Dutch Bike Co. Chicago

Photo © Dutch Bike Co.

Seattle’s Dutch Bike Co., purveyors of fine European city bikes, recently opened a second store in Chicago. Check out the story and slideshow about their opening weekend here.

Gallery: Mike’s Iron Horse Warrior Expert

I bought the Iron Horse Warrior Expert in 2004, I think. I used to be pretty hardcore Mtn Biker in the nineties and after about 5 year layoff, I really wanted to get back into it but, work and family obligations derailed those plans. I think, this bike has seen actual mtn trails 4 times. It’s probably been ridden a total of 50 times in 4 years. This year as the cost of fuel increased I started taking the bus for my 70 mile round trip commute to DC from Loudoun County, VA. After a couple of weeks driving to the bus stop, I got the keys to the bus stop bike locker and I started riding my my Iron horse to the bus stop.

After the first couple of days riding this bike to the bus stop, I realized that the standard Mtn bike setup (Cross country riser bars) were hurting my wrists and I decided that I needed to make some changes. I know the natural “hand-parallel-to-body” position would be better for my wrists and after some research I decided on the Nitto North bars. The other bar I was considering was the Nitto Albatross bar. With the barcons, the Nitto North allows me three different hand positions to choose, and just switching from one postion to another definitely helps my wrists.

The fork was switched out from the Marzocchi EXR fork with, I think, 4+ inches of travel to a Kona 29’er fork unsuspended fork (I wanted to maintain the bike geometry). Bike looks a little funny with a 29er for and 26 in wheels but it works and the bike handles very well.

Other things about the bike that might be of interest to commuters:

  • Planet Bike Speed EZ ATB Fenders.  Easy to install on Disk brake bikes. Not rock solid but does what is supposed to do
  • Topeak Explorer Rack w/ disc Mounts. Solid rack and verrrrry easy to install on bikes with disk brakes.
  • Specialized Nimbus Armadillos tires – Great commuting tires. However, if i had to do it again, I would get marathon racers with tire liner.  I’m a big Schwalbe fan.
  • Performance bike campus pedal – Nothing special but they work. Nice to be able to rid my bike with cycling shoes or regular shoes

Not shown:

  • Dinotte AA headlight and tail light 
  • Ortlieb large office bag- I can carry a laptop, change of clothes

Happy bike-commuting! Mike

Bicycle Helmet Pros & Cons

I’m not attempting to start a helmet flame war here (though it will be a miracle if we avoid one), but I wanted to point out a pair of websites that may help you sort through the complexities of the bicycle helmet question and make an informed decision for yourself.

The Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation website provides information on helmets and helmet laws, crash and injury statistics, and extensive links to related studies. They make an effort to debunk what they call “the great number of myths and exaggerations, some of which feature prominently in the promotion of helmets.” The BHRF, though they “strive to be objective”, clearly take an anti-helmet editorial position.

The purpose of cyclehelmets.org is to provide a resource of best-available factual information to assist the understanding of a complex subject, and one where some of the reasoning may conflict with received opinion. In particular we seek to provide access to a wider range of information than is commonly made available by some governments and other bodies that take a strong helmet promotion stance. It is hoped that this will assist informed judgements about the pros and cons of cycle helmets.

Whilst cyclehelmets.org strives to be objective in its selection of information for presentation, there is more helmet-sceptic material on this web site than that supportive of helmets. This is in part a matter of copyright (we provide references to journals but cannot generally give direct access), but largely because there is a far wider range of arguments and sources that cast doubt upon one or more aspects of helmet efficacy. cyclehelmets.org is not helmet-sceptic on principle, but because pro-helmet predictions are so often contradicted by real-world experience.

The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute provides information on helmets including crash and injury statistics, helmet standards, and how to choose a helmet. The BHSI is a program of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association and is openly pro-helmet.

Welcome! We are the helmet advocacy program of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. We are a small, active, non-profit consumer-funded program providing bicycle helmet information. We try to explain the technology of helmets to consumers, and promote better helmets through improved standards. Our volunteers serve on the ASTM helmet standard committee and are active in commenting on actions of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. We provide a Toolkit of materials for helmet programs and a periodic email helmet newsletter, both free. We are all volunteers, funded entirely by consumer donations. We maintain our independence by never accepting funds from the industry. As much as we believe in helmets we still consider them a secondary safety measure and urge that primary measures such as safer roads and education programs for riders and drivers not be neglected.

