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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Progress at last, after a fashion

Wow, it's been a while since I was able to put anything up. I got a part-time job at Petco that took a bit of my time, plus I've been spending more and more time trying to find a good-paying job to pay bills and rent with (the Petco job won't cut it for long, but it's better than nothing). I have been working on the bike project as I had time, just no real time to write it up coherently. Also, sadly, no time to draw it up, either.

First, a bit about cargo containers. I had been using the baskets you can see in the pics of my Columbia bike, the blue and white one. They work, but people can steal stuff out of them just by reaching in, since they have no lids (and even if they did, it's still just wire mesh, and have no security at all). Also, not weather proof, and can't hold small items without packaging them up first (which takes up valuable space and weight for just the packaging!). I've planned to do something about that for a while, but hadn't got round to it yet.

During the last few weeks, I did finally do something. I took the baskets off for now, and built a tube steel framework above the rear wheel like a regular cargo rack. It's made from the remains of an old computer desk (most of which I had already used to mount my window air-conditioner with early this summer). I have been collecting those rectangular plastic pails with lids that kitty litter comes in, both from my sister and from a friend, and finally figured some ways to mount them up.

Currently, only the one on top of the cargo rack is mounted, of which there will be pics as soon as I have time to dig up the camera and stuff (I'd've liked to take pics of the construction process, but I was in a hurry to get it done at the time, and forgot). I'll probably also include pics of the pieces, since I have to take it apart for some refits and maintenance anyway. The one I have now is mounted with the bottom of the pail toward the bike seat, long side horizontal across the bike to give the widest platform. It's just a bit wider than the rack, maybe 1/2". I bent into L-shapes a pair of gate-lock hasps from Stanley that I salvaged from the stuff CompUSA was throwing away during the closedowns, and bolted them onto the left and right sides of the lid to give me a way to lock the lid on reasonably securely (it's still possible to get into it, but it would not be fast and easy, and the simple sight of the padlocks on it would probably keep most thieves away from it).

I put the battery for the lights in there, up in the top front of it, where cargo generally wouldnt' be anyway. I used to have that battery zip-tied to the basket in front, which was not only insecure (more than a few batteries were stolen off the bike previously!), but also exposed it to direct sunlight, which I doubt is good for it. Now it's inside the white plastic pail, which should help reflect more energy away from it (relative to it's dark blue and medium gray battery colors). I considered building the charger into it, too, but I use the same charger for most of my gel-cells, so I'm not including it yet (it doesn't weigh much, so that's not a real consideration).

So far, the container has worked well, and allowed me to carry all the tools with me that I would normally need to fix anything, which I couldn't do before (because either people would steal them off the bike or I'd have to carry them inside with me whereever I go, which is not always possible--many places don't allow backpacks and stuff, because of too much theft, which I certainly understand). The same applies to water, snacks, etc, that otherwise I couldn't carry. The only change I had to make to anything on it was adding lockwashers to the screws holding the cargo rack on, as the screws vibrated loose (though not out completely) during the 25+ mile ride back from an interview in Tempe.

One other thing the container lets me do: use the Bike-on-Bus racks all the Valley Metro buses have. The baskets made the bike too wide to fit if there was a second bike, but with just the one rear container it's the same as any other bike, and fits fine. It's significantly lighter, too (the baskets are heavy steel wire). I don't know the exact weight difference, but I had a hard time picking it up before, and now it's easier.

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