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Saturday, May 17, 2008

BART Invites Folding Bikers Aboard

by Larry Lagarde

Thinking about cycling in the San Francisco area? Here's some good news for you. Bay Area Rapid Transit is actually encouraging mass transit users to take folding bikes aboard their BART light rail network.

folding bikes on BART tv NewsBART recently released a video profiling a woman cyclist that uses her folding bike in combination with rides on BART to commute and get around. The video is part of BARTtv News, an effort to communicate with more potential transit users via the Internet. (Watch the BARTtv News folding bike video)

In the event the video will not play, below is a transcript of the text because it touches on many of the reasons why folding bikes are becoming so popular.
Charlise rides a bike to the Pleasant Hill BART Station on her way to work in the city. But not just any bike. She rides a folding bike.

BART Route MapWith just a few steps, Charlise transforms her ride into a portable carry-on. Unlike a traditional bike rider, Charlise is able to take her folding bike up the escalator. And, most important, Charlise can bring her bike on any train at any time because the folders don't take up as much space as traditional bikes.

"For me, working in the city with a normal nine to five job the blackout times don't work so the folidng bike is a great option."

If Charlise makes it all look so easy, well, maybe that's because she actually takes pleasure in getting to work. "Number one, I get to do the thing I enjoy most in the morning. Number two, there's no better way to get to work than by bike. I don't have to sit in traffic."

Once Charlise gets to Embarcadero, she's on the street and unfolding her bike in no time. A click of the helmet, ring of the bell, and she's on her way. The folding bike phenomenon is attracting more and more people like Charlise despite the bike's non-traditional appearance.
Amtrak Capitol Corridor Route MapBy using BART in combination with your folding bike, Amtrak's Capitol Corridor train, the ferries that cross the Bay and other local mass transit, it's entirely possible that all your local Bay Area transportation needs could be accommodated without ever driving a motor vehicle. Few other cities in the USA could make the same claim.

Although San Francisco does have some steep streets, the city offers rides for cyclists of all abilities including an incredible bikeway across the Golden Gate Bridge as well as bike trails along the bay shore and into the coastal mountain range.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Harvard Business School On Montague Folding Bikes

The development of the Montague folding bike was cited this week on the Harvard Business School website as an example of creative product development. Montague's story was highlighted because it illustrated the difficulties faced when introducing innovation (such as a full size mountain bike that folds) to an established industry reluctant to accept major change.

Here's what they wrote:
"Montague's creative insight was to develop a folding bicycle with the look and feel of a traditional bike... But if you mention a folding bicycle, most people conjure up an image of a small-wheeled, oddly shaped vehicle that they wouldn't categorize as a 'real' bicycle. The challenge is to change the beliefs and behaviors of both consumers and the distribution channels so that Montague folding bicycles have legitimacy."

Harry Montague, an avid cyclist, is an example of the sort of "user-entrepreneur" studied by Tripsas (an associate professor in the Entrepreneurial Management unit at Harvard Business School). "As a user, you tend to pick up on needs that folks sitting back in the market research labs don't necessarily see," she says. "Montague wanted a real bicycle that would fold—something to use for serious cycling that was sturdier than available folding models. He designed and built a prototype in his spare time (while fully employed as an architect) and discovered that others wanted to buy one." Montague's son David became interested in commercializing the innovation, and they cofounded the company in 1987. Today, Montague is the world's leading producer of full-sized folding bicycles, and its products (Paratrooper folding bike) have proven durable enough to be air-dropped for use by paratroopers in the U.S. military.
Titled "Getting Down to the Business of Creativity," the story is a reminder of the important roles that creativity and innovation play in business.

To read the full story, visit http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/5902.html

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Great Bike Deal, Europe By Train + Bike

by Larry Lagarde

Superlite Folding Bike On eBay
Here's an update on the brand new 22.5 lb Superlite folding bike that I placed on the auction block at eBay. Currently, the high bid on this new folding bike is $50 and there is no reserve. Given that the auction ends tomorrow and that the MSRP on this bike is $209 (I sell it for $189), it's very possible that someone is going to get an extremely good deal.

eBay folding bike auction details

Traveling Europe By Train & Bike
If you're thinking about using your bike and Europe's incredible rail network to tour the European continent, make sure you take along a folding bike. EU member countries (especially Germany) have been updating their rolling stock to high speed railcars with less room for luggage. As a result, routes that previously accommodated standard size bicycles no longer have room or have become impractical to use. Apparently though, restrictions do not apply to folding bikes.

