Urban Velo

PDX Trophy Cup Cyclocross Photo Gallery

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From the genius of Clint Culpepper and Will Laubernds comes the PDX Trophy Cup, a weekly cyclocross race series that takes place at the world famous Portland International Raceway (PIR). Situated just minutes north of downtown Portland OR, PIR is an ideal venue for an early week training race and hangout.

PIR has hosted many cross races before, what sets the PDX Trophy Cup apart is that it takes place during that sweet spot between summer and fall, when the weather is unpredictable and you could get a beautiful sunset as the backdrop to your race or a torrential down pour and muddy, sloppy conditions to add to the already challenging course. Either way you’re going to have fun. Adding to the uncertainty of the weather is that the races begin around dusk with racing continuing well after dark, testing not only your fitness but your sense of adventure. And the courses, these are masterfully crafted and thoughtfully put together by Clint, Will and a handful of dedicated volunteers who give up their Sunday afternoons so everything is ready for Tuesday night. Every week the courses are a little different, taking advantage of the physical features found at PIR. Off cambers are carved, tree lines are taped, barriers laid, sand hills shaped, and sometimes a bit of the adjacent motocross course is incorporated into the fun.

Besides the racing, one of the best things about this series is how people have embraced it. “It gives me something to look forward to on Tuesdays.” said one sweaty participant. The people coming out to race are some of the most enthusiastic I’ve seen and heard in a long time. Most everyone that comes out to race stays until the end of the night to watch, have a beer, and do a little heckling. Did I mention beer? Not a bad way to spend a Tuesday evening. Summer is completely gone and this six race series has come to an end for this season. But a lot of Portland is already thinking about that next Tuesday night race in late Summer 2015.

Words and images submitted by Jose Sandoval. Contact us at brad@urbanvelo.org to submit your image gallery or local news reports.

The Comedown Human Powered Rollercoaster in Glasgow

Photo by Stephen Murray

Photo by Stephen Murray

“Scary the first time,” reports builder Stephen Murray. The artist, sculptor and cyclist behind The Comedown figure-eight track in Glasgow, Scotland just took the first ride on the track this morning after months of planning, design and fabrication work.

The Comedown is reminiscent of the late ’90s Human Powered Rollercoaster that made an appearance at the 1995 Toronto Cycle Messenger World Championships (edited, org text had wrong date), though at a smaller scale. Where the earlier HPR was large enough for two-up racing (video, images) The Comedown is single-file affair.

The idea for The Comedown came from the building of the Sir Chris Hoy velodrome for the recent Commonwealth Games. “We started riding on the velodrome once it was built and chatting about how it was made etc. Then the Red Bull Mini Velodrome, came to Glasgow and my mate John Silvera who is a joiner and cyclist and all round good man raced on it (and folded his wheel and went flying off the side).” Murray said. It wouldn’t be available to the public for the length of the games, and funding was announced from Creative Scotland to fund 20, £14,000 commissions for art projects related to the Games, leading to a quick proposal to make a minidrome for the public during the games. Murray continued, “A week later I was in the pub with John and Brian from Rig Bike Shop which is where all the couriers work from in Glasgow. Anyway Brian told me it was a shit idea to build a minidrome as the Red Bull one already exists etc. But he had ridden the Dunhill one in Canada back in the day and what I should do is make an eight. Which I had never heard of.”

“We were all pretty pissed but I totally latched on to it.”

The funding ended up being approved, and the project kept under the radar until a suitable venue was found. It was originally slated for a warehouse during the Games in June but it fell through last minute, and then the current The Briggait / Wasps location was secured for a narrow window in October. It was scaled to fit the space and budget, and production began. “In my workshop I manufactured all the structural elements as a giant kit, then me and four good mates, John, Rob, Jason and Dom moved it all onsite last Monday. Tuesday we got a 165 sheets of plywood delivered. Since then we’ve assembled the frames and been bespoke fitting every sheet and building laminations up to take the curves,” Murray continued.

STEVE MURRAY POSTER 10“Basically we’re at a point now if someone wanted to step in and back us financily we could go rework the design and build a demountable, raceble, transportable, figure-eight velodrome. We’ve got the whole thing down. We would adjust a lot of things as this has been a massive learning curve and the difference between working in CAD and physically having the opportunity make a 30 m x 12 m x 3.6 m sculptural velodrome is massive. But we’ve fucking done it.”

“Materials is coming in at about £6-7000, rest of budget has gone on paying the right people at the right time to design and to do skilled onsite assembly and bespoking.”

