Wednesday, January 10, 2018

How To: Add laces to your (non lace up) cycling shoes

If your first thought was "why?" then you're obviously new here. We'll forgive you for that. The stuff we do and try on this blog isn't about having good reasons, it's about seeing if we can do it. That said, my poor Specialized 74's have seen better days. I had replaced the boa's about a year ago and cut the new wires slightly too short, which made getting into them a real pain. A week or so ago I broke one of the new boa's and decided instead of replacing them again I'd see if I could make them into lace ups! Because that's the hot thing right now. It'd also be practical as it'd make it a lot easier to get into them and one might argue have more control over keeping them tight when riding. So there, there's you reason. But really, this isn't a blog for rational reasoning, just trying to do new and interesting stuff.

So, you want to breathe some new life into some old kicks. I did with my old Specialized 74's. 

They've seen better days since then. Not long after adding some gold "flare" to them one of the boa's broke on me.  The simple solution is to just contact boa and get a replacement shipped to the door, but that's no fun. Since I've been using these as my backup track bike shoes, I was interested in trying to convert them to lace ups. So, after scouring the internet for some time, I cobbled together what I decided was the "best" way to do it, and so this post was born. 

While the themes here are universal, keep in mind that your specific shoes might require more/less work, and you could indeed ruin your kicks if you screw it up. Follow at your own risk.

First, let's get to what you'll need.
- Seam Ripper
- Butter Knife
- Heat Gun (probably not necessary)
- Xacto Knife
- Hammer
- Leather Punches (+ a block of wood... junk)
- A leather punch tool with rotating head (you can probably pick one of the two)
- Eyelet Tool (and eyelets)
- Some laces

All of that together is probably $20-30 worth of stuff (minus the heat gun) depending on what you already own.  You can get the seam ripper (get one with a big handle) eyelet tools/eyelets and leather punch at your hobby/craft/sewing store for a couple of dollars each. (Also most of that you could find at Harbor Freight as well) 

With that out of the way, let's get to it!

First, you're going to need to remove whatever system of closure your shoes previously employed. (Straps, ratchets, boa's, etc) For me, that meant removing the boa closure system. Time to bring out your trusty seam ripper and start plucking away. Find and cut the seams on the INSIDE of the shoe first, the less you have to mess with the outside of the shoe, the better it's going to end up looking.

Just dig under the seam and push

This is going to make up the lion's share of the work you do. Take your time, and try not to rip out any seams that aren't directly holding what you're trying to get rid of. For me, the issue was that the top boa's were also glued onto the outer of the shoe. Now fortunately the glue was old and cracking so a butter knife under the lip did most of the work, but I heated it with my heat gun just to make it slightly easier to remove.

gap where the glue began letting go
With a little bit of elbow grease (and cutting a couple of the seams on top of the shoe as well) the dial finally gave up and pulled free.

One down

The key here is not to get flustered if it seems like you're not making headway. Take a step back and don't do anything hasty, that's how you ruin stuff. In my case the top boa also had a couple of "hidden" stitches I couldn't see (you can see them in the above picture in the top right corner) that were holding the boa in place. Instead of just yanking on it harder I ran my xacto underneath the boa and cut them by feel. After that it pulled off easily.

after getting the first boa removed.

For the most part the rest of the ratchets/guides were a snap to get off. The only other tricky part was at the bottom of the tongue, Specialized had decided to stitch the upper to the tongue itself (I suppose to keep the tongue from freely moving) which again required a steady hand and the trusty xacto knife.

removing the tongue from the upper.

After that it was mainly a little attention to detail that was necessary. Removing the loose / frayed stitches and just cleaning up the shoe left us with this.

all gone

Since my shoes were all white (or at least they started their life white) but really looking aged, I went ahead and took this time to freshen them up a little bit. I started with some Clorox wipes to remove the dirt and smudges, then moved on to a Kiwi "white restorer" I picked up at the grocery store.

White on White

While you certainly don't need to do the above step, it is a good time to at least clean your shoes a little bit before we move on. And the Kiwi works ok... just basically painting new white on. It does look "better" but certainly not like new.

Alright, so the kicks have been cleaned and freshened up as much as I'm willing to do... now it's time to start poking holes in them. 

