Tuesday Morning Commute: Serene

Sunrise Commute

Brompton World Championship 2011

Active Transportation

Active Transportation

“Active Transportation” is the term used to describe any of the modes of transport that involve human power such as bicycling and walking. Obviously, we’re enthusiastic promoters of active transportation, and for good reason. Did you know that half of the trips in the U.S. are within a 20-minute bike ride, and a quarter of the trips are within a 20-minute walk, yet the vast majority are taken by automobile?

Among many other benefits, active transportation:

  • saves valuable time and improves health by combining exercise with a practical activity;
  • provides substantial financial savings to individuals by reducing automobile use;
  • reduces government spending by reducing the need for road maintenance;
  • benefits the environment by reducing automobile emissions;
  • saves lives by reducing the number of automobiles on the road; and
  • generally improves our quality of life.

In 2008, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, in conjunction with Bikes Belong, published a comprehensive report on the benefits of active transportation. The report attempts to quantify the positive results of past federal spending on active transportation while making the argument for increased investment in infrastructure to support active transportation going forward. Here’s an excerpt:

Decades of car-centered transportation policies have dead-ended in chronic congestion, crippling gas bills, and a highly inefficient transportation system that offers only one answer to most of our mobility needs—the car.

Investment now in a more diverse transportation system—one that provides viable choices to walk and bike, and use public transportation in addition to driving—will lead to a far more efficient use of transportation resources.

Active transportation is the missing piece in our transportation system.

Half of the trips in America can be completed within a 20-minute bike ride, and a quarter of trips are within a 20-minute walk. Yet, the vast majority of these short trips are taken by automobile. Bicycling and walking can also improve public transportation by providing fast and well-planned access to it. Given the availability of safe and convenient infrastructure, more people will choose bicycling or walking for short trips and in combination with public transportation for longer trips. Further, communities conducive to bicycling and walking promote a richer and denser mix of residences and businesses, leading to shorter trip distances, even for those who drive.

The report is a must-read for anyone interested in the future of active transportation in the U.S.

Active Transportation for America (PDF) →

Quick Look: Pashley Moulton TSR 2


Alex Moulton saw drawbacks in the traditional diamond frame bicycle and decided he could improve upon it. He started experimenting with new designs in the 1950s and after a number of years of development the first Moulton was released in 1962. It incorporated a number of radical innovations for its time including the use of small wheels, front and rear suspension, and a low step-over “unisex” frame layout. The original Moulton design was quite successful, but for various reasons (related mostly to poor business decisions and plain bad luck) the company has gone through a number of ups-and-downs over the years.

From 1992 to 2005, through a licensing deal with Moulton, Pashey manufactured an economical version of the prohibitively expensive Alex Moulton AM called the Pashley-Moulton APB (for all-purpose bicycle). The APB was a success, but in 2005, after a 14-year run, it was redesigned and updated to be lighter and more performance oriented, the result being the Pashley-Moulton TSR.

The Pashley-Moulton TSR 2 is the belt-drive, two-speed version of the separable (not to be confused with foldable) TSR that features the Sturmey Archer S2C, 2-speed kick-shift hub with coaster brake. The overall ride is much like the other TSR models (quick and smooth with their small wheels and front and rear suspension), though the S2C hub does change the character of the bike while limiting its versatility. Advantages of the hub include simplicity (no cables to the rear of the bike), low maintenance, and light weight. Disadvantages include those you’d expect from a 2-speed drivetrain with a coaster brake.

The TSR 2 is a fun ride that will appeal to those who are interested in a classic Moulton “mini velo” but don’t have a need for the wide range gearing featured on the other TSR models.

Pashley-Moulton TSR 2

Golden Hour on the Trail

The Golden Hour

From the Archives: Bike Fitting is an Art, Not a Science

[Recently, I’ve received a number of questions about bike fit so I thought it would be worth re-posting this article from our archives. —ed.]

What counts in sizing and fitting a bike are the points where the bike intersects with the body. The relationships between the saddle contact point, pedals, and the handlebar grip area, determine the riding position. These relationships can be affected by a number of factors including frame size, saddle adjustment, crank length, stem size and adjustment, and handlebar design.

