27. Original Adaptations of Gear and Accessories for the Bicycle: Part II

This is a follow-up on my last page.

 

 

 

Having successfully customized the Jandd Quick Release Bracket to fit the handlebars on my Surly Long Haul Trucker, I quickly realized that I’d also like to be able to use the multi-pocketed, 1100-cubic-inch Jandd Handlebar Pack II on my Dahon Speed TR folding bicycle.

 

 

 

So I acquired an additional Bracket and set to work on mounting it. What follows is mostly a description of how I’ve equipped my Dahon for light touring – far beyond rigging it with a handlebar bag. Along the way I’ve thrown in several unrelated ideas that also seemed worth sharing.

 

 

 

  • #1712 – The 5-year-old Dahon Speed TR. Each of my four bicycles has its own particular niche. The Dahon is not as fast as my Surly, but I love the way it handles. It’s squirrly, turns on a dime. And it’s solidly built; at least I’ve never had the least bit of trouble with it.

 

IMG_1712

 

As it’s close to the ground and easy to step over, I’d originally thought it would be comfortable for my wife, that she might learn to enjoy bicycling and appreciate its potential. In our unsuccessful attempts to bring this about, she dropped it on the pavement one day and smashed the original tail light. It would have been too expensive to replace, and a cheaper clip-on model does the same job just as well.

 

 

 

Another modification was replacing the original saddle with the one I had on my Trek 520, before it got wrecked and its better parts recycled.

 

 

 

Duct tape has extended the life of this excellent saddle, happily associated with my ride up Nova Scotia eleven years ago. Every now and then the duct tape comes undone and needs trimming or replacement, but this is a very occasional and minor nuisance.

 

 

 

I look askance at logos and lettering of any sort – whether on clothing, caps, coffee cups or bicycles. Thanks to silver metallic paint and black duct tape, my Dahon Speed TR is unidentifiable as such, except to the discerning eye.

 

 

 

  •  #1713 – With no stem, it looked like these handlebars would be an even tougher fit than the ones on my Surly (see the previous page, #26). But it turned out to be easier than I’d expected, nor did it require any cutting, drilling or other mutilations of my new, hard plastic Quick Release Bracket.

 

IMG_1713

 

Incidentally, note the cheap, rubber-bulb bicycle horn. I love these things and have one on each of my bicycles. They produce a nice, loud, sharp Honk! – which more often than not draws a smile from passers by. The metal tends to rust, providing another occasional application for my mini-can of silver metallic paint. The only disadvantage is that the horn won’t Honk! in cold weather. The rubber bulb needs to be soft and supple for the quick squeeze action required to make it Honk!

 

 

 

  • #1714 – Front view of the handlebars. The two black plastic elements, which grip the handlebar, turned out to be exactly the right distance apart to be straddled by the 2 semi-circular seating recesses on the underside of the Bracket.

 

IMG_1714

 

  • #1719 – The 2 webbing cam buckles on either side work fine – even though, due to an obstruction, the plastic cam at one end of the webbing would not pass directly under the bracket, but had to go around the obstruction. Due to the absence of a stem on this bicycle, the third webbing cam buckle, which runs parallel to the handlebar, is not used.

 

IMG_1719

 

A couple yards of leather thong was more than enough to stabalize the entire bracket. The topmost of several pre-drilled holes in the front plate assembly accommodates the leather thong. (Bailing wire might be just as good, or it could reinforce the thong.)

 

 

 

  • #1722 – The 2 webbing cam buckles can be adjusted as tight as you want them to be, which will incline the Bracket to stay put. The leather thong, pulling from opposite sides of the handlebar, further inhibits any tendency to a fore-and-aft rocking motion of the Bracket.

 

IMG_1722

 

However, it’s not a perfectly snug fit. By pulling to the rear with moderate force, I can tilt the Bracket back about an inch. This is not really a problem in any case. But I expect it soon to be even less of a problem for two reasons: (1) when the Handlebar Pack II is mounted and bearing some weight, it will pull in the opposite direction – forward and down; (2) as the rawhide gets exposed to the elements, as it’s rained on and then dries out, it will shrink, holding the Bracket still more firmly in place.