The pictures and Facebook video have left me stunned. It’s a dream I’ve heard many bring up over the years, of seeing the HPR in service again. For a short period in Glasgow at least, The Comedown exists. There is an opening party on October 18th, with the installation in place through November 1st.

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 magnetic closure, 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.

Issue #44 – Available Online

Urban Velo 44Contents include: Fixed Gear Freestyle—It Ain’t Over Yet, New Courier Renaissance, News and Views, Future Bike, The Cincinnati Bikeway Product Spotlight, Interbike and Eurobike Coverage, Product Reviews: Brompton, Kryptonite, Chrome, and more, City Report—Milwaukee, ISO Tire Sizes, Biking With Isa, The Piano Pedaler, and I Love Riding in the City.

Download it for free, purchase it from the Apple Store or order a printed copy online.

Surly Straggler Review

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Shortly after Surly introduced the Cross Check some fifteen years ago, someone chimed in that they wished for a disc brake option. After introducing a bunch of other bikes and “inventing” a category or two along the way, Surly took a sideways glance at their cyclocross bike and gave us the Straggler. It’s like the Cross Check with all of the same rack and fender braze-ons as the current generation, but different. Larger tire clearance, disc brake mounts and a new horizontal dropout design for either single speed or geared drivetrains. And it’s even heavier at 7 pounds for the frameset, give or take an ounce. This isn’t really a bike for someone counting the ounces of anything but their beverage of choice.

surly_straggler-5The Straggler excels at no single thing, but is capable of many. It’s a disc brake ‘cross bike erring towards adventure and utility rather than speed and lightweight. The Straggler has clearance for up to 44 mm wide tire with full fenders, and builds up with as standard components as you can get for a versatile bike that can evolve as your interests change. I decided on a mix of ‘cross and mountain components—a 46/36 crankset, 12-36 cassette, riser bars, top-mount shifters and hydraulic disc brakes—for an all day, all terrain city explorer capable of wherever an aimless ride may steer. It’s 26.5 lbs as pictured, but I didn’t put any thought into lightweight spec, and there are some easy places to trim.

Describing the ride isn’t full of superlatives—it’s well-worn cyclocross geometry tuned for larger tires, “monstercross” as some may have it. The chainstays remain short (430 mm on my 59 cm sample) even with the clearance for large tires, with the ride height kept in check by the 72 mm bottom bracket drop, yielding a very stable ride with smaller diameter road tires, and a bottom bracket height in the normal range with the largest tires that will fit. I’ve not had any issues with my wheel sliding forward in the dropouts even without using the included screw adjusters. It has never felt particularly fast, but it’s a stable ride—the Straggler goes where you point it and keeps at it. What it lacks in speed in makes up for in fun. Rip it through the woods today, bolt on racks and head out for a few day tour tomorrow, ride it to work again next week. About my only wish for the bike would be a third bottle mount under the downtube for when the going gets extra thirsty, and maybe a pump peg.

Over time I’m sure this build will change, and that’s part of the long term plan. Changing tires and dropping the derailleurs doesn’t take much time in the stand, and makes for an entirely different ride experience. There are a lot of parts combinations to build a super commuter or dirt road tourer or something in between on the Straggler platform. Just don’t mistake it for a cyclocross race bike or fast-guy road bike and you won’t be disappointed.

The Straggler frameset is available for $600 in a remarkable ten sizes, 42-64 cm, in either Glitter Dreams purple or Closet Black. Newly announced is the Straggler 650b, a similar flavor in the betweener wheel diameter in eight sizes including the smallest Surly yet, 38-58 cm.

image Second Opinions Count

Sarah Pearman rides her Surly Straggler for transportation, endurance road rides like the 375 mile Crush the Commonwealth, and occasionally on the local singletrack. She had some things to report.

Disc brakes on a road bike are a game changer, especially for me as a small-handed human who has had serious difficulties getting my past bikes to stop with road levers and cantilevers. Given the “standard” frame specs—English bottom bracket, 27.2 mm post, 135 mm rear spacing—I was able to build mine from parts I already had.

Most of my struggles with bikes are related to fit since I’m just barely tall enough to ride a 700c bike and hate toe overlap. The 46 cm Straggler manages not to have toe overlap up to a 32 mm slick tire, which is better than some tiny bikes, but anything larger and I find my frustration level rise.

