By Erik Mathy. Erik carries an entire 4×5 view camera on his bicycle journeys. Let’s check out some of his recent work…Ed.
Above: The Ferry Building, San Francisco. With giant polar bear.
The San Francisco Bay Area is a funny place. I’ve been riding up to the top of Hawk Hill, which overlooks the Golden Gate Bridge, pretty consistently in the mornings before work. It’s a nice climb with a couple of good punches for out of shape, slightly overweight guys like me. More importantly, there is also a decided lack of car traffic in the mornings which we cyclists can always appreciate. Anyways, for the last 2 months I haven’t been able to see the bridge from the peak of Hawk Hill. The fog is just too thick in San Francisco during the summer months.
But come September? The clouds part, the sun comes out, the Golden Gate is fog-free and our already fine Bay Area cyclist life gets all that much finer. For me, that’s because I’m almost always packing a camera when I ride. All that extra sunshine in September and October make from some fabulous photography.
A few years back some friends of mine and I did a big spate of long bikepacking trips. Crescent City to San Francisco. Klamath Falls to the Deschutes in Oregon. Fruita to Moab on the Kokopelli Trail. Those trips made me realize that I was not, nor would probably ever be, a very fast cyclist. I’ll never go back and race the Tour Divide like I tried to do way back when. I’ve found that what I love isn’t trying to keep up with the fast guys. It’s riding my bike and taking photographs.
Bicycle Times has been kind enough to ask me to send them over some photographs from my various rides each month. There’s a big 1200 mile photography bike tour on my horizon, and I’m working getting my camera setup down. I’ll be taking a self-made camera lens and an old, 50’s era Speed Graphic that shoots sheet film. I’m looking to scratch a pair of itches on this trip:
Do more creative work with my hands.
Make photographs that have a distinct, old look and feel to them.
And that’s the down low on my first, but hopefully not my last, edition of Ride Slow, Take Photos here at Bicycletimes.com. Enjoy!! Technical specs below…
San Jose Airport, San Jose, CA
Newmark Tennis Stadium at night, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
Burned out homeless encampment, Oakland, CA
Police, Oakland, CA
Motel, Oakland, CA
Skate Like A Girl, Town Park Skate Park, Oakland, CA.
Skate Like A Girl, Town Park Skate Park, Oakland, CA.
Immigration Station, Angel Island, CA
Tiburon – Angel Island Ferry, San Francisco Bay, CA
Harry Bridges Plaza, San Francisco, CA
I shoot with a 1950’s era 3.25×4.25 Speedgraphic press camera. The lens is a handmade 140mm f/4.5 Dollar Bill Lens made with surplus optical glass elements and, yes, dollar bills. Film is Kodak X-Ray film. Its red light safe so I can cut it down safely from 8×10 to the oddball 3.25×4.25 size. It shoots at 50asa, just like normal film. The best part is that I can buy 100 8×10 sheets for $115, which makes for 400 sheets of 4×5 or smaller. It’s the cheapest way to do large format, by far!
Look for more of Erik’s work as he travels around, camera in tow. His next project is going to be epic! -Ed.
Hello Bicycle Times readers! Welcome to this sponsored post. Yes, this content is provided by Civia Cycles, and written by Matt Pacocha. Matt has some good ideas about E-bikes. Take a moment to check it out, and help us pay the bills!… Ed.
E-bikes are everywhere.
Or they will be soon, here’s why.
I live at 9,000 feet. Last week, my wife and I did a social ride with some new friends. We just moved to a mountain town with our two sons to partake in small-town living with easy access to what we love to do: riding in the summer; skiing in the winter.
I digress from my personal situation. As we finished our ride with friends and rolled up to one of our favorite eateries after our human-powered ride, we noticed two e-bikes out front and we sat down next to the owners. These two had just ridden to 11,600ft over nearly 30-miles with 2,500ft+ of climbing… in 4 hours.
Mind you the riders were a couple in their 60s. This wasn’t the gnarly, extreme, picture that jumps into most established ‘riders’ heads when they think of ebikes tearing up their beloved pedal-bike trails. Nor were they the type that would bob and weave through traffic like a picture ebike anti-advocates may paint. No, these riders were absolutely going slower than most fit cycling enthusiasts, but the point is, they were out there doing it.
There I think. Technology doesn’t need techno. E-bikes can be easy listening; we just need to start somewhere. We need to start talking about them and we need to start thinking about how and where they fit. What if Lyle Lovett had an ebike… guarantee he wouldn’t have written a song about a boat, and that’s about as far as you can get from the adrenalin infused techno image of that most of us may think about when someone says ‘ebike’, especially those of us who haven’t had a chance to ride or understand them yet.
Ebikes can be about new beginnings. They’re a solution. They give people a chance to commute when they think it’s too far. They provide people with health issues the freedom to get out and feel the wind in their hair again. They’re about giving new riders the courage they need to venture out of the driveway and beyond the neighborhood. And they’re going to help us all stay in our sport longer. So where do we start?
Civia Cycles may be a place to start.
This city bike brand is just entering the ebike category, and they’re bringing some new ideas. Civia’s new Parkway offers a place to start for both riders and shops that are new to and curious about ebikes.
First off, they fit into a category that no-one can argue—the city category where ebikes fit easily. Here, they make sense. Here, they’re for those of us who need the courage or the range that an electric assist can offer. They can help get us get there on time and without being sweaty. They can help us come back from injury or those years of neglect that catch up with you in your 40s and 50s. They make getting back on a bike attainable, regardless of your need for an assist.
Civia’s Parkway is attainable, too, both step over and step thru models hit a price that’s well under $3,000USD. These specific bikes are also easy to ride and live with. Case in point Parkway is roughly 5-10-pounds lighter than anything it competes with, and it’s equipped with a power plant from Bosch’s new Active Line. This new motor is Bosch’s smallest and quietest to date; offering smooth power delivery and a top speed of 20mph, which keeps it within the ‘Class 1’ ebike designation—within the realm of human performance—and without limits for use on bike paths or other regulated metro areas.
On the dealer side, Civia Cycles is available through nearly any reputable bike shop in the United States as they’re distributed by Quality Bicycle Products, the largest distributor of bicycle parts and accessories in North America. This is worth noting for a couple of reasons, but the highlights include readily available parts and support by a brand that will stand behind the product (no Kickstarter or obscure Euro brand gamble here) in the US.
So where do ebikes fit for you?
We don’t have the answer, but before you write them off, try one. See what an ebike can give you the courage to do.
Get more info about ebikes and Civia Cycles at www.civiacycles.com
As parents of two developmentally disabled children, my wife Deana and I struggle to wrangle everyone together for family activities. We’ve always tried to find ways to get our kids riding, and despite his visual impairment, that has been relatively easy with our son, Ryan. First, we used a Burley trailer, then a trail-a-bike, and finally a traditional tandem. This has been wonderful and we ride a fair amount, but we were often leaving the ladies of the house behind.
Our daughter, Allison, has gross motor issues and is non-verbal, so while she has good sight, even getting her to navigate a tricycle safely on her own has been a challenge. We had the Burley trailer which served us well and was a way for all of us to ride together for a few years when both kids were younger, but as soon as Allison grew out of that, the bikes fell by the wayside as a group option.
When we recently moved to Boulder, Colorado, all of the cycling infrastructure really got us hankering for a solution to get Allison on (or behind) a bike again somehow so we could all ride together. She’s 11, and she’s pretty big. Her inability to balance safely and consistently had us leaning toward some other trailer option. We briefly considered an e-bike plus a larger trailer to account for the added weight. In addition, we were trying to think ahead with a potentially significant investment involved. We wanted something that we felt we could use for at least a few years, and hopefully many more into young adulthood and beyond.
The A-HA! Moment
Brainstorming with my cousin Ellen via email one day, she offered to put us in touch with her friend James to discuss some possibilities. Ellen mentioned that James had recently gotten one of the excellent Yuba Spicy Curry cargo bikes for his family and thought it might be worth checking out and exploring as a solution for us.
As an e-cargo bike, it seemed compelling. After discussing some of the pros and cons, we decided we should go check one out in person. Both Ellen and James immediately pointed us to local cargo bike specialist, Front Range Cargo Bikes, with the thought that we could certainly put our hands on a few bikes there, if not get some novel ideas from folks who deal primarily in this niche.
It was probably only a day or two later when I headed on down to Front Range Cargo Bikes, and that’s when I saw it. Front and center by the open bay door, the first thing that caught my eye was a crazy, bakfiet-looking cargo bike with an electric motor, integrated lights, and a cool looking cargo area made of EPP foam. As I waited for someone to come help me, I started poking around it. The first thing I noticed was a small bench seat bolted in the cargo area with a SEATBELT! QUEUE THE HALLELUJAH CHORUS. Right then, I suspected we found our answer – The Urban Arrow Family.
First Test Ride
The first ride was a solo affair. I figured Deana and I need to crawl before we sprint – we needed to be steady on this bad boy by ourselves before we could strap a child in the front with a clear conscience.
