Saturday, March 30, 2013

Happy Easter!

Not much new and exciting happening lately. Even spring is somehow slow and lazy to show up this year. This morning I had to take a ride to Trader Joe's to pick up some last-minute Easter items. Flowers for our Easter table was just one of them.
Another one, was a "brick" of butter. I needed one to carve a lamb out of it. It is one of our Easter traditions and American butter is unfortunately useless for this purpose as it only comes in sticks. I have no idea how to carve a sheep out of a stick of butter. It would probably look like a crocodile. I had to buy an Irish "brick" butter then.
On my ride back home I noticed some first signs of spring but it still looks like trees are a bit shy to grow new buds. I give them a couple more days. Anyway, it is getting warmer and with today's temperature of over 15C (~60F), I feel like spring is finally here.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Children bikes and the problem thereof

Do you know what the main problem with children bikes is? There is virtually no choice. Have you ever tried to shop for a bicycle for your kids? Not an easy task (unless you absolutely don't care) because about 99% of all children bikes look like this:
An average children bike (Source: Google Images)

They are ugly, heavy and made of some very cheap components. Perhaps the cheap part of it may be justifiable somehow. Children outgrow their bikes quickly, after all and no one buys a small size bike for his/her child hoping it will last for life. But it doesn't excuse the designers from building ugly and heavy bikes.

Hopefully, there are some alternatives but unfortunately, still too few. The first one I heard about was Islabikes. It is a British manufacturer of children bicycles and at least in pictures they appear to be better designed: are prettier, look lighter and seem to be of better quality. Take a look at their Cnoc16 model and compare with the first bike above:
Cnoc16 by Islabikes (Source:

But that's in Britain. Here in U.S., we were a bit out of luck. Until recently. This year Linus introduces Lil' Roadster - their children bike for boys (There is a girl version as well!). I have to say that this is the first children bicycle that caught my attention in a long time. Not only it looks great, doesn't come in pastel blue or Barbie pink, looks lightweight, but it also comes with some components still missing on many small bikes: fenders, chain cover and a bell. I guess it's beauty is in simplicity. One gear, one (coaster) break, simple lines. And another big plus - it does not pretend to be a BMX or a mountain bike. Good work Linus!
Linus Lil' Roadster (Source: Linus Bikes)

But in the end, it always comes down to price. As I mentioned above, our little ones will outgrow these bikes quickly, which means - we don't want to spend too much. And unfortunately, we will likely not see many Lil' Roadsters in our neighborhood. At $300, it seems like a bit pricey offer (Closer to $200 would make more sense). But if you have multiple kids at different ages the bike can serve well all of them, one by one. And then, it may be worth considering.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Schwinn Coffee - 17 months report

As I mentioned in my previous post, my Coffee looked pretty ugly after this winter season and last Saturday I decided to spend a few hours cleaning it. Since I had to disassemble at least part of the bike, I had a chance to take a closer look at some components. It's been over 17 months since I have purchased the bike. Here is the long-term usage report.

The good:
1. The geometry. The bike is comfortable. In fact, it is probably the most comfortable bike I ever had. The Coffee is stable and it is one of a few bikes I can ride hands-free (not that I normally do that).
2. Drivetrain. The simple 3-speed Shimano hub and 38T/19T ratio works quite well. It's true that on my daily route to work I would prefer more gears and I wouldn't probably buy a 3-speed bike again. These seem to be more suitable for flatter roads. However, the cheap Shimano hub works well so far and requires minimum service - something I like on a full-year bicycle.
3. Brakes. They are just adequate - not the greatest but acceptable in this price range. I find them very capable of stopping the bike even in wet weather conditions.

The bad:
1. Schwinn saddle. Very uncomfortable. The new Brooks B67 I added shortly after buying the bike is much, much better. This is not unexpected. Cheap bikes come with cheap saddles. The Brooks costs over $100 - a 1/4 of the bike price, but provides much-needed comfort.
2. Tires. They weren't that bad, actually. Worked quite well until the last January when I discovered that the rear one had a factory defect. That was the only reason I had to replace them. Poor quality control and my bad luck.

The ugly:
1. Fenders. They work, but they could work better. Coffee's fenders are shorter than on most city bikes and while they provide just enough protection, they should be longer in the next version of Coffee. Can you hear me Schwinn?
2. Rear rack. Well, what can I expect from a $15 rack? Poor quality chrome plating? Yes. "Lightweight" construction? Definitely. The rack works with light loads but I wish it was a bit stronger. Also, after this winter season the rack shows large spots of corrosion all over the place. At this point, this is a purely cosmetic issue. Still, a better rack would be appreciated. Even if the bike costs $50 more.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Is it April 1st today?

I thought that April 1st is in about a month but after I read this article today, I am not so sure anymore.
Long story short, State Rep. Ed Orcutt, who is convinced that bicycling should be taxed, wrote in an email that riding a bike leads to increased respiration. This means that biker produces much more CO2 than e.g. a walking person, and this, according to Mr. Orcutt means that cycling is not environmentally friendly at all and "bicyclists are actually polluting when they ride".


I can't even find words to comment on this idea so I decided to quote a few comments from Slashdot instead:

geekmux summarizes Mr. Orcutt's concept:
Yeah, you're right, because the concept of taxing breathing now makes sense. How about the dog who takes twice as many breaths as I do walking? Should we start taxing the animals too? Be careful if you do, those blue whales are gonna all swim to the Cayman Islands to avoid their tax.
NEDHead pointed out something important:
What is remarkable about this exchange is not that bike riders are enhanced CO2 producers, but that a republican legislator has acknowledged the CO2 needs to be recognized as a greenhouse gas, which in excess is bad. It is a start...
SimonTheSoundMan has the solution:
I don't know why they don't just drag some trees from the back of aeroplanes. Or perhaps a small shrubbery on the roof. That'll get rid of the CO2 in the stratosphere, surely?
And finally, Bill_the_Engineer gives Mr. Orcutt an advice:
By his own reasoning, Rep Ed Orcutt needs to lower his CO2 production by keeping his mouth shut. He would do both the planet and his colleagues a favor.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Last winter snow?

Before I realized that, March is already here. Spring is coming and weather changes faster than you can think of it. We started this week with more snow. Could this be the last snow this winter?