By Stephen Haynes
There are very few cycling goods out there that live up to the perceived reputation inherent in the name given to them. The Wolvhammer winter boots from 45NRTH are a fine example of performance actually meeting perceptions.
“We started from the conceptual standpoint of making a mountaineering boot work for cycling, rather than taking a cycling shoe and trying to make it warmer” says Daivd Gabrys, brand manager at 45NRTH, a rather new brand that specializes in cold-weather cycling products. It is this focus that makes the Wolvhammer boots stand out from the competition.
The inner boot is lined with 45NRTH’s Monster Fur, a super soft and warm layer that makes me think of some masochistic plush doll hugging my feet. The inner boot is laced up with a cinch closure that can be tightened up with gloves on. No need to tie laces. The Aerogel Jaztronaut insoles are noteworthy as well for their suppleness and resistance to the cold coming up through the bottom of your foot. These insoles can be purchased separately for $50.
Getting my feet into the inner boot has been the biggest chore for me. There is a little pull tag to gives you a little purchase while cramming, but it always seems to be a bit of a struggle. I hardly consider it anywhere near a deal-breaker though, more like the price of admission, and a pittance at that.
Once you’ve got your feet secure in the inner boot, the three-part (Cordura, Sympatex, and fleece), water-resistant outer zips up with a water-resistant zipper that is locked down with a Velcro strip. A Velcro ankle strap also secures the upper of this mid-calf boot.
A nice mudguard on the heel, over the toe and surrounding the lower foot, keeps the really nasty splashback at bay. These things even have a gaiter hook should you need extra protection.
An SPD-compatible Vibram sole rounds out the bottom of the boot and reiterates the fact that “robust” doesn’t seem adequate it when talking about these things. On the dozen or so rides in the Wolvhammers they’ve not yet disappointed; keeping my feet both warm and comfy (and this from a guy who generally has cold feet issues). I can confidently say that they are, without a doubt, the most comfortable riding shoes I currently own as well.
The Wolvhammer’s are stiff yet responsive while pedaling. What I mean is, they interact well with the pedal as far as stiffness is concerned and seem to spring board you out of each pedal stroke. Plus, they’re oh-so-squishy comfortable. The one setback I’ve had while wearing them is walking in them. Despite looking at the construction from a mountaineering boot point of view, they hike more like a cycling shoe. Which is ok because, well, they’re cycling boots!
I look forward to many more rides with the Wolvhammers. I only hope that our winter here in Pennsylvania gets a bit more winter-ish to give me the opportunity.
By Stephen Haynes
P.R.O. Series Transfer Thermal
Zip Neck LS Base
- MSRP: $80
- Country of Origin China
- Lifetime warranty
The Pearl Izumi Transfer Zip Neck LS Base is part of the brands’ multi-tiered system of baselayers and outerwear. Athletes can choose from three levels (Select, Elite and P.R.O) to fit their personal needs. The levels range in both price and form starting from the lower tier Select, moving to the upper tier P.R.O., while maintaining the intended purpose of each item (i.e. a waterproof P.R.O. jacket is also waterproof in the Select line)
The P.R.O. Series Transfer is at the upper end of technology and warmth. Constructed with P.R.O. Transfer fabric that incorporates volcanic matter known as Minerale to aid in the transfer of heat and moisture. Volcanic matter is very porous and thus aids in the materials breathability and is claimed to be up to two times more breathable than Gore materials.
The XL fit me snugly around the chest and forearms and the material, though breathable, isn’t super stretchy so check the measurements online before you buy. Thermal fleece lined, this long sleeve base layer was almost too warm for me. Personally, I would reserve this piece for the very coldest days or perhaps as a standalone piece. An 8in zipper on the front of the piece is mandatory due to the non stretchiness of the material.
Elite Thermafleece Tight
- MSRP: $135
- Country of Origin China
- Lifetime warranty
The Elite series Thermafleece Tights make you feel invulnerable to the cold. I used to get the same feeling when I’d climb into my wetsuit as a kid before surfing on cold “Dawn Patrol” sessions. Slightly heavier front/rear quad and knee panels keep your pistons insulated and an 8in zipper makes them easy to put on or take off. A silicone strip on the ankle keep the lowers in place. Riding in the Thermafleece tight was great; strategic panels over the quads and knees made for great articulation through each pedal stroke. I paired these with the Elite Barrier WxB Pant for and incredibly warm combination down into the teens and would sever you well even colder I’m sure. A simple drawstring waist keeps thing secure up top and the Elite 3D Chamois is as good as any of my riding shorts. Reflective IP logos and strips on the calves round out a very well equipped pair of tights.