I’ve learned through many years of riding that, for me, the most important factor in bike fit is handlebar height in relation to saddle height (after setting saddle height, of course). I prefer the primary grip area of the handlebar to be at or slightly above the top of the saddle, when the saddle is adjusted to the proper height (more on saddle adjustment here). Too low and there’s too much weight on my arms, too high and there’s too much weight on the saddle. This is a personal preference based upon how I ride, and others will certainly come to different conclusions based upon their physique and riding style.

What I find less important is the length of the cockpit, or in other words, the horizontal distance from the saddle to the handlebar. If the saddle to handlebar height relationship is correct, I feel equally comfortable on bikes of different lengths (within a reasonable range). Consider the photo above. The Surly LHT is a 56cm frame and the Rivendell Sam Hillborne is a 60cm frame. As you can see, the Rivendell is longer, but because the bars are at my favored height, I still find it comfortable. In fact, these two bikes both fit me quite well for how I use them. The Surly is a city bike for hauling weight in traffic, and its shorter front is good for that type of riding. The Rivendell, on the other hand, has a more open cockpit and the stretched out position is better for longer rides on open roads.

Where it gets tricky is when you start looking at different handlebars, stems, and top tube angles. When I purchased my Rivendell, I knew from the start that I wanted to spec the bike with Moustache handlebars. These bars have much less rise (they actually drop a bit) than the North Road bars on the Surly. To get the grip area at or above the saddle, I knew I had to either use a stem with an extreme amount of rise or choose a larger frame to bring the front end of the bike higher. Since I didn’t want an exorbitant amount of stem showing above the headset, and I also wanted a more open cockpit than on the city bike, I went with the larger frame. On the other hand, if I had planned on speccing Albatross or North Road bars, I would have gone with a smaller frame size because of the handlebar’s greater rise.

Some modern sizing methods use upper body measurements and top tube length to determine frame size. While this may work for some people (but usually only if they’re speccing drop bars), it invariably places me on a bike that is too small. One of my bikes is a 54cm and it was sized using the top tube method. I’ve never been able to get the handlebars at my preferred height in relation to the saddle on that bike. The bars are too low and the cockpit is cramped, even though according to a popular “scientific” sizing method, this is the correct frame size.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying bike sizing is complex and I don’t believe it can be boiled down to a codified method. The photo above demonstrates that with careful component choices it’s possible to achieve similar riding positions on bikes of widely differing sizes. The number of variables in the process, including the intended use of the bike, frame geometry, saddle set-back, and handlebar/stem choice, make the process more an art than a science. Seeking out a knowledgeable salesperson or builder who has experience with transportation bikes, clearly understanding and stating your personal preferences, and remaining flexible in your assumptions, is much more likely to land you a properly sized bike than any mathematical formula.

Bicycle Commuter Profile: Scott

Bicycle Commuter Profile

Name: Scott
Location: Stuttgart, Germany
Started bike commuting: About a year ago
Commute distance (one way): 31Km

Describe your commute: My route is the standard “I see it all.” It takes me along rocky gravel paths, paved tree lined paths, and thru some downtown streets and roadways. I always enjoy the path portion of the ride, but seeing as how Germany is a biker friendly country, even the downtown ride thru the streets is normally carefree, usually having to avoind folks walking their dogs more than vehicles. The best part is I get to cross the highway (A8 as shown in the picture) and see the traffic I would be sitting in if I had driven to and from work.

Describe your bike and accessories: When we first arrived in Germany, the local bike store was having a sale and my wife picked up a Whistle bike as a present. I honestly can’t even tell you what model it is. I put some more commuter friendly tires and some clip on pedals, and have been using it ever since. It is a bit bulky for a strict commuter, but hasn’t slowed me down much. I recently purchased an Arkel Randonneur Rack and Switchback bag, which beats the backpack I had been “stealing” from my son.

What bit of advice would you like to share with new bike commuters?: To borrow a line from a popular athletic manufacturer, “Just do it.” No need for a million dollar bike or special shoes. Pre-plan your route before you ride it for real, and then have a plan for shower and work clothes. Then enjoy the exercise and stress releasing ride home!!

[Visit our Bicycle Commuter Profiles page to add your profile to the collection. —ed.]

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