Commuting on a bicycle 20May16 | 1

A rough collection of thoughts based upon twelve months of commuting through four seasons in Pennsylvania…

 

Bike

The machine.  It’s ergonomics and upkeep are the most central and crucial aspect of your entire bicycling endeavor.

‘Flat-free’ Tires.  Some folks are fancy, and they live fancy carefree lives.  I am not those people.   I sure as hell am not going to get a flat on my way to work, because screwing around with pumps and tubes on the road is not an option.   Essential gear.

Fenders.  These keep water off of you when you ride in the rain.  And it’s going to rain.  Essential gear.

Lights.   A nice generic flashlight mount lets you keep a few (you don’t want a dead light when riding at night) LED flashlights on hand for quick swap out for front illumination.  A blinking LED taillight keeps folks from rear-ending you.  To keep from destroying your budget on alkalines, get a small set of Enerloop (or other LSD / low self discharge NiMH) batteries and a good charger.   Essential gear.

Rack.  This gets a backpack off your back, because it lets you hang bags off of it!   Backpacks feel like sweaters when it’s hot out.   At least one rear rack, and one simple rack bag are highly recommended.

Seat. Unless you’re very fortunate, the seat on your bike probably isn’t comfortable for long rides.  There are a wide range of leather saddles that will be comfortable after a few days of break-in, but the length and width are important.  They offer rubber seats that don’t need covered in the rain that seem highly regarded.  The seat is the last thing to worry about, because the rest of the ergonomics must be in place to find out how comfy the seat actually is: position up and down, front and back all need to be correct before you’ll have your ‘actual’ weight on the seat.  Only then (after a dozens of miles of time in the saddle, and many adjustments to find what fits your body) will your sit bones be where they want to be…and a saddle is going to need to appropriately cradle those sit bones!  Optional, but recommended gear.

Aerobars.  You’re going to want to change positions to shift your weight around at some point.  Or get your upper body down out of the wind (headwinds are demoralizing).  Clamp on aerobars are a hell of a lot cheaper than a new bike, and easier to install than swapping out a conventional handlebar to a dropbar…but they’re pretty dangerous until you’re used to getting into and out of them unless you were a punk as a kid and are used to riding without your hands on the bars.  Optional gear.

Clothing

No cotton.  Well, maybe cotton shorts or jeans, but only if you’re not going to sweat in them too much.  Cotton is for dry conditions, and for keeping you warm.   It retains moisture and heat like mad.  If you’re going to need cotton for wherever you’re going, pack it with you or keep a set at your destination.

Comfort is all about layers and effort.  Thin polyester up against your skin (base layer), with additional layers on top as necessary.  Windbreakers.  Insulation.  If you’re too hot and can’t take anything else off, ease up on the effort.  If you’re too cold and can’t put anything else on, PUSH IT.

Base layer – micro poly tee or long sleeve, no cotton
Thin insulate – Patagonia R1 or R3, long sleeve thin poly
Wind breaker – Patagonia Houdini
Thick insulate – Vest / parka / long sleeve thick poly
Waterproof top – rain coat or nylon shell top

15’F and under – everything isn’t enough to keep you warm, especially hands and face.  Sock liners, glove liners, every layer you’ve got and then some…

25’F – heavy layering, especially hands and head

35’F – basic layering, hat really helps

45’F / no sun – gloves, 2x base poly tee, 1x cotton tee, poly leggings, jeans, windbreaker = barely ok once you’ve got some wind in your face for a half hour…

55’F / no sun – 2x base poly tee, jeans = barely ok

65’F – 1x poly tee, shorts = usually OK

Form

If it hurts now, it’s probably only going to get worse.  Adjust seat, position, feet for least pain and most power.  Butt off seat when you need to push:  tighten lower abs, lean forward, cantilever torso, keep your force pushing down on the pedals and keep it off the ligaments of your knee as much as possible.

Fitness

Start slow.  Slow down to speed up.  Build strength, endurance, and THEN push.  Be mindful not to spend your reserves at the bottom of a hill, unless you’re looking to beat your muscles up.  You’re going to be biking every day, some days you need to go relatively easy on yourself.   If you get a heart rate monitor, aim to always have your heart above 130BPM.

