Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Handlebar Stem Riser on the Nishiki Road Bike

This afternoon I installed a handlebar stem riser on my Nishiki Maricopa road bike. As I was reminded on my Saturday ride, having a gut make for a less comfortable ride on a road bike. By raising the handlebars I am able to have a more upright riding position.

As the bike came from the factory:

Removing the handlebars, using the Granite Rocknroll mini ratcheting tool kit:

And finally, with the Outerdoo stem riser installed:

I took it for a short test ride up and down the block. The derailleur and brake cables had enough slack in them so their function is unaffected. My riding position is now more upright and much more comfortable. We're currently in a heatwave so a full shakedown run will have to wait until Friday or Saturday.

If I ever do manage to lose my gut I can restore the bike to its original configuration.

A Couple More Rides

On Saturday I took a ride on my road bike for the first time in 4 or 5 years. It's a Nishiki Maricopa that I bought at Dick's Sporting Goods because I was missing my 1986 Nishiki Olympic 12, that I foolishly got rid of around a decade ago.

I put about 13 miles on it and it's amazing how much faster it rolls than my Trek 820 or especially the Lectric XP when it's set to PAS01 or 02.

One thing that had been holding me back from riding the Nishiki was the forward riding position. I have a gut that I'm trying to shrink and when I'm leaned over, it's uncomfortable. So, yesterday I ordered a stem extension to raise the handlebars about 2.7". This will give me a more upright riding position that should be more comfortable.

On Sunday I took out the Lectric XP on the longest ride I've done in over 30 years, about 22 miles. As usual, I took the Cross County Trail to the Schukyll River Trail and headed west towards Valley Forge. I wasn't wearing bike shorts so by the time I got to about 9 miles out my nether regions were complaining.

I did this ride mostly in PAS2 but kicked it up to PAS3 once I got to within 5 miles of home. By that point I wanted to get off the bike. When the ride was done the battery was down to about 60% left, so not bad at all.

You may have noticed that I replaced the OEM panniers with a Lixada bike trunk that I bought on Prime Day. The panniers were floppy, added even more wind resistance to an already fat bike, and I don't currently need the capacity. The trunk is a lot more streamlined and it's easier to access without bending over.

I also went back to the factory saddle. I tried a wider, softer Cloud 9 saddle on a couple rides but couldn't get it set comfortably.

It was over 90 degrees F (32.2 C) on both rides so I made sure that I hydrated well before, during, and after the rides. The Zefal 33 oz. bottle filled with half strength Liquid I.V. worked great for this. I also had a 16 oz. water bottle with me in the trunk on Sunday's ride. On Saturday I wore a light pack with a water bottle and a snack, since the Nishiki doesn't have a rack.

ASSuming that the stem extender works well and I start riding the Nishiki more, I'll want to install a rack and trunk. It has rack mounting eyelets at the rear wheel drops but nothing up top, so I'll either need a rack that clamps around the seat post or comes with an adapter.

I've only been taking these rides for about a month but I've already noticed an improvement in my leg strength and cardio.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Electrolytes and Hydration

My renewed interest in cycling has me looking at electrolytes and hydration. A post in a private forum in which the author suffered the effects of dehydration offered some additional encouragement in this area. 

Also, I experienced the beginning stages of heatstroke once when I was a teen. I actually went blind for a few minutes until I got inside, cooled down, and rehydrated. (Incidentally, everything went white, not black. One of the two times I really came close to dying.)

I did some searching and ran across this article, Ask the Coach: Which Electrolytes Does a Cyclist Need? Another good article is from Blue Collar Prepping: Electrolytes Revisited.

The key takeaway from both articles is that if you'll be exerting yourself and sweating a lot in warm weather you need to replenish not only with water but also with salts your body needs.

On my hot weather rides, I've mostly been using Gatorade made from powder mix at 50% strength. I'll generally mix it in one bottle then split it between two, and then fill each bottle up from the tap to dilute it.

At the suggestion of the author of the private forum post I mentioned, I also bought some Liquid I.V. Hydration Multiplier. I tried the lemon lime and found that it's much sweeter than I like, when mixed full strength, but more palatable when mixed half strength.

Another option is SaltStick electrolyte chewable tablets. I bought a pack of these but haven't tried them yet.

Anyway, something to be aware of.

The Patrol Bike and Cycling for Preppers

Note: This post contains a bunch of Amazon affiliate links. If you buy something after clicking through, I'll get a cut at no extra cost to you.

A few years ago, Matt Bracken posted an article, "The Patrol Bike" over on American Partisan. It's worth a read, and I recently reviewed it due to my renewed interest in cycling.

One thing I want to comment on that's missing from many prepper-oriented articles about bicycles is the necessity for conditioning before you need to rely on a bike during an event. There are a lot of bikes out there gathering dust in garages and sheds because people bought them thinking that they could ride them around all day like they did when they were kids, and find out that is no longer true.

