Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ways to Stay Prepared in National Preparedness Month

While riding the recumbent the other day, I decided to switch from the small 52 tooth chainring to the larger 60 tooth chainring at the halfway point. Of all the bikes that have come and gone from my shop over the years, this IS the one ring.
However, I should have let Gollum keep it. At first I liked the additional challenge of pedaling, but about a mile and a half from home the chain choked on itself in the derailleur. As I didn't realize at the time, a big chainring means there's less slack in the derailleur and less space for the chain to move around properly.

No problem, I thought. I'll just put the chain back on the 52 tooth ring and use my chain tool to break the chain so I could untangle it. I opened the better bike box...and found that I didn't have my chain tool/minitool combo.

It was a real 'D'oh!' moment (I may have even said it aloud): on the maiden voyage of the Bike Friday on the Boston trip, I took the multitool out of the recumbent's pack and never put it back. Out of options, I walked the bike home.

Now I want to make sure you don't have to ever finish a Bike Ride Story with that sentence: I walked the bike home. I know some of the most memorable rides end like that, but it's always nicer to have everything you need on every ride...and in the car you drive to the trailhead. And seeing that this is National Preparedness Month it's a good time to talk about things we need to stay prepared.

First things first: when I finally got the recumbent home and put it on the workbench, I had a good look at the damage and had a real “well, there's your problem!” moment:

That ever happen to you?

I'm terribly embarrassed at the filthy chain (at ten-and-a-half-feet long, you'd procrastinate cleaning it too) but focus on the quick release link: in case you can't tell, it snapped in half. The recumbent chain has had three of these things functioning reliably for years, so I assumed it was a freak occurrence.

The point is this: even if you're carrying a chain tool, there's no reason you can't carry one of these:

Another way to prepare: carry a first aid kit on your ride with a couple of bandages, aspirin, alcohol wipes and a few other things. You don't have to go all ER; just bring some of the basics. This isn't for you, no, no, no: if you ride safely, you're more likely to use the kit to help someone else you run into on the trail who isn't as prepared as you. In the woods I once ran into a few women in their late forties, one of whom was in pain and bleeding from her arm after a fall. I put on vinyl gloves (yes, I keep a pair in the kit. How else can you hope to stay clean when working on a filthy chain?) and cleaned and bandaged the wound.

"Are you a doctor?" she asked in a voice two teaspoons away from 'dreamily.'

She was surprised when I told her I was not – and looked a little frightened when I told her what I was.

So you have your quick link, your first aid kit and your vinyl gloves. Another way to be prepared is to have a minitool, duct tape, a pump and spare cleat for the bike shoe, wire ties, a patch kit and a tube. And a tiny red blinking light in case you're caught out in the dark.

This is what I carry with the mountain bike. The tube is a 26” one. The recumbent takes a 16” tube for the front and a 27” one for the back, so that kit is different. Rather than moving the other tools around, each bike can have its own kit in its own frame bag that (the Bike Friday debacle aside) should never, under any circumstances, leave the bike. Sure, you can be one of those people that keeps important things in a backpack mingled with stuff like Powerbar wrappers and spent CO2 cartridges and has to dump everything out to find a hardened tube of liquid cement, but if you don't want to forget anything it's much better to keep your gear, Powerbar wrappers, spent CO2 cartridges and hardened liquid cement on the bike.

Another way to stay prepared: when you're mountain biking and have a basic backpack, it's a great idea to carry one of these with you: a Therm-A-Rest Z-seat:

It weighs nothing and when you fold it in half it fits perfectly into most bags. If you carry a lot with you it's easier on your back, and if you're prepared to stop somewhere and sit on a rock to eat lunch, you can pull it out and sit on it.

It goes without saying that a cell phone has to be brought along on your trip, but if you're like me you're not wild about exposing it to trail conditions. I may invest in a Otter box especially built for my phone (or at least put it on my Christmas list) but for now I'm making do with this:

Wait, that's a picture of the spider outside of my front porch. I meant to upload this:

Alright, so what I've done is taken a plastic parts sorter and hollowed it out in the shape of a Droid Incredible by using a utility knife. The phone and headset can sit just inside and you can close the lid over it. It doesn't weigh much, it protects the screen in a crash, and the size makes the phone a lot easier to find in a cluttered backpack.

Another way to stay prepared: If you have a Garmin bike GPS, slap a little piece of orange tape on the back. It'll make it easier to find if it snaps off in a crash. I've never had it snap off in a crash, but the orange tape is like an airbag: you hope you never need it, but it's a comforting thought to know that it's there.

Another way to stay prepared: keeping the right kind of tools in your car. Preferably a Honda Element.

This requires an explanation: the tools in the photo are held in place by a Grid-It board my wife bought me from Levenger. The tools stay in one place and don't rattle around, and as you can see I have another plastic parts sorter in the center with valve covers, more quick links, and other bits. I also have the shock pump my cousin gave me when I bought his used fork, reasoning my Honda Element was the only thing that was going to get me to any trailhead. Also, the crowning touch: a 12v air pump that is plugged into a socket in the back of the Element. Honda engineers were brilliant enough to put a socket in the back, but have made it so you have to have the key turned to accessory for it to function. At either rate, if you suddenly find yourself needing air on the road for your Shrader valves, it beats a mini pump.

Another way to stay prepared: Let's say you're on the road and the bike breaks and you actually need to use some of these tools. You don't always want to carry the Park Tool PCS-9 with you, so if you're a biker on a budget I recommend you get your hands on one of those old-school camera tripods, like this one.

Lower the tripod to its lowest setting and bring it to your drill press. Drill two holes in it about 5 ½ inches apart all the way through.

Next, take some storage hooks (or just the hooks from an old Nashbar Stand by Me, on which this design is based) and bolt them into place. You now have a folding, lightweight stand that will easily fit in the trunk and will hold your bike by the chain stay and the seat stay (semi-precariously) so you'll be prepared to work on it on the road.

Now suppose the power goes out in your house and you really want to go for a ride. How do you charge your Garmin GPS?

I'm sure you've asked yourself that question all the time.

I'm also sure that somewhere in your house is a 2004 Spartan Sports FS-101 electric scooter that you're not using...or some other item that has a 12V sealed lead acid battery that looks something like this.

 If the battery takes a charge, you're in luck, because you can keep it topped off with one of these things that you can either find at a tag sale or buy at most auto parts stores: a solar powered battery maintainer.

If you get the 12V socket at Radio Shack and have a soldering iron and electrical tape, you can make this.

Keep the solar panel in the window with the socket plugged in, and when you have to you can take it out and plug in the 12V auto charger for the GPS or a 12V socket with a USB plug on the back. You can also use this to charge your cell phone in an emergency – I was all ready to do that during Hurricane Irene - but of course the first priority is to know how fast you are riding and how many calories you are burning.

Hope you've enjoyed these contributions to National Preparedness Month. Any other suggestions to stay prepared?

(Follow me on Twitter at @michaelknorris)

1 comment:

  1. There are two basic styles of razor electric scooter. The first is a stand up scooter that looks very similar to your standard manual scooter. Instead of standing on the scooter