Free ROAD iD – Live GPS Tracker App

As we already know, it’s getting a lot more dangerous on the roads for cyclists However, there is some comfort in being able to provide our family and friends with our live location information while cycling. As I mentioned in my post DIY Garmin Charge Power Pack Hack, I use Garmin’s Live Track function while I’m cycling. However, you don’t need an expensive bicycle computer/GPS for live tracking.

The makers of ROAD iD offer the free ROAD iD – Live GPS Tracker App that can provide a real-time eCrumb trail of your location and an optional Stationary Alert if you are inactive for a set amount of time. Your loved ones can have peace of mind while they monitor your status when you’re out on your next cycling adventure.

I use this app when I am cycling, walking my dog, hiking or any time I want someone to know my location. It has worked faultlessly for me. And you can’t beat the price . . . FREE!

Ken Whittaker

How to Remove Tubeless Tires from the Rim

Installing and removing tubeless tires from a bicycle rim has become a whole new skill set for me. Tubeless tires are designed to fit very tightly in the bicycle rim. So tight that they can be inflated and ridden without sealant and still hold the tire pressure. Needless to say, when it comes time to break the bead to remove the tire from the rim, it can be a bit of a struggle.

Park Tool PTS-1 Tire Seater

Surprisingly, I’ve found that the Park Tool PTS-1 Tire Seater works very well at doing just the opposite of its intended use. While it sat in my tool box unused in the days of riding tube tires, the Tire Seater has become my go to tool for unseating tubeless tires. The narrow curved jaws slide in close to the rim and the pliers allow me to apply significant pressure on the tire to break the bead from the rim.

Unfortunately, the Park Tool PTS-1 Tire Seater is not the type of tool that you can throw in your seat bag and take with you on a ride. However, I’ve been riding tubeless tires on my road bikes for several years and I’ve never had to remove a tubeless tire along the roadside yet. Let the Luddites with tubes stop and fix their flats along the roadside. The sealant fixes my punctures while I’m still riding.

Take note Park Tool, there is a BIG opportunity here.

Ken Whittaker

DIY Garmin Charge Power Pack Hack

Garmin Charge™ Power Pack

I tour with a Garmin Edge 1030 bicycle computer/gps and I’d be lost without it. However, I don’t only use my Garmin for navigation. Being able to send Live Track information to my loved ones while I am on an adventure is priceless to me. On tours where I’ll be camping along the route without electric, I am always worried about keeping my device charged. So, I was considering purchasing the Garmin Charge Power Pack. That was, until I read the users manual. To my surprise, I was shocked to learn that the $129.99 Garmin unit only has a 3,100 mAh battery.

If you are not familiar with the cost of a 3,100 mAh battery just Google 3100 mAh battery. I could buy a 3,100 mAh battery for about 10% of the price of a Garmin power pack. But that was only for the battery. I still needed a battery case and Garmin’s external power pack also attaches neatly underneath the Garmin Edge. So another google search for 2X 18650 8.4V Rechargeable Battery Case Pack Waterproof turned up a number of viable options for a complete DYI battery pack that would attach neatly to a bicycle and for only about 25% of the cost of the insanely expensive Garmin unit.

DIY Garmin Power Pack

However, I like how the Garmin Power Pack attached directly on the Garmin Computer, so I wanted to attach my DYI battery pack in the same fashion. With a handful of parts I cobbled together my version of a Garmin Power Pack. In comparison, my DIY Power Pack is 10,000 mAh, fits neatly under my Garmin Edge when needed, but can also be switched out easily with a headlight or GoPro camera when the power pack isn’t needed. On the downside, my power pack is not waterproof so I guess I will not be charging my bike computer/GPS the rain.

Ken Whittaker

A Spoonful of Mustard

♪ ♫ A spoonful of mustard helps leg cramps go away ♫ ♪

Seriously, a spoonful of mustard can stop a leg cramp on the spot. I stumbled on this remedy somewhere several years ago and it really works.

Over the years, I’ve introduced family and friends to bicycle touring. Unfortunately, some of them have suffered from painful post-ride leg cramps. While I don’t know how or why it works, a spoonful of yellow mustard has proven to be a safe, effective, and readily available remedy for relieving leg cramps.