 

 

 

Note in the previous posting (Page 26, #1626), where the Quick Release Bracket is attached to my venerable Sekai touring bicycle. I’ve covered the webbing cam buckles with duct tape here in order to make it less likely that anyone would remove the Bracket. This is my beater, which I often lock up in public places. In contrast, the Dahon is not a bike that I’ve ever locked up anywhere – though it’s not inconceivable I might do this someday (in which case I’d take the pedals and the seat post with me, and not be gone for long).

 

 

 

Even without the duct tape, and obviously because of all the leather I’ve wrapped around it, I don’t plan on removing this Bracket anytime soon. It’s an item I seldom detach from any of my bicycles.

 

 

 

  • 1721 – Underside of the leather grip. Leather thong, bailing wire and duct tape – these are three simple items I’ve always got in a possibles bag on any ride that takes me far from home.

 

IMG_1721

 

  • 1727 – Voila! I am delighted with this new capability. The handlebar bag is perfect for pleasure cruises close to home, which is how I most often use this bike.

 

IMG_1727

 

  • #1730 – But there’s more. Starting at the front end, the Hurricane Stuff Sack – in the largest of four sizes sold by Jandd – will carry lightweight, bulky items (like clothing). The only caveat is that you not pack anything here which you’ll need access to before you reach your destination. It’s too much hassle to mount and secure this bag to the very tall handlebar post. Once in a day’s ride is enough.

 

IMG_1730

 

  • #1731 – Here are my two small panniers, which ride on the front rack. These are about fifteen years old, a discontinued line, though Jandd still offers something comparable.

 

IMG_1731

 

Notice that each pannier has two sets of J-Hooks. The rusted ones, at the top, are the originals. I put the newer ones on after I bought my Dahon. The position of the lower J-Hooks is staggared so they will bypass the struts on the front racks of my other three bicycles.

 

 

 

  • #1732 – From another angle. The fabric and the plastic stiffener inside the bag are easy work for an electric drill. You just have to play with the J-Hooks’ position and pencil in where you want them to sit. This is not rocket science. Even if you get it wrong the first time, no harm is done. You can always move the J-Hook a little, then drill again.

 

IMG_1732

 

  • #1733 – These are the larger and older rear panniers, which I normally ride with now on the front rack of my Surly.

 

IMG_1733

 

  • #1734 – Same deal with the dual sets of J-Hooks.

 

IMG_1734

 

  • #1735 – Note the multiple holes I’ve drilled in the back of these bags. The J-Hooks needed to be refit after my Trek 520 was taken out from under me. I had always used Jim Blackburn racks. But the Trek’s replacement, my Surly Long Haul Trucker, came with racks that I liked even better, being much larger and sturdier. Due to their different geometry, however, I had to move the J-Hooks on these panniers.

 

IMG_1735

 

  • #1739 – Now, the Hurricane Stuff Sack. It’s designed with two adjustable straps, which can turn the Sack into a makeshift backpack. These straps ride over the handlebar but don’t really bear much of the weight.

 

IMG_1739

 

The Sack has three consecutive spaces beneath a sewn-on strap, one strap on each lateral side of the Sack. Through one of these spaces (on each side) I’ve run separate, 24” straps, securing the Sack to the handlebar post. Much of the (not too considerable) weight of the bag’s (soft and bulky) contents is thus transfered horizontally, via the side loops on the Sack, to the handlebar post.

 

 

 

  • #1740 – Here is the whole front load. Notice that a third – 48-inch-long – separate strap runs across the lower front of the Sack, tightening it downwards as well – to the front rack – via another set of loops on the side of the Sack.

 

IMG_1740

 

This looks like a mountain of baggage, but it’s snugly attached, and the bike handles just fine. Remember, there isn’t all that much weight to any of this. The heavier stuff always loads to the rear, generally as low and close to the center of the bike as you can get it.

 

 

 

  • #1742 – Here is the whole rig, waiting and ready. There’s room here for whatever you would want to take on anything less than a real expedition.

 

IMG_1742

 

However, this bike, with its folding joints, is not designed for extreme use (like my Surly is). The Dahon’s little racks are very solid, and I think it can take some rough use. But I wouldn’t overload it, or bang it around too hard.

