Thursday, July 31, 2008

Planet Bike Superflash Stealth

My favourite taillight is the Planet Bike Superflash. It's bright, easy on batteries and only costs $14.75 at MEC. This is a good thing as I like to leave lights on my bikes so they are always ready when needed. With several bikes on the go at any given moment this would be a problem with a $150 taillight!

MEC finally got in the new Stealth version of these lights. Unless I'm missing something it's just the same light with a clear front and black rear case. Not really a big deal, but I guess if you are uber finicky about how your bike's appearance this new version might be worth looking at. Personally I just grabbed them because they were the same price as the old version and I am easily manipulated by marketing tricks like this...=-)

The Diagnosis PT 2...

I had another medical appointment today to get a second opinion on my injured hand. Happily the assessment of my chiropractor, my online research and today's diagnosis are all in agreement. Although I think medical professionals are great I tend to want to see a convergence of a number of independent assessments before I get that warm fuzzy feeling about what's going on.

Interestingly here is what seems to have happened:
  • I rested my left elbow on the door armrest for 40+hrs of driving and rough roads on the way up north. This irritated the bursa in my left elbow. By itself this didn't manifest any symptoms.
  • Riding on the rough muddy Dempster compressed my ulnar nerve in the left hand. This may have been aggravated by the size and padding offered by the grip on my bars as well as the fact I don't use my left hand for shifting or grabbing water bottles as I do with my right hand.
  • The vibration/shock from the riding also irritated the bursa in my left arm and it started to swell causing me acute pain in that joint, shutting down my triceps muscle in that arm as a protective measure and compressing my ulnar nerve near the elbow.
  • Some other factors that may have played a part were weight loss removing fatty tissue protecting my joints [I lost quite a bit of weight on this tour] and how I was stretching my neck on the bike [ulnar nerve passes through the left should/neck area].
The bottom line is I'll have a full recovery in the not too distant future...=-)

As far as future tours with the Big Dummy go I think I should be fine keeping the Titec H-bars with the following modifications to my touring setup/routine:
  • watch out for problems like the elbow resting on the door for 40+hrs of driving - who knew?
  • pad the H-bars well and use Ergon Grips.
  • use my left hand for grabbing water bottles so both hands get some time off the bars.
  • changing positions on the bars frequently - although I felt like I was doing this on my tour.
  • eat more calories on tour...hahaha...I'm not sure if the doctors actually suggested that or I'm just bending facts to suit my desires, but I plan on rolling with it...=-)

Frank Cseh

I met Frank twice on my way to and from the Yukon this summer. When he passed through Calgary yesterday he stopped in for a whirlwind visit. Frank is a teacher and is headed home to Toronto on a pretty tight schedule. Luckily he is the type of bike tourist that loves to ride all day so he can rack up some impressive mileage totals.

The regular posters in the Bike Forums Touring Sub-Forum would cringe at Frank's bike as it doesn't meet the belt and suspenders totally overbuilt touring bike specification that is considered essential, but Frank has put thousands of KMs of touring on this rig and it keeps on trucking. To be honest his approach to touring has made me rethink what I carry and how heavy duty my touring bike really needs to be.

Our visit was brief as Frank had many things on his To Do List and didn't want to miss a day of riding. This 63 year old is pretty hardcore! After the obligatory trip to MEC and a hearty all-you-can-eat feast I wrenched on Frank's bike while he worked on his laptop and got his laundry done.

He was up this morning at 6am taking care of a few last minute tasks and was off like a rocket towards Saskatchewan with hopes of tailwinds and even bigger mileage days.

Safe travels Frank....=-)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Batavus Personal Bike

I was helping my friends at Rarified assemble some bikes today. Usually I have to pay for the privilege of building a bike so this was a nice change! I built a couple of Pashleys and 4 Batavus' bikes. Although I can appreciate the theoretically appeal of the old school dutch bikes I don't really love them. However, I do like the modern versions that Batavus is making. A similar riding position, but with modern designs and components.

The bike I liked the best was the Batavus Personal Bike. That's a weird name for a bike, but besides the name the bike is quite nice. It sports a robust [ie. heavy!] step through frame, 3 speed internal hub, lights, fenders, rack & skirt guard. It has two cool security features - 1) a RF ID Tag in the frame so cops can scan the bike and determine if it's stolen 2) the frame serial number incorporated right above the crank big enough to read as you walk by.

