"Bikes & Cycling" Archives

Sep 29 2017

To Build a Fire … When Carrying the Ten Essentials Isn’t Enough by Tamia Nelson

Veteran paddlers bring the Ten Essentials along on every outing. So do climbers, hunters, and a lot of other folks who often stray far from the beaten track. Yet carrying the Ten Essentials isn’t enough. The stuff has to work, too. Tamia came face to face with this backcountry gotcha just last month. She wanted to build a fire, and she assumed she had the makings. But she was wrong. And what happened next?

Between trips, my getaway pack lives on a shelf right next to my desk. I don’t empty it when I come back from a jaunt or a paddle, so it always holds the Ten Essentials, along with extra clothing suited to the season (a head net in summer, for example; mittens and a balaclava in winter). Then, any time I see a chance to make my escape, all I have to do is stow my camera kit, fill a water bottle, shoulder the pack, and head for the door. I don’t lose any time looking around for critical items, and I can be sure that nothing important has been forgotten. I’m ready for anything.

Or am I?

A month ago I was more than an hour down a little‑used trail along The River when I got an urge for a hot cup of coffee. Until recently, I’d have shrugged off this sort of craving, at least on a short outing, but my new Java Press is so light and compact that it now has a permanent berth in my getaway pack. Just in case. So I didn’t hesitate. I picked a sheltered spot to serve as my kitchen, dug the little Trangia burner out of my pack, dipped a small pot into The River’s icy flow, and assembled the Press. My mouth watered in anticipation.

Only one step remained. I extracted a strike‑anywhere match from my brass match safe, screwed the gasketed top down, and gave the match a quick flick along the ‘safe’s knurled side. But nothing happened. The match didn’t burst into flame with the usual sulfurous reek. It didn’t even fizzle. It just left a greasy black streak on the match safe. That was all. Thinking I’d simply used too light a touch, I scraped the head of the match against the ‘safe again. Still nothing. Hmm… I tried striking the match on a rough slab of riverbank gneiss next. Ditto.

OK, I thought. I’ve got a dud match. No big deal. There are plenty more where that one came from. So I opened the ‘safe and pulled out another match. But it, too, failed to light. I tried another. No go. And another. And…

Not a single match flared up into flame. Well, I said to myself, that’s one for the record‑book. I wasn’t about to give up, though, and I fished a butane lighter from the bowels of my pack. I spun the wheel on the striker. It threw off plenty of sparks. But no flame appeared. I checked the lighter’s translucent reservoir. It was full. I spun the striker again. Sparks aplenty, but nothing else. And again. No joy. Then I woke to the obvious. It was a chilly day—well below freezing, in fact. No problem, I thought. And I warmed the lighter in my armpit. Then I tried it once more.


I was beginning to feel a little like that hapless man in Jack London’s famous short story. Of course, all I faced was a small disappointment. A lost opportunity for a cup of coffee. My life didn’t hang in the balance. But then the freezing mist riding the back of the strengthening breeze forcibly reminded me of the fine line that divides annoyance from catastrophe once you leave home and hearth behind. Colin Fletcher, who probably forgot more about backcountry travel than most of us will ever know, was fond of quoting a Persian proverb to the effect that “Fortune is infatuated with the efficient.” That being the case, I figured I had only myself to blame if Fortune turned her back on me.

So I decided there and then that something had to be done. And this meant looking…


It’s not enough to have the right gear. You also need to know how to use it. And you have to make sure it’s in good condition, ready to do the job it’s meant to do, whenever it’s called upon. Case in point: I’ve carried the same nickeled brass match safe for two decades or more, but I don’t often use the matches. The match safe is my fail‑safe, in other words. It’s my emergency backup. That said, the last time I put the contents to the test—more than a year ago now—the first match out of the ‘safe lit on the first strike. But, as I discovered, a year can be a long time.

