Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Unexpected downside to e-bikes

From this article in The Guardian I see that the rate of deaths among cyclists in the Netherlands has increased sharply in the past year. The majority of the increase comes from elderly gentlemen (65+) who overestimate their ability to ride e-bikes.

E-bikes are certainly cheaper to buy and run than cars and more convenient in many ways. They can travel at 20mph and are a great way to move around town. It seems many of these fatalities are caused by the difficulty of mounting and dismounting heavy e-bikes as well as failing to realize that hitting things at 20mph is actually quite dangerous.

I have to wonder exactly how much cycling is actually being done here. I suspect these e-bikes are being treated as electric scooters and that very little cycling is occurring. The article doesn't go into the health benefits obtained by having septuagenarians on bicycles in any depth.

Pete could teach them a thing or two!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Bicycle themed license plates

Did you know the State of California is going to introduce a bicycle themed license plate and they want you to vote on your preferred graphic. They claim fees will go towards bicycle infrastructure funding (yeah, right).

There's a Facebook page for discussion and a survey to register your preference.

I rejected the bear graphics because they're too cartoonish and make bicycles look like toys. I liked the poppy and sea/sun graphics but I felt the bicycles were too de-emphasized. In the end I opted for the Healthy California graphic.

Take a look and make your choice.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Test ride of Catrike Dumont

After last week's evaluation of three different folding, suspended, recumbent tricycles I took my favorite, the Catrike, out for a long spin today. Dana, of Bent-up Cycles, lent me one of his so I could take it for a longer ride.

I drove over to the San Gabriel trail head in Duarte and rode down the bike trail to El Monte and back. I wasn't too worried about my speed because it was so hot I knew I was going to ride slowly. I was more concerned with the comfort of my backside and shoulder. I'm very pleased to say that neither of them bothered me. It was a very enjoyable ride.

The width of the bicycle was a concern at first. I have about a foot on either side of the front wheels while on the bike path. I noticed a distinct power-wobble - when I applied power I moved an inch or so from side to side. It was disconcerting when I had so little room for error.

It seems I was over-steering. The steering is so sensitive that all you really need is a little pressure on the wrist pads. I didn't really need to hold the steerers at all. When I realized this I found it very easy to follow a smooth, straight line. I only needed to use the steerers on very tight corners.

I'm used to two wheels in the same line. Dodging potholes on the Dumont is almost impossible. At least one of the three wheels is going to go over any moderately large hazard. Thank goodness for suspension and Schwalbe tires.

Even though it was far hotter than my comfort zone, I found the action of the wind along my entire body was quite refreshing and kept me feeling cooler than my regular bike would have. This effect might not be so great when it's cold, though. The sweat, sunblock, and recumbent position turned me into a giant fly paper. I was covered in them.

My ride started on the flat and I held 15mph with roughly the same effort that would have got me 17mph on my bike. There's a steep descent (6%) that got me over 25mph quickly. I would have gone much faster but I had to limit my speed due to unfamiliarity with the trike. I came back up at 3.8mph which is probably about the same speed I would have climbed on my bike considering it was now over 95F. With the gears available on the Catrike, the climb was not strenuous.

The seat was incredibly comfortable compared to the recumbent bike I used to own. I put a bath towel on the seat to protect it from my sweat but I doubt that improved comfort. It's a well designed seat and the suspension and fat rear tire (32mm) improved it even more. The rear tire can go up to 50mm with the mudguard and more without it. That would be a very plush ride.

The Dumont has a pouch under the seat for a small bike pump like the Topeak Morph and a second pouch for flat repair and small tools. Carrying food, clothes, etc is going to take some thought. The bottle mounting position isn't very good - I can't see ever being comfortable using it while riding in a group. You can buy a side mount bar that you can mount bags or water bottle cages on. That would be really convenient.

It was almost 100F by the time I got back to Duarte. Yuck.

