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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Cycling in Vegas Via Folding Bike

by Larry Lagarde

Note: This is one of a series of posts concerning InterBike 2008. Read the preceding story about carrying a CarryMe on Southwest.

Click this overview map to get full GPS dataLast month when I attended InterBike, I flew to Las Vegas with a CarryMe DS folding bike as carry on luggage. The bike served as my transportation in Vegas; here's a recap of the ride from the airport in Vegas to my hotel.

Once the plane reached the gate at Mccarran International Airport, I removed my bag from the overhead and exited the plane. Since my clothing was packed in the carry bag with the folding bike, there was no need to go to baggage claim. I simply walked out of the airport, unfolded my bike and began cycling to the hotel.

Rather than ride amidst the heavy mix of taxis, limo's, airport shuttle vans and cars, I biked along a sidewalk that I had seen the night before when I Google mapped the ride. As the sidewalk arced away from the airport terminal, it entered a beautifully green and peaceful oasis of trees and shrubs - a pocket park. What a contrast it was to ride there. Unlike the vehicle chocked, multi-lane airport access road, there was not another soul on that sidewalk path.

The park gave way to the colors that prevail in Vegas - various shades of desert sand. Paradise Rd. was crowded with traffic and there was no shoulder so I stuck to the sidewalk. Smooth and relatively free of debris, this was a wise choice. Traffic on Flamingo was heavy and fast moving; I was grateful that the stoplight there had a button actuated pedestrian crosswalk.

According to my Garmin 305 GPS, it took a total of 25 minutes to bike just under 3 miles from the airport to the hotel. This includes a stop to readjust the bag on the rear carry rack, walking around a section of sidewalk that was under construction and no less than 10 stops at intersections (mostly for traffic lights). Had I waited for a taxi or airport shuttle, I don't think I could have made it much faster, particularly since I biked right out of the airport and rode right up to the front door of the hotel.

Though rush hour traffic in Las Vegas was heavier than I anticipated, it was a breeze getting around on the folding bike. Other than a speeding taxi and a tourist bus, drivers gave me plenty of space but riding on the sidewalk was safer. In fact, here's a video of one of my rides between the expo center where InterBike was held and my hotel...

Other than when at InterBike or the Outdoor Demo, I pretty much had the CarryMe DS folding bike at my side wherever I went. Due to the bike's compact size when folded and it's light weight, never did I feel burdened by having the bike with me. I took the folder into casinos and restaurants; neither management nor security stopped me or asked that I leave the bike outside. When out of the carry bag, everyone seemed bemused by this unique little folding bike.

Kudos to Southwest
In an age when airlines are making it more expensive to take bicycles aboard their commercial flights, it's nice to know that at least one airline will let you take your folding bike aboard as a carry on. Kudos to Southwest for their reasonable baggage policies towards folding bikes as well as their great, friendly staff.

Learn more about the Carry Me DS folding bike

About Larry Lagarde Larry is a dad and folding bike enthusiast that lives in New Orleans. Whenever he travels, a folding bike always goes along.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Chainless Folding Bikes

by Larry Lagarde

For a long time, I've wondered why bicycle manufacturers cling to using drive chains. This is not an academic question; other options do exist and they are viable.

Strida Folding BikeAlthough bicycles have used chain drives since the Safety Bicycle of the 1880's, Columbia's shaft driven bikes of the late 1890's were quite popular. More recently, Strida folding bikes have employed a kevlar drive belt since the first one came off the line in the late 1980's. Not only is the Strida's drive belt greaseless, it also lasts the life of the bicycle.

Why I Hate Bike Chains: Dirt
Bicycle chains are dirt magnets. The dirtier they get, the faster they wear (and wear out the drive teeth on the cogs). If your bike has no chain guard or cover, the chain can (and will) get your clothes dirty or even get caught in them (and most employers are not very sympathetic about showing up at work in torn or dirty clothes).

Other Bike Chain Problems
If your bicycle has a derailleur, count on the chain coming off at some point. Hopefully, when the chain comes off, it won't get caught in the spokes, causing you to come to a grinding halt and tearing up a bunch of spokes in the process (yes, I've been there). Even if you clean and lube your drive chain every 250 miles (as recommended), the chain should be replaced every 2500 miles. Failing to do so will result in premature wear of the teeth on the sprockets, skipping of the chain and (eventually) chain failure.

