Dad Bod goes to Interbike: Full Throttle

Words and photos by Stephen Haynes

Interbike is an interesting proposition for a part-time luddite/agoraphobic like yours truly, in that it consists of lots of shiny things that make noise, and smiling people that want to talk to you, both of which terrify and exhaust me. Still, there are few opportunities to fondle new product and rub elbows with the people responsible for making them (or at the very least, the marketing people hired by the people that make them) outside a major tradeshow of this kind.

Interestingly, there is very little that’s actually new and different in the world of bicycles, aside from the occasional boutique product that serves as a solution to a problem 80% of the population doesn’t suffer from. Revolutionary changes in accessory and component design are measured in fractions of degrees.

There is one segment that continues to flourish and grow unabated, however, despite protestations from a large percentage of the American cycling population: e-bikes. Aside from the question “what the hell are we gonna do with all the spent batteries when they’ve run their course?”, I actually don’t have much truck with e-bikes. Being both relatively lazy and risk-averse, I like the idea of self-propelled vehicles that don’t go so fast as to immediately put your life at risk.

I was interested, specifically, in finding bikes that dropped the pretense of the vehicle being a bicycle altogether and instead gave you the option to simply press a button and go. These electric motorbikes fit neither in the motorcycle business, nor in the bicycle business, but rather somewhere in between. With relatively long charge times and relatively short trip potential, they serve a very specific type of person. I am, hypothetically, that type of person.


OJO Commuter Scooter

The OJO is a new product trying to carve out a new niche in an industry of niches. Being a lifelong fan of Vespa scooters, I was immediately drawn to the OJO as it cuts a similar profile. With its swooping front end, notched to accommodate a front fender, and upright riding position, this little wasp look-alike had my attention.

OJO1

The OJO’s extruded aluminum chassis can hold up to 300 pounds and remains light enough (at 65 pounds) to move around when parking or tucking into a corner. Its super-intuitive, touch-screen display allows you to choose between three ride settings. The same display also serves as a speedometer, tells you how much battery is remaining and allows you turn on/off the OJO’s headlight.

The OJO also has Bluetooth speakers and a USB port so you can prove to your fellow commuters how discriminating your taste in music is, and charge your phone at the same time.

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Riding the OJO takes a few minutes to work out. The small wheels make for agile maneuvering but feel super twitchy at first. In the highest speed setting, the OJO’s 500 watt hub motor will do 20 mph, even while carrying someone with a robust midsection, like me. All jokes aside, this thing is ridiculously fun to ride. It’s childish in the very best sense of the word.

The OJO’s 48 volt battery takes about 6 hours to charge fully from zero and has a 25 mile range. You can charge the battery via built-in 110 volt, onboard plug, which stows into a clever compartment, concealed in the front fairing.

OJO2

The makers of the OJO offer a smattering of accessories from mirrors to baskets and the scooter itself comes in a relatively wide spectrum of colors. The base model OJO will set you back $2,000. Whether the OJO becomes a hot new thing or lives on in relative obscurity, the future of bike lanes may soon be filled with more than just pedal bikes.


Vintage Electric

The Cruz from Vintage Electric is sort of the antithesis of of the previously mention OJO. While the OJO fits the hyperactive, modern metropolis vibe, the Cruz is decidedly laid back. The sweeping curves of the Cruz’s steel frame are cut from the same fabric as the classic beach cruiser, which is evident in both name and attitude.

Everything about this bike sort of reeks of quality; the leather grips and saddle are by Brooks, polished alloy components litter the frame, an old school moto-style headlight adorns the front end and a CNC cut maple “gas tank” slyly muppets the real thing.

The sand cast aluminum battery box (hallmark of all Vintage Electric bikes), is the real star of the assembly. On its own, you might mistake it for an antique radio or refrigerator part, but here its appearance reminds the viewer of a time when things were made to last. As you might expect, all that quality adds up, and at 86 pounds, the Cruz is certainly heavy with it.

Operating the Cruz in standard mode will allow you to reach speeds up to 20 mph and has a range of roughly 30 miles. The Cruz can also be ridden in race mode which tops out, reportedly, at 36 mph. The test track at Interbike was restricted to 20 mph, so I can’t speak to race mode, but standard mode felt like plenty of speed and was utterly fantastic.