Besides working well, yellow mustard can be found as a condiment almost anywhere food is served.  If you suffer from leg cramps try this simple trick and keep a packet or two of yellow mustard nearby.

Ken Whittaker

Have a Coca-Cola

Like many cyclists, I generally carry a few packets of GU Energy Gel in case I bonk.  Bonking is when a cyclist drains blood glucose levels resulting in fatigue and light-headedness.  These 100-calorie packet contain carbohydrates to fuel muscles, sodium to replace electrolytes lost in sweat, and caffeine to improve alertness and reduce a feeling of tiredness.

However, sometimes I forget to throw a GU packet in my jersey pocket or run out on long rides. Unfortunately, corner stores rarely carry energy gels.  Luckily,  I’ve found a secret substitute that can be readily found everywhere and that works just as well for me.  My secret?  Coca-Cola!

Compare for yourself.

Amount Per ServingGU ESPRESSO LOVECoca-Cola Soft Drink
Total Fat0g0g
Total Carbohydrates23g 39g
Caffeine 40mg34mg
Note: I use Gu Espresso Love gel because I like the flavor and it contains a higher level of caffeine. Most GU gels with caffeine only contain 20mg.

An additional benefit of caffeinated sugary soft drinks like Coca-Cola is that they also contain water to help with hydration. However, this can also become a disadvantage and cause a bloated feeling if drank to quickly.

I’ve found that in a pinch Coca-Cola does live up to its 1905 slogan Coca-Cola revives and sustains as well as an energy gel.

Ken Whittaker

10 Tips for Cycling a Century (100 miles) in One Day

Tip #10 – Pre-Ride Bike Checklist

Clean Not only does a clean bike look good and operate smoothly, but cleaning your bike also helps you spot potential problems in advance and eliminate problems before your BIG ride.  

Brakes.  Often, I ride on unfamiliar roads, surrounded by riders that can be unpredictable.  The only thing I need to know for certain is that my brakes are functioning properly and predictably and that I can depend on my them when needed.

DrivetrainThe chain, pedals, derailleur, cassette, chainring, etc… that make up the drivetrain should be checked for wear, lubricated, adjusted and working properly.

Shifters.  Check shifters and cables. I once had a shifter cable frayed inside the shifter on a big ride.  Don’t make the same mistake I did.  Don’t assume that if everything is working before the ride it will be OK during the ride.

Wheels.  Inspect wheels, tires and spokes.  Ensure wheels are true, that there are no loose spokes, and that tires are fully inflated and in good condition with no embed debris that can cause a puncture during the ride.

Charged.  Fully charge all electronics devices including lights, cycle computer and mobile phone.

Tip #9 – Start the day well rested, fueled and hydrated.

You will need to spend several hours in the saddle on a century (100 mile) ride. In my case, it takes me about 7 hours to complete a century. So it stands to reason that my body needs more fuel than most days.

I eat a good dinner and get plenty of rest the night before. In the morning, I start drinking water when I wakeup. My goal is to drink at least a full water bottle or more before the start. I also eat a solid breakfast with both faster burning carbohydrates and slower burning proteins and fats before I start riding a century.

Only with a well rested, fueled and hydrated body am I ready for the challenge ahead.

Tip #8 – Stay Comfortable.

The biggest complaint I hear on centuries is from riders with sore butts. The first step in eliminating a sore butt and maintaining your comfort on a century is to get a bike that is properly fitted to you.

While I know cyclists that take their favorite painkillers before, during and or after a century, I never do. Painkillers don’t address the root cause of the problem. I find that there are many steps that you can take to eliminate the cause of a sore butt and I’ve discussed them in detail in my blog Sore Butt.

However, perhaps the best recommendation to eliminate a sore butt on a century  is to change your riding  position often.  By doing so, you are are reducing the pressure on the same points on your butt over the six or seven hours in the saddle.

Tip #7 – Monitor physical exertion to avoid fatigue.

I use a heart rate monitor to keep my heart rate from creeping up and ultimately overexerting myself. If I see my heart rate is getting too high, I take steps to lower it before I fatigue.

I’ve talked about this in detail in a post How I Eliminated Leg Cramps.

