I found an abandoned bike in the park near my house. It was an old Repco RT Sport. Back in the 80′s, when Repco’s still made decent bikes (at least according to my granddad) I had a Repco ‘Tracer’. It was an awesome bike. But it got stolen one day, and police later reported the corpse had been found in a bush by the lake in my neighborhood. These thoughts immediately returned to me upon finding this deserted soul. Had it been stolen? Vines growing through the wheels suggested this had been laying in the bushes for months. In fact, I think the owners of the adjoining property had just tossed the unwanted bike over the fence. I’m pretty sure that qualifies as bike cruelty. I decided to take it in, and give it a new life. Well, I have been on the lookout for a beater… but the frame is too large for me, so I decided to rebuild it for a family member.
Unloved and deserted
I took it into my awesome local bike store – Bikeforce in Richmond – who through many previous visits and repairs have proven themselves knowledgeable and professional without being elitist, and above all friendly and helpful (despite numerous tire-kicking visits by me). And my dog is always welcome there. They helped me flesh out a plan for re-fitting out the RT Sport as an urban commuter. We decided repainting the bike would lose some of its appeal.
Some goals for the rebuild:
I’m a little over derailleur maintenance, and for an urban commuter I wanted to try out an internal hub. The Shimano Nexus three speed was not available in a 29″ wheels, but Bikeforce got me a decent deal on a Alfine eight speed hub built into a wheel from Shimano.
However, internal hubs are only now becoming more popular on road-ish bikes with drop bars. I felt using the regular flat bar grip shifter was a bit awkard, as were the trigger shifters. Online I found the marvelous little company Jtek Engineering, who make some innovative custom-machined bike components, including bar-end shifters for internal gear hubs! I ordered this directly from JTek.
I ride with a messenger bag, because I never wanted to detract from my bike’s appearance, or add additional weight. However, I was quite smitten with the Tubus Fly rack when I first spotted it on a handsome Orbea Arama tourer in the store some weeks prior. It’s not chunky, has nice sleek lines that rather accentuate a road-come-commuter frame.
Steve of Bikeforce Richmond presents the finished rebuild
When the bike was ready for pickup, I was pleased with the result. Fitting it out with predominantly black components allows the faded blue frame and decals to make more of a statement. It definitely retains some charm, and is understated but handsome. I’m glad we decided against repainting the frame. I love the old decals.
The ride is fabulous. The bike rides nicely, and having the Alfine with bar end shifter makes it a breeze to take a relaxed cruise around, or really put your back into it. It feels very efficient, and somehow I’d say a little ‘classier’ feeling than a derailleur. Great fun!
Here you can see the rather understanded Tubus Fly rack. The black Alfine eight speed seems to be a little more covert at hiding it’s bulk than it’s silver counterpart.
Since moving to Melbourne, with it’s unpredictable skies and generally mucky streets, cycling without mudguards has become an unviable mode of transport. Despite the resulting wet ass situation, it’s not nice for the bike, and sends a clear message that, “hey, I don’t love my bike!” Like Agro Vation used to say, “keep it clean, team!”
So I went on the lookout for some mud guards for my Dahon Hammerhead 7.0. There is not a lot of choice for a 20″ wheel size, and the SKS Dahon special mudguards (although very good) don’t visually fit the slim lines of the Hammerhead. When researching our Dahon Cargo Bike options, I came across Sykes Wooden Bicycle Fenders, claiming to be strong, lightweight, flexible and darn good lookin’! Just the ticket. Finishing my fit-out with a new rear Kinetix Pro wheel, I think the results speak for themselves. You be the judge.
It’s a well known fact that dogs love going for trips. They’re always wanting to go for a walk somewhere new, they’ll leap at the chance to go for a drive in the car, hell, the internet is full of videos of skateboarding and surfing dogs!
This little project started with our desire to take our little doggie with us when we head out on our bikes. The original idea was to get a front basket on the bike. You can’t really carry much more than 5kg on your handlebars, and the choices are more limited if you have a long handlebar stem like most folders. Klickfix has some good options, and the new Dahon luggage truss is genius in it’s simplicity.
We decided instead to go for a rear-mounted system. Again the choices are a bit more limited for a 20″ wheel bike (especially in Australia) and the range is not great to begin with. After seeing some poorly made and some ugly choices, we ended up getting an antique wooden crate, and went about investigating how to mount that on the rear of a Dahon. My conclusions were:
Klickfix – although I like the Klickfix systems, their rack idea doesn’t play well with panniers
Pletcher – another of the better options, but I didn’t like the mounting system too much.
Basil – good availability, and excellent bags, but their rack mounting systems are poorly designed and don’t offer a mounting plate. They have a dog basket with a lousy mount, it’s super heavy and was rated “ugly” by the missus.
