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Going to Europe? Rent a bicycle!

Since Mir.I.am did such a great job on the bike share by the bay article, I wanted to provide our readers this infopgraphic that was provided to us by momondo.com to help those who are planning on traveling to Europe, to take full advantage of the bike sharing programs in several European cities. What’s even more interesting, the bike share program in Paris has about 18,000 bicycles available for rent and 1200 bicycle stations. Wow, that’s pretty impressive!
bike share

Dads and Daughters giving a helping hand

On Thanksgiving weekend we assembled our volunteers to go out to Santa Ana, Ca. to help fix bicycles for the less fortunate. Moe and I had the opportunity to bring our daughters out to help. This was our daughters’ first time helping us out with bicycle repairs. So when we arrived we quickly set up shop. At first some of the people were suspicious that we were willing to fix their bicycles for free. But once the locals saw what we were doing, word spread rather quickly. Almost immediately they all started streaming in for some much needed help with their bicycles. Yes, that is a walker. It seems like we’re always servicing 1-2 of those each time we come out.
Bicycle repair for the homeless

In fact here’s the first one that was serviced. It needed a brake adjustment as well as some lube on the bearings.
bicycle repair

Though my daughter, Aleah and Moe’s daughter, Lizzy felt that they weren’t going to be able to help, we taught them how to properly lube a chain. With each bike that came in for service, the kids made sure the chains were properly lubricated. Here’s Moe and Lizzy taking care of a bicycle.
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We service all types of bicycles. From beach cruisers, hybrids, road bikes to bmx bikes, they all need some sort of attention.
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A while back Marcus V. from Freedom by Wilderness Trail Bikes sent over large boxes of saddles. Those have come in handy since we end up replacing a good number of them.
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Out of all the times we’ve been coming out, this has to be one of my favorite. This gave us the opportunity to teach our girls the importance of giving back to the community. One thing you have to understand, through the various opportunities and blessings that have come out of operating Bikecommuters.com, I that felt it is our duty to give back in the form of bicycle repairs. Sure testing bicycles, having Internet-stardom is great and all, but providing bicycle repair services for the homeless for free is VERY rewarding.

Here’s an interesting tidbit. While we were working on bicycles. A man stood about 20 feet away watching us work. Then about 15 minutes later he comes to introduce himself. He mentioned he was part of a volunteer group that was feeding the homeless nearby (50 feet from us). But he was in awe on what we were doing, his words were, “Wow, we’re just here giving them food, but you’re actually doing something to help change their lives…” He thanked me for what we were doing and shook my hand.

I do want to thank all the folks that make it possible for us to do this on a monthly basis. Donations from strangers and many of our readers have helped out so much. I also want to thank The Bicycle Tree. They donated a brand new Park Work Stand to our cause.

On Test: 2014 Jamis Hudson with Slidepad Brakes

So during Interbike (remember Interbike?) RL and Jack got to see some Torker bikes equipped with Slidepad technology. Most of you were drooling over the Torkers… but we also were intrigued by the Slidepad stuff, and now we’ve got our hands (well, my hands) on a new-for-2014 Jamis Hudson equipped with Slidepad brakes.

The slide pad for Slidepad.

So how does Slidepad work? Basically, when you engage the rear brake, one of the pads slides forward (pad sliding… Slidepad… get it?) and puts tension on a cable from the rear brakes to the front. So – your rear brake always engages first (and with more power), then your front brake engages with slightly less power. You can check out Slidepad’s video for some in-action views.

Since I’ve received this bike, I’ve been hit with a nasty 3-week cold (residing primarily in my lungs, of course!) and then subjected to snow and ice… so I haven’t had as many chances to ride it as I’d have liked. However, I’ve gotten out on the bike a few times and can offer some preliminary comments on both the bike and the brakes. I’ll be riding it over the coming weeks, and will let you all know whether my initial impressions hold up and what else I notice!

First… the bike! The Jamis Hudson is a comfort/cruiser-style bike with a MSRP of $480 – so about what you’d expect for a decent entry-level bike. This is NOT a bike that’s marketed to most of you with your serious-commuter cred… it’s aimed at getting your mom/brother/grandma/friend who hasn’t ridden a bike in 10-50 years back onto one. So, it’s got a basic 7-speed grip shift, 26″ wheels, the Slidepad brakes, a cushy seat, and laid-back pedaling position. It’s easy and comfortable to ride, as long as your ride isn’t going to be too fast or too far. Perfect for jaunts into (a nearby) town or around the neighborhood with the kids.

Jamis Hudson Sport


At nearly 30 lbs it’s not a lightweight beast (even though it’s got an aluminum frame!), but that doesn’t matter because it’s not supposed to be. It comes in one basic size, and that size is quite adjustable thanks to the quick release seatpost and the quill stem that has a few inches of adjustability in it. It seems like it could work for anyone in the 5′ – 6′ range pretty easily (possibly more, but I haven’t had any of those folks available to try it out!). It also comes with one of the nicer stock kickstands I’ve seen.