The same uncertainties dog butane lighters. I use them often to light stoves and start kindling, and so long as there’s butane left in the reservoir, they’ve never let me down. But butane gets torpid as the temperature drops. This doesn’t matter if you keep your lighter in an inside pocket, but you can’t count on a lighter stored in your pack to give you a flame in sub‑freezing weather. I knew this, but I assumed that a few minutes tucked in my sweaty armpit would reawaken my chilled lighter to its duty. Not true. Perhaps I didn’t leave it long enough. Or maybe my armpit wasn’t quite as cozy as I thought. In any event, my lighter stubbornly refused to light on that day by The River. It worked fine when I got back home, however.

I assumed… Well, most folks have heard the one about assume making an ass out of u and me. And no one much fancies being mistaken for an ass, does he? The only safe rule? That’s easy—


Frequent, thorough inspections offer the only real assurance that your gear will work as it’s supposed to. This is the idea behind prefloat checklists, after all. But even inspection isn’t enough by itself. You also have to …


And do it on a regular schedule. You don’t have to worry much about the stores you use every day. They’re not likely to last long enough to deteriorate. But what about the things you use once in a blue moon? Like, say, the matches in my backup match safe. A lot can happen in a year’s time. Which is why I’m going to do more than just check to see that all my essential gear is in my pack in future. I’m going to make sure it works, too.

With that end in mind, here’s my new inspection checklist:

  1. Map(s)  Are the maps in the map case the right maps at the right scale (large scale for hill‑walking, intermediate scale for paddling, small scale for cycling)? Is the map case intact, with no tears or pinholes?
  2. Compass  Does the needle pivot freely? Is the capsule free of bubbles? (Farwell’s old USMC‑issue lensatic compass relies on induction damping. The downside? The needle’s a little slow to settle. But it never suffers from bubble trouble, either.) Is the declination offset correct? Is the lanyard intact, and are the securing knots sound?
  3. First‑Aid Kit  Are the plastic bags free from pinholes and tears? Does the tape stick? Are the emergency water‑purification tablets, aspirin, ibuprofen, and antacids still good? (It pays to write the pull date on the bags or bottles. Better yet, buy meds in dated blister packs. And plan on replacing gauze pads and other sterile dressings every year—or immediately, if the sealed packets become soiled or damp.) Has the ACE wrap lost its stretch? Replace it.
  4. Knife  Is it sharp? It should be. A dull knife is a dangerous thing. Is it free from rust? (Even stainless steel rusts, and rust will destroy a blade over time.) Is the sheath in good condition? Does it hold the knife securely? Will it protect the blade from nicks—and you from the blade?
  5. Food and Water  Is the food packaging intact, with no pinholes or tears? Check the pull dates, too. Food that’s past its sell‑by date is usually safe to eat, but why take chances? Is your water bottle or bladder clean and free from mold? No? Scrub it out or replace it.
  6. Matches and fire starter  Ah, yes. Matches. Do they light first time, every time? You can’t test ’em all, but you can (and should) test a representative sample every month or so. Is your fire starter dry? (I carry a plastic bag of tinder as well as a few petrolatum‑impregnated cotton balls.) Is the reservoir in your backup butane lighter full? Does the striker spark?
  7. Flashlight or Headlamp  Are the batteries good? (An inexpensive multimeter really earns its keep here.) No? Then did the light turn itself on in your pack? If it did, tape the switch or immobilize it in some other way, so that your light lights up only when you want it to. Do you have spare bulbs for any light that needs them? (One of the great advantages of LED lights is their longevity. You can’t replace the LED “bulb,” of course, but you’ll probably never need to.) Has the strap on your headlamp lost its elasticity? Replace it now.
  8. Sunglasses and Spare Eyeglasses  Are the tiny screws that hold the bows secure? Do you have a protective case for each pair? Are your spare eyeglasses from your latest prescription? Do you have reading glasses? (If you need them to read a book, you’ll need them to read a map.) Are the lenses suited to the environment, e.g., amber in low light, full mirror or dark gray in strong sun, and total UV block anywhere and everywhere? (Polycarbonate lenses give your eyes better protection from impacts than glass can. That’s worth thinking about if you’re a whitewater boater, hunter, or cyclist.)
  9. Sunscreen  Check the pull date. Is it stored in a plastic bag? (Few things can make as much mess in a pack as a burst tube of sunscreen.) And if you use lip balm (I do), check to see how much is left in the tube.
  10. Extra Clothing  The list changes with the season. Make sure you’ve packed what you’ll need—and that it’s free from tears and holes. You’ll probably want a head net and tight‑weave pants in summer (biting flies and ticks); heavy socks, balaclava, and wool mitts in winter; a fleece jacket or down vest and an anorak in all seasons.

