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5 Uncommon Tips and Tricks for a Most Excellent Weekend Bike Tour

Planning a mini-bike tour is a little like planning dinner – you want it to be great, but you also don’t want to stress out and worry too much about it. Often times, like a good meal, you can pull something together in a fairly short amount of time, with little effort. And like anything, with practice comes perfection, or darn near close. We’re sharing a few things that we’ve learned from our own experiences as well as from others getting after it.

Go Light: But Not Too Light

In our opinion, going light is good. Going so light that you are cold and starving is not so good. Seriously, do you want to eat energy bars for three days—breakfast, lunch and dinner—because you don’t want to bring a camp stove? If that’s your bag, then go for it, but consider bringing real food, real camp gear and real clothes. My weakness – UGG Boots. They’re lightweight and ultra-warm and perfect for dry, cold high desert nights in the backcountry when I’m sitting around camp.

Speaking of Food

Appetizers! Buy some and take them with you so when you get to camp or wherever you are laying your head to rest for the night, you’ve got a quick snack as soon as you stop. It also gives you a little sense of closure on the day. Our favorite appies include Sabritas Sal y Limon peanuts for the salt-lover (found at Mexican markets), peanut butter filled pretzels for the sweet AND salt lover (a.k.a. crack-in-a-bag) or beef jerky for the protein junky.

Be Flexible

So you have the most kick-ass route planned, but maybe you get out there an realize that: a) this is harder than I thought b) the weather forecast said “chance of showers”, not “deluge” or c) I’m just feeling a little more lazy than I hoped to feel. Create your route so you have Plan A and Plan B. If you don’t make Plan A to that sweet camp spot next to the free hot springs and taco stand, then maybe settle for Plan B, that sweet camp spot next to the little creek that you’ve always wanted to check out.

Take Your Kid(s)

No, really. What better thing to do with your kids than take them on an easy, close to home, mini-adventure on bikes? It can be done, you’ll just need to plan a little more and probably pack a little (or a lot) more. Maybe you don’t camp, but you stay in a cabin, B&B or even stay at your brother’s house in the next town over. The point is, bike touring with your kids can create lasting memories and inspire more adventures.

Take Your Dog

Don’t have the human variety of kids, but instead have the fur baby? We’re dog lovers, so we think life is pretty awesome with a dog. And our dog wants NOTHING more than to run around in the woods looking for sticks or swimming in a lake. There are several good blogs about bike touring with your pup, but our favorite is Long Haul Trekkers. Check them out!

Do you have any amazing or quirky tips for bike touring? We’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment below to share!

Take Your Toddler on a Bike Tour

You’re a cyclist. You love your Wednesday evening rides with the buddies and you geek out on gear and maybe you’ve gone on a few bike tours in your lifetime. You’re also a Mom or a Dad, so you want to infect your kids with the joy of cycling that has made your life that much more wonderful.

The great thing is that it IS possible to take your toddler on a bike tour. It just takes a little planning and flexibility. Using a child specific trailer such as a Thule Chariot, Burley Bee or a Croozer allows you to bring your kiddo with you on the microadventure of your choice. We’ve pulled together 8 tips to successfully take your toddler with you on a bike touring adventure.

