By Karl Rosengarth, photos by Justin Steiner
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll have noticed a resurgence of simple, reliable bikes designed for short-haul transportation. Linus Bikes of Venice, California, offers just such a lineup of basic-transportation bicycles that take their styling clues from classic French bikes of the 1950-60s and utilitarian Dutch city bikes. According to Linus Bikes’ founder Adam McDermott, the Roadster 8 is “an all-around city bike, intended for everyday use and utility.”
The Roadster exudes a classy retro vibe. I especially like the way the painted-to-match metal fenders unify the look, from stem to stern. On a practical note, there’s nothing like full-length fenders to keep you singing in the rain. With the 8-speed gearing tucked inside the rear hub, the silhouette is clean and uncluttered. The alloy rear rack lets you know that this steed has some workhorse in its bloodline. Utility indeed.
With the traditional quill stem, it was a snap to adjust the handlebar height. I opted for a body position with a slight forward lean, as opposed to bolt-upright. I felt well-balanced, over the center of the bike, and in a “heads-up” posture where I could keep my eyes on traffic and the road ahead.
From the first ride, I noticed the Roadster’s decidedly quick steering response. Snappy steering makes perfect sense on a bike built for slicing through city streets. The only time that the quick steering felt out of place was going fast downhill—the bike wouldn’t toler- ate much steering input before things turned twitchy. Under said conditions, the bike be- haved better if I steered with my hips, or via some body lean, rather than with the bars.
The Shimano Nexus 8-speed drivetrain provided ample gearing for conquering my hilly surroundings. Only on the steepest grades did I have to get out of the saddle. When I did stand on the pedals, I was pleased to find that the wide handlebars were far enough out in front of my lap to provide sufficient leverage.
The 4130 chromoly steel frame and fork responded to hard pedaling efforts with the lively, efficient feeling that I’ve come to expect from quality steel steeds. No wasted effort, thank you very much. My definition of “lively” includes the fact that the bike let me feel the road, without having the road beat me up.
The Roadster 8 was the perfect horse for the five-mile course to the office. It was a breeze to click my pannier (filled with daily needs) onto the rear rack, retract the included kick- stand, hop aboard, and pedal—rain or shine.
The Roadster handled my grocery run, also about five miles each way, with ease. A pair of panniers loaded with provisions was well within this steed’s capabilities. The load barely affected the bike’s handling, and the Tektro dual pivot caliper brakes kept everything under control on the way downhill.
Linus did an admirable job of outfitting this bike with solid components, and not sneaking any zingers in there. I was impressed with the great traction (wet or dry) and smooth ride offered by the Schwalbe 700x32c Delta Cruiser tires (with reflective sidewalls). I enjoyed the real leather grips and comfortable leather-covered touring saddle. The bolt-on 36-spoke wheels (remember to carry your 15mm tool) were nondescript, but to their credit were built using double-wall alloy rims. I’m a bell person, so I’m giving Linus bonus points for spec’ing a sweet metal bell.
The $839 asking price seems appropriate, considering that the package includes a tried and true Shimano 8-speed drivetrain, solid components, metal fenders, and an alloy rack. Available in cream (tested) and black, the Roadster is a fun-to-ride looker that’s perfectly suited for the daily grind.
- Age: 55
- Height: 5’10”
- Weight: 150lbs.
- Inseam: 32”
- Country of Origin: China
- Price: $839
- Weight: 33.3lbs.
- Sizes: Medium (51cm), Large (59cm, tested)
By Karl Rosengarth
Sherman, set the Way-Back-in-the-Day Machine to the year 1981, and the place: Phoenix, Arizona. The objective of our mission: the Belt Beacon.
During a recent basement-cleaning session, I stumbled upon my Belt Beacon, the first flashing bike safety light that I ever purchased. I was living in Phoenix at the time, and to the best of my knowledge the year was 1981. I can’t remember if other "blinky" lights were widely available at that time, but a friend recommended the Belt Beacon, so I ended up purchasing one.
As you can see from the photo at the top of the page, the Belt Beacon is a behemoth by today’s standards, eerily reminiscent of a motorcycle tail light from the same era.