If you don't have a folding bike, you might be able to rent a basic bike in some cities or at some railway stations; however, taking your own folding bike and packing light are an incredible way to see Europe. In fact, if you're short on time, consider sleeping on one of Europe's great night trains and taking your bike to tour during the day. Typically, these comfortable trains depart from one major tourist destination (like Paris, Amsterdam or Berlin) and deliver you to another great destination (Vienna, Zurich, Barcelona, etc.) the following morning.

Europe is very bicycle friendly so once you arrive at your destination, cycling to most tourist attractions is a cinch. All major rail stations rent luggage lockers so just leave your things at the station, get on your bike & go.

More about bikes on European trains


Friday, May 09, 2008

Farewell Ultralite 6

by Larry Lagarde

You may have noticed the "Out Of Stock" note at the top of the page for the Kent Ultralite 6 speed. Well, that note is there because Kent International (and RideTHISbike.com) are now out of stock on this model. Worse yet, Kent has notified me that they are probably not going to offer more of these extremely popular & economical magnesium-aluminum folding bikes in the future.

Although I am not Kent's spokesman, I can guess that there are a couple of reasons why Kent is dropping this line. For one, the Chinese government is ending a large subsidy it created to reduce the cost of the high tech facility needed to build the diecast, magnesium-aluminum folding bikes. The result has been a steady increase in manufacturing costs for this bike. Add to that the rising costs of fuel, materials and labor and the result is a huge decrease in profitability for this model.

Kent's president and general manager have both been busy making the rounds looking at several aluminum folding bike protoypes to take the place of the Ultralite 6 speed. In fact, it appears that Kent is moving forward with a welded aluminum folding bike that is similar in appearance to the fabled Aerlite magnesium folding bike. Kent's model is not magnesium; however, it is said to be quite light and strong.

While the Ultralite 6 speed was far from the perfect folding bike, it had many admirers and a strong following among New Yorkers and other urbanites. Despite the bike's quirks, I'll miss it.

If all the positive reviews of the Ultralite left you interested in the bike, you're not alone. Several people have already asked that I put their name down should more become available at some point. If you feel the same way, let me know. I'll be happy to add you to the list.


Thursday, May 08, 2008

New Folding Bike Photos - Superlite 3 Spd

by Larry Lagarde

Following are new photos of the Kent Superlite Nexus 3 speed folding bike.

Last year, when I created the webpage to describe the Kent Superlite Nexus 3 folder, all I had on hand was the prototype. Since customers wanted to see the folding bike and I did not have photos of the production model, I did the next best thing and shot photos of the prototype.

Although the folding bike prototype and the production model are essentially the same, differences between the prototype photos and the text description have caused some confusion regarding whether the bike had fenders or over the type of folding pedals. Additionally, some customers asked questions regarding how the folding bike was packed in the shipping carton.

The following photos are meant to remedy this situation as well as to give a better feel for the appearance of the bike. I'll also be updating the description page for the Superlite Nexus 3 spd to prevent further confusion.


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Kent Westport Adult Trike Inventory Update

Small Quantity Now Available; More To Come In June
by Larry Lagarde

About two weeks ago, the supplies ran out of the Kent Westport adult folding trike. Since then, I've been calling Kent daily to get an update on availablity. Here's some good news but you'll have to act quickly if you want one.

Although Kent's computers were showing zero Westports in inventory, they had a pallet of these folding adult tricycles at one of their subsidiary warehouses. That pallet has since been set aside for RideTHISbike.com customers.

There were only 10 trikes on the pallet so these will not last long. Once they're sold, more trikes will probably not be available until June 1st, 2008.

Although I've updated the RideTHISbike.com shopping cart so you can now order Westports again, these folding trikes are in transit and will not be available for shipping until next week.