 

 

 

  • #1743 – The rear panniers ride high, but this is mainly an aesthetic problem.

 

IMG_1743

 

  • #1744 – There is room to pack something in between them . . .

 

IMG_1744

 

  • #1746 – . . . like the groundcloth I always take when I sleep outdoors. Just be careful, when you’re unpacking, that you don’t tear your cargo on the J-Hooks.

 

IMG_1746

 

  • #1747 – A thermarest (and more, if you like) will fit on top.

 

IMG_1747

 

  • #5746 – This kind of a set-up works fine for light touring. For instance, several nights in the dunes on the Jersey Shore, a pilgrimage I make every year – religiously. I (almost always) take the commuter train as far south as it’ll go.

 

IMG_5746 copy 3

 

(I’d have trouble riding that far in a day, probably impossible on this bike. And nearly all of what two hours on the train spares me is congested urban terrain.)

 

 

 

After that, I ride south from Bay Head until I get to a less-populated area, where it’s easy to find some scrubby cover that’s suitable for setting up a base camp. I leave most of my gear in camp and go day tripping on the bike. It doesn’t get much better than this.

 

 

 

  • #1751 – The two items on the left are essential for any touring that includes a leg on public transportation.

 

IMG_1751

 

  • #1753 – The Timbuktu bicycle messenger’s bag, on the left, is to me like what a purse is to a woman. I am rarely seen without it. It’s been on three continents – from Poland to Patagonia, from California to eastern Canada. During many semesters it was my teacher’s bag, carrying books, lessons, lunch, thermos and all the accoutrements an itinerant, part-time community college instructor would need on his – often very long – daily rounds. I’ve schlepped this bag all over New York City countless times, often bulging with merchandise. It’s been on unnumbered grocery runs (cycling or on foot). When I travel, I check my luggage – and this is my carry-on.

 

IMG_1753

 

I bought this thing seven-and-a-half years ago – online, while visiting my children in San Francisco, where Timbuktu took root. (The spelling has changed – to Timbuk2 – since I bought this bag . . . and its equally appreciated, but smaller, predecessor.) Both have held up remarkably well, under heavy daily use. This one is a bit frayed in places, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. For all the practicality and pleasure I’ve had from this bag, it’s one of the best purchases I’ve ever made.

 

 

 

The smaller, black and muddy-green bundle on the right, rolled up and tied, is a rugged duffle bag with a long zipper on the top. When I pack one of my bicycles into a box at Greyhound or Amtrak, all of my gear, including panniers, will fit into the duffle bag. Even when I plan on riding both ways, I still like to carry the duffle as a backup, just in case something happens and I need to take the bus or train back home.

 

 

 

  • #1755 – Speaking of bags. Though I haven’t used it all that much, this next one (left) is an adjunct to the Dahon that I wouldn’t want to be without.

 

IMG_1755

 

  • #1756 – The little sack with the drawstrings holds a much larger bag, of hefty synthetic material.

 

IMG_1756

 

  • #1758 – The Dahon folds down, as shown, and fits inside the larger bag.

 

IMG_1758

 

  • #1762 – Observe, by the way, that the Quick Release Bracket passes the folding test.

 

IMG_1762

 

  • #1765 – The Dahon Speed TR weighs all of 33 pounds. I would much rather ride than carry it. But there are circumstances where folding and carrying it is necessary. In fact, that’s the key feature in the versatility of this bike. The bag – called “El Bolso” by Dahon – is just what you need. Sling it over one shoulder, and you’re mobile again – within reason, and without accounting for whatever else you may be traveling with.

 

IMG_1765

 

  • #1786 – Another digression – I must give credit to my work stand (even though I’m not a great mechanic).

 

IMG_1786

 

  • #1784 – Generally you pay more for a quality item, and at many such times I’ve had twinges of doubt. But the older I get, the more convinced I am that quality is worth what you pay for it, and that filling needs with inferior stuff is seldom a good policy.

 

IMG_1784

 

I bought this stand shortly after moving to New Jersey a dozen years ago. I’ve used it many times, and I’m very happy with it. I do not take it on the road, however, which is what I think it was designed for. But I share a tiny apartment with my wife (we have storage in the basement), and being able to fold up and pack away my bicycle stand (into the bag at its base) is ideal for me.