  1. Start Small. If you are a seasoned bike tourist, but new to bike touring with a kid, cut yourself some slack and start off with an easy trip. You just aren’t going to get in a 50 mile day—think more like 15 miles. You can even start by taking your child in the trailer and having a friend or spouse drive to the camp spot with the gear. This allows you to have a fun ride while not having to worry as much about the gear. Check out Adventure Cycling’s Bike Overnights or Alastair Humphrey’s Microadventures website for inspiration.
  2. Go light. This is a tricky one, especially when you think you might “need” everything. Just bring the basics—camping and cooking gear, safety items and only the clothing that you’ll need. For multi-day tours, plan your route to hit civilization as much as possible so you can do laundry and resupply whenever possible.
  3. Choose quiet routes. Your lunchtime road biking hammerfest might not be the optimal route. Look for a route that includes bike paths or quiet country roads. And don’t forget that gravel and dirt roads provide some of the best scenery and solitude. Just watch for rough tread or heavily washboarded roads—remember you have a passenger behind you!
  4. It’s the journey, not the destination. What we mean is—take breaks! Time off the bike is just as important as time on the bike. Kids can’t sit for hours on end, so try to take a break every 15 minutes, half hour or every hour, depending on how long your day will be. Go so far as to set your phone or watch on a timer so you make sure you stick to the plan.
  5. Transform the trailer into a home. If you rode in a little cocoon, wouldn’t you want to personalize it and make it into a cozy spot? For little ones, be sure to include their favorite stuffed animal or an extra pillow they can cozy up to. For older kids, add some coloring books and crayons. One cyclist I talked to used a mini-speaker and iPod to provide fun music for the ride.
  6. Stop and smell the roses—and the cows. Does your kid get excited to see a roadside cow or a red tailed hawk soaring high in the sky? Then pull those brakes, pull over and stop to check it out. Take this opportunity to bond with your kid, give an impromptu science lesson or just enjoy the wonders of the natural world.
  7. Snacks, snacks and snacks. Grab the gummies, juices and other favorite foods for your kiddo and be sure to stop often to snack. You’ll teach your mini-me about how to keep fueled while on a bike ride. And it’s a good excuse to stop and take a break and avoid any low blood sugar meltdowns. They happen to the best of us.
  8. Remember why YOU ride a bike. There’s a good chance it’s because it is FUN. So make sure that your mini-adventure is fun for you and your traveling companion. The more fun it is for your kids, the more they will want to go and continue cycling as they get older.

Need inspiration and additional tips?

Check out While Out Riding’s family outings. Cass Gilbert appears to be the master of bike touring with his son, both in the US and out of the country.

Traveling Two’s Friedel and Andrew are a Canadian couple who kept bike touring, even after the arrival of their two sons. Watch their video, 15 Ways to Entertain a Toddler on a Bike Tour.

Adventure Cycling ran a superb article in the May 2015 issue, Touring with A Toddler.

Have you bike toured with your little one? We’d love to hear your story and see photos! Share with us by sending photos to katy@robertaxleproject.com

 

Bring Your Kids Biking with a Robert Axle Thru Axle

The Kid Trailer Axles are easy to install and use, so you can bring your kids biking with you. Child carriers, such as Burley, Thule, Chariot, provide a great way to share your adventures with those you love. With our 12mm Thru Axles for Kid Trailers, you can attach “hitch style” trailer to any bike with a rear 12mm thru axle—mountain, road, fat, cross, e-bike and everything in between.

Our Kid Trailer Axles are designed for maximum strength and ease of use in attaching your trailer. The Robert Axle has a stainless steel 10x1mm threaded stud to attach the hitch supplied by your trailer manufacturer.


Breaking Axles Is Fun! (Also known as: Why “made in USA” matters to us)

Sure, there’s lots of talk (babble?) about “Made in USA”. It’s a complicated thing, we know. Affordability, quality, customer service, and practicality all come into play. Making our thru axles here, instead of China or Taiwan, is important to us because we can employ local skilled people and support our local economy.

We also like to be hands on—we prefer to oversee production on an almost daily basis, which we think is the real value in creating quality bike parts. From raw material, to finished and packaged goods, we handle all processes.

It’s a job we take seriously. Stuff needs to not break, and stuff on your bike needs to REALLY not break, especially when you are using it. Breaking parts on a bike ride, whether you’re out shredding singletrack, or taking your kids to the park, is not what we would call a good time.

We machine and assemble all our thru axles in Bend, Oregon. And with access to testing facilities, we are able to test our axles for different types of strength and loads. We test all of our thru axles in two ways:

Torque strength. Over the years, we have been keeping tabs on how our customers are installing their Robert Axles. Installation requires the user to torque the axle to a specific spec, so we test all axles for torque strength to make sure they are strong enough during installation.

Shear strength. This is the stuff that goes BOOM, the fun part. By testing shear strength, we test for catastrophic failure, and we ask: How much force would it take to suddenly shear this axle? Our goal, which we consistently reach, is to far exceed the shear strength of stock axles that come with bikes.

Watch the video below of how we break axles!


Five Ingenious Hacks to Make Your Bike Ride Better

Several small companies are building niche parts and pieces that make our cycling gear cheaper and more versatile.

