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How I Screw

Fix It Sticks are 1/4” magnetic bit drivers, originally intended as bicycle repair tools. Each stick holds two bits, and can be used individually or connected together in a “T” when more torque is wanted.

I backed the Fix It Sticks Kickstarter campaign back in 2014, selecting the $99 pledge level for the titanium Fix It Sticks reward. For the past 4 years, the titanium Fix It Sticks have been part of my EDC. I carry them with a selection a bits optimized for bike repair, as well as a few supplemental bits that are not intended for my vehicle, but are useful to have on hand for general screwing. Extra bits are carried in a Toolcool bit holder.

Every Day Screwing

The sticks, bits, chain breaker, and tire levers — along with a patch kit and my Pitlock key — are stored in a small Mountain Laurel Designs Carbon Fiber Packing Cube. This lives in the admin pocket of my FAST Pack Litespeed, but also slides easily into a pocket if I’m riding bag-less. I also keep the new Fix It Sticks Magnetic Patch on my Litespeed. If I switch bits while fixing my bike on the side of the road, I can just toss a bit at my pack and the patch catches it.

Every Day Cuben and Magnetic Patch

At home I have an excessive collection of 1/4” bits, including things like socket adapters, extensions, and the Fix It Sticks Glock kit. What’s most attractive about the bit and driver system to me is that these 80-some bits take up a miniscule fraction of the space that I would otherwise need for the tools. I keep a Wera Kraftofmr 816 RA driver at home for those times when I want something that ratchets, but the Fix It Sticks are what I pull out the vast majority of the time.

At work I keep some additional bits, along with a few other tools, in a GPP1. Some of these duplicate my EDC bits, but most of them are things that are not common enough to warrant carrying, but common enough that I like to have them around.

Work Bits

The bits I EDC are fairly standard. 4mm and 5mm hex bolts live in one stick. Those two attack the majority of bolts on my bike. A Phillips #0 and #1 live in the other stick. Those two are most useful for general screwing. In the bracket, I keep:

  • Phillips #2
  • Hex 2mm, 2.5mm, 3mm, 6mm, and 8mm
  • Security Torx 7, 10, 25, and 30
  • Slotted 5mm
  • 1/4” to 4mm adapter, with a Slotted 1.5mm Micro

Carrying the “security” Torx instead of the standard Torx allows me to tamper with tamper-resistant electronics, which is a useful capability to have. They drive normal Torx bits screws just fine, which accounts for the majority of their use. The T25 is a longer (50mm) bit. I use this one as leverage when operating my Pitlocks.

  • Fix It Stick as Pitlock Wrench
  • Fix It Stick T Configuration

The 1/4” to 4mm adapter allows me to run any 4mm micro bit in the Fix It Sticks. Part of the collection of bits in my GPP1 at work are micro bits that I use to attack electronics (at home I have the iFixit 64-bit Kit, which is a great hardware hacking kit for the price). A slotted 1.5mm bit is the right answer for most eyewear, which is why I carry that bit in the adapter every day.

On my scale, a single titanium stick without bits weighs in at 28 grams. Both sticks, with the 4 bits that I keep in them, tip the scale at 74 grams. When I add the bracket with 12 additional bits, the total weight is 148 grams. Adding the chain tool and two tire lever attachments to that, the whole kit is 228 grams, or 8 ounces. That’s pretty reasonable for all the capability those items offer.

Fix It Sticks only made a small number of the titanium sticks for the Kickstarter campaign. The sticks they sell today are steel. The weight of the steel Fix It Sticks Replaceable Edition is listed as 116 grams. I assume that weight is for both sticks and the 8 included bits. With my titanium sticks and the same 8 bits, I’m at 100 grams. So the titanium sticks shave off a little weight, but not really a notable amount — particularly considering that the titanium sticks were the reward for donations at 3x the cost of the steel sticks. I think my titanium sticks are perfect, and if offered I would purchase them again, but if they were lost I’d immediately replace them with the steel version with only a little heartbreak.

This post was published on . It was tagged with bicycle, gear, edc.

