bicycle · bicycling · cap · cycling · diy · hat · sewing

Making a cycling cap

A cycling cap is useful in so many ways. It keeps the hair in place. Sweat is managed. It shades the head and face from direct sun. Can be micro-adjusted to block the glare from oncoming headlights. The sun protection will make your dermatologist happy.  Thin fabric allows it to fit under a helmet. Pulled low over the eyes, it’s how I begin a nap.

Years ago, when my old columbus hat was starting to disintegrate, I knew there would be  difficult search for a replacement. My head is BIG (60cm), and few hats would fit it. And I  was not so keen on wearing a hat covered with commercial advertising. I find the bill on store bought cycling caps is always too small. It was time to figure out how to make a hat that fits me well and has a bigger bill. I have made about 60 of these caps so far. For a person who does not sew much, is not an easy project at first. Your initial caps will not be that great but they quickly improve with practice. I am satisfied with mine now, and they take about 2 hours to make. They last up to a year if you wear it a lot. Make lots, give them as gifts, it’s fun!

Rather than hunting for an online pattern, it made more sense to me to get the pattern from the old cap which I knew actually fit me. So I took it apart and had the perfect pattern right there. This 3 panel style may not be as hard to sew, compared to a more complicated 6 panel hat for instance. I had to figure out the steps of construction myself. There are probably other ways to put it together too. If nothing else, this type of project will help you appreciate the effort and complexity involved in making a garment.

The templates, and cutting the main pieces 

The old hat, disassembled.

I used the pieces of the old hat to make templates for making the new hats. With the visor, I drew an outline of the existing one, and then drew it a little bigger. Because I could.

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Above are the current templates I use for my 59cm head. Units shown on the board in this picture are in inches. Templates are cut from picture frame matte board.  When I make a new hat, I just lay the templates down on the new fabric and run a pen (or a sharp white chalk line for dark fabrics) along the edge, and cut along the lines. The templates are all symmetric.
Fabric is cut. The 2 center pieces (middle) will be sewn together. I had to orient the bird pattern so they would be seen as upright on the front and back. With most fabric patterns, the center would be one piece. The yogurt container bill (hard version) sits on top of the 2 pieces of bill fabric; cut wide. You want to have about that much material around the cap visor to work with..

Making the bill; fusible fabric interface, or plastic yogurt container material?

These days, I prefer to use the soft bill version, made of a fusible fabric interface stiffener (Pellon, Pellex ultra-firm 2 sided fusible fabric stiffener is what I use). There are other types of fabric stiffener out there similar to it. You can get this stuff at fabric stores. It’s a lightweight white poly material that you can cut to any shape with scissors. Fusible means there is a glue applied to it which is activated by a hot steamy iron. Fusible on 2 sides is what I want, so that both sides of the bill fabric are securely attached. The resulting bill is durable and washable. I haven’t been able to damage one yet. I can fold the hat bill in half and lay a dictionary on top of it all day. The next day the cap will have no evidence of damage. It won’t crack or assume a permanent distorted shape.

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Pellon instructions

But maybe you just wanna recycle that plastic yogurt container for the bill. With the fusible Pellon, you get a more flexible and durable bill, The plastic yogurt container is subject to cracking and digging its way thru the fabric edges over time, but despite this it works well and many cap stiffeners are made with plastic. You can sew lines around the bill and through the plastic to add design and or make a better connection.

The plastic bill stiffener I cut from a 32oz plastic yogurt container. The container is just big enough for a generous sized lightweight bill, and I rough cut a slightly larger size out of it. I set the orientation using the natural curve of the plastic, but get it mostly flattened out with an iron, set on low. The natural curve of it is too much, more like a baseball cap. If an excessive curve returns (like from having it scrunched up in a pocket), I can always iron it flatish again. I don’t iron the plastic directly of course; I put a piece of fabric on top of it first.  It takes just a minute or 2 of ironing on medium, and I let it cool down with a book on top of it for 5 minutes, so it will have a slight curve when it cools off. Iron mostly the sides, not the center; if you apply too much heat to the center, the bill gets distorted.

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Above represents steps in making a plastic bill. Start with a yogurt/cottage cheese container (top). Cut out an oversize part of it that is the general shape of the bill you want. Iron it flattish (cover with fabric, iron on low for a minute or 2, mostly on the sides, not the center. If you put too much heat in the center it may distort.  Cover it with a book for 5 minutes and then check it. It should look slightly curved, like the 2 examples on the bottom of the picture.
After ironing, I trace the finished visor line on the rough cut yogurt container material with the brim template, and I cut it to its finished size. I make the plastic visor ends rounded so they aren’t as likely to cut into the fabric. Then I make a chalk line of the visor edge on the fabric visor material. Then I sew the 2 pieces of visor fabric together. 

 

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Here I am cutting  fabric that will be the top and bottom of the bill, leaving plenty of extra material to cut away later.
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The visor template (white) is on top of 2 pieces of the visor fabric. I draw a chalk line around the visor template onto the fabric, and extend it past the edge, an inch on each side.

 

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Here I sew a straight stitch along the chalk line.
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I cut along the stitch line, leaving about a quarter inch of fabric past it. This is the inside of the bill fabric. It will be turned inside out to form a pocket for the bill stiffener.
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A cap brim cut from Pellon material

 

 

 

Next I insert the bill, either the hard plastic or the pellon version. I fit it in so that the quarter inch of fabric edge is located under the bill edge; all of it on the underside. This takes some fiddling. I line it up, using the pins, I pull and tuck, so that the edge is as even as I can get it. Looking inside the bill, I can see how good a job I did of getting all the edge material on the underside of the bill. I may need to use my fingernail to pull some of it in place.

 

 

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After ironing the fabric to the pellon you may see the faint line of the quarter inch of fabric on the underside of the bill (above image). The brim edge is pretty even. I ironed both sides with a hot iron for about 10 seconds each side, and a few blasts of steam.
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 Top of the same bill (this is a woolen one) with pellon insert. The inside edge of it is marked with a faint chalk line. I don’t need to sew the inside edge because the fabric is fused to it.
With the plastic yogurt container bill version (above), I do need to sew the visor in the pocket . I go slow, trying to sew right along the edge of the plastic. The sewing machine can sew thru the plastic; and while doing this, that will probably happen. 

 

Then I trim the inner edge of the fabric so there is about 3/4 of an inch of material beyond the inner visor edge. This material will help absorb sweat.

Sewing the liner to the bill

Now I sew a strip of elastic band liner material along the inside bottom of the visor, slightly overlapping the existing visor stitches. I pull the elastic material just a little bit while sewing, which give it some built-in tension. I go slow, doing several stitches and stopping to reposition as needed. I pay the most attention to where the edge of the liner slightly overlaps the edge of the chalkline. 

 

The liner is sewn in.  I like to sew it once more, right along the inner edge, because it’s difficult to sew it next to the edge in one pass. If it is not sewn right at the edge, the unattached fabric will create a ledge visible when you flip the cap visor up.
Thats a 26″ long strip of elastic material. Fabric stores sell this by the yard or the roll. This one is probably nylon, and cotton blend versions can be used. There is a nice cotton/rubber strip I like to use. Extra material extends out from one side to use for an elastic strip at the back.

