Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Simple Wheels

The first thing you need to know about wheel building is that you don't need to know everything about wheel building. If you want to lace up a crow's foot pattern or tie and solder, if you want to argue the merits of paired spokes, bladed spokes and ridiculously small numbers of spokes, be my guest. But to build yourself a reliable wheel just remember three cross, inside spokes pulling and 14 gauge.

Build it round. Tension it adequately. Don't use thread locker on the spokes.

Make sure you use the right length spokes so that when you thread the nipples down to the bottom of the threads you have the same amount of tension on each spoke. If you've mixed lengths, the wheel will wobble where the spokes are too long or short.

Most spoke calculators will give you the right offset lengths for drive and non-drive spokes in the rear.

If you think of it, you might want to run outside spokes pulling on the rotor side of a disk-brake wheel.

Don't be afraid of 36, 40 or 48 spokes for heavy-use wheels. Thirty-two is good for all-around sporty wheels.

In wheels, there's nothing wrong with normal. Don't let a fashion trend for weird, disposable wheels cut you off from a very helpful and accessible skill for the self-sufficient rider.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Garb

Bike clothing sets us apart from normal people. It may be something as simple as a helmet on top of an otherwise inconspicuous ensemble or a full-on pro cycling outfit.

As both engine and driver, a bicyclist has to accommodate a variety of needs. Our clothing has to protect against the weather, provide visibility and allow the engine to work efficiently.

When I commuted in a town over distances of less than five miles, I wore my work clothes, usually jeans or painter pants, a tee shirt or a flannel shirt, and appropriate jackets or vests in season. I couldn't get myself to forgo cleated shoes, though. I kept a pair of sneakers at the workplace, wherever that might be, so I didn't have to lug a bulky pair of shoes for no good reason.

When I moved out of town and rode six or eight miles each way, over rolling terrain and more open roads, I started wearing shorts or tights as the weather dictated. Having done that it was an easy step to jerseys and cycling jackets. It was more of a ride than bopping through the city had seemed to be.

Now my commute is a genuine ride through the countryside. Bike clothing may not be a necessity, but I certainly prefer the freedom of movement, comfort and protection. But I look like a freak when I get off the bike.

People are getting used to seeing cyclists, so it's not a big deal. But the pants in particular can look a little more revealing than I prefer. Tights may be worse than shorts. To the average onlooker, I have chosen to wear the shrink wrap when I could have worn jeans. Freak!

No trousers in the wardrobe of a normal person provide the free leg movement but trim fit at the ankle desired by cyclists. Okay, women and sufficiently qualified men might wear capris, but for guys they still qualify as a social statement at this time.

For the grocery run today I just wore jeans. It was fun. With the loaded BOB, I wasn't sprinting or cornering hard. I wore a please-don't-kill-me-yellow vest and put the yellow dry bag in the trailer to enhance visibility. That way, when I went into the store nothing betrayed my oddity.

Self-conscious people may be encouraged to see that one does not need to dress up too flamboyantly to take advantage of practical cycling.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

New Link in the Sidebar

As someone who has commuted by bike for more than 20 (closing in on 30) years, I have picked up knowledge and information from the street. But Commute by Bike is a fantastically informative website for commuting riders who don't want to wait for trial and error.

One thing struck me right away. When I left racing behind I took that intensity into transportation. I felt my money and energy were better spent in something that helped me physically and economically, as well as helping the environment and urban congestion, for all that congested urbanites did not seem to appreciate it. That reasoning and that spirit are strong at Commute by Bike. One commenter said that he got as excited over lighting systems and other practical componentry as he had over go-fast racing equipment. It's true.

Go check out Commute by Bike. Just don't forget to swing by here, too.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Innovation? Oh, please.

Here's what I want:

Make a good product.

Make a name for it.

Make a lot of it.

Keep making it.

Any questions?

Inside the Mechanics' Studio

If James Lipton was going to ask me what my favorite curse word is, he would have to do it early in the program. The next 15 or 20 minutes would be one long bleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.

I'm doing a conversion to linear pull brakes on a customer's nice 1988 Rockhopper. He's finally getting rid of those Exage cantilevers that used those fat, chunky brake pads that bolted in from the back. The way the pads flared, they would either cut into the tire or develop a lip below the rim before half the pad's volume had been worn away. If the frame builder had been a little careless aligning the brake bosses, the curved washers on the pad did not provide anywhere near enough range of adjustment to correct the discrepancy. No one mourned the passing of these brakes. Their only virtue, which turns out to be a curse, is that they take forever to wear out to the point where a frugal rider can justify replacing them.

