A Scorcher

The normal high temperature for April 21 in Sacramento, California is 73°F. Today’s forecast is calling for a high of 97°F — this afternoon’s commute is going to be a real scorcher! The only bad thing is that the heat came on practically overnight and we haven’t had a chance to adapt to it. The upside was a gorgeous morning commute in shirt sleeves and shorts at 6am.

Comfort Bikes?

Comfortable, but not a “comfort bike”

The other day, someone asked me, “So, it looks like your site is mostly about “comfort bikes”, right?” I was caught a little off guard, and after stuttering and stammering a bit, I mumbled something to the effect of, “Well, um yeah, I suppose so.” I was surprised because I would never describe EcoVelo as a site that’s “mostly about comfort bikes”, though many of the bikes we ride and write about are certainly “comfortable”.

After being confronted with the question I realized I don’t like the “comfort bike” moniker. What does it mean anyway? Is the implication that every other type of bike is a “discomfort bike”? Racing bikes are for racing, commuter bikes are for commuting, cargo bikes are for hauling cargo; any or all of these can be made comfortable if set-up properly, so should they all fall under the “comfort bike” classification too? And what about those most comfortable of bicycles, recumbents?

So, if we’re not “about comfort bikes”, what are we about?

At EcoVelo, we’re interested in any bike that serves a practical purpose. We like comfortable bicycles because they encourage people to ride more and stay out of their cars. We like bikes that get you where you want to go efficiently and with as little hassle and forethought as possible. We like bikes that can carry your things and light your way. We very much like the idea of bicycles for transportation.

So, the next time I’m confronted with the comfort bike question I’ll be ready, and instead of fumbling around and mincing words I’ll say, “EcoVelo is not about any particular type of bike. Nope. What we are about is using bicycles for transportation.”

Mandatory Helmet Laws

An Australian study published last month looks at mandatory helmet laws and how the health benefits of increased safety balance against the health costs due to decreased cycling. Here’s the abstract:

A model is developed which permits the quantitative evaluation of the benefit of bicycle helmet laws. The efficacy of the law is evaluated in terms of the percentage drop in bicycling, the percentage increase in the cost of an accident when not wearing a helmet, and a quantity here called the “bicycling beta.” The approach balances the health benefits of increased safety against the health costs due to decreased cycling. Using estimates suggested in the literature of the health benefits of cycling, accident rates and reductions in cycling, suggest helmets laws are counterproductive in terms of net health. The model serves to focus the bicycle helmet law debate on overall health as function of key parameters: cycle use, accident rates, helmet protection rates, exercise and environmental benefits. Empirical estimates using US data suggests the strictly health impact of a US wide helmet law would cost around \$5 billion per annum. In the UK and The Netherlands the net health costs are estimated to be \$0.4 and \$1.9 billion, respectively.

OK, let ‘er rip! ;-) Let’s keep it friendly – thanks…

Evaluating the Health Benefit of Bicycle Helmet Laws – Piet De Jong →

[via m-bike.org]

Traveling Light(less)

Today was the first morning since last fall I was able to leave my lights at home. As much as I enjoy riding in the dark and fiddling with lighting systems, it was a pleasure getting the extra weight off of my helmet. Spring is definitely in full swing now (yeah!).

Random Thoughts on Shifting and Internal Gear Hubs

It dawned on me this morning that a majority of the bikes currently in our possession are outfitted with internal gear hubs. Even though I’m a big fan of “IGHs” as they’re sometimes called, we didn’t set out to rid our household of derailleurs. As a matter of fact, it’s awfully hard to fault the good ol’ derailleur; they’re lightweight, relatively inexpensive, simple to adjust and maintain, and they impart a lovely whiiirrr to the drivetrain of a bicycle. What’s not to like?

I’m decidedly old school when it comes to derailleur shifting; I never quite made the full transition from friction to Rapidfire and STI. I tried indexed thumb shifters on a mountain bike for a while, and I ran indexed bar ends on various road bikes over the years, but I never stuck with it and I always ended up going back to friction. And never, for a moment, did I like brifters — there’s something about levers that move in two planes that gives me the willies (apologies to the 98% of the cycling public who love brifters).

High quality internal gear hubs shift with such precision and speed, and the experience is so different than derailleur shifting, that I’m hardly missing my old friction shifters.

