Category Archives: urban bike

upright comfy bikes for riding in cities

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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Perspectives On Urban Biking

All fixed set patterns are incapable of adaptability or pliability. The truth is outside of all fixed patterns. – Bruce Lee

If you want to get inside the European cycling mindset, a good place to start is this short “documentary” about urban cycling in Copenhagen (Warning:  HD vid takes time to load.  Start play, then pause.  Go make breakfast, then resume.).  I use the term documentary loosely, as this is more accurately an advocacy piece.  Nonetheless, it captures the spirit and spectacle of urban biking at it’s European best.

The contrast between urban cycling here in Europe and American cities is striking.  Urban cycling in America accounts for 1-3% of trips.  In cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam, it accounts for 25-35% of trips.  Why is this?  What is about the culture of countries like Denmark, The Netherlands, and Belgium that contributes to the vast differences with American cycling?  Continue reading

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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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Velo Paris

Like a French poem is life; being only perfect in structure when with the masculine rhymes mingled the feminine are. – H.W. Longfellow

Karen and I traveled to Paris the weekend of July 25th, to celebrate her 39th birthday, and our 26th wedding anniversary.  Yes, we have grown in age, and in our love for each other.  The weather was nearly perfect, the people were friendly, the hotel room quite small, bed hard and too short, the traffic noisy outside our room… We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves!

We arrived at the Paris-Nord train station after a several hour ride from Aachen to Paris on the Thayles high-speed train.

These trains are a marvel of engineering, gliding smoothly on dedicated precision rails.  Luggage goes in overhead storage, so don’t take too large a bag; I saw one frustrated traveler have leave an over-sized suitcase before being allowed to board.

The trains are much smoother than regular trains.  They have to be.  On good parts of the track they clock in at 300kph; that’s about 186mph, as measured by my bike GPS.  Definitely the fastest I’ve ever gone while still attached to the ground!

Rather than hitting the usual tourist sights, Karen and I enjoyed sitting in Park Monceau, strolling the Champs-Elysées, and enjoying meals in street-side bistros. Of course, I paid particular attention to the bike culture, as it is the focus of this blog.

The first thing you notice is how different the Paris cycling scene is compared to places like The Netherlands.  Unlike the countries to the north, I saw no bike paths, cyclotracks, or sharrows in Paris.  The few cyclist I did see had to summon a near suicidal courage to brave the Parisian traffic. Not much Cycle Chic here!  Before coming to Paris, I had this notion that European cycling culture was universally bike friendly, like the Netherlands.  This is definitely not the case.  Like America, cycling culture in Europe is as diverse as the countries and people that make up the EU.

The bike at left was secured with a hefty U lock, but to no avail.  Stripped to nothing but a frame and cranks, it serves as a warning to all, like a skull on a pike.  I saw other examples of vandalized bikes.  One had the front wheel removed, stomped into a pretzel, then left beside the rest of the bike.  Though friends here dismiss this kind of vandalism as “that’s Paris!”, it’s still kind of a shock after living near The Netherlands.  Like I say, not so different from some cities in America, unfortunately.

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Tire Valves

Pneumatic tires all have valves to let air in and keep it from leaking out, until such time as you want to deflate the tire. Back in the states, I’ve seen two types of valves over the years: Schrader valves (aka, car valves), and Presta valves (aka, French valves). The floor pump I brought with me from the states handles both types, so I thought nothing about offering to top off the tires of a buddy’s city bike the other day.

Imagine my surprise when, after unintentionally letting the air out of his front tire, I realized that his tires were equipped with a valve I had never seen before.  Worse yet, my floor pump was not set up to work with this valve! Fortunately, he had a pump at home, so we drove to his place to get his pump. While there, I looked at the tires on his wife’s bike and sure enough, they sported these odd valves as well.

A few days later, I stopped by a bike shop and asked the mechanic about this valve. He replied that it is a Dunlop (or Dutch or Woods) valve. Apparently, Dunlop valves are quite common here in Germany and the Netherlands, but pretty much unknown back the states. Though people claim you can inflate a Dunlop valve with a Presta compatible pump, I was not able to get it to work with my particular pump. Now that Karen has a bike of her own, complete with Dunlop valves, I need to get a pump to go with it.

Like so much of life here in Germany, bikes look the same as back in the states but differ in the small details. It’s all good, all part of the European biking experience!

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