There’s a certain infamous former pro cyclist from Texas who is known for (among other things) writing a book entitled “It’s Not About the Bike.” But like so many other things this yellow-wearing racer has said over the years, it simply isn’t true. Sometimes it very much IS all about the bike. Plus the wheels, and the tires, and the apparel and the brakes and everything else that goes with cycling.
Cycling means a lot of different things to a lot of different people—exercise, adventure, freedom, transportation—but it can also be a great excuse to drool over the latest gadgets, gizmos, widgets and wonders.
In this issue we’re covering the gear that gets us there, focusing on brands, products and people behind the latest goodies on the bike shop shelves. We started with six drivetrains you didn’t know existed, unpack the details of how bottom brackets work and hear the behind-the-scenes stories of how bike models get their names.
Along the way we stopped in Colorado, where we visited the shop of Bedrock Bikepacking Bags, a tiny, homegrown brand that is threading its own path through the increasingly crowded cottage industry of rackless bags.
Then we visited Arkansas, where some longtime bike industry innovators are bringing high-end bicycle manufacturing back to the United States. Their aim is to offer competitive pricing, original product design and world-beating performance. Get the scoop on the new brand, HIA Velo.
In Portland, Oregon, the wooden bikes built by Renovo might seem Old-World, but they are as high-tech as anything coming out a modern factory. After all, company founder Ken Wheeler got his start in wood composite engineering while designing airplanes. Our photographer takes you there in our latest installment of the Made series.
We also expanded our product reviews in this issue with a full 17 pages of the latest and greatest, as tested in the real world by the editors of Bicycle Times. Be sure you take a look before you buy.
Even if you have no plans to do any shopping in 2017, you can still enjoy our stories of the human input that turns ideas into item. So don’t be a dope. Enjoy our Gear Issue. Grab a copy now from our online store, or better yet, order a subscription and you’ll never miss an issue.
Editor’s note: This story first appeared in Bicycle Times Issue #33, published in February 2015. Words and illustrations by Ken and Roberta Avidor.
The road trip is an American tradition, but does it always have to be by automobile?
My wife Roberta and I have been car-free for years, but until recently, we were more inclined to travel out of town in fossil fuel-gulping, CO2-gassing jet planes and rented cars. Then we sold our three-story house in Minneapolis and moved to a loft in the Union Depot, a newly-renovated train station in downtown Saint Paul’s Lowertown district. Moving to a transit hub with easy access to local and long-distance buses and trains opened up a new world of travel options for us. We planned to travel by bus throughout Minnesota and record the sights and our experiences in our sketch journals.
We’re fortunate to have a regional bus company, Jefferson Lines, with regular service to the Union Depot. Like Amtrak, Jefferson requires full-sized bicycles to be boxed up. However, they treat folding bicycles as regular luggage as long as they weigh less than fifty pounds.
Brompton to the Rescue!
We purchased Brompton folding bikes, which are lightweight and sturdy. Brompton also has a good selection of bags and accessories; we packed our bikes into Brompton B-bags. We packed our clothes in garment bags that Roberta made and draped them over the bikes inside the B-bag. This helped protect the bike. We packed our art supplies into our Brompton S-bags, which attached to the front of the bike frame.
Traveling by train, bus and bike has facilitated sketching, our favorite pastime. When train and bus service returned to the Union Depot, Roberta and I decided to travel throughout Minnesota and record the sights and our experiences in our sketch journals and on our blog.
Bound for Duluth
Our first bus/bike/sketching excursion in Minnesota was to Duluth from the Union Depot via Jefferson Lines’ “Rocket Rider” bus. Jefferson Lines buses are a great way to travel without a car, clean and comfortable with plenty of legroom. We biked and sketched along the Lakewalk, a paved trail with lots of great scenery. Along the Lakewalk, we stopped to sketch at Leif Erikson Park, Congdon Park and Lester Park. We sketched a thick fog rolling in on the deck of Fitgers Restaurant. We also found a lot to sketch in Canal Park—the famous lift bridge from the deck of Grandma’s restaurant and the fishing boat turned-snack shack called Crabby Ol’ Bills. The Duluth Depot has many historical items to sketch, and there were many attractions in Duluth we did not have time to sketch.