The first piece of advice was that the steering would be much different from I was used to. The analogy used by the folks at the shop was, “it’s like steering a canoe”. I have to say, that’s a pretty good analogy. I was a bit wobbly, but as soon as the Bosch electric motor kicked in with the first pedal stroke, things straightened right out. More about the fantastic motor later.
I pedaled down to the end of the industrial area where the shop is located, and found a nice big area of tarmac to make a complete turn with lots of space, then headed back. Instead of going straight back to the shop, I hooked a left turn and rode on down an adjacent bike path. Before I had even hit the path, I had the steering sorted out, so I opened it up to see how the thing felt at speed. Right away, the bike is confidence-inspiring. At just under 100 pounds, one might think it would be a bear to manage, but with a low center of gravity, and a lot of the weight out in front of the long wheelbase, this thing is very stable. If there was a precise moment I knew the bike would work for us, it was then, on the path.
A return visit with Deana and Allison proved that the bike was, indeed, a winner. The test rides with those two went better than I expected. Deana quickly handled the awkward transition to driving a long and heavy machine, and Allison showed no fear riding in the front. In fact, Allison clearly loved having the wind in her face and was actually resistant to getting out at the end of the first test ride. Smiles and high fives ensued!
Tires, wheels, etc
The Urban Arrow has features galore that really make it a legit car replacement option. In fact, since we got the bike, my car has seen fewer miles than it has in years. A big reason why is all of the features that make the bike easier to grab as a first transportation option.
Starting from the ground, a thoughtful spec is apparent. Supporting you are two Schwalbe Big Apple Plus tires that serve two purposes – durability and suspension.
These things are impenetrable, and even at the higher end of the pressure range, they offer a surprising amount of shock absorption over inconsistent tarmac. My only complaint with the tire set up would be the odd Dunlop valves which are sort of a combination between Presta and Schraeder and only fit one of my two pump heads in my home garage.
Moving up from the tires brings us to the excellent SKS fenders that came stock on our Urban Arrow. These are the bolt on variety and are wide enough to accommodate the Big Apple tires, and as anyone who has any experience with SKS fenders will tell you, they’re great. They come with buddy flaps installed and everything, so the coverage and splatter protection are top-notch.
Mounted to the top of the front fender is an integrated headlight, and there’s a tail light mounted under the seat in the back that is similarly hard-wired. The lights can be turned on and off from a switch on the Bosch head unit, and the lights run off of the prodigious battery. The lights work well enough, but they do leave some room for improvement. The headlight is adequate, but not particularly bright. Because it’s very adjustable, I was able to point it in a way that maximizes illumination and it works well enough. The rear tail light is large, but again, if I could have it 100% my way, I would like to have an option to make the tail light blink. Despite these minor issues, both lights appear to be high quality and completely adequate.
Cockpit and Shifting
I have to admit, it took me a while to get used to the bendy bars. With hands resting in position on the grips and just straight line cruising, it’s a very comfortable setup. The grips are…grippy, and the ergonomic shape is comfortable. Standing up in the pedals took a while for me to confidently figure out with this setup. There’s rarely a need to do so in order to accelerate or power up a hill – you have the battery-powered e-assist. Where it occasionally becomes handy is going over bumps, across uneven driveways, or otherwise navigating a bumpy section of road. Even though the saddle and tires are cushy, sometimes it’s nice to stand and use your arms and legs to absorb some of it.
The stem is like unique and provides lots of adjustment options:
The bike came with the stem almost as high as it would go. The upside to that position is that it clears the bars out of the way for larger passengers inside the cargo area. In a lower position, which is more comfortable for me as the driver for several reasons, the bars _might_ get in the way a larger passenger’s noggin. So far, this has not been a problem for us, even with Ryan who is a 5 foot 7-ish inch 15-year-old and always wears a helmet.
Shifting via the NuVinci N380 system is a key component to the killer spec on this bike. It’s a completely sealed and continuously variable shifting solution that’s contained in the hub of the rear wheel. There are essentially two extremes (easy and hard), with a rotating grip shift to adjust between those extremes. I find that I need to pause shifting for a beat to make the up-shifts as smooth as possible. Downshifting seems to go much smoother while pedaling, but I find that I still pause my pedal stroke for just a second when going in either direction. This is no different from what most people should be used to with traditional derailleurs.
Conveniently, you can shift to the easiest end of the spectrum while at a standstill. This comes in handy if you have to stop short, or just forget to downshift. This allows you to restart a 100 lb. bike from a standstill without needing to crank over a huge gear which is a must. The closed system of the NuVinci also continues the low-maintenance, durable theme of the bike. The chain is also enclosed in a rubberized Chainglider cover. As with the shifter, this keeps the chain entirely sealed, keeping water out, and also protecting the pant leg of your Armani suit from drivetrain lube, should you choose the take this mean machine to work after dropping the kids off at school.
The Key Bits – Cargo Area and Motor
What sold us on this bike is the integrated, purposeful human hauling capabilities. There is a cushioned bench that comes stock with the Family version of the Urban Arrow, and there are adjustable nylon belts to secure your passenger (or passengers). A second, smaller bench is available as an after-market option, which allows for a forward-facing and a rear-facing passenger in the cargo area. We haven’t gotten the second bench yet, but we may at some point. For now, the main bench is perfect for any single passenger.
I purposefully avoided the use of “child” in reference to the passenger, because there’s room for a full-sized adult. The hauling capacity in the cargo area is rated at 400 pounds, so with that much room, you could technically put two average-sized adults in there, as long as they were willing to share some knee room. We haven’t tested the upper ends of the hauling capabilities, but it was reassuring to know we had room to grow.
The Bosch Active motor and battery are phenomenal. I had no experience with any sort of e-bikes or e-assist motors at all before test riding this bike. The first thing I noticed when stepping on the pedals is that the engine assists you right away. As with the downshifting capabilities described above, the instant assistance of the electric motor is VERY handy when you have a heavy and unsteady payload….such as an excited, hand-flapping, 100-pound autistic girl. The assistance is subtle and, in a word, perfect in those situations. It allows the driver to confidently lift both feet on to the pedals at very slow speeds, so steadying the bike is a breeze.
Beyond the instant availability of the e-assist, the motor feels and works very intuitively. It’s not a motor in the traditional sense – when engaged, the motor will not propel the bike by itself. It only assists the pedaller while pedaling with variable amounts of power based upon the four settings: Eco – just enough boost to take the edge off of completely pedalling the thing by yourself; Tour – a bit more power, more than enough to help get over moderate hills with a light load without too much extra effort; Sport – the next notch up, great for powering up hills with a kid in the front, getting up to speed in traffic, and most any situation; Turbo – tons of power for getting over the steep hills with a full load.
The battery life on the unit is pretty good so far. The higher power settings obviously eat up battery life much faster. If you left the bike in Sport mode, you might get 15 miles of pedaling assistance. I find that I most often use Eco mode when riding by myself, and the estimated range on a full battery in that mode is somewhere around 25 miles. My technique to extend battery life has evolved to maximize life between charges. When going downhill, I’m getting better about turning off the motor and just pedaling. I think Bosch got the design right when they developed this product because the toggle switch between e-assist modes is easy, intuitive, and right at your fingertips. Your mileage will obviously vary, but so far, we get two to three days out of a charge. That’s with regular use riding at least one child to school every day (sometimes two), and using it for nearby errands and/or short fun rides around the neighborhood every day.
The Extra Bits
There are several key features built into the bike that really help put it over the top and make it easy (and fun) to grab as a primary transportation option. First, Urban Arrow used a sturdy, double-legged kickstand that engages and disengages with relatively little effort.
The only thing you might need to take into account is steadying the bike when a passenger is getting in or out of the cargo area. When the kickstand is engaged, if you don’t have weight on the seat, the bike will tip forward about an inch and weight ticks forward to the front wheel (you can see this better in the first picture at the top). This is a natural consequence of the kickstand acting as a bit of a lever when it’s engaged with the bike defaulting toward leaning “back” toward the heavier back-end of the bike. You can also just push the front down to ensure the weight is tilted toward the front of the bike to steady it that way if the passenger prefers that when they’re stepping in. This is a very minor thing and is hard to explain, but I thought it would be worth mention. In either case, the bike is very stable and otherwise steady when parked with the kickstand in use.
Next, the seat has a hard molded plastic handle built into the underside:
This thoughtful addition serves a specific purpose. As you’ll find out after test riding the Urban Arrow, it has a very large turning radius and is very long. This makes the bike hard to handle and manipulate in tight spaces. Having a sturdy handle to grab helps pick up the back-end to move the bike around a bit quicker when you need to…and there will be times you need to (think parking on a tight sidewalk area). Because of the length of the wheelbase and the relatively low clearance, it could be pretty easy to scrape the bottom riding off of a tall curb or other obstacles, so just be careful in those situations – you can use the handle to lift the back end a bit to walk the bike over. As for the low clearance, I have yet to come across any major slam scenarios, but I did strike the crank arm while pedaling up and over a grassy sidewalk/path interface while riding my son to school one day. This was undoubtedly a consequence of the low clearance (and perhaps a poor line choice by the driver!)
