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Why Ortlieb panniers are ubiquitous

Why Ortlieb panniers are ubiquitous

Ortlieb panniers are ubiquitous in Seattle. I tried to resist when I was shopping for a set of panniers last year, but soon gave in. Sometimes when everyone has something, it’s for a good reason*.  It turns out, they’re popular for a few reasons – they’re tough, waterproof, and can hold a ridiculous amount of stuff.

Here’s what I was hauling last weekend:
1. Wallet
2. Camera
3. Water bottle
4. My son’s cleats
5. His baseball glove
6. His baseball hat
7. My sweater, which I needed in the morning, but not by the afternoon
8. My new sweater, from Hub & Bespoke
9. Zucchini
10. Mushrooms
11. Hotdogs
12. Hotdog buns
13. Jacket (also too warm by mid-afternoon)
14. Gloves (ditto)

I should also mention that this was all in a single Ortlieb, not spread between the pair. When we left, we were wearing all of the layers so I didn’t think that I needed to bring both. It’s remarkable how much they’ll carry. Maybe we can even try an overnight bike trip sometime this year.

*Subaru Outbacks are also ubiquitous in Seattle. I have friends in the neighborhood who have a 2 year daughter. “Subaru” may not have been her first word, but it was an early one.

Exploration & Errands all in one! (LGRAB Summer Games post 6)

Exploration & Errands all in one! (LGRAB Summer Games post 6)

Today I’m blogging about exploring a new part of town, as part of the New Territory section of the LGRAB Summer Games.

So last night I ventured over to Deborah’s for a bike ride with her and Audrey.

Audrey on the used bike she got for her birthday.
First we did the short route through Deb’s subdivision that we’re planning to use for a picnic expedition with the kids, around Tomlinson Park and into the park beside the stormwater pond off Thibault Way, and back home to drop off Audrey with her dad. Then we went to see the new school (Monsignor William Irwin Elementary) that Audrey will attend when it opens this fall. It has lots of sweet bike rack space, and reserved parking stalls for carpools and electric vehicles!
Then we headed out of Terwillegar Towne via Towne Centre Boulevard to 23rd Avenue, where we took the multiuse path to the corner of Rabbit Hill Road where the strip malls and grocery stores are clustered. There are actually some pretty interesting shops and restaurants in those strips, so we’ll probably make them a destination again sometime.
 
Me and Daisy posing as the sun set by the recently-opened Leger transit hub on 23rd Avenue, 
with the new recreation centre that’s under construction in the background. 

The girls, with their faux-flower decorated crates, parked outside the grocery store. 
There was no bike parking outside the cafe where we stopped for strawberry lemonade smoothies (tsk tsk).
By the time we had grabbed our groceries, it was twilight, and we don’t have headlamps (yet!), so we walked our bikes across the intersection at the lights and rode back to Deb’s taking the same route through the big neighborhood park that she already described.

We saw a family of bunnies!
Here is our actual route: a loop of about 6.2 km (3.8 miles) according to GoogleMaps.
Carrying A Load (LGRAB Summer Games post 4)

Carrying A Load (LGRAB Summer Games post 4)

Today I’m blogging about carrying a load as part of the Learning Experiences section of the LGRAB Summer Games.




Originally I was going to use the freeloading trailer for this post, but then something snapped inside Angel’s kid trailer attachment – and freeloading trailer got used for parts. So instead, I decided to try a grocery run using a box. There is a long and noble tradition of using fruit boxes and milk crates for carrying loads on bicycles. I love both the utilitarian look of a milk crate, and the romance of using a vintage wood box; but I wondered, which would be more functional? So Angel and I decided that we’d do a head-to-head comparison.


I started by looking at a couple of old plastic milk crates I had in my basement. (These were inherited from postdocs moving to other cities, and are not from local dairies, so no ratting me out to The Milk Crate Recovery Team!) There are a couple of posts out there that describe methods for attaching a single milk crate to your back rack using a bungee cord or some simple hardware-store finds. If you want to attach two crates,  without making mounting a top-bar bike like Bert completely impossible, you can try the simple method at Dinosauropedia to make milk-crate panniers, which looks much more stable than just tying them together with rope(If you’re looking to use other types of plastic bins or buckets for panniers, there’s inspiration to be found at EcoMetro.)

