Showing posts with label winter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label winter. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Warranty / Customer Service Report / Mutant Winter III is ALIVE!

I am really happy with Chain Reaction Cycles right now. Remember how one of my new Schwalbe Marathon Winters had a cut in it? I said I would report on the customer service I got. The news is very good.

Here's the timeline:

Tuesday, Oct 16, 12:01 PM - I emailed CRC a filled-out warranty claim form (easily found on their web site) and a picture of the cut tire.

Tuesday, Oct 16, 12:02 PM - I receive an auto-reply from their "Warranty Team" saying that based on current volume I could expect a reply to my specific claim within 2 to 3 working days. Fair enough, I thought.

Wednesday, Oct 17, 11:04 AM (the next day) - I receive an email from a real person:

Hi Patrick,

Thank you for your email.

We are sorry to hear that your tyre is damaged. On this occasion we are sending you a replacement and there is no need to return the faulty item.
This should be dispatched within the next 24 hours.

We trust this helps.

Kind regards,

I had mentioned in my original claim that there was no way I had cut the tire by accident or anything. Still, I was super pleased that there wasn't any nonsense at all from CRC. They simply said sorry and were sending a replacement. Perfect.
Yesterday, Tuesday Oct 23 (one week after sending my first email) - The replacement tire is delivered to my house. No duties, taxes or shipping charges because they filled out the paperwork properly. I pay nothing.
Call me crazy, but 5 business days from warranty claim to complete replacement and resolution, from a company based in the UK (as in across the Atlantic Ocean) seems pretty stinkin' good to me.
Now, some would say that I simply got the good customer service we all deserve, and I suppose they would be correct. The fact is, however, that in my experience things rarely go this well and I truly appreciated it. I've been aching to ride this bike before real winter snow and ice comes, so that we're really good buddies by the time we need to trust each other.
I mounted the tire last night and rode Mutant Winter III to work today. I must say that after riding fixed all summer, gears sure are weird and fun! Here are some pics of this year's winter bike:

I decided to skip real fenders on this one (sorry, fellow fender freaks). The tires will clear their treads of snow better, and the clearances with this frame and the 35c tires were kind of tight anyway. I strapped a flexible plastic fender I had lying around to the downtube as a kind of crud guard for the drivetrain, and the rear rack / plastic tub blocks spray from hitting my bum or back.
I can't wait to see how the "skinny" 35c tires do compared to wider MTB tires. It is my hope they will cut through snow to find hard surfaces for the metal studs to grip. We shall see.

Yer Pal,

PS - I think I'll send the warranty people at CRC a link to this post. It is important to praise good work, especially if you want free reign to complain about just about everything else.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Fat Bikes and Grip Studs

pic source:

As much as I am happy and excited about Mutant Winter III, there is another winter cycling solution I am interested in. Fat Bikes. These are bikes that are designed for use on snow or sand or generally ugly terrain, characterized by crazy wide rims and very wide and usually rather soft tires. Good examples of the most popular are the Salsa Mukluk and the Surly Pugsley.

The reason I'm interested is that I could ride the unplowed and icy MUPs in London Ontario on one of these wonderful mutant-by-design bicycles. Studded skinny or even MTB tires aren't good enough to handle them; I have tried. The thing is, crazy wide rims and tires require crazy wide forks and crazy everything else. Crazy is expensive, especially when 1 in 1000 cyclists* will really want and actually pay for one. To give you an idea, searching for "surly pugsley" or "salsa mukluk" doesn't even yield any results featuring full bikes... $300 rims, etc, but no bikes.

I don't have the money to buy one of these things. A Pugsley sells for about $1700 on REI. A Mukluk runs about the same. I started looking into building one, but quickly realized that even the parts and tires put these things out of reach for me right now.

