BikeCommuters.com

Tag Archive: bike commuting

Bicycle Bash by the Bay — Tomorrow!

It’s almost here…the 2nd annual Bicycle Bash by the Bay.

Come say howdy if you’re in the Tampa Bay area…the event is tomorrow (November 4) at Vinoy Park in downtown St. Petersburg and will run from 11AM until 4PM.

This event is shaping up to be HUGE this year, too. More demos, food vendors, bike shops and advocacy groups than you can shake a frame pump at!!!

Hope to see you there — and if you come say hello, you might even get your pretty face featured on this very website (I’m packing a camera and I’m not afraid to use it)!

Just Ask Jack — Foglights for Bikes?

Quinn sent in the following question:

“What is a good fog headlight? I have a 5-LED Cat Eye on my bars, and the fog hit tonight and I had about a 20ft visibility. Not Fun!”

That’s a good question, Quinn! As I researched this, Quinn and I suspected that a low-mounted, tight-beamed light would be the ideal “fog cutter”, but despite my proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and the high humidity here in Florida, it’s never foggy here, so I was really just guessing at this point.

So, I recruited someone I KNEW would have some excellent insight to this problem: champion of bicycle advocacy, low-budget bike tinkerer extraordinaire and fellow blogger Kent Peterson. Apparently, things tend to be a bit foggy in the Pacific Northwest where Kent does a lot of his riding. Here’s what he had to say:

“It was a foggy ride in this morning so I got a chance to double check my thoughts on this. So here are a couple of things.

Yep, a tight beam is what you want for fog. My choice would be a Planet Bike Blaze headlight and a Planet Bike Super Flash for the rear. In fog, backscatter from helmet lights can be a problem so I often don’t use my helmet light when it’s foggy. It’s best to have a light mounted as low as you can. Something like a Terracycles mount will let you put a light down on the fork.”

In the meantime, Quinn tried a setup on his bike. Here’s a picture of the low-mounted light (sorry for the grainy photos — unlike his namesake “Q” from the James Bond movies, OUR Q only has a PDA-based camera instead of a bag full of high tech goodies!):

The low-mounted light

Kent mentioned some problems with a helmet-mounted light creating “backscatter” — much like a car’s headlights in the fog, lights mounted at eye level tend to make vision worse rather than better in the fog. I suppose this is why a car’s foglights are mounted low…often well below the bumper. It appears the trick is to get light under the fog to improve distance vision. In the picture below, Quinn shows both a fork-mounted light and a handlebar-mounted light. Perhaps the handlebar-mounted light should be shut off during heavy fog rides?

High and low lights

The only drawback to riding with only the low-mounted light on is the “be seen” aspect of bicycle lights. Running with only the low-mounted light on may not allow oncoming cars to see you as well, or they may not be able to perceive what or where exactly you are in dense fog (“What on earth is that low light creeping along the ground?”).

It seems to me that being well-lit from the rear (for overtaking cars) is more important in fog than for oncoming motorists to see you and your lights. In this case, I wholeheartedly second Kent’s recommendation of the Planet Bike “Super Flash”…I run one on my dedicated commuter bike, and that little light packs a BIG whallop — an intense, far-reaching blast of light!

Don’t forget, also, wearing as much reflective gear as you can — and throw some DOT reflective tape on parts of your bike, too. There is no such thing as being “too conspicous” out there!

Thanks, Quinn, for the question, and special thanks to Kent Peterson for his insight!

Have a cycling-related question? Just Ask Jack! Click on the link in the right-hand column to send me your questions.

Dropout Spacing, Axle Spacers and Hubs for Old Bikes

I was talking with Jeff about his new Sekine project the other day, and he was curious about how to fit wheels into this old frame — he had tried a modern set of wheels off his road bike, and the hub was way too wide to fit between the dropouts.

I told him that I was having a related problem with an old bike that I resurrected. In my case, though, I had a hub that fit just fine between the dropouts, but I had to add axle spacers to “build out” the proper “over-locknut dimension” (O.L.D.) so everything fit properly. Over time, though, I found out that my axle spacers were causing me some problems. I had some old 1mm thick axle spacers in my spare parts boxes, and they were no longer viable — they were warped or something, so I couldn’t adjust an excessive amount of play out of my rear hub bearings…I decided to remove them and reset my frame’s dropout spacing to fit the “native” 120mm O.L.D.

The culprits: old axle spacers that were no longer flat, causing excessive play in the bearings.

Old axle spacers

To respace a frame, you will need a length of threaded rod (“allthread”), some large washers and nuts to fit the rod, and an accurate metric ruler or precision calipers. I used 3/8″ allthread since it was closest to the diameter of the hub axle I am using.

Start out by taking the rear wheel out of the frame and measuring the dropout spacing from the inside face to the opposite inside face, like so:

Measuring dropout spacing

Here, it shows a spacing of 126mm. The second step is to insert the allthread and washers into the dropouts as shown below:

Allthread ready to push those chainstays together!