Now… the brakes! So I’ve got to say up front – I have to look at these from the perspective of the aforementioned non-riders rather than my own. I’m not going to be swapping out my disc brakes for these things, but again I don’t think Slidepad expects me to.

The good:
– The brakes work. The bike stops as advertised, and the front wheel does not lock up at all. Yes it’s only one bullet point… but it’s a pretty darn important one!

The neither-good-nor-bad:
– I have to say I don’t know quite where the “efficiency” claims come from. Certainly the bike stops in a reasonable distance, but I’m quite confident I can stop faster on my other bikes than on this one.
– If you’re not going fast, the front brake doesn’t engage at all, because there’s not enough force on the back brake to move the slide.

The bad:
– As a consequence of rear-wheel-first braking, it’s actually pretty easy to lock the rear wheel up – so I would definitely not want this system if I was going to ride in wet/icy/snowy conditions, where a rear-wheel slide could potentially be worse than a locked front wheel.
– The basic Tektro brake lever is one of my least favorite ones out there. Swap this out for an Avid Speed Dial lever and I’d be a much happier camper!
– The brake system is so interdependent that it makes what is usually an easy job – setting up a pair of V brakes – kind of a pain in the butt. To get everything the way I wanted it, I had to set both front and rear brakes VERY close to the rim – and I still don’t get full braking power until the lever nearly hits the handlebars (though I suspect part of that is the fault of the lever, see above). To most riders of this bike this won’t matter… but I’m betting their mechanics (probably their bikey friends, aka our readers) won’t appreciate it that much!

One of my test riders takes the Hudson for a spin


Despite my complaints on the brakes, this is an overall decent setup for a new rider (and that rider probably won’t have any issues with complaints 2 or 3). I had a couple of not-new riders (but riders unaccustomed to cruiser style bikes) check it out, and they both thought the bike was comfortable and the brakes didn’t give them a problem. I suspect most prospective buyers for the bike and brake system will feel somewhat the same way.

 

 

Product Review: Continental Super Sport Plus Tires


SONY DSCSo a lot of us commuter types end up riding road (ish) bikes with road (ish) tires. Unfortunately, this often means we end up using road tires meant for racer folks, not commuting folks! While they’re not the only players in the game, Continental definitely brings a good solution to market with the Super Sport Plus tires we’ve had on long-term test. They’re equipped with an anti-puncture belt, which according to Continental is “Nearly impenetrable.” The Super Sport Plusses (henceforward referred to by me as SSPs) have just enough tread to lend a bit more confidence on the slightly-sketchy stuff (for super-sketchy stuff you’d be better off with something like this, or possibly this!). The SSPs also come with extra-thick tread – something us commuters can appreciate (because hey, tires can get expensive!). My set was 700×25; they also come in 700×23 and even some 27 inch sizes for those of you riding what I’ll call… “classic”… bikes.



So how do they ride? Well, I mounted them up to my old Bridgestone single speed to test them out, and the verdict was… Smooooth. Also pretty fast for a tire that isn’t that lightweight (no I didn’t weigh them, who do you think I am?). Riding unloaded, I was able to maintain pretty respectable speeds over the course of an hour or two. Recommended inflation on the 700×25 size was 95-120 PSI, but I found 90-95 was the sweet spot for me.
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In terms of wet – they work well there too. No real sense of lost grip (though I’ll warn that might change with the narrower sizes – it’s hard to tell what was because of the tire and what was because of the tire size). I would recommend against snow though (sorry E, they’re not gonna be your Chicago winter tires!).

The verdict on flat protection? Well, it’s always hard to prove a negative… I didn’t get any flats on these! I’m not usually riding any glass or tack-studded roads though, so it’s hard to say. I did hit one sharp-edged bump at about 20mph… so I CAN say at a minimum that they don’t pinch flat easily!SONY DSC

Street price for these babies seems to average around $30/tire, though there are a few deals out there depending on which version you’re after. My verdict? Worth the money. You won’t find a heck of a lot that’s much cheaper, and knowing that you’ve got quality tires under you is worth quite a bit.
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Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

New Wool Cap Contest

You can win a brand new BikeCommuters.com Wool Cycling Cap (size Larege/XL)!
bikecommuters.com wool cap
To enter, upload a photo of your commuter bike onto our Facebook Fanpage by April 26th, 2013. Then our staff will vote on which bike is our favorite. We’re not looking for anything specific. But I do know our staff has a mix of what they think is a cool bike. We like fast road bikes, mountain bikes, single speeds, vintage bikes, Bakfiets, cargo bikes, Xtracycles, Trikes, E-bikes, bikes that have sweet lugs on the frame, pretty bikes, colorful bikes, Franken-bikes, pink bikes, purple bikes and even regular looking bikes!

Good luck!

We’ll announce a winner the following Monday.