 

 

 

  • #1661 – Just a couple weeks ago I used this stand to paint my Surly.

 

IMG_1661 copy

 

  • #1782 – As long as my utility bike has made a cameo appearance on this page, here is another original adaptation that I’d like to share.

 

IMG_1782

 

Actually, this is such a great idea that it ought to be patented. Call it freeware. (What goes around comes around.) The critical innovation is in the trailer hitch. I’ll return to that in a moment. But first here are some larger observations.

 

 

 

I’ve hauled a lot of stuff with this technology – all of my belongings, in and out of storage, multiple times and over distances of up to about four miles, including furniture on the scale of a dresser (the drawers go separately), a work bench, a rolling swivel office chair with armrests, and a filing cabinet.

 

 

 

It doesn’t handle as badly as you might think. There’s a bit of wobble and slop, which you mostly feel when starting up or braking. But the hitch is not long enough to make this much of an issue. The movements are short and jerkey – not enough to pull you around or interfere with balance.

 

 

 

Be sure you have enough weight on the front of the bike to balance your load behind. Otherwise you could pitch over backwards, especially going uphill.

 

 

 

You’ve got a very wide turning angle (which is nice).

 

 

 

Truckers have an emergency connection between the trailer and the truck, in case their hitch ever breaks. Similarly, I’ve sometimes tied a length of rope between the trailer and the crate. But I’ve never had one of these hitches break on me – or a section of the hard plastic crate it hangs from, mounted on a Jim Blackburn rack.

 

 

 

I call this my “travois.”

 

 

 

I love to ogle bicycles, equipment, accessories and gear. I visit shops and browse, just to see what’s new, to touch and feel. I have long thought it would be nice to own a genuine trailer. Surly makes one, in two sizes, that’s probably the best I’ve seen online. But I couldn’t justify the expense, I don’t know when I would ever use it, and I wouldn’t have a place to keep one anyway. Besides, my travois is perfectly adequate.

 

 

 

The foldable shopping cart you see here was also purchased not long after I moved to the East Coast – for all of fifteen dollars. It’s amazing how rugged this thing has proven to be. The mesh design is ideal for lashing down cargo of any size or shape – not exceeding the capacity of a bicycle, of course.

 

 

 

  • #5250 – This was a cinch – bringing home a dry board and smaller items from an office supply store, preparing for a spell when I taught small groups of private students in a non-commercail space.

 

IMG_5250_2 copy 2

 

  • “BikeHaulTable” – I loved this folding table, which I’d bought at a second hand store 3 or 4 miles from here. My wife threw it away seven years ago when she remodeled our apartment – I was on leave for nine weeks, unaware, and unable to defend my interests, riding the intercity buses from one end of Argentina to the other. So this photo goes back some ways; I was pre-digital then.

 

BikeHaulTable

 

  • “SchwinnHaulWorkbench” – This one goes back even further, to the fall of 2002. This is a modified children’s bicycle – I still have it – which I bought for my son in 1989 and hung on to after the divorce (he had outgrown it). The trailer hitch is virtually identical to what’s on my adult utility bike.

 

SchwinnHaulWorkbench

 

It’s a Schwinn Qualifier – a pretty nice little bike. The main adaptation is the long seat post. I used to ride this one to the community college in Paterson on days when I thought it might snow, because the fat-knobby tires give me a better hold on bad surfaces than I get with my other bikes.

 

 

 

Today its most essential feature is that it’s the one bicycle I would be most willing to part with. So it’s the one I would ride into really dicey situations – e.g., if I had to lock it up outside in a bad neighborhood. This is the one I rode around New York City when Bush came to the Republican Convention in 2004. There were a lot of protests and arrests, especially involving bicyclists (one of which I narrowly avoided).

 

 

 

  • #1770 – Here is how the trailer hitch works. A simple piece of hardware attaches to the handle of my travois.

 

IMG_1770

 

  • #1773 – It’s got a spring-loaded, jointed arm that opens up when you press it.

 

IMG_1773

 

  • #1776 – On the other end, more simple hardware dangles – at an ideal distance – from the antique California milk crate that’s mounted on my rear rack.

