Basket, Non-deplorable, 1 each…

One of the best places to put a little storage on your bike is on the handlebars.  Some bikes are purpose-built to carry mail, or crates, or pizzas, and etc.  This culminates in the Dutch bakfiets design that basically cuts the front wheel off a bike and shoves a plywood box in between the handlebars and the wheel.  That’s a little much.  The French porteur style uses a big handlebar bag with a steel spreader/stiffener behind it.  They look nice, but would probably get stolen in short order in my part of town.  Instead, I just wanted to add a front basket that was discreet, inexpensive, sturdy, and reasonably roomy…and world peace.

But I actually did get my basket!  I used the Wald #198, which does all of the things mentioned above.  It is braced from beneath with a couple of steel legs that attach to the axle, so it is plenty sturdy.  If you have a suspension fork, like my wife’s bike, Wald also makes a version that will brace against the stem rather than the axle.  It’s not quite as sturdy, but it lets the suspension work like it’s supposed to.  Both of these are helpful during a ride because you can access your cargo while you ride.  Doing that with the rear baskets is…not recommended.


Wald does make bigger baskets.  But these two models were selected with multi-modality in mind.  They will fit on the bus rack comfortably with other bikes, and the support stays are far enough back to allow the front tire to be held securely…even with bad part of town roads and kamikaze drivers.


A tisket, a tasket–

–a folding bike basket!

I’ve been using a milk crate zip-tied to my cycle for load-carrying for, oh, a month or so.  It works better than a bag, but I’ve frequently found myself wishing for both more room and a lower center of gravity.  With the load as high as it is, it can get a little precarious sometimes.

While some folks use nice panniers for this, I have avoided them thus far.  For one thing, I can’t afford them, and for another they’re likely to get re-homed in the parts of town I frequent.  So I wanted something that was inexpensive, sturdy, and utilitarian enough to be overlooked.

I also faced the constraint of intermodal transport.  In theory, I could have just used a couple of hose clamps and some zipties, and made perfectly functional basket panniers with milk crates.  No problem!  But if I wanted to use the bike rack on the bus, this would prohibitively wide.  I might could squeak by if it was just my cycle on the rack, but that is infrequent.  So, I puzzled over this, and ended up buying a pair of the folding baskets from Wald.  These were so easy to put on that I didn’t take any pictures of that.  Really, there’s a couple of screws, and that’s it.  But I will show you how they work.  Here they are in “cargo mode”.


Nice, sturdy baskets.  Perfect!  But if we want to take the bus, we transform them (Michael Bay directing optional) into mass transit mode.  This requires about twenty seconds, and a minimum of fuss.


Cool, huh?  I decided to take them on a field trial.  I thought they might rattle, but they do not, in either mode.  The load is lower in these than in the milk crate, which improves the ride stability.  Also, they leave the top of the cargo rack open, so you could strap something bulky (like a big package of TP or dog food) across the top, and still keep things manageable.  Size-wise, they’re big enough for a couple of bags of groceries apiece, but not so big that you get heel strike as you pedal (at least on my old frame; your chainstays may vary).  I like them a lot, and I think you will too.


Playing hookey

Yesterday dawned…sort of.  More truthfully, the gray got brighter and we caved into calling it “morning”.  I had no great hopes for the day, but it was moderately warm and so I had left the door to the shop open while I worked on the lathe.

But suddenly, around 1100, the project I was working on suddenly got brighter!  I looked up and noticed that the sun had broken though and it was really very lovely outside.  Almost like the first second day of spring or something!  After taking a moment on the stoop, in the sunshine (mostly to convince myself I wasn’t hallucinating), I walked back inside to the lathe.  I looked at the project I had going, then back to the sunshine, then (grudgingly) back at the lathe and decided that it was too nice of a day to waste.

So, I put down my skew chisel and hopped on the bike.  Before you sneer too loudly about the semi-indigent lifestyle of the self-employed, allow me to remind you of some of the benefits of the fully-employed…like a steady paycheck.  Like that great life advice says: “Take what you can, and give nothing back!”

