Rack and fender attachment

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Two nifty design ideas from my friend Dave Atkinson.

First: the mono-stay connecting the front of Blackburn rack to the frame of this old Schwinn mixte. It’s curved to match the shape of the wheel and painted to match the fender. It replaces a flat stainless steel mount that is usually bent in the process of installation–and never as cleanly as this piece.

SIMG_1953econd: the rear reflector bracket doubling as a fender support. Note how the bracket allows the removal of two pairs of fender stays and assorted hardware. Fewer attachments mean fewer parts to come loose, rattle and/or fall off.

Are these homemade? Only in the sense that that they didn’t come from either Schwinn or Blackburn.

They are elegant answers to the question of how to remove complexity and keep a simple machine simple.

When he isn’t working on bicycles–and air compressors, pressure washers, lawn mowers and who knows what else–Dave repairs CityLink buses.

Click here to see how he rehabbed a three-speed bicycle that was headed for the dump.

 

 

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Nitto Technomic handlebar stem

Just so you understand: The removable faceplate stem is one of the most important bicycle innovations of recent decades.

Undo four bolts (or fewer) holding the handlebar and two bolts securing the handlebar stem to the fork, and you can swap out extensions faster than you can recite the Gettysburg address, assuming you recite the address with all due gravity.

Even bicycles with one-inch threaded headsets can be retrofitted with quill extensions that accept 21-century handlebar stems. Like this one.

1-1/8-inch threadless stem on 1-inch quill extension

The quill extension–the silver column–is wedged inside the fork steerer, just like the original stem. The top of the extension is larger in diameter to accommodate the 1-1/8-inch stem.

And it works great. Need a stem that’s longer, shorter, higher or lower? Go for it. No need to unwrap the handlebar on one side and remove the brake lever to swap parts. (That’s what you had to do with old quill stem technology. Every. Single. Fricking. Time.)

There’s only one problem with the quill-extension modification. It looks like a kludge.

(Don’t get me wrong: I don’t mind kludge-like solutions if they get me something I can’t get any other way. But this set-up on this particular bike crossed an aesthetic bridge too far for me.)

What to do? Head back to the past with a Nitto Technomic quill.

Tall Nitto Technomic quill-style stem

Right after I strip one side of the handlebar to install the stem old school: by sliding the clamp over the bar from end to center.

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It’s back to the past with a proviso: The Technomic is an extra-tall quill stem that brings the handlebars up to the same height as the saddle on a bicycle with old-fashioned frame geometry. (The top tube is parallel to the ground.)

It’s not a position the Experts around me used to recommend. Though now you can replicate the position on just about any slope-tubed carbon wonder.

This isn’t my first go-round with the Technomic. I use one on a Trek 2300 and a Paisley tricycle. Years ago, I had one on a Trek 720.

Other notes on today’s session:

Saw a sliver of steel under the headset locknut. Turned out the small ridge retaining an o-ring on the bottom of the locknut was disintegrating.

To the junk drawer for a replacement. And–success!

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Front end updated, or more accurately, backdated, I moved to the tires. I wanted to replace the 25mm Continental tires with 28mm Panaracers. (Actual tire widths as mounted on Mavic MA2 rims: 24mm and 26mm, respectively.)

I tried this before. The tightest frame clearance is between the tire and the bottom of the rear brake bridge. (If playing this game at home, make sure your rear wheel is properly dished.)

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But what stopped me back then was the front derailleur.

When the the chain swung over to the big chainring, the derailleur cable anchor bolt tagged the tire. (Took twenty miles to suss that out.) At the time, I figured, well, the gods of manufacturing had spoken and it was game over.

But today, I decided I’m not going to live by their rules any more.

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That new bolt is cute as a button.

Trek 1420 with new stem, larger tires

Too early for flapjacks?

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Wolf Tooth Pack Wrench – ultralight 1″ hex and bottom bracket wrench

If you work on your own bicycles, you know the allure of purpose-built bicycle tools.