Chainless shaft driven folding bikeSo why not use a chainless drive?
Belt drives can slip under high load. Shaft drives are not quite as efficient as a new or well maintained chain (they also weigh about a pound more). But the big reason is the derailleur system of changing gears. For riding off road on rocky/bumpy mountain bike trails, nothing beats a multi-speed mountain bike with a rear cassette and derailleur.

Where And How Most People Ride Bicycles
The truth is that most bicycle riders are cycling at a moderate to easy going pace on relatively smooth and flat surfaces. Most cyclists with multi-speed bicycles only use a couple of their gears. Lastly, most cyclists don't even come close to maintaining their bikes as often as recommended. Herein lies the reason for chainless drives.

Given the realities of how many people use their bikes, chainless drives make tremendous sense. Going chainless means less maintenance with no noticeable weight or performance penalties when riding moderately or leisurely.

Readers have asked for a review of a shaft driven folding bike. There aren't many out there and the companies that sell them are small but I'll see what I can do.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

BigFish Folding Bike Coming

BigFish folding bicycle - unfoldedby Larry Lagarde

I just received word that a BigFish folding bike will be on its way here in a few weeks for me to review.

BigFish is the new aluminum folding bike on the block. Hailing from Slovenia (the Central European nation on the Adriatic Sea just east of Italy), the BigFish has the geometry of a standard sized bike; yet, it has 20" wheels.

Interesting Folding Design
BigFish folding bike at InterBike2008The bike folds down to 41" x 25" x 12" in 10 seconds via a unique process that keeps the main frame rigid, folding the front fork and rear sub frame instead. According to BigFish, this gives their folder the feel of a full size, non-folding bike and improves pedaling efficiency.

From what I saw at InterBike 2008, I believe the BigFish will live up to its claims but we'll have to wait until I have the opportunity to take it on the streets of New Orleans. If you want specs on the BigFish, here's all that I have for now:

Frame: Aluminum, unfoldable
Gearing Mechanism: Shimano Nexus 3 speed internal geared hub
Lights: front and rear battery light
Brakes: front V-brake, rear pedal brake
Folded Dimensions: 64 x 104 x 31,5 cm
Weight: 28 lbs (12,5 kg)
Wheel size: 16"
Colors: Black, Orange or Gold

By the way, the BigFish is not yet for sale in the USA. In Europe, the bike sells for 599 Euros (about $770).


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Living Well - It's A Choice

by Larry Lagarde

What did you eat for breakfast this morning?

Stress combined with a sedentary lifestyle and poor nutrition are a recipe for health problems. So what was my solution this morning when I awoke late and had to be dressed and out the house in 10 minutes? Why a Starbuck's Mocha Soy Grande and some dry chocolate Rice Krispies of course ;-)

Although my breakfast wasn't the greatest choice in terms of nutritional value, it made me alert so I could drive and was expedient. If only I had more time; right?

Our Choices Make Or Break Us
Too often, we lead our lives reacting to the immediate situation at hand and worrying about factors in life that we cannot control; yet, these are choices. Ultimately, each decision leads us to a seemingly endless cascade of choices that define us as the people we are.

If you are unhappy with your life or the last minute choices you are faced with, don't beat yourself up about it. Rather, accept responsibility for making your own life happier and take the steps that will get you there.

Figure out what ultimately led you to poor choices. Once you understand the underlying causes, you can map a plan that leads to better choices. Then it's time for the hard part - taking the steps you identified that will make you happy with your life and looking back every so often to be sure you're still on track.

Living well is a personal choice. If you want to be physically fit and emotionally well, there's no better time than now. Put yourself on the right track today.

By the way, if you want to improve your nutrition, US News & World Report published a story today titled "10 Things the Food Industry Doesn't Want You to Know" - interesting reading to be sure. Now go take a bike ride; that's what I'm doing!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Folding Bikes & Mass Transit

A Sensible, Integrated Transportation Solution

By Larry Lagarde

Would commuting via folding bike and mass transit be appealing? Commuter Ellen Babcock thinks so. She has no regrets about giving up commuting via her pickup for a multi-modal commute via folding bike and transit.

Reading Ellen's story, I wondered whether the same logic could be applied to even the most car centric metropolis. To get an answer, I contacted the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) and learned that they're working on a plan to encourage using fold up bikes with the Metro.

