BikeCommuters.com

Author Archive: Emily

Adaptive Use Electric Bike Makes Trails All-Access

Did you catch any of the Sochi Paralympics this year? Wowza. Olympic-level athletes are hardcore, but paralympians take it to a whole new level. Just goes to show that often, the only limiting factor of human ability is the speed of innovation and current technology. The human mind and body together can tackle the most demanding, rigorous sports—and that includes road and mountain biking.

This fact was most recently brought to our attention by a company from North Carolina, Outrider USA, which is launching an innovative adaptive-use bike, the Horizon. The electric cycle is a rugged all-terrain trike designed to allow riders of different abilities, including many paraplegics and quadriplegics, to get out on the roads and trails.

Though the company has been building electric trikes since 2011, it wasn’t until teaming up with Christopher Wenner, Ph.D., a quadriplegic adventurer, a little over a year ago that the Outrider team focused on adaptive technology. Chris Wenner wanted to recapture the feeling of riding his mountain bike prior to an injury that made the sport inaccessible until now.

“The driving mission behind the Horizon trike is simple: Just because an individual has a physical disability, doesn’t mean they don’t still crave the adventure and freedom of riding a bike,” says Jesse Lee, Outrider Co-founder. “When we combined that mission with our experience building the world’s highest performing electric bikes, the Horizon was born – and the feedback on the prototypes has been incredibly positive.”

The Horizon adapts to the abilities of the rider – from riders with full leg and arm function to riders with limited function such as paraplegics and quadriplegics. It is possible to ride the Horizon:

  • with full function of your arms and legs
  • with left hand/arm only
  • with right hand/arm only
  • with upper body function but limited leg function
  • with upper body function but no leg function
  • with limited function in both your arms and legs (you’ll need some amount of arm function for steering, braking and throttle.)
  • with any combination of the above

Horizon: Like No Other Electric Bike

Horizon is not your typical electric bike. Outrider describes the Horizon as “the bike for your super-hero alter ego.” With its adaptive-use design and powerful electric assist technology, Horizon is ready for adventures on the street or the road less traveled.

Features of the Horizon: Adaptable and customizable for a range of physical abilities

  • Foot Pedals or Hand Pedals (with foot-tray)
  • Standard hand controls or adapted use hand controls (tri-pin)
  • Actuated seat (rising) to make getting in and out of the seat easier
  • Fold down handlebars for side entry to the seat
  • Three wheels and low center of gravity make balancing simple

Electric assist:

  • Twist the throttle when you want a boost, pedal when you want, or do both together. It’s totally up to you.
  • Horizon is capable of tackling steep mountains and seriously long distances
  • Speeds reach up to 30 mph.
  • Forward and Reverse

In order to get the Horizon into production, Outrider recently launch a Kickstarter campaign to “help with the tooling and production costs of the first production run” and to get feedback directly from adaptive sports and rehabilitation centers. With the help of crowd-sourced funding, the Outrider team aims to get the Horizon into production and delivered by the end of the year.

Interested in learning more about the Outrider Kickstarter campaign? Read more here.

Bike safety to the extreme: Laser lights, vibrating handlebars and more

This morning I was zipping down a six block descent on my way to work, eyeing a sporty black car that was creeping suspiciously down the hill. As a good defensive bicyclist, I slowed my roll, covering the brakes as I gained on the car and an approaching intersection. The light was green; I was headed straight through the intersection and so was the car until it made an unexpected, unsignaled right turn, cutting me off. Luckily, I had slowed significantly and changed my trajectory, turning right alongside the car. Not sure if the driver even noticed me.

I was lucky. Sometimes defensive biking isn’t enough to avoid a collision.

