Thursday, October 30, 2014

Mobile Internet Plans

I have been thinking about this for quite awhile. My plan in the RV is to use our cell phone hot-spot capability to provide internet for our chromebooks, my laptop, our table, and any streaming devices (such as a chromecast, or a fireTV stick) when we are at camp spots without wifi. I have been thinking about what type of plan we would need.

Earlier this month, I disconnected our cable modem (using charter) for a few days and ran a hot-spot on our tablet to try to determine our "normal" data usage when we don't have wi-fi at home. It appeared that we use about 1GB per day.

Since AT&T announced a special pricing this month for half-priced large data plans, I thought I would perhaps take advantage of that special offer in preparation for the full-time RV life. The catch is, you need to lock that in this month. So, I upgraded our plan to a 40GB (a bit over 1GB/day) plan from a 10GB plan at an additional cost of about $40/month from our current plan. I am also cancelling our charter cable internet (which costs $55/month). So, I will be saving $15/month during these winter months prior to the start of our RV adventure - and we are set up with a data plan which I think will be sufficient for a mobile lifestyle. We will have to be a lot more careful with our data usage, since overages are very expensive. I don't think we will be doing much video streaming while using our cell phone data connection, since that will run through a data plan very quickly.

It will be interesting to see how this works out.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Meet "The Wildebeest"

I haven't done a great job getting this blog started, but I wanted to add this to the blog (better late than never). After we bought our RV last summer, we did a video introduction of the RV which is available on youtube. I am embedding it here in case you missed it:

We call our RV "The Wildebeest." We named it after this video was created.

Currently, the wildebeest is in hibernation for the winter. It won't be coming out until next spring.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Meet Our Bikes for the RV - the Origami Cricket

One of the big adjustments we've had to make when deciding how to downsize into an RV was what to do about our bikes. We like to bicycle - a lot. Hence, we have accumulated quite a few bikes and bike related items. Personally, I had three bikes (a tadpole trike that I used when I had a broken collarbone, and still rode occasionally for fun, a carbon frame road bike used for group rides and bike tours like "The Ride Across Minnesota", and a 29r used for around the town riding, commuting, and occasional trail riding). My ever patient spouse (EPS) had two bikes (a high end carbon road bike with electronic shifting used for those same rides that I used my carbon bike on, and a hybrid bike used for commuting and around town rides).
The High Performance Carbon Bikes at TRAM

The Commuters at Yellowstone

The Trike
I decided that was too many bikes for the RV. I was also thinking that I didn't want to leave our bikes outside all the time exposed to the elements. Hence, I started looking at folding bikes with the idea that we could easily store them in the back of the CRV or in the basement of the RV when they weren't being used.

There are a lot of folding bikes out there, but they are not easily found locally and so aren't easy to try to see if you like them. I did quite a bit of research online, and came across the Origami - which would seem to fit our needs precisely and also was not exceedingly expensive so if they ended up not working out I would not be out a lot of money. In additional, they offered a two week trial period during which you could send the bike back if it did not work out (you would be out the shipping cost). They seemed to be nice entry level bikes in the folding genre. Here is their website: http://www.origamibicycles.com/

One of the key criteria I was looking for was a folder that had a folded height which was short enough to fit into the RV basement (24" or less). The cricket met that criteria. The crane is slightly taller when folded, and I didn't think that it would fit, so I passed that one by.

After I got the bike, I immediately started riding it exclusively in order to give it a good test to see if I wanted to order another for my EPS (Ever Patient Spouse). After a week or two on the bike, I declared it a success and ordered another such that we were both on folders and getting rid of our other bikes left and right. The EPS had the highest emotional attachment to her carbon road bike and it is also the hardest to sell with specific sizing and pricing that limits the potential market quite considerably. In fact, she still is in possession of the bike, but thinks that there is an agreement with somebody to purchase it. When she first started riding the cricket, she was unimpressed. True, it is not a carbon road bike and doesn't perform like one - but I told her that we were going to be transitioning to a different type of riding where not having a carbon road bike would not be missed much. The cricket's shifting is not as precise as her carbon bike ultegra electronic shifting, nor are the brakes as smooth. However, it is a quite comfortable bike to ride (especially with the rear suspension and front shocks). At 3 to 4 miles an hour slower than her road bike, it is not a speed demon. But, it will get you where you want to go eventually. She initially had quite a few complaints at first on how the bike handled and shifted and braked, but once she got past that she had to admit that she is really happy with the cricket and the type of riding we'll be able to do on it. And, at 1/10th the price of her road bike, it was easy to justify putting up with not having top-of-the-line performance.
The Origami Cricket Bikes in Minneapolis
Some of the features I really liked about this bike for the price level are:
  • Fenders (they took some fiddling to get fitted correctly, but really come in handy when it is wet out)
  • Front and Rear Shocks (really take the edge off bumps, especially with the 20" wheels)
  • Disc Brakes (not a huge deal, but can be a nice feature for some conditions)
  • Aluminum Frame (keeps the weight down, adds stiffness, and will not easily corrode - an important consideration for RV conditions)
  • Rear Rack (we use our bikes around town, and a rear rack is useful for carrying stuff from the store or some extra clothing in case it gets cold or wet)
At right around $400 delivered to my door with a bag and an aluminum water bottle, it's an exceptional value in the folding bike category.


