German Tools

When a person earns a living by working with their hands, they gain an intimacy with those tools. In a shop environment, I rarely use multi-tools, instead preferring to use simpler, single purpose versions that are usually larger but more elegant. I keep a set of long L-bend Allen wrenches from Pedro’s handy, but if I can I prefer to use T-handle wrenches. Park Tools and several others sell Allen wrenches that combine the plastic handle of a T-wrench with the basic shape of an L-bend (one tool end poking out sideways from the handle), but that puts the ball-end at the long extension. The problem is that it’s easy to maul the head of a bolt if you tighten hard with the Bondhus. Thus I can’t put real pressure on the long extension of the Park Tool plastic handle L-wrench, yet plastic handle makes those wrenches awkward in many of the situations that you would want to use that Bondhus in the first place. That’s why I came to the solution of keeping both T-handle wrenches and simple L-bend wrenches. And I’m rather particular about my T-handle wrenches; I like a certain balance to them. My favourites are made by Wiha of Germany.

I keep duplicates of a lot of tools at home. In fact, one of my oldest tools is a Wiha 4mm Allen T-handle that actually pre-dates my baptism into cycling. It’s old enough that the handle says “made in W. Germany”; that is, it was made before the Reunification. It came with my Dutch-made inline skate frames. The handle is black plastic and shaped slightly different from the today’s red plastic Wiha wrenches. My newest Wiha is a green T-handle Torx T25, a long-delayed acknowledgement that T25 is here to stay. Now that I have a sturdy tool that is a pleasure to hold in my fingers, I am strangely more at peace with the heretofore despised industrial standard.

One tool that I have at home but not at the shop is a parallel-jaws plier from Knipex. This thing is amazing, like a cheat code to one of the golden rules of bike mechanics: thou shalt not use pliers on nuts and bolt heads. Usually if you use the common plier on fasteners, you end up badly marring the surface and any wrench flats, because the angling jaws rely on their teeth to grip. And then when you bring your bike in for me to service, I mock you as an uncultured savage. But the Knipex plier is different because it keeps its smooth jaws parallel like a proper box wrench. I still wouldn’t use it on a bolt that I needed to really hoss on, but I can confidently use it in most situations. At work, I have a wall of box/open wrenches hanging; at home the Knipex is a handy alternative that takes up much less space. And it’s quicker than hunting for the right size.

Mark V reviews: Muc-Off Anti-Fog Treatment

I’m standing in my kitchen, looking out at the steady rain pelting the streets and listening to the fleeting car tyres as they make a sound like a sheet of paper tearing. But I’m thinking of another rainy morning at a Tacoma race course over a month ago, in the middle of the cyclocross season. Up till that point the races had been pretty dry, but as my group stood in the starting grid the sky cut loose and hosed down everything. The race ended up being a cold, muddy, and slow grind. Halfway through the race, my sports glasses were fogging so bad I couldn’t see through them at all, so I handed them off to a friend on the sideline. I spent the second half of the race collecting grit on my contact lenses. I can vividly remember my eyelids dragging sand across my eyeballs.

It’s December now and cyclocross season is over for me, but I mainly commute by bicycle. Depending on the errand, there are plenty of opportunities for my eyewear to fog up, and most of the time I’m wearing my prescription glasses rather than contacts. That means that when my glasses fog up, I can’t simply take them off or push them down my nose; I’m too nearsighted. This is where I had hopes that Muc-Off’s Premium Anti-Fog Treatmenrt could make a difference.

The Muc-Off product comes in a dainty 35ml spray bottle. The directions specify that you should clean the lens first, spray on, and then wipe with a clean dry tissue. And that’s where I’m going to say DON’T USE JUST ANY TISSUE. The cellulose fibres in common tissue can scratch polycarbonate lenses; use a tissue designed for eyewear. If not that, then use a soft, lint-free cloth. Muc-Off’s directions specifically say not to use microfibre cloth with their product; I’m guessing because the microfibre cloth might wipe off too much of the treatment. But my prescription Oakleys cost way too much to risk damaging with regular tissue.

I clean my glasses and then apply the Muc-Off Anti-Fog to just the left lens. Over the next three days, I ride to work, errands all over town, and a three-hour road ride. I learned two things. First, it actually works, but it wouldn’t be accurate to say that it eliminates fog on your lenses. More that it retards the formation of fog and somewhat limits its severity. On a race course where there’s a slow section that prevents you from going fast enough for your glasses to vent off moisture, the Muc-Off Anti-Fog may slow the fogging enough for you to complete the section without impairing your vision. But it doesn’t make your glasses entirely fog free. The second thing I learned is that for maximum effect you have to reapply the treatment every ride. I sort of imagined that Muc-Off’s Anti-Fog would be semi-permanent, or at least only needing occasional application. No, for maximum performance you would need to clean your glasses and apply the Anti-Fog right before the event. Which means that in the future I will be performing another layer of ritualized pre-race preparations on autumn Saturday nights, but I have no intention of using this stuff in my day-to-day activities. Life is already too complex for me to worry if I remembered to apply Anti-Fog to my glasses before I left the house.

Muc-Off is a UK brand that is distributed in the US by Hawley. Their Premium Anti-Fog Treament retails for $14.99.

31 Full Circle

Issue 31 Cover

Like wheels on a bicycle everything circles back from technology to riding styles, tastes, and fashion. Issue 31 brings us full circle and drops today on iTunes and the Web for $4.00 an issue or $16 per year.

RX1R II: Landscapes and Street

Now that the RX1R II has arrived, vacation can’t get started soon enough.

Mark V reviews: Light and Motion Urban 850 Trail

Wherever I hear the word “progress”, whether it be a political speech or a product advertisement, I am always a little suspicious. The idea that we are “moving forward” and getting “better” is deeply seductive, and we as a people would do anything to embrace it, even allowing ourselves to be fooled. Politicians and marketing executives know this well, telling people exactly what they need to hear to believe that they are part of a greater cause. Vote for this politician; he’ll make your country better! Upgrade to 11-speed; you’ll ride faster! Use this deodorant; you won’t stink like cheese! But we all need to recognize what is the actual truth behind the lies….the lies people tell us and the lies we tell ourselves. There is no such thing as “progress”; we are merely traveling in circles. There is no “better”, there is just “different”.

Except for headlights. They DO keep getting better. And that’s what should make you really suspicious.

Look at Light & Motion’s Urban 850 Trail headlight. When the L&M Urban series were introduced, I think the brightest models were like 500 lumens (FWIW, Light & Motion quote actual measured output not theoretical values based off of the subcomponents). Now here’s the Urban 850 Trail that burns almost twice as bright for as long or longer, charges faster, and is the same size/weight as the originals. And it only costs $180, which is about the same retail as the originals were like 5 years ago. So if you account for inflation, the Urban 850 Trail costs less than its predecessors. How is that even possible? First, we have to assume that Light & Motion has stepped into a realm of science that dangerously brushes the boundaries that mortal man was never meant to cross. The only rational explanation for this unassailable progress is that Light & Motion has found some manner of extracting energy from a source hereto untapped. Best guess? I’m thinking something like the souls of orphans, but I don’t pretend to be an expert in the laws of California, where Light & Motion Urban headlights are made.

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