Sewing the 3 cap pieces together

 

With the bird pattern, I need to sew 2 identical pieces together for the center panel section. Otherwise the birds would be upside down on one of the ends.

 

Now I am sewing the 3 hat panels together with a simple straight stitch. I go slow, trying to make an even seam; about 1/4 inch. This step takes practice to do well. I always have the side panel on top during this step.
You could use a finishing stitch which would prevent fraying, or just do a straight stitch like I do.  In my experience, caps made from lightweight cotton broadcloth don’t last long enough to benefit from having the edges finished. A loose thread here and there on the inside of the cap is not an issue for me.

 

Panels sewn, hat is taking shape!

Next I sew the edge of the cap. I roll the inside edge about 1/4 inch and sew all along the edge of the cap.

Putting it all together

Now I need to sew the cap on to the visor. First I center the visor and cap. Above you see a chalk line along dead center of the visor, and a pen dot in the middle of the front edge of the middle cap strip. If it is not well centered, the mistake will be obvious when all is done. I also rubbed a chalk line along the inside edge of the visor to help me sew the curve with accuracy. 
Starting from the center, I sew the cap on just slightly in front of the existing stitches, so no stitching will be visible on the top of the bill.
I don’t want to see the visor stitching when I pull the material back. I see a little of it here in the above picture. I can sew that inside area again, just in front of the existing stitches, to make that stitching disappear on the outside. 
Then I sewed the other side, going from the center to the edge. Cap and visor are connected now.
View underneath.

 

Now I sew the rest of the elastic band along the inside of the cap. I pull it a little as I sew, to add some built-in tension. You can see how the edges a bit puckered/wavy. This makes the cap gently hold on to my head.

 

At the back/inside of the cap, I fold 3 layers of elastic together along the length of the back part of the center panel. I pin it in place, and try the hat on, making adjustments to how firmly it holds to my head as needed.

 

Now I sew the 3 layers along the pin line, on each side. 

 

Now I stretch the material with the elastic and sew it down the middle. I do the same thing, 2 more times.

 

I am aiming for an even looking puckered area along the back of the cap, like this.
There are lots of ways to finish the back to get it to hold on to your head. You can make a cutout that a ponytail can go thru, or use velcro, or a strap.
cyclingcapadjust.jpg
This cap can be adjusted to fit on heads from 54 to 60cm, using the 2 black velcro tabs on the rear. Not the most expert sewing going on here in this cap. I can color the errant stitches over with a black sharpie.
Finished. It fits well and improves with use.
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Recent caps from my cycling cap drawer. You can never have too many. 2 of them are made of wool that I got from the $5/lb Pendelton Mills scrap box.

 

THE END
bicycle · cape, raincape, duxback, poncho · carradice · sewing · Uncategorized

Sunbrella rain cape #2

After 2 years and a lot of use, the original Sunbrella plus rain cape started to leak in the areas that see the most abrasion, like the handlebar area and where my arms and hands are. While it remained a protective cape, it didn’t shed water as readily and I could feel and see some water seepage during heavy rains.

Fabric guard 303 is what Sunbrella recommends to renew water repellency. It really works. Water practically jumps off the fabric after application. It’s easy to spray on from the pump sprayer. To apply it you need to have a sunny warm day to do it, at least in the 70s. First wash the fabric (I just used ivory dishwashing soap) and let it dry. Then pump spray it on. Takes a minute. Stand downwind of the strong fumes. It dries quickly and there is no residual fume smell. Outstanding water repellency is the result. I imagine I will need to reapply it once each season from now on if I use it regularly.

My old cape treated with Fabric guard 303 was now functionally like new. But it was discolored from dirt which I could not scrub out, so I made a new cape out of black Sunbrella plus fabric. The black fabric was about 15% heavier. This was odd, because it was the same fabric other than the color. The cape ended up being about 23 oz, compared to 20 oz for the green cape. It seemed to have even greater water repellence than the green material. Giant beads of water just wanted to jump off the stuff. While the new green fabric had great water repellency, the black stuff took this to another level. The new black cape is quite a bit stiffer than the green one. It stands up by itself!

raincape 2

Nothing propping that stiff cape up! Looks like a giant wizard hat.

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It is a sturdy tent-like shelter against whatever form of falling water or debris I can pedal in; mist, rain, sleet, hail, etc. A reflective stripe was sewn in along the lower edge and along the collar. I like how sturdy it feels, and how it drapes. It is more than worth the extra weight.

Below, rolled up. Considering that it replaces a jacket, pants, and waterproof gloves, it’s not really that big or heavy.

raincaperoll

The next cape; Sunbrella supreme?

To take this cape to the next level would be to use Sunbrella supreme fabric, which is completely waterproof and has a flocked interior finish to the fabric. I am guessing that would make a cape which weighs about 26 oz. Periodic waterproofing treatments should not be necessary. The cape would not “breathe”, but air circulation under the cape would be excellent. It might even protect me from falling pianos and cougar attacks. Thats a project for another year.

END

bicycle · bike · carradice · poncho raincape · rain

Making a bicycle rain cape



This is an essay on my experience with various rain capes over the years, and how I came to make one of my own.  

 

Here is a guy who is doing it right. Bike has fenders; cape drapes over handlebars covering hands and legs, and it fits him very well with minimal flapping in the wind. Carradice DuxBack cape pictured.
 

It took many years of riding bikes in the rain before I eventually gave the rain cape a serious try. Having tried all sorts of expensive Goretex or H2O-No jacket and pants, and Showers pass E-vent garments, it just seemed there had to be something better. All bicycle rainwear eventually will fail me if the ride is long enough. I will be wet from the rain, mixed with my own sweat, which can’t evaporate fast enough. When I arrive at my destination, I am dripping outside and wet inside, and I bring a puddle into my destination where ever I go. Stripping off the failed garments just spreads the water to other parts of my body in cold, wet rivulets, and creates a lake on the floor underneath me. Easy to find the wet spot where the bike rider arrived. The only thing worse was trying to put all those cold wet garments back on for the ride home.

My very first bicycling rain cape was a plastic thing I got as a teenager from a camping store. Riding in the rain caused it to flap and snap, while my legs got wet. I would slow down to reduce the flapping. All the flimsy fabric seemed like a parachute. Riding thru a short downpour worked well though. It was quick to put on and remove. While it would help in a downpour, most of the water would come up as spray from the wheels. I didn’t realize yet that fenders were required for using a rain cape. Decades and lots of other raingear passed by before I would give the rain cape another try.
My first good quality rain cape!
 was from the Center for Appropriate Transportation (CAT), the Ultrex model, still available, about $80 without the hood.
Mine did not come with the optional hood
It is made of nylon with an Ultrex (similar to Gore-Tex) layer applied to the inside. The outside has a DWR (durable water resistant) finish on it that should be renewed at least twice a year, so that the water beads up and rolls away. The easier the water does falls off the outside of your cape, the dryer you and the cape will be. Renewing the finish is easy; just wash it with a DWR fabric product, and tumble dry it, or use an iron set on low it to set the treatment. When this is done, any water falling on the cape wants to badly roll the HELL off of it in the shape of a ball. It’s like magic.
It was a revelation using this cape while riding with rain. So easy and simple. I stashed it in my bag and left it there. I was never concerned about a cloudburst again. I would always arrive at my destination relatively dry no matter what clothing I wore, even if it was an hour bike ride away. Riding in the rain was FUN. During this time, I started waxing my leather shoes with Sno-Seal, which would keep my shoes and socks dry as well. I stopped looking at weather predictions, knowing that I was always ready for rain. And where I  live in Portland, OR, it’s a good idea to be ready for the rain all the time.
A close up of the commuter of the year photo I submitted. Normally my hands are covered by the cape.