Elite Barrier WxB Jacket
- MSRP: $300
- Country of Origin Vietnam
- Lifetime warranty
The Elite Barrier WxB Jacket is a water resistant, cycling specific soft shell designed to ward off the worst of what Mother Nature can throw at you. The fabric itself is made of three layers. Two layers of stretchy material that PI calls “titanium thermo-regulating technology” sandwich a third middle layer that has been treated with polyurethane to make it waterproof. In the 2012/13 version of the Elite Barrier Jacket, PI will employ the same volcanic Minerale material used in the Thermal Base layer in place of their titanium thermo-regulating technology. This will allow for greater breathability.
Taped seams further ward off moisture and are employed on the full zip front and the jackets two pockets as well. Speaking of pockets, there is one larger-ish pocket on the back, good for energy bars, wallet, keys, bigger stuff. There is also a pocket on the left chest, big enough for an mp3 player and has a little cut out for internal headphone routing. While I like jackets with pocket on either side of the front, the storage capabilities found here are ample enough for just about any outing and are bike specific.
Overall the jacket fits well. A somewhat sporty cut is comfortable without being overly tight or overly flappy. The collar is a tad higher in the front for good coverage and has snaps in the back for a hood you can purchase separately. The back of the jacket extends lower than the front as do most cycling specific jackets, but the Elite Barrier has an auxiliary drop down that can be used for and extra 5in. worth of posterior coverage. The flap can be folded into the jacket and secured via Velcro when not needed.
The waist has a cinch chord and the wrists have a half elastic half Velcro closure that works really well. The first 6in. of wrist also have an extra interior sleeve of stretchy fabric that locks in heat around the wrists. I found this to be just a tad too much warmth personally and resulted in super sweaty wrists.
Reflective accents along the arms and back round out this very capable jacket. Look for a mountain bike specific design in the coming season, which utilizes the same high-tech features and may sweeten the deal for those willing to cough up the coin for this well made jacket.
Elite Barrier WxB Pant
- MSRP: $250
- Country of Origin Vietnam
- Lifetime warranty
The Elite Barrier WxB pant utilizes the same semi-stretchy “titanium thermo-regulating” material as does the Elite Barrier jacket, giving them water resistance and breathability. The semi form-fitting cut of the pants is great in that they are performance oriented, but are loose enough that modest folks needn’t blush.
Fully taped seams keep water from sneaking in and an 8in zippered ankle makes getting in and out of them easy, even with shoes on. On the interior portion of the ankle there are abrasion patches that help keep contact with moving parts from being destructive.
A bonus feature is that these pants have zip off lowers, allowing you to covert them to shorts should your ride heat up unexpectedly. The waist has elastic around the back and elastic belt-like tabs on either side that allow you to tighten up as needed.
These pants are super comfy and versatile whether it’s cold outside or if the forecast calls for rain.
Elite Barrier MTB Shoe Covers
Country of Origin: China
The 3mm, neoprene, fleece-lined Elite Barrier MTB shoe covers were a welcome edition to my cold weather kit. I can generally keep my body warm but my extremities always suffer when the thermostat takes a dive. Being that I don’t yet own a pair of cold weather riding boots, shoe covers seemed like a good interim step.
My size Large fit over my size 9.5 shoes well. The Kevlar bottom has enough give to squeeze your foot into place and is hearty enough to withstand continued abuse. Your shoes are held securely in place by way of a toe closure and a band across the arch of your foot. This is enough to keep things tight while allowing you to use your preferred clipless setup. Reflective accents along the sides and back of the covers make them versatile on road as well.
A 7”x 3.5”in. Velcro closure on the back secures the cover in place and while it seemed like it would be a pain to operate at first, is actually quite easy. The whole process of jamming your foot in, shifting as needed for desired fit and closing up the back takes about 30 seconds per foot, totally worth it in my opinion.
