A handy guide to bicycle infrastructure

Do you sometimes get confused by all the lingo thrown around by bicycle advocates? Don’t know the difference between a “bicycle boulevard” and a “bike trail”? And what IS a sharrow, anyway? Leave it to the Community Education Manager at Bike Easy in New Orleans, Anneke Olsen, to spell it all out for you:

When many of us hear the word “bicyclist” or “cyclist,” we think of a spandex-clad racer on a road bike, or a diehard urban messenger weaving in and out of traffic on downtown streets.

But there is a much larger and more inclusive definition of “bicyclists” – anyone who rides a bike, whether it is a kid riding on a neighborhood street; a service industry worker biking home from the CBD after a long shift; grandparents and grandkids riding together at City Park; or someone hopping on a bike to get back in shape.

Similarly, there are several different types of bicycle infrastructure – sharrows, bike lanes, neighborhood greenways, shared use trails, etc. – and each serves a different purpose to the end of creating a connected network of streets that are safe and comfortable for bicyclists.

sharrow

Take a minute to swing on over and read the full article by visiting the NolaVie page. In no time, you’ll be an expert on bicycle infrastructure!

Product review: SealSkinz Fingerless Cycle Gloves

At the beginning of summer, the kind folks at SealSkinz offered us a pair of their new summerweight cycling gloves to try out. You may know SealSkinz as a maker of waterproof socks, hats, and gloves for outdoor activities such as hiking and hunting, but they’ve also got a number of cycling-specific pieces in their lineup.

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The SealSkinz gloves are lightweight, with a lycra back and a synthetic leather palm that is textured for grip. The middle and ring fingers have extra material at the tops that are fashioned as “pull tabs” to get the gloves off easier. There’s a hook-and-loop wrist closure, and reflective accents on the back of the glove.

The pair I tested is a size Large. They felt true to size, but with a small amount of bunching between the fingers (we’ll get to that in a bit).

The padding on the palm is rather thin, and at first I thought I’d have issues with that — my own hands are not particularly padded, and prefer a glove with dense padding in the palm, where possible. The SealSkinz gloves, despite the thin padding, didn’t let me down in terms of comfort, even for longer riders of 30-40 miles. Beyond those distances, I think I’d rather have something with more padding.

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For those who have read glove reviews I’ve done in the past, you may remember that the nose-wiping area of a glove is VERY important to me, summer or winter. The SealSkinz didn’t let me down there, either — the entire thumb is made of a soft microsuede material, with no protruding seams to rough up the sensitive nose area. I can wipe all day in comfort!

The grip is fantastic with the gloves, as is overall durability. I wore them all summer and racked up serious miles with the SealSkinz, and they still look pretty new, even after a couple of washings. The stitching and seams remained tight throughout the testing period.

The reflective accents on the backs are a nice touch, but I don’t know how effective they might be. The reflective effect is pretty subtle, and I was unable to get a good nighttime photo of the reflective bits in action.

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Perhaps my only gripe with the SealSkinz gloves is the cut of the fabric panels prior to sewing. I did notice a lot of extra material, especially between the fingers. I can’t help but think that the cutting patterns could be refined a bit to reduce some of this excess, helping to streamline them a bit and reduce bunching between the fingers. Since the material is naturally stretchy, this excess material isn’t needed to accommodate wider fingers than my own, either.

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The SealSkinz fingerless gloves retail for $35, and are available directly from the SealSkinz website. As of this writing, they are not in stock and do not appear on the company website even though they ARE a current product. I checked with their PR person just to make sure they weren’t discontinued for some reason. That $35 buys a well-constructed, lightweight glove that is ideal for warm-weather riding. The gloves are 100% designed in Great Britain, with much of the manufacture occurring in Great Britain as well. Take a look at the SealSkinz cycling lineup for a wide range of products to suit any rider at any temperature.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

Book Review: Bicycle Design: An Illustrated History

Bicycle Design: An Illustrated History fills in the gaps on how the awesomeness that is the bicycle came to be.

Up-front confession: this book was not featured (so far as we know) at Interbike!

However, it DOES chronicle pretty much all the innovations throughout bicycling history, so rest assured that the predecessors to many of the “new” things there are mentioned in it!

Bicycle Design: An Illustrated History is by Tony Hadland and Hans-Erhard Lessing, and in the authors’ words seeks to fill the neglected gap addressing the technical aspects of the history of the bicycle. It starts out with… well, actually it starts out with ice skating and wheelbarrows… but it quickly moves on to velocipedes and draisines, the predecessors of the bicycle.

Another confession: I haven’t read the whole thing. I did read all the bits about velocipedes and high-wheel bikes and wire wheels and the development of the safety bicycle (aka a bike having 2 wheels of the same size), but after that concluded that this wasn’t really meant to be read straight through – and yeah, it took me a bit longer to figure that out than it might take most people, but what can I say… I’m a bit of a bike nerd!

 

Apparently we should call these draisines!

So after some deliberation, I’d consider this more of a reference book: the next time you wonder, “when WAS the first bamboo frame made?” rest assured that this is the place you can find that answer! (page 178: 1890’s, patented in 1896. Calfee wasn’t exactly the first!).

The first 5 chapters of the book detail the history up to the invention of the diamond-frame steel bicycle. After that point, it diverges into chapters on different aspects of bikes, such as transmission, braking, and lighting. It also – at the end – includes specific sections on “racing” bicycles and mountain bikes, folding bikes, and military bikes (an interesting chapter!).

Overall this is a very informative book, and I say kudos should go to the authors for assembling all of the information in a scholarly fashion, complete with TONS of references at the back (if anyone out there needs to write a term paper on anything about bicycles, this should be your starting point!).

