Category Archives: bike of the week

Bike Of The Week: Cargo Bikes

“Live. And Live Well. BREATHE. Breathe in and Breathe deeply. Be PRESENT. Do not be past. Do not be future. Be now… If you bike, pedal HARD!” – Kyle Lake

Looking for a rugged, well made cargo bike? Be sure to check out the Bikfiets Cargo bike.  These rugged and stylish bikes sport several desirable features.  First, the built-in center stand securely supports the bike and cargo.  The feet allow the rider to easily lever the rig up into place.  Next is the heim-joint steering mechanism.  Rather than directly connecting the handlebars to the front wheel, this bike uses a long rod to link wheel to handlebar, allowing the cargo basket to sit between the wheels.

Speaking of wheels, the small front wheel keeps the frame compact and stiffens the front end, at the expense of some extra rolling resistance.

Finally, this example appears to have a battery mounted on the rear luggage rack.  Even with the moderate terrain in the Tri-Border region, pedaling 50kg (120lb) or more of bike and cargo is going to make a mess of that nice suit.  Another excellent application for the electrically-assisted bike!

For urban cyclists looking to bike more and drive less, cargo bikes can address a lot of needs that conventional bikes cannot.  With the benefit of electric assist, the cyclist is no longer a slave to gravity and friction; or to be more accurate, the cyclist can choose the level of effort desired, from easy cruise to full boogie workout.  Sure, the “real” cyclist will always have the purity of pedal-only power.  For the “real” commuter, shopper, and general cargo hauler, the hybrid designs open up two-wheeled life to more people in more circumstances than pedals ever can.

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Bike of The Week: Ebikes

Faith is like electricity. You can’t see it, but you can see the light. – Anon.

As an American living in Europe, I carry this mental checklist of things to keep, and things to leave behind when I return home.  In the keep column would be the latest crop of electric bikes (Ebikes) that are sprouting here.

Ebikes are not scooters:  They are mopeds, and only assist the pedals.  The rider must provide some input.  Nor are they as heavy as scooters or mopeds.  Typical Ebikes weigh between 35 and 50 lb.  They are clean and quiet.  Though something of a novelty  in the USA, Ebikes are gaining market share exponentially here in Europe.  From what I’ve seen, it’s mostly elderly, affluent riders who constituted the majority of first-generation Ebike owners, and rightfully so.  These are people who may not be up for hills  or riding for more than five miles, and have $2000 + to spend on an Ebike.

The second wave of newer designs are a little more hip, targeting commuters and those looking for something a little faster than traditional bikes.  We’re not talking you’re mama’s 250W commuter.  No, these are max. legal 1.2kW pavement-rippling tire shredders.  Oh, and if you talk to the right guys, you can get get hi-po chips to SIGNIFICANTLY increase output beyond the legal limit.

How do I get one, you ask!  Well, go to the Great Cathedral in Cologne, then head towards the river.  Along the way, you will find Eco Mobility.  They have been in business for a few months and specialize in custom frames and Ebikes.

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Markward Kayser, the owner of Eco-Mobility.de is catching the next wave.  What we have here folks, are visions of the future.  Some of his bikes are his own custom frames, others represent the cutting edge of Ebike development.  Mark loves to take a customer’s vision and bring it to life in real steel.  He also has a penchant for eye-bulgingly fast machines in search of a new kind of tire, somewhere between bicycle and motorcycle.

More pics after the break. Continue reading

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Bike Of The Week: Bike-O-Licious

Photo Courtesy of Karen Harbaugh

We found this tasty example of an urban moped in Sittard, NL.  Mopeds may have faded from the scene in the US, but they are still popular in bike-friendly Europe.

This particular moped is a Sachs Saxonette Luxus.  The 30cc engine produces 200W output to assist the pedal pusher.  Combine that with a 1.5 liter gas tank, and I’m guessing it is good for 50-60 miles per refill.  This model also has the optional cast rear wheel.  Low maintenance, but more weight.  Fortunately, we don’t have many hills in these here parts!  Throw on a set of panniers and its off to the market, or work, or…

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Bike Of The Week: Nun Better

The other day, Karen and I were strolling near the town center of Sittard NL, when we came upon this bit of found art.  In it, the image of a nun appears to be looking favorably upon the bike before her…  The cat, of course, has other things on its mind.

This bike is a nice example of a guy’s urban bike, a Gazelle frame appointed with drum brakes front and rear (good for riding in the wet, not so good going down hills).  Internally-geared rear hub, fenders, and enclosed chain help keep the rider clean.  Upright seating keep things comfortable, at least for a few miles.  Perfect for an outing in town!

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Bike Of The Week: First Bikes

Life is like riding a bicycle. You don’t fall off unless you stop pedaling. – Claude Pepper

One thing you notice living in the Tri-Border region is the general absence of tricycles for kids, or bicycles with training wheels.  A Dutch friend said that trikes are generally an indoors-only toy for the very youngest of children.  Unlike America, there are lots of very small, kid friendly bikes here.  Some are pedal powered, but many are some kind of hobby-horse, upon which young riders sits and paddle with their feet.