According to an interview I conducted with MTA's Dave Sotero and Lynn Goldsmith, Caltrans recently awarded $85,000 to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to prepare a program to get more cyclists and motor vehicle drivers to ride L. A.'s Metro. How? By offering an incentive for using a folding bike in combination with the Metro.

MTA officials view folding bikes as a partial answer to 2 tough problems facing transit agencies worldwide: how to get more commuters to use mass transit and how to accommodate additional transit users. Like most transit agencies, Metro barely has enough funds to make ends meet. If they can convince more commuters to adopt folding bikes, transit administrators can improve infrastructure (as in buy more buses and subway coaches as well as build more Park and Ride facilities) in a sensible and affordable manner.

To fund the folding bike incentive program, Metro is studing similar projects like Santa Cruz's Folding Bikes in Buses program. The Santa Cruz program offsets the cost of acquiring a folding bike to use with the buses. A pollution mitigation grant from the Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District funds the Santa Cruz program.

L.A. Metro's full size bike ban scheduleAlthough folding bike users can board MTA trains & buses at any time, restrictions exist for full size bikes and this has caused friction. In June, L.A. City Council President Eric Garcetti pushed for the MTA to drop the rush hour ban on full size bikes and even suggested that seats be pulled from Metro trains to provide more space for bicycles. Naturally, this did not sit well with non-cycling Metro users.

Although folding bikes are not for everyone, their versatility makes it more practical for more people to use mass transit. Riding a bike right up to the transit stop, folding the bike and rolling it aboard often takes less time than driving and parking at a transit station. Keeping your 'last mile' transportation (folding bike) by your side also alleviates the worry of leaving your vehicle unattended at the station all day.

Although the MTA has funding to study a folding bike incentive program, funding the folding bike incentives is another matter. Nevertheless, Metro authorities hope to begin offering incentives to encourage more commuters to use folding bikes in a year or so.

By the way, Dave Sotero commutes regularly via the MTA + folding bike and has found that folding bikes easily fit in a variety of places on all of the MTA buses and trains. In fact, all credit for the photos displayed in the following slideshow (showing folding bikes traveling on the Metro) goes to Dave.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Mark Sanders Interview: IF Folding Bikes

Mark Sanders On The New IF Folding Bikes

An interview by Larry Lagarde

Recently, I had the opportunity to ask Mark Sanders some questions about the IF (Integrated Folding) bikes, a brand new series of folding bicycles being produced by Pacific Cycles. The center piece of the IF brand is the IF Mode, a radical yet incredibly clean looking bike that folds. Mark invented the IF Mode as well as the unique means by which it folds.

Here's a slideshow I created of Mark's personal, copyrighted photos and sketches regarding the IF project. The Q & A session I did with Mark is below the slideshow.

Q: How long have you been working on the Instant Folding or IF idea?

M: It has been 'an itch that needs to be scratched', ever since designing the Strida 1 (masters project) and X-Bike (consultancy project). After a break from bike design, I was invited by Steedman Bass, the new owner of the Strida IP (intellectual property) to re-design Strida 2. The new design aimed to make improvements and make the bike more suitable for far eastern manufacture. This work is what is now the current Strida 3 and 5 series. Compared to other products we design (medical, industrial, kitchen etc.) ... I found I really enjoyed designing folding bikes, because they are a such an interesting challenge, right on the cusp of engineering/structural design and user focused design ie they have to work well, be easy to use and be cool/appealing ! As a plus, I love using bikes myself.

Anyway, I did not start the new project properly until my company,
MAS Design Products Ltd, had capacity between regular fee paying work, and could afford the time/money to 'indulge' (my wife’s term :-) ) in creating a new folding bike. This was 5 yrs ago in 2003. It took initially about 2 years of hard work to develop; Concept sketches, sketch models, models, CAD, FEA, prototypes, testing, repeat, repeat, etc.!; Patenting (supported by the British government); then some travelling for discussions with bike companies; more development, based on reducing costs and fitting in better with their process, and markets.

Q: What is the Swivel Head all about & did the IF concept flow out of the Swivel Head design or precede it?

M: The history was..
Having come up with the design, prototypes and patents for, what are now called the IF-Mode and IF-Cross, I courted some of the biggest players in the game. Most wanted to see the new technology (obviously), but getting commitment for the next, harder stage of manufacturing and marketing, was not easy. A few offers were made but without much real enthusiasm.
Ming-Cycle knew me and were enthusiastic about adding a 2nd own brand, after Strida, their 1st own brand, and an early MAS Design. Ming are otherwise 100% OEM, and are in the top 10 global bike makers .... a large proportion of bikes sold in the US are made by Ming, under various brand names. However, Ming are not used to developing their own products, and later gave up the project to concentrate on their expanding OEM business. So the whole project was returned it to me.

