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Bike Advice

Category: Bike Advice

Four 2017 DNFA/Bikepacking Bikes Shorties can be Excited About

Shorties tend to get a lot less bike love then the average height’d, even less when it comes to what I have termed a Does Not F*ck Around Bike. You know, what you can take down a shitty middle of nowhere fire road or bad/oh so good decision single track, carrying all the stuff you need to live, without aches, not having to constantly pray that your bike doesn’t explode, or screaming “OH MY GOD I AM GOING TO DIE WHAT HAVE I DONE!” while going down a mountain at high speeds, or even going up a mountain at slow speeds. I guess the boring terms are bikepacking or adventure bike.

BUT HOLY CRAP we are getting some great new options this season and an old classic got some really nice updates.

Requirements for a DNFA Shortie Bike

  • Standover of 29″ / 736mm or lower.
  • 2.3″ / 55mm or wider tires.
  • Ability to put on a rack. While my preferred set up is bags I still want the option to put on a rack if I need. A girl needs her options.
  • Steel


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Little Touring Monster: Pt 2. Outfitting

Now that I have this bike, how do I get it tourable? Not just tourable but Little Monster TOURABLE! Outfitting a small bike (lets say for someone 5’4 or under) has its own, sometimes unforeseen, challenges so I’ll cover some of those and what I did to get around them.


Before outfitting.

Clean, clean, clean and basic maintenance.

If you are getting a used bike on the cheap, chances are you will have to do some maintenance to it, but thats ok. It will make it feel like YOURS. A good cleaning and re-greasing will do wonders. Little touring Monsters drive train was covered in grease that had sat there for years.
Cleaning is pretty basic but a couple of tips I have:


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Little Touring Monster: Pt 1. The hunt is on.

I am, what I would call, an avid cyclist. I am also, what I would call, hella short. These two things often do not mix, especially with touring bikes. I don’t mean a road or CX bike with racks hobo-ed on, but A REAL touring bike fit for me that can take me on the gravel less traveled.

I wanted to feel like these ladies on my touring bike:

And not like this:

I was also not Demi Moore, Indecent Proposal, rolling around in bills so it needed to stay under $1000 total, which means used. Luckily, while I am not rich in dolla bills, I am rich in the ability to search Craigslist and Ebay multiple times in a day. The hunt was on.

But first, what was I looking for? What makes a good touring bike?
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Bike Mechanic Q&A

Recycled Cycles is a staple in Seattle’s bike community, and we are excited to have them on board as sponsors for tomorrow’s race (be sure to come out for a chance to win some HEFTY gift certificates).

We dropped by the shop this morning to chat with Billy Lewis, one of Recycled’s super knowledgeable mechanics – “and he’s cute too,” offers up a co-worker. We descended into the shop’s secret bike-mechanic lair, where we talked about shop life, bike fit, and the stuff you should be doing to take care of your bike (and probably aren’t doing nearly enough).

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a bike mechanic?

A: It’s pretty sweet fixing people’s fun. Your making someone’s weekend or trip happen. It can make or break someone’s ride.

Q: Women sometimes struggle to find a bike that fits. What are some of the signs that a bike doesn’t fit?

A: First and foremost is comfort. If you have to struggle to reach the brakes or have trouble standing over the bike, it is too big for you. Conversely when you are riding and your knees are hitting the handle bars, it’s too small. You’re not going to get all the power you can in a stroke.

When a bike fits you should have a slight arch in the back, and your knees and elbows should remain slightly bent.

Q: What are some tips for ladies to find a bike that does fit?

A: Women specific design (WSD) bikes are recommended, especially for women under 5’5″. Narrower bars and shorter cranks [and compact brake levers for small hands – ed.] will make a huge difference for women. So if you can get a bike that already has these, it’s great, because upgrading a bike that doesn’t will get expensive really quick.

Q: What are the top three tools someone should have in their bag?