On to Pipestone!
We chose Pipestone for our next Minnesota sketching excursion. It was our first trip to the little city, and we were pleasantly surprised to find it had many visual attractions as well as some unique architecture to sketch. The city gets its name from the red quartzite Native Americans have quarried and carved into ceremonial peace pipes (calumet) for hundreds of years. There are several fine old buildings in Pipestone built with the distinctly ruddy stone. We sketched the sights around town and in the nearby Pipestone National Monument. We also sketched the activities staged for Pipestone’s “Paranormal Weekend.”
We stayed at the Calumet Inn, a nice landmark hotel with a lot of character. It is rumored to be haunted by a ghost named Charlie who once worked as a handyman in the Calumet Inn until a fire on Valentine’s Day 1944 transported him between the worlds of the living and the dead.
We biked several blocks north of the hotel to the Pipestone National Monument. The monument is a treasure trove for artists with a waterfall tumbling over towering pillars of red quartzite and vistas of restored prairie. In the visitor center, craftsmen carve pipes and other items out of quartzite.
Pipestone is also a great place to bike even if you don’t bring your own. Rental bicycles are available for $5 a day at the Ewart Community Center. The Casey Jones State Trail begins on the edge of town near the big grain elevator and runs straight and level through the cornfields. In the distance, bicyclists can see the towering wind turbines of Buffalo Ridge.
We look forward to traveling by Jefferson Lines to other destinations throughout Minnesota and throughout the Upper Midwest.Tweet Print
Words: Richard Belson, Instructor at the United Bicycle Institute
1.) A couple years back, my son brought a Mylar Spiderman balloon home from a birthday. Eventually, it got droopy, so I finished the job and stuck a folded up Spidey into the seat bag of my commuter. A month later, I slashed my tire on the way to work—I used the balloon as a tire boot by folding it back on itself and placing it between the cut casing and the new tube. Two years later, when replacing the worn out tread, I realized that Peter Parker had been accompanying me through over 500 days of riding to work.
2.) The only way your chain will stay clean is if you never ride your bike. If you ride your bike, you need to clean your chain.
3.) If you want your bike to feel like new again, replace the cables & housing—even if you think it’s in good shape. It wears so gradually, it’s hard to tell that it’s causing any problems. As soon as you shift and brake with the new stuff, you’ll wonder why it took so long.
4.) Don’t underestimate the refreshing feeling of brand new bar tape or grips.
5.) Dunk-degreasing your chain removes more than just the dirty, unwanted exterior gunk off—it also removes the irreplaceable factory grease from its inner mechanisms. We prefer over-lubing a chain with your preferred lube, then wipe off the excess with a clean, dry rag. The extra liquid will wash away the majority of the accumulated dirt and spent lube from the chain’s exterior, while allowing the chain to retain its inner stock lubrication.
6.) Isopropyl Alcohol (91%)—available from most pharmacies and grocery stores—makes a great, affordable degreaser. Also, it leaves no film behind, so it’s great for suspension service, and it won’t harm sensitive parts, finishes or seals. If, after you’ve tried alcohol, you need more muscle, then move to biodegradable or chemical degreasers. But read labels carefully—many degreasers will etch polished or anodized surfaces, or dry out rubber seals.
7.) Learn which derailleur hanger your bike requires, buy an extra, and put it on your keychain. You’ll head Murphy off, and will have it on hand if you ever need it.
8.) Keep a couple different sized master links in your seat bag—if you bail a buddy out of a jam while out on a ride, you may get free beer, coffee, or dinner!
