Ignorance is Bliss

A lot has changed since I posted “How I Eliminated Bicycle Flat Tires Forever!” While the methods I outlined in that post still work well today, there have been a lot of improvements in technology since then. Mavic’s introduction of the road Universal System Tubeless (UST) is perhaps the most important.

I remember eagerly buying a set of Shimano Ultegra wheels that used the UST standard when they were first released. Sadly, the wheelset sat unused in my basement for years because I couldn’t find suitable UST road tires to use with them. Luckily, a lot has changed since then. Now there are dozens of high quality, fast rolling tubeless ready tires for road riders.

Today, ignorance is bliss when it comes to punctures. I never even know I got a puncture until I get home and see signs of sealant on the outside of my tire. In addition, tubeless tires have eliminated the low pressure snake bite type flat. This is great news for touring bike riders. Now when I encounter bad roads or rough chip seal surfaces I can drop the tire pressure and ride in comfort. While upgrading to tubeless wheels and tires may be a bit costly, it is a good investment in reliability, comfort and performance.

Ken Whittaker

Trek Bicycle Bait & Switch?

In my previous post (1998 vs 2018 Bicycle Prices) I mentioned that I’ve been thinking about buying a 2018 Trek Domane SL 6 Disc with a MSRP of $3,600. The Domane SL 6 Disc seemed like a great value to me and I decided to buy one. So I went to my local Trek Bike Shop to buy the bike.

After spending a considerable amount of time dialing in the specs for the new bike, I was told that Trek would not have a bike available in my size (52 cm) until November.  Needless to say,  I was a bit disappointed. The cycling season is almost over here by November. Then I learned that Trek would be able to build a 52 cm Project One 2018 Trek Domane SLR 6 Disc for me in only five days. Unfortunately, this bike would cost nearly twice the price of the Domane SL 6 Disc.

Was Trek using a bait and switch sales tactic to lure me in with a low price on an unavailable Domane SL 6 Disc with the goal of upselling me with a similar, pricier Domane SLR 6 Disc ? I don’t know. I would like to think that wasn’t Trek’s intent. What do you think? Have you had a similar experience?

Ken Whittaker

1998 vs 2018 Bicycle Prices

OK, a new compact crank has more range than my old triple crankset (see Triple vs Compact Crankset). And, wider tires will give me a more comfortable ride with less rolling resistance than my 700×28 tires (see Wide vs Narrower Tires).  But, with today’s bicycle prices, will I have to settle for less bike for my money?

I am back to doing the math. My old 1998 Trek 5520 had an MSRP of $2,200. Giving 3% for inflation over the last 20 years, that would be the equivalent to approximately $4,000 today. So, can I buy a carbon fiber bicycle with components equivalent to Shimano Ultegra for around $4,000? In addition, since carbon fiber was a technological advancement in cycling in 1998, I would expect similar advancements in what I would be purchasing today.

Well it looks like I’m in luck. I’ve been looking at the 2018 Trek Domane SL 6 Disc  and it seems to fit the bill with an MSRP of $3,600. It has a carbon fiber frame with road-smoothing front and rear IsoSpeed technology and Shimano Ultegra components with hydraulic disc brakes.

Wait, that looks like a bargain! How can I resist?

Ken Whittaker

Wide vs Narrower Tires

My 1998 Trek 5220  has served me well for twenty years. Nevertheless, after experiencing varied road surfaces while touring across the country, I realized that I want a bike with wider tires than 700×28 to help reduce road vibration. If you’ve ever ridden chip seal  roads in Texas, you know what I mean. On my second day cycling across Texas chip seal roads, the surface was so rough that my water bottle cage and CO2 cartridge holder broke due to metal fatigue from all the shaking.

In addition, according to tire manufacturer Schwalbe,  “wide tires roll better than narrower tires.” So, what’s not to like about wider tires on a road touring bike?

Ken Whittaker

Triple vs Compact Crankset

I’m considering retiring my cherished 1998 Trek 5220  road bike. The biggest obstacle holding me back is that new bikes aren’t equipped with triple cranksets anymore. While I rarely use my granny gear, it’s comforting to know it’s there if I need it.

