Pimp My Bike:




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.

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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, it’s 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 don’t 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.
I’ve 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!!!



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    60 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you for your tips! ;)

    DAMN, I'm one of that fools who cycle without an helmet. My justification is VERY STUPID: I feel not cool with that (well I am a VERY low self-exteem person, you don't know?! ;) ). There are very cool helmets, bmx-style (they recall soldier's ones) and they are cheap too (15 euro--> 20 USD). The day I will tear apart my head and will live with thick scars on my face I will remember this post! .-( I am planning to wear an helmet so soon.

    But I still wear a gumshield: it's very "el cheapo" (5 USD?!), they're self molding, they're transparent, coloured, with funny themes (like...vampire teeth! eheheh)...maybe they're badass too?! :-) Well, I was/am a thay boxer, so I've already had mine at home so: why don't wear extra protection? (extra?! I need my helmet!).


    9 years ago on Step 24

    Haha! I really liked this instructable even though it's the polar opposite of the way I bike. I like everything light and to only bring the bare minimum.

    You, however, could get attacked by a bear, struck by lightning all while getting lost and somehow survive.

    This made me realize how bad I need to get a repair kit and eye protection, though. Thanks!

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Step 24

    I think this guy's hardcore and goes on long wilds in wilderness / winter conditions. He did say he varies it according to the ride. But glad it made you think!


    10 years ago on Step 18

    And u-locks can only lock the front wheel. The frame is worth much more than the front wheel!

    2 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Step 18

    I have a big U lock and it locks the fame and both wheels. Ideal for leaving it in town.

    It's funny though - you see both u locks and cable locks locking just the front wheel - and often on a quick release bike.


    Reply 8 years ago on Step 18

    U locks can be used in different ways, not only to lock the front wheel. When I use my U lock, I lock the rear wheel + frame to the bike rack. Rear wheels are more expensive than front ones ;).


    7 years ago on Step 24

    I work in a bike shop and have seen many bikes come in that were in the same condition as that bike. I have also personally had a couple of bike destroyed be oncoming cars...... most of them costing hundreds of dollars to repair!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Good Info Tommi..Enjoyed the read and favorited it...Hey we all know that we all have different ideas on how to ride and what with..As Tommi said it's his take ,Not the Law...IF,IF,IF!!!...If your Aunt had "Cahoonies" she'd be your Uncle.Good Instructable Tom....Good clean Information for the"Newby's".Thanks


    9 years ago on Step 5

    i hate those thin ones with lots of holes and stuff. on wipeout i had stones punched through the thin plastic layer and almost 2cm into the Styrofoam. after that i got a skate board helmet and there tuff. 20$ was worth it rather then 10 on a plastic on that took one wipe out to destroy. the skate board helmet has taken so many hits and can take even more

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Step 5

    actually all helmets are designed for only one large impact. Everything from motorcycle helmets to ski helmets to skate helmets are only good for one hard hit-- even falling off a shelf-- after that the foam is compressed/cracked and it will not protect from concussion, just road-rash.


    8 years ago on Step 14

    I used studded tires in the winter here in SW Ontario. Wholly agree that their is alot of friction from the big knobs. A short trip (which I had, about 7 kms.) they are ideal, longer trips they may be very tiring. The studs 'crackle' when on clean pavement. Also, nothing will help you on wet ice, just don't turn. Don't ask how I know. :)


    8 years ago on Step 8

    I agree here. The golden rule really applies when cycling urban areas: do onto others...

    Dr Qui

    8 years ago on Step 24

    I had a 8 week old mountain bike end up in this shape once. I got clipped by a car, got away with only 2 steel screws in my ankle and a cut on the back of my head that required 3 staples and left a raised scar, I was not wearing a helmet at the time, I was lucky as the back pack I was wearing bunched up around the back of my head and neck and saved me from going full force onto the road with my head.

    Needless to say I wear a helmet now.


    9 years ago on Step 24

    I'm live in Ecuador and MTB is extremly difficult for the geography but at the same time it's just simple amazing because you can travel a couple hundreds miles and you can be at beach, highlands or rainforest, your instructable was very helpfull, even went here don't snow never but our temp will be very low, with rain and fog or very tropical hot.  Anyway, your instructable get me some new ideas and make me tune up my bike and take a road path.  The only miss that you have it's personal security on road, maybe I will change the bear spray for pepperspray, the human animals are more dangerous.  Well done, thanks. (sorry for my english obviously it's not my primary language)


    9 years ago on Step 24

    This really makes me want to load up my bike and take it for a long day-or-so ride back home. It also makes me want to go start wearing a helmet. I will say though, that traditional bike helmets do look tacky, but a skate helmet isn't so bad.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    I love your instructable. As an avid "greenway cyclist" myself I enjoyed seeing your take on some of the equipment used. I did notice a couple things that I disagree with though. I'm not trying to come down on your 'ible, just offering my own oppinion.

    (1) You said you don't like U locks because they are too heavy? A U lock offers a lot more protection than a cable lock and weight is not really an issue on a bike loaded down like yours is in the pictures.

    (2) Why carry a patch kit and a spare tube? In the unlikely event of multiple flats on one ride, call a friend to pick you up or just walk home. I did not see a pump or canned air in your gear so how do you inflate your tire after a flat anyway?

    (3) Why carry chain lube and a cog brush? Drivetrain care is important but lube your chain before you leave the house and you shouldn't need to re-lube it until you get home.same with spare parts. Tighten stuff up beofre you ride and you shouldn't need to replace anything mid-ride.

    (4) How did "Body Armor" get a full step dedicated to it? Anyone who rides agressivly enough to require that level of protection should already be well aware of the safety gear required.

    Some things you might add that can really improve the quality of a ride:
    Bicycle headlights and tail lights
    Bike-specific shorts (lycra or MTB style)
    Clipless pedals

    3 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    1) Agreed 2) Because you don't have to call a friend in such case, a patchkit doesn't wheight anything I agree to the lights. I prefer a helmet light tho. I'm not a friend of lycra. The smallest twig can rip that open, then you have to ride at 0°C with a nekkid butt. No thanks, i use some old military trousers.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Multiple flats in one ride isn't so unlikely, and it can sure ruin a ride being stuck with a flat tire. Anyway, its nice to have an extra just in case you run across someone else who blew a tube. I usually carry two, just in case I get the chance to be a nice guy.


    When I go light,with only a pack, I prefer the coiled cable, although this cold weather has me rethinking my lock choices. You're correct about a U-locks protection factor (I lost the last key for my U-lock, and thought the cable would be a good replacement...). -I carry a patch tube and a tube because of the weather; if it's really cold, I change the tube, and pump up with a pump (in a small frame bag or my pack). -I carry chain lube and cog brush because when it gets muddy / slushy and the gearing goes bad, I'll stop and clean the gunk /grass out from the gears. Sometimes I'm 100+ km from home, too. -I have no idea why I gave body armour a step of it's own. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I wear cycling shorts under my cycle pants; no one needs or wants to see me in Lycra / Spandex. I have the head / tail lights you mentioned, and use them in the dark; my glow strips are redundancies, as I do not trust any motorist. Thanks for the Positive Feedback!