Despite it’s awkward form factor, the Belt Beacon gave me years of reliable service before it stopped working. I tried to trouble-shoot the circuit, but my limited electrical engineering skill were not up to the task. I can’t bring myself to toss it out. Perhaps, one day, I might solve the mystery and resuscitate this piece of history.
The photo above shows the unit with the translucent orange plastic cap popped off, and reveals the high-intensity lamp that gave Belt Beacon it’s retina-searing brightness. Even by current standards, this baby was bright! And the dome-shaped cover provided great side-visibility to boot.
The black mark and scar at the six o’clock positon on the orange cover was caused by my rear tire rubbing on it. I recall that I had mounted the Belt Beacon on my rear rack’s reflector bracket. Somehow the bracket got bent, causing the cover to drag on my rear wheel. I can’t believe it wore such a deep groove before I noticed. Oops!
The photo above shows the rear of the unit. A small, black on/off switch is located at the six o’clock position. The screw and washers at 12 o’clock were used to attach the Belt Beacon to the reflector mount.
You can also see two diagonally-opposed mounting holes (at 4 and 10 o’clock) that, along with a pair of provided screws, were to be used for mounting the Belt Beacon to a fabric strap, or a backpack, or a wide fender. I never used that attachment method.
The slot at three o’clock in the photo was used to attach a provided metal belt-clip, which was designed to be worn: "on a belt, head sweat band, or hung over any convenient object," according to the instructions (yes, I kept them). The belt clip worked well, as I recall. It went MIA at some point.
The instruction sheet includes the following passage: "Motorists, especially inattentive, tired or intoxicated, are a real danger to hikers and bikers who travel at night. Your real safety, in the absence of good paths, depends on being highly visible and getting motorist’s attention. Your solid state Belt Beacon electronically drives a high intensity lamp, and does so at low cost with high portability and exceptionally long battery life."
The warning about "inattentive, tired or intoxicated" drivers still rings true today. Sadly, the streets haven’t gotten any safer in the past 30 years.
Another paragraph from the instructions has this to say: "Backpackers, hunters, airplane pilots and night fishermen will find the portability and long battery life make the Belt Beacon a good addition to their usual kits. If lost or an emergency arises, the Belt Beacon will flash strongly approx. 1-2 weeks or more at night."
True story: the Belt Beacon saved by bacon on one particular "power-boat camping" trip. I used it to illuminate my remote camp-spot at night while I motored back to the docks to pick up a late arriving friend. Using the Belt Beacon as a signaling device on the shoreline was most likely highly illegal, but If it weren’t for the bright strobe indicating my remote camp spot, I’d probably have run out of gas looking for my camp in the dark.
I was able to track down some Belt Beacon history via Cyclelicious who indicated that the Ampec company from Phoenix started selling the Belt Beacon in 1974, and stopped making them in the late ’90s. That’s right about the time that LED safety lights burst onto the scene. The folks from Cateye tell me that they introduced their first LED blinky in the USA in 1992.
Let’s hear from you. What’s your earliest recollection of blinky lights? Which model did you first purchase? Do you remember the Belt Beacon? Please comment below.
This mileage signpost along the GAP in Connellsville, PA sums up the dream quite succinctly.
By Karl Rosengarth
It’s fantastic how a simple vision can inspire great accomplishments. Case in point: the simple vision of a bicycle trail connecting Pittsburgh, PA to Washington, DC.
The first part fell into place in 1971, with the establishment of the C&O Canal National Historic Park, which offers 184.5 miles of non-motorized adventure from Cumberland, MD to Washington, DC.
I’m not sure how long after 1971 it took for people to start dreaming about a trail connecting Pittsburgh to the C&O trailhead, but dream they did.
That dream eventually became reality, in the form of the Great Allegheny Passage (i.e., the GAP), a 150-mile system of trails running from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, mostly along relatively-flat, abandoned railroad grades.
I picked the terms "vision" and "dream" carefully, because the story behind the GAP is a tale of a shared vision, a dream, that became a rallying cry.
