Category Archives: Bike Touring

Going places on a bike for the longer haul.

Using Bike Lights During Daytime? Why Cyclists Shouldn’t Be Shy About Flashing

Do you think bicycle headlights and taillights are just for night rides? Think again.

by Tamia Nelson | March 22, 2018
Originally published in different form on January 28, 2014

The months between the autumnal and vernal equinoxes are a time of short days and long shadows. This has important consequences for cyclists who venture onto public highways. The low winter sun poses the greatest danger. Late in a March day, an impatient motorist driving toward the fiery orb hanging just above the western horizon is sure to be all but blinded by the dazzling light. There’s almost no chance she’ll spot a cyclist in the road ahead of her in time to swerve or brake.

Are you feeling lucky today? It’s a question I often ask myself before pedaling away.

Of course, we cyclists are forced to rely on the kindness of strangers for our very survival all year round. Motorists who are alert, competent, and well-disposed pose few problems. But not every motorist embodies these happy qualities.

OK. What can cyclists do … Continue reading »

A Clean Bike is a Happy Bike

Bikes are versatile beasts and will carry you through fine weather and foul. But they’ll protest if they’re not kept clean. A dirty bike—specifically, a dirty drivetrain—will eventually wear and give up the ghost. So, cleaning your faithful steed after each filthy ride will be rewarded with improved functioning and reliability for the long haul.

by Tamia Nelson | March 18, 2018
Originally published in different form on May 5, 2016

Bike Maintenance Article on

Ideally, bikes should be completely cleaned, checked, and lubed after every dirty ride, but in reality this isn’t always possible. Cleaning a bike is a time-consuming and messy job. When you return tired and hungry from a dirty ride, it’s too easy to roll the bike into the garage and forget about it. The trouble with this is that you remember quickly enough the next time you turn to your bike, usually when it’s inconvenient to give it a well-deserved cleaning. Maybe you spray the drivetrain with WD-40 or drip some lube over the rusty, grubby chain and ride away to the sound … Continue reading »

On Keeping a Journal: Fixing Images on the Emulsion of Memory

Alexander Mackenzie did it. So did Henry David Thoreau, Mina Hubbard, Raymond Patterson, and Sigurd Olson. And you can, as well. In fact, if you canoe or kayak—or if you just take an active interest in what’s going on in the world outside your door—you’d be foolish not to. Curious? Then read on. Tamia will tell you all you need to know about keeping a journal.

by Tamia Nelson | March 16, 2018
Originally published in different form on May 21, 2002

When Colin Fletcher smashed his only camera, far down a trail in the depths of the Grand Canyon, he cursed his luck. After all, he was walking through country he’d probably never visit again. Before long, however, his spirits had soared. He discovered that he’d escaped from the “tyranny” of photography. “Instead of stopping briefly to photograph and forget,” he later wrote, “I stood and stared, fixing truer images on the emulsion of memory.”

The emulsion of memory… It’s a wonderful turn of phrase, isn’t it? But there’s a problem. Unlike … Continue reading »

Touring Bikes for Short Cyclists

Short folks who are looking for a touring bike don’t have as many attractive options as cyclists of average height. But they DO still have choices.

by Tamia Nelson | February 3, 2018
Originally published in different form on February 3, 2015

If you’re short, you’ve probably had trouble finding a bike that fits. Which is probably why many times over the years I’ve been approached by other cyclists that I’ve owned and written about my 42-cm Surly Long Haul Trucker. The most common question? “Will it—or a bike like it—fit me?” Other questions usually follow, and I’ve done my best to answer the ones I’m most frequently asked in “Small Talk About the 42cm Surly Long Haul Trucker.” But the initial question is the hardest to answer by far. Will a 42cm LHT fit you? I simply can’t say. No, not even if you give me a complete set of your measurements.

I can say this, though: You’re not condemned to an ill-fitting bike just because you’re short. Surly and … Continue reading »

Getting a Grip on Handlebars: Why I Like ’em Wide

Unless you buy a bespoke bicycle built to your exact requirements, chances are that the off-the-hook bike you buy will not fit quite as you like. If the misfit is little more than an inconvenience, you can live with it. But if the bike’s components cause pain, chances are you can put that to rights by swapping for a different part. When Tamia bought a stock-built Surly Long Haul Trucker, it fit pretty well right out of the box. Except for the handlebars. They were too narrow. How’s that? Read on and you’ll find out.

by Tamia Nelson | January 30, 2018
Originally published in different form on February 13, 2010

Several years ago I bought a complete-build 42-cm Surly Long Haul Trucker touring bike by mail from JensonUSA. From the start it was a perfect choice. Right out of the box I knew I’d swap out the saddle with a model I knew worked well for me, and I supplied the pedals. (Despite the “complete build” description, pedals are not usually included with better … Continue reading »

Prescription for Relief: A Short, High-Rise Stem

Has riding your bike become a pain in the neck? Then take a close look at the bike’s stem.

by Tamia Nelson | January 29, 2018
Originally published in different form on May 3, 2010

Have you found that riding your bike has become a pain in the neck? (Or back? Or shoulder?) If you have, the solution to the problem could require more than an attitude adjustment. You may need a shorter, higher stem. While standover height gets most attention from cyclists when they’re shopping for a bike, reach is important, too. If you have to stretch to reach the bars, or if you find yourself forced into an exaggerated “racing crouch” when you really want to sit tall in the saddle, the answer might be a smaller frame. Or it could be as simple as swapping out your stem.

As luck would have it, I didn’t have to. My Surly Long Haul Trucker had a short, high-rise stem right out of the box. But then I changed my handlebars, and the stock stem wouldn’t accommodate … Continue reading »

It’s a Wrap: A Cyclist’s Tool Roll in Three Easy Steps

Do you have trouble finding your tools when you have to do a roadside repair? Then you need a tool roll. The good news? You can make a custom one for yourself, and it need not cost a cent. Tamia shows you how.

by Tamia Nelson | 24 January, 2018
Originally published in different form on February 11, 2014

When I head out on trips that will take me more than an hour’s hike from home — and that’s most of the trips I take — I carry a roadside repair kit in addition to my seat-pack tools and the rest of my cycling gear.

For a long time I carried tools in my handlebar bag, tucked away inside a plastic freezer bag. This wasn’t ideal. The tools rattled with every bump. More importantly, they weighed in at 2 pounds 4 ounces — about as much as a full quart water bottle. That’s a lot of weight to add to an already overloaded bar bag. I needed to find a better way. Luckily, I always mount a rack trunkContinue reading »