It's a long-standing tradition over on the iBOB mailing list (a joint I've haunted for years, despite my Groucho-Marxist fears of joining a club that would have me as a member) to reflect on the (usually) bike-related things that worked out for us each year. Rather than suck up the bandwidth over there, I figured I'd bore reader(s) of The Cycle with this year's list.
PINNED BMX PLATFORM PEDALS: Maybe I'm slurping down Grant Petersen's Rivendell Kool-Aid (stop me if I start tying twigs to my bike with discarded bits of twine), but these were a revelation. If you have wide feet, wacky-shaped feet, toes that point anywhere but straight ahead, or any other below-the-ankle malady (I have all of the above), you owe it to yourself to try platforms with whatever regular old shoes your freak feet find comfortable. Even the cheapo $15-$20 ones with cast-in pins beat my clipless setup for comfort and convenience. The fancy magnesium ones can even get surprisingly light, for the weight-weenies in the house.
CLIP-ON FENDERS: If that last one got the Rivendellistas and iBOBerinos to move closer on the Group W bench, this one will have them all moving away again. To the true fender fan, the partial coverage of a clip-on fender gets about as much respect as the clip-on tie. Heck, you could be shunned from a Bicycle Quarterly paceline if your fenders don't wrap far enough to drag their mudflaps on the ground like some sort of static electricity discharge strap (maybe the combination of generator hubs, wool jerseys, and leather saddles builds up a charge?) But, despite being the Rodney Dangerfield of fenders, a set of clip-ons found their way aboard my fixed gear this Fall and have more than earned their keep. They aren't doing much to protect the drivetrain (it's a fixie -- what's to protect?), but they're keeping the slop off me while clearing the studded tires with room to spare. That's really all I could ask.
BREWING COLD-PRESS COFFEE AT HOME: I've been a little bit lax chronicling my caffeine addiction here, despite touting it in my "who is this guy?" mini-bio to the right. In short, I drink a lot of coffee. A stunning amount. Sure, I tell my doctor "one cup in the morning and one in the afternoon," but only because he hasn't wised up and asked how big the cup is -- it may actually exert a slight gravitational pull on the smaller cups in the cabinet. The first time I tried cold press, it was like a cocaine addict trying crack -- or so I'm told. But I thought could only get the stuff outside the house from my local caffeine dealer. Not so! Follow normal "startup" procedures for the French press, use cold water instead of boiling, stew in the fridge overnight, press, and voila! Homebrewed liquid crack. (Warning: If you don't have a caffeine tolerance, sip gently. Without the tongue-scalding reminder to drink in moderation, it's way too easy to chugalug this stuff and twitch like a raving lunatic. Ask me how I know.)
KEEN NEWPORT SANDALS: The sneaky buggers at Keen actually crept into my bedroom one night, made plaster casts of my mutant feet while I slept, and shipped them off to the Keen factory with the following instructions: "Make size 10 like this." That's the only way to explain how these things fit me. Pair 'em with a set of platform pedals (see above) and I'm golden. I tried the clipless version too (the Commuter), but it seems they cast some other mutant to make that size 10 (I still have them for sale, if that particular mutant or one like him is reading and wants to make an offer.)
CHAIN WAXING: Let's not start the Great Chain Lubrication Crusades/Inquisition here. I'm not trying to convert anyone from the First United Church of Prolink or Our Holy Mother of Blessed Boeshield. How you choose to lubricate in the privacy of your own home is your business. I'll just say that I've been cleaning and lubing my chains with a couple bucks' worth of paraffin and the tiniest dribblet of Triflow in a Crock Pot this year, and I'm sold.
HOMEMADE WINTER GEAR: The helmet liner Carla made for me was another revelation: warmer than it should be for its weight/bulk, remarkably stink-resistant, and when I wasn't 100% satisfied with the prototype from the stock pattern, she just sat down and cranked out V2.0 based on my feedback. Next on the needles will be a pair of open-source S'mittens thanks to a pattern from Natalie at Sweetpea Bicycles.
I think that's it -- up next, things I want to try in 2009!