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Tag Archive: commute by bike

A handy guide to bicycle infrastructure

Do you sometimes get confused by all the lingo thrown around by bicycle advocates? Don’t know the difference between a “bicycle boulevard” and a “bike trail”? And what IS a sharrow, anyway? Leave it to the Community Education Manager at Bike Easy in New Orleans, Anneke Olsen, to spell it all out for you:

When many of us hear the word “bicyclist” or “cyclist,” we think of a spandex-clad racer on a road bike, or a diehard urban messenger weaving in and out of traffic on downtown streets.

But there is a much larger and more inclusive definition of “bicyclists” – anyone who rides a bike, whether it is a kid riding on a neighborhood street; a service industry worker biking home from the CBD after a long shift; grandparents and grandkids riding together at City Park; or someone hopping on a bike to get back in shape.

Similarly, there are several different types of bicycle infrastructure – sharrows, bike lanes, neighborhood greenways, shared use trails, etc. – and each serves a different purpose to the end of creating a connected network of streets that are safe and comfortable for bicyclists.

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Take a minute to swing on over and read the full article by visiting the NolaVie page. In no time, you’ll be an expert on bicycle infrastructure!

Product review: SealSkinz Fingerless Cycle Gloves

At the beginning of summer, the kind folks at SealSkinz offered us a pair of their new summerweight cycling gloves to try out. You may know SealSkinz as a maker of waterproof socks, hats, and gloves for outdoor activities such as hiking and hunting, but they’ve also got a number of cycling-specific pieces in their lineup.

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The SealSkinz gloves are lightweight, with a lycra back and a synthetic leather palm that is textured for grip. The middle and ring fingers have extra material at the tops that are fashioned as “pull tabs” to get the gloves off easier. There’s a hook-and-loop wrist closure, and reflective accents on the back of the glove.

The pair I tested is a size Large. They felt true to size, but with a small amount of bunching between the fingers (we’ll get to that in a bit).

The padding on the palm is rather thin, and at first I thought I’d have issues with that — my own hands are not particularly padded, and prefer a glove with dense padding in the palm, where possible. The SealSkinz gloves, despite the thin padding, didn’t let me down in terms of comfort, even for longer riders of 30-40 miles. Beyond those distances, I think I’d rather have something with more padding.

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For those who have read glove reviews I’ve done in the past, you may remember that the nose-wiping area of a glove is VERY important to me, summer or winter. The SealSkinz didn’t let me down there, either — the entire thumb is made of a soft microsuede material, with no protruding seams to rough up the sensitive nose area. I can wipe all day in comfort!

The grip is fantastic with the gloves, as is overall durability. I wore them all summer and racked up serious miles with the SealSkinz, and they still look pretty new, even after a couple of washings. The stitching and seams remained tight throughout the testing period.

The reflective accents on the backs are a nice touch, but I don’t know how effective they might be. The reflective effect is pretty subtle, and I was unable to get a good nighttime photo of the reflective bits in action.

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Perhaps my only gripe with the SealSkinz gloves is the cut of the fabric panels prior to sewing. I did notice a lot of extra material, especially between the fingers. I can’t help but think that the cutting patterns could be refined a bit to reduce some of this excess, helping to streamline them a bit and reduce bunching between the fingers. Since the material is naturally stretchy, this excess material isn’t needed to accommodate wider fingers than my own, either.

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The SealSkinz fingerless gloves retail for $35, and are available directly from the SealSkinz website. As of this writing, they are not in stock and do not appear on the company website even though they ARE a current product. I checked with their PR person just to make sure they weren’t discontinued for some reason. That $35 buys a well-constructed, lightweight glove that is ideal for warm-weather riding. The gloves are 100% designed in Great Britain, with much of the manufacture occurring in Great Britain as well. Take a look at the SealSkinz cycling lineup for a wide range of products to suit any rider at any temperature.

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

Dahon Mariner: Final Review

If this is your first time reading about this bike, check out our initial impressions on the Dahon Mariner D7.

So the time has come… to tell you all about the hair-raising adventures I’ve had on the D7!

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You wish you had these skills.

And… that time is now over. Because there really weren’t any. Sorry… you can take another sip of your beverage now. And close your mouth, the popcorn’s about to fall out.

