BikeCommuters.com

Author Archive: Jack "Ghost Rider" Sweeney

Bicycle commuter since 1989, bicycle enthusiast for 30+ years. I am a Bookmobile/Books By Mail librarian at a large library system and the proud father of two wonderful boys.

Dynamic “Crosstown 7” Shaft-Drive Bicycle

The other day, I got a package in the mail from Dynamic Bicycles. Hmm…what is it?

Look what came in the mail!

The good folks at Dynamic offered their “Crosstown 7” commuter bike to us for testing. In many respects, it is like so many other commuter-oriented bicycles on the market — aluminum frame, mounting points for fenders and rear rack, upright riding position. Where this bike differs, however, is how power gets from the pedals to the rear hub. This bike uses a very clever and deceptively simple shaft-drive. Yeah, that’s right — no greasy chain, no chainrings to chew up your pants. In fact, Dynamic takes things a step further by mounting the shaft-drive to a Shimano Nexus Inter-7 internal hub. So, no derailleurs either!

Here’s how the bike looks once removed from the packaging and assembled (a process that takes all of 10 minutes):
The assembled bike -- do you notice what's missing from this picture?

Here’s some of the specs, straight from the manufacturer’s website:

    7005 Aluminum Frame, butted for light weight
    Aluminum front fork
    Alex DA-16 High Profile Alloy Rims (28-38C tires)
    Kenda EuroTour Tires, 700x35C, 50-85psi
    Dynamic Street Shaft Drive
    Shimano Nexus Inter-7 Gearing, All-internal (17-gear range)
    Shimano Nexus 7-speed Twist Grip Shift
    Tektro Quartz alloy brakes; front disc brake optional
    Tektro 2-finger Alloy brake levers
    Base price: $679.00

Shaft-driven bicycles have been around for over 100 years, but most were plagued by problems with complexity and durability. Not so for this bike — Dynamic’s shaft-drive assembly, manufactured for them by Sussex, appears in every way to be rugged, well-sealed from the elements and elegantly simple, both inside and out. Here is a picture of the shaft-drive as mounted on the bicycle:
The shaft drive assembly, mounted to a Nexus internal hub.

Over the next two or three weeks, I will be riding this bicycle exclusively both for my work commute and for my recreational rides. Stay tuned for a full-length review. In the meantime, check out Dynamic’s excellent “FAQ” page. Also, check out their supercool Java-based animation of the shaft drive assembly in action!

Ten Commandments of Bicycle Commuters

Inspired by the recent post “Drivers’ Ten Commandments“, Moe and I came up with a set for bicycle commuters. Think of it as a revised, more irreverent version of the Cyclist’s 10 Commandments as published by the League of American Bicyclists:

1. Thou shall not ride on the sidewalk. The sidewalk is for amateurs.

2. Never ride the opposite way. You may crash against real bike commuters.

3. Obey all traffic laws when and where you can. It is really embarrassing to get a ticket on a bike.

4. Always carry a mini-pump. Calling your wife or walking the bike really sucks.

5. Thou shall wear a helmet. If you value anything contained between your ears, it’s the smart thing to do.

6. Thou shall carry repair tools. Even if you never break down, you might be able to help someone else in need.

7. Thou shall remain visible. Make your “Technicolor Dreamcoat” out of bright colors, lights, blinkies and reflectors.

8. Thou shall not stink! Keep a spare deodorant at work.

9. Avoid angry confrontations. A little calmness goes a long way towards changing a motorist’s mind.

10. Thou must smile. Remember, you’re on a bike, not stuck in traffic!!

Seal Line Urban Backpack Review

Seal Line, the makers of dry bags and packs for watersports enthusiasts, have created an “Urban” line of waterproof bags (backpacks and cross-strap shoulder bags) aimed at bicycle commuters, messengers or anyone else needing a rugged way to carry items on a bike.

The Seal Line Urban Backpack

The good folks at Seal Line recently sent me a large backpack to review. I’ve worn it on a few bike rides and have tested it in my backyard laboratory and am quite impressed. Here’s the manufacturer’s quick description:

-Volume: 2270 cu. in./37 liters
-Size: 10 x 14.5 x 23 in./25 x 35.5 x 58 cm
-QuickClip Closure
-Modular Accessory Pocket™ System
-PVC-Free 300D PU-Coated Polyester and Scrim-Reinforced Urethane
-External Pocket and Carry Handle

This bag is pretty cavernous — a large single compartment underneath the roll-down flap closure and a smallish external pocket with a waterproof zipper and rainflap protecting it. There is no internal organizer system…neat-freaks who like to keep their goodies organized need not apply. Here’s a shot of the inside of the bag:
The inside of the bag -- a really large compartment for swallowing up your goodies!

