Thoughts on friction shifting

I freely admit it. I’ve spent a lot of money on fad bike parts “that will last me a lifetime.” I’ve bought many items that are the ‘ideal’ this or the ‘perfect’ that. But I think that it can take a long time, no matter whether you’re talking about clothes, bikes, white goods or whatever, to tune out peer pressure, hype and the snare drum of progress, and buy stuff that’s genuinely useful. 

Sun Race Friction Thumb Shifters
Sun Race Friction Thumb Shifters

Bikes are no different to every other consumer item. There’s  a relentess march towards more, easier, faster, smarter. Gears make cycling easier, I’ve got no problem with that. However, I’ve taught my sons to ride bikes in the Indexed Gear Period, and they’ve got no idea what friction shifting is, and thus how a derailleur actually works. 

My first derailleur bike had a downtube shifer and a Simplex derailleur on a five speed block. When I pushed the lever one way, the chain went left. When I pushed the lever the other way the chain went right. When I didn’t get it right the chain made a funny noise. So I tweaked the lever and Lo!, the noise ceased. 

I’ve just bought a set of Sun Race Thumbshifters, the only friction only thumbshifters IN THE WORLD. Big deal you might think. But here’s the thing – shifting friction is a lesson that all derailleur users should take. Even if they just flirt with friction, it’ll make them treat their indexed gears with reverence and  mechanical sympathy. 

Aside from all this, these shifters are superb value. $10 including cables for a fantastic racheted shifting action,  the lightest shifter available anywhere, and an object lesson in how to change gear. You can keep your STIs, Ergopower, SIS, SRAM triggers and Gripshifts. Simple mechanisms empower the user and last forever, impervious to the march of time and the death knell of obselescence.

Review: Pacific Outdoor Co-op Pannier

Product: Pacific Outdoor Coop Pannier | RRP: £75.99 | Source:

For the past week I’ve been using the ‘Co-op’ shopping pannier from Montana based outdoor equipment makers Pacific Outdoor.

All this fits easily into the shopping pannier
All this fits easily into the shopping pannier

From their background in making drybags, sleepmats and other items of outdoor gear, Pacific Outdoor have only recently branched out it cycle luggage, making a range of bags for tourists and everyday riders. 

The Co-op is a 30 litre, open topped pannier in a fetching two tone chocolate and caramel colour, made from welded waterproof nylon, featuring tried and tested Rixen and Kaul fittings. The bag is also available in Black, Apple and ‘Raft Blue’…

The basic idea of the shopping pannier is a rigid, single pannier with no lid, which is easy to load and you can carry into the supermarket in your trolley, fill with shopping (Top tip – drop your shopping into your bags so you know how much you can carry), pay and go. 

The Co-op ready to unload after a supermarket trip
The Co-op ready to unload after a supermarket trip

The open top design is great and features a simple webbing strap closure, so you can cinch the top closed. Sure if it rains, your stuff will get wet, but for short shopping trips this isn’t as  much of an issue as you think. The open top design also means that you can load other bags into it. You can use it to carry large items that are much taller than the bag itself and its boxy shape means that your groceries behave themselves once you load up. In the past I’ve used a standard ‘touring panner’ and delicate items like salad, eggs, etc have been crushed on the way home. 

Quality Rixen and Kaul fitting system
Quality Rixen and Kaul fitting system

The pannier should be just as useful on the daily commute too – the ability to drop your rucksack or laptop bag into it makes it ultra convenient. You could add a drybag from an outdoor shop if you’re worried about your stuff getting soaked in a downpour. In this respect, the Co-op has the same kind of ‘stop-go’ usability of a basket, without the basket aesthetic, which isn’t everyone’s thing. 

So the price… I must admit that I choked at the £75 price tag at first, but this bag is beautifully made with a first class fitting system. The styling and colour scheme will go with any tasteful utility bike, teaming perfectly with a honey or brown Brooks saddle.

The one issue that you’d need to be careful with is heel clearance. This is a big pannier, so if you’ve got big feet, a bike with short chainstays, a rack which doesn’t allow you to position panniers far back, you might get heel strike problems. For instance, I couldn’t run the pannier on my Dahon D7 without my size 11 shoes hitting. However, on my 700c wheeled bike, with longer chainstays and an SL Tournee rack (which has specially low and rearset pannier mounts), there’s plenty of clearance. 

IN SUMMARY: Pricey but beautifully appointed shopping pannier that’ll do a whole lot more than shopping.

Green Bike Monkey Spawns

For the past few months I’ve been blogging on Green Bike Monkey at Blogger. But I’ve seen a few blogs that have shifted to WordPress and the features look really good. 