The nearest bike path to me is the Alum Creek Trail, with a trailhead at Innis Park.  I knew more about where the path was in a northerly direction, so I turned south, to see what I could see.  After all, it was a beautiful spring day, with the leaves on some of the trees just starting to push out.  The birds were singing away, even some of the migratory insectivores like a phoebe.  I listened to him while I marveled at all the infrastructure that has gone up in my lifetime.  None of this was here before, and now there are nice new bridges (just for pedestrians and bikes!) all over the place.  I passed over a dozen or so, and not only were they in excellent repair, but none of them were the same.  It was a new experience every time the path wandered over the water.


Other infrastructure of note was that the path was a smooth, paved ride.  There weren’t bad stretches or muddy spots where the trail became excessively notional.  There were benches every now and again, and signs so you didn’t get turned around.  And where you did have to come up for air now and again into motordom’s world, it was obvious that you were in a literal parallel experience, not dodging Buicks.  Check out this (extremely) protected dip under a bridge down on Nelson.  Plenty safe, even for the kiddies.


Most of the time, though, you were within sight of the water (that whole “Alum Creek” idea).  In our city, most of the land that was left undeveloped has been the land along the riverbanks that has this disconcerting tendency to flood.  But this means that it was available in a more or less contiguous ribbon.  By the very nature of the users, most of the heartburn that occasional flooding produces is avoided because cyclists and joggers are a fickle lot by nature and are much more likely to sit on the couch and eat Cheetos than go out and bike in the rain.  Like, ew.  So by the time the skies clear and the Quantum Leap marathon is over, the trail is mostly cleared and no one gets bothered by the watershed oozing over the pavement.

Some spots are more regularly wet, marshlands rather than alluvial plain.  In these sections, the city put in boardwalks rather than pavement, and the water wanders its merry way on to the river unhindered.  This is one of the more scenic areas, so enjoy the rattling under the tyres.


In the end, I ended up at a gas station on Petzinger road, and rewarded myself with a hot dog from the roller grill.  Jolly good job, old bike/knees!  Time to kick back for the afternoon and–


I then realised, to my dismay, that I had traveled twelve-ish miles away from home and now had to return to said home.  Oh, bother…

The journey back, while still picturesque, was not nearly as brisk as the trip out.  Perhaps it was because I looked slower in comparison.  At noon, when I left, it was more or less just me.  However, as I creaked my way home in the early afternoon, I was suddenly buffeted by the slipstream of multi-thousand dollar road bikes pedaled by grim-looking older white corporate guys swathed in Lycra and plastic/foam hats!  Apparently I wasn’t the only one who noticed that it was a nice day, but I got a head start while they had to go change their clothes and drive their bike to the trailhead (saw it!).

Despite the (loudly!) protesting joints, and the occasional whoosh! from a carbon fiber missile, I eventually worked my way back home, doing my best to enjoy the birdsong in the trees and the gentle breeze whispering along with the warm sun and are we there yet?

It really is a nice trip.  If you live in central Ohio, give your greenways a chance.  The Parks and Recreation bubbas have provided a lot of bang for the (levy) buck.  Just remember you have to pedal home.






Rack ’em

One of the things that drivers rarely think about is carrying cargo in their vehicle.  After all, when you have a bunch of horsepower available, who cares about carrying things?  And on top of that, even the smallest cars have ookoodles (that means “a lot”) of space next to what a cycle can offer.

This was a problem for my particular bike.  Not only was it propelled by my admittedly lackadaisical propulsion, but it also had no way to carry cargo other than in a bag.  After once again trying to fit a week’s worth of packages into my European Shoulder Satchel (totally not a man-purse), and ending up tying packages to the handlebars, I bitterly vowed to find a better solution.

The problem was than my bike is old, and lacking any sort of braze-on where I could affix a cargo rack.  After perusing the various options, I settled on this rack from Amazon.  After all, it was universal, and rated for a whopping 170 pounds!  Surely a few packages would be okay…

Well, I went to install it, and was a little underwhelmed.  First, there were no instructions, not even a hastily cobbled together, poorly translated mimeograph.  But I eventually figured it out and got the thing together on my bike to mirror that shown on the internets.


However, the “universal” attachment proved to be unworthy of use.  Even a slight push on the rack was too much for the supports to bear, and the apparatus swayed drunkenly (even unloaded!).  I pondered this for a moment, and after a few minutes of making sure everything had been attached properly (and no small amount of grumbling), I decided to discard most of the supplied rack.

I had a little bit of 1 ¼” wide, 1/8″ thick steel lying around, so I decided that if I replace the supports with something more substantial, I could probably get the cargo rack to work.  I started by cutting out a piece of steel.


