Archive for the ‘Gear’ Category

There’s a group of cyclists that gathers early every Friday morning (7-9 AM, rain or shine) in various spots in the Vancouver area to chat, talk bikes, and brew coffee. I’ve been following their Instagram account for a while, and I finally managed to make one of their meet ups.

I’m headed down the hill from UBC. Looks like a bit of wildfire haze to accompany a day where the high is going to be 33°C.

This week they picked a nice spot off False Creek: Habitat Island.

Stoves and coffee makers of various vintages very much in evidence.

Great to touch base with Morgan whom I met a couple of years ago in line for the ferry on my way to visit Sam Whittingham.

Morgan to the left, not Morgan to the right. Height difference greatly exaggerated by wide angle lens.

Morgan writes for the Radavist, and if you want to see some lovely pictures of drool worthy bikes, visit his instagram feed.

Lots of very interesting bikes. Here is a brand new Riese and Muller Packster cargo bike with a sturdy recycled plastic tub.

I like this vintage Stumpjumper citified with fenders and basket. Note the Blue Lug sticker.

That is a wide range cassette.

A nice variety of bags on this bike.

Nice to chat with such a friendly group while being able to check out all the bike geekery at the same time. If you are interested in joining in, their meet ups are announced on their instagram.

Postscript: I was told about a social bike ride that starts from Kissing Crows Cyclery every Sunday at 9 am. Regrettably, I didn’t follow their instagram feed so I didn’t get the notice that the ride was cancelled this weekend. Looks like a pretty interesting shop.

At any rate, it was a nice ride out there to and from UBC. Here is Nat Bailey Stadium.

A Sprinter Van and a Subaru van (Japanese import)

I am in my happy place biking back through Pacific Spirit Park.

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I started having an issue with my cargo bike where the chain would come off of the chainring when I pushed hard on the pedals. This was especially inconvenient when I would be doing something like a Toronto Bike Brigade delivery,

or hauling a 7 foot Ikea bookcase.

One thought that I had was that the chainring was getting pretty shark toothed. Time to replace the chainring. When you don’t have a pin wrench, you improvise.

Digging through my toolbox, I was pleased to find my old crank remover.

Interestingly enough, the wear on the chainring was most severe at 90° out of phase with the crank arms, i.e. pulling on the chain with the cranks in the horizontal position.

Here is where things went wrong. I had the took to prevent the chainring bolt nuts from turning

but much as I tried, I could not get 3 of the five chainring bolts undone. This is what multiple winters of salt does to a crankset.

Plan B: I happened to have a spare Alfine crankset with integral BB. Perfect since I noticed that my current BB had a bit of play.

Not having all the right tools to deal with the BB, I had master mechanic Geoffrey do the BB replacement and crankset installation.

Very nice.

As a bonus, this particular crankset has a double sided chain guard.

I can’t really complain. Today was ride #1200 on the Haul a Day, with over 12K km, so it was high time that I gave it a little TLC.

Also nice to spend some time with Geoffrey while not on a ghost bike ride.

Keep on trucking’ folks.

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On several of our family rides down to the lake on the tandem, we’ve often thought that it would be nice to have Lucy along. The issue is that the usual way that I carry Lucy is with the cargo bike.

In principle we could put a basket on the back or the front of the tandem, but Lucy hates being in the back, and I didn’t see any obvious choices among the front baskets that were available that could take a 17 lb dog.

That’s when I rediscovered the Buddy Rider. It looked heavy and expensive, but seeing that it was a Canadian company made it an attractive enough buy for me.

This thing is not light.

However, it looks very well made, and it includes these bolts precoated with threadlock.

Lucy wonders what’s going on during a test fitting.

It says repeatedly in the instructions and on this sticker that the support is not to be used with a carbon seat post. I suppose that’s for liability reasons, but I also can’t image anyone wanted to bolt something that weights over 2 kg to a bike with a carbon seat post.

One thing I did not fully appreciate is that the seat effectively raised the top tube height above the level of the saddle. This makes getting on the tandem a bit of a chore. Also you can’t come forward off of the saddle at a stop so I had to lower the seat a bit so that I could get both feet on the ground. On a regular bike this would be less of a problem since you could swing your leg over the back of the bike. The instructions do say that you should mount the seat as high and as far forward as possible to minimize interference with peddling the bike.

Thankfully when the seat is dismounted, the remaining piece of the mount is very unobtrusive.

Maiden voyage. Lucy doesn’t look very impressed but I can see that this is going to be fun. I didn’t sense any handling problems, and Lucy is well under the stated 25 lb limit for the seat.

