Always Inspect Your Tires Closely!

REI had 26×1.8 Michelin City tires at 25% off $28. I was worried about my decade-old tires, particularly the fact that at only 1.4 inches, rim damage seemed fairly likely on a tour. I nabbed the last two tires.

I noticed that one of the tires was missing the cardboard product tag, and that it had some writing inside the tire. I didn’t think much of it, and neither did the cashier.

When I got home, I went straight to work. First, I had to figure out the rotation direction. On these tires, it’s embossed right on the reflective stripe, so it’s quite hard to see. I finally found the embossed arrow and, just as I set the tire down, something caught my eye:

There was the faintest of lines in the sidewall…

With a bit of flex, things got scary fast:

Not only was the tire ply visible, it was cut clean through along at least three parallel lines!

So remember: always very carefully inspect tires before purchasing them. High speed blowouts are not fun.

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Nashbar Waterproof Front Panniers

I needed a set of front bicycle panniers for my upcoming West Coast ride. Since it will be rare that I’ll need more storage capacity than my Ortlieb Backrollers offer, I didn’t want to spend a lot of money. Nashbar was running a discount on their waterproof front panniers (NA-WPF2-K), putting them under $40. At that price, they would be worth buying even if they only lasted for one trip.


The bag appears to be made out of PVC-coated nylon. It has both a roll-top inner closure, plus an outer cover which snaps down. Each bag has two stout metal hooks which attach to the top rail of the rack. Attachment to the lower rail is via elastic and a metal hook. The lower attachment system seems low quality, but it functions surprisingly well.



Roll-top closure:

Upper mounting hooks:

Lower mounting hooks:


Next to each upper hook, there is a Velcro loop. This should function to prevent the bag from moving too far upward and coming unhooked. In the event that it does come unhooked, I imagine that the Velcro loops would keep the bag on the bike. Given the relative strength of the steel hook and Velcro loops, I do not think that the loops are intended to carry the full weight of the bag in normal use!

Since the loops extended beyond my Jannd Extreme front rack, I added a loop of paracord through which I can secure the Velcro loops. I used a double-fisherman’s knot, so it won’t slip when loaded.

Many reviews mention that the rivets fail. Looking at them, I can imagine how easily this would happen under load:

In order to assure that I can’t experience complete failure, I drilled out the upper rivet in each hook and replaced it with a stainless steel bolt. I used a fender washer — which has a large diameter — to spread the load across a larger area of the bag liner. I also used a regular washer in order to make the nut fit without exposing any bolt threads, since I didn’t want things catching on the bolt.

A more glaring problem is that of the lower hooks. They literally just slip through the elastic and are held there by gravity or tension. Without tension, it takes only mild jarring to cause them to work their way free. In fact, I lost one hook within the first week, when I took the bag with me down to the hardware store!

I absolutely recommend that anyone who buys these bags immediately modify the elastic in order to retain the hook! You could simply use a zip tie, though made a quick stitch with a sewing machine.

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Bicycle Wheel Bearings

I’m looking for replacement bearings for a Shimano M760 XT rear hub. According to Shimano’s technical documents website, it uses 1/4″ bearings, nine per side. The lowest price I found for bicycle bearings was 25 for $4.80 at JensonUSA.

However, by going to McMaster Carr, an industrial supplier, I found a package of 100 bearings for only $4.37 (part number 9528K15). These are Grade 25, just like the JensonUSA bearings.

Edit: Price ($4.24 to $4.37, so 13 cents in two years) and link were updated in July, 2013.

Regarding the grades of bearings, according to Wikipedia, inch-size ball bearings are graded from 1000 to 3, where smaller numbers indicate higher precision. It appears that Grade 25 is commonly used on higher end bicycle components, with Grade 300 on some low-cost parts. Different materials are available, such as stainless steel. Harder bearing materials should not be used, as this will cause the bearing races to wear out rather than the cheap and easily replaced ball bearings. Also be aware that steel balls are not the same as ball bearings, are much harder, and should be avoided for the same reason.

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Photo Journal: Dempster Highway to the Arctic

Dempster Highway to the Arctic, Vancouver to Inuvik is an interesting photo journal by David Cambon.

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Rock Climbing Gyms in Japan

I’ve begun to gather information on rock climbing gyms in Japan and put them into Google Maps. This map is centered on Tokyo, but I’ll add gyms anywhere in Japan as I come across them.

My goal is to provide, for each gym:

  • Exact location, including standardized Japanese address, as well as a Western-readable address.
  • Hours of operation.
  • Prices.
  • Whether the gym provides roped climbing, bouldering, or both.
  • Images of the exterior and interior climbing walls.