By Stephen Haynes
I’m a huge nerd for things in small packages, especially if the small packages are incredibly useful. I also love Altoids. So it should come as no surprise that I’m a major fan of DIY kits that utilize Altoids tins. I’ve poured over the DIY survival, first aid, zombie apocalypse and fishing kits made by industrious people over at www.instructables.com and have made various kits for myself which I use often.
The thought of making a bicycle equivalent to the outdoorsy survival kit has circulated through my mind several times and I was happy to see someone employ the idea. I ran upon this one the other day made by Instructables member SMART. I really like a lot of what SMART is doing with this kit and I think anyone could use it as a jumping off point for there own bicycle minded survival kit. In fact, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
What follows are the ingredients that I used and the process by which I made my bicycle survival kit. This isn’t meant to be a be all end all kit. In fact, if I did this ten times I have ten different kits. Have fun and use my experience as a jumping off point for your own custom kit.
What you’ll need (Kit items):
- Some cash
- Antiseptic wipe
- Spare house/bike lock key
- Band aids
- Vulcanizing liquid
- Electrolyte packet
- Zip ties
- Tube patches
- Altoids tin (or something like it)
Tools you’ll need to make the kit:
- Xacto knife
After collecting all of your essentials you need to find a way to make them fit in your tin. You could simply shove all the stuff in there, throw a rubber band around it and throw it in your bag, but where’s the fun in that. Most of the joy in these things, for me, comes in the process of making them, so bear with me…
1. Cut your chipboard/cardboard to size. Trace two outlines of the tin onto your chipboard/cardboard and cut them out. Cut a little notch in one corner of each so you can remove them as needed later. You may have to whittle the edges of the board down a bit before it fits properly.
2. Write your important info on one of the pieces of chipboard/cardboard.
3. Start packing. After you get the chipboard/cardboard to fit, start packing the stuff in the tin.
4. I separated my stuff into two levels. Secret Stash level (emergency funds and a spare house/lock key) and the Emergency Level (everything else).
5. Put the key and cash in the tin and lay the first piece of chipboard/cardboard over top of them.
6. Carefully put all remaining items in on top of the first piece of chipboard/cardboard. Clever folding may need to be employed here. Also, the things you need/find to put in your kit will inevitably be a different size from what I’m showing here so be patient and be creative.
7. Put the remaining piece of chipboard/cardboard (the one with your emergency contact info on it) on top of the rest of your stuff and call it done!
8. Hopefully everything fits neatly in the tin for you but if it doesn’t employing a few rubber bands to hold everything together doesn’t have to be a deal breaker.
Got any bicycle survival tips, tricks or kits of your own?Tweet
By Stephen Haynes
The aluminum-framed Castro Duo folding bike from Tern takes urban transportation and adds style and functionality for a nice, simple bike anyone can feel comfortable riding. Part of Tern’s mission is to provide utilitarian urban transportation and to promote sustainability. Each year the company donates one percent of its net profits to social and environmental causes.
As the name “Duo” implies, the Castro Duo has an automatic, two-speed hub (more on that later) with a coaster brake. The coaster brake gives a clutter-free cockpit, with no brake levers or cables. The bike’s 24” wheels mean a smoother ride but also add bulk to the folded-bike package. The swooping, one-size-fits-most frame is complemented by a long seat post and adjustable stem, so it’s easy to size up just about anyone. I found the adjustable “Andros” stem to be a great way to dial in the ride feel, and it’s so easy to use, you can micro-adjust at any point.
The Castro Duo employs what’s known as “N-fold” technology to fold down. A joint near the center of the frame and another on the stem create what looks vaguely like an “N” when folding. Once the two halves are unfolded for riding, a large lever locks the joint in place. This sounds complicated, but is actually very intuitive. The whole folding procedure takes about 10 seconds.
The Castro Duo comes equipped with full fenders and a chainguard as well as an integrated rear rack. Folding pedals are a nice touch as well and decrease the Castro Duo’s girth when folded, and a center kickstand can hold the bike upright either folded or unfolded.
While the Castro Duo may seem rather Spartan at first glance, there is room to grow. Cable routing and linear-pull brake bosses on the fork give you the ability to add a front brake and increase your stopping power. Also, Tern has worked with the German company Klickfix, specializing in quick-release adaptors, to install its integrated rear rack and luggage socket on the head tube of all their bikes, so that one can easily add bags and baskets that employ the Klikfix attachment system.
