Thursday, November 26, 2009

craigslist (or other bulletin board) ads for bicycles

I have advice for sellers of bicycles who post on craigslist or similar websites, including bicycle club message boards or elsewhere. This is advice that will help you attract buyers and also keep buyers from wasting your time. This is only a sampling of consistent issues I see in ads posted on craigslists, for all sorts of items, especially bicycles.

1) Write a title that is descriptive.
"bicycle - $20" is not effective.
"1990s Trek road bike" is a little better.
"1992 mens' Trek road bicycle 56cm, like new" is even better still.

2) Include a photo... a good photo!
Avoid using clip art. We don't know if you are too lazy to take a pic or if you just plan on mugging us when we arrive with cash to buy your $2000 Prince or Cervelo. And please, try to avoid blurry and dark obscure shots of your bicycle taken with your cell phone!

3) Include a SIZE in the description... and a description of the size and components is very welcomed!
Eliminate the waste of time created by potential buyers contacting you to get the size of your bike for sale - do both of you a favor and list the size. Measured from crank to the top of the seat post or whatever. Even a ballpark estimate is better than none.

Secondly, please describe how your bicycle is equipped. Is it all stock from the factory or did you upgrade and/or repair or replace parts during the time you've owned it? This might be proof enough to justify why you might be asking $200 more than what might sound reasonable for a bicycle of this model or age, for example. If you just list the make and model and year of the bicycle, the potential buyer won't know you spent $600 upgrading the wheels and drivetrain. I'm just sayin'...

4) No one wants your story... this isn't Oprah.
OK. We understand. Sh*t happens. You need to sell this bike for a reason. Maybe you bought it with an ex and she dumped you for a X-games star or her yoga instructor... we don't really care. What we do care about are the items listed above and if you have receipts for any work on the bike, including the receipt for where and when you bought the bike, if available.

5) Provide contact info and the times to call or when you're available to show the bicycle to buyers.
Assume someone might e-mail you 5 minutes after you post the ad. How will they contact you? If you put e-mail contact only in the ad, how often do you check it? If you put a phone number, is that cell or home or work? What hours do you answer? Do you accept text messages?

Related to this is your location. Please specify where you are able to and willing to meet-up. If you put "south end" that's pretty vague. South end of what?

Anyone else have suggestions to sellers? I may add more as time goes on.

Friday, November 20, 2009

trainer time already?

The weather here is getting yucky quickly, not to mention quite dark, especially during the post-5PM uphill sprint home.

Not wanting to completely hang up my spurs until spring, I'm finding I am itching to ride more than I have been able to the past couple weeks. Think of a hamster with pent-up energy sans a wheel and you're pretty close to what I feel like lately. This morning I awoke to cascading rain over our gutters, so I didn't feel like getting soaked going TO work. Getting soaked coming FROM work is fine by me - I do anyways because I work so hard riding all the way home uphill that I get quite sweaty. The rain's a bonus.

Naturally, it seems we have the best weather throughout the remainder of the day on the days I do not ride to work. Right now I'm looking out on a wet and cool (but not freezing cold) city without rain actually coming down. Showers predicted for later today though. I don't like to think of myself as a "weather weenie" and have been able to keep riding throughout the year roughly 60% of the time, however, as the temps get closer to freezing, it gets harder and harder to maintain my routine.

So I guess soon, maybe this weekend, I'll haul out the bicycle trainer and set it up in the garage. It's pretty easy to work in a 30-40 minute spin a couple times a week. More challenging is to find something to keep me interested and focused. Uploading different mixes to my iPod (I have the cheapy clip-on one) seems to help.

For gear, I'm using a Ascent brand fluid trainer I picked up from Nashbar with a gift certificate from my VA inlaws last Christmas. Note the link is to a magnetic trainer available from Nashbar as the fluid trainer appears to be out of stock. Since I went the cheap route, it was priced at about $140 but it dropped to $100 when discounts were applied, I now know one feature I would look for in a trainer if I were to buy another one. I'd seek a quick-release for the rear wheel versus a screw in/out knob like my trainer has. It makes taking the bike off the trainer much less of a hassle. This Cycleops brand wind trainer pictured below - and other products by this manufacturer - features this.

So I gotta ask. What do you do in the winters (if you do indeed change your riding habits) and if you do any indoor training, what's on your iPod, DVD player, etc. If there's an interest, I might post a sampling of the songs I find most effective at pushing me to ride harder. The first that comes to mind is Chemical Brothers' "Block Rockin' Beats".

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Welcome to Leandro from Peru!

