My Name is Ken and I Can’t Kick My Kickstand Habit

My new Surly Long Haul Trucker didn’t come with a kickstand.

How do you get along without one?

I’ve been spoiled, I have to admit. I’ve been using a ESGE/Pletscher Double-legged kickstand on my Trek 1220 for years. I first heard about them on the touring list and gave Harris Cyclery in Boston a call to ask the legendary Sheldon Brown if they were all the were purported to be.

Sheldon wasn’t available, but the young guy who answered the phone said they weren’t cheap, but that they really were great for holding up your bike. When I started giving him my info for the order, he stopped short and said, “I know you. You post on the bicycling newsgroups all the time.”

That showed me how the Internet had changed the way we do business. Here I was, half a country away, placing an order from what used to be a small bike shop and having my name recognized by someone I had never met. I’ve spent hundreds of dollars in some local bike shops and don’t get that kind of name response.

It’s nice to think your bike is happy to see you

The two legs hold the bike up in the air. Depending on how your bike is loaded, either the front or back wheel will be up in the air. The first few times you see it, it looks strange, kinda like your bike is rearing up on its hand legs to greet you.

The side effect of that is that you can now use your kickstand as a portable work stand. Taking a wheel off to change a flat or making brake or shifting adjustments is a piece of cake.

When you’re ready to go, you give the stand a kick and it folds up neatly out of the way.

It’s not perfect

The long legs WILL dig into soft blacktop and cause the bike to spill over. A strong wind, particularly if your front wheel isn’t pointed straight ahead will cause it to crash. Having said that, though, I can’t think of any time that my bike has fallen over that it wouldn’t have fallen over easier and earlier with a conventional kickstand.

What else is out there?

I ran across something called the Click-Stand, which was described as a tent pole turned kickstand. Tom, the maker, has been infinitely patient in answering my questions. He’s going to send me one to try out, so I’ll post pictures and my impressions when it arrives. Follow that link for a full review. It’s a cool thing.

Even if it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread, I’ll probably still keep the two-legged kickstand on the bike for those days when I need a portable work stand. Or need the feeling that someone is glad to see me.

Still, it’d be good to have something that won’t occasionally dump my bike over.

Look at My Nearly Naked LHT with a Nice Rack

There are going to be some folks searching for porn who are going to be REALLY disappointed with this story.

Son Matt and I journeyed to The Racer’s Edge in Boca Raton, FL, this afternoon to pick up my Surly Long Haul Trucker. It wasn’t exactly naked: it had a Surly Nice Rack on the front, a Cateye Strada computer and a set of Planet Bike fenders fore and aft.

Fitter John Palmquist, who did my pre-order fitting already had my bike somewhat in the zone waiting for me.

Pedal, pedal, pedal

Just like the first time, John was working to get the right seat height. I would pedal for a minute or so, he would measure the angle of my knee and have me step off.

He’d raise the seat a bit and we’d repeat the process. Gradually my pedaling became more efficient and the seat became substantially higher.

The handlebars were now quite a bit lower than the saddle, which isn’t my favorite position.

“Don’t worry about it”

“Don’t worry about it,” he assured me. “We’re going to get the seat adjusted first, then we’ll start to work on the upper body. If we did it the other way around, we’d have to do the handlebars twice.”

Fore and aft comes next

The next step was to figure out the right fore and aft position of the saddle. It was getting closer, but something didn’t feel exactly right. I ride on a leather Brooks saddle which takes on the shape of your bottom the more you ride it. (No, it’s not exactly like siting bare butt on a copy machine, but there ARE a couple of dimples in the leather where your sit bones dig in.) It took about three adjustments to get it about right.

Sure enough, after watching me spin the pedals a few more minutes, he had me get off for one last tweak. He thought the nose of the saddle should go up just a hair. And that was it for the saddle.

Raising the handlebars

John started off by raising the stem until the bars were just lower than the saddle. It was close, but not exactly right.

Then he loosened the bar and rotated it slightly backwards so the brake hoods were just a little closer.


What should I twiddle with?

While he was writing up the bill (which came to less than I had feared originally), I asked him what minor twiddling I should expect to do once I got it on the road.

Paraphrased, he said, “Don’t touch it.”

Then, knowing that was WAY too much to expect, he said it was OK to rotate the bars and change the tilt of the seat if I really felt compelled to muck. “Don’t change the seat height, don’t change the stem height, don’t change the saddle fore and aft distance. They’re right.”

Son Matt suggests that I should leave my tools at home to help me resist temptation.

Here’s the result

Everything visible is stock except the front rack, pedals, Brooks saddle and fenders.

I’ll put on my old rear rack, lights and other stuff tomorrow.

Wayne was supposed to work on building a wheel around my SON generator on Sunday, but his shop was closed Sunday afternoon and today. I hope he isn’t sick.

