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Gear Archives

Quick Video Tour of Vittorio

I came across this video through Traveling Two’s newsletter. Andrew and Friedel recently enjoyed some time at the Vittorio bike touring fair.

Vittorio makes very nice touring bikes in Amsterdam. This video shows some of their bikes as well as a couple of products and historical information.

We get a quick look at the new Marathon Mondial by Schawlbe. If you need some winter tires, Shchwalbe also makes studded snow tires. The video also shows some kit items that another bike touring family uses.

Enjoy the video and don’t forget to visit Traveling Two’s website for more great videos and product information.

Vittorio Bicycle Fair from travellingtwo on Vimeo.

Review: Bicycle Touring With Children

I eagerly followed the Vogel family on their Pan-American bike ride from Alaska to Argentina. I did not hear about them until they were about half-way through their epic journey. However, as they neared Argentina I was hoping to get a chance to meet them if they chose to do the eastern route of the country and come down through Buenos Aires. They did not.

Though I did not meet them while we were both in Argentina, I have gotten to know them a little more personally since then. Mostly I have continued to read their blog posts and interact with them through email. I was excited a couple of weeks ago when I got an email saying that they had a free ebook available called Bicycle Touring with Children: A Guide to Getting Started.

Book CoverThis book is written by Nancy Sathre-Vogel (the mother of the family). She helps encourage the reader that it is possible to go on a bike tour with your family. Not only is it possible, but she gives some pretty good arguments as to why you should consider it and why you should consider doing it as soon as possible. You only get one chance to spend these years with your children. Don’t wait until later to do what you want to do now. The years ahead are uncertain and you don’t know if you or your child will be physically able to do a tour at a later date.

While you may not agree with all the advice given in the book, you have to remember that this family has done a couple of grand bike tours. As the mother, who has her children’s best interests in mind, Nancy gives great advice that is borne out of experience. I would come closer to trusting her than someone who has written a book purely from research.

Even though she has her experience to rely upon, she also got help in writing the book. She asked several other bike touring families to tell what bikes they chose for their tours and why they chose the ones they did. To me, this was the most interesting and helpful section of the book. Most of the other information is available in other resources. It was invaluable information to see that a tour can be done in a variety of ways and individual family circumstances can dictate which is best for them. There is no “one size fits all” solution to choosing bikes and types of tours. There were some great nuggets of wisdom on making your own bike choices.

The rest of the information covered in the book are things like where to sleep and what to eat. Those are basic points that needed to be covered, but were not necessarily specific to family bike touring.

This book was announced in their newsletter at the same time their other new book was released: What Were We Thinking?

To get the Bicycle Touring with Children book you can sign up for their newsletter and download the book.



How to Clean Old Bar Tape Off Your Handlebars

I wanted to re-wrap the drop handlebars on my vintage road bike this week. I watched a couple of YouTube videos on how to wrap handlebars in preparation for the project. The videos I watched showed the new tape being installed on clean bars. They also showed that the new bar tape did not have any adhesive on it. However, when I pulled off my old tape I was disappointed to see that it had a sticky adhesive that stayed on the aluminum bars.
Bars with old adhesive

Soap and Water

I started with plain soap and water hoping that it would do the trick. I used a kitchen sponge that had an abrasive side. It was not a heavy abrasive since I did not want to scratch the soft aluminum. The soap and water helped to soften the rest of the old bar tape so that I could get off the sections that were still stuck to the handlebars.

However, the soap and water didn’t do much for the sticky adhesive.


Knowing that WD-40 is good for removing sticky stuff, I gave that a shot. It took a bit of elbow grease, but it eventually softened up the glue and took off the goo. I used the aforementioned sponge to help scuff away the sticky stuff and make the bars shiny again.

The biggest problem with the WD-40 is that it leaves a greasy residue after you get the old tape off. You need to clean it well with regular soap and water. This will help your new bar tape adhere to the handlebars.

Bars after cleaningWhen spraying the WD-40 onto the bars, you need to be careful and not get any on your rims or brake disks. Doing so will make your brakes less effective. It could possibly make your tires slick too. WD-40 is great for what it does, but most of the time it is best to keep it out of the bike shop.


I found Specialized S-Wrap Cork tape at my local bike shop. They told me that there was plenty of tape to wrap the bar and have some left over. I wrapped it as carefully as I could and still could not make the grip tape cover the bars sufficiently. I was only short about 4 inches from what I wanted to do. Either I overlap too much, or I don’t have the same concept of “plenty of tape” as the bike shop guy.

Here is the video I found most helpful when getting ready to tackle this project.

BikeLit Revisited

BikeLit after dog encounterA few weeks ago I wrote about the great little lights I have for my bikes called the Nite Ize BikeLit. I have been using these for about a year. However, one of them met its demise last week.

I was visiting a friend when a strange storm blew up. We experienced winds in excess of 50 MPH. The rain was torrential. I went to my friend’s place on my bike because I thought I could get home before any bad weather rolled in. I didn’t leave before the storm came.

My bike was blown over in the storm. Their 6 month old dog had a good time chewing the life out of the BikeLit. When he was done with that he took to chewing the cover off my seat. Needless to say, I now only have one Nite Ize BikeLit.