Bicycle Mobile

Bicycles are fun. So are radios. Why not combine them.

Bicycle Mobile

For overnight trips I run my Yaesu VX-8DR in the handlebar bag, with the MH-74A7A hand mic and FGPS-2 module, and a Diamond SRH320A. This let’s me broadcast APRS, letting people know where I am, and is everything I need to hit area repeaters to see if there’s anything interesting going on. Calling in as “bicycle mobile” usually generates interest, and it’s fun to check into a net without having to stop pedaling.

Bicycle Mobile

After pitching camp I can kill time by making more contacts. Also on this trip was a Nelson Antennas Slim Jim, but I didn’t bother putting it up.

Making Contacts

I’m not quite up to Steve Roberts’ level, but I’m also only pushing a fraction of the weight.

This post was published on . It was tagged with radio, bicycle.

Hanger One

Bicycle for scale.

Hanger One

Ames Research Center

This post was published on . It was tagged with bicycle.

I use BRouter for offline bicycle navigation.

BRouter is open source navigation software built on OpenStreetMap, intended primarily for bicycle routing. It offers both web and Android versions. The Android version calculates routes as GPX tracks, which are then fed into a mapping application. My preferred OpenStreetMap application, OsmAnd, supports BRouter as its navigation back-end. OsmAnd allows me to configure the frequency, repetition and units of instructions. I use Ivona TTS with the UK voice, which I think sounds more natural than either the Ivona US voice or Google’s TTS offerings. In sum, this gives me accurate, offline navigation, tuned to my method of travel, anywhere on the planet, with superior maps to traditional commercial offerings.

OsmAnd / BRouter

Carry a towel and don’t panic.

Antisocial Activity Tracking

A GPS track provides useful a useful log of physical activities. Beyond simply recording a route, the series of coordinate and time mappings allow statistics like distance, speed, elevation, and time to be calculated. I recently decided that I wanted to start recording this information, but I was not interested in any of the plethora of social, cloud-based services that are hip these days. A simple GPX track gives me all the information I care about, and I don’t have a strong desire to share them with a third party provider or a social network.

Recording Tracks

The discovery of GPSLogger is what made me excited to start this project. A simple but powerful Android application, GPSLogger will log to a number of different formats and, when a track is complete, automatically distribute it. This can be done by uploading the file to a storage provider, emailing it, or posting it to a custom URL. It always logs in metric units but optionally displays in Imperial.

What makes GPSLogger really stand out are its performance features. It allows very fine-grained control over GPS use, which allows tracks to be recorded for extended periods of times (such as days) with a negligible impact on battery usage.

For activities like running, shorter hikes and bicycle rides I tend to err on the side of accuracy. I set GPSLogger to log a coordinate every 10 seconds, with a minimum distance of 5 meters between points and a minimum accuracy of 10 meters. It will try to get a fix for 120 seconds before timing out, and attempt to meet the accuracy requirement for 60 seconds before giving up.

For a longer day-hike, the time between points could be increased to something in the neighborhood of 60 seconds. For a multi-day backpacking trip, a setting of 10 minutes or more would still provide great enough accuracy to make for a useful record of the route. I’ve found that being able to control these settings really opens up a lot of tracking possibilities that I would otherwise not consider for fear of battery drain.


Storing Tracks

After a track has been recorded, I transfer it to my computer and store it with git-annex.

Everything in my home directory that is not a temporary file is stored either in git or git-annex. By keeping my tracks in an annex rather than directly in git, I can take advantage of git-annex’s powerful metadata support. GPSLogger automatically names tracks with a time stamp, but the annex for my tracks is also configured to automatically set the year and month when adding files.

$ cd ~/tracks
$ git config annex.genmetadata true

After moving a track into the annex, I’ll tag it with a custom activity field, with values like run, hike, or bike.

$ git annex metadata --set activity=bike 20150725110839.gpx

I also find it useful to tag tracks with a gross location value so that I can get an idea of where they were recorded without loading them on a map. Counties tend to work well for this.

