Posts Tagged ‘bicycle touring’

Brooks Saddles, My Current Ride and My Final Ride!

June 7, 2013

I know, I know.  After my last post, I’m going to be asked what you’re riding now.  This is where I’ll tell you and of course the title tells you about my current and last bicycle saddle I’ll ever ride on.

My current ride is a 2010 Surly Long Haul Trucker (from here out I’ll just say LHT).  It’s not stock anymore however.  I’ve changed the original Onyx brakes to Avid Shorty 6’s.  The handlebars and stem have been changed to a shorter stem (35 degree 80 mm stem from Dimension).  The handlebars are the European type touring bars for more hand hold positions.

Though not a bad bar, I’m not truly fond of the European touring type handlebars.  I miss what I had on my 2004 Gary Fisher 129 Dual Sport (flat bar with a Profile Designs Century aero bar).  It’s comfortable for most riding but not as easy for my gorilla arms when going down into a aero position for riding down hills.  Thus my next bike will have the same as the Fisher if I don’t do it to my LHT.  The only other option I’ll consider is getting what is no longer made.  They are the Scott AT-4 Pro handlebars that are no longer in production.

The reason I changed the brake is that the Avid Shorty 6’s were a bit lighter and actually had better braking ability than the Tektro Onyx, not to mention cartridge pads.  With these brakes I added a set of Avid Speed Dial 7 Brake Levers.  I’ve had these levers before on another bike.  They are ultimately adjustable and fairly light where as the original road Tektro brake levers weren’t adjustable.

Getting to my pride and joy, I’ll go a bit more in depth.  I’ve tried several saddles via the last few bicycles.  I can honestly say they don’t hold a candle to the Brooks I currently ride.  No it’s not the venerable B17.  It’s actually the B67.  I considered the B17 but opted for the B67 because of spinal issues.  Total comfort from shock was required.  Yes, all Brooks saddles are heavy.  But on a touring bicycle weight isn’t the factor.  Comfort is.

As to treating the Brooks saddles (all models), there are many theories.  Mine is somewhat out of the ordinary yet pretty typical.  My lubricant/treatment of choice is Proofide developed by Brooks themselves.  Below is how I treated my B67 saddle:

1.)  Right from the box turn the saddle upside down showing the rails on top.

2.)  Open the small can/tin of Proofide.  You either bought the 25 or 40 gram variety(at least I hope you didn’t forget a good leather treatment substance).  I bought the 25 gram.

3.)  Take a clean rag and apply liberal amounts of the Proofide to the bottom of the saddle.  Don’t worry about using a lot.  The initial treatment is the most important.  I used roughly half of a 25 gram can/tin.  If you like you can also put a thin coat on the opposite (top) side of the saddle.  Just remember to wipe the excess off before you ride it if you do this particular top coating.  Also, initially treating the bottom of the saddle makes it less prone to water damage from dirty water spun off the wheel.

4.)  Mount as you would any other saddle.

5.)  Take the spanner wrench you received with your saddle and tighten down the nose till you have approximately one fourth of an inch between the wires above the rails and the leather.  This will give your saddle ample give while you ride and prevent from bruising your nether regions on the wires supporting the leather.

6.)  Ride your saddle for at least 500 miles.  By then it will be form fitted to your posterior.

Special considerations with the Brooks saddles I’ve heard.  Some complain about the saddle bowing outward at the sides like a butterfly.  This is a natural effect to suspended leather.  There are fixes that I’ve heard but I suggest you leave it alone as it conforms to your thighs while riding.  Be very careful just how much tension you put on the nose nut of your Brooks.  Too tight and you may be returning the saddle to Brooks for repair.  Too loose and you’ll bruise your nether regions.  Leather that is treated correctly will soak up the treatment like Proofide or your personal favorite leather treatment as well as stretch (not all in one direction either (it’ll stretch in all directions).

Re-treatment should be done as necessary.  Time between treatments will vary depending on your climate for the most part.  Don’t let the leather become dry and brittle or back to Brooks your saddle will go.  Also, if you want to keep the top black as my B67 was when it came from the factory use only paste type shoe polish like Kiwi paste.  DO NOT USE LIQUID BASED SHOE POLISH FOR ANY REASON!  If you prefer an antique finish on a black saddle just ride it for a while.  The polish will eventually come off and you’ll get the natural coloring of the leather.  Continual treatments will give it the rustic horse saddle finish of old.

Now my final bicycle of choice will surprise many.  No the LHT will not be my final choice even in the disc brake model.  Personally, I’m eventually going to get a Surly Troll.  Two reasons for this.  When I had my Gary Fisher Dual Sport 129 I enjoyed the geometry better than my LHT.  In many instances it was more upright and a lot more durable off road.  Yes, I know.  The Fisher has a suspension fork where as the LHT has a solid fork.  With the Surly Troll I get a bike with a more mountain bike geometry as well as a suspension corrected solid fork (think less maintenance here).  The second and most important reason for choice of the Surly Troll is configurability and wheel size.  The Troll like it’s bigger brother the Surly Ogre can be outfitted with just about everything including the kitchen sink.  The wheel size on the Troll is 26″ and is very easily found in any store that sells bicycle goods including Walmart.  You can’t say that just yet with the 700C size wheels.

