Plenty of room in the bike rack

Posted by todd under: Clothing; Raingear.

If your workplace is like mine, the bike rack empties in a hurry when the weather sours.

Today, with wind, steady rain and a temperature of 32 degrees, I am guessing that there will be plenty of good spaces available. The Sears 3-speed will be there — it always is, I’m not sure anyone actually rides it — and that will be about it.

Speaking of wet weather, here’s an update on my O2 rain jacket and pants and my Burley shoe covers: They’re all still holding up great. I’ve been riding in some fairly serious rain this month, and there are no signs of leaks.

The O2 rain pants tore a bit after I caught them on my front derailer. I covered the tear with duct tape, applied from inside the pants, and it’s working fine.



Just riding — not racing

Posted by todd under: Words from cycling sages.

“I feel most strongly about racing’s influence on bikes and on riding, and the perception of riding among non-riders who might want to start, and somehow, I don’t know how, I want to influence a trend toward just riding. Not putzing around, necessarily, but a kind of riding that’s acceptable to most people, that isn’t redlining your heart rate and keeping it there long, and going faster than comfortable and longer than comfortable. Just riding like kids ride, but as adults; wearing clothes that work but don’t look the racing part.”
— Grant Petersen of Rivendell Bicycles in an interview with Cycloculture



Buckled and ready to roll!

Posted by todd under: Burley D'Lite; Riding with children.

Actually, they really like it in there!

You wouldn’t know from this picture, but the younger one loves to ride in the Burley. It is getting so every time I open the garage when he is outside, he runs ahead of me, climbs into the trailer and starts pointing and making noises for me to put on his helmet.

His sister likes to ride with the screen open — I guess this is the 3-year-old equivalent of riding in a convertible with the top down.



Uptown 8 full chaincase question: What about lubing?

Posted by todd under: Breezer Uptown 8.

Reader Teri Astley has a great question about the Breezer Uptown 8’s full chaincase. I haven’t yet seen the chaincase in person, so I forwarded the question to Breezer Bicycles owner Joe Breeze. His answer is below. (Note: I pulled this from the comments from Breezer Uptown 8 chaincase update.)

Greasing the “New” Uptown 8 Chain??

I’m FINALLY retiring my ‘72 Schwinn Suburban 5 speed (having completely worn out sprockets & chain) & so am in the market for a replacement commuter bike.

After reading LOTS of web reviews (MANY thanks to the 6-Miler) I put my money down & ordered an Uptown Classic yesterday, only to learn today that they’re no longer available from Breezer :(

I’m sold on the 8th gear & hub-driven lights, & like the idea of the Senso auto switch, therefore prefer the Uptown to the Villager BUT AM CONCERNED about dis-ease of lubing the chain with a full chaincase rather than the chain guard that leaves the chain partially exposed.

The sales literature mentions an “access panel” in the new chaincase. Can anyone tell me how accessible the chain is?? Am I going to regret the upgrade from a Villager everytime I need to grease the chain??

Many thanks for your insights!!

Here’s Joe Breeze’s answer:

“As you know, the big plus of the chaincase is reduced maintenance. Yes, it protects clothing from the chain much better than a chainguard, but a clean chain was what I was looking forward to most. The chain on the Classic Uptown8 still gets grimy.

I’ve seen hammered bikes from the 1950s with chains that have been sequestered away in chaincases. They are like new! I don’t think anyone ever found the “access panel.”

But the Breezer chaincase does have an access panel, and it’s relatively convenient to remove. This rear-quarter panel can removed by removing just two screws.”




Bell Metro helmet, great deal

Posted by todd under: Headgear.

A quick one here, to say that if you need a helmet, you should not miss this deal. (The Bell Metro is a great helmet — very comfortable — I wear it every day — it looks less nerdly than many models although this is not saying much — make sure you know your size before ordering.)