Swept back handlebars and 26 inch wheels skinned with Fat Frank tires from Schwalbe make for super smooth riding. The 750 watt hub motor, driven on by the 52 volt battery, propels you casually, yet forcibly, up to top speed in a few seconds. Charging the battery to 80% takes approximately 2 hours, and another 4 hours to be topped off.

The Cruz will set you back $5,000, and while it is unabashedly cool, I can’t help but feel like it’s more luxury than utility. Or perhaps as a middle-aged man with zero retirement savings and two kids to put through college, I’m simply blind to the possibilities. Either way, it was fun while it lasted.

vintage_electric


Honorable Mention: GeoOrbital

The GeoOrbital is a self-contained, electric wheel that allows you to convert nearly any bike into an electric bike. By simply replacing your front wheel with the GeoOrbital and attaching the throttle to your handlebars, you can electrify your riding experience with one simple component upgrade.

Available in 26” and 700c, the GeoOrbital uses the interior hoop of the rim as a track for three wheels, one of which is a 500 watt motor powered by a 36 volt battery. The battery itself is cleverly tucked in the interior of the modified hub assembly and can be charged using standard 110 volt wall adapter. Charging times will vary, depending on size, between 2 and 4 hours.

The top speed of the GeoOrbital 700c, without pedaling, is 20 mph and has a range of roughly 20 miles. I tooled around on the company’s goofy little Minipenny, which can be purchased as a frameset and was as ridiculous and fun as it looks.

I didn’t get a whole lot of time on the GeoOrbital, apart from the aforementioned goofiness, but I like the adaptive nature of the product. While I love looking at new and interesting products that look to sell whole bikes, it’s nice to think you could get into the e-bike game without having to give up your regular bike. Available directly from the company for $1,200.

geo-orbital


Dad Bod is a regular column written by our art director, Stephen Haynes, about the intersection of cycling, parenting and life. His other columns can be found here

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Dad Bod: C+

Words and illustration by Stephen Haynes

Lots of people look down their noses at students who gets C’s in school. There is a certain stink to getting a C that somehow says “you’re not cut out for this type of thing”. Why do we do this? Getting a C is essentially passing the course! The student is neither very good, nor very bad, but simply has a passable grasp on the subject. What’s wrong with that?

I know lots of people who, in their professional jobs are simply passable (myself included if I’m honest) and I think that’s ok. We expect greatness from every “professional” we encounter without considering their level of interest, natural ability, personal stress, accountability, maturity, self-respect and a host of other things that make us all infinitely unique.

If I’m paying someone to do my taxes or install a new furnace, I want the person to be proficient, but I’m not expecting the best. I can’t afford the best! Proficient will do. If I dodge an IRS tax audit and have hot air coming through the vents in the winter, then I’ve gotten what I paid for.

The reason I bring up the subject of passably proficient is that I see a lot of the same thinking in the parenting world, specifically, but certainly not limited to, fatherhood as I know it. I see myself as a solid C+ dad, maybe a B- working toward a firm footed B.

As such, keeping my kids alive is the first, and most important hurdle in my mind. Secondly, I must help feed and clothe them and make sure they are loved, which they are. Beyond that, children are fully poseable, infinitely influenceable vessels for whatever interests you both concoct along the way, including cycling.

Now as a dad working in the cycling industry, it is often thought that both my children are future badasses in some cycling discipline, and maybe they will be, who knows? For now though, they are so thoroughly sick of hearing about anything cycling related that getting them out for a quick mountain bike loop or even to hit up the local rails-to-trails is akin to force-feeding your dog a pill it really isn’t interested in taking.

So, my wife and I have plenty of bikes and bike stuff prominently placed in a high traffic area in the house with the hopes of piquing the kids interest via passive osmosis. Of course it’s all white noise to the kids. It may as well be flocked wall paper with kitschy little designs of dachshunds in tutu’s interspersed with filigree. In fact, the flocked wall paper might garner more attention.