View Indoor Climbing Gyms/Walls in Japan in a larger map

The map currently includes the following gyms:

Central Fitness Club Nishidai
3-7-10 Hasune Itabashi-ku, Tōkyō

Fukagawa Sport Center
1-2-18 Etchūjima Kōtō-ku, Tōkyō

Nippin Main Branch
3-11-1 Soto-kanda Chiyoda-ku, Tōkyō

Rondo Fitness Club
1-28, Sakae-chō Higashi-murayama-shi

T-Wall Kinshi-chō Branch
2-10-12 Mouri Kōtō-ku, Tōkyō

T-Wall Edogawabashi Tokyo
2-5-23 Suidō Bunkyō-ku, Tōkyō

Tama Sport Hall
5 Azuma-chō Akishima-shi, Tōkyō

Climbing Gym Runout
Tokyo Building, 2-10-19 Nishi-koigakubo Kokubunji-shi, Tōkyō

B-Pump 2 Kanagawa, Yokohama
1-8-2 Hiranuma Nishi Yokohama Kanagawa

B-Pump Tokyo
1-24-10 Kamiogi Sugunami-Ku Tōkyō

Pump 2 Kawasaki
Tama Ward, Kawasaki City, Kanagawa Prefecture

Pump Ōsaka
Nishiyodogawa Ward, Ōsaka City, Ōsaka Prefecture

NS Building B1, 3-17-11 Sanda-machi Hachioji-shi, Tōkyō

J-Wall in Kanagawa

Central Fitness Club Mizunokuchi
2-10-22 Mizonokuchi, Takatsu, Kawasaki, Kanagawa

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Cheap Bear Canisters

Harbor Freight Bear CanisterHarbor Freight, of all places, sells a bear canister for a mere $29.87. It looks an awful lot like the Garcia Bear-Resistant Container at REI, which sells for $69.95.

I’ve heard this bear canister isn’t approved for use in the Sierra. I have no idea what, if any, certification it’s received.

Posted in Backpacking | 2 Comments

Mountain Bike to Cyclocross/Touring Conversion

I need a touring bike, and I’m on a budget. My old Barracuda AM2, aluminum-framed mountain bike frame is tapped for rear pannier mounts, so perhaps a conversion is in order.

As I quickly found out, there’s a lot more to fitting drop bars and a rigid fork onto a mountain frame than I had expected. Hopefully, this will help clear things up for the next person who tries.


There’s no point in having that crummy Manitou Pro X suspension fork soaking up all my energy if I’m just touring. Besides, there are no provisions for mounting a rack. A rigid fork is in order.

Since this is going onto a mountain bike frame which was designed for a suspension fork (typically around 80mm of additional height), a “suspension corrected” fork is required.

Name Size Brakes Braze-
Rake Weight
Surly 1×1
26″x2.7″ canti fender 413mm 45mm 2.27 Lbs
Surly 1×1
26″x2.7″ canti +
fender 413mm 45mm 2.34 Lbs
Surly Big Dummy 26″x2.5″ canti +
425mm 43mm 2.9 Lbs
Long Haul
26″x2.1″ canti fender +
376mm 45mm 2.11 Lbs
Long Haul
700Cx44mm canti fender +
390mm 45mm 2.25 Lbs
Salsa CroMoto
26″x? disk fender 445mm 41mm 2.2 Lbs
Salsa CroMoto
26″x? canti +
fender 425mm 41mm 2.2 Lbs
Nashbar 700C 700Cx? canti + disk fender ?? 45mm 2.93


  • The Nashbar fork does not seem to be suspension-corrected.
  • Notice that the Salsa and Surly model numbers seem similar? That’s because they’re owned by the same parent company, Quality Bicycle Products.
  • To my knowledge, the only difference between a fender eyelet/braze-on and a rack eyelet is which side of the fork it’s on. According to everything I’ve read, there’s absolutely no reason you can’t support a rack with a “fender” eyelet.


As much as I would love to have Ultegra 9-speed STI shifters like on my Cannondale road bike, I don’t have $300 to spare (also, they aren’t compatible with V-Brakes, see below). Instead, I will use bar-end shifters, which are cheap and rugged.

Two Shimano bar-end shifters are currently available: the Ultegra 8-speed shifter, and the Dura-Ace 9-speed shifter. The indexing of the 8-speed shifter is incompatible with 9- and 10-speed derailleurs. However, friction-shifting (non-indexed) mode can be used regardless of the shifter/derailleur combination.

Regarding Dura-Ace compatibility, with 8-speed and older setups, Dura-Ace shifters were only compatible with Dura-Ace derailleurs (the pull length was unique). With 9-speed and 10-speed, however, Dura-Ace shifters work with any 9/10-speed Shimano derailleurs.

