can, then pull it out and measure the distance between the seatpost collar and the base of the seat post. You might need 250mm or more to fit a dropper.
- Handlebar clamp diameter. Stock dropper post control levers are usually made for 22.2 handlebars, so a lot of drop-bars are too big, even at their thinnest point, but some companies make a lever for 31.8 bars. If you’re tricksy you can retrofit a shifter to work as the dropper lever. There are guides on how to do that elsewhere on the Internet.
“But what if my post bottoms out on something inside the frame?”
Water bottle bosses are the most likely enemy. Sometimes all you have to do is take out the water bottle bolt and that’ll give it the room it needs. There might also be a burr down there, which you can remove using a cylinder hone on an electric drill. Do not use a reamer or any other cutting tool because seat tubes are wicked thin and you’re liable to cut right through.
“But what if the dropper post sticks up too far and my stinking feet can’t touch the pedals?”
How comfortable are you with cutting pieces off your frame? Some frames come with what frame builders call “smokestacks” – a section of seat tube that sticks out beyond the top tube junction. These smokestacks might be longer than necessary. Or, they might be exactly as long as they need to be. Only one way to find out for sure: use a hacksaw to cut a bit of spare stack away, then smooth it down with a file. Keep cutting, little by little, until you’ve effectively lowered the max saddle height, or until you’ve ruined your frame forever.
Now that you have the dropper post down in the sweet spot, let’s figure out cable routing.
Tools needed: cable/housing cutters, 1.5mm to 4mm hex keys, zip ties?
This is the fun part. The cyclocross frame in the pictures has an extra braze-on for top-swing front derailleurs so I was able to run the cables through there, easy cheesey. Don’t have extra housing braze-ons? Don’t worry! Zip ties work fine. I suggest you tie up to the brake housing instead of the frame because it won’t move around as much. You can also buy housing guides that mount around the top tube.
Before you cut the cable and housing, make sure that you can move the handlebars back and forth, all the way.
PRO TIP: Dropper post cables often come with what nerds call “compressionless housing” or “shift housing” to the layperson. The problem with compressionless housing is that it isn’t very flexible. Instead, I use brake housing, which handles bendy routing a lot better. I use a 5mm to 4mm stepped ferrule at the end to fit the housing into the dropper post cable-stop and the lever cable-stop. The bad part about brake housing is that when you flex it a lot the metal coil inside lengthens, effectively pulling on the cable. To overcome this, install the cable with an itty-bitty-bit of slack. Also, the dropper post is designed to work with a thin cable, while the brake housing is meant for a thick one. It’ll wear out quicker than normal. Deal with it.
Frequently Asked Questions:
“The saddle drops whenever I turn the handlebars. Whuddupwiththat?”
The housing might be too short, or the cable might be too tight. Make sure the housing isn’t pulling out of the ferrule when you turn. Also, installing a flexible elbow bend (sometimes called a noodle) might help.
“The saddle returns super slowly.”
You might just need to give the cable some more slack, or there might be some drag in the housing or lever. Might as well give up.
“I hit the lever but the shit don’t drop.”
First, try putting your weight on the saddle, dummy. If that doesn’t do it, then you might need to tighten up your cable, and double check that all your fasteners are tight too.
“At first it worked great, but now it keeps dropping when I don’t want it to.”
The housing might have dislocated from the ferule, so check that.
“My dropper post has an electronic/hydraulic lever so none of this applies to me, but I’m still having problems.”
That’s what you get for trying to be fancy. Did you plug it in? Try turning it off and on. Is there even fluid in it? Air bubbles? If it’s an electric dropper and there’s fluid all over, then you’re really in trouble. Good luck, sucker.
BIO: Scott Wilson has been repairing bicycles in shops across the United States for over a decade. He’s an acolyte of Doug Fattic’s frame building praxis and a dubious mentor for the next generation. He has an MFA in nonfiction writing and sometimes teaches English, whether asked to or not. Visit his blog: www.bikeblogordie.comTweet Print