I ended up deciding to give Angel a red milk-crate-clone with a Chinatown shop’s price sticker, which would be perfect for on the rack on Daisy. Since most people attach them with zip ties, that’s how Angel attached hers for our testing. She has already described her first experience hauling groceries using the milk crate. Her load was: 4L jug of milk, 2lbs grapes, ~2lbs cherries, 1lb blueberries & 6 pack clamshell of pastries; her wish list for next time is some canvas bags and bungee cords.  

Eventually I want to attach this sturdy fruit box ($12 at a local antique mall, and I won’t even have to reinforce it!) to the back of Mary Poppins, whose 28 inch wheels will accommodate a larger-scale box:
I haven’t quite decided how I’ll do that. The easiest thing would be to find an appropriate rack to fit the bike, then attach to that, but I’ve been having a LOT of trouble (including buying and returning a couple that were recommended) finding one that will fit onto Mary’s 28-inch rear wheel with no extra hole above the dropout. Perhaps I’ll get someone to make something like this bracket for me, or special-order one from the UK (they’re made by Adie) – or maybe I’ll DIY something using pipe strapping. Once I have a way to attach it, I can take inspiration from one of these similar projects using wooden boxes. Meanwhile, I have lightly sanded the box and given it a coat of this to protect it:
I also chose this gorgeous antique wooden egg crate ($38, but look how pretty):

It’s wonderfully versatile, since I can use basket straps to attach it to the handlebars like this…
…or attach it to a rear rack like this:


Turns out the egg crate is the absolute perfect proportions for on the NOS Steco rear rack that was on Bert. (I say “was” because attaching the CCM Bike Buddy trailer-bike for the kids, which won’t fit onto Mary thanks again to her 28 inch wheels, involved removing said rack from Bert. More about Bike Buddy another time.) The way this bike box on Etsy attaches looks especially elegant, so I decided to do something similar with carriage bolts and thumbscrews.


But first I needed to figure out how to attach the Steco rack to Mary, who has wire fender stays. A comment by Coreen about how they had macgyvered the connections on a similar rack at EBC got me thinking about what I could use in place of the provided hardware. The solution: 3/4-inch copper pipe-hanger clamps, which are sold for a pittance in the plumbing aisle of your local hardware store, are pliable enough to be easily bent from their U-shape to go around the stays of the bike, and are soft enough that regular drill bits could be used to enlarge the nail-holes to accept the screws from the other hardware. I cut a leftover piece of rubber gasket to fit inside so the paint on the stays wouldn’t get scratched and to improve the fit. It looks great, and feels really secure!


22 Oct 2010 Update: After a couple of bumpy rides I managed to lose one of the nuts you see below – so if you’re doing this, add some Threadlock (from the adhesives aisle at the hardware store) to keep your rack in place. Also: be aware that this solution is fine for carrying cargo, but the weakest point is still going to be the attachment point and therefore your rack won’t be able to carry as heavy a load as it may be rated for. So, you know, no attaching a child seat to this, m’kay?


Now for my DIY wooden attachment clamp. Here’s what I started with:

I cut two equal lengths of the hemlock door stop, sized to fit diagonally (to help distribute the load across the slatted bottoms) in either of my boxes, and sanded the cut ends, then marked where the holes needed to go, and drilled and sanded again. I won’t give measurements since it’ll vary with the box and the rack you’re using. The 2-inch brass carriage bolts are fine for the fruit box, but just a smidgen too short for the quarter-sawn oak of the egg crate, so I needed to go back and get 2.5-inch ones as well.


Also, the bottom of the egg crate was not attached to the sides, so I predrilled some holes (oak is called hardwood for a reason!) then used 3/4-inch brass wood screws to hold everything securely together.


Here’s the finished product installed (some pics with the fruit box and some with the egg crate):

(Clearly the fruit box is too long for this rack, 
unless I install it the other way and double my bike’s width.)