The riding position is bolt upright - even more cruiser-ish than my RANS Street. The bike is stable at low and moderate speeds. Easy to pedal despite the weight [I didn't climb any hills] and put a big grin on my face. If was going to get a bike like this I'd probably get the "delivery" version shown below. It has bigger racks and would be ideal for loads not quite huge enough to bother riding the Big Dummy.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Adventures of Ketchup & Mustard

I met Mike & Chris as I was finishing my tour on the Icefield's Parkway a few weeks ago. They are riding their Surly LHTs from Vancouver to NYC. They've made it as far as Michigan so far and are keeping a nice journal on crazyguyonabike.

Safe travels guys....=-)

The Diagnosis...

Cruising on my RANS Street

I went to see my friend who is a chiropractor as well as a cyclist, martial artist and rugby player. I don't have carpal tunnel, but I do have something wrong with my hand and elbow. I'd love to tell you all about it, but I totally got lost in what he was saying. Realizing I was in over my head I I asked the important questions - like "...can I ride a bike?..." and " I need to do anything like ice packs, stretching etc..?..." Being a cyclist himself he wasn't going to ban me from biking. Although he did add I shouldn't ride for excessive periods of time and maybe take a break from the Big Dummy. The good news is they won't have to cut my hand off and install a pirate hook...hahaha...=-)

Looking over my fleet I decided my RANS Street crank forward bike was the ideal ride for the next few days. It's fun and practical for riding around town. It puts very light weight on the hands and is easy to steer without having to grip the bars tightly. So I took the time to add some fenders and lights to it - tasks I've been procrastinating for some time.

I had a friend's BBQ to attend on the other side of downtown and after my loooooong road trip up north the last thing I want to do for the next few weeks is see the inside of a vehicle! So I grabbed the Street and headed out. This bike is not a high speed roadie killer, but it sure is fun when you are in a playful mood and want to explore. On my way to pick up Anna I stopped by the Folk Music Festival to check out the talent and talk to the folks maning the bicycle parking area - very cool idea! Although I said the Street isn't a race bike it is red so naturally I had to at least pretend race folks on the bike paths...=-)

Eventually I got to Anna's place and then to the BBQ where I saw a really old Bike Friday another guest had come on. The party was lots of fun, but by 11pm it was dark - unlike in the Yukon - and I figured if I drank anymore beer I'd be unable to navigate back home. I cranked up my lights and zoomed home with a long detour through the Folk Music Festival again. I was having so much fun just riding around aimlessly I lost track of time. This was my first ride on the Street since I installed some Avid disc brakes and Schwalbe Big Apples. I love having quiet brakes and big comfy tires.

It's nice to be back on a bike was a long 4 days of bikelessness...=-)

Friday, July 25, 2008

I have a dream...

My dream is to have folks stop their cars/RVs and offer me an icy cold beverage when I'm bike touring on a hot day. So far it hasn't happened, but I figure I have to put some energy out there if I want something back. I've given out a couple cases of water and soda so far. Some people I stop and chat with - others I just leave the drinks on the road ahead of them with an encouraging note.

Well I finally had some of that positive energy come back to me reading this blog post. I actually sort of know these folks from their posts on Bike Forums. I'm glad to have had a positive impact on their day.

If you have the means stock your vehicle with some extra drinks & energy bars for cyclists you run into on the road. It's a good thing to be nice to folks you don't know even if you get nothing back, but who knows you might just crest a long hot climb one day and find an icy cold Gatorade waiting for you on the side of the road!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Dempster Highway 1 - Vik 0

I'm back early from my Dempster Highway tour. I got halfway up the Dempster [~449kms] before an acute nerve injury in my left hand rendered me unable to ride - based on my online research sounds like carpal tunnel syndrome. I can't type very well with 1.5 hands so I'll plug away at a tour report slowly and post it when I can. The short version is that the bike worked very well with two notable exceptions: my Selle Anatomica saddle stretched faster than I could adjust it [being replaced under warranty] and the Titec H-bars setup & my left hand obviously had issues. Oddly my right hand is totally fine and I had no problems with my left hand and those bars on other tours. I had lots of fun on and off the bike. The scenery was great and I enjoyed the remoteness of the Dempster. I met quite a few super nice folks on the trip both cyclists and civilians.

