Sunday, March 30, 2008

Tight Squeeze Fenders with Reacharound Brackets

Life is good when your bike has fenders in the rain. Life is bad when the your favorite bike doesn't take fenders. Until recently, I was considering selling my favorite bike, a Gunnar Street Dog, because it lacks the clearance for full fenders - I can barely squeeze a 28mm tire in there, and a full fender is out of the question. I tried the clip-on race blade fenders with some success, but they really don't provide the protection of full fenders. Things get pretty soaked every time I have to commute in nasty wet weather. Google found a solution. Rivercity Bicycles in Portland, Oregon makes Reacharound Brackets which allow the fenders to be interrupted where the frame clearance is tight, at the rear brake bridge and the front fork crown. It's explained here.

The Rivercity Bicycles website says to call on the phone, so i called. The conversation went like this:

Me: "Hi. I saw those reacharound brackets on your website. How can I get some?"

RB: "Oh yeah, hold on.....Hi? You're looking for brackets? Sure we install them here in the shop."

Me: "Hmm. I'm in Massachusetts, could you mail me some?"

RB: "Well we're almost out right now and don't know when we'll be getting more. You could make them out of some rear rack stays, just bend them here and there."

Me: "OK, uh...that doesn't sound too hard, do you know where I would get some rack stays?"

RB: "You know what, I'll just make a set for you and mail them out. No problem."

Me: "Wow! Great. Thanks!"

A neat little package of perfect brackets and simple directions soon arrived in the mail. I picked up some SKS fenders - these are supposedly the best for this because they resist cracking when drilled or cut because there is a metal strip embedded the plastic. I cut the rear fender in two and, after a little trial and error, managed to fit the fender to the rear reacharound brackets. The front fender installation was more complicated. The bike's front fork doesn't have fender eyelets, so I used some P-clamps to substitute. Additionally, the lower stack of the headset is really close to the brake hole, so there isn't enough room for the front reacharound bracket to clear the front brake OR room to attach the original fender bracket to the back of the brake hole without hitting the lower stack. I used a set of Sheldon fender nuts to provide the right spacing for the original bracket and attached the portion of the fender behind the front wheel. I left off the front portion of the front fender for now, but I'm going to fashion a special bracket for the front half soon. Very complicated, but worth it. The Gunnar is now rain worthy. Wouldn't you know, it hasn't really rained yet, but I've gone through almost every standing puddle and the preliminary results are good. More pictures are here.

On a related note, I visited Rivercity Bicycles recently. I was visiting some good friends who live in Portland and we were driving by the shop. We stopped in to check it out. The shop is bigger and fancier than I expected, having every variety of bikes... the usual racing and MTB stock, but also ton of CX, several touring rigs, nice steel bikes, and a thoughtful selection of bags and clothing. The staff is as friendly as they were earlier on the phone. I finally got to try out a Surly Long Haul Trucker, terrific bike. It's worth noting that the shop was serving free espresso. I found this a little odd given the context and my grouchy east-coast sensibility, but I imagine it fits nicely with the progressive cycling Portland scene. Whatever, it's free coffee and that's great. In all, the shop has a nice wide variety of gear and helpful staff, that's rare these days. I couldn't bring the Surly home, but I got a funny t-shirt. Check it out if you are ever in Portland.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Lobster Claws

I made an impulse buy over the weekend, and my life has been 100% better since then. I bought some lobster claw gloves, Craft Split Finger Thermal gloves to be specific. They were on sale at my LBS, and while $40 isn't exactly a steal, the price was good enough. I quickly made the purchase before thinking of some silly reason why I shouldn't have them, why my ratty set of cross-country ski gloves which double as winter bike gloves is good enough and why I should continue searching around for a better deal. Craziness. The tags were gone in a going back now. I put them on immediately and rode away.

