Friday, April 01, 2016


Once again it's time for the #30DaysofBiking. I'm going to ride my bike every day in April. This year instead of updating my blog with 30 posts, I'll just post a daily tweet with a photograph from the day's ride together with a baiku (a bike inspired haiku). Depending on the day, I may do more than one baiku/photo, but each day I'll do at least one. I'll update this post with the tweets.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Rob Snyder's Coroplast Handlebar Box

From Rob Snyder:

Kent, I recently made a Coroplast handlebar box based on your design and want to share it with you, maybe you would share it on your blog.

Sorry that the narrative below is so long, I am trying to describe the construction in enough detail that someone could build it without pictures.

The main difference between mine and yours is I turned it around, inspired by Emily O’Brien’s Dill Pickle handlebar bag ( This gives me more room for my hands and a nice place to put the bike number. There are also some differences in the construction details which I will try to describe here.

I fastened the pieces with Mr. McGroovy’s box rivets( Mr. McGroovy also sold me a couple of handy tools, one for cutting the length of the flutes and one for taking the rivets apart.

The overall dimensions are 8” tall (34 flutes) 12” wide and 6” front to back. I was using a large sign so I was able to make the box in 2 pieces but my first attempt was 3 pieces. I started by cutting the bowed piece leaving it longer than the needed 20” and a couple of extra flutes wider so I got a nice smooth bend. I have a roll of printer paper that is about 10” diameter which makes a great form but I think you could just roll it around air. I used a couple of lashing straps to hold it in the roll for a couple of days so it took a set.

For the front, top & bottom I cut an hourglass shape where the top & bottom have a bit of excess and the front (middle of the hourglass) is net at 8x12. The flutes are running across the front so that the bends are with the grain.

A few words about basic techniques. I have a special cutter that follows the flutes, cutting only one face of the material at a time. For cutting across the flutes a utility knife will cut through 1 face and partially through the flutes allowing you to snap the Coroplast. I use the special cutter to then cut the remaining face. Curves are more difficult and I find it helps to have a pattern or at least a steel ruler to use as a guide. Draw the curve you want with a Sharpie, place the ruler on the good side of the line so if you slip, the knife goes into the waste, and make a series of short cuts. The knife will want to follow the flutes so it is best to make light cuts. On concave curves you might even try perforations first.

For holes you can use something as simple as a nail. I tried a leather punch which worked pretty well but I think the Coroplast dulled it. A nail set or similar punch works pretty well but my favorite tool is a soldering iron.

WARNING: I do not know if the fumes from melting the Coroplast are toxic, so use caution. The soldering iron I have is a little small for the rivets but it is easy to enlarge the holes.

Back to building the box. Take the straps off the bent hoop of Coroplast. I now trim the edges so that it is 8” wide (34 flutes) and trim the ends square so that the total length is 20”. Now using a straight edge and a dull tool, crush the Coroplast (across the flutes) 1” in from each end and bend it inward. This 1” flange is where you attach the hoop to the front. I punched the holes through the flange then temporarily held the front to the flange with double-stick tape so I could match the holes into the front. I now temporarily fasten the 2 pieces together. The rivets are difficult to unfasten so you may want to use screws or such. Tape may not be strong enough because the hoop wants to spring out. With the front and hoop attached, fold the top and bottom over.

For the TOP, trace around the outside of the box and cut to the line. You can do this with sturdy shears like tin snips or the utility knife but most household scissors will not do it or will be dulled.

For the BOTTOM, trace around the inside of the box and the layout a parallel curve about 1.25” outside of that. This band will be bent up to attach the bottom of the box to the inside of the hoop. You will need to cut notches to make tabs to fasten. I made a trapezoid template to mark the tabs. 2.5” on the base 1” on the top and 1.25” tall. Leave about .25” from the hinge and trace the template. Starting from both ends and making the center tab a little wider or narrower will make a neater looking job.

Punch holes in the center of the tabs, fold them up and mark the inside of the box. It is hard to punch the box from the inside so I disassembled it and punched the holes where I had marked them. Now you are ready to permanently assemble the box. Once it is assembled, all that is left is to add some straps to attach it to your bike and a bungie to hold the lid closed.

