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Friday, March 28, 2008

Folding Bike Supply Tightening

by Larry Lagarde

If you are interested in getting a very light, economical and well made folding bike (such as the $229 Superlite Nexus 3 speed 24 lb folding bike, the $209 Ultralite 6 speed 25 lb folding bike or the $189 Superlite 1 spd 22 lb folding bike), I advise you to act soon as quantities of these bikes are in very short supply and will not likely be replenished for some time.

Why? What's up?
The falling dollar, the US recession and increasing manufacturing costs are squeezing bike company profits, causing makers to cut production of low profit models and/or switch to lower cost components. Unfortunately, folding bikes are not immune to this trend either.

This week, Kent notified me that their diecast magnesium folding bike lines (the Superlite 1 spd, Superlite Nexus 3 spd and Ultralite 6 spd) are being eliminated or cut back due to sharply rising costs of materials and production. Hopefully, this will change when costs stabilize but there's no telling when that will happen.

Although Kent is cutting back on their magnesium bikes, they are excited as ever about alloy folding bikes. They will soon be testing 2 new aluminum alloy folding bikes but I have no details on components. We'll just have to wait and see.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Wisconsin Bike Fed Wants Pilot Bike Train

by Larry Lagarde

There is a synergy going between Chicago and Milwaukee. Being less than 100 miles apart makes it enticing to travel between both cities for business and pleasure. Members of the Wisconsin Bicycle Federation and the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation even commute to work from Milwaukee by train. Thus, it comes as no surprise that there is tremendous interest in the region for a Milwaukee-Chicago bike train. In fact, the Wisconsin Bicycle Federation recently sent Amtrak a letter asking that a pilot Amtrak bike train service be initiated between the cities.

Here's what they wrote:
February 26th, 2008

Jerome Trahan
Amtrak Field Marketing Senior Officer

Dear Mr. Trahan:

As you know, the Amtrak Hiawatha line that runs between Milwaukee and Chicago has a high volume of commuters and day trippers. As it is right now, bikes must be boxed and an extra baggage fee assessed, making it difficult for people wanting to take their bike on a trip to either city. It is our belief at the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin making it easier for cyclists to take their bike on the Hiawatha and Empire Builder lines by installing bike trains will increase ridership.

Many people in the region also use the Empire Builder line between Chicago, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis. This train also stops just 20 miles north of another large cyclist population hub in Madison, WI. As with the Hiawatha, there are lots of commuters who travel between Milwaukee and Madison. Allowing riders to simply hop on and off with their bikes it would create a viable transportation alternative.

The goal of The Bicycle Federation is to make Wisconsin a better place for bicycling. We also feel that in order to help create a better environment for easy and safe bicycling we must work to integrate the use of bicycles into mass transit options. One example is our Bike Racks on Buses campaign which has drawn much support from the community and businesses in the Milwaukee area. We feel that in addition to the Bike Racks on Buses campaign, equipping Amtrak trains with bike racks would be beneficial to commuting cyclists.

The Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin fully supports any programs that make it easier to travel with a bicycle in conjunction with mass transit options. We feel that the Amtrak pilot bike train project would be beneficial not only to Milwaukee and the surrounding areas but to Amtrak itself. If you or any of your colleagues have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact us. We look forward to working with you to make this project a reality.

Jacob Newborn
Project Coordinator, Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Travel Portland CEO Wants Bike Train

Bike-Centric Portland An Ideal Bike Train Destination

Travel Portland CEO Jeff Miller copied me on a letter that he sent yesterday to Amtrak in support of a Bike Train. The letter makes a great case for a bike train serving Portland, Oregon as well as Seattle and Tacoma.

Since the letter was sent as an Adobe .pdf file, I've created an image out of it and placed this below (to enlarge the print for reading, simply click on the image of Jeff's letter).

Travel Portland Bike Train letter



British Bike Train Video - Circa 1955

For the last 2 months, I've been shepherding a campaign to outfit more Amtrak trains with bikes hooks; however, the concept is not new. In countries such as the UK, bike train cars (outfitted from end to end with bike hooks) have existed for over 60 years. Here's proof:

Over the years, Amtrak has operated bike trains in some markets and offered limited numbers of bike hooks on some trains. Hopefully, with more Americans rediscovering the value of rail travel, Amtrak will reach out to accommodate more cyclists too.

