Friday, May 15, 2015

Bike to work, at least you won't kill anyone

Apparently, it's Bike To Work Month right now and today is the Bike To Work Day. I suppose this is aimed at those who could bike to work if they really wanted to, but are too lazy to try. For the rest of us, biking to work is either impractical (too long distance) or a regular thing we do everyday. Like brushing teeth. Therefore, we just call this day Friday.

BikeSnob wrote:
The greatest hope we cyclists have for Bike to Work Week is that it might make a few people into more considerate drivers.
That's true. Although, to be honest, I don't really have high hopes for it. One week or even a month is just not enough time to change behavior of most drivers. Especially that 93% of all collisions with bicycles are driver's fault. At least in Vancouver. Not to mention those (fortunately, rare) situations where drivers deliberately hit people on bikes, such as this hit and run in Australia. No matter how hard you try you won't make such motorists more considerate.

Speaking of Australia (We, cyclists, love to make fun of Australians because they give us many reasons to do so.), their politicians must really have their brains upside-down if they come up with some crazy shit like this - a call for cyclist licenses. Like their mandatory helmet law was not enough, now they want to license all cyclists as well, despite the fact that it didn't work anywhere else in the world. Shit like this must make Bike to Work Week (and cycling in general) as popular in Australia as beetle taxidermy classes.

Bicycle licensing is just plain stupid. It's costly and it won't stop cyclists from breaking the law just like it doesn't stop motorists from doing it. But I'm sure any reasonable argument won't convince Aussie politicians. They "know" their styrofoam hats are the solution for all the dangers on the road. Even though data shows mandatory bicycle helmet laws have little impact on safety among children, who should be the most vulnerable.

So if we can't make certain motorists more considerate towards other, more vulnerable, road users, maybe at least we could penalize those who are clearly at fault for killing people? Wouldn't that be nice to make more drivers aware that the 2-tonne vehicle they drive is like a loaded gun? You don't swing it around because you may kill someone, so stop doing the same with your car. Like this guy, who killed 3 kids in a crosswalk. He faced no criminal charges, despite the fact that he deliberately ran a red light at 40mph. How come driver's licensing didn't make him think twice before he broke the law? Aussie politicians are trying to answer that right now.
Looks like we will need more time to put more people on bikes. Not to make them healthier but to take them away from their cars. So while Bike to Work Day is nice, Bike to Work Month is even nicer. How about Bike to Work Year then?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Ed becomes Eddie

Spring is in full swing! Which means that my pollen allergies that I never had but somehow got them only 3 years ago, have entered their most annoying phase. It also means that I had to disassemble my old Schwinn, clean it, scrape off new rust that showed up this winter and replace the chain. This year I also have to do a major rear hub overhaul since it's performance has been very erratic recently (I often could use only 2 out of 3 gears). For now, Schwinn sits still, and I use Ed as my main transport vehicle.

Ed
It's short for the Xtracycle Edgerunner, that I (very) briefly reviewed last year. I really like that bike. It carries a bunch of groceries and my kids with no problems. It's comfy, it's quick to accelerate and it's actually fairly lightweight - for a cargo bike, of course. However, my main complain about Edgerunner is it's best feature - the tiny rear wheel. That small, 20" wheel definitely helps loading up and hauling lots of cargo. Keeping that weight down to the ground makes Ed more stable and less top-heavy.

At the same time, the small wheels means much more torque so acceleration is quick - something you wouldn't expect from a cargo bike. On a flat bike path, you won't need to switch from the largest chainring at all.

But the tiny wheel creates a problem - it doesn't have enough inertia to keep this large bicycle moving. Yes, it does accelerate quickly but at the same time it takes some significant effort to maintain speed. Obviously, I'm very biased. I compared Ed to my other bikes, all of which use 28" wheels and are not cargo bikes. They are about 3x lighter than Ed and roll on narrower tires. But even my rusty Schwinn with its 3-speed hub rides easier than the Edgerunner. It's not faster (in terms of top speed), it's not quicker to accelerate, but it's easier to roll, thanks to its large wheels.

All I wanted is to keep Ed's quick acceleration, cargo capacity and low center of gravity but make it faster, easier to roll and easier to ride uphill (Like that 10-13% grade in front of my house).

And this is how Ed became Eddie.

