Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Gear

After these few years of cycling experience, I have firmly established myself as purely a transportation rider. As I made clear in my previous post, I do enjoy the occasional race and inter-city trek but those are not regular or scheduled occurrences. All of my bikes are outfitted to be able to carry cargo in some way should the need arise, and all of them have fenders to keep dirt off my clothing


As my experience accumulated, so did my preferences. I used to have more of an "anything goes" mentality, in that whatever I was wearing or carrying books in would be good enough to ride in. While this is still mostly true since I am unwilling to change clothes upon arrival to my destination, I have made a few changes to my daily "gear" to better suit my lifestyle.


First, we'll talk about the backpack. This is a more recent upgrade and it has, shall we say, changed my life. My previous backpack was not terrible but I knew I wanted something that sat more comfortably on my back, especially with drop bars. With the old one, the weight of everything dragged me backward and downward every time I bent over no matter how far I shortened the straps. The Fox Expedition backpack, on the other hand, keeps everything mostly centered. It can hold much more and can carry my computer more safely while staying more comfortable and neutral on my back. Attached to the backpack are a shiny 1962 Sturmey-Archer 18-tooth cog for identification purposes, a spare tail light, and a spare head light just in case. I rarely use these now but they are handy in exceptionally rainy or snowy conditions where a single headlight may not be enough to stay visible.


The chain guards on my old 3-speeds usually keep my pant legs clean but I always carry a trouser strap or two in case I find myself wearing nicer or more loose-fitting pants. A rain poncho stays in the backpack just in case, but so far I have been okay with taking a fully-clothed shower if nature insists. As for tools, I only carry a basic assortment: Pliers, adjustable wrench, multi-screwdriver, and Gator-grip universal socket for minor repairs. Anything more severe than what I can handle with these tools should probably be done at home. As stated earlier, I am usually not too far anyway.


Here are my two helmets, which I have been very happy with so far. The Giro Trinity to the left is light enough for my standards and fits me at just about its maximum size setting. Air flow is good, colors are not overstated. Nothing to complain about. The other, which I use more often, is my beloved medium Nutcase watermelon multi-sport helmet. I bought it because I carry my helmets everywhere I go and subject them to bumps and knocks that may compromise the structure of the Giro. The attachable visor that comes with the helmet is nice to have when riding home from work but obstructs vision on drop bars so I usually use the Giro on the road bike. I find the restricted airflow in the watermelon to be a non-issue for the most part, my only complaint being that the pads inside are starting to peel apart after about eight months of almost-daily use. I have been unable to find replacements which is a shame because these particular pads dry exremely quickly. Conveniently attached to the back of each helmet is a Louis Garneau light, also used when visibility is compromised or when one of my crummy battery tail lights fails. Because I have these, the backpack light is almost never used.


Winter riding used to be a dilemma but I have figured it out this year. Ear pads for the Nutcase can be ordered separately and they do a good job most of the time. With the Giro, I wear a skull cap that keeps me warm but it impedes hearing drastically. I suppose you can't have your cake and eat it, too. On the coldest days, I wear the watermelon with ear pads and skull cap and it all fits comfortably snug. This winter has not been cold enough for the balaclava.


Two pairs of gloves that I have been satisfied with are CLC Handyman work gloves and these winter cycling gloves that my dad got me. I first started using the Handyman gloves because there were a few pairs at work and it was getting cold. I loved them so much that I bought myself a pair and soon discovered that they were also good for riding. The knuckle pads are a blessing for those who frequently bust knuckles when a wrench slips and the palm pads, positioned for holding tools, work conveniently for handlebars as well. The level of grip on the palm and fingertips is not overly apparent but imitates that of actual skin, making control of tools and gear shifters extremely natural. They are holding up very well to almost a year of hard use. As for the other gloves, they have padding in all the right places and even a "towely" part on the back of the thumb. They fit comfortably and are not heavily restrictive on motion while still keeping my hands very warm. My only complaint is the tightness of the elastic wrist band which makes the glove hard to put on, but I suppose that's how they keep the cold air out.


