Spoke nipple tool for deep well rims

I just built a wheel with moderately deep section (the IRO “Cold Fusion”), and had a heck of a time starting the nipples without dropping them inside the rim. I hope my missing nipple didn’t end up inside the rim*…

spoke-nipple starting screwdriver modification

The last time I used these rims I didn’t have that problem but no matter. I devised a simple tool that helped immensely – a screwdriver (slightly magnetic) with an aluminum tube around the end to hold the spoke nipple. aluminum tube on screwdriver end

I had some thin-gauge aluminum tubing left over from making a spacer to mount my dynamo light on my Nitto M12 rack. In fact, I used the exact 3″ tube I’d used as a spacer until it deformed too much.

tape a tube to the screwdriver

*My wife and 11 year old son both think the term “spoke nipple” is hilarious.

Rivendell frame bag mockup

I’m not just a bike nerd – I’m a Rivendell bike nerd. Grant Petersen, the owner of Rivendell, just put up a blog post that could be called “in defense of double top tubes.

Some people like the second top tube, some people hate it. Some people could go either way. I’ve been looking at them for a while, thinking it would be a great place to put a frame bag. I made a little mock-up, and I’d say that the idea of a nice bag between the two tubes makes me like the extra “undertube” a lot more.

mock up of a tweed frame bag in a double-top-tube Rivendell bike frame

Zigo bike… stroller… thing

I was looking at Goeland bikes and trailers on EBykr, and saw an ad for the Zigo bike stroller/bike bike. At first I was irritated by the fit, stylish, child-portaging package. I don’t like strollers, and I’m not (that) fit or (all that) stylish. But I am fascinated by the concept and the technology. I think it’s a cool design, and I’d like to see one in person.

You can convert the Zigo from a child-truck trike, to a separated jogging stroller and regular (ish) bike. It seems very useful and cool, if you don’t already have a bike to hang a Bobike seat on. My kid is done with the “kid as cargo” stage of his life, but a modular utility bike would be fantastic. A more open-ended setup, or set of modules that extend the function beyond child-carrying would really put this over the top.

During and after your five years of kid use, it would be fantastic to use the bike for local errands that might take a car, otherwise.

Garden cart

Ride to the nursery for bags of soil, starts, etc. Maybe even tools? Use the detachable part as a garden cart when you get home. You could use it for runs to the U-pick vegetable farm in canning season, and roll or ride right into the fields.

  • Fatter caster tires, so it will roll in the dirt and grass
  • Solid plastic tray bottom for carrying soil
  • Not too deep, so you won’t overload it


A grocery hauler you can use in the store as a shopping cart. Also gives you a shopping cart at the farmers market. You have the advantage of in-store smugness: people would know you biked to shop, even if they didn’t see you in the parking lot.

  • Covered, for shopping on rainy days
  • Possibly with a fold-down top “shelf” for double-deckering light items
  • Use the detachable ‘cart’ part in the store, and reload it after checkout.


Bare bones, but with an awning that could unfold into a tarp for protecting larger loads. Attachment points for dividers or bins, depending on what you deliver. Mailmen could use them, if they had a lower storage and upper ‘next deliveries’ area. Square bottom footprint for square boxes.

Market Stall / Pushcart

My friends Mitch and Ari have a fantastic farmers market stall setup with a custom rickshaw and a trailer. They built these things so they could ride to the farmers market, and pop everything open into a stall. From the customer side, they don’t even look like bikes.

Something like their setup would be cool (and niche-y): hard shell boxes with good storage that fold out extra display shelves, and allow for an awning or umbrella to be raised. You could even detach the bike and use it as a pedestrian-powered pushcart.

Attach a power-takeoff to the drivetrain and make smoothies to sell from your little stand…

Go check out the Zigo blog to see how they work for real people: http://blog.myzigo.com/

Quill vs. Threadless Stem Adjustability

One of my RBW list compatriots recently took the position that quill stems allow for more and easier bar height adjustment. By the time I finished my rambling rebuttal, my session had timed out, so I put it here instead.

My friend’s position

Quill stems allow for far easier (and far more) bar height adjustment, which is why I prefer them.  I also prefer threaded headsets because I can remove the bar & stem from my bike and not have the fork fall out onto the floor.  Threadless headsets were invented by an industry that was lazy and wanted to make more money (by only having to stock a single fork/steerer combo), and were a solution in search of a problem… especially at the beginning.  Sure, now they allow things like CF steerer tubes, but there’s no way in hell I’d run one of them, either.

