Category Archives: Evaluations: Bicycling & Touring Gear

Evaluations of bicycling-related gear.

Nashbar’s Stand By Me: Compact, Inexpensive, and Durable

A bike stand simplifies routine maintenance like chain lubing and adjustments to the drivetrain. But not every cyclist wants a costly full-sized shop stand that takes up a lot of floor room. Is there any other option? Sure there is, and it will cost less than topping up your car’s gas tank.

by Tamia Nelson | March 5, 2018

A bike stand is a handy addition to any cyclist’s home tool kit, even if the most involved task you perform on your bicycle is to clean it and lube the drivetrain after sloppy rides. More ambitious home mechanics will find a stand handy for brake and derailleur adjustments, bottom bracket work, or any other task where it helps to have the rear wheel off the ground. And while a full-sized shop stand makes many jobs a lot easier, not everyone can devote floor space to a large stand, or pay what it costs for a competent model. There is an alternative, though. It’s small, capable, and cheap. I bought one back in 2008, and amazingly, it’s still available. … Continue reading »

Bar(con) Talk: A Harrowing Tale of Bar-End Shifter Corrosion by Tamia Nelson

Some things look worse — far worse — the closer you look at them. That’s the case with bar-end (or barcon) corrosion. The scourge of bar-end corrosion can happen to anyone, even to cyclists who are diligent about keeping their bikes in fine working order. It’s happened to Tamia’s Surly Long Haul Trucker. And it’s been found on a Soma Smoothie built by a mechanic friend of hers. Has it happened to your bike? You’d better check. Today. Because the consequences of not nipping bar-end corrosion in the bud can make you feel faint.

I discovered the scourge of bar-end shifter corrosion when my Surly Long Haul Trucker was almost six years old, and with over 18000 miles on the clock. She’s — I named her Petra, and it suits her; she’s really been a rock — she’s my maid of all work for most everything from shopping to “amphibious” trekking. She’s held up well, despite the fact that a lot of the roads in my corner of the North Country are paved in gravel. And I’m not … Continue reading »

Swapping Stock Surly LHT Handlebars for Nitto Noodles: Why and How I Did It by Tamia Nelson

One of the very many benefits of bicycles is that most of the mechanical work can be done by you, the owner. And as DIY jobs go, swapping handlebars is pretty straight forward. Which is good, because Tamia realized early in her ownership of the Surly Long Haul Trucker that the stock bars didn’t fit her comfortably. In this article, she describes why she swapped the stock handlebars and shows you how it’s done.

How often do YOU think about handlebars? Not often, I’d wager. Unless you ride a bike a bicycle with handlebars that don’t fit. THEN you think about them a lot. Because the longer the ride, the more your body will suffer.

When I bought my stock-build Surly Long Haul Trucker touring bike, it was outfitted with good basic bars, but they just didn’t suit me. They were narrower than I liked, which makes steering a tad nervous. I also couldn’t find a grip position which was comfortable for more than a few minutes at a time. And another thing was wrong. … Continue reading »

The Sawyer Mini Water Filtration System: Small Is Beautiful by Tamia Nelson

Quenching your thirst is surprisingly difficult, whether you’re cycling through rural country or trekking in the backcountry. You just can’t assume that wild water is safe to drink. Which explains why clever people have devised many ways to disinfect questionable water. Tamia has weighed her options for how to treat wild water, and the winner is… the Sawyer Mini.

Whether I’m heading out on a long bike ride along back roads with no services, paddling a lonely stream, or bushwhacking into a favorite beauty spot, I have one nagging worry: drinking water.

The Adirondacks, my backyard, is a well-watered place, but trekking is thirsty work, and there’s really no way for me to know if wild water is drinkable. The only valid rule of thumb was articulated many years ago by veteran desert walker Colin Fletcher: “If in doubt, doubt.”

Back in the day, it wasn’t uncommon to find a dented tin cup upturned on a stick alongside a stream or spring hole. And I drank my fill at such informal watering spots many times … Continue reading »

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 … Continue reading »

The Performance Transformer Jacket Transformed by Tamia Nelson

The Performance Transformer jacket is a lightweight wind shell. It’s got a lot going for it: It’s reasonably priced and the hi-viz color stands out to alert drivers you’re there. Moreover, the polyester fabric not only blunts the edge of cutting winds, it sheds light drizzle, too. Best of all, the jacket can morph into a vest by unzipping the sleeves. But there were two complications Tamia had to overcome before it went from good to best.

Some eight or nine years ago I bought the Performance Transformer jacket on sale from online retailer Performance Bike. (Amazingly, an updated version of the Transformer — the Elite Transformer — is still carried by Performance, though with a critical alteration as well as a much higher price.) Though not available in a women’s version, the Transformer appealed for several reasons. It’s a lightweight wind shell made of polyester, which blunts the edge of cutting winds and blunts a light drizzle. It’s predominantly hi-viz yellow, though unfortunately with black sleeves, shoulders, and chest pocket. The black swatches reduce the Transformer’s … Continue reading »

The Relaxed Alternative to Finding Your Cycling Comfort Zone by Tamia Nelson

Bicycling isn’t only for jocks in lycra, and there are alternatives to a traditional diamond-frame road bike, too. So if you’re looking for a more relaxed ride, consider one of these bikes.

My article on a friend’s Day 6 Dream semi-recumbent bike sparked the imaginations of readers who wanted for more information about a kind of bike which they’d never seen before. Clearly there are plenty of folks who would go cycling if they had a choice beyond the mountain bike or road bike. They like the idea of a more relaxed frame geometry, because that gives them a bike with traits such as these:

  • Upright position when cycling
  • Little to no pressure on hands and wrists
  • Comfortable seat
  • Feet can be placed flat on ground while sitting in the saddle
  • One size of bike frame can fit a range of riders
  • Lower center of gravity inspires confidence
  • Easier to straddle than diamond frame bikes, especially if the bike has a step-through frame

Bikes with qualities like these are known by a number of terms, … Continue reading »