February 16, 2014

The Dude Garage - simple projects for the OCD randonneur

Not sure this will become a regular feature, but it HAS crossed my mind -- so, occasionally, you might see this kind of thing pop up now and again... it's...

Projects for the OCD-afflicted randonneur, from the Dude's Garage!  (yea...)

So, let's start with the latest advancement in rando-science, the OCD-headlight hat / koozie for the safety-conscious / beercan anti-ejection sling:

Once upon a December dreary, I bought a koozie - not thinking clearly - from Casey's it came, with intentions, best:  to keep my bottles from freezing, but the plan failed the test...

TADA!  Yeah, I'm a flippin poet, and you didn't even know it.  Sir Alfred Lloyd Dude, esquire.

Most randonneurs, despite the wide array of terrific LED battery headlights now available, still insist on the ease of use and endless power provided by a generator headlight system.  Most lights, therein, tend to be mounted low - typically to the front fork, or to a front rack.  The result creates a nicely integrated package, ready for endless miles of night riding or commuting.  That's where the genius of the following idea stops for most riders, however - unless you find yourself in my particular situation.  If you have a pickup truck, this is useless.  If you have a minivan or SUV, and can transport your
van 'indoors', the same result... but, if you are like me and the scores of riders who have taken to mounting a roof-rack to their car for transport of their bicycle to and from far-off start locations, this may pique your interest.  Granted, and I fully admit, the chances of this remaining useful are pretty slim:  basically, it would be like fixing a postage stamp to an envelope ... if that envelope were taped to a car windshield, and the postage stamp would be affixed to it by a roadside bystander simply flicking it into the air while the car flew past at 65 MPH.  Yeeeah....   read on:

The problem I find with roof racks, while SUPER stable and handy, is the fact I end up on a highway, at night, headed for an event.  Therein, my headlights attract every insect in the northern hemisphere to hurtle toward the front of my car, only to die a dramatic death and ending up smeared against my windshield, headlights, front bumper, roof rack air-deflector, bicycle bar tape, front bag, and... headlight.  Specifically for the last situation, while the headlights of today are capped with super-tough Lexan lenses, if not glass, it's a pain to arrive at a ride and feel the need to wipe all this bugsnot off the front of one's bike... especially the headlight, which may reduce the amount of light reaching the road.  Again, please... this is for the OCD.  Whether or not a reduction of lumens occurs here is immaterial:  it's just messy.  We want things CLEAN.  

Ultimately, headlights (battery or otherwise) aren't cheap.. if the bug becomes a rock, well, that could get expensive quickly.  Again, the postage-stamp analogy applies... but, it could happen.

What's needed:
1 beverage koozie.  Mine is the soft, foldy kind - but the thicker molded foam would also work here.
1 spare reflective ankle band.  I used a RUSA band that'd lost it's brother.  Anything with Velcro fasteners will work.
4 x 4" wire ties.
Something with which to poke a small hole through stuff:  and old spoke, pair of scissors, awl.

You will want to dry-fit first, but, your objective is to place the koozie over the front of your headlight, and try to determine how much ankle strap is needed to secure it LIGHTLY to the bicycle or rack adjacent or behind it.  You don't want to apply pressure to the headlamp itself - the strap is only to keep the koozie from flying off.  Wind-pressure alone should keep it in place while at speed.

Once the correct length is determined (I just guessed), cut the ankle band in two, leaving each end of the hook-n-loop fastener separate - one for the left, one for the right.
On each side of the koozie along the upper edge, along with one or the other ankle strap half, poke a two holes - a total of four - through which the wire ties will feed inside, then back out of the strap, the koozie, and back (see photo 2), then fasten the wire ties to complete the attachment.  Repeat on the other side of the koozie, 180-degrees, directly across the diameter of the koozie, with the other half of the ankle band.  The result will look like the photos below, the koozie now has an upper "handle" created by the ankle band, like a tiny bag.  As mentioned above, this is now a multi-tasker... with a 12 oz. can inserted, now you are prepared for extremely rough fishing, without fear of your drink being ejected from your koozie.  Riiiiight.  This is a real problem - ask any weekend fisherman, or quad-bike driver.  The reflective trim also allows one to find their drink in the dark, during all-night scouting missions in the Peruvian jungle.  

The finished product looks like a tiny, up-cycled, wrist-mounted messenger bag for things like fortune cookies or county-fair funnel-cake remnants.

More detail is revealed with the strap 'halves' un-done.  One side pretty much just involves the 'hook' portion of the hook-n-loop fastener, the other with the 'loop' section, and a long section of the strap.

