‘Tis the Season

It’s that time of year. The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting longer, and it’s time to dust off the bike lights and charge the batteries.

I’ve used many different lighting set-ups over the years, and I think what I’ve finally learned is that there is no one perfect lighting set-up; as long as basic safety requirements are met, it doesn’t really matter what lights you use. The important thing is to see, and be seen.

With that in mind, listed below are a few of my old (and not so old) articles on bike lights. Take them for what they’re worth, and keep in mind that I don’t currently agree with everything I’ve written in the past. Please take note of the dates; some of the older reviews are no longer valid, but I thought they should be included because they may provide a few kernels of pertinent information.

I’m currently running a pair of Fenix L2D headlights and a pair of Planet Bike Superflash tail lights, all powered by rechargeable NiMH batteries. Inquiring minds want to know; what are you using for lights this season? (leave a comment below)

A Positive Outcome, A Negative Outcome

Over at StreetsBlog, Colin Beaven, aka “No Impact Man“, recounts two recent curbside confrontations he had with motorists that ended with very different outcomes:

A Close Call, a Confrontation, a Conciliatory Ending
by Brad Aaron at Streetsblog

Sen. Jeff Klein to No Impact Man: “Hands Off My Car, You F—king A—hole”
by Brad Aaron at Streetsblog

I’m sympathetic to Beaven’s frustration with careless motorists, but tapping on windows (he could have hit his brakes instead) and pulling your bike in front of a car to block its passage are dangerous activities in today’s world. I’m not saying one way or the other whether his actions are justified, but as recent reports have shown us, when cyclists aggressively confront motorists, it’s often the cyclist that ends up on the short end.

I found it interesting that in the first confrontation, the motorist was the peacemaker. It makes me wonder whether we cyclists are riding around with chips on our shoulders; I have to admit that I probably am. Since we’re so vulnerable while sharing the road with automobiles, and even small lapses of driver attention can lead to such horrific outcomes, it’s understandable. But it doesn’t necessarily follow that motorists are intentionally out to get us. I believe that in most cases (not all), motorists are simply distracted or ignorant when accidents or near misses occur. This is no excuse for unsafe driving, but partaking in curbside confrontations is unlikely to resolve anything, and may lead to unanticipated, unfortunate consequences.

It’ll be interesting to see if Senator Klein takes Beaven up on his offer to meet.

***UPDATE*** It looks as if Senator Klein has accepted Beaven’s offer to meet. More here

Gallery: Russ’ Raleigh Grocery Getters

I have an Easy Racers Gold Rush, Greenspeed GTO and my wife has a TI-GRR and we have a Burly Nomad trailer for hauling the big shopping loads. However, I found that unless either my wife or my son could accompany me or my wife to the store to stand guard while shopping, we would take the car. In order to allow shopping alone, without undue anxiety, I purchased a couple of cheap older bikes with the goal to keep the cost of each under $200 to limit the loss if stolen. These are mainly shopping bikes so I wanted step through frames due to the big loads we would have in the rear baskets as can be seen in the photographs that were take after a recent trip to the grocery store. I could not bring my self to get really ugly bikes so I purchased a couple of older Raleighs thinking they would not be much of a target for theft. We still always use a hefty cable lock in hopes of discouraging theft.

The Raleigh for my wife is a 1974 LTD-3, a classic 3 speed, $180 from a local used bike shop, with the addition of a rear rack, basket and bungee net from Rivendell, $50, plus a replacement seat, $30. Oddly the crank arm length on this bike was 140mm, so I found a replacement on eBay with 165mm arms for $26. The tires and tubes were replaced with new Kenda tires, $20, and thorn resistant tubes, $20. The total cost for this bike so far is $326.

The Raleigh for me is a 1979 Record Ace 10-speed with a mixte frame, $150 found on craigslist. The handle bars and stem were replaced with a Nitto Periscopa, $30, Nitto Dove handle bar, $28, and cork grips, $15, all from Rivendell. I also added a rear rack and folding wire baskets from parts on hand, so I am not counting the cost. The racing style seat was replaced with the stock Brooks seat from my wife’s 1974 Raleigh. The total so far for this bike is $223.

