Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Shoe Review: Patagonia Rum and Cola

Not strictly bike shoes - in fact, not bike shoes at all, Patagonia's Rum and Cola's are designated as an urban loafing shoe. However they work really well for urban cycle loafing too. 

A grippy detachable rubber outsole grips well on flat pedals and protects the foot from commuting knocks. The soft, figured pigskin leather upper is flexible yet supportive and the toebox is wide enough to allow you to get comfy. 

I hate narrow fitting cycling shoes that pinch the toes and cut off the circulation. These are perfect companions for urban cycling on flat pedals. 

However their killer feature is the ability to remove the rubber outsole and reveal a climbing boot style indoor shoe, great for indoor loafing. 

Another plus point is Patagonia's superb quality and enviable attitude to sustainability. Not cheap at £120 RRP, but I got lucky and found a pair in TKMAXX for £39. I think that's what you call a result...

Monday, 26 January 2009

Lazy Man's Pedal Servicing

I used to be a bike maintenance zealot. But what with an increasingly busy working and home life, golden time for tinkering has become harder and harder to find. So what do you get? You get smart, that's what. 

Take pedals for instance. My favourite set of pedals are a pair of VP BMX style platform pedals (a bit like the Shimano DX pedals of yore). I've had a set for about 3 years now and they've been used and abused on the MTB and the commuter - suffered jetwashing, crashes and day to day use in disgusting weather. As a result they've become a little rattly and unhappy - until today. 

Inspired by this article on Bike Radar I decided to get busy with the 5mm drill bit and inject some greasy new life into my pedals. However the Bike Radar article requires you have a proper grease gun. However I found that a disposible oral syringe did the trick. I drilled a 5mm hole in the plastic end cap of the pedal and syringed large amounts of grease into the pedal until it blew it's end cap off. I pushed the end cap back snug and voila - smooth pedals and probably an extra year of happy pedalling. 

As you may have guessed by now I'm allergic to spending money when I don't have to!

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Smart Dahon Hinge Mod

Don't worry - I'm not going at the hinge with a Dremel or anything like that. It's just that the adjuster on the hinge, as stock, requires the use of Loctite to keep it correctly adjusted, which is hardly the best engineering solution on a thread which isn't tightened against anything. 

So what I've done is to simply find a nyloc nut of the right size, unthreaded the adjuster, added the nut, adjusted the hinge to the correct clamp closing torque then, nip the nut up tight against the 'non-adjustable' part of the clamp lever. Et voila - no scary thoughts of the hinge clamp working loose on longer rides, or over rough paths. 

Was worried that it might foul the hinge mechanism when fully open or fully closed but there's no issues. 

Big question is Dahon, why don't you fit a locknut as standard. I know the bike business works on slim margins, but come on...

NB: Just from a legal angle. I'm not recommending this mod as safe, guaranteed, whatever. I'm just saying that I've done it and I think it'll make the bike safer... So don't sue me!

Friday, 23 January 2009

Mmmm - H Bars

H Bars, with STIs above...
...or with gripshifters and mtb levers

Just checked out Bike Friday's site (www.bikefriday.com) and seen the Express Tikit with its cool H bar setup, which takes brake levers on the frontal bar end section but can also take barcon shifters at the other end of the outer sections. It works with STIs, road levers, internal reverse action levers - also seen a link with normal MTB levers, though it may be a bodge/mod. 

They look very comfortable and sure to offer loads of positions. Don't know if they're available separately in the UK. Anyone got any ideas?

I've ridden H bars before, on a borrowed cross bike last summer and they're great. Loads of control up and down hill, rough or smooth. Like the idea that you can use lots of different types of controls. 

And here's me in aformentioned cross race, keeping it almost real on someone elses bike, despite bike failure on lap one!


Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Dahon d7 + bar ends

Sometimes, the littlest tweaks on a bike make all the difference. A good saddle, some new tyres, even an adjustment or tune up here and there. 

And so it goes with the Dahon - have been riding the bike with bar ends for the past few days and it's really transformed the ride. I know this sounds silly, but on a folding bike that really responds best to 'in the saddle' pedalling, a fore and aft hand position really helps. I'm riding faster everywhere, my wrists and palms don't ache and it feels so much more stable  - more natural cornering and easier to hold a straight line. 

If you own a Dahon D7 try a pair - stubbies work best as they don't interfere with the folding process. I might wrap the bar ends with cork handlebar tape for more comfort, or splash out on some Ergon grips/bar ends or Cane Creek Ergo Bar Ends

Puncture Hell

I've been pretty lucky with punctures lately - none in the last few months - none since getting the Dahon. But tonight, the puncture devil was feeling particularly spiteful...

5:30 in Manchester, about 3 degrees outside and persistent rain. 1 mile into a fairly short 2.5 mile commute to Piccadilly, I felt the rear end of the bike go mushy, which on a Dahon, feels like you've just snapped your frame. By the time I'd pulled into the side of the road, in shall we say a none too genteel part of the city, the back tyre was completely flat. The rain was getting heavier and as I unpacked my tools and spare tube. The streetlighting was out so it was pretty dark, making it tricky to locate the offending article in the tyre. Plus everything was covered in black brake block juice and oil. 

