Tag Archives: Bikes
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!

16 September, 2014

Bike Culture: The Real Dutch Treat

“If you think the cycling infrastructure in Germany is good, wait until you get to the Netherlands.” We heard this statement over and over from people during the past week as we described our route.

The cycling culture in the Netherlands and, in particular, Amsterdam, really can’t be fully described in words. There are literally bicycles and bicycle paths everywhere. We haven’t ridden on a road with cars for more than a mile or so in days. Even as the bicycle paths cross driveways and streets, bicycles usually have the right of way. We have had many cars, large trucks, and tractors back up several feet to allow us to pass before proceeding to pull into traffic (this was actually even more common in Germany). One of the most shocking things we saw was in a road construction zone. The bicycle trail was being worked on, so they designated one of the two automobile lanes for bicyclists and pedestrians only and allowed cars to pile up on either side of the other lane while they alternated vehicle traffic. We cyclists sailed on through. This would not even be considered in most towns. All this courtesy to cyclists is wonderful but also a little boring simultaneously. Doug likens it to driving on the interstate: it gets you where you want to go quickly and safely, but there isn’t much mental stimulation along the way. “It’s too easy,” Doug keeps saying. We certainly don’t want to cycle anything like Route 17 in Ontario again, but a little variety would be nice.

Amsterdam's main train station has storage capacity for 2500 bicycles. And you can bet it isn't always easy to find yours.

Amsterdam’s main train station has storage capacity for 2500 bicycles. And you can bet it isn’t always easy to find yours.

It took a while, but this Dutch woman eventually did find her bicycle.

It took a while, but this Dutch woman eventually did find her bicycle.

Roads without bicycle lanes aren’t the only thing that are scarce here. The Netherlands is the flattest place we have ever been. There is not a hill to be found and the tallest “hills” we have seen are the small pedestrian bridges over the canals. We spent many miles cycling below sea level and even one night approximately 15 feet below sea level in the town of Lelystad.

This lack of elevation definitely feeds into a great cycling culture here. Bicycles are used mainly for commuting and running errands, not a workout. The main train station in Amsterdam, Centraal Station, has a multi-story bicycle parking garage with racks to accommodate 2500 bicycles and when we walked through on a Monday morning, it was nearly full. We even saw a bicycle-only roundabout through another train station. Around Amsterdam, most fences and railings are lined with bicycles, all with some distinguishing feature, whether it be a particular basket, seat cover, rack decor, or trinket hanging off the back so the owner can find it again. It reminded us of suitcases on baggage carousels with a bright ribbon tied to them so they are easily identified. A lavender bicycle with the handlebars wrapped in white artificial flowers locked up on a bridge in Amsterdam was my favorite.

The only hills were pure hike-a-bikes.

The only hills were pure hike-a-bikes.

Just call me Dirk when I'm eating a raw herring sandwich.

Just call him Dirk when he’s eating a raw herring sandwich.

Not only did we see a variety of bicycles, but riders of all ages. While nearly all bicycles have a rack on the front or back, there are also many with child seats on the front, back, or both. I just smiled when I saw a grandmother, grandfather, and two grandsons leaving the grocery store on bicycles. The grandmother was followed by the grandfather with both children, one strapped into a seat in front of his and the other strapped into a seat behind his. It was a great sight to see. We especially loved seeing the many older, retired couples out cycling together. Each time we saw them, Doug and I just smiled at each other imagining that being us some day.

A green-lit canal boat cruised through my shot, adding an ethereal glow to this angelic bike.

A green-lit canal boat cruised through Doug’s photo, adding an ethereal glow to this angelic bike.

Waterfont cafes dripping with gold.

Waterfront cafes dripping with gold.

Special Thanks: We want to extend a special thanks to another QM2 friend, Anna, for opening her home to us despite her being out of town. Leaving goodies in the refrigerator and treating us to a great dinner at one of her favorite local restaurants upon her return was an added bonus. We also want to especially thank three more wonderful WarmShowers households, Ineke and Ronald, Manuela, and Vanessa. Over the past week we were stuffed with tasty meals, treated to live music, and given late night tours around town. We truly appreciate every person’s generosity and enjoy making new friends along the way!

We met Anna on the QM2 and she graciously hosted us for two nights in Hamburg.

We met Anna on the QM2 and she graciously hosted us for two nights in Hamburg. We can’t wait to repay the favor the next time we cross paths!

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.

8 July, 2014

Cycling Into New Jersey in July

We rolled up the driveway of Kristin’s parents’ house in Far Hills, New Jersey on Saturday, June 28th, following a trail of red and yellow balloons through the last couple turns of our 4,885 mile journey. Sisters, parents, and our niece and nephew maintained a constant watch for our arrival, ready to provide just the reception we may have imagined if we ever stopped to ponder just how far we’ve come.

Crossing back into our home state.

Crossing back into the state of our youth.

With the obligatory trip to the Atlantic completed, we spent the next nine days riding southwest through the mountains of New England, averaging 63 miles and 3,200 feet of elevation gain per day. Make no mistake, our most physically demanding days took place in the hills of western Maine and New Hampshire, with back-to-back rides over 70 miles in length and containing over 4,000 thigh-burning feet of climbing per day. The lofty mountains of the west bide their time and unleash a single, occasional, haymaker. Absorb that lone, predictable blow and live to fight another day. Those worn down, ancient Appalachians beat you into submission with a flurry of jabs that never ends. It’s death by a thousand tiny hills. And more than a few kicked up to a 19% gradient.

Our WS host in New Hampshire said nobody ever got the bikes up the hill. I pedaled it clean (challenge accepted) and Kristin only had to push the second half.

