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Archive for May, 2011

Bike Touring Survival Guide Review

Cover for Bike Touring Survival GuideConsidering a bicycle tour? You must look at Bike Touring Survival Guide by Friedel and Andrew Grant. I have read a few books on the subject and was blown away by the quality of the content in their book. This is a 242 page ebook that is priced too low in my opinion.

If you are not familiar with their website, you need to visit TravellingTwo to get great information for new and experienced bike tourists. They are a husband wife couple who traveled the world by bike a few years ago. Since then they have made numerous smaller tours and have walked away with invaluable experience to share with the rest of us.

Besides their own experiences, they have asked their readers and friends to provide tips and tricks for inclusion in the book. In most sections of the book they have added real-life examples of why the information is important to know. For example, one of the contributors gave a tip about asking children instead of adults for where to find water. The difference is that adults will tell you where the store is to buy water. But children will direct you to a water hose or village pump that supplies free water. There is nothing wrong with buying water if necessary, but the writer was trying to avoid contributing to the environmental impact of plastic bottles. The book is full of tips just like this one.

They tackle issues beyond the typical bike touring questions. Have you ever had to apply for a visa? Most of us have not; nor would we even know where to start. Read the Bike Touring Survival Guide and you will know exactly what steps you need to take to obtain a visa and when the process needs to be started. Are you a novice camper and have lots of questions about what you need to carry to live in a tent on tour? You will find your answers in this guide. They even provide a list of questions you will be asked over and over during your trip. They give some suggestions on the most diplomatic way to answer these inquiries.

You can purchase the book for your Kindle through Amazon. This will deliver the file directly to your Kindle reader or Kindle app on your phone or computer. The only advantage to buying the book this way is that your book will be synchronized across your devices. Otherwise, buying it from the author’s website gives you more flexibility.

When buying the book from their website you will get a PDF and a .mobi file. The .mobi file can be read on most ebook readers including the Kindle. They do not currently have an .epub version of the book (but are working on it). When it is done, the .epub version can be read on everything but the Kindle. The file you get when purchasing directly from them will let you read on your computer using the colorful PDF file, or read on your ebook reader with the .mobi. They say on their website that anyone who purchases the book now will be notified when the .epub version is available.

The cost of the book through their site is currently €5. That worked out to a little over $7.00 (USD) when I bought it last week. The Amazon version of the book is $7.99.

Enjoy the video introduction of the book below and then pick up your own copy. The authors guarantee you will like it or your money back. As a fellow reader I can’t make such a money back guarantee, but I would be surprised if you did not find this book worth the price.

Purpose for Bike Fenders

It rained last night. Between my house and the store I needed to go to this morning I had to ride down a dirt road and through several low-lying areas. And, I had to do all of this while dressed in a white shirt and khaki pants. Days like today are why I am glad to have a bike with fenders.

Unless a bike is specifically made for touring or commuting they don’t usually have fenders on them. That is unfortunate. Sometimes mountain bikes will have small fenders on them that will keep the majority of the mud out of the rider’s eyes, but other than that they are practically useless for keeping the bike and rider clean.

Bike Fenders Protect the Bike

A bicycle is a machine with moving parts. Water, dirt and general road grime aren’t friendly to a bicycle. That’s not to say that a bike is so delicate that it should never be ridden when there are rain clouds in the sky, but there is no reason to continuously dump dirty water into the bearings, chain and sprockets of your bike. Bicycles have lubrication that can be stripped away with the petroleum products on the road that are mixed in with the water and mud that get slung from the bicycle’s tires when riding on a wet road.

Chains will wear more quickly if they are not kept properly lubricated. Derailleurs operate within fine tolerances on bikes that have many gears. When they don’t move smoothly you may have trouble shifting. The headset of your bike is often exposed to the gritty, sandy water that is tossed up from your front tire. The lubrication on your brake and shifter cables can be washed away too.

By using a set of fenders on your bike you can keep it operating in good condition with less maintenance. Clean rain falling from the sky is not as damaging as the gunk kicked up by your tires from the road.

Bike Fenders Protect the Rider

I was thankful for fenders to keep me clean and dry on my trip to the store. If you have fenders that go far enough down the back of your front wheel you don’t even have to worry about your shoes getting wet. I intentionally rode through puddles for fun to splash in the water, but was not concerned for my shoes or clothes.

Most of the time you probably don’t ride while it is actively raining. But it can take hours for the roads to dry after a rain. Even if you do ride in the rain, you will be getting wet with clean water from the sky. If you have bicycle fenders on your bike you won’t get the gritty road sludge all over your clothes. If you ride in the rain with fenders and get a little wet you don’t need to worry that your clothes have to be changed because they are filthy. Clothes dry.

