Category Archives: Stuff I Like

Stuff I Like: Oury Bicycle Grips

My bicycle’s cockpit has undergone several evolutionary cycles.  From the original equipment compact drops bar to a Salsa Cowchipper to a flat bar with bar ends to the current configuration:

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I spoke about the TOGS in a prior post.  This is about my switch to Oury grips.  Or, rather, a switch back to Oury grips since these were my go-to option back in the go-go mountain bike 1990s.

For the past couple of seasons I have ridden with Ergon GP1 grips.  I liked them well enough and felt that on rides of twenty miles or so there was an increased level of comfort.  Past the twenty mile mark my hands fell victim to the same comfort issues with other grips or bar configurations.  It was better than the discomfort I experienced with drop bars—compact or flared, it did not matter—but it was not good when I was looking to increase the mileage of my weekend rides into the fifty mile realm.

The problem, in my opinion, is that while the Ergon grips were comfortable there was a prescriptive nature to the grip where only a single position was possible for any period of time.  Once that became uncomfortable you were shit out of luck.

With the Oury grips there is no set position for your hand.  You are free to rotate around the circumference of the grip.  Combined with the TOGS you can really switch up for hand/wrist positions in a lot of ways on the fly as you ride.

The Oury grips are also a little thicker, but not fat paw thick, and squishy so a non-glove wearing rider like myself does not feel impaired.  Trust me, some of the grips out there have a texture and hardness that is akin to a rotary grinder disc.  Maybe that is just me.

This setup has been good to go on the thirty mile rides I have been knocking out during coronavirus isolation.  I am very curious to see how things play out when I aim for some fifty mile or more rides in June.  Stay tuned.

Note: I paid for these Oury grips with my own money and received nothing in compensation to recommend the product.  It is just something that I think is a good thing.

Stuff I Like: Thumb Over Grip System (TOGS)

The one bonus to the current lack of travel options is that I have been spending a lot of time in the early part of the cycling season actually on my bicycle.  If the weather is even slightly favorable I will clip in and head out for a ride.  It is just about the only thing keeping me sane right now as everyone in my house is going a little stir crazy after more than six weeks of isolation.

For the current cycling season I changed up a lot of things on my bicycle.  New wheels.  New drivetrain.  New cockpit.

Anyone familiar with my struggles over the years—compact drop bar to flared drop bar to flat bar—will not be surprised that I am trying again to find the combination that feels right.

Previously, I set my handlebars up with a carbon flat bar, Ergon grips, and stubby bar ends.  This was a cockpit very similar to my mountain bikes in the late-1990s.  I enjoyed the different hand positions afforded by bar ends and I did spend a lot of time with my hands “splayed out” to combat the dreaded numbness that comes with spending hours in the saddle.  However, it was never quite “right.”

Enter the Thumb Over Grip System (TOGS):

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It is hard to see from the image but the TOGS are a little stub that extends out from the handlebar to give you a place to rest or hook your thumb.  Doing so allows you to unwrap your hands from the grips and achieve a different grip position without sacrificing a measure of control.  Sure, you could do something similar without TOGS, but you risk your hands slipping fairly easily.  Trust me, I have had it happen.

Installation of the “flexible” version is a snap.  You do not even need to remove your grips because the TOGS can be slipped over your bars and screwed in place.  It’s a no risk installation, although with most grips being of the lock-on variety anymore I do not know how much this helps.  Reposition your controls and off you go.

After about three hundred miles of early season riding I consider myself a fan of TOGS.  As someone who does not ride with padded gloves or gloves of any sort unless it is cold outside I appreciate the multiplicity of positions I can grasp without sacrificing control.

A bonus is that by forgoing bar ends I can add a set of pogies for cold season riding and still maintain a lot of different and positions.  Remember, I dislike gloves.  Win, win baby!

NOTE: I bought the TOGS with my own money, installed them myself, and use them every ride.  I received nothing from the manufacturer to write this piece.  I am not pimping products like a B-grade influencer on Instagram.

Stuff I Like: Perfect Seal Wax Ring

If you are the kind of person who has installed more than one toilet in your life you know the drill.  The worst part about the entire job is dealing with the wax ring.

First, you need to scrape away the remains of the wax ring when you lift the old toilet.  This turns into a truly Sisyphean task if the previous installer decided to double up the wax rings because of a height issue with the flooring.  Second, you install the new wax ring and hope everything lines up when lowering the new toilet.  If it does not then you are looking at buying another wax ring and the cycle begins anew.

God help you if you try and use the cheap wax rings that come with most toilets sold in big box home improvement stores.  It’s like they are taunting you into attempting to make it work so that you have to make a second trip for more supplies.  Trust me, I have learned this fact the hard war over the past decade.

