Bicycle tire tubes are the most prolific piece of trash that is generated by the bicycling industry. Luckily it’s nowhere near the poundage of old car tire waste out there. Still because it’s the thing most often replaced on a bike, people have found several clever ways to use punctured tubes instead of putting them in the landfill.
I like to keep one in my bike trunk bag for carrying things. I use the tube as a shoulder belt to strap things to my back. I’ve used them to carry a shovel, a pole saw, and most recently: snowshoes.
I used one in January to go snowshoeing at my local nature center:
Went to Innsbruck Nature Center… Honestly didn't need snowshoes – the trail was already hard-packed from hikers. Was good to venture off of the trail however.
Tested out my SCX24 RC Crawler 😎
Rigging With Bike Tubes
Fastening one end of any object is simple, go around the object(s) and loop the tube back through itself to to create a cow hitch.
You can only create a cow hitch on one end. On the other end I use a cheap carabiner (that I also keep in my trunk bag) as a link to fasten it similarly.
Then I sling it over my shoulder and head on my way. I keep a couple different sized punctured bike tubes in the garage. You’ll find that some are too loose and others are too tight, depending on what you’re trying to carry. Experiment with sizes and then put the most versatile one in your trunk bag for ad-hoc trips.
My only complaint about this trunk bag is the Made in China tag. Not because of the country of origin, but because of its placement. From day one of owning this bag, it was perfectly in the way of the zipper. You can see that mine has been “run over” by the zipper a number of times.
Despite the stupid tag, this thing has several useful compartments. Mesh zippered pockets on the sides where I keep sunscreen, lip balm, zip ties, and rain covers for shoes.
There’s a mesh pocket and elastic cords on the top for anything you want to have quick access to – or if you want to strap something down that is bigger than the bag.
Inside it’s one big compartment, but on the lid there’s another pocket inside. I keep a set of repair tools with a patch kit, and a couple maps of the local trail system.
I am not a gun nut, but this build was inspired by this comic and conversation:
Looking at it made me think that a similar, but more useful application of vertical bike rack storage, would be for fishing rods. Moore Lake is just down the hill from where I live, and it’s stocked with Bluegills and Bass 🎣
I made this fishing rod holder that attaches to my bike rack for less than $20, mostly from scraps I had in the garage. It holds four rods, but you could adjust it for as many as you’d like, as long as your bike rack setup will accommodate them.
I chose 1-1/4″ PVC because all of our rod handles will fit into that size pipe – you should test fit your thickest fishing rod before you buy.
I attached a PVC coupling to the pipe and then cut the pipe (with the coupling attached) using a hacksaw to 9 inches. This was both the size of my scrap wood and the size of the longest rod handle. You should go longer if your handles are longer than 9 inches.
To make a permanent connection, I used PVC primer and cement to bond the couplers to the pipes.
The couplers are there to serve as stops for the tubing straps – so they don’t fall through them.
To fasten the tube straps to the board I used #10 x 1/2″ sheet metal screws. I pre-drilled holes in the wood with a 1/8″ drill bit, then used a screwdriver on the screws.
I designed 3D printed hangers because I couldn’t find any readily available hooks that I liked at the hardware store. I like Topeak racks because of how their bag systems attach. I designed the hangars to conform to the Topeak’s 10mm rod construction – which I believe is a standard size for many bike racks.
To fasten the hangers to the board, I used #10 x 3/4″ sheet metal screws.
Backing and Hangars
The board I used was some leftover 1/2″ plywood. Mine was 9″ wide so I went with that – luckily that’s how long our rod handles are. You can cut the width to however many rods you want to hold. For my 4 rod holders it wound up being 15″x9″.
To make sure everything lines up well on the back, I used my Thule panniers as an example. The metal plate that sticks to the magnet is approximately 9″x4″ – so I cut a piece of sheet metal that size. You can use a hacksaw to (slowly) cut it. I used a cutting wheel to make quick work.
I also used the Thule pannier as a reference to gauge the placement of the metal backing position relative to the hangers so they’d be generally in the right place. It will ensure the steel plate is the right place so it will line up with the rack magnet without having to move it around on the rack.
I used 3/4″ screws to fasten the hangers, and 1/2″ screws to hold the steel plate. I pre-drilled the steel with a 3/16″ drill bit, and the wood with a 1/8″ one.
There’s no provisions on this rack for bait and tackle, but you can use the opposite side of the rack for a pannier, or just put your bait and tackle in a backpack.
When I’m fishing while paddling, I keep a very small tackle box on the boat with me, and that is also perfect for local fishing by bike.
Riding around with 6-foot fishing poles is like riding around with a whip antenna – it’s real tall. Just beware of any low tunnels or doorways, tree branches, etc.
Also, you’re not going to be able to put a leg over the back like you normally would. A pole (and hooks) will prevent you from doing that. Be mindful while you’re getting on and off.
I (perhaps stupidly) tried out the purple worm seen in my tackle box above – set up as a Texas Rig. I felt some serious bites, but I didn’t land anything. In the end I’m lucky because I didn’t bring a net if I actually had caught a tenacious bass.