My one minor (major?) complaint about it is that it reminds me of several of my history classes in high school. How so? No, not because I fell asleep… I like history, and this book is written pretty well, so I didn’t do that during either high school or while reading this! It’s because in high school I had several years of history classes where we spent a ton of time on something early in the semester… and then gradually less and less time per topic, until by the end we rushed through the 1960’s on in only a couple weeks (I don’t think I had a history class that ever made it to the decade we were in!). Bicycle Design reminds me of this: it spends a lot of time on early development, but we get to the end and there are a scant 10 pages on mountain bikes. Two paragraphs on disc brakes. Two pages on suspension. Etc. etc. Yes, these are relatively recent in the scheme of things – but they’re BIG things right now, they involve some pretty neat increases in bicycle capabilities, and they deserve to be included… not lumped together in a hash that includes everything from the 1970’s til now in a handful of paragraphs.

Gripes regarding recent history aside, this is something every serious bicyclist should at least flip through sooner or later. I highly doubt many people (apart from the authors) have a good grip on all of the developments mentioned in its pages, so you’re guaranteed to learn something (and probably something interesting!). At $20-something on Amazon (for a nice hardcover), it’s definitely worth picking up for the coffee table, or for the bike-themed coffee shop, or for the bike shop, or for a stocking stuffer, if Santa’s real nice and someone you know has a stocking that can accommodate a 564-page volume.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

 

Dahon Mariner: Final Review

If this is your first time reading about this bike, check out our initial impressions on the Dahon Mariner D7.

So the time has come… to tell you all about the hair-raising adventures I’ve had on the D7!

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You wish you had these skills.

And… that time is now over. Because there really weren’t any. Sorry… you can take another sip of your beverage now. And close your mouth, the popcorn’s about to fall out.

What I WILL say is that this bike has been rock-solid, and has introduced into my life the idea that maybe I should have a folding bike permanently. Because it’s been pretty sweet! It has continued to be easy to use (biking, folding, unfolding, lugging around) and hasn’t needed any maintenance to speak of. The only issues have been with fenders getting bent out of shape due to bad packing in the car (fairly easily bent back), and once when the handlebars somehow got spun all the way around and braking was wonky for a couple minutes ’til I realized what had happened. So… yeah, user error.

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Main folding mechanism and bottle bosses

Speaking of user error, in the initial review I said there weren’t bosses for a bottle cage. That was incorrect: there are, I missed them somehow, and they’re on the top of what would be the top tube if there were more than one tube. So ignore that complaint… it’s invalid!

Since the initial review, this bike has been in and out of cars, to the library, to the grocery store, and just generally wherever we need to ride. The one thing I haven’t yet done on this is take it on public transit… I simply haven’t headed DC-wards recently, so I can’t say how it is. I imagine it would work fairly well, but can’t 100% verify.

My wife and I both like it, and because it’s easy to hop on and go, it’s one of the first picks out of the garage. My wife also had the amusing experience of using it when she had to drop the car off for some maintenance – and seeing all the car repair guys watch in amazement as she pulled the Dahon out of the backseat, unfolded it, and rode off to do a couple errands while she was waiting. Apparently they’re not used to that!

Our very own Jack (Ghostrider) also got a ride on the Mariner D7… here’s what he had to say:

I really enjoyed my (short) time aboard the Mariner. I have a soft spot for folding bikes, although there’s not one in my bike fleet currently. For multi-modal commuters, or people who live in small apartments, a folding bike makes a lot of sense. And this Dahon really fits the bill.

I didn’t try my own hand at folding the bike, but Matt demonstrated the ease with which it folds up into a tidy package. One of the things I noticed during the folding was that the seatpost didn’t have reference marks etched into it; the lack of those marks means that getting your saddle height right the first time is a bit of a challenge. A strip of tape or a silver Sharpie marker makes short work of that omission, however.

As with most small-wheeled bikes, the Dahon accelerates quickly. It feels really nimble while riding around city streets and tight spaces, too. Gearing was adequate for around-town use — we didn’t get to try it on any monster climbs, but it handled the inclines of northern Virginia without too much effort. Standing up to pedal up a rise was, well, rather awkward…that’s the only time when the short wheelbase and compact fit were an issue. The overall fit and finish were excellent, and there weren’t any mechanical problems throughout the duration of our review period.

Overall, the Dahon Mariner makes a great choice if you’re in the market for a folding bike.

Did I mention we had a lot of fun riding it?

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You also wish you had these skills.

Interbike 2014: Motiv Electric Bikes

We’ve been friends with Motiv Electric Bikes for the past few years and we’ve seen them grow from day one. So it brings us pleasure to see them grow their model line. Check out the latest offering from Motiv.

This is called the Sherpa. Appropriately named for it’s ability to carry all sorts of stuff. That front rack/basket is mounted directly to the frame. Which means more stable riding and none of that front wheel flopping around when from your heavy basket.
motiv electric bikes

Check out this ginormous basket! It’s HUGE!
motiv sherpa

motive electric bikes sherpa

Again…a nice rack! The Motiv Sherpa can become your next cargo bike…minus that extra long bike length.
motiv electric bike cargo sherpa

Next up is the Motiv Stout. This is their entry into the Fat Electric Bike segment.
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Big fatties.motiv stout
If you’ve never ridden a fat tired bike, you’ll be quite surprised how well they roll. They’re actually very smooth and you really don’t feel the weight of those big tires. I can’t even begin to imagine how fun an electric fat tire bike would be!
motiv fat tire bike

Interbike 2014 coverage brought to you by…
two wheel gear bags