Shame on Thule for Neglecting Safety

Thule Bicycle Carrier Tail Light Mod

If you’ve read my posts Dress Boldly Conspicuous, Tiny Changes Can Produce Big Results or Be Eye-catching Flashy you know that I’m an advocate of being highly visible when I’m riding my bike. So it will not come as a surprise that I am just as passionate about safety when my bike is riding on the back of my vehicle in the bike carrier.

I’ve used Thule racks for years. They proved to be a reliable product for me, especially when it comes to transporting my heavier e-bikes. Unfortunately, while Thule has focused their attention on carrying bikes they’ve neglected safety. With my bikes in the carrier my tail lights are blocked by the bikes. As you can see from the picture, although the tail lights on my vehicle are lit they are barely visible. However, Thule has woefully neglected this safety issue in North America.

To correct this safety shortfall I felt it was necessary to add supplemental lights to my Thule carrier. Now in low light situations or inclement weather I feel more confident that tail lights can be seen. If you would like to see a post on the details of this do it yourself project please leave a comment below.

Ken Whittaker


Fidlock Water Bottle Fails in Implementation

Mounting a water bottle on an e-bike can be challenging. Many e-bikes mount their battery on or inside of the down tube making it impossible to mount a water bottle there, as is the case with my wife’s Trek e-bike. Instead, Trek placed the water bottle mount under the top tube making it awkward to remove and replace a water bottle in a standard cage. Fortunately my Cannondale e-bike has a water bottle mount on the down tube on top of the battery and another on the seat tube. However, if a water bottle cage is mounted on the seat tube, there isn’t sufficient room to remove the battery. I guess Trek and Cannondale don’t use their bikes or they would have recognized these shortcomings.

Struggling to find a solutions for our water bottle dilemma, I found the Fidlock water bottle system. While it seemed insanely expensive, it looked liked the perfect solution to your problem. So I paid the premium price for the system and one purchase one for each of our e-bikes. about $80. Boy did I make a mistake!

The Fidlock water bottle system is an example of creative innovation that failed upon implementation.

Fidlock Water Bottle System

The Fidlock water bottle will only release from one side, so when it’s mounted on the down tube it is righthanded and releases with a twist to the right. When it’s mounted under the top tube or on the seat post it’s lefthanded and releases with a twist to the left, as pictured on their website. Since I am righthanded, it is unnatural for me to reach down with my left hand and twist a bottle to the left to remove it from my seat tube. Compounding the problem for me is drinking from a bottle in my left hand and returning it to the holder with my left hand. Cycling is dangerous enough, without trying to become ambidextrous while grappling with a water bottle on my bicycle.

Bottom line: I cannot recommend the Fidlock Water Bottle.

Ken Whittaker


An Argument for the Garmin Edge Remote

When the weather gets cooler the touch screen on my Garmin Edge becomes more of a hinderance than a feature. I can never find the right gloves that will keep my hand warm while cycling and will also work well with my Garmin Edge touch screen. As a consequence, each time I want to change the screen on my Garmin Edge I have to stop and take off my glove.

It wasn’t until I started using Shimano Di2 shifters on my road bike that I realized how convenient it was to flip though the screens remotely with just the touch of a button. Nevertheless, I’m very happy with my nine speed bar end shifters on my touring bike and I not willing to pay to upgrade to Shimano Di2 system just for the convenience of operating my Garmin Edge remotely. There had to be a better solution to my problem.

Then I learned about the Garmin Edge Remote Control. This little 3-button Edge remote (pictured above) mounts on my handlebars and uses ANT+ wireless connectivity to scroll through the pages of my Garmin Edge bicycle computer. I can also mark laps and program the third button to a function of my choosing from a list of preset functions. Although space on my handlebars is scarce, this little device has earned a spot and is well worth the space.

Ken Whittaker


A Secret Use For Koozies

Nothing says swag, the promotional items that are given away to advertise a company or product, like a can or bottle koozie. Koozies are those collapsible neoprene or foam rubber insulating sleeves designed to keep a canned or bottled drink cold.

Generally, most of the swag I get at bicycle events is useless junk and gets tossed in the trash immediately, except for koozies. While I’ve never used a koozie to keep a drink cold, they’re ideal for transporting a bicycle packed in tight spaces. Since the cleats on my touring pedals can easily scratch the interior of my car or other items packed in with my bike, I’ve found that slipping a koozie over the pedals is an ideal way to prevent scratches from my pedals. They work great!

While I hope you will share this tip about koozies with your cycling friends, please don’t let anyone in the bicycle industry know. Otherwise, instead of getting koozies free at cycling events, they’ll be selling for $50 a pair at your local bike shop.

Ken Whittaker

Garmin Edge Speed and Cadence Sensor Alternatives

Speed & Cadence Sensors

When I purchased my Garmin Edge 1030 I didn’t think much about the sensors. However I have several bikes, and it isn’t practical for me to move the sensors from bike to bike. At $69.99 for a pair of speed and cadence sensors it can get a bit costly for me to equip my other bikes with sensors.

