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Sunday, June 29, 2008

6 Miles Via CarryMe Folding Bike

by Larry Lagarde

Recently, I was sent a CarryMe DS to review. From the moment I unpacked the bike I have been impressed; however, I finally got to ride this folding bike a decent distance today and I was blown away!

This morning, I took the dual speed CarryMe DS for a ride on the levee along the Mississippi River. The performance from this bike is simply amazing. The bike accellerates quickly and is responsive; yet, sure footed. Average cruising speed was about 14 mph, making it faster than the E-Z Pack or the Superlite. The Schlumpf 2 speed drive train is so simple to use (kick the crank arm to switch gears) that I'm amazed no one thought of this sooner - no cables, derailleur or shifter to wear out.

Riders of moderate ability will be able to cruise on the CarryMe DS at speeds from 11-16 mph in a level riding environment on smooth pavement. The high pressure 8" pneumatic tires offer low rolling resistance and some cushion from bumps; however, this is definitely a street machine. Avoid riding off road and watch out for potholes!

The CarryMe DS comes with both front & rear carry racks, fenders, kickstand & carry bag. There's enough room on the rear rack for a briefcase or a milk carton carrier (for holding groceries etc); the front rack can easily hold a 6 pack. And yes, when folded, the bike really does roll on the teeny rollers on the rear rack; just pull behind you by grasping the handlebars.

Current price on the CarryMe DS is $695 but I was informed this week that the price will be increasing to @ $900 sometime next month (ouch!).


Monday, June 23, 2008

Arrived: Compact Folding Bike Carry Bags

by Larry Lagarde

Kent folding bike carry bag - folded w/carry strapLast year, Kent announced that they were creating a folding bike carry bag for their Superlite and Ultralite line of 16" wheeled folding bikes. Well, it took 6 months but they're finally here.

The bags are exactly like the sample that Kent sent to me last December - black, nylon with the feel of soft canvass. The carry bag is designed with a hard bottom that's split in two so it will fold into a compact 11" x 11" x 2" package (about the size of a portable dvd carrier for your car but smaller than a laptop case).

When folded, the bag zips up into a side compartment. For easy carrying, there's a padded nylon handgrip at the top, chrome eyelets at the side and a padded shoulder strap. There's enough room inside the folded bag to use it to hold your wallet and cell phone too.

Kent Folding Bike Compact Carry Bag - Unfolded w/DownTube Mini insideUnfolded, the carry bag is designed to carry a folding bike measuring 27" x 24" x 15". As a result, this bag will hold just about any folding bike with 16" wheels and some with 20" wheels. Stick type micro folding bikes like the Strida are too long and will protrude from the end (if you have a Strida, Giatex carry bags are perfect for them & I have a few Giatex bags left).

The Kent compact folding bike soft carry case is a sturdy carry bag that will protect your folding bike from potential dings, scratches and damage; it will also make your bike invisible to thieves, doormen, train conductors, etc., so it's a great way to protect your investment.

MSRP on the carry bag is $54.99; however, you can pick one up here for just $34.99, shipping included. Make your folding bike a happy camper; get a carry bag today.



Friday, June 20, 2008

Update: CarryMe Folding Bike

by Larry Lagarde

This month, with my wife recovering from surgery, every day has presented new challenges. Time has been so tight that I've only been able to focus on the most urgent tasks. I did manage to sneak away yesterday for a brief ride on the CarryMe folding bike from Pacific-Cycles. And I do mean brief (5-10 minutes).

Alternate Vehicles, the USA distributor for Pacific-Cycles, sent me a CarryMe DS (dual speed) to review. I received it last week and was able to shoot some photos and ride the folding bike in the driveway but I didn't have time to install the rear carry rack extension and fenders until yesterday.

Ken at Alternate Vehicles warned me that installing the rear rack extension could be tough. He was right.

Installing the rack extension requires removal of the rack's tiny roller wheels that are used when trolleying the bike folded. Each of the 2 roller wheels are bolted on a long screw. To install the extension, a bushing must be slid over the screws, through the rack extension and into the threaded holes on the rack. It should be a pretty straight forward operation but the powder coating reduces the tolerances inside the threaded hole, making it impossible to do install the extension without tools.