Fortunately, in the meantime I had met George and Michael Lin, President and CEO of
Pacific-Cycles. I was very impressed by their business; some of THE best mechanical engineering I've ever seen in the bicycle industry. Apart from extensive engineering and design skills, Pacific have, CAD, CAM, prototyping, testing, assembly heat treatment etc. all in one place. I learned they developed so many innovative folding bikes, many sold as other brands (eg Birdy, Airnimal). They also make mountain bikes, recumbents, special bikes, etc. for many other bike companies. Their own brands include the excellent 8” wheeled Carry-Me, and full suspension Reach ranges. Soon after Ming returned the IP to me, Pacific-Cycles, bought the whole project. Since then Michael and George, and their Chief Engineer, Ryan Carroll, have added their own bicycle engineering experience and excellence to re-design, improve and finalise the IF bikes for production.

'Swivel-Head' was simply the internal name Ming & I, first gave to the technology, when they had the patent. Now this is history, and IF for 'Integrated Folding' is both the name of the technology and the name of the brand. Both trade name and IP are 100% owned by Pacific-Cycles.

Q: Why design the IF Mode as a full size bike that folds?

M: Because although there are many excellent small wheeled folding bikes available, any straw pole, or even just observing cycle use anywhere will show 95% population choose and use full sized bikes. I am with you, other folding bike makers and enthusiasts in promoting small wheel folding bikes, but, I also feel that trying to re-educate the other 95% of the population is a bit like trying to swim upstream, hence this project.

Q: Wouldn't a folding bike with smaller wheels be better in terms of being compact and easy to store/transport.

M: Smaller IS easier to store, but not necessarily easier to transport, even 20lbs is very heavy to lug inside a shop, along a corridor or inside a train. Observing how luggage is now almost universally 'wheeled along' - I am convinced this is THE best way to transport a folded bike. Strida does just this, and it is now joined by the excellent Carry-me and Tikit folding bikes.

Also some small wheeled bikes just do not fold that small. The Brompton is THE best compromise, with a great folding ratio. But still, most importantly, even in Brompton’s back yard, London, 95% people prefer full sized bikes.

Some full sized folding bikes already exist, but these either; don’t fold without tools or unscrewing things like stems or wheels; are too large to easily take onto trains or into the office; or they are designed to be dismantled for packing, not really for multimodal travel.

Q: How long have IF Bikes been in field testing?

M: The Production IF Modes since March 08, early Pre-IF Mode prototypes since 2004, and IF Cross prototypes since 2005. and IF Reach Prototypes since 2007.

The IF-Mode was developed 1st, and the IF-Cross, 2nd to use a similar folding system in conventional frames, and in the IF Reach.

Q: Did any interesting surprises pop up while testing the IF Mode?

M: Yes, it fitted into bags and cases made for 20" folders.

Q: What reactions has the IF Mode gotten from people on the street?

M: Not much reaction in conservative UK, in fact it gets slightly less reaction than riding the triangle - Strida, until it folds, and then jaws hit the deck ... but by then, I'm gone ... onto the train ! In other countries, at bike shows in Far East, Europe and USA Interbike, people stop when they see the bike and crowds form when they see it fold .... Ryan can do the best demo, well under 2 seconds !

Q: The IF Mode's mono fork looks pretty slim from the front; can the bike survive daily use in a harsh urban environment?

M: Pedal axles have always been mounted on one side and take similar loads to wheel axles. So mounting a wheel on one side, with a similar tapered axle is absolutely no problem.

I really like the simplicity of one-sided wheel mounting, just like on cars. On a bike as well as the clean appearance, it also gives easy tyre changing and puncture repair. For folding bikes one-sided wheel mountings, allow the wheels to come closely together. So when folded they effectively form 'one wheel on a handle' - this feature is shared by both Strida and IF Mode.

Q: Do you envision any off-road versions of IF Bikes?

M: Watch THIS space !
Seriously, as Ryan has several
suspension patents and Pacific-Cycles have developed a huge number of mountain bike and road bike systems - it is a real possibility. The IF Reach, already has full suspension - initially tuned for the road. IF-Cross will probably be the 1st to offer full off-road capability, it is already light and takes standard wheels, gears, brakes etc. which lend themselves to upgrades and off-road versions.