Bike Fenders Are Not Popular

Many bike manufacturers are mass producing bikes with an interest in profits, not functionality. Most people buy their bicycles from large discount stores which almost never offer a choice to have fenders. However, you can buy after-market bike fenders for just about any bicycle fairly cheaply. Your local bike store will have several models to choose from as well as places like Amazon.

Bike fenders are not “cool,” but they are practical. While you don’t want fenders on your road racing bike because of the weight and drag, getting a good set of fenders for your daily driver is a good idea. They will keep you and your bike clean.

Do I Look Whiter Than Normal?

While commuting to a class this morning on my bike I was following a bus through a left-hand turn. The road we were on was a major road that had the right of way to go straight or turn left. Though it is a 90 degree turn, it is set up in such a way that you can buzz through the turn pretty quickly. I moved into the middle lane behind the bus and we went through the turn together with a few other cars.

Sitting on the other side of the turn, hidden from my view as we were going into the turn, was a bag of lime (used for cement) that fell off a delivery truck. This is a fine white powder that is dusty and dry. The bus hit the pile of lime in the road and shot up a huge cloud of white dust. Without considering the outcome, I continued through the cloud on my bike getting the dust all over me. It got into my eyes and all over my clothes.

My eyes started watering and I was afraid I would arrive at class with cement stuck to my face. I wiped everything off as best I could and continued on to class.

Why is it that these types of things happen when you are running late? I began to think that arriving late to class would be a good thing since I could slip in to the bathroom and clean up before anyone saw me.

Because it was cool this morning I had on a jacket. Besides my clothes turning white, only my hands and face were exposed to the dust. As soon as I saw the cloud start to billow up I took a deep breath and went through the cloud without breathing any of it in.

When I got to class everyone was still standing outside—no chance of slipping in and cleaning up before anyone saw me. I rode up and asked a couple of my friends if I looked whiter than normal. They didn’t seem to notice at first. But when I took my glasses off and they saw my normal skin color they burst out laughing. I am glad I could provide entertainment for them.

Fortunately I was able to brush most of it off my clothes. My face and hands rinsed off fine too. I don’t even feel too stiff.

Icebreaker Ultralite Micro Bike Socks Review

Several months ago I won some free Icebreaker gear from the TravellingTwo bike blog. I have been wearing them as much as possible over the last few months and I have really enjoyed them.

They sent me three pairs of socks. The ones that were bike specific were the Icebreaker Ultralite Micro bike socks. They are $17 a pair from Icebreaker. That certainly is not cheap for a pair of socks, but the reputation these socks have should make them worth the cost.

Icebreaker Bike SocksI have not done weeks’ worth of bike touring in them; however, I have done several long distance runs using these socks. They are comfortable and fit well. Because they are left/right specific, they do not slide around on my feet like lower quality socks sometimes do.

One of the greatest features is the moisture wicking ability of the merino wool. I have finished runs where the socks have been so wet that I could wring water out of them, yet my feet did not feel the least bit wet. I did not get any blisters from wrinkled up skin or hot spots when wearing these socks.

Another much-touted feature of these socks is that they don’t hold odors. I typically don’t have odor problems with my socks or shoes, but occasionally there is a thick cloud around my pile of running shoes. These socks don’t retain odors nor do they seem to cause my feet to create odors. I wore a pair of the thicker socks they sent me for a couple of weeks without having any odor problems. They got dirty in other ways and I could not stand the thought of putting them on again without washing them. The Icebreaker socks passed the odor test as far as I am concerned.

These socks are very thin. The Ultralite Micro socks are not for cold-weather use. However, there are plenty of other socks to choose from at the Icebreaker website. Their bike socks are thin socks, but you can get thicker socks as needed. For touring and commuting you can easily get by with a thicker sock, though road racers will probably want the thinnest sock they can find.

It is hard to comment on the longevity and build quality of the socks since they have not started to show any signs of wear yet. I can only assume that they will last a long time based on what I have experienced so far.

Are they worth $17? That is a hard question to answer. Certainly if you were going on a long bike trip and only wanted to take 1 or 2 pair of socks, then they are worth it. If you are interested in having a variety of socks in your sock drawer that you can wear on a whim, then these may not be the socks for you. To get the value out of these socks you would want to know that you will be wearing them often.

If these ever wear out I will probably buy another pair, but until then, I have trouble justifying the price just to have another pair of nice socks in my drawer.

High Humidity = Slick Roads

Last night was a cool fall evening with 97% humidity. I was riding home from work and had a clear opening through an intersection where I needed to make a left-hand turn. I wasn’t going overly fast, but I was certainly going faster than I normally would since—for the first time that I can remember—I didn’t have to stop at the light or wait for traffic before turning.

As I was making a beautiful sweeping turn both my wheels started sliding on the wet asphalt at the same time. It wasn’t as slick as ice, but the effect was the same. I was not able to recover from the slide like you can do if only your back wheel slides out from under you. I hit the ground and slid on my left side.