This was not my first near miss, not even the first one of the week, so when a friend told me about the BLAZE Laserlight, my first thought was, “I could definitely use a little green bicycle fairy.” Because that’s what the BLAZE light is: a high-powered LED that projects a green bicycle shape onto the roadway about 16 feet in front of a cyclist, warning drivers of an approaching rider. Hopefully, the green bike will alert space-cadet drivers and make cyclists less vulnerable to blind spots and other potential dangers.

A little green friend.

It’s true, BLAZE Laserlight is just the newest iteration of an idea that’s been around for several years—check out these laser beam bike buffers—but I have yet to see this concept in action on the street. Maybe it seems like overkill to have little green bikes (or laser beams) announcing a cyclist’s every turn.

On the other hand, maybe laser beams are just the beginning. A group of engineering students at Northeastern have taken bike safety to the extreme, creating the Interactive Bicyclist Accident Prevention System (iBAPS). The “smart bike” prototype incorporates a plethora of safety features.

Extreme safety measures.

Smarter than your average cyclist? The iBAPS features:

  • Sensors to detect cars impinging on a cyclists space
  • Laser beams (of course) that project a 3-foot wide virtual bike lane
  • If a car comes too close, the bike “emits a loud message, telling drivers to move further away.” (I think we’re all wondering the same thing, what is this message and is it customizable?)
  • When approaching an intersection at high speed, the handlebars vibrate as a warning to slow down. (Frightening.)
  • Using Bluetooth tech, the bike can sync up with a rider’s smartphone leading to all kinds of excessive data extrapolation. Like tracking riding trends to inform the biker how likely it is that their riding behavior will lead to a crash.
  • With the smartphone GPS, the bike can vibrate the handlebars, alerting the rider to make the correct turns to reach a destination. (I just can’t get over the vibrating thing. It would scare the crap outta me.)
  • As cars get smarter too, eventually the bike will be able to communicate with vehicles on the road. (Where’s  my self-riding bicycle, Google?)

Read more about the iBAPS smart bike from the Boston.com.

All these features make my measly helmet & flashing lights seem antiquated. I’m all for bike safety measures and, although some of these seem a bit extreme, to ensure I arrive to my destination unscathed, nothing may be too extreme.

How far would you go to ensure your safety while bike commuting? Is it possible that the iBAPS is missing any features?

 

Free bike registration program aims to safeguard San Francisco bikes

I was more than a little alarmed to read the statistics for stolen bikes in San Francisco. In 2012, one bike was stolen every three hours. Over 4,000 bikes were stolen in that year alone. And of the bikes that were recovered (about 850), less than 17% of bikes found their way back home. So many lonely bikes and wheel-less bikers!

safebike_sf-statistics

Thankfully a new and free bike registry — SAFE Bikes — aims to improve those numbers. According to a recent update from the SF Examiner, a San Francisco police advisory board and safe-streets advocates are launching the free registration program this month to help reunite bikers with stolen bikes. The SAFE Bikes program allows riders to register a bicycle’s serial number, make/model, and color into a secure database that’s connected to the police department. The owner will receive a unique and permanent ID tag to place on the frame. If a registered bike is ever stolen and recovered, SAFE will identify the bike and contact the owner.

SAFE Bike SF

A quick survey of some of my fellow San Francisco bike commuters (ok, a group of friends at a dinner party) reveals that not a-one has registered his or her bike. That goes for me, too. This particular group of riders use bikes as a main form of transportation around the city, and we’re not naive—we are well aware of the dangers, even of just leaving your beloved bike locked up in front of a bar while you run inside for a quick pint of Pliny the Younger.

When I asked my cycling cohorts why they had never registered their bikes, the most cited obstacles included “hassle,” “cost,” and the belief that registering a bike “wouldn’t make a difference.”

But I believe SAFE bikes will go a long way to overcome these registration issues. In fact, I’m leading the way––I’ve registered my bike. And it was easy!

Is your bike registered? If so, what program have you registered with? Does it provide you peace of mind?

Also, side note, SAFE has a great graphic showing the best method for locking up your bike. Check it out.

