Nanook du Nord & The Blue Sox

This is long, sorry. Will never do one this long again. Skip around, go to the photos, click on a link or two, and be done with it.

Bicycle lights are getting to be too good, and I think there may be such a thing. I’m not sure, I just think. What megapixels are to digital cameras, lumens are to lights, or at least the newest breed of small-and-fancy LED lights. Don’t click on that link…if you’re even remotely like me, it’ll make you feel like you must have missed school that week. It’s good enough to think of lumens as lightness, or brightness, and as long as all lumens are equal (there is some debate about “cheating ways to measure lumens”)—then a light with more lumens is brighter. I think 70 lumens is bright enough to ride at night on unlit trails, and I think that having ridden 50 lumen lights there, and even they work fine. At night, you go slower. Not because you can’t see, but because…if you’re out there at night, whatcha going so fast for?

If you ride in town where there are street- and car lights, and seeing the road isn’t as important as keeping out of jail for not complying with the law, then 30 lumens is fine. But the same people who quit making three- and even five- megapixel digital cameras also quit making 30-lumen lights. You can say, and it makes some sense to, that when the technology evolves, why stick with OSA (old state of the art)? There is some sense in that, as long as nothing gets compromised along the way, but in lights…here’s a deal. Even 170 lumens, aimed in the wrong motorist’s eyes accidentally, is gonna peeeeee him off. It is irritating. So the lights have dimming options, and it’s probably good to use them. I wonder how dims the dims go on a 500 lumen light, though. At least one 500 lumen light’s dim setting is 200 lumens, or five to eight times the OSA.

Lights aren’t one of my favorite topics, because the discussion always escalates to geekiness in the name of complete technical information. There is beam pattern, or coverage. There is on-the-fly adjustability. Weight. Ease of on-and-offness. Run time. Rechargeability or not having to ever do that. In no time at all, I gotta see a spreadsheet.

For me, forever, there will never be a time when 170 lumens is not enough to ride by, but I suspect that in two years or less, 170 lumen lights will be like 3 megapixel cameras. If they exist at all, they’ll be old stock relabeled and used as promotional giveaways in registration packets, or as perks for attending sales pitches in a local hotel. In ten years, the whole night-riding experience will be a thing of the past. The slight spookiness and the novelty of riding in darkness will be a memory.

I dooooo believe that lighting technology is fantastic, and is one of the best things (and sometimes I think one of the few things) that has improved-to-my-way-o’-thinking in the past ten years. I think it has reached the point of being a lumens-war among manufacturers, though, and the benefits to humans aren’t in proportion to the  doubling and tripling of the numbers.

My favorite light is the 80-lumen EOS bike light, musa by Princeton Tec. The early ones had 50 lumens, and were bright enough to be the most popular light in the Great Divide race (Canada to Mexico on dirt). Last year they upped it to 80. I’ve found both to be fine for night riding on trails, and more than enough for night riding on roads. At higher speeds, like if you’re doing dumb stuff at night, maybe a hair brighter than 80 would be even better. I like the light on the head, because when you’re squirming up a skinny trail, a bike-mounted light vacillates between shining on the left side of the trail and shining on the right side of it. Then you tend to steer toward the illuminated non-trail, and it goes back and forth and I find it irritating. A headlight doesn’t do that, and a headlight on top of a bike light takes care of it, too. But, back to lumens.

A survey of what’s out there shows lots of small bright lights with 300 to 600 lumens, and you just know the makers are in a lumens-per-dollar war. Speer’s 170 lumen light, on the highest of three settings, is bright enough to bother car drivers. I use the same light down hills on trails, and I never outrun it.

All of the small fancy lights have too many modes. Flashing, for if you’re lost in the woods, OK. Don’t get lost in the woods, but if you do and a regular light isn’t working, flashing might help.


We’re getting some new blue socks, from Canada. We’ve had Canadian socks before—several years ago we sold about 800 pair over a few years. But they were 100 percent wool, and all-woolies don’t last as long and shrink more, and so now we’re getting some 70/30s—-a big step for us, who’ve always had a higher minimum than that. But these 70/30s are sooooo beautiful, and I’ve been wearing them for a few weeks now, as often as I can, to simulate megawear. Here’s a photo:

The blue is flecked with other colors, but that doesn’t show up here. The socks are low crew, higher than ankle, just right, and the Canadian maker says they’re its longest wearing socks. Socks do wear out. These won’t “wear like iron,” but they cost $12, and you’ll get that out of them. The button is here:

THE DAY WE RECEIVE THESE (estimate 2/15 to 2/17) we’ll put the socks up for a couple days at $10/pair and give the first fifty buyers one of these Early Adopter buttons. It means, “I don’t have to read a dozen or more e-pinions before buying.”  We’re getting into buttons.

Do you have a pair of blue socks? I’m guessing no. Blue socks are great, but then, I really love socks and blue. Have you seen 3M’s fantastic blue duct tape? I know it won’t come out well here, but here it is. I’m sure they’ll discontinue the color:

I’ve seen many good blues on bikes, but this one….hard to equal.

The current Campy Athena crank doesn’t make it easy to remove it, or inexpensive. Here are the tools required:

That’s only part of it. See the drawing of the crank puller? Here it is:

The whole kit above wholesales for $100, which means it would retail for at least $150, and besides that, it’s a lot of bulk and rigamaroll. And on top of that, the D-shaped plastic piece you see right above snapped in half the first time Mark used it, and Mark used it right. ALL of this for some theoretical high-tech benefit of Campy’s “Power Torque” bottom bracket.