 

IMG_1776

 

The milk-crate pickup bike has become a common sight – another great, freeware idea. I use this bike like that all the time – just throw my Timbuktu bag in the open flat bed, and I’m off.

 

 

 

  • #1777 – Yet more simple hardware secures the crate to the rear rack. Even though the plastic has cracked in several places, the “flatbed” is still perfectly sound.

 

IMG_1777

 

  • #1779 – Matching metal bars sandwich the rack and the crate, each set held in place with a couple of bolts. I did have to punch holes in the saddlebag unit, but it was a cheap item I had no better use for. I use the two large zippered pouches frequently – for heavier baggage, or when there’s an overflow from the crate on top.

 

IMG_1779

 

  • #1783 – United. The travois comes on and off, literally, in an instant. At which point it instantly becomes a handy manual cart.

 

IMG_1783

 

I’ve never done a test, but fifty pounds would be pretty routine, and I’d guess twice that might be within reason. The red bungee is useful mainly for keeping the travois neatly folded.

 

 

 

  • #5849 – Here is an original adaptation that should have been obvious: the take-down recurve bow is a natural accessory to the customized urban utility bike.

 

IMG_5849 copy 3

 

  • #5854 – Robin Hood might have envied an outfit like this.

 

IMG_5854 copy 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_1712

As it’s close to the ground and easy to step over, I’d originally thought it would be comfortable for my wife, that she might learn to enjoy bicycling and appreciate its potential. In our unsuccessful attempts to bring this about, she dropped it on the pavement one day and smashed the original tail light. It would have been too expensive to replace, and a cheaper clip-on model does the same job just as well.

 

Another modification was replacing the original saddle with the one I had on my Trek 520, before it got wrecked and its better parts recycled.

 

Duct tape has extended the life of this excellent saddle, happily associated with my ride up Nova Scotia eleven years ago. Every now and then the duct tape comes undone and needs trimming or replacement, but this is a very occasional and minor nuisance.

 

I look askance at logos and lettering of any sort – whether on clothing, caps, coffee cups or bicycles. Thanks to silver metallic paint and black duct tape, my Dahon Speed TR is unidentifiable as such, except to the discerning eye.

  •  #1713 – With no stem, it looked like these handlebars would be an even tougher fit than the ones on my Surly (see the previous page, #26). But it turned out to be easier than I’d expected, nor did it require any cutting, drilling or other mutilations of my new, hard plastic Quick Release Bracket.

IMG_1713

Incidentally, note the cheap, rubber-bulb bicycle horn. I love these things and have one on each of my bicycles. They produce a nice, loud, sharp Honk! – which more often than not draws a smile from passers by. The metal tends to rust, providing another occasional application for my mini-can of silver metallic paint. The only disadvantage is that the horn won’t Honk! in cold weather. The rubber bulb needs to be soft and supple for the quick squeeze action required to make it Honk!

  • #1714 – Front view of the handlebars. The two black plastic elements, which grip the handlebar, turned out to be exactly the right distance apart to be straddled by the 2 semi-circular seating recesses on the underside of the Bracket.
  • #1719 – The 2 webbing cam buckles on either side work fine – even though, due to an obstruction, the plastic cam at one end of the webbing would not pass directly under the bracket, but had to go around the obstruction. Due to the absence of a stem on this bicycle, the third webbing cam buckle, which runs parallel to the handlebar, is not used.

A couple yards of leather thong was more than enough to stabalize the entire bracket. The topmost of several pre-drilled holes in the front plate assembly accommodates the leather thong. (Bailing wire might be just as good, or it could reinforce the thong.)

  • #1722 – The 2 webbing cam buckles can be adjusted as tight as you want them to be, which will incline the Bracket to stay put. The leather thong, pulling from opposite sides of the handlebar, further inhibits any tendency to a fore-and-aft rocking motion of the Bracket.

However, it is not a perfectly snug fit. By pulling to the rear with moderate force, I can tilt the Bracket back about an inch. This is not really a problem in any case. But I expect it soon to be even less of a problem for two reasons: (1) when the Handlebar Pack II is mounted and bearing some weight, it will pull in the opposite direction – forward and down; (2) as the rawhide gets exposed to the elements, as it’s rained on and then dries out, it will shrink, holding the Bracket still more firmly in place.

