Tag Archive: bicycle commute

Bike Share in Fwance – “But I am Le Tired!”

Bonjour Bike Commuters!  Have I got a tasty post-Halloween PG treat for you.  Put down your slice o’ wonder bread and pick up your baguettes, because France is killing it on the bike share scene with these two amazing programs:  Velib in Paris and Vcub (V3) in Bordeaux.  I just returned from a jaunt in Europe and was swooned by the cities after stepping off the train and encountering bike share stations at every turn.  Both Velib and V3 are sponsored by the local governments and offer budget-friendly rates with plenty of stations around town that make renting the bikes a convenient and competitive option for commuting and running errands!  The heavy bikes have three speeds, fenders, front baskets, generator-powered lights, chainguard, kickstand, and a bell.  Similar programs are offered in the U.S. of Americans, like Hawaii’s own pilot project of B-Cycle in Kailua. 

Girl on Velib in Paris, courtesy of Lezarderose on Flickr

I couldn’t believe my four eyes as we power-walked the streets of Paris in a mad hunt for signs of the Da Vinci Code, the Velib bikes were EVERYWHERE!  It was a Velib Bike Zombie attack: there were more Velib bike commuters than Parisians on their personal bikes!  This article from the Scientific American (whose author was trolling the streets the same time we visited) gives a logical explanation: 

Vélib’ is utterly inescapable, which is what makes it work so well. Paris has 20,000 shared bikes at its 1,800 stands…spaced about 300 meters apart. The system’s density is so great that a novice does not need any help in finding bikes. Even without a map or a smartphone, my friend and I rarely failed to find a stand of gray cruisers standing at the ready, just by walking a few blocks while keeping an eye out for the glowing LEDs of the bike stands. 

Clever move, la France: bombard your citizens with bikes every 300 meters and there is no excuse not to try one! 

Fire Ze Missiles! Then have a bike.

In Bordeaux the V3 program rents their bikes for free for the first 30 minutes and charges 2 euros for each hour therafter.  A monthly or annual pre-paid subscription reduces the rate to 1 euro an hour.   And – hold on to your butts for this one, loud engrish Americans – the website actually encourages riders to switch bikes every half hour should they need it longer, in order to avoid paying for usage at all.  This puts my capitalist knickers in a twist, but hey, I’m down for some PG-rated V3 bike action.  Bike availability by station can be accessed via the web, and stations are paired with the brand-new bus and transit lines, so it’s easy to switch from bike to bus or bike to tram if needed.  And now for graphic indulgence: 

A cheeky V3 on a sunny Sunday in Bordeaux. Courtesy of Oncle Tom via Flickr.

In Paris, the Velib is only 1.70 euros for the whole day.  My French girlfriends rolled up to the bar on Velibs, and took them to the train station each day for their out-of-town work meetings.  Taking the Velib for a downhill ride is always a Parisian favorite, as the trucks cart them back up the hills and refill stations on a daily basis.  After seeing the popularity of this program in Paris, I am crossing fingers that B-Cycle in Hawaii explodes and takes over like weevils in my oatmeal… With a wimpy 12 bikes and two stations available in Kailua, the one-year pilot is targeted more at B&B tourists exploring Kailua Beach.  (Boo! sad face.)  See this article from the Honolulu Magazine for more deets.  Bike share lust abounded for me in the city of tongue-kissing and croissants! 

I said BRRRR!

Back in Bordeaux, to top it all off like a glass of champagne, I came across this mysterious bike habitat, closed on a Sunday: 

The window showcases piles of bikes... must be source of French Bike Zombie outbreak.