So far, my favorite all-purpose "cycling shoes" have been Converse hi-tops. They have thick bottoms and flexible tops which are extremely comfortable for me. Having my ankles loosely covered feels nice and also helps keep rocks out. Ventilation is satisfactory, definitely better than the pair of DC shoes that I sometimes wear. The Adidas Sambas, being athletic shoes, draw no complaints, either. The high tongues seemed strange at first but they too keep rocks from entering. Both of these kinds of shoes are comfortable, go with most outfits, and generally just make me very happy.

For the winter, I bought a pair of Tingley rubber boots and cut the tops down by about six inches. I have not been able to try them yet but they should be able to keep my feet, ankles, and pants dry in yucky conditions.


I have also been unable to really try these, but I bought a pair of Giro Grynd clipless shoes to go with the Nashbar Double Track (flip-flop flat/clipless) pedals on my new bike. While I don't think I will be going clipless on most days, I think these will come in handy when I have errands to run and spend just as much time on my bike as on foot. Who knows? I may end up moving these pedals to another bike in the future. Either way, the shoes feel very comfortable from what I can tell, with stiff bottoms and a soft top. Ventilation seems to be far superior to what I'm used to as well.


As I mentioned earlier, all of my bikes are able to carry cargo should something not fit in my backpack. Both of my Raleigh Sports have a rack and a Wald 582 folding basket, which I find very useful. At some point, both bikes had a bottle cage attached to the outer side of the basket but they had a high tendency of catching on doors and things when baskets were folded out. That's one draw back of ladies' frames: there really isn't a good place to mount your bottle unless you like to trip over your drink while dismounting.


I have, however, started using panniers more often. Ever since I got this pair last summer, I have been keeping one on the Ross and one on the black Raleigh. The Pletscher rack on the green Raleigh, which I initially loved, cannot hold my panniers for several reasons. Given the fact that panniers are flexible, enclosed, quieter, softer-riding, lighter, more easily removed, and pretty much better in every way for carrying loose, non-boxed, and most boxed items, I will probably not be using the baskets and Pletscher rack on future builds. I really wanted a pannier/backpack hybrid but was not ready to shell out the big bucks just yet. Something I wanted to build was a clip-on portfolio carrier for my architecture class drawings.

 

I used to carry a tire patch kit with me as any self-respecting cyclist should, but I figured since my bikes are usually dirty and I don't normally stray more than five miles from home, I'd rather walk my bike back than spend almost as much time patching a flat and cleaning myself downtown. Pictured here is a camera bag that I bought to use as a saddle bag. My only complaint is that the hose clamps I use to attach it to the bike (to make snatching a little tougher) have begun to shred holes in the sides. The Pedro's tire levers here came in a set of four and are the nicest levers I have ever used. The other two that live in my tool bag are used far more often. Also, I'm not sure what my Crank Brothers M17 multi-tool was doing in that bag. It should have been in my backpack with the rest of the tools.

I must not forget to mention the brown corduroy jacket I almost always wear. It is so well-worn at this point that the underside of the collar is a completely different color from the back. It is a good companion for cycling and pretty much every other daily activity. I am wearing it now as I write this.


Anyway, I suppose this gives an idea of the sort of preparation I go through every day to go ride, a.k.a. nothing more than throwing on a helmet. All of the things shown here are either part of what I carry with me regardless or are already attached to my bikes. I don't forsee any significant equipment changes happening soon since I am pretty satisfied, especially with the backpack which is the biggest deal. Outsiders often see transportation cycling to be in a different universe than walking or driving but other than finding a nice bike, I don't see it as being too different. Riding in this city (following traffic signals, as always) is sometimes faster than driving and is a good way to stay in shape without setting aside extra time. No matter how much I love driving, I will find it very difficult to give up this habit when the time comes.