Monday, April 9, 2018

Spoiler Alert

Rosebud was a sled! Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker's father!

Sorry, nope, not that kind of spoiler. Here, I'm talking about bicycle accessories that I once thought were dorky, but now that I've given them a chance, I find them eminently functional and kinda hard to live without. In other words, they've spoiled me.

Exhibit A: The front basket. Dorky, right? I mean, what are you, a paperboy? A Frenchman delivering baguettes? The one shown was purchased for Dear Spouse's now-departed single bike (what can I say? she likes riding the tandem despite having to look at me the whole time) and languished in the garage until I brought home the Klunker Project. I slapped it on there on a lark, and whaddya know? It's downright nice. Who needs a fancy commuting backpack (and a sweaty back) when you can just throw your lock and lunch in a basket? Picking up some groceries? Basket. Garage sale? Basket. Six-pack of malted adult beverage? Basket. Stray puppy? Basket.

Exhibit B: The kickstand. Epitome of dork-ness. How many times did I have to stifle my bike-shop-snob sneer when a customer asked, "Can you put a kickstand on my new bike?" Sure, I put one on our tandem because it's not always easy to find someplace to lean that two-wheeled stretch limo. But a stand never graced my single bikes... until the Klunker Project arrived. For an errand/townie bike, self-leaning is a pretty nice feature. Consider this a retroactive apology to every customer I silently judged back in the day.

I'm getting a three-fer in this photo:
  1. Singlespeed drivetrain: So little to go wrong.
  2. Flat pedals: Who needs special shoes? Just pedal!
  3. Chainguard: My pant leg shall never know the touch of grease again.
So, those are my spoilers. What are yours?

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Let's Get Visible, Visible

It's time yet again for a product review here at The Cycle! All together now: "Yay."

I was recently contacted by the folks at Leg Shield to see if I would be interested in trying out a few of their visibility aids. Being somewhat obsessed about not getting run over while commuting (hence my status as the World's Most Conspicuous Ninja), I said (paraphrasing), "Heck yes."

Shortly thereafter, an envelope arrived in the mail containing the following:

You're seeing two of the eponymous Leg Shields (one stealth black, one tennis-ball yellow with reflective stripes), two ankle bands (both are reflective on the outside, I just flipped one over to show its black underbelly), and two wrist bands (ditto). All are made from a fairly thin, stretchy neoprene material.

Now, the real fun with reflective stuff is to turn on the flash on your phone and take the same picture... so I did just that:

As expected, the stealth Leg Shield disappears. The reflective parts of the yellow shield light up, but there isn't much reflective there. The stars of this simulated headlight scenario are the screamingly bright wrist and ankle bands. My benchmark for good reflective material is 3M Scotchlite tape, and these are just as bright, not to mention having more reflective surface area than any other reflective band in my vast collection.

Construction quality seems good at first glance -- the stitching is well done, and the Velcro even has nicely rounded corners. That's a nit-picky detail, sure, but it does feel better when you use it compared to a squared-off corner. Brace for groaner Dad-joke wordplay: I guess you could say that by cutting corners, they're not cutting corners. (Thank yew! I'll be here all week! Tip your waitress!)

I wasn't planning to put a "ride test" in my first impressions post, but after tonight's commute, I noticed this:

See the little schmutz spot above the lower reflective stripe? I lubed my chain last night (first time in months), but I wasn't very fastidious with the "wipe off excess" step. It certainly wasn't a planned, scientific test, but the photo doesn't lie -- the Leg Shield did in fact shield my leg.

I'll have more to say once all the shields and bands have spent an extended test period wrapped around my chubby ankles and wrists. I'm especially curious how they'll fare over the long term compared to the bands I've been using, and whether or not the shields will trigger Sweaty Calf Syndrome (SCS) given than I have an almost superhuman ability to produce a disproportionate amount of perspiration from the most meager exertion.

The usual disclaimer applies: I was not bribed, coerced, or otherwise unduly influenced to review this stuff favorably. The Leg Shield folks did send me the products you see above at no cost to me, but I will do my level best not to let that color my opinions about the products themselves.

Thursday, November 30, 2017


Every once in a great while, the Mechanical Gods cut a big slice out of the humble pie, glop some hubris on top, and force-feed it to me. Here's a prime example:

Ugh. Just looking at that photo again makes me throw up in my mouth a little. What you are seeing is one end of a no-longer-produced-and-increasingly-rare/somewhat-coveted Salsa Bell Lap handlebar. I picked it up as part of a long-forgotten Craigslist bike purchase (seeing a trend from my last post?), but at the time of purchase, it didn't look like it had lost a battle with a rechargeable drill. In fact, it was nigh on pristine, a real survivor.

So what happened? Near as I can figure, when I installed brake levers on the bar, the mounting bolts were too long and protruded out the back side of the clamp, drilling into the bar before they could sufficiently tighten the levers. How was I so stupid and ham-fisted that I couldn't feel that happening? I have no idea. The multiple puncture wounds tell me that I was that stupid and ham-fisted not once, not twice, but thrice (and the not-pictured other end of the bar provided evidence of yet another thrice).

Thankfully, I was struck by the urge to swap these bars to another bike and discovered my stupidity before putting too many miles on them in this condition. Talk about the mother of all stress risers... it wouldn't have taken too many cycles of my girthy torso flexing them to snap the ends right off and send a mouthful of expensive dental work to the pavement. I took a hacksaw to them multiple times before throwing them in the trash just to ensure that they will never grace a bicycle and risk someone's life and limb again.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Project Update: Klunker v2.0

Just popping in to show off the progress of my recently acquired cruiser/klunker/olde school MTB project. It's looking pretty darn good, if I do say so myself (and I do):

Kickstands make garage posing so easy.

Changes since this steed last graced these pages:
  • Disintegrating cruiser whitewalls replaced with Tioga PowerBlocks.
  • Similarly disintegrating foam grips replaced with some from my stash.
  • Rubber block pedals replaced with big BMX flats.
  • Several tons of steel seatpost and couch saddle changed out for an aluminum post and slightly more svelte saddle.
  • Original chromed steel bars swapped for aluminum ones with slightly less sweep.
  • Added a full front/rear BMX caliper brakeset (with cable zip-tied on, because I've made peace with the zip-tie -- and it is a klunker, after all).
  • Accessorized with a bottle cage, lights, and a bell.

I also dropped the stem a bit to give a more balanced riding position -- still far from what I'd consider aggressive, but at least I don't look like I'm doing the shopping cart when I ride it. In a completely vain and superficial bonus, I think it makes the front end look more retro-MTB cool (those chubby blackwall PowerBlocks help too):

Since it still has the original 3-speed coaster brake wheel, I have a bit of brake redundancy in the back with the BMX rim brake. It's been so long since I rode a coaster brake regularly that it just isn't as natural to me as reaching for a matched pair of brake levers. Plus, since this will likely be my snow bike, an extra means of slowing down in sloppy conditions isn't such a terrible thing.

If it's truly going to be a utilitarian city brute, it probably still needs some means of carrying stuff, but for now, I'm happy with keeping it (relatively) stripped down and wearing a backpack if necessary. The nice thing is, most of this stuff came from my stash, so I was able to customize it to my somewhat eclectic whims without driving up the total cost too far. Bless you, Craigslist and deep parts boxes.