A: Number one is a multi-tool with sizes 4, 5, 6, and 8 on it. You can adjust most everything you need to with this. Next, even though its not sexy, is a pump, and then tire levers. If you want to really be prepared, a Philips head screwdriver to adjust you derailers is also good.

Q: What is the best preventative maintenance people can do but don’t?

A: Cleaning your bike. HOLY cleaning your bike!!!! And lube your chain. I sometimes say when your chain goes “wheey wheeey” when you pedal, it’s your bike crying.

If your wheels are dirty, grit gets imbedded into the brake pad, basically making it sandpaper along your rims, ruining your rims and making your brakes less effective. If your chain’s dirty, it is like a file on the teeth of the chain ring. [rims and chain rings are not cheap to replace so listen to Billy! – ed.]

Maybe put one of these up.

Q: What do you think keeps people from working on their own bikes?

A: Fear of complication, but to help break free of that fear take time to clean your bike. You will start to learn the parts, what’s going on with you bike, and how it works. Don’t be intimidated. Many people who are now bike mechanics started by making mistakes on their own bikes.

Q: What are the benefits of a tune up?

A: Every bike will have its own benefits, but it can make a bike thats limping along ride like it’s brand new. It’s good to make sure the bike is as safe as possible. If you get a complete tune up, you get to have a long-time mechanic strip everything, give it a deep clean, re-grease, and reinstall it.

Q: What is the craziest bike repair you have done?

A: Well, the most intense repairs are frame swaps where we have to take all the parts off and then reinstall them on the new frame. The craziest bikes are the Burning Man bikes.

Q: What bikes do you ride?

A: I have mountain bikes and a commuter, but mountain bikes are my favorite.

Six things I learned about organizing a ride.

I originally wrote this article for the fabulous portland zine Taking the Lane. Thought it might be worth a resurrection here.

These are the top six things I learned about organizing a ride, a LOT from hindsight. For over a year I was one of the organizers of Menstrual Monday and Bike Sabbath (http://www.facebook.com/bikesabbath). Maybe you can take some of these to make a ride of your own.

1. Be consistent. If you say your going to ride every week make sure someone is there EVERY week. Sometimes life gets in the way but if one person shows up with no one there, they will say to their friends “man I went to RidyMcRidester’s ride and no one showed.” Not to mention it just plain old sucks to be left awkwardly hanging around wondering if anyone else is going to show up. If you can’t commit to every week, have it every other week or once a month. Just figure out what you can realistically do and stick to it. Also, don’t forget to be consistent about time. People’s time is valuable and they don’t want to waste 1/2 an hour just waiting around. Specify meet up time AND depart time.

2. Have multiple organizers.
You don’t want organizing a ride to start to feel like a job. I would recommend enough people so no one has to plan a ride more than once a month (e.g. four organizers for a weekly ride). This also leaves enough people to cover a bit if someone is unavailable for a while. Keep it something you want to do, not something you have to do.

3. Recruit people constantly. Post on facebook, pass out flyers, tell friends, get blogs to post about it. Whatever you can think of. Most importantly, do this throughout the life of a ride. Don’t chill out on this once the ride has decent attendance. Word of mouth will do some of the recruiting for you but no matter how great the ride is, life will get in the way of people riding: people get jobs, new significant others, school, etc. Keep new people discovering the ride and joining the community.

4. Fill a niche.
Think about what the town already has and what would contribute to the bike community. Consider what makes your ride its own unique special snowflake that would draw people to it and promote that. Research what other rides are out there when you think about when you want to meet or what you want to do. No need to compete or make people choose.

5. Be outgoing. Go up and introduce yourself to people you don’t know on your rides, especially first-time participants. This seems like common sense, but I also know sometimes it’s easier to hang with your buddies. Ask them how they heard about the ride or about their bikes, say you’re glad to have them here, and introduce them around. You want everyone to feel comfortable with each other as soon as possible. It takes guts to show up solo to a ride with all strangers so help them feel not so weirdo-new-person.