This is but the beginning.  I plan on configuring my Troll with a Shimano SLX kit in 2X10 instead of 3X10.  I don’t see the need in a very large tooth number on the front chainrings.  Speed is not of vast importance when touring anyway.  Yes, I’ll outfit my Troll with disc brakes vice rim brakes.  I’ve ridden both and prefer the discs for several reasons.  No, I won’t be going hydraulic after looking up the freezing and boiling points of mineral oil that is in the fine SLX hydraulic discs.  I intend to use Avid BB7 mechanical discs for on the road service capabilities.  The Avid BB7’s are a good compromise between rim brakes and hydraulic discs and fall between them for braking power.  Other components my Troll will have are riser bars with a Profile Designs Century aerobar for steering and a set of B.O.B. nuts for the mounting of my B.O.B. Yak trailer which I intend to pull behind me as well as panniers front and rear.  I found the flat bar or riser bar with an aerodynamic type bar like the Profile Designs very comfortable for my kind of long distance riding.  It provided me with many miles of happy riding when I had a similar setup on my Gary Fisher.

A little more on the B.O.B. nuts thing here.  If you haven’t pulled a B.O.B. Yak or Ibis trailer (the Ibis is more for off road loads as it has a suspension rear), B.O.B. makes two different mounts for the tongue of those trailers.  One is a custom skewer for your rear wheel or the B.O.B. nuts which mount on the framework of your Troll/Ogre.  They also mount on the axle of non quick release wheels as well.  The main reason I’m using the B.O.B. nuts is that I’ve bent two of their stainless steel skewer type mounts (probably overloaded the trailer and had too much tongue weight).  With the nuts mounted on the frame of the bike instead of through the skewer it will keep me from replacing skewers frequently.

As to racks and panniers, I prefer the Surly Nice Racks. They are well built and strong.  The panniers, I’m still looking into.  I know, people will tell me to try this that and the other brands.  I’ve tried Jandd’s panniers.  They are very durable (I currently have a set of Jandd Large Mountains).  I’m not enamored with the mounting system though.  I love the Arkel mounting system but I’m not enamored by the liberal use of zippers of any quality level.  Perhaps I’ll stick with the Jandd’s and just get the mounting rails from Arkel and mount them to the Jandds.  I’ll just have to look at that when the time comes.

Yes, I know some will ask why I intend to use both panniers and trailer.  Why don’t I use one or the other?  Simple.  The panniers are for my clothing while the trailer will be strictly for my camping gear as well as storage for a small laptop.  I don’t intend on putting a large amount of weight besides my own on my bicycle.  Clothing will be enough in the panniers.  Also, both panniers and trailer singularly put up wind resistance.  Not just against the wind or with the wind either.  You’d be surprised at what either will do with a cross draft from either side.  With both, I hope to alleviate cross draft drift by going with smaller loads on each instead of having a large cross section with just one or the other.  However you do it you need to check out the physics involved.

Now my one choice that some don’t care for.  I’m going to run clipless pedals.  Most choose not to run them to avoid having to keep two sets of shoes (one for walking and one for riding).  Myself, it’s another choice for performance over useless effort.  I’ve found that clipless pedals are much more efficient over standard toe clips.  You can put upwards of 75% or more power into your pedals with clipless vice 50% or less with standard toe clips.

Hopefully this article has been if nothing else entertaining.  I know several won’t agree with my choices.  That’s all a part of personal preferences.  For those that are not familiar with touring, I hope some of the information will be enlightening.  The best thing you can do if you plan on touring is to make your own enlightened choices of what works and what doesn’t.  However, the more you research (either while you ride or while not riding), the wiser choices you can make.  My personal choices are based on where and how I ride both locally and while I tour as I prefer to keep only one bicycle at a time.

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20 years later! Discharge anniversary. A small look back!

November 28, 2012

Come this December 14th, I’ll celebrate 20 years since my discharge from the United States Navy.  However, I have nothing really to celebrate other than more freedom (though several of those freedoms are being challenged by our current congressional leaders), more police harassment, and politicians who refuse to find jobs for and help those veterans that protect their rights.  Of course, I can believe this since there are only 103 people in the upcoming Congress who are veterans themselves.  That’s not even 25% of our congressional leaders are veterans.

Before I give you my opinion on that, let me give you a brief synopsis of my life since I left the military.  Well maybe not so brief, but it will be enlightening to say the least.  Let me add that before I entered the military, I had some if not much college education.

Ok, I was discharged in December 14, 1992 and I remained in San Diego for approximately four months living in what some would call a studio apartment.  At the time rent was $425/month in San Diego and that was behind the San Diego airport.  Living anywhere near the beach or in a decent neighborhood was cost prohibitive.  What sucked was, I was attempting to do this on a security officer’s (as most call them “rent-a-pigs”) salary.  No easy task back then.  Alas, it wasn’t to be.

