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Bike mods

September 30, 2006

Pimp your ride, on the cheap-ish.

I own four bicycles, but mostly I ride just one. Once upon a time it was a Specialized Crossroads Comp, which I bought because it had high pressure (100psi) tires and disk brakes for not too much money.

But, the seat hurt my butt, so I replaced it with something more conventional (which is to say, narrow black and not too padded). I decided that the shock seatpost, cushy as it was, was not quite long enough (I tend to like my frames on the small side, and as the largest member of the family, this also means that I can recycle my bike easily) and the height lost to the shock could be used to get a little more power. I had thought it was long enough when I bought it, but I was wrong. So, I got a longer, non-spring seatpost.

I added fenders, because I hate the skunk stripe, and I hate wet feet. But, the fenders stopped a little soon, so I decided to enhance them:

Yes, that clear piece of plastic was once part of a 2-liter soda bottle. I attached it with string (mason’s line).

The handlebars were a total crock, simply could not stand them. Numb hands inside of three miles, that sucks. First I replaced them with something flatter, then I cut those off some with a pipe cutter to make the bike skinnier and reduce the angle on my wrists, then I added bar ends, then I chucked all that and got some moustache bars. That helped quite a bit, because it gave me a number of hand positions, including one very like what worked just fine on my old drop handlebars. This was fine until a 315-mile bike trip in Nova Scotia, and the left side of my left ring finger went numb, for days, with rejuvenated numbness every time I rode again (which was getting to be pretty often). So, on a hunch, I wrapped them with a second layer of handlebar tape, biased across the first layer. Very nice, hands much happier.

This trip in Nova Scotia, I was going to need to carry some stuff, but I did not have any real panniers. I had ordered an Xtracycle FreeRadical, but it was not going to come in time, and I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on stuff I wasn’t going to use for long. But, I saw that Topeak was now making a rack for bikes with disk brakes, and bought one of those, and decided to try to just hang a couple of trash cans off the rack. The first try didn’t work as well as I wanted, so I added a support string, and that did the trick:

The upper green string runs from the front of the rack to the back of the rack, and also attaches to the vertical white line that runs under the trash can and attaches to the base of the rack. The lower green string, running diagonally upwards from front to back, wraps around the base of the rack with an elastic band to pull the trash can back away from my heel when pedaling. Without the trash can, it looks like this:


The diagonal line is hard to see because the elastic is black; I am holding the upper string out from the bike. Notice that all the knots are pre-tied; the whole mess is passed through the loop in front, and the pannier has a hookable thing in the back, and all the lower attachments are just loops snagged on rack prongs.

(Notice the silvery spokes mixed in with the black? I break spokes, 1/4 of the spokes in that wheel are replacements. First time this has ever been a problem for me, one might suspect that the spokes are wimpy. Beats ripping handlebars in half, which I did twice when I was younger.)

Since then, I tried a variety of “improvements”, though only one of them worked (notice all the aluminum smears from the rack. Long term, this might be a problem.)


The main difference here is that the support strap is now a loop with two attachment points. I was feeling ambitious, and the anti-heel-kick restraint (blue) is spliced at both ends (had to get the length right, had to remember how to splice), like so:

The latest mod, and not a cheap one, was converting to an Xtracycle:

That’s immediately after installation, in my saw-dusty work area, with the passenger grips attached to the seat post. I rode it to work today, it was pretty nice, though the footies clattered a little bit and I need to figure out a good way to protect the rear disk brake from the fabric next to it, and vice versa. But, I loaded it up, it handled well, rides fast. The install was a little rough, I sent suggestions to the Xtracycle people, and I’ll email tips for avoiding trouble to anyone who asks.

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