Category: Guest Articles

“It is the most comfortable bike that you would ever ride”

That is a big claim for bike that will cost you about 2 grand. Did I mention that it was steel? oh yes, but not just “any” steel but Columbus Spirit Steel.

(Disclosure: Wabi cycles sent us a Lightning RE for us to review.  Moe has accepted to do the review because he is roadie, loves bikes and he is just plain awesome. -RL Policar)

If you follow us on Facebook, you would have seen some of the teaser shots from the un-boxing of the Lightning RE to its first 18 mile ride to the beach. Here is my first impression of the bike:

For starters, the bike came well packaged and protected in a box via Fedex.

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It is also worth noting that the bike was pretty much 90% assembled, a simple hex tool was all I needed to put the bike together.

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As soon as the bike was assembled, I couldn’t help to notice how beautiful the bike is. The frame is traditional with a carbon fiber fork, the parts are polished and that Red… quite captivating. The bike got a few compliments as I was riding the bike to the beach, it is definitively a looker.

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There is one thing about this bike that I’m still on the fence; the Microshift Centos shifting components. I’ve never heard of Microshift before, a quick google search yielded few results, some of these results comparing this grouppo with Shimano 105s. Well, my current bicycle is equipped with 105s so a comparison will be a must.

So what about that claim that this is going to be the most comfortable bike I’ve ever ridden? So far it is totally true. The bike blew my mind, I just could not believe how different the ride is from my Giant TCR SLR 2.

The ride to and from the beach is relatively flat with minimal shifting and braking so I still need to put the bike through some uphills and descents. Stay tuned for my full review.

(Editor’s note: as many of you know, the BC crew LOVES Las Vegas…especially when we get to go to Interbike. Read on for some tips to make your bike trip to Las Vegas a rousing success.)

Cycle Vegas!

It’s around this time of year that many of us (particularly those in the Frozen North) start to dream of some kind of adventure. The beauty of a bike trip is you can easily transport your favorite ride to somewhere exciting and fun, or just rent one at your destination, and neither option is going to break the bank. Some destinations, in fact, might leave you better off financially than when you arrived…

Vegas!

Las Vegas, Nevada, is one of those cities that everyone has an opinion about, even people who’ve never actually been there. If you think it’s just smoky poker rooms, mind-bendingly noisy slots and cheesy entertainment, you should know that – as well as all that – there’s pretty much everything anyone could possibly want on offer here. There are good cycle routes around the city itself, as well as trips out of town. There are a couple of things to be aware of if you’re planning a trip, however.


Points to Consider

Firstly, check the temperatures for the time of year you want to go. There’s a reason all the casinos are air-conditioned, and from May to October, average highs tend to be between the high 80’s and the low 100’s – not most peoples’ idea of perfect cycling weather. Spring is ideal. Secondly, unless you’re fanatically anti-gambling (in which case, why are you going to Vegas?!) you’ll probably end up in one of those casinos at some point.

Routes

Some of the best riding in the area is to be found on the edges of the city, with wonderful desert roads winding past the other-wordly rock formations and mountains, but there’s also good news for town riders; 100 miles of dedicated bike routes in Las Vegas itself.

One of the best routes out of town is the Red Rock Scenic Ride, a 13 mile loop taking in some astonishing scenery. Mountain bike types will love the Cottonwood 11 mile route, while there’s a 35 mile paved track around Lake Mead that’s a must for the energetic cyclist.

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North Las Vegas is a good spot for city riders who want to get the feel of the place before belting up and down the Strip. There are miles of cycle routes (wide outside lanes and signs instructing drivers to “share the road”); cycle lanes (signed/striped sections of the road for cyclists only) and shared-use paths (separate from vehicles, also used by pedestrians and skaters etc).

Routes around North Las Vegas Airport are highly popular as a result, and many local riders post details on bikinglasvegas.com; one example is the Training 25 route added by member Cabinetguy433, starting in Myrtle Creek Court and circumnavigating the airport for just over 25 miles. This route has the advantage of taking you to Downtown Vegas and Fremont Street on the way, a whole different experience form the mega-casinos of the Strip, and a window into what Vegas was like in days gone by. You might want to stop here and practice your new-found gaming skills!

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Interbike 2014

Finally, when you’re planning your Vegas bike trip, don’t forget that September brings Interbike 2014, held again this year at the Mandalay Bay Hotel. For the first time, the public is invited to attend Interbike on the final day of the show. Registration is open now.

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Editor’s note: Between trips to work and school, many of us often dream of hopping on our bikes and taking a lengthy tour of someplace exotic. Read on for some tips on cycle touring in Mexico.

The Mexican landscape is large and diverse; there are mountains that soar into the sky, beaches that stretch for miles and ancient ruins that will take your breath away. From the bustling cities you’ll visit on Cancun holidays to hidden villages full of charm and Latin flare, a Mexican adventure can mean many different things.

Cycling in Mexico is an amazing way to navigate the country. For cyclists who are wary of the trials and tribulations of a trip deep into South America, Mexico presents the perfect option; exotic but not too exotic, a comfortable range between first world amenities and new world adventure.