There was one good way to do it - go electric. I already had a chance to test Bionx electric assist motor on a bicycle and because my first impressions were very positive I knew that sooner or later it would be a good addition to my "Slowrunner". Back in February I found a good deal for Edgerunner Bionx motor kit (P350DX, 48V) so I couldn't wait any longer. Ed gained an "E" becoming Ed-E, or Eddie.
Eddie - my electric Edgerunner

Why electric?
I mentioned that many times. In short, Arlington is located on two large hills with its main street in the valley between them. I live on top of one of those hills and running any errands means riding my bike downhill to the town center (easy) and back home uphill (much harder, especially with kids and full grocery bags). Edgerunner works very well for these trips and in general, climbing these hills is possible even on a fully loaded bike, thanks to its low gearing, but it's neither pleasant nor fast. In fact, due to the 10-13% grade and weight of the bike, it's a hard work.
That's why e-bike in my area makes perfect sense. The times where I would feel more like driving to my destination happen less often. I can take my bicycle instead. However, to be honest, in my case electric Ed is not a full car replacement. Many errands are still better (easier and faster) to be done by car.

The second reason why I wanted to turn Ed into Eddie I already mentioned above. With such a heavy bike (especially loaded with cargo) e-assistance is very helpful even on a flat bike path. It simply gets you to your destination faster.

You may think that sounds like cheating and in a sense, it probably is. But it doesn't mean you can stop pedaling with Bionx system on board. It doesn't turn your bike into a scooter - more on that in a moment. While I would likely never consider e-kit for a "normal" bicycle, I can see that e-cargo bike does make a lot of sense.

Installation
Bionx kit came in a large box that felt surprisingly lightweight - probably because I was expecting the whole system to weigh much more than the specified 14lbs (close to 7kg). Now, 14lbs isn't lightweight by any means, but if you're concerned about your e-bike weight, you shouldn't simply look for one anyway. A few more pounds added to big Ed really don't make much difference at this point.
Not easy to take a good picture of the hub motor on Eddie. It's hidden behind the panniers and the disc brake.

The removable battery sits in its own bracket. Fortunately, Edgerunner comes with braze-ons for Bionx battery brackets on the down tube.

The kit comes with full installation instructions and all the hardware required to properly mount it on the bike. The process was very straightforward. First move the tire and disc brake rotor to the new wheel, install the new wheel on bike, then install battery bracket and the battery. Next comes throttle and the computer console. While the console was easy to attach to handlebars, throttle installation requires some more time. One has to remove right grip and brake lever to place the throttle between the lever and the shifter. I found this position to be the most comfortable one, even though my handlebars look very crowded right now.
Lots of stuff crammed at the right-hand side: disc brake lever, throttle, shifter and G2 console.

One of the last things to do is to run all the wiring along frame from G2 console to the battery and then the hub motor.

Finally, in order for regenerative braking to work, a tiny magnet has to be secured to the brake lever. It senses position of the lever and once brake is activated console puts the hub motor into a regeneration mode (level 1). This is actually the only complain I have about Bionx kit. The regen mode is very effective (but more on levels 3-4). It can slow down my heavy bike to a crawl. But the way it has to be configured is not very user-friendly and tricky at best. Because my hydraulic disc brake levers don't have any large, flat surfaces to glue magnetic sensors to them, I had to be creative to figure out how to make the whole thing work. The distance between both magnets has to be very small, otherwise hub motor will be running in constant regeneration mode. Because the right hand side of handlebars was already busy with brake lever, shifter, throttle and the Bionx console, I planned on putting the magnetic sensor on the front brake lever (left side). Unfortunately, the way all connectors are designed, Bionx expects you to install the magnet on the right hand brake lever.

After trying different positions for the magnet, I finally got it to work but then it turned out that the sensor likes to slide, randomly putting the system into the regen mode. To be honest, instead of spending more time trying to make it work, I simply removed the magnetic sensor altogether. This means that I don't have automatic regenerative braking on my bike anymore but I can still set the motor to brake manually (using throttle buttons). It's actually simpler this way.

Performance
Let's discuss now what Eddie can do, although it may be better to list what it can't do. It can't ride without recharging for the whole week and it can't ride in assisted mode faster than 20mph (32kph) because that's the legal restriction (the motor will simply cut off above 20mph). Other than that, it's unbelievably awesome!

