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Messages - dombrosk

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General Discussion / Re: Health/Medical Insurance while cycling abroad
« on: September 30, 2012, 01:59:12 pm »
When I spent a month in South Africa a few years ago, one of the requirements of the sponsoring organization was insurance that provided 'medical evacuation'... to cover a situation where you might need to get back home for continuing care, but a standard airline seat would  not be OK.

Since then, I've NOT purchased additional coverage while travelling... my regular coverage is OK for me overseas.  But if I were to be looking at policies I'd definitely check out their coverage of medical evacuation.

Safe riding, everyone!

Gear Talk / Re: Surley Troll
« on: July 06, 2012, 08:44:52 am »
We just returned from our first tour with my wife riding her new Surley Troll.  While it has been a good commuting/recreational bike, I was anxious to see how it rode loaded with front and rear panniers.  The handling was excellent and she kept exclaiming during the trip how much she liked the bike!

Her Troll is set up with Planet Bike fenders, Surley Nice Rack (front), Jannd Expedition rack (rear), Schwalbe Marathon Supreme tires, and a Rohloff.   If you're thinking of a 26" wheel bike, I'd definitely consider a Troll.

General Discussion / Re: What do you use for sunscreen?
« on: June 29, 2012, 08:13:45 am »
For folks with 'non-reactive' skin, almost any sunscreen may work fine.  If, like me, you tend to be prone to rashes, it gets more difficult.

Here's one to try:  Aveeno Face SPF 30... although it's sold for face I use it as my primary sunscreen without having any skin reactions.  In the past I've had good luck with some of the fragrance-free Neutrogenas.

Gear Talk / Re: Need a large lightweight bag
« on: April 18, 2012, 05:41:16 am »
On my last tour in Europe I was able to get an amazing amount into a North Face Base Camp duffel
It's not something you'd want to throw away... I took a 12x12" cardboard box (flat in the duffel) with me and then mailed it to my last-night-stay from the airport in Amsterdam. 
Probably too expensive for some folks, but I've found it handy for other uses than bike touring.  I like having something sturdy enough to put trekking poles and hiking boots into with no worries about tearing.

Gear Talk / Re: Surley Troll
« on: January 15, 2012, 11:09:48 am »
I don't have any experience with the Troll, but am also interested in the bike. 

My wife is considering getting one as a commuting/touring/all-around bicycle.  Upright handlebar riding position and Rohloff-ability are both nice features.  She did test ride a stock model and was very happy with the ride and handling.

Here are some resources I've stumbled upon, I'd love to hear other 'opinings'!

Gear Talk / Re: shoe covers for cold weather
« on: December 11, 2011, 08:36:50 am »
I've been bike-commuting through the winter for six years now in Minnesota, riding about an hour each way.  Here are a few things that help me stay happy.

1.  Exact temperature matters.   I dress very differently at 35 than at 20 degrees.  Above 20 I think in 10 degree bands, once it gets below 20 then every five degrees makes a difference.

2.  Warm feet and hands have a lot to do with warm ankles and wrists.  Those are the places that blood flows through to get to our fingers and toes.  For my ankles, I've taken to wearing smartwool nordic socks that come up over my calf quite a way, then pulling my tights on over the socks to create a double layer.  Below 30 I'll usually add rain/wind pants on top of that.

3.  Above 30 I ride in my leather Keen bike shoes, adding neoprene toe covers which are the bottoms of old worn out shoe covers that I cut off.  (Thanks LBS for that tip!)  Sometimes I'll add Showers Pass shoe covers over that, especially if it's damp out.   Yes, the shoe covers don't breathe, but for an hour that's not been an issue for me.

4.  Below 30 for many years I wore Shimano gore-tex 'winter' shoes which had little insulation but were somehow quite warm, adding the toe covers and shoe covers as needed. 

5.  The chemical 'toe warmers' really do work, as do the hand warmers.  But it has to get down close to or below zero for me to need those.

