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Book review: “The Bike Deconstructed” by Richard Hallett

Over the past couple months, I’ve had the pleasure to read a copy of The Bike Deconstructed: A Grand Tour of the Modern Bicycle by Richard Hallett (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2014).

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The book gives a detailed look into the inner workings of all aspects of the bicycle by showing exploded diagrams, close-up photos, and line illustrations of the frames, the components, and the hidden areas like bearings and internal gear systems. Along with the lavish and detailed artwork, Hallett explains the function and the history of the various components showcased, talking about materials, variants, and other details that will keep the jaded cycling techie reading along. There is a LOT to enjoy here. Discussion of how the parts work together, how the components developed from early prototypes, and the manufacturing methods involved with some of the parts really gives bike novices and seasoned experts alike a lot of information to delve through.

The bike is organized into the major sections of the bicycle itself: the frameset, the wheels, the drivetrain, the accessories, and so on. Each section covers the history and development of what we know as modern bicycle gear. There are a couple of points where the author mentions a piece of technology or a variation of a component that evolved along the way, but doesn’t offer a photo or illustration of it. This is a minor gripe, of course — there’s not room in the book for every possible permutation, but I would have liked to be able to picture a couple of the tech details he mentioned.

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The book, as you can see from the example above, is a visual feast — the photographs and illustrations within are crisp and richly detailed. Complex structures are broken down and labeled to facilitate understanding, and Hallett’s expertise in presenting all this information is apparent. While the subject matter is highly technical, the author doesn’t get bogged down in overly complex technical jargon, making this book very accessible to cyclists of all experience levels.

The Bike Deconstructed is another great addition to your cycling bookshelf — I was happy to have it during my recent move to the nation’s capital, where the book kept me company in a variety of anonymous hotels and empty houses until my relocation was complete. The book is available directly from the publisher, or can be purchased from a variety of online booksellers. It retails for $29.95.

Riding in unpredictable weather

Tips for Cycling in Unpredictable Weather

Although summer is well on its way, which means sunny (and sweaty!) rides, there are many places where the hottest season can be unpredictable. England for example, is well known for its constant weather variability. The typical ‘British Summer’ is characterized by unexpected showers and bursts of hot sunshine where everyone cuts back on clothing all of a sudden. If you’re one of the unfortunate ones, and this sounds like the summer time where you are, here are some important tips for cycling during an unpredictable season.

Have a Base Layer
You might associate layering with colder, winter weather but layers can also work wonders in warmer weather too. It’s worth investing in a comfortable and high-quality base layer that is both breathable and insulating, as the cutting-edge material technology that is on the market nowadays can work with your body to naturally adapt to different weather conditions. With a base layer you can also add or remove other layers on top according to your comfort level and temperature.

Arm and Leg Warmers
In the summer months, you’ll probably want to keep to cropped cycling pants or shorts and t-shirts or more sleeveless tops. These are great in hot weather but when it starts spitting or getting windy all of a sudden, you need to be able to adapt. Keep some leg and arm warmers to hand to stop off and slip on just in case it gets chilly or you need some extra coverage.

A Lightweight Mac
For any outdoor activity or exercise, it’s imperative to have a lightweight, manageable and comfortable waterproof jacket that you love. Especially when riding to and from work, you need to keep protected just in case the clouds start rolling in. Look for the right material and be sure that is has tight, taped seams to stop water getting in. Mesh lining is an important feature as it allows sweat to escape but look out for too much mesh, as this can make the jacket bulky. One of the best features of waterproof cycling jackets is the dropped tail that covers your lower back and derriere from those dastardly mud splashes, so be sure to look out for that too!

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A Protective Bag

Don’t let your important documents, clothes and snacks get soggy on the way to work! To protect you from the wind, mud and rain, be sure to grab yourself a good waterproof bag cover that fits securely over your rucksack. There are plenty of different covers on the market and you can even buy a separate waterproof bag for all of your belongings to save fiddling with the bag cover.

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Preparation is key if you don’t want to end up arriving at your destination looking like you’ve been dunked in the nearest pond. Make sure you have all the precautions in place and check-up on the weather conditions regularly for enjoyable cycling this summer.