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I’ve been a bit of a sucker for bike helmets on kickstarter, having previously purchased the original Torch helmet, as well as the Classon. My third such kickstarter helmet arrived this week: the Lumos Ultra. As a company, Lumos has been around for a while, and this is the third or fourth helmet that they have released, after the original helmet with lights, a simpler and cheaper version, and two versions of an urban helmet, with one of them having a customizable dot matrix display. Their latest is the ultra, which hits a price point that is lower than the original model.

It arrived this week, in a box with plastic reinforcements on the corners.

This is the box inside the box.

Open sesame.

This is what is in the box.

  • A: optional visor
  • B: regular remote with coin cell battery. Also the charging cord for the helmet
  • C: the optional smart remote that activates the brake light feature.
  • D: a bug net

Inside the envelope:

Helmet weighs 420 g. This is the M/L size, with the MIPS feature.

Just a little bit more with the visor installed.

It is no lightweight, but it is not that much heavier than the helmet I am using now. Also as a point of reference, the Torch lighted helmet weighed 350-370g.

Here is a video of the turn signal feature

Overall, I’m quite impressed with how well the helmet is finished. One thing I particularly like is the fact that the taillights are a row of surface mount LEDs.

One oddity was the fact that there is no indicator light that turns on while the helmet is charging.

Here is a comparison with my old Torch helmet that I can finally put out to pasture.

After dark.

The helmets are equally bright to the naked eye.

One of the selling points of the original Torch design was that the lights were visible from the side. Here you can see that the Lumos is also lit up from the side.

It took a bit of searching on the Lumos website to figure out how to charge the smart remote. It has a proprietary cable with a magnetic attachment.

The helmet also comes with an app that allows you to customize the flashing patterns. It is also supposed to be able to turn on and off the automatic brake light feature, but I haven’t managed to figure that out yet.

I was quite excited when I first ordered the helmet back in June. In terms of delivery time, the original promise was Nov 2020, but there was a delay due to a necessary revision to the MIPS liner, which is why I didn’t get the helmet until after the part of the year when my commute would be in the dark.

However, I am pleased with the helmet. The kickstarter campaign offered a wide range of colours, and I like the papaya version that I got. It seems comfortable, and I like the built in visor. I’ll have to report back when I’ve ridden with it for a while.

In the meantime, Torch appears to have a new version of their helmet on kickstarter, but I have a hard time believing that it will be competitive with the Lumos Ultra.

and I have to admit that I have yet another crowdfunded helmet that is inbound, but it is way overdue, and it remains to be seen if it will ever materialize. This will be the last crowdfunded helmet I buy, I promise 😉

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GPS weirdness

Lately I’ve been noticing that some of the GPS tracks I’ve been getting from my iPhone 12 mini have been really inaccurate, and this is particularly bad on short rides. Take a look at the track for this ride.

Consulting the internet hive mind didn’t really provide an explanation, so this morning I decided to do a short ride with three devices running in parallel: the iPhone 12 mini, my old iPhone 6s, and my Garmin Edge 530. You can see the three tracks here:

The data from the the two phones was close, aside from the fact that I forgot to turn on stop detection for the 6s, hence the slightly longer ride time.

The track was most accurately captured by the 6s, but the 12 was very close. The weird thing was that the track for the Garmin was offset by about two blocks, and was also distorted with the tracks not following roads at all. For this test, I was riding my commuter bike which does not have a Garmin mount, so I just had it vertically in a bar water bottle bag.

I decided to run a second test, this time with the Garmin mounted horizontally, and it tracked the ride accurately, along the same line as the 12 mini.

This left the mystery has to why my iPhone 12 was not showing the earlier problem. I thought that it might be because the earlier data was taken with the phone stashed in a handlebar bag where it was in close proximity to the metal drop bar, so I ran a variation of the northern route shown in the first picture with the phone in the bag again.

Once again, an accurate track.

Preliminary conclusions:

  • The Garmin seems to require being mounted horizontally, whereas the iPhones do not.
  • I do not understand the bad GPS data that I was getting from the iPhone 12 mini as that problem seems to have gone away for the moment. The only thing that I can think of is that I toggled location services back and forth from “only while using the app” to “always” for today’s first test” and then back to the original setting.
  • I’ll keep an eye out for the iPhone 12 misbehaving again.


I’ve figured out that I get bad data if I have my phone in my pocket while pedalling as opposed to in a stationary water bottle holder. You can see the difference in these two traces.

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Schwalbe aerothan tubes

Schwalbe and Tubolito are two companies that have released tubes made from a polymer material that is quite different from a rubber tube. They claim to be much lighter than regular tubes, and they also are much smaller in packed volume. It is the latter thing that induced me to give the Schwalbe version a try.

Here is a size comparison of the Aerothan tube (in 700 x 40 size) with a comparable butyl rubber tube.

Now sans packaging.

