Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Velo Orange Polyvalent 4

The Velo Orange Polyvalent in lilac (top) and deep emerald green (bottom). Both images courtesy of Velo Orange blog.
Velo Orange is currently having a presale on its updated Polyvalent frameset.  The retail price is $725, but the presale price is $675. VO expects the presale framesets to arrive in April 2018.

Velo Orange, based in Annapolis, Maryland, is a bike nerd's paradise: So many elegant parts and accessories!  Chris Kulczycki started the company in 2006.  Last year, Chris retired and sold the company to two of his employees, Adrian and Igor.  

With all those wonderful parts, you can build yourself an awesome bike.  It just so happens that Velo Orange sells framesets.

The Polyvalent frameset can be built into a do-it-all bike. Tom wrote about an earlier version of the frameset back in 2010. He wrote that the Polyvalent's "multi-purpose nature makes it perfect for those who can only have one bike." 

Ah, the search for "The One."  The bike that can do everything.  That's literally the idea behind the Polyvalent.  I don't speak French, but VO informs me that "Polyvalent" is French for "many forms."  Magnifique!

VO has been hyping this updated Polyvalent since, well, October 2016,  and November 2016, and October 2017.  They were excited! Now I see why.

This version has double eyelets so you can run your fenders and install your racks.  It's designed for wide 650b tires or even wider 26" tires.  It takes disc brakes. There's room for three water bottle mounts.  You can do what you want with this monster.

Here are the specs:

  • Frameset material: 4130 double butted chromoly steel
  • Fork: 1" threaded
  • Wheel Size: 650B or 26" 
  • Tire Clearance: 650B x 47mm, 26 x 2.3" (either with fenders)
  • Rear Spacing: 135mm
  • BB: English threaded 68mm
  • Brakes: IS mount disc, 160mm
  • Seatpost: 27.2mm
  • Front Derailleur Size: 28.6mm
  • Water bottle mounts: Triple on top of downtube, one set on seattube, one set on underside of downtube
  • Fender bosses: seat stay bridge, chainstay bridge, under fork crown
  • Rear Dropouts: Vertical with stainless steel replaceable hanger
  • Frame Eyelets: Double eyelets on rear dropouts for racks and fenders
  • Internal eyelets on seat stays
  • Fork Eyelets: Double eyelets on fork dropouts for racks and fenders
  • Triple thru-bosses on the blades for lowrider racks
  • Hourglass braze-on for Randonneur or Campeur Racks.
  • Rear Brake Routing: Easy internal routing for rear brake cable housing/hydraulic tubing
  • Ovalized top tube for lateral stiffness and easy shouldering

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Benno Ballooner

Benno Ballooner Men's and Women's 8. Courtesy: Clever Cycles
The Benno Ballooner is available with an 8-speed derailer or internal hub and comes with fenders and disc brakes. Clever Cycles in Portland, Oregon has it for $1,000. You can also find Benno bikes at Conte's in Washington, D.C. and Virginia.

Benno Baenziger co-founded Electra in 1993 (along with Jeano Erforth), which produced cruisers at a time when very few cruisers were available on the market.  In 2014, Electra was bought by Trek.  It's now apparent that Baenziger was not finished designing useful bikes for the rest of us.

The Ballooner, of course, gets its name due to its wide tires (26 x 2.35). Baenziger writes: "Personally, I am not a big fan of skinny tires. I believe that bigger tires provide for a better and more controlled ride."

You can read more about Benno bikes on the Clever Cycles Blog.

Benno offers the Ballooner in both derailer and internal hub versions. Here are the specs for the IGH version:

Frame6061 Aluminum Alloy Frame
ForkCRMO Fork with Investment Cast Lug Crown
Rims/wheelsDouble Wall Aluminum Rims
Tires26”x 2.35” Balloon Tires (60 TPI)
CranksetRetro Aluminum Crankset
Rear derailleurShimano Alfine Internal 8-Speed
BrakesShimano Hydraulic Disc Brakes
PedalsRetro Aluminum

Friday, November 10, 2017

An Interview With Spin Dockless Bikeshare

Ready to ride. Photo courtesy of Spin
In September, dockless bikeshare arrived in Washington, D.C., the city that had already proved that a bikeshare station system can work in North America.  Suddenly, in addition to the red Capital Bikeshare (CaBi) bikes, there were the yellow ofo bikes, orange Spin bikes, silver and orange Mobikes, bright green and yellow LimeBikes, and red Jump! ebikes.  Gear Prudence compared the new D.C. bikeshare options to a bag of Skittles

These new bikes are so-called "smart bikes" that are unlocked using each company's apps. The different brands provide options from single-speeds and 3-speeds to ebikes. The Washington Post test rode four of the bikes and provided its first impressions here

An initial issue with dockless in D.C. was where to park them.  They were found inside Metro stations, CaBi docks, blocking sidewalks. David Alpert suggested that the best place to park them was between tree boxes between the street and sidewalk. We'll see if a parking etiquette takes hold.