Fenders are a great feature for wet conditions, and we've been able to test these out a bit in actual wet riding conditions. They work really well to keep road grime off your clothing and body while riding when it's wet. However, the bike will still get pretty dirty and will require a good cleaning after riding in wet conditions. They took some fiddling to get attached without rubbing. I found that moving the fender stays to the inside of the attachment points on the frame from the outside where possible gave a little extra room for adjustment and made it a bit easier to keep them from rubbing on the tires. Here's a picture of the changed position for the front fender.
Fender Stays Attached To Inside of Fork


The brakes took quite a bit of fiddling with to get good braking action without rubbing. After awhile, I got the adjustment made, and once adjusted they seem to work well. The EPS's bike seems to have some instability on the front while braking. I think this is because the shock in the fork is kind of loose so it tends to jerk back and forth during braking. The bike I typically ride does not seem to have this problem. It's hard to tell what brand of brakes these are, and what pads I will need to purchase when the time comes. We'll have to cross that bridge when we come to it.

Rear Derailleur

This seems to be a low end 7 speed derailleur. Note: there is no front derailleur, this is a 7 speed bike. The derailleur on my bike seems to require adjustment quite frequently. I'm not sure why that is. The EPS's bike does not seem quite as finicky. I'm hoping this will resolve over time after the cables are fully stretched and seated in. The speed range on the cassette seems to be pretty good - though occasionally I do run out of gears on the top end. At my normal cadence, the top gear runs in the 15-16mph range. I can spin it up to 20, but am not able to put a lot of power into the drive-train at those cadences. First gear seems to be a low enough gear such that I don't struggle too much getting up the hills around where I live. I recommend taking the dork disk off, as it seems to rub significantly between the cassette and the spokes while coasting. To do this, you will need a freewheel removal tool.
Dork Disk Went Bye-bye

Kick Stand

These bikes came with an actual kick stand already attached. They don't seem to be really great, and are very unstable if I have any type of load on the rack. I will probably replace these at some point. It's nice to have a kick stand on the folder, since it doesn't seem to want to fit or stand very well in some of the bike racks due to the small wheels.
The Barely Adequate Kick-Stand

Does It Haul?

Oh yes, I have a bracket on the rear skewer mounted for attaching my Burley Nomad. With this setup, I can haul over 100 pounds of groceries in a trip.
80 Pounds of Water Softener Salt and More
I am leaning the bike against the car here, because the kick-stand will not support the bike with that much weight on the back.

I have also been able to adjust our ortlieb back-roller plus panniers so that they can be attached to the rear rack in a far enough back position that there is no heel strike while pedaling.
Ortlieb Pannier Attached
Both the nomad and the panniers are making the cut to be used in the RV. I ended up selling a BOB trailer, and some other panniers that will not work with our new bikes. The nomad can be disassembled to fit easily into the basement of our RV, and can be brought out for shopping runs, and also perhaps used for some bike camping trips if the mood should strike us to do that.


Yes, in some of the pictures you can see some paint chipping and scratches due to the bike rubbing against itself or other things while being transported. I am not too worried about them, since the bike is aluminum. They should not pose a problem with allowing rust to form. At some point, I may try to find some appropriately colored touch-up paint to fix them up. With the amount of time these bikes will be spend folded and being moved in vibrating and rocking vehicles, I expect this will be a common occurrence.


