Urban Velo

Chrome Victor Urban Utility Belt Review

chrome_victor-7 The Chrome Victor Urban Utility Belt is a beyond miniature messenger bag, meant to hold the bare essentials when you don’t need a full backpack or want to deal with on-bike bags. Over the shoulder or fanny pack style, the $85 Victor is essentially a set of secure jersey pockets when you’re wearing more casual clothes that may not have pockets at all. It is just large enough to carry a phone, basic tool kit and small camera or wallet, maybe even a very compact windshell, but not much more. The small size is what keeps it useful, preventing one from stuffing it full of the clutter that collects in a larger bag, but an accordion bottom in the main pocket would hold more without making the bag much larger. As it stands, a couple of tubes, a multitool and a wallet can quickly max it out. The buckle closure on the phone pocket is great, but more overlap on the flap for protection in steady rain would be good for peace of mind. Get creative with the reflective daisy-chain mounting loopsstrap a pump to the outside, run a mini u-lock through them as a holster, attach a blinkie for night safety. The Chrome seatbelt strap is useful and secure, and heavy and made of metal, and contributes to a total bag weight of 520 g (the buckle alone is approximately 200 g). It’s a useful bag, great for short in-town trips where a full-sized bag is just excessive. For more capacity in a similar form factor check out the Chekhov Rolltop Utility Belt.

Green Guru The Hauler Convertible Saddle/Shoulder Bag

Large saddle bags are all the rage for bikepacking, and they almost make as much sense for in-town commuting, if only they could be easily carried off-bike. The Hauler from Green Guru is an interesting take on the saddle bag — unlike many bikepacking focused bags, the bag holds it’s shape off the bike, and has a pair of eyelets and a removable shoulder strap for portage. Easy on, easy off, pretty good looking design that should fit most bikes out there with enough seatpost showing. Like everything else Green Guru, the Hauler is made from recycled and repurposed fabric and tubes. Check out their Kickstarter for more info and to pre-order at $100.

Kona Growing Up Cross

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Kona has long been involved in the end-of-year insanity known as cyclocross. This video follows three Kona cross racers from age 9 to 33. Two racers from Rad Racing NW, one of the top youth development cycling programs in the US, to Kona Team rider Helen Wyman, one of the top female cross racers in the world. Even if you’re not into ‘cross or racing in general, seeing kids that are into it is awesome.

Cycling Legalese: Steel Road Plate Dangers

bkevinides Steel road plates are commonly used to cover trenches dug in a roadway for utility work, and are particularly dangerous to bicyclists. Most everyone has a story about them — a friend once fractured his eye socket due to a gap between plates. Everyday cyclist and Chicago based injury lawyer, Brendan Kevenides helps to fill us in on what some local ordinances require of steel plates and what can be done about them.

Q: There are steel plates all over the city where I ride. They are dangerous, especially when they are wet. Are there any rules protect bicyclists from the hazards they pose?

Steel road plates suck. Ask any urban bicyclist and they will tell you from experience about steel plates. They are often not installed flush with the pavement or at least with ramping around there edges. Many times they shift so that dangerous gaps exist between them and the street, or between two or more plates. Even when they are installed correctly they get very slippery when wet. But it does not have to be this way. In fact, it is not supposed to be that way at all. There are standards in place which prescribe the properties of steel road plates and how they are to be installed.

Steel plates are generally used to cover trenches dug in the roadway — often by utility companies — to allow traffic to use an area during off work hours while construction is ongoing. Steel is generally used because it is tough yet elastic. It can take the heavy loads from motor vehicle traffic without breaking. However, for bicycle traffic, not to mention pedestrian and motorcycle traffic, they pose hazards. In light of that some local departments of transportation have adopted guidelines and specifications regarding how they are to be used. For example, in Chicago companies utilizing steel plates to cover areas that have been excavated must use plates that are “safe for pedestrians, bicycles and vehicles.” Plates must be installed so that gaps “between adjacent plates must be no greater than 1/2 inch.” When they are placed in a bicycle lane they “must be orientated perpendicular to the travel way, whenever possible.” They “must be firmly bedded and secured to the adjacent pavement to prevent rocking or movement.” Steel plates “in the path of bicycle traffic shall have ramps installed” or a plate locking system in place.

