DIY Ventilated Insoles

In the minds of many cyclists, Sidi shoes are the gold standard by which all others are measured. Yet in stark contrast to the quality of the rest of the shoe, Sidi’s insoles are frankly subpar even when compared to shoes that cost half as much. Sidi has made some strides lately to bring the insoles to a level more befitting of such a premium shoe, but even in their flagship road shoe Wire, the effort is hardly remarkable. One of the better insole/footbed systems available is the Giro SuperNatural ($49.95), which has three sets of modular arch support that allows the rider to select the amount that serves the interface between foot and shoe. One problem in fitting an aftermarket insole into a Sidi Wire is that the sole of the shoe has holes in it feeding air through channeled vents. The stock insole has holes aligned with those in the shoe’s sole; Giro’s aftermarket insole does not. But I shall have my cake and eat it too.

To put vent holes into the Giro insole, I first laid the stock insole over the Giro model, then marked the location of the holes into the new insole with a pen poked through the stock insole. Then I opened up a hole at each mark using a 1/8” drill bit on a small drill to bore through the Giro insole. The SuperNatural insole is primarily a firm, flexible foam pad that stretches around the bit rather than cutting into a smooth 1/8” hole. The X-Static fiber on the top surface of the insole also also ends of fraying a bit. So the next step is to make the hole bigger and seal the frays in the X-Static. The best way to seal frays in synthetic fibers is usually to singe them quickly. Heat can also be used to widen the holes in the foam without actually removing material from the insole; high heat just melts the foam a bit, which collapses away and leaves the hole bigger. I suppose a small tip soldering iron would have been a great idea, but I don’t own one. The tediously slow, primitive, yet effect way is to use some roundish steel pokey thing and heat with a candle. I used a Torx wrench that was surplus in my tool box. It’s so slow because I had to reheat the tip of the wrench in between each application to an individual hole, but it worked like a charm! Be aware that you’ll have to pause occasionally and let the whole wrench cool, because the portion of the wrench you’re grabbing eventually gets too hot to hold.

The tactic I used was to concentrate heating about 1cm from the tip of the wrench so that the hottest part didn’t touch the insole first. Then I pushed it into the pre-drilled holes from the top of the insole, so that the X-Static melted frays of X-Static get pushed into the hole, not up at the foot. Then I hold the tool in there for about 5-10sec, letting the heat be absorbed by the foam. Then I pull the wrench out, giving a twisting motion. You may have to adjust technique and the amount of heat for a given insole’s construction.

Heat boring holes into a foam insole

Taken Sometime in 1897: Wrecked

Taken sometime in 1897

Found in the Huron County Museum collection of Flickr and taken by Reuben R. Sallows. Also see the Start

While some old timey fun, that looks like a bike race or two I’ve been in.

X01 10sp downhill derailleur for cyclocross

Cyclocross drivetrains with single chainrings (either 1x10 or 1x11) are certainly trending, and earlier this year SRAM delivered their CX-1 line as a single ring gruppo-in-box. The crucial elements of the CX-1 group are the narrow-wide chainring tooth design (which a multitude of boutique brands have copied in the last 9 months) and the non-slanting parallelogram rear derailleur, which optimizes shifting performance and manages chain tension. That CX-1 derailleur is heavily influenced by SRAM’s mtb designs. Or to be more accurate, the CX-1 derailleur is exactly identical to the 10sp version of the X01 DH (downhill) derailleur except for the cable routing. The CX-1 derailleur has a bolt-on interface for a barrel adjuster like other traditional road derailleurs, while the X01 DH/10sp has front entry for the cable and a bolted-on pulley assembly. I use the X01 DH derailleur because the more direct cable run leaves a less housing to catch mud, grass, or some else’s QR skewer. To tune the shiftering in the absence of a derailleur-mounted barrel adjuster, I’ve installed a Jagwire inline barrel adjuster on the housing between the handlebar and frame. Many frame designs have some sort of barrel adjuster where the housing joins near the head tube anyways. Normally SRAM road derailleurs work best with a fairly generous loop of housing, so using the X01 DH unit really cleans up that area on my Redline Conquest carbon. If you’re piecing together a cyclocross bike with a SRAM 1x drivetrain, this might be a good idea.