These simple two-wheeled conveyances are actually a modern version of the earliest known bicycle, the Draisienne.  Invented in 1817 by Baron Karl von Drais, the wooden vehicle (also called the Pedestrian Accelerator in Britain, and le velocipede in France) featured a steerable front wheel and supported the rider on a saddle between two moderately-sized wheels.

By all accounts, the Draisienne was primarily an amusement for the wealthy, a trifle to be used on the manicured paths of one’s estate, or one of the new and still rare  Macadam roads.   However, it showed the potential for great speed, and demonstrated the then revolutionary concept of balancing on two wheels.

It is possible that Baron Drais had bigger plans for his new conveyance.  In 1815, the Indoneesian volcano of Tambora exploded with the largest know eruption in recorded history.  An estimated 50 cubic kilometers of ash was ejected into the stratosphere where it remained for several years, reddening sunsets and cutting the sunlight reaching the ground.  1816 was know as the year without a summer, and disastrous crop failures were noted in Europe and North America.   Starvation was widespread, and horses were killed for lack of fodder, the price of oats then playing the same role as oil price today.  Perhaps Drais was anticipating a future without horses?  In any event, the Draisienne was three generations ahead of its time.  The birth of the modern bicycle would have to await the inventions of Starley, Dunlop, and countless others, together with the availability of paved roads, to perfect the Baron’s brain child.

Below is a modern recreation.  Note the adjustable saddle height.  Perfect for breezing along on the Burke-Gillman trail!

The Draisienne enjoyed limited success, but by 1821 riders were subjected to high taxes or outright bans, and popularity waned.  This almost 200 year-old idea lives on today in the form of inexpensive and relatively safe toys to introduce children to the wonder of balance and motion astride two wheels. Modern incarnations may be in wood, metal, or plastic.

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Bike Of The Week: Dutch Standard

Upon arriving here in Europe, you are amazed by the quantity and variety of bicycles people ride here.  Gradually, patterns begin to emerge. One common pattern is what might be called the Dutch Standard.  Here are several examples, presented for your consideration.  Be sure to click on the images to view them in the original size.

Beater Dutch Standard

This step-through design is very common; you find members of both sexes riding them because of it’s comfort and convenience.  Our first example at left is pretty worn, but exhibits all the basics:  Top tube swooping down to the down tube, ridiculously long steering head, single speed, enclosed chain, rear-mount center stand, and a rack in back.  The owner appears to be very protective, as this example has a cable lock to secure the bike to the lamp post AND a cable lock around the seat post, AND a frame-mounted rear-wheel lock for good measure.  Maybe the owner lost the key to one or more of the unused locks ?  Maybe they really like that seat and don’t want it stolen and all cost?  Or perhaps they just like the idea of having a spare for the spare, like the dual tail lights?!?

Elegant Dutch Standard

This next exhibit is a particularly stylish Dutch Standard, a Union Droodle, complete with tasteful paisley scroll work and a garland of flowers gracing the handlebar.  I wish I had snapped a picture of the (obviously) proud owner astride her bike.  She was as stylish as her ride.

Garlands For The Lady

Beyond the artistic touches, other items of note are the ergo grips and the dual-headlights:  One down low, powered by a generator, the other mounted to the handlebar.  Not sure what the rationale is, except that you can never have too much light in the darkness!

Modern Dutch Standard

The final example is what could be called a modern interpretation of a classic, made by RIH.  In it we see echos of the past, updated with modern touces like internally geared rear hub, front disk brakes, and a center-mount kick stand.  Modern yes, but better?  Depends on where you want to ride.  Still, there is something about the stark simplicity, the uncluttered fusion of form and function that makes the Dutch Standard stand out in a crowd, and our bike of the week.

Oh, one other thing.  Look closely at the handlebars.  They all sport bells, but what is common to all of them?  That’s right, all the bells are on the left side!  It’s not just these bikes.  ALL the bikes I saw over the course of a day in town had bells on the left side.  Not sure why.  It’s just Dutch Standard!

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Bike Of The Week

You’ve seen bicycles made for one, and have heard that some are built for two.  But three?

The Kid Mobile

This week’s bike (or should I say trike) is purpose-made for hauling.  It is actually an industrial unit designed for moving parts around on factory floors, and adapted to kid mover by the addition of lights and a bell.  It sports an internally geared rear hub with a drum brake.  Note the neatly tied double cables from each hand grip/brake lever assembly.  I’m guessing there is another set of gears and brakes under the kinderbasket.

Weighing about 60 lb. without cargo, this bike needs relatively flat terrain and a committed rider to get around, both of which are plentiful in the tri-border region!

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