Skuut Balance Bike

Balance bikes teach balance before pedaling. Learning to pedal is easy if you know how to balance. Learning balance is fairly easy, too. But learning them concurrently is hard. With a balance bike instead of a trike or a standard bike with training wheels, it’s much easier for a child to learn the balance, steering dynamics and handling required to ride a bike. My son, at 2 1/2, can go at least a mile on his Skuut bike, and is learning all the skills he’ll need, so that when I get him a normal bicycle, with pedals, he won’t need training wheels.

The design of a balance bike is brilliant—it’s actually similar to the design of the first bicycles (velocipedes) that had no drivetrains. The particular brand of a running or balance bike for kids is not of much concern. Cool Tools previously featured the Likeabike, which was imported from Europe and lovingly crafted, but notably expensive. You can find cheap $50 metal balance bikes these days, but we use the current wooden standard Skuut which is good enough quality for $85.

Skuut Balance Bike
$75

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Skuut



Respro Sportsta Mask

As an avid cyclist who cycles to work everyday, all year round, I’ve had a lot of throat infections throughout the years simply due to the cold air. A buff scarf is great for isolation but hard to breath through, gets humid and inevitably ends up frozen.

Recently, I discovered Respro’s Sportsa Mask which is made from neoprene and filters the air. Inhaled air is not so cold anymore and only influences breathing a little bit (you get used to it). After my 35 minute ride there’s some condensation on the outside valves. I can see this freezing when temperature drop below 0C, but Respro also has an X-treme Mask for cooler conditions.

It’s proven itself time and again as it enables me to bike outside when its cold, while also filtering the air.

-- David  

Respro Sportsta Mask
$35

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Respro



Atomic Zombie’s Bicycle Builder’s Bonanza

A fun and detailed guide to hacking unusual bicycles from old bike parts. With a bit of welding here and there you can take castoff bicycles and repurpose them in dozens of imaginative ways. Here are notes for customizing choppers, tandems, unicycles, and crazy stunt bikes with frames found at the dump. How to strip down a bike to its useful components, and what to keep in mind as you modify its design and performance.

-- KK  

Atomic Zombie’s Bicycle Builder’s Bonanza
Brad Graham, Kathy McGowan
2004, 388 pages
$17

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

 All parts of a frame after cutting

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 Make final adjustments before priming and painting.

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 The completed Skycycle is an awesome sight. Are you bold enough to ride it?

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Pulling a “one hander” is no problem once you feel comfortable with the Skycycle.




Just Ride

This book returns the fun to recreational bicycling. Biking has been taken over by racing style; weekend riders and bike commuters imitate racers in their gear and approach. The author is a long-time bicycle maker, racer, and advocate, and in this manifesto he deflates common bicycling myths one by one. He argues you can wear ordinary street clothes, and that you will be less tired if you don’t use clip in cleats on your pedals, that the weight of the bike does not really matter, baskets are cool to have, plastic saddles are good enough, and so on. I’ve ridden bikes for 40 years, including long-distance touring and everyday commuting, and the common sense Grant Peterson preaches here is both absolutely true and refreshing. If biking seems less fun than it once did, read this. You’ll save a lot of money, and will enjoy riding more.

-- KK  

Just Ride
Grant Petersen
2012, 256 pages
$12

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

I say, wear underwear–even if it’s cotton. That goes against a powerful rumor mill that considers cotton underwear a no-no for any kind of ride beyond a ten-minute commute. The naysayers say it gets wet with sweat; the sweat makes your skin more vulnerable to chafing; the seams are uncomfortable at best and will cause saddle sores at worst.

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The only riders who benefit from clipless pedals are racers, and only because their pedals are so small and slippery. If you don’t ride tiny, slippery pedals, you don’t need stiff, cleated shoes.

The benefits of pedaling free far outweigh any real or imagined benefits of being locked in. They are as follows:

Your muscles last longer. Moving your foot about the pedal shifts the load, even if slightly, to different muscles, and spreads the load around. Sprint up the hills on the balls of your feet and, on long-seated climbs, push with the pedal centered almost under your arch. It’s not a turbocharged, magic sweet spot, but it feels better and more natural, and you can’t do it if you’re locked in.