Hi! Just wanted to say thanks to Leandro and the other subscriber, Wreck in VA, for following my blog.

And for others dropping in, I love to hear about what bicycling-related stuff you're doing, whether it be commuting, running a bike shop, racing, etc.

Feel free to leave a comment or become a follower to this blog. I generally take time to read comments and/or visit links regularly.

~ Nate

so what happens when you have no commute???

While I thought I was safe in layoffs at work this past month - a subject I have not blogged about anywhere, I just got an indication today that the union and/or an individual's legal action might mean I am not in the clear.

What stinks about this is the layoffs are being done purely on seniority (I think) rather than job performance. I have a flawless job record and was employee of the year in 2008.

I'm not griping. I just see it as an opportunity - if something does happen - and I try to be hopeful.

Hey - maybe I'd have the chance to write more and do more bicycle-related stuff. Go on a tour. Visit and write about local bicycle shops and events. Travel abroad.

Who knows?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

electric bikes at a car show

I went to a car show in Seattle this weekend - we took the bus there to avoid traffic and paying a lot to park.

I was amazed to see an electric bicycle company with a few on display including the A2B from Ultra Motor.

There was also another electric bicycle on display, a mountain bike (looked like a Montague, aka "Swiss Bike") that was just shy of $5K. (!!!!) Note: upon a quick internet search, I guess someone does make a Montague electric bike now.

Looks like both bikes have some sort of hub motor to drive the bicycles. I have not yet looked into it further. Also, I didn't study up on how weather-repellent the bikes are.

The staff at the booth were pretty busy and they didn't appear to be set-up for demos. It would have been interesting to see. I just wonder who their demographic is. I would think cyclists might not take them seriously - nor would the people who came to the show to look at cars, trucks, and SUVs. I think quite a few (non-cyclists) would laugh at the notion of paying close to $5K for a bicycle and others (the cyclists) would know exactly which other $5,000 bicycle (or just frame and fork) they'd spend their money on - which would likely weigh 1/5th of the A2B's 72 pounds.

Something tacky about the electric bicycle booth was the inclusion of two (of the same model) of a Segway knock-off, similar to this. These three-wheeled electric-powered "podiums with bike saddles" were quite a bit cheaper than a Segway or one of the electric bikes on display, however, I think they had more in common with an electric mobility chair (like the Rascal) than they did with the Segway or an electric bicycle. Maybe this was in the spirit of showing "green mobility options" - the e-bikes were at the end of a line of other pure electric vehicles.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

thanks for the votes

We won the "Viewers' Choice" award with 45% of the total votes cast! (Total votes cast 1541).

Thanks for voting - if you missed it, you can still see the film by clicking on the video box on the right of this page.

Our film - featuring cyclists - please vote for us!!!

My co-producer, Rob, and I (he's also a cyclist) entered a film contest in our city (Renton) and we got the "Best Use of Renton" award, which is pretty cool. Not like a cash prize cool, but cool nevertheless.

Now, we're up for the "Viewers' Choice" award and the videos are posted online and visitors from the web can vote for their choice (up to 1 time per day - voting closes November 11th).

Why might you want to vote for us? We have a scene with a local cycling team and also visit a LBS where the guy offered to do a track stand for us.

See the box on the right hand of this page to navigate to where you'd need to go view and vote!

Note: the film contes is called "Film Frenzy" and it's the second time the city has sponsored a contest like this where filmmakers have 48 hours to write, shoot, and edit a film that can be up to 4 minutes long. To complicate matters, they throw in a few "curve balls" the films must include. This year, it was: include the clock tower in the film, a piece of public art, and the phrase "I used my Curve Card", a local marketing slogan.

More about the film contest.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

WOW! I'm on Bike Hacks!

In the past, I've mentioned my almost daily ritual of visiting the Bike Hacks blog. I enjoy reading posts about inexpensive (CHEAP) or free ways to make little tweaks to your bike to make it ride better, carry more stuff, or just look plain ugly so no one is tempted to steal your bike!

This week, I was contacted by Matt, one of the bloggers of the BH site in response to some comments I made about adding reflective material to your bicycle. He posted my pics along with links to my blog! That's pretty cool in my book.

Additionally, when I posted this to my Facebook page, a friend of mine named Dave I used to do stand-up comedy with back in the day (circa 1992-1994) also was featured on the Bike Hacks blog when he was working on an all-weather "rain bike". Dave also has a blog too.

Another funny thing to note is Dave and I back in the 1990s also hung out with a guy named Wally Glenn who is better known now as a performance artist known as "Pyro Boy". Dave went on to do a few TV shows with Wally and I sort of lost touch with them at some point. FB closed the loop.