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Routes
One of the most popular cycling routes in the country is for cyclists to venture down the Baja Peninsula and then hop onto a ferry headed for mainland Mexico. There are alternative routes down the Pacific coast but none rival the stunning scenery (if well-worn trail) of the Baja journey.

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Roads
Roads in Mexico include toll roads whose profits go to maintaining wide-shoulders and perfectly smooth road surfaces which are ideal for cycling on. The toll roads are also quite safe for cyclists, as there isn’t very much traffic on the toll roads and they also bypass almost all of the towns along each route.

Camping
Camping is often the preferred method of accommodation for cyclists and this is easily done in Mexico. Locals are incredibly friendly and happy to share camping site recommendations or even to help pitch a tent.
Small towns and villages are quite safe and a good bet for a setting up a night’s camp, just be careful not to wander off in search of ‘hidden spots’ in the larger landscape, campsites should be easily accessible and close to a town or village.

Visiting
Couch surfing has become incredibly popular in Mexico, thanks in large part to Mexican mothers who genuinely love to spoil visitors with delicious food and generous hospitality. While couch surfing is most popular with younger travelers, it is a great option for cyclists looking for a home cooked meal and a friendly (and local) face to help sort out the next day’s route. Local hosts are also known for providing authentic and interesting information about the towns they call home.

Safety
Visitors to Mexico are likely to see police officers with rifles in the street at some point during a visit. This is because the Mexican government has been cracking down on drug gangs and violence in recent years which has meant more armed men in the streets and checkpoints on roads (which apply to cyclists as well) but rest assured these officers are there to keep everyone safe. However, visitors are well-advised to avoid city-centres at night and exercise general caution to ensure that a Mexican cycling adventure is the trip of a lifetime.

Cycling in Mexico can be great fun, so why not take a chance this summer and do something a little different?

Cycle Ladies and Gents of Bike Commuters, please give a warm welcome to our newest staff writer and lady commuter… Emily Shellabarger (a.k.a. Shelly, to Mir.I.Am) commuting in the Bay Area, California! While Emily warms up her fingertips for some intense keyboard-slamming action for 2014, here’s a little guest post to give you a taste of the new bike share program in the Bay Area.

San Franciscans have watched enviously as bike share programs started cropping up in other metropolitan areas from New York to Washington DC, London to Paris. Finally, our turn came this summer with the much anticipated launch of the Bay Area Bike Share program. The network of bikes and docking stations spans the peninsula from San Francisco to San Jose, spattering a handful of cities between the two “San” bookends.

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Personally, I was stoked to see the chunky, seafoam green bikes arrive in San Francisco––in particular, the double rack right next to the 4th & King street train station, which I visit daily on my commute down the peninsula. The docking racks have been strategically planted near various CalTrain stops to facilitate the last leg of a car-less commute, including my stop in Redwood City. I thought, “I must be the target user!” and wasted no time formulating my shared-bike commute plans.

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Bay Area Bike Share at the Caltrain Station in Redwood City… Look at them, so SEAFOAMY!

With further investigation I discovered both my homebase in the foggy city and my nine-to-five destination are not in the Bike Share network! Oh-so-close, but not close enough. The bike coverage is fairly limited both in San Francisco and the peninsula outlets. However, if you’re looking to ride within a confined radius or run a quick out-and-back errand, the shared bike option will do you just fine.

Bay Area Bike Share Locations

See the little Shelly on the map? Now how to get that Shelly down to the little building in the Peninsula, without bike hauling on and off the Caltrain… Bay Area Bike Share = sadly, almost there.

Currently, the San Francisco peninsula geographic expanse is served by only 70 sations with 700 bikes––doesn’t seem like enough, especially considering 35 of those stations are in San Francisco alone. Luckily, the program will bump up to 100 stations with 1,000 bikes this coming year, adding more stations in San Francisco’s most bikeable neighborhoods and a few more peninsula cities. My neighborhood isn’t on the list yet, but the neighborhood expansion is a start. For now, I’ll have to stick with hauling my bike on and off the CalTrain and save the shared bikes for special trips.

Bay Area Bike Share Locations Peninsula

Errrrrckkkkk. (Squeaky brake sound.) So close, but not enough stations yet to merit leaving Stallion behind.

Well, it sounds like everyone has to start somewhere, let’s hope the Bay Area Bike Share is responsive to user feedback, so we can all high-five for another successful bike share on the map. I felt the same way when I visited San Francisco last time… no bikes anywhere near my sister’s place in the Mission, but it makes more sense that the program is targeted towards Peninsula commuters. Any readers out there had a chance to try out the system? Let us know in the comments box, below!

Editor’s note: Once again, we bring you an excellent guest article from Andrew “Doc” Li — looks like we’ll be giving him his own place on the Bikecommuters.com staff real soon. Today’s review is of the Biria folding bike; longtime readers may remember we had ANOTHER guest review of a Biria bike a few years ago. You may also notice that Biria didn’t give Andrew much time at all on the bike; less than a week. And we had to talk them into that…they wanted to give him only three days to try out the folder! In any case, he handled the short time frame with aplomb. Andrew, let it rip!