Pain

Again, if it hurts now, it’s probably only going to get worse.  Deal with sources of pain.  Muscle pain will pass.  Ass pain may or may not pass.  Knee pain isn’t likely to pass: fix your form and ergonomics.  Numbness in hands isn’t likely to pass: add positions you can move to on your bike, increase core strength to cantilever better, adjust ergonomics of the bike, add gloves or ergo grips, etc.

Weather

It’s going to rain.  It’s going to snow.  Very, very occasionally…it’s going to be impassable.  You’ll need a backup plan, but you also will be commuting in weather most folks wouldn’t think of biking in, on days when impassible ‘actually isn’t’.  Gaiters and rain pants are great for dealing with driving rain and snow kicking up.  A pair of waterproof shoes are in order, or at least a backup set at your destination.  Keeping ‘everything you might need’ in the bag on your bike in case that beautiful spring day turns into blowing wind and snow showers in the afternoon…the weather can be the most delightful, delicate part of the day or the most miserable…

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Adding an Axiom Streamliner Disc DLX rack to a Trek 7.2 FX… 28Apr15 | 0

…everything’s on the internet right?  Well, how come I couldn’t find instructions on how to match up these two bits of kit?  After struggling for an hour, I realized that I could potentially save someone a lot of time…

Here’s my mini-howto on getting some panniers into your life!

To start, this is specifically for the Axiom Streamliner Disc DLX mated to a Trek 7.2 FX.  If you’re looking for more general information, this is a great overview.  Why the “disc” version on a bike without disc brakes?  Room to breath, of course.

My Trek is the first “real” bike I’ve ever owned, and certainly the first I’ve done anything to other than irregularly lubricating the chain.  Also, my Trek is a couple years old (2012 I think?) so Your Mileage May Vary if it’s much older or much newer.  I hear the 2015 is a slight downgrade in build quality…anyway, enough rambling…

First: the Axiom came with entirely too much mounting hardware.  I suppose out of necessity, both the hardware kit and the hilariously vague instructions (I had to download them off the internet) are generic.  Don’t bother downloading them, they’ll just make the job take three times as long as you screw around with the center bracket before eventually being forced to abandon it: for the Trek, I didn’t need the middle bracket (or perhaps I do, but it’s a good 4″ too short to reach anything useful).  I’m sure it’s necessary to reach the rated ~100 pound capacity.

Next, I had to pop some rubber bungs out of the threaded fittings welded onto the frame below the seat (in the bicycling world, these are called “internally threaded eyelets on the seat stays” I think?  I may very well be wrong!)  This is the location on the Trek:

seat stay threaded eyelets

The smooth silver bolt head in the middle bottom of the image (I think it’s called a rear brake frame mount) is where the center bracket would fit if it had been appreciably longer :/

Next, loosen the four hex head bolts that hold the “Versalock arms”. They’re the bits that are hooked to the frame in the above picture.  Don’t loosen the bolts too far, just enough so you can easily slide the arms in and out, and rotate them a bit.

Time to start mounting!  Lightly place the rack into approximate place.  There are more threaded nipples down near the rear axle.  If you want maximum load capacity, you probably want to use the axle (I think the technical term is “quick release skewer”) itself as the mount point (as well as fabricating a longer middle bracket and fiddling with Versalock arms so they don’t block the middle bracket).  Easy enough to move at any time with a couple hex keys.  If you’re like me and just wanted to get the rack mounted before needing to ride home in the dark, line the bottom of the rack up with the rearmost eyelets:

Rear rack bottom mount point

You can see I experimented with various mount locations ;)  I used the longer bolts, as the backside of the eyelet has plenty of clearance.  Also, I am very underwhelmed by how secure the bolt is in the eyelet.  Some thread-lock or a locknut on the backside is definitely in order!  A locknut may be challenging, as the backside of the eyelet is angled for what I’m sure is some really great reason.  Don’t bother going nuts on tightening the bolt, just have it holding the bracket in place until all of the mount points are in place and the rack is level.