Topeak – Workable system, but ugly. They don’t have racks for 20″ bikes, and I just have a bias against their products, I don’t think they are good quality or good looking.
Racktime – A spin-off of Tubus, meaning great quality and good looking racks. Works with regular panniers, they sell a clever range of attachments for their racks, and you can buy an adapter to make anything work with it. I think popularity of this system is set to boom with major players in the industry offering compatible products for it.
With the lack of stuff in Australia, I hunted around online and ended up ordering from the kind fellows at bike-x-perts.com. Europe has all the goods for commuting type gear, and Germany in particular. I purchased:
…and then began the waiting for my delivery to arrive. In the mean time, even my doggie seemed to get impatient to go for a pedal. We discovered together, that my ChromeMetropolis messenger bag is A-OK for doggie portage.
Anyway, yesterday, my exciting package finally arrived from Germany, time to get to work…
You will need a bike tool, or hex keys, and probably a hacksaw depending on your bike.
This is the Mu P8, with the Rackime FoldIt Fix 20″ rack attached. As you can see, it’s a handsome rack!
Foldability is not affected. It adds a bit of bulk over the wheel (as expected) but gives you a nice handle.
You will probably need to hacksaw the front stays to the appropriate length for your frame. The bolts for the front stays are hard to tighten, since they face the middle. My installation guide shows regular bolts, but mine were not. A right angle hex-key will be easiest (like you get with Ikea furniture) otherwise you might have to get them in place, take it apart and then tighten.
This is a SnapIt adapter clicked into the rack.
The adapter comes with a set of screws and large washers which could be used to affix a basket or bag very easily. The base of my box is 20mm thick, so I needed to get longer screws. It didn’t seem as secure to run through the wood fixing into the base, so I instead pulled out these little rubber lugs, screwed through the mounting into the box. Not sure if this is the intended installation, but definitely stronger.
From here, I can now snap on my box for an instant Dahon cargo bike!
The rack plays nice with panniers, and I think you could tour just fine with them. You may need to mount the bags as far back as possible to get heel clearance.
Post-edit: The ClampIt would work well as a human-sized mouse trap. Getting it on is easy, getting it off… expect some very sore fingers!
[Updates about some problems with the light at the end]
I thought I’d write a quick entry about my trusty Planet Bike lights, since they saved my ass twice tonight. Although bike lights are vitally important, they often seem rather ineffective. Car lights are much brighter, and in the city, there is a lot of ambient lighting, some of it flashing, meaning bike lights sometimes don’t register with motorists and pedestrians until just before the moment of tragedy.
The Planet BikeSuperflash tail light was the first product of theirs I bought. Bloody brilliant. This light is impossible to miss. It has two bright LEDs that flash rapidly, and then an astoundingly bright LED that flashes less frequently, making for a dazzling discotheque, proudly asserting your presence on the road. I bought this with the CatEyeOpticube – a respectable (and slim) head light.
Chuffed as I was with my lighting rig, riding home one night I encountered a solar flare approaching me from the other direction. Holy shit, is that a motorcyclist on the path? A stray comet!? No! It was a cyclist with a bike light! I saw him the following night again. That light! So obnoxious, so brilliantly bright! I headed into Sid’s bikes on 19th and asked about this super bloody bright bike light I had seen. They kindly directed me to the Planet Bike Blaze, and the Blaze 1W (one Watt!!).
Holy cow… is that mother bright! Like the Superflash, it has a rapidly pulsing bright light before blasting your eyes out the back of your head with a laser beam every fourth flash or so. You can also just turn it on. Bright. Unbelievably bright. And that’s only on the half setting, click the button again, and you have thermonuclear bright. According to the manufacturer, you can see it a mile away, but I’d be pretty surprised if you couldn’t see it from the moon, possibly even from the dark side. Trust me, if you haven’t seen one of these, your bike light is like riding around with a candle compared to this thing. At the time, my Opticube was about the brightest thing I’d seen, but I can look into this thing without causing eye damage… the Blaze? Even on half setting, you’ll be seeing colors for a minute if you stare into it. In defense, it is possible my Opticube’s batteries are running down… [brief interlude] yes a little, but even after swapping the batteries around, I have a big purple blob in the middle of my field of vision from looking into the Blaze. There is something about the reflector and lens in this thing that is so effective.
