Urban Velo

About Krista Carlson

A regular contributor to the print edition of Urban Velo, Krista Carlson is a cyclist obsessed with bike polo, baking, pickles, and all things bike-y. She is a native Angeleno and is madly in love with the city and everything that makes it the beautiful, crazy place that it is.

Cetma – An interview with Lane Kagay

Lane Kagay is the owner and fabricator behind CETMA, and builds racks and cargo bikes in Venice, California. He recently took in his first apprentice, to share his skillset and improve his own production process. It all began 8 years ago when he built himself a rack to ease his work as a bike messenger. Since adding cargo bikes to his line, they have been embraced by parents and business owners to make their lives go a little smoother as well, including the University of Kentucky’s mobile bike shop, a bike rental and delivery business in Austin called Bikes on Bikes, and a coffee delivery business in Montana.

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Anything Could Happen

For many, bikes occupy a huge chunk of their lives. More than just a means of transportation, our bikes give people a way to move around, connect with their communities, and stay healthy. As a result of spending infinite hours in the saddle, cyclists often treat bikes like children: We name them, we groom them, and we protect them with our lives—but just like any good parent, you can’t always be there for your bike.

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I Think I Can. I Think Icon. (Video)

It’s all about the ride.

North American Bicycle Week

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North American Bicycle Week will kick off in Detroit, and in its sister city of Windsor, this Thursday. The four-day event will celebrate the culture and healthy lifestyle of cycling. With so many multi-day bike events staged across the continent, we caught up with co-founder Mike MacKool to get the 411 on the big shindig.

Urban Velo: What sets North American Bicycle Week apart from other large-scale bike events (like Interbike, NAHBS, Sea Otter, etc.)
Mike MacKool: We have always embraced the rider, in all forms, so we naturally tend to organize around the culture, the social aspect, and community growth through riding bikes together.

We also created a consumer show with an open market—not a lot of larger trade shows allow people to purchase on site. We see the NoAm Bike Week and Detroit Bike City EXPO to be not only where manufacturers and suppliers can meet, but where everyday people can enjoy buying a bike. Plus a lot more riding, music, parties, group rides and races.

UV:What prompted you to organize an event of this scale?
MM: We started Detroit Bike City a few years ago, knowing that we wanted to create something big like the Auto Show, but for bikes. After two successful shows at Cobo Center and an incredibly successful 2013 season of Slow Roll, we felt it was the perfect time, for us and for Detroit.

UV: So the previous Detroit Bike City events were precursors to NoAm?
MM: Yes.

The third Detroit Bike City Expo will return to the Cobo Center on Saturday, March 29. Check out the North American Bicycle Week event schedule and more at NorthAmericanBicycleWeek.com.

#CrashtheCrash Marathon Crash Video feat. Aerial Footage

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Marathon Crash Report

An hour before go time.

One hour before go time.

Every Marathon Crash event comes with its own surprises, and this year had its own unexpected circumstance. From the very first one being an impromptu event, announced upon discovery that the longstanding bike tour was no more, to the false start of 2012 and the sudden cancellation of the race this year and last-minute reinstatement of the ride portion of the event.

Who knew that several hundred cyclists would show up to a guerilla street race at 3 am? Five years ago, that was the lesson to be learned. Five years later, and the Crash Race Ride continues to be educational. Perhaps the biggest lesson this year is that the passion to ride is a powerful force. That’s what the City of Los Angeles learned this weekend, when more than a thousand cyclists showed up to ride on Sunday morning.

Even though the race was cancelled, local and visiting cyclists who had marked their calendars for this night long ago, weren’t willing to call off their plans just because they didn’t have the city’s support. After all the ground that race organizer Don Ward aka Roadblock had gained over the years, the City Attorney saw the the Crash Race as too big to continue existing without the requisite red tape throwing an event in Los Angeles required.

Here’s how things went down the night of: There were no dog tags, but everyone won (unless you were gunning at a chance at earning a pair of dog tags for risking life and limb in the most chaotic street race – hundreds of riders of novice, amateur and pro status competing for space and speed on semi-closed streets, and couldn’t let go of your dream without bitterness). Competition junkies were able to get their fix on Saturday night, at Hernan Montenegro’s Plan B Alleycat, which provided all of the shenanigans a good race should.

