Thursday Evening Commute

There’s a great collection of photos of loaded Long Haul Truckers over at crazyguyonabike.

Truckers at crazyguyonabike

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.

Gallery: Darrell’s 1978 Raleigh Record Ace (the Blackadder)


[Darrell sent us these photos of his gorgeous path racer. —ed.]

Blackadder is my take on the classic English path racer. I set myself the challenge to build the bike with mostly new parts for less than its handbuilt English counterpart. Sure, Blackadder doesn’t have a Reynolds 531 frame and a long wheelbase, but it’s not too shabby. Actually I started with a Raleigh Record Ace frame, supposedly a non-export frame since it has pump pegs under the top tube. I laced the wheelset myself using Sturmey Archer hubs and Sun CR-18 rims. The project was finished so late in the season that I’ve only logged a couple of miles. I’m looking forward to some excellent rides starting in the spring.

Darrell Yarborough
Arlington Heights, IL

  • Frame – 1978 Raleigh Record Ace
  • Powdercoating – Powdercoat Studio, Traverse City, Michigan
  • Wheels – Homebuilt (Sturmey Archer Hubs, Sun CR-18 Rims)
  • Tires – Schwalbe DeltaCruisers 700×35
  • Handlebars – Nitto B-352AA
  • Brake Handles – Origin8 ProPulsion
  • Grips – Cardiff Julian
  • Stem – Nitto Technomic
  • Crank – Sugino XD2
  • Bottom Bracket – Phil Wood
  • Pedals – MKS Sylvan Stream
  • Chain – Wipperman Connex
  • Saddle – Brooks B17 Special with copper plated rails
  • Seatpost – Kalloy 27.2mm
  • Leather Panniers – eBay
  • Pannier Mounts – Rixen & Kaul
  • Rack – Tubus Fly 41000
  • Frame Pump – Silca 42 cm
  • Headlamp – Vintage Union

B-Cycle Demo in San Francisco


B-Cycle is demonstrating its bike share system in San Francisco December 17-18 at the Civic Center Plaza (in front of San Francisco City Hall). Representatives will be on hand from 10am-3pm both days. Attendees will be able to check out bikes and take them for a test ride.

More information at B-Cycle

The Frenzy

Crazy Drivers

The headlong rush toward Christmas was palpable on the roads tonight. It felt as if there were more, and more frenzied, motorists going every direction at breakneck speeds. Take extra care out there over the next week.

Maintenance Schedules (or a Lack Thereof)


I have friends who put their bikes on a regular maintenance schedule just like a car, with X number of miles indicating a hub repacking, Y number of miles indicating a headset rebuild, and so on. In fact, the League of American Bicyclists published just such a maintenance schedule (from the League’s “Bicycle USA” magazine via the Seattle Bicycle Club’s website):

Before every ride:

  • Check tire air pressure.
  • Check brakes and cables.
  • Be sure your crank set is tight.
  • Be sure quick release hubs are tight, but not too tight.

After every ride:

  • Inspect tires for glass, gravel shards, and cuts on tread and sidewall.
  • Check wheels for true.
  • Clean the bike’s mechanical parts as necessary.

Once a week or every 200 miles:

  • Lubricate chain (with dry lube; or every other week or 400 miles with wet chain lube).

Once a month:

  • Completely clean the bike, including the drivetrain if necessary.
  • Inspect chain and freewheel. Measure the chain for wear, check for tight links and replace the chain if necessary.
  • Inspect and lubricate brake levers, derailleurs and all cables.
  • Inspect pedals and lubricate SPD style cleats.
  • Inspect and check for looseness in the:
  • stem binder bolt
  • handlebar binder bolt
  • seatpost binder bolt (or quick release)
  • seat fixing bolt
  • crank bolts
  • chainring bolts
  • derailleur mounting bolts
  • bottle cage bolts
  • rack mounting bolts (use thread lock on these)
  • brake and derailleur cable anchors
  • brake and shifter lever mounting bolts
  • brake mounting bolts (do not alter brake centering)
  • Inspect tires for wear; rotate or replace if needed.

Every three months:

  • Wax bike. A clean, shiny bike always seems to go faster and farther.
  • Inspect frame and fork for paint cracks or bulges that may indicate frame or part damage; pay particular attention to all frame joints.
  • Visually inspect for bent components: seat rails, seat post, stem. handlebars, chainrings, crankarms, brake calipers and brake levers.

Every six months:

  • Inspect and readjust bearings in headset, hubs, pedals and bottom bracket (if possible; some sealed cartridge bearings cannot be adjusted, only replaced)


  • Disassemble and overhaul; replace all bearings (if possible); and remove and if necessary replace all brake and shift cables. This should be performed at 6000 miles if you ride more than that per year. Commuters who often ride in the rain or mountain bikers who get dirty should overhaul their bicycles more often.

Wow, that’s a helluva schedule. I wish I could say I’m that diligent and organized, but I’m much more reactive in my maintenance routines. I’m on a regular 400-mile chain re-waxing schedule, but beyond that, it’s pretty much a squirt of oil here and there after a washing, and a hub, bottom bracket, or headset repacking once a decade whether it’s needed or not… ;-) I’m not recommending this approach, but mostly, I attend to things when they squeak, fray, rattle, or break.

I sometimes unknowingly pay the price for my nonchalant methods. For example, I recently planned on replacing the brakes on one of my bikes, but the retrofit went south for various reasons that I won’t go into here, so while I had the old brakes off, I gave them an overhaul. Nothing serious, just cleaning the posts and bushings, greasing the posts, oiling the other moving parts, taking up some cable slack, adjusting the springs, and putting everything back in place. Wow, what an improvement. I didn’t realize what I’d been missing because of my lackadaisical maintenance habits. Makes me wonder what else is in need of attention (probably my hubs and headset).

Of course, it’s possible to over do it. I had a friend years ago who repacked the grease in every bearing race on his bike about once a month (this was in Seattle during the winter, so it wasn’t completely insane). He was always having trouble with bearing adjustments, stripped cone nuts, etc. All that tweaking and adjusting ended up being harder on his bike than if he’d just left it alone.

Like so many things in life, it seems the solution here is balance; something between obsessive tinkering and total neglect. I’m not sure if I’m ready for the obsessiveness of the LAB schedule posted above, but perhaps I need to move just a little further in that direction.

How about you, do you maintain your bike on a strict maintenance schedule, or do you use more of a reactive approach?

Do you service your bike on a maintenance schedule?

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Old Favorites

Civia Hyland

I was going through some old photos, cleaning house before setting up an archive, when I came across this photo from 2008 of an old favorite that’s since moved on to a new home. I can rattle off a list of every bike I’ve ever owned, and even though I’ve enjoyed nearly every one of them, a few stand out in my mind, for whatever reason. This Civia’s one of them, my old Rivendell-ized Tour Easy is another, as are a handful of lugged-steel favorites from the 1980’s, including a particular Ferrari Red bike built by Bill Davidson in Seattle (that one I seriously regret letting go). Do you have any old favorites that you find yourself pining for now and again?

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