You reduce the chance of a repetitive stress injury, because your feet naturally move around more, changing your biomechanics.

You get off and on easier at stoplights; there’s no twisting to get out of your pedals, no fussing to get back in.

You can walk in stores without walking on your heels. You can run! You aren’t handicapped by expensive and weird-looking shoes.

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Whenever a rider gets hit and is being loaded, unconscious, into the ambulance, the driver who hit him will testify to the cops, “I swear, I didn’t see the dude.” If you’re looking brilliant and geeky, you’re more likely to be seen and less likely to get hit, and he won’t have that excuse.

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Grab the fork with your fingers, and use the heel of your hand to close the quick release. The convex side of the lever is labeled CLOSE, and should face outward when you’re finished.

Closing the lever properly requires enough force to leave an impression on your hand.

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 Shock your friends by putting an ugly duct tape mudflap on a nice bike.

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A typical racy road bike gives you a CPT like this:

A more comfortable, better all-aournd Unracer’s CPT looks like this:

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On a stop-and-go commute, a red light at the wrong time instantly wipes out even a hundred-pound weight difference.

On a descent, the heavier bike rider is faster.

Light wheels accelerate faster than heavy ones, which helps when you’re taking off from a stop, but heavy wheels maintain more of their momentum than light wheels, which helps you keep your speed on rolling roads and trails.

On twenty-five-mile club rides, when you and your club mates are close to the same fitness level, the pack sets the pace, and since you’re riding in a partial vacuum (not fighting the wind), it’s easy to keep up, even with heavier bike and body.

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It’s easy to buy tires with an extra layer of rubber, nylon, kevlar, or something else between the casing and tread to stop thorns. Every extra bit of protection adds weight that will always scare of racers and others under the spell, but for all-purpose Unracing rides, I like extra flat protection. Why not? I’ve fixed at least five hundred flats in my life, I’m really good at it, and I still hate it. Beef up my tires, thank you.




Tri-Flow Superior Lubricant

When I bought the bike I rode on a daily basis for four years throughout college, the mechanic at the store insisted in a polite but matter of fact way (read: “I know more about this stuff than you ever will”)  that I pick up a bottle of Tri Flow Lubricant to keep my bike chain running smoothly. Many years (and a few bikes) later, my chains are still in ship shape. Tri-Flow just works. Really well.

My routine involves cleaning the chain with a rag and reapplying with the drip applicator (but be sure to shake the bottle as it contains Teflon that will settle out). After that I wipe off the excess and I’m good to go. It’s also great to have around the house and I’ve used it anywhere metal touches metal. I’ve eliminated creaky hinges, and loosened up stiff tools with just a few drops.

What’s even more impressive is that I just ran out of the 2-oz bottle I picked up eight years ago.

-- Oliver Hulland  

[Note: It seems that folks who live in a dry and dusty environment might be better off with a dry lubricant for their chains as this does attract dirt and dust.--OH]

Tri Flow Superior Lubricant
$4

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Tri-Flow

Here is the MSDS for Tri-Flow Superior Lubricant.--OH



EBike Shipper

This is the cheapest way to ship a bike in the US. Most airlines have hefty charges for your bicycle as accompanied luggage, so this compact box and subsidized FedEx ground rates are the best deal I’ve found. It will cost about $100 when you are done if you use their full service. While it is the cheapest way, it is not the most convenient way. Here is how it works.

ShipBikes.com will ship you a box, called an Ebike Shipper, to your sending address.

Inside the box is a much larger box folded up. You unfold that box into two parts (top and bottom), and then you disassemble your bike and tie it in.

You need to remove both wheels, pedals, handlebar, seat, fenders, racks, and maybe the front fork.

It will take a hour or more, and can be done with two common tools. (And of course you need to rebuild it at the other end.) Then you tape up the box, print out a label from an email they send you, and then call FedEx who will come to your address to pick it up, and then deliver to the address you designate. This delivery and pick up is really fantastic at the end of a bike trip when you are shipping a bike back home from a far destination.