Next on the list of nice extras is an integrated lock:
With the flip of a lever and a turn of the key, a miniature u-shaped bar wraps around the rim, between the spokes, and locks into the other side. This essentially immobilizes the bike since attempting to move it causes the rear wheel spokes to bump into the bar, so you can’t roll it when engaged. To retract the bar, all you do is insert the key and twist, and the lock springs back, hidden away and locked in the housing. The key (shown above) is locked in place when the lock is retracted, so you can keep it there and don’t have to worry about it falling out while riding around. To disengage the key, you have to push the lever and fully engage the lock. This is really handy and is another critical factor that makes the bike so easy to use.
Skeptics might be worried about relying upon a tiny locking device like this to secure the bike. The fact of the matter is, this bike is at least 5 feet long end to end and weighs right around 100 pounds. It would take at least two people, a truck, and some planning to pick up and make off with this bike while it’s immobilized. For almost every use I have for this bike, the integrated lock is sufficient and is all I rely upon. I bring along a larger cable lock if I know I’m going to be away from the bike for more than a little while, and obviously, your circumstances may vary.
Lastly, this thing has a siiick bell! A Dutch neighbor recently showed me a very similar bell that she has on her bike that she said she picked up on her last trip home, so I think these bells are a Dutch thing. Anyway, there’s a great chance that you’ll be one of the few folks with a cool bell like this in your town. It’s just a small cherry on the top of an already stellar package that makes it fun to ride.
The Final Analysis
Because it perfectly fit as a solution to a problem that had been nagging at our family for quite some time, this is my favorite bike in the stable, and is the most fun I’ve ever had riding a bike. It’s certainly not going to get you anywhere as fast as other machines, and of course, you’re limited by its natural range of capabilities. You’re not going to go touring on it, you’re not going on any serious off-road trails, and you’re certainly not going to race this bike. I like to do all of those things, and this does none of them.
What this bike _does_ do is change your life. It changed our lives, at least. We’re lucky enough to live very close to a lot of amenities. We have two grocery stores, several banks, restaurants, dry cleaners, etc, all within a mile of our house. Our kid’s schools are next door to each other and sit less than two miles away. We also have an extensive network of multi-use paths and bike lanes right outside our door. These things unquestionably make riding a bike easier.
The undeniable fact is that we drive much, much less, and we are riding as a family again. If you think that you’re ready to make an investment in a purposeful, workhorse machine as a commuter, a grocery-getter, and an all-around car replacement, the Urban Arrow Family does all of this and more. Go get your hands on one and pedal it.
I have to give a huge thanks to Ellen and James for helping us find this bike. It really has been a blessing to have an option to ride together again with “all four friends”, as our son might say. We all owe you guys big.
Also, I can’t forget to mention that, if you’re serious about pulling the trigger on one of these awesome machines, be prepared to talk to people. More often than not, people want to talk about the bike when I’m out and about on it. People are perplexed, curious, confused, amazed, and otherwise very interested in the bike, and they WILL ask you about it. It’s a great conversation starter and it turns heads wherever you go. You’ve been warned – enjoy!
LONG TERM UPDATE – OCTOBER 2018
Time and miles have not changed much with this bike. Pretty much everything has proven to be durable and reliable after extensive daily use, with two minor exceptions:
- The Chainglider chain cover came loose after several months and became difficult to secure. As a result, the chain would rub against it on the inside and generate a bit of noise when pedaling. After futzing with it for a few weeks and trying to find a way to get it to work unsuccessfully, I decided to just remove it. While this eliminated the built-in grease protection for your pant legs, things immediately became quiet again. I don’t wear pants where chain contact is much of a concern, and to be fair, I made no attempts to contact the vendor or take it to the shop. I’m fine with lubing, cleaning, and otherwise maintaining an exposed chain as with my other bikes.
- The stock pedals are not great. They were pretty smooth on the surface and would probably work well with a variety of shoes (including dress shoes), but they also began to make noise after some significant miles. I decide to replace them with some inexpensive nylon Odysseys and everything has been smooth and quiet since.
I consider both of these issues minor and neither change my previous enthusiastic endorsement.
Note: Corrected 10/10/18 to reflect the following note from Urban Arrow-Ed. “The box on this bike is not EPS, the material used inside bicycle helmets. That stuff is brittle and purposely intended to break on impact. (absorbing shock in the process) We use Expanded Polystyrene (EPP) which is actually what’s used inside motorcycle helmets – a more expensive and durable material altogether. It’s sort of rubberized as you’ll see if you press on it. Almost impossible to do more than scuff, and it will not shatter like EPS. Also note that flashing taillights on bikes are illegal in many Euro countries as flashing is reserved for emergency vehicles and red flashing for trains rear facing”.Tweet Print
Let’s take a moment out of this busy Humpday and listen to Luka Bloom, the Irish folk singer, as he sings a song about bikes that will chill you out. It’s called “The Ride” What’s your favorite bicycle-related tune?
PS: The guy with the big stick means you no harm.
Think I’ll go for a ride
Take the bike out of the shed
Make a fresh start
Get out of my head
When the head spins
There is no joy
Put me on the saddle
And Im a little boy
A little boy on a mission
Like the Tour de France
Were like Fred and Ginger
When theyre doing their dance
To the sound of rubber
Out on the old bog road
Through the gorse and the heather
Im as free as a bird
It helps me remember
How good it used to be
Feeling like a king
The bike, the road, and me
Think I’ll go for a ride
Every ride has victories
Challenges and trials
You hope the skies dont open
When home is many miles
You think youre just cruising
Life is flowing along
Then you know youre vulnerable
At the mercy of the wind
With every hill you climb
You begin and begin and begin
Begin to be a spokesman
With the freedom of the road
You see the Wicklow Mountains
And you know you have to go
I think Ill go for a ride
Summer evenings on the road
The cool breeze in my hair
Poetry in motion
On two wheels around Kildare
There are cycling heroes
Each one is my pal
They inspire me when Im pedaling
By the river or canal
Some days Im like Sean Kelly
Some days Im David Byrne
Pedaling through Dublin
Or Portland Oregon
Mic Christopher in dreadlocks
Donal Lunny and Olwen Fouere
Cycling through the city
Waving to them all there
By Grant Peterson
When Genghis Khan and the other 800-year old Mongolians rode horses in battle, they were isolated enough from the gallop to shoot arrows with half a chance of hitting foes.
Good form and good shot, Genghis!
For a thousand years, Mongolians have been the smoothest riders in the world, the most at home on a horse. Horses are their lives—always have been—and even now they start riding at age two. By five they ride care-free, smooth as Kessler whiskey, one hand on a rein, the other flailing the giddyup switch as they glide over the steppe unaffected by the churning horse legs below.
A Mongolian’s horse is a bit bigger than a pony, and with stout legs to handle the rough-ground galloping without twisting its ankles and knees. To prepare the horse for riding, the rider lays down a woven horsehair pad, made by specialty Mongolian craftsmen. It’s cushy, waterproof, and breathable, and water runs through it like it does through a plastic pot scrubber, so it can’t get soggy like a cowboy blanket.
On top of that goes a saddle that looks wrong but works great. A Mongolian saddle is nothing at all like the long, broad, shallowly dipped saddles favored by the Marlboro Man and John Wayne. Wayne just ambled along with his cows, sitting on the saddle of his Hollywood horse like a topply sack of rice.
The Mongolian saddle evolved for the athletic, Mongolian style riding required to chase down foes and herd wild Mongolian horses on the steppe. This saddle is short, deep, and U-shaped. Wayne wouldn’t have fit. The front part of the U is the pommel, (ancient Latin for fruit or apple), the equivalent of the knobby apple-sized handle on a cowboy saddle (but it has another function too, coming up). The rear of the U is the cantle, an old word for corner. Mongolian riders use short stirrups, which allow them to stand high above the valley of the U, even with bent knees. Their articulated legs tense and relax as needed to soak up some of the bumps, and the big air gap between their crotch and the bottom of the U gives the horse something to bounce up into without banging the plumbing. The high pommel and cantle keep them centered on the horse. If Mongolians rode this way on a cowboy-type saddle, they’d flop forward and flip back. To complete the Mongolian system, they put metal studs on the seat of the saddle — an idea, it’s said, that Genghis Khan came up with to keep his team riding high and smooth and fast.
This isn’t trivia or irrelevant history. If you ride a bicycle on trails, it couldn’t be more relevant.