That’s not to say it isn’t fun with big tires—I can fit skinny 29” mountain tires on it, but it’s even better now that I’ve realized I can fit my 650b mountain bike wheels. It fits a 2.1” up front without significant toe overlap, and 2.0” in the back, for serious monstercross activities. Surly read my mind and just announced the 650b Straggler, which seems like it might fit me even better out of the box.

ABUS Granit Futura Mini U-Lock

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The ABUS Granit Futura Mini U-Lock has been my go-to lock for almost three years now, locking up my bike on streets across the country and throughout Western Europe. Whether making my daily Post Office run or locking up in high theft cities like New York, San Francisco and London, in every instance my bike has been there when I’ve returned, which is perhaps the ultimate positive review.

One only needs a lock better than the next person to avoid theft in most cases, and the sense to only lock to sturdy immovable objects, and with this mini u-lock from ABUS I’m fairly certain that in the vast majority of cases I have the next guy down outgunned. The reputation of German engineering is well-earned, and the family-owned ABUS lock company upholds the lofty national standards. The 11 mm shackle and case are made of a custom formulated hardened steel alloy with a double locking cylinder that requires a thief to cut the shackle twice in order to free the lock without a key. The top-end lock cylinder is pick and corrosion resistant—I’d know, as an unplanned back pocket lock ejection left one of my ABUS Granit Futura locks laying out in the rain and mud for a weekend before being retrieved, and working as well as ever. Each lock ships with a pair of keys and a key code card for additional keys, or for ordering an identically keyed lock. It’s hard to explain how convenient having a pair of u-locks using the same key has proven in high-risk theft areas.

At 690 g the ABUS Granit Future mini is the lightest high security mini-shackle lock I’ve used, beating similar competition by 300 g or more. Be forewarned however that at just 2.75” wide the shackle opening can be impossible to fit around certain parking meters or large diameter signposts other locks slide over. That said, over the years I’ve yet to find myself completely frustrated by the size—quite the contrary, it easily slides into pants’ rear pockets and my backpack and I’d prefer the lighter weight to larger shackle any time. Being made in Germany by well-compensated, dedicated employees with top-end materials and testing comes at a retail price of $85. There are less expensive locks, there are higher security locks, but this one fits my needs just right.

Issue #43 – Available Online

cover43Contents include: I Love Riding in the City, NAHBPC 2014, Amtrak Roll-On Service, Wolfpack Hustle Civic Center Crit, Product Spotlight: Superb, Specialized, Gevenalle, and Brooks, City Report: Antwerp, MPLS Velodrome, Gallery: Kevin Sparrow, Product Reviews: Surly, New Albion, Ilumenox, and ABUS, Fun Rides, On the Move, Narrow-Wide Rings Explained and Knog Night Ride.

Download it for free, purchase it from the Apple Store or order a printed copy online.

New Albion Homebrew

New Albion Homebrew

In 1579 Sir Francis Drake landed in northern California and dubbed it New Albion. In 1976, Jack McAuliffe founded the now defunct New Albion brewery in Sonoma, which was regarded as the first American microbrewery. And in 2012, New Albion Cycles formed with the idea of bringing classic bicycle designs to the market. The Homebrew is their flagship model.

The Homebrew is best described as a classic roadbike with a hint of modern technology. It joins just a handful of bikes on the market with downtube shifters. The steel frameset is lugged and TIG welded, and of course readily accepts racks and fenders. The fork features a 1” quill stem and eyelets for a mini rack and fenders.

The Homebrew offers a classic cycling experience that countless cyclists have enjoyed in recent years by restoring second hand bikes from the 80’s. But not only are those old bikes becoming harder to find, their downfalls are eventually exposed, namely poor braking, a lack of hill-friendly gearing, and limited tire clearance. The Homebrew takes care of all of those things with aplomb.

New Albion HomebrewIf you’ve never ridden with single-pivot brakes you might not appreciate the mechanical advantage that dual-pivot side-pull caliper brakes offer. But it’s night and day, and so thankfully New Albion decided not to go that retro. The IRD B57’s have clearance for up to 32mm tires, which is good because the Homebrew can accept them. It ships with 700 x 28c Kenda Kwick tires.

The tires might be more aptly named Komfortable, as they’re rather high volume and low pressure (85 psi max) makes for an incredibly comfortable ride. The tires are mounted to 32-spoke polished aluminum rims.

IMG_3632The drivetrain is predominantly composed of Sun Race components. I have nothing but good things to say about this groupset, and the pairing of a 50-32 crankset with an 11-32 cassette was highly appreciated. Pittsburgh, like San Francisco, is a city known for its steep hills.