Internal gear hubs require an indexed shifter (Rohloffs are indexed within the hub), and I have to admit, for the first time I’m starting to really enjoy this “other” type of indexed shifting. The difference, I’m sure, is in the hubs; high quality IGHs shift with such precision and speed, and the experience is so different than derailleur shifting, that I’m hardly missing my old friction shifters.

I also like the fact that high quality internal gear hubs can be shifted at will: sitting at a stop light; climbing while pedaling; descending while coasting; basically whenever and wherever you need to shift, you can. It’s pretty cool to roll up to a stop light, make multiple downshifts while you’re waiting for the light to change, and roll away in the proper gear.

Of course, internal gear hubs are nothing new — Sturmey-Archer has been building IGHs for over 100 years. Some of their hubs manufactured decades ago are still in operation today. We’re riding the modern incarnation of the classic Sturmey-Archer on a couple of our personal bikes. While not bad hubs, they’re not in the same league as the latest offerings from Shimano, SRAM, and Rohloff.

Internal gear hubs aren’t perfect; they’re relatively heavy, good ones are expensive, they’re less efficient than derailleur drivetrains, and if something goes wrong they’re difficult to repair. But I like the way they shift; I like that the gears are sealed and essentially maintenance-free; I like that they have next to no dish (resulting in stronger wheels); and I like the way they visually clean up the drivetrain. So while I still love the whiiirrr of a chain snaking through a derailleur, bikes with internal gear hubs will continue to be a part of our stable for the foreseeable future.

Yehuda on Hiatus

Everyone’s favorite utility bicyclist, Yehuda Moon, is on hiatus:

April 11, 2009

Dear Readers,
I regret that this will be the last day of ‘Yehuda Moon’ for a while. I ran out of time and can’t continue with the comic. Thank you to all who read and shared and contributed to the comic. You are amazing and your support and enthusiasm for bicycling and bicycles is thrilling. I’ll be stopping all current PayPal monthly subscriptions for you by April 12, 2009. See you down the road.

Sincerely,
Rick Smith and the Kickstand Cyclery
comics@yehudamoon.com

Quickrelease.tv published an interview with Rick Smith in 2008 in which he talked about how he creates the daily strip; it sounds like a lot of work! Let’s hope he eventually finds the time to bring our buddy Yehuda back to life.

Yehuda Moon & the Kickstand Cyclery

Rivendell Bicycle Works

Rivendell A. Homer Hilsen

We’re pleased and honored to welcome our latest sponsor, Rivendell Bicycle Works. Most of you are already familiar with Rivendell, but for those who aren’t, here’s a brief history written by company founder/president, Grant Petersen:

From late ’84 to late ’94 I (Grant) designed and spec’d bicycles and worked on catalogues for the U.S. division of Bridgestone Cycle, Japan’s largest bike maker. Bridgestone closed the U.S. office after ten years of no profit, when the dollar-to-yen exchange rate plummeted to the point where it became impossible to even break even. I was 40, and started Rivendell with $89,000, a mix of retirement money, savings, loans, and money raised by selling stock to friends.

True to the cliche, Rivendell was in my garage for two years. Now we have 5,000 square feet at about $0.90 per square foot, one of the cheaper rents in town. We like it here a lot. It’s easy to get to, close to good food and riding, and it feels like home, except that summertime temperatures average 90F and are often over 100F, and winter days rarely get above 57F. We drive home this point before we hire you. We’ve been profitable two of the past twelve years, but cash flow is neutral. Sales are about $2.2 million dollars per year. We’re just breaking even, there are no top-heavy salaries, and we fret a lot during slow weeks (and months). I do, at least.

Our mission is to make things that wouldn’t be made if we weren’t here, to offer an alternative to racing-centric bikes and parts, and to espouse a different approach to riding. And to resurrect and keep healthy many of the better ideas, designs, and styles of bicycles, clothing, and accessories that we personally like to use or wear. If you’d like to know more, just ask. It’s not a secret business we have here. —Grant

Rivendell is primarily known for their beautiful, intelligently designed, lugged-steel bicycles. They’re also credited for helping to revive and keep alive traditional items such as wool clothing, leather saddles, canvas bags, and platform pedals. If you haven’t done so before, take a gander at their website — you won’t be disappointed. There you’ll find a wonderful selection of useful and unique bikes, parts, accessories, clothing, and many other items. The site also includes an eclectic collection of how-to articles and essays on everything from frame materials to the benefits of pine tar soap.

Rivendell Bicycle Works


 
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