By the way, my thanks to fellow cyclist J. Monti for sharing this nostalgic video.



Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Rowed Trip Week 1: Duncansby Head to Inverness

Yesterday, Rowed Trip team leader Colin Angus reported in from Inverness, Scotland with highlights from the first week of this unique, human powered journey.

Bicycling from Duncansby Head along remote single track, Colin and Julie covered over 200 km, enduring driving rain, hail and snow generated by the worst storm to hit the UK this winter. At times, they were pushed across the stark Scottish landscape by 80 km/hr tailwinds. Counting their rowboats, gear and trailers, they towed a total of over 250 kg (550 lb) of weight.

Some Photos From Colin and Julie

Colin writes ...
After pedalling about 200 km we reached the head of Dornoch Firth, an inlet on Scotland's east coast. The weather had calmed significantly, so we packed our bicycles and trailers inside the boats and continued by water towards Inverness. Our vantage of Scotland from the sea was a stark transformation from the rounded lines we had become accustomed to. Wave-carved cliffs and giant sea arches provided shelter for thousands of screeching seagulls, cormorants, and other sea birds. We shared the waters with seals and porpoises as we propelled our boats southwards.
Once Colin & Julie depart Inverness, they'll row through the Caledonian Canal system to Loch Ness. Nessie lookout!

More from the Rowed Trip Expedition Journal
More Rowed Trip Expedition Photos


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Amtrak Bike Train Builds Steam

Bike Groups Are Asking Amtrak To Simplify Rail Travel For Cyclists
by Larry Lagarde

In mid January, I proposed here on RideTHISbike.com that Amtrak test a service similar to the Canadian Bike Train so more cyclists could bring their bicycles aboard Amtrak trains without needing to box their bikes. A groundswell of positive responses from cyclists around the nation convinced me to take this up with Amtrak. Here's where things stand.

I floated the Bike Train idea with several of Amtrak's marketing folks at their Washington, DC headquarters. My suggestion was received cordially and interest was expressed; however, they suggested that I provide a possible list of places where the Bike Train service might run.

I contacted bike advocacy groups across the nation for input and have been inundated with suggestions as well as offers of support for the project. I pared the list down and submitted it to Amtrak about a month ago.

Although things have been quiet with Amtrak, the buzz continues with cycling groups. I've been invited to attend meetings of various bike clubs and have even been offered airline tickets to fly out to meet folks in person. More importantly, bike groups have been sending letters of support for the project, especially here in the Deep South. Here are links to just a sampling...
Obviously, the Bike Train concept appeals to many cyclists across the USA. Hopefully, Amtrak will find a way to make more accommodations for us.

If your cycling advocacy group would like to contact Amtrak in support of allowing more unboxed bikes on their long distance trains, contact me at the email address listed at the bottom of the page.


Atlanta Bicycle Campaign Bike Train Letter

Atlanta Bicycle Campaign Asks Amtrak To Offer A Bike Train

Following is a copy of a letter recently sent to Amtrak by the Atlanta Bicycle Campaign asking Amtrak to study the addition of a Bike Train type service on The Crescent (the Amtrak train running from New Orleans to Washington, DC).

I am writing to you as both a long-time Amtrak rider and the executive director of the Atlanta Bicycle Campaign, a 600-strong membership-based bicycle advocacy organization. We recently learned Amtrak was considering running a Bike Train to Atlanta and wanted to voice our strong support for the project.

We would be pleased to help publicize this initiative by notifying our members and contacts through our monthly e-newsletter (reaches nearly 1,000) and by posting information on our website. Atlanta, while not known for being a bicycling city, has an astonishing number of bike shops, cycling clubs, and cyclists throughout the region.

On Sunday, April 20th, we are hosting a large, family-friendly bike ride around Atlanta's future BeltLine. The BeltLine, a potentially transformative project turning old rail lines into greenspace, transit, and economic development, has been reported around the country. We feel our BeltLine Bike Tour could be a draw for Amtrak riders from Birmingham and other cities if there were a bike train in place by that time.

I urge you to place the Atlanta bike train on Amtrak's project list and schedule it for study and implementation as soon as possible.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions. I look forward to riding the bike train!

