Tag Archives: D.I.Y.
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!

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.