There are two ways to look at a trail. When speed or stunts are goals, you see the trail as your arena, and the earth’s texture as the enemy. You push your limits, so you armor up with a technologically advanced uni-purpose bike, and wear armored motocross-style clothing just in case. The mountain bike you ride has bump-nullifying mechanicry so you can ride careless and rough and pay less for it. That’s the point of modern mountain bike technology. To most riders it’s a plus, and it that becomes their style.
When travel, exploration, and fun are your goals, you see the trail as an ally that gives you access to beautiful distant places and makes getting there possible and fun.
Can you ride like a Mongolian on a suspended bike and combine the benefits of mechanical and organic suspension to reach some kind of super smooth nirvana? Only hypothetically. While Red Bull acrobats must combine them to even survive their “rides,” but when you or any other traveler rides on trails, it’s more likely you’ll sit lower, stiffen some, and grab the bike harder, while the technology kicks in below you. The bike you ride affects how you ride it. A bike designed for aggressive riding tends to bring that out. You go faster over rougher terrain because that’s what the bike was designed for.
To ride your bike like a Mongolian rides a horse, you need an unsuspended bike. It’s the better teacher because it selects and reinforces good technique, and gives immediate feedback when you’re blowing it.
Down a bumpy trail, stand on the pedals like a Mongolian in stirrups to create a pocket of protected air between saddle and crotch. If the descent is steep, lean a bit back, and squeeze the flared rear of the saddle with your thighs. That flare is like the Mongolian saddle’s cantle, just rotated 90 degrees. Then you can half sit on the saddle not on your crotch, but with your upper inner thighs. By varying the squeezing force with your thighs, and shifting weight from pedals to saddle, you fine-tune the shock absorption. Your flexing legs will soak up some absorb shock. Your bike saddle has no pommel, but the handlebar serves that same purpose. You might as well be a Mongolian.
On a steep descent, it helps to lower the saddle a few inches, push against the handlebar (your pommel), then sit on your thighs and hang your butt low off the back of the saddle — to weight the rear wheel for better braking. You’re playing the bike like an instrument. Your body stays loose and your head stays steady as the bike bounces between the trail and you, the shocks being absorbed by air, thigh fat, and articulating body joints, like a Mongolian on a horse.
When the climb or descent is too steep, don’t see it as a challenge to overcome. Get off and escort your horse up or down it. After a lot of strain riding, nothing feels better than a nice bike-walk. Mongolians walked their horses sometimes, to rest their legs, and you can walk your bike to rest yours. Bike-walking is so underrated.
Grant Peterson is the proprietor of Rivendell Bicycle Works. Rivendell makes bikes for Mongolian-style riding, so you can see why he’s telling you all this. -Ed.
We believe in the capacity of youth to lead.
We believe in the power of the bicycle as a catalyst for positive social change.
We believe in the importance of a diverse, multi-cultural and equitable movement.
We believe when youth ride bikes, our communities are healthier and more sustainable.
We believe that sharing & learning together will make each of us stronger.
Right there are some core values we can all share. Making the world a better place. So Bicycle Times is more than happy to share this press release for the Youth Bike Summit!
The Youth Bike Summit (YBS) is a 3-day national conference bringing together students, educators, advocates, researchers, policymakers and community leaders in order to: gather and share ideas; give youth a voice, and; encourage civic engagement and advocacy. Through workshops, presentations, keynote speakers, discussion, and visioning, we transform dialogue into action. Right?
The last Youth Bike Summit, hosted by Phoenix Bikes in 2016 attracted 500 youth, educators and activists from around the country. The next event will be hosted by Bike New York in Queens, NYC Feb 15-17th. There is a lot of excitement here, so it promises to be just as larger or larger!
That’s it, kids, short and sweet! Now click these…
By Evan Bachner
My husband, Ed, and I have always been cyclists. I’m not a racer (Ed rides much faster than I do), and I’m not a top rider in any category – I’m just a civilian rider who’s always loved biking long distances. My love for cycling took on much greater significance in the mid-1990s when I realized it could be a tool to generate positive change during a very dark time. This was in the midst of the AIDS epidemic, and it started when I first came across an ad for what is now Cycle for the Cause. (Which Starts this Friday Sept 21st! -Ed.)
Since the early 1980’s, HIV/AIDS overshadowed everything I was involved in, everything I did. The LGBTQ community, particularly where I lived in New York, had long been fighting against the government’s indifference and the public’s aversion to even talking about the disease. As we moved into the ‘90s, thanks to intense activism, social stigma around AIDS finally began to wane – but the disease itself was still considered a death sentence. There was no cure (there is no cure), and the medications that make living with HIV a manageable condition were a couple of years in the future. When I learned about Cycle for the Cause, however, I had hope that the years that had filled up with protests, volunteer work, and watching my friends becoming sick and die could make room for something positive.
Cycle for the Cause is a 275-mile, three-day bike ride from Boston to New York City that raises money for the fight to end AIDS. It’s a project of NYC’s LGBT Community Center, and the funds raised during the Ride are what enables them to deliver HIV testing, prevention services, and access to treatment for so many people infected and affected by HIV.
Back when I saw that ad for the very first Ride in 1995, I was not only encouraged by its mission; I was also intrigued by the ambitious idea of a multi-day, hundreds-of-miles long biking event. As it turned out, Ed’s and my experience with long-distance riding was useful; there was no training program to prepare participants for such a long ride. So, we put one together from scratch. We started slow, because many participants, while galvanized by the cause, were not experienced cyclists. We began by guiding scores of riders on a 20-mile ride, then pushed them to do a little more, then a little more, and 10 weeks later we were riding 100 miles on a Saturday followed by 80 miles the next day. By our second year, we were leading over 100 people on the century training ride. We were ready.
Fast forward 23 years, and here I am preparing for another Cycle for the Cause this month. Now, I’m riding alongside most of my closest friends. These are people I’d never met prior to their first training rides, but a shared love for biking and a determination to end AIDS once and for all quickly drew us together. The most amazing thing to me is how deeply connected the whole ride community has always been. We don’t just ride to raise large amounts of money; we are all HIV/AIDS activists. Every one of us knows exactly what life-saving services we are helping to provide, with each mile we push through.
We’ve reached a time when HIV/AIDS testing and treatment is more accessible than ever before, but nobody’s job here is done. These days, people have a tendency to think the epidemic is over – it’s not. People are still getting infected, undergoing lifelong treatment with the potential for severe, long-term side effects and there is still no cure. While it’s easy to dwell on these realities, I’m grateful for the work that we’re able to do.
I’ve never lost that sense of freedom that you get from your first bike ride. Cycle for the Cause allows me to enjoy that sensation to its fullest, because it’s not just about how I feel when I’m on the bike – it’s about the thousands of people the ride benefits, those waiting for us around the next turn who cheer us on, and our loved ones who greet us at the end of the ride, all of whom have gotten a piece of their own freedom back, thanks to the Ride.Tweet Print
By Paul de Valera
Not to say a disparaging word about any contemporary bike shop, but it is just my perception that “back in the day” there was more of an inclination for repairing things rather than just being a glorified parts swapper. Sure, bikes have become more complicated with a myriad of component and frame materials and the next “new standard” ever looming on the horizon. Still, there is a certain satisfaction in being able to take a bicycle that needs repair and being able to reverse the damage. And a lot of old bikes from the 60’s through the 90’s still roll through my doors all the time. Are you going to remove that cottered crank with a hammer? Do you even know what that is? At their rudiments, a bicycle has functionaly changed little in the last 100 years or so, it’s just that the details of that function have been altered. Here are some cool tools that I’m glad to possess. Several of them come in handy more often than you’d think.
First, some homemade goodies…
I usually wind up using simple homemade tools a lot in my daily wrenchings. The first one here is just a tube that I cut out of a Murray for added leverage in getting stubborn bolts and pedals off. I simply slide whatever wrench I’m using into the tube and apply Archimedes basic theory of leverage that would give even some chicken-armed roadie gain the strength of a titan. You can also use it to straighten out a bent crank arm. I also use the bar that I bolt by back door as a big lever when faced with really stubborn stuff, which is always a fun one for people to watch. “Is it going to come out?” they ask. “Does this look easy to you?” I blurt out between deep breaths. A good lever is an asset in the bicycle mechanics’ arsenal.
Another homemade tool is an awl that you can use to hog out the ends of a freshly cut cable, fish out a small objects, and other forms of small, detail work. Made from a spoke and piece of cable housing, I wind up using this tool all the time every day. You can make one by filing the end of the spoke into a sharp point and then sliding the housing over it. Simply bend the spoke so the J bend of the spoke catches the housing in a loop configuration. A free tool that will serve you time and time again.
Next, we move onto some old school tools that as far as I know are no longer made. Like the Brute.
I love this tool! It is a modified bumper jack that is used to straighten forks. You place one end on the bottom bracket and the other in the front wheel and just like a car jack, one clicks away until you get the fork straight again. You typically have to go one past where it looks straight as the metal will flex back some. Best to make sure the fork is not cracked anywhere and you can’t fix any fork that has a creased tube, but for those run into curb head-on type of scenarios this thing will save the day. I have saved so many forks with this tool; it is surprising that no one makes it still.