Note in the previous posting (Page 26, #1626) where the Quick Release Bracket’s attached to my venerable Sekai touring bicycle. I’ve covered the webbing cam buckles with duct tape here in order to make it less likely that anyone will remove the Bracket. This is my beater, which I often lock up in public places. In contrast, the Dahon is not a bike that I’ve ever locked up anywhere – though it’s not inconceivable I might do this someday (in which case I’d take the pedals and the seat post with me).

Even without the duct tape, and obviously because of all the leather I’ve wrapped around it, I don’t plan on removing this Bracket anytime soon. It’s an item I seldom detach from any of my bicycles.

  • 1721 – Underside of the leather grip. Leather thong, bailing wire and duct tape – these are three simple items I’ve always got in a possibles bag on any ride that takes me far from home.
  • 1727 – Voila! I am delighted with this new capability. The handlebar bag is perfect for pleasure cruises close to home, which is how I most often use this bike.
  • #1730 – But there’s more. Starting at the front end, the Hurricane Stuff Sack – in the largest of four sizes sold by Jandd – will carry lightweight, bulky items (like clothing). The only caveat is that you not pack anything here which you’ll need access to before you reach your destination. It’s too much hassle to mount and secure this bag to the very tall handlebar post. Once in a day’s ride is enough.
  • #1731 – Here are my two small panniers, which ride on the front rack. These are about fifteen years old, a discontinued line, though Jandd still offers something comparable.

Notice that each pannier has two sets of J-Hooks. The rusted ones, at the top, are the originals. I put the newer ones on after I bought my Dahon. The position of the lower J-Hooks is staggared so they will bypass the struts on the front racks of my other three bicycles.

  • #1732 – From another angle. The fabric and the plastic stiffener inside the bag are easy work for an electric drill. You just have to play with the J-Hooks’ position and pencil in where you want them to sit. This is not rocket science. Even if you get it wrong the first time, no harm is done. You can always move the J-Hook a little, then drill again.
  • #1733 – These are the larger and older rear panniers, which I normally ride with now on the front rack of my Surly.
  • #1734 – Same deal with the dual sets of J-Hooks.
  • #1735 – Note the multiple holes I’ve drilled in the back of these bags. The J-Hooks needed to be refit after my Trek 520 was totaled. I had always used Jim Blackburn racks. But the Trek’s replacement, my Surly Long Haul Trucker, came with racks that I liked even better, being much larger and sturdier. Due to their different geometry, however, I had to move the J-Hooks on these panniers.
  • #1739 – Now, the Hurricane Stuff Sack. It’s designed with two adjustable straps, which can turn the Sack into a makeshift backpack. These straps ride over the handlebar but don’t really bear much of the weight.

The Sack has three consecutive spaces beneath a sewn-on strap, one strap on each lateral side of the Sack. Through one of these spaces (on each side) I’ve run separate, 24” straps, securing the Sack to the handlebar post. Much of the (not too considerable) weight of the bag’s (soft and bulky) contents is thus transfered horizontally via the side loops on the Sack to the handlebar post.

  • #1740 – Here is the whole front load. Notice that a third – 48-inch-long – separate strap runs across the lower front of the Sack, tightening it downwards as well – to the front rack – via another set of loops on the side of the Sack.

This looks like a mountain of baggage, but it’s snugly attached, and the bike handles just fine. Remember, there isn’t all that much weight to any of this. The heavier stuff always loads to the rear, generally as low and close to the center of the bike as you can get it.

  • #1742 – Here is the whole rig, waiting and ready. There’s room here for whatever you may would want to take along on anything less than a real expedition.

However, this bike, with its folding joints, is not designed for extreme use (like my Surly is). The Dahon’s little racks are very solid, and I think it can take some rough use. But I wouldn’t overload it, or bang it around too hard.

