Monday, December 31, 2012

Mileage for the year.

Snoozer loser!

Remember that post a few days ago about the Snoozer pet carrier for the bike?  Well, do NOT buy it.  Don't even think about it!  Big waste of money.

First of all, you can't really secure it to the bike underneath.  The strapping is terrible and inefficient, so the thing could fly up and out of place on a good bump which would also dislodge the dog.

Second, the three point harness system?  Yeah, it's anchored in 3 places to the Snoozer but only one to your dog, and that's not good enough for a dog that's riding out in the open like that. 

I put my dog in the Snoozer and slowly walked her around the block in it.  She fussed and whined the whole time, and if I dared to take my hand off her, she was ready to jump out.  She was anchored in two places (one to her harness, and I fashioned another anchor in front to her collar), but that's NOT enough for a dog who wants out!!!  I managed to keep her in it the whole loooooong walk, and when we got to the front steps of my building, then I had issues keeping her in and getting the bike up the few steps. One step to go, and that's when she tried to escape, squealing and screaming as she hung from her neck for a few seconds until I scooped her up and back into the Snoozer.  Yeah, that was fun.  Not.  So the Snoozer will go into the car as a car booster seat for her, although she might not even like it for that. 

I guess if she's going to go on bike rides with me, she'll have to go in a trailer.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

My  latest adventure has been to purchase a Snoozer pet carrier for the back of my bike.  This is not a pic of me, my dog or my bike.  This is from their website.  It's raining and dark today, and I can't get a good photograph of it from inside.

Snoozer Pet Products

One of the reasons I purchased this was to be able to take my dog on some rides with me when I want to be gone for longer times.  You see, I have a neighbor who calls me regularly to report that my dog is barking or whining when I am gone for more than a few hours, and well, I'm finding those calls to be quite annoying at this point, especially when I've had to listen to her high-pitched yappy pedigreed mutt for years.

I found the Snoozer on eBay, and I ordered it.  When it arrived, I immediately had to pull it out of the box and attach it to the bike to see how it functioned.  As mentioned in a previous post, my bike's rear pannier rack sits about 4" higher than a normal rack because of the way it is mounted - and this puts it too far forward beneath my seat, making that 4" of it difficult to use.

The base of the seat has a long groove to fit over the rack, and the inside is very sturdy, cushy and yet solid.  There is a strap around the front that straps it to the seat post, so it is secure there, but the straps beneath, which buckle rather than a more secure velcro, have very long dangling straps.   I haven't even quite figured out their configuration yet.  I did put my dog up into it just to see how she would like it, and she seemed okay with it.  Next is walk the bike a little with her in it, then take her for a short spin (once I figure that underneath strapping).

Because I felt it had some design flaws (a car seat sort of barely modified for a bike), I felt compelled to write to the manufacturer and offer my suggestions.

I'm writing about your Pet Rider Bicycle Seat Lookout which I just purchased online from an ebay seller.

As an avid urban cyclist, I am always interested in bicycle accessory items and their functionality.  In the case of your Snoozer seat, there are are some good things but also some things that need to be addressed for safety.

1.  Although the reflective strip in the back is great, it does not take the place of flashing lights which can been seen long before a reflective strip.  However, because the Snoozer is so large, it covers up where the lights are normally attached to the rack.  Therefore, there needs to be at least two places on the back of the Snoozer to attach lights.  Lights need to clip onto something.  This can be easily achieved by having some gaps top and bottom in the stitching of the strip so that a light can be clipped into the gaps.  As it is, I may have to remove some stitching to force it to take the lights.

2.  The straps beneath the Snoozer have too much dangling strap after it's tightened down, and the tightening down is cumbersome and slow.  A better, safer, faster and stronger solution is wide velcro strapping. It leaves absolutely no dangling parts.  Two wide velcro straps are best, spaced a few inches apart.

3.  The strap that goes under the cyclist's seat should also be velcro.  Again, no dangling parts.  However, this strap is less of an issue than the straps beneath the Snoozer.

I hope these suggestions help.  Cyclists need accessories to be fast, safe and secure.

Thank you.

Jenny Arata
Los Angeles

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Bicycle locking and pannier rack troubles

I've been meaning to blog for days, but between heavy cookie orders for Christmas and  having to put my boss in the hospital on Dec. 4 and running back and forth to UCLA hospital, I just have been fairly tired and spent.

