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Tag Archive: utility bikes

Interbike 2013: Electra’s new e-bike

Electra’s big news at Interbike was the release of their Townie Go! e-bike:

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This pedal-assist bike, featuring SRAM’s E-Matic System, seems like a no-brainer for the urban bikes juggernaut. When we received the press release on the Townie Go! prior to our trip to Las Vegas, we wondered, “why didn’t Electra jump on this sooner?” A pedal-assist kit seems the perfect fit for the Townie. In any case, we’re glad to see Electra got into the e-bike market with this model. It’s available in men’s and women’s versions, with color-matched fenders, dynamo front hub, cargo rack, and a lot of other utility-friendly features.

We didn’t get a chance to ride the Go! out in the Paddock…we simply ran out of time. Hopefully we’ll be able to get our hands on a tester to share with you at some point.


Interbike 2013 Coverage Proudly Sponsored by Black Tiger Jerky
Black Tiger Jerky

Interbike 2010: Smart City Bikes

On display at the Interbike 2010 trade show were many fully-appointed city bikes — bikes that would be quite suitable for utility cycling trips such as lengthy commutes, light cargo-hauling and all-around transportation. A lot of the bikes we noticed in this category come with fenders, rack mounting points and other features that make them quite desirable for someone looking for a versatile rig. Take a look at some of the bikes:

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This one from Salsa Cycles comes with a nice front rack and mounts for fenders and a rear carrier. Nice!

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Here’s an Electra Ticino in a “mixte” style…beautiful hammered-finish fenders and all the mounting points one could ask for.

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Another Electra Ticino…this one in a more traditional diamond-frame format. Same great features as the mixte bike above.

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This is a Velo Orange “Polyvalent” frameset…but one that could be built up into quite a versatile machine…rack points front and rear, upright and stable rider position and great looks without being too flashy.

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Pashley had a huge display…while their bikes are rather expensive, they come with a lot of desirable features such as generator hubs and lights, racks and full-coverage fenders.

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Our friends at Urbana had a great display…all the colors of the rainbow in their sturdy, versatile bikes. We did a review of one of their models a few months ago, and with a little luck we will be testing their electric-assist version in the coming months. A quick look at the e-version suggests it’s going to be a hit — they didn’t cheap out on the e-assist kit they chose.

There were many many more…and I’ll get photos up in the coming days. Things are hopping for the urban utility bike segment!

More Amazing Utility Bikes

A couple weeks ago, I posted a set of YouTube videos that showcased some of my favorite wacky “utility bikes”.

That posting caught the eye of one of our astute readers, who forwarded us a link to an amazing article on the Designboom blog. The article is a showcase recently held in St. Etienne, France — consisting of sustainable human- and solar-powered utility bikes, from electric-assist tricycles to a solar-powered DJ booth to my favorite, the rolling human-powered bike shop:

bike shop
(photo from the Designboom article)

Spin on over to read the full article and to gaze upon some of these wondrous creations.

Utility Bikes from Another Dimension

As you may know, the folks at Bikecommuters.com are big fans of utility bikes — bikes that can haul a load of groceries or people; bikes that are more than just a pretty face.

But, there are inventive and talented builders out there who are taking the concept of a utility bike, throwing in a dash of artistic flair, sprinkling on some mad fabrication skills and rolling out on some really incredible human-powered machines. I’ve collected a handful of my favorites to share with you:

1) The Picnic Table Bike

2) The Waffle Bike:

3) The Pole Dance Bike, from the fertile minds at Poleriders (probably not the best blog to visit at work; there’s some suggestive photography on here that your boss may not appreciate):

4) The Drum Bike:

5) The Couch Bike:

Green Tuesday: Birth of an Xtracycle, Part Two

Last week, we presented the first part of an Xtracycle build…and left off with the attachment of the rear wheel. The rest of the assembly is fairly easy, as long as you are comfortable measuring, cutting and running new cables and casings and adjusting brakes and shifting systems. Otherwise, a trip to your local bike shop might be in order for professional assistance.

