Reader Mail FAQs

Real Lever

I receive a fair amount of e-mail from readers asking about bikes, cameras, and blogs. Some of the same questions show up fairly regularly, so I thought I’d pull together a few FAQs from the past couple of months and post them here.

Do you prefer your Long Haul Trucker or your Sam Hillborne?
That’s a tough question. Both are excellent bikes for how I use them. The LHT is stiffer and more of a pack mule. It’s a bit harsh when unloaded, but it really shines with a full load. The Hillborne is prettier, lighter, more lively, and just a blast to ride unloaded or lightly loaded. It doesn’t handle heavy loads as well as the LHT, but it makes up for it in ride quality. Think packhorse versus thoroughbred and you have the image. I covered this in detail in my review of the Hillborne.

What tires and fenders are you running on your Hillborne?
The tires are 33.33mm Jack Brown Blue Labels from Rivendell. The fenders are pre-drilled, 43mm Hammered Honjos from Velo Orange.

Honjo Fender

Was it difficult to mount your Honjo Fenders?
It depends upon which bike we’re talking about. It took about an hour each to mount them on my Hillborne and Michael’s Betty Foy, and I didn’t actually use any swear words in the process. On the other hand, mounting them on my Independent Fabrication Club Racer took a week, multiple trips to the hardware store, two orders from Velo Orange for parts, and a lot of sweat and swearing.

What bar tape and finish do you use on your Hillborne handlebars?
The tape is Newbaum’s cotton cloth in #23605 Yellow finished with 4 coats of Zinsser BullsEye Amber Shellac. This combination renders a color that closely matches a Brooks honey saddle.

Newbaum's Bar Tape

What kind of headlights are on your LHT?
Those are Fenix L2D flashlights. They’re attached to the rack with a pair of TwoFish blocks. The L2D has since been discontinued and replaced by the new LD20. Awesome lights by the way; highly recommended.

What kind of rack is that on the front of your LHT?
The rack is a Pass & Stow, handmade by Matt Feeney in San Francisco, CA. Pass & Stow racks are made from fillet-brazed tubular chromoly steel. They’re extremely stiff and strong.

LHT with Leaf

What are those brake levers on your LHT?
They’re from a now defunct company called “Real” (see the photo at the top of this post). They’re machined from bar stock and super nice. The nearest lever currently being produced is Paul’s Canti Lever.

Why are the back wheels of your bikes so far off of the ground when they’re on the centerstand?
When using a Pletscher double-legged centerstand, the back wheel needs to be 3”-3.5” off of the ground. This keeps the weight on the front wheel which makes the bike more stable for loading. The increased clearance also provides leeway for uneven surfaces.

Civia loring

What wax formula do you use for chain waxing?
I use an 8-to-1 ratio of pure paraffin to pure beeswax — this mix is not so sticky that it picks up dirt, but it’s soft enough to not flake off as quickly as pure paraffin. I buy 4 lb. blocks of paraffin and cut them into 4 pieces (16 oz. each), and I buy 1 lb. blocks of pure, unscented beeswax and cut them into 8 chunks (2 oz. each). When I need to replace the wax in the cooker, I just throw in a 16 oz. chunk of paraffin and a 2 oz. chunk of beeswax to get my 8-to-1 ratio. This is the perfect amount to cover the bottom of a medium-sized crock pot just deep enough to fully immerse a coiled chain. If you frequently ride in rainy conditions, add a teaspoon of Slick 50 to the mix. You can read about the full process in Chain Maintenance for Clean Freaks.

What kind of camera do you use?
My compact is a Canon G10. I love its chunky body and manual controls (the exposure compensation dial is indispensable for how I work). Many of the early morning and late evening bike trail images on the blog were captured with the G10.

My DSLR outfit consists of a Canon 50D body, a Canon XSi body (as a backup), and a handful of lenses:

I also have the usual collection of strobes, but I try to shoot with natural light as much as possible. Most of the photos in our road tests and product reviews were taken with this outfit.

What software did you use to create EcoVelo?
EcoVelo is running on a self-installed version of WordPress. The graphic theme was created in Adobe Photoshop and ported to WordPress using Bare Bones Software’s BBEdit.

That’s it for this installment. We’ll see, but this may end up being a regular monthly feature.

10 Responses to “Reader Mail FAQs”

  • David Bolles says:

    What are some benefits to chain waxing? I’ve never heard of it until this post.

  • Alan says:

    Hi David,

    Here’s the link to my original post on the subject:

    Let me know if you have further questions.

    Happy holidays!

  • Bob B says:

    Alan, If I had a LHT & Sam H — when to ride them would be really easy. Sam H for sunny days with dry pavement and LHT everything else : – ) Those are both very nice bikes.

  • Rob Mackenzie says:

    I really like this Reader FAQ idea… a nice thought and very well written!

  • Alan says:

    Thanks, Rob! I’d like to see something similar on a certain recumbent site (hint, hint).


  • 300 Pound Gorilla says:

    re: wax

    i use straight paraffin. no problem. but then, i live in san diego.

  • John Westerman says:

    This is a fantastic web-site, its just pure joy and beauty and I dig that.

    I have an actual question. I am in the market for a LHT and I’m torn about the color. But in the photos with the Pass & Stow that blue is very nice, but I’ve seen other photos elsewhere and the blue looks… different. Are there different colors of blue LHTs? My LBS has some of the pea green ones, they can’t seem to sell them, and I personally love the green ones, but your photos of the blue have given me pause.

    again, great web site. This is what the internet was made for, sites like this.



  • Alan says:

    Hi John,

    Thanks for the kind words – they’re much appreciated.

    The slate blue you’re seeing on my Pass & Stow equipped LHT is from a few years ago. The brighter, more intense blue you’ve seen elsewhere is the current model year color.

    Best regards,

  • John Westerman says:

    Slate blue… really a nice color. Looks like pea green for me. Seriously though, about the blog, it is really gorgeous. I love looking at bikes and you’ve clearly invested a good bit of yourself into this and it really does show. But its not just aesthetics either, you’re clearly knowledgeable about bikes but in a way that seems imminently approachable. It makes for a nice combination.


  • Alan says:

    Many thanks, John. Thanks for visiting the site.


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