Bike Nashbar.com – Bell Metro Helmet



Back when I was a kid …

Posted by todd under: Riding.

When I was a kid and a teen-ager a bike represented independence. I used to ride my (one-speed) BMX bike 8 miles — on a highway — to a state park and back.

Once I jumped on my Coast to Coast 10-speed (plastic shifters! plastic brake levers mounted on the stem! Note to self: post more about this bike later) on a whim and rode 30 miles, from my home in Chadron, Neb., to Fort Robinson, and back again.

It was summer. I rode in the heat of the day.

I took two cans of pop in a handlebar bag — no water. No patch kit. No pump.

I remember riding back into Chadron, taking my hands off the handlebars, just enjoying what I had done.

It was exhilarating.

A little bit of this feeling comes back every day when I’m pedaling to work. Corny, maybe, but true.

There is more to riding a bike than riding a bike.

Such memories came back to me while I was reading this post by my friend Laura, and seeing this picture of her with her bike from the days of the banana seat and the sissy bar:

My friend Laura, from the early 1970s



I went down, but the trailer didn’t

Posted by todd under: Bridgestone XO-1; Burley D'Lite; Crashes; Riding; Riding with children.

I crashed while pulling the bike trailer a couple of days ago. Fortunately, it was at low speed, and damage was minimal (the right wrist still hurts a little).

The abbreviated version: While pulling my Burley D’Lite trailer behind my Bridgestone XO-1, I tried a sharp U-turn. Just before I fell, I thought: That’s gravel, and I’m going too fast. The front wheel skidded out from under me, and I went down on my left side.

Two things to note about this mishap:

1. There’s no reason on earth to attempt a sharp turn on gravel.

2. More significantly: While the XO-1 and I pancaked somewhat spectacularly on the pavement, the trailer was affected not a bit. This was possible because the trailer has a (very) flexible part on the shaft where the trailer connects to the bike. (My 3-year-old daughter was sitting in the trailer at the time of the crash.)

I wouldn’t want to replicate this field test, and I hope you don’t, either — but just know that the D’Lite
will stay upright even when you don’t. That’s one major advantage, in my view, that the trailer has over those child seats that attach to the bike’s rear rack. If your child is sitting in a seat behind you on the bike, he or she is going down with you.



‘The chinstrap of social obedience’

Posted by todd under: Headgear.

Absolutely brilliant essay by Boris Johnson, the mayor of London (shown at right in a photo from the Telegraph), on his being caught not wearing a helmet while cycling to work.

Choice bits:

Of course I accept the case for cycle helmets, although the only time I have had a serious prang in almost a decade of cycling in London, a helmet would have made no difference whatever. I was negotiating Knightsbridge with extreme caution when a French tourist walked across the road without looking (you could tell he was French by the noise he made on impact) …

And this:

As soon as I started to wear a helmet, I was denounced as a wimp, a milquetoast, a sell-out to the elf and safety lobby, a man so cravenly attached to his own survival that he was willing to wear this undignified plastic hat. As soon as I was pictured not wearing a helmet, I was attacked for “sending out the wrong signal” and generally poisoning the minds of the young with my own reckless behaviour. The situation, my friends, is a mess.

In addition to this being a hilarious tale, Boris captures the conflict between “the competing imperatives of safety and liberty.”

Do not fail to read the whole thing. Hat tip to my esteemed elder Brian for sending this along.



Breezer Uptown 8: Too upright? And what about those V-brakes?

Posted by todd under: Breezer Uptown 8; Commuter bikes; My bikes.

Nathan writes in about the Breezer Uptown 8 (read his whole comment here):

… all the internal hub bikes I have tested seem too upright after that lightweight speedster, and i have developed an affinity for madly dashing about for adrenalin and time reasons. You mention that you set a pretty leisurely pace, but I’d be interested to hear your impressions when riding your Breezer vs. your other bikes with a more aero position.