Because there was oncoming traffic (though it was more than a block away), I wanted to get to my feet as quickly as I could so they could see me (the accident happened after dark). I had lights on my bike, but I did not pretend to think that the cars would pay attention to small lights in the middle of their road. While collecting my bike I just happened to look over and saw my phone lying in the road. Had I not seen it, I probably would not have noticed it was missing for a couple of blocks. I did a quick scan of the road to make sure there was nothing else lying around.

My bike is mostly fine; I tore the cover on my saddle. The chain was off the chain ring when I first got on, but with a rotation of the pedals it jumped back into place. I was in the big chain ring. The phone works, but it does have some discoloration in the screen. My pants are destroyed; I ripped a big hole down the left thigh. The sleeve on my coat did not get torn. The reason it didn’t was that it slid up my arm which resulted in my arm having a good bit of road rash. Probably less than I would have if I wasn’t wearing the coat though. I have a few other random cuts and scrapes.

This was my first potentially serious wreck since I was a kid. I have always been scared of hitting the ground in this way. While I don’t want to do it again, I am thankful it was not as bad as I always imagined.

Be careful out there when the humidity is high. Those little rocks in the asphalt can get slippery. Don’t cut it close with traffic. I had plenty of room between me and the oncoming cars to gather myself and make my presence known, but I know there are times when I have cut it too close in the past. Maybe this will serve as a warning to not take risks with traffic in the future. It took less than a second to go from a beautiful left turn to sliding through an intersection.

Nite Ize – BikeLit Review

BikeLit packagingLast summer I picked up a couple of red BikeLits for my bikes. These are LED safety lights made by Nite Ize. These have been a great investment since my family and I commute by bike to our regular activities. Almost half of our commuting is after dark. While I have more than a normal amount of reflectors on our bikes, I needed some lights. Previously I bought lights that used AAA batteries which were very bright, but did not have a good mechanism for holding them onto the bike. The batteries made them too heavy and the bracket either folded down so the light wouldn’t show, or the light just popped off the bike. They were all destroyed within 2 weeks of purchase.

That is the reason I was looking for something with a better way to attach to the bike. If the light had smaller batteries that would have been a bonus. When I saw the BikeLit from Nite Ize I was happy with the possibilities.

This light connects via 2 hooks. These are perfect for attaching to the rails underneath the saddle on our bikes. Another thing I like about the way they attach is that they are very easy to put on and take off, yet I never worry about them accidentally falling off. I was concerned that the hooks would weaken over time, however I have had these for almost a year and that has not been an issue. I don’t foresee it becoming one either.

When turned on you have a choice of using a solid or strobe light. The lights use 2 CR2016 batteries and should last 20 to 25 hours depending on which mode you use. The batteries can be bought through Amazon for less than $1 each. If you use the lights regularly, then you may want to consider picking up a few extra batteries. While I bought these lights in the United States, we currently live in Argentina. I recently had to replace the batteries on our lights and paid $2.50 per battery at a local watch store. That is $5 per light! A friend reminded me that $5 is a small price to pay for the extra insurance a rear light will give you when riding at night.

Originally I paid about $8 for the lights. You can buy a two pack (red and white) at Amazon for less than $11. If you look at that Amazon page, you can choose just the red or just the white light. They are under $7 each. I have no experience with the white light, but if I were looking for a light, I would buy the combo pack just for the savings.

These lights are waterproof. They slip on and off the bike easily. The red BikeLit that I have can easily be seen at a distance. Even if you don’t use them for your bike, at this price it is worth having a couple of these around any time you want to be seen.

First “Century” Ride

Though I am a regular bike commuter, the longest ride I had done was 26 miles. I did that ride on my birthday last year. The goal was to ride 41 Km for my 41 years of life. But, I had a couple of detours and ended up with 42 Km which is about 26 miles. It was time to take another long ride.

There were no plans to make this a fast ride. The point was to enjoy a day on the bike; not to go out there and try to ride my tires or legs into the ground.


The trip was planned for Good Friday. Theoretically this would give me a day on the road with fewer cars. The town I was riding to is a place I had never been before and since we don’t own a car I did not have a chance to drive the route to even see what the road was like. I was going on blind faith that some friends told me the road was fairly good. Even though it is just a two-lane road there normally wasn’t too much traffic.

From what I knew of the area, once I left my town I would not have any services until I got to the town where I was to turn around and come home. I rode from La Plata to Magdalena, Buenos Aires, Argentina. The only thing I would see would be farms, cows and a little water.

I knew the ride would be a total of 65 to 70 miles. I know that is not a traditional century ride, but since I live in a country that uses the metric system, I decided to bend the rules a little and count 100 Km as my century instead of 100 miles. Read the rest of this entry