Latest Schwag

Kuroko on the 33rd floor

I made the decision last night, when we were expecting about 5cm of snow, to cancel today’s bike trip. Even if the snow cleared by morning, we’d still run the risk of icy patches and treacherous running.

Fujisan after a dusting of snow
Fujisan after a dusting of snow

As it happened, there was very little evidence this morning of snow overnight. While some nearby areas got enough snow to make the news, the streets I could see from our aerie above Nishi Shinjuku looked pretty dry and left me feeling a bit foolish. Still, it was a whopping 0C at 7 a.m., and I was content to sit inside under my heater and drink hot coffee. Instead I resolved to get some work done, including housework, and to give Kuroko a well-deserved bath once the temperature had risen a bit. It would also give me a chance to install some newly acquired schwag.

Washing the 'walls
Washing the ’walls

By 2 p.m. the sun had been streaming down for a few hours and the temperature had risen to a temperate 7C. As I discovered once I set about preparing for the wash-up, though, the wind was rather bitter still. Nevertheless I persisted. I’d been splashing about in light snow and rain in early January and hadn’t yet cleaned the mud spatter off (not off the bike, at least).

BB and rear triangles
BB and rear triangles

I realized the first time I’d given Kuroko a bath that I had to have the wheels off if I wanted to get the narrow bits in the fork, bottom bracket and rear triangles. It also gave me some more practice in removing the thruaxle wheels, which may come in handy during upcoming lengthy rides (although one hopes it’s not necessary). I also learned from the last time to take care when cleaning the chain that the greasy cleaning fluid doesn’t spatter all over the newly cleaned bike and tire.

Cleaning the chain
Cleaning the chain

With Kuroko all clean and the wheels screwed back on, it was time to see about the latest schwag. I’d already installed a new bell, replacing one which was beautiful but had broken twice in the few months I’ve had the bike. The new one is just a bit steampunk, with its external linkage for the brass hammer. It’s also a bit more strident, and I’ve found that makes for a slightly better response from pedestrians who aren’t paying attention to their surroundings.

One steampunk bell
One steampunk bell

The next item of business was replacing the taillight. The saddlebag doesn’t really leave enough room for a light on the seatpost (which is what 99% of taillights seem to be designed for now). The saddlebag maker has a couple of offerings to fit the loop they put on the bag, but the choice is between small and smaller. I looked for a while before I came up with an alternative that’s made to fit the loop, but is a lot more attention-getting.

Topeak saddlebag taillightLezyne saddlebag taillight
Size matters (and so does brightness)

The new light is bigger, brighter and has more flashing modes (including several intended for daytime use). It’s USB-chargeable vs the small disc battery of the former unit. I haven’t decided yet if this is an advantage. And the on/off button is a lot more conveniently located.

New taillight

Meanwhile, I received a couple of more items which don’t mount directly to the bike. First up, a new pair of riding cleats. I’ve been using the same shoes for about six or seven years, and they’ve always been just a shade small. It’s an issue on my left foot (which is slightly larger), where the nail of the big toe tends to push against the shoe and cause some pain over longer rides. I’d gotten a shoe stretcher and it works well enough as long as I remember to set it up overnight before each ride.

I’d bought the shoes online originally, and I’d vowed not to do that again. Nevertheless when a well-rated pair by the same maker popped up on one of the online bike shops I’ve been dealing with, I rashly ordered the next larger size and then bit my nails (fingernails, and figuratively) while waiting for the package to arrive.

A bit more than a week after I’d pushed the button on the order form, Nana messaged me at work one day to let me know I’d received a package. I figured it was the shoes. I got home and eyed the box warily. So long as it remained unopened, there was a 50/50 Schrödinger’s cat of a chance that I hadn’t wasted more than a hundred bucks.

Finally, I tore open the package and unwrapped one shoe. It was obviously longer than the shoes I’ve been wearing, but visibly narrower. “That’s not going to go, is it?” I thought as I reached for a pair of light, summer-weight socks. I hesitantly pulled on the right shoe: my smaller foot. “Hey, the fit isn’t bad… ” I tried on the left and it also seems good.

Cycling shoes, cleats and instructions
Polyglot shoe

Last night, before making the decision about today’s ride, I installed the cleats. It’s a pretty straightforward operation, although somehow I managed to break two nails (fingernails, again) in the process. The instruction sheet came in 30 languages, with a note that more languages are available from the maker’s website. I skimmed the instructions in English: nothing I didn’t already know, except perhaps all the bumf about not using the shoes for other than their intended purpose.

Now, with today’s decision not to ride, I’m still waiting for a chance to see how the fit is on the road.

The last bit of newly arrived schwag is a Jetboil camp stove. This is available in Japan, but I had a gift certificate for Amazon from my mother, so I purchased it from there. The claim is that this stove will boil 800ml of water in 2 minutes, which means hot coffee and instant oatmeal when Fearless Leader Joe and I are on the road for lejog.

Jetboil MicroMo
Jetboil MicroMo — thanks, Mom!

I’ve already told FLJ he’s in charge of sourcing the gas canisters in England.

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