31 December 2009

Take It Off!

Last night I finally found some time to put on the 2.0" Schwalbe Big Apple on the rear of the Madsen.  I had trouble seating the tire, so I swapped the rubber rim strip for some cloth rim tape, which seemed to help.  Many spokes were very loose, so I tightened them.  Attention Madsen owners: I know the bike is awesome, but it should still be serviced periodically.

When I visited Madsen Cycles in SLC, Jared assured me that this tire would fit with the stock fender, but he added that one must clip out the crimped section of the rear fender with tin snips to accomodate all that rubber. Most plastic fenders are missing this section anyway.  I was able to hack it without removing the bucket.

However when I took the kids to the library today, I found that the chain now rubbed a bit on the hacked fender when I used the large cog.  And the taller tire caused the kickstand to float just a bit too high off the ground, which allowed  the bike to roll when parked - not cool.  The bucket needed to come off so I could finish what I had started doing half-assed.  Typical.

Removing the bucket is easier than I had thought it would be.  You must only remove three screws.  There are two small nutted screws at the bottom of the bucket that hold the bucket to a cross bracket.  Then under the rear seat, there is a screw-type hose clamp that holds the bucket to the round top-tube of the support rack.  That's it.  I pumped the tire to max pressure (70 psi), adjusted the kickstand down (the kickstand is held in place by what is essentially an upside-down seat post clamp), then reduced the tire pressure a bit to soften the ride.  I trimmed my fender hack job, then adjusted the v-brake pads while it was convenient.  Note the blue sticker that indicates that this is one of the discounted "scratched" models.

While I had the bucket off, I also took a few measurements.  Using the highly accurate "bathroom scale" method, I found that a 2-seat bucket weighs 24 lbs, and the bucketless kg271 (with aftermarket VO saddle and fat Schwalbe tires) weighs 46 lbs.  I rode the bucketless bike around the block and found it to be as zippy as my 50 lb Xtracycle.  Yes, zippy is relative in this case, but you'd be amazed how well these longtails can lurch out of the gate.

I would also say that the Avid BB5 front brake I put on the Madsen (upgrade from the stock Promax brake caliper) works about as well as the Avid BB7 on my Xtracycle when the bikes are unloaded (160 mm rotors on both.)  However, the BB7 allows far better control and stops the loaded Xtracycle much better.  Madsen owners, if you are contemplating an upgrade to the brakes, go with the BB7.

It's taken me 8 months, but I finally have the bike dialed in the way I wanted it.  I was really pleased with it on Day 1, but a few simple upgrades and comfort modifications have made it one of my favorite bikes to ride.  And for the second time this month, I talked to someone outside the library who already knew about Madsen Cycles, but stopped to chat because he was completely shocked to see one in Tacoma.  Most of the folks who ask me about the bucket bike think it's a home-made hack and are surprised to find that I bought it fully assembled (without ever seeing one in person!) and ready-to-ride straight out of the box.  Hopefully these recent encounters with other bike enthusiasts indicate that the cargo bike wave is finally headed for T-town.  Any of you shop owners want to hop on the Madsen dealer train?  C'mon!

22 December 2009

Bikes To-go

Here's a little folding-bike-on-cargo-bike action for your Tuesday...

Photo by Atom @ House of Tattoo

17 December 2009

Would you, could you, with a bike?

I've read stories about bike moves in Portland and Minneapolis, where armadas of cargonistas move a family of four and their worldly possessions across town in a day.  And Sam in Bozeman proved that even solo bike moves were possible.  So when Evan asked to borrow our Madsen and maybe a trailer so that he could move all of his stuff to a new condo, I jumped at the opportunity to help with, what I think may be, Tacoma's first bike move.

He moved everything himself using a 2005 Burley d'Lite trailer (for smaller stuff like boxes and dresser drawers full of clothes) and a Madsen kg271 "Bucket Bike" (for the chest of drawers and a queen-size bed set.)

The most awkward piece was the mattress.  I went along to help with loading and traffic flagging, but mostly to rubber-neck.  Here we are using the recently-striped S. 12th Street bike lane.