I went a bit over budget but, these bikes have worked out great and we make many of our shopping trips using them. We will continue to use the baskets mounted on the bikes for shopping loads, but the Burley Nomad trailer is IMHO a much better way to haul a load with a bike. —Russ

Gallery: Kris’ Custom Bianchi Castro Valley

This is a project whose evolution has taken over a year of much trial and error, and some pain and injury. It began with me questioning if it could be viable for me to commute thirty miles each way to work. I have thus dubbed this the Long Distance Commuter (LDC) project. It was made with all commercially available parts and no fabrication, so anyone with a credit card can duplicate it. The LDC, in order to be successful, had to be fast, comfortable, and reliable under all conditions. These goals have been met.

Bits and pieces that make it work. Steel cyclocross frame, DLumotec and Schmidt lights with Shimano dynohub, Civia fenders, Zzipper fairing, Brooks Champion Flyer saddle, and super fat 37c tires.

It is as fast as my race bike under good conditions, and, of course, much faster in rain, cold, wind, or dark of night. It is not perfect, but it’s about as close as I can get without fabrication and a fairly radical departure from traditional bicycle design. That is a lifestyle choice I have yet to make.

Special thanks to PJ Ramstack of Civia Bikes and Karl Abbe of Zzipdesigns. Their work was key to this project working as well as it has. —Kris

Ciclovía, S.F. Style

StreetFilms visits Sunday Streets in San Francisco.

Gallery: Derek’s Electra Rat and Pink Fink Xtracycles

These bikes were our original hot date bikes. With no carrying capacity, they were pretty much just limited to heading down to a local eatery for breakfast/lunch/dinner. Since we added the xtracycle we can do a lot more including but not limited to:

  • Loading up for picnics
  • Getting groceries/running errands
  • Nephew hauling
  • Longboard transport
  • Longboarder towing
  • Guest bikes (these two are usually the ones guests will go for first – we always allow double dates first pick)

Extras as shown
Xtracycle attachment (both bikes)
Arbor Koa Pintail (Pink Fink)
Sector 8 Bomb hills not countries (Rat Fink)


[Derek is a professional photographer living and working in the Pacific Northwest. You can see his tricked-out, Xtracycled cruisers and other cool bikes at his gorgeous blog, BikeRubbish.com. —ed.]

Brompton 6-Speed Wide Range Hub

Brompton is now offering a wide-range 6-speed internal gear hub as an option on all their models. Manufactured by Sturmey Archer, it will replace their current SRAM 6-speed hub. The new BWR, as they’re calling it, would make a nice upgrade for those who are currently running the S-A 3-speed or the SRAM 6-speed (which has a narrower range).

From the Brompton press release:

The new configuration for 6-speed Bromptons will feature a wide-range hub of our design, manufactured by Sturmey Archer; the present 6-speed arrangement, employing a SRAM hub, will be discontinued from 1 January 2009. We believe that the Brompton Wide Range Hub [BWR], together with Brompton’s derailleur system, sets a new standard in folding bike gearing systems. It offers:

  • An evenly-stepped gear range (302%) that is comparable to the leading 8-speed hubs; but
  • It uses only a single epicyclic gear train (instead of three), thereby maximising efficiency;
  • At 0.94kg, it weighs almost half as much as other hub gears;
  • It comes in the same small package as the current three-speed hub, allowing existing owners to upgrade easily; and
  • It is typically-Brompton: robust and built to last… owners can expect the same reliability as with the classic three-speed hub.

We will be supplying a 16-tooth and a 13-tooth sprocket with the BWR which, with a 50-tooth chain wheel, will give the following distances of travel:

Gear 1: 33.0 gear inches (2.63 metres along the ground)
Gear 2: 40.5 gear inches (3.23 metres travel)
Gear 3: 51.5 gear inches (4.11 metres travel)
Gear 4: 63.5 gear inches (5.06 metres travel)
Gear 5: 81.0 gear inches (6.45 metres travel)
Gear 6: 99.5 gear inches (7.94 metres travel)

This represents a gear range (top gear/bottom gear) of 302%; by comparison, the current SRAM 6-speed arrangement offers a range of 215%. Like our existing 6-speed offering, however, the gearing may be raised or lowered by fitting a 54-tooth (+8%) or 44-tooth (-12%) chain wheel in place of the standard.

[via VeloVision]

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