The bike I’m looking at has a double 50/34 (compact) crankset with a 11-32 rear cassette compared to my triple 52/42/30 crankset with a rear 12-26 cassette.  Before buying a new bike I wanted to know how much range would be lost if I gave up my triple crankset, so I did the math as follows:

High Range Calculation

Distance traveled with each revolution of the pedals in high gear =

Wheel Diameter x Pi x Largest Chainring/Smallest Cassette Gear

For example:
28 inches x 3.14 x 52 teeth / 12 teeth = 381 inches
28 inches x 3.14 x 50 teeth / 11 teeth = 400 inches

Here a larger number is better.
Triple 52/42/30 crankset with 12-26 cassette = 381 inches
Compact 50/34 crankset with 11-32 cassette = 400 inches

Low Range Calculation

Distance traveled with each revolution of the pedals in low gear =

Wheel Diameter x Pi x Smallest Chainring/Largest Cassette Gear

For example:
28 inches x 3.14 x 30 teeth / 26 teeth = 101 inches
28 inches x 3.14 x 34 teeth / 32 teeth = 93 inches

Here a smaller number is better.
Triple 52/42/30 crankset with 12-26 cassette = 101 inches
Compact 50/34 crankset with 11-32 cassette = 93 inches

I was surprised to find that the compact crank setup would give me a greater high range but I was downright shocked to learn that it would give me a better low range as well.

Ken Whittaker

Secret to Patching a Slime Tube

I’ve heard people say that a tube with Slime sealant can’t be patched. However, I can assure you that I have patched them.

You may be asking yourself, why did I need to repair a self-repairing tube? In one case, I punctured the tube during installation. While Slime should seal punctures up to 1/8″ (3mm) the puncture was larger, so I had to patch it.

I found that the secret to patching a tube with Slime is to completely remove all residual sealant from the outside of the tube with soap and water before patching the it.

Ken Whittaker

Mini Cassette Lockring Driver

Mini Cassette Lockring Driver

Usually replacing a broken spoke isn’t a difficult task. That is, unless the offending spoke is a rear drive side spoke. In those cases, the rear cassette must be removed before the spoke can be replaced.

Unfortunately, removing the cassette requires a cassette lockring tool, wrench and chain whip. See Park Tool’s article Cassette Removal and Installation for more details.

Luckily, touring cyclists no longer need to carry shop tools or find themselves stranded with a broken rear drive side spoke thanks to a cool little tool from steintool.com called the Mini Cassette Lockring Driver. With it, a cassette lock ring can be easily removed and reinstalled without any other tools.

However, it took me a little time to understand how this unique tool works. So don’t wait until you need it to use it for the first time. Practice with the tool beforehand. The experience will be invaluable if you need to use it.

Ken Whittaker

The Disc Trucker gets a Mirror

Rhode Gear Quick Release Cycle Mirror

I was lucky to find a Rhode Gear Quick Release Cycle Mirror, “New in Box”, on Ebay for the Disc Trucker. This vintage, made in the USA, mirror was in very high demand when Rhode Gear replaced it with a plastic model. So much so, that it used to sell for far more than its original retail price. Now it is almost impossible to find at any price, so you can’t image how happy I was to find it for about its original retail price.

Although the Disc Trucker’s first thousand miles have been on rail trails, it still gets a mirror. You might wonder why a mirror would be needed for a bicycle used for riding rail trails. The answer is simple, to see what going on behind me. Unfortunately, there are a few riders that don’t practice good trail etiquette  by giving a friendly heads up when overtaking walkers and slower riders.

In addition, when riding with friends on a rail trail, it is easier to keep track of everyone with a mirror.   I find whether on the road or on the trail, a mirror is a good addition to a bike.

Disc Trucker Mirror

Ken Whittaker


Final thoughts on using a bicycle mirror.

Ken Whittaker

Using a bicycle mirror is clearly a personal choice and isn’t for everyone. Nevertheless, if you’re reading this blog to learn more about bicycle touring, it appears that among seasoned touring cyclists a mirror is an essential. If you find that you are a rider that also likes to keep an eye on what is going on behind you, I hope I’ve given you some useful information to consider when choosing the mirror that’s right for you.

Ken Whittaker

Bicycle Mirror Types

Handlebar Mirror
Designed to mount in various positions on the handlebars, such as the bar ends, shifter/brake levers or clamps to the handlebars.

Fasten securely to bicycle.
Larger mirror offers larger field of view.

Field of view is limited to only where the mirror is positioned on the handlebars and where it’s aimed.

Helmet Mirror
Helmet mirrors mount to the bicycle helmet with a clamp or can be glued.

With a small movement of the head a rider can get a field of view from curb to curb behind them.

Helmet must be handled carefully since mirror can easily be dislodged or broken from helmet.

Eyeglass Mirror

Eyeglass mirrors mount to the rider’s glasses at the temple.

With a small movement of the head a rider can get a field of view from curb to curb behind them.

Must wear glasses to use this mirror.
If glasses move field of view changes.
Makes glasses heavier.

Eyeglass Lens Mirror
Eyeglass lens mirrors mount to the inside of the lens of a rider’s glasses.

With a small movement of the head a rider can get a field of view from curb to curb behind them.

Must wear glasses to use this type of mirror.
If glasses move field of view changes.
If using corrective lens glasses, view in the mirror is without lense correction.

Ken Whittaker