That takes care of the Essentials, but most of us have other, almost‑Essential items that require regular inspection, too. Here’s my list:

  • Poncho or Tarp  If you have one or the other, you’ll never be without a roof over your head. Check grommets, ties, and seams—and make sure you also bring stakes and guys.
  • Rope  A 25‑ to 50‑foot length of 11 mm braided polypropylene or 3/8‑inch laid nylon is a very useful thing to have in your pack. You could call it a lifesaver, in fact. So inspect it inch by inch along its entire length. If it’s cut or worn anywhere, retire it. And if it gets wet, be sure to dry it thoroughly first chance you get.
  • NEOS Overshoes  These can serve as both cold‑weather mukluks and warm‑weather wellies. But they won’t be waterproof if they have holes in them. Check for cuts and tears. And check the plastic bag that they’re stored in, too. Overshoes get dirty, and you’ll want to keep the other things in your pack as clean as possible.

    Yaktrax  Unless you grow your toenails really long—and walk barefoot in all weathers—you’ll need these handy gadgets, or something like them, to help you keep on your feet when all around you are falling down. Make sure the rubber retainers haven’t been torn, that the wire traction coils haven’t rusted through, and that the storage bag hasn’t sprung a leak.

OK. That’s my list of almost‑Essential items. Yours will probably be a little different. No matter. True Essentials aside, the things you carry in your pack are less important than what you carry in your head. But if something is worth carrying, it’s important that it works. That’s why I lost no time in replacing the matches in my match safe. I’ve also got a firesteel on order as a backup for the unreliable butane lighter. After all, to paraphrase a notorious indoorsman, allowing myself to caught out in the cold once can be excused as a misfortune. If it were to happen twice, however, that would be nothing less than carelessness. Fortune is infatuated with the efficient, after all, and I want to keep Lady Luck on my side.


Veteran paddlers bring the Ten Essentials along on every outing. So do climbers, hunters, and a lot of other folks who often stray far from the beaten track. Yet it’s not enough to carry these vital items. The stuff has to do the job it’s intended to do, each and every time it’s needed. But you can’t simply assume that something that worked last month—or last year—will work tomorrow. It’s like they say: Assume makes an ass of “u” and me. And no one I know likes being taken for an ass. So why wait to make mistakes of your own when you can learn from mine, instead? Check your emergency gear regularly. After all, it’s essential, isn’t it? Sure it is.

Questions? Comments? Just click here!

Sep 25 2017

Wheels of the Year: Gearing Down for Winter Cycling by Tamia Nelson

The hours of darkness are now edging past the hours of light in northern New York, but with daytime temperatures hovering in the mid‑80s (degrees Fahrenheit, of course), it’s hard to believe that winter will ever arrive. It will, though, and as Tamia returned, dripping with sweat, from a quick 10‑mile ride around the block, she was already thinking about the challenge of winter cycling.

Our New Model Climate is certainly leaving its mark on the Americas, and though the Adirondack foothills have so far escaped hurricane‑force winds, I can’t help but notice that, with October less than one week away, a lot of windows in a lot of neighboring houses still have air conditioners perched on their sills. The obvious conclusion? Summer’s lease has been extended. I can remember when no Columbus Day trip was complete without at least one snowy morning. Not any more. And I’ve no idea when winter’s snows will make their first appearance this year. But it’s a safe bet that they will. A friend in the mountain West has already seen white on the hills surrounding his home, so it’s just a matter of time before General Winter turns his attentions to the wild East. No matter. I plan to keep cycling through the storms. I’ve had a bellyful of going nowhere for half the year on my aptly named “stationary” bike. But if I’m going to hit the road this winter, I’ll need to gear down before the snow flies.

