Waxing Lyrical; Whipping Twine, Chain Lube and the Tale of the Lost Mudguard Eye Nut

It’s funny how things happen in threes. There I was, this morning, sitting, drinking my coffee, wondering what my blog post would be today. Then an hour later, after my commute, three interconnected things come along, all at the same time; handlebar twine, chain lube and a lost mudguard eye nut. But what’s the thread that twines this trio together? Well, it’s wax.

Waxed cotton twine on brown cloth tape with four coats of amber shellac.

Twine

I’ve been experimenting with twine for a while; a few weeks ago I shellac-hemp-twined my handlebar tape ends, but, after living with it for a few days, I wasn’t entirely happy with the results. Hemp twine can be pretty ‘hairy’, meaning that something that’s meant to neatly finish the bar tape ends up looking messy. However, the other day, and quite by accident, a roll of waxed-cotton twine came into my possession. A nice cream colour makes a nice contrast with the dark brown cloth tape. However, the killer feature for me is the waxed finish, which makes the twine adhere to itself and its sub layer. The wax finish also makes the tying-off more secure and will also make the twining water and dirt-proof. Some folks don’t like waxed twine because it doesn’t take shellac well, but I see no need for shellac on the waxy stuff. Its main use is in nautical circles, where it’s used to ‘whip’ rope ends, and also to bundle wiring in electrical installations.

Lube

Late yesterday afternoon I received a package from my friends at Green Oil, who, for some years, have been marketing their excellent range of environmentally friendly lubes and bike cleaning products, which use plant-based (rather than petroleum-based) ingredients. Their latest product is something that’s been missing from the shelves forever – ‘White’ liquid chain wax; a beeswax-based dry chain lube, which claims to protect and lube the chain in all weathers, and doesn’t attract road grime. Now, waxing chains is nothing new. Grant Peterson described the process of paraffin waxing chains in one of his fabulous Bridgestone catalogues and he wasn’t the first; it’s been a popular practice with master-mechanics for generations. However, this is (to my knowledge) the first beeswax-based (and therefore non-petrochemical) wax lube available, which is great news. I’m looking forward to degreasing my drivetrain, White-lubing the chain and seeing how it performs over the coming winter. Expect a full test in a few months – in the meantime I’ll keep you posted.

Nuts

And finally, on the way to the station, I noticed an annoying rattle from the front end of the bike. Before I could locate it, one of my mudguard eye nuts had worked loose and rattled onto the road. They’re special 8mm nuts with an extended ridge at the back which tightens into the ‘eye bolt’ and grips, the mudguard stay, keeping the mudguard properly adjusted. I cussed, shook my head and put up with the annoying rattle all the way to the station (I hate annoying rattles). No biggie though; I’m pretty sure I’ve got a spare in my nuts and bolts tin at home. However, what I plan to do is use a little candle-wax on the threads to stop the new nut rattling loose (another top tip courtesy of that clever Mr Peterson). And let’s face it, there are worse things in the world than rattles (but not many).

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Back on board, shellac, twine and Carradice Camper Usefulness

Bike? Check. Beautiful evening? Check. Happy Rider? O yes...
Bike? Check. Beautiful evening? Check. Happy Rider? O yes...

It was with unbridled joy that I climbed back on board Resurrectio for a dreamy ride down into town and along the waterfront yesterday evening. You know, one of those rides were the wind always seems to be behind you and you just want to keep on rolling. I left the house with the intention of maybe riding down to the Pier Head to take in the sights; the Three Graces glowing in the evening sun, the sleek Isle of Man-bound catamaran, rolling gently on the current, the photographers setting up long exposure shots as the sun set. But I just had the urge to carry on, brisk but never hurried. I cycled through Albert Dock and along Otterspool promenade, blissfully traffic-free, all the way to Aigburth before cutting home through Wavertree; all in all, a ride of about 15 miles, by my crude reckoning.

The ride also gave me a chance to take some snaps of my convalescence handicrafts.

Here’s my twined and shellacked bar-tape trim – hemp twine and two coats of amber shellac.

Here’s my twined kickstand – looks nice, in a rustic sort of way, and protects my cranks from knocks.

How about my gear-cable keepers? Much nicer that wrapping the cable inside the tape for a few turns, to my eye.

