Tips and Tricks for all season Urban or rural Assaults!
At first I thought I'd call this an Urban Assault Bike, but after doing some research, I've learned that a road bike is less than ideal for Urban assault style rides. So, henceforth the name.
I'm going to share with you just a few of the modifications, equipment, and clothing I use when I go for a ride, winter and summer. This is just a short intro, and there is no substitute for experience.
Calgary, Alberta, Canada has one of the most extensive cycling pathway systems in North America. I can get from my house in the 'burbs, to the downtown core, pretty much exclusively on the pathway system. Calgary is also the only city in Canada to have a Provincial Park within its city limits. Fish Creek Park spans the city east to west, and has excellent paved and dirt paths.
Probably not as difficult as an extreme rider would like, but not too bad for a good work out.
Step 1: Carry Yor Stuff
Most cycling sites encourage using panniers and bike bags to carry the load. However, I don't like the thought of leaving the bike locked up with bags all over it; also, if I have to bail out, or the bike is lost, I've still got my gear. When I go geocycling, I do not hesitate to dismount when the terrain becomes too rough, lock the bike to a tree and carry on.
For winter use, I use a large sized day pack. It's a little less restrictive than a waist belt and with a pack, I can carry the extra winter stuff, such as a a spare dry layer, fire lighters, thermos, etc.
Step 2: Summer
For summer, I use what I fondly call my Battle Belt: A North Face lumbar pack, with water, windproof jacket and some first aid stuff. It suffices for a nice long day on the road. Depending on distance and location, I add more to the waistbelt. (I know, it looks a bit...militant but what can I say!!)
Step 3: Carry More Stuff
If it's a remote location (Kananaskis back country) I'll throw on a rear pannier for stove, more water, mini shelter, maps, space blanket, etc. I keep a can of bear spay on my battle belt, although I hope I pedal faster than angry bear. I even drag a trekking pole or two along, if a hike is part of the plan. I made these rear bags out of old ruck sack parts.
Always have a map. I've found that even if I don't need it, I meet people on the trail who do.
Before I go on, I feel I'd be remiss if I didn't mention safety.
Step 4: Reflective Safety Strips
I put these handy strips on my pack, 2 or 3 of them, at all times.
I try not to be the cyclist that everyone hates; I want people to see me at intersections, and if I feel the slightest bit unsafe on the street, I'll take to the sidewalk, despite it being illegal. I'd rather get yelled at for cycling on the sidewalk than being run over on the street.
Step 5: Helmets
Helmets are a must- after all, itâs your brain in there, for goodness sake. Plus, you can put cool stickers on them. I use a boarding helmet, with the removable earpieces. More on helmets later.
Step 6: Body Armour- Legs and arms
Depending on the ride, this may save a ton of road rash. Falling down is rarely fun, so why risk leaving skin behind.
Step 7: Gloves
Full finger, year round, except for the hottest of hot days, when half fingers are good to go. Have Windproof overmitts for subzero rides. In fact, wool mitts with a windproof outer are best, as your fingers are all nested together, instead of being separated by glove fingers.
Step 8: Courtesy
Simply put, Don't ride like an a**hole. I find that if you are polite, motorists will most likely be nicer to you. Eye contact, a smile and a wave work wonders for good karma points.
Do not flip the bird to motorists. One of them may kill you.
Step 9: Pimping the Bike
Top Tube Protector- prevents crushed cables from rack bite, and enough padding to make a gonadectomy less possible. There is an instructable on how to make one of these.
Step 10: Bike Tube Armour
Made out of recycled inner tube, these slices are wrapped and zap strapped to contact points- anywhere the bike will rub against the rack while in transit. Mainly at the joint of the seat tube and the top tube, and the head tube and the top tube.
Step 11: Bike Tube Armour for Chainstay
The chainstay and is wrapped and strapped with old inner tube. This will stop scratching from chain slap and road debris from messing up the frame.
I also use a suspension seat post, and cover any exposed part of it with old inner tube.
Step 12: Carry Yet More Stuff: Rear Rack
I always mount a rear rack, and have a bungee or two. You never know. Forget a quick release seat post rack; they donât handle enough weight, and they are almost impossible to adjust properly. With a light load strapped on, over rough terrain, they tend to slew off to the sides.
Iâve gone through two, and think they are a waste of aluminum. I dislike them intensely
The one pictured is a mere $16.00, good for 20 kg (44 lbs).
Step 13: Fenders
I don't have fenders, currently, as inner tube bike armour does the trick for me; fenders come highly recommended, though. I've read that spraying your bike power train and transmission with Pam / aerosol cooking oil helps shed dust and dirt particles. Teflon lubes work well that way too. All pretty cool, eh?
Step 14: Winter Tires
These can be expensive, but they are totally excellent on hardpacked snow or ice. Beware - in soft snow, they are just like regular tires - slippery.
One can manufacture snow tires using regular knobbly tires, 300 or so 3/8 inch Robertson screws, an awl , a square tip screwdriver, and a couple of days worth of time. I'll try to dig up a recipe for them. Beware, snow tires have a lot of rolling friction, due to their studs, and feel different handling wise. They are kind of like wearing heavy boots: After a season of using them, you'll be amazed at how summer tires roll so easily. My wife bought me my studded tires (Shame on me) and I chucked out my homemade ones (More shame on me).
Step 15: Summer Tires
I use big knobbly MTB tires all year round; slicks are for road racing bikes and are effeminate.
(just joking; I am an Alberta Redneck, and here are my Rules of Manliness: Men carry packs or wear webgear, not suitcases; Men use rain jackets, not umbrellas; Men wear boots, not shoes. Please do not be offended; this is for the mid-instructable humour break!)