The ones on this bike had finally developed enough of a problem for me to suggest it was a good opportunity to hop into a more modern system.

But I've been Shimanoed. I failed to notice (or remember) that this Rockhopper came with integrated shifter mounts. The shifters are above the bar, where they sensibly should have remained in a perfect world, but they don't have their own separate bar clamps. Instead, the brake lever body has a tab sticking off it and the shifter mount bolts to that. In an earlier repair we had sawed the tab off for the rear shifter and installed one on a separate clamp. Seeing that helped me overlook the way the front shifter was still attached until I was disassembling the brake system.


And so on.

I'm ripping the shop apart, looking for what I know I will not find: a decent quality, top-mount thumb shifter for the front derailleur. I may have something at home in my personal stash, which I am loath to relinquish. To help a bro' out, I might do it. It could be something from the Golden Age of Suntour, or a nice Deore DX. But meanwhile I've got this guy's bike ripped apart and only Shitno to blame for this predicament.

1988, people. I've been grappling with these arbitrary bastards and their weird aesthetics for a LONG time.



All Hail Patent Infringement! I dug up a cheesy friction shifter that had a surprisingly decent clamp. The four locating holes for the shifter unit matched the four pegs on the bottom of the original Mountain LX shifter itself. I am able to transfer it to this separate clamp. We're movin' ahead!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Shooting the Moon

Riding out the local rail trail after work last night, I caught this shot of the rising moon, one night short of full. The Olympus Stylus 720SW doesn't officially have as bright a lens as the C 3040, but it always brightens my low light shots to an almost embarrassing degree. I shut it down two full stops with the exposure control to make try to make the moon appear at least somewhat like a disk. It sort of worked.
After leaving the lake, the trail bends eastward through the woods. The moon was so bright it killed my night vision. It hadn't come up far enough to help illuminate my way. I actually had to shade my eyes with my hand. I wished I had a helmet visor.

With leaves down all over it, the path disappears even without another challenge to vision. The route goes between the rails and then beside them, crossing numerous times. An entertaining grope on any evening, it was even more so last night.

Emergent Cable Routing

Bar-top intermediate brake levers present a challenge when wrapping the bars. Depending on your level of fussiness, you may want to get a little fancy wrapping the bars up to the lever clamp.
I like to do it this way. It keeps the bar wrap snug around the bar, rather than stretching it around the housing where it enters the back of the lever. It takes a little stuffing, but it looks neater.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Afternoon Training Hazard

Maybe this was only a Maryland thing. It hasn't happened up here. But I don't go out to train at the time school buses are carrying pent-up kids home from their daily incarceration anymore.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Crash Reports

One friend's father was hit in a traffic circle in Massachusetts. He was placed in a medically-induced coma and did not look like he would make it. As it happens, he is now on the way to nearly full recovery. A family member says he may have some "minor neurological deficits," but, "if you didn't know him you might not even notice."

Good news of a sort.

Apparently, he got right-hooked by a woman who was trying to exit the traffic circle from a line inside his. A witness said he went flying over the hood. Without knowing more about how the situation came together, we can only speculate about what he could have done and just exactly how negligent the driver was. Cyclists have to be supremely vigilant, especially in roundabouts, where nobody knows who is really supposed to do what anyway.

In other news, another friend's son (or son-in-law) got trapped between a motor home and a guardrail. By incredible good fortune, he was not ground to a pulp or sliced into gruesome ribbons. Merely scuffed, and with a fairly trashed bike, he is now in negotiations with the motor homer's insurance company about the extent of the settlement he WILL receive.

Product Review: Aztec Hideous Crap

Actually, the product is called "Vibe" handlebar padding. I just had to remove some to do a stem change on a bike old enough to have a one-bolt stem clamp. What a hideous process that was. I had to use a heat gun on the high setting for long enough to turn the red padding a sinister, pre-ignition brown. As it bubbled and peeled back like a movie demon being vanquished, it out-gassed noxious odors that have no doubt started numerous tumors throughout my body and brain.

This product may help protect your hands from road shock, but be warned. Applying it is a one-way trip. There was even some double-stick tape in this whole agglomeration that kept me from unwinding the ordinary-looking black padded over-wrap until I'd played the searing blast of the heat gun over it to summon its toxic imps from their lairs.