"What if you could ride your bike on trails all the way from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC?"
That vision was the dream that rallied grassroots efforts all along the GAP trail corridor and inspired the cumulative, indefatigable efforts of non-profit organizations, local governments and dedicated individuals who fought, and won, mile-by-mile battles to string together the GAP.
I am one such individual. In 1991 I learned that a volunteer group was being formed to convert an abandoned rail corridor, along the northern section of the Youghioghenny River, into a rail-trail. It wasn’t the concept of a building a 40-mile scenic bike trail that inspired me to get involved. It was the dream of riding a trail that would one day stretch from Pittsburgh to Washington that provided the inspiration.
That grand vision motivated me to attend an organizing meeting, and eventually get myself elected to the Mon-Yough Trail Council’s inaugural Board of Directors. The volunteer efforts of that organization helped convert a decaying, abandoned railroad into a beautiful crushed-limestone trail within Allegheny County, the county that encompasses the city of Pittsburgh. I’m proud to have played a small part in creating the legacy that is the GAP.
Since 1991, I’ve spent countless hours, riding various sections of the GAP in and around Pittsburgh. While I haven’t yet pedaled all the way from Pittsburgh to Washington, I did complete a 267-mile self-supported tour along the GAP and C&O Towpath from Somerset, PA to Washington, DC. The whole Pgh-DC enchilada is sill on my bucket list. Perhaps 2012 will be the year?
How does this story relate to Pittsburgh’s past? Well it turns out that George Washington shared a similar vision.
According to the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail website: "George Washington’s dream of connecting the eastern states with the western frontier led to the creation of the Patowmack Company. Locks were built around unnavigable parts of the Potomac River for improved commerce."
Yep, old George had major role in the creation of the C&O canal. Washington’s desire to develop a corridor between the developed eastern cities and the western frontier (and specifically the Ohio Valley) drove him to explore the very the route that the GAP follows today. The route played a key role in our country’s westward expansion.
And, as I pointed out in part one of this series, it was the strategic location at the Ohio River headwaters that eventually led to the founding of the city of Pittsburgh.
Just about every time I pedal along the GAP, I find myself daydreaming of George Washington, and the other pioneers, who explored the region in days gone by. Pedaling Pittsburgh’s past, to be sure.
The 1,908 ft. long Salisbury Viaduct crosses the Casselman River valley west of of Meyersdale, Pa.
In Allegheny County, near Pittsburgh, the GAP offers this stout bicycle and pedestrian bridge over the Monongahela River, a re-purposed railroad bridge connecting Duquesne and McKeesport, Pa.
This ramp on a bicycle pedestrian bridge near Duquesne, Pa., (over active railroad tracks) gives riders an increasingly-rare view of the Pittsburgh region’s steel-making heritage.
The GAP crossed the Youghioghenny River at scenic Ohiopyle, Pa.
Cyclist of all sorts ride the GAP (Connellsville, Pa.).
The GAP rolls right by the confluence of the Youghioghenny and Casselman rivers, at Confluence, Pa.
The GAP offers access to many beautiful "beaches" along the Youghioghenny River. Great for cooling off on a hot day, or accessing that favorite fishing hole.
By Karl Rosengarth
I’m a man on a mission, for better traction. This year at Interbike I roamed for rubber. What follows is a selection of tires that piqued my interest. Note that some of the tires listed are not yet released; therefore, full specs may not yet be available.
