Stealth Bicyclists

Last night we drove our car across town between 7:30-8:30pm. In that time, we counted 8 bicyclists without lights or reflective gear of any kind – this was among a total count of 12 bicyclists. It was plainly obvious how easily I could have lost sight of any of the non-lighted bicyclists among the chaos of automobile lights, traffic signals, and advertising that was assaulting my visual field.

Studies have shown that a majority of fatal collisions involving bicyclists occur between the hours of 6pm-9pm. After my experience last night, I’m not surprised. Unfortunately, most of the bicyclists without lights appeared to be “non-enthusiast” (for lack of a better term), so it’s unlikely they have access to the information or resources necessary to ride safely.

Over the past few years, a number of bicycle advocacy groups and city governments have initiated free bike light programs; examples include Portland’s Shift and Police Bureau programs, New York DOT’s bike light giveaway, the Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates’ “Light On” program, and more recently, Chicago’s “Share the Road” giveaway.

I believe this is an important issue that warrants the attention of any organization interested in promoting bicycle safety.

Folder Fans

We’re big fans of folding bikes. They’re light, quick, and fun. They remind us of the little bikes we zipped around on when we were kids. They’re also super practical: they’re compact for efficient storage; they interface well with practically any public transit facility; they can come inside with you while you’re shopping; and, if your place of employment doesn’t allow bikes in the building, it’s possible to sneak one in and hide it under your desk (sshh, don’t tell). Some say they’re not good for long distance riding, though we’ve read plenty of reports of people taking epic tours on folding bikes. (For example, Todd Fahrner, owner of Clever Cycles, just took a Brompton down the west coast, and then there’s John and Mary Griffin who took their folders all the way around the world.) We use ours mostly for commuting and getting around town, but a folding bike/train bi-modal cross-country trip is in our long-term plans. Not everyone needs a folder, but we bet you’d enjoy riding one if given the opportunity… :-)

We have a Brompton M3L review forthcoming, and we’ll soon be receiving a Bike Friday Tikit on loan as well. We won’t necessarily be doing a “shootout” type comparison, but it’ll be a lot of fun to have two of the premier folding bikes in the house at the same time. We’ll let you know how it goes.

New Velo Orange Website

Velo Orange debuted their new website today. Very nice!

Velo Orange

Gallery: Rodger’s Surly Long Haul Trucker

[Rodger sent us this photo and write-up about his Surly LHT. —ed.]

Here’s a pic of my 08 Surly LHT. Subconsciously, I think I built it to be the bike-equivalent of the Land Rover Defender safari vehicle. I rode this across America, fully loaded, last summer without a single hiccup.

Brooks champion flyer. It’s few years old now and I’m still loving it. I never put any treatment on it and it’s been totally soaked before — and it’s still fine. I am, however, through tempting fate…the goop goes on this week. The downtube shifters are good. I wasn’t sure about trying these but they worked out well. They only get a little annoying (in comparison to brifters, that is, not bar-ends) when you are standing and slowly climbing a big ol’ mountain. I skimped when I could and I bought a lot of stuff on c-list. The two parts I bought new, but cheap, are the stem and the bottom bracket. The stem in a $15 Easton and the bottom bracket is your basic, heavy (again $15) sealed bottom bracket, I think from Shimano. Works beautifully, even after some 6,000-miles on it.

Right now I’m riding 44’s, fenderless. The first day out on these I crashed bombing fast downhill while trying to make a sharp turn at the bottom. The road-carving capability is just not there on trail-worthy 29er tire (i.e. 700×44). I toured on 35c panaracers. They were fine but I got a lot of flats. I’m switching back to 35’s, adding the fenders again, but I’ll be trying something more puncture-resitant, like a Scwalbe Marathon. I used to tour with clipless pedals but I switched to platforms and I’m never going back. Being clipped in never offered any benefits as a tourer. When you ride from sun up to sun down, you are never pushing it. Let gravity clip you in.

All drivetrain and braking components I ordered from Rivendell. I am not a fan of the Tektro v-brake-specific brake levers. They are not comfortable, in my opinion. And, in combination with the Deore v-brakes, there is no micro-adjustment of the brakes possible (without busting out the toolkit). In the levers there is a simple switch that affords some adjustment but it’s useless. I’d install a microadjuster along the cable somewhere if using this combo. The drivetrain is perfect (sugino x2, rear cassette, shifters, chain, cheap front derailer, reverse rear derailer — all from Riv)

Somehow, the frame handles best when fully loaded. But I guess that’s the idea. All the braze-ons for everything came in handy. I left a lot of room when I cut the steer tube so I could ride nice and high. Spacers are FSA. The BB shell needed to be chased, though. I took it to a pro to handle that.

As far as panniers, I used Ortleib in the rear. They are pretty much flawless, save for the lack of outer pockets. Up front I used old REI rear panniers; they were not waterproof but I kept things dry in dry bags or ziplocks inside them.

Lastly, King headset, surly front rack, tubus rear rack, wheelset is 36 DT spoke, XT hubs, mavic a319, the bars are nice n’ wide 44cm.


Bike Commuting Holding Steady

According to the League of American Bicyclists’ analysis of the recently released 2009 American Community Survey (ACS), national bike commuting rates held steady from 2008 to 2009 at 0.55%. From the LAB report:

Despite predictions that the number of Americans biking to work would fall after gas prices returned to ‘normal’ in 2009, the percentage has held steady at 0.55 percent. The Bicycle Friendly Communities (BFC) among the 70 largest cities also held steady with a 1 percent increase, while non-BFCs increased their commuter share by 26 percent. BFC cities still have on average about twice the percentage of commuters as non-BFC cities.

The League used the ACS data to pull together a pair of tables (linked below) showing estimated bike commuting rates for the 70 largest U.S. cities, as well as the estimated percentage of change in bike commuting rates from 2000 to 2009.

Bike commuting rates for the 70 largest U.S. cities [PDF] →
Percentage of change in bike commuting rates from 2000 to 2009 [PDF] →
ACS 2009 Data Release

My Commuted Commute

This short film from Oikofugic Productions raises a number of questions regarding bike lane design and effectiveness. While I can certainly see the major drawbacks of the bike lane shown in the film, it doesn’t at all resemble the bike lanes I ride everyday, all of which are more well-designed and safer.

How does the bike lane in the film compare with those you ride everyday?

Stuff We Like: Silca Super Pista Floor Pump

We like Silca pumps. They’re clearly designed to last a very long time; the critical parts are made from metal and wood, and replacement parts are available so they can be rebuilt for a few dollars when the seals eventually wear out.

Our favorite is the Super Pista. Features include an 8″ Beechwood handle; a 60cm tall chamber for high volume and upright pumping; a metal gauge mounted at the base where it’s safe in the event the pump gets knocked over; and a bomb-proof brass head with no levers or other moving parts to break.

Silcas are a little expensive, but they’ll outlast most other pumps by many years. Good stuff.


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