Early road going, non-suspension pre-IF Cross prototypes were tested extensively, on and off road and even on many
downhill runs - I felt this was a good test for the technology ... (and very enjoyable).

Q: Is the IF series really targeted at non-cyclists?

M: Within the range of IF Bikes there is a bike to suit most tastes, from non-cyclists to cycling enthusiasts. The IF Mode is deliberately targeted at non-cyclists who like design, technology and do not necessarily want to change from their normal work clothes, or join a bicycle clan. Any cyclist who appreciates the design and folding benefits will also enjoy the IF Mode. The IF-Cross for is for existing or new riders, who want a bike that looks like and performs as any good full sized bike, it can be spec’d to be a perfect urban warrior! This bike is unique in it takes up to 700c wheels and can also fold, almost as fast as the IF Mode, without tools. It is also as compact as most 20" folders, and can be rolled into the office, shops and home. IF Reach adds the same folding, and rolling ability to the 20”, triathlete winning, full suspension, Reach. This means that this fast 20” bike can be also used for multimodal travel.

Q: Why would non-cyclists buy an IF type bicycle?

To get all the benefits of a modern folding bike. That is ‘take with me’ multimodal travel, small folded size, fast, ‘no tool’ folding, plus ‘rolls’ when folded (for easy portability), and the IF Mode and IF Cross are full sized bikes.

Q: Any chance of a 17 lb (8 kg) IF type folding bike in the near future?

M: Again - watch THIS space !
The IF-Cross in particular, can leverage 100 years of weight saving technologies, now applied to modern full sized road bikes.

Q: Any chance of a multi speed internal hub version IF model soon (such as with a Shimano Nexus 8 speed hub)?

M: Again - watch THIS space !
Pacific have the pick of all transmission suppliers, many of which are within a few miles of their factory.

Q: When do you expect that Batman style, remote controlled, servo assisted automatic folding bike to go into production (the one we discussed at InterBike)?

M: I am not sure about production, but I have some fascinating sketches and soon my CAD system will be buzzing with linkages, joints and lightweight actuators ! ... Don't believe me ? … They said the same about the fully automatic robotic Jar Opener which now sells in millions worldwide (but still not as interesting as a bicycle !).

Mark Sanders is the pricipal of MAS Design, a product engineering firm located in the UK. To learn more, visit mas-design.com.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Slide Show: STRiDA Mini folding bike

by Larry Lagarde

Displayed below is a slideshow of the new Strida Mini folding bike. Though interest in this new model has been high, supplies of the bike have been very limited. Before I ran out of them completely, I wanted to post more photos of the Mini online.

The brushed silver bike is the Strida Mini and the yellow bike is a Strida 5. By looking at the photos that compare the two bikes, you can see that the Strida Mini is a scaled down Strida 5.0. This was done so riders that are 4'4" to 5'4" tall could also ride a Strida.

Once the Strida Mini sells out, more are not likely to be available until early in 2009.

Strida Mini features & specifications


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Bicycle Commuter Act Helps Americans

by Larry Lagarde

Shortly after passage of the Bicycle Commuter Act, grousing began about the Act being pork because it was part of the $700 billion Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 a.k.a. the bailout package (a reader even suggested the bike Act was another example why there should be a line item veto).

Though there's a great deal of disappointment with government and the bailout in general, the commuter tax credit embodied by the Bicycle Commuter Act is a good thing and here's why.

The Bicycle Commuter Act had one purpose - to correct a disparity in Section 132(f) of the IRS tax codes. The disparity was that the code allowed a tax credit to commuters that get to/from work via their personal motor vehicle, mass transit or van pooling; yet, offered no tax credit to bicycle commuters.

Due to the passage of the Bicycle Commuter Act, effective January 1, 2009, employees who regularly commute to work by bicycle can be reimbursed at a maximum rate of $20 per month for costs associated with commuting by bike. Allowable expenses include a bicycle purchase, bike improvements, repairs, and bike parking/storage. The reimbursements are to be made through the employer and employers have several choices regarding how to make the reimbursements. For example, employees can be reimbursed based on relevant receipts, may sign up for regular monthly payments or can work out a voucher system with their employer.