I was “Commuter of the Year” according to River City Cycles in 2008; they saw this photo as a testament to my resolve as a bicycle commuter. 26 miles round trip; 3 nights per week no matter what the weather. In the picture, my hands are exposed (normally they are covered by the cape). Protecting the hands with the cape is one of the best things about using a cape. As long as I kept up the DWR coating (washing/ironing once a month or so during heavy use) it did a good job in repelling water. This CAT cape for me had less than ideal amount of fabric to protect my hands in the drop-bar position.

After a 2 or 3 years with a LOT of use, the Ultrex coating started to peel off at the areas of the most abrasion; the hands and the collar. The cape was flappy and was starting to look a bit tattered so I looked for something else, and ended up with a Carradice Pro-route, a bright yellow cape.

A properly applied Carradice Pro route cape. This person likes it so much, he wears it  in dry weather.
While a bike shop may order this for you, few would stock it. It’s a very bright yellow affair with a bit more material up front to cover the hands on a drop bar bike. One size fits all. It is designed with an upright riding position in mind. On my drop bar bike, it would be a bit tight; stretched between my waist and hands/brake levers. I liked mine, but after a couple of years it started to wear out just like the last one. A waterproof membrane began to peel away from the heavy used areas. It was light (about 12 oz dry, without the hood that I cut off) and rolled up into a small bundle.  Both this and the CAT cape needed a complete air drying before stowing, or they would get a moldy smell. While I did like how it was light and easily stowed, similar to the CAT poncho, I was ready to try something heavier and more substantial.
Next, I tried the Carradice DuxBack (pictured on the top of the post), a waxed cotton rain cape. It comes in regular and large size (unless you are very small get the large!).
This Duxback (water rolls off the ducks back) is a very different type of rain cape because it is made of waxed cotton. It’s noticeably heavier than the previous capes (about 20 oz without hood, compared to 12 oz). The coverage was great, and there was less flapping because of the heavier material. I felt like I was riding with my head poking out of a stout tent.

The hood comes attached to it. It’s an odd looking conical thing that limits vision and seems too small to accommodate a helmet,  so I just cut it off. While riding in the rain I found it to be quieter and less flappy. Like the CAT cape (and unlike the Pro-Route cape) it was not tight around my waist and hands on my drop-bar bike. The cut was more generous. It has straps that cinch around the waist and hook over the thumbs or brake levers, which help keep the cape in place. These straps proved unnecessary except in the highest winds, because the fabric was heavier.  I loved it! It was easily rolled up into a lump that I could fit somewhere. Not that much bigger a load than the ProRoute or CAT cape.

After a year or two of using the DuxBack intermittently, I had a ride in a heavy rain and over the course of an hour got rather wet! Water seeped in thru the fabric and along some seams. This garment is meant to be waxed now and then, and I guess it was time. Carradice makes their own wax, which is not easily found in the US, but I used a fabric wax bar that I found locally. A great how-to on re-waxing the garment is here. The next heavy rain event showed that the cape was (mostly) water tight. But the way water gathers on the waxed cape is different than on a DWR surface. Instead of balling up and rolling off, beads of water tend to crouch and cling. The cape stays wet much longer, and when water gets inside it, it will stay wet inside.  Putting on a cold wet cape is not fun. I can hang the wet DuxBack cape up in the cold dark garage, and it will still be wet 3 days later. I still loved my waxed cape, but I couldn’t help thinking that there was a better material out there.

Advantages of rain capes:
1) It covers the hands, arms, torso, most of the legs, and most of the bike, with just one easily applied and stowed garment.
2) It’s very fast to apply and remove. Less than 10 seconds; without getting off the bike. Between cloudbursts, I can ride without any rainwear!
3) Movement of the bike creates a considerable amount of ventilation underneath. Fabric that is breathable is hardly necessary.
4) Removing the cape takes only a few seconds, and doing so will not make me wet like jacket/pants rainwear does. I can arrive at my destination dry, in normal clothing, and looking like I just stepped out of a car.
Disadvantages of rain capes (with my observations):
Fenders are required.  (they protect from mud and dirty street water whether it is raining or not).
Not very aerodynamic (adds a few minutes to my hour long commute).
 Flaps in high wind. (it can flap depending on wind/fabric/and fit. A cape that fits well and made of stout material may hardly flap at all).
A headlamp must be located away from the handlebars so it won’t be covered up by the cape. (There is no way around this. The headlamp mount must be at front brake or rack)

Electronic devices mounted on the handlebars will not be visible. (no way around this)

The front wheel is not visible, (this takes some getting used to; it’s weird at first)
 Shoes are not protected. (The feet can get wet because a cape does not provide enough coverage there. I use leather shoes that I treat with a wax (SnoSeal), making the shoes highly water resistant. A mudguard with a generous mudflap greatly lessens any spray, and it is only after cycling for a long time in heavy rain and thru puddles when my socks will get wet. Matching chaps are available for some capes, although I find them to be a hassle.)
 The head gets wet unless there is a hood. (Most capes come with a hood, but I find they make it harder to see what is behind me, and a helmet offers enough protection from water)
 
I will look like a dork. (or maybe I will look like Strider from Lord of the Rings)
A rain cape of Sunbrella Plus

Sunbrella fabric is used for outdoor furniture applications, awnings, and boat covers. Casting about for ideas, I thought of an umbrella we have that goes with our outdoor table. It’s made of Sunbrella fabric, and it had been out there for years in the elements.  I tested it by pouring a cup of water into a fold. The water made a giant bead and just stayed there. An hour later, nothing had changed. It was totally dry underneath. Maybe this is the rain cape material I am looking for? Time to think outside the box.

Then it dawned on me. A fabric meant for standing around or walking in is not the best choice for an activity like riding a bike at 15 mph. Now it seems so obvious.

The regular Sunbrella fabric for furniture and pillows is quite supple and about 8oz/sq yd. That’s what the umbrella I tested was made of. It’s breathable and remarkably water resistant. Then there is the Sunbrella fabric for marine applications (boat coverings and awnings) which is substantially stiffer because of the application of a resin. From this class of Sunbrella fabric, there is the regular (9.5 oz sq yd), the Sunbrella plus (which has an added polyurethane coating underneath to increase water resistance, about 10 oz sq yd), and Sunbrella supreme, which is completely waterproof/non-breathable and a rather heavy 13 oz sq yd. All the Sunbrellas are breathable fabrics except for the supreme version, which has a flocked finish on the interior.