6.  Last year I picked up a pair of Lake winter shoes at an end-of-season sale... I'd heard they were magical and that's been my experience with them.  Last week I rode in 5 degrees with just my medium-weight nordic socks and the Lake shoes and was fine for an hour.  With both fingers and toes, I find it's really important to do a lot of wiggling around to keep the blood flowing.  Because I could only find road style shoes in my size I bought them, but they are not easy to walk in so if buying full price for touring/commuting I'd go with the mountain style shoe.

7.  Although it's not about warm feet, staying upright is a big part of a happy, safe, bicycling experience, and if you live in a part of the country that has ice/snow, consider the nokian studded tires. They understand winter riding in Finland!

Riding in the winter seems crazy until you try it... and the best way to do that is to keep riding through the fall to gradually acclimate and adjust your gear.  But having an owl 10 feet in front of me,  silently pacing me in my headlight beam through a soft falling snow in the pre-dawn darkness is worth having to wiggle my toes.

I think of bike commuting as the tour that never ends.  Happy riding in all seasons!

Gear Talk / Re: Rohloff- two questions
« on: November 21, 2011, 05:53:37 am »
Because I started this thread, I thought I should give an update on how my decision went.  I decided to get my frame built up for a Rohloff, and have no regrets at all.

I'm a daily bicycle commuter (10 miles each way) and did a 700 mile tour this summer through Germany and the Netherlands.  With the first snow I've finally retired the new bike for the winter and pulled out my rusty old diamondback with studded tires, and I miss the Rohloff already. 

The noise issue has been a non-issue for me.  At times, it's been a plus as I'm coasting up on a pedestrian and they can here me before I ding my little bell, but it's not significantly louder than other freewheels.

For gearing, I went to the absolute lowest ratios possible and my old knees have thanked me for that.  I tend to pedal as slow as 4 mph uphill, and the Rohloff has handled that just fine.  On the top end, pedalling maxes out a bit above 20 mph.  That's fine by me, faster than that and I'm usually coasting.

Being able to shift at a stop turned out to be a bigger advantage than I expected.  Yes, we all know to shift in advance of a stop... but sometimes a car or pedestrian does appear in front of us... or we forget.  It's kind of magical to be able to spin into any gear.

I was nervous about the grip shifter, but the triangular design has been very easy to handle, even with heavy cold weather gloves or heavy rain.

My chain life is definitely improved thanks to the lack of stress put onto it.

It was interesting to notice how many cyclists in Germany noticed my Rohloff.  Many were surprised that Americans had heard of it.  In many cases it was the first thing they noticed about the bike.

Summing up, yes it was expensive.  But I'm satisfied that the price is fair for the quality of the unit and I expect to get many years of service and happy riding.

Gear Talk / Re: Changing a Rohloff Wheel
« on: November 20, 2011, 09:13:58 am »
For me it's a lot easier to take off a rear wheel with my Rohloff...

...some people seem to be able to thread their chain onto that rear derailleur without cursing, but not I.  But my Rohloff just involves loosening a couple of thumbscrews and the wheel just slides out.

I'll be posting a longer comment into a thread I started back in the spring, but short version: if you're thinking of a Rohloff I'd recommend getting it.

General Discussion / Re: Whitefish, MT lodging
« on: October 13, 2011, 06:36:10 am »
When I went through Whitefish on the Northern Tier a few years ago I stayed at the Super-8.  I'd been camping in the rain for about a week and made good use of the guest laundry!   The motel is a bit south of downtown, more of a short bike ride than a walk.  I was able to wheel my bike right into the room, always a plus.

There were places closer to the train station and downtown that looked more expensive.  I have fond memories of a visit to Glacier Cyclery, a great bike shop near the train station.  Happy travels!

Gear Talk / Re: info overload, help!
« on: September 12, 2011, 06:56:51 am »
Lots of good advice already here... I want to focus on three things.

