Saturday, February 27, 2016

Yesterday in Instagram

(I had been planning to make a new cargo bike after I left the one I made behind in Connecticut before I moved to Silicon Valley. I spent a while gathering old frames to use and settled on a Gary Fisher kid's bike - bought at Good Karma Bikes in San Jose - for the rear half. I posted this after I had been in the shop a couple hours last Sunday)

(The pic below I posted Thursday night when it became clear I wasn't going to the North American Handmade Bicycle Show in Sacramento the following day - it would have taken over four hours each way to get there and back via folding bike and train. But I found a tossed out Sears folding bike I almost forgot I had and the fork of my first single speed and began making 3-D sketches)

(Posted yesterday)

(I finally got the basic frame together: the folding bike frame and Gary Fisher frame are conjoined with the middle part of an old road bike mounted backwards. I hope everyone attending the NAHBS has fun - I am with you in spirit. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding)

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Five Things Every Bay Area Cyclist Should Be Aware Of

This is not a complete list - there are a lot more than five things that a Bay Area cyclist needs to be aware of (i.e., the dolt in the electric Ford Fusion who insists on texting while driving) but this is my list which, in the tradition of ‘listicles,’ frees me from having to do a whole lot of work while writing. So here goes:  

5) San Jose Bike Party is Cool 

Last Friday I finally was able to participate in a San Jose Bike Party ride - the one with the superhero theme. And it was…and nearly two decades of wordsmithing for money are being deployed for this summary…fun

This wasn’t a random flash mob style ride: I could tell a lot of planning and actual work went into this. The reason I mention that is there were several superheroes scattered along the route to give directions if needed and several astonishingly good food trucks waiting for us partway through the ride.

The only thing that went wrong is my cape wouldn’t billow behind my bike…but more details of my actual ride will soon be available as a post on the great UK bike light maker Blaze but for now be content to follow San Jose Bike Party on Facebook to get details of their next ride - I believe wearing pajamas may be involved. 

4) North American Handmade Bicycle Show is this weekend in Sacramento

As the photo of my workshop above suggests: I am finally embarking on building a new cargo bike - that’s right,  Bikeducken 2.0 is in the works - and if you are building something yourself or just want to see how talented people do it, head to the North American Handmade Bicycle Show in Sacramento this weekend. It is open from Friday to Sunday and looks like it’ll be a great place to get your imagination flowing or buy custom bikes yourself. 

3) Park Tool School at Good Karma Bikes Starts Tuesday 

If you’re up to learn some wrenching or know someone who does, make sure you’re aware that the March session of Park Tool School starts Tuesday, March 1. It's a $250 course that includes a 20% discount on anything you buy at GKB during the month of March, 18 hours of instruction, and a lot more. Learn more and sign up via Paypal at or send a note to 

2) The founder of Bike Box Collective is Doing a Charity Ride in Santa Cruz

Alex - the person who made the box bike I test rode last fall - will be participating in Climate Ride California 2016. Read up on what he is doing and why - then donate to his cause

1) Good Karma Bikes is nominated for Best of Silicon Valley 

So yesterday I learned Good Karma Bikes is a nominee for Best Bike Shop in the Metro’s ‘Best of Silicon Valley’ 2016 edition. If you’ve shopped there and think the place is a winner, click here to vote. Polls close on March 13th, so that means that if you have never shopped there before you have time to experience the shop for yourself and cast your ballot for Good Karma Bikes honestly. Also: they are having a parking lot sale this coming weekend so be sure to stop by 460 Lincoln Avenue in San Jose between 10:00am - 5:00pm on Saturday or between 11:00am - 3:00pm on Sunday. 

Hope to see you on and off the bike this weekend - hopefully on. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Another Place to Park My Park Tools

Note: If you liked the Specialized coat rack I welded a few months ago and live in the Bay Area (read: it is local pick up only) you can buy it on eBay. Proceeds from the sale of the rack will be used to help Kanye West put down his debt..just kidding: I'm going to use the money to make other things. 

A few months ago, during the #WhyAFixie Challenge, I found a folding bookshelf unit at a nearby Goodwill store and brought it home on my bike trailer. I ended up using it to make yet another storage rack for bike tools. 

To give you a bit of history: In Stamford I made a one-sheet workbench built with a piece of plywood bought at Rings End Lumber in Darien - and I used my homemade cargo bike to bring it the six miles to my then-home. The cargo bike was given away days before I moved out of Connecticut and the one-sheet workbench was dismantled since I needed the lumber for something else.

When I first got to San Jose I began using the collapsible tool rack I made from a steel easel bought at a Rowayton Arts Center sale. It worked well but I decided I wanted something I could more easily move from one part of the workshop to another, so I took the tools off and decided to only use the easel rack when I’m offsite.