Flat spot pulling tools.
Made by the Overland Inc, a company long gone as a far as know, this tool is designed to pull a flat spot out of a rim. You loosen the spokes in the damaged area and then place the fingers in the worst part and tighten the clamp against the rim. These tools work ok. I have made many a 1970’s BMX rim much better than they were with these tools. You know you can’t always expect it to be 100% again but you can make a wheel that was crooked as a politician useable once again. I’d say a wider area where the tool contacts the rim and longer handles would make a better tool but this one’s a good idea none-the-less.
Bottom Bracket Removal Tool
Made by Kingbridge. I use this tool so much I made copies of them. If you have a stubborn or cross threaded bearing race in your threaded bottom bracket (remember those?) This tool will be essential in getting it out. How it works is you’ll have to first get one side of your bottom bracket out and then insert the tool in the shell. Then taking two wrenches, tighten it against itself as tight as you can, see the leverage bar above if you need more gusto. Then, using a large wrench you can break the stubborn shell free. Sometimes I’ve had to whack the wrench with a hammer for an impact wrench type effect or use a giant bar to break loose some Walschwinn factory installed cross threaded mess. Generally, the tool wins. I’ve near worn mine out I’ve used it so much and I gather it is older than I am and was used when I got it, such a good durable tool, if you could only say the same thing about that 1000 dollar fork you just bought…
Cottered Crank pin removal tool
Made by Park, tool #4 I think if I can make out the number on the casting. Here’s the deal with cottered cranks: They work. They work ok. I had a 1950 Olmo with cottered cranks that I rode to the top of every mountain with some heavy ass steel cottered cranks so I know they can take a beating. There are lots, I mean LOTS of different pins and crank pin hole diameters, angles etc. being this crank interface has been used and is still in use near a 100 years or so, not 100% sure once again did not “google it”, so forgive the blurry line on that one. The tool allows you to press out the pins on a cottered crank without damaging them so you can reuse them. I have a whole box full of pins and still get bikes in with pins that are different than what I have. One just lines up the tool to press out the pin and it pops out like magic. I think someone is reproducing this sort of tool again but not sure on that. Hope you enjoyed and will perhaps look to fixing things on your bicycle before replacing them next time around.
Paul is the proprietor of Atomic Cycles, publisher of Chicken Head Records Zine, promoter of the Coaster Brake Challenge and purveyor of cruiser bits at genuinebicycleproducts.com. This all takes place around the San Fernando Valley in southern California.
By Lettie Stratton
Cycling can be a meditative and spiritual experience. Nothing leads me to a space of quiet contemplation and reflection more reliably than focusing on the whir of wheels on pavement and the steady rhythm of pedals repeatedly rotating around a crank. The intermittent squeaks of an unsatisfactorily greased chain and the occasional squirrel blocking my path are the only interruptions to my meditation.
I didn’t always know cycling could lead me to this place. It wasn’t until I found myself pedaling uphill with full panniers in my lowest gear into a relentless wind for what seemed like forever that I discovered I could be content with discomfort. Now, I find that I can get to this meditative state rather quickly on a bike, and bicycle-inspired musings are a given whenever I go for a ride.
Now back to the wind. Cycling into the wind presents its own set of challenges, both physical and mental. Personally, I found the mental aspect to be more challenging. Feeling like you’re moving backward with every pedal stroke is not the most fun thing in the world when you’re one hour into a six-hour day of biking and halfway through a two-week cycling trip through New Zealand’s South Island. There is literally nowhere to go except forward, and “forward” seemed to be a place I could not go.
No matter how beautiful the scenery (and New Zealand offered some of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen), feeling like you’re on a stationary bike when you’re actually on a real one is far from ideal.
Finally, though, I relaxed into the struggle, pedaling not just to reach the top of the pass but rather to just pedal for the sake of pedaling and enjoying the ride. This was a new concept for me. I found it easier said than done to enjoy the journey and not just the destination. But somehow I surpassed my point of struggle and settled into the discomfort.
“Sure, this hill may be the steepest and longest I’ve encountered so far,” I thought, “but why just wish for the top? If I do that, I’m missing the experience entirely. I’d rather be present, even when the going is tough.”
I think that had this happened on day one, I would have remained in struggle mode. Something tells me that I earned my reprieve through many days and many miles of pedaling, pedaling, pedaling — all day long. My newfound wisdom of settling into discomfort was something I had to pay my dues to receive.
Long-distance cyclists are familiar with certain mental blocks that must be pedaled through. Every day or every hour on on the bike is not necessarily the epitome of a good time. Some days are perfect — the wind is at your back, you have a delicious mid-afternoon snack in your pannier, and the sun is shining (but not too brightly).
Other days, you grit your teeth, do a series of bicycle-specific hip-opening stretches in hopes of helping yourself make it over the mountain pass without cramping, put on a trash bag that you fashioned into a makeshift rain coat, pack up your essential cycling gear (I never leave home without my Lifestraw and travel pump — and good thing because both came in handy on my windy day), get in the saddle, and hope for the best.
Halfway up the hill, perhaps the only thing that sustains you is thinking about all the calories you burn biking and how you’ll be able to replace those calories in the form of ice cream when you reach your destination (if you ever reach it!).
Breaking through these blocks and coming out on the other end not only unscathed, but better because it was hard, is one of the greatest joys of long-distance cycling.
At its core, cycling is simple. Push on the pedals and your bike will be propelled forward. Just keep riding. Sometimes I see this as a metaphor for life. The simplicity of cycling helps me find what’s important in life. In the saddle I’ve realized things like how few material possessions I need to be happy and how unnecessarily complicated we often make our lives.
When it’s just you, the bike, and the passing landscape for a long period of time, it’s difficult to distract yourself from what’s really going on in your head and your life — especially when you’re cycling into adversity, like a strong headwind. Even when you think you can’t go on, you somehow find a way to keep going, settling into discomfort and pushing forward.
Lettie Stratton is a writer and urban farmer in Boise, ID. A Vermont native, she is a lover of travel, tea, bicycles, plants, cooperative board games, women’s basketball, and the outdoors. She’s still waiting for a letter from Hogwarts.Tweet Print
By Jessie Bird
“Racing: A Need for Speed”- an emotion that we’ve all felt and the title of a recent exhibit at the Mercer Museum in Doylestown, PA. This exhibit followed the evolution of this need for speed from footraces to horse races to bicycle racing to motor racing, with a special insight into local Bucks County and Delaware Valley history. Artifacts, photographs, stories, and some interactive displays steered the visitor through the exhibit to see how each iteration of racing has built on previous generations. Have you ever raced the Philly Phlyer road race that happens every spring and thought about the shape and history of the course? Probably not when you’re facing heavy winds and just trying to hold on to someone’s wheel, but in this exhibit, you could see where this race borrows part of its course from 1920’s auto-racing in the same area. As I walked through this exhibit with Davey Dawson, a pro-cyclist for Delaware Valley’s own Team Skyline (a different and helpful perspective to add to my experience), we started to see how the races and rides that we know and love today evolved from a rich racing history in the area.
It turns out that the Belmont Plateau is not only the urban mountain biker’s best friend but used to be known for its horse races. One placard in the exhibit quotes a local newspaper from 1881 about the excitement surrounding a particular horse at the Thursday night Belmont race. Mountain bikers resumed the Thursday night racing tradition with their new mechanical steeds in 1989 and continue to shred into the present day. Photos of the Tour of Somerville (New Jersey) from 1964 prompted Davey to share his experience coming in top 10 in that same race this year. The Tour of Somerville started in 1940 and is still considered one of the most prestigious races in the area today.
However, some artifacts of the exhibit remain in the past, for better or worse. The text panel introducing the “Bicycle Racing” section laments the quick rise and long decline of the American cycling craze. In the now industrial wasteland of South Philadelphia near I95, there existed the thriving Point Breeze Park Velodrome that disappeared along with the waning revenues generated by cycling.
However, I felt less disappointed to see other artifacts stay in the past. No matter how beautiful the welding is on an 1868 Velocipede, I’m glad that the industry has developed lighter alloys and designs that bring us beyond the “boneshakers” of yore.
For a fun mixing of past and present, the museum mounted a mini-high wheel in a gold sprint type set-up and challenges visitors to test their speed. I asked Davey to be the guinea pig and comedy ensued as his pro-cyclist legs almost torqued the museum display out of its platform.
Overall the exhibit flows well and showcases the underlying human desire for speed and entertainment that gives runners, equestrians, cyclists, and drivers something in common. Each sport has built off of the other as technology advances and human limits push further and further. The exhibit ended with a bang on September 9th, the same day as the Bucks County Classic. If you’re in the area I highly recommend checking out the cycling events and making some time for the incredible Mercer Museum and all of its exhibits.Tweet Print
By: Mark Greiz
You ask me why I pedal to far away places;
I smile and close my eyes,
Words can’t describe the reason why;
The blue water glistens, the birds fly high.