Figure out how many eyelets you want, and where you want them. I marked mine with a tiny permanent marker. It's a good idea to put the eyelets back from the edge a little bit at least, since it'll be more sturdy. The flip side to that is that if you move too far from the edge some of you hole pokin' tools might not reach. 

Here's where the debate heats up as it were... which tools do you use. Purists, or at least those that work with leather a good amount will tell you that the punches are the only way to go. You get a clean hole that cuts straight through. The downside is that you need a hammer, a solid block of wood and a little more patience. 

tap tap tap it in

The other option is the rotating tool like I bought from Harbor Freight. Instead of cutting through you're really just pushing the head through and ripping the material. That sounds a lot worse than it actually is... and I decided after using both on this project that either would have been perfectly fine. The caveat to that is when using the handheld tool it's important to "twist" it while holding pressure on it to make sure you get a clean break/hole. Otherwise, you might end up with a bit of a mess.

I used to punches for most of the holes, but the handheld tool for the bottom holes because it was tough to get my wood block in position. Whichever way you choose, just take your time and do it right and you should have no problems. After all that we end up with something like this.


Now that we've got our holes (mine are offset a bit due to the way the 74's ended up after all the hardware was removed) I suppose you could technically stop here and lace them up. But, we'd like for it to look nice'ish and the eyelets should add a little bit of protection against ripping, and it's cheap enough to pick up that you really should just go the distance. 

It's worth noting there are other, "better" ways to add eyelets, but you're starting to get into harder to find / more specialty tools so we're not using them.

So poke some (right size!) eyelets into the holes you've created and grab your eyelet tool. It's pretty self explanatory as to how it works, just go down the line and get a good firm press on each one.

Lighting because...ambiance

Pressing in the eyelets

Once you've got the eyelets installed it's time to lace things up. When it comes to laces the sky (and maybe your imagination) is the limit. Me, I'm kind of old school, and just went with black. (Although some black and gold combination or maybe leather laces might be cool) 

The final product

Not bad
Snazzy new old kicks...

Not too bad of a job if I do say so myself. We'll see how the long term durability holds up, but this was a fun little project that ended up waaay better than I expected it would. I suspect if you were a little handier with the tools, and maybe a little more imaginative than I am, that you could have come up with something even better. Still, I should be able to squeeze out a few more miles in these guys now!

Thanks so much for reading, I really appreciate it!

- Christopher Morelock 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Traveling pt.2 - Germany

Well, we've arrived into 2018. Hopefully, at least on a personal level, we're all better for it.

I've been toiling away, scheming for some big things this year. Nothing in stone yet, but a lot to be excited for. But that's for another time and another post... first I'd like to finish my recap of my trip. This time I'll do more pictures and less writing, as that's the pics are the best part anyways. (and because I took way more pictures in Germany than I did in Iceland... the benefit of not being in a constant frozen haze)

We began in Regensburg (actually we flew into Munich, but with no time to take in any sights.)
look, not EVERY car is a VW or Mercedes... but I think this picture represents the market share nicely
When it comes to poor choices I made, this is the worst. Ewww...why Pepsi
A bike shop that was sadly closed (it was Sunday) with a couple of World Champion Jerseys in the window... interesting!
A BMW, Volkswagen, Audi, Mercedes, Vespa and an Opel in one picture... if that's not Euro I dunno what is.

The oldest coffee shop in Germany (or so I was told) I sadly didn't have time to sample it.

The boat doesn't sit still long though, and we were quickly getting carted off to the next destination, Nuremberg. I didn't get many pictures here, because we spent the majority of the time inside museums. A very interesting city I wish we had gotten a chance to explore properly.

The Christmas markets were being hastily constructed during our visit. 
A little down time requires sampling as much fine kafe as possible.

It's hard to believe how hastily the Nazi's constructed things. Much of it, despite an outward show of beauty and strength, is falling apart. Perhaps irony isn't lost on the universe.

Our next stop was Bamberg. This was my favorite town that we got to visit. Truly a beautiful place with a ton of history.

I thought this was such a neat view of how the city was built onto itself.

Again, really cool

I wish I knew what exactly this was, but I was trying to get a picture without being murdered by vehicle and didn't pay quite close enough attention to our guide.