I ordered a couple yards (60″ wide) of the Sunbrella Plus, and it came in the mail a few days later. I opened the package and found it to be some rather stiff fabric! No flapping around with this stuff. The intended exterior of the fabric (slightly darker) allowed water to bead up and roll off mostly. A film of water would remain on some of the outside material. But it IS water-tight; no water could make it thru. The other side of the fabric is completely hydrophobic. All the water balls up and rolls off, leaving the material completely dry. I liked this because it means the cape will never be wet on the inside. A bit of gravity will make the inside of the cape as dry as the Sahara.

Since the DuxBack had the best fit for me, my thought was to copy it’s design pattern. I measured the 4 panels of the cape and transferred the measurements to the new fabric.

Carradice large size Duxback measurements. Hems not included. Not to scale exactly.

Pretty simple construction. A long front panel, shorter back panel, and 2 side wings that are mirror images of each other. I added a half inch to each measurement so I had a quarter inch hem.

Some chalk lines going in.. DuxBack hanging in the background.
After cutting the pieces it was quite straightforward sewing them together. I used regular household sewing machine which worked okay on 2 layers of this stout fabric. I put it on and found the shoulders were a bit wide, so I took the hem in where it would form around my shoulders. That made a better fit. I made a cut down the collar under my chin so the opening would be big enough so I could pull it over easily with my helmet on. I didn’t see the need for a zipper or an elaborate collar.
The basic sewn cape.

Next I put reflective tape around the lower edge and collar area. During my first rainy ride, I found that the seams did not leak water. Not a drop. If I find that a seam sealer is needed, I will probably use Iosso sealer, which is what they recommend.

Reflective tape sewed on. Draped over chair. The picture makes it clear that this is not a saggy or flimsy cape.
The first ride in heavy rain left me with a big smile. This is some serious rain protection. It’s a solid tent around me, and makes the other capes seem flimsy. A downside is that it does not fold into as small of a package as the others. While I could just roll the other capes into a ball and stuff them into my bag, I really need to fold this one. But this observation is not a big deal, and I intend to use this cape going forward.
The cape folded up. It won’t quite fit in my pocket…

On a ride using other capes I would normally see sweat/condensation/moisture gathered the inside of the cape after a ride of an hour or so. There were just a few beads of water inside of the Sunbrella cape after a long rainy ride. And they fell away just by holding it upright.

I found there was more airflow as well. The nature of the stiffer Sunbrella fabric makes it tend to stand off the skin and clothing, allowing much better air circulation.  This difference is HUGE and cannot be overstated. You really have to try it to understand.

I will use the cape to cover the bike while I am at a destination, so the bike itself stays dry. Since it holds its shape so well, I can just drop it over the locked bike and leave it. I am now considering ways to lock the cape to the bike. The material alone costs about $80.

The weight of this cape is equivalent to the DuxBack; about 20 oz dry (both without hoods). But as I noted before, the DuxBack takes a lot longer to dry. This Sunbrella cape presently stays almost completely dry on the inside, while on the outside, in the same cold, dark garage, it can be mostly dry in less than a day. This is much faster drying time than the DuxBack which takes at least several days to get dry in the same environment. I like the idea of waxed canvas, but it does have drawbacks. The reluctance to shed water is the biggest one.

So far so good with the new Sunbrella cape, but many more wet winter commutes and rides is what I need to really know if it is truly the bees knees. I will update this post before summer about how this cape worked for me.

A side note: the Boncho is a kickstarter project that has received some attention. It’s a rain cape with a springy metal wire inside that allows it to keep shape as it covers the handlebar area. The whole thing folds in to a compact frisbee shaped object that is easy to carry around. I wish them success in putting this innovative idea forward. It’s a creative take on the rain cape.

 

Update: after more than a year.
It’s been a couple of wet winters. How is this cape on rides and commutes in steady, penetrating, light rains or heavy downpours?

This cape blows all the others I have used out of the water.

Imagine… I’m dressed like I’m going to the office for a meeting, riding the bike into a massive thunderstorm, enjoying the electrified air, without any rain gear on. When the rain arrives I throw the cape on and keep riding, and experience the dramatic weather while staying comfortable, like I’m safe inside a stout tent (I stay dry aside from my head of course, and maybe the lower pants legs. Shoes are treated with SnoSeal so they stay dry).

The feeling of dread with approaching precipitation has been replaced with a sense of (almost) looking forward to enjoying it!

I will never go back to lighter weight materials for a rain cape again.

All the other capes I have ever used before (and liked very much) are like crap compared to this one. I use this cape even if precipitation is quite light, because it’s so comfortable. The interior stays dry, and the cape always stays in place. While my plan was to install a waist strap and hand straps to hold it down in a wind, I find the straps are simply unnecessary. In blustery conditions, the substantial fabric just stays in place by itself. Even when I ride over bridges on windy days where the lighter capes would blow up over my head, this one hardly made a ruffle.

The seams are still not sealed, and they still don’t leak. Most of the sewing in the cape is just a single stitch.  It’s rather odd that it is water-tight, but that’s how it is.

I made a short cable that has ends which fit over my U-lock, and can keep the cape safe from a casual thief (its the yellow line)…

A thin cable looping thru the U-lock gives a measure of security. The cape itself  is a waterproof cover for the whole bike. The wheel of this bike is pivoted under, making the bike look short and tall.

Having the cape draped over the bike keeps the bike dry, and it is a good place to allow it to drain. At the same time, I can leave it outside with the bike, and not subject my destination to a dripping garment, causing puddles on the floor. When I walk into that coffee shop… for all they can tell, it looks like I just got off the bus or walked in from the parking garage.

Time will tell how well this cape holds up, but so far over almost 2 rainy seasons there is no change in its performance. The material remains stiff and shows no signs of breakdown. I have rolled it up to stash it in the bike bag countless times. I take it with me if there is even a remote possibility of rain. It got stained with grease/dirt in one area; I tried cleaning it, but couldn’t get the stains out. The next cape (if I make another) will be black, and made of the same Sunbrella plus material.

Will it keep it’s stout nature and water resistance over the years, especially in the places that see the most abrasion (like where the hands and brake levers are)? This material is designed for constant exposure to the elements, and is guaranteed to hold up for something like 5 years in marine applications, so I think chances are good.

END
 
 
bicycle · bicycling · cap · cycling · diy · hat · sewing

Making a cycling cap

A cycling cap is useful in so many ways. It keeps the hair in place. Sweat is managed. It shades the head and face from direct sun. Can be micro-adjusted to block the glare from oncoming headlights. The thin fabric allows it to fit under a helmet. Pulled low over the eyes, it’s how I begin a nap. The sun protection will make your dermatologist happy.

Years ago, when my old columbus hat was starting to disintegrate, I knew there would be a long and difficult search for a replacement. My head is BIG (58cm), and few hats would fit it. And I was never was that happy about paying for a hat that gives free advertising to some business. And I find the bill on store bought cycling caps is always too small. It was time to figure out how to make a hat that fits me well and has a bigger bill. I have made about 50 of these caps so far. For a person who does not sew much, is not an easy project at first. Your initial caps will not be that great but they quickly improve with practice. I am satisfied with mine now, and they take about 2 hours to make. They last up to a year if you wear it a lot. Make lots, give them as gifts, it’s fun!