Of course it was the first time I'd had the rear wheel off the Dahon and it proved a bit of a faff, as the Neos derailleur didn't behave like a normal mech, where you can spring back the top jockey wheel to ease wheel removal. You basically have to grasp the chain and yank it away from the cassette and axle as you're removing the wheel. The only easy way to do it is by turning the bike over - a massive pet hate of mine. 

Eventually got the rear tyre blown back up and the rear wheel replaced. By this time the throbbing pain in my fingers, due to the icy rain, had turned to numbness and I was pleased to get on my way. I must have run over something that had fell back out onto the road but the tyre was staying up... wait a minute... what's that mushy feeling at the back of the bike?

Oh yes, there was still something in the tyre and it had killed my second (and last) tube. Still about a mile from the station, with the rain getting harder and my fingers feeling like I could snap them off, I decided to walk to the station and try to fix my two pierced tubes on the platform. 
One of those nights when you seriously wonder why you bother, and it takes a lot to get me to that stage. Might get some slime for my tyres - in keeping with the low maintenence commuter role of the bike. Certainly don't want a repeat performance of this evening in a hurry!

Monday, 19 January 2009

North Road the Wrong Road...

... well at least for the Dahon. 

Bars arrived this morning and looked good out of the box, but on the bike, they just didn't work. Either run as flipped (drop) or riser, they just looked odd - at 610mm they are pretty wide giving the bike that monkey-bike look - not good! Also, they badly affected the fold - adding about 4 inches of width to the folded package. Again, not good. 

Had a 'mare of a time getting the shifter off, eventually had to drill right through the bolt (an also unintentionally through the old handlebar) to get the old one off, as it had been totally overtightened. This meant new shifter time. Now running a set of Kore Lite flat MTB bars with bar ends. New shifter is the same model (SRAM MRX 7 speed) but was unable to get the model for reverse action derailleurs, so the numbers are reversed - no big deal as I always look at the cassette to check what gear I'm in anyway. 

Haven't given up on the North Road idea though. I may try them on the country bike - they'll be super comfy, that's for sure, and they'll look more at home on a full size rig. It'll need new brake levers, shifters and grips to make it happen, so it'll have to wait...

Friday, 16 January 2009

To Wrap or Not To Wrap?

Just toying with the idea of wrapping by the forward section of the North Road bars, so I can get a moustache style position on them. Rivendell do it and I've seen it on http://epicureancyclist.blogspot.com/

Looks quirky but very very good. It'll look even quirkier on a folding bike. Check out this video of Riv mechanic in action shellacking a set of Albatrosses (that sounds odd out of context...)

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Think I've found 'em!

This is looking very promising. If they don't work on my folder I can swap out the Mungos from the country bike and really shake the bikeshed up!

£9.99 (!)

Handlebar Itch

I'm renowned (at least amongst my friends) for complusive component swapping and I think it's time the Dahon got a handlebar swap. The stock bars are straight, MTB flat bars which are fine as far as it goes, but I really miss the multiple hand positions of my road bike (drops) and most of all, my Rivendell inspired country bike, with On-One Mungo moustache bars. Also, fundamentally, I prefer a 'fore and aft' hand position to the latitudinal hand position offered by straight bars - more suited to the natural pronation of your hands and wrists. 

Which got me to thinking - how would 'tache bars work on the D7? A bit of Googling found that lo, Dahon made a special edition singlespeed based on the Boardwalk frame, namely the Hon Solo, with featured Nitto Moustache bars and reverse action levers. 

As well as looking wonderful, you've got a forward position with about 2-3 inches extra reach plus a really comfy sit up and enjoy the world position on the bar ends. Sure it will affect the compact fold but I think it'll be worth it. So onto ebay I went in search of a pair of Nittos. Then it occured to me that I needed v-brake compatible levers (currently only Dia Compe and Tektro make these) plus a bar end shifter (the Nittos are road diameter and won't take MTB style controls). 

Which led me to think of butterfly bars - problem is that these would place the controls way too close for comfort - then I thought of North Road bars, which are pretty similar to moustache, with maybe a tighter bend, but crucially will allow me to use my existing controls. So more Googling ahead. 

The joy of North Road bars is that you can tape the bend sections ahead of the grips (like Riv do with their Albatross bars and you can use all the positions). So I'm looking forward to finding a decent set of bars and making the mod. 

One slight problem. My particular Dahon was put together by a gorilla it seems, and every bolt on the damn thing is ultra tight. So I've rounded off the allen bolt that holds on the Gripshifter, so will have to Easy-Out it before I can make the swap. I mean, no-one needs their Gripshifter that secure. Hey ho.... 

Anyone out there who's done the same or similar mod - very keen to hear from you!