I'm going to try my Night Audax 200k in September on my regular bike. If I have any shoulder pain I will be buying one of these beauties.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Reviews of three folding, recumbent trikes with suspension

You wouldn't think there would be a whole lot of choice of folding, recumbent, suspension tricycles but these are starting to become quite popular. I have injured my shoulder and it looks like it may never recover to the point where I can ride a 200k so I'm looking for ways to keep cycling.

I used to own a recumbent Bacchetta but I was never comfortable pulling away, especially uphill. I also found the seat to be incredibly uncomfortable and, as you can't stand to take the weight off, I had to stop and stand for a few minutes every 20 miles or so. Lastly, I now own a Prius so a regular recumbent is impossible for me to carry.

The trike solves the pulling away issue and I hope the suspension solves the backside issues. The folding feature allows me to easily stow the bike in the back of the car.

I went to Bent up Cycles in North Hollywood. The owner, Dana, takes appointments only but as I'm a repeat customer and an old riding buddy he was happy to fit me into his schedule. He had the three bikes we had discussed ready for me to try. You will notice they all have 26" rear wheels and long wheelbases which is supposed to make them more comfortable than all 20" bikes.

The first was a Catrike Dumont - I liked the yellow one but it comes in quite a few different colors. This is the bike that my online research drew me to.

Catrike Dumont

Dana showed me how it  folds down. It takes about two minutes. You pull the seat off (velcro) and unlock the seat quick release which also controls the seat angle. Then you release the quick release on the main hinge and fold the bike in half. It locks into a folded position and has travel wheels and a kick stand so it doesn't fall over. Set up is just as quick as easy. The hinge is at 45 degrees which means the rear wheel turns as you fold it. All three bikes folded similarly.

I grabbed my helmet and jumped on. Dana joined me on an HP Velotechnic Scorpion, and we went for a test ride.

The first thing that struck me about the Dumont was the stability. I could pull away at any speed I wanted and my line was perfectly straight. You might be able to tell from the photo that it comes with a rear-view mirror. I've never found a mirror for a bicycle that worked for me. It was always too difficult to get the bike or my helmet perfectly aligned for me to see what was behind me. But the trike is so stable that once I adjusted the mirror it was always perfectly aligned. Finally a mirror that works.

I was concerned the extra weigh might make it significantly slower but the more aerodynamic position largely compensates for this. We rode on a flat street, and I'm sure the hills would be more work, but this will fly down them. I would be OK with 10% slower rides - better than not being able to ride at all. Dana suggested replacing the tires with something a little more slick when they wear out. That's a good idea.

Some of the standard features on the Catrike are a rear mudguard, a flag holder and flag, a pump pouch, a tool pouch, a rear view mirror, reversible SPD pedals, computer mount, and wrist supports.

Half way through the ride Dana and I swapped so I could try the Scorpion. I found the Scorpion's steering was too sensitive although that might have simply been because the pedals were too close to me. We quickly swapped back.

After five miles we were back at the store and I tried the ICE sprint.

ICE Sprint
I immediately noticed the seat was not as comfortable as the Dumont or Scorpion and the turning circle was larger. Unlike the Dumont I could not do a u-turn in the alley behind Dana's store. Dana confirmed there was no upgrade option on the seat, so I ruled it out. However I have to say it was very stylish.

What I'd really like to do now is take the Dumont out for an extended ride. Twenty miles up and down the bike path would be idea. I'm also going to have to look for good bag options.

If I can't fix my shoulder to the point where I can ride a 200k I will be buying a Catrike Dumont. They're not cheap, but I made my current bike last 20 years so I'll get my money's worth out of this one too.

Here's a quick summary.

Catrike Dumont
Pros: Made in USA, lowest price, many extra's included, stable steering, manouverable
Cons: Minimal front suspension, no rack option

HP Velotechnic Scorpion
Pros: manouverable, good front suspension
Cons: Made in Germany, expensive, twitchy steering? Everything is extra

ICE Sprint
Pros: Good front suspension, stylish
Cons: Made in UK, uncomfortable seat, poor maneuverability, expensive