One nice thing I discovered while looking into building one of these monsters was There have always been DIY methods of studding bike tires, but I've never really believed that hardware store screws would hold up very well. Grip Studs fill the gap nicely. They are expensive, but with these you could stud any tire you wanted with high quality studs rather than trying to find a finished product like I have so far.

I think I'm gonna go talk to the people at First Cycleworks... they seem to enjoy building mutant cycles more than most other shops in town and I'm hoping they might have some useful and doable fat bike advice for me. Wish me luck!

Yer Pal,

* That statistic is based on nothing tangible. The 1000 could as easily be 500 or 10000. The author of this blog is thinking you'll get the idea whether number is accurate or not.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Baptism In Snow

Well, the worst of that snow storm appears to be over and London Ontario continues to dig out. Last week's rides to and from work on Thursday and Friday were some of the most technically demanding I have ever experienced. I tried riding in on Wednesday, got a few blocks from home, decided it was too dangerous and went back home and grabbed the car. Things were made worse by the fact that I didn't get a chance to ease in to snowy riding, going from bare pavement to kookoo town just days after I started riding Mutant Winter again.

Thanks to the sheer volume of snow and cars mashing through it, the always treacherous "lightly trafficked" kind of snow often had strange hard snow/ice islands and ridges hiding underneath it. I walked my bike more than I ever have. "Giving Up" and walking it sometimes actually made the rides much less stressful, if a little tough on my ego.

This morning dawned much colder (approx -13 C / 10 F) than other recent ones. Warm wet snow yesterday and recent plowing made many of the backstreets into skating rinks. That is OK with me because the studded tires do fine on hard ice and I made much better time than in the shifting snow.

Just the same, it would have been OK to have one of these today...
pic source

I'm gonna be busy busy for a while, so I likely won't be posting again until Thursday when the FARATS voting begins. Try to behave while I'm out. Remember, Santa is watching and will punish you without hesitation because he is a very angry dude what with the melting of the icepack and everything.

Yer Pal,

Monday, November 29, 2010

Loading the 2nd Best Tub in Town - Winter Prep

The time has finally arrived. No snow yet, but the mercury is dipping below freezing on a regular basis. It is time to awaken the mutant. Mutant Winter, I mean. Her bottom bracket sounded like hell (think broken marbles) by the end of last winter. I have swapped it out, replaced the chain, cleaned all the gunk out of the derailleur and she's ready to roll. Except for stocking the 2nd best tub in town.

Here's a little catalogue of what will go in there.

Various batteries that fit my various lights. Especially with some of the super cheap lights that I use, this is important. They can fade to nothing super fast if they are so inclined. pic source

Zipper bags, plastic bags
A decent assortment of these will take care of all kinds of problems, from transporting wet clothes home to protecting your feet from soaked shoes or boots.
pic source

The usual assortment... spare tube, CO2 inflator things (I think I want to switch to a mini hand pump... I can see myself screwing up somehow or other with the CO2 inflator things), hex wrenches, small crescent wrench, etc. I don't even know why I bother. If I flat or suffer some sort of serious mechanical failure, I would either call Mrs. Rantwick for a rescue or throw the bike on the rack of a bus before trying to fix it in sub zero temps. pic source

Spare Socks
Even totally soaked footwear is usable if you have dry socks and plastic bags to put over them. Spare socks can also double as mittens in a pinch.
pic source

An Adorable Little Kitten
It is nice to travel with an adorable little kitten, but panniers or backpacks don't have the room to set up a comfy bed for it. The 2nd best tub in town does. If a motorist causes you to crash or wipe out, they may not care about you, but just watch their faces when you open the tub, carefully draw out this little darling and say, "what were you trying to do, kill my adorable little kitten?" Of course, it might be dead or injured, which will make them feel 10 times worse! Awesome.
pic source

