3 water bottle cages & kickstand

Disc Trucker with 3 water bottle cages & kickstand

Three water bottle cages and the kickstand were scheduled for installation today. I know some of my cycling friends are saying, NO NOT A KICKSTAND! It’s not because a kickstand isn’t cool, rather it’s because a bicycle frame can easily be ruined if too much force is used in mounting them. Luckily, Surly now sells a kit to protect the frame from being damaged when mounting a kickstand. However, the Surly kickstand kit must be torqued to no more than 15 newton/meters to avoid damaging the frame.

When to go Surly! Your customer spoke and you listened


Tip: Follow the manufacture’s installation instructions and use a torque wrench to mount EVERYTHING. Today’s bikes and parts can very easily be damaged if over tightened.

Ken Whittaker

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Disc Trucker Brakes & Drivetrain

Surly Disc Trucker Shimano XT Drivetrain

Today the disc brakes, integrated crankset/bottom bracket, and rear derailleur were installed. The front derailleur and chain were also on the agenda to complete the drivetrain but unfortunately, I needed a shim to fit the front derailleur to the frame. I was sure I had one. But as you can see my workshop is a disaster and as a result I couldn’t find it. I really need to get more organized.

I chose a mountain bike drivetrain over road bike components because this bicycle will occasionally be called to duty for self-supported touring. In those cases, the 48/36/26 tooth chainrings will make the job a little easier than a traditional 52/39/30 and the 26-tooth granny gear will save my knees on a climb over the 50/34 tooth compact crankset.

I also chose mechanical disc brakes over hydraulic brakes because they are much easier to service in the field.

Tip: – Installation of the cranksets and bottom brackets require specialized tools. If you don’t have the proper tools take them to your local bike shop for installation. Don’t try to improvise with other tools, you will only destroy your parts.

Tip: – If the manufacturer hasn’t already treated the threads of your parts, I recommend using anti-seize compound. It will make the assembly and disassembly easier as well as lubricate and protect the parts from rust and corrosion. If you have to take your bicycle apart down the road some time, you will be glad you did.

If you are unfamiliar with the installation of a bottom bracket, Park Tool’s website does a wonderful job on installing one at https://www.parktool.com/blog/repair-help

Ken Whittaker

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What was Surly thinking?

Surly Disc Trucker Frame

My goal for the Disc Trucker build today was modest. I cleaned off the years of dust that had accumulated on the frame and fork and waxed them. Then I installed the headset and fork.

The only drawback to the frame that I can find is that it doesn’t have a replaceable rear derailleur hanger. What could Surly have been thinking? I guess, since the frame is CroMoly steel, a bent derailleur hanger could easily be straightened. Besides, the only broken derailleur hanger I’ve ever had was when my wife backed over my aluminum alloy bike with our van. My fault not hers since I left my bike leaning against the garage door. That bike didn’t have a replaceable rear derailleur hanger either. The only way to salvage that frame was to made the bike into a single speed.

On the plus side, I was amazed at how many mounting points there are on the frame and fork. There are 8 threaded bosses or eyelets to attached things to the fork alone. The frame also has a built-in pump peg and spare spoke holder. There is even enough space in the frame, and an adaptor available from Surly, for mounting a kickstand. Wow! The last bike I had with a kickstand was my old Schwinn of 50 years ago and I’ve missed a kickstand ever since.

Ken Whittaker

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Surly Disc Trucker Frame

Surly Disc Trucker Frame

Several years ago, I purchased a Surly Disc Trucker bicycle frame. My goal was to build my dream touring bike and pedal across the United States. I was drawn to the disc trucker because I loved the disc brakes on my mountain bike and thought it would be great to have them on a road bike. At the time there were very few road bike with disc brakes.

While I could have purchased a complete Disc Trucker, I like the idea of assembling my own bike from scratch with the parts and components I want. Otherwise, it feels like you purchase the bike twice with all the upgrades and changes you end up making to a stock bike. Also, since I am using 9 speed components rather than the latest and greatest components on the market, I am able to buy high quality parts at discount prices allowing me to build a much nicer bike for the same price as a stock Disc Trucker

Unfortunately, my wife objected when she learned of my plan to ride across the country by myself. At her urging, I changed my plans and I had a wonderful experience riding with about fifty other rides while supported by Bubba’s Pampered Pedalers in 2015. Regrettably, less than a week after completing the Coast to Coast ride I was hit by a car and the Disc Trucker has hung in the basement ever since collecting dust.