Every gear head knows that some gear is just hype and some gear is life changing. These gloves are the latter. This is because they accomplish things that neither mittens or gloves can. Mittens are terrifically warm, but allow the dexterity of a flipper. Regular gloves give the fingers freedom but often lead to individually chilly fingers. The Craft Split Finger gloves do it all... pretty much. They couple two fingers together and keep them toasty warm. While I probably couldn't accurately dial a cell phone with the split fingers on, I can punch the key pad outside my office - the dexterity is good. One benefit I did not foresee, but am extremely pleased with, is that these new gloves allow a very comfortable hand position while riding a bike. I often ride resting my hands on the brake hoods, two fingers on the brake lever, two on the bars, thumb around the back. This would be impossible with mittens, and regular gloves can't keep the little fingers warm in this position. The split finger gloves are perfect, split in exactly the right place. Perhaps the designer had this in mind early on, perhaps not, but either way it's great. They are also windproof, water-resistant and have a nice nose wiper on the backside of the thumbs. The styling is also pretty modest which I find refreshing in the usually gaudy world of cycling apparel. I suppose they'll be great for cross-country skiing too. Goodbye ratty old gloves.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Happy Belated Easter

An oldie but goodie, the Easter Bunny rides again.

Eat Some Fruit

We trying to improve our eating habits. Mrs. Wheelie subscribed to a fruit and vegetable delivery service recently. Every other Thursday, we now get a bin of various fruits and vegetables like spinach, pears, garlic, tangerines, broccoli, etc. In our initial excitement over this new healthy habit, we plowed through our two week ration in just 7 days. (Feeling healthier already) Anyway, we resolved to supply the next 7 days by buying a pile of veggies and fruits at the local store. One thing we forgot to factor into this purchase is that we planned many meals away from home during the Easter weekend and Mrs. Wheelie is traveling for work this week. So I've taken it upon myself to eat all of the veggies and fruits before they go bad and go to waste. To this end, I posted a simple note on the front door... "Eat Some Fruit." As of this morning there are two grapefruits, 4 bananas, 1 cantaloupe, 1 old apple, 3 pears, some garlic, a head of red lettuce, and maybe some more broccoli. We're getting more on Thursday, so I'm really under the gun here. So far today, I've gone through 1 banana, 1 grapefruit, and a pear, and that's better than usual so I think the sign is working. Experts say the new rule is five to NINE servings a day (4.5 cups); that's impossible! I might be able to choke down a salad tonight, and I really do love salad, but I'm not sure if I can keep this up. The cantaloupe is intimidating.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Wind hates a bicycle

Yesterday was a windy day, one of those days where the gusts bend trees over in a relentless sort of way. The forecast showed steady wind at 25 mph gusting as high as 50 mph. However, the sun was out, the thermometer was reading above 30 in March, and I had the day off on account of it being Good Friday. I had to go for a ride; a little wind wouldn't kill me. I was right, the wind didn't kill me, but it made for a pretty tough ride. I'm pretty sure the wind brought me to a dead stop at one point...while going downhill. Don't get me wrong, the ride was still great and I was thrilled to pedal the afternoon away and explore some new roads, but it was exhausting.

Just how exhausting was it? It's hard to say precisely. There are a bunch of web articles that say this and that about the effect of a headwind on effort required to continue rolling forward. One says there is an exponential relationship between windspeed and pedaling resistance; doubling the wind speed more than doubles pedaling resistance. Yay! You can quantify this miserable truth here. In real world terms, wind resistance is supposedly second only to going uphill in making a cyclist more exhausted (bicycle weight is pretty far down the list experts say). I guess one could go get a super aerodynamic bike and practice posing like a human torpedo, but that's kind of tedious, expensive and probably not that much fun. Instead I'll just appreciate the days when the wind is a little more forgiving and pedaling is comparatively effortless.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Entry Number One

What is a wheelie biscuit? For starters, it's a combination of words that wasn't claimed by anyone else. Other than that, it's vague name for a blog that isn't well-planned or designed for any particular purpose. All I can say is whatever entries that follow are likely to range in topic from something relating to bikes, bicycling or bike-thoughts to outdoor adventures with my wonderful wife and dog (who in the spirit of web anonymity shall be known henceforth as Mrs. Wheelie and the Biscuit)...I'll just be me.

Seeing as it's that time of year when a noticeably larger number of bikers are joining everyone else on the road, let's start this blog off by taking a few moments to sharpen our powers of observation with a fun awareness video test. Enjoy and be safe.