The EPS's back wheel seems to be out of round significantly such that if you get the bike above 20mph the back end seems to hop around a bit. When I checked into it, I found that quite a few spokes on the wheel were quite loose. I tightened those up, which seemed to help but did not completely cure the problem. I'm not a wheel-builder, so I'm not sure what else to do about this. For now, we are living with it (you usually don't get the bike going fast enough for this to be noticeable unless you are going down a pretty good hill). I have done some research on what it would take to get a new wheel. It's not pretty - I haven't been able to find a lot of availability on 20" disc brake compatible wheels. You also have to make sure that the wheel spacing is correct, and the correct type of hub is on the wheel for the type of cassette that will be used (if replacing the rear). I'm not sure what will happen if I need to replace these wheels - hopefully a good bike shop will be able to find suitable replacements when/if the time comes.

The Bag and Water Bottle Add-On

When I ordered the crickets, I had the option of paying an extra $20 to get a bag and aluminum water bottle included with the bike. I decided to go ahead and do that. I don't think we will normally be using the bag, but it could come in handy on occasion. I have put the bike into the bag once. It's a tight fit, and hence not a very easy fit. It's doable, not not something you will want to do every time you put the bike away. I can see using it if we are going to store the bikes for a significant period of time in the RV, or if we want to bring the bikes into a hotel room or on the train. The water bottle is a nice and lightweight aluminum bottle with a fairly generic sporting themed logo on it. It's OK, but rattles a bit in the bottle cage on the bike. We will probably end up using it more for hiking trips rather than on the bike. I replaced the aluminum water bottle cage on the bike with some nice plastic side entry water bottle cages that I took off of the EPS's old carbon bike. With the side entry, we'll be able to use some larger water bottles but still be able to easily get them in and out of the cage while riding.
The Bag And Bottle In Front Of The Folded Bike

Problems Encountered

While I am generally enthusiastic about these bikes, I do want to note that they have not been completely problem free. When you first get them, there is quite a bit of fiddling that needs to be done to them to get them in good riding condition.
  • Adjust brakes
  • Adjust fenders
  • Make sure all bolts are tights (especially the crank arm bolts)
  • Adjust derailleur
  • Adjust brake lever and shift lever positions for comfort
  • Remove dork disk
I have had 3 parts fail on my bike since purchase - the left crank arm came loose and was damaged beyond repair, and the right folding pedal has failed twice. In all 3 of these cases, the origami bike company responded immediately with replacements under warranty. In the case of the pedals, a replacement was mailed to me fairly quickly. In the case of the crank arm, I was instructed to order a replacement and was reimbursed for the cost. The EPS had a loose bolt on the rear shock which fell out and was lost. This was also quickly replaced under warranty.

The EPS is also currently living with a rear wheel which is out of round, a front shock that seems to be have a bit of excessive play which affects the braking, and it also appears that her seat is not completely level from side to side (I think the rails are bent or something). None of these problems seem to bother her enough to worry about at this point.


For the price that was paid for these bikes and the features that come with it, I did not expect to get top of the line components on the bike. But, I think I got a very good bang for the buck with these bikes, and if you are just starting with your first folder you can't go much wrong at this price point for the features that are included. You do have to be prepared to work on the bike a bit yourself, or be ready to take it into a bike shop to get work done on it. I definitely recommend these bikes, especially if you are comfortable doing some bike work yourself.

One interesting fact is that my EPS is a lot more paranoid about making sure her folder is locked up when we stop somewhere versus her 10x more expensive road bike. She seems to really like it now after getting over her initial impressions. We sure do get a lot of people asking about it when we are out and about on the folders.

It did take a bit of time to get used to the more responsive (ie. twitchy) steering of 20" wheel bikes. However, we seemed to adapt quite quickly to this and it now feels completely normal and perhaps even desirable (potholes are easier to dodge due to the quick steering).

Thus far, our longest day on these bikes had us doing about 65 miles. We have done quite a few rides in the 20-40 mile range. They are very comfortable to ride for those distances, and are quite enjoyable. It remains to be seen if we could complete a 100 mile ride in a day on these bikes. That would have to be done in the middle of the summer in order to get a long enough day to ride that distance. At a 12mph average, we would be looking at about 8-1/2 hours ride time. I think that it's doable and suspect it may comfortable even over that long of a ride. I would wish for a day with light winds, since the riding position on these bikes is fairly upright. If you were going into a strong headwind with these bikes, it could definitely make for a really long day out there.