I am happy to announce the Disc Trucker is now hanging in my bike work stand and I’ve resumed building this bike. My new plan is to use this bike to begin exploring the rail to trails around the country. Since I purchased the frame at a discount price because the decals on the right side of the bike had been damaged, the first step in the bike build was to replace the damaged decals. Step 1 complete!

Ken Whittaker

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Sore Butt

One of the biggest complaints I hear from new cyclists is that they get a sore butt from riding a bike. Unfortunately, many new cyclists give up on the joy of cycling before they overcome the pain. Here are nine common and some not so common tricks I use to eliminate the problem.

1. Padded shorts – Padded shorts have become a cycling standard because they work by reducing soreness from cycling. A little bit of padding goes a long way, so don’t overdo a good thing. Your shorts don’t need to be Lycra. There are plenty of baggy padded cycling shorts available. However, tight fitting Lycra shorts don’t bunch up into a wedgie like baggy shorts can.

2. Go Commando – Lose the underwear when wearing cycling shorts. Cycling shorts are designed to be worn without underwear. Wearing underwear only causes problems such as bunching. While Lycra shorts may have a “freeing” feeling that may take a little getting used to, they also have a modesty panel built in so the “freeing” feeling is not also revealing.

3. Get a gender specific saddle – There are saddles designed specifically for men’s and women’s anatomies. Make sure you have a saddle designed to fit your anatomy that helps to relieve pressure where it counts.

4. Get off your butt – You can greatly reduce the beating your butt takes simply by taking your weight off the saddle when riding on rough sections of road or when encountering bumps.

5. Change Positions – Luckily, touring bicycles have drop handle bars that allow you to change your position on the bike easily. In doing so, you are also reducing the pressure on the same points on your butt.

6. Keep riding – Toughen up the tissue around the sit-bones by continuing to ride. Most seasoned cyclists do not experience a sore butt except on very long rides because they have toughened up this area over time.

7. Wax the saddle – This is a secret I’ve used for years but I find many cyclists don’t believe me when I tell them. While it is a common practice for riders with an unpadded leather saddle to wax their saddle, I’ve found that it is just as useful for padded saddles as well. I use spray furniture wax on my saddle. A waxed saddle helps me to easily slide to a new position. Frequently changing my position on the seat helps prevent pain caused by remaining in one spot too long.

8. Massage – It’s always worth a laugh when I tell a new rider to get a butt massage. However, I find that massaging the sore area after my ride eases the inflammation, improves blood flow and reduces the soreness in my butt for me.

9. Reduce tire pressure – While cycling across the United States in 2015, the chip seal road surface throughout most of Texas was a jarring experience not quickly forgotten. To reduce the beating on our bodies at the contact points at the handlebars and saddle, we reduced the air pressure in our tires by several pounds per square inch (PSI). Let your tires absorb some of the beating rather than your butt.

I hope these nine tricks help to get you back in the saddle again.

Ken Whittaker

Updated April 26, 2018

Hydration Pack

When riding routes with limited services such as trails or out of the way road routes, I use a hydration pack. On rough trails it is hard to keep my water bottles in the cages and they tend to get dirty. Using a hydration pack instead of water bottles solves these problems for me. On out of the way road routes when I am unsure about available services, I use water bottles in combination with a hydration pack.

Even in areas where water is generally plentiful, such as cycling along the C&O canal where the National Parks Service treats the water at the campsites with iodine to keep it safe to drink, a hydro pack is invaluable. I can tell you from first-hand experience that you would have to be very thirsty to acquire a taste for iodine treated water.

Also, if you are fortunate enough to have an opportunity to fill your hydration pack with ice from a hotel or restaurant ice machine, it will provide cool water to sip until the next fill-up. Don’t be afraid to ask. I’ve found that when I’ve asked, few eateries will turn down filling a touring cyclist’s hydration pack with ice. In fact, I’ve had some offer before I’ve had a chance to ask.

Ken Whittaker

Updated April 25, 2018

Road iD App

As most cyclist already know, it’s getting a lot more dangerous on the roads for us. According to the latest National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics for 2015, there has been a 6 percent increase in bicyclist fatalities since 2006 and a 12.2 percent increase from the previous year (2014).