The right tool simplifies the job, whether it’s a spoke wrench shaped to fit the hand as well as the nipple, or a threaded-headset wrench thin enough to tuck onto the adjustable cup under the locknut yet strong enough not to distort after years of use.

The right tool is a powerful repair solution–and an equally powerful reminder of every successful repair session.

Maybe that’s why I keep tools I may never use again: an Atom freewheel remover, a Helicomatic wrench/bottle opener.

Bicycles come and go, especially when your care of them spans decades.

But tools? Tools remain.

And a new tool–because there is always a new tool–is even more alluring.

Sometimes it’s because you finally have the right socket to remove a new-fangled bottom bracket cup. Sometimes because the tool is so well made it encourages you to luxuriate in the sheer quality of the thing.

And sometimes a tool is the NIFTIEST THING SINCE THE LAST NIFTIEST THING because the maker added something clever, something unexpected, something that once you see it you must have it.

That’s why I want the Pack Wrench from Wolf Tooth.

Yes, it’s a versatile piece of aluminum, supporting a number of attachments. Yes, the redesigned handle is comfortable. And yes, it’s super light.

But none of those facts are really important to me.

I’m way more likely to use Wolf Tooth’s attachments with breaker bars and torque wrenches at home and work. And I don’t haul around a ride mechanic’s kit on race day–which is why the light aspect is nice.

But look at the shape of this tool. Note the dogleg to the right of the flower-shaped hole–a 16-notch 44mm bottom bracket and/or centerlock rotor tool–in the picture.

The apex of the triangular dogleg points to zero on a chain line measurement gauge.

Position the dogleg over the seat tube near the chainrings and hold the wrench perpendicular to the bicycle frame.

The straight ramps of the dogleg automatically position the gauge over the centerline of the frame regardless of the seat tube’s diameter.

If you have a single ring, read the gauge as it passes over the middle of the ring. Two chainrings, halfway between them. Three rings, over the middle of the middle ring.

A chart to the right of the gauge matches chain lines to nine hub widths.

All of which means if you have shifting or chain retention issues because of an errant chain line, you’ll know.

This laser-cut gauge is convenient, accurate, easy to read and takes up zero additional space on your tool wall.

You can’t lose it unless you lose the much larger wrench it’s etched on. And you know what that means.

The Pack Wrench is a keeper.

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You may be about to pass a fixed-gear bicycle if…

A Campy peanut-butter wrench. One of the oldest tools I own, hanging from the seat bag of the only bike I’d use it on.

That’s because the wheels of this Bianchi Pista are secured by nuts, not quick releases. So if I get a flat, I need the wrench to take the wheels off.

Let me rephrase that: I need a wrench, not this particular one. But this is one of only two wrenches I have (the other is a Campy 5mm) that reminds me of riding in the 1970s.

Memory athletes often use a memory palace strategy to perform prodigious feats of recall–the order of a shuffled deck of cards, for instance.

That technique, associating things you want to remember with a series of familiar spaces, takes study and practice.

My reminders are of the accidental kind. A letter that never hit the trash. (Dad used a manual typewriter.) A framed print too big to ignore. (When ceiling plaster of an early apartment fell, it missed the print and landed on me.) A one-day clock with weight-driven works. (That grandparent smoked cigars and grew tomatoes behind a garage with a dirt floor.)

And yes, an Italian wrench meant for one use but nicknamed for a different one.

I have yet to spread peanut butter with it. Nor did I need it to change a flat today.

I did, however, remember to carry it. (Just as I did when I rode an older coast-free bicycle from Washington to Normal for breakfast at a place that specialized in gyros.)

It’s one of those things that’s hard to forget.

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A chicken’s tale

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Why do we ask ourselves why the chicken crossed the road?

To get to the punch line in a hurry.

It may also be a way to explore the human condition without the human.

Why did the chicken cross the road? Peer pressure.

One reason the chicken joke thrives is its simplicity. Its accessibility. Kids tell chicken jokes. As adults, they remember being the kids telling the jokes. As extraordinary adults, they teach their kids chicken jokes.