I have to disagree

Except about carbon fiber steerers – there’s nothing sadder-looking than a ‘cross racer trudging out of the mud with a broken-necked Scott, bars dangling free, slung over his shoulder.

I find it easier to make large changes to bar height and reach with a threadless stem. I now have more (functional) bikes with threadless stems in the garage than quill. If you count my friend’s dumpster bike, it’s a tie. Once I learned that you tighten the star nut and THEN tighten the stem, it’s pretty easy to change height. Add in faceplate stems and you’re 100% ahead of the game when it comes to messing around with your cockpit. Spacers are expensive at $2 each, but takeoff threadless stems seem to just appear. $10? Free? The last quill stem I bought was $20 used, and I’ve never used it.

Dialing in the bars of the Trek Belleville and the Fisher Utopia has had me fooling around with spacers and stems, one for max height, the other for minimum. The Belleville is done, and the only problem is the ugly black spacers I had. With the black Brooks, they’re starting to look okay, and with black grips, they’d be invisible.

I never change stem height once I’ve dialed in the bike’s fit. The three main quill-bearing bikes (one just out of service) have had their stem height changed about twice each in the past 7-10 years; all three down a little, and back up to the maximum height. I can’t get any more height out of them without deciding the risks are worth the visible Max Height mark, but since I don’t change height, the ease of downward adjustability isn’t an advantage, and the impossibility of upward adjustability isn’t a disadvantage.

It took three stems and two bars to dial in the fit on my Quickbeam, but the Fisher can fit me (6’2″), or my kid (4’10”), by moving spacers and swapping stems. A quill stem that could do that would have a hinge in the middle. It would be hideous, and heavy, but the Fisher’s long stem is prettier than any quill stem I’ve ever owned. It’s light, silver and shiny, and doesn’t match the Army Surplus aesthetic of the bike at all.

I must be particularly difficult tonight

I find I disagree with the “lazy industry” comment, too. A lazy industry wouldn’t make any changes – it would just price itself out of the market. I don’t feel greedy or lazy, but my time and money are finite resources. I hope that every time I see a way to make a process easier, faster, or less prone to failure, I do it. I hope everyone does.

Bike mudflaps made from leather shoe tongues

You know you’re old when… you aren’t in shape to work on bikes, let alone ride them. My back hurts!

I just put in a few hours working on my fenders. I moved the stays much further down towards the ends of the fenders (47mm from the ends). I also switched up to double daruma eyelets on each stay, instead of singles. Total crap job on drilling the holes, but I don’t care. I’m just glad no one’s paying me to butcher their $100 Honjos, and I’ve dropped out of the competition for “prettiest Quickbeam ever.”

The cool part was installing mudflaps made out of the tongues of leather hi-tops. They’re green, from my old PF Flyers, and well worn. I have a pair of Keen’s tongues for the black bike.

I cut the tongues out way longer, including part of the rubber toe cap, but ended up making it shorter to fit. I washed the mudflaps in the sink with hot, soapy water, and dried them flat to remove the fold. There’s still a crease there, but I like it.

The mudflaps look good, but my tires are flat-out too fat for fenders on this bike. Simply dropping down to 37mm tires would make all the difference. And maybe without vestigial knobs that grab the front mudflap on big bumps.


Multi-speed Fixed Quickbeam

Quickbeam, originally uploaded by gjtramey.

From one of my Flickr and RBW group friends. I like his gear spread for a go-anywhere fixed gear bike. He’s using the Surly Dingle double-fixed cog and some larger rings than the stock Rivendell setup.

Rings: 39/45
Cog 1: 17/21 Surly Dingle cog
Cog 2: 23
Gears: 46, 50, 58, 62, 71.5

I’ve migrated toward larger rings on road cranks, too, but I like his 23t flip cog better than a 15t cog. That’s a beautiful spread. He can drop from 72″ to 50″ without taking the wheel out of the dropouts. Flipping the wheel, his biggest and smallest gears have the exact same axle position.

rings 45
50.1″ 57.9″
45.8″ 52.8″

Running the numbers, we can see that he must be using 32mm tires. And, uh, plus we can see them. 38 or 40mm tires will give slightly taller gears.

Skate Deck pedals

You can make platform pedals out of recycled skate decks with a saw, a drill and a wood rasp. The platforms clip into clipless pedals, so you can ride your race bike in sneakers.

skate pedals

I’ve been riding these for about 5 years, almost exclusively. They’re the most comfortable pedals I’ve ever ridden, by a wide margin, and very grippy in all conditions except slick mud. Plus, they let you switch your pedals from clip-in to free-pedaling in about four seconds.

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