As part of an advanced cartography class at the University of Oregon, grad student Kory Northrop created a cool infographic showing bike commuting trends in the U.S. (click here to open the PDF map). The graphic depicts the total number of bike commuters, gender splits, mode share, government spending on infrastructure, and fatalities. Kory’s poster received Best Poster honors at the 8th Annual Region X Student Transportation Conference at OSU.
For the past three years, my primary commuter has been a customized Surly Long Haul Trucker. It’s been a great bike, and as regular readers of the blog already know, it’s gone through a number of permutations as I’ve experimented to figure out what exactly it is I want/need in a commuter bike.
Last month, I asked our readers if they thought I should keep the LHT or sell it and move to a new project bike. The poll results overwhelmingly said I should keep it, but being the rebellious sort, I went ahead and moved forward with a new bike to be used as my primary commuter and test bed for parts and accessories.
One of the primary motivations for moving to a new bike was my desire to keep learning and sharing that information (as stated in our mission statement). I’d basically gone as far I could go with the LHT, so it felt like the right time to move to a bike showcasing the newer technologies that seem to be of such interest to our readers. While considering a variety of criteria (belt drive, internal gear hub, disc brakes, etc.), the Civia Bryant jumped out. The fact that I’d ridden a prototype in 2009 and loved it was also a plus. Long story short, I received the bike in a box on Friday, and I’ve spent the better part of the last two days getting it into shape.
I expect this bike to be my primary commuter for at least the next few years. I’m extremely excited about it in its current form, though like the LHT, I suspect it’ll go through at least a few permutations. Along the way I hope to learn a few things about these newer technologies and share that information here the blog.
[Many thanks to the folks at the Bicycle Business in Sacramento, CA for ordering the bike for us. —Alan]
Velo Orange has their new switchable dynamo hub in stock. By turning the clutch plate on the side of the hub, the magnetic dynamo is disengaged, allowing the hub to run totally free. This is a great looking piece with a high polish finish and sealed bearings. Available in 32h or 36h at $130.
Disclosure: Velo Orange is a sponsor of this website.
Because we often have a couple of bikes here on loan, and we also do a variety of different types of riding (from multi-modal commuting with folders to day tours in the country), I end up riding a wide variety of saddles on a regular basis. In the process, I’ve developed some general impressions and preferences that might be useful in your search for the perfect saddle.
For the most part, the generic, off-brand saddles delivered on low- to mid-level production bikes range from not bad to pretty awful. These typically have a plastic base with some foam padding and a synthetic leather cover. They vary in design, quality, and comfort, though nearly all can be improved upon with an aftermarket replacement. I don’t know this for a fact, but many of these saddles appear to be designed for comfort on the showroom floor, but because the padding is usually fairly soft, they can become uncomfortable on longer rides. They’re certainly worth a try, but if you’re riding the stock saddle that came with your bike and you’re having saddle issues, an upgrade may be in order.
I’ve had good luck with the Brooks B17 over the years. For decades it’s been a popular saddle among long distance riders who aren’t concerned with weight (primarily tourists and randonneurs). I find the B17 fairly comfortable, regardless of what bike it’s on. In other words, unlike some other saddles, I can run the B17 both on bikes with the bars higher than the saddle and on bikes with the bars below the saddle. For me, it’s not absolutely the most comfortable saddle, but it’s a versatile saddle that works well for many people.
The Brooks B67 is my favorite saddle for bikes with high handlebars. High bars place the rider in an upright posture, rolling the hips back and placing weight on the sit bones. The B67 is wider than the B17; this added width combined with the sprung frame does a good job of supporting the pelvis and absorbing road shock. Some people may find the B67 too wide, particularly on bikes with the handlebars set near saddle height.
My personal favorite saddle for bikes with bars at or below saddle height is the Selle An-Atomica Titanico. The S-A is a leather saddle with a slot. It’s similar in size and shape to the Brooks B17 but the leather is much softer. The effect is less like a traditional saddle and more like a sling; I find it exceptionally comfortable, but others don’t like the feeling.
No less an authority than Kent Peterson recommends V-series WTB saddles. I don’t currently ride a WTB, but I’ve ridden loaners outfitted with their saddles and have found them to be comfortable. They’re available in a nice selection of widths which is a real plus. I may look into a WTB the next time I need to replace a saddle.
More important than any of the above is how a particular saddle interfaces with your physique. A generic saddle that fits you perfectly may end up being more comfortable than a Brooks or S-A that’s a bad fit. Unfortunately, you have to put in a fair amount of time on a saddle to know for sure how it will work for you.
Before becoming a graphic artist, I spent a number of years managing small, specialty retail businesses including a music store, an art supply store, and a fly fishing outfitter. I think it was in those businesses that I learned to enjoy researching and testing new products. It was also in those businesses that I learned the importance of trying new things to keep a business healthy and running smoothly. Of course, not every new idea works out, but even when they don’t, there’s usually something to be learned in the process. It’s not so different here on the blog, where we do a fair amount of knob tweaking to see what works and what doesn’t.
On the subject of trying new things and tweaking knobs, as part of our ongoing effort to create a nice place for transpo bicyclists to share ideas and learn from one another, we recently asked our commenters to use their full names when submitting comments. The idea was to encourage greater accountability and transparency among discussion participants. Many people expressed their support for the idea, but a fair number also expressed concerns about privacy.
It’s been 3 weeks now and the general consensus is that the disadvantages of the new policy outweigh the advantages. Along with the privacy issue, at least 25-30% of the comments submitted didn’t include a full name anyway. This created a bunch of extra work for us, and a big hassle for our commenters—precisely the opposite of what we were trying to accomplish. So, with that in mind, we’re going to hit the “reset” button and revert back to our old policy of requiring only a first name with your comment submissions. For those who have been using their full names in the comment field these past few weeks, many thanks for working with us. And for those who have been hesitant to post because of privacy concerns, welcome back and thanks for your patience… :-)