We have a lifetime of chicken joke experience. And so when we see a chicken, whether or not that chicken is near a road, neurons in our brain automatically transmit the setup to the joke.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Adults never remember reading Dante’s Inferno or Matheson’s What Dreams May Come at five years old because a sad group of adults early on determined the exploration of hell’s many levels is best reserved for Sunday school. As if hell is a poorly lit sub-basement of the church. Which is about the only thing I thought they were right about.

Another reason, of course, is that most five-year-olds are still trying to figure out whether Pat is the bunny’s name or what you’re supposed to do to the bunny.

I could use some help with that one myself.

But I digress. Back to the chicken joke.

Even when it merges with another form, the knock-knock joke, the chicken joke is mercilessly simple.

Why did the chicken cross the road? To visit the village idiot. Knock knock. Who’s there? The chicken.

Why do we ask why the chicken crossed the road? Because asking who or what the chicken crossed the road doesn’t make sense. And because asking how, when and where results in obvious answers.

The chicken in the picture, a rooster, walked across the road in front of our tandem at 10:30 a.m. this past Sunday southwest of Edelstein, Illinois.

(That’s not a chicken joke, by the way. I just really like using an italic font at regular intervals.)

Because there were witnesses to this crossing, the rooster becomes another data point in historic road-crossing chicken research.

I saw the best chickens of their generation distracted by their desire to reach the other side of the road, ignoring community, eggs on the nest and the neighbor’s indifferent Labrador in search of another mindless quest.

This was not one of those chickens. This was no quest. We know why this crossing happened.

The rooster, shorn of most tail feathers and all the feathers on its back within two inches of the tail, crossed the road to get away from the bigger, meaner rooster on the south side of the road.

Been there. Done that.

No joke.

 

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Banner Day for Advertising

IMG_2201According to experts, the average American is exposed to 4,000 ads per day.

But let’s face it: There’s not a lot of rigor to that estimate.

Some say the number is closer to 5,000. Others say 10,000.

The truth? The world is all advertising.

The sky is an ad for clean air, unless it’s an ad for deregulation.

A deciduous tree is an ad for promise in the spring, shade in the summer, gravity in the fall, loneliness in the winter.

A river is an ad for direction, for water, for whatever floats your boat. Come to think of it, a river is a dandy ad for a boat.

A boat, in turn, is an ad for leisure. Leisure is an ad for reflection. Reflection, potentially, an ad for narcissism. Narcissism? Nothing if not an ad for solipsism.

And solipsism is fun to say, if I do say so myself.

I can hear the objections. Advertising is a uniquely human activity. The world–a tree, a river, a philosophical theory–cannot generate advertising.

Think again–before you anger an algorithm.

Anyway, we’re getting away from the point, which is that exposure to advertising is way different from being influenced by advertising.

Given its ubiquity, exposure is nearly impossible to measure, but influence is much easier.

Look at the beer in your refrigerator, the shoes on your feet, the evil politicians you oppose, the dedicated public servants you support.

Look at the writing on the wall.

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Yuskauskas, still nice, now Peter from Brompton

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I finally met Peter Yuskauskas, a tall and enthusiastic folding bike promoter, back in February 2018 at the Chicagoland Area Bicycle Dealers Association (CABDA) Expo in Schaumburg, Illinois.

When I wrote about Peter from NYCeWheels in 2011, he worked for a specialty shop in New York City that sold folding bikes, electric bikes and folding electric bikes. In one of his first videos from 2010, he admitted he didn’t know what to expect from folding bikes. But he quickly found himself getting into it.

By the time he left the shop in 2016 he had written approximately 400 articles, produced 100 videos (capturing 8.7-million views), and spent two years as CEO. Now he heads up Brompton’s North American marketing operations.

You’ve been in the bicycle business how long?

I started selling Brompton through one of our larger dealers, called NYCeWheels, in 2010. So eight years in the bike industry, with the majority of those in retail.

I know the Brompton has gradually evolved since 1976, but it’s basically the same silhouette. What is it about the Brompton that attracted you?

