Top-mount thumbshifters are a classic design that the big players have left behind in the race to make a “better” shifter. Other designs are undeniably more ergonomic and capable of faster shifts, all without changing your grip on the bars. But some of us are hooked on thumbshifters, if for nothing else than their proven durability through simplicity. No matter the conditions, no matter the muck and cold, thick gloves and rust, thumbshifters continue to shift. In fact, I still have two pairs of 20+ year old Suntour thumbshifters in service on bikes, along with this set of Paul Thumbies that I’ve been running for over 5 years.
Paul Thumbies are the answer to those of us that want indexing beyond 8-speeds or SRAM or Campagnolo compatibility but want to run top-mounts too. These mounts transform bar end and time-trial shifters into old school thumbshifters. My poison? 9-speed Shimano bar end shifters mated to Paul Thumbies, run in friction mode on my 10-speed dirt road touring rig. Adjustable front derailleur trim and you can shift the entire cassette in one movement with the right touch. I’d go so far as to say, “It works every time!” but I’m to understand the phrase has already been taken. This is a shifter for the tinkerers and the explorers, best suited to people with a secret stash of parts and more ideas about bike setup than available rides to test it.
Paul Thumbies are available for $74 per pair in either silver or black, in either 22.2, 26.0 or 31.8 clamp sizes (mountain bars and road stem clamp sizes) and with Shimano, SRAM, Microshift or Campagnolo mounts. Current Thumbies have hinged clamps for easier installation and removal.
Compact hand pumps are a must-have item on the road; ride more than a few miles from home and you’re bound to get a flat. The $50 Lezyne Gauge Drive HP is an aluminum bodied pump meant for high pressure, low volume tires and equipped with an in-line pressure gauge meant as a step up from cheap feeling plastic bodied mini pumps. If nothing else the shiny aluminum feels good in your hand, even if I’ve never been one to tear through plastic pumps. At 230 mm long the Gauge Drive HP fits in a jersey pocket and larger seatbags, or use the provided bottle cage mount. The handle side hides a the hose and in-line gauge inflator which has a reversible Presta or Schrader chuck with a bleed valve. Screw the hose into the end of the pump body, careful to not cross-thread the plastic fitting, and go. Over the past season the Lezyne Gauge Drive HP has bailed out a few flat tires and aired up the travel bike outside the airport. The ABS Pen Gauge gives a reasonable ballpark pressure reading on the side of the road, but you’ll be hard pressed to tell a 10 psi difference with it. Be mindful of not unscrewing the gauge itself as I once did and avoid a momentary heartrate spike (I was able to put the gauge back together on the spot). The screw-on Presta chuck and small section of hose go a long way to help prevent broken valve stems out on the road, which happens to be the most common and least convenient place to break them. Like any small pump it’s going to take some effort to get to riding pressure with a road tire, but it will keep you rolling and is able to get to 100+ psi without spending all day.
Contributor Joe Baur documented a three day ride through his ancestral home in Switzerland, a great look at somewhere many of us haven’t had the chance to ride.
There is simply no better way to explore a new country than by bike, especially when that country is Switzerland. Luckily with some help from MySwitzerland and SwissTrails, we were able to spend three-days cycling along the Lakes Route that stretches from French Montreux on Lake Geneva to Bad Horn in the northeastern border of the country.
The alpine nation has always held a special place in my heart. It’s where the Baur family name comes from, so you all have Switzerland to thank for my existence. Please, hold your admiration until the end, folks.
In reality I’m mostly an ancestral mutt at this point, but I’ve always most identified with my Swiss roots. After cycling the country, I can see why. The smooth countryside roads, the historic and walkable cities, the trains, the mountainous outdoors — this feels like home. The Swiss live the way I try to live in the States.
“Scary the first time,” reports builder Stephen Murray. The artist, sculptor and cyclist behind The Comedown figure-eight track in Glasgow, Scotland just took the first ride on the track this morning after months of planning, design and fabrication work.
The Comedown is reminiscent of the late ’90s Human Powered Rollercoaster that made an appearance at the 1995 Toronto Cycle Messenger World Championships (edited, org text had wrong date), though at a smaller scale. Where the earlier HPR was large enough for two-up racing (video, images) The Comedown is single-file affair.
