Jun 28, 2010

Green - Cargo via Bicycle

A small effort to get a little "greener" has lead to a short-term OCD-type thought-binge on the best way to carry cargo on a bicycle.  The effort started with attaching a grocery pannier to the rear rack of my bike.  As I headed out to the store each pedal rotation had my heel bumping against the pannier.  Once I got up a little speed my heel launched the pannier right off the bike. 

At first I thought about different bikes and different racks and so on. I decided that if I was going to start buying things I better figure out exactly what I want in terms of where I ought to carry a load on a bike. A small series of experiments was in order.

For the first test, the panniers had to be either be moved back somehow or replaced by a way to carry a load on the top of  the rack.  I found these collapsible steel rear baskets (made by Wald) on Craigslist.  Being steel, I was able to mount them about 6 inches back on the rack.  That gives me the heel clearance that I need.

For "cargo" I used two empty cat litter containers and filled them with water. The containers were about 2 gallons each so they each made up a 16 pound simulated load. The ride was not bad and handling was hardly affected.  It did take a little extra distance to stop after braking with the 32 lb. load.

I used I used an old milk crate attached to a front mounted "porteur" style rack to test out the potential of a front delivery basket. This might not have been a good test as the load is so far forward.  As I started to ride it was reminiscent of first learning to ride a bike.  The front wheel wiggled a bit until I got up some speed then it settled down.  The handling of the bike felt strange but I got somewhat used to it after a while. When stopping, planting a foot solidly on the ground right away was more important than usual. Riding this way would require extra diligence.

I thought part of the problem was that the load and the handlebars were both forward of the head tube of the bike, basically, ahead of the steering fulcrum. I turned my "bull horn" style handle bars around to simulate a set of touring handlebars.  Unfortunately, the short "horns" and the long extension of the stem did not move my hand position to the other side of the fulcrum. The ride seemed better but maybe I was getting more used to the load.  Something I did during all test drives was jiggle the the handlebars left and right to get a sense of the bike's handling.  In these configurations doing so caused a noticeable torsion in the stem itself!

I went back to testing the load at the rear of the bike, now with it on top of the rack. I expected bike handling to be just like with the panniers.  However, this configuration had some of the uneasy handling as was the case with the front load.  Not bad, but noticeable.

Front and rear crates where attached to the racks using plastic tie-wraps.

For now I will probably go with some compromise.  Heavy loads will go low, on the rear on the bike. I like the convenience of carrying some things on the front but that will have to limited to lighter loads.  Maybe I'll get a small wire basket or a handlebar bag, perhaps with some upright touring handlebars.

Jun 24, 2010

Meet the Fawcetts

Our neighbors had their basement laundry room remodeled recently.  When they put these faucets out in the alley they still had the plumbing attached to them.  But still -- they spoke to me.

I happened to have a few pickets left over from a fence I built a long while ago...

Jun 8, 2010

Bikin' in the Rain

Today was the first time I can recall -- in a long time -- that I started out to run errands by bicycle when it was already raining.  I've been caught in the rain before but I don't know if/when I ever started out when it was already raining. I know this is no big deal to hard-core cyclists, but I am just getting back into it and using the car as a last resort rather than the other way around.

The interesting thing is that... it was fun.  Sort of like being in on some silly secret.