Simply crank on the nuts with an appropriate wrench — and do it evenly…a half-turn on each side at a time so everything stays aligned. Remove the allthread and washers periodically to check your progress. You may have to go pretty far past your “target” width so the chainstays and dropouts finish off at the appropriate distance. I squeezed my frame down to about 105mm before the respacing “took”, leaving me with a perfect 120mm spacing. Once the axle spacers were removed from my hub, I was able to get rid of the bearing play and everything was rock-solid once again!

Want to spread out your rear triangle rather than squeezing it down? Simply install the allthread with the washers on the INSIDES of the dropouts and twist those nuts accordingly.

I should add at this point that this method only works with steel frames. While it can be done to a certain degree with an aluminum bike frame, I don’t really recommend it — if you only have to squeeze or spread the dropouts a couple millimeters, it’s probably OK to use this method on an aluminum frame. DO NOT attempt this method on a carbon frame, though, unless you really want to break something!

For Jeff’s application, I think a “flip-flop” hub might be a perfect solution — plenty of room on the axle for proper spacers, if needed (just buy NEW spacers that you know are flat!), and room for a 5 or 6-speed cluster on the freewheel side of the hub.

The other thing Jeff wanted to do was go from the Sekine frame’s native 27″ wheels down to a more modern and versatile set of 700c wheels. Going to 700c wheels is better in the long run because there is much better availability of tires and rims for this size.

Doing the swap is easy enough to do, since 700c wheels are a bit smaller in diameter and will easily fit into such a frame. The one sticking point, though, might be finding brakes that have enough “reach” to work with the new, smaller wheels. Sheldon Brown offers a kludgy, but acceptable brake drop method, but I think it is a bit more elegant to find appropriate long-reach brakes…Ebay might be a good source, or you could always go for a modern set of Tektro long-reach badboys.

I want to add in a plug for fellow Floridians and master wheel builders Bicyclewheels.com. For about $100 or so, you can buy a handbuilt, rock-solid set of wheels. I went for their bottom-shelf 700c flip-flop set with Formula hubs on Weinmann rims…not expecting too much, but I can say that I’ve BEAT on these wheels: rolling down stairs, riding on 2 miles of cobblestones every day that I commute, etc. The wheels are still as true as the day they came in the mail!

So, get out there and tinker…there’s lots of good stuff you can do right at home to bring an old frame back to life, even with more modern components!

Extra! Extra! Weekly News Recap

Sometimes we get too buried in the negativity of network news (war, corrupt politicians, celebrities, you know the type…), and it seems hard to find positive, enjoyable stories. In an effort to, as Monty Python says, “Always look on the bright side of life…,” I present you with the following:

  • NYC Michael Bloomberg has been trying to impose a “Congestion Charge” in the streets of New York City to entice people to use alternate transportation and thereby alleviate the nightmare that is NYC traffic. London has had such a charge since 2003, and since then has seen a 43% increase in bike commuting. TreeHugger.com examines whether these two events are related.
  • The Bicycle: most energy efficient mode of transportation.
  • A fellow Phoenix desert-dweller tells a pleasant story about why she bike commutes.
  • Want to not get side-swiped by an 18 wheeler? Just smile and wave
  • Here’s an opportunity to help organized cycling advocacy stay alive. Give the Bicycle Transportation Alliance your support for their public service announcement commercials on bike commuter awareness.
  • This one may not only be about bike commuting, but it makes for a great story nonetheless. My good friends Sam and Stephen have published their first book: New Day Revolution: How to Save the World in 24 Hours. The book attempts to impact great change (smarter consumption, more community, cleaner and friendlier world, etc.) by inspiring each person to make simple changes, that when added altogether, make a big difference. But here’s the big win with this book: instead of whining or complaining, it actually gives you real solutions and real ways to make change for the better. I’ll give a prize (yet to be determined) to the first person who can find my name in the book. This tome is the brainchild of their organization, CoolPeopleCare:

Since we’re in the business of change, we wanted to put a new spin on this old idea. But we didn’t just want to rename or rebrand something. We wanted to rethink it. We wanted to reimagine the idea, not for the sake of marketing, but for the sake of success.

Come back every Thursday for a recap of what is going on in the world of bike commuting. Until then, happy riding!

It’s Coming Next Sunday…

…the 2nd annual “Bicycle Bash by the Bay“, that is.

Bikecommuters.com will be there with giveaways from our friends at KHS Bicycles, “bike suitability maps” of Hillsborough County provided by the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization and assorted other goodies.

There will also be a bunch of bike shops, food vendors and bicycle advocacy groups there, so if you’re in the Tampa Bay area, come on by and say “Howdy”. You might even get a chance to win something!

The Bicycle Bash by the Bay will be at Vinoy Park in downtown St. Petersburg next Sunday, the 4th of November, from 11AM until 4PM. See you there!