Thursday, January 17, 2013

Rest in Peace, back tire

Today is absolutely glorious outside.  65 degrees with a sun so sunny it makes Sunny D look downright cloudy.  On my way home, a song in my heart, I excitedly anticipated the ride I'd take.  Would I go south?  North?  Northwest?  The world seemed my oyster, my only limits, my legs.  I even have a brand new jersey, shorts, and gloves to bust out for the occasion.

I got home, put on my new kit and grabbed my pump to add some air to my tires.  I uncapped the rear valve, when HOLY SHIT.  The valvey bits of the valve are snapped right off!  How did I not notice this before?!  Well, nothing that can't be fixed with a bit of elbow grease, am I right?

After wrastlin' with it for some time (yay for Pedro's Tire levers), we finally ripped that puppy off.  Then began the depressing reality of inspecting the tire.  Bits were coming off the sidewalls and wire bead.  The reflective tape on the sides pretty much came off by looking at it. I had to accept it.  Years of riding through rain, dragging me and all my stuff around, being parked outside friends' apartments in the rain, and running over potholes had taken its toll and killed my tire.  So much for my bike ride this afternoon.

So now I'm in the market for a pair of tires - my front one has seen better days and it'd be nice for them to match anyways.  And my poor bike is sitting in the kitchen without one of its shoes on.  So, better start shopping!


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Timbuk2 Classic Messenger

I dunno about everyone else on this planet, but I've got stuff, and sometimes I move it by bike.  The thing is, there's only so much stuff you can carry in a plastic bag hanging off the handlebars or bungeed to the top of the rear rack.  I, like many women, am rather fond of bags.  But my fondness tends along the lines of backpacks, messenger bags, and panniers.  I use quite the array of bags, and will be doing a series on products I've used to move stuff by bike.  Today we focus on the one thing I never leave home without - my messenger bag.

I've had one of these bags with me constantly for about 4 years now, though I'm on my second one.  Note that the only reason I replaced the original is it needed some cleanup - I emailed Timbuk2 about it and rather than having me send in my old bag for repair, they gave me store credit for a brand new one - that's what I've been rocking for about a year now.  Since there was a design change between the older version of the bag and the one I have now, I'll be reviewing the newer one.

This bag comes in sizes from XS to XL - I have the extra small size.  Back when I was selling outdoors equipment there was a saying - "If you have the room, you'll fill it".  Deliberately carrying a smaller bag to limit your carrying capacity forces you to consider what you carry, and pack light.  That being said, while not an enormous bag I still run around with Stuff and it carries everything I need it to.  Here it is, with all the stuff I usually keep in it, minus the phone I used to take the picture:

For the record - that is a wallet, pair of sunglasses, 2 sets of headphones, bag of dog treats, 2 bike tail lights, a multi-tool, dog clicker, poop bags, tire levers, some hand lotion, chapstick, keys, gym lock, & an array of pens.

The interior of the bag is laid out with a nice array of pockets, with spaces for a phone, a key-leash, and the flash pocket (the flat one along the back where my hand is).  The flash pocket, which I hated when I first saw it, has turned out to be awesome.  I use it for whatever paper I need to carry around, whether that be my car insurance or a map printed off the internet.

This is the inside completely empty.  It's waterproof enough that I've never had a problem in the rain.
This is it with all my stuff added back in - even the XS size swallows everything
The exterior has a couple pockets for quick convenience, including one you can actually reach WHILE riding.  I like using them for my phone, train tickets, and the very front one is my change pocket.  It's also a great place to stash my keys by attaching them to the read key-leash.

As for how it does on the bike - despite the popularity of Timbuk2 for general use, they stick to their bikey roots.  The bag features a loop for my tail light, as far as my usage goes it's totally waterproof (don't dunk it underwater, it's not a drybag).  The tails of the buckle straps are reflective.  Additionally, the cam adjustment on the side means that I can wear it long in "purse" configuration, then with the click of a buckle have it riding high on my bag to cycle.  Sizes S - XL also come with a "Commuter strap" - a strap that goes around your body from the bag to the main strap, which keeps the bag from moving while you're cycling.  The XS doesn't come with one (mine is pirated from my mom's bag, which she uses to haul her Kindle, etc).  Both of these straps are highly adjustable to go over coats and sweaters.

In 4 years of usage, I've never even had a stitch come loose one one of these bags.  They're tanks - they just keep going.  It gets dirty, throw it in the sink with a little bit of Dr. Bronner's or some dishsoap and scrub it.  I'm thinking about changing over to a backpack, but literally the only reason is for 2 straps instead of 1.  But, as messenger bags go, I love my Timbuk2, and the black color makes me feel like a ninja.

Full of my stuff and ready to rock.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Le Moustache et l'angle

I've noticed some dispute online over how to angle Northroad and Moustache bars and I'm beginning to understand why.  From what I understand, some people angle the ends down, and some people install them parallel to the ground.  On my Surly I'm starting to notice some wrist and hand pain that has developed from the fact my handlebars are currently set parallel to the ground - it's a pretty non-neutral wrist position when I'm on the bike.

My current hand position.  Note the bend.

Neutral wrist angle, "shaking hands".  I'd be more bent over while riding but I had to hold the windowsill to show this.
I got new Brooks bartape for Christmas, which I'll be adding soon and while I'm sorting out some details there, I'm pondering the appropriate angle for my handlebars.  I could really use some input on this from others who have used a similar handlebar setup.

Fenders, Fixed!

A while back you may recall my whinging regarding the noisy-ass rattle produced by my fenders.  I emailed Velo Orange customer service, who replied that I was in fact missing an entire part, called a "cup washer" - specifically designed to prevent my very problem.  It was arranged for them to send me a pair, which I received longer ago than I care to admit.

Today I dragged the workstand into the kitchen, put my bike up in it, and got to work straightening out my rattle issue.  In the process I realized the poor thing hadn't been cleaned since Obama's first term, and gave it a wash.

Ready for surgery, doctor.
This is the rear fender before disassembly,
 external view.
The bolt that holds on the fender.  This is the front fender, but the assembly is identical on both ends.

After re-assembling the fender, here it is with the cup washer installed (front fender).

All put back together and cleaned up!
I took the bike for a test ride around my neighborhood, and deliberately rode it over gravel, a few pot holes, speed bumps, and washboard bits of pavement.  It's totally silent!  In fact, after years of the rattle in the background, it was almost creepy.  I felt like a ninja on wheels.

So, my fenders are now fixed, and I look forward to many more years of service from them.

The Flu and the Bike

The last week has been pretty gnarly - my entire household has been felled by a virulent strain of the flu.  Today is my first day back at work, and eeeesh does it feel weird to take that kind of time off.  Last night was my test for whether I was ready to be back at the ol' keyboard.

I've got to tell you - when you've spent the last week winded walking across the house, taking your bike even a couple miles is daunting.  But, I've been working out like crazy lately and I decided to see if I could make it to the store and back.

It's almost uninteresting how smoothly my ride went - but it did!  I rode to the store and back and could breathe fine the entire way - in fact I took the long way home.  I really wish I had more drama to report, but....I just don't.  And that in itself is a relief.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Let's dance, 2013

It's a whole new year, and dear lord, the holidays are over!  Let's get back to business, shall we?