Rather than hunting for an online pattern, it made more sense to me to get the pattern from the old cap which I knew actually fit me. So I took it apart and had the perfect pattern right there. This 3 panel style would be easy to sew, compared to a more complicated 6 panel hat for instance. I had to figure out the steps of construction myself. There are probably other ways to put it together too. If nothing else, this type of project will help you appreciate the effort and complexity involved in making a garment.

The templates, and cutting the main pieces 

The old hat, disassembled.

I used the pieces as a template for making the new hats. With the visor, I drew an outline of the existing one, and then drew it a little bigger. The bills on traditional cycling caps are just too small for me.

The templates.
Templates from the top: visor, side panels, and center panel. They are made of picture frame mat board. It’s a thick cardboard like material, durable and easy to cut. When I make a new hat, I just lay the templates down on the new fabric and run a pen along the edge, and cut along the lines. The templates are all symmetric.
Fabric is cut. The 2 center pieces will be sewn together. I had to orient the bird pattern so they would be seen as upright on the front and back. With most fabric patterns, the center would be one piece. The yogurt container bill (hard version) sits on top of the 2 pieces of bill fabric.We have lots of light cotton material leftover from quilting projects. Shown here is this bird pattern fabric.

Making the bill (the hard plastic version)

(Note: these days, I prefer to use the soft bill version made of Pellon, described below). The top and bottom of the visor fabric is a lightweight, black wool with this hat, but you can use any fabric you like. The bill stiffener is cut from a 32oz plastic yogurt container. The container is just big enough for a generous sized lightweight bill. I set the orientation using the natural curve of the plastic, but get it mostly flattened out with an iron, set on low. If an excessive curve returns (like from having it scrunched up in a pocket), I can always iron it flat again. I don’t iron the plastic directly; and a piece of fabric on top of it.  It takes just a minute or 2 of ironing on medium, and I let it cool down with a book on top of it for 5 minutes, so it will have a slight curve when it cools off.

After tracing the visor line on the yogurt container, I cut it to its finished size. I make the ends rounded so they aren’t as likely to cut into the fabric. Then I make a chalk line of the visor edge on the fabric visor material. Then I sew the 2 pieces of visor fabric together. I make 2 passes; making the stitching as close together as I can. One pass may be enough with a zig-zag stitch. I want to ensure it will not come apart at the front of the visor.

 

Next I trim the visor material away, very close to the stitches.

 

Now I turn it inside out so that the seam is inside, and put the plastic visor stiffener inside. Then I pin it, so that the visor is positioned evenly and tight inside the pocket. Also I chalk a line on the inner edge to show where the inside of the plastic visor is. Notice that there is about an inch of fabric past the inside edge of the visor. I need that extra fabric when I sew the cap together. It provides a place for sweat to be adsorbed from the forehead.
Now I sew the visor in the pocket. I go slow, trying to sew right along the edge of the plastic. The sewing machine can sew thru the plastic; and while doing this, that will probably happen. Sewing thru the Pellon material (soft brim, described below) is also not an issue.

 

Then I trim the inner edge of the fabric so there is about an inch of material beyond the inner visor edge. This material will help absorb sweat.

Making the bill (soft version using Pellon)

An alternative to the plastic bill is a soft bill. You can make them using faux leather; lots of folks on Etsy seem to like to use it.  I like to use Pellon (Pellex ll, ultra-firm 2 sided, fusible). It’s a firm poly material that you can bond the fabric to with a hot iron. I get it from my local fabric shop (Mill Ends, Portland OR). Now I just make the same fabric bill pocket described above, and insert the Pellon that I cut to fit. Then I use a hot iron which fuses both sides of the cloth on to the Pellon bill; a minute or so on each side, with steam, and the result looks great. Lightweight but substantial enough, it can be folded without cracking or damage. It can still go in washing machine. It’s best to avoid putting the hats in a dryer though; let them air-dry. It’s a soft bill that holds it shape well even after stuffing the hat in my pocket.
 Above center, the white Pellon material cut into brim shape. Easy to cut with scissors. The brim on the left is ready to iron. The pins in the brim set the material where I want it. On the right after ironing, you can see the inside of the brim, and how the fabric is now fused to both sides of it.
Plastic bill advantages: It can keep a curved shape. Easy to find material for it.
Plastic bill disadvantages: Plastic can crack or break eventually. Edge of plastic can dig into fabric and protrude from the fabric bill over time.
Pellon bill advantages: More durable, longer lasting, and will not deform. You can stuff the hat in your pocket and it will not wreck the bill. Since the cloth is fused to the bill, the hat will last longer, since the bill is usually the first thing to fall apart. It is easier to make a clean front edge with the Pellon bill.
Pellon bill disadvantages: Material is not as easily found, not all fabric stores carry it. The bill tends to stay flat, which may be what you like, but if you want a curved bill I don’t know if that is possible with Pellon. When you put the hat on, it will curve around your head, but this curve cannot be adjusted with heat, like with a plastic bill.

Sewing the liner to the bill

Now I sew a strip of elastic band liner material along the inside (bottom) of the visor, slightly overlapping the visor stitches. I pull the elastic material slightly while sewing, to give it some built-in tension. I go slow, doing several stitches and stopping to reposition as needed. 

 

Thats a 26″ long strip of elastic material. Fabric stores sell this by the yard or the roll. This one is probably nylon, and cotton blend versions can be used. About 4″ extends out from the short side.

 

With the bird pattern, I need to sew 2 identical pieces together for the center panel section. Otherwise the birds would be upside down on one of the ends.

 

Now I am sewing the 3 hat panels together with a simple straight stitch. I go slow, trying to make an even seam; about 3/16 inch. You could use a serger to finish the seam; or just leave it alone. In my experience, caps made from lightweight cotton don’t last long enough to benefit from having the edges finished. A loose thread here and there on the inside of the cap is not an issue for me.

 

Panels sewn, hat is taking shape!

Next I sew the edge of the cap. I roll the inside edge about 3/16 inch and sew all along the edge of the cap.

Putting it all together

Now I need to sew the cap on to the visor. First I center the visor and cap. A chalk line along dead center of the visor, and a pen dot in the middle of the front edge of the middle cap strip. If it is not well centered, it will be obvious when all is done. 
Starting from the center, I sew the cap on just slightly in front of the existing stitches, so no stitching will be visible on the top of the bill.
It should look like this. I don’t want to see the visor stitching when I pull the material back. 
Then I sewed the other side, going from the center to the edge. Cap and visor are connected now.
View underneath.

 

Now I sew the rest of the elastic band along the inside of the cap. I pull it a little as I sew, to add some built-in tension. You can see how the edges a bit puckered/wavy. This makes the cap gently hold on to my head.

 

At the back/inside of the cap, I fold 3 layers of elastic together along the length of the back part of the center panel. I pin it in place, and try the hat on, making adjustments to how firmly it holds to my head as needed.

 

Now I sew the 3 layers along the pin line, on each side. 