January 29th, 2018. Although it was the height of summer, it was a cold and windy day in Punta Arenas, Chile’s southernmost city in the region of Magallanes and Antartica. My plan, cycle north over ten thousand kilometers (6,300 miles) to Guayaquil, Ecuador within the five months I allotted myself. Several miles out of the city and as I headed inland from the coast I was blasted with powerful direct headwinds of up to 80 kilometers an hour. My legs cramped up and my progress came to a standstill. I barely rode 60 kilometers that day and slept in an abandoned wood shack on the side of the road.
I did not know that those headwinds would be with me for most of the journey, taunting me, punishing me and testing the limits of my patience.
For me the allure of extreme cycling touring is more than a mere physical pursuit, it’s a form of spiritual cleansing and renewal. As a marketing consultant and adjunct lecturer in New York City, I know what it is like to lose touch with nature, to live within our own secure bubbles, daily routines and mundane pursuits. Although New York City is a megapolis, it is easy to feel claustrophobic and to feel disconnected from life. Cycling alone through remote regions, sleeping rough in the wild and challenging my body both physically and emotionally, not only humbles me but also lets me peer deep within my soul. It grounds me, it brings me an inner peace, often times fleeting, but easy to conjure back up in my time of need.
On this most recent trek across South America, I cycled 10,400 kilometers (6,500 miles) and encountered some of the strongest and most consistent headwinds I have ever experienced lasting for days and weeks on end. I cycled through hailstorms, through deserts and towering mountains in the Andes. I camped rough on the side of the road, in deserted shacks, in my tent tucked away in the woods or the desert sands, in abandoned trailers and forsaken structures. I was sideswiped by a motorcycle in the Argentinean Pampa, having to pick my bruised and bloodied body off the road to continue riding in the scorching heat. I cycled on long stretches of deserted road with nary a car in sight, as well as through dreadful traffic with tractor-trailers speeding by inches from me. I experienced the mystical allure of the high Andes as well as the raw beauty of the Patagonias.
Starting the trip in Punta Arenas in the Southernmost region of South America, I cycled north through the Chilean and Argentinian Patagonia, passing remote regions were I encountered punishing headwinds daily, as well as some of the most scenic spots on this trip. While I feel that cycling the Carretera Austral in Chile is overrated and filled with cyclists heading south on short excursions, for the more intrepid cyclist there are still some very technically challenging and unfrequented routes to take, one of them being the off-road stretch from Chile Chico on the shores of the majestic Lake General Carrera to Puerto Guadal. After cycling north on the Carettera Austral I turned back to Argentina and crossed the border near Futaleufú, a beautiful area surrounded by pristine nature and fast flowing rivers.
Crossing the border back into Argentina, I cycled to the quaint European style city of San Carlos de Barloche on the shores of Lake Nahual Huapi and then onward to the charming Spanish colonial city of Salta, Argentina. What stood in the middle between Barloche and Salta was 2500 kilometers of mostly remote, flat and arid scrubland. Averaging 100 kilometers a day, I cycled this whole stretch within 24 days taking only one rest day. The riding was dull and monotonous and I encountered daily headwinds making for long, hot and arduous days. Villages were few and far between in this part of Argentina where numerous estancias occupy the barren land and fences run the length of the terrain. Most nights are spent sleeping meters from the side of the road hidden behind some thorn bushes, fighting off insects and watching rodents scatters about here and there, the sound of nocturnal animals adding to the midnight chorus.
Argentina is rife with visible wildlife from guanacos, lizards, wild boar, different types of rodents, tarantulas, fox and large birds related to the ostrich. There is no shelter from the sun during the day and there is no choice but to cycle into the wind for hours on end enduring the heat and rationing droplets of water to quench an unending thirst. Cycle, sip, sweat, sleep, cycle, sip, sweat, sleep, cycle, sip, sweat, sleep on the side of the road, day after day, week after week.
After having cycled over 2500 kilometers in flat arid plains and ready to depart Salta, it was time to climb into the mountains as I headed back to Chile. The route I chose was through Argentina’s Puna region to the desolate border at Paso Sico. The Puna region or Atacama Plateau stretches from North West Argentina into southern Chile. It is an arid and remote area consisting of high plateaus with elevations between 4000 to 5000 meters. The road from Salta to San Antonio de Los Cobres was several days of climbs on windy, paved and often winding roads, then there were 150 kilometers off-road were I cycled on gravel, rocks, and sand as I made my way to the Chile border at Paso Sico. The region is stunning in a rugged, harsh, yet calming way; alpacas roam freely and nary a passing vehicle is encountered on the whole road to Paso Sico. As I camped out nightly in the windswept and freezing high plateau, the night skies lite up with a myriad of stars, I was mesmerized by the sight and humbled by the majesty of this otherworldly landscape.
As I sat outside one night starring at the sky, pen in hand I began to write…
Sleeping under a glowing moon,
There is no other soul for miles to see;
What does it take to still your mind,
to set your body free?
Sleeping under a glowing moon,
From the daily grind I chose to flee.
The only companions present now…
are the stars, the sand, the gods and me.
Having crossed back into Chile at Paso Sico, the region was equally barren and stark, the roads winded up and the headwinds were fierce. It is a rough region to cycle in and an equally brutal region to sleep out in. As I slept out at high altitude in frigid temperatures amid violent winds I found comfort knowing that in a few days time I would begin my descent in the Atacama desert and arrive in the land of espresso, cold beers and pizza- the oasis of San Pedro de Atacama.
Days later, drained and ragged from a period of poor eating, long arduous climbs and sleeping out in harsh conditions, I cycled into town a zombie on my steel horse. As I cycled through the maze of dusty, narrow streets of San Pedro De Atacama I was overwhelmed, there was a cornucopia of activity, tourists on rented mountain bikes, artisans hawking their wares, backpackers sipping lattes chatting away about their most recent adventures and poseurs, the kind of which of might see in Pai, Thailand flaunting away on the corners.
I felt out of place, like I didn’t belong.
After just a couple of days in town and having eaten my fill of quinoa, pasta, salad, and pizza, I felt the long lonely stretches of road beckoning me once again. San Pedro De Atacama is like a trap and it was time to leave its grips before it was too late. From San Pedro I would continue my descent through the desert to the coast, sleeping in abandoned shacks on the side of the road or camped in the desert sands. For days, I followed the scenic northern Chile coast north passing seaside shantytowns where the locals eek out a living from fishing and seaweed harvesting until I reached the coastal city of Iquique. From there it was a few more days to the Peru border.
After crossing into Peru at the Arica border, I followed the coast north then turned inland. Leaving the coast I would now need to contend again with high peaks as I made my way to Arequipa and then Cusco. The road from the coast to Cusco is mostly climbing with elevations between 4500-4800 meters with a mixture of different conditions; there were stretches of dreadful traffic and utter mayhem as hundreds of lorries would pass in waves of caravans inches from me and other areas off the beaten path where Alpaca graze freely in the high Andean plateaus while Quechua shepherds tended to their flocks.
Cusco is a beguiling city; once the capital of the Inca Empire, the city center is filled with Spanish colonial architecture, trendy eateries, and hordes of tourists. It is easy to get seduced by her charms and I knew I had to leave after only three days or else I may have never left. After departing Cusco I cycled north on the Andes route passing small Quechua villages and larger cities including the charming city of Ayacucho with its historic city center. This city retains much of its old world charm but lacks the foreign tourists that crowd into Cusco. Cycling north on route 3 is a continuous cycle of slow climbs with elevation gains of 2000 meters in one shot and fast descents with numerous passes between 4500 and 4900 meters.
While most cyclists on the Andes route continue on to Huaraz, I decided to take a lesser-known, far-flung road and make my way back to the coast. At the small village of Shelby on route 3N, I decided to head east to the compact coastal city of Chancay, some 200 grueling kilometers away. The majority of this road is rocks and dirt with an arduous and long multi-level climb with the highest pass topping out at approximately 5030 meters (16,500 feet). It is a wild, rugged and awe-inspiring landscape where Alpaca graze casually next to crystal clear mountain lakes and not a soul for miles around.
As I stood at the high pass at 16,500 feet, I noted the dirt road snaking its way down the mountain. I took solace in the fact that this was my last climb of the trip as well as my last portion of off-road riding. I stood silent, gazed into the distance, mesmerized by my surroundings, relishing the solitude.
Descending to the coast was technically challenging as the roads were steep, winding and mostly rocks. As I descended from over 16,000 feet to sea level the topography slowly changed from cold wind swept arid plateaus, to lush mountain vistas with fast running rivers and then to the heat, stench, and pollution of the Peruvian coast. From Chancay it would be about another 1600 kilometers to Guayaquil, my final destination. Although this part of the Pan American Highway is filled with trucks racing up and down, for the first time on my trip I had no headwind and even some days with a slight tailwind. My progress was quick, almost too quick beckoning the end of the trip. I cycled hundreds of kilometers mostly through desert and then up the coast to the Ecuadorian border, sleeping along the way in dreary, dirty towns and alone in the desert wilderness.