The Chicago Department of Transportation’s Rules and Regulations do not make specific reference to plates having anti-skid properties. However, the general requirement that “all plating… be safe for bicycles” arguably covers that issue. Gregory Pestine, a civil engineer with Robson Forensic based in Chicago has stated in his pamphlet, Steel Road Plates & Roadway Surfaces in Work Zones, that “plates should be coated with an anti-skid coating.” Notably, the New York City Department of Transportation requires just that. Its rules require that, “All plating and decking shall have a skid-resistant surface equal to or greater than the adjacent existing street or roadway surface.” According to Guidelines on Motorcycle and Bicycle Work Zone Safety, published by The Roadway Safety Consortium, “Covering steel plates with a material that increases friction helps motorcyclists and bicyclists retain control, especially in wet weather.”

A quick Google search reveals that steel road plates with anti-skid properties are common and easy to come by. But is it just me, or are they rarely seen in the wild? I having been riding in Chicago regularly for a long time and I cannot say I have ever seen a steel road plate that had slip resistant properties or coating. My experience here has been similar to what a group called Transportation Alternatives found in a 2004 study looking into the matter in NYC. It found that 66% of 1006 metal construction plates it looked at in Manhattan were not skid resistant. I am not aware of any similar such study pertaining to Chicago, but I would be surprised if we fared better.

If you see an unsafe plate you should call your city’s 311 service and report it. Very serious injuries can result from plates that are not compliant with safety guidelines. If you are injured due to a slippery or otherwise unsafe plate you may have a viable case against whomever installed it.

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—Disclaimer—
Nothing contained in this column should be construed as legal advice. The information contained herein may or may not match your individual situation. Also, laws differ from place to place and tend to change over time. No reader should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information presented herein without seeking the advice of an attorney in the relevant jurisdiction. This column is meant to promote awareness of a general legal issue. As such, it is meant as entertainment. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.
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45NRTH Fasterkatt Winter Shoe Updates

The cold weather riding season is coming on fast, and there is nothing like dedicated winter cycling shoes to stay comfortable when the temperature drops and the going gets wet. 45NRTH has come on strong with their shoes over the past couple of seasons, with a number of updates on the Fasterkatt for 2015 based on user input.

Dedicated shoes a bit rich for your blood? Check out some other options in the way-back machine to Urban Velo #10, Winter Footwear Solutions.

Touring Japan with Juliet Elliot and Dave Noakes

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Richard Sachs Framebuilding Kits

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Richard Sachs needs no introduction, he’s one of the humble legends of the domestic framebuilder genre and has long offered signature lugs and tubesets for both professional and hobbyist builders. He first designed lugs for a supplier back in 1981, with the first Sachs branded lugs reaching the market in the early 2000s. In order to streamline ordering of the latest oversized Sachs frame bits, tubesets and lugs are now available packaed into kits — enough to make a full frame or fork, just add braze and a lot of hard work. PegoRichie frame kits are available for $280-300, fork kits for $130-150 with a few lug and tubing options each. You may not want to wait the years it takes to get a Sachs frame, but you can get a set of tubes right away if you’ve got the skills to put it together yourself. Check all the details of the kits and individual bits at www.richardsachs.com.

Brompton M6L Folding Bike Review

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Brompton folders are born from the small quarters and extensive public transit system of their London home, a place where indoor space is at a premium and multi-modal transport is key to making it across town on time. Founder Andrew Ritchie was introduced to an Australian folding bike by chance one day, and quickly thereafter began work on what would become the Brompton bicycle, deciding upon the signature method of folding the rear wheel under the bike with the first prototype.