  • #1743 – The rear panniers ride high, but this is mainly an aesthetic problem.
  • #1744 – There is room to pack something in between them . . .
  • #1746 – . . . like the groundcloth I always take when I sleep outdoors. Just be careful, when you’re unpacking, that you don’t tear your cargo on the J-Hooks.
  • #1747 – A thermarest (and more, if you like) will fit on top.
  • #5746 – This kind of a set-up works fine for light touring. For instance, several nights in the dunes on the Jersey Shore, a pilgrimage I make every year – religiously. I (almost always) take the commuter train as far south as it’ll go.

(I’d have trouble riding that far in a day, probably impossible on this bike. And nearly all of what two hours on the train spares me is congested urban terrain.)

I ride south from Bay Head until I get to a less-populated area, where it’s easy to find some scrubby cover that’s suitable for setting up a base camp. I leave most of my gear in camp and go day tripping on the bike. It doesn’t get much better than this.

  • #1751 – The two items on the left are essential for any touring that includes a leg on public transportation.
  • #1753 – The Timbuktu bicycle messenger’s bag, on the left, is to me like what a purse is to a woman. I am rarely seen without it. It’s been on three continents – from Poland to Patagonia, from California to eastern Canada. During many semesters, it was my teacher’s bag, carrying books, lessons, lunch, thermos and all the accoutrements an itinerant, part-time community college instructor needs on his – often very long – daily rounds. I’ve schlepped it all over New York City countless times, often bulging with merchandise. It’s been on unnumbered grocery runs (cycling or on foot). When I travel, I check my luggage – and this is my carry-on.

I bought this thing seven-and-a-half years ago – online, while visiting my children in San Francisco, where Timbuktu took root. (The spelling has changed – to Timbuk2 – since I bought this bag . . . and its equally appreciated, but smaller, predecessor.) Both bags have held up remarkably well, under heavy daily use. This one is a bit frayed in places, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. For all the practicality and pleasure I’ve had from this bag, it’s one of the best purchases I’ve ever made.

The smaller, black and muddy-green bundle on the right, rolled up and tied, is a rugged duffle bag with a long zipper on the top. When I pack one of my bicycles into a box at Greyhound or Amtrak, all of my gear, including panniers, will fit into the duffle bag. Even when I plan on riding both ways, I still like to carry the duffle as a backup, just in case something happens and I need to take the bus or train back home.

  • #1755 – Speaking of bags. Though I haven’t used it all that much, this next one (left) is an adjunct to the Dahon that I wouldn’t want to be without.
  • #1756 – The little sack with the drawstrings holds a much larger bag, of hefty synthetic material.
  • #1758 – The Dahon folds down, as shown, and fits inside the larger bag.
  • #1762 – Observe, by the way, that the Quick Release Bracket passes the folding test.
  • #1765 – The Dahon Speed TR weighs all of 33 pounds. I would much rather ride than carry it. But there are circumstances where folding and carrying it is necessary. In fact, that’s the key feature in the versatility of this bike. The bag – called “El Bolso” by Dahon – is just what you need. Sling it over one shoulder, and you’re mobile again – within reason, and without accounting for whatever else you may be traveling with.
  • #1786 – Another digression – I must give credit to my work stand (even though I’m not a great mechanic).
  • #1784 – Generally you pay more for a quality item, and at many such times I’ve had twinges of doubt. But the older I get, the more convinced I am that quality is worth what you pay for it, and that filling needs with inferior stuff is seldom a good policy.

I bought this stand shortly after moving to New Jersey a dozen years ago. I’ve used it many times, and I’m very happy with it. I do not take it on the road, however, which is what I think it was designed for. But I share a tiny apartment with my wife (we have storage in the basement), and being able to fold up and pack away my bicycle stand (into the bag at its base) is ideal for me.

  • #1661 – Just a couple weeks ago I used this stand to paint my Surly.
  • #1782 – As long as my utility bike has made a cameo appearance on this page, here is another original adaptation that I’d like to share.

Actually, this is such a great idea that it ought to be patented. Call it freeware. (What goes around comes around.) The critical innovation is in the trailer hitch. I’ll return to that in a moment. But first here are some larger observations.

I’ve hauled a lot of stuff with this technology – all of my belongings, in and out of storage, multiple times and over distances of up to about four miles, including furniture on the scale of a dresser (the drawers go separately), a work bench, a rolling swivel office chair with armrests, and a filing cabinet.

