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11 November, 2015

The Next Adventure

We were in our cabin aboard the MV Hatsu Crystal, showing the other two passengers the slideshow videos I’ve made. Iris and Wolfran smiled and commented enthusiastically as the past two years of our lives danced across the screen. I was anxious to show them the video of North America, as they had each only ever been to New York City; a crime of self-deprivation so many Europeans commit when visiting our homeland.

Kristin and I smiled upon finally queuing up the North America video, as did our audience, although for different reasons. While they oohed and aahed over the mountain scenery and the size of the bison and the raging waterfalls, we warmed with the reminders of home, one we’d eventually be returning to.

We just didn’t realize how soon.

Those in personal contact with us have known since the summer that before leaving Bali last June, we had placed a deposit down for a four-month rental house in the Penestanan area outside of Ubud. The plan was to wrap up the bicycle tour at the end of January, 2016 and then settle into a life of normalcy – whatever shape it took – in Bali. I was to spend those months working on the novel I’ve been developing over the past year and Kristin was to test the waters of remote-employment. Ideally, she’d already have a job lined up; if not, she’d spend that time conducting a job search while we lived inexpensively in Indonesia.

If you're ever in Singapore and needing a bike shop, don't hesitate to check out Soon Watt Orbea on Changi!

If you’re ever in Singapore and needing a bike shop, don’t hesitate to check out Soon Watt Orbea.

Kristin began putting feelers out at the end of summer to so see if anyone, including her former employer, was in a position to hire her remotely. Her baited hook received a few nibbles, but the rod never bent. And then, at the end of September, her efforts netted an unexpected proposal that drew our immediate attention. We spent the entirety of October in a holding pattern to see if the final offer turned out to be one she couldn’t refuse. Long days at sea were spent discussing a ceaseless stream of if/then scenarios, efforts to predict and mold into shape the remainder of this trip, and our lives going forward.

We are now very excited to share the news that our plans, as you are no doubt unsurprised to hear, have shifted yet again.

Kristin will be returning to work at her former employer, in Seattle, this coming January, helping to lead one of the company’s new initiatives. It is an opportunity that not only allows us to return to the location we love most – we’ll be house-hunting in our old neighborhood at the base of the Cascade Mountains east of the city – but also affords me the opportunity to focus full time on my fiction writing endeavors.

That beautiful Seattle skyline. Photo by Larry Gorlin.

That beautiful Seattle skyline… it won’t be long now! Photo by Larry Gorlin.

Our plans to cycle north from Singapore to Bangkok have been shelved. Instead, we have rescheduled our house rental in Bali and applied our deposit to a month’s rental, ending mid-December. Bicycle touring, to repurpose a phrase from the Peace Corps, is the hardest vacation you’ll ever love. We enjoyed this experience immensely and are thrilled to have taken it, but we’ve made our final dismount. The 52 miles we cycled from the port in Tanjung Pelepas, Malaysia to Singapore were our last. Seattle to Singapore by bicycle and ship was far enough — 226 degrees of longitude without leaving the planet’s surface.

Ready for the journey home to Washington State.

Ready for the journey home to Washington State.

We arrived at the incredibly helpful Soon Watt Orbea bike shop, still sweaty from the sauna-like conditions we rode in, after dropping our bags off at a nearby hotel in this locals-only area of Singapore. We left our bikes for boxing and headed in search of lunch. That we didn’t look back or shed a tear of sadness was all the proof we needed to know that the timing was right. Nigel and his staff had the bikes boxed up by the following afternoon, leaving the boxes open so we could slide our panniers, shoes, and spare tire and miscellany down into the space around the bike.

Aerial view of Snoqualmie Falls, the iconic waterfall two short miles from the neighborhood we'll be returning to. Photo by Puget Sound Energy.

Aerial view of Snoqualmie Falls, the iconic waterfall two short miles from the neighborhood — and friends and mountain bike trails — we’ll be returning to. Photo by Puget Sound Energy.

Through much expense and several shipping-related headaches, our bicycles and touring gear have been sent ahead to our storage unit in Washington State.  We checked out of the somewhat grimy hotel near the bike shop three days later, our Ortlieb duffel bags serving as our sole luggage, and went across town for a few days, intent on giving Singapore a second chance.