Review: Dual Action Bike Seat Test Ride

My fellow contributors were more than happy to let me take a crack at the funky Dual Action Seat #400 as my first equipment review.  When I pulled the funny looking Dual Action Seat out of its box, I thought, “this is definitely newbie hazing.” The aptly named seat has two independently moving butt flaps that rotate up and down as you pedal, and the whole thing swivels right to left with the movement of your hips. This is definitely unlike any bike seat I’ve encountered.

Dual Action Bike Seat

The Dual Action Seat is designed as an alternative for riders looking to relieve issues associated with the traditional horn-shape bike saddle. The roomy five-inch-wide seat pads are separated by a two-inch gap intended to reduce pressure on the tailbone and groin area, and the rotating action to limit hip pain. I read up on Dual Action’s website about perineal pressure, and dudes, penile paralysis associated with a traditional saddle is scary stuff!  If this seat helps minimize or eliminate damage to fella bike riders’ delicates, I don’t care how funny looking it is.

Dual Action Bike Seat 2

Dual Action Bike Seat 1

I may not be the target user, but I do love a wide, cushy seat, so I was stoked to give the Dual Action a little, uh, action. Though the seat is geared toward touring or stationary bikes, with a few minor tweaks of an Allen wrench, it can be swapped in for any bike with a straight stem 7/8″ diameter seat post. Including my trusty steed, Roy the Roady.

Emily allen wrenching DAS

It was relatively easy to install. And by easy, I mean it is literally just adjusting two Allen bolts. A little too easy. I didn’t trust the simple directions included with the seat, so I managed to put it on backwards my first go.

DABS Instructions

The movement of the butt flappers seat pads is a bit strange at first and I spent a while finessing the proper installation angle.

Dual Action Bike Seat 3

Roy with DABS

Roy with DABS 2

Once I had Roy all geared up, I took him for a spin. The seat felt more precarious than I had anticipated. While the up-and-down movement of the pads felt natural with my pedal movements, the swivel action along the vertical axis was disconcerting. I felt like I was constantly falling off the seat. It didn’t help that I was slipping from the slick fabric of the seat itself—fyi, yoga pants and gel seat coverings don’t work well together (and I imagine a snazzy pair of spandex bike shorts might have the same issue).

Emily on DABS

The more I rode, the more comfortable I became with the seat’s movement; however, I just couldn’t shake the precarious feeling of the swivel motion. I felt like I was fighting the side-to-side motion, having to bring my hips back in line after each pedal rotation. Rather than enhancing my natural movements, I was having to work to stay on my seat. As for comfort, I wish the pads had been more naturally contoured—rounded or tapered toward the front. The squared edges tended to poke and rub uncomfortably for me. Also, the seat itself is heavy, adding weight to my fairly light road bike and making it more difficult to haul up and down stairs (which I have to do to board the train on my commute).

After putting in quality time with the Dual Action Seat on Roy, I realized it wouldn’t be a permanent seat swap for me, but I wanted to get a second opinion. So I mounted the seat on our office spin bike and persuaded my boss (yep, my boss), Jim to give it a try and let me know what he thought.

Jim Dual Action Bike Seat 2

Jim Dual Action Bike Seat 3

An avid road cyclist and fellow bike commuter, Jim gave the Dual Action Seat a trial run. After getting accustomed to the seat’s movement, Jim had a similar discomfort with the swivel motion of the seat. He suggested that if the seat resisted or sprang back to neutral after each pedal stroke, the rider’s hips would still have the benefit of natural motion without strain of realigning the seat back to a centered position. Sounds clever to me. Overall, I think he’ll stick with his current saddle too.

I have no doubt that the Dual Action Seat design will continue to improve and serve as an alternative to the traditional bike saddle. While this inventive seat might not be right for me, if it can help riders keep riding without pain or medical complications, I am all for this wonky seat. And if you happen to be looking for a bike saddle to reduce pain while riding or said medical complications, you can purchase the D.A.S. Model #400 for $239.00 with free shipping. A bit pricey, but it does come with a 30-day money back guarantee.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

Merry Xmas Bike Commuters: DIY Bike Rack Just for YOU!

