Outside Magazine (the only paper magazine subscription I have) did a basic write-up of the Surly Long Haul Trucker. I've said it before and I'll say it again, this is my next bike. It's the brother of my bike, the Cross Check, and would work wonders as a commuter/touring bike. It's nice to see big dogs like Outside publicize smaller companies like Surly.
This morning I was riding my 11 mile bike commute in pouring rain when I heard a "pst... pst... pst... pst..." sound from my front tire come out of nowhere. I was still about 3 miles from work and began to wonder if I had flatted out.
I watched the tire nervously as I hammered on the pedals to try to make it as far as I could. "Could this be a flat?" I thought. I have never seen this type of flat before. Normally, when I get a flat it's a blowout.
Was this just a slow leak that I could hear just because my tires were so wet? Well, yes. That's exactly what it was. I made it to work and checked the tire with my ears. What once sounded like a pattern of "pst... pst... pst... pst..." from a rotating wheel was now a solid audio/air flow of "psssssssssssssssssss."
By the end of my shower the tire was flat. I'm glad I made it in, though. I did not want to sit in the rain and change a tire this morning. Flats are a part of bike commuting... but that doesn't mean I have to like it.
I really enjoy the folks over at Rivendell. They make quality bikes that will do anything. Notice the paces this bike is put through... and it's not a mountain bike. I love the concept of a bike made to take on anything. Riv is much like Surly (the company that makes my bike), they just add quite a bit of panache to their bikes for the sake of aesthetics.
When I began the journey of bike commuting I was completely unaware of the ability to carry bags on my bike. It all started (as most new bike commuters start) with a backpack on my sweaty, aching back. A friend of mine was running a rear rack with a trunk bag on top. After asking some questions and feeling like this would totally work with my style of commuting, I ordered the same one.
It really was great for a time. It felt so good to get my stuff off of my back and be able to move freely. My only issue was the limited space and lack of true water resistance. I was commuting more and more and even into the cooler winter months. And there was no way that I was going to fit shoes, jeans, shirt and jacket into that little thing.
I tried to add a set of reallycheap panniers to the equation, but it was still a pain getting everything in. It made me dislike the process of getting ready for my ride. I had to play Tetris to squeeze everything in, and when that takes a half hour, you find yourself not wanting to ride (which is ridiculous to dislike the ride because you dislike the prep).
Eventually, I found myself at my bike shop's annual "sell-everything-for-incredibly-low-prices" sale. These Ortiebs were on sale for 75% off. I nearly wept in the store... Okay, not really. But they were EXACTLY what I needed. They are actually for touring. So there's an obscene amount of space in these things. I can fit three days worth of work clothes (well, work clothes for me are jeans and a t-shirt) on one side, throw a laptop and books in the other and I'm good to go.
Getting ready is easy. I toss whatever I need in there without wrestling or folding tightly.
They've seen torrential downpours of rain, feet of snow (pictured here) and been beaten around without any issue. I highly recommend them to anyone.
So, if you're riding with a backpack, I'd say anything is better than that. But if you've got the money to spend, jump into a nicer pannier like these.
Happy Earth Day! I'm not really sure how earth day came about. But I figured my infinity-miles-per-gallon t-shirt is a good picture to post on such a day. Riding my bike is fun, but good stewardship of the earth is a cool side-effect .
I've never made any effort to make my bikes look nice or keep them clean. Even when I bought my bike, I went with the solid black instead of the off-white color they were offering at the time. My rationale for picking black was that the white color was really "pretty" and would dress up nicely, but I wasn't into that.
Really, I can say that I have no regrets with buying this bike. But if I had it to do all over again, I would have purchased the other color. In hindsight, I really miss the opportunity to make the bike look beautiful as well as functional. Truthfully, I love the look of Joe's bike and it absolutely holds the same functionality as mine.
Yes, I can go after it and work with the black paint. But there's something about that white color that I miss. Oh well. There's always powder coating...
I almost got hit this morning by a guy in a truck. He rolled through a stop sign while on his cellphone as I pedaled through with the right-of-way. I clinched my brakes and screamed at him with just enough time and coherency to slap the back of his tail-light. He stopped, looked at me, then in a cowardly moment punched the gas and squealed his tires as he fled from any conflict.
I was steaming mad. But what was the most frustrating is that he looked me in the eye and drove away. He knew he had done something stupid but didn't have the decency to apologize.
Oh well. I guess it happens occasionally. It's just ridiculous that people drive with such a lack of awareness.
There's no question that I'm a fan of Yakima. I've written about it before but I realized that this is another opportunity.