And here’s my twined aluminium water bottle. This took a lot of hemp twine and a fair old amount of shellac. Grips nicely in the bottle cage and turns an overtly sporty looking item into something altogether more nostalgic.

Here’s a picture of the whole ensemble, glowing in the evening sun (that dipped below the Welsh hills across the Mersey just a few moments later).

And finally, here’s a picture that follow up on my recent Carradice Camper Longflap review, to illustrate its usefulness and load carrying ability. Today I was faced with the prospect of carrying laptop, charger, two video cameras, digital SLR, lunch, commuting gear/tools and a large heavy duty tripod back into work. The quitter in me was reluctantly saying ‘take the car’ but then I thought “Wait a minute…”

So it was; camera bag on back, laptop, lunch and commuting gear in the Carradice, tripod trapped and strapped under the generous lid. All this and there was no need to deploy the Longflap. Once underway I didn’t notice it was there (just had to remember not to squeeze between tight gaps on the way to the station!

Feels good to be back on the (newly beautified) bike.

Beating the No-Bicycling Blues

The sorry lack of posts over the last few days have been due to one inexorable truth – it’s been No-Bicycling Week here at theverydaycyclist HQ. No it’s not some new government initiative – a stinking cold has rendered the bike a sorry spectator instead of principal protagonist in the drama of daily life.

Resurrectio, waiting patiently in the hallway for his master to regain full cycling functionality.

What makes things worse is that last week’s miserable, wet and windy weather has been replaced with still air, clear skies and 17 degree temperatures. The temptation to ride is great, but I know that riding the bicycle today will set my recovery back two days (the stairs in work were a tall order yesterday).

However, I can use this enforced downtime to carry out some essential maintenance. Resurrectio hasn’t had a good wash and relube in a while, and that bar tape could do with a fresh coat of shellac.

Also on the agenda is some more craftsy stuff – I’ve got some leftover cloth tape, that’ll be just enough to wrap the right hand chain-stay to replace the frankly hideous, yet functional, Lizard Skinz neoprene chainstay protector. I’ll wrap and then shellac the chainstay and it’ll end up looking just like the handlebars above.


Are you lookin' at me? Walz, wool and a wary expression.

I may finish it off with some twining (if I can find some decent hemp twine). If I’ve got enough, I’ll also tape, twine and shellac my kickstand so it doesn’t gouge my left hand crank. A little like this.

So, when my body gives me the green light for riding, Resurrectio will be ready (and a little more beautiful). Hopefully, in this way, I can beat the no-bicycling blues.

Also, when I’m recovered, I’ll have my rather excellent tweed Walz cap to enjoy on those wonderful autumnal rides on the bike path.

Right, I’m off – there’s chores to be done.

Long Term Review: Carradice Camper Longflap Saddlebag

I’ve owned a Carradice Camper Longflap saddle bag for almost 18 months now, so I thought it was about time to share my experiences of this capacious, rugged and unashamedly traditional item of bicycle luggage.

Carradice is one of Britain’s longest established cycling-related companies, based in a small factory at Nelson, in the heart of Lancashire. A small production team churn out traditional canvas bike luggage which is shipped around the world to discerning bicyclists. Carradice produces other, modern offerings in Cordura and PVC, but it’s the classic range of canvas bags that is Carrdice’s stock-in-trade.

The Carradice Camper is a saddlebag in the traditional sense – a capacious bag that sits laterally across the bike, attached to the saddle loops of a traditional saddle (e.g. a Brooks) and to the seatpost (Carradice also markets a number of alternative ways of attaching its bags to bikes without saddle-loop equipped seats – The SQR system and the Bagman). The traditional saddlebag differs from current trend for panniers, slung low on a front or rear carrier, or a rack top bag. Take a look at archive pictures of tourists and day riders and you’ll see wall to wall saddlebags from makers like Carradice, Karrimor and Brooks.

The Camper Longflap is the largest of Carradice’s traditional saddlebags, with a huge internal capacity of 24 litres – to put this into context, the same capacity as a single large rear pannier. At the other end of the range is the Carradice Barley, a shrunken version for lightly loaded day rides, with a 9 litre capacity. In between, there’s a huge range of different capacities available, all fashioned from thick waxed ‘cotton duck’ canvas, with leather straps, proper metal buckles and a wooden internal dowel to stiffen the top of the bag. The Camper (and indeed many of Carradice’s saddlebags) are available in two colourways – black canvas with off-white straps or olive green canvas with honey brown leather straps. Either choice looks great – especially on a classic looking bike.