The big picture question for D.C. and other cities, however, is whether dockless bikeshare is here to stay. Is this really a thing?  To investigate, we sent some questions to Spin. They were gracious enough to provide some answers. 

Spin Q&A

How did Spin get started?  

Spin is the first company to debut the stationless bikeshare concept in America. Dockless bikeshare did not exist in the U.S. prior to 2017 so it was important to build relationships and educate local government on the benefits first. For example, since there was no pre-existing regulations/permits for dockless, Spin worked with the SDOT’S Kyle Rowe (who they recently brought on to their team internally) to create a landmark permit to allow this innovation to benefit both the government and its citizens.

What has your experience been like with the DC launch? How does it compare with what you've seen in other cities where you operate?  

We knew D.C. would be a perfect fit for dockless bike-share. Washington D.C. is consistently ranked among the top biking cities in the country, has a track record of forward thinking transportation policies, and is a city that teaches all students how to ride a bike. As a city, Washington D.C. has ambitious climate change goals which are in favor of alternative modes of transportation.

The big question I keep hearing about dockless is "aren't these bikes going to be stolen or damaged?" How do you respond to this question?  

Unlike other bikeshare companies, Spin has a dedicated staff on the ground in every city in which we operate to ensure that bikes are conveniently and legally placed. Spin will dispatch a ground operations member within 1 hour between the hours of  9am-7pm to deal with bikes reported as obstructing public right of way, with after-hours requests managed the following morning. Spin users and the general public can also report bikes 24/7 via the website or the app. Thanks to our GPS tracking technology, we can anticipate and prevent bikes from piling up.

We've seen pictures on twitter of damaged bikes. How common is this and how do you deal with this?  
Most people are treating our bikes responsibly and with respect. While there are certainly instances of irresponsible use, it’s up to us to be proactive about addressing those issues, through our ground ops team and through community engagement.

The Spin bikes that I've seen are single speeds, have a front basket, and a chainguard. Is that standard for all of your bikes?  

The bikes are all mostly identical. We tweak them as needed for each landscape. For example, we have a customized bike created just for Seattle to be able to handle that particular terrain. But generally, those features are standard. 

[editor note: Subsequent to this interview, Spin replaced its single speeds with 3-speeds]

Do they all have headlights and taillights?


How do you make a bike "weather proof"?

Spin changes the bikes based on terrain so when the winter comes there will likely be an update.

Your blog mentions "rogue" bikeshare operators. What has your experience been with other dockless companies? Has the competition been fair? Is there a market for multiple dockless companies like we're seeing in DC?  
By rogue bikeshare operators, we mean competitors that enter cities without permission. Spin is dedicated to working closely with cities to establish clear procedures for permitting and a pathway to success that benefits both cities and riders. Essentially we want to complement existing systems in each city versus focus on beating out competitors.

When you come into a city like DC, how do you measure success?

We have been deliberate about rolling out and learning from community feedback, especially in terms of placement. One ways we track success is getting data on the number of rides per bike per day. So far, ridership has been incredible.

Will bikeshare spread from cities to less dense towns and suburbs, or is density the key? 
We are currently launching in cities, however, we are extending our focus to other communities and regions as well. One of our values is equitable transportation, so providing affordable bikes to all underserved communities.  We have recently launched on select college campuses located in more rural areas to bring bikeshare to new areas. Spin’s technology allows for bluetooth connection to unlock and ride the bikes when cellular storage and data are limited, so there’s definitely opportunity to bring the bikes beyond city streets.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Breezer Doppler Cafe

2018 Breezer Doppler Cafe in pearl yellow and black. Courtesy:
The Breezer Doppler Cafe is a butted chromoly steel  650b 11-speed that comes with full fenders.  The MSRP is $1100.

The 650b wheelsize, also called 27.5, has become very popular in the mountain bike world.  At 584 mm, it's the "just right" size for many mountain bikers, in the middle between 26ers (559 mm) and 29ers (622 mm). 650b has also become a popular width for cross and "gravel" bikes.  From a transportation bike standpoint, the advantage of 650b is that it lets you run wider tires for a cushier ride.  Jan Heine of Bicycle Quarterly raves about the advantages of 650b tires in his "remarkable journey of discovery" series.

Another thing to like about this bike is its 11x1 gearing, which means you get plenty of gear options without having to deal with triple or even double chainrings.  This really simplifies the ride.

Finally, I should admit my bias for retro steel bikes.  This one just looks cool.

And while I'm admitting biases, our love for Breezer should be clear by now.  In looking for bikes that met our standards, we started with Breezer.  Our first bicycle post in Feburary 2008 was about the Breezer Citizen.  Our second post was about the Breezer Uptown. Breezer just makes solid transportation bikes, and they keep getting better and better.