Monday, May 05, 2008

Superlite Folding Bike For 99 Cents

by Larry Lagarde

That's right. If you're looking to buy a Superlite 1 speed folding bike, I put a new one up for auction on eBay today. Bidding starts at 99 cents and there's no reserve so you really could get the bike for 99 cents (plus $39 to cover shipping and handling). Frankly though, I think it will go for more. Anyhow, here's the link:

eBay Auction: "Superlite Folding Bike 22 Lbs"

Okay, I'm sure some of you are wondering about the logic of doing this. It's certainly not for lack of business (May is the heat of peak season, RideTHISbike.com is logging close to 1000 unique visitors per day and Kent's Superlite 1 spd, Superlite 3 spd & Ultralite 6 speed diecast magnesium alloy folding bikes have been some of the most popular bikes I offer). So why? A couple of reasons.

A Better Product For eBay Buyers
Have you ever looked at the new folding bikes typically on eBay? Most are no-brand, heavy, steel bikes that wiggle and creak right out of the box. Some are even worse because they're cheaply/poorly made knock-offs of major brands like Strida, the A-Bike or Brompton. These knock offs may look like the real thing but they certainly don't ride or wear as well. In fact, hitting a bump or pothole could easily shear the retaining pin off a Strida copycat, causing the bike to crumple instantly. In heavy traffic, that's a recipe for road kill.

Although I offer the Superlite 1 speeds on RideTHISbike.com for just $189, these folding bikes compare favorably with folders twice their price. To begin, the frame of the Superlite is diecast of magnesium aluminum alloy using state of the art German technology & machinery. As soon as the frame is cool, it's x-rayed for micro cracks. If any are found, the frame is melted down so the metal can be formed into a new frame. All components are readily available too but that's another story.

My eBay account was one of the first and has been used very little these last years. All the same, eBay loves to remind me once a month that I still have the account so I figured I might as well post something and see what happens.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

RowedTrip Update - Reached London

London, Unfounded Concerns, Equipment Performance, English Channel & More
by Larry Lagarde

Life has been moving along at a lightning pace these past weeks so it's been tough keeping up with the RowedTrip rowing and cycling expedition across Europe; however, Colin and Julie have made it to London and will soon be crossing the English Channel. Following are some photos and quotes from them that highlight this period of their journey.

Oxford Canal
After many hard days cycling through hilly central England, we launched our boats in the Oxford Canal just south of Banbury. The canal, ranging in width from 30 to just seven feet, passes through rolling farmland of yellow and green fields.

Julie and I were delighted to find that the narrow locks on the Oxford Canal were without lock keepers, and the system designed to be boater operated. We took turns cranking the sluices open and closed, and then levering the great gates open to allow our boats through. Each lock would drop our boats roughly six feet as we descended in elevation towards Oxford City. The locks were spaced several kilometres apart, offering a pleasant reprieve from toil on the oars. We passed through small villages and much farmland before finally reaching Oxford City at the junction of the Thames. John Scott, a friend of Tony Hoar from Tony's Trailers who built and designed the trailer system for our boat, had spent much of the day cycling on the tow path next to us and also guided us through this ancient university city.
Made It To London
Now we're back where we started, a little fitter and a lot dirtier... we will explore this metropolis from the water before continuing down the Thames and on towards France.
Remembering Initial Expedition Concerns
When we first arrived in London - more than two months ago - with hundreds of pounds of equipment, tentatively awaiting the arrival of our rowboats, we were nervous about the challenges that lay ahead. Would the firths and lochs in Scotland prove too tumultuous to row? Would we be allowed to travel through the canal locks? Would we be able to cycle on narrow English roads towing 18-foot boats?
Performance Of Boats, Folding Bikes & Trailers Remarkable
My boat, Niobium, suffered a few bruises when her bow slammed into the wall of a lock while being towed in and Tantalum also has a few dings from less-than-graceful dockings. The Helly Hansen dry suits kept us safe while we crossed the rough waters of Loch Ness, the Solway Firth, and other turbulent Scottish waters, while their fleece, merino wool, polypropylene, and rain gear kept us warm and dry in what we're told has been an unusually cold and wet spring. On land our folding bikes from RideTHISbike.com and trailers have hauled astonishingly heavy loads up more hills than I thought Britain had. In fact the only equipment problem we had was a stove with clogged fuel lines, which a bit of tinkering fixed.
English Channel
We hope to row across the Channel but that depends on whether we're able to get an appropriate weather window and coordinate the logistics for the crossing. It's the busiest shipping area in the world and crossings by unconventional crafts are highly regulated, requiring appropriate approvals and an escort boat.
To learn more about the exceptional RowedTrip Expedition, visit RowedTrip.com.


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