First,  the 5' 9" height angle.

Happens to be my height also, and for bicycles that can be a tricky fit situation, especially if you want an upright riding position.  I really wanted a Surley LHT, but couldn't make it work with an upright riding position due to a tall stand-over height (painful combination with short legs).  For a few years I toured in a modified Surley Cross-Check, but while the stand-over height was good, the frame geometry was a bit too 'lively' for me, I wanted more stability for touring.

Stand-over height is a frame dimension which most cyclists don't need to worry about... but it can eliminate a lot of frames for those of us with a certain size shape.

Next, the 650B issue.

Not unrelated to the height.  Turns out that Surley LHT's come in 700c and 26" frame sizes, and I am kind of perfectly in-between those two.  If I were shorter, the 26" LHT would be great.  If I were taller... but actually I've reached the age where my height is dropping and my shoe size is increasing!

I looked for 650B bikes, and was struck by the Yves Gomez by Rivendell, because another part of getting older is finding a step-through frame really helpful.  But my local bike shop employs a young man who's just starting out as a framebuilder, so I asked him to build me a custom 650B mixte frame... after 6 months of commuting and a 700 mile tour in Europe it's still my favorite bike ever. 

Here's a photo of the bike:

Finally, for us no-longer spring chickens... buying a bike is a bit different when you are trying to adapt to an aging body while also considering the possibility that this may be your last bike purchase.  For me that meant designing a frame that could adjust to an increasingly upright riding position and a step-through mount.  It also meant spending more money to get exactly what I wanted.  At a certain point it doesn't make a lot of sense to wait for 'later'.

Happy shopping and happy touring!

Gear Talk / Re: RX Cycling Sunglasses
« on: September 05, 2011, 10:48:50 am »
I'd echo the positive comments on Rudy Project... I've had Rudy Project glasses with prescription bi-focal inserts for eight or so years now... love them and had my optician make the prescription inserts (and remake them when my RX changed.)  Many 'Rudy's" take RX implants, so I'd get to a bike shop that carries them if you can and try on a bunch.  I found huge differences in comfort and one that was immediately 'right' --- only trying them on would have done that for me.

The biggest advantage I've found with this style of sport glasses is keeping wind/dust out of my eyes.  Also, the Rudy lens material is somehow hydrophobic and easy to wipe clean in the rain even with a wet glove.

For lenses, I'd avoid any kind of 'transition' lens.... my choices are:

Red - daily riding... oddly enough they cut the glare but make it easier to see in the shade.
Yellow - rainy day riding.... make every day a sunny day.
Dark grey- open prairie / alpine / snow
Clear / Smoked - just eye protection for headlight riding

They are expensive, but if you get 10 years plus of use, the expense is worth it to me.

Gear Talk / Re: clean hydration pack
« on: September 01, 2011, 08:26:49 pm »
There's an old saying that everybody 'eats a peck of dirt' in their life.

For whatever it's worth, I've been on quite a few monthlong tours with a camelbak that I shook out and refilled every day without ever cleaning or drying it.

Your results may vary, but it's possible that advertising has made us bacteria-phobic.

General Discussion / Re: Bicycle Security
« on: May 08, 2011, 11:37:09 am »
We've recently had two active threads on this topic, "bike locks" and "bicycle security".  Folks interested in the topic might want to look through both threads.