Going 15mph up the 10% grade? No problem. Accelerating up the hill faster than a car? It can be done. Saving 15 min. on my usual work commute? Yes, riding 10 miles to work takes me now 45 min. instead of the usual full hour.

Adding Bionx system to my cargo bike truly transformed it into a go-anywhere, do-anything vehicle. Eddie can do everything a regular Ed can do (a lot!) but does it easier and faster.

Speaking about speed, e-assistance surely gives my heavy bike a nice boost, yet at the same time I don't feel like I'm cheating. In fact, riding assisted Edgerunner still gives me a good workout so I quickly realized that Bionx system is pretty smart indeed and it won't turn your bike into an electric scooter. That's all thanks to the system's torque sensing capabilities. Sensors built into the rear motor hub detect how much force is applied to pedals and increase the assistance level when I push harder or disable it when I simply coast on my bike. This means that Eddie is still a bicycle and there is only one situation when it turns into a scooter - when I press the red throttle button. Only then hub motor will give me the maximum available power, no matter whether I pedal or not. That is useful when restarting the heavy bike from full stop or going up a short, steep hill.

I'm not going to review the entire Bionx kit in great detail here, as you can find many other reviews on the Internet anyway. But let me just say that in terms of performance the system is impressive. It comes with 4 levels of power assistance where level 1 seems to be barely noticeable (It helps overcome the weight of the system and the bike a bit), level 2 is best suited for 90% of your daily riding, level 3 gives you a good boost up most hills, and level 4 is just damn crazy - it turns my 60+ lbs bike into a high-speed pursuit vehicle. All these levels can be set via the throttle or directly from the G2 console. The console also offers some basic functions such as a speedometer, odometer, clock, etc.


Bionx system obviously has some limitations. I mentioned the maximum assisted speed already. The more important one is the maximum assisted range. According to the manufacturer, with a 48V downtube battery I have, there should be enough juice to cover a 40-50 mile range and I found out that this was indeed the case. With a fully charged battery I can ride for about 45 miles, using level 2 assist mode 90% of the time and levels 3 and 4 the remaining 10%. Then it takes about 4-5 hours to fully recharge the battery.

Because Bionx has 4 regeneration modes built in as well, I wondered whether one can realistically recharge the battery while riding the bike. The short answer is no. That's because regen settings are very effective in slowing you down to a crawl. On level 4 I can slowly roll down a 10% grade without using my brakes at all. That means that only on regeneration level 1 I can try to ride the bike, other levels being simply too resistive. But then at level 1 regeneration effect is too small to have any significant impact on battery charge. The only way of recharging the battery while riding the bike would be rolling down a (very) long, steep hill with regen mode set to level 4. In other words, it's not realistic.

Summary
Eddie is clearly so much better than Ed. It's a lot of fun to ride, even heavy loaded. My kids love it and overall, Eddie does a really good job as my family minivan.

The only problem is that you can't buy electric Edgerunner with Bionx from Xtracycle anymore. They used to sell them last year but for 2015/2016 they came up with another Edgerunner, with a center-mounted Bosch motor instead. Whether it's much better than the wheel-mounted Bionx motor, it's hard to say. For sure, I can easily convert my Edgerunner back to non-electric, should I ever have to go this way. It's something you can't do with 2016 electric Edgerunner (it uses a special Bosch kit-only frame). But you can still add Bionx to your older Ed on your own. It's not difficult at all!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

AAA "takes care" of cyclists too!

I get AAA Horizons magazine once a while (my wife is a member) and as I noticed the last year, AAA now caters to cyclists as well. If you're a AAA member you are eligible to two free service calls for your bicycle a year, should something happen to it when you're on your ride, away from home. I've never needed it myself but it actually could be useful in some rare circumstances.
 
April is almost over and apparently the next month is the Bike Safety Month, which means that we can continue doing what we love doing the most - blaming cyclists. To keep the tradition going, AAA President Mark A. Shaw wrote this editorial:
So what do we have here?
There is another type of road sharing that is now in full swing, and one that is most welcome. Whether it’s for work, family fun, or just enjoying the outdoors, bicycles remain a growing part of the daily transportation landscape.
 
So AAA is recognizing bicycles as transportation vehicles, not just recreational toys. Awesome!
Bicycles are a legitimate form of transportation and bicyclists are legal drivers of vehicles who must conform to laws and regulations established for their use. Many cyclists feel they are not respected by motorists and must fight for their place on the road. Both motorists and cyclists need space to safely operate in traffic – this requires mutual respect.
 