We considered heading straight home, but it was always important to us that we take a few weeks to reflect on what we accomplished; to ponder what we saw and where we’ve been. Once upon a time we imagined flying to an island in the Caribbean from Tierra del Fuego, but we always knew, deep down inside, that the map you see here was, in all likelihood, for inspiration purposes only. Fortunately, we were able to shift our rental deposit from February to the present. One final month in Bali, right back where we were in May, should ease the transition and help protect us from burning out on reentry.

We know there will be some out there who will try to compare our initial plan with the ultimate path we took and feel we failed. Some will pose questions about the places we didn’t go instead of the ones we had; Negative Nancies who only see the holes in the Swiss cheese of life.  They’ll fail to see that this decision, like the one we made nine years ago to undertake this challenge, is every bit as positive. We’re excited to have done what we’ve done – cycling nearly 13,000 miles and visiting twenty or so different countries – and equally pleased to have zigged when we planned to zag. Some of our favorite moments from these two years came in places we never intended to go. And, perhaps most of all, we’re thrilled to be ending this trip in the manner that we are. When we are. On our terms.

The moss-covered forests of western Washington beckon me home. Photo by Paris Gore.

The moss-covered forests of western Washington beckon us home.  Nothing like mountain biking in the PNW! Photo by Paris Gore.

As I wrote in a guest dispatch to another blog two months ago, the thing we’ve learned most during our time abroad is the need to be flexible. To continue on just because we once drew a line on a map would be foolish. Similarly, to accept this job offer if we both weren’t fully ready to begin the next stage of life, to embark on the next adventure, would leave us with a life of regrets and what-ifs. We have none, nor expect any. We’ve taken our bikes – and this trip – as far as we wish for it to go. Six hundred days on the road (and counting) is over forty years’ worth of two-week vacations strung together. And as everyone who’s ever travelled has admitted at one time or another, we (finally) miss our own bed.

I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, but I do know someone who is. And he once (allegedly) gave some rather sage advice:

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

Dr. Seuss

More to Follow: won’t be going anywhere. We’ll no doubt have at least one or two wrap-up posts in the future (in addition to a second-take on Singapore next week) and at least the occasional update on how the transition back to home – and work — goes. I will also have an update in the coming months about my new website and work-in-progress. We’ll continue to travel, naturally, and will continue to post future travel-related articles to this site.

An Open Invitation: Our most cherished souvenirs from this adventure are the memories of the friends we made along the way, and the generosity they showed towards us. We wish to extend an open invitation to everyone who hosted us, shared a meal with us, or whom we spent a day sightseeing with, to please let us know if you’re ever in the Seattle area. It would give us so much pleasure to return the favor. And if you thought we were excited when you met us on the road, just wait till you see how enthusiastically we embrace the role of tour guide back home.

13 November, 2014

DIY: Eliminating the Need for Ortlieb Rack Spacer Clips

The Problem: There’s a lot of information and recommendations available to the beginner bicycle tourist, but some things have to be learned through experience. One of those things that nobody tells you is that saddle sores get really itchy after you take some time off the bikes. Another is that there is a major defect in the mounting system for the ever-popular Ortlieb panniers. Oh, the bags themselves are great. But, when paired with the equally popular Tubus racks, Ortlieb’s quick-release system (QL2) on the panniers requires the use of flimsy, poorly-constructed, spacer clips to accommodate the narrow diameter of the Tubus racks. The clips work well for a while, but take those bags on and off the racks every day for months at a time and you’ll soon be dealing with all sorts of problems. The clips’ little prongs bend, snap off, and jam up the quick-release system. That’s when they don’t just fall off completely and disappear. Ortlieb appears to have replaced this mounting system on newer bags, as of 2011, but our bags were bought in 2012 and still had the older system.

Four of the sixteen bent, broken, and missing clips needed to secure our Ortlieb panniers to our Tubus racks.

Four of the sixteen bent, broken, and missing clips needed to secure our Ortlieb panniers to our Tubus racks.