Using a Dremel, I carefully removed the powder coating from inside the 2 holes on the portion of the rear rack already on the bike. With a 4mm allen wrench, I carefully screwed the combo rack extension & roller wheels to the rack, spinning the roller wheels to determine tension. Once tightening caused the wheels to slow noticeably, I tightened the screws on the inner side of each wheel, drawing the bushing inward. This was a delicate process that required using the allen wrench, then using a regular wrench, then allen wrench, etc.

After I had installed the rack, I installed the rain fenders onto the brake assemblies. This was much easier but also required careful attention to the orientation of the brake caliper arms.

With everything installed and brakes tested for proper functioning, I rode over to the Mississippi River and onto the bike path on the levee crown. The road up the levee is very steep. I was able to pedal up in first gear but had to weave my way up to stay in the saddle.

Once atop the levee crown, I accelerated rapidly and switched into high gear. With the tires pumped up to the correct pressure (90 psi), this bike cruises. I'll have to place the Garmin GPS on the bike to see just how fast but I was amazed. The speed is roughly equal to riding the Mobiky in 3rd gear. The 8" wheels make steering very responsive; I could track in a straight line but I found myself weaving slightly when not paying attention.

By the way, Ken did share with me that the next shipment of CarryMe folding bikes (due next month) will come with the rack extension already installed. That is a very wise decision because the average purchaser would need a variety of tools to do the somewhat frustrating extension installation. The extension does make the rear rack more functional though so I'm glad it's on.

More to come...


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Just 10 Superlite 3 Speeds Left

Superlite folding bikeby Larry Lagarde

That's right. I started the season with hundreds of the Kent Superlites and stock is now running out. In fact, there are just 10 left of the mango Superlites with the Shimano Nexus 3 speed internal hub (supply of the 1 speed is better). Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that stock will be replenished until Fall and prices will be much higher ($299-329 for the 3 speed).

I knew the Superlite folding bike would be a hit but this folding bike was a risk for Kent. Magnesium is prized for its strength, light weight Superlite folding bikeand ability to absorb road shock but no major bike maker has offered an entry level bike in magnesium simply because it cost too much.

Kent's solution was to make the frames using a high tech diecasting process, cutting labor time and eliminating waste. They equipped the Superlite folding bikes with practical, low maintenance components (the acclaimed Shimano Nexus internal speed hub and coaster brakes) and outfitted them with useful accessories (rear carry rack, fenders, kickstand). The result was a folding bike that's lighter, simpler to maintain and less costly than just about every production model folder.

Why The Delay In Resupply
Superlite folding bikeThere are two problems. First, the factories are pumping out as many bikes as they can but demand continues to exceed supply. Second, materials, labor and transportation costs keep rising...

Frankly, there is concern that consumers may pass on an entry level folding bike priced at $329. The fact remains that Kent is the ONLY manufacturer that has offered a reasonably priced magnesium bike! Even if the price was $429, it would be fair but hopefully it will cost much less.

Once I'm out of the 3 speeds, the best I can do is to create a wait list but it will be MONTHS before new ones arrive.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Innkeepers: Tell Us About Local Bike Trails

by Larry Lagarde

One of my pet projects is the promotion of great places to go bicycling. I love to travel and go out of my way to explore cycling opportunities with every journey; however, it's impossible to profile all the great cycling opportunities alone. Thus, I've decided to reach out to travel experts worldwide that are most likely to know of local great cycling opportunities - innkeepers.

As a general rule of thumb, lodging accommodation providers that cater to cyclists have a better grasp of which local bike trails, bike routes, etc. are noteworthy. So let's open the tap to their tips regarding places to ride.

If there's a lodging provider that you consider bicycle friendly, write to RideTHISbike.com about them. Better yet, tell them that we'd like to feature their bike trail suggestions on RideTHISbike.com.

With gas averaging $4+/gallon across the USA, I can't think of a better time to promote family bicycle vacations and bicycle friendly places to stay than now.


Friday, June 13, 2008

Westport Adult Folding Trike Presale

by Larry Lagarde

I have good news for those of you looking for a practical, reasonably priced adult folding trike. Starting now, a presale will begin for a limited number of Westport trikes that will be here in about a month or so. Purchasing your trike during the presale will lock in the price at $359 (shipping included) regardless of any shipping or other price increases that occur in the meantime.