My bike is trashed from the mud so I'm going to spend the next couple days cleaning it up and revamping the Titec H-bars with Ergon Grips and padding it as much as I can. I hope this solves the problem as I love these bars for general riding, offroading and cargo hauling. If the problem persists I may switch to drops for tours.

My buddy Joel [the other local Big Dummy owner] also managed to injure himself recently - clearly July was not an auspicious month for Big Dummies! Hopefully we'll both be recovered and be able to ride the Canadian portion of the Great Divide MTB Route in mid-August.

I've posted photos from the trip here.

Friday, July 11, 2008

LHT vs. Sherpa

I rec'd this excellent question from Stewart in Holland and figured the answer would be of interest to other readers so I'm posting it here.

"Basically i am living in Holland, and have the opportunity to buy either a Thorn Sherpa or an LHT - looking for advice on the Sherpa was actually how i stumbled on your blog, but liked the photos and decided to stay a while!! :-) Anyway, i have never even seen either of these 2 bikes 'in the flesh', never mind had the chance to ride them, so when i recalled you had both i thought you'd be the man to go to for thoughts...I want a bike that is fun to ride on for evenings and weekend rides, but that can also handle the rigours of touring (love the look of the Big D, but size-wise it cant happen in Holland!). I'm from Scotland originally, so i ask could both these bikes stand the rigours of a couple of weeks loaded touring back home on sometimes crappy roads? So the bike should be something i can take out and ride even when not touring, but be up to the job when loaded... So what i wanted to ask was what differentiates the Thorn and the LHT - why did you end up with both? to your thinking, do they serve different purposes? Also, if I was to buy a complete LHT bike from the USA, do you know who the best online people are? I assume you know Canadian better, but maybe you know some US ones too? Would you recommend complete - the components look pretty good and the euro v the dollar makes a US complete bike pretty attractive!! Even if changes need to be made, it would still be MUCH cheaper buying from the US... So, appreciate any thoughts and thanks for an earlier reply you made on urban bike clothing - yet to purchase, but now i know how! :-) And again, an entertaining series of blogs you got there... Stewart"

Hi Stewart,

The basic difference between a LHT [I'm assuming you'll be riding a 700c LHT, 56cm frame or larger] and a Thorn Sherpa is the LHT is derived from a road bike and the Sherpa from a mountain bike. You'll notice the LHT has a low BB and a high flat top tube. The Sherpa has a compact frame and sloping top tube which gives you a lot of stand over clearance. Both bikes have room for wide tires, but the Sherpa can take the wider tires & fenders. Both bikes can take all the needed touring parts like racks & fenders. The finish and details on the Sherpa are a bit nicer and it uses better tubing.

Regardless of the differences noted above both bikes can do a lot of the same types of touring without trouble. If I was going to do a lot of high speed paved road touring I'd lean towards the LHT and if I was going more dirt/offroad or 3rd world touring I'd lean towards the Sherpa. In between you can set up the Sherpa to be a paved road touring bike and you can certainly take the LHT on poor/dirt/gravel roads with some wider rubber.

Why did I buy both a LHT & a Sherpa? Well basically I wanted to setup the Sherpa as my expedition touirng bike for offroad/dirt/gravel tours and tours to 3rd world countries where 26" wheels/tires were more readily available.

Why did I sell the Sherpa and keep the LHT? I really fell in love with my Big Dummy and came to realize I would be riding it whenever possible. Since it has 26" wheels and is built for rough/dirt/offroad riding that pretty much is the same use I had planned for the Sherpa. So I sold the Sherpa. I love how my LHT fits me and how it rides - this is totally just a personal thing so your experience may vary. My LHT can handle some rough roads, but I'm keeping it setup as a fast-ish road touring bike which my Big Dummy is not. The LHT & Big Dummy are a good combo and cover all my bike touring needs.

So what do I recommend for you? Well frankly your needs can be easily met by either bike. If you like one better already or you can get a better deal on the LHT go for it. They quite different in how they ride and I am biased towards the LHT as I totally love it so that would be my choice. If you could test ride both I'd say do that and see for yourself which you like. Since you can't test ride them I guess my advice is to think about which you'd rather have a road bike or a mountain bike? The other way to look at it is how much riding will you be doing on pavement and how much on rough/gravel/dirt roads?

Sorry I can't be more definitive, but they really are both excellent choices and can do much of the same riding so it comes down more to what you prefer than one being the right choice and the other the wrong choice. As an example on my 2006 Baja Tour my partner rode a Sherpa and I rode my 700c LHT. We were both happy and had no issues riding together.