Anyway, the Breezer is definitely at the top of my list. My biggest issue with the Breezer, though, is the v brakes. Disc brakes seem like such an improvement, or even hub brakes like the REI competition has, that i’m puzzled why Joe went with rim brakes. Do you have any insight on this issue, or comments on why you like/dislike the brakes?

Nathan, thanks a lot for the great questions.

You correctly infer that I am no speed demon — my major goal on most rides, in fact, is to avoid sweating.

That being said, I do ride a Bridgestone XO-1 with mustache bars, and have ridden a nice 12-speed with drop bars. Both provide a more aerodynamic riding position, and I do notice a distinct difference on the Breezer, mostly on (ahem) breezy days — it’s tough to “get below” the wind, and I usually just get into first gear and spin.

One might be able to get a flatter position on an Uptown 8 by putting bar-ends on the flat part of the bars near the stem. I haven’t tried this, but I have considered it. Breezer did this on their new $2,000 bike, the Finesse.

The Breezer is designed for a certain type of cycling that fits with the upright position — getting-from-here-to-there riding, as opposed to the speed/fitness/special shoes/screen-printed jersey riding. Asking the Uptown 8 to perform as a go-fast bike would be a little like saddling up a draft horse to round up cattle.

On to your second question: I like the V-brakes just fine, although the original pads seemed to wear out pretty fast for me. Disc brakes have always seemed to me like needless complication — more moving parts, more opportunity for things to go wrong, special wheels required. I have never used them, but I have read favorable reviews and have no reason to disbelieve them.

I don’t know why Joe went with the V-brakes, but I suspect it was one of those cost-benefit issues that come up whenever he specs a bike. (The Finesse , on which price is far less of a concern, has disc brakes.)

This might sound too short and sweet, but the truth is, the V-brakes do what I need them to do (and I have ridden with them in all weather),  so I give them thumbs-up.

I have forwarded the V-brakes question to Joe, and I will publish his response if he chooses to answer.



Ride in Crocs? Yes, we can

Posted by todd under: Footwear.

UPDATE 8/1/08: Check out Jason Nunemaker’s endorsement of riding naked! (Hey pal, you’re welcome in my clique anytime!)


A little bit of a footwear ramble here: I love my Crocs. I don’t wear them to work (although one of my colleagues does!) or to church, but they’re good for just about everything else — including bike rides around town.

Grant Peterson advocates Crocs for riding, as do I, but with a few reservations.

Yesterday I rode about 6 miles through Lexington in Crocs on the XO-1 (outfitted with MKS GR-9 pedals). The Crocs fit great into the toe clips, and grip the pedals well. Plus, I love the ventilation. But after the first couple of miles, the outside of my right foot started to hurt. I’ve had a similar result with this footwear-pedal combo in the past, although, like I say, everything is fine for first couple of miles — so it’s great for most of my errands.

I’ve ridden in Crocs all over creation on my Breezer Uptown 8, pulling a trailerful of kids, and have not had any problem.

I think the difference is that the Breezer has no foot retention, so my foot is flatter on the pedal, compared with the GR-9, which puts the ball of my foot on the pedal.

If you have a pair of Crocs, don’t hesitate to ride with ’em. If nothing else you can help dispel the myth that bike riding requires absurd shoes and silly pedals.



About the picture atop the page

Yes, that's me, Todd Van Campen. No, I'm not wearing a helmet. Yes, I usually wear one, so please don't scold! Seriously, I endorse wearing a helmet! Pinky swear! In fact, I almost ALWAYS wear one (while riding a bike anyway). (On the other hand, if YOU don't want to wear a helmet, I have no problem with it.) I don't remember what happened on this particular day. Fortunately for all of us it makes for a less-nerdly picture. My exceptionally talented professional photographer friend Charles Bertram took this photo.



Art for art’s sake

I asked my 6-year-old son, Caleb, an avid bicyclist and artist, to draw a bike for me. I think he did a great job!




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