The slow trip was just under three miles.  One passing driver honked and gave us the thumbs up.  A man on the sidewalk nodded approvingly and said, "Now that's how you do it."  I think the entire move was done in sub-freezing temps and it was around 25°F on this particular morning.  Unfortunately my mittened hands are not very adept with a camera while riding, so I only have this one photo of us en route.

When I asked Evan what he thought of the Madsen: "It's awesome."

14 December 2009

Joy Ride

This should be fun.  Find a sitter.

Hat tip to SPEW for the heads-up.

11 December 2009

Idle Hands are the Devil's Playground

When winter rolls around, I usually find myself out in the garage on cold nights playing bikes. Once the over-due maintenance is done, I start to tinker. Here are some of the project that I've been working on.

I never seem to have my camera around when I want it, especially when I'm biking, so I'm making a camera mount for my handlebars. That way I can also take decent low-res videos of my epic rides.  Instructions are here and the bits cost about $2 from the hardware store. (Note: The Ace Hardware at S. 12th and Sprague carries all of the bike-sized metric bolts that you could ever need.)

I've wanted to upgrade the rear tire on our Madsen, but no local shop stocks a 20" Marathon. Well last Saturday the Mrs. and I found ourselves in Seattle, volunteering at the Winter Beer Festival. We had parked at a B&B called Inn of Twin Gables*, where we would be staying the night, then walked over the Ballard bridge to Hale's for the event.

About half-way over the bridge, we spotted the Dutch Bicycle Company of Seattle.  What luck!  We checked out their awesome selection of Dutch bikes and they happened to have just one 20" Big Apple burried up in the rafters.  I strapped it to my bag and we continued to the festival where we poured tastes from Schooner EXACT Brewing.  They took home the second place people's choice prize for their Hoppy the Woodman barrel-aged winter ale.  The beer was great and we had an awesome time.

*I highly recommend the Inn of Twin Gables.  Katie, the innkeeper, was an excellent host (a story of her grandmother provided the title of this post.)  And she made us a very tasty and healthy breakfast.  Possibly the best night I've ever had away from home, and at a very reasonable price.

Rain Cover
The kid's don't mind getting a little cold and wet, but the downpours in November and the sub-freezing temps of December are extremes that I'm not always comfortable biking in with children.

I'd seen pictures of Madsen's prototype rain cover, but have heard it's been shelved for a different design.  Being cheap and not wanting to wait for a produciton model, I'm making my own.  The frame is made of 1/2" EMT electrical conduit.  It's super light and easy to form, plus the frame disassembles into two pieces for summer storage.   The cover itself will be made from outdoor canvas and clear plastic.  A drawcord at the bottom will go under the lip of the bucket and hold the frame down.  This is where I am so far.  You'll have to imagine the rest.

This should work fine for low-speed, winter kid hauling.  I'll post more photos and a how-to when it's done.

02 December 2009

Winter Kid Commuting

This morning I asked the two pre-schoolers if they thought it was too cold to take the Madsen bucket bike to school. It was 33°F, very dry, and beautifully sunny. After explaining that this temperature was nearly cold enough to make water turn to ice, one kid said Yes! and the other said No!

Well, Mom was out with the van and it was now time to go, so everyone bundle up! Beanies under helmets, mittens and scarves, and glasses for the short-straw who had to sit facing the wind. They shared the fleece blanket that we always leave in the bucket now that it's chilly. An umbrella was deployed to break some of the wind. We're off!

Tula dropped her mitten in the middle of the intersection. The nice driver behind us honked to point this out, so we stopped. We played I Spy. Then another stop to put the umbrella away because it was hampering the visibility for the game. Then it was Jingle Bells (a one-horse open sleigh - ha!) and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. At the stop light, I see that all of the bank tellers are pointing and smiling. Not a single word from anyone about being cold or inconvenienced. Just fun, and lots of it.

On the way home later, we road in the freshly painted bike lane on North 21st Street. The best was when the mom and two kids in the Prius slowed down to check out the bucket action.

There's sunny skies and similar temps in the forecast for the whole week. Tomorrow we're taking some jingle bells with us for musical accompaniment to the caroling.

How much better can this get? What temperature is too cold for a 1.2 mile ride to school?