While the makers of ROAD iD can’t help you avoid a collision, they do offer a free real-time tracking App. It shows an eCrumb trail of your location and provides a Stationary Alert if you are inactive for a set amount of time so your loved ones can monitor your status while you’re out on your bicycle.

I use this app when I am cycling, walking my dogs, hiking or any time I want someone to know my location. It has worked faultlessly for me.

Ken Whittaker

Updated April 24, 2018

Flat Fix Kit

While bicycle touring my most frequent cycling breakdown has been flat tires. Fortunately, a flat tire is one of the easiest roadside repairs to make yourself if you are prepared for it. As a result, I always carry a flat kit. My flat kit includes:

Tire levers – to get the tire off the rim.

Small knife – to remove debris such as glass that gets embedded in the tire causing the flat. This is very important. If you don’t find and remove the cause of the flat tire you will most likely find yourself with another flat tire further down the road.

Small pliers or tweezers – During my 2015 coast to coast ride most of my flats were caused by small bits of wire from steel belted radial car tires that got embedded in my tires. These fine wires were nearly impossible to remove with my fingers, so small pliers or tweezers are a necessity. I’ve also found that finger nail clippers do a great job at of grabbing on to and removing these small pieces of wire.

Tube patch kit – to fix punctured tubes. While I occasionally replace a punctured tube with another tube to save time, if a tube is repairable, I always repair it. A properly repaired tube is just as reliable as a new tube, is cost efficient and reduces unnecessary waste. If you are not having luck repairing tubes I find it is because you haven’t followed the instructions. It sounds counter intuitive, but let the glue dry before applying the patch.

Spare tube(s) – In those cases when a punctured tube cannot be repaired a spare tube is a must. An extra tube can also come in handy when it is too dark to patch a small hole in a tube or when it is raining and you just want to get rolling again as quickly as possible.

Kool-Stop Tire Bead Jack – There was a time when I could mount bicycle tires without any tools, but not anymore. However, when I use tire levers to remount the tire, I sometimes pinch the tube causing another puncture. If you struggle with mounting bicycle tires like I do, try the Kool-Stop Tire Bead Jack. If you are traveling light and find it too bulky for a seat bag, I have heard of riders shortening the handle so it would fit in their bag. You can generally find one at your local bike shop or on Amazon.

Presta valve adapter – just in case I’m fortunate enough to get a flat near an air pump, I can use the adapter to fit the air chuck to inflate the tube.

CO2 cartridge(s) – to quickly fill a tube. While I rarely use CO2 cartridges, I do carry them for those times when I want to inflate a tube as quickly as possible. If you experience air escaping from the tube when you disconnect the cartridge, you most likely aren’t giving the valve time to thaw. To avoid this problem, inflate the tube slowly and wait until the valve warms up before disconnecting the inflator. If there is frosty looking ice on the valve stem, it is too early to disconnect the inflator.

Air Pump – is a must have item. I’ve found that you can’t depend on CO2 cartridges. While touring on the C&O canal I once helped a cyclist fix a flat. He thought he had tubeless tires and was only carrying CO2 cartridges to top off his tire if he did get a puncture. Turns out his tires weren’t tubeless. We used my patch kit to repair his tire. However, after repairing his tube, when he tried to inflate the tube with his CO2 cartridges, they were duds. Luckily, I was carrying a pump. Otherwise he would have had to hike, pushing his bike about twenty miles to the nearest town to make the repair.

If you’ve never fixed a flat, it is a skill all touring cyclists must have. For more on tools and spare parts to carry while touring see Guide to 9 common roadside repair mistakes on this website.

Emergency Medical Information Card

In addition to wearing identification and emergency contact information, I also carry a laminated Emergency Medical Information Card on me. It has all the important medical information that emergency medical personnel might need to know about me in a medical emergency including:

– Identification and date of birth

– Emergency contacts

– Heath insurance provider

– Allergies

– Medical conditions

– Medications (prescriptions and over-the-counter)

– Immunizations

– And the contact information for family physician

While I have used my emergency medical information card in medical emergencies, I also find it useful for routine doctor visits where they ask me the same information.

Ken Whittaker

Updated April 21, 2018