After installing a half dozen toilets in my own homes over the past fifteen years and another half dozen or so in rental properties for my friends in Colorado I have found a better way.  Enter the Perfect Seal Wax Ring:

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The difference is easy to see.  Granted, the traditional wax ring is still in its plastic packaging.

The Perfect Seal Wax Ring still has the traditional wax seal:

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It is just contained within the urethane ring.  The difference that this makes is huge.  It becomes a much easier install process when wax is not sliding all over the bottom of the toilet as you attempt to center to waste outlet on the flange.

Like a traditional wax ring, it helps to have the Perfect Seal Wax Ring a little warm so that the underlying wax can spread as you tighten down the toilet bolts.  In my case the Kohler Transpose actually has a separate piece that installs on the floor flange so it is quite easy to know when the wax ring is completely set.  Your results may vary.

The other part of this story is that I have finally gotten around to one of my prior year’s goals of replacing older toilets with newer low water use models.  Every fifth flush free, so to speak.  It only took an additional three months, but I will take the win.

 

Note: I buy Perfect Seal Wax Rings with my own money and receive nothing of any kind from the maker of the product.  If I was a paid pimp for a product I would let you know.

Stuff I Like: FloWorks Drying Rack

So much handwashing.  I have lamented the state of handwashing in my house now that my focus the past six weeks or so has been the reduction of single use plastics in things like school lunches.  What this really translates into is eliminating single use zipper style bags for sandwiches and grapes.  Two lunches equals four bags per day which works out to twenty bags per week.

Seven or so weeks into the school year and we have already saved approximately 140 bags from making their way into the landfill.  However, this has meant a change in the evening ritual.  For me it means an additional four things to wash by hand and leave to dry for the next day.  Unlike water bottles or coffee mugs, reusable bags are kind of a pain to wash and dry.  The drying aspect is especially troublesome.

Enter the FloWorks Drying Rack:

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This thing works and does not look like a refugee from a baby supply store.  It claims to be made from repurposed birch and ash wood and plywood scavenged from furniture makers in Canada.  Good on them, eh.

The whole thing also skinnies down to a cylinder that can be stored in a normal size utensil drawer:

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This is super handy when you are spending a day cleaning the kitchen counters and want everything out of sight.  I am not going all Marie Kondo in my kitchen, but I do love it when there is a place for everything and the clutter is eliminated.

It may not be the biggest change you make this year, but eliminating the disposal of plastic bags on a daily basis is a good place to make a dent in your consumption of single use plastic items.

Note: I purchased the FloWorks Drying Rack with my own funds and receive nothing in return from the manufacturer.  I also receive nothing in return from the linked store, which in this case is Amazon much to my chagrin.

Stuff I Like: Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds

I do not wash my bike often, but when I do I use Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds:

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Unlike Dr. Bronner’s more well-known pure Castile liquid soaps, Sal Suds is a concentrated all-purpose cleaner.  According to the instructions you can use it on just about anything without fear of damage.  Depending upon your cleaning task you can mix in more or less Sal Suds.

When I clean my bike—which happens so infrequently that anyone I ride with refers to my bike as the “dirtwagon”—I mix a healthy squirt of Sal Suds into a wash bucket and fill the rest with water from the hose bib.  A few minutes with a soft bristle scrub brush and some low pressure water spray is all that is needed to get my bike into near new condition.  Okay, as news as something can look after thousands of miles.

When I rinse my bike and allow it to dry in the sun there is no greasy soap residue that you might get with something like an all-purpose wash for an automobile.

This stuff is great because I do not need to worry about the impact that the cleaner will have on my landscaping when it inevitably gets washed off the sidewalk or driveway.

About the only downside I have discovered is that my disc brakes howl like a monkey on meth the first ride after a wash.  Seriously, it is like I put polyurethane brake pads on my bike.  For those of us who came of age on bikes in the 1990s, never forget Winwood Poly Brakes.

Note: I buy this stuff with my own money and get no compensation from Dr. Bronner’s.  This is not some influencer pimping a product for money.

Stuff I Like: Rock “N” Roll The Absolute Dry

I will admit that I do not clean and lubricate the drivetrain of my bicycle nearly enough for the amount of riding that I do.  Compounding this fact is that a lot of the riding that I do is north of the paved section of the Cedar Valley Nature Trail.  This is the section of trail where a weird amalgam of crushed limestone, loose dirt, sand, and whatever else has been spread over the years comprises the surface.

In the 1990s and for probably a decade or more afterward I was a firm believer in the lubrication powers of White Lightning.  Not the white lightning of rural American fame, but the chain lube that used to promise a quiet and clean running chain.  Somewhere along the line the formula changed or my expectations changed.  No longer was it the preferred choice.