Bicycle Taillights That Work

Taillights have been a big topic on several cycling forums lately, so I decided to document the taillights I have on my Trek 1220 before I move them to my soon-to-arrive Surly Long Haul Trucker.

I use three taillights mounted to my Jandd Expedition Rear Rack. The first is a RealLite, a 4″ x 6″ 18-LED 4 AA-battery operated light. The vendor claims that the batteries will run about 60 hours on flash. I’ve never timed it, but it does run a long time. I use it in flash mode.

Trust me, it puts out a LOT of light. I’ve had more comments on it than any other light I’ve owned. Here’s what others say.

Check out the warranty. You don’t see many like that. I’ve bought a couple of his lights and only had to return one because of something dumb I did that caused it to break where it was mounted. I don’t recall exactly what I did, but the vendor replaced it with no hassle.

My brother sticks his in his rear jersey pocket instead of mounting it to his bike.

Generator light with battery backup

The middle light is a Busch&Müller 4DToplight Senso Multi from Peter White Cycles powered by a SON generator hub. Flashing taillights are illegal in Germany where these are made, so they are steady-on. Some folks claim that flashing lights are harder for motorists to judge distance with and there are others that think flashing lights attract drunk drivers. I have a mixture of flashing and steady lights, so I guess I’m either more visible and easy to read or I’m a drunk magnet.

Since the generator stops working when the bike stops, this taillight automatically switches to battery power when it senses that the bike has stopped. That also provides a backup if there would be a problem with the wiring.

It has a huge built-in reflector that is highly effective.

The NiteRider is visible in bright daylight

I saw my first NiteRider taillight on Matt’s infamous Full Moon Ride. Matt had just bought his and was firing it up for the first time. It was amazing how far you could see the light in the daytime. I run with mine on any time I ride, day or night. If I could find a way to power it without the heavy waterbottle battery, I’d even forgo the headlight that you need with it.

Bro Mark had one that he had quit using, so I hooked it up as an auxiliary brake light mounted on the top of my bike rack on my van. It’s the brightest thing on the back of the car.

What holds them on the bike?

The challenge was how to mount them. I had an old piece of aluminum that I bent 90-degrees and attached to the underside of the Jandd rack with two nuts and bolts.

It’s not pretty, but it does a good job of holding them on the bike. I haven’t seen any signs of metal fatigue in several thousand miles.

So, how do the look in the dark?

Here’s my first forray into the world of YouTube. After coming home from a ride the other night, I knocked off a quick video of my taillights. It’s sloppy, makes Sarah Palin sound smart and took me half a day to figure out how to edit and upload it. (Any 12-year-old kid could have done it in 10 minutes, but there is a shortage of 12-year-old kids at my house.)

The next one will be better, I promise.

Is a Surly Long Haul Trucker in My Future?

I posted my fitting experience the other day. It helped me to figure out whether a used bike could be tweaked to fit me or if I would make the leap to a new Surly Long Haul Trucker.

John Palmquist, the fitter at The Racer’s Edge, said the used Cannondale could be made to work for a couple hundred bucks.

I turned to the phreds

You hear me mention the phreds a lot. They are an international group of cycling tourists that know all that’s worth knowing about seeing the world on two wheels (OK, some of them are on three-wheel trikes). I posted the following query to them.

I’ve got the I Want a New Bike cravings.

My old Trek 1220 is at the stage where I’m putting money into repairs and I think I’ve done all it can do. On top of that, even though I have a bunch miles on it, it never exactly fit. It fit enough that I could ride it, but it was just a tad off.

While I was back in the Midwest this fall, I saw my first LHT and really liked the way it was equipped.

I retired at the end of August, so I want to take advantage of my new free time to get in some short tours. Even though my 401K took some major hits, I had just about convinced myself to buy the LHT.

Then a buddy who has a low-mileage T800 in good shape said he’d let it go for $XXX. A local LBS that carries LHTs did a professional fitting and said that the T800 would fit if I replaced the stem and bars. With some other minor part changes and a tuneup, I would be looking at $XXX for the bike and about $200 for miscellaneous bits and pieces. Basically, way less than $1K would get me to a common starting point.

The LHT complete would run $1095. Both bikes would need to have my SON generator hub built into a wheel and both would need racks and fenders.

Economically, it makes more sense to go with the T800, but I really like the idea of having a new machine from Day 1 since this will probably be the last bike I buy. (Steinhoff warranties run out early. My dad and his two brothers died at 60 or earlier. My middle brother had triple bypass surgery this week.) Advice?

Here’s a sampling of responses (names deleted):

You just retired

You just retired and it’s the last bike you may own?  Just on emotional criteria, I’d insist you buy the LHT.