Before you drop the money on an X01 DH derailleur, there are a few things you should know first. Obviously, you can only use SRAM DoubleTap shifters (technically you could use the SRAM bar end shifters too, Mr Retro). It does not matter if you’re using 10 or 11sp DoubleTap levers, but you must choose the 10sp DH version of the X01 derailleur, not the 7sp DH version nor the 11sp standard version. This is because SRAM’s mtb drivetrains use different cable-pull ratios for 10 and 11sp, while SRAM’s road rear derailleurs, both 10 and 11sp, use the same ratio as the mtb 10sp. The 7sp DH derailleur is merely a short cage version of the 11sp standard X01 meant to work on a reduced range cassette with the same cog-to-cog spacing as the enormous 10-42tooth 11sp mtn cassette. The final issue is that not all cyclocross frames have a cable path for the rear derailleur that can line-up with mtb-style derailleurs. On my Redline, the path is almost perfect coming sideways out of the chainstay, but on Byron’s Specialized Crux the housing exits from behind the dropout, as is common for many bikes that are Di2 compatible.

SRAM X01 DH/10sp derailleur on Redline Conquest CX

Merckx Ickx The Race


Ickx and Merckx. Merckx and Ickx.
Two great people. Two heroes. Two icons.
Two champions. Both with an impressive track record, both holders of multiple honorary titles. Both excelled in very different categories within their sport.
Two champions. Year after year.

As the site for Merckx Ickx The Race says,

First across the finish line 525 times, Eddy Merckx is the most successful cycle racer of all time. Jacky Ickx’s career is one of the richest and longest in the history of motorsport. His list of achievements is unrivaled in its variety. In 2015, Eddy Merckx and Jacky Ickx both celebrate their 70th birthday, as well as their long friendship. So it’s high time for the first major exhibition about this pair of Belgian sporting legends.

Follow along on and celebrate these two legends on Twitter, Facebook.

Mark V Holiday Gift Suggestions

Bike Hugger HydroFlo water bottle by Purist ($15)

A cyclist can probably never have too many water bottles, but that doesn’t mean one can’t tell a good bottle from a bad bottle. A bad bottle ends up in the back of the cupboard, repurposed as a pen cup, or left at a race venue and only remembered a week later. A good water bottle is the one reflexively reached for. When you reach for the Bike Hugger Hydroflo water bottle by Purist, you grab onto a pliant case with a subtle, three-side cross section that fits the hand well and is easy to squeeze. The valve provides a high flow rate yet virtually eliminates inadvertent dribble. Oh, and it has that classy Bike Hugger logo, too.

Giro Supernatural Footbed Kit ($49.95)

One of the best features of Giro shoes is that they come with the company’s SuperNatural Footbed Kit (insole) that allows a rider to adjust the amount of arch support with 3 pairs of modular arch wedges. You can even tweak the fore-aft position of the arch support to a small degree. But even if someone has a different brand of shoe, the footbed kit is available separately so you can fine tune the fit of your own shoe. It’s a really nice idea as a gift because neither you nor the person receiving the gift needs to know exactly how much support is needed beforehand. The Giro SuperNatural kit is a cycling specific insole, unlike many others marketed to a wide variety of activities such as running and hiking; thus it takes up minimal volume in the shoe compared to most insoles. The top layer uses an X-Static anti-microbial treatment.

Personally, I find that these insoles work nicely in Sidi shoes, which despite being the gold standard for cycling footwear, invariably come stock with crap insoles. Giro SuperNatural Footbed Kit

Light & Urban 800 Fast Charge ($180)

The Urban series of commuter headlights from Light & are my personal favourites, and the sweet little Urban 800 Fast Charge is just a bit sweeter still. Throughout the 2014-2015 line, all the Urban headlights have a new charge port access that seals better against water ingress. This is nice if you like to hang the light upside-down on the handlebar leaving the bar tops less cluttered but giving water invasion a helping hand due to gravity. The new seal makes the current Urban lights waterproof at 1M for 30min.

Next, the latest LED tech and firmware allow L&M to squeeze even more output and burn times from these dainty lights. The Urban 800 is actually kicking out 800 lumens on high for 1.5hrs, 400 lumens for 3hrs, and a very practical 200 lumens for 6hrs.