Bromptons all share the same main frame design, with the model numbers designating the chosen options for the bike. The pictured model has an M-type handlebar, a 6-speed drivetrain, and the “L” fender kit optionthe Brompton M6L. The frame, hinges, and many of the small parts are not only designed but fabricated in Brompton’s London factory, making for a truly unique complete bicycle benefitting from years of subtle refinements to the same basic design.

brompton_m6l_s-3Three pivots allow the bike to fold in three basic steps. Unhook the small lever on the rear suspension bumper and the rear wheel swings under the frame as the first step, leaving the bike in a freestanding, partially folded, parked position. Next, release the frame hinge and swing the front wheel back. Finally release and fold the bars down, stow the folding pedal, and lower the seatpost fully to lock the bike in the folded position. The process easily takes less than 30 seconds after a few practice runs, and thanks to the 16” wheels ends with such a compact package (23” x 21.5” x 10.6”) that some have even had success bringing it along as carry-on luggage. The chain and cables conveniently end up to the inside of the folded package.

brompton_m6l_s-2We handed off the Brompton M6L to Ngani Ndimbie, Communications Manager of Bike Pittsburgh, for feedback: “The six speed drivetrain was more than adequate to conquer all of my usual hills, and I was easily able to keep up with conventional bikes while riding in a group. It’s easy to shift gears with the Sturmey-Archer internal three speed hub and Brompton designed two speed external derailleur and shifters. The long stem flexes enough that I never felt comfortable standing while climbing, though wheelies are easy and the bike handles really well once you have time on it. I did sometimes yearn for larger wheels.”

brompton_m6l_s-1“While I’ll admit that I occasionally felt like a dweeb riding around town on the Brompton, that all changed with the Pro Walk/Pro Bike/Pro Place conference where folders proved to be the official bike of active transportation nerds on the go,” Ngani continued. “Folding was easy the first timeI watched a quick video and mimicked the motions. Without the video I folded it incorrectly at least two times, once leaving me getting on the bus with both arms wrapped around an inexpertly folded bike. With use it became easier, and with time it would be second nature.”

brompton_m6l_s-6There is no doubt that the small 16” wheels and long, unsupported stem rides differently than a traditionally constructed bicycle, but after a short adjustment period the Brompton M6L rides reasonably well at city speeds. While plenty of people have ridden a Brompton long distances or even raced them, the small wheels can be harsh with rocks and potholes becoming proportionally bigger as compared to more forgiving, larger diameter wheels. Given the wheel size and design constraints of a folder, you couldn’t ask for a much better handling bike. Expecting the ride of a conventional bike will lead to disappointment, using a folder to ride when or where you otherwise wouldn’t be able to is where a Brompton truly shines. Throw it in the trunk of a car,

brompton_m6l_s-1Brompton is single minded in trying to create the best folding bike on the market. The attention to purpose is clear from the folding action itself to the hinge quality, and on through the small details of a single folding pedal and ancillary wheels to help roll the folded machine through a crowded station. Commuters can easily click bags on and off the headtube mounted cleat, and a rear rack is available to further expand carrying capacity. The quick folding action is key to using the bike as intended on mass transit and in and out of buildings, with an open-bottom bag available to disguise the bike as just another piece of luggage in less-than-bike-friendly businesses and workplaces.

Bromptons are premium folders, but are priced competitively as compared to other UK or USA-made bicycles, with complete bikes starting around $1200, and the M6L as tested coming in at $1625.

All-City Out There

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Cities are great to live in, bicycles are great ways to escape. All-City gets out there.

Swobo Scofflaw

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The $1249 Swobo Scofflaw is meant to take you off the beaten path where some mustachioed man can question your presence. The Reynolds 531 steel frame features a tapered carbon fork, Avid BB7s disc brakes, sliding dropouts and fender mounts for the commute. Clearance for up to 42 mm tires lets you put some meaty treads on, and while the complete bike ships as a single speed it comes equipped with a cassette hub, narrow-wide chainring and derailleur hanger — ready for a 1x setup. This looks like a great bike to get lost on all day, or for a quick city lap with friends come nightfall. Great platform to ride as is, or build up and upgrade as you go. With full length housing mounts, it wouldn’t be that hard to have an alternate geared setup that only takes half an hour of wrenching to swap. Pre-order today for $50 and get one when they become available in January 2015.

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