Our WS host in New Hampshire said nobody ever brought their bikes up the  half mile hill to her house. Doug pedaled it clean (PNW mountain bikers, represent!) and Kristin only had to push the second half. Challenge accepted!

Those nine days of steady riding back through New England landed us at the doorstep of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, where we spent our final rest day touring the museum and walking the steamy streets of this quaint lakeside town. I always knew I’d make it there before a Mariner player.

Continuing south across Sussex County, NJ and through Allamuchy State Park.

The day off the bikes in Cooperstown was bittersweet as we knew three days later, we’d be off them for a month. We made the most of those final miles in New Jersey, slashing a southerly route through the northwest corner of the Garden State on a collection of backroads most would never associate with the state. With neither an exit number nor refinery nor skyline to see for a hundred miles, we turned the bikes onto gravel paths, dirt trails, and even some singletrack. We spent much of our final day on dirt, choosing to enter this most densely populated of states the way I know best: through the woods. Rolling through Stokes State Forest I recalled the hunting trips I took with my father as a young boy; passing Allamuchy State Park reminded me of my brother’s many stories about his mountain bike racing. Crossing the upper branches of the Delaware River reminded me of childhood canoeing trips. No, I’ll probably never end up living in New Jersey again, but I’m sure glad I grew up here and wouldn’t change my memories for anything. It’s great to be back.

Kristin rolling some singletrack in Sussex County, NJ.

New Jersey through the back door, with all due apologies to Rick Steves.

Our nephew Anthony was outside waiting for us when we finally rolled up the driveway.

Our favorite little man was outside waiting for us when we finally rolled into town.

We’ll be spending a full month visiting family and friends in New Jersey, my longest summer visit since I was a teen. Trips to the city, the shore, and Great Adventure are, of course, planned (i.e. New York City, the beach, and Six Flags for those not from NJ). Of course, we have a wealth of chores to tackle before we leave on the Queen Mary 2, bound for the UK, on July 28th. Here are a few tasks you might find of interest.

TwoFarGone Website Updates

I spent the past few mornings working on some updates for the site including a new video slideshow, an update to our Countries Visited page complete with route map and expense data for our North America segment. I also made a few updates to the gear lists. Here’s the new North America video.

Best viewed at 720p (click the gear icon) in full-screen. May not be playable on mobile devices.

Our route across North America.

Matters of Gear

The vast majority of our gear worked out as we had hoped (or better) but a few items did break, some was lost, and one or two items were eventually deemed unnecessary and won’t be continuing with us to Europe. A couple of lowlights:

  • Going TarplessWe’ll be leaving the tarp behind. We only used it once thanks to the immense vestibule of our tent and the Kelty Noah 12 is just too big, heavy, and cumbersome to bother carrying any longer. It’d probably be a good tarp for car camping though I wasn’t very fond of the shape.
  • Odor Proof Food BagsWe bought several very large odor-proof ALokSaks and never ended up using them. In bear country, I just hung the entire pannier. And we never had enough left over to worry about significant odors, as “wet” foods were always eaten the same day they were purchased and carried outside the panniers, under the cargo net.
  • Bike Pump: The biggest disappointment of all was the Crank Brothers Power Pump. I had to use it twice and both times, no matter how careful we were to brace the wheel, to prop the base of the pump, and to be as gentle as possible, the action of the pump caused a slice in the valve stem as it sawed back and forth against the rim. I cut a total of four valve stems while repairing two flat tires. I ordered the Topeak Mini Morph which not only has a foot peg, but a hose connector so we won’t be stressing the valve stem ever again. Considering I once went through three pairs of Crank Brothers “Candy” pedals in one season, I’m forever done with this company’s products.
  • Rain PantsKristin’s Novara rain pants (bought in 2010) started to wear out in the seat after just a few uses. I have the same pair and they’re holding up just fine so we think this may have been a freak occurrence. We already exchanged them at a nearby REI in New Jersey for the new and improved model.
  • ALokSak Troubles: Though we never did use the large odor-proof ALokSak bags, we did use smaller ALokSak multi-pack bags for our toiletries. That is, until both bags split below the ziploc seal, essentially allowing everything to fall out inside our larger toiletry packing cubes. We’ll be replacing these “premium” resealable storage bags with EagleCreek’s spillproof zippered bags that have proved very effective for containing our electronics and bike parts. Stay clear of these bags, as they are completely unreliable.

Other incidentals that need tending to include the broken metal braces on our Planet Bike Cascadia 29er fenders (fixed en-route with a rubber band); one broken spoke on my rear wheel (presumably from the last day of riding); both drivetrains need to be replaced and parts are en-route; Kristin’s front blinky went missing and needed replacing; my rear blinky met an untimely death somewhere in Ontario and also needed replacing. We also lost one of the Ortlieb rack-spacer adapters from Kristin’s front bag and the snaps on our Ortlieb handlebar bags are all being replaced with Velcro, as the snaps proved to stick, hang, and just generally annoy us on a daily basis. Lastly, I’ll be sanding and repainting the Tubus racks and wrapping the mounting rails and rub-spots with thick automotive tape to prevent corrosion and wear as the bags jostle and rub against the racks.

Press and Promotion

We did an interview a reporter from the Courier News the other day so those in central NJ should look for an article about us to appear in the Courier News and their sister-paper the Home News Tribune sometime in the next few days/weeks. We’ll be sure to link to it when it goes live. To that extent, the Snoqualmie Valley Record in Washington ran a story about us in June.

While in New Jersey, we’ll also be giving a presentation to the residents of the retirement community where Kristin’s mother works. We’re going to try and record it and post portions of it to the site.

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.