9.) Support your local bike shop whenever possible—you’ll be bummed when they’re gone.
10.) Get and use a Park CC-3.2 and thank me later!
We put together a field guide to being prepared for anything you might encounter on your ride. Pick up a copy of Bicycle Times Issue #41—or better yet, order a subscription—and help support your favorite independent cycling publication.
In this day of Tweetbook and Facetube, we don’t get a lot of letters to the editor, or even emails to the editor. It’s often frustrating for our team to work so hard on the magazine and not receive much in the way of feedback, good or bad. But we know you must have opinions, so let’s hear ’em! You can always reach us at [email protected]. Here’s one we received recently:
First I really enjoy your magazine. The columns are insightful, informative and encouraging. I must however, take exception with your book review (Issue #40, p. 8) entitled “The Monkey Wrench Gang.” I am open to new and different ideas. I agree that we must protect our environment in a positive and lawful manner.
By publishing the review your writer and magazine appear to support radical environmentalists who break into construction sites, destroy others property, bulldozers, rip up and destroy power and rail lines. This behavior is never acceptable. It harms others and is cowardly. It accomplishes nothing to protect our environment. Without law and respect for others and their opinions and property we have anarchy. “The end doesn’t justify the means.” These actions are crimes and those who conduct them need to be punished.
Providing other publications in Mr. Abbey’s review for your readers which supports and encourages these repugnant actions is unacceptable and morally wrong. By publishing the review Bicycle Times appears to be endorsing and promoting these crimes to your readers of ALL ages, young and old.
Please stick to what you do best; continue to promote the great sport of cycling for all family members responsibly across all generations, and interests and abilities. Keep politics out of your fine publication. Why promote anything that harms others?
Encourage people to do the right thing. Doing otherwise only alienates and pushes away some of your readers and subscribers. We get too much politics and divisive rhetoric on TV everyday. Protect us from that and give us more on the sport we all love. I eagerly await your next issue.
I hope I’ve somehow helped BT be an even better publication with another viewpoint.
What did you think of our book review in BT Issue #40? Let us know in the comments below. Not getting the magazine? Purchase the issue or subscribe, today.
Illustration by Stephen Haynes
I’m interested in cargo bikes. I’ve been riding for a while, and more of my trips are taken on my bike. But some pretty normal tasks needed for daily life re- quire more cargo space than my rack and panniers can handle. I’m having a hard time coming to terms with the price of a cargo bike versus how much time I’ll actually ride it. What’s your take on cargo bikes?
Cargo Curious in Lower Yardis, Nebraska
In my younger days there were few things my trusty messenger bag and I couldn’t carry by bike: cases of beers and live animals and small children and radiator fan shrouds for a 1985 VW Sirocco and other bicycles. It’s amazing what a strong back and a bad attitude can manage to haul around. Not all of those things at once, mind you, but you get the idea.
But some loads where just not fun, so at the time when cargo bikes were still uncommon here in the United States, I happily loaded up both one- and two-wheeled trailers with even more food and beer and laundry and children and brakes and rotors for a 1992 Mazda 626 and trail building tools and multiple bikes. Again, not all at once, but still, lots more stuff.
It wasn’t until I started riding a cargo bike that I really started to unlock my potential as a beast of burden. Enough beer for a huge party and gaggles of small children and and reluctant parents of the gaggle of children and ladders and doors for a 1996 Ford F-150 and bags of cement and lumber and even more bikes. And sometimes combinations of these things at once. Combinations like a case of beer and new toilet from Home Depot, or two children, an extra large pizza, imported cheeses, a dog and two growlers of beer.
You didn’t really talk about what you wanted to carry, but as an everyday replacement for a car, cargo bikes are hard to beat. They have some drawbacks: initial expense, storage issues and issues with hilly terrain and loads. I can’t help you with storage issues, but find it perfectly acceptable to strap one of these modern e-bike motors to a cargo bike. In fact, I highly recommend it, as you’ll ride it more. Price? Sure, we are talking real money, and some people loooove to talk about all the motorcycles and used cars you can buy for the price of a new cargo bike. But that’s just short-sighted crap.