The bars are still completely coated with leftover adhesive.

Thumbs down on the Aztec Vibe handlebar padding.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

More Componentry Chess

Or: Why Does the Bike Industry Make Life HARDER for Customers?

One recent purchaser of a Fuji Cross Comp cyclocross bike found the gearing a little stiff for the hill he lives on. It is one of the most notorious walls in the area. He asked if we could fit him out with a triple.

After exploring several options, he finally agreed to go to 9-speed on the bike and use barcon shifters. I could get him a 9-speed brifter, but he asked me what I would use and I told him. I even offered to let him ride my bike so he could try out the shifter position, but he said he could get used to anything if it was really mechanically better.

A couple of old stand-bys were out of stock at QBP, but lo and behold, obsolescence's little helpers at Far East had the barcons when QBP didn't. They don't even acknowledge the existence of 28.6 front derailleur clamps anymore, and had no Tiagra 9-speed triple front derailleurs anyway. But the Shimano R453 in stock at Quality will probably work just fine.

For a crank, I was going to get the LX 9-speed triple that comes with outboard bearing BB and 26-36-48 rings, but the 64-104, 4-bolt circle would cut him off from anything bigger than a 48 and would limit his options for other sizes in smaller rings. So it's back to the primitive but reliable Sugino XD600 (74-110), for which a vast array of ring sizes can be found.

To get him a 9-speed cassette that isn't either road-racing tight or suitable for climbing mountain trails in the mud, I got a Miche 13-26. I'll drop out the 14 and stick a 29 at the low gear end to give him a 13-29 with no jump larger than 3 teeth between gears.

It'll work this time, but the industry keeps closing off options. The next big sport will be walking barefoot if they don't start to wise up.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

New from Surly!

The blog at Surly Bikes recently announced several new products or updates on the status of some that had passed several release dates. Among these is the Traveler's Check, a Cross Check frame with S&S couplings. (Scroll down to the October 9 entry.)

Two years ago I wished I had a fixed gear frame with these couplings, which allow a traveler to break a bike frame down into small enough pieces to check as normal baggage, avoiding the punishing fees most airlines charge to carry bicycles.

I would use a fixed gear as a travel bike because it has the fewest parts to be damaged in transit and would be the easiest to slap into riding condition in an airport. The Cross Check has rack bosses, making it a better travel choice with any number of speeds. I was becoming more and more convinced my next fixed gear would be built on the Cross Check platform. This just about nails it. The only problem is that I was going to move my 2000 Cross Check to fixed gear status so I could build my tourer/commuter/explorer on the new Cross Check frame, which takes a 4-point rear rack.

The other problem with buying something new and lovable for a fixed gear is that it robs the bike of one of its invulnerabilities. When I built fixed gears originally, it was from found materials and less than top quality frames, so that theft would be an annoyance, not a heartbreak. I didn't want to give to the thieving community anything really desirable.

Time turns Trashimos into classics. I managed to hold onto the Super Course long enough to develop a relationship with it. If it had gone in the first year or five, I would have been pissed, but I would have simply gone to the scrap heap and gotten a new frame.

I do have a stockpile of frames with long dropouts in my basement. They're mostly a tad on the small side or distinctly on the big side. They're all old, possibly rusty inside, and I detect that last summer's visiting cat left his mark on them.

The stockpile

Scuzzy frames are fine for the urban scene. If the frame fails, take public transportation or walk. But here, where I have to ride a good ways just to get to the nearest town, I need something a little more reliable and comfortable for the longer haul.

Effective Advocacy (letter I just sent to Bicycle Retailer)