Although I have been aware of the Westport trike for over a year, I was skeptical how many people would be interested in a traditional styled adult trike that folded. Boy was I wrong. What opened my eyes? The excited reception that the trike received from both my wife & my parents followed by countless inquiries from customers.

Two months ago, Kent sent me a sample Westport to try out. Soon after I had unboxed the trike and completed the basic assembly, my wife and parents were all oogling it and talking about how much fun it would be to ride. FUN! For my mom, it was the idea of going to the grocery, convenience store, plant nursery or nearby garage sales on it. For my dad, it was a pleasant way to exercise with my mom and enjoy the neighborhood. To my wife, it was a safe way to go cycling with the kids. Hmmm.

The day that I added the trike to RideTHISbike.com, inquiries began coming in. I wondered what was going on? Turns out that there are a lot of folks like my family that want a simple, versatile adult trike. Many have told me that they haven't rode a bike in a long time and wanted something easy to start with - something that didn't require balancing, something that's highly visible by motorists, requires little to no maintenance and takes up less space than a non-folding adult trike. People also love that they can remain seated when completely stopped, without the need to put their foot on the ground as they would need to do to keep from falling over on a regular bike.

Higher costs for production and distribution have pushed the price of the Westport from $299 to $359 and Kent has indicated that there could be more price increases soon. If you want one of these practical and fun adult folding trikes, put to rest the fear of higher prices. Participate in our presale today.

Again, there will only be a limited number of new Westport trikes coming in. Until you make your purchase, prices are subject to change without notice.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Arrived: CarryMe DS Folding Bike

by Larry Lagarde

Great news! The CarryMe Dual Speed micro folding bike has arrived and it is awesome.

First Impressions:

That's a small box for an adult bicycle.
But when I opened the box, I found a folding bike that was 95% assembled. All I had to do was remove the packing material, slip the seat post into the seat tube, install the pedals & front carry rack, lock down all the quick releases and pump up the tires (there are also a rear carry rack extension and rain fenders to install but I wanted to go for a quickie before it got dark so I'll add those later).

Sweet SpeedDrive.
The Schlumpf SpeedDrive has received rave reviews for its simplicity and durability. While it's too early to tell regarding the durability, the simplicity is stunning. No cables or levers are required to shift into either gear; just kick the base of the crank arm with your heel. You'll hear a slight click as the SpeedDrive switches gears.

High quality.
This bike exudes sophistication everywhere you look - rims machined from a solid block of aluminum, 80 psi tires, high quality quick releases, folding handlebars with cables routed through the centers (to prevent the handlebars from getting lost), extension stem for an efficient riding position, comfort handlebar grips, plush saddle, carry racks front and rear, nifty fenders front & rear, custom kickstand, velcro retaining straps to prevent the carry racks from getting scratched or opening prematurely, touch up paint and - yes - a carry bag.

I went for a very short ride and laughed out loud because it was so much fun. I can see already; I'm going to enjoy riding this bike.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Folding Pedals $29.99 Per Pair

by Larry Lagarde

If you've been wanting a good set of folding pedals, you're in luck.

Marwi SP-151 folding bicycle pedalsI convinced the USA distributor for Marwi (a specialist in the manufacture of bike pedals and bike lights) to place a special order for me for 100 pairs of the high quality Marwi SP-151 folding pedal. These are sturdy and solid, spring actuated folding pedals with a boron steel axle, alloy frame and nylon resin pedal surface. To fold this pedal, simply grasp together the end of the pedal and the finger hole in the pedal's center.

As I've mentioned before, folding pedals come in handy for several reasons. When walking beside your bike, if you fold the pedal, it's less likely to slam into your leg or something else (furniture, doorways, other people, etc.). Opportunistic bike thieves will think twice before jumping on your bike because most have never seen a folding pedal, making it more likely that they'll move on to an easier target. Lastly, if you're placing your bike in a carry bag, the bag is less likely to perforate or tear because the pedals will not be jabbing into the side of the bag.

