How to stiffen the suspension on a Brompton folding bike

Brompton folding bikes have a miniature shock absorber between the seat post and the rear wheel. This suspension block, in Brompton parlance, is a solid cylinder of hard, black, rubber-like material that’s about an inch and a half (38 mm) in diameter and just under two inches (50 mm) long. When you go over a bump, it squishes a little, expands in the middle, and smoothes out the ride a bit. Even though I got the firmer of the two suspension blocks that Brompton offered, it still squished too much for my tastes and gave the Brompton a bouncier ride than I wanted.

Brompton suspension block

My local Ace Hardware had the solution to this problem back in the plumbing section: flexible coupling, which is a hollow tube of black, rubber-like material that I could slide over the suspension block and secure with a circular clamp. (At Ace, they call it tubular drain connector, but the standard plumbing term is coupling.) The clamp reduces the amount by which the suspension block can expand in the middle when you go over a bump; reducing the amount of expansion reduces the amount of bounce. The clamp alone, without the black tube, would have solved the problem, but I was afraid that, over time, the sharp edges of the clamp would cut into the suspension block.

Coupling

Couplings come in lots of sizes, including some that are labeled with the same dimensions but that nevertheless have different inside diameters. The important part is that the opening (the inside diameter) must match the outside diameter of the suspension block. My suspension block is an inch and a half across, so I got a coupling whose opening is an inch and a half across:

Inside diameter of coupling

If you can’t find a coupling of the correct size, you could probably find other materials that would serve the same purpose, for example, radiator hose for a car and a hose clamp.

Continue reading How to stiffen the suspension on a Brompton folding bike

Why I ride a Brompton folding bike

Riding in Red Square on the University of Washington campus

This is Practical Biking, not Practical Folding Biking, so I’ve resisted the temptation to ramble on about my delightfully practical Brompton folding bike, but Velouria over at Lovely Bicycle wrote an homage to the Brompton a while back, and she’d only taken a quick jaunt. (More recently, she gave a Brompton a two-day test ride.) Alan, over at EcoVelo, also has waxed enthusiastic about Bromptons, and his enticing photos will have you searching for the nearest Brompton dealer. It’s long past time for me to weigh in with my own experiences.

Folding bike in Shanghai (not a Brompton)

I bought a Brompton because I wanted to start driving less. I’m the poster child for urban carlessness—I don’t have kids to ferry all over creation, I’m in reasonably good shape, I like to bike and walk, I don’t need to drive for my job, I live in a city with a good bus system, I can read on the bus without getting queasy, the buses all have bike racks—and yet I was frittering away 10,000 miles, hundreds of hours, and buckets of money each year behind the wheel of a car. A combination of bike and bus could get me anywhere in town, but I was afraid of getting stuck: eventually I’d encounter a bus with a full bike rack just when I could least afford to be late. What then?

Enter the Brompton. I’d first noticed folding bikes (also known as “folders”) during a trip to China. Back home again, I researched folders and looked into whether I could take one inside buses in the Seattle area. (Yes.) Time and again, I ran across favorable mentions of Bromptons even in reviews of other folders, and the short list of dealers in the U.S. at the time (now much longer) included one in Seattle. After a couple of test rides at Folding Bikes West, I asked Eric to order one for me. Ever since it arrived, the Brompton has been my ride of choice.

Right: Seeing folks on folders all over China, like this pair in Shanghai, started me thinking about whether a folder could be useful back home. (They’re not riding a Brompton.)

Why do I love my Brompton? Let me count the ways.

A Brompton rides much like a full-sized bike

For many years, I rode an old Schwinn Le Tour touring bike. After I got the Brompton, I expected that I’d switch between the two depending on whether I needed the convenience of foldability. However, the ride and the convenience of the Brompton made the Le Tour superfluous, so I moved it to the attic, where it resides to this day.

The 16″ wheels make a Brompton more sprightly at low speeds and more skittish at high speeds on rough surfaces, but as long as the road is in reasonably good shape, I can happily ride at 30 miles an hour/48 kilometers an hour or more on a downhill. You have to be more attentive to potholes, road debris, and other obstacles because, for example, a 16″ wheel will drop further into a pothole than a 26″ or 27″ wheel will. If you’re accustomed to the feel of a heavy, stable mountain bike or commuting bike, the ride of a Brompton might startle you at first. I spent a week on a heavily loaded mountain bike in September of 2010, and when I got home and hopped on the Brompton, the difference in the ride was like swapping a moving van for a Miata.

