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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Mass Transit + Folding Bikes

Combining Use Of A Folding Bike With Mass Transit

by Larry Lagarde

Bicycles can be a great means of transportation; however, getting to some places by bicycle alone can be quite difficult. In such cases, a multi-modal approach using mass transit as a bridge can be an excellent solution.

Recently, I met with the general manager and key staff at the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (NORTA) about bringing folding bikes aboard their buses and streetcars. Like many mass transit authorities, NORTA has bike racks on the front of their buses; however, those bike racks only accommodate a total of 2 bikes per bus. Moreover, NORTA's iconic electric trolleys (streetcars) don't even have bike racks...

To demonstrate how NORTA could accommodate more cyclists with bicycles, I brought 3 folding bike models to the meeting - a CarryMe DS, a Strida 5.0 and a Kent Compact Nexus 3. I showed that folding bikes can fold so compactly that they can take up nominal space inside any mass transit vehicle.

As with most instances when I show someone a folding bike for the first time, it was great fun watching their looks of amazement as I demonstrated folding, unfolding and rolling the bikes along when folded (CarryMe and Strida). More importantly though, 3 advantages of folding bikes appealed to them.

First, the folded bikes each fit into carrybags that shielded transit riders, other transit users, etc. from the sharp edges that an unbagged bike would present. Second, folding bikes can be carried in their transit vehicles now with no need for purchasing special equipment to do so. Lastly, folding bikes make mass transit more appealing because more riders can get to transit stops and into the transit cars faster on a bike that folds.

As a result of our meeting, NORTA appears close to issuing a written policy about riders carrying folding bikes on the transit buses and streetcars. My gut feeling is that they'll want the folding bikes to be bagged before going onboard. Though that may be a little inconvenient, at least cyclists will know in advance what's needed to take their folding bikes with them when using NORTA.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Folding Bike FAQ - Kent Compact Nexus

Kent Compact Nexus 3Here are answers to frequently asked questions regarding the 3 speed folding bike known as the Kent Compact Nexus. As additional questions are asked, the answers will be posted here.

Q: Why should I buy a Kent Compact Nexus folding bike?
A: For a sturdy, low maintenance folding bike at a reasonable price, the Kent Compact Nexus is the way to go. The Shimano Nexus internally geared hub used on this bike is a huge improvement over a multi-speed bike with exposed gears and a rear derailleur. With the Nexus system, the gears are inside the rear wheel hub, keeping the drivetrain cleaner much longer. Having a coaster brake on the rear wheel, there are fewer brake components to maintain on the Compact Nexus and the rear wheel will remain cleaner longer too. By the way, when the time does eventually come, mechanical components (from the Nexus drive to the brake pads on the front wheel) are all readily available at local bike shops.

Q: What's the shipping time?
A: For destinations within the USA lower 48 states, shipping typically takes a week or less.

Q: Which delivery carrier do you use?
A: Within the USA lower 48 states, we now use Fedex Ground. For orders to Hawaii, Alaska, APO's and some other destinations outside the USA, we use the US Postal Service.

Q: Do you provide tracking info?
A: Yes. Tracking info is sent via email so you can see the status of your delivery.

Q: Is the Kent Compact Nexus a good choice for commuters?
A: Yes. In fact, the Compact Nexus is one of the folding bikes that I show to transit agencies that ask about bikes that fold. When folded, it's compact and light enough to carry aboard mass transit. The high, middle and low gears on this 3 speed are all that most urban commuters typically need and you can shift gears even when you're not moving.

Q: Does the bike have folding pedals?
A. Yes. The bike does ship with single sided folding pedals. In other words, one side of the pedal is flat and the other is angled (because there's a locking pin to keep the pedal from folding while riding). As a result, the pedal is really meant to be pedaled on just 1 side (you can pedal on the under side too but it's not comfortable).

Q: Do you offer better folding pedals?
A: Yes. I offer lighter, dual sided folding pedals as an optional upgrade. The optional pedals fold/unfold faster and can be pedaled on either side; the locking mechanism is virtually instantaneous and fool proof. The optional folding pedals are an additional $29.99 when purchasing a bike or $35.99 as a stand alone purchase.

Q: What's the cruising speed on the Kent Compact Nexus?
A: The bike was designed so that most riders could cruise comfortably at 12-14 mph. If you want to cruise at a higher rate of speed, replace the stock rear cog with a cog that has fewer teeth. Most local bike shops can complete this upgrade in 15 minutes and suitable replacement cogs cost $10-20.

Q: What is the maximum safe limit for extending the seatpost height?
A: With the seatpost raised to the min. insertion safety hashes and the pedal at it's lowest position, the max. distance from seatpost to pedal is 33".

Q: What is the distance between the handlebars and saddle?
A: When measured from the center of the saddle to the weld point where the handlebars are welded to the extendable handlebar stem, the distance is 24".


Monday, January 05, 2009

Viking Cycling Across Africa

by Larry Lagarde

Rune MonstadIf the exploits of extreme long distance cyclists interest you, here's a story you'll want to follow: Rune Monstad is now cycling across Africa.

Rune is no ordinary guy. Two years ago, he cycled solo across South and North America, biking West to East over Canada in the dead of winter!

According to his blog at the www.vikingbiker.com, Rune is determined to bike around the world but he's concentrating on conquering Africa at the moment. He's not doing it just for the thrill of adventure either; Rune wants to raise awareness of the world's poor children.

In these tough financial times, it's hard not to admire extreme long distance cyclists like Rune that spend months if not years cycling to complete their bike tours. The perils are great and real. Already in Africa, Rune's contracted malaria, intestinal parasites (worms) and diarrhea while enduring torrential rains, intense heat and a budget so small that he repaired rather than replaced his worn out bike saddle.

Periodically, I'll be posting more news about Rune. Meanwhile, check out his blog posts, photos and videos at... www.vikingbiker.com.

By the way, special thanks for this story go to Jeanette Watkins, Rune's tireless, unpaid, volunteer PR gal.


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