Rebecca Serna

Executive Director
Atlanta Bicycle Campaign
233 Mitchell St, Suite 315
Atlanta, GA 30303
Office: (404) 881-1112
Web: www.atlantabike.org


NEABC Asks Amtrak To Accept Unboxed Bikes

The following image is a copy of a letter sent yesterday to Amtrak by the Northeast Alabama Bicycle Club asking Amtrak to provide accommodations for unboxed bicycles on The Crescent (the Amtrak train running from New Orleans to Washington, DC). If the print is too small to read, click on the letter to enlarge it.

NEABC letter to Amtrak to allow unboxed bikes on the Crescent


Alabama Bicycle Coalition Asks Amtrak To Accept Unboxed Bikes

Relaxing Restrictions Would Unleash Flood Of Cyclists On Amtrak

Following is a copy of a letter recently sent to Amtrak by the Alabama Bicycle Coalition asking Amtrak to provide accommodations for unboxed bicycles on The Crescent (the Amtrak train running from New Orleans to Washington, DC).

Alabama Bicycle Coalition
Attention: Mr. Trahan
Washington, DC

Dear Mr. Trahan:

I have been asked to contact you regarding accommodations for assembled bicycles on Amtrak trains. As you can guess from our name, we are all for that convenience. Cycling provides super exercise, fun, and relaxation for just about everyone; young, old, or handicapped physically, financially, or otherwise.

Our board members have traveled from Birmingham to New Orleans with boxed bicycles. Once we reached New Orleans, we needed a vehicle to pick us up and transport us, then reassemble our bikes and store the boxes for our return trip. Otherwise, our entire local transportation was by bicycle. Imagine how happy we would have been to 'just ride away' from the station instead. We think the capacity to routine accommodate bicycles is beneficial and practical.

We understand that Amtrak is rethinking its accommodations for bicycles around the nation. We think the Crescent route would benefit from allowing assembled bicycles on board. We think this because there are a number of linear recreational trails, there are two cross country road routes, there are more than 25 century events, thousands of recreational riders, hundreds of touring cyclists, and the numbers of all that are growing each year.

You already know about the Silver Comet, Chief Ladiga, Longleaf, and the Tammany Trace linear recreational trails. In addition to that I'd like to bring to your attention, two major national bicycling routes. Adventure Cycling (membership of 42,000) created the Southern Tier (from San Diego to Saint Augustine FL) and Underground Railroad (from Mobile, AL to Owens Sound, Ontario Canada). Both of these routes are near both the Amtrak Crescent and the Sunset routes in several places.

The number of cyclists; mountain, touring, and recreational are growing rapidly each year. We get many inquiries each year regarding routes between major cities in the south. People who are doing some form of the Adventure Cycling cross country routes, people making up routes based upon local bicycling club route advice, and folks that are simply cycling within a comfortable distance for their vacation or weekends. Some folks are doing something we call 'credit card' camping; that is very little gear and using restaurants and commercial lodging for accommodations. Others are towing trailers behind their bicycles. All are on the move around our region and all collect some pretty big smiles by lots of observers.

As you consider the possibilities please be aware that bicycles are evolving in shape, function, and style. There are racing bikes, mountain bikes, tricycles, tandems, tricycle tandems, and recumbents. We should not forget the trailers either. Accommodations for all these types must be considered and addressed one way or another because they will show up at the stations.

I am including some links of interest for you. They are links to both national routes and a link to the Alabama Department of Tourism bicycle event calendar.

Thank you for thinking about these things. We will be happy to help.

Best regards,

Marjorie Holderer

Alabama Bicycle Coalition



Interview: Buick LeSabre Adult Pedal Car

by Larry Lagarde

A Brief Interview With Michel de Broin (Creator of the Bike Driven Buick)

Michel de Broin's bicycle drive train propelled Buick LeSabre pedal carYesterday, while writing my post about the full size Buick LeSabre pedal car, I contacted Michel de Broin for more information. He's in Europe at the moment so here are his replies (which I just received this morning).

RTB: Presently, where can your Buick LeSabre pedal driven art car be seen?
Michel: It is now in Toronto in storage at the Mercer Union Centre for Contemporary Art. It was on display but the exhibit has ended. Call Dave at Mercer Union, he is in charge of the gallery and will answer any questions.