The shipping box is very cleverly designed to arrive in the mail folded up and to just squeak under a pricing threshold when unfolded. Thus the tight fit and the need to strip the bike down. By coming under the FedEx price threshold the box will ship in the US for about $53. The cost of the box and shipping it to you is $48. You can stuff some gear like a sleeping bag and pad into the box for padding but it won’t hold much beside the bike.

The alternative is to use an AirCaddy from the same company, which is a triangular shaped box that takes the bike with almost no disassembly. (The AirCaddy box is also reusable.) You can load it in 10 minutes. But it costs $99 to reach you, and about $96 to ship because of its larger size. That extra simplicity will cost about double the ebike box option. But this is by far the most convenient way to ship a bike: Box comes, you unfold it, pop bike in, they come to get it, then deliver it its destination. Done for $200.

Of course if you have use of a car you can find a free used box from a bike shop, drag it home, and ship it yourself, but you’ll pay higher rates, close to $100. ShipBIkes has some kind of deal with FedEx that gives you a discount on the freight. Or you can get a free bike box at a shop and then haul the packed bike-in-box to the airport (and then out of the arriving airport), but for most airlines this will still cost you about $90- $100+, and it requires a car, which you may not have a the end of a long tour.

There are still a few airlines that will ship a boxed bike for $50 as accompanied luggage, but they are rare, and you still have the problem of getting the box and then getting the bike to the airport and back. Lastly, the ebike box is so well designed that there are four layers of cardboard around the perimeter, everything is tied in with straps, the wheel axels protected with rubber bumpers, and the whole thing much more protected and secure than a free bike-shop box, which has been used and is not meant to be shipped in luggage. I recently received a bike shipped this casual way and the front wheel was so damaged it had to be rebuilt. The bike we shipped via ebike was intact.

Any way you do it, it will cost you about $100 to ship a bike in the US. (ShipBikes will ship overseas but the costs vary so much I can’t summarize.) But if you count the hassles of the alternatives, the hassles of disassembling your bike into a provided box and having them pick it up to deliver works out to be the cheapest way to do it.

-- KK  

Ebike Shipper
$48 per box
ShipBikes.com



PedalMagic.com

When it was time to teach my kids to ride bicycles, I first started with the traditional method of holding the back of the bike while running along behind them.  That did not work well for either my children or my knees.  In the search for a better way, I landed on using the method found at PedalMagic.com.

This site sells you a relatively short video to watch online.  The video demonstrates a non-intuitive but effective method for children to become acclimated to balancing on a moving bicycle.  In my own experience with my non-athletically-gifted children they all learned to ride using this method in 10-minutes or less.  I have since helped other neighborhood children learn in a similar amount of time.

Arguably, a method such as this might be considered more of an intangible “hack” than a tangible “tool” – but for me it was very cool either way.

-- Daniel Barenholtz  

[Given the cost and nature of the training, Pedal Magic offers a straight forward guarantee if you're not satisfied with the video. --OH]

Pedal Magic Video
$20 for 48 hours access

Available from PedalMagic.com



Mountain Bike!: A Manual of Beginning and Advance Technique

mountain bike manual.jpeg

A few weeks ago while rushing down a trail on my bike I wiped-out and broke a rib. I wished I had read this book earlier. Its completely hand-drawn tutorial of mountain bike techniques and skills would have cured my mistake. Each page is hand drawn, full of humor, packed with experience, and conveys memorable lessons. Author Nealy’s hilarious one page cartoons are more effective in teaching crucial things than either text or video. Although it was written — I mean drawn — in 1992 it’s still amazingly valid. The bikes have changed but the skills and challenges are the same. It’s a really great how-to.