Following are the specs on these pedals:

Type: folding; dual sided (can be pedaled on either side)
Body: aluminium body, nylon (black) cage
Axle: boron steel
Bearing: adjustable ball type
Reflector: approved
Size: 110 x 70 mm
Weight: 385 gram/pair
Spindle Size: 9/16" (the standard size for 3 piece cranks)

The pedals are "on the boat" now and will arrive sometime in early July. MSRP on them is $41.99; however, these pedal sets will be available on RideTHISbike.com for $29.99/pair (when purchased with a folding bike) or $35.99/pair as a stand alone purchase. Either way, shipping is free (within the USA lower 48 states).


Strida Mini Arrives August

by Larry Lagarde

Strida Mini 14 in. folding bikeHere's an update on the smaller version of the Strida 5.0 (reported on in April as the Strida Bantum) that's designed to accommodate riders under 5'4" in height.

The Strida Mini folding bike is identical to the current Strida 5 in every respect save two: wheel size (it uses 14" rims rather than 16") and frame size (the frame is scaled down so the distance to the pedals and handlebars is reduced). The Mini will be available in August. The only color of the initial model run will be silver.

A very limited number of Strida Mini folding bikes will be made available for presale through RideTHISbike.com. The presale price will be $699, which is $100 less than the current Strida 5. Pricing is subject to increase without notice but once you make a purchase, you'll be assured of getting the lowest price.

Once the Strida Mini is exhibited at Interbike, it is expected that the bikes will sell out quickly. Thus, if you're under 5'4" in height, the time to purchase this bike is now.


Monday, June 09, 2008

Victim Beaten By Folding Bike

Last week, a man riding a folding bike late one evening in the Houston suburb of Pasadena was robbed and beaten by 2 hispanic assailants. The robbers jumped out of a dark alley and pulled the man from his bike. One robber beat the victim with the victim's folding bike while the other attempted to stab the victim with a knife.

The victim told police that he could not hear the robbers because he was listening to his iPod and couldn't see them because it was dark.

What's the moral of this story? Be alert! If you must ride while listening to an iPod, keep the volume low enough so you can still hear things like approaching cars, barking dogs or thugs running up to assault you from behind.

For more about this incident, read "Police seek two men accused of assault."


Folding Bike Race Photos

The Smithfield Nocturne is a series of bike races held on the streets of London. One of the races is strictly for folding bikes. Riders dash to their bikes from a starting line and then follow a street course in business attire (well, kind of).

Shown here is a collage of photos from this year's folding bike race at London's famous Smithfield Meat Market (credit for the collage goes to Flickr user "Soggy Semolina"; click photo to enlarge). The race took place this past weekend.

For more folding bike photos like this one, visit the Small Wheel Society photo pool on Flickr.

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Saturday, June 07, 2008

E-Z Pack Versus Superlite Folding Bike

by Larry Lagarde

Cyclists are always asking how one folding bike compares to another but the 2 folding bikes that I'm asked about most often are the E-Z Pack and the Superlite 1 speed. If you're considering one of these bikes, the following may help you.

In my inbox today, there was an email from B.C., a guy in New York. He wrote...
I WILL be buying one of these bikes. I live in Brooklyn now but am moving upstate. I will be commuting from upstate on the train. I need a bike that will carry me ( I'm a small guy- 5'7", 145-155lbs) from Grand Central Station to Soho (probably a mile and a half or so - 45 blocks). Both of these bikes fold so well. Both are light. Both are very reasonably priced.

Pros: I love having no cables / really like the backpedaling brakes / simplicity
Cons: I fear that it is geared too low.

_E Z Pak:
_Pros: Comes with a bag / 12" wheels reduces the size / the gearing system advertised as having the feel of a cruiser (True?)
Cons: Has more parts (Handbrakes, 3 gears, cables) / small wheels might make it hard to handle.

I don't know if folding pedals is a plus or minus.

Right now I'm leaning on the EZ Pak.

Is there anything you can add or suggest?
Following is my response.
Both the E-Z Pack and the Superlite are great folding bikes for commuting. It all depends on your riding style.

If you plan to ride slowly so as to keep from breaking a sweat and you want to be comfortable, go with the Superlite folding bike. That's what the bike was designed for - comfort seat, comfort hand grips, shock dampening magnesium frame, upright riding position, low gearing. A hand grip is built right into the frame to ease carrying (such as for getting on/off a bus, train, going up/down stairs, etc.). If the gearing is too low for you, just have the rear cog swapped out for one with fewer teeth. These are readily available at most bike shops; the cog should cost @ $15.