My favorite picture. Man, this is almost like a painting.

No blog post complete without a food picture. At the home of the Rauchbier (smoked beer) everything was awesome, although the side of potatoes seemed slightly out of place. (good thing I love some potatoes)

Next up it was Wurzburg, where we toured the Residenz. It reminded me, honestly, of a mix between Biltmore and Graceland. (Of course this has been here much, much longer than either of those) Unfortunately no pictures allowed inside, so I snagged one off of google of the amazing ceiling painting.

I'd love to see it in the summer, when everything is blooming.

Quite the gardens

The carriage loading and unloading zone (which extends to inside the residenz) makes a fine parking lot as well.

Thanks google! It's like you were there!

I was a little bit of an artist (I don't want to offend the real artists) in a past life, so I really loved the work that had been put into the Residenz.

I'm kind of muddled, I think our next destination was Heidelberg... the "college town" as it were.
Unfortunately, our touring of the castle was shortened due to our travel plans changing last minute (as in, the river flooded and we got kicked off our boat) so there was not much time to explore the town and all it had to offer. It was my wife's favorite town.

Outside the Heidelberg castle at dusk 
seriously, that's a big barrel of booze

The city from atop the castle

and another view of the river

The final stop on our journey was Frankfurt, which, at the end of the day was a nice way to end our trip. We had seen lots of Bavaria, which is a more historic part of Germany, and the last day we could spend in what's essentially "modern" Germany. Nonetheless, the "Christmas Markets" that had eluded us the rest of our trip were finally open, and so we spent a good amount of the day shuffling through them looking for presents to bring home. (I was told just buying a box or two of kindereggs was not sufficient)

Christmas market, open!
Another view of the Christmas Market, tons of business springs up seemingly out of nowhere.

On a random side street sunglasses shop I found this in the window. I wonder if the owner knew the significance of Indurains Pinarello hour bike, or if he just thought it looked cool.

Inside a mall we found this impressive Lego sculpture.

The Opera house at night!

View from our hotel room of the city.

Frankfurt is a big city, and for the most part, one big city is like all big cities that I've been to. Nonetheless, it had a certain charm about it (at least in the area's we stayed) that was a little friendlier than the US.

Our cruise, despite running into trouble due to flooding, was a great way to see a lot of countryside in a trip. Being able to cover distance from one town to the next while you sleep/eat/etc is awesome, and I became keenly aware of us the last two days when it was taken away. The flip side of the coin is that you are always keenly aware of the time when traveling like this... so to sit around and just enjoy something you found interesting is sometimes impossible.  I'm not sure what, if any compromise exists, but overall I thought the experience on the ship (a Vantage if that's of any interest) was a mostly positive one.  When we return to Bavaria however, I think it will be in a more traditional way.

Thanks for checking out my blog, whether you found it by accident or are a follower (I know you exist) We're going back to normal schedule for the next post, don't worry. I've got some reviews and how to's that just need editing. I've also got that "big news" that I'll have to let out of the bag pretty soon, so that's exciting. Until then, I really appreciate your time!

-Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Traveling Pt. 1 - Iceland

Guten Tag.

That's about all the German you will pry out of me (although I did also figure out "Englisch Speisekarte bitte!" pretty quickly) currently, although I have taken up trying to learn a little bit of the language as I realized how inadequate I am when I can barely speak fluent english and everyone in Iceland and Germany spoke at least two languages. I do now understand how some people can spend their entire life planning to travel the world, there is so much out there.

I admit I had considered not writing this and posting it, as not so long ago I decided the new format of the blog would be less about "me" and more about reviews and how to's.  That said, it's still my blog and I'm allowed to change my mind back and forth as I see fit, and beyond that I've been gone so long I had some pictures and stories to share from the trip, and I also didn't have a review or how-to put together that would be out before Christmas, so I figured what the hell.


It might be a surprise, but not only had I never left the country before this trip, but I had also never been on an airplane or a "large" boat before... so we were going to be checking quite a few things off the list in very short order.

My wife's aunt and uncle had generously paid for the majority of our trip as our belated wedding present, and we were fortunate that both of them are experienced travelers (my wife also has some expeditions under her belt, so really only I was out of my element.) and could give me some easy guidance on some pitfalls to try to avoid.