Step 16: Handlebar Instrumentation
I love gadgets, as you probably know by now. On the handlebars I have a GPS mount, cycle computer and bell (required by law). If a map is needed, I can use a bit of paracord to attach a mapcase, and for a fun you can attach a thermometer to the bars using the ubiquitous inner tube slice. I also have a handle bar bag for frequently used smaller items.
(This bike does need a paint job....)
Step 17: Trekking poles
I'd mentioned trekking poles earlier; this is why I carry at least one. This is what happens when you ran out of trail.
Nice view, eh?
Step 18: 'Should Always Have' #1: A Lock
I always have: a bike lock and keys. My bike was stolen right off the back of my truck once;luckily I got it back undamaged. A second bike was locked up, but as the thieving bastards couldn't ride it, they threw it off the third floor pedestrian walkway of a train station. Point being, sometimes it just doesn't matter. I equate bike theft to Old West horse theft: a hangin' offense( humor, there...).
Beware: Cable locks freeze in a coil!! If I could do it again, I'd get a straight cable lock. I found the U-lock heavy and hard to store.
Step 19: 'Should Always Have' #2: A Decent Repair Kit
A repair kit in a seat bag, to include: patch kit, spare tube, pump, tire levers, a bike tool with a chain breaker, chain lubricant (I like wax based ) and a small assortment of little fiddly bits: valve stems, valve stem caps, spoke nipples,chain segments, etc. I also carry lock de-icer to unclog frozen cables.
Also, zap straps, inner tube slices, paracord, a small swatch of duct tape, and a multitool.
(These items should be part of your Intergalactic Standard Repair Kit. They probably work anywhere.)
Step 20: 'Should always Have #3': Water and Food
I highly resent the fact that companies put tap water in bottles and get away with actually selling the stuff we have to drink to stay alive. Their gimmicks really piss me off, like the 'oxygenated' bottled water. (That'd be good if you had gills.) Therefore, I have a bottle of water on the bike, one on my 'battle belt', and on hotter days, a 3 Liter / 100 oz Camelback full of ice cubes. The ice slowly melts and is a nice treat while slugging up a hill in August.
I will buy water in only the most extreme of urban emergencies. I take peppermint tea bags, throw them in a water bottle with cold water, and off I go.
I wear cargo pants whenever cycling, and a few snackies and maps go into the big thigh pockets.
Ya just never know!!
Step 21: A Word on Temperatures
My limit for riding is -20 degrees Celsius, which is -4 degrees Fahrenheit. At that point cycling is possible, but needs uber dedication. The bike frame is especially brittle at this point, lubricants are thickened to gloop, and the wear is hard.(which is why a dedicated winter bike is a good idea.)I know guys that cycle every day, weather be damned.
I cycle below the limit when I'm feeling tougher than usual. The coldest I've ever cycled at is -29 Celsius;
the coldest place I've ever been was Fairbanks Alaska, at -50 degrees Celsius, which is -58 degrees Fahrenheit.
The coolest cold experience I've had was snowmobiling from Rae-Edzo, Northwest Territories, to points 100+ km north, and return. It was -45 degrees Celsius, at a max speed of 35 kilometers an hour, over the frozen lakes. This made for a phenomenal wind chill factor of -80 degrees Celsius. Needless to say, I was dressed like an astronaut. I can honestly say I enjoyed it, especially for the hot meal at the end of it; what an adventure!!
Step 22: Dress for Success
My point is, that dressing accordingly for enjoyable winter rides is pretty important. For cycling, you're going to sweat, so layering and ventilation are the two big factors. You'll need pit zips in a good windproof, opened at the start of the ride. I find that a coolmax long sleeved shirt, with a T shirt on top, followed by a wool shirt (Yep, wool, army surplus, $4.99) with a good windbreaker / Goretex jacket on top is a good fit for me. Topped off with a neck gaitor and toque, I am good to go. Again, experience is what you need; find what suits you and go with it. Some people 'run hot', and need less layers. The good thing about urban winter cycling is that you can always pedal your freezing butt to a 7-11 and warm up with a cup of swill (7-11 coffee, which I will buy if I'm caffeine challenged).
I always ensure I look like the best-equipped hobo on a bike.
Step 23: Helmet Testimonial
I was wearing a helmet and eyewear the day I was biking like a bat out of hell through the spruce; I went from a bright, snowy sunlit clearing, onto a low light path in the forest in a split second; my eyes didn't adjust fast enough, and I never saw the spruce bough that leapt out and scraped across my helmet and sunglasses, and only took out a chunk of the bridge of my nose. It could have been oh-so-much worse.
Step 24: In Closing....
Wear a helmet. Our brains are important.
I hope that this helps out for those of you who cycle, or want to take up winter cycling. I encourage all to ride safely, and at least wear a helmet ; I'm sure the anti-helmet faction has their reasons why they don't use a brain bucket, reasons like 'looks geeky' / 'cramps my style' / 'personal freedoms' / 'rebel without a cause' kind of stuff.
Well, better to wear a helmet than to be a rebel without a brain.
A doctor, of all people, was killed in Edmonton, Alberta, 5 or 6 years ago, while cycling. He was helmetless, and whipping down a hill, probably in excess of 40 k/ph towards a bi-level bridge; while doing a shoulder check, his unprotected head hit a steel bridge beam, and literally came apart.
Needless to say, dead on the scene, and messy, too.
Same city last year: a cyclist flipped the bird to a motorist and got shot-fatally.
So...be careful,Good luck with your Urban Patrols and Don't Get Bent!!!