The Maxxis Gyspy touring tire looks like a great choice for commuters, as well as loaded tourers. The dual compound construction provides harder rubber down the center for longer wear, and softer cornering rubber on the sides. Available in both 700 x 38c and 26 x 1.5" sizes. Price TBD. www.maxxis.com/Bicycle.aspx
Continental’s TopContact Winter II tires have abundant micro-siping designed for maximum grip in wintry conditions, without the need for metal studs. The tires feature a 3M reflective stripe on the sidewalls. They retail for around $65 and are available now in both 700 x 37c and 26 x 1.9" sizes. Let it snow! www.conti-online.com
The new Kwick Tendril from Kenda is a city/touring tire with a smooth, fast-rolling, center section. The outer, cornering surfaces have siping and a knurling for improved grip. Available in a wide range of 700c widths from 25 through 38c, and in 26 x 1.5 and 1.75" options. www.kendausa.com
Rando is all the rage. And if you really want to rock some street cred, then you’ll want to roll 650B. Panaracer has got you covered with their Col de La Vie, a 650B x 38mm tire with inverted tread design that’s well-suited for rando and/or touring duty. www.panaracer.com
Vee Rubber has been in the bicycle tire business for over 30 years, though they’ve had little presence in the US market as of late. That’s about to change as the company is releasing a complete range of mountain and road tires, starting in October 2011. Their Easy Street commuter tire will retail for around $20 in wire bead. Available in various widths in 700c, 26" and 28" sizes. veerubberusa.com
Schwalbe’s all-new Marathon Mondial is and adventure touring tire that’s available in a variety of widths in both 26" and 700c sizes. These bad boys feature harder compound down the center for longer wear, softer compound on the sides for improved cornering grip, SnakeSkin sidewall protection, and a woven aramid belt for puncture protection. www.schwalbetires.com
Vittoria’s Adventure Trail is a low-rolling-resistance tire with a tread pattern designed mixed surfaces, including a bit of dirt when need be. Available in 700 x 35/38c and 26 x 1.75" sizes. www.vittoria.com
Freedom is expanding their Cruz tire lineup in 2012 to include an all-new 29 x 2.0" size. They’ll be out in October 2011 and will retail for around $33 (wire bead only). Great news for commuters rolling to work on 29ers or monstercross rigs. www.freedombicycle.comTweet Print
The Ridekick power trailer is an interesting twist on electrifying your ride. Thanks to its built-in 500 Watt electric motor, this battery-powered trailer gives a boost to your existing bike. Last year we tried a pre-production version, and now the finished product is on sale.
The $699 trailer has a clamshell design that provides 41.8 liters of enclosed cargo space. Rated hauling capacity is 75 lbs. The hitch attaches through the left-side Q/R skewer.
The current version of the Ridekick uses a sealed lead-acid battery and has a range of 12-15 miles. Ridekick is working on a lithium-ion battery upgrade that will expand the range, though exact specifications are not available at this time.
A simple handlebar-mounted thumb-lever serves as the throttle. On my test ride I found that having to thumb the throttle was not as convenient as "just pedaling along" the way I would on a pedelec, but the throttle got the job done nonetheless. The Ridekick had plenty of guts and flattened out the uphill grades. There was a slight surgieness in the way that the trailer delivered its power to the bike compared to rear-hub motors, but for $699 the Ridekick is an affordable and effective way to boost your bike.
It doesn’t end here, we’ve got a lot more coverage of Interbike 2011.
A redesigned battery is 100g lighter and offers increased capacity, boosting the range from 50 to 60 miles. The handlebar-mounted control unit has been redesigned with a more intuitive interface/display (the functions remain the same).
The new battery includes a 6-volt power output jack for connecting a lighting system. Charging control circuitry is now built into the battery itself, and the previously-required smart charger is replaced by a simple, more compact charger.
My test ride confirmed that the updated BionX system offers the same seamless pedelec power and snappy performance as the original. The retail price for the 350 Watt system is $1,899 with a downtube mounted battery or $1,999 with rear rack mounted battery.
It doesn’t end here, we’ve got a lot more coverage of Interbike 2011.
Linus Bikes is on a mission to provide simple, reliable bikes that take their styling clues from classic French bikes of the 1950-60s and utilitarian Dutch city bikes. According to Linus Bikes‘ founder Adam McDermott, the Roadster 8 is "an all around city bike, intended for everyday use and utility." Sounds good to me, let’s give it a whirl.
The Roadster 8 immediately struck me as an eye-pleasing blend of retro-fashion and modern-day function. The painted-to-match metal fenders, give this steed all-weather practicality, and enhance its classical aesthetics. The high-tech bits are tucked neatly inside the Shimano 8-speed Nexus hub, where they are barely noticeable yet much appreciated.