If you're wondering how the bicycle tax credit will prevent tax cheaters from abusing the credit, the IRS code will only allow a tax credit for one form of commuting. Since the reimbursements for bicycle commuting are far smaller than for other commuters ($215/mth credit for motor vehicle drivers and $110/mth credit for mass transit or van poolers vs $20/mth for cyclists), it would be silly for a car pooler, transit rider or auto driver to claim the bike commuting credit.

Given the high cost of healthcare, I'm glad that the bicycle commuter credit was included in the bailout bill. Business owners can now encourage their employees to bicycle to work, helping employees become healthier via their commute AND providing a tax break that will offset the cost of maintaining their commuter transportation (bicycle). In fact, we all stand to gain because this will mean fewer drivers, lower fuel consumption and less pollution.

And if we are heading into a depression, a lot of commuters may be using the bike tax credit ;-)

If anyone is interested, following is the exact text in the bailout package that pertains to the bicycle commuter tax credit.

Section 211 of the Senate Bailout bill states:
"(a) In General- Paragraph (1) of section 132(f) is amended by adding at the end the following:

'(D) Any qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement.'.

(b) Limitation on Exclusion- Paragraph (2) of section 132(f) is amended by striking 'and' at the end of subparagraph (A), by striking the period at the end of subparagraph (B) and inserting ', and', and by adding at the end the following new subparagraph:

'(C) the applicable annual limitation in the case of any qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement.'.

(c) Definitions- Paragraph (5) of section 132(f) is amended by adding at the end the following:

'(i) QUALIFIED BICYCLE COMMUTING REIMBURSEMENT- The term 'qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement' means, with respect to any calendar year, any employer reimbursement during the 15-month period beginning with the first day of such calendar year for reasonable expenses incurred by the employee during such calendar year for the purchase of a bicycle and bicycle improvements, repair, and storage, if such bicycle is regularly used for travel between the employee's residence and place of employment.

'(ii) APPLICABLE ANNUAL LIMITATION- The term 'applicable annual limitation' means, with respect to any employee for any calendar year, the product of $20 multiplied by the number of qualified bicycle commuting months during such year.

'(iii) QUALIFIED BICYCLE COMMUTING MONTH- The term 'qualified bicycle commuting month' means, with respect to any employee, any month during which such employee–
'(I) regularly uses the bicycle for a substantial portion of the travel between the employee's residence and place of employment, and

'(II) does not receive any benefit described in subparagraph (A), (B), or (C) of paragraph (1).'.

(d) Constructive Receipt of Benefit- Paragraph (4) of section 132(f) is amended by inserting '(other than a qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement)' after 'qualified transportation fringe'.

(e) Effective Date- The amendments made by this section shall apply to taxable years beginning after December 31, 2008."

pension protection act, ppa, senate, bailout, HR 1424, bicycle commuting, qualified transportation, 132(f), ERISA
Special thanks go to Hillary Barbour in Congressman Blumenauer's office for providing clarification on this tax credit for bicycle commuters.


Saturday, October 04, 2008

IF Series Folding Bikes From Pacific Cycles

The IF Folding Bike Series: Setting The Bar Even Higher

by Larry Lagarde

The IF is the new series of folding bikes from Pacific Cycles of Taiwan, a company that has been producing high end folding bikes like the Birdy, Reach and CarryMe. The IF series is a whole 'nuther ball game though and will soon be the new standard by which all folding bikes are judged. Here's why.

The folding bicycles in the IF series incorporate Mark Sanders' patented Swivel Head folding system, essentially two tensioned bars on either side of the 'top tube.' A quick release tensions the bars, making the frame super strong for riding. Open the quick release and the bike frame folds in 5 seconds.

Folded, the IF series bikes can be trolleyed like a piece of luggage. The handlebars and pedals fold too so the entire package is quite compact. In fact, the IF Mode is the most compact full size folding bike ever devised. Similar in appearance to the clay Cannondale Jacknife folding bike concept, the IF Mode has a mono fork and mono drop out on the rear wheel.

According to the Pacific Cycles' American distributor Alternate Vehicles, the first production run of IF Mode folding bikes will be here in a matter of months and I can hardly wait. I regularly ride a Pacific Cycles CarryMe DS and a Strida 5 for short rides (see my story about flying with a CarryMe as carry on baggage) and a Reach Trail for longer rides so I know the high quality of Pacific Cycles products and Mark Sanders' designs.