If you include bicycles as part of your preps you need to ride now, to make sure that your legs, butt, and heart can handle it.

Bracken noted that he switched to cycling from jogging because once he hit 60, his knees started complaining. In my case, my feet are so flat they may as well be flippers, so I've never been able to run much. Cycling is a good way to get in a cardio workout for those of us with similar physical limitations.

When I was young I did a lot of road biking. I still see cyclists on the road but I will no longer do so. IMHO, there are too many distracted motorists and I feel that it would only be a matter of time before I got hit by someone paying more attention to their cell phone than the road.

The good news is that many urban and suburban areas now have an increasing number of bike trails. Many of these are on former railroad beds and as such, are kept to a very minor grade. These paths are great for exercise and getting around. Bikemaps.org is a good resource for finding such trails.

Another article worth reviewing is from Greg Ellefritz at Active Response Training. "Your Tactical Training Scenario - Attacked on a Bike" raised a few points I had not considered, notably the ability for an attacker to use your bike helmet against you.

There are a few safety items that you should have:

1. Front and rear lights. These are for making you visible as much as lighting the way.  It's 2021 so we no longer need to power bike lights with big, heavy batteries or bottle dynamos. There's a wide variety of LED bike lights that run off AAAs, coin cells, or are rechargeable. I find that when riding on a crowded bike path that I appreciate it when other riders have their lights on, even during the day.

2. A helmet and gloves. Yeah, us Gen-Xers survived while not wearing bike helmets. Modern helmets are lightweight and will keep you from cracking your skull if you wipe out. I find that padded gloves make cycling more comfortable. Plus the last time I crashed my gloves prevented me from getting road rash on my palms, which would have really sucked.

There are some accessories you'll want to keep on your bike to keep running and make it more useful:

1. Patch kit and/or spare tube. Make sure you include a couple tire levers.

2. Pump and/or CO2 tire inflater. I use a floor pump at home. Many if not most currently made pumps will work with either Presta or Schraeder valves. If you must reinflate a fat tire in the field one or two CO2 cylinders will speed things up a lot compared with using a bike-mounted pump.

3. A rear cargo rack. I am happy with the Planet Bike Eco rack that I installed on my Trek 820 about 5 years ago. My Lectric XP came with a rack. A solid rear rack will also act as a fender to keep you from getting a racing stripe up your back when going through mud puddles. Use a little blue Loctite thread locker on the mounting bolts when installing a rack, to keep them from vibrating loose.

4. Bag to carry your toolkit. I like a trunk on my cargo rack because I can put my tools, a light windbreaker, snacks, and an extra water bottle in it. Another option is lashing a milk crate to the rack for bulky items.

5. Water bottle rack and bottle. Most bike bottles hold 20 - 24 oz. Zefal sells 33 oz. bottles, which are nice in hot weather. You can also get canisters that fit water bottle holders and can be used for your toolkit. Good for bike with more than one water bottle holder. 

6. Tool kit or multitool with wrenches to fit all the screws and bolts on your bike. Most bikes have used Allen bolts for the past 25 years but you may have one or two regular hex head bolts. Consider swapping them out for Allen head bolts. Otherwise, include an adjustable wrench. A pair of pliers and/or a Leatherman-type multitool may come in handy as well. If the bike multitool doesn't include a spoke wrench, get a separate one. I recently added this ratchet set to my bike kit.

7. In case something breaks, some zip ties and a roll of 1" wide Gorilla tape may come in very handy. I recently saw a forum post in which a guy was able to ride his mountain bike out of the woods after reattaching the front chain ring with zip ties.

8. Most importantly, the knowledge to use all of the above. Sheldon Brown's site is a good resource for all things cycling. Also, Park Tool's YouTube channel demonstrates many aspects of bicycle maintenance.


We're currently experiencing a shortage of new bicycles in shops due to increased demand and COVID-related supply chain disruptions. There are still plenty of bikes listed on places like Craiglist and Facebook Marketplace. Used bikes can be good deals. Older mountain bikes such as you'd find on those sites are especially well suited for prepper use due to lower cost and simpler construction, especially if you avoid bikes with suspensions. I do recommend avoiding any department store bikes, at least those made for sale in the past 25 years. Frankly, they are junk. Stick with brands sold in bike shops like Trek, Specialized, or Giant. Even low end models from these brands will be head and shoulders better than the crap you find at Walmart or Target.

To quote Freddy Mercury, "Get on your bikes and ride!" 

Mini Tool Kits

  This is an informative thread on Arfcom about mini tool kits that might give you some ideas.

This video by Brett at SurvivalComms is in a similar vein but focused more on commo:

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Cycling Again

 Back in 2016 I posted several times about cycling, but not since then.