Let’s finish this thing up, shall we?

For those of you running disc brakes with your Xtracycle, the FreeRadical kit requires an 203mm/8″ rotor on the back wheel. So, a disc swap is needed if your rotor is smaller than the requirement. Pop the back wheel out of the FreeRadical and replace the disc with a larger one.

disc swap

Whatever you do, DON’T do what I did — in my excitement, I didn’t seat the Torx T25 wrench deeply enough in one of the rotor bolts and rounded it off. So, I spent an extra hour trying to remove the bolt…first with a slightly larger Torx key, then a drill and a “screw out” bit. Finally, after nothing else worked, I cut a large screwdriver slot in the remains of the bolt head and eased it out with a hammer-powered impact driver.

Ok, with that out of the way, place the rear wheel back in the FreeRadical’s dropouts. Now, if you have a repair stand, suspend your bike to give you a better position to complete the build. The next three steps are easy:

1) Bolt on the rear brake body (or V-brake/cantilever arms) and the rear derailleur, greasing all bolts with lube or antiseize as you go:

brake and derailleur on

2) Bolt on the rear fender, if you’re using one:

fender

3) Bolt on the supplied kickstand to the mounting plate welded to the FreeRadical frame:

kickstand

Now, it’s time to string some new cables. First, measure and cut an appropriate length of casing for the rear brake. Install it using the bike frame’s cable guides and extra zipties if needed. Run the cable through the casing and attach it to the rear brake. If there’s a way, see if you can keep the casing one continuous piece — that lessens water intrusion and the inner cable will last longer because of it. This isn’t an option on all bikes, but with a few extra zipties, you might be able to pull it off.

cable and casing

On the other side of the bike, measure and cut appropriate lengths of derailleur cable housing and run them back to the rear derailleur. Thread the inner shifter cable through and attach to the derailleur. Most of the time, the cable housing will be cut into several pieces to run between cable stops on the bike’s and the Xtracycle’s frames. You may need a couple zipties to keep the casing secure as it travels back to the derailleur. Finally, be sure to use “linear” housing for the derailleur to ensure crisp shifting…it’s a long run of cable and any slop will be magnified if you just use brake casing. Xtracycle supplies lengths of the appropriate casings for each application in the build kit, though, so don’t worry!

derailleur casing

Next, add the Xtracycle-supplied piece of chain to your bike’s existing chain and size the chain for your application. If you’re not familiar with proper chain sizing technique, the folks over at Park Tool have an excellent tutorial. I wound up using all but one complete link of the extra piece of chain for my build.

chain

Guess what? All the tricky building steps are behind you! We’re in the home stretch now, so take a break, crack open another beer if that’s your thing and relax for a few minutes.

Ok, now it’s time to adjust the brakes and rear shifting mechanism. Again, if you’re not familiar with these tasks, Park Tool comes to the rescue again with a derailleur/shifter adjusting tutorial and a good series of brake tutorials.

Here’s a completely optional step — get your “house elf” to doublecheck the drivetrain for smooth performance. Despite his lack of clothing, he gave the drivetrain a thumb’s up. It worked flawlessly!

naked house elf

Make sure the rear derailleur shifts cleanly and the brakes do what they’re supposed to do, then pull the bike out of the stand and rest the assembly on the kickstand you installed a little while ago. Now, slip the V-racks into the upright sockets of the FreeRadical frame, strap the attachment straps in their appropriate places (consult the Xtracycle assembly instructions for specifics — it’s not as intuitive as it sounds, and proper strapping is crucial to a long bag life), snap on the Snapdeck and voila! You have just completed your Xtracycle build — congratulations!!!

the complete rig

All that’s left now is to go for a spin. If you’re anything like me, you’ll return from your shakedown cruise with a huge grin on your face!