Your generator headlight may vary... and models like the taller Lumotec 'Fly' models may present issues with koozie fit, but you get the idea.  This is your headlight; exposed, naked, just waiting to be obliterated by a small meteorite or falling boulder.  Highway pebbles are a problem, too.  If you subscribe to the following scenario, wherein the odds of something happening are 1,000,000,000:1, and therefore, it *will* happen to you on your next car trip, then you need this product.  If you drive to each ride in the dark at 100+ MPH through your local rain-forest, then you don't have time to debug the entire front surface of your bicycle - but, with the headlight koozie, you won't have to.  If you live where I do, then basically each summer drive is sorta like trying to drive through that hole where the release handle lives for the trap Indiana Jones and Short-Round accidentally trigger in "Temple of Doom."  Make one of these now, or your life is meaningless.

Like Barry White on the weekends, the headlight koozie approaches the headlight all warm and fuzzy-like, complete with soulful music and the gentle hum of a  fog machine.  Soon, your headlight will be immersed in a cloud of pure ecstasy.

With the headlight now protected, the strap (in this particular fork-crown mounted set-up) feeds behind the bicycle headtube to rejoin the other end of the hook-n-loop fastener for a secure fit.  Remember, it needn't be tight - don't add any stress or pressure to the light or its wires... though doubtful it would really damage anything, the idea here is simply to keep the koozie from flying off at highways speeds, or while stopped.  

Affixed and cozy, your headlight is now ready for that cross-state drive to the next rando-ride.

A front view, now anything you encounter on the road to rando will hit the koozie, and not your headlight.  Just remember to remove before riding.  If not, you'll probably figure it out pretty quick.  Multi-tasks during the post-ride festivities, with the kind of safe and reflective style which only a seasoned randonneur can impart.  Cheers, mate!  Now that your headlight is protected, it's time to get all up in that 300k.  Bet.

Next up, file under "I'm too much of a weight-weenie to buy a kickstand" and/or "I should work for NASA" (read on to find out why), I present... chock-fever...

It seems, depending on the wind and the parking lot, my bike sometimes wants to start the ride without me, usually while I'm affixing the rear bag to the rack after extracting it from the roof of the car.  Once the headlight koozie is safely removed... (whew, that was close...)...I add the saddlebag and prepare for the day's event.  While surface friction between my bike's bar tape and the side of my car is plenty to keep the bike in place, sometimes I walk around to the back of the car and return to find the bike had tried to follow me for a foot or so after I'd walked away.  Other times, I would hear the 'crash' of my bike having rolled forward and dropped to its side while I had my head in the trunk looking for 'whatever.' 

No more!  Enter the PVC wheel-chock 4000!

But, dude, how do I get one of these amazing things??  You don't get it, you build it!

What's needed:
Any remnant length of 2.5 or 3" PVC pipe, at least 6" long for best results.
A length of 2" nylon "backpack" strap.  Most better hardware stores sell it by the foot - mine came from some random shoulder strap for some random bag I didn't use.  All such things go into "the pile"... which is really an OCD-friendly collection of shoe boxes and Boulevard beer boxes, labeled according to its contents:  Bag parts, tubes, stickers, fava-beans, Chianti.  You know.  "Parts."
Wire ties, cousin!!  (I prefer the 4" black type, of which any OCD rando worth his salt likely has at least 100 in his jacket pocket, right now.)
Random stickers - yours may vary, mine come courtesy of Gigantic Brewing Company in Oregon, and BikeCommuters.com!
Hacksaw, drill & an "wire-tie sized" bit.
A lighter or other source of flame.
Something to poke a hole through nylon straps with.  Your old, jacked up 30W soldering iron works great for this - poking and singing the hole in one step.  Try to avoid the fumes:  they are not performance enhancing, but the UCI will still take away your R-12 medal.

Folded back onto itself, this is the finished product - ready to drop into an old water-bottle carcass for storage - or just into your rando-wagon's trunk box.  You've got a rando-wagon trunk-box, right?  Get to it!

Another view of the finished product, all unfurled and ready to save your bicycle's life.... (or ruin its freedom, if you prefer the Orwellian perspective.)
Using the hacksaw, the length of PVC is cut in half axially, or ripped (? little rusty on the carpentry terms ?) - I used the help of a bench-vise - to create two semi-circular halves which sit flat on a surface like a miniature roadway speed-bump.  Next, and most importantly, the nylon straps should be a length which allows the front wheel of the bicycle to contact each of the PVC halves, without rocking back and forth.  To determine this length, place the PVC halves - one in front of, and one behind, the front wheel of your bicycle while it's sitting on a smooth, flat surface.  The PVC halves should be parallel to one another in this step.  Measure the distance between the two halves, then subtract perhaps as much as a centimeter:  this will take into account the stretch of the nylon straps when the chocks are in-use, and will - ideally, but tricky to get exactly perfect - lift the front wheel of your bike off the ground just a fraction of a millimeter.  This puts the full weight of the bicycle onto the PVC, which pushes them into the slightly rough surface of the parking lot or driveway.  This creates maximum friction, and prevents your bike from rolling.  Even if you don't quite get it perfect, simply having the PVC in front or behind the front tire will do the job nicely.  Be sure to keep enough leftover length in the nylon straps to affix them to the PVC!  Measure twice, cut once, then curse, and go buy more nylon strap.  Repeat.