 

Now I stretch the material with the elastic and sew it down the middle. I do the same thing, 2 more times.

 

The goal is to have an even looking puckered area along the back of the cap, like this.
There are lots of ways to finish the back to get it to hold on to your head. You can make a cutout that a ponytail can go thru, or use velcro, or use a strap.
Finished. It fits well and improves with use.
From my hat drawer. My favorite hat is the next one I’m gonna make.

 

THE END
28 · bicycle · spoke hole · spokes 36 · wheel

36 hole rim laced to 28 hole hub

This it the type of project that is only justified if absolutely necessary. Not a good idea to try for anyone without a lot of wheel building experience. My project qualified, and I have built hundreds of wheels over the years when I worked as a bike mechanic, so I set down to figure out how to do it.

The internet was not a help. Some plans for other hub/rim mismatched projects used complex mathematical equations that went way over my head. My searches did not turn up a single person who documented doing this particular combination. There were just a few quotes on forums saying it couldn’t be done. I doubt I am the only one who has done it, but what follows is how I figured it out. This method could be used to figure out other hub/rim mismatched combinations too, since you just makes a drawing and measure the spoke lengths off of it.
The hub is a 28 hole Schmidt SON XS dynamo hub. The locknut to locknut dimension is narrow- 74mm wide instead of the usual 100mm. It is laced to a narrow Sun CR18 20″ (406) 28 hole rim presently. I wanted to use a wider rim.There are lots of wide rims available in the 36 hole format, but none in the 28 hole format. Unfortunately, they do not make a 36 hole version of the SON XS hub.  I use it on my folding bike and I absolutely want to keep this narrow hub instead of getting a 100mm version in the 36 hole. It makes the folded size one inch narrower, and for me thats a big deal.
 I chose the Sun Ringle big baller, about 33mm wide. It will allow my tire to hold lots more air, and I will be able to run the tire on lower pressures without having it feel squirrelly, and with less risk of pinch flats.
On a large sheet of watercolor paper I mapped things out. The new 36 hole rim was traced on the paper and each spoke hole was marked. The big circle drawn is the ERD (effective rim dimension), which is where the end of the spoke is supposed to be. I drew the 70mm hub flange circle in the middle and made equal spoke hole markings for the 28 spoke hub. Then I marked off every fourth or fifth hole as a place where no spoke would go (on the drawing it is a S with a circle around it). Missing spokes would be equally spaced apart so that wheel strength is unlikely to be an issue. That left me with 28 spoke holes left. Easy enough so far!
Then I drew a line where the first spoke should be. It would be a cross 2 pattern. I looked at my existing wheel (28 spoke cross 2) to start the drawing, and estimated a good spoke angle for the first one. After that, it was quite straightforward to draw the rest of the spokes in.
Skipping spoke holes caused some spokes to be longer and others to be shorter. When I was done, I measured all the lines and came up with 10 different lengths from 168mm to 186mm.  Thats all even numbers- if it was odd number, I just rounded it off to even.
Then I added 2mm to the spoke lengths to take into account the hub flange to center of hub factor. I used the wheel building spoke calculator on the UBI site to get an idea of how much extra length would be needed.
Building this way, some of the spokes would reach a little farther to the opposite side of the rim. Every other rim hole is staggered sideways a little so that the spoke coming from the hub on the same side is a bit closer to the rim. This difference in length is too small to affect the spoke size with this rim, so that issue did not concern me.
In the above picture, you see the wheel laced up with length labels on each spoke. The big white dots on the rim cover the spoke holes where no spoke will go. All this labeling makes the process of building it less confusing. The wheel is round, true, and snugged down so I can see how well I did on predicting the spoke lengths.
About half the spokes were too long. 2 to 4mm too long. I think this was because I was not careful enough about measuring the lines I drew. Now that I knew the exact lengths I needed, I had Sellwood Cycles (my favorite local bike shop) cut me the spokes I needed to fix this.

 

Big Baller rim on left, Sun CR 18 rim on right. The wider rim will support the tire better when at lower pressure, and increase the air volume for a smoother ride.

 

Finished wheel

All finished, tight and true. The rim is very strong (triple box section design) and 28 spokes are more than enough to hold it together. The tire is 3mm wider mounted on this rim compared to the narrow CR18 rim, and holds a greater volume of air. Replacing a rim when the time comes will now be much easier, as there are lots of 36 hole rims on the market and I can find them in most bike shops. The brake track (rim sidewalls) should hold up longer on this sturdy hoop, so I will use the front brake more- without concern of wearing out the rim. The 28 hole rim was always a special order affair to replace, and I was reluctant to brake with the front brake out of concern of wearing the rim out. I have been using this wheel for well over a year now, probably 6K miles. No issues, no truing needed, and the brake track sidewall wear is not excessive so far.

END
bicycle · bicycle framebuilding brazing fillet silver brass bike frame · folder · folding · portable

The portable bike

Here is a group of photos of my most recent 20″ wheel portable bike. I made about a dozen of these (similar to this one) over more than a decade. This one has all the R&D from lots of miles and lots of experimentation from the previous ones. There is a big bone pile of what did not work well, and what I improved upon. This particular bike is about 3 years old and has at least 12,000 miles on it. A touring journal using this bike is here. I did a full randonneur series on this bike a few years ago.

Disclaimer: This is only a photo essay of my experience in an alternative bike design! I am not suggesting you build your own bike or copy this example! Save yourself the hazard and the hassle and go buy a folder at your local bike shop! Or you can ask your local framebuilder to look at this webpage and make one for you. But after looking at this they will probably say “no way”, or “are you out of your mind?”

There is perhaps enough information here for an experienced framebuilder to make this (email me if any questions), but it would be quite a challenge for anyone else. A lot of work goes into a project like this. I could probably build a conventional not-fancy bike frame in 3 or 4 of long days, but this one would take 2 or more weeks. So many small parts that need to be brazed, and there is a lot of creative jigging to set things up. The result is a very reliable all purpose bike I would take anywhere, commuting, touring, dirt road or light trail riding. And it gets very small in about a minute and a half.

What does it have? Built in front rack, bolt on rear rack, drop handlebars, fenders, front and rear generator lights.
Triple chainring, 135mm rear triangle with a 9 speed cassette hub and a rear disc brake. It weighs 31 pounds as you see it here.
It gets small in about a minute and a half. 27x21x11″. Without the rear rack and fenders, it would be 19″ wide instead of 21″. Props itself up like this, or on its side. I can pick it up from anywhere and it all holds together.



Design considerations:
It’s like a cross between the elements of a Brompton and BikeFriday. It gets smaller than a BikeFriday, and in less time, and holds together without needing a bag.. But it still has all the full bike features of a BikeFriday (drop handlebars, full range of gears, etc). It’s not that much bigger than a Brompton when “folded”, and does not take that much longer to fold it, but it is much more bike than a Brompton is.

