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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

InterBike 2008 - SafeTband

by Larry Lagarde

Note: This is one of a series of posts concerning products at InterBike 2008.

InterBike 2008 Highlights: SafeTband. A medical or emergency ID tag just in case...

SafeTband - front and backSomewhere among InterBike's countless aisles and the 23,000 attendees and exhibitors at the show, I came across the SafeTband, a nylon strip with velcro hook and loop fasteners on each end so it will wrap around an object (such as the retaining strap for bmx or ski style googles, a backpack strap or the rear retaining strap on many bicycle helmets). Initially, I didn't understand what it was but I got one anyway to inspect later. I'm glad I did.

While flying back from the show, I inspected the SafeTband more closely. Bright red in color with a white first aid symbol on the outside, the SafeTband resembles the Swiss flag. On the inside of the Band, there's a clear pocket just large enough for an ID tag containing your contact info and brief medical details.

The packaging containing the product showed a snow skier wearing the Band attached to his google straps. That's great for dirt riding but I bike mostly on pavement and long distance bike trails. Then I had a "wait a minute" moment. The strap on the back of my bicycle helmet (the one that tightens the helmet horizontally) looked like it would be wide enough to accommodate the SafeTband. Sure enough, it fit perfectly.

SafeTband mounted on bike helmet horizontal strapWhen I got home, I filled out the ID tag that comes with the SafeTband, inserted the tag into the Band's clear sleeve, wrapped the Band around the horizontal adjustment strap for my helmet and went for a 10 mile bike ride. I couldn't even tell the SafeTband was there.

Face it. Whether you bicycle on pavement or slickrock, there is always some risk to cycling. That risk is compounded when riding alone.

If you become incapacitated and first responders are unfamiliar with health conditions you may have, their treatment could kill you. Additionally, family and friends may have no idea that you had an accident. In fact, here's how Travis Mills came up with the safety band:
Several years ago, Travis' nephew was skiing and knocked himself silly on a crash. When approached by first responders, he could remember his name but not who he was with or where he was.
Whether you go cycling with ID in your pocket or a fanny pack, there's always the chance that it will become separated from your person or that you will forget to bring it. Keep the safety band attached to your helmet and forget about it.

The SafeTband retails for $9.95. That might seem like a lot for a strap of nylon; however, it could save your life. For that alone, I'd say it's worth the price. Now that it's on my helmet, it's there to stay.

For more about the SafeTband, visit SafeTband.com.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

InterBike 2008 - Montague Folding Bikes

by Larry Lagarde

Note: This is one of a series of posts concerning products at InterBike 2008...

InterBike 2008 Highlights: Montague Corporation CLIX Wheel Release & Octagon Quick Adjust Handlebar Stems

There's good reason for Montague to be so well known for their Paratrooper full size folding mountain bike (it's been used by the military for years in hot spots all over the globe and is reasonably priced) but the engineers at Montague haven't been sitting on their hands. As proof, I offer the CLIX and the Octagon, 2 major improvements on bike components that have been around forever.

CLIX Bicycle Wheel Release System
Diagram of the CLIX quick release systemFor those of you that haven't bought a Montague folding bike this year, the CLIX is an innovative quick release system that makes it faster and simpler to install or remove your bike's front wheel. Even someone that has never used a quick release can use the CLIX safely (it's pre-tensioned at the factory so just click the CLIX onto the fork, close the lever & you're done).

The CLIX has made such an impression that major bike manufacturers Trek & Pacific (makers of Schwinn, GT‚ and Mongoose and other bicycle brands) have latched onto the product, offering it on the 2008 models. Still, the CLIX is new to many (including folks at many local bike shops). To change that, Montague held a competition at InterBike - whoever changed a CLIX wheel in the shortest time would win $500.

CLIX wheel change competition - InterBike 2008The competition went on for 3 days and the line of participants was sometimes quite long. Sadly, I was not the winner. That title goes to Edward Klomp of Chicago; he removed and mounted a CLIX wheel in under 5 seconds! I'm sure that working at Cycling & Fitness (a big Trek dealer in Chicago) didn't hurt Ed's performance.