Finally, the Fast Charge version of the Urban 800 only takes 2.5hrs to charge, as opposed to 6hrs for the standard Urban 800. Some riders would suggest that modern bikes are an exercise in planned obsolescence, that the bicycle was basically perfected by the 1970s, but today’s headlights beat the pants off of lights even ten years ago in EVERY parameter.

Light & Motion Urban 800 Fast Charge

Rene Herse: The Bikes The Builder The Riders by Jan Heine ($86)

When I was eight years old, I liked Garfield cartoons. I had a grandmother who ever after gifted me a Garfield book ever year at Christmas, straight on till my college years. Don’t be like Gran; if you’re gonna give a book, give them something wonderous and timeless. I suggest the Rene Herse book from Bicycle Quarterly Press.

The Frenchman Rene Herse became one of the most revered names in cycling, and this book is a story about the man, the bikes he built, and the people who rode them. More than that, it is a journey to a Europe of a bygone era, from the interwar years through the decades immediately following WWII, into what most would call the Golden Age of Cycling. It is a book so lavishly illustrated with photographs and anecdotes that you can almost feel the breeze and the sun on your face and smell the French countryside as you spin the pedals alongside those riders. If you put this book on a coffee table, I suggest it be laid out alongside a baguette with jambon de pays and gruyere.

Fizik Performance Classic bar tape ($24-28)

Fizik Performance Classic Tape (Orange Microtex)

My favourite bar tape is the Fizik Perfomance Classic. It has the Fizik’s durable Microtex (microfibre) backed by a layer of dense foam padding. It is embossed and stitched asymmetrically, so depending on how you wrap your bars you can have more or less texture. It’ll survive many scrapes and it washes up well too. The tape comes in seven colours, but I recommend you do NOT get the “Soft Touch” white. Sure it feels like suede, but it gets dirty like suede too; plus it doesn’t hold up like the white Microtex version of Performance tape. Fizik Performance Classic enhances anyone’s road bike.

Sugoi Zap Helmet Cover ($28-30)

This is kinda a no-brainer, especially if your cyclist lives in one of the cold, wet parts of the world, and especially if he or she has a really nice helmet. Today’s premium helmets are festooned with holes for ventilation, which isn’t actually desirable in a cold, wind-driven rain. Sugoi’s Zap helmet cover stretches over most helmets (sans visor) to give wind and water protection; you can easily stow it in a pocket or commute bag when not needed. It comes in two colours, black and hi-vis yellow. Both have reflective accents.

Abus Lock-Chain 585/75 ($40)

The 575/85 Lock-Chain from German company Abus is lightweight and a handy size. The fabric covered chain and elastomer encased lock head protect the bike’s finish, while the 5mm square-section punches above its weight against cutting devices. While the 575/85 is not the ultimate in bicycle security, it is exceedingly convenient to carry and use, while thoroughly outperforming the majority of cable locks. Available in a variety of colours. For heavier duty, see the Abus Lock-Chain 880 “Steel-O-Chain” or burly 1060/85.

Icebreaker Blast Vest ($260)

Icebreaker Blast Vest

Merino wool is awesome because of its ability to provide warmth without excess bulk in a wide temperature range, but synthetic technical fabrics usually win when it comes to wind resistance. Icebreaker’s Blast Vest puts a lightweight 150 merino layer against the body and then adds a polyurethane middle layer for wind resistance and a outer polyester layer to ward off rain. If you’re looking for a more casual piece that works well as a mid-layer, I’d recommend the Sierra Vest ($140) made with 200 merino without the layers. A soft, cozy vest with hand pocket, the Sierra Vest is great for hiking, hanging out, or working on bikes.

Hugga Tool Roll ($40)

My phone, my keys, and my Hugga Tool Roll…things I don’t leave home without. The waxed canvas is water resistant and durable without bulk, and the integrated strap allows you cinch the roll down so it’ll slide into a jersey pocket easily. Drop it into you backpack or pannier when you commute. Snug all you little bike-fix-it trinkets and a tube together and then unroll it before you when you need to work on your bike. I actually wrap the roll around a mini-pump for road rides, or I tuck a CO2-inflator in for mtb rides.

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