Jim’s Tech Talk
A few weeks back, retired engineer and South Carolinian roadie Will Haltiwanger asked if we could have a column featuring things that people have come up with for their cycling that are “a bit outside the box.”
I liked the idea and shared his nifty home-made seat tube plug. He removes his leather saddle and seatpost from the bike when it’s on his car rack. The plug nicely keeps water out of his frame. Read the whole story with pictures here: https://www.roadbikerider.com/bike-hack-broken-saddle-crash/.
Will’s clever solution for his problem in today’s parlance is a “hack” of sorts. You never know when a unique and ingenious hack might solve a problem, save you money or enhance your cycling. So I asked for you to send in your best outside the box bike and/or cycling hacks.
Already a few have arrived (thank you!) and they’re good ones for the season here in North America. So, I wanted to share them straight away.
Seal Those Vents
Frequent commenter “fixieguy” was first off the line. He explains,
“We’re already in winter in the Northeast; in fact, there’s a raging blizzard going on outside as I type, with 15 inches of snow on the ground already, sideways snow blowing with gusts of 40 mph, and 5 inches more snow expected. So today will be on the torture chamber from cycling hell – my stationary trainer.
My hack is about keeping one’s head warm during cold weather riding. I’ll assume that everyone knows that keeping one’s head warm is the first step toward keeping everything else warm all the way down to your toes and fingertips. A good balaclava head covering is a good start. A good helmet cover is also important. Because all those nice wind channels in your helmet that keep you cool in the summer also keep you cold during the winter, a helmet cover helps block that wind. But a lot of wind still gets through.
Here’s the hack: Use your old helmet or a less expensive helmet for sub-freezing cold, but put duct tape over the vents to block the wind flow. Block only the front 1/2 or 2/3 of the vents. And, you want to leave the back part open to let any warm moisture vent out the back. Moisture close to any body part is the enemy of cold weather riding. Then put the helmet cover over the helmet. No one will know what a weird looking helmet you have, but they will want to know why you seem so comfortable in the cold!”
Replying to fixieguy, George Straznitskas shared another vent hack. He wrote:
“Excellent! Blocking the front helmet vents is a great idea. Thanks. I also live in New England and use duct tape to block vents on my shoes.”
I like both these hacks. You probably have duct tape at home already and covering vents is cheaper and easier than buying covers or new clothing made for winter use (winter cycling shoes are often extra expensive). Duct tape is handy to have along on rides for use as a tire boot (patch) should you slice a tire, too. And it has many other uses.
Trainer Riding Hacks
Then, perhaps to help fixieguy with his trainer riding challenges, Randy Brich offered his indoor cycling hack, complete with a recommended workout for quality training and to help pass the time.
Fixieguy isn’t the only person who can’t stand riding indoors. Going nowhere with no scenery to look at and no one to ride with, the time can drag terribly. Not to mention no hills, descents or corners to enjoy and being stuck pedaling in place.
Randy’s tip is to “listen to your music of choice with earplugs on the streaming service Spotify.com”
And for a great workout that makes the time fly by, he says to try this:
Warmup 15-20 minutes, last 3 min structured, High rep, 3×30 sec at FTP w/ 30 sec recovery
2 min recovery
Workout: 3×8 min Tempo w/ 20 sec FTP every 2 min and 2 min recovery.
Tempo RPM = 65-75, FTP rpm = 90-95
My Indoor Riding Hacks
For a long time, I’ve used Randy’s hacks, doing structured intervals on my trainer and listening to music for a nice distraction. One essential piece of equipment new indoor cyclists often forget is an oversize fan. Without it, you’ll sweat buckets doing intervals. Get one and place it to blow from the side a bit (not directly in your face) – that way it cools more of the body.
I got tired of music after awhile and looked for another distraction. I found it on YouTube. You might think you can’t focus on a video while pounding out repeats on a trainer. But, I think if you give it a try you’ll see that you can and it can make even hard training at least a little enjoyable. Or some cyclists prefer binging on Netflix or Amazon Prime, etc. series. That actually can give you something to look forward to as motivation to climb back on that trainer.
Only recently, I completely switched how I ride indoors and upgraded to a smart trainer. While that’s not a hack, it’s a fascinating, fun and super effective way of riding indoors. It’s now super popular worldwide. We have written about it a couple of times if you’d like to learn more: https://www.roadbikerider.com/observations-of-a-zwift-virtual-world/.
Simple Tools Hack
This one’s for the workshop or toolbox and I didn’t come up with it. It’s something I learned from more senior mechanics when I first started working in shops. It makes tools easier to find, identify and organize.
The hack is to mark the tools you use the most so that you can tell them apart. An easy way to do this is to get some electrical tape in different colors and put a wrap around each tool you want to mark. Another way to do it is to paint part of the tool, but that requires paint and application (you might already have colored electrical tape for finishing your handlebar wrapping).
As an example of how this works in a shop. You probably have a lot of Allen (hex) wrenches that look alike on the workbench and toolbox. You need to use the 4mm or 5mm and since they look similar, it’s easy to pick up the wrong one and have to put it back and try again. Well, if even only the most-used size is wrapped with colored tape, you will now always be able to pick that one up on the first try when you need it.
With a toolbox that has drawers, I have given each drawer a color code and taped each tool that goes in that drawer with that color tape. With this hack, when it comes time to put the tools back in the box, it’s super fast and I’m guaranteed that every tool goes where it fits and belongs.