BTW - if you'd be getting a smaller LHT with 26" wheels then the difference between the bikes is really getting tiny - at that point just buy on cost, colour or flip a coin!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Tikit Stolen - Ottawa, Ontario

I'm posting this for the owner Ian Clysdale [ian at clysdale dot ca]:

Large black Hyper-Fold Tikit stolen in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
- has front & rear fenders
- serial # 1071

If anyone hears of something similar for sale in the area please let Ian know at the email above or the Ottawa Police [quote case 08-187576]

Hopefully we can help get his Tikit back.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Pre-Tour Bike Maintenance

The roughness of the Dempster Highway has me concerned enough to make sure I check over my Big Dummy really well. Last thing I want is a preventable mechanical problem on this ride.

Tour Food

I'm keeping things simple for my Dempster Highway tour and using dehydrated meals for my main hot meal of the day. This way it will be easy to simply stop and heat some water for dinner then eat it and ride on to camp. By eating away from camp I hope to minimize any bear encounters.

For the rest of my food I'll be eating cold items such as:
  • nuts
  • dried fruit
  • granola bars
  • Cliff Bars
  • chocolate

I'll be shipping half my food to Inuvik for pick up when I get there so I don't have to worry about what sorts of options I'll have for resupply in that small remote town.

What's next?

As I pack up the Thorn Sherpa for shipping to its new owner I'm pondering what I'll take on next as a bike project. My summer is full of travel and touring so nothing will happen until the winter, but I've had a bike project every winter for the last few years. It keeps me sane when the temperatures outside plummet and the snow is falling.

The Sherpa was one such project and although it didn't work out quite as I'd hoped the fact is I did have lots of fun specing and building up this bike. I got to try an interesting frame from the UK and got my friend Kurt out on his first bike tour on the Sherpa. In the end I sold it at a price that recouped most of my costs while giving its new owner a discount over buying new. Ultimately that's a win-win situation in my book.

I'm left with a nice pile of bike parts and some lessons learned about what I want from a 26" wheeled expedition touring bike. My first thought was to get S&S couplers installed in the Big Dummy. This would make it much easier to ship or travel with on tour. I love the Big Dummy so that would be a good investment. However, upon investigating the costs I'd be looking at approximately a $1000 touch to make that happen. That got me thinking perhaps a better idea would be to leave the Big Dummy as is. I can use it for fun rides, hauling cargo and tours I ride or drive to. Instead I'd take the $1000 the S&S coupler project would cost me and build up a MTB + Xtracycle combo.

The advantages to the MTB + Xtracycle project are:
  • I'd end up with two longtail bikes so I could lend one to a friend or ride one while the other was down for repairs.
  • I'd get to compare the Xtracycle to the Big Dummy.
  • I'd have a 26" wheeled touring setup that I could pack into a standard bike box for shipping/flying.
  • I've got loads of Xtracycle accessories I could use them on both bikes.

The disadvantages to the MTB + Xtracycle project are:
  • I'd have to store 2 longtail bikes in my apartment. Totally possible, but I'd need to figure out the best way to do that.
  • I may not love the MTB + Xtracycle as much as the Big Dummy. This is a risk, but the only way to figure that out is to try.
  • The MTB + Xtracycle likely won't ride as well with really crazy big loads as the Big Dummy. This should be okay since the primary job of this rig will be for touring with moderate loads.
Assuming I go ahead with this idea I've come up with a few options:
  • Use my existing Schwinn Moab MTB and just add an Xtracycle. I'm not sure this AL frame is a good choice for Xtracycle duty as it's not particularly stiff. The suspension fork on this bike may not work with my weight more centred on the frame once I add the Xtracycle and I'm not going to spend any $$$ to modify/upgrade this fork.
  • Buy a Surly 1X1 frame and add an Xtracycle for a rigid longtail touring rig. I'd use the parts from the Sherpa to build up the 1X1 using a MTB drivetrain.
  • Same as the 1X1 option above, but get an 80mm travel suspension fork with stiff enough springs to compensate for the added weight on the front end. This would give me a nicely plush rough road/offroad touring rig. I'd probably go with the rigid 1x1 option first to ensure I loved the MTB + Xtracycle rig enough to invest in a suspension fork. I'd also have the option of swapping the rigid fork back in if I was going to fly somewhere and mostly tour on pavement.
  • One thing I'll definitely do is build up this rig with drop bars. That's the one thing I miss on my Big Dummy, but the Titec H-bars make so much sense for handling heavy loads I can't see myself removing them and swapping bars in/out seems way too much like work!
I'm not a 100% on this yet. I'll spend a few months pondering it and enjoying my less bike encumbered apartment for the rest of the summer. Perhaps I'll decide to just stick with the LHT & Big Dummy as my touring machines. I may also go the route of a Bike Friday New World Tourist travel bike as my easily transported touring rig. I've got two more Big Dummy tours on the books this summer [The Dempster Highway & the Canadian Great Divide MTB Route]. I think how these pan out will either motiavte me to have a longtail touring bike I can ship/fly with or make me happy with the Big Dummy as my sole longtail.