Bicycling advocates and industry representatives say they want to get more Americans on bicycles. The industry throws wave after wave of products at consumers, hoping that will excite them. The advocates pursue various forms of government support and attempts at public education that can often be about as exciting as a bowl of plain oatmeal. Maybe educating kids in school about the pleasures of cycling will plant an idea in their minds that will survive after they get their driver's license. Maybe not.
The last bike boom, centered on mountain bikes, brought an avalanche of money into the bike business and a wave of enthusiasm for cycling to the general public, without any real push from the industry or advocacy groups, some of which did not even exist then. The public brought their interest to the bike shops. They saw the simple, versatile, durable mountain bike and everybody wanted one.
After the industry technologized all the simple fun out of it, the mountain bike boom died, never to be reborn. Yes, we have all sorts of great niche bikes suited to every type of rider, but how do you promote that to a public that thrives on simple messages?
The answer: generic advertising. In mass media, in the public's face, relentlessly, figure out some way to make cycling look fun. Make it look cool. Place it in movies. Come up with some cycling lifestyle flicks, like the ones that came out in the 1980s only better, that insert it into the public consciousness. Make people want to bike. Then build the bikes they ask for, when they ask for them, rather than thinking you know what they'll ask for and committing to warehouses full of them, that you then have to get rid of by any means necessary.
Advocacy becomes easier when a lot of people are asking for facilities and consideration as a user group. You can't possibly build enough infrastructure for people just to stumble on and start wanting to use. You need to inspire people first, and then the money and the infrastructure will follow. Otherwise it's just a constant uphill battle to partially fund a fraction of what's already needed to provide for the riders we already have.
Send the call out now to all creative types who love cycling to produce whatever they produce: music, films, writing, photography, comic strips, promoting positive messages about cycling in all its wonderful forms. Talk it up in positive, non-confrontational ways. Cycling is all kinds of fun. All kinds of creators and communicators need to keep it in view. Don't be tiresome. Don't nag. Don't instruct. Show the fun.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Action Figures

A member of the local riding group just competed in his first mass-start race. With a body builder's massive chest and arms, he's not built like a bike racer, but he has a lot of heart, both figuratively and physically.

The local group rides are the typical collection of town-line sprints, conversational stretches and half-breathless jams that don't build real racing strength. An inexperienced rider can come out of this and his own collection of solo hammerfests thinking he has trained. If the first race doesn't shatter this illusion, the one after it certainly will. The small group can't provide important shoulder-to-shoulder cornering experience, either.

As we talked about his performance, I laid out a basic training schedule with its rhythmic changes of intensity. I suggested practice methods for cornering, just simple ways to get more out of the riding he's already doing. It doesn't need to be painfully scientific. He just wants to get more out of the races at his level. A family man in his 30s, he's not looking to have a career. This is especially true if he's going to retain that huge torso and his brawny arms.

I don't want to race anymore, but I really enjoyed being able to pass on what I learned to someone who will get some use out of it. As I did so, I realized how coaching is like playing with action figures.

"Here, do this. Now do this." Look at him go!

At the really ambitious levels it gets really complicated, scientifically and morally. But down here near the bottom it's just for fun. I can't wait to hear whether he did any of what I said, and how it worked.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Try Half-Carpooling

When my wife and I have to go to town at different times but will finish up there at the same time, we will "half-carpool." Obviously we can also travel in together and leave separately, with one of us biking the segment we travel separately. Thus at least one of us gets half the daily distance and we expend only one car's worth of gasoline.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Gear Indicator

In the days of downtube friction shifters and their relatives, the stem shifter, the barcon and the original mountain bike top-mount shifters, the shifter itself changed position for every gear. Thus it became the gear indicator.

Like another lost art, semaphore, the progressive shifter sent its message by gesture. It could be read by those who knew the code. Because the message was extremely simple, even an inexperienced reader could get the general idea that a certain position indicated harder or easier gears.

Late models of mountain bike shifter had little hash marks on the top to indicate with more precision where the indexed shifter had placed the gear. Downtube, stem and barcon models don't offer themselves to the eye as readily, so visual indicators do no good there. In those cases, a rider would become familiar with the angle of the lever in hand to get an idea of the gear selected.

With shifters that return to original position between shifts, gear indicators appeared. Some of them worked. But confusion reigns among the inexperienced. The technician has to explain to the new bike purchaser how four levers now do the work once done by two. If the system has no indicator, the novice rider goes off for that first critical test ride trying to remember which lever does what when why and how. Bikes often return to me in small-small or big-big cog and chainring combinations.

More than one customer has brought a new bike back because "it ran out of gears." The rider had shifted all the way to the end of one lever's range and didn't remember that there was another lever there to bring the chain back.

The rider isn't the problem. The plethora of unnecessary complications is the problem.

An industrial corporation wants to be able to tool up for large production runs. So Shimano and the companies forced to chase after Shimano's marketing machine promote the use of shifting systems grossly more sophisticated than many riders need. Marketing tries to convince them they want it, but OEM spec simply crams it down their throats. Then the backlash hits and we get things like
Auto Bike, Land Rider and Lime. Dumb it all the way down.

The industry has not taken all alternatives away. Down tube and barcon shifters are still available after market. But putting them on a bike represents extra trouble and expense. And top-mount shifters for a flat bar are either cheap friction models or the expensive (though clever) Paul Thumbies.