Downtube shifters aren’t for everyone. They’re not as convenient as STI or even bar-end shifters. But they get the job done. They also make for a clean looking handlebar with less cables to interfere with a front rack, should you choose to go that route.

IMG_3665I did, in fact, ride the Homebrew with both front and rear racks for the majority of the test. I occasionally strapped packages to the rear rack, but I rode with a handlebar bag nearly every single time. The additional weight on the bars was quite obvious at times, especially on rough roads and when locking the bike up. But for the most part it wasn’t a hindrance. And because I was usually able to fit everything I needed for the day in said bag, I was able to commute on the hottest days of the year without a backpack or messenger bag. For someone like me, who almost never rides without one, the experience is refreshing.

And that might be the essence of the Homebrew, it’s a refreshing change of pace. It’s not a technological wonder, it’s a classic. The kind of bike your parents rode, the kind that made millions of people fall in love with cycling. It’s also worth noting that the bike is simply beautiful, as countless people pointed out during my time on the Homebrew.

IMG_3648Detractors may point out that the frame and fork are made from high tensile steel and not chromoly, but the difference is predominantly a matter of weight, not performance or safety. The decision of course is a matter of cost, which might seem unlikely since at $999 the Homebrew doesn’t fit into the category of affordable, but I contend that it’s worth considering. You’re not going to see a million of these on the streets of your city, and some people like to have a bike that no one else has. But I digress.

At the moment I have 16 working bicycles at my disposal. Even though another one might be more appropriate for a given ride, I keep opting for the Homebrew. That pretty much sums it all up. Check out www.newalbioncycles.com

Worksman Cycles Gallery

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Housed in a former candle factory in Queens, New York is one of America’s oldest manufacturing traditions. Worksman Cycles is a 116-year-old, family-owned bicycle maker producing machines first designed in the 1930s and whose best-selling model, says Worksman spokesman Bruce Weinreb, is not a carbon-fiber road bike but a steel tricycle designed for carrying 500-pound loads across factory floors.

From the rugged-looking building to the decades-old machines used for bending and crimping the steel tubes for the bikes, every part of the company’s business model seems to be philosophically in line with the bicycles they produce: low maintenance, no frills, and designed to last forever. For more than a century, Worksman has survived by focusing on the niche market of manufacturers needing industrial bikes to carry people and equipment on their factory floors, and Worksman show few signs of changing.

The company itself began in 1898 in a lower Manhattan store run by Morris Worksman. Worksman started out selling Columbia bikes, says Weinreb, but began selling his own design that was purpose-built for workers carrying heavy loads around the city. Worksman’s 1915 patent shows designs for a tricycle with a removable back box.


Read the rest of our feature article on Worksman Cycles in Urban Velo #42 written by Adam Kroopnick and check out an extended gallery of images from the inside of the factory by Takuya Sakamoto.

Wolfpack Civic Center Crit Racer Profile:
Sean “Young Blood” McElroy

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Photo by Warren Kommers

Sean McElroy had only known about the Civic Center Crit for a week, maybe two, before coming to claim the dog tags in the men’s road category in 2013. None of L.A.’s local bike racers had seen him before, and none of them had any idea that their biggest competition that day would be a 14-year-old from Palmdale.

“It was really last minute, to be honest,” said McElroy, who had found out about the race from his friend and mentor, Rich Bartlett. “He told me it was going to be a pretty big turnout, and it was in L.A., so I just decided to go do it.”

The young cyclist may have been a last-minute entry, but he was prepared nonetheless: With three years of road racing under his belt, McElroy was already gearing up for the Junior National Road Racing Championships that would be held just a week and a half later.

“I was definitely fit, but I didn’t really come expecting to win the race,” he said of the fateful day he joined the elite ranks of dog tag holders on 2013—Jo Celso, Willo Juarez, Kathryn Donovan, Veronica Volok, Craig Streit, Evan Stade, Walton Brush, Nate Koch, Shelby Walter—and Sean McElroy, the youngest among them by nearly a decade.

And while there was much surprise to see a 14-year-old even entering the race, his performance is ultimately what blew everyone away. With Barlett in the race with him, the two were able to work the peloton and split the field.

“Rich told me that there’s going to be people just going off the front, and the guy that went, Jon [Budinoff], was right in front of me so I was on his wheel, so when he went I just went with him, not really with the intention of getting a break,” he says. “As soon as we saw the gap, I just started working; when people tried to close the gap Rich would chase them down and slow down the pace of it. He really helped me to win, it was really just a real team thing. Read more →

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