An Idea: After seven months of dealing with this increasing annoyance, I finally decided to put my time off in Tangier, Morocco to good use and have come up with a remedy. By no means is this a sophisticated, clever, or sexy solution. It’s actually rather obvious. The point of this post is to show that common materials can be easily obtained and put to use in keeping your tour going smoothly, even when language and culture seem alien. After briefly considering ordering replacement clips, at tremendous shipping expense, and wondering if they’d even arrive while we were here, I decided to eliminate the need for the clips entirely by making the rails thicker.

The clips make it possible to accommodate various size rack diameters, but can't hold up to the rigors of long-term touring.

The clips make it possible to accommodate various size rack diameters, but can’t hold up to the rigors of long-term touring.

A Solution: I went off into the medina in search of hardware shops and, well, they’re not quite what we’re used to. For starters, most of the shops in the medina are merely a counter. The merchant might have hundreds of items in stock, but you need to ask for the specifics; there’s no browsing here. Fortunately, I found a shop with spools of clear, flexible tubing on the counter. I ordered two meters of 10mm diameter tubing, nearly exhausting my knowledge of French in the process, figuring the plastic tubing would be easy to cut and work around the rail. I then switched to charades in hopes of securing a number of zip ties. Fortunately, the words “zip ties” are better understood than my pantomiming and he quickly pulled out an assortment of zip ties in various colors and sizes. Two meters of 10mm plastic tubing and 20 large zip ties cost 21 Dirham ($2.37 USD). I’d have to return for more tubing, but more about that later.

Because it’s the Internet and someone will undoubtedly reprimand me for “needing zip ties,” let it be clear that I carry a number of zip-ties in my repair kit, but didn’t want to use up my supply if I could buy more cheaply while I was at the shop. The same goes for the tape.

Basic hardware materials like zip ties, tubing, and tape can be purchased anywhere. Even thousands of miles from the nearest Home Depot.

Basic hardware materials like zip ties, tubing, and tape can be purchased anywhere. Even thousands of miles from the nearest Home Depot.

Materials/Tools Needed

  • 10mm clear plastic tubing (2 meters per bike)
  • Zip Ties (8 per bike)
  • Heavy-duty tape
  • Utility Knife
  • Snips

Step #1: Cut the Tubing
Grab your panniers to know exactly where your mounting clips grab the rack and eye up a length of tubing wide enough to cover that portion of the rail. I decided to effectively cover the entire width of the rail so that I didn’t have to deal with any shifting tubes or edges catching. I then carefully sliced the tube lengthwise and wrapped it around the rail.

Step #2: Check the Fit
If using the Tubus Logo Evo rack, like we are, you’ll need to use two pieces of tubing, stacked on top of each other to build up the rail to the appropriate thickness. Remove the spacer clips from your pannier and give it a try. Ideally I would have had a second diameter of tubing, 12mm would likely have worked really well, but I doubled-up the 10mm with satisfactory results. Install your bag to make sure the bag will lock on nice and snug without the spacers.

Two pieces of tubing, zip-tied onto the rack (or taped on a shorter segment) will eliminate the need for the spacer clips.

Two pieces of tubing, zip-tied onto the rack (or taped on a shorter segment) will eliminate the need for the spacer clips.

Step #3: Secure the Tubing
I used two zip ties for each rail, on pieces that were more than an inch long. Make sure to place the zip ties as close to the ends of the tubing as you can, without being in the way of where the bag will mount onto the rail. The pannier’s mounting system is completely adjustable and you could choose to slide the clips to a new position. I didn’t do this for two reasons: 1) I’m notoriously lazy, and 2) I find the bags to be more secure on the racks if the mounting clips are as wide apart as possible.

Our rear bags (and Kristin’s front bags) mount further back on the racks and a second section of tubing was needed to fit the short extension of the back beyond the vertical rails on the rack. For this, rather than use up more zip ties and risk them being in the way of the bag’s clips, I just wrapped heavy-duty tape around the tubing to hold it in place. Snip the ends off the zip ties, mount your bags, and toss those bent, disfigured spacer clips in the trash!