Just for rationalization you’ve got the funds to do it; you’ll get a bike that fits you; given all the other work required, the actual savings becomes a smaller percentage of overall price; finally, you can probably sell the 1220 on ebay or cl and recoup half the price difference.  But I don’t think rationalizations mean anything here.

It’s not your LAST bike

Go with your initial call. And don’t think of it as your last bike, think of it as your next bike.

You deserve it

You have retired? Then you deserve a new LHT—-you have worked 40+ years for this moment—-fulfill your dreams with haste. Don’t recall who, but someone once said—-“we were put on this earth to go out and fart around and don’t let anyone tell you different.” As to your warranty—-genetics is a worthy foe, but get the LHT and put it on the road for as long as your family situation will allow. I see that as a hedge. Pops died at age 43, his two brothers in their 50s, all cardiac deaths. On my mothers side—3 brothers all dead by 60 years old. I, on the other hand, will be 70 in short order. I’ve been active–runner(read jogger), cycling, hiking and such. All the benefits of extended touring are outside the scope of this short note but I strongly recommend it. As for your 401K—-it is cheaper to live on the road than at home. Time vs Money—to travel you need money or time. I have time—-no money. I don’t have a problem with that. Life is good. If I’m not on the road, I am planning—-both are very satisfying

Go for it

How much of a hit did your retirement funds take? Do you have enough funds to sustain you (and wife?) on an indefinite timeframe? What else could you spend your money on that would be more beneficial? Isn’t this why you have retirement funds anyway? Provided that you can reasonably rationalize the above, my advice would be unequivocally to:- GO FOR IT!! FWIW I’m in a similar situation although I’m probably a few years older. I now have six bikes all of which I ride and I am planning to upgrade my kayak in the spring.

A new bike solves everything

IMHO, you are most deserving of a new bicycle, especially a Surly LHT now that you are retired. A new bicycle solves everything ! …. so to speak … ha … ha. Well, at least temporarily. I would spring for it from all of the great previous reviews and feedback here on this LIST and the BOB LIST.

Gone to bike heaven

I had a similiar dilemma 2 years ago. I had Raleigh Super Course I rode for 30 years, and it had at least 35,000 miles on the frame. I was spending a lot to keep it running. I looked at Trek 520 used in the local LBS that was bit smaller than my normal standover – and would have to make similar types of adjustments. Then I walked into a LBS where my son goes to college. They had a LHT frame hanging in the window. It was basically my “blank canvas”; what would I want on a bike without totally fracturing my bank account. I was measured and a LHT was built for me, with the parts I wanted, including a SON hub. When I got the bike, I thought I went to bike heaven – the most comfortable ride I have ever had. The bike has about 4000 miles on it now, and still feels like it did the first time I got on it. You will never go wrong with a LHT frame.

I think I’m going to pull the trigger

I talked with the LBS this afternoon and the LHT is on back order right now, but should be available soon. Their price for the bike and accessories is comparable or better than anything I could find online, so I’m going to think about it over the weekend and probably place an order on Monday.

After all, the phreds said to do it. And, all of these folks can’t be wrong.

Perfect Bike Fit by Boca’s Racer’s Edge Cycle Shop

It’s an old saying in the cycling community that “the most expensive bicycle is the one that sits unridden because it doesn’t fit the rider.”

When I was middle school age, I can remember some of my friends getting bikes that were so oversized that their parents would attach blocks of wood to the pedals so they could reach them. Since most of them had high, squeaky voices, I can only assume that the bikes standover height was equally out of proportion to the rider.

I bought a couple of bikes in my 20s from yard sales. When you are young and flexible, about the only “fit” is, “does the top bar contact my soft parts in a negative manner?”

My Trek and I are showing our age

I bought a used Trek 1220 that “mostly” fit me several years ago and it has served me well for many thousands of miles. It’s beginning to have mechanical problems, though, and so am I.

Now that I have retired and have started this blog, I want to do some multiple-day rides on a bike that is dependable and comfortable.

A Surly Long Haul Trucker caught my eye…

…when I was back home in Missouri. The phreds, folks who ride bikes all over the world for months and years at a time have very good things to say about it.

Just about the time I was doing serious research, a buddy said he was getting tired of stumbling over his Cannondale T800 on the way to the dining room table. He already had two bikes in his living room and three (not counting the two bents chained outside) was a bit much. (Do I need to mention that he’s single?)

He offered me a deal that was either too good to be true (one source) or about $100 too much (from another). The real question was, did it fit or could it be made to fit? I described my first ride here.

It was time for a formal fitting

The Racer’s Edge, in Boca Raton, was the closest Surly dealer and they also do bike fits. To be honest, I wasn’t completely comfortable with a shop that sounded like it catered to go-fast riders and their web site reinforced that image by saying “We are a full service cycling shop specializing in high performance racing equipment. We also sponsor five championship mountain, tri, and road teams.” Way too much testosterone for me, I thought.