Take a typical $7,500 car. Now go on the internet and use one of the many cost of ownership calculators to see what it would cost to drive, insure and maintain your personal automobile
for five years. Try something around $30,000. Even with a new drivetrain and tires every year, the cargo bike has a tiny cost to operate. And if you charge an e-bike from empty every single day of the year, it runs less than $100 annually.
My point? Cargo bikes are sweet. Random passersby love them. I love them. You might love them. They are cheaper to operate than any car, used or new. So get one. Ride it. Bring your crap with you. Be happy. Or at least happier than you were, as some folks start out a lot higher on the happy meter than others.
This Q&A originally appeared in Bicycle Times Issue #35. Support your favorite independent cycling magazine and order a subscription today. Beardo is counting on you.
By Damian Antonio. Illustration by Jeffery Alan Love.
Last year we commemorated one hundred years since the start of World War I. While the legends of the Western Front and German U-boats are firmly cemented in history, less recognized are the contributions of the humble bicycle to this epic conflict. ￼On August 21, 1914, in southern Belgium, a 17-year old British soldier named John Henry Parr was sent on a mission with another reconnaissance cyclist to obtain information on the German army’s position. While offering covering fire for his comrade, who escaped on his bike, Parr was shot and killed, thus becoming the first British soldier to die in the Great War. More than 700,000 more would follow over the next four years.
The fact that the first man to die was a cyclist is not particularly surprising. Bicycles were regularly used in dangerous missions for scouting, relaying messages and medical evacuations due to their relative speed, silence and carrying capacity. So effective were they that by the conclusion of the war, more than 100,000 Brits were employed as army cyclists (up from 14,000 at the start of the war). In the French and Belgian forces, that number was closer to 150,000.
In fact, almost every army in Europe, as well as a host of others including the United States, contained a bicycle contingent by the end of the 19th century. They had gradually replaced the cavalry units for reasons best explained in the October 1914 issue of Cycling Weekly:
The reasons of the success of the soldier-cyclist are not far to seek. in the first place it must be realized that his mount, unlike that of the cavalryman, is silent in progress. This gives him an enormous advantage over his noisy foe… But silence is by no means the cyclist’s sole advantage. He has a good turn of speed, which is a factor useful alike in attack and retreat… The ability to take cover often spells the difference between victory and defeat, and here the cyclist scores distinctly. He has but to lay his mount down flat upon the ground and it is practically invisible.
In addition, several military strategists noted that unlike horses, bicycles did not need to be watered, fed or rested, they were cheap to produce and training troops to ride them was quick and easy. Cycling Weekly also captured one of the finest examples of the effectiveness of the bicycle-soldier when it described the moment in which the actions of a few British cyclists saved the lives of hundreds of their allies:
In the forest near the German trenches it was believed that a force of German infantry, with machine and field gun, was hidden. Along a road which runs past, French reinforcements were advancing, and unless they were warned would go to total destruction. Who was to warn them? Suddenly, from out of the trees where the English lay hidden, dashed a figure in khaki on a bicycle. He went down when he had only covered a few yards. Another followed him, and he, too, went down, but a third carried on. Riding at full speed across an inferno of fire, with his head bent low over the handlebars, he managed to reach the advancing line of French untouched and to deliver his message of warning.
Bicycles were not simply used as a means of traveling somewhere quickly and quietly, however. While attempts to convert them into actual weapons by mounting machine guns on handlebars and makeshift sidecars ultimately failed, the bicycle did prove to be very adaptable during the war. The French were instrumental in developing folding bikes that could be slung across their infantrymen’s shoulders and deployed when they reached suitable terrain or needed to make a speedy getaway. Bicycle ambulances were created by welding two bicycles together, side by side, and placing a stretcher in between them. Tandem bikes allowed for a primary pilot to sit at the front and a gunner at the rear. And some bikes were rigged to tow machine guns and other small artillery into position.