This is the main reason I wanted the new tube. When you have a relatively small handlebar bag, a smaller spare tube makes a difference.

In terms of weight:

70 grams per wheel is nothing to sneeze at. On the other hand, it seems a bit ridiculous to be counting grams when I have a handlebar bag that weighs 679 grams.

The box claimed a weight of 61 g, so I reweighed the Aerothan without the rubber band and valve cap.

Still a bit more than advertised.

Old versus new tube.

I also saw while replacing the rear tire that my fender does touch the tire occasionally, despite the tweak to increase clearance. I bet this is because it is not braced well in the vertical direction, and that when I bunny hop those speed bumps at Tommy Thompson, the top of the fender might flex downwards.

It’ll take a while to see if the new tube makes a difference, but for the moment I am glad that I have more space in my handlebar bag.

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Route Werks is a small company based in Rhode Island that launched an incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign for a handle bar bag. It looked pretty slick and also about the right size for my needs so I was one of many backers of the campaign.

In fact, the campaign was so successful that it was the subject of many scams. I kept seeing images of the bag being offered on Facebook for the low low price of around $35, and every time it came up on my feed, I reported it. Apparently several different companies were involved in these scams.

Delivery was promised for January 2021, and they actually started shipping in March, which in kickstarter terms is spectacularly on time. Mine arrived a few days ago.

I’m no student of logistics, but I found it curious that the bag was shipped form China via Sweden. Not complaining as it arrive without additional duty or taxes.

My order included a small saddlebag and two handlebar stubs.

Should I be disturbed that the instructions don’t indicate the difference between force and torque?

The weight of the bag with mount, but no accessories. This is definitely not an item for weight weenies.

Here is the weight of the bag that it is replacing: a Porcelain Rocket Nigel. I’m throwing in the weight of the Garmin mount to be fair.

Here is the Nigel on the bike.

Here is the same three views of the new bag.

The outside dimensions of the two bags are similar.

However, there is no question that the Nigel can carry much more stuff. We’ll see if all the nice compartments in the new bag are useful enough to justify the smaller capacity and the extra weight.

The mount is very slick and solid. Note that it is only compatible with 31.8 mm diameter bars as supplied.

Here’s all my regular stuff crammed into the new bag with no attempt to organize at the moment. Note that one of the rear pockets is just big enough to fit my iPhone 12 mini while making it possible to still close the lid. I’m assuming that the much larger front internal pocket is meant for phones.

There is a pocket that is suspended from the underside of the lid with shock cords. I’m guessing that they did this in order to prevent rigid objects from rattling against the lid.

Just for reference, that mini pump that just fits into the bag is 22 cm long.

On my first ride with the bag I was pleased to report no rattling, although there is a bit of drumming from the rigid lid when you go over bumps. It doesn’t make any more creaking than my fenders. The clearance for this hand position is nice; something that I didn’t have with the Nigel.

Today I decided to mount the handlebar stubs, and I ran into an issue. The width of the bag with both stubs attached is 30 cm.

I have handlebars with a nominal 40 cm width so the stubs were too close to the drops.

Noe that on their website, the company is careful to show pictures of the bag with much wider bars.

image from Route Werks

I remounted the bag off to one side, and used only one of the stubs, which I will probably use for a daytime running light. Even so, over some bumps, my knuckles were hitting the bar stub over some bumps when I was on the hoods.

Unfortunately, the saddle bag is nothing to write home about, and it came with very thin webbing. The company has indicated that they will be shipping better straps out to all customers.

Overall, I am very impressed with the quality of the bag. I do appreciate the fact that everything is bolted rather than riveted together, which in principle means that the bag is easier to repair. I’ll be putting some more miles on the bag to see how I like it.

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fiddling with fenders

Late last year I put fenders on the Naked bike. However, the fender clearance was really tight in the back, and this would cause occasional rubbing.

With the weather turning warmer, and the road salt gone, I finally got around to fixing the issue. Here you can see evidence of the tire rubbing against the inside of the rear fender. At this point, I had already used a Dremel to cut a clearance hole for the bolt that secures the front derailleur mount.

With the hole cut, the fender can be moved probably about 5 mm closer to the seat tube.

Clearance is much better now.

The other issue that I’ve had was the rear fender mounting bolts working loose, and in fact I’ve lost two of the pretty anodized purple bolts that came with the bike.

Got some replacements from Wolf Tooth, and this time I’m using lock washers as well. Since everything they sell is made in the USA, there is no duty and cross border shipping is smooth and fast.

While I was at it, I took the winter tires off the cargo bike.

I actually store the winter tires with the tubes in place, which keeps the Mr Tuffy tire liners in place.

Still lots of good wear in these tires. I’ve had them since the winter of 2017, so that’s five winters so far.

