Commuting notes – leading into winter
While I have a few reviews in the pending state including some co-branding initiatives due, I thought I’d offer some benefits of my experiences.
I have been running Schwalbe Marathon Plus and Energizer tyres on my commuter. These are amazing in that you are unlikely ever to get a puncture, and they wear really well. I got over 10,000km from my Energizers. However I had two unexpected ‘offs’ when I slid in a corner in light rain, so I went on the lookout for tyres grippier in the wet. It’ll come as no surprise to road cyclists that tyre compound is the most important factor in grip and low rolling resistance. My hunt led me to the Schwalbe Almotion tubeless-ready variant. These are not cheap at around $75 each ex Chainreactioncycles.com, Bike24.com or Amazon, and have all the puncture-resistance advantages of Marathons and only shorter life as a disadvantage, a result of a softer compound. Initially I set them up with tubes and was really impressed with the grip and comfort factor. Then I converted to tubeless (most modern rims are tubeless ready with the right rim tape) and was blown away by the improvement. This is a feeling that every serious mountain-biker has noted, and increasingly road-cyclists too. There is a trade-off in maintenance (you need to top up the sealant regularly) and requires some skill to do the first time, but it is worth it. You’ll suffer fewer punctures too. There are three basic methods to tubeless conversions with lots of YouTube videos detailing the steps:
- Re-usable rim strips. Some ‘tubeless ready’ rims come with these, and you can buy the Stans kits. I’m not a fan. They are expensive and a bit clumsy.
- Rim tape. I used the ‘Gorilla Tape’ method but the better option is to buy some Stans Yellow Tape and use that. It is increasingly the go-to approach.
- “Ghetto Tubeless” using a smaller tube as a form of rim strip. Emilio from Electric Bike Team has done this to his ebike and is very happy with the outcome.
I bought my tyres, valves and sealant from Chain Reaction Cycles. Your local bike shop should be able to help you too. You will most likely need a compressor to initially inflate tubeless tyres.
My bike has a very nice Supernova V6 front light and two rear lights, but I like more. I run a Gloworm X2 on my helmet and a strip-style LED flasher on the rear of the helmet. The Gloworm has narrow-beam lenses to focus the beam better, I run it on a commute setting and aim it down at the ground. It gives me good visibility of the road ahead and an ability to lift my head when I see a driver about to leap out in front of me. It has the desired effect of alerting said driver to my presence. I also feel that the lights on my head say to road users that there is a human here, nut just a bicycle. A subtle difference but various bits of research seem to indicate that detecting humans is something our brains are tuned for. I also add reflective slap bands to my extremities to complete the human-form look. For what it’s worth, I think that spot-reflectivity is better than large blocks of reflective material. You don’t want to look like a road sign, do you?
Who would have thought that brake pad compound makes such a difference? Better pads can transform terrible brakes into good brakes. I have been using KoolStop pads for some time. I have 14,000km with the same set of pads. Hard to believe eh? They aren’t so great when very wet so I have to prime the brakes before needing to stop in the rain.
My name is Barry and I am a cycling clothing addict… My favourite outer garments are my Castelli Perfetto jacket and a recent addition, a LG jacket I got on clearance from Torpedo7 for $98. They are perfect for most Autumn/Winter/Spring commutes in that they are windproof and somewhat waterproof. When it is chucking down I have a Gore jacket that lives in my panniers. I also use some LG waterproof shoe covers in those conditions. They help a bit. I’ve also upgraded my shoes to Five-Ten Freeride Elements. These offer amazing grip on the pedals and are water resistant. Go to Chain Reaction Cycles and hunt out some bargains.