Category Archives: Bike Commuting

Outfitting the Gunnar for Commuting

The rack and basket I ordered arrived the other day, so I set about attaching everything to the Gunnar Sport to complete my bike commuting setup.  On the rear of the bike I attached a cool Nitto Big Back Rack from Rivendell Bicycle Works that came on the Bleriot when I bartered for it.  It’s pretty

Nitto Big Back Rack, Rivendell

Nitto Big Back Rack

simple to attach but I had to get some longer rods to run from the rack to the braze-ons at the tops of the seat stays.  No big deal, and I kind of like the look with the rods running long so I didn’t cut off the excess. I was planning on attaching a Wald wire basket to the Nitto rack but the one I ordered turned out to be a bit small.  The sides taper, so the footprint is smaller than the opening.  Because of that my lunch cooler wouldn’t fit, so I’m sending it back for the so-called Huge size.

Rivendell front rack

The Gamoh front rack from Rivendell Bicycle Works.

On the front of the bike I attached a Gamoh rack, also from Rivendell.  It’s a cool flatbed style rack with wooden slats in the bottom.  The two legs attached to the braze-ons at the fork drop outs easily enough, but I had to remove the brake caliper and do some shuffling around of washers and spacers to attach the top mounting bracket and keep if from rubbing the headset.  Again, no big deal.  These racks, along with my bell, my NiteRider MiNewt headlight, and my blinky rear light almost complete my Gunnar-as-a-commuter set up.  (I still need to get my Huge rear basket.)

Gunnar Sport, bike commuter

The Gunnar 99% ready (need my rear basket).

Bartering Solves My Bike Dilema

Close-up of the Rivendell head badge.

Ok, put on the brakes.  I just had an opportunity come my way that I could not pass up, and it has turned my commuter bike decision making process on it’s head and solved it all at the same time.  Funny how that happens sometimes.  I mentioned previously that I am looking to sell my road race bike, a 2005 LeMond Maillot Jaune.  Erik, owner of the Slippery Pig Bike Shops, used to ride one almost exactly like mine and I have heard him bemoan the fact that he sold it several times.  So I asked him if he was interested in buying mine and after a bit of discussion he offered to trade me  a Rivendell Bleriot 650b for the LeMond. I didn’t have to think about it long before I said “Yes!”  He had the bike set up as a mountain-bar commuter but I promptly decided it will be my regular road bike for my weekend group rides.  I just think it’s too nice to use for my work bike and I’d like to be able to put more miles on it than the 1 or 2 day a week commute will allow.  By

The Rivendell Bleriot

using this as my leisure road bike I can then convert my recently acquired “all-around” road bike,  an older Gunnar Sport, into my work bike.  So I swapped the mountain bar and associated goodies from the Rivendell with the drop bar and associated goodies from the Gunnar and now I am almost good to go.  The Bleriot is all set and ready to ride, although I may need a shorter stem.  Time will tell.  The Gunnar is ready to ride but not quite ready for the commute.

When this trade prresented itself the idea of the cargo bike went out the window because of space considerations.  If I traded for the Rivendell and bought a cargo bike the Gunnar would have to go, and I really like the Gunnar.  After reconsidering the trailer options (by this time Erik at Slippery Pig had sold the BOB IBex trailer) I decided to go the rack and basket route.  The Rivendell came with a really nice Nitto rear rack that I will put on the Gunnar when I get the proper size mounting rods.  I also ordered a basket to attach to said rack, and another rack for the front, a Gamoh, from Rivendell Bikes.  It is a flatbed rack with wood slats and a short railing around the bed area.  It’s a lot like  a Paul Flatbed rack but at about half the price.  Once all this stuff arrives and gets installed the Gunnar will be commute-ready, and so will I.

The Gunnar set up for commuting with the mountain bars. Racks and baskets on the way.