The Crash Ride was easily half the size of the previous year’s, although the number still broke 1,000 cyclists easily. The cops protected every intersection along the route, so riders never stopped once–although the course was somewhat abridged and skipped the section through the downtown area. The Santa Anas blew hot, so this early morning ride was surreal in its warmth–a warmth that describes more than just the weather, as the feeling was familial, with nothing at stake but our Sunday agendas (naps were in order across town).

The ones who trained still could still claim all the strength and skill and personal improvement they had gained, and those who feared the dangers the clusterfuck could breathe a sigh of relief. Some of us stayed up all night, and got a hand up from Daylight Savings, which washed away 2 am in the blink of an eye, and thankfully so, as we were dangerously close to running out of whiskey and balance. Others set alarms for the oddest hours, rolling up to the start still foggy-eyed. To train harder and eat healthier in preparation, or commit to making a marathon out of the night itself, with antecedent adventures and another round to kick off at the edge of the sea, as the sun rises and alcohol wears off.


“Thanks everyone for coming out!” announced Roadblock, sporting a grin big enough to swallow all the anguish of the days preceding. At the end of the line, where the land met the Pacific, he spoke through a megaphone, a high-rise human among a sea of cyclists who just came out to ride, “Who wants to go to the beach?”

And without a doubt, the sunrise was the sweetest reward, as if the ride itself wasn’t a boon enough. I can’t even tell you how many cyclists posted “Best life ever” in their statuses throughout the day on Sunday (a lot).

As for the future of the Crash Race, and the rest of the 2014 Wolfpack Hustle series, here’s what the tall dude had to say:

How was Herbalife able to help out exactly, and what was the status of the agreement with the city (permitted to ride but not race)?
Don Ward: The Wolfpack Hustle Unified Title Series is 3 points races (road crit and drag race) and an invitational track event. With the loss of the Marathon Crash the series only had two points events. Herbalife stepped in and offered enough support to add an additional crit race to replace the loss of Marathon Crash points. We are working out the complete details this week and will announce soon but it looks like they will be title sponsoring our athlete zone. Pretty hyped on that.

What is the likelihood that the MCR will achieve a more official status in the way the bike tour once operated, with full street closure, full city support, and fully permitted?
DW: I think the likelihood is actually fairly high that we can get it done. With the reality that people will crash race no matter what, I think the city will work to keep this event legitimate. My hope is that we can do a chip timed race event followed by the fun ride.

How was your ride?
DW:It was the first time I’ve gotten to actually ride the course in 5 years. I was having a blast riding turtle on my tandem together with my sweetheart and taking in the excitement of riding some if the most famous streets in the world.

March Madness Is Upon Us

 

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With Monster Track, the Wolfpack Hustle Marathon Crash Race, and the first race of Red Hook Crit all packed into the month of March, there will be no rest for the hungry. It all starts in L.A., with the Marathon Crash Race on March 9th. Register at wolfpackhustle.com.

Following the pre-dawn peril that is the Crash Race, next stop on the street race circuit is Monster Track XV, followed by the Red Hook Crit series kickoff in Brooklyn. Sure hope your legs are ready!

Week in Biking : Track Bikes, Tax Benefits and Hot Dropouts

We’re not talking about college dropouts, here; this is about that special place where your rear wheel gets to connect with your frame. While there really isn’t much left to reinvent on the bicycle, dropout systems that add ease and versatility are a welcome development, including these new designs:

  • The new All-City Nature Boy Disc dropout, which features a sliding caliper design that with an integrated chain tensioner for perfect caliper to rotor alignment every time.
  • And Surly wants to help you achieve your dream on One Bike to Rule Them All with its new Modular Dropout System.

Now while versatility is cool, some would argue that nothing beats the pure pleasure of riding track bikes–as the market would attest.

  • Among the latest are the Keirin and Keirin Pro frames from Pure Fix. With stainless steel inserts in the drops (drops on drops on drops), and optional integrated headset and seatclamp, these frames pack a lot of potential for a small chunk of change–$199 and $299, respectively. 
  • Something sexy is underway from Stanridge Cycles: A collaboration with artist Ben EINE for the 2014 Red Hook Crit. Get a sneak peak here.