Friday, November 6, 2009

1st commute wipe-out

I'm still a bit PO'd about this. Basically, in a nutshell, I wiped out this morning on the Transfer while en route to work. I'm OK physically (we'll see tomorrow AM if I have any muscle soreness - I expect there will be), and the bike is OK (just minor scrapes on the pedal end and end of handlebar). So I guess that's the good news.

There is a major construction zone along my preferred route to work - the others being either more-heavily traveled or considerably steeper and a lengthier route door-to-door. Going to work is mostly flat or downhill, coming home of course, is flattish and uphill.

The construction zone is for a project to build an interstate highway interchange - so this isn't a small project by any means. To protect pedestrians and bicyclists, or at least keep them away from construction crews, the construction crews have made a separated, shared path* along one side of the road, segregated from traffic by jersey barricades and a chain link fence.

As I was traveling in this protected area this morning at about 15 mph or less, I saw ahead what appeared to be plywood laid down in the path. It wasn't. It was 1" tall steel plate that was wet and covered with a bit of sand and dirt. Between choices of hopping the plate (likely 6 to 8 feet wide, not a great option) or trying to stop (also not a good option - not enough distance to stop) I chose the latter. The front wheel struck the plate and dumped the bike over to the left. I hopped off the bike (PO'd that the bike was dumped - I was more concerned about getting it scraped up) and landed on my feet, running a few steps but staying on my feet.

A construction worker asked if I was OK. I said I was PO'd and explained I could not see the plate. He said he had cones (three of them - pushed to one side) but he didn't want them to obstruct the path (????). I got back on my bike and rode away, as I was a block or two from my employer's.

Ironic that my focus lately has been on making me more visible to others and my attention has been directed towards watching out for other moving objects (like cars) and that my wipe-out has nothing to do with that. I think my next investment will be for an ultra bright light - I cannot rely upon others to provide adequate illumination or to keep paths clear - even those designated for pedestrians and bicyclists.

*Since using this shared facility, I am becoming less and less thrilled with them. Since it is only on one side of the road, I hate riding against traffic on the opposite side of the road than I am accustomed to. Barrier there or not, it just feels weird. The reason I have not continued to stay in traffic is on the opposite side of the road they have barricades there and no shoulder, so if you get a flat or what-have-you, you're pretty much stuck in an "automotive gauntlet" for nearly three-quarters of a mile. I'll try to post pictures of this - or maybe try to make a video.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


I was reading a repost in the Seattle PI online edition (only edition) that discussed tactics for bicylists to improve their visibility. The article has a lot of good tips and photos accompanying it. You can also employ these on your kids' bikes, trikes, wagons, strollers, etc. to wheelchairs or walkers and also to your pets, or to your own attire or accessories as you're out walking in the seemingly prematurely arriving dark evening hours.

On my own, recently, I too beefed up my visibility on my commuter bike, a REI brand Novara Transfer (which you can read about here). The cool things about this bike is that it comes set-up for commuters - not only is there a color-matched rack and full fenders, it also includes a rear blinky light (integrated into the rear fender) and a front hub powered headlight. As I have found, however, this is just a rudimentary amount of lighting most commuters need. Essentially, it keeps you legal, but it doesn't give you a whole lot of visibility.

Initially, I augmented the rear blinky tail light with a red flasher I got for free courtesy of a community event hosted by WA State's Safe Routes to School Program. Soon after I added a cheapie ($6 at Fred Meyer) but very bright multi-LED flasher to it as well. So I had a built-in light, and two supplementals zip-tied to the rear rack.

Not content with just that alone, I added a flasher (by Planet Bike? Cateye?) to the back of my helmet, again with a zip-tie.

To augment the front headlight - especially important since the hub generator driven headlight does not stay on when you stop for a light or stop sign - I again went to a zip-tie solution and zip-tied a cheap 9 LED flashlight ($6 from Fred Meyer) to the stem.

About the same time as I was making these initial illumination enhancements, I found a wide-mouthed water bottle (a cool Austin music festival one) alongside a road heavily traveled by cyclists. I wasn't going to use it for drinking, but it made a perfect take-along emergency toolkit. It is just the right size for stuffing a patch kit, emergency ID, wrenches and other tools, etc. To fit with the illumination theme here, I added strips of red reflective tape to the sides for additional visibility.

