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Cycling news & info with a special focus on notable bike tours, bike trails, bikeways, lanes and bicycle routes as well as innovative bicycling products like space saving & easy to transport folding bikes.

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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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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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


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