MERCER UNION A Centre For Contemporary Art
37 Lisgar Street
Toronto Ontario M6J 3T3 (Canada)
Hours: 11am - 6pm, Tuesday - Saturday (Closed Sunday & Monday)
Tel 416-536-1519
Fax 416-536-2955
Web: MercerUnion.org

RTB: Is anyone going to reproduce the 4 person interconnected bicycle drivetrain that you created for the Buick LeSabre in other art or human powered projects?
Michel: I don't know. A rough cut of video had been seen by over 200,000 people on YouTube and has also been played on many TV programs. I hope after seing this people start pedaling their cars.

RTB: What was the law that police claim the driver broke when driving the Buick in Toronto?
Michel: The police said "operating an unsafe vehicle;" they demanded that the car be towed back to the gallery. A trial has been set for the third of April, at 3pm in Toronto. No fine has been levied yet.

Besides the YouTube video of the Buick being pedaled on the streets of Toronto, Michel has a video on his site of the Buick LeSabre being pedaled/driven through bumper to bumper traffic in New York City. Watch the surprised looks of pedestrians near the car.

From climate change to pollution and war, burning oil for transportation holds profound consequences for humanity. My thanks to Michel for making people think.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Pedal Cars - Not Just For Kids Anymore

by Larry Lagarde

Could this pedal car be a sign of our transportation future?

As comical as that sounds, the reality appears quite harsh, particularly for homeowners in suburban areas across the USA.

Chart: Average retail gasoline prices in the USA the last 6 yearsAlthough summer is still months away, the cost of oil is approaching $110/barrel (it reached a record $109 today) and the average cost of gasoline across the USA is now averaging $3.24/gal. By June, gas is likely to average $3.45/gal. and the trend is only expected to continue. In fact, oil analysts project $150/barrel oil in just 4 years and that's without any major world calamities, new political instabilities or outbreaks of war.
Chart right: Average cost of gasoline in the USA the last 6 years - courtesy GasBuddy.com

Why This Is Bad In General For Suburban Homeowners
With real estate already in a slump, sharply rising fuel costs will have the greatest effect on homeowners in the far reaches of suburbia. Not only will they have to pay more for every trip they drive, they'll have to eat the same rising costs for all consumer goods that the rest of the country faces. In a reversal of a 70 year old trend, buyers will opt for homes in city centers, making it even harder to sell suburban homes.

Hopefully, an inventor out there will come up with a reliable and affordable alternative source of propulsion for the world's personal motor vehicles. Otherwise, as I wrote on TreeHugger, Mad Max, here we come.

Police ticketing pedal car - photo by Benny ZengaAs to the video displayed above, the occupants of Michel de Broin's Buick pedal car were stopped, ticketed and are set to go to court on April 3rd. The charge: operating an unsafe vehicle. Whether that charge will stick remains to be seen. Technically by Ontario's standards, the pedal car is a bike and bikes are allowed to operate on Ontario's roadways. Plus, the Buick pedal car was driven in Montreal without getting a ticket (police stopped them there too). Photo right: Police ticketing the pedal car in Toronto - photo by Benny Zenga


Monday, March 10, 2008

My Wish List: Bicycle Cars for Amtrak Trains

by Barbara Chapnick

Europe has done it for years so why not the USA? In Europe, most trains have a separate car to store one's bicycle. Passengers can sit in or near the car with the bicycles. It's a very simple idea and works great. I have traveled for 5 weeks in Europe, solely by bicycle and train to 5 different counties. Being able to place my bicycle in a bike car and then sit near the bike car allowed me to quickly get from point A to B.

I live in Portland, Oregon and I am an avid bicyclist who likes to travel via my bicycle for vacations. In fact, I take friends along with me on tours, just for the fun of it. No profit is made.

Not being able to take our bicycles on a train, and hang them up in a special car, has presented problems regarding where we can travel without using our automobiles to get there.

Following are 5 fabulous long distance cycling adventures that would be ideal for a Bike Train. All 5 are within a days' train ride by Amtrak from Portland, Oregon (one of America's great cycling cities).

5 Great Cycling Destinations From Portland, OR. By Train:

Cycling Destination: OC&E Woods Line State Trail
Trail Type: Rails to Trail
Bike Train Route: Portland, OR. to Klamath Falls, OR.
Description: Over 91 miles (one way) of multi-use trail to ride/camp/play. Since the trail is an old railway the grade is very gentle (2.1% maximum).