The first order of business will be deciding on a suitable bike. In years past, the decision was easy. I owned one bike and only one bike, so I rode what I owned. But today I have no fewer than three bikes to choose from. True, one of these is a near antique Schwinn Traveler, now enjoying a well‑earned semiretirement. I certainly won’t be riding this old friend through the mix of hardpack and salty slurry that the highway crews leave behind on our town roads. The sorry state of the roads isn’t the crews’ fault, by the way. The town roads are maintained to meet the needs of snowmobilers, not cyclists. The “sledders” — We’ve come a long way from the Flexible Flyer, haven’t we? — travel in packs and consume gas and beer by the hogshead, whereas winter cyclists are solitary, like snow leopards. We subsist mostly on fig bars and the slush from our bidons. There’s not much money in fig bars, and the highway crews are under orders to follow the money.

Anyway, my ancient Schwinn — it was my first “good” bike, and it came back into my possession thanks to a friend’s generosity — will stay on its rack in winter. Which means I’m left with my Surly Long Haul Trucker and my aluminum‑frame Schwinn Sierra, which, before I swapped out saddle, seatpost, stem, and bars, was perhaps the most uncomfortable “comfort” bike ever sold. That was a long time ago, though. It’s now a very comfortable go‑anywhere utility machine, and it’s my usual winter ride. Once I fit the studded tires, it’s equal to almost anything General Winter (and the town highway crews) can throw at it, and for the many years when it was my only bike, it carried me on hundreds of shopping trips into town between the months of October and May — not to mention hundreds more between the months of May and October. But it, too, may have seen its last winter. When the state resurfaced the highway linking my crossroads hamlet to the nearest outpost of civilization, it left the shoulders out. Where I once had three to five feet of usable shoulder, I now have six inches to a foot at best, with a one‑inch‑plus drop‑off down to the crumbling, potholed remnant of the former shoulder. Even in smiling summer weather, I find myself whistling “Suicide Is Painless” as I ride into town, and obvious risks to life and limb aside, the ravaged shoulders are no place for a good bike in any season.

The upshot? I’m thinking about buying a cheap “beater” at Walmart, tuning it up, and using it as my winter bike, replacing it when the salt and the potholes take their inevitable toll. I’ll opt for a single‑speed, too. Even well‑maintained mechs (a handy Britishism for “derailleurs”) freeze up in winter. I’ve often started the climb back into the foothills from town with 21 (or 27) ratios at my fingertips, only to finish the ride with just one. With only a single cog on the beater and plenty of 10‑percent‑plus grades on the road, however, I’ll have to gear low. My cartilage‑free knee gives me grief if I stomp on the pedals, and climbing out of the saddle is streng verboten. Of course, an easy ratio is necessarily slow on the flats, but that’s fine by me. Winter rides aren’t time trials. Survival is the order of the day, and I’ll have better luck avoiding the slip‑slidin’ dodge‑em cars if I’m not distracted by a balky mech.

There’s another plus to a beater: I won’t have to spend an hour after each ride scraping frozen gunge off the drivetrain. I can just wheel my winter bike into the shed and clean it every other weekend. And what will I do with all the free time this will give me? I don’t know, but I find the prospect mighty attractive.

That being said, I’m still dithering. I’m not keen on contributing to our culture of consumption, and buying a beater bike with the intention of riding it into the ground is putting my money where my mouth isn’t. So I may yet turn to my workhorse Sierra. (Farwell, who rides Sierra’s twin, has christened her Modestine, after Robert Louis Stevenson’s patient, though ill‑used, donkey. The moniker fits.) We will see. But one way or another, I’m going to stay in the saddle when the snow flies. Whatever the charms of going nowhere on a stationary bike — and I admit that saddling up on a 15‑degree day with a nippy northerly blowing right in your face can prove tolerably off‑putting, at least at the start — there’s little doubt that the world is a much more interesting place when you’re out in it than when you’re looking at it through two panes of glass. I think so, at any rate. In life, as in writing, I always prefer the active tense to the passive, and a little discomfort is a small price to pay to remain active through the winter. After all, as someone (Balzac?) once wrote, if you suffer, at least you know you’re alive.

That’s the object of the exercise, isn’t it?

The Real Winter World (c) Tamia Nelson

Questions? Comments? Just click here!

