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Tag Archive: mountain bike

Adaptive Use Electric Bike Makes Trails All-Access

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.

Product Review: WTB Freedom Cruz 29er tires

So as I previously mentioned, I’ve been riding the WTB Freedom Cruz 29er tires on my Redline Monocog 29er – and I’ve now got enough time logged on them for a review!

The basics: at a 29 x 2.0″ size (they come in 26″ as well), these are not for your typical city bike or hybrid! Per product description, they’re meant to “turn your 29″ dirt-crusted steed into a quick and nimble commuter workhorse.” While in general I prefer to keep my mountain bikes on mostly dirt, I had the bike available and a new bike I was riding more, so on the tires went!

A (rather technical) caveat up front: these tires are mounted to Mavic A317 rims, which only have a rim width of 17mm. WTB recommends (per the tire sidewall) rim widths of 25mm+ (which is somewhat standard – but not universal – for mountain bike rims). So right off the bat, my experience with handling may be different than someone else’s, as a wider tire on a narrower rim doesn’t hold its shape quite as well as a wider tire on a wider rim or a narrower tire on a narrower rim. I never felt super comfortable on these on sharp turns – but that might change quite a bit if they were used with the recommended rim size.

Now back to riding impressions!

After a couple months of solid riding, I can definitely say the Freedom Cruz fits the bill for commuting! Very smooth-rolling for sure. They also seem to track well on surfaces ranging from pavement to hardpack dirt – I wouldn’t want to try them out in a lot of mud or loose dirt, but on smooth surfaces they work well (wet or dry). The suggested tire pressure is 35-65psi – after some testing, I ended up running the rear at 40psi and the front at 35psi (this for an average guy+gear load of around 160-165lbs). I also found that the tires held air pressure pretty well – I only had to add a small amount of air every couple weeks. My typical experience is that I need to add a more significant amount of air once a week, so this was a pleasant surprise. It may simply be due to the lower pressure – tire pressure on my other commuter bikes ranges from 55psi to 100psi – but it was nice nonetheless.

The hard rubber compound and sidewall on the Cruz did seem to lessen the bump-absorption properties normally associated with wide tires to some degree – I think most of my mountain tires provide a bit more cushion than these do. However, they do seem durable – after about 350 miles of riding I can’t really see any signs of wear.

For the price (MSRP is $33.99 per tire and they can be found for $6-10 less), the Freedom Cruz 29 tires are a very reasonable way to convert a mountain bike into a smooth-riding city bike. They aren’t overly beefy, and once I had my bike up to speed I felt like it took very little effort to keep it at speed. If you’ve got an extra MTB sitting around and want to give it some new life, $50-60 can get you a tire that will give you a smooth ride for a long time… and the all-black styling means your “mountain” bike won’t be hurting too bad for street cred even without the knobbies!

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

Friday Musings: Results are in! Thanks for helping to name my bike

A couple of weeks ago I asked for your help in naming my “new-to-me” blue mtb commuter bike.

The results are in!

An overwhelming number of you suggested unique names for my bike. Here’s the full list of suggestions:

Blue The Whole Wad
“B” For the color and the bug that goes fast and stings people.
azulinha
Babe
Frank the Tank
Blue 82!
Cranky
Fart Knockers
“Joni”, after Joni Mitchell’s great album “Blue”
Blue by u
Babe (The Blue Ox)
bubba
Perry short for Periwinkle
Betty Blue!
Blue Tick
Blue Thunder
Blooregard
MiCar
inky
Lebowski
new2me
Grover
Indigo Fox
Lametonamebikes
Johanna
Bandita, to remind you of El Toro and to lock her up!
blueminator
Blueberry
Bluey
Azul
bestia azul
Braveheart
Blue Baron
Gazelle

The results clearly show Blue Belle was our readers’ favorite name; it’s also a name suggested by a fellow commuting friend of mine. Smurfette came in 2nd. The suggested name Grover made me laugh! And then I wondered – should the name Cookie Monster also be a contender?

