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

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. 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

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

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

Mountain Bike!: A Manual of Beginning and Advance Technique

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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

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.]

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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.]

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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.


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.
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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!
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Don Casey’s Complete Illustrated Sailboat Maintenance Manual

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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

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

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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)

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)

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

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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

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

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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(p. 55)

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QuickFix Mudguard

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This mudguard solves the problem of wanting to keep the clean aesthetic of my bike while staying free of mud during rides. In the past I haven’t liked to clutter up my bike with permanent mudguards, etc. With the Quickfix Mudguard I can snap it on and off whenever I need it without the use of tools.

When I’m not using it, it folds away into my bag where it takes up no space, and it’s really light. It’s also easy to wash and simply requires that I take it off and run it under the tap. It’s made of polypropolene so it’s very hard-wearing while also being strong but flexible at the same time.

-- Helen Wilson  

Quickfix Mudguard

Available from Wiggle
Manufactured by Full Windsor

Sample Excerpts:

The Full Windsor Quickfix Mudguard clips onto the bike frame

Origin8 CargoUnit


The Origin8 CargoUnit is a great piece of “why did this take so long” common sense technology. These are handle bars that have an integrated basket which is large enough to hold a bike lock, a grocery bag, and anything else that will fit. The construction is rugged, true to Origin8′s line of strong/light components.

These are superior to any number of bolt-on accessories because the basket is part of the handlebars. Aftermarket baskets bounce, come loose, and scratch up the finish of whatever they’re attached to. Because the basket is one with the handlebars, there is none of that. Plus, there’s no way to steal the basket as they are welded together.

Speaking of the weld, these are not toys. The gauge of the tubing and the strength of the joints are on par with pro equipment. This product is serious, and comes at a rise & width to replace bars on fixies, hybrids, or even BMX geometries.

-- James Roche  

Origin8 Cargo Unit
Available in black, white, and silver

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Origin8

Ergon PC2 Bike Pedals


I’ve been using these larger-than-usual ergonomic bike pedals this bike riding season. I’ve always had foot problems from cycling. Almost all bike shoes are too narrow for me and clip-in pedals are small and create pressure points. The Ergon pedals are slightly concave which allows the foot to easily find a position of comfort.

These pedals are extremely comfortable all day long, and I have found that they increase pedaling power. Sure they look geeky, but they are one pragmatic tool.

-- Curtis Wenzel  

Ergon PC2 Bike Pedal

Available from REI

Manufactured by Ergon

Kryptonite Evolution U-Lock

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I live in Baltimore, a city that still struggles with crime. As such, I take the security of my belongings seriously, and no place is this more evident than with the thing I most often leave in public: my bike.

In the past, and in safer cities, I have used steel cable locks without any problems. However, while locking my bike up around Baltimore I would frequently see the cut remains of thick steel cable locks. My dismay was reinforced when I saw a video of the time (mere seconds) it took to cut through even a thick steel cable lock with a pair of bolt cutters. Disconcerted, I asked my bike-savvy friends for a better solution. The universal answer was a Kryptonite U-lock coupled with a steel cable used to lock both your front and rear wheel to the bike frame and an immovable object.

I have a mixed history with Kryptonite. Eight years ago I owned and used an early version of their U-lock. Its size, weight, and ungainliness left much to be desired. In addition the model I owned had an embarrassing reputation for being picked by nothing more than a simple Bic pen. So I was wary when everybody and anybody with any knowledge about urban bike riding told me to use a Kryptonite lock.

After a few months with the new U-lock it is clear that eight years of substantial design changes have made a difference. Not only have they fixed almost every issue I had with my old U-lock, but they have made it smaller, lighter, and more secure.

Favored by bike couriers, the U-Lock is designed to couple the front wheel to the frame of the bike while locking to an external post, stop sign, or other immovable object. What Kryptonite has done to make this more usable is by shrinking the width and length of the U-lock so that it fits snugly into most back pockets (while the shorter length means it doesn’t fall out while riding). This subtle change makes it far easier to carry the lock thereby avoiding the need for a bag, or even for attaching it to the frame of the bike through a plastic connector (which are, at best, unreliable and prone to breaking).

In shrinking the lock for portability Kryptonite has also made it more difficult for bike thieves to steal the bike by preventing them from fitting a car jack between the lock and the steel bar (the main technique used to bust larger U-locks).

The one downside to Krytponite’s U-lock will always be its significant heft. The lock is predominantly made up of a solid chunk of hardened steel, and as such it weighs a considerable amount. But the knowledge that my bike is safer is much less of a burden than the few ounces of steel.

-- Oliver Hulland  

[For those interested in something even more secure and don't mind the extra heft, Kryptonite makes an overbuilt U-lock that is a bit more expensive available at Amazon.--OH]

Kryptonite Evo Bike Lock and Steel Cable

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Kryptonite