Coming Soon - Octagon Quick Adjust Handlebar Stems
Montague was showing another product at InterBike 2008 - the Octagon. Though there was no contest hyping this product, it's even more of a no-brainer/why-didn't-I-think-of-that type item.

Simply put, the Octagon is an adjustable height handlebar stem that requires no tools to adjust. Yes, quick release adjustable stems are already around (the CarryMe and several other folding bikes use 'em) but here's what makes the Octagon so much better - it allows the user to adjust the height quickly and precisely.

Octagon fast and precise height adjustable handlebar stemOnce the Octagon quick release is opened, the rider pushes a button to adjust the height of the handlebars. With 120 mm of vertical travel and hash marks & digits to mark the way, cyclists can easily get the height adjusted right the first time. Plus, the stem's octagon shape prevents the stem from traveling side to side when unlocked, preventing the tedious task of realigning the stem every time it's tightened (Amen to that). Locking/unlocking the Octagon stem does not affect the headset adjustment either AND a button prevents the Octagon from adjusting beyond the important "minimum insertion" line.

The first bike to feature the Octagon will be the Montague CX (they'll be on the CX in time for Christmas and you can pre-order them here); however, I have no doubt that we'll be seeing much more of the Octagon in the cycling world - perhaps even on seat posts (that would be cool).

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Friday, September 26, 2008

InterBike 2008-WOW

by Larry Lagarde

Okay. I don't want to gush but InterBike 2008 was such a rush!

Today is the final day of InterBike, the big, international bicycle show held annually in Las Vegas. It's an industry only show because it has to be. There is so much bike stuff on display here and so many dealers in attendance that it's just not possible to accommodate more people. Too bad because the bikes and bicycle gear on display were awesome.

InterBike 2008 - The Outdoor DemoInterBike is like 2 shows in one. First, there's the Outdoor Demo, a 2 day event way out in the desert where the latest bicycles are on display outdoors. There were 3 interconnected encampments of booths in the form of tents chock full of new bikes just waiting to be ridden. Yes, ridden. Attendees get cards that can be exchanged for a bike.

InterBike 2008 - Bootleg CanyonHand over the card and you can ride a bike all day if you want. But with so many gnarly cool bikes gleaming in the sun waiting for a rider, why ride just one??? And as far as the riding is concerned, take your pick: silky smooth pavement, dirt or double black diamond "I'M GONNA DIE AWWWWWWWW" runs.

That's right; nobody's holding your hand fretfully saying "now be careful with our brand new $4500 bike." Obviously, those parameds on site with several ATV's carrying stretcher boards were not just eye candy (happily, I didn't see them get any action but scrapes and scratches did happen).

As to Eye Candy, there was plenty of that as well - both at the Outdoor Demo and at the 3 days of the Indoor Show. More bikes. More products. And pretty girls to draw your attention. It was a challenge to stay focused.

Folding Bikes

Dahon had a big presence at both the Outdoor Demo and on the show floor. Although I associate Dahon primarily with 20" folding bikes, they had quite a few standard sized bikes that fold. There was even a Dahon ExtraCycle at the show. Pretty neat.

I rode a 2009 Dahon Mu lightweight at the Demo. Outfitted with the 9 spd Shimano Capreo derailleur (I love that drivetrain), it was pretty nimble but what I really wanted to ride was the magnesium Mu XXV. Unfortunately, they didn't bring the XXV to the demo. :-(

Bigfish Folding BikeBigFish, Brompton, Moulton
BigFish (the new brand from Slovenia) was there with their new folding bike (the one that makes the rock solid "Click-Clack" sound when folded or unfolded; look for a coming review). This is the bike that Slovenian athletes rode on at the Olympics. Also in attendance were classic looking Brompton's and delicate looking yet strong Moulton take apart bikes.