Whatever kind of bike(s) you ride, if you’re riding to work, you could be cashing in on the bicycle commuter reimbursement. Find out more about how you can put pre-tax cash  in your pocket for commuting by bike.

“Riding in Mumbai is a mess.” Find out why Nikhil Miranda loves riding in the city.

Bomb Squad

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“Bike handling skill and a lack of self-preservation are paramount in this endeavor.” Rules of play at atomiccycles.com.

Taking Advantage of the Bike Commuter Benefit

The bicycle commuting reimbursement was added to the tax code five years ago, in 2009, yet its application has been limited. The tax benefit allows for bike commuters to collect a $20 pre-tax payment from their employers, which can be used toward qualified expenses. According to the IRS, “reasonable expenses” include the purchase of a bike, repairs, improvements and storage; clothing is excluded, and “These are considered reasonable expenses as long as the bicycle is regularly used for travel between the employee’s residence and place of employment.”

A company must choose to offer this benefit to their employees just like any other transportation benefit. Employers benefit by getting a tax deduction for the reimbursement and save in employee pay by providing the same value with less money than through normal wages. As pre-tax dollars, the money can go further in paying for commuting costs than $20 out of a paycheck.

“Let’s say your employer gave you $60 extra a month on your salary–a big chunk of that for most people would go to pay taxes, but because it’s an added benefit it’s not included as part of your salary,” says Torre St. Saviour, marketing manager at Commuter Check, a commuter benefit service for businesses. “This way they’re actually able to get the money directly to you without having to change your tax bracket or how much you pay in taxes.”

Small businesses and companies with few cyclists on their payroll may be reluctant to do the work required–processing receipts and deductions to employee paychecks–but there a number of ways to simplify its implementation. The benefit may be administered by a benefit administrator (such as Commuter Check), a third party payroll agency, or in-house. Commuter Check issues vouchers to employees, which are redeemable at partner bike shops.

“We partner with hundreds of bike shops throughout the U.S. to accept these vouchers as payment for bike maintenance or bike parts,” says St. Saviour. By offering vouchers, employers can provide their employees with the benefit without having to collect receipts under IRS requirements. The voucher includes security features similar to a check and can only be redeemed for specific expenses, eliminating the need to submit receipts as proof.

“If you go to a shop and they don’t accept the voucher you can give us a call and we will work with the bike shop to make them a partner. Usually if a shop is not a partner yet is because there hasn’t been a need in that area.”

The benefit can be distributed to employees at any time. Although the benefit allows for up to $20 per month, it can also be taken on an annual basis, allowing for a simpler process involving less paperwork and time. Meredith Corporation offers cash reimbursement on an annual basis to employees who submit a claim in the form of receipts for qualified purchases made in months during which they commuted by bike at least 10 times.

“At Chatham interested faculty and staff fill out a form and turn in receipts,” says Michael Boyd. Boyd, who is an assistant professor of music at Chatham University, has taken advantage of the tax credit since 2010. “The original idea was to do reimbursements quarterly, though I seem to get a check within a week or two of turning in receipts. The check is comparable to any other reimbursement type of payment.”

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For businesses that wish to provide the benefit monthly, the League of American Bicyclists provides a set of 12 tax reimbursement cards, to which receipts for qualified expenses can be attached and submitted.

A few limitations to the benefit have hindered its use, but when applied it provides pre-tax dollars that can go directly towards bike parts and maintenance. A significant drawback to the bike commuter benefit is the fact that it cannot be offered in addition to any of the other transportation benefits. In 2014 the transit and vanpool credits max out at $130 per month (reduced from $245 in 2013), while the parking credit tops out at $250 a month. Unlike the parking, carpooling and transit benefits, the bicycle commuter benefit cannot be excluded from wages.

“When they pay as a subsidy or the employees take deductions out of their paycheck, the employer is actually reporting to the government a lower salary to you, so they actually pay a smaller amount in payroll taxes,” says St. Saviour.

Independent contractors are not eligible for the credit, and it applies to the use of non-motorized bikes only. More information on the bicycle commuter and other transportation benefits is available from the IRS.

More resources:

Setting up a pre-tax commute benefits program

National Center for Transit Research

City Reports