Saturday, August 10, 2013

My Experience Putting Together the Windsor Kensington 8 Bicycle

Got my bike from Bikes Direct. I made a link out of the bike name - Windsor Kensington 8. Bikes Direct is offering it at 50% off MSRP because it is going to be slightly blemished.

True to their word, it's only a little blemish in the paint here or there.

Is it really 50% off? I couldn't find a comparable bike on the internet. There is actually not much out there about this bike at all. But I was drawn to that sweet Shimano Nexus 8 hub. And the one person who did seem to write about it at length in her blog, Jacqueline WayneGuite, really did a nice job. But that's it. Sure there's a forum posting here or there, but it's not much.

I received the bike. I went on to assemble it. OK, I'm not a bike mechanic. The bike was mostly assembled. But there was still quite a bit of work to do. I really should have documented the whole experience, but all I can offer you is what I have from memory. Now Bike Direct offers very little in the form of instructions. They do offer to sell you a video and some tools, but you actually already get the tools with the bike (at least when I bought mine) and the video seems to be a generic bike mechanics course of sorts; not specific to my bike, so not what I was looking for. So all you have left are those few instructions and some sample photos of the bike. That's lame. I don't know if there's much interest in more detailed instructions, so I won't break it down step by step (and it's too late anyway). But in an effort to reduce suffering in this world, I'll share what I've learned.

  1. Remember this picture (from Bikes Direct), as it is your only real source of information about what goes where on the men's bike (I really wish it were higher resolution) -
  2. The first thing you are told by the instructions is that you should install the front wheel first. You can if you want to, but you will need to remove it pretty much immediately. Why? Because you got a Windsor Kensington 8, which comes with the front rack and a front fender. You can't install those with the wheel in the way, so you should install both of those first. I hope you kept that plastic widget that protected the tip of the fork (called the dropout), otherwise you'll may be scraping the dropout on the floor, which is not a good thing to do. 
    • Might as well setup the stem and handlebars before you do anything. You don't need to tighten them yet, but it might give you more control over the fork to set it up.
    • You will need to remove the front brake to install the fender and the front rack. My advice is to put on the fender first and then the rack. Install them one at a time onto the dropout first and then unscrew the brakes (you'll need a 5.5 allen wrench I think). Run the brake screw through the rack first and then the fender. Reinstall the brake, but don't tighten it until you put the wheel back. It should all look like their photo at Bikes Direct -
    • After you put the wheel back, you can tighten and use your finger to make sure there's some space between the rim and the left brake pad (left if you are facing the bike, that's the side shown in the picture above)
  3. Install the pedals, those are easy.
  4. Install the bike seat. Easy.
  5. Make sure you got the right size bike by mounting it real quick. No riding of course, you still have a lot of work to do. But now you can make your final adjustments to your stem height, handlebar angle, and the alignment with the wheel.
  6. Setting up the front brakes is pretty easy. At the bottom of the left side, where the wire is coming from, close to the pad, is a little black part that actually flips up if you pull on it (I didn't not see this until an hour or two into this). You can then line up the groves on your left hand brake and install the wire. You can loosen the nut on the brake to pull out any slack on the brake line and then tighten it again (you'll need a 3mm and 4mm allen/hex wrenches to work with the brakes). Finally flip it down to make the wire taut and effective. Be sure to adjust the brake pads with a hex wrench so that the pads line up with the rim.
  7. Now you got to put in that back rack. You might actually want to avoid it if you don't really need it, esp. if you got a men's bike. Why? The stinking back brake obstructs the left side support (left if you are facing the bike from the rear). This is not a problem at all on the women's bike. Here's a pic from Bikes Direct - 
    • I don't know if you can tell, but the top rail in the pic is right against the brake there.
    • You have to put together a few pieces to that this setup working. First mount the rack to the rear wheel dropout. 
    • You can put together the pieces for the top connectors and screw them onto the rack (keep them loose), I think they face out in this pic. I
    •  think you should flip that little widget on the brake up so that you get some slack, because putting in the two rails is going to be tight. You can thread the rails through those connectors and then mount them to the frame. That left hand rail may be a challenge. As you can see in the picture, it goes through the inside of the brake, not the outside. Also, those connectors may scrape the paint on those rails a lot. I don't know how to prevent that, and I found out too late that they did that.
    • To keep the rail from obstructing the break, set the rack to where you want it and then squeeze the two rails together on the end away from the frame. Tighten everything, the screws to the connectors, the screws connecting the rack to the frame. Flip down the brake to make it taut. Make sure that it works and that the rail is not keeping it pressed against the rim.
  8. Install the reflectors, these are plastic so they should not scuff up your finish (I hope).
  9. Install the bell, again plastic. Make sure it's in a good place for your thumb, probably by the left handle, like in the pic from Bikes Direct -
  10. OK, really think hard about whether or not you want that cup holder. If you really do, it is going to be a pain. Why? Because if you don't want it to scuff up your handlebars badly, you'll need to use those rubber strips included in the little box that the cup holder came in. If you zoom in on that picture above, you'll see black bits of rubber coming out from under that clamp. The clamp is in two parts that fit like a puzzle. And they never accounted for a protective rubber strip when making that puzzle. You will need massive grip strength to put a strip of rubber in between the metal and the clamps and then get that clamp to close together. I made the mistake of using two smaller pieces instead of a complete strip, figuring that it will close easier. It did, but I think my bar got scraped on the exposed part. Sigh, my loss is your gain. Now you know.
Now you should be done and can ride that sweet sweet bike. Despite the hours of work, figuring this stuff out, and bitching that I have to do this figuring out, I have to say it's a sweet deal to have one of these at the price you get them.