Cookie Monster Bike?

I’ve personally referred to this bike already as the Blue Beast (and its Spanish equivalent “La Bestia” – a reference back to the Spanish naming much like “Toro”). La Bestia seems to fit best on those days that I wrestle with her heft and rolling resistance on the road but also feel like this bike can roll over anything. I have tried calling the bike Belle on good days, but something about Belle just doesn’t quite fit…. I’ve ridden another bike for which the name Belle would be more fitting.

The final suggestion that a friend recently emailed to me is the name Gazelle… I think this one could be a winner. As my friend noted, the name Gazelle is both “a feminine name and it connotes movement”; I agree.

To further complicate the matter, one more name caught my attention this past week. My workplace just hosted a Bike Blessing to celebrate the feast of La Madonna del Ghisallo (patron saint of bicyclists). To me, Ghisallo is similar to Gazelle… so I guess you can see how I’m leaning.

As I continue to ride her (him?/it?/the blue bike), I’ll better figure out this bike’s personality and more firmly decide on a lasting name.

Thank you to all who responded… your votes have definitely been heard, counted, and considered.

Friday Musings: Help name my bike

As most of our readers may recall, my faithful commuter bike – Toro – was stolen earlier this summer. 🙁 Fortunately the friendly bike community came to my rescue!

From borrowing a friend’s bike:

Riding Dottie's bike Coco

To riding a bike from Heritage Bicycles for a day (review to come):

Riding Daisy from Heritage Bicycles

But most importantly, I adopted a “new to me” bike:

"New to me bike", a.k.a. the blue bike

I’ve been riding around town on this Trek 820 mountain bike now pretty consistently for the past month and am getting used to the different riding style of a mountain bike. There are a few tweaks that I may make, especially for the long-term, but she’s been great so far.

SO, now, fellow Bike Commuters, today’s Friday Musing: What do I name her?

For the past month, I’ve referred to her as the blue bike or just simply as “Blue”. But a few friends and colleagues have recently started the name game and have made a few suggestions. This is where you come in – please vote on one of the suggestions OR add a suggestion of your own:

Let the winter bike commuting begin

So much going on in Chicago lately… namely, it seems that winter has (finally) arrived. (Note: you will hear no complaints from this bike commuter about the mild weather and temperatures in the 40s and 50s these past few weeks…) From a few headline searches, Chicago isn’t alone in bracing for winter’s impact.

First snowy bike commute of the season

Now apparently Chicago is just gearing itself up for a true Winter Bike to Work Day this coming Friday.

As noted on the Active Transportation Alliance‘s event webpage:
Enjoy coffee and tea from Caribou and Cheesecake from Eli’s 6:30 to 9 a.m.

The first 50 bike commuters who come by the event can choose from either a free bike light or a free balaclava. Everyone who stops by can enter a raffle for a folding bike.

Winter Bike to Work Day takes place on Jan. 20, the 27th anniversary of Chicago’s coldest day, when the official temperature at O’Hare International Airport was 27 degrees below zero.

Last Thursday the city of Chicago experienced the first significant snowfall of this winter cycling season and today flurries lingered but did not accumulate. For the next few days, more so than snow, Chicagoans face the bitter cold temperatures with “real feel” temps hovering in the single digits! If you’re lucky, the windchill will just barely keep the temperatures above freezing for your commutes in on Wednesday morning.

Snow Bike - Fat Tires and Disc Brake


In anticipation of winter’s arrival, I have been lent a snow bike to test out. Last Thursday I put the snow bike to the test and she performed, especially for the ride home on Thursday over the snow covered streets.

Double-wide "fat" tires + braking power


The double-wide fat tires on this puppy – though not studded – did keep me feeling more stable on two wheels. Unfortunately such a downhill bike does not come with fender mounts, so I popped on a mudguard for spray from the underside and a rear clip-on fender to the seatpost. This bike’s front disc brakes assured me that I would have stopping power when I needed it. Neither the tires nor the brakes let me down. Unfortunately, I think the brakes need adjustment as I could notably feel resistance in the wheel that kept it from spinning freely. Still – in the wintry bike commuting conditions of last Thursday night’s ride, I certainly wasn’t riding anywhere fast.