After a bazillionth of a second Google search, I used my high-school French translation skills to decipher that this is a bike library of sorts, sponsored by the City of Bordeaux.  The Maison du Velo’s slogan is:  Ici, le velo est roi, or “Here, the bike is king.”  (Double swoon!)  With 48 bikes to check out for free, an open shop, and classes on safety and maintenance, it is the ultimate stop for new Bordelais riders interested in bike commuting.  Riders must undergo safety training prior to receiving a bike and have the option to check out accessories, helmets, and even baby carts!  So jealous.  Imagine how easy it would be to convince your friends to ride bikes to work with you if there were free bikes available!  A surefire cure for the self-proclaimed members of broke phi broke – who’ve got no extra cash in this down economy to spring for a bike.  Sign me up for socialism and foie gras! 

And for you curious and scrutinous clever BikeCommuters readers, segregated bike lanes in Paris and Bordeaux.  J’adore!  The French bike-share riders don’t seem too keen on helmets, but I suppose you could always bring your own.  

From the Cycling is Good for You blog to you...

Anyone else tried out any bike share programs out there?

Double Team in Chicago!

We will double team Chicago on bikes like Miss Piggy and Kermit!!! (OK, really I don't have any pics of the Bike Commuters ladies together yet, so we can pretend for now.)

DOUBLE TEAM: You read it right Bike Commuters!  Elizabeth and I will be meeting up for a/some ride/s this weekend!  What you say? Are Honolulu and Chicago neighbor cities?  Hardly… BUT, I will be attending a conference in Chicago from Thursday through Sunday of this weekend.   Therefore, Bike Commuters will DOUBLE TEAM in Chicago for awesome bike bloggy-ness.  We may even meet up for a ride with Dottie from Let’s Go Ride a Bike… in which case, we would consider that a bike triple team.  We’re working on a loaner bike situation for meeself (anyone out there have a spare bike size 47cm or 49cm?) or I may rent a bike nearby my hotel at Millenium Park from  Maybe I should bring those pants that look like pants for extreme heat testing!

Rent a Bike instead of a car for business travel... Hmm, Segway OR Trek!? That's like Cuttlefish w/asparagus OR Vanilla Paste.

This will be the first time I will be “business” traveling with bike in mind… I’ve visited friends and done the bike/public transit combo in Seattle and California, but never for work!  Bring it on hot and humid Chicago: I’m ready for that sweaty back.  Does witch hazel come in a 3 oz. travel container!?

FACT: Elizabeth is officially the only cycle lady I know in all of the Middle West.  (Chicago is the Midwest right?  Being a California Native, I hadn’t driven further than Tahoe for most of my life, I used to think everything between California and New York was the Midwest… only to be corrected by an ex-boyfriend from Montana in college.)  Looking forward to taking the heat: Elizabeth + Mir.I.Am = ultimate Bike Commuters blog time weekend!!!!

We will not be creepin' around Chicago like this player! Is PeeWee a bike commuter?

Give up driving for Lent?

“I thought there’s probably a lot of things where I really don’t need my car. I could use my bike or just walk, so I think that is what I am going to attempt to endeavor,” Father O’Brien explained. “I can put up with the sacrifice of walking, or the challenge of walking to certain places or riding my bike.”

For Lent, could you give up driving?:

Torker KB2 Review

We received the Torker KB2 to test out a few months ago and after a few hundred miles, the review is ready to go!

Price: $399

Torker KB2

There are a few things that I really enjoyed about this bike and basically it comes down to the simplicity of it all. The Torker KB2 is as simple as a fixed gear bike, yet versatile like a geared bike. Here’s what I mean by that description; just by looking at it, the KB2 looks much like any other fixed gear bike. No brakes to mess with, no other bells and whistles that could potentially become a problem. All you have to do is get on this bike and ride it.

However, because of its 2 speed rear, kick back hub, I can easily climb the tough hills on my commute and still get some speed while on the flat sections of the road. Having a coaster brake on the bike makes it a no brainer, just reverse pressure on the pedals and you stop.