Manufacturers of complete products (like complete bikes) want to sell complete products. They don't see any advantage for themselves in offering something versatile, durable and repairable if they can convince enough consumers to drain the warehouses of another whole model-year's worth of new bike inventory. But that can't continue to work (if it ever did). It isn't sustainable without a return leg carrying the carcasses of the discarded bikes back into the cycle in some form.

As bicycling recognizes its many niches and each sub-category grows as the population grows, masses of mass production will fail to serve the needs of the biking public and the industry itself. The giant corporate approach will have to break up into either smaller divisions within the overall corporation or smaller, more nimble companies devoted to their niches. To some extent, that is happening, but component spec lags behind. That's why the most creative growth seems to be occurring in single speeds, fixed gears and BMX. These are the least dependent on integrated technologies, and therefore offer the companies and their customers the greatest opportunity for individual creative expression.

Component companies need to think beyond the brifter. They need to quit dictating which category of rider gets to use what width chain and range of gearing. A large portion of bicycling doesn't fall into a category. The bike is a starting point. The harder and more expensive the industry makes it to get from that point to other points, the more they make bicycling seem like a big yank and just another excuse for companies to suck money out of consumers' pockets.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Inconvenience of Convenience

A happy customer rode away yesterday on his new Fuji Cross Comp cyclocross bike. It seemed to be the answer to his dreams. But he lives near the top of one of the area's most notorious walls. He's been riding a mountain bike, so he's used to the triple crank and low gearing.

I told him the roadier geometry and lightness of the cyclocross bike might make it climb more easily than the gearing would suggest, but he found that the wall stalled him. He asked if we could put on a triple.

"No prob," I assured him. We can figure out how to do anything. Bikies developed powered aircraft and laid the foundation for the auto industry that seeks to kill them off. We can do anything.

The difficult we do at once. The impossible takes a little longer.

Try fitting up a triple with a reasonable selection of gears to a bike with ten-speed STI shifters. It can be done, but it takes a lot of page-flipping and Internet searching to come to the conclusion that you can try mad science with a 74-110 arm set or suck it up and try the Deore LX model that comes with 26-36-48 rings in 64-104, four-bolt configuration. These are listed as "9-speed," but the chain will fit the teeth. I checked. The only question is whether it will drop on top of the middle and inner rings when shifting down, instead of engaging them properly.

I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing to have so few options. We may find we have no options at all, if both those possibilities still don't shift cleanly with the dinky ten-speed chain. And who pays for the experimental surgeries? What works on one bike can mysteriously fail to work on another. Barnett would say that's because I am a primitive rock-banger instead of a steely-eyed Engineer about all this, but Barnett can take a hike. I know what I have experienced over the years. Some things are hard enough to measure and predict to be considered functionally unpredictable. Then you just have to fall back on whatever the Art of Tweaking can do for you.

If we'd had a Surly Cross-Check to sell the guy right off the floor we wouldn't be going through this. I'd do the standard conversion to 118 BB, granny ring, Tiagra triple front derailleur and 12-27 cassette. He'd be back out the door in a couple of hours at the most.

Multiple gears are only a convenience, not a necessity. Same goes for clicky-click shifting. As bikes evolved, shifting systems improved, but indexed shifting creates the compatibility headaches we have today. I'd settle for a reliable seven or eight. that work in many configurations instead of nine or ten that require perfection to work at all.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


I saw a commuter all last winter with these cool lighted chainstays. No one knew who it was or what they were. They were from these people.

They just popped up in a Google ad on an email I received.

$99. Hmm.

So wrong, but so easy to get used to

Global warming rapidly becomes habit forming. Here it is October, and I'm getting ready to ride to work in summer garb.

With no real winter it will be hard to earn a living here in northern New England. We can only hope that a few die-hards will ride their bikes, as they did during El Nino years in the 1990s. That was during the height of the mountain bike boom, when studded tires became popular and true believers sought out mud wallows. Since that fashion has dwindled, a warm winter may just leave us twiddling our thumbs in a darkened shop while we wait for spring.

As one who had to clean many encrusted bikes in the 1990s, I don't miss mud as a fashion statement. In the competitive economic climate of the times we couldn't charge for the amount of time it took to chisel away all that adobe. Don't you people ever wash anything? It made me damn glad I wasn't their proctologist.

