An Afternoon Bike Ride on Seattle Streets and Rail Trails

I was up for a good urban adventure last Wednesday, so I loaded up the bike and took off for a loop through downtown Seattle using as many rail trails as possible. I live in the northeast quadrant of Seattle and it is about 7 miles to the downtown area by the most direct route, but using rail trails and some connecting streets, I made a trip to the west side of the city, along the waterfront, back through the city center and back home in a 27 mile loop.

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Chain Bicycle Locks

I have been using an OnGuard Pitbull Mini LS U-lock along with an 7′ Kryptonite KryptoFlex cable  to secure my bike. The Pitbull purchase was driven by cost and I found it on eBay at a good price. The cable was purchased used as well. The recommended way to use a U-lock is to go around the seat tube and rear tire and an immovable object like a bike stand or street signpost. The distance between the seat tube and the rear tire on my bike is too wide, so I normally went around a handy part of the frame and the immovable object and tied off both wheels with the cable looped onto the legs of the U-lock. I have bolt-on skewers as well. I use a small Abus 1500 chain for a seat lock and for “no ride-off” protection only at my local grocer or the post office.

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New tires: Continental Country Plus 26 x 1.75

I’ve been running Schwalbe Big Ben 26 x 2.15 tires for most of the time I have owned my Novara Bonita bicycle. It originally came with WTB WeirWolf Comp 26 x 2.1 trail tires. I travel pavement and gravel rail trails and I don’t need an off-road tire; in fact, they are noisy and slow on hard surfaces and I got two flats in one 25 mile gravel trail trip from blackberry thorns.

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Timbuk2 Metro Mini Messenger Bag as a Pannier

I found a Timbuk2 Metro model mini messenger bag in a thrift store and saw the potential to use it as a small pannier bag. I added a couple plastic carabiners to the existing shoulder strap D-rings and it fit perfectly on my Topeak Explorer rack without any further adaptation— truly a 60 second project. I would consider this a fair weather rig as the bag is not waterproof and the top of the bag has a simple flap closure. It makes a perfect size for tools, snack, wind shell and camera.

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On Bicycles and Tools

tool
/to͞ol/
noun: tool; plural noun: tools
1. a device or implement, especially one held in the hand, used to carry out a particular function.

I like tools. They help me earn a living, to keep my life in order, give me some independence, and aid creative output. And I like tools just for the design, the form and function. Some are quite beautiful and clever. I know how to use tools, so having them is an extension of my knowledge and ability. I’m smarter with tools at hand, so more is better— maybe.

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Anatomy of a Hike

I thought I would share my resources and techniques for planning a hike. I live in Seattle and most often hike in the Western Cascades.

First of all, I check the weather report. That helps to decide when and where to go and what to pack, not to mention if you should head that way at all. First and foremost hiking is recreation. The idea is to enjoy the journey and come home safely to do it over and over again. In my humble opinion, no destination is worth a critical injury or death. Never feel bad about canceling your plans or turning around when things aren’t right.

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Ultralight Backpacking Basics

Long before I got into my fascination with bicycles, I discovered ultralight backpacking. In my younger days a typical weekend load could hover around 50 pounds and it was just plain miserable. Gear and techniques have changed greatly over the years and I can now head out with a total load of 20 pounds or so. Ultralight folk use the term base weight to describe the weight of all their gear not including consumables, like water, food and cooking fuel. My 3-season base weight varies from 8-12 pounds per the season (read insulated clothing and sleeping gear) and shelter options I choose. As you lighten your load, you will start to feel the snowball effect and find the need for a heavy pack and boots is offset. You can hike farther and faster with less effort, giving you more time to enjoy the views, or take an afternoon nap in a sunny spot.

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Dirtbag Instant Dog Backpack Bike Panniers

I’ve been thinking about designs for small paniers to carry tools, spare tube and patch kit and my bike lock. I was getting my dog ready for a hike and was putting a backpack on him and the light bulb went on: dog packs are just small saddlebags with a panel at the top just about the same width as the deck on a bicycle rear rack. I tried it on my bike for size and sure enough, it was like a custom made item.

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