We were going to be gone a total of two weeks, considering we took one extra day off work to drive up to Maryland and stay a night with her Aunt/Uncle. We were scheduled to leave at 7:30 from Dulles airport. Our package included one (50lb) checked back and a carry on bag each. After doing some research online I quickly realized that we would have trouble bringing back any souvenirs from Germany if we both packed a loaded check bag, so I figured I'd see if I could go as spartan as possible and pack everything essential to me in my carry on.

I chose the Timbuk2 Wander pack as my carry on bag. It basically pushes the boundary of the carry on pack, but it does fit, and although this isn't a full on review of the pack, let me just say it was easily one of the best bits of money I've ever spent. Plenty of extra pockets and dividers to keep things tidy, and it doubled as both duffle and backpack being pretty good at both.

Damn good bag

Now the hard part, fitting that bag with enough stuff to survive two weeks in varying temperatures from holy sh*t cold to comfortable. In this I did a pretty good job in retrospect, a great job considering it was my first time... but not a perfect job.  My list ended up like this.
- 1 Pair weatherproof Sperry boots (great choice, worn not packed)
- 1 North Face hoodie (for lounging/layering, worn not packed)
- 1 Travelers Jacket (lightweight, tons of pockets, worn not packed)
- 1 18oz Denim Jeans (worn not packed)
- 1 Baseball cap (to make sure I looked American, worn not packed)
- 2 "Puffer" jackets (the kind you can roll up and save space, packed)
- 1 Pair of thermal base layers (ls shirt and pants, packed)
- 5 Pair boxer briefs (Lightweight fast dry so I could wash them in bathroom sink if necessary - which it was, 1 on, 4 packed)
 - 5 Pair socks (2 wool, 2 lightweight, 1 sport, again some that could be quick washed, 1 on 4 packed)
- 1 Pair winter lined Levi's jeans (packed)
- 1 Pair North Face wind proof pants (packed)
- 1 Pair Converse high tops (packed, pointless never worn)
- 5 T-shirts (1 on, 4 packed)
- 2 Button up lightweight shirts for any fancy situation (packed, should have been 1)
- 1 Long sleeve sweater (packed)
- 1 Toboggan (packed)
- 1 Scarf (packed)
- 1 Pair of wind proof (cycling) gloves (packed)

On top of that I also had my toiletry bag (primarily my contact lenses and glasses) and a portable charger brick (along with a power outlet converter) all fit neatly into my Timbuk2 bag.

In my checked bag I had my Ski jacket (too big for the check bag, didn't want to wear) and water bottle (should have emptied and hooked to my carry on bag) and just because we had a little extra space, I also packed my hand burr grinder and Aeropress so I could get a cup of coffee in most any situation (priorities) while still leaving us with a fair amount of extra space to fill up with anything we bought.

On Monday morning we drove up to Maryland, around an 8 hour drive from the house. We arrived in the early afternoon and spent the rest of the day with my wife's family. The next day we killed time in Maryland (and bought my wife a different check bag, as she felt her's wasn't big enough) and really just waited for time to head to Dulles.

Worried about all the checks/getting there on time/delays/horror stories, we arrived around 5:30, and reasonably quickly made our way through all of the hoops that you have to jump through to clear TSA. It actually went by pretty smoothly, other than the fact that I foolishly left my passport in my pocket as I stepped through the scanner. That got me a good feeling up (and without even a drink) but I understand it was my blunder and take it all in stride. First new experience under my belt!

As we've got some time to kill, I explore some of the duty free stores and keep looking out the windows at the different jets. Damn, there are some massive planes out there. Of course, when a dinky little 757 with "Icelandair" written on it pulls up in our gate, my disappointment is palpable. First flight on plane that has been in service longer than I've been alive, check.

My first takeoff was kind of underwhelming really. I kind of expected slightly more "oh shiiiiiit" but I guess they design them to kind of take that element out of it. Unfortunately it was pitch dark, so other than some of the lights of DC there really wasn't much to see. Our plane had onboard entertainment in each headrest, and my wife and I managed to make our way through "Wonder Woman" (yawn) and a couple of educational Iceland videos before Reykjavik was in sight. One smooth landing and a seemingly timeless wait to step off the plane and we were finally in Iceland.