As funny, sad or irritating as this luke-warm interest from my offspring sometimes is, I am reminded of my own enthusiasm. An enthusiasm that waxes and wanes sure as the moon, though less beautiful and with a less far-reaching impact. Sure, I like to ride my bike, but I don’t do it every day (or week, or month sometimes). I’m also thoroughly non-competitive, so while I may take part in the occasional regional race, it’s out of a sense of personal boundary pushing. I’m not delusional enough to think I could win anything.

Dad Bod C+

I love cycling, but I love other things equally as well, if not more; like drawing, painting, comics, music, movies… My high school self would actively ignore the (insert any subject) teacher to focus on whatever notebook masterpiece was taking shape. I see my kids ignoring my attempts to teach them the virtues of cycling as I once did my teachers, to focus on things they’re more interested in.

Of course, in most schools, there comes a time when a test must be taken to prove your knowledge of the subject and also to prove the proficiency of the teacher. This is where being a C+ student meets up with being a C+ dad. Like the inevitable test, I do, on occasion, make the kids strap on a helmet and go pedaling off into some relative unknown, whether they’ve been paying attention or not. Like a certain mohawk sporting teenager, sweating out an eleventh grade History exam, I nervously walk the line between blind confidence in some innate ability, and absolute terror.

The kids and I generally make it through the ride with minimal grumbling and a sense that we all did the best we could, equipped with the passably proficient skills we possess. For extra credit, we may stop for donuts on the way home and while that probably won’t improve our riding skills, it’ll leave the kids with a sweet memory of cycling which is all I want to impart on them anyway.

 

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Dad Bod: Dad’s Daydream

Words and illustration by Stephen Haynes

What would life look like right now if my wife and I hadn’t decided to have kids? It’s a question that seems cold in the face of actually having children, but ask any parent whether they’ve conducted this thought experiment and they will answer in the affirmative. If they don’t, they’re probably lying.

I’ve asked myself this question a handful of times in the 15 years since having kids, and not in the yelling, arguing, pig-headed moments you might automatically expect. Often these moments of reflection are encountered when I’m engaged in doing something alone, like being out on a long solo ride, or spending hours plein air painting. The thought occurs to me: “Is this what it’s like for those without kids?”

I proposed to my wife one summer evening at a stoplight while riding our bikes back from a dinner (where I had planned to do the deed, but chickened out). A few months later we moved from our childhood home in Southern California to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I started at college and she became a bike messenger. While we’d left a lot of the temptations of the past behind in California, a constant stream of alcohol, cigarettes, weed and the occasional hit of acid were still present in our lives.

Post graduation, instead of deciding to have kids and subsequently get (relatively) healthy by quitting smoking and giving up acid, what if we’d doubled down and engaged in all the heady, international, drug-crazed adventures some of our friends took part in? What if I’d decided to re-form my old punk band and tour around Europe and Japan (with wealth and adoration almost certain to follow…)?

My favorite non-kid daydream involves following in the footsteps of Disney studio artist and animator Eyvind Earle, who, in 1937, at the age of 21, rode his bike 3,000 miles in 45 days from Hollywood, California, to Monroe, New York. He made 42 watercolor paintings along the way and showed them at the Charles Morgan Gallery in New York City, in a solo art exhibition.

This dream combines two of my longstanding life goals: riding across the country and having a solo art show in a New York City gallery. The painting along the way is an added bonus, though I can’t imagine having the focus or desire to paint anything meaningful after riding my bike for 8-10 hours.

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It’s entirely possible that I’d have ended up in dire straits on the wrong end of some sort of terrible addiction; who knows? The point is, you can’t go backwards, and thinking about “what might have been” is a little foolhardy at best, and unhealthy at worst.

In the end we decided to have kids, and while I may never have a solo art show in New York City, or tour Europe and Japan with my old punk band, I can still ride across the country and paint what I see along the way. Better yet, I can try to instill in my kids (and subsequently myself) the focus and attention such activities require and maybe inspire them to come along with me, or go out on their own.

This is the first in a series of columns at the intersection of parenting and (sometimes) cycling to serve, not as a manual for child-rearing, but rather one parent’s anecdotal struggle to preserve his sanity and waistline. It will be an adventure, for sure.

 

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