Brompton saddle pin adapter

The relative positions of seat, pedals, and handlebars on a Brompton are similar to those positions on the Le Tour, so the Brompton doesn’t feel small. If anything, I had to stretch out a little more than I was accustomed to, so I added an adapter that allowed me to mount the seat a smidge further forward (see the arrow in the picture at right), and I tilted the handlebars a wee bit toward me. Neither of these changes affected my ability to fold the bike.

Inexplicably, some bikers are weirded out by what they perceive as the nerd factor of a bike with 16″ wheels, which I never considered until Alan did a survey. In my own experience, people have far more often admired its convenience (and cuteness) than they’ve sniffed at its appearance. Methinks the sniffers, and those who worry about the sniffers, just need more imagination.

Right: A key to the clutter on my seatpost. From the top:

  • Brompton offers a Brooks saddle, but this isn’t it. I like the additional comfort afforded by the springs on a Brooks B67.
  • At arrow: The Brompton saddle pin adapter lets you adjust the seat further forward or further back than you could by sliding it fore and aft on the seat rails alone.
  • The quick-release clamp secures the top part of a two-part, telescoping seatpost. At 5’10″, I was a smidge too tall for the standard seatpost, which proved to be a stroke of luck. Bromptonauts on the BromptonTalk group on Yahoo occasionally ask how to determine how high to raise the seatpost when unfolding the bike. When I bought the bike, I raised the bottom (longer) part of the two-part post all the way, set the top part to a comfortable height, and then forgot about it. Now I raise and lower only the bottom part. (Access to BromptonTalk requires a free Yahoo membership.)
  • A Planet Bike blinky buttlight. The Planet Bike products I’ve used (several blinky buttlights and a floor pump) have been of high quality, and Planet Bike gives 25% of their profits to bike advocacy, so I’m glad to give them my business.
  • The stub for the Xootr CrossRack. With the two-part seatpost, I can easily flip this around to the back when I want to use the rack and still point the seat forward. See You can carry oodles of stuff on a Brompton.

Gearing compensates for the smaller wheels

Shifting the Schlumpf Mountain Drive

The smaller wheels on a Brompton don’t mean you have to pedal faster. The default gearing is comparable to the top (harder) half of the gears on my mountain bike. I ride a lot of hills, so I got the six-speed model, and David at Folding Bikes West replaced the bottom bracket and crankset with a Schlumpf Mountain Drive for me, which gave me six additional gears below (easier than) the default gears. With this combination, the range of gears is much like that on my mountain bike, except in 12 well-spaced gears, in two groups of six, instead of in 27 gears, many of which are nearly duplicates of one another.

Right: You shift the Schlumpf Mountain Drive by tapping a button in the bottom bracket with your heel. Tap it with your right heel, as I am in this picture, and you shift into the lowest (easiest) gears. Tap it on the left side, and you shift into the highest (hardest) gears.

I briefly tried the Schlumpf with the newer Brompton Wide Range (BWR) internally geared hub and didn’t think much of that combination. You still have two groups of six gears, but there’s some overlap between the high end of the low gears and the low end of the high gears, so you’re reduced to eight or nine different gears. With so few gears over such a wide range, the jump from one gear to the next is huge, and I often had trouble finding a comfortable gear. I soon gave up and swapped for a rear wheel with a standard-range internally geared hub.

A second opinion from one of my biking gods: I stopped into Clever Cycles in Portland shortly after I wrote this piece and talked with Todd, who biked part way down the Pacific coast on a Brompton with a BWR hub. He said that only for about 10 minutes of the entire trip did he wish for gearing that was more closely spaced. We theorized that my frustration with the BWR was that I was trading back and forth between the BWR and another Brompton with a standard hub, so I never really got accustomed to the BWR.

Continue reading Why I ride a Brompton folding bike

Mountain biking (and walking) from Telluride to Moab

There’s nothing even vaguely practical about a bicycling vacation from Telluride, Colorado to Moab, Utah, which I suppose is the point, if any, to writing about in on PracticalBiking.org. Think of this account as a detailed example of what practical biking isn’t.

Scott
October 2010

I almost quit before I’d finished the first day of a seven-day bike trip from Telluride, Colorado to Moab, Utah. I was pushing my bike up a rough trail strewn with loose rock; according to the queue sheet, the trail climbed 300 feet in the last quarter mile to the Last Dollar hut. I’d already endured 2,500 feet of elevation gain for the day, much of it on foot through sometimes-deep gravel, and 1,600 feet of it in just the previous three and a half miles of the day’s ride. I was hungry and thirsty (not famished or parched—let’s not exaggerate), I was exhausted, and the hut in which I was supposed to spend the night remained invisible somewhere in the trees above me. The combined weight of my bike and loaded panniers approached 75 pounds, and the uneven footing and steep incline had forced me to push the bike and haul the panniers up separately in short stages.