Bonus Fix! Planet Bike Cascadia Fender Supports
The very first thing to break on our bike, just a few weeks into the tour, was the metal L-shaped clips that support the rear fender on each of our bikes. We’re using the Planet Bike Cascadia 29er fenders and, all things considered, they work as intended. But the metal frame that holds the fender in place beyond the wheel is affixed using a very thin piece of metal that snapped on 3 of 4 posts in the rear (between the two bikes). We used a number of rubber-bands over the past 7 months to pinch the rails together to hold the fender in place, but rubber bands always dry out and rot within a few weeks. While I had the tape out for the other project, I decided to replace the rubber bands with a lengthy piece of tape. The fenders aren’t under a lot of stress and if rubber bands intended for produce were able to work for a few weeks, the tape should hold for months at a time.

The metal extension that holds the fender in place snapped off at the clip within a couple of weeks. Make a tape sandwich to keep it working!

The metal extension that holds the fender in place snapped off at the clip within a couple of weeks. Make a tape sandwich to keep it working!

13 October, 2014

5 Cheap, Light, and Useful Items Under $5

The dozen bags strapped to our bikes are stuffed with all manner of gear, clothing, electronics, and other pieces of kit that many would consider essential or, at the very least, obviously useful for long distance bicycle touring. But those panniers and duffels have also come to contain a handful of very small items whose usefulness far exceeds their heft and cost, both of which are nearly non-existent.

Behold, our five favorite lightweight items that each cost under $5 USD (or close to it), weighs very little, and makes our lives on the road a lot more comfortable!

1: Simple Kitchen Sponge

IMG_8047_SpongeThere’s nothing worse than putting away a wet tent, except maybe unzipping the door and having a night’s worth of dew and moisture rain down upon your freshly woken head. That’s where the kitchen sponge comes in! Every morning, after slipping out of the inner tent, I take a minute to sponge the interior of the vestibule before disturbing the tent doors. Not only does this keep the inside of the vestibule dry, but it helps to dry the tent. Then, while water for coffee is boiling, one of us sponges the entire exterior of the tent, often ringing at least a liter of water out of the sponge in the process. This really accelerates the drying of the tent (pray for a breeze) and helps to reduce the weight of the tent when put away wet. It also tends to wipe away any bug guts or bird crap in the process. Bonus!

2: Makeup Removal Wipes

IMG_8049_WipesKristin hardly wore makeup in normal everyday life, else we may have discovered this trick sooner. We now keep a small pack of disposable makeup remover wipes in the pack so I can clean bike grease off my hands after doing any maintenance on the road. It’s uncanny how well these little guys cut the oil and grease and clean up my hands after wrestling with a disgusting, grimy, oil-coated chain. They can be picked up at most grocery stores or, even better, at the various “dollar stores” we’ve seen throughout North America and Europe. Sometimes we even find these make-up remover wipes in hotel bathrooms with other toiletries, but usually only when we’re cashing in my Hilton Honors points for a free stay someplace nice.

3: Mini Broom

IMG_8048_BroomOur miniature broom came with a dustpan we jettisoned back at home in WA, along with a handle that broke off under questionable circumstances, but this little four-inch broom does just fine on its own. It’s perfect for  periodically sweeping out the vestibule of dirt and leaves — we try to keep a clean house — and is also great for sweeping picnic tables clean of nature’s detritus. For our European readers, picnic tables are large tables with bench seating that, in North America, accompany each campsite and make it unnecessary to cook on the ground (yes, I am grinning sardonically as I type this). We keep the miniature broom and sponge along with bug spray and a clothesline in a ditty bag in the duffel.

4: Scented Votive Candle

IMG_8050_CandleBring on the jeers, I can take it! Kristin got me this poppy-scented votive candle for my birthday while we were in Paris — it’s artisanale parfumie — because I’m always complaining about the smell of our hotel room after we unpack the panniers. A fact of life on the road, living out of waterproof baggage, is that everything develops a musty smell after a while. Another fact of life on the road, when cycling 100 kilometers a day, is that our clothes get pretty sweaty. And even a wardrobe of merino wool will start to smell before long. The candle helps to make our hotel rooms smell a bit cleaner and also helps to add a bit of warmth and coziness to our confines that helps us feel more at home. We both love travelling, but we also enjoy the comforts of home. A small thing like a scented candle, especially this time of year, makes a difference. Particularly on those nights when we’re sitting at the computers blogging and editing photos.