To give you an idea of what will fit in the Camper Longflap here’s a list of things that I regularly taken with me with room to spare:

  • Full toolkit
  • 2 spare tubes
  • Pump
  • Rain Jacket
  • 14 inch laptop
  • Laptop Power Supply
  • Sandwich box
  • U Lock
  • Magazine
  • Spare clothing

The two outer compartments make short work of the tools and spares, leaving the main compartment free for office stuff, clothing, stuff you like to keep clean. But that’s not the end of the Camper’s TARDIS-like trickery…

Hey, why the Longflap?

The Camper Longflap (and its smaller cousin, the Nelson Longflap) share a simple and cunning feature that has the ability to vastly increase its load-lugging ability. Undo two press stud fasteners on the waterproof, double thickness lid and a further section of lid plus two longer leather straps reveal themselves. This allows you to stow larger, wider loads like tents, sleeping mats, folding stools, tripods, bushels of hay etc, between the main body of the bag and the lid. This feature means that, rather like an ant, the bag can effectively carry loads much larger than itself.

Some may find that a large bag like this may need some support from below, preferring it to rest some of its weight on a rack. However, I find that having the bag suspended from the seatpost effectively eliminates its contents from road shock, meaning that I have successfully carried a laptop computer to and from work for the past eighteen months without so much as a hiccup.

Some riders switching from a pannier setup may notice that the bike’s centre of gravity feels raised, especially when riding out of the saddle. However, stay in the saddle and the load is very close to the rider and its weight seems to disappear. A positive side-effect of the bag’s placement behind the rider is that it doesn’t catch the wind, is out of the worst of the rain (provided you’re using mudguards) and is also out of the way of undergrowth when riding narrow, bramble lined trails.

18 months on, my Camper has become an integral part of my daily commuting setup. It’s just beginning to take on that vintage feel – a bit of road dirt, a slightly sun faded look and some leather strap beausage – I suspect it might start to look truly vintage at the same time as I’m due a hip replacement – suffice to say that these bags are indestructible; they get better with age and are easily repairable with a needle and cotton. You can also re-proof them with a tin of special stuff from Carradice (or some Nikwax).

I have chosen to attach my Camper Longflap to the bike using Carradice’s excellent SQR system, which attaches to the seatpost (reducing stress on the saddle and the seat clamp) and enables one to remove and reattach the bag in seconds, rather than faffing with straps. (I’ll post a separate review of this excellent device).

To sum up – 18 months in, with any other item of luggage, I’d probably be looking at a tired, ready to replace item. However the Camper and I are just at the beginning of a very long life together.

More information: www.carradice.co.uk

Original post: https://theeverydaycyclist.wordpress.com/2009/03/09/carradice-camper-longlap-saddlebag/

More Mixte Emotions

The Friday Cyclotouriste - an SF based comrade in the 'ride beautiful bicycles slowly' struggle

It seems I’m not alone with my distate for velo-gender-prejudice. Nathan at the achingly well-shot The Friday Cyclotouriste rides his Nishiki mixte (avec basket) with pride. He also stated his case far more eloquently and succinctly than I could ever hope to:

“People sometimes tease me for riding a girl’s bike, but I could care less if it’s a girl’s bike. This is not just a case of a well developed Jungian anima at work. The step-through frame is downright practical for city riding and for things like getting on and off at red lights.”

Check out the full blog entry and more here: http://thefridaycyclotouriste.com/?p=2752

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.  

Dahon Meets Hairy Bovine (and other stories)

Here are some recent shots of the Dahon doing what it does best – mooching around. The Carradice Camper Longflap works so well on the folder, keeping the laptop and other stuff high and dry – out of the way of road spray. Clips on and off in seconds thanks to the superbly designed Carradice SQR. The other day, attached to the country bike, it carried a bundle of birch logs foraged from the local woods – great firewood this morning when typing this…
Above: On the Ashton Canal in central Manchester on a sunny evening in March. 
Above: D7 – Highland Cattle interface – make no mistake, these are scary animals
Above and Below: D7 in one of my favourite local riding spots – the River Alt footbridge in Croxteth Park.