Optional front and rear battery-powered lights ensure your ability to see and be seen for an extra $20 each. The front light nestles snugly between the adjustable stem and swivels around the axis of the handlebars so you can point it where you need to. I’m told that the front light will also be offered in a dynamo version.
The SRAM automatic two-speed hub is an interesting little gadget that detects your speed and shifts into a higher gear for you. The shift point for the Castro Duo is set at 12mph, and once you reach this speed, the second gear engages and suddenly you’re going faster than you were before. Pretty cool, but also kind of weird.
There were a few times I wasn’t anticipating the shift and my knees paid for it. Also, when building speed to go up hills, the hub will shift at what seems like the most in- opportune time. You can disengage the second gear by quickly back-pedaling; once I realized I could do that, hills became less of an issue. Still, if you live in a very hilly region like I do, you may want to check out the Castro Duo’s older sibling, the Castro P7i, which features a Shimano Nexus 7-speed hub.
My average ride on the Castro Duo consisted of going to and from the store a few miles away. This seems to be the bikes’ bread and butter, if you’ll pardon the pun. The bike is great for short easy trips to the office, school, store, or destinations less than five miles away and is ideal for flat-ish terrain where the ease of use and the second gear really shine.
All in all, the Castro Duo is a great little bike. Although not ideal for the area in which I live, I think this would be the perfect solution for a college kid in a dormitory or working professional living in a small urban apartment. It folds down small enough to be inconspicuous in a small place and can alleviate potential theft by giving one the ability to take it inside with them.
As a father looking at the prospect of sending a teenager to college next year, I’m definitely looking at the Castro Duo as her primary means of transportation.
- Age: 34
- Height: 5’11”
- Weight: 225lbs.
- Inseam: 30”
- Country of origin: Taiwan
- Price: $800
- Weight: 31.5lbs.
- Sizes available: one size
By Stephen Haynes, photos courtesy of the SLO County Bicycle Coalition
The first thing that comes to my mind when I hear the term “Kidical Mass” is an aggro group of elementary school kids finger wagging drivers as they congest the streets of metropolitan USA.. This vision, however, couldn’t be further from the truth.
Kidical Mass is a fun, safe, law abiding way to get more kids, parents, caregivers and neighborhood cyclists on the road, having a good time.
A typical Kidical Mass ride starts at a park, or other centrally located place and ends one to four miles later at an ice cream parlor or, somewhere similar, to reinforce the happiness of the event. Ride leaders go at an easy pace and a sweeper makes sure no one gets left behind. Helmets are required in most states for children under the age of 16 and adults are encouraged to wear them as well as a way of teaching the youngsters safe practices by example.
Started in Eugene Oregon in 2008, Kidical Mass has taken off in popularity and is enjoyed in many cities throughout the US and around the world. Whether you are a parent looking to do some riding with your children in a safe, supported environment, or a cyclist searching for a way to connect with your neighbors, Kidical Mass is worth exploring. If you don’t have a ride in your community, think of starting one! For more information check out www.kidicalmass.org.
Editor’s note: Read about our ride from Pittsburgh to Washington here.
By Stephen Haynes, photos by Stephen Haynes and Jon Pratt
Several months back Bicycle Times editor Karen Brooks asked if anyone was interested in riding the C&O Towpath and GAP trails that link Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh to and from the National Bike Summit. Having ridden portions of the GAP trail on a few occasions, I was eager to try and link the two trails and test myself it what would be my longest bike-packing excursion to date.
I chose to ride in the return leg, which was designated the more casual of the two. I’m not the fastest guy on the best of days, but certainly not with a fully loaded touring bike. Plus, I didn’t want to be in a hurry, there is a lot of history along those two trails and lots of things to look at as well.
As the departure day grew closer and the gear to be reviewed started to roll in, my confidence began to wane. I hadn’t done any significant training rides over 15 or 20 miles in longer than I cared to remember and the very real threat of rain (or worse) weighed heavy on my mind.
Nevertheless the day came and I found myself on an east-bound train at 4:30 a.m. following the trail I’d be riding back over the next five days…
As is often the case when ones eyes are bigger than their stomach, I did not make it the entire distance. I called in for reinforcements and departed the group in Cumberland, Maryland, leaving Karen and Jon to carry on over the GAP trail, back to Pittsburgh.
