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Last year I bought a set of Orfos Pro lights.

The Orfos Pro is a simple and flexible LED light that is powered by a separate USB battery. I use the white light model as my bike headlight. This means that, when not in use, the light has a male USB Type-A plug hanging off the bike. In inclement conditions I usually want light, so I’ll have the connector inserted into a battery. I haven’t been too worried about protecting the plug when not in use. Over the past 14 months I haven’t noticed any problems. But when I saw the CozyCaps USB Caps I decided they would be a worthwhile addition to the setup. I expect they will do a good job of protecting the connectors from dirt or light moisture.

Orfos Pro with CozyCap USB Cap

I power the headlight with an Anker PowerCore 5000, which mounts to the down tube via a Twofish Bikeblock.

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Sof Sole Athlete Performance Insoles

Last year I mentioned replacing the insoles in the Altama OTB Boots with Ortholite Fusion Insoles. The Ortholite insoles fit well in the OTB boots, and make the footwear zero-drop (or at least close enough to it that I can’t tell the difference). It is a lower volume insole that Altama’s default rubber one, and so requires tighter lacing. Unfortunately, the availability of this insole appears to be limited. I’ve also decided that it is a little too soft for my taste. I like a firm footbed. The Ortholite Fusion, while thin, allows my foot to sink into it slightly more than I would prefer.

When I bought my ranger green OTB boots earlier this year I could not find the Ortholite Fusion insoles in stock in my size. So I went looking for alternatives and ended up with the Sof Sole Athlete Performance Insoles. I bought mine from The Insole Store. I mention this because The Insole Store actually provides measurements for heel thickness, forefoot thickness, and arch height. This is critical information for making an informed purchase of an insole, and yet very few retailers or manufacturers provide it. The Insole Store also supports filtering by characteristics, such as walking and running insoles without arch support, which makes it easy to narrow down the wide array of options. This kind of stuff seems like it would be common sense for anyone selling footwear, but it isn’t, so I give my money to The Insole Store.

The measurements provided by The Insole Store for the Sof Sole Athlete Performance Insoles are:

  • Thickness at heel: 7.75m
  • Thickness at forefoot: 4.6mm
  • Arch height: 20mm

I’m happy with anything up to a 4mm drop. These have a 3.15mm drop, which is close enough to zero that I can barely tell the difference. I wasn’t sure about the 20mm arch height. That’s a 12.25mm climb up from the heel, which sounded high, but I ordered the insole anyway. When wearing them, I don’t notice any rise in the arch. They feel flat, which is what I want.

It’s interesting to compare these Sof Sole insoles to something like the Superfeet Carbon Insoles. This is what Superfeet markets for low-volume, minimalist athletic footwear.

  • Thickness at heel: 5.5mm
  • Thickness at forefoot: 2.75
  • Arch height: 30mm

The heel and forefoot numbers are great. Nice and thin, with only a 2.75mm drop. But the 24.5mm climb from the heel to the arch is ridiculous. I tried a pair of these once, and it feel like standing on a golf ball.

I’ve been very happy with the Sof Sole Athlete Performance Insoles. I ended up buying a second pair. They are trim-to-fit, but the Men’s 9-10.5 size slid perfectly into my size 10 D Altama OTB boots without any trimming. They are thicker than the Ortholite Fusion Insoles, but firmer, which I think allows for better energy transfer. The higher volume translates to a fit that is much more similar to Altama’s stock rubber insoles, but with a material that makes more sense if you aren’t planning to take the boots under water. I’ve tried wearing one Sof Sole insole in one boot and one Altama rubber insole in the other, and the fit feels nearly identical. I recommend the Sof Sole insoles if you’re unhappy with the breathability or tackiness of the insole that came with the Altama OTBs, and I think they are worth consideration for other footwear in the lightweight hiking category. They are likely too thick for minimalist running shoes.

A Brief Survey in Marin

This past Sunday I rode to Mount Tam.

The electrical grid was down throughout Marin county, and for some reason that meant the state had closed some of the roads in the park to motorized traffic. Fortunately my vehicle runs on man-power and works just fine when the power is out. I figured the closure would make the ride more pleasant and I would just slip around any gates.

As I was riding in the general direction of fire I decided it would be prudent to throw a radio in my handlebar bag. From past experience I know that my cell phone reception can be spotty at the best of times in the hills and valleys up there. I assumed that the power outages and strong winds wouldn’t do me any favors. (It turns out I was right.)

After much climbing and much wind I reached Ground Equipment Facility J-33. This abandoned Nike missile site on the West Peak of Tamalpais is a reliable site for radioing. It has been host to a couple Field Days and was the destination of last year’s SOTA trip. And it’s a nice spot to bicycle to.