Also I thought it was time to start a blog just about cycling, that did exactly what it says on the tin. The Everyday Cyclist is for people who ride everyday bikes in everyday clothes – people for whom riding a bike is second nature. 

Everyday riding for me is commuting, riding for pleasure and holidaying by bike. It’s not about 80% heart rate training rides and personal bests. That’s for another blog. 

You won’t find lycra or high tech stuff here. You’ll find insights into how I ride, with thoughts and advice on how to completely integrate cycling into your daily life. 

You’ll find honest gear reviews on the stuff I use. You’ll find reports on my kind of riding. I hope that it’s your kind of riding too. 

Just as soon as I’ve figured out how, I’m going to import all the relevant stuff from Green Bike Monkey, and maybe some semi relevant off topic stuff too.

Ch, ch, ch, changes

The postman arrived today with  two packages containing three items, which meant some QT with the all-rounder bike. New additions are:

The ultimate barbag, seatpack or manbag – A Swedish Army Gas Mask Bag re-purposed as a bike bag. I’ve long thought that Army Surplus kit can be made into great cycling luggage and this is my first item. 
I saw it first on OYB – a cool sustainable living blog. This guy adapts his to make it work on the bike even better, adds his OYB (Out Your Backdoor) patch and resells ’em. And good on him. Take a look.
I bought mine from Ebay shop Jungle Clothing UK
The second item was a kickstand – I always loved the kickstand on my Raleigh Chopper when I was a kid, so why not have one now. I’ve got one on the Dahon and I use it at least three times every ride. 
Last item from the postman, and definitely least, was a very boring pair of curved rack mounts for my SL Tournee rear rack, meaning I can use it in conjunction with V brakes. 
The other change I’ve made is to swap the 610mm North Road bars for a narrower 490mm pair with a greater sweep-back. They were on a Pashley trike I’ve got that was just begging for wider bars. I’ve polished them up – they’re a little scratched from about 20 years of usage, but I think the scratches polished out count as beausage.
I’ve finished them with a minimalistic wrap of bar tape and a pair of wine cork bar end stoppers. 
Most people think I’ve created Frankenstein, but to me, she’s a workaday Venus.  

York – City Cycle Commuting Photodocument

The first in a series of photo documents that I’m doing in major UK cycling cities. The idea is simple – just me, a camera and some cyclists, and pretty much let the pictures speak for themselves.

Not a new idea. Amsterdamize and Copenhagen Cycle Chic have been doing it for ages. But I’d like to document what’s going on in UK towns and cities.

North Road Bars for Country Bike

The North Road bars have been hanging around in the shed for too long, so finally a few weeks ago I decided to give them a run on the country bike. And boy was I in for a treat.

Before I did the swap I had to do a few mods. With no shifters available in the spares bin that’d fit on the MTB diameter bars, I had to revert to singlespeed. While I love the look and simplicity of singlespeed, I’m missing the gearing options. So I’ve ordered a set of Sunrace friction thumb shifters from a US based ebay seller. They should arrive soon.

Also sourced from ebay were a set of Tektro V brake levers to work with a set of Promax V brakes that I had taken off the Dahon. I had a front loading quill stem taken from a Fuji track bike that works really well with the generous 80mm of rise on the Raleigh North Road bars. A set of Bontrager foam grips and I was sorted.
So what’s the verdict? Well I have to say that this is by far the most versatile and comfortable handlebar I’ve ever used. Better than flats, risers, moustaches, butterflies or drops. What I’ve done since these pics were taken is to completely wrap the handlebar with Specialized Roubaix tape. It’s the best bar tape I’ve ever used. Cloth-like look but great padding, and reusable – it doesn’t have adhesive on the back – rather it uses semi-sticky gel to keep it in place. Just wrap it tight and secure the end with electrical tape and voila!
On this bike I’ve ridden steep rough downhills and tricky trails with more confidence that on any other bar setup, including that of my Mountain Bike. The bars are a full 610mm wide and have a 45-50 degree backsweep. Some North Road bars have more backsweep – usually around 70 degrees or more, making it hard to brace the hands on bumpy off road descents. With this bar though, no problems. With the bars ‘wrapped’ instead of ‘gripped’ you can use the full length of the backswept section, both fore and aft of the brake lever, including the forward bend section, where you can hook your thumb under, like on a moustache or drop bar. This gives you a great stretched position for more athletic riding.
All in all, the best setup yet. Will post again when the thumbshifters arrive. I intend to put them well inboard, on the small flat section next to the stem, so they don’t use up valuable hand-real-estate. A bit like Myles from Rat Trap Press’ Surly LHT