How commendable of Mr. Shaw to mention that again: bicycles are legitimate transportation vehicles. He also noticed that many people on bikes feel they are not respected by motorists "and must fight for their place on road". These are very nice words to say that most cyclists on roads are just obstacles and living targets to many drivers.
 
But then we get this:
Cyclists must remember that they need to obey all traffic controls, signs and signals. They are not allowed to ride against the flow of traffic, must signal all turns, wear bright colors during the day and reflective colors at night, and always wear a helmet. 
 
Oh, for Christ's sake Mark. You were doing so well and now you blew it! There is no law to require wearing helmets (by adults) and no law to require bright-colored clothing. At least not in Massachusetts. So the next time you come up with a (literally) brilliant idea to require cyclists to wear bright-colored clothing, I'm going to ask you to paint your car neon-bright, glowing pink. For your safety, of course!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Racktime ShoulderIt handlebar bag review

Two years ago I bought my Racktime WorkIt Classic pannier as my main office bag. It has worked very well so far - it's roomy enough to hold all my usual office junk and it's easy to attach to and detach from the bike. However, as with nearly everything, after some time I discovered one serious issue with WorkIt Classic - the back of the bag gets very messy very easily in inclement weather (And we get lots of it in wintertime in Boston). Now I realize that ideally WorkIt should be used on a bike that has full side skirts on the rear wheel. This way less sand, mud, snow and rain would get onto the unprotected backside where the quick release system is attached.
This is how my WorkIt Classic looks after two years (and nearly 3 winters). Messy.
 
On top of that, I hardly ever carry my laptop to/from work so such a large pannier isn't really necessary on my daily commute. Not to mention that WorkIt works only with bikes that have rear racks.
 
All of these things made me look for another solution recently. That's why I decided to give Racktime another chance - with their ShoulderIt handlebar bag instead.
ShoulderIt is a handlebar bag, which means it sits high above the ground and far away from the elements. It should translate into less dirt and mud gathering on the underside of the bag. I will know for sure after the first winter season. It also means that ShoulderIt is smaller and 2x lighter than WorkIt - 15" x 11" x 4" (HxWxD) and 656g vs. 13" x 16.5" x 8" and 1300g. Plus, it will work on a bike without the rear rack. However, you would need to install the included quick release bracket on handlebars first.
WorkIt Classic and ShoulderIt side by side.
 
The decreased size and weight comes with a price, of course. ShoulderIt simply doesn't have as many features as its bigger brother. The bag doesn't expand and there is only one compartment, but similarly to WorkIt, it hides several smaller pockets inside (one of them with a zipper). There is also a small front pocket with a zipper - good place for your keys, badge, etc.
Unlike its bigger brother, ShoulderIt's shoulder strap is not detachable, but because it's permanently attached, ShoulderIt comes with a smart solution to securing the strap when the bag is mounted on handlebars. The large rear flap that usually covers quick release bracket on the backside can be simply flipped over and is then held by two hidden magnets. That takes care of keeping the shoulder strap secured during the ride.
As for the remaining features, there are a few reflective stripes sewn into the bag, double zipper on the top and one handlebar bracket by Ortlieb, with a lock. To be honest, I'm not sure why I should be bothered with locking the bag on my bike. The lock locks the bag but not its content, after all.
Overall, I'm very pleased with this purchase so far. The decreased size and weight means much more convenience when carrying this bag around, off the bike. There is a remaining question whether its lack of waterproofness is going to be a show stopper, but I can always try to use the rain cover that came with WorkIt with this bag too. And with the price of about $60, ShoulderIt is 2x cheaper than the bigger WorkIt.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Boston in the news

Lots of news about Boston recently. First, it turns out that our Beantown is one of the most walkable large cities in the U.S. That shouldn't be surprising - many Midwestern U.S. cities were pretty much built for cars, while Boston, being one of the oldest cities in America, still maintains its XVIII-XIX century layout.
Walk score for 10 the most walkable U.S. large cities (Source: WalkScore.com)
 
Next, apparently there is a chance that Boston could become America's first car-free city. To be honest, I have difficulty believing that this could happen by 2034, as the article predicts. But I would welcome kicking out cars from Newbury St in Back Bay and Hanover St in North End as soon as possible. These streets see a heavy foot traffic on daily basis and really there is little reason not to give them back to people.
 