I think that people either love or hate folding bicycles. Regardless of your personal views on the topic, folding bikes have definite benefits and applications that may come in handy. What follows is a review of the Biria folder.

Over a period of a week, I had the opportunity to test out the Biria folder. Biria, originating from Germany, is better known in Europe and introduced its line of bicycles to the US in 2002. The company’s focus is producing comfortable, commuter oriented bicycles, and its claim to fame is its easy boarding “step in” frame design. The Biria folder that I tested out (the one that is currently advertised on their website www.biria.com) has the following features:

FRAME Aluminum, folding
FORK Steel
RIMS Aluminum double wall with CNC
TIRES 20 x 1.20
GEAR Shimano 7-speed Revo
STEM Aluminum, folding
HANDLEBAR Aluminum
BRAKE Front and rear aluminum Tektro V-brakes
COLORS Black, red, white

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I measured these specifications (which I did not encounter on the website):

Weight: 24.5 pounds
Dimensions: ~24 x 20 x 14 inches
Comfortable speed: ~15 MPH (pedaling at 90 rpm, this is obviously variable)
Set up time: ~40 seconds

I arrived at Bike Attack in Santa Monica who provided the Biria folder. The first thing I learned from the friendly staff was how to fold and unfold the bike. The mechanisms are similar to other brands (e.g. Dahon), and involve a handlebar hinge, a frame hinge, folding pedals, and collapsing seatpost. A notable difference is that while the Dahon uses a quick-release clamp for the handlebar hinge, the Biria folder uses a screw-down clamp, which in my view adds some time to the folding and unfolding process . Some Dahon models come with magnets to help keep the bike folded (though I have heard of some complaints about their inefficacy). The Biria does not have this magnet feature, but the frame hinge was relatively tight such that I did not have a problem with the bike unfolding unexpectedly during transport.

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After some small talk at Bike Attack, I headed back to work. I folded up the Biria, and it fit nicely in my trunk. It took up more space than I thought it would, about 1/3 of the space. Overall, the Biria helped me save time; instead of setting up a rack and strapping on a full size bike, I just folded up the Biria and put it in the trunk. The folder also allowed me easy access to the trunk, unlike a trunk mount. The bike was also more secure as I was able to store the folder in the trunk, instead of having a full size merely strapped/locked to the rack.

From Bike Attack, I drove to a parking spot about 2 miles from my work. Parking at my workplace is excruciating and expensive. So for the past year, I became a hybrid commuter (part drive, part bike). This time however, when I arrived at the parking spot, instead of having to unstrap everything, lift off my full size, disassemble my rack, and put the rack in the trunk, all I had to do was open the trunk, lift out the folder, unfold, close trunk, and ride away.

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And ride away I did. The 2 mile trip from the parking spot to work was a good preliminary testing ground for the Biria. I also took the Biria for a grocery run. The Biria felt strong and solid, and when I didn’t look down, it rode nearly like a full size.

Small wheels made for fast acceleration and ease with uphills. The steepest hill I climbed during the testing phase was about 500 meters of 10% grade and it felt great. The braking and shifting components on my Biria folder were of good quality, well tuned (thanks Bike Attack), and felt precise and responsive.

However, small wheels also made the Biria very sensitive to even the smallest bumps in the road and created significant oversteer. These two combined meant that when I rode down hills, one particular bump caused me to veer off unexpectedly. Another issue was that the maximum extended length of seat post is just right for my height of 5’ 9”. So it might be a bit small for bigger people.

When I arrived at work, instead of locking the bike outside, I saved more time, folded it up, and took it inside. I will say that 24 pounds is not insignifcant to carry, and moreover, the limited space in my office made storing the Biria a challenge (but obviously easier than a full size). When I went grocery shopping, I actually forgot my lock, so I folded up the Biria and put it my shopping cart. Easy enough. But good thing I was only shopping for a few things, because the bike took up about the whole cart space. Brompton folders have innovated the concept of rollers and “Eazy wheels” which allows the rider to push and use the folded Brompton much like a shopping cart.

Overall, the Biria is a well built folder with standard features. It rides nearly like a full size, and is easy to fold and unfold.

From my past experiences and brief time with the Biria, I feel that the following situations would make the Biria useful, and in some cases, more advantageous than a full size:

1. Park away from a busy (e.g. downtown) area, then bike in, avoiding parking nightmares and often expensive fees.
2. Bring with you on vacation in your car, RV etc. Great for short range exploration without the hassle of trying to find parking or storing a full size on a rack.
3. If you bike to work and then go out to dinner after, you can easily put the folder into your friend’s trunk, and then after a night out, then bike back from that location. In contrast, I have never been able to store my full size in my friend’s trunk. In these situations, I either had to bike to the restaurant from work or carpool with my friend and then have him drive me back to the workplace where I parked my bike.
4. Store the folder in a car that needs to be dropped off at the mechanic and bike back home (if your mechanic is near your home).

Do good and ride well.