The cool (recent) part - from a local sign shop (that makes highway signs) I received gratis pieces of the hyper-reflective material they use for road signs. This was stuff that would have ended up in the trash otherwise. I got yellow, hi-viz yellow, white/silver, and a clear red that itself isn't reflective, but it is when added over the white/silver. Below are shots of the materials under normal light and in the dark with the flash.

I trimmed strips to fit the front, back, and sides of the Transfer on the frame, fenders, fork, and rack.

And seat stays...

For the motion effect, I also added them to the crank and pedals (to the outside end of Shimano MTB SPDs) for the motion - I did the same with the wheels but have not yet decided if I like that look or not.

I also added the smaller scraps to my helmet.

As you can see from the photo, the combined effect really lights up the bike. No lights are turned on in any of these photos.

In the front view, the only added element is on the forks - the others are reflectors in the headlight or a traditional handlebar-mounted CPSC reflector.

In the rear, the stock red reflector is in the middle of the rack - everything else is from the reflective tape.

the premium placed on vintage

I noticed this phenomenon a while back too.

There's a coolness factor associated with vintage rides, perhaps it's the closest thing to a time machine for many of us who had similar bicycles in our youth - in my case, a red Schwinn Stingray. The feel-good cherry on top that comes with saving something from a landfill, plus avoiding buying something new - which took energy and natural resources to produce - may also explain the trend which has pushed up prices of older bicycles.

That's my take on it.

illuminating contest

It's getting way dark in my evening commutes (especially since DLST). Got a grand idea for lighting up your bike?

If you do, you could win some cool gear by submitting the idea to the web site Instructables.

Cordarounds is sponsoring a contest called "Light Up the Night" on Instructables. (Cordarounds is a clothier which has a lot of cycling-inspired clothing that's also suited for the everyday grind.)

The "Light Up the Night" contest entry cut-off is November 29th. Winners receive cool reflective jackets or pants from Cordarounds.

The grand prize... the Urban Awareness Jacket. See it in action below.

Night Ride: The Urban Awareness Jacket from Cordarounds on Vimeo.

First prizes... any pair of Cordarounds pants... including the Bike to Work pants featured in this video... with pockets with reflective liners and cuffs that are reflective.

Bike to Work Pants from Cordarounds on Vimeo.

Disclaimer: I am not in any way affiliated with Instructables or Cordarounds. But I'd love to try out a pair of the BTW pants or the UA jacket if any Cordarounds folks are reading this! I'd love to start doing product reviews. After about two years of bicycle commuting, I've got a good idea of what products have worked best in my commutes.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

what to do with it?

I think a few weeks back I mentioned a '70's vintage very tall Japanese-made steel touring ten-speed bike I rescued from a dumpster, more or less. I've started to replace some parts and got it functional again (new tires, tubes, brake pads, cables, pedals) and have a few additional things to still do, such as bar tape. The crappy crunched up fenders are long-gone.

Before I do continue on, though, since it is way too tall for me, I'm pondering what to do with it. I have thought of scrapping the project to sell/trade the frame for something better fitted for me. I had thought of selling the whole thing, but for what I was asking (like $20 over the cost of parts) it hasn't attracted interest other than c-list spammer/scammers.

I had considered too stripping it over this winter, respraying the frame with some extra Rustoleum cans I had laying around from assorted projects (white + gray + gunmetal), and then try to offload the frame, and retain the vintage 10-speed Shimano Titlist GS drivetrain (including cool bar end shifters), 27-inch wheel set, handlebars, etc. but then try to sell the refurbished frame, maybe in the spring.

Oh well. For now, it isn't in my way... or more importantly, my wife's way!

In other news... I finally got a speedo, fenders, and some basic lights for the '94 Allez, so I hope to ride it a bit more, even though the weather is getting sucky. I am wranging with the possibility of swapping the stock alloy fork for a carbon one and at the same time, put in a new stem and handlebars and adjust the positioning of the brifters. I gotta ride it more to justify that time and expense though.

I'd love to get full fenders, with long mudflaps, like the ones sold by Velo Orange.

I suppose you're wondering why I even bother with a "junky" bike when I have a decent one or two or three to mess with instead. I couldn't tell you an answer, except to say it is a hobby that distracts me from the stress of the work week, etc.

a conference report

Part of what I do for work relates to supporting and encouraging drivers switching from drive alone commutes to other alternatives, such as transit (buses and trains), vanpools, carpools, and even walking and bicycling.

This week, on Monday and Tuesday, I attended a conference put on by Washington State Ridesharing Organization (WSRO... "wizz-row"). The focus of the conference was communications and social media and marketing.

Interesting stuff I'll have to share once I have time to decompress.

More on WSRO can be found here.