Urban Velo

Motorcycles of Interbike (The E-Bikes Are Here)

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Bicycles equipped with motors have been a part of the landscape since shortly after bicycles themselves first appeared. It’s a natural leap for many that a bicycle, while fun and wonderful, would just be so much better if you didn’t have to pedal it uphill, or at all. Back in the 1890s we coined a term for overbuilt bicycles with motors — motorcycles. In the time since bicycles and motorcycles have gone in different directions based on the power disparity between the two, with bicycles gaining dedicated on-street lanes, off-street facilities, and rules and regulations that take into account the human powered scale of a bicycle as compared to the speed of mechanically powered vehicles.

Some would have you believe that human powered bicycles are going to be left behind by electric bikes. A significant amount of floor space is certainly devoted to e-bikes at the major bicycle tradeshows, even if the vibe surrounding them is more homeshow booth salesman as compared to the primarily enthusiast-driven bike industry. I’ve heard e-bikes heralded as the solution to the United States transportation problems, the way to get more people on bikes and out of cars, and the future of all things bicycle. Given the choice between seeing cars or e-bikes going past my front door I’ll choose two wheels over four every time, but let’s call a spade a spade and quit pretending that a bicycle with a motor is anything but a class of motorcycle.

Just as bicycles are primarily sold to the general public on weight, e-bikes are sold on power, pick-up and speed over distance they can go. Go into any shop and no matter what the official line is on things, people are picking up bikes to determine which is the lightest and the best choice. With e-bikes it seems to be a common theme that just after stating how it is really a bicycle at heart the pitch quickly gets into speed and power and how long you can ride without having to pedal. Current e-bikes look like an evolutionary link between bicycle and electric city scooter to me, much as early gas powered motorcycles appear to be bicycles with lawnmower engines bolted on. An 80 lb bicycle doesn’t sound like much fun to ride, and neither does a motorcycle with relatively flimsy bicycle components and tires. And from the looks of the above “bikes” that have a crankset as an afterthought or simply not at all, some manufacturer’s too see e-bikes as a stepping stone to fully electric, lightweight motorcycles.

Electric-assist bikes may be the way to get an aging population onto more human-scale vehicles and a way to facilitate moving cargo in urban areas with fewer cars, but I’m certainly not the only one who doesn’t want to see e-bikes in the bike lane or using dedicated off-street bike facilities. The speed disparity of an e-bike zooming silently uphill in the bike lane is simply unsafe to bicycle riders, and while most e-bikes don’t go significantly faster than a skilled and fit bicycle rider can achieve, there is a certain built-in safeguard of fitness and confidence before a bicycle rider can hit 30 mph that is not there when a motor is involved. Imagine novice riders upon e-bikes on sidewalks and rolling downtown redlights at speed and you can begin to see the user conflicts. And don’t even get me started on the craze for e-mountain bikes and the trail conflicts and public access issues that it will surely usher in the first time a politically connected equestrian notices a mountain bike with a motor passing them by.

Legislation needs to be drafted to draw the line between an electric-assist bicycle and a throttle twisting electric motorcycle before cycling access takes a step backwards. We’re on the precipice of big things in human powered transportation and no matter what role electric-assist bikes may play in the future, in my opinion it’s important to not allow electric motorcycles to jeopardize the political gains bicycles have made in the past decade.

Behold a selection of e-bikes below, some with throttles and some with electric assist speed/power regulators, some for the urban landscape and some for skirting dirt bike regulations. Have a different opinion on e-bikes? Leave it in the comments or submit a guest editorial to brad@urbanvelo.org.

Cinelli Hobo GEO – Off The Grid

The Cinelli Hobo GEO is the latest in the Hobo line of adventure bikes, taking it further offroad with mountain bike touring sensibilities. Check out the latest video from Lucas Brunelle of navigating the Darien Gap between Panama and Colombia, and some images of the GEO we caught at Interbike.

Bamboobee Build It Yourself Bamboo Bicycle Kit – $170

image00 Bamboobee produces their own complete bamboo and aluminum bicycles, and using what they’ve learned over the past couple of years is ready to introduce a Build It Yourself bamboo bicycle kit. Each kit will ship with a single use jig, a complete set of bamboo tubes, stainless dropouts, an aluminum headtube and bottom bracket shell, and all of the hemp twine and wire you need to complete the project. The amazing part is that the planned crowdfunding price is just $170 for a single kit, making it a tempting purchase no matter how many project bikes are already in the garage. I’d be willing to bet this kit will be very popular, I know I’d love to tinker with one — why not? See more details at Prefundia.