A Cargo Bike Could Be Cool

The world of cargo bikes here in America isn’t exactly vast, but it does seem to be a segment that is slowly catching on and growing.  Most of them are pretty pricey for a contractor on a budget, even one that’s a bike geek.  The low price winner in the cargo category has to be the Kona Ute.  It has a long wheelbase, disc brakes, a rear deck, and mounting for 2 huge panniers (although it only comes with one.  What???)  Some people complain that it has an aluminum frame, but unless they’ve had one collapse under them then I don’t think they are allowed to gripe.  The sexier alternative to the Ute is the Surly Big Dummy.  It’s steel, like all the Surlys, and is designed to use all the contraptions made by the folks at Xtracycle.  (Google it if you don’t know what an Xtracycle is.)  That seems like a smart move by Surly because the Xtracycle has a built in following and lots of solutions for carrying different types of gear.  Both of these bikes seem like they could carry all the things that I require, and then some.  And I definitely would prefer to ride just a bike rather than a bike towing a trailer.  From my point of view the Big Dummy seems like a bigger, better version of the Ute with more customization options.  No reason not to buy it, right?  Well, it’s triple the cost of the Ute.  Decisions, decisions.

Maybe a Bike Trailer?

At the moment I own 5 bikes.  I’m sure some of you are gasping in horror “5 bikes?  Are you mad?”  The rest of you, who are saying “Only 5?”,  know where I’m coming from when I suggest that none of them seem like the perfect solution for my commute.  The single speed road bike (a LeMond Fillmore) is out because I’ll need some gears with all the junk I carry.  My “road race” bike (a LeMond Maillot Jaune) is out because it’s too nice and too sporty, plus it’s for sale as I just don’t ride it enough.  The folding travel bike (a Dahon Speed Eight) is a no-go just because I’ll look like a goof.  The 1×9 hard-tail 29er mountain bike (a Kona Explosif 2-9) is a possibility, as is the recently acquired all-around road bike with 3×9 gearing and 32c wide tires (a Gunnar Sport).  However with the number of things I need to carry both of those bikes will require a trailer of some sort.  I’m not necessarily opposed to the idea of a trailer, but I don’t have one.  So, I guess I start looking at trailers.

I love my Fillmore, but it won't be my commuter.

After lots of internet surfing and trailer shopping I come down to two options.  The first is the BOB Ibex trailer.  I like it for a couple reasons.  First, the attachment setup seems very slick and looks like it will keep the trailer stable.  Second, it’s kind of narrow and I don’t like the idea of it sticking out into the road beside me too much.  Finally, the owner of my favorite local bike shop, Slippery Pig Bike Shop, has a used one he has been offering me at a good price.  The downside to the Ibex is that I’m not sure it’s big enough for my purposes.  After the cooler, water jug, and clipboard go in there isn’t much room for other stuff.  Also, it seems like it would be difficult to customize and tweak if I need to make changes or find it doesn’t exactly suit my needs as it is.  That leads me to the Black Dog Bicycles BDB 202 trailer.  It is a 2 wheel trailer made from aluminum tubing with a cargo bed of about 640 square inches vs. about 400 for the Ibex.  It is way lighter, and made in the USA by a guy in Lopez Island, Washington.  The attachment system isn’t as cool, but the trailer itself seems more versatile and also easy to customize if need be, which is a bonus.  While pondering the pluses and minuses of these two trailers I have another idea.  What if I got a cargo bike instead of a trailer?  Hmmm…….

My First Dilema: What Bike?

Some of the gear I haul to work in my van.

To quote the late George Peppard from the hilariously bad TV show the “A-Team”, which I know you watched too, “I love it when a plan comes together.” I’ve been mulling over the idea of riding my bike to work and I think all the pieces are starting to fall into place.  It has taken some time to wrap my head around, because my commute is a little out of the ordinary.  I am a residential general contractor specializing in central Phoenix kitchen and bathroom remodels.  My office is the job site and my usual form of transport is a 3/4 ton Ford Econoline work van.

This all started when gas prices reached about $4.00 a gallon a while back.  My work van gets 11 mpg no matter what.  I haul a ton (almost literally) of tools around everyday, and materials for the job at least once or twice a week.  I began to think that I could avoid driving at least once or twice a week if I planned my weeks well enough that I didn’t have to leave the job site for any reason in the middle of the day.  But even without all the tools and materials, some of which I can leave at the job, I still lug a bunch of stuff everyday.  There’s the water jug, the decently large cooler with my snacks and home made lunch, my clipboard with job notes and paperwork, and often a handful of tools I’m just never quite comfortable leaving anywhere.  So the question arises, what do I ride that can handle me and my daily load of stuff?