After a series of products recommended by the Internet, friends, not so friends, and whatever I call those dudes who ride recumbents in jean shorts I was at my wits end.  Why?  All of the lubes I tried seemed to become a mass of trail dust, grease, and other gunk within a few rides which necessitated scrubbing my drivetrain clean with a stiff bristle brush.  Is there anything more tedious than spending a weekend morning scrubbing your cassette?  I thought not.

On the recommendation of the good folks at Goldfinch Cyclery—best bike shop in eastern Iowa—I bought a bottle of Rock “N” Roll The Absolute Dry:

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Like Popeye’s Chicken in the oft derided Adam Sandler classic film Little Nicky, this stuff is the shiznit:

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All right, early aughts nostalgia aside The Absolute Dry is the answer to my lube prayers.  That sounds all wrong when I say it out loud.

Here’s the deal: I put this stuff on when my drivetrain starts making some noise and I generally forget about it for a week or more.  What more can I ask out of a bottle of chain lube?  Oh wait, it also does not create the mini mountains of trail crud that seem to result in using more moist lubes that promise to endure miles of abuse.

If you ride a lot of dust strewn miles get a bottle of this stuff and save your weekends for riding.

Note: I bought two bottles of The Absolute Dry with my own money and of my own volition.  I receive no compensation or reward for suggesting that this is an awesome product.  There is no influencer pimping going on here.

Stuff I Like: Revelate Designs

2019 has been a year of really dialing my bike for “big day” rides of 50 to a 100 miles.  It’s sort of a no man’s land between regular rides and the long rides that a lot of bikepackers undertake.  It’s also the sort of riding that is super prevalent here in eastern Iowa.

The requirements for being on a bike for several hours and tens of miles from home are the ability to deal with any mechanical gremlins that arise, have enough food on hand in case you begin to bonk, and be prepared for dramatic changes in weather.  The last requirement is key.  You may end up packing a compressible down jacket for a ride that may end in short sleeves.  That is spring in eastern Iowa.

On my bike right now I have a Terrapin System 8L and a Mag-Tank:

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The Terrapin System 8L replace a much more traditional seat bag that had just enough room for my phone, spare tube, mini pump, and a multi-tool if I spent a few minutes arranging everything just so.  Do not ask what happened if I had to actually get anything out of said seat bag.  It was reverse Jenga in all the wrong ways.

The benefit of a seat bag like the Terrapin System 8L?  Variable size.  If you do not need to carry a jacket or a burrito as big as your head just roll down the bag insert, close the one way purge valve, and clip it into place.  Want to carry a puffy, rain jacket, gloves, and a five dollar foot long?  Just unroll the insert, stuff it full, and get to pedaling.  About the only downside to bag like this is that the inside is one big compartment.  It’s liberating in that there are no internal obstructions to limit your packing imagination, but at the same time it can get a little bit jumbled.  I am considering sewing my own tool roll to contain some of the chaos.  More projects!

Before the Mag-Tank I had gone through a few top tube or stem tops bags, but ended up binning them after a few rides because nothing ever seemed to work.  The Mag-Tank is about the perfect size to hold my smartphone, driver’s license, keys, cash, and some trail snacks in an easy to grab location.  In the past I have stored these same items in a seat bag.  The problem?  To really access a seat bag you have to get off the bike and root through the bottomless pit.  Ugh.

Now if I want to take a picture of something on the trail I just pop open the Mag-Tank, which has a snazzy magnetic enclosure as opposed to Velcro or a zipper, and grab my phone.  All from the saddle.  If you need or want more space there is a larger Mag-Tank 2000, but that seemed like overkill if I was also going to be rocking the Terrapin System 8L.

My only real gripe with the Mag-Tank is that the strap for fastening to the top tube was obviously intended for more voluminous carbon or allow frames.  It was pushing things to the limit when I tightened down the strap on my steel Breezer Radar.  Granted, the tubes on my bike are of the very skinny old school steel variety.  I was left with a lot of extra strap.  A little scissor surgery remedied the offending flap.  Sure, this bag is limited to this particular bike but when am I going to change rides?

After approximately 1,500 miles so far this season of mixed surface riding in eastern Iowa I can safely say that these two bags have solved all of my cargo carrying concerns.  At least one thing has been figured out this summer.

You will notice that my bike now has a flat bar.  Updates to follow.

Note: I received nothing from Revelate Designs or anyone else for this post.  I bought both products with my own money and intend to keep using them until the end of time.  Okay, that might be a little extreme.  Regardless, there is no paid product pimping here.  I did use my REI dividend and bi-annual member coupon to reduce the sting a little.  These products are great, but they are expensive.