Luckily, there are cost effective alternatives to Garmin’s speed and cadence sensors. In fact, after one of my Garmin sensors failed, I purchased a pair of Magene S3 Speed Cadence/Sensors for about the same price I would have paid for just one Garmin sensor. Although I only needed one, I bought a pair because the Magene sensors can be used as a speed or cadence sensor. Now if another speed or cadence sensor fails, I have a replacement readily available.

Worried about the quality of the much less expensive sensors compared to OEM Garmin sensors? If customer reviews are any indication, as of the date this was published, the Magene S3+ Cycling Speed/Cadence Sensor got 4.3 out of 5 stars from customers on Amazon and the Garmin bundle got 4.6 out of 5. I would say they are of comparable quality.

Ken Whittaker


7 Reasons Why You Don’t Want a Carbon Fiber E-bike

It is a bit of a paradigm shift when it comes to thinking about e-bike frames. It’s true that high quality carbon fiber bicycle frames are known for being light weight with lateral stiffness and vertically compliance. But, you have to ask yourself if that is important when it comes to an electric bicycle. In my case I wanted all those feature on my non-electric bike, but when it came to purchasing an electric I didn’t need or want to pay for these features.

Here’s why:

  1. Light Weight: The difference in bicycle frame weight is highly overrated. Since the difference in weight only accounts for about one or two watts of additional power, the reason bike riders lust for the lightest carbon fiber bicycle possible is to lighten the load when climbing hills. Similarly, the number one reason most people give for buying an electric bike is to make hills easier. Although you may need the lightest possible bicycle you can afford or an electric bike to make it up hills easier, you don’t need both. The lightest e-bike with a carbon fiber frame isn’t necessary when it comes to hills because the weight savings just isn’t significant when a rider is being assisted by an electric motor.
  2. Lateral Stiffness: In theory a stiffer frame is more efficient as less energy is lost to the frame flexing. This is most important when pounding the pedals because it can create energy robbing flex. However, since the rider is being assisted by an electric motor there isn’t a need to pound the pedals. As a result, there isn’t a significant energy loss by the rider due to frame flex.
  3. Vertical Compliance: When I think of compliance, I think of comfort. But handling is also a part of compliance. I find that tire size and pressure make a more significant contribution to compliance than frame materials. A wider tire with more air volume and lower tire pressure gives me a sure footed and comfortable ride. Therefore, a frame with tire clearance that will accommodate wider tires is much more important than having a carbon fiber frame.
  4. Durable: All other bicycle frame materials such as steel, aluminum, and titanium are more durable than carbon fiber. A significant scratch in a carbon fiber frame can ruin the frame, whereas a scratch in the other frame materials just adds character and to the story of the frame.
  5. Precision Engineering: Steel, aluminum and titanium are easier to precision engineer than laying up carbon fiber.
  6. Recyclable: Carbon fiber is not recyclable while the other bicycle frame materials can and should be recycled.
  7. Reduced cost: Carbon fiber frames are expensive to make and, as illustrated above, offer no significant advantage over other frame materials when it comes to e-bikes. The savings could be used for better components or just more money in your pocket.

The bottom line? Ask yourself if there are any real advantages to a carbon fiber e-bike. After careful consideration, I think you will agree that a carbon fiber e-bike is not worth the additional expense over other frame materials.

Ken Whittaker


What was Garmin Thinking?

Garmin Edge 1030 fifteen characters course name limitation

What could Garmin possibly have been thinking when they limited course names to only fifteen characters (as illustrated in the accompanying photo). Fifteen character course name isn’t just an inconvenience, it forces users to create super cryptic names for their courses because there just aren’t enough characters to adequately name them. It’s reminiscent of the days of DOS when file names could be no more than eight characters.

While Garmin’s operating system will automatically truncate a course name to the first fifteen characters, if another route has the same first fifteen characters then only the first route will load.  To make matters worse there is no error message to explain why the other routes didn’t load, leaving the user wondering what went wrong.

Why hasn’t Garmin addressed this weakness in their system?  Why should they care?  Competition.  There isn’t much that my Garmin Edge can do that my iPhone can’t.  But there is one thing my phone can do that Garmin can’t, and that’s display route names with more than fifteen characters.  You need to catch up Garmin!  You’re falling behind your competitors.

Ken Whittaker


Double Duty Light Mount Extension

Light Mount Extension

There never seems to be enough space available on my handlebars to mount all the things I like in my cockpit. There’s my bike computer, day running light, Di2 Climber Shifters, GoPro Camera, and bell. That’s right, believe it or not, I have a bell on the same bike with Di2 shifters. More on why you want a bell in another post. The problem is even further compounded on my e-bike with its controls on the handlebars as well.

There just isn’t enough room for everything. So, I get pretty excited when I find an accessory like a computer mount that can double as a mount for my GoPro. But even better is a replacement screw for my GoPro mount that doubles as a light mount. These simple modifications get most of my handlebar accessories off my handlebars, yet they are still in plain view and readily accessible.

Ken Whittaker


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