A Big Bottle of Whiskey
If I am using the bike path, there is always the possibility that I will crash and break both my legs while landing squarely on my cell phone, smashing it to bits. If that happens, I am going to need access to a big bottle of whiskey. It will either kill the pain until help arrives or assist me in freezing to death in style. I don't like transporting glass bottles along with the kitten, so I go with a cheap whiskey in a plastic bottle. Using a lovely single malt scotch or something to kill pain is an insult to the whiskey anyway. Note: My bottle of Canadian Whiskey will not say "imported" on it. pic source

A Flare Gun
Once I have consumed the big bottle of whiskey, I will, of course, need something to shoot at the kitten with. Don't worry, I won't hit it.
pic source

Well, that's it! I hope some of you will benefit from my sharing. It is all about the journey, as they say, and I'm glad you are my travelling companions, because nobody else will talk to me for some reason.

Riding in Winter is Awesome. Try it.


PS - If you were enjoying the first half of that post, sorry it went all sideways. I was looking at what I was writing and all I could see was blah blah blah blah blah. There is a ton of good information on winter riding out there without me rambling on about what I pack in the tub. If for some reason you want my specific opinion on something, please ask and I will be happy to help if I can.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Something I Couldn't Do

I'm working on a post about some funky new stuff I've been wearing on the bike that will prove without a doubt that I no longer care very much about how I look. Wait, that's wrong. If I didn't care, I wouldn't write about it. Let's say instead that increasingly, function trumps form when it comes to my choices. Sadly, that means I look a little more freakish with each new development. Thank goodness I'm not single and looking... my prospects would be grim. Not as grim, though, as they would be if I were sporting one of these:

image source:

That is Something Even I Just Couldn't Do.


Friday, October 16, 2009

How to Hold Your Mutant

Recently while riding in to work in the morning I was caught off guard by how cold it was. Most of me was fine, but my bare hands (fingers in particular) were aching. It was one the first days that I was riding "Mutant Winter". I have decided to rename her "Mutant Winter" because I really like saying and typing "Mutant Winter". Mutant & Winter are two excellent words when used together. Firstly, they describe pretty much how the cycling (especially in the worst parts) of winter feels. On the coldest days I look much like a scuba diver, sans snorkel: mutant. On the heaviest snow days I am the only cyclist for miles around: mutant. My bike is a fairly nice dirt jumper transformed into a weirdly fendered, pink cabled, plastic-tub-carrying abomination: mutant. Secondly, it sounds like an excellent name for certain kinds of bands, or maybe a nice scary movie...

background image used with permission from: In an act of abnormal respect of copyright, I discovered that the blog from which I grabbed the image was authored by a woman not far from me, here in Southern Ontario! Her stuff isn't for everyone, but I thought it was pretty cool.

Anyway, my hands were really cold, and I had no mitts or gloves with me. So, in true mutant fashion, I grabbed a pair of old spare socks out of my way groovy blue Winter Mutant tub, and stuck 'em on my hands. Nothing says "mutant" like sock hands. That did the trick for the coldness, but shifting was difficult because my thumb was trapped. If only the sock on my right hand had been blessed with the hole I found on my left hand, all would have been well. Please do not comment on how how I could have switched the socks. I had already stopped once to put them on, and I wasn't stopping again, no way. In addition, that would have placed the baggy heel part on the top, which totally goes against my personal rules of hand sock fashion (I honestly thought that to myself at the time, god help me). My left hand sock action was great, so much so that I put it back on and took a picture when I was home that evening:

So, the answer to the age-old question "how should I hold my mutant?" is finally fully clear to me: with sock hands. When you think about it, what other answer could there possibly be?

Please don't stop reading this blog because I am a mutant in thought, deed and written word...


PS - I came this close to registering and throwing a web page up just for fun, in case anybody tried to go there. I managed to resist, without any help from my sweet wife. I guess I'm not 100% mutant just yet...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

I'm Getting Pumped! And then Deflated!

Around March of the last few of years, I begin to ache for Spring and open bike paths and an end to riding through heavy snow, rain and dirty slush. Around now, the last few years, I start getting excited to ride in all that stuff all over again. Don't get me wrong, dirty slush is not really my thing, but the joys and challenges and beauty of winter riding in London Ontario most definitely are.

