Saturday, March 31, 2007

In Support of the Mudflap

In my last entry I talked about the essential tools for commuting in the rain. I mentioned the mudflap, not this kind of mudflap, as an essential part of the fender. This is a follow up to that post.

I recently bought a new pair of fenders for my commuter. My old fenders were a little narrow and I wanted wider tires, so I decided to get bigger fenders. The new fenders are Planet Bike Freddy Hybrids. Now these fenders have a "mudflap" attached so I didn't add my own initially. After a few rides I realised that the mudflaps were less function and more fashion though.

In general mudflaps channel water away from the rider and back onto the road. In most cases front fenders are too short and water that is supposed to be channeled to the road ends up on your feet and in your drive train. It is the latter that tipped me off that my mudflaps on the Freddy's was woefully inadequate.

After a week of riding to work and having a) soaking wet feet (even with shoe covers on, and b) a grinding sensation in my drive train I decided it was time to replace the Freddy's flaps with some "Monster" flaps.

As you can see from this picture the "water line" is above my front chain ring. This caused all the lube on my chain to be washed away leaving a terrible metal-on-metal-with-some-sand-mixed-in-grinding-sound.
The flap needed to be close to the ground and needed to channel the water better.

I used a drill to remove the rivets holding the flap on and then drew and cut a proper flap. My old muflap on my previous fenders was a "plain Jane" model. It was straight on both sides, it went almost to the ground, it was oh so practical, but a bit boring. So this time I thought I'd make it a little more graceful.

What you need to make this happen.
1) a drill ( to make a 2 holes in your fender to attach the new flap
2) zap strap
3) Stair tread rubber (Home Despot)
4) Scissors (careful with these they seem to be dangerous to some)
5) Template (print the image below)

Print the template , tape it to your stair tread rubber and cut it out (carefully). Drill two holes in your fenders 2 and 3 cm from the base of the fender (one on above the other). Align and cut two holes in your mudflap. Attach the mudflap to the fender with the zap strap. Voila a stylish and effective tool for keeping the sand and water out of your drive train and off your feet.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Bike Commuting in Vancouver; a low budget beginners guide

Recently my brother-in-law asked me what it takes to become a bike commuter in Vancouver. Now there are many "guides" out there that help with this, but Vancouver is a bit different, it rains here -- it rains A LOT here.

So I thought I would put up my own list of what I think it takes to commute here. I also thought that I would put together two lists, a low budget list ( this post) and a "if-I-had-all the-dough-in-the-world-list"(in a later post).

Low Budget List

1. Full fenders -under $20.00 at MEC, fenders are at the top of the because they are the MOST important piece of equipment on any bike in the rain. I add a mud flap to the bottom of both my front and back fenders.

2. Poncho -- I prefer a jacket, but on occasion I have used a poncho. Poncho's are great if you don't go too fast. The faster you go though the more likely hood of you turning into a parachute that will either slow you to a crawl or lift you into the sky -- be careful. I have a poncho I got for free at some event or another. It is great. I have used it for climbs from my house up into the mountains in torrential downpours. The advantages of a poncho are that you are cooled by the air coming up from underneath and you are kept dry from the rain coming down. The down side is that if you don't have fenders water from your wheels comes up (with the cool air) and soaks you. If you are climbing slowly they work great. A friend of mine got the MEC Poncho. He sowed thumb loops into it so that it stays over his hands and handlebars and doesn't flap around.

3. Lights. As many as you can afford. I run my light almost all of the time. Blinky lights that keep you seen by other road users are cheap! There is no reason for everyone that has a bike and is out on the street not to use these. I recently purchasesd a Planet Bike Super Flash. I also have a 5 beamer on the front and another blinky on my helmet. The total set up for flashy lights was about $30.00. Once you have your lights replace the batteries periodically. Although manufacturers say that they have 1000 hours of run time they really don't. I replace my batteries once a month or so. I have followed many a commuter who has flashing lights, but the batteries are long overdue for replacement -- batteries are cheap too!

4. Plastic bag shoe covers. If it is really raining it is nice to keep your feet dry. something as simple as plastic bags over your shoes with rubber bands to hold them up can slow the inevitable soaking of your feet.

5. Shower cap. I used to use these sometimes. These are the caps that are in hotel bathrooms. They fit perfectly over helmets. The only problem I found with using these is that if you sweat, the sweat seems to concentrate inside the terrarium like confines of helmet/cover combo. When the sweat drips down into your eyes it stings like the venom from some sort of tropical mankiller. So be warned!

Total cost of these commuting additions that make a real difference in how comfortable you are, about $50.00. You can get to work dryer and safer. Be careful out there.

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