For a moment I broke. I laid the bike down next to the panniers, took off my pack, pulled out my cell phone, and hoped that I was still in cell-phone range of Telluride, where I’d started that morning, so I could call a friend back home in Seattle. No good could come of this. If I reached her, I’d worry her by asking her to explain to me why I should not camp right there, in a light-weight sleeping-bag liner and space blanket, on an exposed ridge at 11,000 feet, and why I should instead buck up and slog the last, at most, couple of hundred yards up to the cabin, where I’d find nourishment and a sleeping bag warm enough to stave off overnight lows predicted to be in the 30s. If I didn’t reach her, I’d be even more demoralized than I was at that moment.

Trail to the Last Dollar hut

The trail to the Last Dollar hut ends in the lower-right corner of this picture. Photo taken the next morning.

Technology failed me. I wasn’t getting the much-hoped-for peptalk, but, contrary to my expectation, my brain immediately started working again. I realized that, without considerably more food and water than I had with me, I was finished with the trip. The next morning, I’d have to point my bike back toward Telluride and, when I got home, I’d have to explain to everyone that I’d given up possibly as little as a two-minute hike from the end of the first day’s trek. It would also take me longer to dig gear out of my panniers and get situated on that rocky trail than it would take me to climb the rest of the way to the hut. Logic won, and I dragged myself, bike, and panniers up to the hut in another stage or maybe two. I might still be too drained to continue the next day, but at least I now had a chance.

Where the idea for an adventure comes from

How does someone who has never owned a mountain bike decide that a 200-mile mountain-bike ride through mountains and desert in Colorado and Utah is a good idea? I blame it on a cross-country trip and on the now-defunct National Geographic publication Adventure magazine, which wrote up the San Juan Hut Systems’ (SJHS) Telluride to Moab ride in October of 2002. When I moved to Seattle from Washington, DC, I drove through southern Colorado and eastern Utah, but I’d been on a tight schedule, so I didn’t have much time to explore. Years later, as I read the article in Adventure, I remembered both the beauty of the landscape and my regret over not being able to spend more time photographing it. The article said, “On paper, the journey may look intimidating—you climb more than 17,000 feet [5,180 meters] total—but it’s actually fairly easy, nontechnical riding on primitive dirt roads.” Primitive roads didn’t worry me—as a kid, I’d ridden a lot on gravel roads in rural Iowa—and the notion of spending a week photographing such striking terrain made itself at home on my list of vacation possibilities. Somehow I glossed over the bit about 17,000 feet of climbing, and I grossly underestimated what they meant when they said “primitive.”

Continue reading Mountain biking (and walking) from Telluride to Moab

Book review: Big Blue Book of Bike Repair, 2nd Edition

I learned from dad that, in everyday life, little qualifies as rocket science. You may not care enough to learn how to change the oil in your car or build a closet or clear a slow drain, or you may not care enough to buy the necessary tools, but it’s still not rocket science. The same applies to bike maintenance and repair.

Then again, bike repair isn’t entirely intuitive. That’s where a good book comes in. With some enthusiasm, a handful of tools, and a book with well-written procedures and decent pictures, you can readily adjust your own brakes and gears, fix a flat, or replace a tire. With a bit more enthusiasm, several more tools, and a few days during which you don’t absolutely need your bike to get around, you can also tear it down to bare frame and put it back together again. My old bike-repair book, the 1973 edition of Glenn’s Complete Bicycle Manual: Selection, Maintenance, Repair, was well behind on bike technology (that’s how disc brakes looked in 1973?), so when I saw a favorable mention of the second edition of the Park Tool Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair (BBB2), I figured I should take a gander.

Park Tool makes (surprise) bike tools, and, according to the introduction, has for over 50 years, so you’d expect ‘em to know something about bike repair. They do. I’m no bike-repair god, but I’ve repaired, replaced, or adjusted enough parts on my bikes to be able to read a lot of the procedures and say, “Yup, that’s how I’d do it.” In many cases, I also know enough to say, “Hey, they left out the part about …,” but as I read through BBB2 (on planes to and from Iowa—the folks next to me surely thought me addlepated), the only time I found myself saying that was when I also knew there to be a dispute about the method I’d learned. (For example, I dust a tube with baby powder before I slip it back into the tire, but not everyone thinks this is a good idea. BBB2 doesn’t mention it.) True, I didn’t actually follow the procedures at 35,000 feet, so the author, C. Calvin Jones, may have missed a step here or there, but that would be the rare exception. BBB2 is detailed enough about the stuff I know cold that I’m almost looking forward to puttering with disc brakes for the first time.