I hope it helps. Cheers.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Tokyo Japan Traveler Tourist Preparation Advice Part 2 - Getting out of Narita Airport


Japan is one of my very favorite destinations. Yet no matter how many times I ago, there's a ton a research I feel to do to get the most out of my trip. These notes are here mainly for me to share with people I know, but you can use them if they make sense for you too.

From Narita to Tokyo (and back)

If you fly to Japan, chances are you will be flying into Narita Airport (NRT), probably Terminal 2. IF someone is not picking you up, you are getting out of there by bus, train, taxi, or rental car. I prefer the train.

Taking the Train out of Narita


Taking the train to Tokyo Station is going to cost you typically ¥2940 (~$30). I'm very impressed that the price has not changed for the 5 years I took my first ride on it (year 2008). This is the N'EX (Narita Express). However, there's a much better deal than the $30 for foreigners. You can get a round trip ticket AND a ¥2,000 Suica card for only ¥5500 from the JR East Travel Service Center at the airport. 

Sweet Suica Deal

A ¥2,000 Suica card, what's that? It's what you will use to take public transportation in and around Tokyo. You really want this, you are getting one for free in addition to getting the discounted round trip ticket. Only foreigners get this courtesy. I'll talk this more a bit later?

The Other Deal

An alternative deal, if you are going to be visiting different cities frequently during your trip, is the Japan Rail Pass. For between ~$300 for one week to ~$600 for 3 weeks, you get unlimited rides on the Japan Rail lines. This can be a sweet deal, considering a one-way trip to somewhere like Kobe (for that yummy steak) can run ~$125 just one way, a trip between a few cities can easily make the price worth it. You can even use the pass to get a ticket out of Narita with the N'EX.

One very important note about the JR Pass is that it is only for JR operated lines. These lines usually run between cities, though Tokyo has one line, the JR Yamanote Line, that runs inside Tokyo. However, when you are in Tokyo, you will very likely be using the Tokyo Metro than you would the JR Yamanote Line. More on that later?

Last Train of the Day

The last express train out of Narita is at 10:42pm. The last possible train ride out of Narita is at 11:06pm. Don't believe me? Check Hyperdia, a great website to see the Japan Rail train schedule. If your flight arrives too late and you don't feel like waiting until 5:45am for the first train, you'll need to take something else out of Narita.

Taking Something Else out of Narita

I've never taking a bus, a taxi, or rented a car. But I can tell you what I do know about them.

Buses are not a bad option. If you are going to Tokyo, you might take Airport Limousine Bus. It should run you ¥3000 (~$30) per adult and ¥1500 (~$15) for children cash. Foreigners can get something called a FIT coupon, which they have to buy before they go to Japan at a vendor in their country (here's the list of vendors). I suppose a FIT coupon carries some benefit, but short of calling a vendor, I have no idea what that is.

Taxis are pricey. We are talking around ¥20,000 (~$200) or more. But like NYC, you can take a fixed fare taxi, which has a fixed price depending on the area to which you are going. It might be your only way out of Narita after the trains and busses are gone for the night.

Related Posts

Tokyo Japan Traveler Tourist Preparation Advice Part 1 - Yen and Dollars


Japan is one of my very favorite destinations. Yet no matter how many times I ago, there's a ton a research I feel to do to get the most out of my trip. These notes are here mainly for me to share with people I know, but you can use them if they make sense for you too.

How I Deal with Yen and Dollars

As a rule of thumb, I think of Japanese yen as equivalent to US pennies. So my starting point in thinking about conversion is ¥100 = $1. Now, obviously you can't ignore exchange rates, but it's a good starting point for me to get an understanding of my dollar cost, which I can then adjust by a percentage.

Where to Convert

It depends. Back in 2008 I found that the best place to exchange money was at the hotel. In my recent trip in 2013, the best exchange rates were actually at the airport.

If you do it at the hotel, you will just need to be a guest and fill out a small form. There's a lot of little form filling in Japan. Call your hotel to make sure they can do it. I know that the Marriott Courtyard Tokyo Ginza and the Hotel Okura both can do it.

Related Posts

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Saw Dressy Bessy at Littlefield in Brooklyn, NY last night. Uploaded some videos of their set to YouTube, with Tammy's blessing.

Got to meet Tammy, Craig, John, and Rob after the show. Really cool, fun to talk to. You can tell they really love the music and their fans. Can't wait for them to come back to NYC. September maybe?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Recipe: Five Spice Ground Pork

Just figured this out for dinner. Came out well. Need to figure out some of the amounts of the seasonings.


  • 1 pound of ground pork
  • 1/2 a clove of garlic minced
  • 6 inch slices of ginger (on the bias)
  • 1 tbsp of sugar
  • 1 tsp of sesame oil
  • five-spice (五香料)
  • soy sauce
  • xiao shing rice wine
  • cooking oil (I like peanut oil)


  • Mix ground pork, garlic, sugar, sesame oil, five spice, soy sauce and rice wine together. Stop as soon as it is mixed well enough.
  • Heat up a wok or deep skillet with the cooking oil and ginger.
  • Once the ginger is frying well and has flavored the oil (you can just smell a little bit cooled down in a spoon), put in the pork.Keep breaking the pork up until it is all browned with no big chunks. Add more rice wine while it's cooking.
  • Taste it. Add more of whatever is missing. Repeat until perfect.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Wine: Toasted Head Chardonnay 5/5

I don't have a sophisticated palate. It just tastes great. A little bit like caramelized sugar. One of my favorites. Maybe I'll update this someday to do it justice.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Geek Love Poem

roses are #FF0000
violets are #0000FF
all my base
are belong to you

Saw this great poem on a T-Shirt @ ThinkGeek. :)