For me, the Brompton merges my love of design and adventure. I was a road bike rider before getting into the business. Not racing, but doing long rides and touring. And so I came to New York with my father’s steel road bike. It was a Univega.

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I couldn’t stick around to count, but it’s safe to say Peter folded and unfolded the Brompton hundreds of times during CABDA.

I had been doing lots of long rides going to and from school and out to Pennsylvania. When I started working at NYCeWheels, the Brompton immediately caught my eye with its raw lacquer finish, which showed off the steel construction and the handmade quality.

I’m sort of a sucker for design, and that drew me in. And then once I started riding the bike, I realized that this was something I could use in all the situations where a regular bike wouldn’t fit.

It allowed me to connect different parts of my life, like say, riding to meet friends and then taking a train home. Or riding somewhere, getting a drink at a bar and then maybe taking a cab. If I got a flat tire, I could throw it in the trunk of a car and transport it home that way.

And then I flew with the bike. I went to the UBI Bike School in Portland. The bike traveled in its own case and I rode from the airport to the school. That was a real treat.

Many people think of the Brompton as an urban bike. What’s your longest Brompton ride?

I rode a Brompton 150 miles over night from New York City to Philadelphia. I crossed the George Washington Bridge at 11 p.m., about an hour before it closed and bought maps at gas stations along the way. I made my way through all kinds of areas you would never expect to be in the middle of the night, like Newark, New Jersey. The reason I biked down there was because I was playing a jazz gig that night in Philadelphia. So my friend met me with the bass in Philadelphia.

There’s no rack for a bass on a Brompton.

There’s no rack for an upright bass currently on the market.

So what’s new with Brompton the company?

Our messaging in the U.S. and the focus here is going to become little bit more specific. We’re going to do a lot to support ideas beyond the bike made for cities. We’re going to be talking about the bike made for travel, for adventure, for leisure riding, that pops into your truck so you can travel to a beautiful park and go for a ride. So we’re changing the concept of what it is to be a Brompton owner in the U.S. a bit. Diversifying.

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Peter gets a lot of mileage out of 16-inch wheels. He once rode from New York to Philadelphia on a Brompton.

And then there’s big news on the horizon with our electric bike, which will have a front hub motor with a torque sensor in the bottom bracket. It’s been a project in the works for many years.

The bike seems closer to reality now than ever. We have ridden prototypes in the New York office. There is absolutely production capacity in the new factory that Brompton has opened. They expect to be releasing those in Europe, for deposit holders in the U.K., come July, August, September. And then, hopefully, fingers crossed, we’ll have a model in the U.S. for 2019.

Now that you’re an insider, I assume you’ve gained new perspective on the company.

When I was being onboarded, I visited the factory and sat down with their head brazer. This guy’s name is Abdul. He’s been with the company since they started in 1976. He built the first production bikes with Andrew Ritchie, and he still trains every brazer to this day. So the heritage of quality and innovation has had this thread tied through it—the inventor and the original builder–since the very beginning.

What Bromptons do you ride?

My bikes are an M6L raw lacquer [the Philadelphia bike -ed.], and that was a gift given to me by the founder of NYCeWheels, Bert Cebular, after the first really good day of sales, so thanks, Bert. The other bike is an S2L, that’s titanium and has been modified so that the only thing that remains stock is the frame. Everything else is absolutely the craziest lightweight stuff you can imagine.

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Peter talking with Frank Wuerthele from Dirt Rag/Bicycle Times at CABDA.

I first met you through your videos, really good stuff. What’s your secret?

This is key. A good bike video has to put you in the action. It shouldn’t be static. It should be always in motion. And it should give the viewer the feeling that they’re with you riding, as if you’re having a conversation out on a ride together.

Will we see you do videos for Brompton?

You absolutely will. All of them will be posted on the Brompton Bicycle YouTube channel. And if you subscribe you’ll get lots of updates for that. You can subscribe to the Brompton newsletter and our Facebook for other content as well.

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