By the way, Mark Sanders and I talked at InterBike (he personally demonstrated to me how the Swivel Head technology works). Look for a coming interview with Mark here on RideTHISbike.com.

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Rowed Trip Completed

by Larry Lagarde

Colin & Julie Angus have just returned to North America from their 7 month journey across Europe and into the Middle East by folding bike and rowboat. They bicycled and rowed from Scotland to Syria via Eastern Europe & Turkey. The trip took them through a total of 12 countries.

Sometime this week, I hope to talk with Colin about the adventure to learn more about the cycling portions of the trip. In particular, I'll be very interested in his thoughts concerning the full size folding bikes he used and any tips he has for others looking to journey great distances by folding bike. Meanwhile, here's a link to Colin's Rowed Trip blog so you can read more.


Friday, October 03, 2008

Congress Approves Bicycle Commuter Act

by Larry Lagarde

Here's some great news for any potential US bicycle commuter: Congress has finally passed the Bicycle Commuter Act!

Championed by Congressman Blumenauer, the League of American Bicyclists and regular folks like you and I, this is the act that makes tax incentives available to those that commute by bicycle.

The act took 7 years to get pass. Frankly, President Bush still has to sign it but don't worry - he will. And do you know why?

Is it because Bush likes riding mountain bikes on his Texas ranch?
No (he does though).

Is it because Bush and his trusty DOT secretary (Mary Peters) view bikes as a viable transportation alternative?
Yeah right - NO.

The reason Bush will sign the act is because it became one of the provisions of the $700 billion financial markets bailout that Bush has said must take place. Even with sweeteners like the Bicycle Commuter Act included, the bailout just squeeked past Congress. With the whole world screaming for Washington to avert an international economic meltdown, there's no way Bush won't sign.


Thursday, October 02, 2008

Carrying A CarryME On Southwest

Traveling With A Folding Bike As A Carry-On

by Larry Lagarde

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

As more people begin to look for greener travel options, it's only natural that travelers consider the inclusion of cycling as a mode of travel. With all the baggage restrictions and fees that now apply to taking bicycles on commercial flights, I wanted to test reports that some folding bikes could be brought aboard as a carry on - free of charge.

Carrying a bike aboard a commercial airliner is the ultimate test. If you can do that, it should be possible to combine cycling with any other form of transportation (multi-modal travel). Since I was attending InterBike 2008, I decided to apply my bicycle carry on test to my trip to InterBike. But I had another goal too: use the bike I carried aboard as my primary means of transportation within Vegas.

Although there are thousands of models of bicycles being produced today, there are just 3 models that even come close to meeting carry on baggage restrictions: the Brompton, CarryMe and the just released Carriable Foldaway Bicycle. I decided to try the CarryMe DS.

Test Bicycle: CarryMe DS from Pacific Cycles
CarryMe DS folding bikeThe CarryMe DS (Dual Speed) is a 'stick folder.' When folded, it's about as long as a golf umbrella. It fits inside a carry bag that, when placed on the ground, is as wide as a small bike water bottle and about as tall as a half gallon carton of milk. The CarryMe DS folds in @ 30 seconds, weighs 19 lbs (18 lbs for the single speed) and rolls when folded via 2 roller wheels on the rear carry rack.

Test Airline: Southwest
There are many commercial airlines that fly between New Orleans and Las Vegas; however, one stands out in terms of frequency of flights, nonstop flights, pricing and the clarity of it's terms of carriage concerning bicycles - Southwest Airlines. Southwest even states specifically that it will carry free of charge folding bikes that meet their general baggage dimension & weight restrictions.

Packing For The Trip
Since I would be riding my bike from Las Vegas Mccarran International Airport to my hotel near the Sands Expo & Convention Center on the Las Vegas Strip, I packed light to avoid the need for a suitcase. I traveled with 2 pairs of bike shorts, underwear, socks and shirts as well as a pair of jeans, basic toiletries, bike gear (pump, multi-tool, gloves, bike shoes & helmet) and a camera all stuffed into a packable nylon bag that I inserted into the soft carry bag for the CarryMe DS. Once in Vegas, I would either strap the clothing bag onto the CarryMe's rear carry rack or sling it over my shoulders like a backpack.

Prepping For Riding In Vegas
Google Map Walking Directions - LAS to hotelBefore departing, I Google Mapped the ride from LAS/Mccarran to the hotel via Google Map's new 'Walking Directions' feature that is currently in Beta. Google started the route from the point where the center of the airport's multi-story parking garages meet Wayne Newton Blvd. Google noted that the route may be missing sidewalks and I knew traffic there would be heavy so I looked for another option. I magnified the Google satelite image and found a sidewalk leading directly from the airport check-in area. Perfect.