Since about 1999, I've had a roof rack on my car with some sort of system for bike transport. For the longest time I had only had roof mounted racks by Yakima where you had to remove the front wheel, then lock in your forks.
Well, time passed, I sold a couple bikes and went on to sell one of my bike rails with the fork locking system (I did actually hold onto one of them). Fast forward to present day life when I'm back to cycling daily and find myself needing to transport multiple bikes at one time.
A couple months ago I bought a Yakima gear box for the top of the car from a guy on Craigslist. While I was in his garage I saw a pile of racks in the corner.
"Are those in working order?"
"I'll give you ten bucks for one of them."
That was about it. I'm not sure if I'm that good of a negotiator or if it was because the guy barely spoke english. Either way, I didn't even really know what I bought until I got home.
This rack (pictured above) was different than anything I'd ever had before. "What is this monstrosity of an arm sticking up?" But I eventually got it mounted and understood the engineering behind it all.
No, I'm not a big fan of this rack. The stability is noticeably less than the Steelhead rack that's mounted right next to it (you can't really see it in the photo... another reason I prefer it; it's not as clunky looking on the car). I don't think I'd want to travel like this for a long distance. But I do think it's okay for short runs transporting bikes back and forth to work. It is more convenient than taking the wheel off when I'm only driving six miles, though.
All in all, it was definitely worth the price. It seems a little goofy to have two different racks mounted on one car. But in some ways it's nice. My fixed gear, for instance, doesn't have a quick-release front wheel. So it's a pain to get in my seatbag and get out the wrench. When I'm transporting it, I always appreciate this rack. Either way, I can see why people do it. I prefer locking the fork, though.
Either way, Yakima stuff always works. Their stuff has lasted me over 10 years and I've never had anything break. I'd recommend any of their products to anyone.
Plus, it's from the guys over at Xtracycle. This is an awesome company that does some really great things for the world of cycling AND they offer incredible customer service (I've been DM'ing them through Twitter with questions and they get back to me immediately every time!).
Yesterday morning my wife headed out for a girls weekend (she took the baby) and left me with these two goofballs. Of course, good ol' dad's first suggestion was that we head out for a nice bike ride.
To mix things up a bit, we drove the car to work, parked it, then headed out on a 12+ mile adventure on new territory. The only objective was lunch and finding a playground.
We hit the road and the giggles began. I'm familiar with the area since I tend to do a few rides around the office when I'm on lunch break or early morning commuting. I knew of four different parks within riding distance. After a couple miles, I could tell they were going to be able to hold on long enough for me to ride to the furthest park.
We stopped, grabbed some lunch and ate at some picnic tables with the only rule being, "You must finish your sandwich before playing on the playground." They obliged to my request and scarfed down their food within about three minutes.
Playground time was great (minus a major head bonk... but seriously, when is there not a head bonk on one of our outings?). We had a blast and no one cried when it was time to leave. We just packed up and headed out.
The return trip was just as fun as the way in. We took a completely different route back to mix it up even more. They kept asking if I was lost since they'd never seen these roads before. It was funny. But we had an awesome time.
Days like this make me love cycling even more than when I'm pedaling solo. I hope to raise my kids in a culture where the bike is a completely viable form of transportation. The trailer is getting a bit snug, but we hope to remedy that soon enough with an Xtracycle FreeRadical. Until then, we won't postpone any trips like this. They're just too much fun.
Well, obviously we did. Yes, this is the family tent my wife got me when I turned 29 last month. We used to have a pop-up camper that was perfect for camping with all of us, but it didn't fit the rest of our lifestyle. We didn't feel like we needed such a huge convenience item for something that was completely based off of the idea of roughing it. So it sold and we've gone the last year or so with no family camping efforts.
Not now. We have a tent that's plenty big enough for the five of us and perfectly capable of offering a peaceful (separated) night's sleep for everyone. There's a bedroom for the big kids, one for the baby and one for me and the lovely wife in here.
It's, by far, the biggest tent I've been in... and not at all of the backpacking variety that I also have. But it's absolutely perfect for a family of five with three small children. This week we've been discussing where our first trip will be.
I've got an iPad on the way when the 3G's come out at the end of this month. Unfortunately, it's for work only. This usage may qualify as grounds for dismissal. But this is pretty cool, albeit a bit unpractical.
Sprocket Pocket App gives you the pattern to make a pocket for your iPad on the back of a jacker. Lean forward, you get the forward arrow. Lean left or right and you get a turn signal. Sit up and you'll see the stop sign. Not bad!
I know, I know. This pic isn't anything close to what you might see over at EcoVelo. But it was quite a lovely sight to see it live this morning. I've said several times that sunrise is one of my favorite things about bike commuting. It's an awesome visual stimulant before heading into the office. Another reason to get on the bike instead of getting in the car.