I intend to wax poetic about all that stuff as winter progresses and camera provides in the coming months, so I'll stop there for now. I've got to get cracking on cleaning up my winter bike, (named "Winter", if you'll recall) right NOW. Of course there's no snow yet, but snow before the end of October is not unheard of, and I don't want to miss any of the precious first snows before the paths get packed down, icy, pocked up and almost impossible to ride.

Another reason I need her ready is that I like to ride the bike on dry, non-icy roads before things get bad, so that when they do I have re-adjusted to having gears, a freewheel, disc brakes, flat bars and most of all a high centre of gravity, thanks to that crazy tub on the back. During that fair-weather period, I run the knobby, studded MTB tires at as high a pressure as I can in the interest of speed. They sound like rice crispies when you ride on bare pavement. The worse conditions get through the winter, however, the more air I let out. It is not uncommon for me to run at 20 psi in mid-winter, since it increases the size of your contact patch, and provides some "float" over packed snow.

Well, it took me a while, but now you know where that title came from. This is the first winter that I'll be blogging here in a steady way, with the camera and all that. I'm really looking forward to sharing some of what makes winter riding so very crappy and so unbelievably great.

Wishing you all a happy Winter Deflation,


Monday, June 29, 2009

She Wears Pink, And She's Dirty

First of all, get your mind out of the gutter. I'm talking about my winter bike, affectionately named "Winter". Normally I wouldn't be the type to assign a gender to my bike. Bikes, after all, are bikes. When I was building this bike, however, I was anxious to get it finished because it was starting to snow now and then. I used some good but very pink brake cable I had lying around...


Now, the Dirty

I'm a little ashamed to show this bike in such dirty and rusty condition; I just dumped her for my new fixed commuter build when spring came. I will get her all cleaned up and remove all the rust I can before winter comes and I wreck it all over again. While we're on the topic, why would fenders come with anything other than stainless hardware? I can understand other bicycle bits, but fenders? Water and rain are what they are for. I know, of course, that it keeps costs for the manufacturer down, and these didn't cost an arm and a leg, but once again: they are fenders, for Pete's sake! Thanks for letting me get that out.

This monstrosity was made from a partially destroyed Gary Fisher Bitter that I found in local classifieds.

I feel a little bit bad for doing this to what used to be a pretty respectable dirt jumper. I added the rigid fork, wheels, fenders, a big old plastic tub and studded tires among other things. The odd fender placement and other strange things about this bike are mostly by design, and specifically aimed at winter riding in heavy snow and slush. Even that high-riding ugly plastic tub; panniers would just become heavily crusted with icy buildup, and my storage needs to be utterly waterproof. London Ontario's winter is quite mild in comparison to other Canadian cities, and very similar to most northern US cities. It is often as wet as it is cold. We do get a lot of snow, which is most often heavy and wet too.

Without fail, the thing people remark upon first when they see this bike are the pink brake cables, instead of the fact that it is a complete and utter mutant. That is not why I started to see this bike as a she, though.

This is:

This child is Winter's human doppelganger. When I saw this picture, I laughed a bit, and then an image of Winter immediately sprang to mind. Dirty, with pink accessories. This kid also has a look in her eye that corresponds perfectly with how I feel sometimes while riding in the snow, and how Winter would feel if she weren't just an abused and ill-fated machine, destined to forever live a life of cold and slush, ice and salt. I don't know who this kid is, but I'll bet she's having a great summer. Maybe I should take Winter for a summer trail ride, just to keep her happy too...

If you are all set to leave a comment about my mental state, please don't bother. Believe me, I already know.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

My Spitting Image

I have discovered something unseemly about myself while engaging in the winter cycling I'm so fond of. I spit. Quite a lot. I'm not sure how I feel about it. It is never great to see somebody spit in public, but I must confess that I feel a certain amount of licence when exerting myself quite hard in the cold. It is definitely related to the cold; I rarely (if ever) spit in the summer while I ride. I am torn about whether I should try to stop it... my self-image is not that of a spitter.