The bookcase ended up working perfectly - and if you can get your hands on one it is a simple little build: The first thing I did was attach a piece of plywood to the bottom so I’d have a place to put on the 3” casters which were taken from the one sheet workbench. I then removed one shelf so I’d have room to put on the magnetic tool holders. It’s fairly stable by itself but I intentionally put as many heavy items in the lower shelves as I could.

This is nearly an ad for Harbor Freight Tools, which is where I originally bought the casters, the magnetic tool holders, and the plastic ammo boxes I use to store bike tubes. It's working well.

It’s also an ad for Park Tool…and speaking of which Good Karma Bikes is starting their next Park Tool School session on March 1, so if you want to learn how to wrench with the best tools by some great people sign up to take the course or send someone you love in the Bay Area to do it. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

DIYBIKING.COM Reviews the Blaze LaserLight

A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to be in London, where I visited Blaze to check out their signature product: the LaserLight. Other than holding the light in my hands and seeing how good the image looks on carpets on cubicle walls, I didn’t get to spend much time with it. 

But now I finally have one so I’ll be able to give you a more thorough review (Full disclosure: I write a regular series of cycling articles for Blaze's Blog but my initial impressions of the LaserLight were written long before this relationship began - and I am not being paid to write this post). 

While I’m now in the position to write about the LaserLight in a non-abstract way, I can confirm that my initial impressions were correct: it’s a sweet light. 

The design of this thing wasn’t phoned in: it has heft due to its construction (Blaze has geekalicious video clips of how it's made on their site) but it just made me confident it would be hard to break. The light comes with a special, bright green charging cable with magnets that attach to the charging area on the top of the light. It’s made that way to help it stay water resistant. The only downside is if you lose or damage the hard-to-lose bright green cable you have to order a replacement. Also, since the magnets don’t click into a recessed space on the light (like a MacBook does) the cable can get bumped out of place if you charge it on a cluttered workbench.

The bracket that attaches the LaserLight to your handlebar exudes confidence - especially when you measure it against lesser brackets (an extra Blaze bracket can also be ordered separately if you have multiple bikes).

When it is on the handlebars it doesn’t feel like it will ever come off - and that’s important.  A quick rummage of the 304 reminded me that I’ve found quite a few bike lights in the road.

From left to right: a taillight I found in Darien, Connecticut, another I found in Redwood City, California and a bike headlight - that looks like E.T.’s severed head - I found in Strasbourg, France. I use the latter two frequently. I also have a functional taillight I found in New Canaan years ago I still use on my Bike Friday. 

That’s why the bracket is an unsung innovation: your bike light won’t work effectively if it falls off your bike. 

Once you have the bracket in place on your handlebars, Blaze recommends you position your light so the laser image appears “five or six meters” from the bike. Unlike Blaze, I am not going to make my American audience Google ‘meters to feet’ so instead I’ll use the unit of measure “about 1.5 times the length of a Fiat 500.”

As cool as the bike light is, we have to remember it - and a lot of bike lights for that matter - aren’t made for the cyclist. They’re made for the people the cyclist comes into contact with on the road. Many of these people are rushed, clumsy, angry, tired, distracted, have dirty headlamps, haven’t replaced their windshield wipers since Nixon was in office, and drive vehicles that can kill us. 

To illustrate that point I put my LaserLight on a clamp attached to one of my speaker stands - tied with my City Bike and my hospital room table as the best $5 I’ve ever spent at a tag sale - and set it at the same height as my handlebars. 

Mindful of the time I was shooed away by the Stamford police when trying to test bike lights in real world conditions, I wanted to be quick when I hustled out onto a street in San Jose. 

I first set the stand about five feet behind my parallel-parked car, turned on just the LED light, and got behind the wheel so I could look in the rearview mirror. 

Now that isn’t too bad but imagine what it would look like on a busy street with a lot more lights. And admit it: when you un-parallel park, you give the mirror a fleeting glance before you look out the windshield and drive off. 

But that’s where center-stage feature of the LaserLight comes in: when it is on, this is what the driver will see out the windshield - and that’s if it doesn’t catch their eye as it zips by the side window. 

The Blaze LaserLight doesn’t send a message to drivers that they own the road and we don’t. It sends a message to that one driver who will ease off the gas or pause an extra few seconds before turning when they see it.  And that’s important to remember: there are a over a billion motor vehicles zipping around out there. You can only be killed by one of them and, to paraphrase Nathan Fillion’s character from the cancelled-too-soon Firefly: “the trick is to die of old age before it finds you.”  

This bike light - when used in conjunction with responsible riding -  raises the odds you’ll die of old age. Not only that, but because it is such a conversation piece (sometimes, with motorists who roll down their window to speak with you at red lights) it raises the profile of cycling. When I’m passing several pedestrians and hear one of them exclaim “Look at that bike light!” I think that maybe, just maybe, a conversation about driving less and biking more takes place long after I’ve pedaled out of earshot. Visit or ask your local bike shop to buy one. It's north of $125 most places - but I've met the people who designed the thing: they're worth it and so is the light. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.