It doesn’t handle as badly as you might think. There’s a bit of wobble and slop, which you mostly feel when starting up or braking. But the hitch is not long enough to make this much of an issue. The movements are short and jerkey – not enough to pull you around or interfere with balance.

Be sure you have enough weight on the front of the bike to balance your load behind. Otherwise you could pitch over backwards, especially going uphill.

You’ve got a very wide turning angle (which is nice).

Truckers have an emergency connection between the trailer and the truck, in case their hitch ever breaks. Similarly, I’ve sometimes tied a length of rope between the trailer and the crate. But I’ve never had one of these hitches break on me – or a section of the hard plastic crate it hangs from, mounted on a Jim Blackburn rack.

I call this my “travois.”

I love to ogle bicycles, equipment, accessories and gear. I visit shops and browse, just to see what’s new, to touch and feel. I have long thought it would be nice to own a genuine trailer. Surly makes one, in two sizes, that’s probably the best I’ve seen online. But I couldn’t justify the expense, I don’t know when I would ever use it, and I wouldn’t have a place to keep one anyway. Besides, my travois is perfectly adequate.

The foldable shopping cart you see here was also purchased not long after I moved to the East Coast – for all of fifteen dollars. It’s amazing how rugged this thing has proven to be. The mesh design is ideal for lashing down cargo of any size or shape – not exceeding the capacity of a bicycle, of course.

  • #5250 – This was a cinch – bringing home a dry board and smaller items from an office supply store, preparing for a spell when I taught small groups of private students in a non-commercail space.
  • “BikeHaulTable” – I loved this folding table, which I’d bought at a second hand store 3 or 4 miles from here. My wife threw it away seven years ago when she remodeled our apartment – I was on leave for nine weeks, unaware, and unable to defend my interests, riding the intercity buses from one end of Argentina to the other. So this photo goes back some ways; I was pre-digital then.
  • “SchwinnHaulWorkbench” – This one goes back even further, to the fall of 2002. This is a modified children’s bicycle – I still have it – which I bought for my son in 1989 and hung on to after the divorce (he had outgrown it). The trailer hitch is virtually identical to what’s on my adult utility bike.

It’s a Schwinn Qualifier – a pretty nice little bike, really. The main adaptation is the long seat post. I used to ride this one into the community college in Paterson on days when I thought it might snow, because the fat-knobby tires give me a better hold on bad surfaces than I get with my other bikes.

Today its most essential feature is that it’s the one bicycle I would be most willing to part with. So it’s the one I would ride into really dicey situations – e.g., if I had to lock it up outside in a bad neighborhood. This is the one I rode around New York City when Bush came to the Republican Convention in 2004. There were a lot of protests and arrests, especially involving bicyclists (one of which I narrowly avoided).

  • #1770 – Here is how the trailer hitch works. A simple piece of hardware attaches to the handle of my travois.
  • #1773 – It’s got a spring-loaded, jointed arm that opens up when you press on it.
  • #1776 – On the other end, more simple hardware dangles – at an ideal distance – from the antique California milk crate that’s mounted on my rear rack.

The milk-crate pickup bike has become a common sight – another great, freeware idea. I use this bike like that all the time – just throw my Timbuktu bag in the open flat bed, and I’m off.

  • #1777 – Yet more simple hardware secures the crate to the rear rack. Even though the plastic has cracked in several places, the “flatbed” is still perfectly sound.
  • #1779 – Matching metal bars sandwich the rack and the crate, each set held in place with a couple of bolts. I did have to punch holes in the saddlebag unit, but it was a cheap item I had no better use for. I use the two large zippered pouches frequently – for heavier baggage, or when there’s an overflow from the crate on top.
  • #1783 – United. The travois comes on and off, literally, in an instant. At which point it instantly becomes a handy manual cart.

I’ve never done a test, but fifty pounds would be pretty routine, and I’d guess twice that might be within reason. The red bungee is useful mainly for keeping the travois neatly folded.

  • #5849 – Here is an original adaptation that should have been obvious: the take-down recurve bow is a natural accessory to the customized urban utility bike.
  • #5854 – Robin Hood might have envied an outfit like this.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s