Crossing into Ecuador I cycled for days through mile after mile of banana plantations in the heat and humidity. As I approached Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city I knew my trip was coming to an end. My emotions were mixed; I was glad that the trip was coming to an end, yet feeling incomplete, that there is still more riding to be done and more places to see. I turned 50 years old on the day I crossed the border into Ecuador-“maybe I am getting to old for this,” I thought to myself. Sleeping rough off the side of the road for days on end does not excite me as much as it used to, but the cycling life is constantly enticing me back. There is a little voice in the deep recesses of my brain often urging me to pack up my bike and head off to some distant land. My thoughts were running rampant as I cycled through the traffic-clogged roads. As I made my way over the bridge that crosses the Guayas River into downtown, my rear pannier swiped a truck tire on the side of the road and I went flying. My arms and legs bleeding and swollen; I was in pain and disbelief that an accident would welcome my entry into town.
I picked my bicycle up, reflected for a moment, “maybe I am getting too old for this.” I got back on my bicycle and rode through heavy traffic into downtown Guayaquil; the trip was over.Tweet Print
Here’s something cool, Laird Rickard’s Tallbike-chopper-tallbike. Sometimes it’s a chopper…
Other times it’s a tallbike. As you might guess from the photos, Laird lives and rides in the Bay area. Yes that is a trombone, cuz ya never know when a jam might break out.
There are certain advantages to riding a tallbike. Being high above the crowd is one. That people are trying less hard to kill you is another. Tallbikes seem to bring out the best in people, friendlier reactions, and less hate. Plus a better view of where Flock Of Seagulls are playing later.
I had never seen such a thing, so I was rather impressed. But apparently, there’s a bunch of information on the internet provided by people who do this sort of thing. Yes, It’s a thing. A thing that “Makers” make. You know how to weld? And grind? If so, all you’ll need is a “Huffy” or other department store suspension frame, steel for the extensions, and gas shocks for the up and down motion. The gas shocks come in different lengths and strengths, so you will need to be careful about selecting the right shocks for your weight and the bikes geometry.
And you’ll need to be able to fabricate an extension to the fork to create a chopper fork. Back in the day we used to cut the legs off of one fork and jam them onto the ends of another to create a chopper. But heck, if you can weld you can do pretty much whatever you want.
Simple as pie. Right? Well, you also need to extend the rear triangle. Laird did this with a piece of rectangular steel, but I’m sure you could use something else as long as it is strong and not too heavy.
Check out the video…here…Tweet Print
Everyone rides a dropper post right? Bicycle Times contributor Scott Wilson is a believer! Let us listen for a second as he shares this novel idea-Ed.
By Scott Wilson
You ride up to a red light and all the other jokers in the bike lane line up in various states of immobile balance. Someone has both feet flat on the ground and bike in between, reminiscent of the kid who drops his shorts all the way to his ankle at the urinal; another has one leg down and one up on the pedal, like a Lycra flamingo; the worst of them tries to track stand, fails, lurches forward a pedal rotation then tries again but halfway in the intersection this time.
You’ve seen it; you’ve been there.
Now imagine if you could just flip a switch to lower both feet onto the ground without removing your butt from the saddle. Imagine: stoplights become a pleasure, a chance to sit comfortably and inhale the vibrant world around you. Imagine the awe of your fellow commuters, watching, transfixed, as you lower yourself like some kind of technologically advanced alien sex god.
This dream can be your reality, but before you jump straight into the bike tech avant-garde, here are some of the little details people tend to overlook that will determine your success with the drop.
Before you buy, these are the measurements you should take.
Tools needed: Calipers and tape measure. Maybe some hex keys.
- Stock seatpost diameter and/or seat tube inner diameter. If they don’t make a dropper post to match your frame: dang.
- Distance from seat tube collar to saddle rails. Seatpost companies advertise 100mm drop or 120mm drop, but that’s just a measure of how much the saddle goes up and down, it doesn’t account for the size of the saddle cradle or the crown at the base of the stanchion. The minimum height for the “100mm” dropper post in the picture is actually 158mm when fully extended.
- Internal seat tube depth. There are mysteries inside the bike frame. I’ve found Chinese candy wrappers, cigarette butts, and all kinds of mischief in brand new bikes, but if you have a small frame the most worrisome obstructions are the things that can’t be removed: water bottle bosses and fender braze-ons. To find what’s in there, loosen your seatpost collar and let your stock seatpost drop as far as it can, then pull it out and measure the distance between the seatpost collar and the base of the seat post. You might need 250mm or more to fit a dropper.
- Handlebar clamp diameter. Stock dropper post control levers are usually made for 22.2 handlebars, so a lot of drop-bars are too big, even at their thinnest point, but some companies make a lever for 31.8 bars. If you’re tricksy you can retrofit a shifter to work as the dropper lever. There are guides on how to do that elsewhere on the Internet.
“But what if my post bottoms out on something inside the frame?”
Water bottle bosses are the most likely enemy. Sometimes all you have to do is take out the water bottle bolt and that’ll give it the room it needs. There might also be a burr down there, which you can remove using a cylinder hone on an electric drill. Do not use a reamer or any other cutting tool because seat tubes are wicked thin and you’re liable to cut right through.
“But what if the dropper post sticks up too far and my stinking feet can’t touch the pedals?”
How comfortable are you with cutting pieces off your frame? Some frames come with what frame builders call “smokestacks” – a section of seat tube that sticks out beyond the top tube junction. These smokestacks might be longer than necessary. Or, they might be exactly as long as they need to be. Only one way to find out for sure: use a hacksaw to cut a bit of spare stack away, then smooth it down with a file. Keep cutting, little by little, until you’ve effectively lowered the max saddle height, or until you’ve ruined your frame forever.
Now that you have the dropper post down in the sweet spot, let’s figure out cable routing.
Tools needed: cable/housing cutters, 1.5mm to 4mm hex keys, zip ties?
This is the fun part. The cyclocross frame in the pictures has an extra braze-on for top-swing front derailleurs so I was able to run the cables through there, easy cheesey. Don’t have extra housing braze-ons? Don’t worry! Zip ties work fine. I suggest you tie up to the brake housing instead of the frame because it won’t move around as much. You can also buy housing guides that mount around the top tube.
Before you cut the cable and housing, make sure that you can move the handlebars back and forth, all the way.
PRO TIP: Dropper post cables often come with what nerds call “compressionless housing” or “shift housing” to the layperson. The problem with compressionless housing is that it isn’t very flexible. Instead, I use brake housing, which handles bendy routing a lot better. I use a 5mm to 4mm stepped ferrule at the end to fit the housing into the dropper post cable-stop and the lever cable-stop. The bad part about brake housing is that when you flex it a lot the metal coil inside lengthens, effectively pulling on the cable. To overcome this, install the cable with an itty-bitty-bit of slack. Also, the dropper post is designed to work with a thin cable, while the brake housing is meant for a thick one. It’ll wear out quicker than normal. Deal with it.
Frequently Asked Questions:
“The saddle drops whenever I turn the handlebars. Whuddupwiththat?”
The housing might be too short, or the cable might be too tight. Make sure the housing isn’t pulling out of the ferrule when you turn. Also, installing a flexible elbow bend (sometimes called a noodle) might help.
“The saddle returns super slowly.”
You might just need to give the cable some more slack, or there might be some drag in the housing or lever. Might as well give up.
“I hit the lever but the shit don’t drop.”
First, try putting your weight on the saddle, dummy. If that doesn’t do it, then you might need to tighten up your cable, and double check that all your fasteners are tight too.
“At first it worked great, but now it keeps dropping when I don’t want it to.”
The housing might have dislocated from the ferule, so check that.
“My dropper post has an electronic/hydraulic lever so none of this applies to me, but I’m still having problems.”
That’s what you get for trying to be fancy. Did you plug it in? Try turning it off and on. Is there even fluid in it? Air bubbles? If it’s an electric dropper and there’s fluid all over, then you’re really in trouble. Good luck, sucker.