MSRP $399
Frame Torker Tri Moly 116mm Rear Spacing
Fork Hi-Ten 1-1/8
Headset Steel Threadless 1-1/8
Frt Der
Rear Der
Shifter Kick Back
Crank Alloy 42T W Guard
BB Set Sealed Cartridge Square Taper
Cog 22T
Pedal Nylon W Alloy Cage
Rim Alex DA16 Double Wall 36H
Hubs Sturmey Archer Alloy 2sp Internal Rear, Hi Flange Alloy Nutted Frt.
Spoke 14 G Stainless
Tire Kenda Kwest 700 x 38
Bar Steel All Rounder
Stem Forged Alloy
Saddle Torker Racing
Seat Post Alloy 27.2mm x 250mm
Brake Rear Coaster

But I gotta be honest with you, my first few rides with the Torker KB2 weren’t all that great. It actually took me some time to get used to the idea of kicking back to get to another gear and by habit, I found myself reaching for the non-existent brake levers. But after 10 miles on the bike, I found my groove. The Sturmey Archer Alloy 2sp Internal Rear Hub turned out to be something very simple to use. You basically have 2 gears, 1 is for starting or climbing hills and the other is for cruising at speed.

Fantastic paint scheme, sparkle green:
Torker KB2

Braking on the Torker KB2 was a non-issue — meaning that all I have to do is apply the brake and the bike stopped. I was kinda worried about the braking power on it since I do weight 206lbs, but even riding the local hills and having to engage the brake throughout the ride, there was no brake fade at all.

Torker KB2

Check out these tires; the spec sheet shows them to be Kenda Kwest 700 x 38 but after checking the bike and the Kenda USA website, I couldn’t find the model name. However, these tires have resisted flats during the time I’ve been riding on them. The tread pattern on them is actually pretty aggressive, so I think you should be able to get some decent traction if you were to ride them through fire roads or unpaved bike trails.

Torker KB2

The Torker KB2 shows off its classy styling in various ways; for one, the rivet style saddle which nicely complements the sparkle green color.

Torker KB2

I really liked the bridge used on the KB2:

Torker KB2

One thing I have to mention about the Torker KB2: though it is a simple bicycle, it does offer mounts for fenders/racks.

Torker KB2

The Alex DA16 Double Wall 36H rims have been bombproof. No truing needed during the testing period.

Torker KB2

Overall I was very happy with the smooth riding and easy to use characteristics of the Torker KB2. I like that I didn’t have to worry about this bike. I just got on it and rode off. No brake cables or levers to hassle with, no dynamo-hubs, no fancy bells and whistles and because of its humble appearance, I wasn’t too worried that thieves would target the bike.

The KB2 rides a bit slower than my other 700c cyclo-commuter bike. I’m suspecting it has to do with the lower gear range and possibly the wider tire selection. On average, it was taking me 3-5 minutes longer to complete my 6 mile, one way commute to the office. Where the KB2 lacks in speed, it certainly makes up for it in its durability. I had way too much fun on this bike and there were times I’d look for little jumps to take because I knew that the combination of the fat, high volume tires and its beefy rims could withstand the abuse.

When people ask me how the Sturmey Archer Alloy 2sp Internal Rear hub works, I basically give them the following description. I pedal like normal and when I get enough speed to shift to the next gear, I do a quick kick back, but nothing too hard where it would activate the brake, but just enough to hear and feel a slight “click” then continue your pedaling.

The gear engages effortlessly and you will feel the difference between gear 1 and 2. Just imagine it to be like going from cog #4 to cog #1 on a 9 speed cassette. If you mistakenly shifted to gear 2 while trying to stop, the gear isn’t too tall that you couldn’t get started, you just have to put more effort onto the pedals.

The only downside to this bike were its funky pedals. I’ve never been a fan of that style. It felt like the outer portion of my foot was slipping off. Other than that, the Torker KB2 is fun, reliable and very affordable ($399). To add a quick note, I never experienced any type of mechanical issues with the bike during my test. With that being said, if you’re in the market for a simple, yet totally unique and durable commuter bike, make sure you check out the Torker KB2, you’ll dig it!

Torker KB2

Review Disclaimer