The key here is that there is only one folding function on this bike: pushing the rear wheel under. The rest of the process involves separation of frame elements and clamping them together to form the “folded” package. That allows a frame design with less limitations dictated by folding requirements, and allows the use of standard bike componentry. Tubing is almost all cromoly aircraft tubes fillet brazed together. There is silver brazing where there are “lugs” (seat post extender, connecting tubes at rear of main boom tube). Geometry is pretty standard; 72-73 angles, 40″ wheelbase, 25mm fork offset (short fork offset because of small wheels), 10.25″ BB height. It duplicates the position I have on my regular big wheel road bike. Lots of low gears of course, and the 53×11 top gear is an acceptable 90″. I don’t spin out that often.

A 20″ (406) wheel size is the best option for a bike like this. This tire size is available everywhere, from bike shops to variety stores, and there are lots of choices in this size from many makers. The Schwalbe marathon supreme 406-42 is a wonderful light, durable, and supple tire, and my current favorite. The front hub is a 74mm wide type found only on folding bikes. Formerly, I used the standard 100 mm wide hub, but now that high quality 74mm front hubs are available, there is no reason not to use them. It saves an inch on the width of the folded size, and that is huge. The front hub on this bike is a Schmidt SON XS 28 hole generator. The rear hub is a Shimano 135mm with a disc brake. 135mm is the standard mountain bike/internally geared hub size, and I don’t want to be limited by a narrow rear triangle. The rear disc brake allows me to brake without wearing the small rims down. With rim brakes, I would wear out 3 rims a year, since I live in rainy Portland, OR. Sometimes the worn rim would just collapse, causing the tire to explode off the side. The front brake is a linear pull rim brake which I use only occasionally, for hard stops. 


Front rack is brazed in place. Edelux light has a special protected spot where it won’t get knocked out of place. There is a linear pull brake with a travel agent (for road levers). Just below that is a fat tube sticking up. When folded, the handlebar stem clamps there. SON-XS 74mm front generator hub is visible. The fenders are 3 thin layers of cedar, glued up together with gorrilla glue, using the wheel with the tire on it as a form while the glue was setting. Duct tape held things together while the glue set.

Looking down at the handlebars. A clamp device brazed on the stem is seen here. It holds the bar end shifters. The bar ends are threaded together so they stay parallel, and the clamp secures it all in place. This is a nice way to shift gears, and works well with the folding. I have never seen it on any other bike. Does that mean I invented it?

The boom tube. Two 1 1/8 tubes (.035). Connects steering to seat tube area. On the left, handlebar stem clamps on top, and forks clamp below. There are indexed to hold them in place should a bolt break, or if I forget to tighten them in a moment of cognitive decline. On the right, an upper and lower lug (1 1/4 .058) to accept the assembly on the seat tube. Tightened by levers brazed to 5mm bolts. A pin goes thru the lower lug and tube to resist pulling forces. A cable keeps it from being lost. All the unpainted tube connections are lubed with Boeshield. Once a month or so I clean and lube all the places where one tube inserts into another tube.
Connection at seat tube. The short robust seat tube is 1 1/4 .065, reamed with an adjustable reamer to accept the 1 1/8 .058 tube seat post extender. I can’t have any play in the seat post extender; it must fit like a normal seatpost in the seat tube. All the others are slip fit tubes, using .058 walls, so that the next 1/8″ size down has a little wiggle room. It’s also the clearance I need for brazing, if they are to be connected.  That curled thing you see with a brass bolt thru it fixes the boom tube in place when the bike is folded. In front of that is a St Christopher medal. Patron saint of travelers. They used to sell them at bike shops. This one came off my 1950s Ideor.
Rear rack has posts on each corner to lash stuff down with. They allow me to put a sack of groceries on top of the rack and secure it in place with a bicycle inner-tube (narrow 700c tubes work best). I wonder why custom racks (or stock/aftermarket racks) don’t come with these.  Someday I will paint it.

The hinge to drop the rear wheel down. A 1 1/8 .049 tube extends from just above the bottom bracket. It meets a wide clamp; you can see the bolt just above it. That grips a hinge pin, a 5/8″ cromoly tube.. The hinge pin has the chainstays clamped tight on the left and right sides. The hinge pin is greased, and the central clamp bolt controls how easily the wheel drops down. The front derailleur is clamped to a tube that puts the derailleur at the proper angle. Since the rear wheel axle is lower, the derailleur needs to be rotated back a bit.

Wheel in place. “Seat-stays” connect to upper frame assembly; it just drops into place. Nothing is needed to retain it. There is a bolt I can put thru there that will keep the rear wheel from being pushed down. I use it when I am touring and have a lot of weight over the rear wheel. That way, if I lift the rear of the bike, the wheel doesn’t drop. Lower seat stays are 1/2″ .049, upper 1/2″ .035. They look thin, but seem to do the job just fine.

Folding it up
First I drop the rear wheel down. The chain is captured on the hinge; a small collar of metal keeps it there. The tire butts up against the bottom bracket which keeps it from moving. Whenever I park the bike, I drop the wheel like this. It keeps the bike from rolling or falling. The fork is 90 degrees vertical now and the front wheel is resistant to turning, so I can lean it securely against anything. And it looks too weird to steal. The saddle is chest high; “the person riding that bike must be 8 feet tall” is what I hear people say.

next I take the seat extender out and fix the seat assembly against the side of the frame with 2 connecters I made.

Now I split the bike; loosen the clamps, pull the pin, separate halves of bike, and fix the fork against the frame with 2 other connecters I made. Also, I pull the wire connection for the tail light. Or if I forget it just pops out.

now I remove the boom tube and the handlebar stem. I fix the boom tube in place between the wheels.You can see the handlebars laying to the right.

Next I clamp the handlebar stem in its place, just in front of the fork, and I am done. A cutout in the front rack allows the stem to sit flush. About 75 seconds total to fold up.

Eleven inches wide; and all the fragile and greasy stuff is inside. The exterior of the package is pretty durable.

Looking at the seatpost extender from the bottom up… First there is a peg of wood that helps hold the bike upright. Then there is the 1 1/8 .058 tube that fits into the seat tube. A 1 1/4 .058 tube goes over it, and it is silver brazed. The .1 1/8 .058 tube only goes up inside the other tube a couple inches. A 1 1/8  .035 tube takes it from there to the top. The .058 tube has big cutouts in it, less material as it goes up. Kind of like a lug, putting the reinforcement where it is needed, mostly at the bottom. Then you see the seatpost (26.8). There is a clamp thing with an arm coming out that pegs into a nut brazed to the left chainstay. An upper clamp on thing pegs into a spot behind the top of the seatpost as you look at the photo. I made a lot of seat post extenders that failed (bent) or were too heavy before I came up with this one. It is not heavy and it will not bend under my 165lbs.


Small parts and connections to hold the bike together 

Upper seatpost attachment. The short tube on the seatpost slides into the tube assembly that is clamped on the lower chainstay/pivot-pin tube (the one behind the bottom bracket). Almost all these little pieces in the following pictures are adjustable where they are clamped to. If I use a bigger tire (which would put the wheel in a slightly different place when kicked under) or different seat, I can adjust the pieces so they will still fit together.