Becoming car-free would obviously have to be a gradual process. Could it start now? In some places in Boston citizens already realized that not catering to cars in the middle of the city makes everyone's like easier. The temporary one way streets that were created this (very) snowy winter may stay here for good. Not only they improved traffic flow, reduced congestion, but also now there seem to be more space left for on-street parking and bike lanes.
 
Parking in Boston is, in general, a major problem. That's because it's... too cheap. At least according to Donald Shoup, who spent his life studying parking problems in large urban areas in America. He states it firmly - we have problems finding parking spaces in Boston because we pay too little: $1.25 per hour.
Cost of parking in Boston compared to other large U.S. cities
 
But the cost of metered on-street spaced is only one part of the problem. The other one is number of residential parking permits. Not only they are free in Boston (compared to $110/year or just $0.30/day in San Francisco) but the city issues too many of them. More than the parking spaces available!
 
To solve this problem Boston could introduce tiered residential parking permits (you pay e.g. $150/year for the first car but $500 for the second one and third one is not even allowed). But according to Shoup the best way to solve the general parking problem in the city is surge pricing. Thanks to intelligent meters price for on-street parking could be adjusted on hourly basis - it would go up when demand is high, motivating drivers to park for a shorter time and go down when demand drops. As a result, parking spaces are more efficiently utilized and drivers spend less time hunting for a free spot. It should also help eliminating some cars from the city - those that are rarely used but camp out in free spaces today.
This all means that if Boston really wants to become a car-free city some day, it should start with its parking spaces.
 
Meanwhile, just outside of Boston in my town of Arlington, police announced that this spring they will roll out "Operation Safe Streets". It's supposed to be an initiative to "focus on speeding, drivers who disregard traffic signals and stop signs, drivers who endanger pedestrians, distracted motorists, and those with an affinity for texting behind the wheel". That's nice, but isn't it what they are supposed to do anyway?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Another 14 Kickstarter inventions for your bicycle

There's been a bunch of new projects surfaced on Kickstarter and while some of them look quite interesting, others just beg to ask "why?" or "what for?". If you enjoyed the first part, read on. Let's look at them one by one (in no particular order):
 

This invention, pronounced "no-key", is well... a keyless bicycle lock. My biggest problem with Noke is that it tries to be smart.
 
It's Bluetooth-connected so you have to use your smartphone or smartwatch to lock/unlock it. It probably works quite well in California. Not sure if inventors tested it while wearing thick mittens at 0F weather, which would be fairly typical here in Boston.
 
On top of that, there is social sharing (obviously, because everyone wants to share their bike with others), loud alarm (because they are sooo effective at deterring car thieves that now we have one on the bike too) and GPS tracking (that could be useful in Amsterdam, but here in U.S. we have little chance of losing our bike among many others).
 
Then, there is a key. Wait, a key for a keyless lock? That's right. In case your smartphone battery has just died you can punch in your access code to unlock Noke, which makes it no different than many combination locks (provided that you would remember the combination that you use maybe once a year). Or, you can also order an optional Bluetooth fob, which turns Noke into a regular keyed lock. Pretty much.
 
My verdict: Interesting, but no thanks. My old u-lock works well even at less than 0F and when I leave my phone at home. It doesn't need charging and it's built from 5 parts instead of 105. It's just an u-lock and doesn't try to be a kitchen sink.
 

Another bike lock. This one is just plain dumb, that is, it's not a Bluetooth-Facebook-connected gizmo but a simple lock, which means I immediately like it much more.
 
When it comes to bike locks you can have them light, flexible and insecure (cable locks), heavy, flexible and secure (chain locks) or heavy, rigid and secure (u-locks) - 2 out of 3, as with nearly everything else in this world. LiteLok tries to be light, flexible and secure (3 out of 3). So is it? Well, not quite.
 
I believe it's secure and it's obviously flexible. But at claimed weight at (just) under 1kg (or 2.2lbs) it's much heavier than my Abus Granit Futura 64 Mini that weighs 692g. Sure, Granit is an u-lock so it's not flexible nor as secure as many heavier locks are. But I wouldn't use it (nor LiteLok) to lock my bike on street overnight anyway.
 