I have to say, the data seems to make a strong argument against mandating helmet use for adults because such laws appear to discourage cycling in general. That said, I don’t see anything in the data that would keep me from continuing to wear one myself, or encouraging my friends and family to do so as well.

Wherever you stand on this controversial subject, the most important thing is to learn as much as you can to be sure you’re making an informed decision.

Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation
Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute

Strong Medicine

It’s easy to get consumed by all the bad news coming across our desktops these days: war, recession (depression?), global warming, peak oil, and on, and on. If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, don’t forget to take the time to stop and smell the roses. And by all means, go on a bike ride just for the fun of it once in a while, without the pressure of logging miles, saving money, or “doing the right thing”. You’ll be amazed at what it does for your outlook—the bicycle is powerful medicine indeed.

Commuter Bike Design Competition

James over at Bicycle Design is running a “Commuter Bike for the Masses” design competition, with a brand-new Cannondale bicycle being offered as the grand prize:

Do you have an idea for a bicycle that might persuade the average person, with no prior interest in cycling, to park the car and pedal to work? That is the main idea behind this competition. The scope is up to you- choose to come up with a whole new form factor for a pedal powered machine, or focus on specific details that you consider key to accomplishing the goal of getting the average non-cyclist to consider riding a bike for transportation. Don’t be constrained by products that are currently on the market, but do make sure that your concepts are based in reality (don’t break the laws of physics, etc) and that they are manufacturable using existing technology. All concepts submitted will be considered, so be creative and have fun.

Bicycle Design

Separated Bike Lanes

Check out these photos of separated bike lanes in Copenhagen. Whether or not you support the idea of separated bike paths and bike lanes, you have to agree, bringing infrastructure of this sort to the U.S. would undoubtedly lead to increased bicycle use.

Three Birds, One Stone

The stock Surly Long Haul Trucker (LHT) is a capable touring bike, and with a few modifications, it also makes an excellent city bike. The thing I like most about it is its versatility; it reminds me of the do-everything steel-framed bikes of the 1980’s and ’90’s such as the Trek 720 and Bridgestone XO-1.

I’m riding a modified LHT as a commuter/city bike/grocery hauler. It’s been a great bike so far, but there were a few nagging issues I’ve been wanting to deal with:

  1. The stock 175mm cranks were too long for me and I’ve been wanting to swap them for 170’s.
  2. The stock triple comes with 26/36/48 chainrings which are fairly standard for loaded touring, but because I’m using the LHT for city riding, I found myself frequently shifting between the 36T and 48T chainrings, and rarely ever shifting to the 26T granny. What I really needed was a 40T ring for everyday city riding, and something around a 32T small ring for carrying loads.
  3. The lack of a chainguard was becoming a real nuisance.

In searching around the web for a replacement 170mm crank, I ran across an unusual set-up on the Rivendell site. Their Quickbeam (QB) singlespeed comes outfitted with a reversible rear hub with a cog on each side, and a Sugino XD2 triple crank with a chainguard, 40T middle ring, and 32T inner ring.

Here’s the concept:

The Quickbeam is our orange only single-speed that’s actually a two-speed and is a quick change away from being a four-speed. That’s because it comes with two count ‘em  chainrings (40t and 32t) and a flip-flop hub with an 18t freewheel on one side and room for another cog on the other. But there’s more to it than that.

The idea of a four-speed with no derailleurs is vintage esoteric Rivendell, but what caught my eye is the QB crankset. With its 40/32 chainrings, chainguard in place of the outer ring, and square-taper compatibility, it was exactly what I was looking for. My original plan was to order a standard Sugino XD2 triple, change out the two smaller rings and ditch the 48T for a chainguard – a relatively expensive and wasteful idea. Fortunately, Rivendell sells the XD2 triple in the custom QB configuration on their website, so I ordered one and it arrived today.

The QB Sugino is essentially the same crank as the Sugino that came stock on the LHT, so it was a simple bolt-on affair. I slapped it on, took it our for a ride, and it feels great. The 40T places my cassette in the center of my comfort range for city riding, the 170mm arms feel more natural and easier on the knees, and the chainguard does what it’s supposed to do. I really lucked out; it’s not often you stumble upon a solution like this that kills three birds with one stone.

© 2011 EcoVelo™