While I was recently back in Oz visiting family, I took my bike lights with me for night cycling. I clip the Superflash onto my Chrome bag, so no problems there. The Blaze, however, has an absolutely brilliant mounting system. Very quick to adjust, easily removed, and consequently very easy to transfer to any other bike. There is a snap-style adjustment for course tightening, and then the clasp allows you to screw in to tighten it right up. The clasp then clicks in beautifully to marry your Blaze to your handlebars with no possibility of divorce. You don’t even need any tools – possibly a key to help if you need to loosen the snappy bit, but you probably won’t need to. The design of this thing is head and shoulders above any light I’ve seen. I love it. Especially compared to the finger bleeding procedure involved in getting the fucking Opticube onboard. Arsehole thing.
Borrowing my brothers rather cool Giant XTC, I noticed he had some pissweak Guppy lights, or something similar. In the interests of keeping him alive, I donated my Blaze and Superflash to him. So on returning home, I bought another Blaze, and the Superflash Stealth. Wow, possibly even cooler than the regular Superflash! Maybe even brighter!
I keep the Opticube, since it’s by no means a slouch, and use it in conjunction with the Blaze, setting one to ‘on’ and the other to flashing. I feel this is the best of both worlds. So anyway, riding home tonight, in the cold, dark winter evening, some impatient dickface driver was about to swerve around a slower vehicle before BLAMMO! Take some of that Blaze in your faze, sucker! Later, riding down 18th, a bus, blocked by a cab, was about to pull out in front of me when it slammed on the brakes. The Blaze had saved my ass again, as the bus driver quite obviously saw me and my truck light coming, or possibly went into seizure, and slumped over the wheel. Doesn’t matter… drivers can see me now, I’m no longer drowned out by bright car lights and ambient city lighting noise.
Oh yeah, and remember Planet Bike donate 25% of their profits to bike advocacy… that gets my vote!
[update Jan 2010] – As much as I do like the light, I have to concede that I have had issues with the mount. The clip that holds the light into the bracket is not secure. The light sits unbalanced on the bracket, and hitting rough patches (say cobblestones) can rattle the light out of the bracket. Mine has ejected itself numerous times, causing some impact damage to the light, and eventually cracking the plastic base that holds it into the bracket, making it worse and even more likely to jump out. It is now held together by electrical tape. Hopefully Planet Bike will redesign the mount. If you are on smooth roads, it’s a great light, if you hit rough patches, this light is not for you.
In the mean time, I have ordered a pretty kick ass looking Cygolite MiliOn USB – bright, light, and USB rechargeable! …Still awaiting delivery.
I just bought a new blender to replace my old one, which quite literally, blew up. Anyway, I’m not here to blog about kitchenwares, but cycling home with my blender proved to be a nice illustrative review of my messenger bag – the Chrome ‘Metropolis’.
It took a while for me to see the advantage of a messenger bag over a back pack, but they really come into their own when ferrying large loads. A work colleague has the Chrome ‘Kremlin’ bag, and I decided to get one after trying it out. I tried to figure out what size would suit me and finally settled on the Metropolis. It fits about two large shopping bags worth of groceries in it. As for the blender, well it fit, just!
[for the curious, box dimensions = 23 x 32 x 39cm or 9 x 12.5 x 15.5"]
I guess I looked a bit like an ant carrying a sugar cube, but at least this ant was able to get his sugar cube back home! I’m glad I didn’t go any smaller than the Metropolis and would certainly recommend it, or indeed the Kremlin. My work colleague has transported his Mac G4 in his Kremlin!
Overall the bag is excellent. Superior build quality, reflective straps, zip pockets, stabilizer strap plus lots of bike hipster bonus points. My only complaint is that the shoulder padding doesn’t extend beneath the seatbelt buckle! This seems crazy – possibly validating my local bike store’s assertion that all Californians are stoners – but when carrying heavy loads, the buckle can press a little uncomfortably into my bony chest.
Alright, finally down to business… a post about bikes!
An inconspicuous but valuable part of the Dahon MU SL set up is the little magnet that keeps the frame folded when being carried. However thanks to the fast but firm ride offered by the high pressure Schwalbe tires and lightweight Kinetix Pro rims, that little magnet can rattle a bit on rougher terrain. This can rankle a little or a lot, but the worst case is when you are cruising by impressed onlookers, showing off your sweet ride, only to hit a rough patch and sound like a dissident shopping trolley in a gravel patch. It must be silenced!
So first off, nick one of the missus’ hair bands (or your own…)
Then push the magnet in, against the spring, lift up the washer on the reverse side, and slip the hair band beneath it.
Release the magnet, and pull the washer up on the magnet side, beneath the spring. Loop the hairband under this washer.
And now you’re done! No doubt a more professional (and probably permanent!) solution would be to use rubber washers… but eh.
Now jump back on yer bike, and zoom past those slack-jawed tourists as they witness a slick, silver blur purr sexily past them.