Category: technology

Over the past couple months, I’ve had the pleasure to read a copy of The Bike Deconstructed: A Grand Tour of the Modern Bicycle by Richard Hallett (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2014).


The book gives a detailed look into the inner workings of all aspects of the bicycle by showing exploded diagrams, close-up photos, and line illustrations of the frames, the components, and the hidden areas like bearings and internal gear systems. Along with the lavish and detailed artwork, Hallett explains the function and the history of the various components showcased, talking about materials, variants, and other details that will keep the jaded cycling techie reading along. There is a LOT to enjoy here. Discussion of how the parts work together, how the components developed from early prototypes, and the manufacturing methods involved with some of the parts really gives bike novices and seasoned experts alike a lot of information to delve through.

The bike is organized into the major sections of the bicycle itself: the frameset, the wheels, the drivetrain, the accessories, and so on. Each section covers the history and development of what we know as modern bicycle gear. There are a couple of points where the author mentions a piece of technology or a variation of a component that evolved along the way, but doesn’t offer a photo or illustration of it. This is a minor gripe, of course — there’s not room in the book for every possible permutation, but I would have liked to be able to picture a couple of the tech details he mentioned.


The book, as you can see from the example above, is a visual feast — the photographs and illustrations within are crisp and richly detailed. Complex structures are broken down and labeled to facilitate understanding, and Hallett’s expertise in presenting all this information is apparent. While the subject matter is highly technical, the author doesn’t get bogged down in overly complex technical jargon, making this book very accessible to cyclists of all experience levels.

The Bike Deconstructed is another great addition to your cycling bookshelf — I was happy to have it during my recent move to the nation’s capital, where the book kept me company in a variety of anonymous hotels and empty houses until my relocation was complete. The book is available directly from the publisher, or can be purchased from a variety of online booksellers. It retails for $29.95.

We’ve had the Jamis Hudson with Slidepad on test for a few months now, and despite a lot of frigid days, and days that look like this (or snowier), I’ve managed to get enough rides in to get a good impression.


Average reviewing conditions. March 17th snow in Virginia!



You’ll remember (or not) that I did an initial review here. Overall, I can’t say that my impressions have changed very much – I still think the general setup is pretty good for the intended audience, and after a decent number of hours/miles (many at slow speed with a 5-year old out in front) I didn’t have any issues crop up. The bike is overall comfortable (though after one 2-hour ride I was getting not-so-happy with the super-cushy saddle!).

There is one significant difference between that initial review and now, concerning the brake setup. After reading my initial impressions, Ian at Slidepad was concerned there might be something wrong with my brake setup. He gave me a call, and we determined that the sliding-pad bit of the brake system had gotten (to use a technical phrase) hung up on something internally – so it wasn’t kicking in full-force. After wrestling with it a bit, I managed to pop it back into place without damaging anything, and voila! I had improved braking performance.

So – that bit of my initial review can be revised. Braking works pretty effectively,the rear wheel does not lock up as much as it was before, and the front-wheel braking kicks in reasonably quickly.

While I was talking with him, Ian also explained that their “improved braking efficiency” claim was made against a bike with rear-brake only (like a lot of the coaster-brake cruisers out there). I’d agree that this definitely beats that setup. However, I think a fairer comparison is against something like the Electra Townie 7D, which is extremely comparable in price (within $20), as well as components (with the exception of the brakes) and general intent. In that case, I don’t think that there’s going to be a big difference unless the rider of the Electra isn’t using their front brake well/at all.

The Hudson in drier (and warmer) times

This brings me to the whole “one brake lever is easier” thing. Yes, it works. Yes, it’s a valid option and frankly I can see it working out for some people (and hey, you have your left arm free to signal turns!). But in general – I still don’t quite buy it. When using Slidepad, it does take a bit of trial and error to adjust to the point where the front brakes kick in, as you go from a light “back only” to a significantly stronger “back and front combined.” When riding at speed, I did sometimes find myself unintentionally slowing much more than I meant to when that front brake kicked in. So in my mind, learning to deal with this isn’t really much less difficult than learning to deal with two brakes. Finally, I really think the whole risk of doing an endo/losing control by means of front brake, on a bike like this, is pretty minimal – the weight balance is so far back that it really takes a lot of effort to get the back wheel to pick up much at all.

In terms of the “simpler” idea on the brakes: my experience with the whole setup having a malfunction didn’t leave me more confident. I was happy it was fixable, but it definitely took more effort than getting a regular set of V brakes set up. Additionally, it’s a lot more obvious what’s wrong with a set of V brakes. I’m sure Jamis dealers will get their mechanics all set up on how this system works – but if an owner of this type of brake system walks into a shop that hasn’t seen it before, I have no idea what their results would be. If all is working fine, it’s not going to be an issue, but I can’t say how often issues might come up.

In the end, this really all comes down to personal preferences (as it so often does!). In this case, I’d prefer independent brake levers for the greater degree of control. However, if a prospective buyer is purchasing from a Jamis dealer, intends to continue to use that shop for service, and likes the whole “one hand two brakes” concept, I’d say go for it.

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.

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

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?


Here’s an interesting article that appeared in our Google News Feed the other day — from Fast Company, folks who know a thing or two about technology and new businesses:

Bicycles, with their gears and pedal power may seem like the Luddites of the transportation family, but the technology available to improve your ride is out there, it’s growing, and it’s helping more Americans consider bikes as a method of transportation than ever before.

If you’re a cyclist, or have friends who prefer two wheels to four, you are aware of how passionate people can be about bicycles, and specifically their enthusiasm for bike evangelism.

Tyler Doornbos, of Bike Friendly Goods in Grand Rapids, Michigan, chatted with me about some of the “barriers to entry” for getting more people on bikes, and how new technologies are addressing some of those issues. I’ve taken his advice and put together this short guide to digitizing your bike commute.

Read the full article by visiting the Fast Company page here. The article serves as a rundown of emerging new tech and devices to make your commute safer and easier. You may have heard of some of the technology already, but there were a few products in the article that were completely new to me, and I try to stay abreast of the trends in the industry. The article is worth a look, in any case.