We still get the occasional mud puppy. They usually present the opportunity to fold some cleaning charges into the labor portion of the bill.

By summer standards, the sun says it's now around 6:30 a.m., but it's really after 7:30. Time to head out.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Hey! Interbike just ended!


Back in the 1990s, bicycle retail was a nasty, competitive business. Mountain biking had brought a lot of new players to the game. A lot more money was coming into the bike industry than the bike industry was used to. It went straight to their heads.

At the retail level, every sporting goods store wanted some of that easy bike money. They're only bikes. How complicated can they be? Anything without a motor is automatically stupidly easy, right?

Established bikes shops that had coasted along in their comfortable niches suddenly found themselves competing with retailers and brands they'd never known existed. Advertising quickly turned to propaganda. It was dirtier than recent elections and it never stopped.

Through the doors trooped a steady stream of wise-ass kids who knew all about the latest thing. It was great fun to show them how eerily similar the latest ground-breaking design was to patent drawings and advertising pictures of bike products from the late 1800s. Harder to fight were the price wars that went on between shops 50 miles or more from each other, let alone the cut throat and back stab methods used by invading retailers just a couple of blocks away.

Interbike was our intelligence-gathering foray. With a show conveniently located in Philadelphia, we could drive down and spend three days picking up all the information we wanted about the lines we didn't carry. In one trip we could get complete specs and wholesale price information, so when Willie Wiseass told us the great deal he'd been offered by the shop up the street, we had a rough idea how closely they were cutting their Marins -- I mean, margins.

Once the local competition put itself out of business by trying to run at a loss for three or four years, and the bike industry put itself out of business with expensive, complicated, ever-changing bullshit, we had less reason to run off to the trade show. With bicycling a sport of many bikes now, we simply have to decide which of the types will sell the best in our area. No one from outside can tell us that. We know cycling and we know our area. No longer is the customer driven by a frantic marketing machine. Most of the general public no longer cares about cycling. If they do want anything, they will go to their nearest shop and start asking questions.

As a drool fest and an excuse to party with other cyclists, a trade show is probably fine for those who can afford the trip. But since gushing innovation probably does more harm than good, advocacy for good riding conditions, and lifestyle advertising to promote the idea of pedaling in general will do us all more good than tweaking high-tech materials into exquisitely expensive mobile sculptures for the body-sculpted elite to pilot at speeds that still make the average fat motorist snort with disdain.

Put Interbike wherever you like. And call me if anything really interesting happens.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Preparing for the Night

Your possessions own you. Nothing makes this more evident than electronic equipment.

The batteries in my marine VHF radios had always been a little finnicky, but when trips to the salty sea gave way to a long hiatus of inland navigation (if any) the radios and their batteries sat forgotten for...a long time, let's leave it at that. Similarly, after an active few years of mountain biking in which the group pushed the season well into November, we rode entire rides with lights, not just the last bit coming home after sundown. Then as we all drifted toward different forms of cycling, my battery light only got used for Nordic skiing at night. That meant long periods of storage, often with a longer period of uncertainty beforehand when I wasn't sure if I'd be topping up the charge any day.

A responsible battery owner tries to choose the least toxic options and recycle the dead ones, of course, but there's much more to the care and feeding of the rechargeable battery. I've discarded them for cycling, since my night missions are on roads at moderate commuting speeds and LED lights have improved so much. But I still have one light and two marine radios, none of which work at anywhere near full capacity.

In the case of all my rechargeable battery devices, I tried to remember to hit them with a housekeeping charge every so often, but it's easy to get knocked out of the rhythm. Also, with any nickel-based battery, memory can be a problem as well as self-discharge. They need to be run down and recharged. Battery University has some great articles on the subject. But lacking the tools to figure out why the batteries won't take or hold a charge when I tried to be meticulous about avoiding memory when I used them actively, I don't know what to do with my current pile of toxic waste.

I hate to chuck anything that works, but I'm a grunt when it comes to electricity. To do this thing right you need a battery analyzer and a scheduled program of maintenance. Even in storage the batteries perish from various causes. And the manufacturers cease to support them. Then you have a techie-looking, grossly expensive paperweight instead of a radio or a light. That's what I have now.

For cycling I have my array of Planet Bike Beamers. They take AA batteries, for which I can use rechargeable NiMH or alkaline. I'd like to avoid proprietary batteries completely in future devices. In fact, I'm starting to think fondly about oil or carbide lamps for the old bicyclette.