Tip #6 – Shift gears often.

Luckily our bicycles are equipped with a lot of gear options to help us keep spinning comfortably. However, sometimes on a long ride, like a century, it is easy to forget about the mechanical advantage that our equipment can provide.

On gradual or short climbs I sometimes forget to shift and start muscling up the ascent with a slow grind. While I can do this on shorter rides, it increases the possibility of muscle fatigue on a century.

So when my cadence slows, I shift into an easier gear, shifting in the front chain ring for big resistance change and shifting on the rear cluster for fine-tuning my cadence.

Tip #5 – Keep your body fueled.

While most century rides offer some type of refreshments at rest stops, there is no guarantee that the rest stop will have what you need when you need it. For this reason, I carry enough Energy Gels to ensure I can stay fueled. I also set an alarm on my bicycle computer to remind me to consume some carbohydrates to fuel my legs. Normally I prefer whole foods like apples, oranges and bananas if they are offered at rest stops. However, I do use processed carbohydrates on centuries ride if I need them.

Tip #4 – Stay hydrated.

I drink a water bottle of water before the start of a big ride, so I know I start hydrated.  I generally drink plain water on shorter rides. However, when I’m riding a century I switch to a sports drink like Gatorade with added electrolytes. 

As a rule of thumb, I try to drink a water bottle every hour. To help ensure I meet this goal I set a reminder on my bicycle computer that sounds at the completion of every mile to remind me to take a sip of my sports drink. This technique keeps me drinking and makes my intake of water just the right portion that my body can process easily.

Tip #3 – Stay Positive.

When I start a century there is never any doubt in my mind that I will finish. I find if I doubt myself, it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy of failure.

Instead, I visualize finishing the ride with the cheerleaders cheering for me at the end. Then I see myself relaxing after the finish, eating my pie and ice cream.

If I am hurting towards the end of the ride, I try to remember what I love about cycling. I focus on the natural environment around me and the feel of accomplishment, knowing I have traveled a great distance under my own power. I find seeing the positive aspects of the ride helps me put any temporary discomforts out of my mind.

Tip #2 – Set a Sustainable Pace.

It is easy to get caught up in the moment, especially with stronger riders passing you by. But remember, most centuries are tours and not races. Ride at a pace you can maintain over the long haul.

The only century I didn’t finish was one where I started out at a faster pace than I normal ride. At the time I remember thinking, “Wow I’m really riding strong today.” However, in the long run, I couldn’t maintain the pace and I burnt out before the end.

Riding a century is a significant accomplishment that few people will achieve. Maintain a sustainable pace and enjoy yourself and the bragging rights you’ll earn after completing the ride.

Tip #1 – Have a riding buddy.

The most important tip I can offer is not to go it alone. My first century, I went out of state and cycled unfamiliar roads without any support . Within the first few miles it became clear to me, that was not a good idea.

Although it can be hard to find someone to cycle a century with you, the benefits of finding a riding buddy make it worthwhile. The most important benefit is that it is safer to have a riding buddy if something unexpected happens. Barring any unforeseen problems, a riding buddy can offer valuable encouragement to help keep you going.

Finally, the shared memories of conquering what initially may have appeared to be an impossible goal of cycling 100 miles in one day, can strengthen your friendship. And, it’s nice to have someone to celebrate with that understands your achievement.

Ten Reasons To Go Tubeless

#10. New Technology. I’m not saying new technology is always better. But tube tires are ancient technology developed in the 1800s. The auto industry successfully re-engineered the tube tire in the 1950’s and found an alternative method to eliminate the tube without sacrificing functionality. So why has it taking the cycling industry so long to adapt the tubeless tire?

#9. No Tubes. Of course the most obvious reason for tubeless tires is that tubes are no longer needed and have been replaced with sealant that is more effective, lighter, environmentally friendly, and reliable.

#8. Less waste. Tubes can’t be patched forever and sooner or later will outlive their useful life and end up in the landfill. Going tubeless means fewer tubes will make it to the landfill.

#7. Can Still Use Existing Tubes. Going tubeless doesn’t mean you have to trash your tubes. While tubeless tires are very reliable, most cyclists still carry a tube as a last resort if sealant and plugs can’t repair a puncture.