BIO: Scott Wilson has been repairing bicycles in shops across the United States for over a decade. He’s an acolyte of Doug Fattic’s frame building praxis and a dubious mentor for the next generation. He has an MFA in nonfiction writing and sometimes teaches English, whether asked to or not. Visit his blog: www.bikeblogordie.comTweet Print
By Paul de Valera
My bicycle is my best friend, my only true ally in this world. My bicycle will never betray me, well it may break and throw me off of into a bush or go flat and make me push it now and again but it will never work towards my undoing, not intentionally that is. My bicycle is always there when I need it and as long as I take care of it, the bike will take care of me. By using my bicycle I get to go places, see things, and travel under my own power. Powering my self makes me empowered. My mind becomes sharper and my body stronger. By using a bicycle I become a better person, a stronger person. The bicycle is a stalwart companion when all of my human interactions have failed me again for the umpteenth time, where tears race down my face as I pedal to the top of a mountain each pedal stroke has a leveling effect, bringing me back to balance. All the sense of loss, hurt, and anger created in this world is pedaled out, the bike propping me up when if left alone to my own strength I would be in a fetal position. When troubled, the bicycle unravels mental and emotional knots, helps to solve problems and keep one even-keeled. There are times when you can’t articulate what is wrong but your bicycle won’t care it will just be a good friend to you and take you on your way for as long as you need, it has eternal patience. When my father died and I was sobbing out of my head with grief I shunned the comfort of my family and got on my bike. I rode and rode and pushed up a couple peaks. As I kept pedaling I processed my whole life experience and before you I knew it, I felt so much better because I had the best friend ever to lean on, my bicycle.
Paul is the proprietor of Atomic Cycles, publisher of Chicken Head Records Zine, promoter of the Coaster Brake Challenge and purveyor of cruiser bits at genuinebicycleproducts.com. This all takes place around the San Fernando Valley in southern California.Tweet Print
Given my fascination with cargo bikes, I had to ask Jimmy over at Luckyduck in Oakland, CA about that funky-looking cargo bike parked in front of the shop. An 80’s Cinelli Ottomila mountain bike with a giant cargo container on top of a little front wheel. How could this be?
The answer is the Clydesdale fork from Crust Bikes, a google-worthy outfit out of Belmar, New Jersey. Crust makes frames, forks, stems, and more! Some even US-made. The Clydesdale fork is designed to turn your old non-suspension-corrected MTB or tourer into a solid cargo hauler. It’s built over a 20” wheel for a low center of gravity, to make hauling easy.
The basic platform is ready for whatever you want to put on it. There are plenty of braze-ons to screw things into to the top of the platform so you could mount a box or just a flat board if that suits your needs. There are also mounts for both disk and cantilever brakes, as well as fenders.
What will you need? A 20” wheel with a 9mm axle and a bike. The Clydesdale fork is designed for a 400mm (15 ¾”) crown-to-axle height and a 72˚ head angle. If your bike is designed around those numbers, which are pretty common, then you will have achieved perfection and the rack will ride level. If your axle-crown is higher or lower, your frame angles will change by about one degree for every 10mm of height. This is all described in detail on the website and slight variations are not the end of the world. Other stats include a 340mm steerer tube and availability in both 1″ and 1 1/8″ steerer tubes, both threadless. The 1″ model includes a shim for using 1 1/8″ threadless stems, and comes with a Cane Creek 40 headset.
Jimmy does a lot of the shopping for the shop and has had up to 70 lbs on there, including “The Dog”. Crust doesn’t list a weight limit but I am seeing a picture of a human riding on one, what fun! A clean and simple way to create a cargo bike, do check them out. $245 for the 1 1/8” model. $265 for the 1”.
6/22/18 Correction: Only the 1″ model comes with a Cane Creek 40 headsetTweet Print
One has to appreciate a good bike shop. Especially one that builds the community around itself. These days it’s a key to survival in this disrupted economy we live in. Luckyduck has been open since August of 2016, and successful enough that the owners are just starting to scale back from the 16-hour workdays it took to get going. Luckyduck brings bikes, food, beer and community to downtown Oakland. I’ve stopped in on several occasions for just those items.
For starters, the sandwiches are awesome. Living in the Beast known as East Bay, there’s a lot of great bakeries to spoil you, so Luckyduck starts with some awesome bread, from Firebrand. Everything after that is gravy. And if you’re up in the morning there’s breakfast as well. Sealing the deal is beer. Great beer from local breweries. Mostly local, delivered by the brewery. All California. Keep it local. ‘Nuff said.
Partners Jimmy Ryan And Aaron Wacks curate the shop. The food menu is tight. And so is the bike selection. Each bike is special. Some are bikes that they have come across as bike geeks. Some are on consignment as well. Everything from a vintage Colnago to a sweet 80’s Rockhopper converted for the streets and priced at $316. Or maybe you’re into the Kona Kilauea bikepacking bike or the Winters show frame.
The shop section is simple and tidy. A well-curated selection of accessories fulfills your most important needs. Helmets, bags from Inside Line, Ruth Works, and Road Runner. I hate the word “Artisinal” but there ya go. Everything in its right place, like Radiohead says.
In the end, it’s all about community. The Saturday ride is casual and the yoga classes will keep you limber. There’s bands, art on the walls, and friendly faces. Luckyduck is surely not the first bike shop to espouse this mission, but it does sum things up in a well-said fasion:
“Luckyduck grew from our desire to make riding a bike accessible to everyone. To us, this means expert bicycle service housed in the positive and relaxed vibes of our neighborhood coffee shop and cafe. No pretension or pressure. Just genuine human connection in the name of increasing bicycle ridership throughout the bay.”
Wow these people “Get it”
Tuesday to Saturday 8am to 7pm
This contest has ended. Congratulations to David Caplan of Bend, OR.
Haute Route has partnered with us to give one winner any Haute Route three-day event in the U.S. in 2018: Haute Route San Francisco (April 20-22), Haute Route Asheville (May 18-20) or Haute Route Utah (September 14-16). Enter to win below.
Haute Route is the world’s most prestigious multi-day amateur cycling event series, delivering an unmatched professional-level experience both on and off the bike.
Spanning the world’s most iconic cycling destinations, epic terrains, and legendary climbs, Haute Route provides unprecedented rider support and safety services. All events are timed, ranked and fully supported with premium services typically reserved for the pros. Offered in both seven and three-day formats, Haute Route events give passionate cyclists the best of all possible worlds by combining the European tradition of the competitive timed and ranked Gran Fondos with an authentic ‘professional’ level of support on and off the bike.
Haute Route, which in French means High Road, was founded in France in 2011 and is quickly expanding in the USA, offering riders of all ages and levels of fitness unique events in four epic destinations: San Francisco, Asheville, the Rockies and Southern Utah.
The experience and level of attention to detail is unrivaled by any amateur cycling event in the world. For more information or to register, visitwww.hauteroute.org.
Complete the survey below by 11:59 p.m., April 04, 2018 to be entered to win. We will choose and notify a winner the following day. Some terms and conditions apply, but don’t they always? Open to U.S. residents, only. Sorry, but that’s not our choice. – If you are on a mobile device, click here to take the survey.Tweet Print
My immediate response when I heard about dockless bike share was “More butts on bikes, great.“ Then I started to ask questions. “So what do you do with it when you’re done?” “I could just leave it anywhere?… that doesn’t sound like a good idea.”
Dockless bike sharing launched in the United States this year, but is it a good thing? As of August 2017, Seattle became the first city in the United States to try dockless bike share. In September, a dockless bike share launched in D.C.
This bike share program is referred to as the “Uber” of bike sharing. Here is the concept behind dockless: You download an app, it locates a bike near you, you unlock the wheel with the app, and you pay roughly $1.00 for 30 minutes of use (this can differ based on the bike share company), park it when you’re done, manually lock it. That’s it. Definitely sounds affordable and more convenient than finding a bike share docking station and hoping there is a bike available, or hoping that a station has a parking spot available for the bike you have rented and are done with.
If you look at China there are over 40 dockless bike share companies currently, with over 350,000 bikes and growing daily. But the problems that dockless bike shares have create have been reported multiple times. Bikes are left in the middle of sidewalks so that pedestrians cannot get to their destinations, which is especially a problem for senior citizens trying to walk with grocery carts, strollers and rascals. Bikes are being left basically everywhere – in huge bike piles, in trees, dumped in rivers, garbage cans – you name it and a dockless bike has probably been parked there in China.
So, how is Seattle doing with their new program? According to a recent Seattle Times report it’s going about the same as in China – dockless bikes are being parked irresponsibly.
And how about D.C.? You guessed it! In October, the Washington Post reported the same problems.
You will always have people who abuse programs or who don’t care to be responsible adults. But there is another problem this “Uber-style” bike share is causing. Not only is it creating another level of irresponsibility in busy cities, but it is not good for the commuter cycling community. Aggression on the streets towards cyclist continues to increase and having these bikes laying everywhere is just furthering that anger towards our community, further adding to the negativity anti-cyclists have.
Docks create a place where you have to put something away. People are lazy and I include myself in that category, I love convenience and when things are easy. If you give someone the opportunity to be lazy, the majority of the population is probably going to just leave that bike parked in the middle of a pedestrian sidewalk. It’s naive to think that people will park things appropriately. If we continue to grow this program in the United States, are we destined for the large-scale problem China is currently facing.
What do you think about dockless bike share? Does your city have a dockless bike program? Have you tried it? Have you seen the chaos of bikes in weird places? Let’s discuss below!
Not a shared bike fan. pic.twitter.com/FSlTKToSDD
— Shanghaiist.com (@shanghaiist) August 23, 2017