Then, I marked out where I needed the attachment holes to be and used my brace to spin up a drill bit–

Okay, not really.  I draw the line at metalwork.  And anything that seems really difficult.  So I harnessed some electrons and drilled out where I needed the holes.  Cutting fluid is important here because it keeps you from overheating (and ruining) your drill bits.


To attach the braces to the frame, I used a couple of holes that were already in the frame (presumably for just such an application) and tapped them for ¼-20 threads.


After I had the first piece all figured out, I could use it as a guide for the second piece.  Notice that in order to properly fit, the top of the stays have to be beveled.


A couple of bolts (make sure they’ll clear your spokes before you start riding!), and the rack was attached.


Once that was done, I painstakingly attached the bespoke cargo basket I zip-tied a milk crate to it and called it good.  It’s held up so far, under a fair bit of weight.  So though the factory settings were pretty abysmal, it ended up being pretty useful with a bit of modification.  It also has the added benefit of being so ugly that no one is likely to steal my bike…

















Some day never comes

Some days, everything goes according to plan.  The dovetails marry together nicely, the plane smooths out the last of the machine marks the mill left with nary a trace of tearout.  Isn’t this a great job, where the work does itself?

Some days it seems like you’re behind from the start.  The rim of your mortice splinters and you have to patch it.  Gnarled patches of tearout requires ceaseless scraping that burns your hands from the friction.  But you persevere.  Some work got done.

And then some days you end up getting not a whole lot done because you had to repack the hub bearings in your cycle.




You can’t get there from here

Today was a beautiful day here in Central Ohio: the sun was out and everything!

You Florida people over there can shut up now.

But it was a pretty day, both warm and sunny.  So I tackled a question I had pondered.  How to get from Linden (the neighborhood where I live) over to the much ritzier area of Gahanna.  There’s a new farmer’s market (it’s in a building so I’m not sure it’s a fitting title, but it’s also open during the winter so I’ll give it a pass…for now) and such.  These were appealing, but it came with a little bit of head-scratching.

There are two large creeks in between here and there.  The necessary bridges force traffic on to only two relevant roads.  One is full of fast-moving traffic, the other is narrow and winding.  This is more of a problem when you are trying to get there on your HPV (Human Powered Vehicle).


The EPA has not yet done a study determining the miles per taco this thing gets, but it’s a fair bit cheaper than gasoline.  I bought this old bike (mid 1970’s) during a bus strike five or six years back.  $100 at a pawn shop.  Since then I have put exactly one pair of tyres and tubes in it, and that’s it.  I’m thinking about oiling the chain this year, but I haven’t decided.

I was thinking about the fact that Google maps lets you zoom way down.  Maybe there was a ford or something that I’d missed.  So I zoomed in on the creek that I had a problem with and lo and behold, a bridge was there!  Now, I was reasonably familiar with that area, having delivered newspapers there some years decades ago, but I did not remember there being a bridge there.  It must be a new addition that might just fit the bill!   It was a small bridge from one waterside park to another.  No way you could fit a car across it, if you could even get the car through the park to begin with.  But I was borne on the smug pneumatic tyres of a safety bicycle!  A recon mission beckoned through the dulcet tones of a completely unseasonable nice day.

I was off!

So I pedaled my way past the multitude of halal grocery stores established by the waves of Somali immigrants.  I pedaled past the new fancy-pants giant grocery edifice.  I got all the way into darkest suburbia where the common sense grid of streets is tossed aside with reckless abandon.  And on the backside of this desert of single family detached houses, I finally got to the park.


It was pretty nice to loaf along under the trees.  The path was smooth since cars hadn’t been pounding it into oblivion, and the sun was warm.  Since it was the middle of the day, I had it all to myself.  Before too long, I got to the new (to me) bridge over Big Walnut Creek.  It cared not a whit that I was there, and continued to burble away to far off lands of gumbo and zydeco.


Now that I was safely across, it was back up through the suburbs and I was where I needed to be!  I stopped at one of the multitudinous branches of the OSU hospital and borrowed part of their crushingly crowded bike rack while I went elsewhere for Chinese food to fuel the rest of the day.  All in all, it was a pretty good ride.  The route was scouted, and it was about as straight-line as possible.  Not too bad for a day’s work*.



*I sharpened some tools and stuff too, so I wasn’t a complete bum.