Highs and lows for NOLA

Here’s an article that caught our attention the other day. Having spent many a weekend bicycling in the city of New Orleans (N’awlins, or NOLA if you prefer) long before it was really safe to do so, I’ve been watching the city’s development of infrastructure with a keen eye. They’ve got some highlights to share, but also some real bummers going on:

New Orleans is a top 10 city for bike commuting, but also ranks in the top 5 for bicycle fatalities, according to a new report. The Alliance for Biking and Walking’s recently released Benchmark Report compiled data for 52 U.S. cities. The Crescent City jumped from 10th to 8th in the number of people who biked to work. According to a repackaging of the data by Vox.com, New Orleans ranked 5th in the number of bicycle fatalities over a two year period.

According to the report, 2.3 percent of cyclists in New Orleans commute to work.

Read the full article by visiting the NOLA Defender page.

Any NOLA commuters out there who might care to comment? Let’s hear it.

Book review: “Rebour” by Rob Van Der Plas & Frank Berto

The French artist Daniel Rebour is perhaps the best-known and certainly the most prolific bicycle artist/illustrator of all time. His works appeared in advertisements, magazines, product catalogs, and wherever else one could find detailed component and bicycle drawings. If you’re a fan of vintage bicycles and components, it is almost certain that you’ve seen the masterful technical illustrations of Daniel Rebour.

In Rebour: The Bicycle Illustrations of Daniel Rebour (San Francisco: Cycle Publishing/Van Der Plas Publications, 2013), authors Rob Van Der Plas and Frank Berto, both mechanical engineers, expose the life and work of Rebour. You may remember Frank Berto from our original book review “Books for Bicyclists”, as he was the author of The Dancing Chain: History and Development of the Derailleur Bicycle. Many of Rebour’s illustrations were used in the publication of The Dancing Chain.

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Daniel Rebour got his start when he was hired as a test rider and illustrator for the motorcycle publication Moto-Revue. He went on to do technical writing for them as well. His detailed technical drawings next appeared in Le Cycle, which expanded its scope to cover mopeds, motorcycles, and scooters as well as bicycles. As I mentioned earlier, Rebour’s illustrations were used in the print catalogs and advertisements for some of the biggest French cycling brands, such as TA, Lyotard, Simplex, and Maxi-Car. Rebour’s artwork is exquisite — detailed pen-and-ink drawings of the most subtle details of bicycles and their components. Perhaps my personal favorites are of the cutaway drawings, showing the inner workings of such complex assemblies as bottom brackets and headsets.

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Authors Van Der Plas and Berto provide a brief introduction of Rebour’s work and life, and then the rest of the book is devoted to the illustrations themselves. Brief commentary appears with some the reproduced illustrations. The book is divided into the major components, from derailleurs, to lighting, to suspension systems and tools. It’s pretty clear that Rebour was incredibly prolific with illustrating all aspects of the bicycles and other machines he studied. There’s a lot to enjoy here; the illustrations are wonderfully reproduced, and the glimpses into the artist’s techniques are a joy to behold.

This book is ideal for anyone who appreciates vintage bicycles and components, or those who study illustration and technical drawings. The book retails for around $30 from a variety of online book sellers, and makes a fine gift for the vintage enthusiast in your life.

News from the National Women’s Cycling Forum

The National Bike Summit is in full swing up in Washington, D.C. We’ve got Mir on the case and are hoping for some detailed “insider reporting”. In the meantime, lots of good stuff is going on as part of the National Women’s Cycling Forum, including this discussion on building bike advocacy with some new angles:

The National Women’s Cycling Forum is like a day-long master class in how to infect women and communities with the bicycling bug. For the hundreds of professional advocates and rising-star activists in attendance, there is a ton of great advice and inspiration being offered up. In one session this morning, Cultivating the All Powerful Bike Lobby, we were introduced to several women on the front lines of community-based bike advocacy.

The session was moderated by Leah Shahum, the 13 year veteran leader of the 12,000 member San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. She knows a lot about the bike lobby and the power that can come with putting it to use.

Read the full article by visiting the Bike Portland page.

We’d love to hear from our readers — what are bike advocates doing right? What are we doing wrong? What sorts of techniques do you think we should focus on to take transportational cycling out of the “niche” and make it more acceptable to the mainstream? Please leave your comments below.