I noticed recently that Harbor Freight has started offering color-coded tools and have seen some on Amazon, too. However, it’s easy and less expensive to color code your own tools with tape or paint. And I think you’ll appreciate having at least some of them that way.
Thanks, Will, fixieguy, George and Randy! And, keep those hacks coming readers. We’ll share more down the road.
Ride total: 9,863
Dave Waycie says
Rather than duct taping my helmet, when it’s really cold, I wear a ski helmet and goggles. Warm head and the goggles don’t fog up or freeze my face.
I have a couple of sets of cone wrenches and keep them together in a box. They all have the size on the handle or wrench but I always need extra time to try to find the correct size since the sizes are usually hard to read. To solve this I have placed tape on each wrench with the size marked with a sharpie in large numbers. This saves a lot of time sorting through them to find the correct wrench.
When using my round spoke wrench to true wheels, I always need to find the correct size each time I go to a new spoke…very frustrating. To save time, I have color coded the two sizes/notches used the most and no longer have to search each time I move to another spoke.
For those who don’t have any tools this is cut cost hack, I’ve always suggested buying separate tools only when you need them, and stay away from the expensive bike-specific boutique type of tools whenever possible. Buy your tools from Harbor Freight, they’re cheap even though their the same grade as the stuff you would buy at a home improvement big-box store, plus the hand tools are all guaranteed for life, no receipt is needed to return them, and they’ll swap out right then and there. Buying a kit of tools is a waste since most people will never use them all anyway, and some people will already have some tools which means that the tool kit will have duplicates of tools you already have. Another thing I found out is you can even buy just a mini multi-tool, and a mini multi-tool will do a lot of things on a bike, even though I have tools I turn to my mini because it’s right in my seat bag and I don’t have fumble around in my tool chest to find stuff, plus it can go with you on rides.
Just to follow up on duct tape on shoes, I first put a layer of mylar-like material (like from a Starbucks coffee bag or from some brands of potato chip bags – it’s silvery on the inside and has the printed advertising stuff on the outside) over the toe box of the shoe before taping. Open the empty bag, wash it well and dry it, lay it flat and then wrap it around the toe box. Be sure to wrap it with the silver side on the inside. Cut off excess and then secure it with duct tape over the whole toe box. Be certain to leave sufficient room for your cleats. The stuff is a great insulator. I also cut out pieces to match my shoes’ inner soles by tracing the inner soles onto the material and inserting those silver side up in my shoes and putting the inner sole over the material. I have also cut out some old ATB inner tubes into the shape of my inner soles Cut off the valve and then slice the tube open length-wise, and trace your inner soles onto the inner tube material, and cut them out. Insert that in the shoe first, then the mylar-like material, and then the inner sole. Ideally, if you can buy some insulated inner soles, use those instead of those that came with the shoes. With two pairs of wool socks and a good pair of neoprene booties, you should have happy feet.
Leon Webster says
I pass the time in winter by riding rollers. Rollers, unlike trainers that support only the rear wheel, will help you develop a smooth pedaling style and help you learn to ride in a straight line. I put a TV in front of my rollers and watch old racing dvds. I sprint when the racers are sprinting and shift to higher gears when they are climbing mountains. I prefer them to spinning classes (back when we could go to spinning classes).
Kerry Irons says
We have a reading stand in front of our rollers, so you can catch up on magazines or books you didn’t have time for because you were out riding. Turn on the fans, turn on the music, and settle in to reading. I can’t say the time flies, but it does pass easily. Indeed I would go bonkers if I had to do my roller rides with no distractions. And note: you don’t need to do structured workouts all winter. There’s nothing wrong with riding a steady pace and building endurance. You can still get to be a better rider without all the suffering.
Joe DeYoung says
With regards to tools. To keep it simple I only carry tools that fit my bike. Instead of a multitool I only need a T-25 & 4MM allen. which are much easier to use than a multitool and require much less space in my flat kit.
Robert A Hoey says
Re Colored tape on your tools: For the Biker folks who are also into electronics, use the resistor color code. 0 (zero) = black; 1 mm = brown; 2 mm = red; 3 mm = orange; 4 mm = yellow; 5 mm = green; 6 mm = blue; 7 mm = violet; 8 mm = grey; 9 mm = white
Adrian Haemmig says
Great idea. I will use this. Thanks.
judi Schwandt says
For cold feet I put another footbed liner inside my shoe but make sure your shoes aren’t too tight. Also some people use an oven bag over their socks when skiing in the winter so it may work for cycling.
Mike Kohnle says
Instead of a structured trainer/roller workout, I watch movies and let them determine the time and intensity. When watching sports movies (Miracle, Hoosiers, etc) I ride at a flat road/cruise pace during non action scenes. When practice or game scenes come on I shift up and hit tempo pace/Zone 4. I do the same for war movies (Band of Brothers, The Pacific, Saving Private Ryan, etc) or others (Lord of the Rings trilogy, Star Wars, etc) where the battles are the interval sessions. This way the intervals are randomly placed and of random lengths. The last 20 minutes or so of the movies usually end up being one big interval.
Bill LaRoque says
Before I switched to clipless pedals I cut out some aluminum sheeting to the shape of my insoles and put them in my shoes. Made for a stiff sole and more efficient pedaling.