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Book Review: Bicycle Design: An Illustrated History

Bicycle Design: An Illustrated History fills in the gaps on how the awesomeness that is the bicycle came to be.

Up-front confession: this book was not featured (so far as we know) at Interbike!

However, it DOES chronicle pretty much all the innovations throughout bicycling history, so rest assured that the predecessors to many of the “new” things there are mentioned in it!

Bicycle Design: An Illustrated History is by Tony Hadland and Hans-Erhard Lessing, and in the authors’ words seeks to fill the neglected gap addressing the technical aspects of the history of the bicycle. It starts out with… well, actually it starts out with ice skating and wheelbarrows… but it quickly moves on to velocipedes and draisines, the predecessors of the bicycle.

Another confession: I haven’t read the whole thing. I did read all the bits about velocipedes and high-wheel bikes and wire wheels and the development of the safety bicycle (aka a bike having 2 wheels of the same size), but after that concluded that this wasn’t really meant to be read straight through – and yeah, it took me a bit longer to figure that out than it might take most people, but what can I say… I’m a bit of a bike nerd!

 

Apparently we should call these draisines!

So after some deliberation, I’d consider this more of a reference book: the next time you wonder, “when WAS the first bamboo frame made?” rest assured that this is the place you can find that answer! (page 178: 1890’s, patented in 1896. Calfee wasn’t exactly the first!).

The first 5 chapters of the book detail the history up to the invention of the diamond-frame steel bicycle. After that point, it diverges into chapters on different aspects of bikes, such as transmission, braking, and lighting. It also – at the end – includes specific sections on “racing” bicycles and mountain bikes, folding bikes, and military bikes (an interesting chapter!).

Overall this is a very informative book, and I say kudos should go to the authors for assembling all of the information in a scholarly fashion, complete with TONS of references at the back (if anyone out there needs to write a term paper on anything about bicycles, this should be your starting point!).

My one minor (major?) complaint about it is that it reminds me of several of my history classes in high school. How so? No, not because I fell asleep… I like history, and this book is written pretty well, so I didn’t do that during either high school or while reading this! It’s because in high school I had several years of history classes where we spent a ton of time on something early in the semester… and then gradually less and less time per topic, until by the end we rushed through the 1960’s on in only a couple weeks (I don’t think I had a history class that ever made it to the decade we were in!). Bicycle Design reminds me of this: it spends a lot of time on early development, but we get to the end and there are a scant 10 pages on mountain bikes. Two paragraphs on disc brakes. Two pages on suspension. Etc. etc. Yes, these are relatively recent in the scheme of things – but they’re BIG things right now, they involve some pretty neat increases in bicycle capabilities, and they deserve to be included… not lumped together in a hash that includes everything from the 1970’s til now in a handful of paragraphs.

Gripes regarding recent history aside, this is something every serious bicyclist should at least flip through sooner or later. I highly doubt many people (apart from the authors) have a good grip on all of the developments mentioned in its pages, so you’re guaranteed to learn something (and probably something interesting!). At $20-something on Amazon (for a nice hardcover), it’s definitely worth picking up for the coffee table, or for the bike-themed coffee shop, or for the bike shop, or for a stocking stuffer, if Santa’s real nice and someone you know has a stocking that can accommodate a 564-page volume.

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

 

Interbike 2014: DeVinci Newton RC

Something new from DeVinci is the Newton RC commuter bike. It’s equipped with disc brakes, reflective sidewall tires,dynamo hub which powers integrated front and rear LED lights.
devinci newton rc bikecommuters.com interbike 2014

devinci newton rc bikecommuters

The rear LED rights alternate blinking from left to right.
devinci newton

Front LEDs are located on the lower portion of the fork near the drop outs.
newton devinci

Prices start at $1199.

Interbike 2014 coverage brought to you by…
two wheel gear bags

V-Brakes squealing?

If you’ve got a bike that uses V-brakes and it’s making some noise here’s a quick tip you can do to get rid of that annoying sound.

So what you do is grab one of these green scouring pads, cut off a small section that’s wide enough to fit on the rim.
bike commuters tips

Then make sure you do a better job in placing it behind the pad than I did. Just to let you know, I did re-position the pad so it would be just right. Now press the v-brake arm in so you are essentially pushing the brake pad into the rim. Then rotate the wheel a few times.
bikecommuters.com v brake

Now check out the green pad. See all that muck…well that’s a combination of grease/oils and other contaminants that are getting in between your pads and your rims. If you have all that muck, it’s basically preventing your pads from making a solid contact patch, which causes vibration/noise.
bikecommuters.com tech tips

So the next time your brakes are making noises, try this!

Giant LIV Alight All City Quick Review

This is the 2015 Giant LIV Alight All City commuter bicycle. What makes this a “commuter?” Well, based on years of running Bikecommuters.com and knowing what our readers consider what a “REAL” commuter bike is, this one takes the cake. For example, it has the ever so important set of fenders and rear rack. In addition it has 700c wheels. Further more the cockpit is equipped with ergonomic grips for added comfort.
giant liv alight all city
You can find all the SPEC info HERE. However, let me high-light a few things that we liked. 24speed drive train offers a wide range of gear selection. From fast flat terrain all the way up to the steepest climbs, you should be able to ride it with the Alight.

Hydroformed Aluxx-aluminum
bikecommuters liv giant
Frame and fork uses Giant’s ALUXX-grade aluminum. This allows the Alight to have a light feel to it. To be honest with you, we didn’t get to weigh it, but when it was picked up by hand to see how heavy it was, we were impressed.

The essentials of a commuter bike. Fenders and rear rack.
giant alight bikecommuters.com
The Alight was designed for the female commuter. Geometry set for this bike has women riders in mind. What does all that mean?

Liv bikes, apparel and gear are designed specifically for women. Liv’s team of female designers and engineers consider all aspects of a woman’s unique strengths and physical characteristics to create the only complete product collection designed solely for women. Examples of this include: Women’s-specific fit based on global body dimension studies Optimized stem lengths, handlebar width and drop, and crank arm length Shorter brake reach Comfortable saddle designed for female pelvis and hip shapes Liv ApparelFit System with multiple fit options.

giant commuter bikes

So what’s the price on this commuter friendly bike? Most Giant retailers will have it around $575, and based on our previous research, $500-$600 is what most commuting consumers would be willing to spend on a new commuter bike. But how does it ride? Like a dream! The 700c wheels make for a smoother and fast ride, while the 24spd drive train provides the rider a plethora of gearing choices. Shifting between gears are smooth, all thanks to the buttery Shimano gruppo Further more, the aesthetics of this bike is spot on. The color pops, yet it doesn’t scream LOOK AT ME!!!

Oh one more thing, just because this is considered a “women specific design” bike, it doesn’t mean that a man can’t enjoy it. I really did enjoy my time with the Alight All City. It’s a great riding bike and it really could serve a rider dual purposes. Use it to commute with and use it on the weekends to go on a long ride through the country side. It’s comfortable and fast, which happens to be a great combo!

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