BBB2 is laudably thorough, but the organization occasionally leaves something to be desired, so you’d be well served to read the relevant portions of a chapter before you get to work. The chapter on tires and tubes, for example, includes a procedure that explains everything you’d ever want to know about installing a wheel as long as you don’t have disc brakes. However, the procedure doesn’t mention the next section, which contains useful tidbits about installing a front wheel when you do have disc brakes.

As long as I’m whining just a smidge, I’ll also mention that the editor needs to find a different field of endeavor. BBB2 is peppered with spelling errors, words that make no sense in context, and awkward turns of phrase that would give a competent technical editor a conniption fit. Never was I unable to figure out what Jones meant, but several times I had to re-re-reread a sentence or a photo caption to figure out what it should have said.

I also wouldn’t mind a more extensive section on the tools you should have if you want to do your own bike maintenance. Given the breadth of the repairs that BBB2 covers, you could make the case that someone who doesn’t have a basic set of tools or who can’t tell the difference between a Phillips screwdriver and a box-end wrench isn’t the intended audience. The procedures are so detailed, though, that, for many tasks, you could follow along and succeed even if you rarely pick up a pair of pliers.

I don’t know if anyone gives awards for photos in technical documentation, but if so, the anonymous photographer of the nearly innumerable photos in BBB2 deserves a nomination. Sure, the art director gets credit for deciding which steps in a procedure would benefit from photos, for cropping the photos to include the right pieces, and for inserting labels and exploded views where desirable, but the photographer gets a big thank you for crisp, well-lit images even when the parts and the tools are black.

The short story? If you have the faintest interest in trying to do any of your own bike maintenance, I recommend that you start by picking up a copy of the Park Tool Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair, 2nd Edition.

How to choose a bike helmet

Any activity with a large number of participants has its religious wars, pitting one group of true believers against another. Biking has plenty of these pointless, internecine battles, including, but certainly not limited to, roadies vs. mountain bikers, lovers of Lycra vs. wearers of wool, and posteriors on plastic seats vs. tooshes on tanned-leather saddles. Perhaps the loudest battle among bikers is the helmet wearers (“My helmet saved my life/How could you be stupid enough not to wear one?”) vs. the helmet free (“Helmets discourage biking/make me sweat/mess up my hair/look silly/are for wimps”).

I wear a helmet, but I’m not going to presume to say that everyone should wear one. (I bought my first helmet when I started biking in Manhattan and mixing it up with cab drivers in Midtown.) Physics and neurology seem, to me, anyway, to be on the side of wearing helmets, but the anti-helmet crowd can cite research to bolster their case. On the website of the Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation (BHRF), whose agenda you can spot at 20 paces while blindfolded, you can find a graph plotting the percentage of trips by bike in eight countries against fatalities per billion kilometers biked, along with the percentage of riders in each country who wear helmets. The results?

  • The countries with the smallest percentage of trips by bike and the largest percentage of helmet wearers have, in general, the highest fatality rate.

    Supposedly this means that wearing a helmet makes you more likely to die in an accident.

  • The countries with the largest percentage of trips by bike and the smallest percentage of helmet wearers have, in general, the lowest fatality rate.

    Then again, they also have superb biking infrastructure and have drivers who are much more accustomed to sharing the road with bikers, neither of which appears in the graph. It also probably doesn’t hurt that, in some European countries, a driver is automatically considered liable in an accident with a biker.

What does it all mean? Admittedly, my quick analysis skews toward wearing helmets, but it’s not mine to say; do what you’re most comfortable with. Note, however, that if you live somewhere that helmets are mandated by law (as I do) and you choose not to wear one, you may face the occasional ticket.

Now on to the subject of today’s symposium: if you decide to wear a bike helmet, how do you choose one? In the U.S, the answer to this question got a lot easier in 1999 when the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) started requiring that all helmets sold in the U.S. meet the same standard. The website of the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, the pro-helmet equivalent of the lobbying group mentioned above, is awash in useful information for folks who want to wear a helmet (plus oodles of clutter—they desperately need an editor and a graphic designer):

If you live in the Seattle area, the Cascade Bicycle Club offers free or inexpensive helmets.