My bike has bullhorn style bars so this method may not work if you have cables coming out of the brake levers (classic non-aero or early brifters). I used a small side release buckle and 2 single bar slides which attach to the box through slots and go over the bars & under the stem. I made the slots by punching a couple of holes and slitting between them and then widened and cleaned up the slot with the soldering iron. The slots are just a single flute wide. The front of the box is supported by a cord on either side which goes through a hole and loops around the handlebars. (On a drop bar bike it would go over the brake levers) the cords are adjusted with a simple toggle grip. Seattle Fabrics on Aurora Ave N. is a great place for buying the webbing & hardware but I think REI and other outdoor stores or sewing shops should have it.

To keep the lid shut I use some elastic cord and loop it around a rivet in the center of the hoop. I attached my cords through holes in the front, near the bottom and secure them inside the box with a knot. I can use the elastic cord to hold a cue sheet on the top and a bike number on the front.

The box is not waterproof so I throw most of the stuff into a stuff sack or plastic bag before putting it in the box. Since the bottom is not waterproof any water that gets in drains out. I drove from Seattle to Everett via I-5 with the bike on the back and the bike sat out in the rain for a couple of hours before driving back. My stuff sack is just an old sleeping bag sack and things were damp but not soaked and most importantly still in the box & on the bike. I have only used it on a couple of rides including Chilly Hilly and it did quite well. (that was the first box which had the lid as a 3rd piece)

Thursday, March 10, 2016

More Excitement Than Most Folks Prefer

This photo of Greenwood was taken in January for Seattle magazine's March issue PHOTO CREDIT: John Vicory

You never know what life is going to toss your way. You can work hard, build a great business that genuinely helps people and the planet and in one instant that can all get blown away.

Early Wednesday morning a leaking gas line caused a blast that destroyed three businesses in the Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle. Those businesses are all struggling to rebuild. You can read about them here:

Also seriously damaged in the blast was G&O Family Cyclery, a wonderful shop owned and run by friends of mine. You can read more about the shop and how they are coping here:

Davey, Tyler, Donald and Karl are fine, resourceful folk and they'll rebuild, but now is a time when they can use some help. I pitched in a little bit (I wish I could do more but almost all of us in the bike business aren't here to get rich) and now I'm asking anybody reading this who cares about bikes and decent people going through a tough time to at least consider donating a bit to help in the rebuilding effort.

You can donate to help G&O Family Cyclery here:

If you'd like to help the employees of Neptune Coffee, Mr. Gyros, and the Greenwood Quick Stop you can donate here:

Thank you.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Weatherneck: The Bandana Evolves

Brian Davis, the guy behind Fix-it-Sticks is back with another clever, well-designed product. It's that little bit of wind protection and warmth you may need while starting out on a cold ride but what makes it smart is how easy it is to take on and off and adjust. Brian explains it well in the Kickstarter video I've embedded at the top of this post.

Unlike many Kickstarters, Brian's project is a real thing, well-thought out and BS-free. He's going the Kickstarter route so he can bulk-buy supplies and get a sense of demand for his product.

I tested the Weatherneck out last weekend but it wasn't cold enough here for me to use it as a face mask.

Brian also sent a Weatherneck to my pal Hughie at the Bicycle Center. I told Hughie that I thought his partner Yvonne would be a better model. She sent me a picture where it looks like she's going to hold up a stagecoach.

Dillon is an ex-California dog so he's always cold. The Weatherneck made a nice little jacket for him.

Hughie started out serious.

Then he got creative.

Then he started channeling his inner Axl Rose.

OK, we've been having fun with the Weatherneck, but the bottom line is that this is a cool product. The magnetic clasp system is very versatile, you can take the Weatherneck on and off in seconds and as you can see, you can wear it in various ways.

So  if you live somewhere where it gets cold some times, check it out. I think it's well worth the reasonable price Brian is charging and I hope he sells a bunch of them.

Monday, January 11, 2016

How to Occupy Public Land

Sunday, January 03, 2016

The Blackburn 2'fer Bike Light

The Blackburn 2'fer is a lightweight, USB-rechargeable bike light. Its most unique feature is that it can serve as either a front or rear light.

The light weighs 18 grams. It can clip onto clothing or a pannier and it also comes with a stretchy rubber bracket so it can mount to a seatpost or handlebar.

The light also comes with a short (about 20 cm) micro USB cord for charging. That's a pretty damn short cord but these days darn near every device I own charges with a micro USB cord. After opening the package, I charged the light with the 10 foot USB cord I use for charging my phone and Kindle.

The light is bright. It has 4 modes: White Steady, White Flashing, Red Steady & Red Flashing. The white light is rated at 60 Lumens while the red is rated at 20 Lumens.