Aug 11 2017

A Kickstand Support Keeps Your Bike Upstanding and It’s Absolutely Free! by Tamia Nelson

Road shoulders aren’t always wide and paved. More often than not, the verge is adrift with sand, loose gravel, or unconsolidated soil. This doesn’t bode well for cyclists who use a kickstand to keep their bike upright when they pull off the travel lane to get off the bike. Why? Because you may walk away from your parked bike only to hear it topple over before you’re more than a few steps away. Luckily, there’s an easy way to prevent the slow subsidence that sometimes topples our bikes: the kickstand support. Tamia tells you how.

Are you tired of having your bike’s kickstand sink into sand or slide sideways in gravel? Here’s an easy solution to this common problem, one that weighs very little and costs absolutely nothing — a stout metal jar lid. Almost any lid will do, though a wide lid works better than a narrow one.

The principle is simple. The lid spreads out the load, providing a stable base of support for the kickstand leg and reducing the likelihood that it will punch down into soft sand or slip on loose gravel. Just put the lid on the ground with the threaded flange uppermost. Then maneuver the kickstand’s leg into place. That’s it. Mission accomplished.

My kickstand support is a lid from an empty jar of salsa, if you’re interested, but just about any metal jar lid will do. It’s a good idea to check that the lid doesn’t shift when you release your grip on the bike — and that the kickstand leg doesn’t skate across the metal surface. Sometimes you have to move the lid a bit to find a more stable lie. But that’s about all. Once your bike is standing pretty, you can walk away, confident that it will remain upright.


After many months of use, however, your support may begin to show its age. When it starts to look like it’s been hit with birdshot, it’s probably time to consign it to the recycling bin and get a new lid. But you’ve really no cause for complaint. The price is right.

Will this work with a two-legged kickstand like the Pletscher? I haven’t tried it, but I can’t think of why it wouldn’t. You’ll need two lids, though —and it will probably be a bit fussier to get the legs where they have to go. Anyway, even if you need two supports, they shouldn’t weigh your down, and it’s not hard to keep it stowed but handy. I slip my lid into the map slot of my handlebar bag:

It's Not Heavy

But if you don’t use a bar bag your can probably find room in the seat pack that holds your spare tube and tools. (You do carry a tube and tools, don’t you?) Or just tuck your lid into your jersey or jacket pocket.

However you decide to haul your support around, you can now leave your bike on its kickstand without a qualm, knowing that you’ll find it upright and undamaged on your return. That’s a happy state of affairs, isn’t it?

Questions? Comments? Just click here!

Jul 22 2017

In It for the Long Haul: Building Up the Ultimate Surly by Tamia Nelson

Tamia’s Surly Long Haul Trucker is a heavy beast. Too heavy. It’s time she did something about that.

OK. I’ll come clean. My Surly LHT is a heavy beast. Too heavy. That’s not just my opinion, by the way. Almost any advertising copywriter you ask will tell you so. So I’m putting my Surly on a diet. I’ll begin by stripping off all the stock components and then building the bike up with totally new stuff. No, not just new stuff. The newest stuff, some of it so new that the ad copywriters haven’t seen it yet. Obviously, being so new, it’s also the lightest stuff. And the most expensive. But who’s counting the cost? Not me. I just sold my next novel to HarperCollins. So price is no object.

Will it be worth it? Sure. Once my state-of-the-art bike is ready for the road, I figure I’ll be riding triple centuries with no more effort than it took me to do doubles on my “old” bike. Honest. And I bet you’d like to do the same. Which is why I’m going to outline my rebuild plan, beginning with…

The Frame  I’m keeping the LHT frame. Surprised? Don’t be. It fits me perfectly. That’s point one. Plus steel is real. Point two. But it is heavy. Luckily, I’ve got a secret weapon: I’ll be stripping off the grotty old powdercoat and doing a respray job. And I won’t be using any old paint. I’ve got a premarket trial batch of NanoLite’s UltraLift clearcoat. Trust me. This stuff is incredible. It’s the first weight-negative bike finish. I kid you not. I have to put a thirty-pound dumbbell on the paint can to keep it from floating out the window. Once I’ve resprayed my LHT, the steel frame will weigh less than nothing. You heard me right. From seven pounds plus for fork and frame down to something like minus two pounds.