Happy spring riding, everyone!

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Kitsbow review

It being the first weekend of spring with lots of sun, it was a great time to debut some gear that I just got. Kitsbow is a company in North Carolina that makes high quality outdoor clothing. Initially what put them on my radar screen was a very positive review of a wool knicker that they made. I was searching for a replacement for my much loved Swobo wool knickers that were getting a little long in the tooth. Unfortunately, by the time I found the review, they no longer made the product.

However, another thing caught my eye on their website: a shirt made out of Pendleton wool that was designed and tailored for cyclists. My favourite navy blazer has a nice detail called a bi-swing back that allows for more freedom of movement. Many companies selling “sporty” blazers opt instead for stretch fabrics, but that never really did it for me. Kitsbow’s icon shirt had similar detailing on the shoulders. Additionally, since I like to support companies that don’t offshore production, I decided to order one.

Here is the shirt on delivery for the Bike Brigade. The quality of the shirt is immediately apparent. I anticipate getting many many years out of it. The sleeves are also cut nice and long. It doesn’t hurt that the wife likes the look of the shirt.

When I was ordering the shirt, I saw that Kitsbow had a new version of their merino knicker and I couldn’t resist. You can see from the label that the wool content in the knickers is pretty low.

Compare it to the tag from my Swobo knickers (circa 2000), showing that they are 85% wool.

I’ve ridden with the Kitsbow knickers on a two hour 5°C ride, and they were just fine. I have no idea if the wool makes any difference at all. They seem a bit less warm than my Swobos, but the wind blocking patches over the knees do a nice job of keeping your knees warm. They are also cut quite a bit longer than my Swobos, covering almost half of my calves. The chamois is much nicer than my ancient Swobos, if not quite as nice at the one in my 7mesh cargo bib shorts. In summary: finally a worthy replacement for my Swobos.

Today I was riding in top and bottom Kitsbow with the knickers and the icon shirt.

The wool of the shirt was dense enough that I had no issues with the wind coming off of the lake (it was about 10°C this afternoon).

The only small quibble that I had was that the pockets were too small to hold a phone. Granted I imagine that this shirt is meant to go with shorts with pockets, and if they make the chest pockets big enough to hold any size phone, they would look odd. Still, just another half inch of depth and my iPhone 12 mini would fit perfectly. Just sayin’

I also added one of their masks to the order.

Their masks come in many sizes, and as a result, this is the best fitting mask that I have found. No mask completely eliminates fogging, but this one does a really good job. This particular model is made from Merino wool, but I don’t think that makes much difference since the inner lining is cotton. There is enough volume and structure to the mask that the inner surface is held away from your mouth. This model has a sewn in filter. I’m wishing that I had ordered more than one of these.

I was concerned about the design of the round the head straps, but I was able to find a position for the toggles that didn’t interfere with wearing a helmet.

The shirt and knickers were a belated Christmas present. Apparently they were slammed with orders in December, and so my order on Boxing Day took until last week to arrive. They make their items on demand. I will say that if you do sign up for their mailing list, you will get a lot of promotional emails. On the other hand, their customer service is first rate; any questions that I had were answered within a day.

In summary, I’m a happy customer. The shirt in particular was not cheap by any means, but it has already become one of my favourite pieces of clothing, and I’m thinking of it as an investment.

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Oakley MSK3 review: not recommended

One of the biggest issues that I’ve had while biking during the pandemic is whether or not to wear a mask. In particular during cold weather, fogging of glasses has been a huge issue for me. The best solution that I’ve found so far is to use a disposable mask with a strip of first aid tape across the nose.

Here is me after a 35 minute commute in about -8°C weather. No fogging.

However, this solution is less than ideal since repeated use of the first aid tape caused skin irritation. There were some positive reviews of a high end mask from Oakley, the MSK3, so I decided to check it out. Note: $74 in Canada.

Here is a user video review showing unboxing, etc, so I won’t bother going through all the details.

His conclusion is that it does a pretty good job of preventing fogging.

However, my experience was quite different, and I imagine it is because I have a relative low nose. Here is me after a ride under more or less the same conditions.

Lots of fogging, just in case you couldn’t tell.

However, as the video above makes clear, it does work for some people.

I have a couple of small notes about the mask. It comes with two filters, one disposable, and the other reusable. They almost look the same; you have to look at the labels on the bag, and also the reusable one has two strips of velcro on the sides.

The other thing is that the replacement filters are also not cheap but I did notice that they were very similar in shape to KN95 masks that are readily available for about $1 each. I’ll be trimming one down to see if it fits.

I will note that the KN 95 mask is quite a bit thicker than the filters supplied by Oakley, and the Oakley mask package has lots of lawyereaze to assert that they make no guarantees about the protective properties of the mask.

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