#6 No More Pinch Flats. Without tubes, pinch flats are eliminated. Pinch flats happen when a tube is pinched between the tire and rim causing a puncture that looks like a snake bite with two holes side by side on the tube. Without a tube, pinch flats can’t happen.

#5. More Comfort. Without the chance of a pinch flats, tires can be run at much lower tire pressures giving a more comfortable ride.

#4. More Traction. When needed, tire pressure can be reduced to give the sides of the tires more bite to improve traction.

#3. Less Weight. In the world of cycling lighter is always perceived as better. Removing the tube and replacing it with sealant makes wheels lighter and reduces rotational weight.

#2. Better Performance. In general, tube tires have a higher rolling resistance than tubeless. After replacing my tube tires with tubeless tires, I’ve gained a noticeable improvement in performance. In my case it was about a 10% improvement.

#1. Fewer flats. The biggest reason for going tubeless is that they are self repairing. While fixing a flat quickly and effectively is a highly coveted skill, it can’t compete with tires that can repair punctures themselves on the fly before a flat happens. You won’t get less punctures with tubeless tires, but you will get less flats. In most cases, I don’t even know I’ve had a puncture until the end of the ride when I find dried sealant that has been sprayed on the back of my seat post from the sealant repairing a puncture.

Ken Whittaker


Good Riddance to Bicycle Inner Tubes

In the past, when I’ve heard the psst . . . psst. . .psst of a puncture, it meant that I should immediately find a safe and hopefully shady spot to stop and patch my tire. But not anymore. Thankfully, the road bicycle community has finally caught up with the mountain bike world by ditching the ancient inner tube technology developed in the 1800’s and adopting tubeless tires.

Now, when I hear that psst . . . psst. . .psst sound, I simply slow down to see if the sealant will plug the puncture. If it does repair the puncture, I’ll stop to give my tire the pinch test to see if I have enough air in the tire to continue. If not, I’ll pump a little air into the tire.

In most cases, I don’t even know I’ve had a puncture until the end of the ride and I find dried sealant sprayed on the back of my seat post from the puncture. On those rare occasions when the sealant can’t stop the leak, I’ve had to stop and plug the tire. While you won’t get less punctures with tubeless tires, you will get less flats. And to that I say, GOOD RIDDANE TO BICYCLE INNER TUBES!

Ken Whittaker

Bargain (Free) Helmet Cover

A few days ago, I posted that I used to carry a plastic garbage bag as an emergency rain coat.  While I would never recommend a garbage bag as a rain coat, I would, however, recommend a plastic shower cap as a light duty helmet cover.   And the price is right since you can generally score one for free during a stay at a hotel or motel.

Ken Whittaker

Wet Weather Kit

Day 40 Rainy Louisiana

Before I started bike touring, I wouldn’t even consider riding my bike if there was a remote chance of rain.  As a fair weather rider I never fully realized what I needed to keep pedaling comfortably in wet weather.  In retrospect, I cringe to think that I only carried a large garbage bag as an emergency rain coat. 

Inevitably, there will be rain and cold weather. And in many cases you have no other choice but to keep pedaling to reach your destination for the day. So, it pays to be prepared for anything that Mother Nature might throw at you.  Otherwise, you could find yourself in a deadly situation.

While nothing will keep you completely dry in the rain, a good wet weather kit will help to keep you warm, comfortable and protect you from hypothermia.  Hypothermia can occur when you are exposed to cold air, water, wind, or rain.   It is an emergency condition that can quickly lead to unconsciousness and even death. Surprisingly even exposure to water in the 70-80 °F range can lead to hypothermia. Needless to say, cold air, water, wind, or rain can be deadly business, so it pays to be prepared.

My wet weather kit includes:

  • Rain jacket
  • Rain pants
  • Helmet cover
  • Shoe covers
  • Lights and clothing with reflective material to make me more visibility to drivers
  • Dry bag with a complete set of warm dry clothes
  • A dry bag for electronic devices
  • And an emergency blanket

Don’t forget that wet weather can have a serious impact on your bicycle too. My wet weather kit for my bike includes:

  • Saddle cover
  • Fenders
  • Wet lubricant
  • And dry rag

Ken Whittaker