The idea for The Comedown came from the building of the Sir Chris Hoy velodrome for the recent Commonwealth Games. “We started riding on the velodrome once it was built and chatting about how it was made etc. Then the Red Bull Mini Velodrome, came to Glasgow and my mate John Silvera who is a joiner and cyclist and all round good man raced on it (and folded his wheel and went flying off the side).” Murray said. It wouldn’t be available to the public for the length of the games, and funding was announced from Creative Scotland to fund 20, £14,000 commissions for art projects related to the Games, leading to a quick proposal to make a minidrome for the public during the games. Murray continued, “A week later I was in the pub with John and Brian from Rig Bike Shop which is where all the couriers work from in Glasgow. Anyway Brian told me it was a shit idea to build a minidrome as the Red Bull one already exists etc. But he had ridden the Dunhill one in Canada back in the day and what I should do is make an eight. Which I had never heard of.”
“We were all pretty pissed but I totally latched on to it.”
The funding ended up being approved, and the project kept under the radar until a suitable venue was found. It was originally slated for a warehouse during the Games in June but it fell through last minute, and then the current The Briggait / Wasps location was secured for a narrow window in October. It was scaled to fit the space and budget, and production began. “In my workshop I manufactured all the structural elements as a giant kit, then me and four good mates, John, Rob, Jason and Dom moved it all onsite last Monday. Tuesday we got a 165 sheets of plywood delivered. Since then we’ve assembled the frames and been bespoke fitting every sheet and building laminations up to take the curves,” Murray continued.
“Basically we’re at a point now if someone wanted to step in and back us financily we could go rework the design and build a demountable, raceble, transportable, figure-eight velodrome. We’ve got the whole thing down. We would adjust a lot of things as this has been a massive learning curve and the difference between working in CAD and physically having the opportunity make a 30 m x 12 m x 3.6 m sculptural velodrome is massive. But we’ve fucking done it.”
“Materials is coming in at about £6-7000, rest of budget has gone on paying the right people at the right time to design and to do skilled onsite assembly and bespoking.”
The pictures and Facebook video have left me stunned. It’s a dream I’ve heard many bring up over the years, of seeing the HPR in service again. For a short period in Glasgow at least, The Comedown exists. There is an opening party on October 18th, with the installation in place through November 1st.
Just about everyone has ripped down a parking garage at some point or another on their bike and thought, “This would be rad to race.” Parkour Ride takes parking garage alleycats and late night shred sessions to the next level, pitting road, track, BMX and mountain bikes against one another on a course going throughout a garage. The first event kicked off in London on October 4th, with The Guardian posting a gallery of images. Awesome looking event, wish I could have been there. Liam Phillips, World BMX Champion, took home the title at Venue 1 after a series of head to head races. Look out for more info on Venue 2 soon at www.parkourride.com
The Chrome Victor Urban Utility Belt is a beyond miniature messenger bag, meant to hold the bare essentials when you don’t need a full backpack or want to deal with on-bike bags. Over the shoulder or fanny pack style, the $85 Victor is essentially a set of secure jersey pockets when you’re wearing more casual clothes that may not have pockets at all. It is just large enough to carry a phone, basic tool kit and small camera or wallet, maybe even a very compact windshell, but not much more. The small size is what keeps it useful, preventing one from stuffing it full of the clutter that collects in a larger bag, but an accordion bottom in the main pocket would hold more without making the bag much larger. As it stands, a couple of tubes, a multitool and a wallet can quickly max it out. The buckle closure on the phone pocket is great, but more overlap on the flap for protection in steady rain would be good for peace of mind. Get creative with the reflective daisy-chain mounting loopsstrap a pump to the outside, run a mini u-lock through them as a holster, attach a blinkie for night safety. The Chrome seatbelt strap is useful and secure, and heavy and made of metal, and contributes to a total bag weight of 520 g (the buckle alone is approximately 200 g). It’s a useful bag, great for short in-town trips where a full-sized bag is just excessive. For more capacity in a similar form factor check out the Chekhov Rolltop Utility Belt.
Large saddle bags are all the rage for bikepacking, and they almost make as much sense for in-town commuting, if only they could be easily carried off-bike. The Hauler from Green Guru is an interesting take on the saddle bag — unlike many bikepacking focused bags, the bag holds it’s shape off the bike, and has a pair of eyelets and a removable shoulder strap for portage. Easy on, easy off, pretty good looking design that should fit most bikes out there with enough seatpost showing. Like everything else Green Guru, the Hauler is made from recycled and repurposed fabric and tubes. Check out their Kickstarter for more info and to pre-order at $100.