Customs met us and again I had only the slightest problem (take your hat off!) before we were given our stamp. We head for the front door of the airport, where we'll take a bus to the rental car service. Only a few more feet until I take my true first step in a new country! We push open the doors and...

... Fuuuuuuuuuuuu!!!!!
It's cold. Not just cold, but holy crap cold. My hoodie and light jacket are absolutely laughably inefficient at protecting me from the wind. That walk down the sidewalk toward the bus pick up, and the wait for said bus, might be the coldest I've ever been in my entire life. It's about this time, going on 20 hours with no sleep and no food since a bag of chips at Dulles, that I think, perhaps this traveling stuff isn't for me.

The bus mercifully arrives and shuttles us to the rental car street. After a brief discussion with the man behind the desk  (and assuring him we have no plans of going out into the wilderness) we are given the keys to a "nice" SsangYong XLV (which a quick google search will reveal is the 4th largest auto company in South Korea) which is basically the same as any small SUV you'd rent, with the slight exception that it's 4x4 and diesel, which are both sort of requirements in Iceland. Unexciting in the grand scheme of vehicles you could be driving in Iceland (Do a quick google search for Iceland Super Jeeps) but since we were planning to stick to the roads, it'd do.

There are no rap songs about SsangYongs that I know of, although it'd be fun to try to rhyme.

The drive to our rental was fairly unexciting, it's dark (it's dark a lot in Iceland during the winter) and it was windy, with random bouts of fairly heavy snow, so it was tough to get too good of a grasp on the landscape... other than the ice. Did I mention it was cold?

We arrive in the small town (I won't even try to butcher it's name) where we had rented a condo, in an area brimming with... greenhouses... weird. All of that thermal heat is actually pretty good for growing plants it turns out, so long as you protect it from the biting cold. Our place is pretty nice really, the kind of place you wouldn't mind calling home, if you planned to never leave your home 6 months every year. The floors were heated (again, thanks nature!) which was a welcome relief, with nice, inviting beds. I love sleep all the time, but I REALLY wanted nothing more than to curl up in like 6 layers of clothing and sleep 12 hours, hoping that when I awoke the biting cold would be gone.  Unfortunately, the rest of my crew outvoted me, suggesting that it would be best to suck up the jet lag right now and suffer through than it would be to sleep the day away now and try to adjust later. Sigh.

To thy own self be true... I'm a bit grumpy the next day if I don't get my 8 hours. Take a full 24 hours away from me, and I'm a truly miserable human being to be around. Then add to that I'm hungry and probably the coldest I've ever been for the longest stretch and you'll see why my wife especially is a true saint for not leaving me stranded somewhere in Iceland...

We drive back to Reykjavik to explore the town, and even in my grumpy mood I had to admit, it was a very cool place. The Chuck Norris bar and the Big Lebowski themed bar are interesting sights if you're into goofy pop culture references (I am) and the rest of the town does a good job of being a modern "big" city while still not letting you forget where you are.

We look for a place to eat, and while I was outvoted on whether to get some sleep or not I was adamant that I would not suffer the indignity of my first meal in Iceland being from the equivalent of an Ol' Charleys. Off on one side road I see a three story house converted into a restaurant... LOKI's. Alright, it's got the draw, and it's not flashy enough to make me think it's just a gimmick, so with my half muddled logic of "It's got to be good, look at it!" we cautiously embark on our first culinary adventure.

Let me tell you, this place kicked some serious @ss! While the "meat soup" I ordered sounded pretty adventurous, I'd be hard pressed to pick it out of a blind taste test with Campbell's Vegetable Beef. At the time, that was exactly what the doctor ordered though... the first bit of warmth I'd felt in half a day. The rest of the food was outstanding (lamb and rye is what I got, while my wife tried the Skyre... a form of yogurt native to Iceland.) and I really wish I had had the foresight to have tried some of the more "adventurous" meals while we were at a place like this, but at the time I was in a mental state where I didn't want to risk getting something I hated.