5: Mild Perfume

IMG_8051_PerfumeThis was all Kristin’s doing, and I fully support her in it. While out and about in Paris one day she picked up a small vial of cotton-scented perfume from the Sephora store. Now, Sephora is known to be pretty expensive, but this small vial was only about 5 Euros. She wore the scent with our “Paris clothes” when we went out for dinner and to the concert, which I appreciated (she readily admits to wanting to do something to feel a little more “girly” out on the road) but the mild, comforting scent also makes for a nice air freshener in the tent. This was particularly true after slipping into the tent that first time after two weeks of sleeping indoors. Naturally, this isn’t something for the single male traveler. And maybe even the single female traveler won’t care what she, or her tent, smells like. But, for us as a couple, an occasional spritz of perfume can make the whole thing a bit more enjoyable. It’s also known to increase the chance to make sexy-time.

1 September, 2014

To GPS or Not to GPS

That is no longer the question.

After making our way across North America without the use of GPS (and sometimes without a map or directions) I have turned the stress of navigation over to Google and Garmin. You see, worrying about what we were missing wasn’t the only burden of route-planning that was proving too heavy to bear. It was also the challenge of plotting–and following–an enjoyable route. The UK, as I was quick to realize, was not like the USA or Canada. The shear number of roads, paths, trails, and carriageways that don’t appear on even the largest scale national maps was surprising. And even if I did buy a new county map every other day, the miles of roads that appear to go unnamed and unsigned would still slow our progress to a crawl. The day would be spent stopping at every crossroads to check the map and compass, oftentimes unsure where it was we actually were. With the exception of signed B-roads in Scotland, we were often just following the compass and hoping for the best.

When I said I quickly plotted a course out of Edinburgh to the Lake District, I actually did so using Google Maps and sent the track–a breadcrumb trail of GPS data–to my non-mapping Garmin Edge 305, the very same bike computer that I’d been using since 2007*. The resulting ride was so superior to any route I had tried to plan, that I was instantly convinced this was the way to go. As an experiment, I handed Google my complete trust. We pedaled our way from our airport hotel into the city along a beautiful canal, through Edinburgh University, and then south out of town across Midlothian and into the Borders. We rode on narrow one-lane roads that seldom saw any traffic. We followed the digital grayscale line on my outdated piece of technology as it bent left and right and directed us onto faint singletrack trails, paved bike paths, and straight to the campground that I had right-click-directions-to’d. For three days we enjoyed a glorious, stress-free ride on quiet roads as we made our way to the Yorkshire Dales. Then, from the house of our WarmShowers’ hosts, I plotted a route along the canals skirting the periphery of Manchester, Birmingham, and other  cities I sought to avoid. And I continued using it right into the heart of Stratford-Upon-Avon where we parked our bikes beside Shakespeare’s birthplace and decided then and there that this is how we will navigate through Europe. To abuse the Bard’s language a second time in a single post is indefensible, but here goes: We knew where we were, but cared not how we got there. What? You thought I was going to quote Yorick?

We'd spend the bulk of three days riding alongside a series of canals as we head south.

We’d spend the bulk of three days riding alongside a series of canals as we headed south. Canal Paths I likely wouldn’t have ever known about if just using the map.

I didn’t have to stop at every intersection and consult the map and compass. I didn’t have to curse the lack of street signs or stop and ask for directions, or buy a new extra-large scale map every day. I could just ride. I could just enjoy the view, note the scenery, and let my mind wander.

Of course, using the outdated Garmin Edge 305 does have its limitations. For starters, there is no basemap. I have merely the shape of a line to follow. And sometimes that line can be particularly confusing. More than once we stood on the side of the road and wondered where it was actually pointing to, only to realize over there, in the corner behind that garage, lies the entrance to a bike path. Only a local would have known. And though it serves as a wonderful navigator through the UK’s myriad roundabouts, it’s inability to properly warm me of an upcoming turn occasionally has us slamming the brakes on a descent, only to head back up the hill and turn onto a low-angle road or path I didn’t first see.

Not on the map. No sign at the intersection. But a joy to ride thanks to Google's bike directions.

Not on the map. No sign at the intersection. But a joy to ride thanks to Google’s bike directions.

