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
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s streak of consecutive cycling days has reached more than 8,000. Click to read Jim’s full bio.