Time will tell.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Mosquito Creek Tour Photos

We have some new friends from Korea in Calgary who have never been to the Canadian Rockies. So this weekend a bunch of us got together and went bike camping in the mountains around Lake Louise. Everyone had a blast and we spent lots of time eating & drinking to balance out the riding! Although there was some rain we always managed to be somewhere sheltered when it happened. Clearly the Cycling Gods were happy with us...=-)

I have posted some photos from the trip on Flickr.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Icefield's Parkway Tour Photos

I've loaded photos from last weekend's tour on Flickr.

I'll write a tour report, but for now here is the Coles Notes version:
  • 439kms from Jasper to Lake Louise and back along the Icefields Parkway
  • 3 days were super hot and sunny
  • the last day was just regular hot and overcast
  • loads of climbing and frequent headwinds
  • 2 grizzly bears
  • 1 black bear
  • dozens of deer, elk & mountain goats
  • 3 dangerously aggressive ground squirrels..=-)
  • zero flats or broken spokes
  • non-stop gorgeous views
  • loads of smiles
I can't wait to go back!

Selling my Thorn Sherpa [frame & fork only]


After much deliberation I've decided to sell my Thorn Sherpa frame & fork. It's a great bike, but there is too much overlap with my Big Dummy and frankly I love riding the longtail so much I just don't see the Sherpa getting much use. The Sherpa is too nice a bike to let sit and gather dust so I'd like to get it out to someone who'll put lots of miles on it.

If you want to read more about why I'm selling it click here.

Here is what you get:
  • Thorn Sherpa 535L frame & fork in excellent condition [less than 600kms on it]
  • FSA Orbit XL headset
  • Shimano square taper BB [if you don't plan on using this I'll just keep it]
  • Thorn seat post
To read a review of this frame click here.

For specs and other details click here.

I'll ship it to your door anywhere in North America for $800USD which is the current MSRP. You save the shipping from the UK and customs/duties charges from the UK. Given the widespread cost increases on bikes I'd expect this frame to go up in price within the next few months.

I'll be away on tour and other holidays for about a month starting next Friday. If I receieve payment by Tuesday AM [8 July] I'll get the frame shipped to you before next Friday. If not I won't be back until mid to late August and will ship it then.

BTW - the price is not negotiable. If I don't get $800USD for it I'll just keep the bike to loan out to friends that don't have a touring rig.

Ortlieb QL2 Double Hook

I use my Ortlieb panniers on a number of different racks. Sometimes I need the lower hooks on the upper track of the QL2 mounting system and sometimes on the lower track. The trouble is this switch takes some tools and 5-8 mins of your time - too much hassle for a quick run to the grocery store. So I ordered an extra set of hooks and put two on my panniers from Wayne at he Touring Store. They adjust without tools so you can dial them into any rack in seconds. I use the setup above on my OMM Cold Springs racks - where I engage both hooks for uber security. Normally I'll just use one or the other.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Coffee Ride 2 July 08

Our weekly coffee ride was super fun with a few new people out - including:
  • Paul on his RANS V-REx
  • Andrew on his electrified and Xtra'd-out Rocky Mtn
  • Molly on her Electra Townie 21 that was really an ELECTRA!

Thanks for letting me try your cool bikes Andrew & Molly. I'm not ready for electric biking yet, but you've planted the seed...=-) I hope to see you guys and Paul back out for future rides.

I've put some photos up on Flickr.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Surly's are gonna cost more...

It's true all Surly frames and bikes are going up in price - including the LHT. So if you've wanted one for a while and can find old stock at the lower price you might want to jump on it.