Bicycles make a lot of sense for preppres for a few reasons:

First, regular cycling on a properly fitting bike is a good, low impact way to get cardio exercise.

Second, in the event of SHTF, a bike can provide a means of transportation that doesn't rely on external infrastructure. I.e, although you need to fuel yourself you don't need to fuel the bike. Also, they can be pretty stealthy, which could be good for local scouting or potentially a bugout.

Another use for a bike would be as a way to get home in a major emergency. For example, there are many adult sized bikes that fold up compactly and could be kept in your vehicle's trunk, to be used if you need to abandon your car or truck.

For what its worth, IMO the threat of an EMP rendering vehicle inoperable is so slim that it's not really worth considering. EMPs are a potential threat, but more towards infrastructure.

I've been riding two bikes lately.

The first is a one I got earlier this year. It's a Lectric XP folding e-bike. It's a v1.0. Lectric introduced their v2.0 last month.

I'd been considering an e-bike for awhile and was hoping that if we got two, it would be an activity that I could do with my wife. Unfortunately, she's since decided that she feels uncomfortable riding a bike, so that's out the window.

The battery is removeable and contained in the frame tube behind the logo. To get at it you need to fold the bike and then it slides right out.

It pretty well kitted out with, lights, fenders, and a nice rear cargo rack. Lectric also included panniers. I'd rate them as serviceable.

As shipped it's a Class 2 e-bike. I.e., it can be ridden with 5 levels of pedal assist or with a throttle. You can also pedal it with no assist, but with 20x4 tires and a weight of 65 lbs. doing so is more exercise than I want.

You can use the controller to change it to a Class 3 bike which would give you a top speed of 28 MPH vs. 21 MPH for Class 2s. This of course will decrease battery life. I'm leaving mine as a Class 2.

It's a 7 speed bike with a Shimano thumb shifter for the rear (and only) derailleur.

It has mechanical disk brakes. Some folks have swapped them out for hydraulics but they are working fine for me.

After my first shakedown run I decided to swap out the pedals and the saddle. I got some inexpensive pedals and a Cloud 9 comfort seat off Amazon. I've since put the stock saddle back on it and will just ride it with padded shorts. The Cloud 9 seat screwed up the bike's geometry for me. It felt too far forward even when pushed back all the way on its rails.

I also covered the gaudy "LECTRIC" logo with black duct tape. I wanted to reduce the chance of anyone giving me crap for riding an e-bike on the local bike paths.

I mostly ride it on pedal assist level 1 or 2, occasionally on 3. I find myself rarely using the throttle.

It's a folder but so far I'm not using that feature. It does lock up tightly. It feels as rigid as a solid frame. I've seen some comments by other owners on Facebook where the latch on their bike isn't tight. This is an adjustment issue.

The 4" knobby tires provide plenty of traction but are very noisy. I may change them out to 3" or 3.3" commuter tires with an inverted tread pattern to reduce noise and rolling resistance, which will increase the range. I may also replace the panniers with a rack mounted trunk.

My longest ride so far has been about 19 miles and I still had plenty of juice left for at least another 6 or 7 miles.

Lectric recently unveiled their v2.0 which now features 3" tires and suspension fork. IMO the narrower tires are an improvement, the suspension fork probably not so much. It adds complexity and I'm skeptical of the quality of a suspension fork at the Lectric's price point.

The other bike I've been riding is my 1999 Trek 820. It's an entry level mountain bike with no suspension. You can often find 1990s vintage mountain bikes at reasonable prices on Craigslist or at yard sales for very reasonable prices. Old mountain bikes like these  are an excellent choice for preppers because they are simple and rugged, especially if you get one with no suspension.

Assuming the bike is in good shape, they can often be ridden with minimal restoration needed. I do recommend replacing the tires and tubes if they are original because rubber deteriorates with age. You might also want to replace the brake pads for the same reason.

Sometimes the saddle has cracked due to age and will need replacement.

These bikes generally came with wide knobby tires that provide excellent traction on or off road, but have a lot of rolling resistance and are noisy on pavement.

You can replace the tires with slicks or something with a less aggressive tread if you'll primarily be riding on pavement. Modern commuter tires often have an inverted tread pattern that rolls quickly and quietly but provides more traction off pavement than slicks.

When I dragged the Trek out of retirement several years ago I replaced the knobbies with Bontrager H2 semi-slicks. They are great for riding on asphalt but not so great off road. So, yesterday I replaced them with Serfas Drifters with an interesting inverted tread pattern.

My initial impression of the Drifters is favorable. I was only able to ride it up and down the block and around my back yard on grass, but they appear to roll quickly and quietly. In the very short grass test they seemed to grip well. I should be able to take the bike for a real ride this weekend, on which I hope to also test them on gravel.

I stuck with 1.5" wide tires since I will be on pavement probably 95% of the time. If I knew I'd ben on gravel more often I would have bought the 2" wide version.