-- KK  

Mountain Bike!: A Manual of Beginning to Advanced Technique
William Nealy
1992, 176 pages
$12

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

Before you begin a self-training session RELAX, this ain’t Wall Street. You can’t lose riding a mountain bike. If you are working on a technique and you fail two or three times in a row, STOP!! Do something else and try again later. This is called “Training To Failure” (positive progressive training; pushing the envelope). If you push a training session beyond three successive failures you are “Training To Fail” (negative regressive training; more pain than fun). As you become more adept at self-teaching and pushing yourself appropriately you’ll be able to discern where good (beneficial) training ends and bad (regressive) traning begins. [Hint: lack of fun marks the spot.]

mountain bike manual1.jpeg

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Cone of Movement – The amount of lean a rider can exert on his/her bike is determined by the focus of his/her stance: in a seated position, the cone of movement is focused on the seat [fig. 1] and is relatively small. The greater the obstacle, the larger the cone of movement must be to surmount it. [fig 2.]

mountain bike manual2.jpeg

mountain bike manual3.jpeg

From a standing position the cone of movement is huge compared to sitting. This gives the rider an exponentially greater number of options in terms of leans, weight shifts and control.

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On level or down-sloping trails you can keep your pedals and cranks clear of ground clutter by keeping your cranks more or less level and pumping the pedals up and down.
mountain bike manual4.jpeg

Ratcheting

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Another excellent reason to hang onto your bike in any fall is a loose bike’s proclivity to become a very gnarly projectile during a wipe-out!
mountain bike manual5.jpeg
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mountain bike manual6.jpeg
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mountain bike manual7.jpeg




Don Casey’s Complete Illustrated Sailboat Maintenance Manual

sailboat repair.jpg

When I need to repair anything on my sailboat this is the first book I turn to. The illustrations are excellent. The book is actually six books compiled into one, which makes navigation of it a bit difficult but not impossible. The explanations are very clear with detailed information on things such as fiberglassing with resin versus epoxy, electrical wiring, and inboard diesel engines.

As a companion to this I find my subscription to Practical Sailor magazine to have up to date first hand reports on sailing equipment and products from porta potty deodorizers to bottom paints to navigation systems.

-- Monty Zukowski  

Don Casey’s Complete Illustrated Sailboat Maintenance Manual
Don Casey
2005, 896 pages, 1st Edition
$33

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

Sailboat Repair p 11-4.jpg
Symmetry
From directly forward and astern, the hull should appear symmetrical and the keel perpendicular to the deck. Sighting the hull through the gridwork of a plastic plotter simplifies this determination. Any detectable difference from one side to the other suggests major trouble. (p 11)

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Galvanic Corrosion
A more insidious problem is galvanic corrosion. Connecting the green wire to an underwater fitting completes the circuit between your boat and all other nearby boats with their own green wires grounded. With seawater as the electrolyte, every grounded fitting essentially becomes part of a big battery. (p. 557)

sailboat-repair-557-crop.jpg
If your fittings are less noble on the galvanic scale than your neighbor’s, they are anodes and begin to erode. This can be bad news if you have an aluminum outdrive in the water and your neighbor’s underwater fittings are bronze and stainless steel.




Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance

zinn and mountain bike.jpg

I’ve been using this book for over a year and so far haven’t found anything it doesn’t cover when it comes to maintaining my bike. Zinn includes lots of step-by-step instructions with clear illustrations. I was a complete novice prior to reading this, and now it’s nice not having to run to the bike shop for every little thing I need fixed. It gives me confidence to tackle things I normally wouldn’t attempt.

-- Rob Lewis  

[Note: Velopress has put together a sample PDF including a few chapters from the book.--OH]

Zinn & the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance
Lennard Zinn and Todd Telander
2010, 464 pages
$17

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

Chains
A bike chain is a simple series of links connected by rivets. Rollers surround each rivet between the link plates and engage the teeth of the cogs and chainrings. It is an extremely efficient method of transmitting mechanical energy from the pedals to the rear wheel. In terms of weight, cost, and efficiency, the bicycle chain has no equal, and— believe me—people have tried without success to improve on it for years.
To keep your bike running smoothly, you have to take care of the chain. It needs to be kept clean and well lubricated in order to transmit your energy efficiently and shift smoothly. Chains need to be replaced frequently to prolong the working life of other, more expensive, drivetrain components because a chain gets longer as its internal parts wear, thus contacting the gear teeth differently than intended. (p 51)

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zinn page 55.jpg
(p. 55)

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Zinn page 198.jpg
(p.198)