Larry Lagarde and Mark Sanders with a matt black Strida MAS Special signature editionThe Strida has been around for a long time; however, the brand has become quite exciting this year and is improving even more. Not only were there Strida 5.0's at the show but the limited edition MAS Special was there (see photo RIGHT with/Mark Sanders & I) as well as an 18" Strida, a Strida Mini and a variety of new Strida accessories. You go AreaWare/Ming! Great fun chatting folding bikes with Mark Sanders too (I want that remote folding bike, okay Mark...).

Pacific-Cycles of Taiwan was well represented. Present were their CarryMe's, a CarryAll, an IF Reach with the Swivel Head technology and even an IF Mode. That's right. The IF Mode is NOT vaporware; it's for real and it's awesome (so cool that one was actually stolen from EuroBike 3 weeks ago - a very rare occurrence). Oh how I wanted to ride that IF Mode to Lake Mead but they didn't fly in until after the Outdoor Demo was over.

Feature Ride: Boulder City To Hoover Dam
Map: Boulder City to Hoover Dam bike ride routeI did ride a Reach City 9 spd out from the Demo to Hoover Dam and Lake Mead. What a blast that was. The bike is light and fast (according to my Garmin 305, the bike maxed at @35 mph). Primarily, the route follows a paved rail trail/drainage culvert that runs to Lake Mead. Since it hardly ever rains, you could ride this run just about every day of the year if you wanted. It's downhill pretty much all the way to the lake but there is ZERO shade and it does get hot out there. My advice: leave early and take plenty of water. If you followed the whole paved trail including the full Lake Mead loop, you can do 35+ miles of riding, all on trail.

Once the Boulder City/Lake Mead rail trail enters the Lake Mead National Park boundary, there's a visitor center just off the trail (between the trail and the highway). For a really nice hard pack/gravel ride, you can take the 6 Tunnels rail trail from this point all the way to Hoover Dam. The 6 Tunnels trail has outstanding views of Lake Mead and don't be surprised if you encounter mountain goats. In fact, those goats might be the only life you see along this trail until you get to Hoover Dam.

leaving InterBike 2008 by folding bikeComing Soon...
Expect a video of my Boulder City/Hoover Dam ride as well as a series of reviews of products I saw/tested from InterBike 2008. There's so much more to tell but, frankly, I have to get going. Bicycling to the airport and taking my bike aboard as a carry on is a really sweet deal but it's best not to do this at the last minute.


Monday, September 22, 2008

InterBike 2008

by Larry Lagarde

In just a few short hours, I'll be heading to the Outdoor Demo on the opening day of InterBike 2008 in Las Vegas. I'm truly excited to be attending. With all the weather foolishness these past few weeks here in New Orleans (as in Hurricane Gustav, Hurricane Ike and the tropical storm who's name I've forgotten already), it really was up in the air whether I'd make the show. But my insurance adjuster is up to his eyeballs in claims so he won't be visiting for a few weeks anyway...

What really excites me is that I'll be meeting Mark Sanders (designer of the Strida, Swivel Head & the new IF Mode) as well as other folding bike nuts so this will be a real treat. I'm particularly looking forward to riding the IF Mode on the Lake Mead ride on Tuesday. Competition will be pretty intense but I have a good shot at it.

There will be Internet access at the show but I expect to be quite busy looking over product, talking with designers and cycling so don't expect to hear back from me till the end of the week


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Tax Credit For Bicycle Commuting

by Larry Lagarde

If you'd like to see more people commuting by bike, this would be a good time to tell your US senator.

Sometime in the next 48 hours, the US Senate is supposed to vote on the Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008. Essentially, the act extends tax credits for alternate energy projects such as solar, wind and geothermal; however, it also contains a provision to provide bicycle commuters with a reimbursement for expenses related to bicycle commuting (such as buying a bike, bike improvements, repairs, storage, etc.).

The Senate is expected to vote on this legislation either today (Thursday, September 18) or tomorrow (Friday, the 19th). With Republican senators working to vote this act down (the oil lobby doesn't want it to pass PLUS the Republicans don't want the Democrats to have a green victory) it is critical that senators hear that their constituents want this act to pass. So be part of the solution - make a difference by contacting your US senator TODAY.

