Archive for July, 2007

Simplify

July 31, 2007

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I love the matra “Simplify until it breaks”.  Some examples include the Google search box, Apple products, Safety razors and fixed-gear bikes.  The products are so well designed no instructions are necessary.

The Google search box is the best and most used search engine due to it’s simple design.

Apple Co-founder, Steve Wozniak incorporated this matra into the first home computers.  Apple users love the simple and elegant design.  I bought an iPhone and haven’t read any user’s manual, yet I can use every function.  Extremely intuitive.

I was tired of the “how many blades and how expensive can we make these” marketing blitz with razors.  Applying the simplify until it breaks matra, I ended up with a “The Art of Shaving” safety razor (one blade) from Germany.  The razor provides the best shave I have ever had.

I set up my Lemond Fillmore fixed-gear bike for commuting. The only maintenance is chain lube and tire pressure.

One could only hope more companies adopt this practical philosophy.

Who Killed the Electric Car?

July 31, 2007

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If you are environmentally conscious, you should see the movie “Who Killed the Electric Car?”

Half-way through the film, I realized that the oil industry (not technology) must be dictating our low fuel mileage.

Join my oil industry boycott by commuting strictly by bicycle.

Why Bikes Are a Sustainable Wonder

July 31, 2007

From Sightline.org:

The gist: Two-wheeling ranks as the most energy-efficient form of travel–and makes you healthier to boot. Let’s give it more respect.

The details: Northwesterners might not believe it, but our love affair with bicycles puts us squarely in the transportation mainstream. The bicycle is the world’s most widely used transport vehicle.

Worldwide, bicycles outnumber automobiles almost two to one, and their production outpaces cars three to one. Rush-hour traffic in China is dominated by human-powered vehicles (though that’s beginning to change). Even in the wealthy cities of Europe and Japan, large shares of the populace get around by bike.

Despite its popularity elsewhere, the bicycle gets little use or respect, except as a plaything, in North America. Of all trips in the United States, less than 1 percent are made by bicycle. Some government agencies have embraced bikes, but they remain the exception.

The bicycle–the most energy-efficient form of travel ever devised–deserves better. Pound for pound, a person on a bicycle expends less energy than any creature or machine covering the same distance. (A human walking spends about three times as much energy per pound; even a salmon swimming spends about twice as much.)

An amazing invention, the automobile has given twentieth-century humans unprecedented mobility. Yet cars have proliferated to the detriment of all other means of getting around and at great expense to human and natural communities.

But today, cars so dominate transportation systems and communities in North America that their own usefulness is on the wane: they are crowding themselves to a standstill.

Read More

Riding backwards

July 18, 2007

Attaching a Tom Bihn Empire Builder Bag to a bicycle.

July 18, 2007

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For many years, I was a bag slut. My relationships included REI panniers, Mountainsmith fanny/day pack, Jansport backpack, REI rack trunk, and a Timbuk 2 messenger bag. Each bag has some strengths, however the weaknesses outweighed them. I wanted to find my one true love. I wanted one bag for travel, business, commuting and recreation. This one bag has to be professional, over designed, well organized, durable, large enough for weekend travel and able to attach to my bicycle. There are two categories of bags….those that attach to bikes (usually panniers) and those that don’t.
I purchased he Tom Bihn Empire Builder after reading nothing but excellent reviews. I utilized her for business, recreation and travel. However, I was unable to take my love on my bicycle commutes. I would unload the Bihn and load up a pannier on commuting days. What a pain and waste of time. Plus the REI pannier wasn’t comfortable nor professional off the bike.
I was overthinking the bike/Bihn attachment method. While at Lowe’s purchasing sheet metal to fabricate my attachment, I noticed the wire cage holding the plastic shopping bags…..Hmmmm. The following day, chowing on Mellow Mushroom pizza, I looked at the pizza stand and knew that could work. I almost stole it. I eat there a lot, and that wouldn’t be right. So I did some web research and measured my love, 36…23….32….kidding and ordered a pizza rack from Amazon.
Upon receiving the pizza rack, I did alittle bending and broke out the best attachment method of the last 50 years…..zip ties. The Empire Builder has a “roll aboard sleeve” that fits nicely over the two vertical pizza posts. I found mounting the bag perpendicular to the wheel allowed quicker installation and removal of the bag. Mounting the bag parallel to the wheels was restricted with the seat and was difficult to install and remove. Your results may vary. A little bungee cord holds the shoulder strap and bag in place. I commute 30 miles roundtrip and have had no problems. I have a medium sized REI raincover for unexpected weather.
The chrome inverted, rotated pizza stand may appear a little ackward naked. However the tradeoff of a simple, quick attachment and availability of a Tom Bihn bag on my bike is worth the price.