Incredible! How does NanoLite do it? I don’t know. Like I said, the ad copywriters haven’t even seen this stuff yet. But it has something to do with nanospherules of hydrogen gas. UltraLift is full of ’em. And hydrogen is what they put in dirigibles, right? So you know the stuff’s got to be good. Just one thing: You don’t want to smoke while you’re riding. That’s not a problem for me, though.

Here’s the bottom line: Carbon fiber is so yesterday. The future belongs to hydrogen. And steel. Get used to it. Now let’s do the…

Drivetrain  Another winner here. In exchange for a rave review, I just got my hands on A-to-Zed’s latest 4×15-speed Integrated UltraCompact OmMerdium gruppo. You’ve probably never heard of OmMerdium, of course, let alone A-to-Zed, but that’s how A-to-Zed’s owners, Abby Grimes and Zoe Zelinsky, like it. They’re the team behind the phenomenally successful Earth Goddess Organic Vegetable and Free-range Chicken franchise. But fame and fortune bored them  — how many pink Learjets can two girls use, anyway? — and they decided to take on a new challenge. So they committed to spending five years in a walk-up, cold-water yurt in Inner Mongolia while mastering the art of shamanic forging under the tutelage of Anna Dablam, the sole surviving Sister of the Temüjin Kahn Artists Cooperative. Only members of this secretive Sisterhood know the location of the fabled Merdium mines, the world’s sole source for this incredibly light, impossibly strong rare-earth element.

It’s no secret that I’m privileged to own one of Abby and Zoe’s 32 gram OmMerdium drivetrains, however. And if you’re in the market, I have no hesitation in saying it’s a steal at just USD100K (plus shipping and sales tax). But unless Abby and Zoe decide to call you, you’re out of luck. They don’t do retail, and they don’t respond to customer enquiries. I’ll be happy to take your number and pass it on, but that’s all I can do. The rest is up to the Sisters.

Luckily, Abby and Zoe also agreed to forge the hubs for my new…

Wheels  The rims are spun from extra-virgin KrakenSilk, a natural fiber harvested in Innermost Inner Mongolia and fabricated into wheels by the Kahn Artists Cooperative, using an adhesive prepared from the saliva of blue-tongued mango voles, a threatened species surviving only in the dark corners of the Kahn Artist’s Grand Yurt. (Abby and Zoe assure me that no mango voles are harmed in the extraction process, though some of them do get mad enough to spit nails. Not to worry, though: The Sisters have hired a certified post-expectoration stress disorder consultant to help the afflicted voles work through their conflicts.) The resulting KrakenSilk-Mango composite has unequaled strength and resilience, combined with phenomenally light weight: 15 grams a wheel, including hubs and spokes. (KrakenSilk spokes weigh only 0.01 grams each, and their extraordinary tensile strength means that only three are required for each wheel.)

Of course, wheels are useless without…

Tires  And here, too, I’ve been lucky. The reclusive firm of Odomane et Fils are best known for their fine perfumes, but they also do a line of racing slicks by appointment to several of the royal families of Europe. Rumor has it that plans had been drawn up for bride-to-be Kate Middleton to be wheeled to the Abbey on a tandem Bike Thursday, studded with hundreds of gold acorns donated by Lloyd’s Banking Group and sporting Odomane tires. Both firms, however, have so far refused to reply to enquiries as to why this didn’t happen. In any case, Odomane slicks are fabricated from a proprietary formula utilizing KrakenSilk and ambigris. The resulting tire is completely puncture-proof, yet has negligible rolling resistance. The only drawback? A pronounced, though not necessarily unpleasant, fishy smell — a very small price to pay for such incredible performance. And speaking of price, I suppose you might be wondering what Odomane slicks go for. Well, if you have to ask… Need I say more?