J-33

The Marin Amateur Radio Society maintains an excellent network of linked repeaters that I was able to hit immediately upon turning on my radio. Despite the distance, I was also able to reach back into San Francisco. Line of site to Sutro Tower meant I had a clear, strong signal on the San Francisco Radio Club repeater W6PW. I talked to a guy on there who told me that the Marin Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service had been activated due to the fires. I keep some of the Marin RACES simplex frequencies programmed into my radio, just in case Godzilla walks through the bridge and we have to coordinate across the bay, so I jumped over to those channels to listen for any action. After that I was able to reach out to the East Bay, and listen to the effects of the fires that had just started that day in Contra Costa County.

Line of Sight to Sutro Tower

  • Radome
  • Tam West Peak

After completing my survey of the airwaves I flew back down to sea level at approximately Mach 3, though I had to stop once for a California Highway Patrol helicopter that decided to use the gated off road as a landing pad.

It’s impressive what you can get done on a little handheld radio with 5 watts and a small antenna, assuming you can get to a good position. A bicycle is a good way to get there.

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This time of year it is traditional for me to treat my saddle.

While the weather is still warm and pleasant here in Baghdad by the Bay, the hot sun and ass sweat of summer is fading into the past, and The Great Wet is on the horizon. Tonight I took my saddle to the sink and rinsed it off with some Dr. B. I don’t wash it every year, but it looked like it wanted it. After drying, I treat it to a sensual massage with a healthy helping of Obenauf’s LP. Obenauf’s products have served me and my leather well for a while now, and it’s a nice treat for my skin. The saddle will take a couple of coatings tonight. In the morning I’ll wipe off the top, and then give it an ass polishing with the day’s riding.

Obenauf's Saddle Massage

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How I Patch

I build my own patch kits, consisting of a small re-sealable bag which holds:

DIY Patch Kit

This is stored in my EDC toolkit which, as previously mentioned also includes two reifenflicken and tire levers. Because these patch kits are so small, I also keep one in the tube roll underneath my saddle.

Rema has been making vulcanizing patches for about a century. They have a long held reputation for being one of the best. I haven’t experimented with much of their competition, but I’ve never had a Rema patch fail, and as a general rule when it comes to bicycle parts and components I find that if the Germans do a thing they probably do it at least as good as anybody else, if not better. So I buy their patches in bulk and I keep an 8 oz can of their fluid for use at home.

A quality vulcanizing patch is a permanent repair. If applied properly, it will leave the tube as good as new. In contrast, “glueless” or “pre-glued” patches have a reputation for being unreliable, temporary fixes. I’ve had good luck with Park Tool’s pre-glued patches from the GP-2 kit, but I still consider them a temporary solution.

The advantage of a pre-glued patch is that it is a nearly instant repair: buff the area with sandpaper, slap on the patch, rub it a bit with your fingers or roll it over your top tube or pump, and you’re ready to go. Patching with a permanent, vulcanizing patch is a longer procedure: buff the area with sandpaper, apply the vulcanizing fluid, wait around 3 minutes for the fluid to become dry and tacky, slap on the patch, rub it in, and then you’re rolling. (Some would argue that you shouldn’t inflate the tube immediately after patching, but I’ve never had a problem doing this. The key is allowing the vulcanizing fluid to sit for enough time prior to applying the patch.) In unpleasant weather, or when you have some place to be, the extra three minutes (or thereabouts) required is unattractive.

Carrying both types of patches, plus a spare tube, provides options. If I get a flat, and it’s a nice day out, and I don’t have any place to be, and I’m in a pleasant area, I’ll fix it with a vulcanizing patch. If conditions are not so idyllic, I’ll quickly swap out the tube and continue on my way. When I get to where I’m going, I’ll patch the punctured tube with a vulcanizing patch, reinstall the newly patched tube and put the new tube away. If I get a second flat before I can fix the tube that was originally punctured, I’ll slap on one of the pre-glued patches until I get to my destination. Then I’ll repair the first tube with a vulcanizing patch, and throw away the tube with the pre-glued patch as soon as I can acquire another spare.

I’ve also successfully used a Park Tool pre-glued patch to repair a leaky Therm-a-Rest mattress. It’s useful to know I can fix a mattress during a multi-day bike trip without needing to remember to pack an additional item.

Of course the best strategy is to not get a flat in the first place. As I am fond of pointing out, I buy good tires, which prevent me from getting a flat more than once or twice per year. A good tube costs around $10, but with proper care and feeding ought to have a service life measured in years.

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I store bread in my pillowcase.

If kept in a paper bag, bread will become dry and stale after a couple of days. If placed into a plastic bag, all the moisture is retained, the crust looses its crunch, and the bread is as disappointing as if it was stale. By keeping the bread in the paper bag it is purchased in, and inserting that into one of my linen pillowcases, moisture is retained but the bread can still breathe. I find it stays fresh for about 5 days when I do this. I don’t know that linen is superior to plain cotton for this use case (but I do know that linen is superior to plain cotton for sleeping on).

Apparently you can buy linen bread bags made explicitly for this purpose, but I prefer things that are multifunctional, and I already have a good set of pillowcases taking up space in my bedding box. The small size of my pillow means that I can just squeeze two normal sized loafs of bread into a single pillowcase. To store a baguette I first cut it in half.

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