While I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to complete the whole length of the two trails, I was happy with my accomplishment of successfully navigating the C&O Towpath. It also gave me a better sense of bike packing and the pace at which I am comfortable. I saw a great abundance of wildlife from fish to frogs, turtles, snakes, beavers and eagles but I feel like I could have seen more.
Next time, and there will certainly be a next time, I’ll do the trip on a rig that doesn’t weight nearly 90 lbs., I’ll plan for a lot for less miles over more days, I’ll bring an empty sketchbook and plan to fill it (as was my secret hope for this journey) and I’ll train (at least a little bit more) before beginning.
Thanks to Karen and Jon for their encouragement and guidance and also to Chris, Libby, and Family for being so hospitable to us before the trip.
For more: Read about our southbound trip here.
By Stephen Haynes
Chris Brown, Owner/Operator of Brown Cycles in Grand Junction, Colorado, and mastermind behind the KidzTandem, says he used to race the bus to school as a kid “just to show the kids riding the bus how cool I was.” It’s in this spirit of playfulness and determination that he conceived the KidzTandem.
Over the last ten years, this father of four has been listening to his shop customers. What he found were riding enthusiasts turned parents who were looking for a way to get what Brown describes as their “riding mojo” on, while spending quality time with their kids.
By making the forward-most top tube of the Kidz Tandem a place to attach various add-on parts, Brown has effectively given you a 4130 chromoly do-it-all machine. Depending on the accessories you purchase, you could be riding the standard KidzTandem, a racier version of the original with drop bars, a cargo bike, a tandem with half a recumbent, a special-needs tandem, or a toddler tandem. They even make a triple! Feel really strongly about an idea you have, but don’t see it on his website? Contact Brown directly and he’ll likely find a way to make it happen for you.
The KidzTandem is piloted from the back seat by the adult. This gives the child up front an unobstructed view of things as they approach. My nine-year-old daughter, Darby, aka “Co-Pilot,” calls out things like “Puddle!”, “Squirrel!” or “Look, no hands!” as we amble along, happy to have a clear view. Also, happy not to smell me, I think…
The kids’ side of the bike, or front seat, is fully adjustable. The saddle can be dropped down nearly to the frame and the Satori EZ stem adjusts to bring the bars to the child. Standover height for the kids is 25”—that’s taller than Darby can reach, but dismount- ing was still easy for her since I hold up the bike at stops.
The one-size-fits-most geometry and componentry does a good job of making things comfortable without being complicated. What amounts to a 17” mountain bike frame in the back with a 23” standover height, combined with an adjustable stem, makes this bike height-compliant for a wide range of people from the not-so-tall to those over 6’. One nit to pick for me is the giant couch of a seat that comes with the bike. While “more cush for your tush” may be desirable for some, I found it to be less comfortable than likely intended.
SRAM X7 grip shifters keep you moving through the available 27 speeds while Avid SR linear-pull brakes make sure you stop. It would be nice to see disc brakes on a future model. Fully loaded with kids or groceries, depending on the set-up, the stopping power provided by disc brakes is warranted.
The bike is steered via a steering rod running from the bottom of the back seat’s steerer tube to the fork. There is something of a mental disconnect here as a result of being several feet removed from the front wheel. If you’re used to riding 26” or 700c wheels, like me, the 20” front wheel will feel a little squirrely. Smaller wheels make for better maneuverability, and with what feels like a large proboscis hanging off the front of the bike, you’ll want that. You have to plan your turns, letting the front end clear the corner before committing to it, or simply swinging a little wide to compensate. It took a few outings before I was confidently navigating the KidzTandem, but once I got it, the thing became incredibly fun to ride.
Bedecked with full fenders (a standard feature), the KidzTandem is no slouch in the inclement weather department. A rear rack is also standard, custom-made for the 26” rear wheel and made to fit a Sunlite Child Carrier ($225, optional). The toddler seat can also be mounted to the square top tube in the front portion of the bike by way of a custom mounting bracket, included with the seat. I’ve had my four-year-old son, Odin, in the back and Darby in front simultaneously with no problems at all. The bike also comes with a center kickstand that makes parking trouble-free.