This is a pic I took of my bike rack in my office. It works great to keep the bike right in plain sight, yet up out of the way. I have seating in my office for about 6 people, and my job regularly requires me to open the doors for meetings. So I needed an option that would get my daily commuter out of the way when I had visitors.
This thing has been awesome. It holds two bikes, but I leave the bottom mount off so that it gives more room to move around my space. When people are sitting in my chairs, the bike is completely above their heads and out of the way.
It's a great solution for a bike commuter who keeps his ride with him all day.
(Sorry for the bad pic. The tower is up against a window and it's impossible to get the shot without shooting into the light.)
A few years ago I sold my kayak and lots of camping gear to make a major purchase. I had been commuting fairly regularly on my old mountain bike and I wanted to take this cycling thing a little more seriously. My friend Vic had recently purchased a Surly Cross Check and was really enjoying it. Vic's been on the cycling scene for probably two decades. With that experience came a desire to ride a steel bike. To be honest, I didn't know it mattered what kind of metal a bike was made from. I had been riding bikes off and on my whole life and had no idea anyone even cared.
Enter: The Google Search. Wow. Some of those people out there were fanatics! I saw forum brawls that went on for pages and pages. But what I did notice was the continual theme of "versatility" that came along with this Surly bike.
"The Jeep" of bikes, I read. Hmmm. Sounded interesting. It took me months of Googling and reading to realize the very bike I wanted was the bike Vic had been pedaling for nearly half the year. I knew I wanted a bike for commuting, bike camping and maybe even a conversion to single speed if I ever got a nicer bike to replace it (the Cross Check would then be knocked down to a foul weather bike).
I had narrowed it down to Surly's Cross Check or their Long Haul Trucker. But I couldn't seem to come up with a definitive answer.
So I had nearly made my decision. All that was left was going to the bike shop. They seemed to answer me pretty quickly. Cross Check. Cross Check. Cross Check. I think that everyone in there had one in their bike stable. And they agreed with me. One day, this bike could step down into single-speeding, low-maintenance, bad weather duties and an LHT could come in as the replacement.
The other factors were a small desire to ride a cyclocross race, 700c wheels and maybe having a straight "road" bike beyond the current commuter functions. So the Cross Check it was. It fit all my needs... literally, it could do anything. And while this is a story, not a Surly Cross Check review, I do put 100% endorsement behind the bike.
I love it. I've never had any major mechanical problems with it (now with thousands of miles on it) and it's still my favorite bike to ride. I do still wish for the LHT and one day I think one will be mine, but for now, I love the Cross Check. And, yes, by the way... it does matter what kind of metal your bike is made out of... and yes... steel is better :)
Today I left out my front door and headed to my in-laws house that is 60 miles away. I'm considering a century ride next month and wondered if this ride would give me a picture into the world of longer journeys.
I've done some bike camping and joy rides that always round out around 40 miles. And, of course there's my daily bike commute that's 22 miles round trip. But 60 miles is my longest ride thus far.
It was great. My legs are tired from fighting the 15-20mph headwinds the entire ride. But I'm glad I did it. I'm looking forward to next month's hundred miler!
(By the way, the ride is from Lexington to Louisville. The pic is the Kentucky State Capitol building which was exactly halfway.)
We made Bicycling Magazines list for top 50 U.S. cities for bicycling. It does seem like we're on the list because of what will be in Lexington versus what is in Lexington. But who could complain? I suppose things could be much worse. It's cool to see us on there!
On my bike commute to work today I averaged 16.9 mph and arrived in a record time. On the way home it was 12.1 mph. The difference? 19 mph headwind on the way home. The gusts were up to 25-30 mph. Yuck.
I'm not a fast rider... at all... seriously. But 12.1 was a little rough. For the first 6 miles it was about 10 mph. So I picked it up after turning out of the wind.
But I would never trade that bike commute for a car!
This child-carrying bike that converts into a stroller is awesome for a family living in the city with one child. I really appreciate the design and versatility that went into it. As a dad that does most of his riding for the sake of transportation, this would be really helpful... if I didn't have three kids. But, hats off to you Taga for a great product.
The other day when I was working on a bike I was in desperate need of a zip-tie. After searching my garage, I realized I was out. Then I had a memory flash. The day before I had been on a walk with my kids and seen a zip-tie on the ground in my neighborhood. I mounted the bike and went on the search. Sure enough, the tie was in the spot I had remembered. I picked it up and mounted the fender securely. Wow. What a story.
DISCLAIMER: I realize that this isn't that amazing of a story. But you have to admit, it was resourceful :).