Spitting is something that is accepted as part of many sports. I suppose I could just chalk it up to being a exercise/sport thing. The trouble is I'm not in an arena or on a ball diamond; I'm on the street, surrounded by cars and people who are not there to watch me ride my bike and spit.
So, what should I do? I could swap my Balaclava for one of these:

I'm guessing that thing would straighten me out in a hurry. The problem is that you can only buy them in quantities of 100 for almost $700. It would seem that those into controlling spit are in it for the long haul.

In the interest of compromise, I thought perhaps there was a polite way to spit. After almost 44 seconds of searching, of course I found this "eHow" article. WARNING: there is nothing polite about these instructions. I also disagree with the final instruction to "blow as hard as possible". I think that's a recipe for the sort of uncontrolled venting that would look extra rude and weird.

I could get retro and use an antique spittoon, which apparently is also an exemplary inheritance for young nieces...

Your spouse wanted to give his niece the ugly, antique spittoon. This would be called a specific devise of tangible personal property.

I am at all times an aesthete, so I would locate a bike well suited to this wonderful piece:

However, I'm no slave to form over function! I'm not some freak who cares only for how I look while I expectorate. My solutions must be effective and simple and lend themselves to efficient commuting. I do believe I have arrived at the answer.

Drool all you like, it's MINE! I'll be doing a production run of my system as soon as I find 99 more antique spittoons, and you can buy it then if you like.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Looking Stupid: A How-To For Winter Cyclists

I ride my bike to work and back all winter long. I see winter as an adversary that shall not be allowed to take away one of my favourite things, and I have figured out how to stay comfy and enjoy the ride in any weather. I only failed to ride in on 2 work days last winter thanks to truly impressive weather, and I'm gunning for a flawless record this year.

Since many motorists are either made nervous or angry by my presence in the off-season, I try hard to look like a well-equipped, serious and safe cyclist. I drive a car too, so I can relate to worrying that some idiot on a bike is about to do something stupid or dangerous that results in me squishing them flat. I am well reflectorized and lit in the dark, I wear a good deal of cycling-specific clothing, hold a nice straight line and ride in a predictable way. I even use hand signals. I am winter cycling's responsible, nerdy Ambassador. Grudging respect and acceptance is my goal, not looking stupid. Thankfully, for those wishing to expand their repertoire of dorky behaviours, others are happy to lead by example.

Tip #1 - Get drunk first. Have you ever tried to ride a bike drunk? No? I strongly advise trying it in winter if you're going to try it at all. Go hard or go home, as they say. Like the drunk dude who crashed repeatedly in the greasy snow on a very busy street right in front of me last year. He was awesome.

Tip #2 - Be woefully unprepared. Like the rugged bare-headed and handed men both young and old who ride recklessly in whatever direction might offer the best chance of keeping most of their frostbitten ears from falling off or allow them to remove their clenched, frozen hands from the bars upon reaching their destination. They are legion, at least in early winter. I can only guess the resultant injuries prevent any more gloriously stupid rides as the season wears on.

Tip #3 - When you see that ultra-polished ice that occurs at stop signs where drivers have spun their wheels, especially 4-way stops, insist on "taking your lane" to ensure your safety and fair treatment as a vehicle at the intersection. When you come to a stop, confidently put your fancy new winter cycling boots down as your bike attempts to slide out from under you. Discover that the hard plastic cleats of said boots do nothing on such ice. With agonizing slowness, carefully tip-toe yourself and your bike out of the way while impatient motorists on their morning commute watch with disdain and think "now look at that jackass. For somebody so well dressed, equipped and reflectorized, he sure is stupid."

Ambassador. Yay me.