Here are a few thoughts based on my last trip to the bike shop to buy a bike helmet, a couple of years ago, to replace a 10-year-old helmet that had seen a lot of use:

  • One brand of helmet fit me quite well while another brand didn’t fit worth a tinker’s damn, and even within the brand that fit well, some models were more comfortable than others. I don’t think one brand was of higher quality than the other, I just think they were made for heads of different shapes. Based on that experience, I’d recommend that you not buy a helmet online if you can help it, and that you try on every helmet of your size in the shop.
  • If you live someplace where the weather gets cold enough to want a stocking cap under your helmet, you may find it useful to get a helmet on which you can adjust the fit. (Stocking caps now come in very thin, warm materials, not just in bulky wool for folks who live in places where shallow lakes freeze solid in the winter.) Mine has a little dial in the back that I can rotate one direction or the other to loosen or tighten the fit for when I’m especially full of myself or when I want to wear a light cap under my helmet to take the chill off. With the size and number of vents in current bike helmets, temperatures in the 40s are plenty cool enough to make me want another layer.
  • If you ride after dark, you may be interested in a helmet that has a clip in the back for a rear bike light (sometimes known as a blinky butt light). Unfortunately, last I looked, there were no helmets that had both a size adjustment and a light clip. Ask anyway, just in case things have improved.

How to choose and use a bike mirror

A charging dog, a ball bouncing into the street with a small child in hot pursuit, a driver rounding a corner or pulling out of a driveway or opening a car door without looking—all are good reasons to swerve your bike into the middle of the street to prevent an accident. (You shouldn’t be riding that close to parked cars, but that’s a matter for another day.) They’re also good reasons to have and use a bike mirror instead of relying on even a quick glance over your shoulder, which eats up precious time and takes your eyes off the road in front of you. Even if you ride only on safe, back streets, you can’t always know what’s behind you in case you need to dodge a rampaging tricyclist. Cars appear as if by magic, especially nearly silent hybrid and electric cars, and they’re no softer for being on the quiet streets in your immediate neighborhood.

Bike mirrors come in three main styles:

Helmet mirrors Bendy helmet mirror
Glasses mirrors Glasses mirror
Handlebar mirrors Handlebar mirror
Handlebar mirror

Choosing a bike mirror

In my book, helmet and glasses mirrors have it over handlebar mirrors for several reasons:

  • Handlebar mirrors are too easily knocked off or knocked out of adjustment if you get too close to something.
  • Handlebar mirrors make your bike wider when you need to squeeze through tight places.
  • Handlebar mirrors require that you look further away from the road in front of you than helmet and glasses mirrors do.
  • What you can see behind you with a handlebar mirror depends on which direction your handlebars are pointed. With helmet and glasses mirrors, you can turn your head and look almost anywhere.

I learned one disadvantage of helmet and glasses mirrors from a friend of mine, who has the occasional migraine headache. She made two attempts to use a glasses mirror and gave up because both attempts were soon followed by migraines. Whether this is a universal problem for folks who get migraines I couldn’t say.

I’ve used both helmet and glasses mirrors, and I strongly prefer glasses mirrors:

  • Helmet mirrors are attached with an adhesive that eventually stops adhering.
  • Helmet mirrors that bend (like the one pictured above) crack where the stem bends. The one I had of this style lasted a matter of weeks.
  • On all of the helmet mirrors I’ve used (three at last count), the place where the mirror attaches to the stem is a really tiny ball-and-socket joint that readily breaks. If you don’t break the mirror first, that joint wears out, and the mirror flops around and points wherever gravity and the wind direct it.
  • With a helmet mirror, you can’t just stuff your helmet into a bag with your other bike gear or toss it onto the chair by the back door, or you’ll break the mirror plumb off.
  • A good glasses mirror, made of metal and a bit of glass (see the picture above), attaches and detaches easily, is nearly indestructible, and can be readjusted if you happen to knock it out of whack. Beware of plastic glasses mirrors, which aren’t as durable and have the same type of really tiny joint that dooms helmet mirrors.
  • Using a glasses mirror gives you a good excuse to wear glasses even if you don’t normally. This helps keep dust, bugs, and other schmutz out of your eyes, and, if you wear sunglasses that give you protection from ultraviolet rays, you’ll help prevent UV damage to your eyes.