Most of the ride to the hotel would be along Paradise Rd, a 3 lane feeder road roughly paralleling the Strip. Upon careful examination, I could see a sidewalk extending almost the entire way. The greatest challenge appeared to be the crossing at E. Flamingo Rd., a major roadway there. The sat map did show a pedestrian crossing at the intersection, giving me confidence that I could do the ride even in heavy traffic simply by using the sidewalk.

Checking In For My Flight Out
The evening before my flight, I went to Southwest.com and entered my flight confirmation so I could check in before arriving at the airport. Southwest is known for their ticket-less, no seat reservation, cattle call style of boarding. Flyers can check in 24 hours ahead of their flight. Those that check in early get priority placement in the boarding line. I made the 'A' group, the first group that boards after flyers with disabilities or small children. In the event of a full flight, this increased my chances of carrying the folding bike onboard.

New Orleans International Airport (MSY)
Due to unexpected morning traffic, I was late in arriving at New Orleans' MSY airport. Concerned that I would miss the flight, I parked in the more expensive Long Term Parking lot to avoid waiting for the shuttle van. I walked directly to the concourse. The TSA security inspection went quickly and without incident. The TSA agent that x-rayed my bag said "cool unicycle; don't see many of those here." I just went with the flow and smiled.

Boarding Southwest Flight 542
I arrived at the gate 20 minutes prior to boarding. The gate area was full of people; in fact, I later learned the flight was full. When the 'A' group was called, I stood in my appointed place in line. The cheerful gate agent greeted everyone with a smile and cracked a few jokes. When it was my turn, I offered a friendly "good morning;" and he replied "I see someone's happy to be going to Vegas."

The gate agent checked my ID and looked non-chalantly at my black nylon bag emblazoned with the CarryMe logo. Slightly raising his eyebrow, he smiled playfully. With a hint of idle curiosity, he asked "whatcha' got there, a trumpet?" I replied, "no, it's a folding bike." Now, by this time, he'd already waved me through so I took the experiment a bit further and said "do you think I should gate check it?" The agent replied, "no need for that; it will fit in the overhead." He was right too.

I found a window seat near the wings, opened the overhead and placed the bike inside. I left the bin open. As the plane filled up, other passengers placed their bags in the bin too. Though the flight was full, there was room for every carry on item brought aboard. The flight was uneventful and we arrived in Vegas on time.

Coming Soon: Cycling in Vegas Via Folding Bike

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Formula 1 Carbon Fiber Folding Bike

Formula One Pedigree Carbon Fiber Folding Bike Coming

by Larry Lagarde

DesignWeek, a design industry publication located in the UK, noted today that former Ferrari Fomula 1 designer John Barnard and furniture designer Terence Woodgate are collaborating on a high end carbon "fibre" folding bike.

According to DesignWeek, the team's goal is to produce a "lighter, more efficient and cleaner fold-up bike." Woodgate has noted that they want "to make sure that people can't trap their fingers in hinges, that there is no dirty chain exposed and that mud guards are fitted so you don't get a line up your back." Obviously, this will be a very high end folding bike but they do wish to produce 'thousands' of them and are now searching for a manufacturer to make the bicycle.

Although there is already a production folding bike made from carbon fiber (the Hasa Minimax), it will be interesting to see what comes of the collaboration between Barnard & Woodgate. They have worked together on carbon fiber furniture (producing a beautifully sleek table known as the Surface) and both designers have received the distinguished title of "Royal Designers for Industry," an honor awarded by the British Royal Society of Arts (or RSA) to designers that have achieved "sustained excellence in aesthetic and efficient design for industry".

For the record, John Barnard has extensive experience working with carbon fiber in racing designs and appears to be the driving force in the creation of this carbon fibre folding bike. Barnard cut his teeth designing sports cars for Lola. Over the years, he's created winning racing cars McLaren, Ferrari and many others (including Johnny Rutherford, Benneton & Toyota). His carbon fiber racing designs have been widely copied. Most recently, his racing work has been focused on motorcyles (he's the tech director for Team KR Moto GP).

I'm working to interview the design team about their carbon fiber folding bike. Look here for a follow up story when more info is available.


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