The League of American Cyclists have a convenient form on their website that will help you contact your senator. To use their form, visit the League's "Action Alert" regarding The Energy Improvement And Extension Act Of 2008. Here's the link:


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New 2009 Strida Folding Bikes

by Larry Lagarde

It's official. Strida will be offering their iconic folding bikes with the awesome Schlumpf Speed Drive, the drivetrain with the gears INSIDE the crank rather than the hub.

I was on the phone today with AreaWare (Strida's North & South American distributor) and they confirmed that the bike will be available for delivery as soon as January 2009. The model is known as the Sport Duo and will retail for $1200.

Prototypes of the Sport Duo and the MAS Special (the Mark Sanders signature series limited edition which will retail at $1400) will be on display next week at InterBike in Las Vegas.

While a dual speed Strida may sound ho hum to some, Strida riders will love this development. The dual speed increases the top cruising speed to 18 mph; yet, the bike retains it's clean looks because no derailleur is required to switch gears with the Schlumpf.

I'm going to Vegas for InterBike and AreaWare has offered to loan the Sport Duo after hours. Sounds like fun. I wonder what reception I'll get when I roll the folded bike on the casino floor. Mark Sanders will be there too; perhaps we can whip up a group of Strida riders to hit the casinos together. Now that would be cool.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Airline Baggage Fees For Bicycles

by Larry Lagarde

If you're thinking about flying with your bicycle as checked baggage and don't want to get socked by high airline baggage fees, beware.

Up until this past February, travelers could fly on major US airlines pretty much without worry of being charged for 2 checked bags. Then, United opened Pandora's box by charging $15 for your first checked bag.

Currently, 2 checked bags on United will run you $80 for a round trip flight but United is upping the ante again. Effective November 10th, flying on United round trip with 2 checked bags will cost a minimum of $130.

What's A Flyer To Do?

Be Selective.
Choose the airline you fly on carefully. You can still avoid checked baggage charges on Alaska and Southwest. In fact, as long as your bike will fit in a container that measures no more than 62 linear inches, both Alaska and Southwest will accept your bike as one of the 2 free checked bags that they'll carry for you. Unfortunately, only bikes that fold will meet these dimensions.

Transport Your Bike In A Hardcase.
Packing your bike in a hard case provides maximum protection; however, hard cases are large so they're prone to excess size and weight charges. Hard cases are also likely to get handled with less care. If you plan on using a hardcase, review the baggage policies for the airline you plan to fly and be aware of the fees you could face. Measure the case; if it's larger than 62 linear inches, expect to be charged a fee.

Transport Your Bike In The Original Shipping Carton
Some folding bikes are packed in shipping cartons that meet airline specs for checked bags (examples include the CarryMe, E-Z Pack & Strida folding bikes). If you're the owner of a folding bike like this, save the shipping carton. Chances are that your shipping carton will come in handy the next time you travel.

Transport Your Bike In A Softcase.
Soft sided bags or carry cases provide less protection than a hardcase but tend to be much smaller. As a result, it's possible to pack a full size bike that folds into a soft case and check it aboard some airlines with no fee at all. I've transported micro folders like the Mobiky and full size folding mountain bikes (like the Montague Paratrooper) this way without any damage to the bikes. I do wrap the frame members, crank, crank arms, etc. with foam pipe insulation as well as zip tie and bungee the bike to prevent components from rubbing against one another.

Other Options:

Carry On
If you have a tiny folding bike like an A-Bike or CarryMe, you may be allowed to take the bike aboard as a carry-on. With the way flights are over sold these days, you probably have a 30% chance of carrying it on; however, if the flight attendant tells you no, the bike will be one of the very last items to go into the cargo hold (so it's more likely to be on top of all the other checked bags).

Rent A Bike
With large cities like Paris, Barcelona and Washington D.C. offering sophisticated bike rental programs, it's very possible that you could rent a bike at a minimal charge. The drawback is that bikes may not be available and who knows what condition the bike will be in.