SL-BS77 Dura-Ace 9 speed – works with any 9-speed derailleur
Shimano SL-BS78 10-Speed DuraAce Bar End Shifter SL-BS78 Dura-Ace 10 speed – works with any 9/10-speed derailleur
SL-BS64 8-Speed Ultegra Bar End Shifter – works with any 8-speed derailleur or, in friction mode, any 9/10-speed derailleur


Brake levers come in two types: standard pull and long pull. Standard pull levers are for use with classic cantilever brakes. Long pull levers are for use with direct-pull (“V-Brake”) brakes.

Direct Pull Pulley AdapterNormal road levers (such as all Shimano STI integrated brake/shifters) are standard pull and require a pulley system such as a QBP Travel Agent, or a World Class V-Daptor in order to work with V-Brakes.

Additionally, while mountain bike brake levers have a built-in cable adjuster, road bikes do not. So, a ‘noodle’ with a built-in cable adjuster will be required, as shown in the Dia Compe 287V photo below.

There are a few road-style brake levers which can be used directly directly with V-Brake style brakes, no adaptation required:

Dia Compe 287-V (discontinued)
Cane Creek Drop V (formerly SCR-5V?)
Tektro RL520 (Tektro is said to be the same company as Cane Creek, but the levers seem to be half the price of the Cane Creeks…)


It seems that just about any handlebars will do. Salsa and FSA Omega seem to be popular choices, as listed below. Cyclocross people seem to recommend going about 2cm wider than your usual road bar. Since I’m most interested in touring, I’ll probably go with the same width as my road bikes.

Salsa Moto Ace Bell Lap Anatomic ($34) 26mm x 42cm/44cm/46cm, 82mm reach, 144mm drop, 282g (2007 model listed at 261g)
FSA Omega 31.8mm x 40cm/42cm/44cm, 80mm reach, 125mm drop, 300g

The FSA Omega comes standard on all of Co-Motion’s touring singles, which leads me to believe it’s a quality item in spite of its low price.

Cable Routing

Normally, the shifter cable exits the front of the bar-end shifter, is concealed under a few wraps of tape, then extends forward along the plane of bottom of the drop-bars, and arcs back around toward the head tube, as in the photo to the right (from Arctic Hawk on

It is also possible to fully conceal the shifter cables by taping them against the handlebar, covered by handlebar tape until near the stem. However, on larger frames, this will require a longer than standard shifter cable for the rear. Cable and housing intended for a tandem bicycle will provide the necessary length. Standard derailleur cables are 1700mm in length, while tandem cables are 3000mm.

Also, when running this extra length, be sure to use Shimano (or other high-quality) cable and housing. The extra length and curves will significantly increase resistance if high-quality cable and housing isn’t used. (source)


Some weird terminology that came up while researching this conversion.

  • Brifter – Integrated brake and shifter, such as Shimano’s STI lineup.
  • Bar-con – I have no idea what the origin of this is, but it seems to simply refer to bar-end shifters.
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Finding the Black Rock Mountain Bike Area in Falls City, Oregon

Since I managed to get lost trying to find the Black Rock Mountain Bike Area in Falls City (despite being more or less a local), I thought others might benefit from a clear guide. This follows the route from Salem.

View Larger Map

Take Highway 22 west out of Salem:


Continue on Highway 22:


Stay in the left lane and turn left toward Dallas:


Continue into Dallas. At the light, turn left onto Highway 223, Kings Valley Highway (Wal-Mart is ahead, on the right):


Proceed through downtown Dallas. Watch your speed, it’s all a 20mph zone, and the police are quite bored here. Turn right onto Washington:


Santiam Bicycle is about 1/8 mile on the left, should you need a Black Rock map

Keep left onto Highway 223, Kings Valley Highway:


Turn right onto Falls City Road:


Entering Falls City:


At this point, begin looking for the blue signs pointing the way to Black Rock.

After passing the town grocery store, keep right at the intersection, onto Black Rock Road:


Keep left at the fork:


The road will turn fairly rough, with loose gravel. The traction is better than you think, I tested it thoroughly… ;-)


Turn right at Socialist Valley Road:


Socialist Valley Road leads immediately to the private Tapawingo campground:


Outside this gate, on the right, is parking. Get on your bicycle, continue past this gate, and follow the road to the orange gate (you can’t miss it) and the trailhead will be on the right. Maintain slow speeds until the trailhead is reached, since this is private property which is graciously being allowed use by bicyclists.

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Ecco Track Elite: Best Boots Ever

The Ecco Track Elite, model 24604, is easily the best boot I’ve ever owned. It’s far taller, and provides much more support, than any of the other Track series boots.

Ecco’s soles are soft and comfortable. While this results in a shorter-lived boot, for people like me with ankle tendonitis, it’s absolutely critical.

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In addition to my Halloween plans falling through, I just found out that independent hiking on the Inca Trail is prohibited!

Since June 2002 trekking independently on the Inca Trail has been prohibited. Regulations state that each trekker must be accompanied on the Inca Trail by a professionally qualified guide. (source)

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