Brown was kind enough to send a cargo basket ($200) with my tester. A similar mounting bracket attaches the cargo basket as for the toddler seat (though not at the same time). Riding this bike in cargo mode is a blast—I feel like Pee-wee Herman driving a U-Haul truck. The basket (27”x17-1/2”x6”) holds a ton of stuff, and with the aid of a few well-placed bungee cords, you can fit a week’s worth of groceries in it. Don’t overdo it though—weight capacity for the front half of the bike is 100lbs.
Like any tandem, there are two sets of cranks that share a chain and pedal in unison. This echoes the fundamental ethos behind the KidzTandem: “Get the kids involved.” By sharing the task of pedaling, the kids are more actively interested in riding. At certain points in our rides together, Darby and I would take turns putting our feet up and letting the other handle pedaling responsibilities. Though it was difficult for her to pedal for very long without me, she really felt like she had gone on a ride with me, instead of just being a passenger on my ride.
I wasn’t sure how I felt about the KidzTandem at first. The maiden voyage was shaky and Darby wasn’t completely sold on the whole idea. Slowly the bike won me over after loads of recyclables were taken to the dump and loads of groceries were brought home. The real revelation came when I had both my kids on the bike at the same time—this solidified my fondness for the bike. I highly recommend it to anyone who needs a bike that can serve multiple purposes and is looking for a fun way to get their kids actively involved in cycling. Once they’re riding their own bikes, hook up a basket and go shopping. Available from Brown Cycles or one of their many distributors in three eye-catching colors to help you, and your kids, beat the bus to school.
- Age: 34
- Height: 5’ 11”
- Weight: 220lbs.
- Inseam: 30”
- Country of Origin: Taiwan
- Price: $2,000
- Weight: 55lbs.
- Sizes Available: One Size
By Stephen Haynes
I’m often challenged creatively. Frequently it is one deadline or another that has me reeling in my aspirations for a certain project. Other times it’s a new medium that has me perplexed. Occasionally, the two converge and I find myself in the deep end of the creativity pool sweating out a project until it’s submitted for approval.
Such was the case with the Bicycle Times promotional video for the National Bike Summit happening March 20-22.
The video needed to be 15 seconds long and showcase what the magazine is and why we support the National Bike Summit. I’ve not worked very extensively in video. Any and all work I’d done in this medium was relevant when 8mm cassette tapes were still in fashion. That was the first problem. The second was capturing what Bicycle Times is visually… Care to take a stab at that? It means so many different things to so many different people. Explaining why we support the National bike Summit was the easiest part of the equation.
With the help of my wife Trina, I came up with and tested the idea of stop-motion animation as a means to visually express what Bicycle Times is. It centered around the idea of “everyday cyclists” as a play on our slogan “your everyday cycling adventure” while featuring some of the people that make the magazine.
After a short mock-up using Trina as the stop-motion model, I got the go-ahead from the “Head Cheese” and set about enlisting everyone willing to participate in the making of the video.
We systematically called each person in the office down to the photo studio/basement/merch department and had them pose in a series of positions for a fraction of a second each. Some, ahem, interesting stuff came out of the shoot.
I took the day’s worth of shots home that night and spliced them together in iMovie while Karen Brooks, editor of Bicycle Times, recorded a little voiceover bit to lay on top of the moving pictures. I dropped her voice over into Garage Band and strummed out a few guitar chords to add some ambiance.
With the moving pictures and voiceover in hand, I mated the two in iMovie, added some titles, exported in the appropriate format, and hoped for the best. Here is what the finished video looks like. I recommend watching it through once and then going back and stopping it occasionally to find some real gems. Enjoy.
Thanks to the staff of Bicycle Times and Dirt Rag for being good sports, to Justin Steiner for helping me set up the photo studio, to Karen Brooks for the voice-over and guidance, and thanks to Trina Haynes for helping to initiate the idea and facilitate the smooth transition of all the participants. You folks rock.
Editor’s note: Stephen will be one of the staff members riding home from the National Bike Summit, from Washington DC to Pittsburgh, via the C&O Canal and Great Allegheny Passage rail-trails. Stay tuned for blogs from our journey.
By Stephen Haynes
I’ve always been intrigued by folding bikes, much as I am by efficiency apartments, tiny houses, James Bond gadgets and Murphy beds. There is something appealing about a bike that is both practical and fun and can be discretely folded down and thrown in the trunk of your car. It plays to the pragmatist in me while adding a sense of whimsy to the mix.
