Random Bicycle Advice

I don’t know where else to put this, and thought it might be useful to someone here (maybe). Some obscure/esoteric bicycle advice:

  • If you’re using inner tubes in a performance oriented bike, spend the extra couple of bucks to use ultralight tubes. The difference is worth it.
  • Use good tires. Yes, they cost real money- but they dictate an awful lot about how your bike performs, so they’re the last place to scrimp on.
  • Advice from racers/pro’s is worth precisely squat unless you’re a racer or pro. Pro cyclists are paid to ride what they ride- they would (and do) ride all sorts of horrible shit because it’s their job. Their opinions/equipment choices shouldn’t matter to you unless you’re getting paid to ride, too.
  • You don’t need more gears; you need the right gears.
  • The front brake should be your best buddy. When you need to stop in a hurry, it’s where all your braking power is- make friends with it.
  • Frame pumps are better than mini pumps and CO2. That there are no good mtb frame pumps in production seems to be a market gap.
  • Steel is a perfectly lovely material for frames, stems, and forks.
  • Change your brake and shifter cables more often than you do. Change the housing, too.
  • Wax chain lube is gross and weird.
  • Full fingered bike gloves are better than half-finger gloves. Yes, even on road bikes.

Peter Mooney

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I had this bike built by Peter in about 1996-7. It’s still a prized possession of mine, and I’m very happy to finally be back to riding it (after a few years off with kids…). This bike, 20 years later, still represents a platonic ideal of a road racing bike. I know things have moved on- compact geometry frames, disc brakes, Di2, tubeless, whatever. But for me (as a product of my time and upbringing), this bike is what I look for in a road bike.

For the tech geeks that might be reading:

The front triangle is Reynolds 853 brass brazed with 3Rensho lugs. Fork is an internal Cinelli crown with Suntour Track dropouts. The rear triangle is Columbus EL/OS silver brazed to Henry James stainless dropouts. It’s a full blown race bike, so the 26mm Compass tires are at the very hairy edge of what will fit. Gruppo is 8spd Campy (a mix of Record and Chorus), and I built the wheels with Mavic OpenPRO CD rims, DT Revolution spokes, and alloy nipples. Headset is a two-tone Chris King, stem is Salsa steel, bars are ttt with Neuman tape. Campy seatpost with a Selle Italia Flite Ti, seat roll by me. Pedals are painted Shimano DuraAce Look compatible.

Bridgestone MB-3


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I got this bike in high school, around 1994 or so. Actually, it wasn’t this bike- it was a teal MB-4. It was a gift, and a way to get me to stop borrowing and breaking my mother’s MB-5. I broke a chainstay on the original bike a year or three later, and this was my warranty replacement frame and fork. That was a bit of luck, too, because by that time Bridgestone had pulled out of the US, and I had to track down the former rep and see if he had a frame around that he could give me. He did, and I’ve ridden this bike ever since.

Originally, of course, it was built up as a regular mountain bike. The sub-genres of bikes we have now weren’t yet a thing, so that meant it was setup for twisty technical New England singletrack. Think: narrow flat bars, toe clips, 2″ tires inflated to 35 psi, and a rigid fork. Classic. The build evolved over time (and as I broke things), but it was pretty much always setup for trail riding.

Then, I went away to college and needed to bring a bike. I took this, and before I went I put 1.5″ slick tires on it, got rid of the granny chainring, and added toeclips. It became my first commuter bike. Around 1999, I bought a Specialized Stumpjumper Pro, and that became my “good” mountain bike. The Bridgestone morphed into a single speed (32 x 16… remember when that was the thing?), and stayed that way for years. I raced cyclocross on it a few times like that with the addition of Conti Cross Country tires in 1.5″. As I got older and had my own children, the bike turned into a seven speed burrito slayer- single chainring, front rack & basket, flat pedals. Built for pedaling on bike paths with kids.

I’d been toying with the idea of putting 700c wheels on it- apparently they’ll fit (sorta?) and you can run adaptors to get the brakes to work… but I didn’t have any spare 700c wheels lying around, so I thought I’d test it out for gravel with the existing wheels. I swapped the bars and stem, got some vintage Dura Ace STI levers, re-geared it (and added a front derailleur for the first time since 1998!), and refinished a saddle to match.