The Garmin is only half the solution. The other half is Google Maps. And I must admit that I have been incredibly impressed with its ability to plot a bike-friendly route for us when asked. No, it’s not perfect. It doesn’t distinguish between on-road and off-road, and it has been known to lead us onto some very muddy bridle trails, but if given the choice between sticking to high-traffic roads that appear on national maps and faint muddy trails, I’ll take the latter every single time.  After all, going off-road is the reason I built up the Fargos. And though I know many will suggest all manner of other websites from RideWithGPS to BikeRouteToaster to MapMyRide to Strava, my workflow already has me using Google for researching camping locations, attractions, shops, and all manner of other things. After all, this isn’t about going for a bike ride as much as it is about living a life in constant motion. So, for those who are really curious, I send the URL for my Google directions to this page at GPS Visualizer which converts it to a GPX file. I then import it to GPSies, save it in my profile for later reference, and export it as a Garmin Course TCX file straight to my device. It was easier when Google allowed you to export directions as a KML file from Google Maps, but GPS Visualizer’s conversion is quick and painless.

Okay, so this isn't perfect...

Okay, so this isn’t perfect…

I suspect when we finally reach Central Asia (or southern Morocco for that matter) and the number of roads and trails diminishes to just a handful of choices (like riding across Montana or Ontario) then we’ll be able to rely entirely on maps. But for now this is how I’ll be handling navigation. It’s been two weeks since the switch to this method and life on the foreign road has gotten much, much more enjoyable.

*Not exactly. The one I had since 2007 fell off a table three times in a span of ten minutes in Ely, MN, effectively killing the mode button and freezing it on the data screen that was last visible. I can hear parts rattling around inside when I shake it. I bought a used replacement from somebody in China on Ebay during our month off in July and though its battery seems to drain faster than mine did, it is working well. I’ll finally upgrade to one of the newer models if/when this one should perish.

Special Thanks: Tremendous thanks to our WarmShowers hosts Sylvie and Ben (aka “Frogs on Bents“) for welcoming us into their house for two nights in Warwick, for sharing their tickets to Warwick Castle with us, and for allowing us to eat and play and relax with them and their children. We were also extremely fortunate to spend three nights south of London with a couple we met on the QM2. Carolyn and Kevin opened their home to us, stuffed us with food, and made it oh-so-easy for us to use their house as a home base for exploring London. Carolyn’s mother Liz, who we also met on the QM2 and lives next door, was also keen to shower us in generosity. We’ll be leaving the UK with new friends, including Emily Chappell (who also generously hosted us for a fun night in London), great memories, and an even greater sense of what it means to be generous and kind.

Kevin and Carolyn made us feel at home for three nights. We can't wait to return the favor when we're back in Washington.

Kevin and Carolyn made us feel at home in their house for three nights and treated us like longtime friends. We can’t wait to return the favor when we’re back in Washington.

7 April, 2013

DIY: Tubus Tara-Mounted Headlight

The Problem: Handlebar bags block the light from handle-bar mounted headlights, so where do you put it? Special-ordering a headtube/fork-mounted mount is one solution. They do exist. But strapping something like the NOB to the left-side of a fork with disc brake cabling can be problematic.

Well this is not going to work.

Well this is not going to work.

An Idea: What about the front of the Tubus Tara rack? This, I thought, would be a great location to mount the headlight, especially one that is attached via a quick-mount and that will only be on when in use (theft prevention). But those tubes on the Tara are far too narrow for an adapter meant for the handlebar. Hmmmm….

You can see the problem here

You can see the problem here.

A Solution: It came to me during dinner. Kristin had made a tasty chicken and quinoa dish and was pouring herself a glass of chardonnay when I noticed the bottle — Yellow Tail — came with a rubber cork. I promptly poured the rest of the bottle down my throat and ran out to the garage with the cork.

Materials/Tools Needed

  • rubber wine cork
  • electrical tape
  • black marker
  • drill with 1/4″ and 3/8″ bits
  • box cutter knife

Step #1: Drill the Center
I dragged my folding workbench out of the corner and clamped the rubber cork into the table and grabbed for my drill. I then drilled a 1/4″ hole right through the center of the cork. The rubber effectively closed around the hole as I suspected it might, so I then drilled again with a 3/8″ bit.

Drill, baby drill!

Drill, baby drill!