Cycling Destination: Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes
Trail Type: Rails to Trail
Bike Train Route: Portland, OR. to Spokane, WA.
Description: The Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes bike path follows the Union Pacific Railroad's right-of-way from Mullan, a mountain mining town near the Montana border, to Plummer, a town on the prairie near the Washington border. About 72 miles of paved path takes you from high mountain splendor, through the historic Silver Valley, into the chain lake region, along the shore of Lake Coeur d'Alene, over a bridge to Heyburn State Park and then on to the Coeur d'Alene Indian Reservation: an adventure for the entire family!
Editors' Note: A truly beautiful trail; see my Coeur d'Alenes Trail photos & lodging suggestions.

Cycling Destination: Glacier National Park
Bike Train Route: Portland, OR. to East Glacier Park, MT.
Description: From East Glacier park, bicycle north up to Alberta, Canada to connect with Lake Louise and the Columbia Icefields parkway that is a great bicycle route for cyclist. Once in Canada, it is possible to take ViaRail to Vancouver and then Amtrak south to Portland.
Editors' Note: Another great route I rode. This is a road route & can have heavy traffic during the summer. It's best ridden during shoulder season.

Cycling Destination: Seattle, WA.
Bike Train Route: Portland, OR. to Seattle, WA.
Description: From Seattle, there are hundreds of destinations a bicyclist can take for a vacation. Examples include...

- Seattle springs the Ferry to Vancouver Island
- Friday Harbor can easily be reached to open up a possibility of travel to the San Juan Islands.
- Everett springs the ferry to Alaska Marine Hwy
- Mount Vernon and the yearly Tulip Festival
- Bellingham springs opportunities to cross into Canada.

As well as special events such as...
- Seattle to Portland Bike Ride (STP) - July
- Ride Seattle to Vancouver & Party (RSVP) - Sept.

Cycling Destination: Eugene, OR
Bike Train Route: Portland, OR. to Eugene, OR
Description: From Eugene, cyclists can ride...

- South on Hwy 58 to camping on lakes such as Lookout Lake, Waldo Lake, Odell Lake
- East on Hwy 126, a tourist can travel all the way to Florence, on the Oregon Coast.
- Other options are numerous for being able to have a Bike Train to Eugene.

"Take the Train and See the USA" is a great concept; think how much better it would be with "See America by Train & Bicycle - Go Amtrak!"


Barbara Chapnick
Bergfreunde Ski & Activities Club
Portland, Oregon


Rowed Trip Day 1: Cycling From Duncansby Head

Yesterday, Colin and Julie Angus began the Rowed Trip, an epic rowing and cycling journey from Scotland across Europe and onto the Middle East. Colin wrote...
After almost two years of planning, I didn't expect the expedition to begin with me getting my bike trailer tire stuck in the mud, but that's exactly what happened. We were at Duncansby Head, which is three kilometres east of John o'Groats, making it the most north-eastern point in Scotland. We were on our bikes with the boats in tow instead of rowing because today a 20 to 30 foot swell hammered the coast and tomorrow gale force winds were expected. So instead, our journey began at a beautiful sandy beach that faces out to the wind and wave battered Orkney islands, and after I pulled my wet foot from the mud we pedaled off the grassy knoll and onto the quiet country road.
Photo Slideshow Of Trip Start (Photos courtesy of Martina Cross)

Today, Colin & Julie are cycling west to Bettyhill and then south along a single lane country road that's part of the national bike route. When they near Inverness, the trailers will be unhitched and backed into the water. The full size mountain bikes they're riding and the bike trailers will be folded and placed into watertight compartments on their row boats. Then, they'll row down the Caledonian canal system to Loch Ness.

Learn more by visiting the Rowed Trip Website.



Friday, March 07, 2008

Rowed Trip Begins Sunday

I received a brief note this afternoon from Colin Angus concerning the Rowed Trip Expedition. They're in northern most Scotland and the expedition will begin on Sunday.

The weather is cold, very windy and stormy; thus, for safety, they'll be cycling south for the first week, pulling a row boat behind Colin's SwissBike LX and Julie's Montague CX full size folding bikes. Coling promises to send some photos soon.



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