John Palmquist made me feel comfortable

Son Matt came and hovered to document the fitting process. I brought along my Trek and the Cannondale and I have to give Fitter John Palmquist credit. He didn’t recoil in horror when I wheeled my bike past wheels that cost more than my whole bike.

It starts out with questions

Q: What kind of riding do you do, solo or group? Florida flats or mountains?

A: Solo. Most folks are either way faster than I am or slower, so I shake out by myself. Mostly flatland, but I did get in some rolling hills a couple of months ago. 300 feet up, 300 feet down, no mountains with long, high climbs.

Are you comfortable after a long ride?

Q: At the end of your longer rides, are you comfortable or do you have aches and pains?

A: About nine months ago, I started getting the sensation of having a pebble under my middle toes. Finally, after changing pedals, cleats and shoes, I went to an orthopedist to see if I needed new inserts. He said that I had developed arthritis in my big toes, which was throwing off my gait (and pedaling), causing the discomfort.

A closer look at my shoes

That’s when he asked to take a look at my Shimano Sandals equipped with Crank Brothers Candy C Pedal cleats.

“You might be more comfortable with a less comfortable walking shoe, but one with a stiffer sole so it spreads the pressure over more of your foot,” he suggested.

“I really don’t want walk-like-a-duck shoes and I ride in the rain from time to time and like shoes that don’t get soggy,” I countered.

“Your cleats should be just slightly behind the ball of your foot. Millimeters, not centimeters back, like these. Do you have any knee problems?”

“From about Mile 3 to Mile 10, I have a pain in the left knee, but it goes away and doesn’t come back until around Mile 40 for about 10 miles. Move and center them if you think it’s worth trying.”

Time to get on the Size Cycle

John has been fitting bikes for about nine years. When he first started, he used the rules of thumb that most of us have read (and which frequently contradict each other). His whole approach changed when he went to a four-day class at Serotta Cycling Institute, where he learned how to use an adjustable bicycle to achieve a neutral cycling position that produces the most power while being less apt to produce injury.

We started out with “average” settings

When I complained that I felt a little stretched out, he explained that we were going to work on getting the settings for the lower body first: saddle height, seat tube angle and saddle fore-and-aft adjustments. After that, he’d adjust for the upper body.

When I first started pedaling, the trainer made a WHIR! WHIR! WHIR! sound and I pedaled in a jerky, not round motion. It was like all of my power was on the downstroke. After warming up a bit, he started checking the bend in my knee when it was in the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions and adjusting the bike.

The pedal strokes started smoothing out

It was amazing how much difference the subtle changes made. Before long, the trainer started making a WHIRRRRRRRRRRRRR! sound as my strokes became more round and I was able to exert force more evenly.

He said he was shooting for about a 25-degree knee angle. He also suggested that I consider a 170-mm crank instead of the more standard 172.5 mm. The shorter crank would be easier on my knees and tests have shown that it wouldn’t reduce my power.

Time to work on upper body

Now John started to tweak the bars and stem.

Little things didn’t escape his notice. “Are those the glasses you ride in?” he asked. “If you’re getting neck pain, you might do better in sport-specific glasses that don’t slide down and cause you to have to crane your neck.”

“You’re not in your 20s anymore and you’re not a gymnast, so I’d recommend using a short-reach bar and short-reach drops to make yourself more comfortable and to be able to make use of the drops,” he added.

The non-intrusive measurement

Two final measurements remained. Checking my shoulder width to see how wide the handlebars should be and one that he called the “least important” and non-invasive. That didn’t sound like fun.

He pulled out a $260 wooden stick on a spring that I was supposed to stand over to measure my (surprise) standover height.

“Just how strong IS that spring when I let it go? I asked.

“It won’t change your voice,” he assured. Yeah, that’s what they told my buddies in middle school, too.

So, what’s the verdict?

Boiled down, my inseam is 86; my stem height is 176; stem length is 100; seat tube length is 54; seat tube angle is 73 degrees; crank arm length is 172.5; my seat should be set forward about 3mm.

Does my buddy’s used bike work?

“I’d love to sell you a new bike, but we could get the Cannondale to fit you if we replaced a couple hundred dollars worth of stuff.”

What am I going to do? I posed the question to the phreds. I’ll post some of the responses another day.

Was it worth $100 for the fitting?

I think it was. (I’ll get a discount if I end up buying a bike from them, so the hit wouldn’t be quite so bad.) In the long run, it was probably cheaper to have a pro evaluate what I need than to keep swapping out parts. Even though I have enough miles under me to be acutely aware of subtle changes in saddle height and alignment, I was really surprised to see how those tiny adjustments altered my pedalling style on the Size Cycle.