Cycling Gifts for Dad

Next week is Father’s Day. What is on your list of gifts for Dad? As a father and a bike rider, I thought I would share a short list of things that I would love to get for Father’s Day this year. I don’t expect to get all (or even any) of these gifts, but a man can dream. Maybe this list can help serve you as you do some final shopping this week.

Road IDRoadID

The first thing on my list is a new Road ID. The one I have is out of date and the address/phone numbers are no longer valid. I was glad to use the one I had for 2 years, but since then I have moved around in 3 different countries. In the next couple of months I am going to be getting a semi-permanent home base. I look forward to having phone numbers that I can put on my new Road ID.

The idea of the Road ID is that it gives first responders the immediate information they need to identify you and contact your family for further information. There are several styles, colors and features available on the Road ID products. The one I am interested in is the Wrist ID Sport (which is the same as my current one). I will probably get the Original version instead of the Interactive. As a healthy person with no special medical conditions, I would rather have multiple contact phone numbers on my ID as opposed to using the space to tell paramedics to call a phone number just to find out there is nothing wrong with me (other than I got run over by a car 20 minutes ago).

Garmin Edge 500Cycling GPS

Ok, so this is a big one, but it is something I would really like to have some day. Though I have a GPS on my phone, and I always have my phone with me, it stinks as a sports GPS. When I get a phone call it kills the GPS functions. Using the GPS on the phone also drains the battery quicker. Though it has been fine on 2-hour runs before, I really doubt I can go for a 6 hour bike ride and still have the phone available in an emergency. A dedicated GPS like the Garmin Edge 500 is what I would like.

Bike Computer

In place of a full-scale GPS, I would take a nice cycling computer. It would not have to be fancy, but there is one feature I really want on my next computer—a cadence counter. The old computer that I had did not have this feature. It is not that big of a deal for most of my regular riding, but for exercise and training I would like that feature. Mostly I am a bike commuter with hopes of someday doing some training for racing. The cadence counter would be a nice feature.


I like my messenger bag, but it would be great to have a set of panniers that I can use for toting stuff around. While I would like a full-featured set for longer bike trips, my main focus right now is something that can easily attach and detach from the bike to carry my computer and the items I need when going back and forth to work or meetings. Something along the lines of this Arkel Messenger Briefcase or the Arkel Commuter


Every dad would like more tools. A tool kit from Park Tool is a great start. There are a few specialty bike tools that I am missing like cassette and bottom bracket removal tools. Or even something as simple as a chain wear indicator would be a nice present.


Jerseys, shorts, shoes and socks are all good gifts. In the southern hemisphere (where I am currently) some full-fingered gloves and a long-sleeved jersey would be a welcomed gift. In the northern hemisphere it is time to break out the shorts and short-sleeved jerseys. I already have a nice pair of Icebreaker cycling socks, but if you are looking for a great gift for your bike riding dad, then these are a good choice no matter which hemisphere you are in.

Those are just some ideas of what I would like. Hopefully it helps you do some shopping as you get ready for Father’s Day, or any gift-giving day in which you can shower your dad with something special for his cycling habit.

Dads: What would you put on your list?

Helmet Mounted Bike Mirrors

As a kid growing up in the 70s, I remember having my handlebar mounted bike mirrors. They were big and bold. And, frankly, I never thought they worked that well. But we didn’t wear helmets back then so we didn’t have the choice of using a helmet mounted bike mirror like today.

Helmet mounted bicycle mirrors are easy to position and give a great field of view since you can easily turn your head a few degrees without affecting the direction your bike is traveling. Because the mirror is close to the rider’s eye it does not need to be very large to be functional. This means that there is not much weight involved with a helmet mirror.

Helmet Mirror by Third EyeAdvantages:

  • Small and light
  • Always available if wearing your helmet, even if you ride multiple bikes
  • No blind spots
  • Not easily stolen


  • Must wear your helmet to have a mirror
  • Distracting
  • Helmet must be well-fitting or the mirror will be out of position
  • Makes tossing your helmet into a sports bag a bit more tricky
  • Can be easily broken off the helmet

If you always ride with your helmet, then you will always have your mirror. This makes it easy to jump on anyone’s bike and still have the comfort of knowing what is behind you. There are no blind spots because it is a simple matter to make a full sweep of what is behind and beside you by slightly turning your head.

There are some who say that wearing a helmet or glasses mounted mirror creates an unnecessary distraction. I can attest this was true the first few times I used a mirror like this, but you quickly get used to it and it becomes a trusted tool instead of a distraction.

The thing I dislike the most about a helmet mounted bicycle mirror is that tossing your helmet into a gym bag, or packing it in anything, becomes awkward. There is the fear of breaking the stem of the mirror (which are designed to break in a crash). Some can be attached with a Velcro© tab making it easy to remove and replace. I have not tried doing that, but my fear with it is that vibrations would be more pronounced. It would certainly be worth trying before permanently attaching your mirror to your helmet.

If you always wear the same helmet when you need a mirror, this is a great option. However, if you switch helmets regularly, then getting a glasses mounted mirror or handlebar mounted mirrors might be a better option.

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.

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