Step #2: Cut Out a Wedge
With the center effectively compromised, I turned the cork sideways in the clamp and reached for my trusty box cutter. I then carefully — very carefully — cut away a wedge of the rubber cork, giving it a Pac-Man like shape. This allowed me to really expand the cork and stretch it over the Tara’s tube. You can probably see where this is headed…


Wakka, wakka, wakka, wakka, wakka…

Step #3: Tape it On
Now it was time for the roll of black electrical tape to make a special appearance. I can’t remember actually using this stuff for wiring purposes, but it really does come in handy when you’d rather not use duct-tape. I wrapped a lengthy piece of electrical tape around the cork and tube, basically tripling the diameter of the tube while adding very little weight. This would have been easier had I have taken the wheel off, but I can be kind of lazy. I made do.

Wrap that suck on good and tight!

Wrap that sucker on good and tight!

Step #4: Color the Sides
Mount the light, stand back, and admire your handiwork. Those who like things to match whenever convenient can do as I did and grab a black marker and color in the sides of the rubber cork.

Let there be light!

Let there be light!

I’m a beer guy with a strong distaste for Chardonnay. But fortunately Yellow Tail also comes in other varieties — all of them with the kangaroo, err, I mean a rubber cork. After all, I still had to do this for my bike as well.

Bottom’s up!

18 October, 2012

DIY: Milk Jug Mud Flap Extenders

It only took one look at the Burly Nomad trailer after a day of riding in the rain to know that the mudflaps that come on the standard Planet Bike Cascadia Fenders aren’t long enough in the rear. The front ones reach within a few inches of the ground — a length that really helps to keep the rider dry and free of road spit — but what about the rear? Does Planet Bike expect us to only ride alone? Do they think it’s funny to spray rain and grime in your friend’s face?

Living in the Pacific Northwest, we’re no stranger to riding in the wet and it’s rare to see a bike in the winter that doesn’t have some form of homemade mudflaps hanging down from the fenders, especially among those who attend the wintry group rides. There appears to be as many solutions to this problem as there are riders, so by no means do I consider this the best solution. That said, it was certainly cheap, easy, and effective.

Materials/Tools Needed

  • plastic half-gallon milk jug
  • heavy duty utility knife
  • kitchen scissors
  • awl
  • 2 narrow zip ties
  • wire cutters

Step 1: Cut the Milk Jug
I saw we were just about to finish a half-gallon jug of milk so, rather than going and buying a 2-liter bottle of soda (another popular choice) I emptied the milk into another container and went to work with a heavy-duty utility knife.

Carefully cut the top off the jug with a sharp knife.

The first thing I did was carefully slice around the top of the container to remove the spout and upper part of the handle. I then switched to scissors and used two of the flat sides of the container to cut two slightly tapered blades.

I trimmed the edges to make them a slight bit narrower at the top (to fit behind the existing rubber mud flaps on the fenders) and smoothed the edges for aesthetics.

Cut the mud flaps from the sides of the container with a taper.

Step 2: Punch the Holes

I held the section of milk jug up behind the existing rubber mud flap, making sure to leave a solid two inches or so of overlap for strength and stability. I then carefully used an awl to punch straight through the rubber flap and also through the plastic. You might be surprised at how easily this is to do so be careful not to thrust right into your fingers or hand. I did this in each corner of the mud flap, about an inch from the edge, and left the awl in the second hole while I readied the zip ties.

Step 3: Zip Tie it in Place
I threaded the zip tie through the plastic and mud flap from the rear, leaving the buckle flush with the hole on the tire-side. I then looped it over and pulled it semi-tight. I then removed the awl from the second hole and ran a zip tie through that hole in a similar fashion.  Once pulled tight, the zip tie draws in the rubber mud flap a bit to make a nice, snug joint as viewed from behind the bike. The plastic of the milk jug may tilt outwards towards the tire a bit on the reverse side, but that shouldn’t be a problem. Feel free to trim as necessary if you notice it rubbing, but it really shouldn’t be close enough to pose an issue.

Thread the zip ties from the inside out so the buckle is out of view.

That’s all there is to it. From start to finish it shouldn’t take more than 5 or 10 minutes to do two bikes, maybe more if you have to drink the milk.

Go riding with friends in the rain, and know they’ll still be your friends afterwards.