  After measuring, drill two zip-tie sized holes, one pair of holes for each inner edge of each half.  In the shot above the wire ties are already in place - but, one can see roughly where the holes end up.  These will correspond to holes you will also poke through the nylon straps themselves.  For best results, be sure to singe the edges and the poked holes with a lighter or match, to prevent fraying.  Through these holes, affix the nylon straps to the PVC until you end up with something resembling the photos here.  The two PVC halves, now joined, should remain as perpendicular to each other as possible.  Most of this was eyeballed and swagged... you don't have to get millimetric.  Just saying that last line sorta puts a ding in my OCD street-cred, I know.  Next, apply stickers or spray-paint to make them "yours."  Randonneurs will never be as cool as the skid-kids with the fixed-gear bikes, but some of us still like stickers.

The finished product, placed on the ground in roughly the same fashion as when I'd measured for strap length - shown here for scale and concept.  

The finished product in use.  Your genius is confirmed, and your sanity saved!  The kickstand crown will think you're a complete hack, and you will get questions and ridicule -- but, you sure won't be chasing your bike down a dark, sloping parking lot at 3AM anymore!  Win!  Now, go eat something carby.  

 Final thoughts on this, and in the same vein as "The cosmonauts used a pencil," certainly ONE half of PVC, on its own, placed ahead or behind the wheel in the direction of the parking lot slope will accomplish the same thing, though I don't think it's nearly as sexy.  Also, I once watched a guy wrap a mini bungee cord around the front brake lever of his bike and then behind the curve of his drop handlebars - thusly applying the front brake, and achieving the same result with a lot less elbow grease, measuring, sawing, drilling, and stickering.  Of course, I witnessed this AFTER I'd completed the triumphant reveal of my wheel chocks.  My genius-meter plummeted, and a I felt a strong desire to walk into the woods, alone, and impale myself on the ragged edges of my carefully-cut PVC halves.  SO.... that.  This is what *I* did to solve a problem... but, it certainly doesn't make it the best, easiest, smartest, cheapest or cleanest solution.  Further still, in the vein of "everything I need is already on my bike" solution category, I have also seen a method applied using only the front caliper brake's quick-release:  when setting up the front brake cable, use of the caliper's quick release can be employed as a parking-brake.  Adjust the front brake cable as you normally would, but do so with the quick release OPEN.  Now, this DOES prevent one from opening the quick-release in case of a broken spoke (wheel wobble), or if your front tire is wider than your rim (front wheel removal), but, it does allow you to flip the quick-release lever closed while stopped at a c-store (thereby applying the brake) to prevent it from rolling.  

More than one way to skin a rhino, eh?  Indeed.

So, hack away, people.  Check out Bikehacks.com for more stuff like this, and let the creativity drive you!  

Until next time we enter the Dude's Garage, keep 'em rolling.  

I leave you with this:

Spotted!  A clever solution to the $XXX panniers - simply brew your own with backpacks, wire-ties and rope!  These lovelies are perma-mounted to the rear rack, but are still very functional.  I watched the user pull his other bags from the inside of these packs and wander inside.  Looked like it worked great - and with the use of plastic grocery bags, heck, ANY pannier is "waterproof."  Note the addition of a separator strut, which extends back and around the rear tire and fender, attaching to each bag near their bottom edges; thus, keeping the bags from swinging around and bumping into the spinning rear wheel.  Pure upcycled geniusness!

Stay tuned --- the February 200k is just around the corner . . .
Thanks for reading!!


Monkeywrangler said...

Take one velcro cable tie approx 8" long, wrap it for storage around your handlebar. When you stop and lean your bike against a nonmoving object, wrap the velcro around your brake lever, compressing it. This will keep your bike from rolling and falling.

Done right, with black bar tape no one will see it when stored, and it weighs almost nothing. Best of all it works!

kG said...

Therein lay the genius of your idea: honestly, being a touch OCD (noooo, you?!) it's clear I have a very strong tendency to over-engineer nearly everything... I'm totally going to get ahold of one of those straps now, assuming I don't already have one lurking somewhere - great idea: portable, and where my contraption above was designed for parking lot prep only, yours works everywhere - and you never have to remember to bring it, or where you left it.