By: Aaron Gulley

Posted on Outside Online: March 3, 2017

One great thing about the bike industry is its low cost of entry for brands. If you have a solid idea and some manufacturing connections or savvy, it’s generally possible to get into the business. And nowadays, with all the oddball sizes and new “standards,” there’s tons of room for these smaller companies to create niche products that will increase versatility, cut costs, and stave off planned obsolescence. The big brands could take a few lessons from these small guys.


Robert Axle Project Thru-Axle for BOB (From $70)

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  Photo: Courtesy of Robert Axle Project

I nearly got rid of my BOB trailer, which I love for hauling and hunting, when I found that it wouldn’t work with a thru-axle (which you’ll find on every modern bike), and that BOB didn’t offer a fix. But then I found the Robert Axle Project, created by a couple in Bend, Oregon, who apparently had similar frustrations.

Combining a 7075 aluminum axle shaft with stainless steel end pieces that fit the BOB’s mounting parts, the axle is a simple, elegant piece of hardware that allows me to pull my trailer with whatever bike I want. Given all the different hub widths and thread patterns, it’s definitely worth buying direct from Robert Axle (using the handy drop-down menu).

The company also makes axles for Thule, Burly, Chariot, and other trailer brands, for wind trainers and cargo racks, and bolt-on solutions for bike security.


Wolf Tooth Boostinator ($25)

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  Photo: Courtesy of Jenson USA

The rapid rise of Boost hub spacing might be good for performance as it creates stiffer wheels and better clearance, but it has also made some older wheels incompatible with newer bikes. Thanks, however, to the Boostinator from Wolf Tooth, you don’t have to sell those old hoops to run them on your new whip.

These smart kits consist of a machined aluminum end cap and, on the rear kits, a rotor spacer, that allows hubs with smaller spacing to be used on new wider-set frames. It’s a simple installation, even if you have to re-true your wheel a bit, and $50 for the two kits, is a pretty small price to pay for the repurposing of those expensive wheels.


One Up 42T Sprocket + 16T ($80)

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  Photo: Courtesy of One Up Components

Everybody wants a 1×11 drivetrain these days, but the cost of retrofitting your trusty old steed, which can include upgrading everything from a rear cassette to cranks, shifters, and even wheels, has kept many people on their existing gear. One Up’s 42T hack gets people with 10-speed cassettes many of the benefits of a 1×11 drivetrain—minus all the headache and expense.

Here’s how it works: On most 11-36 cassettes, you simply nest this bigger 42T ring on the outside, then sub in the 16T sprocket for the existing 15T and 17T. Of course you don’t get quit as big a range as 1×11 (especially not the super wide Eagle options) and you give up one gear, but the quick change yields a 17 percent range increase for a pretty minimal investment. One Up also makes 50T hacks for Shimano 1×11 cassettes, as well as well as a 10T cluster for those willing to invest in a new free hub body. Smart stuff.


Bar Fly E-Box Spacer ($40)

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  Photo: Courtesy of Bar Fly

Though I love riding Shimano Di2, it’s always struck me as insane that the junction box (the charge port and brains of the whole damn thing) attaches to your stem with a rubber band or zip tie. It’s like putting coaster brakes on a Ducati. Regardless, I was thrilled when I found Bar Fly’s E-Box Spacer, which attaches the mount for the junction box to an anodized aluminum five-millimeter headset spacer. Genius! And for what it’s worth, Bar Fly makes all sorts of other excellent and elegant mounting solutions for GPS units, lights, cameras, fenders, and pretty much anything else you want to attach to your bike.


Paul Set N’ Forget Thru Axle ($70)

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  Photo: Courtesy of Paul Component Engineering

This thru-axle replacement definitely falls into the serious tech geek realm, but if you’ve ever been frustrated with the fiddliness of stock thru axles, it will be a godsend. On many standard setups, it’s tricky to get both the right tension on the axle as well as the right position for the lever. The Set N’ Forget replaces your stock axle with one in which the lever can be indexed in 12 positions. Once you install it and put the lever in the desired position, you simply screw the axle into place and the lever will line up where you want it to go every time. No more futzing around to get it just so or riding with the lever in a questionable spot.

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