Maniacc Dblocks Beastmode Wheelie King

“I play chicken with a Mac Truck.” This guy has the wheelie gene for sure, and potentially a death wish.

Taiwan: The Bicycle Kingdom

The Financialist recently published this article on what the expected growth of the bicycle industry over the next five years means for the Taiwanese economy, Taiwan: The Bicycle Kingdom.

The global bike market is expected to grow from $51 billion in 2014 to $65 billion in 2019 – a 5.2 percent annual increase – according to a report by NPD Group.

China, the world’s largest producer of bicycles, stands to benefit from the increased demand. But it won’t be the only one. Although the country produces 67 percent of the world’s bicycles, most of them are low-end units that sell for less than $100 apiece. The real winner is actually Taiwan.

Instead of engaging in a race to the bottom, Taiwan’s largest bicycle makers instead ceded the low end of the market to China and began shifting their focus to mid- and high-end bikes. As a result, the average selling price of Taiwan’s bikes has increased nearly five-fold over the past decade, and the island’s total bike exports nearly tripled, to $1.2 billion in 2009 from $480 million in 2002.

Read the full article at www.thefinancialist.com

Samuel Arechiga’s Interbike 2014 Video Recap

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Interbike 2014 Image Dump Part 2

Interbike 2014 Image Dump

cory-1 Interbike 2014 is upon us, and we’ve been roaming the floor kissing bicycle parts and shaking babies. Check out the latest and look for more detailed product highlights in the coming days and weeks.

Cory the Courier says, “I’m real fast.” Check out our first Interbike gallery installment below. Be sure to click through our Eurobike gallery from just a few days back as well.

The Dawn of Cycling Culture in Belarus

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July, 26th marked an important milestone in the history of Brest, a city on the southwest of Belarus, right at the EU border as there happened to be the first-ever cycling festival. The date was carefully chosen as the festival happened simultaneously with the City’s Day, when Brest celebrated its 995th birthday. The event didn’t come out of the blue as cycling community of Brest started promoting it late winter, but it was a brand-new experience for Belarus. If bike riders want to make a step beyond urban commuting or weekend countryside tours (which are extremely popular with the youth) – why don’t we grant them such opportunity? That is probably what the city’s executive committee and the regional sports club thought when organizing the festival.

As the hosts claimed, the festival was truly international: apart from the local riders, cycling lovers came from countries nearby – Czech Republic, Lithuania, Poland, Russia and Ukraine. Want to feel global to a bigger extent? The hosts later said there were a couple of participants from Switzerland and even Australia (though I failed to meet them).

I wonder if the central railway terminal has ever seen so many bikes at the same time – more than a hundred people came from Minsk, the capital city, which is around 215 miles away. The first riders began to arrive early morning, so that they could get some feel of the old Brest and warm up before the event. However, it was neither a marathon, nor a serious race – pure joy filled every inch of the 6.5-mile main route and every moment of the opening, which took place in the 19th-century Brest Fortress. Teenagers on a fleet of MTBs, middle-aged men on road bikes (almost no hipsters on polished fixies, though) – the fortress and its surroundings looked much more vibrant than on a typical weekend.

The hosts were aimed to get at least 995 participants in honor of the city’s birthday, and they did: the number of cyclists who officially registered exceeded 1300 people. Which is all right as the first experience for a city with about 330,000 inhabitants in a country that is less bicycle-friendly than most of Europe, let alone Denmark or Germany.

Some people claimed to be disappointed due to the absence of workshops, entertaining competitions or performances of professional riders. I hope these points will be included into the next big event in Brest, which is due to kick off in September, on the World Car Free Day.

Words and images contributed by Pavel Mylinkov, currently based in Smolensk, Russia, a day’s travel from Brest, Belarus.

Put Some Antlers On It

eurobike_antlers-4 When I think of bikes, I think of antlers. Bar ends on bar ends flying down the path, skipping through the trees with the grace of a moose.

Along with skittle thug, the latest in Eurobike style is antlers or horns, the perfect branding accessory to set yourself apart from the rest of the same. Show your organic roots and love of nature’s design with a single accessory. Throw the horns, sell some stuff. Put some antlers on it.

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