In May of 1993, after already filing my Veteran’s administration claim, I had to leave California due to monetary reasons.  So off I went back to my home state of Michigan only to find no work for almost three months.  Then it was back to the recreational vehicle industry (manufacturing).  That move cost me almost everything I owned and eventually cost me the pickup truck I was driving at the time.  Then my transportation became a bicycle.  Probably a good thing too.

Between 1993 and 1998 I stayed as actively employed as I could.  Even in the rust belt it wasn’t easy at the time.  While I was in Michigan I got to visit with my uncle who is now deceased.  He was the only non-family member of Florida Technical College Dean’s.  This college was set up by Ronald Reagen’s ex-Education Secretary with multiple locations all over Florida.  He offered to help me further my education in the field of my choice.  It would be later that I’d decide to take him up on his offer.

Out a job and in financial trouble (about to be evicted from my rental mobile home and forced to call the bank and return a truck I bought just less than a year ago), I took the last $1500 I earned spending it on a reasonable bicycle and what I thought might be appropriate to travel around 2000 miles with.  I left in June of 1998 headed to Florida to see my uncle who made me the offer.  Needless to say, I had little or no knowledge then what I was letting myself in for not to mention I became homeless for the first of many times to come.

Trip to Florida

Now this was the most interesting or harrowing trip/vacation I ever made.  It was also a vast eye opener as to what was going on in the country most people don’t see and our politicians try to hide.  It took me one full month (21 actual riding days) to roll from Three Rivers, Michigan to Winter Haven, Florida.  I traversed Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida in my travels.

While many only see what they view from the interstate highways and tollways, I got to see America up close and personal as bicycles are not allowed on those roads.  Most of my travels were on two lane highways (some four lanes).  What I saw was that there were only a certain few people who used what they earned properly (i.e. good home and functional automobile).  One such case I witnessed, a man owning a mobile home with no less than five automobiles in the driveway (one of which was a BMW sport sedan).  Now all of those vehicles may or may not have been his and some or all could have been non-functional.  However, no person should put an automobile of that expense over a home.

The vast majority of what I saw on my trip was shocking.  Most people in the areas I traveled lived in modest homes and had modest cars.  Many were living paycheck to paycheck to keep what they had.  They WEREN’T competing with the Jones.  Only a small percentage of people had any true wealth (i.e. luxurious home, extravagant automobiles, mobile homes, boats, and other luxuries by my standards).  All this got me thinking of who pays the most taxes.  Come to find out it’s not those with the luxuries.  It’s the ones barely making ends meet.

Sure there may be more of us who barely make ends meet.  However, the ones that can barely make ends meet are those who are most likely to become homeless and also those most likely to be imprisoned because of trying to stay alive while those that rob other people blind (i.e. white collar criminals) generally get of with little or no punishment.
As they say “The best law money can buy.”  Basically stating, if you have money you can buy the law/lawyers.

Needless to say, this trip opened my eyes up more than my time in the military or advertisements for aid to the hungry and homeless in Africa.  I saw both homelessness and hunger right here in America and am still witnessing it growing by the day in Columbia, South Carolina.  All this because of a small percentage of greedy people whom DON’T want to pay any taxes whatsoever.  It’s this, petty jealousy, religion, and the fight over resources that cause wars both civil and otherwise.

Jacksonville, Florida

After making it to Winter Haven, Florida and getting to talk with my grandmother for a week, I was picked up and relocated to Jacksonville, Florida where my uncle was opening up another branch of Florida Technical College.  It would soon be my new school since I told my uncle of my decision on his offer of further education albeit two years later.  It’s also where I took up residence with my aunt and uncle while I attended school before they were transferred south.

Once my time at Florida Technical College ended, I moved out from my aunt and uncle’s apartment.  I held a studio in Jacksonville for just a short bit before becoming homeless yet again.  Eventually, I got back to work for a day labor place and moved from there to full time work.  It didn’t last.  I ended up back on the street in 2000 without a home, a job, or any unemployment benefits per say.  It was at that time, I decided on a location change as there was nothing in Jacksonville.

Thinking with the little head!

In 2000, I met a lady online whom I fell for rather hard.  Thinking with my little head,  I decided to move to South Carolina.  Alas, she moved to Texas and I was stuck again.  I ended up in Columbia and remain to this day.  Still homeless (I was living out of a cheap used car I was driving at the time), I started working day labor again in an attempt to get back off the street and into something a little more permanent.

In the last twelve years, I’ve been on and off the street time and time again.  Each time it gets harder to get up and off the street.  Coming up on my 53rd birthday, I wonder if I’ll make it up this time.  Will I be stuck on the street while awaiting my Veteran’s Association claim to be denied yet again?  Will I finally be driven beyond the brink and do what I thought of doing last when I was 15?  We’ll just have to wait and see.

At this point, I can no longer do the physical labor I once did and Information Technology jobs in this state are far and few in between.  All I can hope for now is the resolution of my VA claim and my disability payment goes above 50% so I can at least find myself off the street.  From there I can at least run a part time business fixing computers from my home to supplement my disability pay.  Perhaps eventually, I’ll be able to garner the other certifications that will allow me to return to the work force in a much better job.

With all this on my plate, I’ll leave you with something about my next post.  It will be entitled Why do they do this? Police brutality!