Mile To Ride Before Sleep

Mile To Ride Before Sleep

Monday, December 3, 2012

4th of July Bike & Build Style


I got a couple requests for how I set up my bike for the 4th of July. But before I go any further, I must state that I do not recommend riding a bike with a flag. Let me repeat that. I do not recommend riding a bicycle with a giant 5' x 8' sail. I got blown off the road and into the ditch after crossing into the lane of oncoming traffic. I was fortunate, and there were no cars around. It was rather windy that day: 10 mph mean wind speed, 30 mph sustained winds, and over 50 mph gusts, so you would probably be just fine on a calm day. All that being said, will I try it again? Yes. Will I try a bigger flag? Absolutely.

The wind was not fun sometimes.
I first had this idea when I saw the brochure for Bike & Build. "Wow, bike across the country for charity and be patriotic at the same time!" I wanted to do the entire distance with my flag but soon decided this was not a good idea. It would be difficult to keep the flag clean and off the ground, so I decided one day would be feasible. I had my brother mail me my flag during the summer. I had used it before on a few occasions:

I bought the parts in Amarillo, TX, at Home Depot on June 25 on our day off. I had no idea whether it would work or not or if I would even have the tools to work on it. Thankfully, our host on July 3 had tools. I stayed up late and put it together. I didn't have a vice or some other niceties, but it worked. I used two round electrical plate covers and a flag mounting bracket along with a couple bolts and pipe insulation. I used round covers so I wouldn't cut up the back of my leg when stretching on the bike. Make sure you don't come into contact with it while pedaling; it will be really annoying. The pipe insulation was only to prevent scratches (not that my frame doesn't already have its fair share). I drilled holes for four bolts, but I was only able to get two in since they weren't aligned quite right, and well, the seat stays are in the way. I used a one inch 10' PVC pipe for the pole. It didn't quite fit the mount, so I had to shave it down a little with a file. I used PVC as opposed to other material for its light weight, and I also hoped that the flexibility of the PVC would allow more time for me to react to any wind gusts. The flag was attached to the pole with eyelet screws and key chain rings. For additional stability I used some accessory cord and attached it to my handlebars to the top of the pole. Check out the pictures and let me know if you have any questions:

The gap at the rear of my saddle allowed for an additional contact
point and the most upright position of the pole possible.

I made it 102 miles before a storm rolled in. I tried to ride when the front came through, but my front wheel was coming off the ground. I took the flag off and had a nice lightning rod for the last 11 miles. It was made of PVC, but it was unnerving, nonetheless. 113ish miles were completed five months ago, but I was a little worried the day had taken a toll on my bike and bent my seat stays out of alignment. I finally took my setup off when I got home, and everything seemed fine.

The toll on my body was worse.
Other riders got slightly different stats, but you get the idea.
For more summer stats, check out this post.

I forgot to mention the reactions of drivers on the road. This was not something I expected or thought of, but made a great memory. Over 100 drivers gave friendly honks, fist pumps, and waves. I counted. :) Keep in mind much of the ride was in the middle of nowhere (see next photo). A couple drivers even made me pull over and take a picture. It made 4th of July feel like it should even away from home. Perhaps better.

I also added a tie down between the seat post and the pole.
The second point of contact adds a lot of stability.
A couple other items to note. Advantage: increased visibility. Disadvantage: due to the hydration pack, you can't sit up. It makes changing hand positions quite difficult. I stayed on the hoods most of the day and paid for it for months.

So if you build this, do so in a safe environment. Get some riding in with the wind and get plenty of experience with it before you take it to other places. Do good; don't die.