This thing clamped on the seatpost has an arm that engages into the nut brazed onto the chainstay (vertical tube to the right. The bolt on the left provides friction so when I push it up and the tab enters the nut, it stays there.
seatpost assembly secured now.
Boom tube to seat tube connection. A nail drops thru the lower connection to resist pulling forces. If it was not there, the tube would slip out a couple of millimeters or so after some heavy pedaling. This pin (nail) idea has worked great over tens of thousands of miles. The holes have not elongated and the pin has not developed notches. There is probably a more elegant solution to this issue but why fix what is not broken.
Handlebar stem clamped on right side of front rack. Built in recess on the rack to accommodate the stem is seen here.

Left side of fork crown closeup
Upper left fork crown, with short tube (about 4cm long) projecting to the left. It is about a quarter inch inside the pivot pin already.
Fork crown alignment tube is now pushed all the way inside the pivot pin. The fork crown and rear pivot area of the bike are held together now.
The metal tab is pushed down behind the chain rail. This keeps the fork from coming out of the pivot pin.
The fork would still pivot forward or backward if not for this. Look at the 2 short horizontal tubes brazed to the fork leg on the right. They will engage with the chainstay when the fork is pushed into the pivot pin (fork is not pushed all the way in place yet, in this picture). That keeps everything solid. The quick release nut for the front wheel you see here is cut a bit shorter. It rests against the quick release nut for the rear wheel, also cut short. Brings the wheels closer together, making the folded package smaller.

The boom tube about to be hung onto the left leg of the fork crown. The brass bolt drops into the small hole you see there, and it stays in place just fine. Gravity and the confined space between the wheels keep it there. To remove, I just lift it out.
Stem to fork connection. The same clamp tightens it on here and the on the steerer.

Tucked under a table.

fits almost anywhere.

To carry, I lean the leather saddle against my hip and hold the tube where the handlebar stem connects. Or I just grab the horizontal tube at the top of the folded bike.

Here is a airline legal size collapsible box I made. About 60 inches length/width/height added together. Limit is 62″. Plywood sheets drop into internal pockets to assemble from flat.

When I remove the left pedal, the bike just drops in.

To carry stuff, a bag I made loops over both brake levers, and is supported by the rack below. A velcro strap fixes it against the headtube, if I remember to secure it (it isn’t essential). The bag is about the size of a grocery sack.

THE END


bicycle · bicycle framebuilding brazing fillet silver brass bike frame · cargo · cargo bike

One year/5K mile update on the cargo bike

Sure beats the backseat of a car. Sadie on the 3 day camping trip.

The initial post on the construction of this bike is here.

It has been about a year and well over five thousand miles on the cargo bike. I have used it for daily transportation, camping with the dog, and commuting almost exclusively; at least a hundred miles a week. After the first couple of months, it was the bike I preferred to use on all rides.

some impressions:

It carries almost anything I need.

The way it supports itself when I let it go is awesome. I get off it and it is propped up without me having to do anything.
My dog can come with me.

The dog mat can act as a rain cover for all the stuff underneath, and it works great.

It has a bigger presence on the street, and I feel like my place in traffic gets more respect from drivers. Seems like I get honked at less on this bike. Maybe that is just my imagination.

I can park this rig on the street just like any other car, locking the front wheel to the frame with a U lock. A thief would have to either break the lock, or carry it away in a truck. Loading this bike in a truck would not be easy since it is so long and heavy. While it would go to the bike rack if there is one, there is no reason I should not be able to use the free parking allotted to cars on our public right of ways. And the bike looks like it belongs there anyways. I would not leave it there overnight, however, since parts or the whole bike might be missing in the morning.

I always have the usual necessities with me under the dog mat (rain cape, tool bag, gloves, U lock, grocery bags, liter of water, sweater). Hidden under the mat, to the casual observer it looks like there is nothing is in the bike basket. There is no reason to leave any of this stuff at home. Saving weight or making room for other stuff is not something I think about with this rig.

It has a “crush zone” up front. If a car door is flung open in my path, I have over 3 feet of structure in front of me to help absorb the energy of the crash. Seems like this would help, although I don’t have direct experience with this thank goodness.

The flat bottom of the cargo area allows me to put it on a bucket, stool, or stump and work on the bike. The flat side allows me to lay it on either side in a stable position to take the wheels off etc. A  bike repair stand is unnecessary.

The flat cargo bottom also allows me to take it along on a car trip. This bike does not require a roof rack. In fact, it IS a roof rack in and of itself (photo below).

It is a ready to go touring bike. Just throw everything in and go. No fiddling with panniers or trying to make everything fit. My wood lawn chair fits in the cargo area with lots of room to spare.

It is 2 feet longer than a regular bike. My wife will not let me bring it in our small house. Fortunately, we have a small garage.

It is not easy for the dog to stand up in the basket or move around a lot when we are underway. I stop once an hour so she can get out to stretch her legs. She is exposed to wind, bugs and sun. I cannot take her out a long way on a hot day  unless I follow a stream or river so she can cool off.. A dog trailer would address these limitations, but for my situation, the current bike works fine.

It is heavy, and awkward in tight spaces. 44lbs (as pictured with rack, fenders, lights, etc etc). I could carry it upstairs if I had to but would not want to do that every day.

I take up a bit more space on the road. I can’t ride right next to the curb like with a normal bike. I just need a couple more inches though. For me it is not an issue at all, but could be for someone who is starting to learn to ride a cargo bike.

It would be hard or impossible to keep up with a fast rider on a regular bike with this rig. But that is none of my riding these days. If this was in an all bakfiets race, this bike would have a distinct advantage because of lightweight and rider positioning. This bike does not seem especially slower than my usual commute bike.

 

If I had this bike to make again, what would I do different?

The brace from the upper inside of the basket going to the seat tube would go to the front derailleur area instead of the seat post area. That would make the tube shorter, and I am sure it would provide enough support. Brazing it near the seatpost insertion causes distortion that makes reaming the seatpost opening a more difficult job.

Run the steering  and brake cables inside the upper basket tubes. A heavy load resting on the top of the basket could pinch the steering cables making it harder to steer. I would need to figure out a way to do this so the cables are free and not in housing, and easy to replace..

The rear upper basket tube (that runs parallel to the handlebar) would be either 1/8 inch bigger, or a thicker gauge (.049 instead of .035). It supports a fair share of force. It is presently 1 1/8 .035, which seems to work  fine, but I would be more comfortable with a bit more material there.

 

 

Bike strapped to car with canoe straps. Dog mat cushions the rear of the basket, supporting the bike on the roof. Tires contact front and back of roof. Straps run inside car to secure bike. I just roll the bike up there, put the folded mat underneath, and strap it in place. Takes about 10 minutes. Totally secure at 70mph; no bike rack needed. The strap at the handlebars holds the front wheel straight as I roll it up onto the roof. This is on a 2000 honda accord. An extra bike could be strapped onto each side of the cargo bike. Just have the front wheel in the basket and strap them together.

I can probably fit this to most cars by adjusting how thick to fold the dogmat (which is a Z-rest sleeping pad) under the basket. All kinds of stuff can be carried in the basket too. At first I was looking into ways to make the frame splittable for easy transport, but now I think: why bother.

 

 

lounging at 15mph

 

Huckleberries were easily seen along the road, and several berry stops were made.

 

flat items like clothes were kept under the dog mat.

THE END