Having said that, there are two things of LiteLok that I like: the option to chain two of them together into a longer lock (even though any chain lock can do it) and the click-to-lock feature (that makes it better than u-locks).
 
My verdict: Not bad. It's a nice lock that surely works well. Not a particularly light one but it's lighter than most high-security u-locks. And it's flexible.
 

Let's stay with bike locks for a bit longer. Kadalock is similar to Noke just much less secure. It uses a thin cable to lock your bike, it needs to talk to your smartphone to lock/unlock, it has an alarm and it's obviously smart (Cloud-connected, social, etc.).
 
My verdict: I'll definitely pass on this one. Can't find any feature of this lock that I would like.
 

The last bike lock here. This one is really weird because it hides under your saddle. At first I didn't know what to think about this concept. It tries to solve the problem of storing the lock on your bicycle, but this usually isn't the most serious problem we have (unlike, e.g. finding a secure object to chain the bike to). The biggest issue with Seatylock is that you have to use the saddle that comes with the lock. That disqualifies this entire idea right from the start.
 
My verdict: Who cares if it works. If I can't bolt my favorite Brooks or An-Atomica saddle to it, it's useless.
 

Done with locks. Now something entirely different. Rapido is a pump head adapter - a tiny device that attempts to make your life a bit easier when inflating tires.
 
In general, it seems to be pretty useful if you happen to use several bikes with different tube valves and a pump that requires different valve adapters. Rapido may help solving the most annoying issue with modern Schrader valves.
 
The only problem I would expect with Rapido is its size. It may be a tight fit on some wheels, such as my rear Edgerunner wheel. It's has a small 20" rim so spokes sit pretty close to each other and the large disc brake rotor may get in the way.
 
My verdict: Looks good. For ~30 bucks it may be worth trying.


Cam Cycles sounds more like a bicycle manufacturer but these things are just wooden fenders. If you need fenders on you bike you may take a look. And go away. Here is why.
 
There are three problems with these fenders. One, they are made out of wood (which is not a problem) but like nearly all wooden or bamboo fenders they lack curved edges. They are just flat boards, which doesn't make them particularly effective as fenders.
 
Two, they are way too short. And I'm not talking about those super short ones shown on Kickstarter because they are likely just a toy. But even the regular Cam fenders would work much better if they were a few inches longer.
 
Three, the mudflaps are joke. They must be there only for decoration. Such short mudflaps on such a short fenders have simply no function.
 
My verdict: Poor design. If you want good fenders buy them from SKS, PlanetBike, VeloOrange, Honjo or PDW.
 

KP Cykler is a custom bicycle manufacturer from Denmark. They make custom brakeless, suicide fixies for Viking hipsters. That should give you idea about what you're dealing with. If you want a truly custom bike, build it yourself.
 
My verdict: Nothing new to see here. Another company like many others. And because I'm not a Viking, I'm not interested.
 

Holy shit, Gordon Ramsay is selling bicycles! Sutro is a custom urban bike "designed for city riding". It must be a Californian city though, where there is no winter, no rain and no night. Some place always sunny where people ride wearing shorts and sandals. Sutro costs over $1200 and comes with no fenders, no rear rack, no chainguard and no lights. But it can be ordered in one of 200 colors (wow!).
 
My verdict: Boring. Seriously for $1200 I would expect a little more. Sorry Gordon.
 

Another bike company but this one may actually offer something usable. The Dreamer is a Dutch-style urban bike with American twist. It comes with full fenders, chain and skirt guards, lights and a rear rack. Can't judge from the pictures how it rides, but it does look promising. Dreamer clearly doesn't have any top shelf components, just a basic steel frame, 7-speed freewheel drive and even it's integrated lights are battery (not generator) powered. But for $700 you can't expect much more.
 
My verdict: It may be a nice, simple urban bike. Has everything you would need to start your work commute in a $700 package.
 

And one more bicycle here. Vello is a "high performance folding bicycle". It folds (well, kind of) and it costs only $900 so it looks like Brompton's cheaper cousin.
 
My problem with Vello is that its folding ability seems limited. The mechanism is simple but it only shortens the entire bike a bit - far cry from what Brompton can do. Just picture that Vello is a middle-aged man who can bend down and barely touch his toes, while Brompton is a Russian 15-years old gymnast that can fit herself into a purse.
 
My verdict: Unless you really need a (barely) folding bike and can't afford a Brompton, go ahead and buy his poorer cousin.