With the bracket lightly in place, align the Versalock arms so they reach the seat stay eyelets.  If you get things loose enough, you can do just about anything you want with the arms (I managed to get them backwards at one point, so two of the bolts were facing each other under the rack…I’m special like that).  I found that the arms interfered with the rear brakes if they weren’t in this specific configuration shown in my images.  You may be able to “adjust” things differently with a little elbow grease.  Also, I saved the shortest of the included bolts for this, as I figured the longer bolts may have bottomed out before tightening down.

Axiom Streamliner Disc DLX mounted on a Trek FX 7.2

Now that everything is roughly in place and you’re pretty sure the rack is level, tighten down the bottom bolts near the axle, then tighten down the bolts on the seat stays.  Again, this is aluminum:  don’t go nuts with the torque, I erred on the side of caution knowing I have thread-lock that is going to be slathered in here once I’m positive of the exact alignment.  Finally, make sure the Versalock arms look tidy under the rack, and slowly tighten down the four bolts holding them in place.  It’ll slowly pull itself into place, and right before it gets firm is your last chance to make minor adjustments to the angle of the rack.  For these Versalaock arm bolts, I did give a little bit of torque, as I figure if this rack has a lifetime warranty these bits must be sturdy.

Three of these bolts are visible here.  The shiny holes are from my misguided (thanks, instructions!) attempt at using the middle bracket:

Axiom Streamliner Disc DLX Versalock arm bolts

If you made it this far, you now have a rack on your bike in a fraction of the time it took me.  Enjoy!

Axiom Streamliner Disc DLX mounted on a Trek FX 7.2
Axiom Streamliner Disc DLX rack on a Trek FX 7.2

Reminder: for maximum load carrying capacity, you’ll want the bottom bracket on the axle, and probably want to figure out some way to rig a new middle top bracket.  The manufacturer claims it’ll carry 50kg (110 pounds!), and I don’t see that happening on those little eyelets over bumps for thousands of miles without something unfortunate happening to the welds…also, acquire high strenght threadlock / red loctite (and a bunch of spare bolts).

Feel free to comment if you have any feedback or input: you don’t need to register or login.

Why is Ting so damn cheap? 22Jan15 | 1

Via reddit, courtesy of Hyperion1144:

The reason MVNOs are allowed to exist is to supplement the pricing strategies of the Big 4. MVNOs, by virtue of their lower visibility (less marketing, often no physical stores) attract only the truly “price conscious” consumer, while other types of consumers just walk into the nearest red, orange, pink, or yellow store and pay whatever they are told to pay.

Lots of people think they are price conscious, most are often not. They are brand conscious, and then compare prices among the brands they are willing to look at. Most consumers haven’t yet clued into just how much of a commodity cell service can be.

Cell carriers want to charge the price unconscious as much as they will bear, without diluting their brand by also selling value services to the price conscious consumer. The MVNOs are a filter, an alternative branding system, that allows the Big 4 to do this.

tl;dr: because if you’re a cheapskate, things simply cost less.  if you are too lazy to put any effort into life, things cost more.

Obligatory Ting referral link…

TIL about the origins of Vermont, the corporate yoke on government starting early, and a local business-raised militia… 12Mar14 | 0

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shays’_Rebellion

  “By early 1785 many influential merchants and political leaders were already agreed that a stronger central government was needed.”

The future of piracy? 27Feb13 | 1

How deeply does the government bother tracking “illegal” web traffic, a modern day Saint Peter?  Who bothers paying money to operate an anonymizing webmail service?  If you can track the comings and goings of bitcoin payments by using this data trail to focus resources, you wouldn’t need to literally scour every last inch of traffic.  Identify the interesting bits, flag for collection.   Unless there is so much processing power available it’s irrelevant and you can scrape every last literal bit…

Corporations craft legislation that is a very strange combination of horribly fucking invasive and very broad.  Showing that they’re basically an extortion arm of the government.  In effect…if given the ability to craft their own weaponry.

Pay for all content, regardless of literally anything.  Doesn’t even matter if you actually own the content.  If you don’t toe the line, the government has the ability to trace through pretty much any attempt at obfuscation.  How long until the NSA and MPAA drop any pretenses and openly join forces?  Like the various armament corporations did with our permanent standing army, and the resulting “Endless War”.

Sigh…