You’ll notice that Mary Poppins has also been fitted with a double kickstand! This one is meant for 26-inch bikes, so it’s OK on perfectly level pavement and too wobbly on rough ground – but it will do until I can find one that’s the right size. The kickstand Mary came with was also too short, so this is still an improvement to parking stability. It’ll move to Bert once I get the right one for Mary.

Something that the process of installing this baby reminded me: I love having a vintage spanner (aka wrench) from the manufacturer of my bike. It makes these sort of jobs so much easier, because it’s designed to fit into tight spaces and fit the odd-sized bolts, and it’s great as part of my bring-along toolkit for when the bolts holding my fenders on get a little too loose (as happened on the Critical Lass ride). If you have an old bike and you know who made it, I highly recommend checking the old owner manuals that are online to match up to then eBay to see if you can get the right one for your bike. The Raleigh/Phillips ones regularly go for less than $5 before shipping – well worth it.

My 1960s Raleigh spanner. I use the hex-wrench shape on the end all the time.

The first thing I realized when I started riding was that I hadn’t left room for my butt! Luckily this attachment system is versatile, too: I just pulled over, loosened the thumbscrews, and slid the box about and inch and a half further from the seat . No problem.

I wore cotton capris and my favorite flat sandals. This reminds me, I need a pedicure.

The ride to two of the closest grocery stores to my place takes me on a multi-use path through this lovely park:

15 minutes door-to-door, including waiting at the lights on 23rd Avenue to cross busy Rabbit Hill Road as a pedestrian. Not bad! It’s nearly triple that when I walk it with my kids in a wagon.

Here is what I bought, about two bags’ worth of groceries, including all the items that were on Angel’s list. This is totally what I would have bought today if I had brought my car.

I took about 5 minutes to repack the groceries into my baskets. In the future I expect it’ll take less time since I will have my packing system figured out. The veggie tray, marshmallows, lemon juice, shampoo, and my purse went into the front basket, and everything else (including my lock) fit into the egg crate. Hey Angel, I think the egg crate wins.

I did find that it was pretty top-heavy, and once I had unlocked from the rack I needed to keep a hand on the bike to keep it from falling over (stupid too-short kickstand). Once I was riding it didn’t affect my balance much. By the time I got home, a fender-rub noise had developed, and investigating it showed me that all three of the nuts holding the rack in place had loosened and the whole rack had shifted a little bit to one side. Clearly someone with more hand strength than I have needs to retighten them, and DH has suggested that we try using lock-nuts instead of hex-nuts.

All in all: easy-peasy! I can totally see this being my new evening-or-weekend-morning grocery-run routine – which was part of why I wanted to get a bike in the first place.

Update, 22 Oct 2010: there is also a great wooden-bike-box how-to (with attaching a leather handle!) over at Eighteenth Century Agrarian Business.

Father’s Day Hauling! (LGRAB Summer Games post 3)

Father’s Day Hauling! (LGRAB Summer Games post 3)

Today I’m blogging about carrying a load as part of the Learning Experiences section of the LGRAB Summer Games.


Yesterday was Father’s Day, and since I only had Lili home (Damien regularly spends his Saturdays with his grandparents, I’m not complaining at all!) I figured I’d leave her at home and go get a few groceries on my own with Daisy.

First though, Daisy needed more carrying capacity. Deborah donated a LOVELY red “milk” crate. Which we think might actually be just a plastic crate as there’s a barely readable tag (dollar store or random flea market variety price tag). Either way, it’s gorgeous!

Here’s hubs doing the (reusable) zip-tie attachement:

Because my butt is big (total disclosure!) I didn’t want the crate RIGHT against my seat so we used the existing rack to kind of pull the crate in a few different directions, and then added side ones to stop side-to-side shakes.

Then I pedaled my way to the closest grocery store. En route I had to wait for an ambulance to turn towards the hospital, turns out an elderly lady had fallen across the street from said hospital, causing a mini traffic jam. I know it’s bad, but because I had the option and didn’t want to wait in all the backed up traffic and because I was able to, I jumped off Daisy and just walked her on the sidewalk. I stay well out of the way of the ambulance workers and other helpers, but I ended up well ahead of all the cars trying to maneuver around a 4-way stop filled with an ambulance. Biking 1 – Cars NADA!