The Tern Castro Duo does a good job of satisfying these wants and needs by offering a simple bike in a compact package.
The bike folds down small enough to be out of the way in that efficiency apartment or dorm room, but isn’t quite small enough to haul on the bus with you. If you have limited space in your dwelling or are a park-and-ride commuter, this could be your new best friend.
I’ve taken the Castro Duo on many rides both from my backdoor and from the trunk of my small car, folding and unfolding as needed with ease. The folding operation is quite easy by way of two joints: one located in the middle of the frame, the other where the stem meets the headset. The pedals fold down as well, maximizing the space savings.
Riding the Castro Duo reminds me of my first experiences on a bike—when a simple one speed with a coaster brake was all you required to get to the playground or friend’s houses. Tern has attempted to up the ante a bit by adding a SRAM two-speed automatic hub (Hence the “Duo” in the name). While this sounds great in theory, in practice I’ve found it has taken a little getting used to.
Unexpected shifts caught my knees out on more than one occaision early on, but I’ve grown more accustomed to the shifts and am getting better about predicting them, though not expertly just yet. I’ve also learned that by simply disengaging the drive train by quickly back pedaling (not enough to brake), will put you back down into the lower starting gear.
The Casto Duo rides quite nicely though and I have found benefits to having a second speed as well. Coasting down hills doesn’t necessarily mean coasting anymore and on the flats it means not having to spin out in a lower gear. Nice!
The super low step-through, upright riding position, 20” wheels and short wheelbase make it easy to get just about anywhere and be comfortable doing it. This thing is snappy and I’ve been tempted more than once to pretend it’s a BMX bike and launch it in some ill-advised manner.
The Duo’s frame has a built-in rear rack for carrying books, beer, pizza, or whatever; as well as built in front and rear lights. A chain guard means you don’t HAVE to roll up your pants and full fenders will keep those pants clean of street funk.
As if Tern couldn’t make this bike any more practical, they’ve also added a center stand that can be employed whether the frame is folded or unfolded.
The Tern Castro Duo will set you back $800 and for all the practical features that buys, sounds like a steal. Look for my full review in Bicycle Times Issue #16 coming out in April.
By Stephen Haynes
I love to ride bicycles. I also love my 8-year-old daughter Darby. She, however, doesn’t yet share my love of all things bike. How do I go about getting my mildly interested youngin’ into riding? After several misadventures cramming Darby and her younger brother into a buggy-type trailer, my wife Trina took a look at trailer bikes. When the Adams Trail-A- Bike (TAB) Folder 24 came across my radar, I jumped at the opportunity to get Darby on it.
One of the coolest things about the TAB Folder is that it folds up! A pivot point just in front of the TAB’s seat tube allows the whole contraption to fold back on itself, helping to keep the overall length manage- able when you want to stow or transport it. That said, the overall bulk of the thing, even folded, may be a bit cumbersome for small car owners.
The TAB is connected to a lead bike via a two-part hitch system. A receiving end is attached to the lead bike’s seat post—included shims make fit- ting easy. A universal joint on the front of the TAB slides into the receiving end and is secured with a hitch pin; this hitch pin also secures the bike in its folded state. A protective sleeve slides over the whole assembly to keep little fingers from getting pinched.
A 24” wheel on the TAB means a little smoother ride than trailers using a 20” wheel, plus the ability to accommodate larger riders (up to 85lbs.). The 7-speed drivetrain has been a good way to teach Darby about using gears. She says, “If it’s in number 6 or 7, it’s really hard, but if it’s in number 1, it’s really easy.” The higher gear range is nice for the lead rider, too. Both Trina and I can feel a boost when Darby shifts up into higher gears.
A higher-quality shifter on the TAB would be welcome; despite her claims that “shifting was easy,” I found it difficult and saw her using both hands at times to change gears. For an up-charge, your local bike shop could swap it out for something a little more user-friendly. Either way, the shifting lesson is there to be learned.
As an inexperienced rider, Darby occasionally leans in opposition to the lead rider, leaving the lead rider fighting the weight until the TAB falls back in line. Trina feels that the shift “can be a little overwhelming” and I tend to agree. We’re hoping that with more practice, and a little less looking everywhere but forward, Darby will learn better balance and keep the jarring to a minimum.