It’s my “gravel” bike, now- and it’s totally in it’s element. The handling and frame still feel excellent, and the drivetrain works beautifully for the terrain I ride here. Eventually, it might be fun to see how 650b wheels look in there (the brakes don’t require an adaptor for those- I’m unsure of the tire clearance, though), but it’s pretty sweet as-is. I suppose a slightly narrower/lighter tire would be cool too, but that’s really just splitting hairs.

So there you go- a 24 year old bike that’s still finding new ways to be useful and wonderful. Long live the Bridgestone.

Backpack v2.0

About a year ago, I made my first backpack for myself. I was sick of my old bags- they were great bags, but they were built for rock climbing or biking or hiking or whatever, and I needed a bag that was built for hauling my daily gear to and from work.

So I made one. It was a prototype, and so I made some choices. I made it from 10oz cotton duck cloth, with a lightweight nylon liner. I made the straps unpadded nylon webbing. I reduced features and slimmed it down until it just did the things I really needed.

Then I used it for a year.

In that time, it’s done pretty well. The top has faded a bunch, and the inside is rattier than before, but it’s mostly held up. I found out that the unpadded straps were awesome (for the loads I was carrying). That the cotton duck was easy to sew but didn’t shed water (duh) and soaked up sweat. That the internal padding wasn’t quite right. That I wanted more pen slots.

It was time to make version 2. This time, I sourced some 500d coated Corudra nylon. Most bags of this type are made from the heavier 1000d, but this wasn’t a bag for bushwhacking through miles of thorns- it was for commuting. I did the liner in 420d nylonew-bag-v2-0-complete-500d-codura-outer-lined-in-420d-nylon-8-waterproof-zipper-unpadded-straps-850-in2-14l-diy-backpack-edc-edcgear-craftedn, and used a #8 waterproof zipper. I swapped the 2″ velcro loop on the outside to 4″, and added a grab handle to the top. Added some more internal pockets, and spent some more time on the internal seams. It’s about 14.5L in capacity, and it’s pretty lightweight. I wouldn’t want to load it with 25lbs and try to overnight with it- but that’s not what it’s for.

If they don’t make what you need, it’s time to build it for yourself.


Current EDC

  • iPhone 5s 16gb
  • Kershaw Chili
  • Uniball Signo 207 Ultra Micro (0.38) Black
  • Field Notes Red Blooded
  • Kara’s Kustoms Retrakt (0.5 Black G2 currrently)
  • Konica Autoreflex TC (Vivitar 28mm f2.5) (Poleroid OneFilm 400 c41)
  • All in custom bag (NF-P-815)

Some new test footage.

Since my previous camera went belly-up, I’ve picked up a Nikon D5300 (which I like in every way thus far). This is some of the first test footage that’s come off that camera, with just a quick edit. I used a 30+ year old Vivitar 28mm f2.5 Konica AR lens with a ND8+4 rig for light control (and so I could shoot wide open…).


Doing the Math.

So cars.

I drive more than the average American- instead of the “industry standard” 12,000 miles a year, I’m pushing closer to 18,000. That’s a lot more. As a result, and because I’m a car dork, I’m always looking for a better solution.

Today, Tesla cars announced they will debut their new “$40,000 ish” Model E. That’s exciting to me, since their Model S is what I’d run out and buy should I win the lottery tomorrow (Yes, over an M5 or E63 or S6…). It’s not that it’s a nice car (though that’s also true), but rather that it costs an amazing 4.5 cents per mile to operate. That’s it. I spend somewhere north of $3000 a year on gasoline, and by Tesla’s math it costs $240 a year in electricity to fuel one of their cars. It’d take a long time to make up the difference between my current price bracket (read: cheap) and the Model S ($70,000 base). But at 40k, over, say, 7 years, I’d make up the difference. Meaning the cost of a gasoline car plus the gas over seven years would equal the price of the Model E plus electricity. That’s nuts.