The bike’s heads-up rider position is my preferred arrangement for pedaling in traffic. Steering response is notably quick, the way it should be on a bike built for slicing through city streets. Flat pedals make it convenient to hop on and run a quick errand. Leaning on its kickstand in my basement, the Roadster 8 is not snoozing, it’s in the "ready position," awaiting our next mission.
With a single pannier snapped onto the included alloy rack, the Roadster 8 has been just the ticket for commuting to the office and back. The eight speeds have flattened the hill-climbs on my 5-mile route to Bicycle Times HQ, and the Tektro dual pivot caliper brakes have kept things under control on the downhill side. I’ve yet to utilize the Roadster 8 for a major grocery run, but that’ll come in due time.
For the $830 asking price you get a 4130 chromoly frame/fork, outfitted the aforementioned items, plus the following noteworthy touches: Schwalbe 700 x 32C Delta Cruiser tires, real leather grips, and metal bell. The Roadster 8 is made in China.
Look for my complete review in Bicycle Times Issue #14, which is scheduled to mail to subscribers and hit newsstands in November, 2011. Order a subscription today.
By Karl Rosengarth
Soma Fabrications of San Francisco, California is on a mission to produce practical, durable, comfortable and affordable products for the everyday cyclist. The Buena Vista is Soma’s mixte frameset.
The mixte design replaces the traditional top tube with a pair of smaller tubes that run from the head tube all the way to the rear dropout, with a connection at the seat tube. By retaining the conventional seat- and chainstays, the mixte provides generous standover clearance, combined with better structural rigidity than step-throughs with a dropped top tube. The mixte is also skirt-friendly, for those so attired.
I asked Stan Pun, the marketing and product development guy at Soma, about the target market for the Buena Vista: “We would like to say it is for anyone looking for a classy, quality ride. But it isn’t just a ladies’ or gentleman’s bike. We wanted to do a mixte that someone would not mind riding long distances with and feel at home riding fast on. We’ve had one enthusiast use it with an Xtracycle. The low standover allowed him to mount from the front, so he wouldn’t kick his kid in the head.”
To be sure, this is not your grandparents’ mixte. It’s made from Tange Infinity heat-treated chromoly for the down and seat tubes, and butted/tapered chromoly in the rear end. Chromoly is stronger than the plain steel used in many vintage mixtes (which have a reputation for being flexy), and can be formed into larger diameter, thin-walled tubes. Said tubes produce a stiffer frame with no weight penalty.
The Buena Vista comes with a lugged, sloping-crown, chromoly steel fork. The 132.5mm rear dropout spacing falls in between road (130mm) and mountain (135mm) hub spacing, and thanks to the steel frame’s inherent flexibility, it will accommodate either road or mountain rear hubs. Semihorizontal dropouts equal singlespeed compatibility. The frame is also ready for front and rear racks and fenders. Versatility indeed.
The Buena Vista was not specifically designed as a dedicated “townie” bike, and I’m told that the typical customer would opt for a “sport road/touring” build with drop bars. But when Pun offered to provide a townie build, I decide to accept, and put the frame’s versatility to the test.
My build sported a Sturmey Archer 8-speed drivetrain with twist shifters (see sidebar for more information). The frame will work just fine with derailleurs, and it even comes with down tube shifter bosses. My build included several “house” brand goodies including Soma’s New Xpress 28c tires in terra cotta (a personal favorite of mine) and Sparrow bar in 560mm width. From the photo, one can see the tall stack of headset spacers—visually awkward, perhaps, but they gave me ample stem height adjustability, very useful for tweaking my position.
From my first pedal strokes, I realized that this was one quick-handling townie. The narrow Sparrow bars combined with the 73º head angle produced a snappy feeling at the handlebars. The Buena Vista diced through congested city streets like a Ginsu knife. With the upright, head-on-aswivel riding position, I felt confident and in control when dodging potholes and/or avoiding collisions with aggressive bus drivers.
After receiving the Buena Vista, I’ve test-ridden a few other townie bikes, and they felt similarly snappy at the handlebars. We’re talking fast-paced city life here, not laid-back beach cruising.