Seems like there are three approaches to locking up:

1) completely unlocked.
I'll do this on a charity ride when I'm surrounded by lots of unlocked bikes much nicer than mine.  Aside from that I avoid this approach, partially because a neighbor of mine had a bad experience trusting small towns during his Northern Tier ride.  (He published a journal of his ride, A Crossing by Brian Newhouse) 

I was concerned when one poster to this forum advised going unlocked in major cities... this advice seemed very unwise to me:
 "Re: Bike locks
« Reply #5 on: April 05, 2011, 01:48:36 pm »  My touring has been in Europe and the USA.  I'm not sure I took a lock on any of my tours.  Its been a few years so I may have forgot what I carried.  I recall visiting a museum for a day in Munich and leaving the bike outside in a visible area.  Unlocked.  Bags and bike were still there when I returned.   "

2) lightweight cable lock.
This can be a nice compromise position... I had an eye-opening experience with this, though.  One of my students (I'm a high school teacher) offered to show me a magic trick.  He took my cable lock (as a bicycle commuter I park my bike in my classroom) and in less than a minute had it opened up.
"How did you learn how to do that?" I asked. 
"YouTube."  came the reply.
So I googled "bicycle combination locks" and the first item was an instructional video on how to crack the combinations.  So if you go the combination lock way, be careful to get a more serious combination.

I was relieved when an old thread got reactivated today on the website to see another description of that same day in Munich that had concerned me.. it seems that the bike really wasn't unlocked, after all.
 "    Re:   Bicycle Security
« Reply #4 on: August 09, 2004, 09:55:51 pm » Quote 
Back in 1992 I toured loaded in Europe.  One day I parked my fully loaded bike, with panniers, in front of a museum in Munich, Germany.  I used my cable lock.  I spent several hours inside.  The bike and bags were just fine when I returned. "

3) maximum security.
This can include a Kryptonite style U-Lock and cable or a variety of hardened chain locks.  This is the direction I've headed into over the years.  While no lock will stop a determined thief, it can lead a thief to move on to the less secured bike on the next rack.  My goal is to never be the "least secure/most expensive" bike in any situation.

Those of us who ride in cities are accustomed to these kinds of systems.  If you'd like a humorous and informative look at how to secure a bike here's a short video worth watching.

General Discussion / Re: Mistakes and Attitude while on the road.
« on: April 05, 2011, 05:55:04 am »
Reading the discussion on this thread so far puts me in mind of the old saying, 'there's two kinds of people in the world: people who think there are two kinds of people in the world, and people who don't."

This thread taps into a basic philosophical question that pops up frequently on these forums, and frequent visitors tend to learn which sides regular contributors come in on. 

When I started to get into long distance touring I did reading, on-line research, and signed up for the Adventure Cycling Introduction to Road Touring class.  (Thanks Wally!!!)  For me, all that preparation was fun, not work, and helped me enjoy the experience more.  A friend of mine who'd toured cross country with a knapsack was baffled at my preparation, because her style was much more get on the bike and go. 

For some people an Adventure Cycling class will help maximize fun, for others, even following the Adventure Cycling route maps is losing the spirit of adventure.  Fortunately, there's plenty of roads and trails for all of us.

As for attitude while on the road, one thing that I've noticed is that 'problems' while touring are often lead-ins to the highlight of the day, so much so that I sometimes sing to myself the song from The Producers: "Where did we go right"  about how the most bungled situation can turn into a golden opportunity.

Planners and non-planners all have one big thing in common: our love for travelling by bicycle.

General Discussion / Re: Bike locks
« on: April 05, 2011, 05:34:28 am »
My personality tends in the direction of minimizing risk.  For example, I've never believed the advice that the stock market was a secure place for retirement savings...   ;)

Despite that, before last summer I toured with a lightweight combination cable lock, and tended not to worry. For me, a lot depends upon where I'm planning to ride.

But last summer, during a month of mixed urban/rural touring in Europe, I switched to my usual urban setup of a U-lock with a cable to wrap around front wheel.  On impulse I added a lightweight cable designed to keep my quick release seat attached.  (Akita Seat Leash Cable Lock, 3 oz,  - $4 at REI)

This setup felt completely secure until I hit Amsterdam, where even the oldest, rustiest one speed bikes had locks much more secure than mine.  At that point I visited a local bike shop and added a key-lock chain that gave me more attachment options than my U-lock.

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