A long press turns the light on and off. A quick press toggles the light through its various modes.

Here is the light shining as a tail light at dusk.

And here it is working as a head light. It's quite effective as a be-seen light.

The rubber bracket holds the light securely to the handlebars.

The bracket also works fine on the seatpost.

As a front light, the 2'fer really only works as a be-seen light. The light really doesn't really cast a beam, so you can't really ride at any speed.

Used in conjunction with my Cygolite Dash, it's fine. The Dash lets me see where I'm going while the 2'fer increases my conspicuity.

As a tail light, the 2'fer really shines (pun intended!)

On steady, the 2'fer runs for 1.5 hours, while the strobe mode is good for 5 hours. The light has a super tiny red/orange/green power gauge LED. It takes about 3 hours to fully charge. The short battery life may be a deal-breaker for some but for my relatively short commute it's fine. I just keep and eye on the gauge and charge it at home or work as needed.

The 2'fer is a great be-seen light for the urban commuter. For dark trails or long rides, you'll want something more, but it's a good little versatile light. You can buy it as either a single light or save a bit and buy it in a two-pack.

Friday, December 25, 2015

How a Folding Bike Fits Your Life

Most folding bikes are marketed based on their advantages for travel. It's certainly true that a combination of mass transit (a train or a bus, for example) and a quick folding bike like a Brompton or Bike Friday Tikit can prove to be a great solution for daily commuting. And if you frequently travel by air, buying a folding bike like a New World Tourist or a Pocket Rocket that can pack safely and securely into a standard-sized Samsonite suitcase is a much more satisfying use of dollars than spending money on the outrageous fees many airlines charge for transporting a full-sized bike these days.

While the above reasons are good and valid, over the past few decades of riding and owning a wide range of folding bikes I've come to appreciate some of the less obvious features of these unique machines. Some of these aspects may be drawbacks in one context, yet prove to be a surprising advantage in another. For example, let's talk a bit about wheels.

Most folding bikes use 16" or 20" wheels. If you want a folding bike with larger wheels, Montague makes some fine ones or you could get something built with S and S couplers or the lovely Rinko Travel System. Larger wheels, as any 29er mountain biker will tell you, tend to hold speed better and cope better with rough conditions. The bigger wheels have more angular momentum when moving, more inertia when stopped. Smaller wheels accelerate and decelerate quicker. As someone whose ridden damn near every bike wheel size made, I sum it up this way: "Big wheels are fast, but smaller wheels are quick."

For urban riding, small wheels are fun. BMX riders know this. It's easier to flick the bike around. That's not to say you can't do long distances with smallish wheels, hell I rode both Paris-Brest-Paris and London-Edinburgh-London a Bike Friday New World Tourist and never felt hindered by the bicycle, but you note the advantages of nimbleness more in stop and go city riding. In some places, like urban Japan, Mini Velos are popular. While mini velos don't fold, they do take up less space than a full size bike. And mini velo fans will attest to the fun factor inherent in smaller wheels.

Another advantage of the folding bike in a city environment is theft resistance. Rather than leaving your bike locked up outside, you can fold the bike and take it indoors. Folding bikes fit in small spaces so they are a good choice for apartment dwellers.

While folding bikes aren't cargo bikes per-se, they are surprisingly good at hauling things like groceries. On every folding bike I've owned I've been able to sling a bag over the front handlebars for quick grocery runs. The space above the smaller wheels can be used for a load without really messing up the bike's handling.

Folding bikes tend to be adjustable in terms of sizing. Some, like my Bike Friday Companion, are very adjustable. This makes it a great bike if you want to buy one bike for a growing child or if you want to have a bike that is shared between a couple of different people. Folding bikes also tend to have a low step-over height which means they can be a good choice for folks with short legs or mobility issues that keep them off a diamond-framed bike.

Since folding bikes still aren't exactly common owning a folding bike means you'll get asked about it. If you're an bike enthusiastic extrovert like me, you'll see this as a plus. If you're a more private person, you should be aware of this as a potential downside of folding bike ownership. But in general bike-curious people tend to be good people so maybe getting asked about your nifty bike isn't too bad a thing.

For me, the main thing about folding bikes is that they are fun. Yes, they are practical, sporty, zippy and environmentally friendly but they are also just a great way to be out and about in the world. So even if you don't commute daily or travel that often, perhaps there's a place in your life for a folding bike.