We’ve ridden the 27lb. steel TAB on rail- trails, city bike paths, and to and from the store. Darby has seen many interesting things on our ad- ventures but “the daddy long legs in the grass and the crazy caterpillar on the rail-trail” stand out as most memorable. Trina and I both agree that it’s a lot of fun, and having the ability to do longer rides is nice as well, though Darby says, “Long rides hurt my bum.” Perhaps a plusher seat?
At $290, the Adams Trail-A-Bike Folder 24 is a bit of an investment for something that isn’t a stand-alone bike, though families like ours can use it again with a younger child, as we plan to. Modest componentry like the shifters, seat, one-piece crank, and cup-and-cone bottom bracket leaves something to be desired, but all of these are upgradable if the need should arise. Despite this, Darby, Trina and I agree that the TAB is a great way to get out and spend time together as a family. Made in China. www.trail-a-bike.com
By Stephen Haynes
“Always leave them crying,” says Chris Brown of Kidz Tandems. What he means is, that kids love to pedal and you want them to be so pumped about riding that when the ride is done, they’re crying for more!
Unfortunately on our maiden voyage my daughter Darby did cry (and not in a good way). Of course I didn’t suss out the handling of the bike very well before encouraging her to jump on the front seat. The extra weight had me downshifting and the sudden boost in pedal rotation caught her off guard and she took a pedal to the back of each leg. Way to go Dad! Jeez! Though little or no actual scarring occurred, I haven’t yet convinced her that giving it another go is a good idea.
In the meantime, this unfortunate little hiccup has given me the ability to try out the Kidz Tandems’ utilitarian aspect. The optional, large front loader basket that came with my tester can haul some serious cargo and has been put through it paces on several grocery trips and recycling runs.
It’s taken me a little while to get used to the bike, and I’m not fully up to speed just yet. The small front wheel combined with the extended frontal region makes for strange cornering. Weight is also an issue, especially if, like me, any previous load hauling has been pulled, not pushed. Fully loaded the thing becomes a little bit of a beast but not totally unmanageable.
Chris also included a small child seat that I clamped onto the rear rack and strapped my son Odin into. He really enjoyed the ride but wasn’t quite crying for more. In fact, I think he’s a tad big for the seat as my heels and his toes kept colliding as we ambled down the street. Nevertheless, it puts a smile on my face when people stare aghast at me riding along with Odin and our recyclables. It’s a small town we live in and riding a normal bike is akin to walking around Au natural, or setting oneself on fire. The general consensus is “why wouldn’t you just drive”?
Hopefully Darby can be coaxed back onto the bike (maybe I can get Odin to work on her too) and we can put some miles on it in tandem mode and freak more people out with our “crazy shenanigans”. Until then, perhaps I can charge for bicycle rides down at the local park and see how many kids I can make cry?
By Stephen Haynes
What to do with a couple of house bound kids when the weather outside just won’t allow for frolicking? Dining room table circle track! It combines thrilling speeds, potential injury with possible property damage! Satisfying all the major "cool" points for my two whippersnappers.
Fortunately, when we decided to buy a house, we were blessed with hardwood floors. This type of flooring allows for such things as skateboarding, matchbox demolition derby, bowling, dancing like lunatics and of course riding bikes.
Our riding is typically confined to the dining room where we can roll uninterrupted in a circle around the dining room table. We will typically start off at a leisurely pace, feeling out the course, plotting our lines. As we gain confidence so too we gain in momentum and soon that comfortable right hander between the tchotchke/catchall, the table and the keyboard gets a little dicey! It’s inevitable that some unsuspecting bit of daily detritus gets knocked from it’s perch (usually by me), but it’s all part of the fun.
Of course there are other natural obstacles to overcome such as dizziness. Our table (and the room which houses it for that matter) isn’t very big. After 30 or so laps I’m begging for a "Pit Stop".. I often conjure images of those madmen on motorcycles in the circular enclosure at the circus. You know the ones? At any rate, the dizziness typically gets the best of me and I end up playing the part of traffic warden (Stop!! Go!!) the rest of the time. Then it’s onto the next potentially damaging activity. "Indoor soccer anyone?"