The ride back to our rental I pitched between consciousness and delirium... Eventually settling into a happy medium. I don't honestly remember much else... a stop at a woefully stocked grocery store with an odd piggy bank mascot, debating which bad coffee grinds to buy (no beans) and finally getting a shower. At this point it was evening again... While my wife quickly slipped away to sleep I decided to catch up on anything I had missed back home and kill another hour or so so that when I finally hit the pillow it would be back on my "normal" sleep schedule. Let me tell you... that is the deepest I think I've ever slept. 10 hours blackout.

The next day, after a couple of cups of coffee, I was back to my old self. Still not loving cold weather, but taking it in spite to appreciate everything else around us. I daresay I crossed the line back to "crotchety" away from "impossible to be around." Our second day was filled with lots of exploring, mostly in the car, but really trying to see as much landscape in Iceland as we could. We checked out frozen waterfalls, black beaches and a large crater! On our way to the national park we also found our way into a white out, which is one of the more harrowing things I've experienced. Snow so hard that you literally can't see the lines on the road or the taillights in front of you any longer is a bit of a shock!

Those final two days in Iceland were pretty awesome. I saw tons of things I really never thought I'd see... and came to really like a place I HATED the first little while I was there (look, I don't like the cold.) We're already planning a return trip (during the summer) to explore more of the island and see what else it has to offer!

Sitting in the airport, ready to head off to Germany for the next part of our adventure, I couldn't help but feel like I was leaving with unfinished business. I came to Iceland with one goal... to try Hakarl, (link to the wiki page, but for the abridged, dried rotten shark) which is an Icelandic tradition. There had been only one opportunity (at Loki's on that first day) which I squandered, and now it seemed I'd never get the chance. As fate would have it, as we were looking in some of the Duty Free stores at the airport, there was a little shop with a cooler in the back. More than anything I just wanted a bottle of water, but I was surprised to find a pack of Hakarl sitting lonely on the shelf! Price be damned, I scooped it up, and despite some incredulous looks from the cashier and a long sigh and eyeroll from my wife, I finally got my Hakarl.

Sounds pretty good. It's just shark, right?

Opening the package quickly cleared out the area next to us, so I was free to try it (and video it, which you can see on my FB page) in peace. I channeled my inner Ultimate Warrior and psyched myself up. Feeling the Shark, it really just seemed like any piece of white fish sashimi. Smelling it was another, less pleasant story. Faintly fishy, but overwhelmingly encompassed with a lingering, pungent hint of ammonia. (That is the nice way of saying it smelled like a neglected urinal) Not to be deterred, even in the face of a four hour flight that I was risking possibly enjoying from the wash closet... down the hatch it went.

Chewy, and certainly not "good" by any stretch of the imagination, but not anywhere near the horror stories I had read on the internet. The ammonia smell lingers in your nostrils, although I didn't really catch any "taste" of it, for the most part... it really was just "meh." The closest thing I can think of to describe it to is when you go to that sketchy sushi joint that has all you can eat sushi, and you get that piece of fish that has probably been sitting out for a little too long... that's what this tastes like. With the smell of pee. So, after describing it and re-reading it, it's not very good.

And with that... we were boarding for Germany...

I think this is a pretty good place to stop for now so that this post doesn't take hours to read. I'll finish up with some pictures I snapped from Iceland! You can also check out my instagram or twitter to see even more pictures. My Facebook also has quite a few video's checking in on some famous sights if you want to head over there.

Look, I've played Skyrim, nothing good can come of going in here... except sweet loot!
Inside, no loot unfortunately, but it was pretty cool nonetheless.

A picture taken from the window of our rental. Isn't it...cold looking...

Selfie (hi wife!) in front of the crater. I liked how there were 0 safety precautions taken here... one false step (on ice) and you just plummeted to your doom. Cool.
The crater, sans selfie. You can make out tiny specks in the center... those are people!

I kind of look like a drunken dwarf in this picture in front of the frozen waterfall.

Iceland - go for the views, stay for the shark
Another unbelievable view. Now that's an OWS!

Look, I didn't come to Iceland NOT to eat at sketchy food trucks in the middle of nowhere. Good thing too, because these fish and chips (despite being $15/plate!!!) were awesome!

Alright, thanks so much for reading! We'll wrap this up next time and then get back to some how-to's (which I've got in the works, arts and crafts time!)

Everyone have a Happy Holiday and be safe!

-Christopher Morelock