Another bicycle. Lumen is a "retro-reflective city bicycle", which means it's a bike that glows in the dark. Well, sort of. It doesn't actually glow but it's highly reflective from all angles. The trick in Lumen is its frame and fork, coated with a special reflective paint. And while the presented bicycles aren't interesting at all, the paint may actually do the trick to keep you safer at night. But only if you don't mind glowing like a radioactive ghoul.
 
My verdict: Bikes are boring but Lumen paint is worth a try.


This one is actually really interesting. Jyrobike is a gyroscopic front wheel for your kid's bicycle. By gyroscopic action it can help your child tremendously with the early learn-to-ride process. With a built-in flywheel, I don't expect it to be particularly lightweight, but it's not designed for pro racers anyway.
 
It's for kids. Those youngest ones including those with some health problems (dyspraxia) who would have problems riding a two-wheel bicycle otherwise. For about $150 Jyrobike can be yours.

Then, there is a secret use for Jyrobike. If you put it on your adult bike (if only you can find a bigger version of it), use it for returning home at 3 a.m. from your favorite bar!
 
My verdict: Innovative!
 

Helmet totes are... just totes to put your helmet in (duh!) and they are supposed to solve the biggest problem cyclists face every day since the invention of wheel: "where do you put your helmet when you are not on your bicycle?". Because carrying it in your hand is so old-school.
 
I found a better solution to this problem: lose the helmet. You shouldn't need one in a well-designed city. But then I woke up and realized that I live in America.
 
My verdict: Get it if you need one. I don't.
 
Fix It Sticks

These are some little, sexy hex tools every cyclists should have. I mean, every cyclists should have a set of basic hex keys but not necessary Fix It Sticks. Why? For $25 you get a set of 2 stick tools with 4, 5, 6mm hex keys and a flat head driver. This set is supposed to weigh close to 51g. Is it worth it? Maybe. But for $0.62 you can buy 4mm and 5mm wrenches and spend some time to grind the end of the 4mm one to make a flat screwdriver blade. This 22g set will work for 90% of all on-road adjustments on your modern bike. For the remaining 10% there is always a bike shop nearby.

My verdict: Sleek and light, but most individual hex keys are cheaper, lighter and will work well too, despite being less sexy.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

"Don't blame street design for cyclists deaths"

That's what he said. Mr. Cox, that is, who is Wyoming's state DOT representative. Yes, it looks like in the state that has more bears than people, they figured it all out. Cyclists die on roads not because American roads are dangerous by design. It's because those cyclists are simply completely irresponsible!

But apparently, irresponsible cyclists are not only American problem. Down under in Australia some of them attempt riding their bikes and not wearing a helmet. Which, as we all know, is a serious crime punishable by immediate execution on spot. Recently, brave Australian police caught one such scofflaw in Melbourne but he got away somehow. Maybe because his last name was Schwarzenegger and who would want to argue with Mr. Terminator himself?

To be honest, Australia looks like one messed up country (not the only one though) with their mandatory helmet law. To make matters worse, now they also consider mandatory high visibility vests for all cyclists. I bet this means that Australian roads are so well designed that the only thing left to reach their Vision Zero goal is to dress all people on bikes in neon rags and styrofoam hats.

By the way, if they are so concerned about visibility of vehicles on roads, have they already banned all dark cars in Australia? No? Weird.

Another great example of how irresponsible and inconsiderate cyclists can be comes from UK. British police excels in eliminating those most dangerous criminals from society so no wonder little 4-year old Sophie caught their attention. She was clearly committing a serious crime by riding her bicycle on the sidewalk. Her place was obviously on the street between speeding taxis and heavy lorries. Thank you Grantham police. We all feel so much safer now.

There you go. In case you wonder how to deal with cyclists in your town, learn from the best. And when all methods fail you can always try to ban some of them from your streets. Remember, less cyclists means less irresponsible people on roads!

UPDATE (3/19): I have bad news for Mr. Cox from Wyoming. It seems that the roads in his state are not as safe as he would like to see them. They ranked as 2nd the most dangerous across the U.S. (after only Mississippi). That's surprising, considering that Wyoming is the least populous state in the Union. How did they manage to be the worst?

Not surprising is the position of Nantucket (not too far from my hometown) as the safest county in the United States. There are hardly any cars there.