Now, the normal, square-taper crank like the ones we sell, like Eddy Merckx rode his entire career—-and Greg LeMond, Bernard Hinault, Andy Hampsten, and everybody else before about 2005 or so—THAT kind of crank requires tiny tools like these, to remove:

These are the tools needed to remove and install a normal threaded crank and Tange or Shimano bb, The cost is maybe $60, but hey, you can use the Crescent wrench for other things, and the crank extractor has worked for hundreds of crank models spanning decades. Times change, I know, but still…this stuff will work a looooong time.


Ex-Rivemployee Vaughn sent me three movies the other day. One I’d seen, but now own a copy, so am glad of that. One I temporarily misplaced, either at home or work, so I can’t say anything about. The last one is the best movie I’ve ever seen.

The first one is this:

It is Indian-related, and an antidote to bad movies and bad days.

The besty is also Indian-related, because it’s about an Eskimo, and the Eskimos who kept going south turned into Indians (Native Americans). Here’s that one—Nanook of the North. (Up to now, I’d heard of “Nanook of the North” a million times, but didn’t know for sure whether Nanook was a polar bear or a person or the title of a children’s book. I asked my 17-year old daughter if she’s heard of Nanook of the North, and she said, “Of course!” Then I asked what is it, and she said, “I’m not sure. Something up in Alaska, I think.” Well, close but not quite:

Also Vaughn-related, he sent his friend over to us with some vegan goodies, even though John is our only vegan. They were really good, and for vegan stuff, it was quite low-carb—-which is all the rage around here. The baked kale stalks were the best kale I’ve eaten— a low bar, but still, delicious. I am so sorry that only San Franciscans and Bay Areans can take advantage, but:


In an early Reader we had a story on the Stanley No. 199. We’re box-cutting fiends around here, and I ran into this one in Spencer’s area (he receives the shipments and opens more boxes than any of us).

Let’s not start hoarding Model 199’s, but this one is the coelacanth of box-cutters, and I’ll bet a hundred dollars Stanley has it on the chopping blocks. Sure, get one now.  It doesn’t retract, and these days that’s gotta be a liability. But apparently it is still in the line, and I’ve seen them at the local Ace Hardware store. You can buy them used  on eBay for more than new ones cost, which……weird.


And here is a broken but not defective Brooks.

We see a few a year. Now, usually a broken seat post is the fault of the seat post and the user, in the same way that a broken window is usually the fault of the rock and the thrower, the thrower’s parents and/or the thrower’s peers. A seat post with a short rail-grip area and sharp corners at the edge of the rail-grooves, under the right heavy rider, will break rail after rail, always escaping prosecution. Anyway, this is a broken, but not not not defective Brooks.


I don’t follow the famous singing stars and can’t identify many of them by looks, and fewer by far by songs, but today is the day Whitney Houston died, and if you know less about her than I do (hard to be in that category), do yourself a favor and click on this and read the brief not and listen to the song.

I am sure that in four days there will be overload everywhere on the news, and it’ll keep dragging on. At some level, at a fine, human, big picture level, Whitney Houston’s death is no more or less tragic than anybody else’s…of course. She was a better singer than many, though, and played a bigger role in our times, and so if you were as out of the WH-loop as I was, do yourself a four-minute favor and listen to that song on the link.


I hadn’t planned on any particular ending, and that one seems not like a good one in any case, so let me remind you that this week we’ll have blue socks, and Early Adopters will get a little lower price. Maybe for the first fifty pair sold. They’re nice sox. Reminder:

Each of the first fifty buyers get a button. I wonder how long it’ll take to sell fifty.

We’ll also have EA buttons and deals for the Unnamed bars, the next batch of Betty Foys, and…things like that. Don’t buy for the buttons. They’re bonus buttons.



At the considerable risk of distracting you from the blue sox, here’s a video that customer-videographer Josh Estey sent to me, following his notes right here. It’s in Malawi, a country in southern Africa. Remember when everybody thought Africa was a country? I’m 57 and got over that one…well, let’s just say…I remember when I did. The geography teachers in Lafayette, California in the late ’50s and early ’60s didn’t harp a lot on Africa:

The hook is an interview with a Professional Bicycle Taxi Driver, who like most people in the developing world uses the inexpensive and somewhat reliable Chinese Phoenix single speed. The video also touches a bit on the socioeconomic’s of the country and the general feel good nature of the Malawi people. 
My day job is shooting for development agencies, NGO’s and the UN, which leads me to a lot of unusual places. I make these bike videos solo as a little hobby to show my kids where I have been, and hopefully entertain fellow cyclists. At times it can be a nerve racking experience, as I leave camera gear on the side of the road to build sequences, and have to haul so much stuff. I shoot these on my days off or the rare occasion I have free time, so they are real seat of your pants productions.
BTW, the Albatross bars featured in the film were ordered from you. The best bar I have ever owned. 
have good light, josh
(Now, it is possible that Josh has already read the light-stuff on this post, and there is slightly wordplay there with his salutation; but it might be a typo, too.) Here’s the vid. Josh is on a Surley Steamroller.