I likely won’t be in the market when the Model E debuts, but it’s starting to look like by the time I’m ready to buy my next car, it very well might be electric. I always assumed that would happen some day- but I never thought it’d be in time for my next car.

Welcome to the future.

Misfit Shine Update

Here’s my update.

It’s gone. The crappy “sports band” that I was wearing it on doesn’t hold on worth a damn, and at some point during a Saturday morning grocery shopping run, my Shine popped out of my bracelet and is gone forever. And I’m angry.

What kind of “sports band” can’t hold onto the device while shopping? How is it supposed to hold on when I’m running or biking or doing anything more vigorous than putting a carton of OJ into a basket?

As much as I liked my Shine, the “loseability” of the device (combined with the price) means I can’t imagine buying another. If/when I get another activity tracker, it’ll be a bracelet for some sort- the new Nike Fuelband looks ok, and the new Jawbone UP is looking even better now. I’m running the Nike Move app on my iPhone 5S, and that’s working for now, but maybe post-holidays I’ll be picking up one of those two.

As far as Shine, it’s a shame to have to write off what could be a great device because of a terrible mount system.

Gear #2

I’m moving back to paper for my 2014-15 year calendar.

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I still like the digital version for some things, buy for some long-standing reason, I have a preference for paper. To that end, I managed to get my hands on a (shipped in from Japan!). There are a couple of reasons I like it-
The size- it’s not as large as some of the Moleskine alternatives
The layout- one page per day (also, grid, and well thought out time stamps, and so on…)
The design- rounded corners! lots of pages!
Cache- you ain’t got one like this!


Tools #1

I’m expanding the scope here just a little bit beyond education.

Anyone who knows me has realized a few things:

  1. I am exacting
  2. I hate compromise
  3. I research compulsively
  4. I have no predilection towards established standards

Add all this up, and I end up using tools and gear that seem strange to a lot of people. I get questions about the “stuff” I’m using on a regular basis. So, I thought that from time to time I’d share on here what sort of gear I’m using.

Let’s start with my bag:

USMC_Recon-APThis is a USMC ILBE Recon pack. Mine is surplussed, but these are still in active service. A couple of things about it before I get into why I chose it. It’s a relatively large day bag- and it’d look too large on many people, but I’m 6’1″ and have a long torso. It fits me fine. It has a internal sheet-frame, which makes it rigid, and the straps are properly built to allow you to carry weight comfortably. It has interior pockets for organization, and a removable divider between the main compartment and the lower compartment. MOLLE all over, though I keep it clean on the outside. The bag was designed by Arc’teryx, and produced under contract by Propper. It’s listed as being a APB03 bag, but there are at least two variants of this specific model (with the variations being primarily in the waistband), and at least two other lines of bags bearing that designation.

I’ve modified it very little- when it came, it was still full of Afghanistan. My shop vac took care of that. I had to re-install the frame panel, and re-adjust some straps that were uneven. No biggies there. The zipper pulls were terrible- made from lame cord and beat down. I’ve swapped them to Sterling Rope Co 2.75mm GloCord with CountyComm Cord ends, both in orange. I re-did internal pulls only with the GloCord, and cut those shorter to ease snagging.

Ideally, I would have liked to go with something smaller and lighter for an EDC bag, but since I work out of my bag, I have to be able to carry a surprising load of gear. Beyond that, I know that I tend to buy things and then keep them for a long time. The last backpack I bought was purchased nearly a decade ago, and I have some around that are substantially older than that- so it made sense to buy something rugged enough to last forever. In addition, though I lusted after a Goruck GR1 (which fits my requirements…), I couldn’t stomach the price. Yes, it’s very well made, and yes, it’s made in the US, but $300 was more than I could manage for a bag like this. My bag, by the way, is made in the US too (as it must be by law).

This is not a conventional bag, as my needs were not entirely conventional. If I had allowed myself to stay within the conventional thinking, I would have found some other, lesser, bag to use. And every day, when I would have pulled that lesser bag on and been annoyed by it’s lack of support or terrible zippers or poor durability, I would have been angry.

In teaching terms, by ignoring the conventions and focussing on what my goal in outcome was, I was able to find a solution to the problem that did not require compromise.