Kona has long been involved in the end-of-year insanity known as cyclocross. This video follows three Kona cross racers from age 9 to 33. Two racers from Rad Racing NW, one of the top youth development cycling programs in the US, to Kona Team rider Helen Wyman, one of the top female cross racers in the world. Even if you’re not into ‘cross or racing in general, seeing kids that are into it is awesome.
Steel road plates are commonly used to cover trenches dug in a roadway for utility work, and are particularly dangerous to bicyclists. Most everyone has a story about them — a friend once fractured his eye socket due to a gap between plates. Everyday cyclist and Chicago based injury lawyer, Brendan Kevenides helps to fill us in on what some local ordinances require of steel plates and what can be done about them.
Q: There are steel plates all over the city where I ride. They are dangerous, especially when they are wet. Are there any rules protect bicyclists from the hazards they pose?
Steel road plates suck. Ask any urban bicyclist and they will tell you from experience about steel plates. They are often not installed flush with the pavement or at least with ramping around there edges. Many times they shift so that dangerous gaps exist between them and the street, or between two or more plates. Even when they are installed correctly they get very slippery when wet. But it does not have to be this way. In fact, it is not supposed to be that way at all. There are standards in place which prescribe the properties of steel road plates and how they are to be installed.
Steel plates are generally used to cover trenches dug in the roadway — often by utility companies — to allow traffic to use an area during off work hours while construction is ongoing. Steel is generally used because it is tough yet elastic. It can take the heavy loads from motor vehicle traffic without breaking. However, for bicycle traffic, not to mention pedestrian and motorcycle traffic, they pose hazards. In light of that some local departments of transportation have adopted guidelines and specifications regarding how they are to be used. For example, in Chicago companies utilizing steel plates to cover areas that have been excavated must use plates that are “safe for pedestrians, bicycles and vehicles.” Plates must be installed so that gaps “between adjacent plates must be no greater than 1/2 inch.” When they are placed in a bicycle lane they “must be orientated perpendicular to the travel way, whenever possible.” They “must be firmly bedded and secured to the adjacent pavement to prevent rocking or movement.” Steel plates “in the path of bicycle traffic shall have ramps installed” or a plate locking system in place.
The Chicago Department of Transportation’s Rules and Regulations do not make specific reference to plates having anti-skid properties. However, the general requirement that “all plating… be safe for bicycles” arguably covers that issue. Gregory Pestine, a civil engineer with Robson Forensic based in Chicago has stated in his pamphlet, Steel Road Plates & Roadway Surfaces in Work Zones, that “plates should be coated with an anti-skid coating.” Notably, the New York City Department of Transportation requires just that. Its rules require that, “All plating and decking shall have a skid-resistant surface equal to or greater than the adjacent existing street or roadway surface.” According to Guidelines on Motorcycle and Bicycle Work Zone Safety, published by The Roadway Safety Consortium, “Covering steel plates with a material that increases friction helps motorcyclists and bicyclists retain control, especially in wet weather.”
A quick Google search reveals that steel road plates with anti-skid properties are common and easy to come by. But is it just me, or are they rarely seen in the wild? I having been riding in Chicago regularly for a long time and I cannot say I have ever seen a steel road plate that had slip resistant properties or coating. My experience here has been similar to what a group called Transportation Alternatives found in a 2004 study looking into the matter in NYC. It found that 66% of 1006 metal construction plates it looked at in Manhattan were not skid resistant. I am not aware of any similar such study pertaining to Chicago, but I would be surprised if we fared better.
If you see an unsafe plate you should call your city’s 311 service and report it. Very serious injuries can result from plates that are not compliant with safety guidelines. If you are injured due to a slippery or otherwise unsafe plate you may have a viable case against whomever installed it.
Cycling Legalese Question Submission Form:
Nothing contained in this column should be construed as legal advice. The information contained herein may or may not match your individual situation. Also, laws differ from place to place and tend to change over time. No reader should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information presented herein without seeking the advice of an attorney in the relevant jurisdiction. This column is meant to promote awareness of a general legal issue. As such, it is meant as entertainment. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.
The cold weather riding season is coming on fast, and there is nothing like dedicated winter cycling shoes to stay comfortable when the temperature drops and the going gets wet. 45NRTH has come on strong with their shoes over the past couple of seasons, with a number of updates on the Fasterkatt for 2015 based on user input.
Dedicated shoes a bit rich for your blood? Check out some other options in the way-back machine to Urban Velo #10, Winter Footwear Solutions.