Ship It
There's always the option of shipping your bike but shipping fees are quite high these days. Shipping a full size bike can easily cost in excess of $100 one way for ground shipping within the USA. Internationally, shipping charges regularly exceed $350. Also, there is the risk that the lodging accommodations will loose the bike or refuse to hold it for you.

My Choice
Based on my experience, the option that works best for me is to take along a folding bike when I fly and transport the bike folded within a soft sided carry bag. For added protection, I normally place my clothing in the bike carry bag. To prevent the clothing from shifting or becoming soiled by the bike, I use plastic zip lock bags like the Hefty One Zip and insert those bags around my pipe foam protected folding bike. There is a risk of the bike being damaged but there's risk of that with a hard case too. Besides, traveling without a bike is just not an option.

For more information on airline baggage regulations and fees for bicycles, visit Ibike.org. Also, do check with the airline you're flying and take their terms of carraige with you just in case.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Strida Mini Presale Ending Soon

by Larry Lagarde

If you're under 5'4" in height and have been thinking about getting a fast to fold/unfold and light folding bike, the new Strida Mini's an excellent choice. But if you want one, you better hurry.

Although it's not yet available in the USA, a shipment of Strida Mini's is on the boat from Asia and due to arrive here in mid October. Nevertheless, since the post I did earlier this summer concerning the Strida Mini pre-sale, the word has spread and the bikes have been selling. In fact, only 14 of the bikes in the shipment are unsold. Once they're sold out, more are not likely to be available until after Christmas.

The price right now for a Strida Mini folding bike is $699. I am accepting orders for the Mini only by phone and email. Naturally, the pre-sale ends either when the Mini's are sold out or if Strida or the shipping couriers increase prices again.


Monday, September 08, 2008

Back From Gustav Exile

by Larry Lagarde

Well fellow cycling enthusiasts, I'm back from the mandatory evacuation for Hurricane Gustav. I must say it has been an interesting 7 days too.

This time last week, I was leading my family (wife, kids and our cat) north out of New Orleans in 2 cars. As with Katrina, the traffic jams were unbelievable. This time though, all of southern Louisiana was evacuated so there were 2 million people on the roads. We were among many stuck in gridlock in Mississippi on either I-55 or I-59.

With so many people evacuating, finding shelter was tricky. The closest we found was in the Ozark Mountains in northern Arkansas. For those that arrived earlier there that first day, I'm told that the weather was fabulous in Arkansas. Unfortunately, we opted to get to the Ozarks via Memphis so we could visit briefly with family. With the drive to Memphis ballooning into 13+ hours, we got into Memphis just after midnight. I was so fried from the drive and 2 solid days of hurricane preparations that I just went to bed.

The following day, we got a late start. I tracked the storm while my wife caught up with her dad. We finally hit the road again in the early afternoon. Feeding and attending to the kids and 2 cars required frequent stops. Our Garmin GPS also made for some frustrating detours. Eventually, we did make it though to our refuge in the treetops at beautiful Fairfield Bay.

Although I brought my computer along, I hit a major snag trying to go online - there was no internet access. I'd have to drive a few miles to the public library to use a computer; however, with 3 little kids, that was impossible. With little other choice, I simply crossed my fingers hoping that we could return quickly.

As news trickled in about power outages throughout the New Orleans area, it also became clear that the storm was now heading towards Arkansas. If we left immediately, we'd be returning to a home with no power and possible storm damage - not a good idea when you have children. If we stayed, we risked being socked in by rain and floodwaters. We chose the latter.

It rained every day for 4 days straight. The creeks and rivers in Arkansas flooded and the wind blew hard. We really couldn't believe the storm could remain so powerful so far inland.

Sure enough, road closures made it difficult if not impossible to head home. So we stayed until Sunday morning. We returned via US 65, passing flooded cotton fields and oxbow lakes that probably held more water than for decades. We arrived home very late last night. Our fence was down and tree branches littered the lawn but the house was spared.

To those of you that have placed orders during the evacuation, I ask for a bit of patience. I expect that all orders will be fulfilled within the next day or so.
Thank God it's over. We pray for those that fall victim to Hurricane Ike and for a quick & quiet end to the hurricane season.


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