Urban Velo

SSCXWC 2014 Louisville Photo Gallery

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Flaming barriers were just one part of the party that went down thanks to the Colonels at the Single Speed Cyclocross World Championships 2014 in Louisville KY. Qualify for the main event via the Feats of Strength, through the last chance qualifies, from a 1st place finish in a number of national level races with a Golden Ticket, or otherwise just be a badass with a pass to the next round. Qualifiers were split into men and women, with an “other” category filling in for the people put there just for fun or that didn’t make the cut for the big show. Start with a shoeless run down a slip-n-slide, over the propane fueled barrier and onto the meat of the course built on the same permanent ‘cross grounds of Evan Bandman Park that held the UCI World Championships just a few years back. It’s less of a race and more of an event, with few actually keeping track of much more than where the good heckle sections on course are for some refreshments. The sand-pit featured a 4 ft tall wall to hop over, the run-up started with the ball-pit of your pizza quaffing youth. Next year it’s off to Victoria BC.

Check out the gallery from this year, and fill in your fading memories of 2013 with photo galleries from the Philadelphia SSCXWC and qualifying Bilenky Junkyard Cross events.

The Piano Pedaler

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By Rachel Krause, photos by Grant Hindsley.

A Salt Lake City man’s piano bike blurs the line between bikes and music.

“You don’t see that everyday.”

“That’s one way to do it.”

“Is that a… piano? On a bike?”

Eric Rich is used to hearing these responses when he plays his piano at the Downtown Salt Lake City Farmers’ Market. Each week he transports his piano back home with him. On his bike.

In 2010, Eric Rich saw a friend’s band perform at the farmers’ market, and learned they racked in $800 in one day. “Maybe I can go and make money doing what I really love.” He talked to his brother who was a welder, and in three days they built a bike with a piano trailer.

The first piano bike was built out of an old Weser Brothers piano he found through the classifieds, some wheelbarrow wheels, a fork, and a headset. Rich, who picked up the keyboard and piano about eight years ago to fill in for some recordings for some hardcore punk bands, loves that he is able to transport the piano through his own power, without a middleman or boss. He doesn’t describe himself as an hardcore cyclist, but is a car-free bike commuter. “My favorite part about bikes is the idea of it—that you’re the fuel to it,” Rich says. “I also love the design aspect of it.”

The bike he currently rides is not the original piano bike. After a rough winter when the bike fell into disrepair, Rich decided it was time to make a new piano bike. “Design-wise, it was important for me to make it integrated. The old one had too many pieces, this one would be one connected piece. That was my number one goal. I lost so much power with just rolling resistance. Building this new bike was about making it more efficient and making the gear ratio lower so I can take it more places.”

Rich started a Kickstarter fund in 2013 to purchase a better quality Yamaha piano and raised more than $6000. After raising the money, he spent months scouring the internet for special parts. Much of it came from Amazon and Saturday Cycles in Salt Lake City, which specializes in randounneur and touring bikes. In the end he spent about $5000. And it was worth every penny. The original bike only had one back wheel, which made it fairly unstable. The new bike has two back wheels. The original bike had cantilever brakes in the front only. The new bike has a disc brake in the front and two disc brakes in the back.

The current piano weighs in at about 380 pounds and the entire bike is about 420 pounds. Rich plays all of his own compositions (although he added a Yann Tiersen song to his repertoire recently.) For the most part, he says people are widely positive about the bike, although he will encounter the aggravated motorist who thinks Rich is taking up too much room on the street.

He recently rode the piano bike up and down a canyon road, a feat he doesn’t consider easy by any imagination. “I took it up a little canyon for a wedding, and when I rode down it was very very difficult. With the center of gravity so high and the road tilted, it could easily lose traction.”

Rich plays weekly at the Downtown Farmers Market, as well as other festivals and conventions, including the Sundance Film Festival in Park City. The farthest he has taken it was to Columbia, Missouri, for the True/False Film Festival in the spring of 2013. He transported it in an enclosed trailer that was donated to him by his family’s neighbor. One day he hopes to be able to make trips like that by the power of his own bike.

Rich has been designing a Piano Bike 3.0 that would be capable of cross country travel.

“I love designing things,” he says. “For the bike, the biggest challenge is making it narrow enough but also wide enough so it doesn’t tip over. The design challenge is very interesting. The physical challenge is also very interesting to me. I just want to see if it’s possible.”

Rich has been researching options and designing a new model. Piano Bike 3.0 would use a carbon fiber piano, which albeit very expensive, would weigh less than half what a traditional piano weighs.

For now, Rich will keep playing at the farmers’ market until later this fall, and then has plans to start an ensemble and has purchased some new percussion equipment in hopes of playing with others soon. “The piano bike is really hard on my body, my back and wrists start to get very sore. I like to be able to switch it up.”

In the long term, Rich hopes to get a sponsorship (carbon fiber pianos cost about $100,000) in order to make his dream become reality. “I want to address all the physical and design challenges of riding a piano bike across the country, but in the end, I want to share design and music with people that will hopefully inspire others to be creative.”

Originally published in Urban Velo #44, October 2014. Written by Rachel Krause, photos by Grant Hindsley. Contact us at brad@urbanvelo.org with your feature story pitch.

The Holy Week of Cyclocross

holy_week_cx_2014_rothmeyer31Cyclocross for many of us is a religion, a devotion to mud, dust, rain and rutted corners is the reason we get out of a bed in the morning. We travel far and wide to practice our faith with growing numbers of others that have fully converted to the ‘cross. Our church is anywhere that open space and plastic course tape meet to create a gauntlet of turf, stairs and wooden planks testing both skill and endurance to find the proper balance between suffering and speed. Our Mecca in North America is New England, and for a 10 day period known as Holy Week thousands travel from all around to participate in what has easily become the biggest series of races in the country.

The Holy Week of Cyclocross consists of seven races over the course of a week and a half. Beginning in Lancaster, MA with the Midnight Ride of Cyclocross and ending some 10 days later in Providence, RI. To fill the space in between the kickoff and finale is arguably the biggest race of the year in Gloucester, MA and possibly the most fun you can have at race while getting lapped by Barry Wicks in Shrewsbury, MA at the Night Weasel Cometh. Holy Week attracts the faithful from all over the globe to compete and congregate in what is a grand celebration of all things cyclocross. It’s easy to be overwhelmed on your first visit to the Motherland by the shear number of competitors, by the size of the beer garden and what the perfect ale is to compliment your sweet potato taco, by the guy with “Good Will Hunting” accent trying to smash you through the tape on lap one and by the fact that you are taking a warm up lap behind Katie Freakhin Compton! But it is also all of those things that draws us to these events, the sights and sounds of 150 people on course at once is something you can only experience at the biggest of races, and at races like Gloucester and Providence you get to experience it over and over throughout the day. Holy Week is kind of like a cyclocross stage race, with so many racing days in close proximity to one another your body starts crave more food and more rest but when the whistle blows to start the next race it easily accepts the punishment it’s about to endure.

Under the lights on muddy ski slopes or on the cool rocky shores of the Atlantic it’s easy to lose yourself in the moment of the race, the pain that your legs and lungs are experiencing lessens as you enter tunnels of sound encouraging you to go “haahda dyude!” It’s through these experiences that makes it easy for one to fully believe in cyclocross. So if you are one of the believers and you spend your summers smelling mastik one and praying to a shrine of Erik De Vlaemink you owe it to yourself and to the gods of cyclocross to make the pilgrimage to New England for Holy Week.

Words and images submitted by Brett Rothmeyer. Contact us at brad@urbanvelo.org to submit your image galleries, videos or local news reports.

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 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.

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