Anyway, arrived at the grocery store, and locked Daisy up!

Considering my location I was pretty surprised to find NOBODY else had bothered to bike ANYWHERE in the area…I was actually kind of saddened. Anyway, Daisy’s crate held all our groceries (including a 4L jug of milk) no problem, I just need to get some bungee cords to hold things down better.

I didn’t manage to get a picture when I got home because Daisy’s kickstand, well it sucks for holding loads, which means I’m in the market for a double kickstand, I figure it’ll be beneficial both with the kids behind me and a full pair of baskets.

Side: Saturday I rode with my sister-in-law and Damien down to our Bikeology Festival Day & other downtown proceedings. It was a BLAST! They closed a bunch of blocks of downtown streets and had various activities, including bike demos, parkour-style bike tricks, bike fixing, and then further down, MEC had a few things, the YMCA had kid-friendly stuff (Damien got “face” painting, played in a pool and did a Zoomba demo with us) plus probably a MILLION other things I missed.

It was really fun and AWESOME to see the amount of people out on bikes taking advantage of the fact that motor vehicles weren’t allowed but bikes were! YAAAY Edmonton!!

Repurposed: trashed kid-carrier to cargo trailer

Repurposed: trashed kid-carrier to cargo trailer






Last fall, our down-the-street neighbors moved and put their house on the market – and left their old child bicycle carrier in the alley behind our houses. The nylon was rotted, so it was no good for its original purpose. All winter I have been eyeing it and trying to figure out how it could be used. A replacement for the fabric parts? Nobody seems to sell that. (Someone really ought to.) The other night I was admiring the photos on the Madsen website, and it came to me: how about attaching a big box and using it for cargo?

Of course my first instinct was to browse through a hundred links. (Ask Angel if you don’t believe me, she was the recipient of many links.) However, there’s a fantastic roundup of the DIY cargo trailer links available at Planet Green. The best link that article missed is one made from an old backpack’s external frame – but my favorite design is the bamboo trailer. How can you not love a designer who says this:

The value is not in the trailer itself, but in the knowledge of how to make a trailer. In a sense you will always have a bicycle trailer in your head if you ever need one. This knowledge makes you a richer person, and the world a richer place. 

Yes!

Anyway, let me show you some photos of the process. Our starting point: the trashed kid-carrier.

Not only were there leaves and mud in the bottom, there were sowbugs busily turning the leaves into soil.

The sun-bleaching is especially obvious on the rain cover.
You can also kind of see the surface rust on the wheel rims – 
nothing a little lemon juice and aluminum foil couldn’t cure.
The attachment mechanism is a little rusty but still sound.

For now, I’ve decided to use the nylon-and-strap bottom and sides of the cover, since they turned out to be in reasonably good shape. Once it’s no longer useable – or I get tired of the lack of prettiness, which is far more likely, let’s face it – I’ll replace the bottom with a bolted-on tray, and attach the carrier box to that. The roller bars can also be removed if desired, but I left them for now, since I may find that they may make handy lash-on points for larger items or to clip on extra bags using carabiners.

I did toss the brittle, rotted-out rain cover and remove the child seat (this involved using a strong pair of scissors to cut the straps at the bottom, and temporarily removing the overhead bar so I could slip it out of the nylon sleeve):

For now, I went with quick, low-cost and functional: this $11 lidded plastic bin from Canadian Tire. Slip it into place in the nylon cover (or bolt it to whatever I have to replace the nylon with eventually), and I’m done. Cheap and cheerful and waterproof! (Absolutely no danger of it being stolen while I’m inside the grocery store!) This will allow me to use it right away and see how it works for me.

Sometime in the not-too-distant future (after I’ve tried it out like this), I’ll upgrade the cargo trailer and make it much prettier, first by removing all the nylon and putting in a plywood or bamboo tray for the bottom. Then I could either build a wooden box to size (in the case of this trailer, 20 inches by 31.5 inches), or use an existing wicker box. I like the idea of hacking Ikea’s Byholma lidded wicker chest and turning it into a cargo trailer… so much lovelier.