6. Have patience. It takes a while for a ride to build steam. Expect low attendance for quite awhile and don’t let that stop you. If only 3 people show up, that’s ok; you guys go have a good time. If they are fun rides, more people will slowly start to show up.

Organizing a ride is a great way to make the bike community just a little bit tighter. There are amazing people on bikes. Why not help bring them together?

Smaller is better: in praise of 650c

There is huge chunk of womenfolk that are under 5’5”. I am one of those at 5’1”. In my opinion, under 5’5” is when it gets to be a pain in the ass to find a frame that fits. I mean really fits. Not just something you can live with, but something that doesn’t make your back sore, and you can stand over with both feet on the ground without the top tube going into no-mans-land (or should I say sometimes-a-select-man’s-land?).

For people in that height range I want to sing the praises of bikes with 650c wheels. I rode the smallest 700c frames I could find for years, but because of how big the wheels are compared to the frame they turn like a mac truck. I am tempted to put a “beware wide turns” on the rear of my remaining 700c bike. On the other hand, my 650c wheel bikes are so wonderfully responsive. I can actually stand over my bike comfortably, and don’t have to stand on my tiptoes to keep the top-tube from invading my private places. Also, because the frame doesn’t have to compensate for big wheels, my top half feels less uncomfortably stretched out. Plus toe-overlap, when you make a turn and your toe scrapes the wheel, a common occurrence with scrunched up frames with normal sized wheels, is gone from my life. There was a time I’d learned to live with it, but I am telling you: there is a better life for the fronts of your shoes.

So where do you start? Luckily there are a few thoughtful companies out there that make production bikes/frames built specifically for 650c wheels. In my searches for bikes these are some of the frames/companies that I’ve come across that I think are great.

Fixed Gear / Track

The Fuji Classic is a great track bike with a classic look that comes in 43cm and 46cm sizes, both with 650c wheels. I have a 43cm that I love (although I bought it used with the older style graphics; it made a trip to the powdercoater before it ever hit the road).

IRO also has a great 650c-based fixed gear frame, the Heidi/HD. The HD only comes in 46cm, but this would still work for a lot of gals.

Road Bikes

Felt was the best modern “roadie” bike that I found in 43cm.  They even have multiple builds, which is rare with such a small size (I have the ZW75 from a few years ago which is what I am riding in the top picture). I heard the designer had two shorties for daughters and decided it was silly that his line didn’t have any bikes they could ride, so they created some really great small bikes.

Fuji also has some great small road bikes.

Touring Bikes

Surly Long Haul Trucker is the best that I found for a good small touring bike frame. They don’t come with 650c wheels, but all LHT’s 54cm or less come with 26′ inch wheels. These have the benefits of small wheels, but with a wider width for a comfortable long ass ride with gear.

That’s great and all, but…

I know what you’re thinking. “650c wheels?!!??? My 700s are just fine thank you!” Trust me, I said it too. I thought I would never go to 650c no matter how much smarter people tried to convince me.  I had all the excuses. I don’t want to have to be scrounging at shops for some weird tube size. In reality I can’t think of one bike store I have been to recently that didn’t carry 650c tubes. They are becoming more and more available, partly due to more people realizing that 650 wheels are the best for small frames and partly thanks to the short-lived trend of fixed-gear bikes with the smaller 650 up front for tricks. Either way I am not going to argue. If you are off on a ride, make sure you have a tube or a patch kit because the option of borrowing a tube from someone is pretty non-existent, but really you should have one anyway to avoid being “that guy”. Some also avoid smaller wheels because they have heard or would guess they roll slower. Well, in practice,  this is crap for two reasons; one, you can just change the gearing on your bike to compensate for that, and two, being smaller they are generally lighter and have less rotating weight.

Are you already riding 650c bikes? Be sure to post a photo of you and your bike in the comments, and tell us how you like it.

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