My office has a plethora of bikes that live full– or part–time in the warehouse. This small fleet of communal cruisers and commuter bicycles needed an organized home rather than randomly strewn about the room.

Luckily, we have a couple of industrious fellas who took on the task of building a bike rack with limited funds, two wooden pallets, and an hour to spare. Now we’re sharing with you the step-by-step guide on how to build your own hanging bike rack.

Build Your Own Bike Rack

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

Materials

  • Two ~6’ tall wooden pallets (or five 6′ 2x4s, plus one 8′ 1×6 and one 8′ 1×4)
  • Wood screws (We used Grabber screws #8 x 2.5” and #9 x 3”)
  • Bicycle or storage hooks

Tools

  • Power drill
  • Power saw
  • Hammer

BYOBR Equipment

Building buddy!
Grab a friend or two. The building will be easier, safer, and more fun with a friend.

BYOBR Parker & Will

STEP ONE
Carefully disassemble the two pallets and remove all nails––this is where the hammer comes in handy. Group the pallet lumber into similarly sized pieces. All the longest, sturdiest pieces (the 2x4s) will form the frame of the bike rack.

BYOBR Wood Pallet Parts

BYOBR Pallet Pieces

STEP TWO
Construct the frame using five of the 2x4s. You may need to trim some of the lumber to size as Will & Parker did for our bike rack.

BYOBR Frame

Secure each corner with two long wood screws.

BYOBR Building Frame

The bottom beam usually needs to be the flattest, least likely to wobble; however, the bottom beam on the rack built by Parker & Will was warped. Gotta work with what you have.

STEP THREE
You should now have a large rectangle. Place the third and remaining 2×4 directly in the middle between the two outer columns. You can see how carefully Will measures the distance using the highly-scientific “counting-his-steps” method.

BYOBR Measuring Frame copy

You may need to trim the lumber to size. Secure the middle column with two screws at either end.

BYOBR Building Frame 2

BYOBR Frame Raised

STEP FOUR
Give this rack some feet to stand on! Secure a 1×6 to the base of the outer columns with four screws each.

BYOBR Adding Feet

BYOBR Adding Feet 2

STEP FIVE
Bracer. Create a stabilizer for each foot––’cause you know triangles are the strongest shape (I learned that in 3rd Grade).

BYOBR Feet Added

Parker identified the angle for the cut by holding the 1×6 in place and marking with his favorite mechanical pencil. Super sophisticated stuff here.

BYOBR Measuring Cuts

Trim each stabilizing piece along the identified angles, so that the edges are flush with the frame.

BYOBR Preparing Cuts

Secure each brace with a couple screws.

BYOBR Adding Stabilizers

BYOBR Stabilizers

STEP SIX
More stabilizers! Add a small 1×4 stabilizer at each corner of frame for added stability. That’s four in total, if you’re counting.

BYOBR Top Stabilizers

Measure and cut the smaller stabilizers using the same method in Step Five. IMPORTANT: Don’t place your stabilizers too far into the frame or they may obstruct how your bikes hang. Secure with the smaller length screws.

BYOBR Parker Drilling

Lookin’ good! You’re almost there.

STEP SEVEN
Evenly space four bicycle hooks into the frame. Leave plenty of elbowroom for your bikes’ handlebars. Hint: it helps if you drill a starter hole before screwing the hooks into place. (Look at the teamwork happening!)

BYOBR Will & Parker Adding Hooks

STEP EIGHT
Hang up yo’ bikes! Stand back and admire a job well (and economically) done.

BYOBR Will hanging up bikes

BYOBR Completed Bike Rack

BYOBR Completed Bike Rack 2