If you plan to ride in traffic, go with the E-Z Pack folding bike. You'll ride faster (thanks to the higher gearing resulting from the dual crank drive) and brakes on both the front & rear provide greater stopping power.You won't be riding tucked but you'll definitely be leaning forward more than on the Superlite, cutting drag a bit. The bottom bracket is located further forward and the seat is more narrow so you'll get more power from the pedal stroke and be less likely to chaff your legs from robust pedaling. The smaller wheels make steering more responsive and the bike tracks slightly better than the Superlite. Also, the bag comes in very handy as it will get you on trains and in buildings where unbagged bikes are turned away.

Hope this helps.

Larry Lagarde
One thing I forgot to answer was B.C.'s question concerning folding pedals.

Folding pedals are handy for a variety of reasons. First, when walking beside the bike, folding the pedals will prevent them from hitting your leg as you walk or hitting other things (furniture, doors, other people in a narrow hallway, etc.). Folding the pedals before inserting the bike into a bag or suitcase will prevent them from poking a hole in the carrybag or case; it also decreases the chance of the crank arm getting bent if the bike case is dropped (think tired baggage handlers). Lastly, folding the pedals makes it a bit harder for an opportunist to take off with your bike. They can't just hop on & pedal away.

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Monday, June 02, 2008

Update: Kent Westport Adult Folding Trike

by Larry Lagarde

If you've been waiting for an adult folding trike, I have good news and bad news.

GOOD: The folding trikes are coming.
BAD: They won't arrive until late July or early August 2008.

Demand is off the charts for the Kent Westport, one of the few adult trikes that fold. The factory is churning out 4 container loads of trikes for distribution within the USA market. Unfortunately, the factory is in China and this is peak season. The result: these adult folding trikes will not arrive until - ugh - late July/early August.

If you want an adult trike, there are other models out there but a folding trike is hard to find. Worksman makes one (Walmart sells it online); the problem is that you'll need to have a bike shop assemble it and (judging by comments from customers) the quality of the components is not all that good.

As an alternative, I like the Tri-Rider trikes. They don't fold but they're in the right price range and the component quality is better. I can also have one to you within 15 days - at least until those run out (which will be soon).

Based on the demand for the Westport folding trike, I do anticipate selling out within a month of receiving them and being back in the same situation again so here's what I'm doing. For those that definitely want to be sure they're getting one, I'm preselling 40 Westport adult trikes. Terms are a non-refundable $20 with the balance due when the shipment arrives. I expect to have 10-15 additional trikes so those that do not want to pay a deposit will just need to keep checking back at the website and order before I'm out.

The presale will begin after I get a confirmation from Kent that they will definitely have the trikes for me (I expect to know later this week). I'm also waiting on Kent to confirm the price of the new trike because production and distribution costs have increased. Once I have these last details, I'll start collecting deposits.


Sunday, June 01, 2008

Micro Lite Multi Speed Folding Bike

A Practical Sub 20 Lb Bike That Folds
by Larry Lagarde

Lately, it seems like gas prices are inching up daily. As fuel costs continue to rise, more commuters are looking for ways to decrease their fuel consumption by working bicycles into their commutes (I know this from the growing volume of inquiries from commuters). Naturally, folding bikes are great for commuting; however, what is a commuter to do when the average folding bike is too impractical for their specific commute?

The answer might be the CarryMe DS from Pacific-Cycles, a Taiwanese bike company that specializes in the manufacture of high quality folding bikes.

Last October, I noted that the CarryMe series of folding bikes is among the lightest of production model adult bikes that fold (see Lightweight Folding Bikes - Top 5). Like the Strida 5, the Carry Me also has small wheels, folds quickly and rolls when folded; however, unlike the Strida 5, the Carry Me DS is not limited to just 1 speed.

Equipped with a low and high gear, front & rear carry racks and 80 psi tires, the CarryMe DS could be a real winner for urban commutes. But how do they ride? Can they hold up to multi mile, real world commuting? Are they worth 15 tanks of gas? To help me answer these questions, the US distributor (Alternate Vehicles) has agreed to send me one to review. In about a week, I should have it on hand and will report what I find. I must admit - it looks interesting.


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