There's been a lot of hype about the Doppler Cafe.  Here's a sampling:


Bicycle Times

CX Magazine

Bike Rumor

Where can you find this bike? Check with your local bicycle shop.  In Washington, DC, that would be The Daily Rider.
Sizes49cm, 52cm, 54cm, 56cm, 58cm, 60cm
Color(s)Pearl yellow w/black
FrameBreezer butted-chromoly steel, 44mm headtube, BSA Threaded BB, 142X12 through-axle dropouts
ForkFull-carbon disc, tapered steerer, 12mm through-axle w/rack, fender & side bottle mounts
CranksetForged 1X, 40T
Bottom BracketSealed-bearing, BSA
Front Derailleurna
Rear DerailleurSRAM Apex 1
ShiftersSRAM Apex 1, 11-speed
CassetteSRAM 1130 Powerglide, 11-42 11-speed
ChainKMC X11
Wheelset650Bx32H WTB STP i23 TCS disc, tubeless compatible, sealed bearing hubs, 14gSS spokes
TiresWTB Horizon, 650x47mm wire bead
BrakesetTektro HD-T285 hydraulic disc, 160mm rotor
Brake LeversTektro HD-T285 Hydraulic
HeadsetFSA 1 1/8", No.10 internal, 36° ACB-sealed, 6.5mm aluminum top cover
HandlebarBreezer Sweeper Bar, 680mm width, 25Deg backweep
Stem3D-forged 6061 stem body, +/-7°
TapeBreezer Ergo cork
SaddleWTB Volt Comp 142x265, steel rail
SeatpostBreezer, 6061 alloy, 27.2mm diameter
FendersStainless fenders w/ struts
Taillight na
Rear Carrier na
Drive Unitna
Weight29.45lb/13.39kg(size 56)

*Spec subject to change without notice
Size(Semi-Compact Frame)
49cm 52cm 54cm 56cm 58cm 60cm
Seat Tube, Center to Top A 49 52 54 56 58 60
Top Tube, Effective C 508 534 555 565 585 600
Head Tube Length D 100 120 145 160 175 190
Seat Tube Angle E 75° 74° 73° 73° 72.5° 72°
Head Tube Angle G 70.5° 71° 71.5° 71.5° 71.5° 72°
Chainstay Length H 450 450 450 450 450 450
Wheelbase I 1025 1038 1047 1067 1070 1077
Bottom Bracket Drop J 68 68 65 65 62 62
Fork Offset K 50 50 50 50 50 50
Stack M na na na na na na
Reach N na na na na na na
Standover O na na na na na na
80 90 100 110 110 120
Handlebar Width
40 42 44 46 46 46
170 172.5 172.5 175 175 175
Wheel Size
700c 700c 700c 700c 700c 700c
Seat Post Diameter
27.2 27.2 27.2 27.2 27.2 27.2

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Electra Townie Commute 8D

Electra Townie Commute 8D in "aubergine." Courtesy:
The Electra Townie Commute 8D is a steel 8-speed that goes for about $770 (available in the Washington, DC area at Spokes Etc., Revolution Cycles, The Bike Lane and other fine stores).

In its Townie Commute series, Electra offers 8-speed or 27-speed bikes that have all the essentials for commuting or utility cycling: 2-inch wide Schwalbe Frank tires, integrated front and rear racks, fenders, chainguard, and dynamo-powered lights. It even comes with a bell!


Frame: Townie Commute 6061-T6 Aluminum w/Patented Flat Foot Technology
Fork: Hi-Ten Steel Uni-Crown, Straight/Tapered Leg 
Headset: 1 1/8" Steel Threaded/Semi-Integrated 
Rims: Alloy 700c x 32h w/Machined Sidewall 
Spokes: 14 Gauge Stainless/Brass Nipples 
Front Hub: Shimano Nexus Dynamo 32h 
Rear Hub: Alloy Low Flange 32h w/QR 
Tires: Schwalbe Fat Frank 700 X 2.0" Balloon w/Puncture-Resistant Kevlar® Guard Casing, 67TPI 
Crankset: Forged Alloy 170mm 
Pedals: Alloy Platform w/Non-Slip Rubber Tread 
Shifter: Shimano Acera Rapid Fire Plus 
Rear Derailleur: Shimano Tourney 8-Speed 
Cog: SRAM 8-Speed 11-32T 
Chain: KMC 1/2" x 3/32" Anti-Rust 
Brake Levers: Alloy Reach Adjustable
Saddle: Ergonomic w/Shock-Absorbing Elastomers 
Seat Post: Alloy 27.2mm X 300mm 
Handlebars: Alloy Custom Bend 24.8" Width/3.5" Rise 
Stem: Forged Alloy 25.4mm Quill 
Grips: Ergo-Shaped Hand-Stitched Leatherette 
Extras: F&R Spanninga Dynamo Led Lights, Internal Cable Rounting, Rust Resistant Hardware