$ git annex metadata --set county=sanfrancisco 20150725110839.gpx

Of course, a track may span multiple counties. This is easily handled by git-annex.

$ git annex metadata --set county+=marin 20150725110839.gpx

One could also use fields to store location values such as National Park, National Forest or Wilderness Area.

Metadata Views

The reason for storing metadata is the ability to use metadata driven views. This allows me to alter the directory structure of the annex based on the metadata. For instance, I can tell git-annex to show me all tracks grouped by year followed by activity.

$ git annex view "year=*" "activity=*"
$ tree -d
└── 2015
    ├── bike
    ├── hike
    └── run

Or, I could ask to see all the runs I went on this July.

$ git annex view year=2015 month=07 activity=run

I’ve found this to be a super powerful tool. It gives me the simplicity and flexibility of storing the tracks as plain-text on the filesystem, with some of the querying possibilities of a database. Its usefulness is only limited by the metadata stored.

Viewing Tracks

For simple statistics, I’ll use the gpxinfo command provided by gpxpy. This gives me the basics of time, distance and speed, which is generally all I care about for something like a weekly run.

$ gpxinfo 20150725110839.gpx
File: 20150725110839.gpx
    Length 2D: 6.081km
    Length 3D: 6.123km
    Moving time: 00:35:05
    Stopped time: n/a
    Max speed: 3.54m/s = 12.74km/h
    Total uphill: 96.50m
    Total downhill: 130.50m
    Started: 2015-07-25 18:08:45
    Ended: 2015-07-25 18:43:50
    Points: 188
    Avg distance between points: 32.35m

    Track #0, Segment #0
        Length 2D: 6.081km
        Length 3D: 6.123km
        Moving time: 00:35:05
        Stopped time: n/a
        Max speed: 3.54m/s = 12.74km/h
        Total uphill: 96.50m
        Total downhill: 130.50m
        Started: 2015-07-25 18:08:45
        Ended: 2015-07-25 18:43:50
        Points: 188
        Avg distance between points: 32.35m

For a more detailed inspection of the tracks, I opt for Viking. This allows me to load the tracks and view the route on a OpenStreetMap map (or any number of other map layers, such as USGS quads or Bing aerial photography). It includes all the detailed statistics you could care about extracting from a GPX track, including pretty charts of elevation, distance, time and speed.

If I want to view the track on my phone before I’ve transferred it to my computer, I’ll load it in either BackCountry Navigator or OsmAnd, depending on what kind of map layers I am interested in seeing. For simply viewing the statistics of a track on the phone, I go with GPS Visualizer (by the same author as GPSLogger).

Lighting the Overtake

I recently purchased a Smith Overtake helmet. While most bicycle helmets on the market are made from styrofoam, the Overtake includes Koroyd, a new material that is supposed to revolutionize helmet safety. It also features MIPS, which reduces rotational forces on the brain by allowing the helmet to slide relative to the head during an angled impact.

So the Overtake offers exceptional protection, is comfortable and notable lighter than previous helmets, and it looks pretty good1. Unfortunately, it was not immediately compatible with my light system.


I’ve been using a Light & Motion Vis 360+ for a couple years. Its a great light, offering 360 degree visibility and a nice beam wherever I happen to be looking. And its always with me, so I don’t have to worry about removing it from my bike whenever I lock up.

The rear light easily zip-ties to the back of the Overtake. The front light, however, mounts by running a rubber strap through the vents present on normal bicycle helmets. The overtake lacks these pass-through vents due to the Koroyd. I didn’t want to glue the light to the helmet, so I thought I’d try Velcro. I picked up some industrial strength 2” wide tape and stuck the loop to the helmet and the hook to the back of the light. I wasn’t sure if it would hold, but so far it seems to have worked out great. It hasn’t fallen off and I have not noticed the light being wobbly while in use.

While I was it, I put a piece of loop on the back of the helmet and stuck a ranger eye on it.

Ranger Eye


  1. Everything looks good in matte black.

This post was published on . It was tagged with gear, edc, bicycle.