The bike cops that were out patrolling acknowledged me with a smile and a nod; I think we were equally impressed to see each other out on the roads that evening.

The roads in Chicago are usually pretty well plowed and salted, as was the main east-west street I take leaving work. Salt riddled its damp pavement. But then I turned northbound; the rest of the way home I navigated my way north on mostly snow-packed roads. This type of snow was the slippery kind that makes it hard to gain traction and the roads were such that all of the road had already been driven over and packed down; these roads were some of the worst road conditions I’ve ever encountered on a commute for that much of my route. Luckily, there were few cars on the roads. I just tried to steer clear of the fish-tailing cabs.

The snow bike plowed through and I stayed upright til the end. The end of my journey through a couple blocks of side streets really tested my bike handling skills. I even had a cab following me and worried that much more about falling over into his path. To my surprise, he never honked and kept a safe distance, giving me room to navigate and fishtail now too. (What goes around comes around – from following a fishtailing cab, to a cab following me as I fishtailed.)

At long last I made it home and had to haul up the bike to my apartment. At that moment I realized the heft a front disc brake adds to the bike; I like to think that the added front-end weight helped in my snowy journey. For the final trip up my steps, however, it added to the inconvenience factor of using such a bike on a regular basis.

Today weather forecasters predicted possible snow accumulations of 1″-2″ but only a dusting of flurries stuck to the pavement. For today’s adventure, I put the Green Machine back to work, more than a full month later than it was called into action last winter season.

The Green Machine

With no knobby tires (yet), the Green Machine offers much less rolling resistance, with all the stability of a mountain bike for anticipated snowy commutes. The biggest drawback so far to the Green Machine remains her lack of a full front end fender (due to the full suspension fork):

No full front fender mounts on the Green Machine

Tomorrow I may add MTB Barmitts to the Green Machine to add further buffering from the windchills. Up until now, my REI mittens have served me well, but do not allow full dexterity for grip and brake controls.

Mittens protect my hands on the harshest of days

(On a side note: last Thursday I had carried a secondary glove set-up in the rear pocket of my cycling jacket. In that pocket I had stashed my wind barrier lobster cover gloves, just in case my big mitts proved to be too much for the conditions. I also had my camera in my back pocket for easy access. During one of my reaches into the pocket for my camera, I must have caused one of my gloves to fall out of my pocket. I arrived at work and was cleaning off my jacket and discovered I was missing a glove. Also in the ordeal, I got my camera wet and it is now at the camera “doctor” so my photos may be sparse for a while. On my commute home I tried to find my glove, but too much snow and darkness made the search difficult. Friday morning I followed my same route and paused at the same locations where I’d taken photos the previous morning. The plows had clearly passed through overnight. Lo and behold – along the curb at my second stop there it was – my lost glove! It lay there in a crumpled up heap of soppy slush and suffered only a couple of knicks from the plows but it survived! Sorry, folks, no photo of the discovery.)

Tonight’s commute home wasn’t so bad. The challenge was mainly in breathing; in the cold temps I pull up a buff over my nose and mouth which keeps the air warm and moist but still doesn’t solve the runny nose dilemma. I had pulled down the buff entirely by the end of my commute.

Still I arrived home refreshed and breathed a hefty “Ah..” in the crisp night air. I glanced up and to my amazement saw clear skies and a sky above full of twinkling stars and some visible constellations. For a city gal, seeing stars from my place is a treat.. and it’s one reason I do enjoy the crisp and clean (dare I say refreshing?) cold winter air. I love the clear wintry night skies!
(I’m still not much of a fan of snow!). 🙂

A special thanks to my coworker for snapping the photos of the Green Machine you see in this post.