Here is my review of the 2005 Lemond Fillmore in full commuting attire.

July 13, 2007

2005 Lemond Fillmore Commuter

When I purchased this steed from Outback bikes (Atlanta), it was not really commuting worthy (30 miles round-trip, 195-lb rider, rain/snow/shine, full change of clothes) The Fillmore skeleton is True-Temper’s OX Platinum steel with Bontrager carbon-fiber fork and seat post. Stock wheels were Bontrager Select with 20 spoke front and 24 spoke rear. It was spec’d for speed, not durability.
So I made some commuting mods. I added a rear rack (keep the load on your bike, off your back). I stole the Nite Rider Trail Rat and Vista-Lite Eclipse rear flasher (both lights are dependable, fair inexpensive) from my touring rig. I changed the wheel treads to Specialized Armadillo tires to minimize flats….minimize, not eliminate. Kryptonite Kryptolok is my lock of choice. Kryptonite did replace the barrel lock and stood behind their recall, for that I admire them. And then added MKS GR-9 Platform pedals & clips so I could ride with whatever friggin’ shoes I wanted to.
As if I didn’t really already spend enough money, it was now time to tweak some components. I have always hated drop handle-bars, especially for commuting, so I looked for something clean and simple…..and found the Soma Noah’s Arc handlebars. They are comfortable and look sweet. To finish out the handlebars, I exchanged the old mtn. bike brake lever I was using for a Paul’s E-lever. The E-lever is a clean design, however lacks enough torque (two finger design) for being the only brake lever. For grips the Ergon GP1 seem to make a lot of sense with wrist support and comfort. Well, if I had to do it again, I would spend my money on iTunes and put cheap grips on. Coffee is carried in a Nissan thermos and fits your standard bottle cage.
The stock wheels were light and fast, in my dictionary this means not durable, especially the conditions and loads that they were being exposed to. So I called John of Kovachi Wheels and he built me a sweet set of Mavic Open Sports wrapped around some high-flange Phil Wood hubs. When I first opened the Kovachi wheel box, I spun the hubs between my fingers and could not believe how smooth the bearings were. Expensive……and you get what you pay for. After many miles on a Brooks saddle on my touring rig, I opted for a new B17 Champion honey saddle (heavy and comfortable). My college bud (Matt Wagner) toyed around with carbon fiber as a hobby. He made me a carbon fiber light switch cover that I never found a good use for. Well I wrapped the inside with leather and wrapped it on the top tube as a a ding guard.
I am a firm believer in one bag. If I travel for business or long weekend trip, it all needs to fit in one bag and I don’t want to change bags if I am commuting, flying, or driving. My one bag of choice is the Tom Bihn Empire Builder. The difficult part was attaching it to a rear bicycle rack. So the current mod using a pizza stand, mounted flipped and turned to slide the bag in and strapped to. I will post again specifically about this bag and attachment method. I love this bag and that attachment method is quick and secure.
Enough about the free company endorsements, how does she ride?

I love this bike for commuting and running an errand or two. The steel frame is firm, however smooth over the terrain. The geometry works wells for my needs, no neck, shoulder or back pain. The bottom bracket region is firm while cranking uphill, no noticeable weakness. The carbon fork and seat-post are a plus with vibration reduction in the hand and ass departments. The thick Armadillo tires ride hard like rocks, no forgiveness, however flats are definitely minimized. The Phil Wood hubs are incredibly smooth. I am now sold and will always buy his hubs. I will buy again and then beg for mercy from the wife. I ride 3 +/- times a week in the Raleigh/Durham, NC area. My commute is 14 miles one way with only a few rolling hills. The terrain varies from a dirt road short-cut to bike lanes to road shoulders to the American Tobacco trail.

Future desired mods include a CETMA 5-rail front rack in lieu of rear rack, a steel fork with more rake and braze-ons, elimination of all the Lemond and Bontrager decals, and a brake lever with more torque.

My 3-year old son rides a fixed gear.

July 13, 2007

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I purchased this bike for 3 year old son on last Black Thursday for $30. I was unaware at the time it was a fixie. As I assembled it, I noticed the “No Brakes” decal. I thought this could either be a bad idea or a good one, no in-between. Anyway, we rolled with it.
Within one week of riding it, my son can skid, and ride backwards. I still haven’t mastered these skills. Now after a couple of weeks, he rides with no hands and controls his speed downhill really well.
Okay it’s a Huffy, however it was only $30 and is a fixed gear. The only other highlight is the foam (no flat) tires. The only modification is a “Bad Car” bell. My son hates cars as much as I.