What I WILL say is that this bike has been rock-solid, and has introduced into my life the idea that maybe I should have a folding bike permanently. Because it’s been pretty sweet! It has continued to be easy to use (biking, folding, unfolding, lugging around) and hasn’t needed any maintenance to speak of. The only issues have been with fenders getting bent out of shape due to bad packing in the car (fairly easily bent back), and once when the handlebars somehow got spun all the way around and braking was wonky for a couple minutes ’til I realized what had happened. So… yeah, user error.

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Main folding mechanism and bottle bosses

Speaking of user error, in the initial review I said there weren’t bosses for a bottle cage. That was incorrect: there are, I missed them somehow, and they’re on the top of what would be the top tube if there were more than one tube. So ignore that complaint… it’s invalid!

Since the initial review, this bike has been in and out of cars, to the library, to the grocery store, and just generally wherever we need to ride. The one thing I haven’t yet done on this is take it on public transit… I simply haven’t headed DC-wards recently, so I can’t say how it is. I imagine it would work fairly well, but can’t 100% verify.

My wife and I both like it, and because it’s easy to hop on and go, it’s one of the first picks out of the garage. My wife also had the amusing experience of using it when she had to drop the car off for some maintenance – and seeing all the car repair guys watch in amazement as she pulled the Dahon out of the backseat, unfolded it, and rode off to do a couple errands while she was waiting. Apparently they’re not used to that!

Our very own Jack (Ghostrider) also got a ride on the Mariner D7… here’s what he had to say:

I really enjoyed my (short) time aboard the Mariner. I have a soft spot for folding bikes, although there’s not one in my bike fleet currently. For multi-modal commuters, or people who live in small apartments, a folding bike makes a lot of sense. And this Dahon really fits the bill.

I didn’t try my own hand at folding the bike, but Matt demonstrated the ease with which it folds up into a tidy package. One of the things I noticed during the folding was that the seatpost didn’t have reference marks etched into it; the lack of those marks means that getting your saddle height right the first time is a bit of a challenge. A strip of tape or a silver Sharpie marker makes short work of that omission, however.

As with most small-wheeled bikes, the Dahon accelerates quickly. It feels really nimble while riding around city streets and tight spaces, too. Gearing was adequate for around-town use — we didn’t get to try it on any monster climbs, but it handled the inclines of northern Virginia without too much effort. Standing up to pedal up a rise was, well, rather awkward…that’s the only time when the short wheelbase and compact fit were an issue. The overall fit and finish were excellent, and there weren’t any mechanical problems throughout the duration of our review period.

Overall, the Dahon Mariner makes a great choice if you’re in the market for a folding bike.

Did I mention we had a lot of fun riding it?

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You also wish you had these skills.

Ever heard of an Audax?

I was talking to a friend of mine from the UK who works for an online bicycle shop called Fat Birds. We got to talking about “commuter bikes” and what that all means to someone in the UK. Well he brought up the word “AUDAX.” Truthfully, I’ve never heard of such a term. Apparently Audax is basically a word that best describes a commuter bike. Here’s a definition on their website:

A Sportive or Audax bike is a bicycle that allows for mudguards and in most cases a rear rack it is lighter than a touring bike and the geometry is more racey (yet slightly more relaxed than a road racer). A Touring bike is a frame designed to handle bicycle touring, with mudguards and front and rear pannier racks (not all come with front racks as this is dependent on the fork).
Special features of a touring bike may include a long wheelbase (for ride comfort and to avoid pedal-to-luggage conflicts), frame materials that favor flexibility over rigidity (for ride comfort), heavy duty wheels (for load capacity), and multiple mounting points (for luggage racks, fenders, and bottle cages).

Oh yeah, did you notice the other word in there? “SPORTIVE.” In the US market, or at least in a few bike shops that I’ve been to, they have dubbed what our UK friends call a Sportive as a “fitness bike.” Basically it’s a bike that isn’t quite a sporty road bike, not as burly as a touring bike, but a bike you could use to commute with or take for a 15-20 mile bike rides and still be comfortable.

So are you wondering what a Sportive/Audax bike looks like? Well check out this beauty…”Kinesis Racelight 4S Audax Road Bike Silver; The versatile Racelight TK3 frameset gets a makeover and has a new name Racelight 4S (meaning Four Seasons).”
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Not bad right? I’m almost positive that the US Market will start to use those terms in the near future to introduce new commuter bikes to make them sound fancier.

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.
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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!