One caveat: if the arms on your glasses are extra thin, try a glasses mirror before you buy it to ensure that it’ll hold on securely. After happily using the same glasses mirror for many years, I went through a series of helmet mirrors because I got glasses with skimpy arms, and my old mirror wouldn’t work. Recently I went back to glasses with slightly beefier arms, and I’m again using the old glasses mirror.

Using a bike mirror

If you opt for a helmet or glasses mirror over a handlebar mirror, using it will take some practice. You affix the mirror to the left side of your helmet or the left arm of your glasses, and because it’s so close to your face, you can’t effectively view the reflection with both eyes. (The image that your left eye sees is almost directly behind you, while the image that your right eye sees is off to your left somewhere.) You have to learn to focus on what your left eye sees, and ignore what your right eye sees. Wear the mirror around the house until you’ve mastered this trick so you aren’t concentrating on learning to use your mirror when you should be concentrating on traffic and looming curbs. When I first started using a glasses mirror, it took me the better part of a week to grow comfortable with it.

Regardless of what type of mirror you use, unless you’re dodging an obstacle to prevent a crash and you don’t have time, you should still look over your shoulder before you change lanes or change your position in your lane. Drivers don’t know that you have a mirror and know how to use it, and they’ll be startled and irritated that you didn’t look to see whether anyone was behind you. When you turn to look back, however fleetingly, they can assume you’ve seen them.

The differences between Schrader and Presta inner-tube valves

If you always inflate your bike tires at a gas station and have your local bike shop fix your flat tires, you needn’t worry about whether the inner tubes in your tires have Schrader or Presta valves. However, if you want to buy replacement tubes so you can fix your own flats or buy a pump so you can inflate your tires at home or during a ride, the differences are important.

Schrader valves

A Schrader valve, the kind of valve on car tires, looks like this with the valve cap on (yes, the cap is cracked, which is why I don’t like hard-plastic caps):

Schrader valve with the cap on

Continue reading The differences between Schrader and Presta inner-tube valves

Fuller Brush man in Kunming, China

Recently, my friend Julie, the education director for the Cascade Bicycle Club, asked whether I had any photographs of bikes in China, where I’d spent some time a couple of years ago. I remembered a few, but when I went trolling through the China pictures, I found scores of pictures worth sharing.

Here’s my favorite practical biker, from Kunming. I just caught him riding by and didn’t get to talk with him, so I don’t know whether he truly works for Fuller Brush. (It probably would have been a short conversation anyway—my Chinese is all but non-existent.)

Biker with brooms in Kunming, China

Installing a Down Low Glow on a Brompton

One of the Bromptonauts on the BromptonTalk group at Yahoo was asking whether you can install a Down Low Glow on a Brompton. I reported that I’d installed one and that I’d had a great experience riding with it. Cars give me a wider berth than before I installed the DLG, and passersby, including car drivers, regularly comment that my bike looks like a Christmas tree. If it keeps someone from running me over, I’m fine with that.

Another of the Bromptonauts asked for pictures, and I decided to post them here rather than on Yahoo so you can find them with an Internet search. (Information posted in Yahoo groups can only be searched within Yahoo, and BromptonTalk is only accessible to group members. Membership is free and open to everyone, but you have to know it exists.)

Here’s the Down Low Glow on a folded Brompton in my driveway.

Folded Brompton with a two-tube Down Low Glow in the dark

Continue reading Installing a Down Low Glow on a Brompton

What to wear for a short bike ride

I was talking with my neighbor Ben, one of the owners of the JRA Bike Shop in the Seattle neighborhood of Crown Hill, about what to wear for a short bike ride. He told me about a Yehuda Moon comic strip in which a customer comes into the Kickstand Cyclery looking for bike clothes for his commute to work:

Customer: I want to start commuting to work and I need some biking clothes.
Yehuda: How far is it to work?
Customer: 3 miles.
Yehuda: You can get away with ordinary clothes, I bet. Just use this Velcro strap around your pant cuff.
Customer: That’s it?
Yehuda: Do you want a costume, or do you want to get to work?

Yes, we glossed over a zillion details as we laughed at the silliness of donning Lycra for a quick errand, including, among other things, a well-tuned bike with inflated tires, reasonable weather, and a way to transport anything you need to carry with you. Nevertheless, the recurring lesson from the folks at Copenhagen Cycle Chic and, closer to home, Let’s Go Ride a Bike remains true: for a short jaunt, you can just get on your bike in whatever you’d normally wear when you walk out the door in the morning.

Hats off to Ben, who has a vested interest in selling biking stuff, for pointing me to Yehuda Moon and for seeing the humor in that strip.