While I didn’t bring one, you could certainly put a net in one of the holders. This is more of a catch-and-release type of rig, and I wasn’t planning on any big bites my first time out, just a couple of sunfish 🐟
I love the simplicity of my Redline 29er. Single speed – just pedal. No suspension, which helps keep the cost and maintenance down. I’d had it on other trails in Minnesota before, but this one had me thinking twice about no suspension. Much of the trail consisted of forest bottom beneath pine trees. There was a good layer of pine needles, but beneath that was thousands of roots crawling on the surface. Riding over them at speed felt a little like this:
After that, I told myself I’d buy a front suspension fork.
I looked and looked, created spreadsheets, compared weights and prices (and price per weight). The hardest part was finding a fork that didn’t require me to switch to disc brakes. After expanding my search, I found what I was looking for on eBay 😬
It’s hard to admit, but sometimes Chinese knock-offs wind up serving markets that Americans never thought of. I bought a Spinner mountain bike fork off of eBay. Everything about it screams Rock Shox knockoff including the fact that is weighs only 1480g. Other OEM fork brands like Suntour often weigh twice that. I tried a Suntour fork briefly, but it was soooo heavy that it entirely changed the way the bike handled and behaved.
Spinner offered something that that the light-weight Rock Shox forks don’t: brake mounting posts for v-brakes. When I got back into cycling, linear pull “v-brakes” were the norm. They are so much better than the caliper brakes of yester-year that I don’t feel the need to upgrade to disc brakes. I’m sure the many bike-riding Chinese find v-brakes to be equally adequate, cheaper to maintain, and the suspension welcome on poor roads.
It came with a remote lockout – a switch mounted on my handle bars that I can flip to lock the suspension to be rigid, or to be like normal suspension. I keep it locked for the road, and turn the suspension on as needed. 🚵
When it comes to winter bike commuting, I’m somewhat of a cheater: I only ride to work when it’s convenient.
For example, if I’m meeting someone on the other end of town after work, I drive. But it’s almost always more convenient to throw a leg over the saddle than to reach for the car keys – because I’ve made it that way.
It’s only October, but here in America’s snow boot we know winter is coming! Last year I had the opportunity to become a year-round bike commuter, thanks to a new job with a very convenient location. My not-so-new job has now moved to a new location, and my commute is 4 miles instead of 1, but it’s all do-able even in the winter. Here are some things I did to make it a no-brainer to spin to work on most days rather than driving.
My biggest cheat is by having two bikes. Being a bike “enthusiast” it’s natural that I have a couple of bikes. Every winter I put winter tires (and fenders) on both of them. They’re strategically set up for varying levels of winter weather, so I just ride which ever one is more appropriate for the weather that morning, or what is forecasted for that day. One bike is for nice winter days, and the other is for harsh winter days. Continue reading →
Bike 1: wet/slush
The bike for the “nice days” is my Surly Cross Check. It’s a road bike with a little more clearance all-around. It has tons of eyelets for racks and fenders, and a bunch of extra room for larger tires. For winter I put on full fenders and a set of WTB All Terrain tires.
This is the go-to bike when there’s guaranteed bare pavement all the way to work, or if it’s just wet and slushy (no hard ice) that you’ll likely encounter on the trip.
You can’t do this on just any road bike because many do not leave enough space in the front fork and the rear frame to install wider tires, let alone fenders for them. Sell that bike on craigslist or don’t ride it in the winter and get yourself something more sensible. It doesn’t have to be a “gravel bike” or anything specific, it just needs to have some extra space for wider tires and mounts for racks and fenders.
Bike 2: snow/ice
The bike for the harsh days is my mountain bike. Being a mountain bike isn’t what makes it great. Sure the tires are wider, the gearing lower, and the handlebar flatter. It’s really the studded tires.
If you’re planning on riding throughout winter, studded tires are a must. I can ride with confidence over the worst ice, with my laptop in my pannier without worrying about going down. When I’m riding I actually seek out a little bit of snow or ice to quiet the chatter (and wear) of the tire studs.
"Hope you have winter tires" – guy along my commute. How'd he miss the sound of 400 studs chattering?!? pic.twitter.com/emJpxkpkc3
Studded tires aren’t for everyone and you may just want to only ride on days when it’s not death-defyingly slippery. The cost of studded tires can get sort-of bonkers. Like per-tire cost greater than the winter tires on my Subaru – kinda crazy.
The rest of the stuff is just clothes. I have a few sets of gloves that I choose from:
Cheap baseball batting gloves for 40-55°F (they also make great driving gloves)
On the really cold days, I’ll wear ski goggles instead of sunglasses. It’s the only way to prevent icicles on your eyelashes.
Those temperatures aren’t exact, just guidelines. You’ll want to experiment and decide for yourself. Much depends on how far you’re riding and what your normal tolerances are. Other factors include whether the sun is out, how windy it will be, and if you’ll be riding after dark. The same goes for other clothing options: long johns, top layers, type and thickness of socks, etc.
Some people like to keep a journal of what they wore, what the riding conditions were, and how they felt. I might do that with my longer commute this winter, as I’m guessing I’ll actually build up more body heat with the longer distance.
If you’ve got experience in this department, please share. Otherwise I’ll report back in the spring!