The bag’s shoulder straps and back panel are made of a dense, perforated foam covered in rubberized mesh. Both of these features increase ventilation. In addition to the shoulder straps, there are both waist and sternum straps made of nylon webbing with quick-release buckles. The waist straps tuck away into hidden compartments when not needed. Finally, there is a built-in web carrying handle at the top of the harness.
The harness system -- padded and ventilated

I loaded up this bag with a pair of dress shoes, library books, a couple of large towels and a few other assorted items and took the bag for a couple 8-10 mile rides. I estimated the load weight somewhere around 20 lbs. Overall, the bag was surprisingly comfortable — the harness padding works fine and an internal stiff plastic sheet against the back wall prevents sharp corners from digging into the wearer’s back. The harness system keeps the bag from swaying or shifting as I rode, even under high RPMs. I can’t say that about my current messenger bag, which moves all over the place even with tight cross-straps!
20+ lbs of load handled quite comfortably!

Despite the perforated back padding, you WILL get a sweaty back from riding with this bag — it covers so much of a rider’s back that “SBS” (Sweaty Back Syndrome) is unavoidable. Thank the stars this bag is waterproof, right?

And just how waterproof is this bag? Seal Line rates it as “watertight” — able to withstand quick submersions and able to float if dropped in the water. The bag’s seal is really quite simple. It consists of a stiff plastic lip on one edge of the opening and an elasticized “Quick Clip” closure that holds the bag shut. A rider simply fills the bag, presses out any excess air, rolls the bag’s top two or three times and engages the quick clip to seal it. It is a quick, ingenious and foolproof method of closure, and it will SEAL this bag!!! I filled the backpack with newspapers and proceeded to direct a high-pressure jet of water directly at the rolled seal and other parts of the bag. The bag shrugged off this onslaught, and when I opened it to check the inside, everything was bone-dry. VERY impressive!

Durability over the long haul shouldn’t be a concern. The bag’s material is tough stuff, and the seams are all radio welded over a wide margin. The materials and construction of this bag are top notch: tight, even stitching on the harness system; no odd puckers or sloppy areas anywhere on the bag.

Really, the only negative mark I can give this bag is that it is too big for my personal commuting needs –I just don’t carry enough stuff to justify such a large bag. This bag is probably better suited for high-mileage commuters and bicycle couriers who need a high-capacity bag — folks who have to carry a lot of stuff and be sure that it arrives safe, clean and dry.

Oh, did I mention this bag is B-I-G?
My handsome assistant -- 37 lbs. of love!

Check out Seal Line’s complete lineup…I am sure there’s a bag solution for almost every rider!

Dealing With The Heat

Summer is rapidly approaching in many parts of the world, but it’s already made its appearance here in Florida. We’ve had summer-like temperatures for well over a month now, and with the recent tropical storm that passed through, humidity levels are ranging from 50% to 80%. That’s sticky!

How does a commuter combat the ravages of heat and humidity? Before I begin — know this: you cannot win against hot, humid conditions. A commuter can only hope to avoid the worst of the effects and come out only slightly withered.

First, and most importantly, hydrate. Drink plenty of water before, during and after a ride, no matter how short. Include sports drinks with electrolytes if you are a heavy sweat-producer.

Second, consider a change of clothes. Some commuters can get away with casual clothing at work, but for those of us who may need to have a more professional appearance, wearing a t-shirt or jersey and shorts and changing when getting to work is the only recourse. A pressed shirt and tie don’t look professional if there are huge sweatstains under your arms and on your back!! If you have to carry a change of clothes, consider panniers rather than a backpack or messenger bag and your back won’t get as sweaty.

Third, have your backup deodorant ready at work. Keep it in your desk and swab that stuff on liberally. Remember, your coworkers already think you’re crazy for riding; the last thing they need is to get a whiff of your sweaty, post-ride nastiness.

Fourth, try powdering “your boys” (or “girls”, as the case may be) before and possibly after your ride. Things tend to stick together less with a liberal coating of baby powder or cornstarch, if you get my drift…

Finally, give yourself some extra time to get to work — get there a few minutes early and find an out of the way place to “chill” for a few minutes before you have to get changed into your working duds.

It’s hot out there, kids — take care, try these tips and with a little luck, you’ll arrive in style. Your coworkers might never even know you rode to work!

Seal Line “Urban Series” commuter backpack Preview

Wow, we’ve sure been covering carry options today on Bikecommuters.com!

The other day, I received a very unique and waterproof backpack from Seal Line, the makers of dry bags for canoe and kayak enthusiasts.

The backpack came a bit late to test in Florida’s recent tropical storm (“Barry”, for you BeeGees fans out there), but I will give this bag a shakedown for you in the coming week. My initial impression of the bag is pretty favorable, though. The bag looks and feels like it is pretty tough — and the harness system is easy to adjust and quite comfortable.
The shoulder harness -- padded and ventilated!

Stay tuned for a more complete review in the next week or so — I’ll take this bag riding, pack it full of stuff and see just how waterproof it is and all the other fun and maniacal stuff a product reviewer can do!