It’s time once again for everyone’s midwinter favorite — the totally randomly curated list of Five Really Great Bike-Related Websites into which one can descend on a snowy evening, imagining small pleasures and big adventures yet to come.
Crazy Guy on a Bike
The Crazy Guy — actually an Oregonian gentleman named Neil Gunton — has created an amazing, convening/aggregator blog-a-palooza site for all that is bicycle touring, on a global scale. The site archives and posts real-time reports of people on bikes (more than 14,000 and counting) exploring everywhere from Bemidji to Bangladesh, with photos (2.8 million so far), along with advice on all manner of bike touring issues (the “Disasters” category is a fright).
For example, the other day, the featured ongoing journal was from an Englishman named Sebastian who left home last March to ride around the world. As of his last post on Jan. 8, from China, he’d filed 86 reports covering 9,500 miles, ranging from the wonders of Serbia to the horrors of Tajikistan, in detail that is both mundane and stunning.
And it is searchable. Planning to ride your bike somewhere? Someone has ridden there and sent a report to the Crazy Guy. Scroll through the reports and click on random adventures.
The mega journal of Frenchman Eric Schambion and Montanan Amaya Williams, who since 2006 have been trying to ride their bikes through every country on earth. They’ve covered 119,000 miles through 102 countries so far; they’ve both had malaria, twice; Schambion has also had the pleasure of bouts with dengue and typhoid fever.
In addition to journals from all the countries (with lively writing and splendid photographs), their site has a broad range of advice on equipment (bikepacking vs. a touring setup), cultures (riding in Africa, for instance, vs. Asia), and touring generally (“Prevailing winds are a myth. The only prevailing winds you can count on are headwinds” and “Socks don’t need to be changed daily, but underwear do”). And loads of lists — lessons learned, most-dangerous countries, touring myths, creative places to sleep, best countries for a first tour, and on. Enormous, practical fun with charming people.
Pinkbike, a rousing mountain biking site from Canada, is not for the faint of heart.
Yes, you’ll find helpful gear reviews (really — aluminum instead of carbon?); timely advice columns (matching tire lugs to trail conditions); extensive issue forums; informative industry interviews; and trail-finder drop-downs. But the central character of the site is the edgy, often crazed, and death- and gravity-defying videos of people riding mountain bikes.
The antics can be breathtaking and even beautiful. But the site has just a teeny-tiny bit of the sensibility and violence of mixed martial arts. You sometimes have to look away. The signature feature might be Pinkbike’s “Friday Fails” videos, which are clips of bikers crashing. It can be quite ugly and difficult to watch. It will be your decision: Warped, or grand fun?
Sheldon Brown’s Bicycle Technical Info
The late, great Sheldon Brown, bike mechanic and philosopher-king, created one of the most informative and geeked-out sites imaginable.
He chose, appropriately, an encyclopedic model. Let’s see what categories are under, say, G: Gain Ratio, Gear Inches, Raphaël Geminiani, Ghost Shifting, Gitane, Goofy Footed, Granny Gear, Grease, Groupset, Grouppo. He has broader categories with detailed, lengthy and chatty discussions about touring, frames, brakes, repair tips, and a bicycle glossary.
So if someone points to your rear tire and says, “Your hanger looks bent,” you can nod your head like you know what he means, and then go to the site (“A derailer hanger is the part of a rear dropout to which the rear derailer attaches”).
Our friends at the understated St. Paul bicycle tool behemoth have created an impressive archive of online bike repair guides. If you are ever stumped on a squeaking disc brake or dodgy derailleur, the “Fix” side of the website has useful guidance.
But what you really want to do is seek out Calvin’s Corner and its archive, where Park Tool’s director of education Calvin Jones — super-informative and playfully droll — holds forth on every conceivable subject that affects repair and rehabilitation of bikes.
But what you really, really want to do is bounce over to the Park Tool’s YouTube site, where Jones presides in a remarkable trove of bike repair videos. Production values sometimes hover between high school audio-video class and well-lighted hostage tape. Still, the writing is clear, the animation inspired, and the clarity of explanation can be revelatory.
Tony Brown is a freelance writer from Minneapolis. His column appears twice a month. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read archived columns at startribune.com/bikeguy.