The bikes, fitted with front and rear carriers, rifle clips and other attachments were cumbersome, inefficient and ill-suited for the rough terrain by today’s standards. Ridden by dedicated troops, however, they proved to be surprisingly effective, as noted here by sir John French, commander-in-chief of the British Expeditionary Force, when addressing the British House of lords in 1915:
I am anxious in this despatch to bring to your lordship’s special notice the splendid work that has been done throughout the campaign by the cyclists of the signal corps. carrying dispatches and messages at all hours of the day and night in every kind of weather, and often traversing bad roads blocked with transport, they have been conspicuously successful in maintaining an extraordinary degree of efficiency in the service of communications. many casualties have occurred in their ranks, but no amount of difficulty or danger has ever checked the energy and ardor which has distinguished this corps.
The future of bicycles at war Considering the speed at which military technology has evolved over the last century, it is unsurprising that bicycles, as an instrument of warfare, enjoyed a relatively short moment in the sun. Where once they were considered state of the art pieces of equipment, they have largely been superseded by motorized transport that offers greater carrying capacity, firepower and protection for their troops.
They have, however, continued to thrive as a guerrilla weapon in unconventional conflicts, such as in Vietnam and Sri Lanka, where they are used for much the same purposes and reasons as in WWI. The last army to formally disband its cycling unit was Switzerland in 2003. However, some personnel felt that this decision was short sighted and that the humble bicycle still had plenty to offer on the battlefield.
“No one can understand why they are going to abolish us,” said Swiss army cyclist Julian Voeffray in 2001. “It is stupid. Over short distances we are very fast, much faster than the motorized units. We can be very discreet, we are well armed and we perform well against the tanks.”
There are signs that perhaps other militaries are beginning to come around to Voeffray’s way of thinking. Famous bike-lovers, the Dutch, used bicycles during their recent deployment in Afghanistan as a means of carrying out patrols once they felt the situation was safe enough to dispense with their armored vehicles. in a war where, towards the tail end, the focus was more on public relations than firepower, they felt that the bicycles enabled them to build closer relations with the local people.
So if you’re a gun nut and a bike nut, don’t despair; the next generation bicycle-mounted machine gun may well be just around the corner.
Editor’s note: If you own a Trek, Gary Fisher or LeMond bicycle, chances are a former motorcycle racer and tuner from Santa Cruz, California had design input on the tires and components on that bike. Not only is Keith Bontrager a whiz with engineering, he’s also an expert on mushroom hunting. We asked him for some advice on proper foraging tips to find tasty fungus for the kitchen.
By Keith Bontrager
I don’t have to tell you that there are a lot of good reasons to ride your bicycle: transportation, sport, fitness, head clearing, looking stylish, an adrenalin fix, pub crawls, whatever. They’re all good. One of my favorites is finding dinner.
The thought that comes immediately to most people when I mention wild mushrooms is “you’re insane” (and that’s certainly true in some respects) – there is some edge to this sort of thing. But with a little care you never need to put yourself in jeopardy. Here are some solid rules:Tweet Print
Words and photo by Kevin Murphy
Through the 1980s and ‘90s, Ross Shafer and Salsa Cycles were a force to be reckoned with. Salsa became one of the most sought-after boutique brands, which made stems, handlebars, quick releases, production and custom frames. But it wasn’t all just great product.
Shafer and his Petaluma, Calif. crew instilled a joyful soul into the brand and everything it touched. Annual festivals, fun apparel, and an ethos they lived and breathed. It was full-on fun, and moto. The incredible popularity and cult status among Salsa bicycle owners would be reason enough to tell the story of Shafer and Salsa. But there’s a hidden track on this LP.Tweet Print