Wednesday, June 29, 2011

More info on the August tour

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am planning to do a bicycle tour starting and ending in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, August 7-13. Anybody who cares to join me on this trip is welcome. Before I get into more detail, I'd like to establish some ground rules so folks don't get the wrong idea. This is NOT a supported trip. There will be no sag vehicle to give you a ride or carry your stuff if things don't go as planned, and I am not providing food, lodging, or any accommodations of any kind. Every participant is responsible for himself or herself. If you choose to participate, please have a backup plan, or at least a willingness to improvise a plan as needed. Please understand that any preliminary plans and routes are subject to change based on weather, mood, time constraints, input from participants and locals, further map study, unforeseen events, etc. It is with great reluctance that I publish ANY sort of itinerary in advance, because I fully expect it to change. If you would like to participate in this tour, and you have rigid time constraints that rely on an exact and unchanging itinerary for this trip, you are most likely setting yourself up for some disappointment, or at least stress.

Anyway, I have been asked for a schedule, so here's a rough draft:

August 7: the participants will gather in LaCrosse around mid-day and ride to Sparta, WI along a state trail. This is about 25 miles. According to one map I have, there is a campground a few miles south of Sparta.

August 8: Sparta to LaValle, 48 miles. There is a campground just a few miles north of LaValle.

August 9: LaValle to Muscoda, 61 miles. Lodging/camping options in/near Muscoda are not obvious from maps. We may cut this day a little shorter and camp near Spring Green, WI, making up the extra 20 miles or so the following day.

August 10: Muscoda (or Spring Green) to Wyalusing State Park, 43 miles (around 60 miles if we stay in Spring Green rather than Muscoda).

August 11: Rest day at Wyalusing State Park. There are numerous options for fun rides from the state park, in addition to other diversions, like hiking, fishing, etc. The city of Prairie du Chien is not far away. Those who need to get back a day early may choose to skip the rest day and ride back toward LaCrosse.

August 12: Wyalusing to ??? I am considering several route options, but the goal is to spend the night within 25-30 miles of LaCrosse for an easy, unhurried last day of riding. Expect 60-65 miles.

August 13: ??? to LaCrosse. The plan is to have a short day of riding (25-30 miles) so we are not pressed for time on our last day.

Friday, June 24, 2011

How to carry groceries (and most other stuff)

(This post is aimed at casual and aspiring utilitarian cyclists, who probably don't read this blog.)

This time of year, we have a lot of fair-weather cyclists who come in to ask about "baskets" for carrying groceries and other items aboard their bicycles. Most commonly they are referring to one of the many versions of the old-fashioned chrome steel baskets (usually made by Wald) like this.
(this image was found on the web)

This was state-of-the-art utilitarian cycling equipment in 1971. Back then, even touring bikes didn't always have rack eyelets, and various racks and basket attachments were affixed onto the seatstays with chrome steel clamps digging into the paint. The chrome flaked off the steel quickly, and pretty soon, the shiny basket was rusty and creaky and increasingly rattly. Plus these things were really heavy, couldn't be removed from the bike easily, would lose small items (like keys) through the gaps between the wires, and if you brushed up against it, you may need a tetanus shot. With all these positive attributes, these crude baskets serve as the archetype of bicycle hauling equipment for many cyclists even now in 2011.

Here at HC, we like to cut against the grain of both bicycle culture and bicycle technology, and we have a different approach to grocery-gettin'. This here is my bike set up with an economical Topeak Explorer rack and a Banjo Brothers grocery pannier.

The rack is more or less universally compatible with many different panniers, trunk bags, and anything else you can strap to it. I think it's the best rack value on the market. The Banjo Brothers grocery pannier is also a tremendous value. It's well-made, smartly designed, and the company is two nice guys who live here in Minneapolis. Grocery panniers are designed to fit a standard paper or cloth grocery bag, but since the pannier comes off in 2 seconds and has a shoulder strap, I just carry mine into the store with me. You can use just one for small to moderate loads (balance is not an issue) or two panniers for bigger hauls. These aren't just for groceries either. Books, mail, cameras, phones, purses, food, keys, wallets, and lot of other common items fit just fine, and since the bottom is not a wire basket, small items don't fall out.

In my opinion, this is a quality utilitarian cycling kit that can turn a casual cyclist into someone who really appreciates the usefulness of bicycles and bicycling. For a limited time, I'm going to encourage people to get this set-up by offering a discounted price. Get the rack and one pannier for $64.99 or the rack and two panniers for $94.99. Taxes and installation are extra, but it's still a good deal.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Swanky pre-owned bikes

We have a number of used bikes that have made their way to our sales floor. Among them is this fine vintage Salsa Fargo, size L. Includes a dynamo front hub (Alfine) and light (B&M IQ Fly). $1200 or reasonable offer.

We also have a 56 cm Cross-check (beef gravy brown) with a nonstandard build, a Dunelt ladies 3sp, a super clean Schwinn Prelude road bike (about 53 cm) and a mid 80s 58 cm Raleigh Competition racing bike that is lovely and fast and has nice parts.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

my new favorite bike

Most bicycle enthusiasts I know are continually on the hunt for the perfect bicycle. Since every bicyclist is different than the next bicyclist, and every mile is different than the last mile, the quest for universal perfection is, by definition, in vain. I am lucky to ride many different bicycles, and on a surprisingly infrequent basis, I find one that hits most of the right notes, most of the time. Such is the case with the Surly Cross-Check. When I saw the 2011 model had this swanky Robin-egg blue color, and mid-fork rack braze-ons, I quickly scrounged up the dough to get one off the first shipment. I put parts from my old fixed-gear on it, along with a few new bits, and here is the result.
At the moment I'm using Schwalbe Marathon Racer tires in 700x38, which are my ideal compromise between light weight, low rolling resistance, high volume, and toughness. I ride these on potholed streets, gravel, dirt, grass, and moderate single-track, which comprises about 99.9% of my riding. The Cross-Check's hallmark is tire-clearance. With 700x38, there is ample room for fenders, but I could easily go much bigger into "monster cross" or 29er territory if fenders weren't a priority. The BB is high enough for pedal-clearance in fixed-gear cornering without being so high that handling is weird. The frame geometry makes for a comfortable and stable ride. The funny thing is that there is nothing about the frame that is technologically advanced or unorthodox or gee-whiz - it's just a simple common-sense design that is too ordinary and too hard to hype/market in a world where often meaningless "innovation" is what sells.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Brewfarm Tour!!!

The date has been set for the annual tour to Dave's Brewfarm and the ensuing potluck, camping, beer-drinking, and fun. Last year's inaugural Brewfarm tour was generally agreed to be a smashing success, and we're unlikely to have a worse time this year. We will be riding approximately 70 miles from HC to the Brewfarm in Wilson, WI, on Saturday, July 30. When we get there, we will eat, drink, camp, socialize, and perhaps engage in shenanigans (in moderation). Then the next day, Sunday, July 31, we will load up the bikes and ride back to Minneapolis, probably by a different route, just to spice things up. Non-cyclists (family, friends of bicycle participants) are also invited to attend. There is space for camping for everyone at the Brewfarm, but we're limiting the number of cyclists to 40. Food will be $10 and beer will be extra (cash only). For more details or to sign up, email lannyhoff at gmail.