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Rock The Bike

New chain = Happy biking

Installed a new chain tonight. This isn’t really front page news, except I wanted to remind people about the benefits of installing a new chain, and ways to tell when you need to do so.

Installing a new chain has a few important benefits. Normal riding causes chains to stretch, which wears your gears out faster (leading to ‘shark’s fin’ shaped gears on your chainrings and cogs. Eventually your chain will slip or ‘kerchunk’ when you pedal hard. This is dangerous and uncool. At this point you’re looking at spending real $$ for a new chainring set, cassette, and chain.

1. Replacing your chain before it stretches too far makes the rest of your drivetrain last much longer. If you do the math, installing new chains saves you money because it means you don’t have to change cassettes and chainrings as often. (They will probably wear 2-3 times faster if you don’t replace your chain.) A new chain is a $10-20 part at a bike shop. Rock the bike customers, in a couple weeks you’ll be able to order a new chain through our ecommerce section.

2. It makes your bike feel new again. A new chain is silent and has that ‘sweet spot’ feeling. It’s also more efficient; you’ll be going about 1% faster, or something.

3. It’s not a hard repair. You’ll feel manly, or womanly. Replacing a chain is greasy, but not hard. If you have a decent chain tool , the whole thing can take less than 15 minutes.

So when do you need a new chain? A chain will start to squeak more when it’s worn. It will also make a high pitched shimmery “crrrrooooiiinnnk” noise when you pedal hard. The noise sounds like a bunch of coins spinning on a metal table and coming to rest. If you suspect yours is worn, it’s worth measuring it with a chain wear indicator (buy one?) or a ruler .

I replace my chain about once a year. Not a big deal. Just thought you’d enjoy hearing about one way to make your bike last longer and funner.


BCAT Workshop Day

I worked at the BCAT today helping Fossil Fool do some shop cleanup, and some of the tedious steps in building the Down Low Glow. Good times, yeah the work was pretty simple as far as labor is concerned, sweeping up the shop, organizing products, storing stuff, preparing shipping materials, necessary steps in keeping the products moving smoothly. Once all these things are in place the work can begin! I’m happy to be helping with one of my favorite bike products on the market, and I take pride in being a small part in actually getting these things out to people so they can enjoy them! The next day is coming soon and this will only go on until the semester starts so I really hope to engage in the process and learn as much as I can about the systems of DLG, electronics, bike stereos and just enjoying bike culture and tech talk. Always good times!

I Love the Buddy Bike

side by side tandem

So I’ve been thinking about the elements of a great cruiser ride. I won’t go into the obvious ones right now, but I want to share one of the ones that’s not so obvious.

Getting a lot of people into a small area.

If you’re throwing a party, you want to fill the room. That’s when the energy rises to that special point, and people start to dance.

On a bike ride, it’s the same. It won’t have that party ride feeling unless you’ve got a lot of people in a small space. But how do you do that on bikes without causing accidents? Well, you get tandems and rickshaws and fill them with people. Then you pick a relatively flat, easy route, and keep the speeds mellow.

The element of conversation is so much nicer when people are close together. And the music doesn’t have to be turned up as loud when everyone is close enough to hear it.

As long as you’re going to involve tandems in your cruiser ride, you might as well seek out a “Buddy Bike” or Side-by-Side tandem. I should be careful using the term “Buddy Bike” because it’s now a company making special-needs tandems (bikes that a ‘normal’ adult and a special needs kid can ride together.) “Buddy Bike” used to be a small company making side by side tandems. It’s an idea that has never ‘caught on’ but will, once there is a healthy bike cruising scene in every city and town in this country.

Thao and I rode a Side By Side tandem at the Oregon Country Fair and the experience was so much nicer than any other tandem I’ve been on. Yes, front-back tandems are fast and sleek, but they don’t give you that “Slide over baby” feeling. The people in the picture above seem like they have a death grip on the handlebars. But it wasn’t hard to ride with my arm around Thao as we cruised the outer grounds of the Oregon Country Fair. The tandem has two wheels, i.e. it is lots of fun to take turns and coast down hills. Some side-by-side tandems have three or four wheels. This may seem obvious to you, but bikes with more than two wheels aren’t bikes at all. So they may have great characteristics and they may be lots of fun, but they won’t feel like a bike. They won’t take turns like a bike. The side by side tandem may catch a lot of wind resistance, but it’s fun to ride. And when you’re cruising, fun trumps speed.

I am hoping to build up a side-by-side tandem in the next year and put a sweet little sound system on it for the SF Cruiser Ride.

At least 10 bike sound systems at the last critical mass

I went to the June Critical Mass with Thao and some friends. We rocked two Soul Cycles (linked by wireless broadcast.) On the way there I was nearly knocked down by a taxi. A fellow biker immediately jumped off his bike, threw it down (a nice single-speed), and prevented the taxi from moving while I got my bearings back.

At the ride there were at least 5-10 other bike sound systems. It made the mass very noisy. Most of these systems were pretty hacked together things, not much to look at. My friend Hector had been working on his — he added some bright red fake fur to make a passenger seat. Not my style, but hey.


It got me thinking about bikes and amplified music. I have been rolling my Soul Cycle around San Francisco for three years now, and the response has been 99% positive. But, I depend on the goodwill of the community to explore this art further. When 10 music bikes show up at Critical Mass, it definitely takes away the shared experience for other folks. Conflicting musical styles and clashing soundwaves makes this potentially ethereal experience into another thrash session.

The next week I was up at the Oregon Country Fair. The Fair limits amplified music to designated music stages. This means you can’t have a boombox at your camp, and you can’t roll the Soul Cycle. We did it anyway, of course, but we limited our excursions to a few and tried to keep it on the periphery of the fair grounds.

But I have to say… The no amplified music rule was really special. At night, groups of friends would simply walk the paths of the fair. Acoustic guitars had no problem being heard. We sang and rapped for cookies, noodles, and tiramisu. Spontaneous freestyle cyphers popped up, and the whole fair had a magical, ran-away-with-the-circus feeling to it.

So that got me thinking about the limitations of Soul Cycling. Yes, it does elevate the mood of a cruiser ride, but it also prevents other creative expressions from popping up. Since coming back, I’ve been listening to music lower, and only turning up when people are really gathered around and dancing. (When they crave the bass.)

It’s important to show respect to the community. This means turning down if you’re stopped outside someone’s house. Think about the music you’re playing. Does it make other people smile? Do you have a kill switch on your handlebars? You should. A kill switch can help to diffuse any sort of negative situation whether it be a cop, a neighbor, or one of your own friends who wants to tell you something. Cruising with music is not about playing music loud. It’s about elevating the spirit of the neighborhood.