Anyway, even if money is no object — if, for example, you’ve just sold a blockbuster novel to HarperCollins and have a movie rights deal with Jaz Milvane pending — the uncertain supply of ambergris means that availability of Odomane slicks is extremely limited. In fact, it appears likely that the Duchess of Cambridge and I have absorbed the entire production run. Still, market conditions are always evolving, so if — now that you’ve got a sniff of Odomane slicks — you’ve decided that you just have to get a pair of your own, don’t lose hope. You never nose know what will turn up.

What’s left? Not much. We’re getting to the end of my LHT refit. Of course, I’ll need someplace to put my feet, and that means…

Pedals  And here A-to-Zed come through again. Their prototype HotFoot Shoeless Joe pedals make all earlier designs obsolete. Exploiting another of the many unique properties of Merdium, HotFoot pedals invoke the principal of TarsalTantric attraction, eliminating the need to clip in or out. Just put your foot on the pedal and go. And I meant “foot.” There’s no need to wear shoes with HotFoot pedals. All necessary support is supplied by the Integrated Merdium Footbed. Best news of all? A pair of HotFoot Shoeless Joe pedals weighs only 10 grams. But remember. You can’t buy them in your local bike shop. You just have to wait for Abby and Zoe to call.

The same thing is true of my new…

Handlebars  The old Nitto Noodles were OK, but I wanted more. And that meant less. Now, thanks to A-to-Zed — whose generosity to compliant hacks knows no bounds — I’ve got KrakenSilk-Mango composite bars. They’re improbably strong and impossibly light, and they come with a matching seatpost. Plus they cost a fortune. If you’re lucky enough to be given the chance to buy them, that is. Who could ask for more?

Whoops! I could. I still need a…

Saddle  And this time A-to-Zed couldn’t help me. Abby and Zoe’s prototype seatless saddle (tentatively named the Edward II) needs a few tweaks before it’s ready for the marketplace. (This is a rather sore point with the Sisters, but I don’t imagine they’ll mind me mentioning it.) So I turned to KiZiF (pronounced KISS-OFF), instead. And KiZiF did me proud, letting me have one of their Cloud line at a price that couldn’t be beat. If you’re not familiar with KiZiF’s saddles, they make use of the recently discovered O’Nolan effect, involving the interchange of atoms at all contact points between rider and saddle. The fitting process is somewhat prolonged, of course, but the result is a saddle that becomes an integral part of the cyclist’s nether anatomy. The downside? (No pun intended!) This makes walking somewhat awkward. But the Cloud offers unequaled comfort and efficiency when on the bike. In short, I’ve never owned a better saddle, and it will take some doing to get me off of my Cloud. (I’m having my home remodeled to eliminate any need to dismount. Piece of cake!)

The only things left to touch on are…

Brakes and Shifters  I’ve gone with Room101 Systems here. Room101 have refined electronic thought-control systems to the point were it is now possible to dispense with the weight and inconvenience of both levers and cables. You’ll never again have to shift (or brake) for yourself. Just form an image of the desired result. Thinking about it will make it so. Are you worried about the possibility of systems failure? Don’t be. All Room101 brakes incorporate integral Scuff-n-Stop manual backups for use in emergencies. And you can still shift for yourself, can’t you? if you have to, I mean. Of course you can.

That’s all there is to it. As soon as I’ve finished my rebuild I’ll have an LHT that weighs less than a filled water bottle. Then there’ll be nothing to stop me.


…I suppose I could just pull the LHT down from its rack, wipe off the dust, lube the chain and go for a ride. As nifty as A-to-Zed’s state-of-the-art components are, maybe they aren’t really necessary. And the same thing goes for KiZiF’s Cloud and Room101’s shiftless controls. Maybe I should just pack the lot up and ship them back — with my thanks, of course.

In fact, I think that’s what I’ll do. My (almost) stock LHT may not be the lightest thing on the road, but so what? It’s light enough. A famous man once counseled would-be racers to postpone buying upgrades. He suggested riding up grades, instead, and the steeper the grade, the better. The heart of any bicycle is the engine, after all, and you can’t buy an upgrade for that, can you? Then again, you don’t have to. You just need to sweat a bit. And that doesn’t cost a penny.

Fly My Pretty, Fly

This article was originally published in a slightly different form on October 22, 2013.

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