Since my last post I have purchased 2 more bike cables.  I now have 3 cables and 1 U-lock.  So last weekend I did some errands on the bike and worked on my locking skills.  The first place I went to was Aaron Bros. to pick up a new glue gun, and there was nothing to lock it to except for a skinny tree.  I locked down both wheels and the seat, using only two cables and the U-lock.  Three cables might be one too many.

My next stop was the pet store, and although I normally take the bike in and park it just inside, the store was a little busier so I decided to lock it up outside... but no place except a stairwell landing, and that was sort of like stringing the bike up, but it worked although it wasn't as well locked down.

I also received in the mail from China four more bike lights, the frog kind. They require 3 AAA batteries, and that rubbery/silicone outside was a pain to remove, but I sort of got the hang of it after four times (I bought four of them).  I mounted one on each side of the front fork but angled the lights to shine to the side, not forward, and I mounted the other two on the ends of the handle bar.  The handlebar mounting is not a good idea.  They are too big and put my hands in an uncomfortable position, making my hand muscles feel fatigue within a half mile.  I like the idea of them being there, but there's not enough room for me to grip well.

The bike now has 11 lights for night riding.  I've ordered 3 more rear lights just for back ups as I already broke one...

Then... late last week I was on my way out of the house with the bike, and when I walked it down the front steps, the rack came partially undone and flopped backwards.  I couldn't fix it on the spot and ended up having to take my car to work, but I decided against taking it back to I. Martin for a fix - not because they couldn't fix it, but because they would only be able to fix it back to the problem it had anyhow - in that it couldn't be mounted properly with the top of the rack level with the ground using the the Bontrager pieces it came with.  However, now that it was pivoting freely on the braces on the rear fork, I was able to position it so that the top of the rack was level with the ground.  Securing it into that position, however, was my challenge.  Also, because the rack is mounted higher than normal, it meant less room for my top pannier.  I went to Koontz Hardware to get some zip ties.  The longest ones they had were 15", so I got a packet of those.  First I secured it twice to the seatpost.  Then, looping two ties together on each side, I secured it to the back fork.  So, it's very secure and not going anywhere at all, and I even put about 40 lbs of weight in the side panniers over the weekend.

I have noticed with the rack now being level, however, that I get heel strike on the side panniers if they are not mounted as far to the rear as possible.  So, I definitely have to keep an eye on that.  The top pannier still gets squished on the end by the seat post, and that's a pain, so I guess I'll be on the hunt for another one.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Bike locking

Well, I'm a bit concerned about my bike locking abilities.  I have a Kryptonite U-Lock and a Kryptonite cable.  Usually I just lock the frame to something.  Like  yesterday at Smart & Final, I just locked the frame to a railing.  I felt safe because it's not really an area anyone ever parks a bike in, so it's not a place a thief would look - but even so, only locking the frame is crap as everything else can be nicked off the bike in seconds - wheels, seat, handlebars.  Even so, I just watched some Youtube videos that made it look like NO lock was theft-proof.

I want it to be secure, but then too there's how much time it takes to lock it up, and how vulnerable does that make you during that time?  And, how much weight does carrying even more locks around add to my bike - which already seems over-stocked and burdened with something to deal with every contingency. 

So do I get another set of locks?  I definitely know I want another cable lock., but maybe I need a few more cables...I need to figure this out.  I guess it's time to talk to the guys at I Martin again.  Oh well.  I need to bring them in some Christmas cookies.  Tis the season.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Full panniers again!

Today I made my first trip to Smart & Final with the two rear Bontrager  panniers that I bought from I. Martin Imports.  I had to carefully figure what I could actually haul in each pannier, and I wasn't sure how much weight each could hold.  However, I now know that each can hold at least 20 lbs, because in one of the panniers I put two 10-lb bags of flour.  I really couldn't have put much more than what is pictured in the panniers... they were full and heavy - about 40 lbs total!  But they definitely got the job done!!

Once again, I wasn't really too aware of the extra weight on the bike, except that there is a lot more forward moment on the downhill which means braking needs to start earlier.  When I got home, however, there was going to be no way I could force the bike up the front steps of the building, so I had to remove the panniers first.  Just too heavy. It makes me think that maybe I should get a cargo trailer for the back, but for right now, I'm good...little trips like this one can do the trick.