Sturmey Archer recommends a 30-tooth chainring, but Soma built my bike with a 34-tooth chainring, which made my “easiest” gear (34×23) higher than normal. The narrow bars combined with the higher gearing gave me some grief on steep, long hills. After a few rides, I switched to wider mountain bike bars and twist-shift compatible Ergon grips with integrated barends to give me more leverage on the handlebars. Now that’s what I’m talking about! I was able to produce more oomph up the hills, and the handling was still plenty quick.
The Buena Vista was just the ticket for my weekly 25-mile-plus “explore the city” ride. On it, I rhythmically weaved through crowed streets in search of adventure around the next corner. At the other end of the spectrum, the Buena Vista felt comfortable and at home cruising the open, and sometimes unpaved, rural roads on my favorite multi-hour recreational loop. There’s that versatility theme again.
The Buena Vista exhibited the classical “lively” feeling of a quality chromoly steel frame—a sweet blend of snappy acceleration and a comfortable resilience over the road. I felt that the mixte design offered some additional bump-absorbing vertical compliance, compared to double-diamond frames.
Going into the review, I wasn’t sure what to expect from a mixte. Fortunately, what I didn’t get was any notable frame flex or feeling of lost efficiency. I felt comfortable pushing the Buena Vista hard into corners, hopping curbs, rumbling over unpaved roads, and generally riding without any inkling of “holding back.” Hey, it rode like a bike, imagine that!
At less than five bills for a chromoly frame/fork, the Buena Vista impressed me as a great value. It’s equally the ticket for the tinkerer looking for a versatile frame, or somebody with a set plan and a set budget. This steel is real—affordable.
- Age: 54
- Height: 5’10”
- Weight: 150lbs.
- Inseam: 32”
- Country of Origin: Taiwan
- Price: $490 (Frame/Fork)
- Weight: 22.6lbs. as ridden (5.0lbs. frame)
- Sizes Available: 42, 50, 54, 58 (tested)
Freedom Riders (L tpo R): Rodney Deese, Mike (The Dawg) Palmeri, Robert Cotrell, Brian Daily, John Carter, Kevin Moburg. Photo: Kendall Craig.
By Karl Rosengarth
With the 10-year anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks right around the corner, a group of firefighters from Atlanta, GA , are planning a bicycle ride to commemorate the lives of the firefighters and first responders who died that day. The Aaron’s Freedom Ride 2011 is scheduled to depart from Atlanta on August 28th and arrive in NYC on September 10th, 2011.
Proceeds from this event will benefit the Atlanta Fire Rescue Foundation and support the mission of Atlanta Fire Rescue. You may make a donation to the Freedom Ride 2011 via this web link.
This is the real deal. One look at their schedule and you’ll see that the Freedom Riders have their work cut out for them:
- Day 1: Atlanta, GA to Ellijay, GA – 90 Miles
- Day 2: Ellijay, GA to Cherokee, NC – 100 Miles
- Day 3: Cherokee, NC to Asheville, NC – 60 Miles
- Day 4: Asheville, NC to Little Switzerland, NC – 50 Miles
- Day 5: Little Switzerland, NC to Bluff Mt., NC – 70 Miles
- Day 6: Bluff Mt., NC to Rakes Millpond, VA – 100 Miles
- Day 7: Rakes Millpond, VA to Peaks of Otter, VA – 80 Miles
- Day 8: Peaks of Otter, VA to Charlottesville, VA – 105 Miles
- Day 9: Charlottesville, VA to Washington D.C. – 115 Miles
- Day 10: Rest Day in Washington D.C.
- Day 11: Washington D.C. to Cape May, NJ – 190 Miles
- Day 12: Cape May, NJ to Atlantic City, NJ – 50 Miles
- Day 13: Atlantic City, NJ to Long Branch, NJ – 90 Miles
- Day 14: Long Branch, NJ to New York City, NY – 60 Miles
Good luck to these brave first responders, who lay their lives on the line on a daily basis. May you have the journey of a lifetime!