Urban Velo

Interbike 2013 Photo Gallery Day 3

Interbike 2013 is a wrap and we have this third and final gallery installment of images from the floor. Check out our galleries from day 1 and day 2, and stay tuned for posts throughout the week highlighting individual products we took note of on the show floor.

Interbike 2013 Photo Gallery Day 2

Interbike 2013 Photo Gallery Day 1

Avid BB7S Mechanical Disc Brake Review

Avid BB7SAvid first released the Ball Bearing mechanical disc brake back in 1999. Because of their power, reliability and serviceability, they were pretty much instantly deemed the industry standard for disc brakes. SRAM acquired Avid five years later and wisely continued to produce the brakes under the Avid moniker without significant changes, other than separating the line to include an entry level product, the BB5, and the flagship BB7. Once there was a demand, along came road versions of the BB5 and BB7, which were optimized for road brake levers (which pull less cable than mountain levers).

Avid recently unveiled the BB7S, a sleek, black version of the venerable BB7 with stainless steel hardware. Like its predecessor, the BB7S features tool-free inboard and outboard pad adjustment, organic compound brake pads and Avid’s “tri caliper positioning system”. This system primarily consists of a series of concave and convex washers that allow for precise alignment of the caliper. I’m sure there may be a few people who disagree, but in my opinion the BB7 makes for the easiest brake setup on the market.

The new BB7S brakes ship with the HS1 rotor, which is said to be an improvement over the classic G2 Cleansweep rotor in that it displaces heat a little better and works better in wet weather. It certainly looks the part, and likely weighs a hair less. Speaking of weight, the BB7S caliper weighs just 197 g as opposed to the classic BB7′s which eclipsed 212 g.

I have to confess, I’m totally spoiled because I have the luxury of using Avid’s Speed Dial Ultimate levers ($263 per pair) to actuate these brakes. It could be argued that such high end levers would make any brake seem better, but I prefer to think that they just don’t interfere with the inherent power and modulation of the BB7S.

The Avid BB7S brakes retail for $120 per wheel. Choose between road and mountain versions, and 140 or 160 mm rotors. Check out www.sram.com/avid

Alleycat Insights: Q & A with Billy Sinkford

billy_sinkford-1Alleycat Insights is a series of interviews about the evolution of alleycat culture that took place over the course of putting together the Urban Velo #38 feature story, Alleycat Explosion. In this installment we catch up with Billy Sinkford. Sinkford began working as a bike messenger in Boston in 1999, and spent a collective 10 years on the road between there and his time spent working for Godspeed Courier in San Francisco. In 2007 he was one of the key organizers of the North American Cycle Courier Championships in San Francisco. Today Sinkford is a partner at Echos Communication, where he works with cycling-oriented businesses, including Chrome Industries, Bern Unlimited, and Levi’s Commuter Series.

When did you first get involved with alleycat races?
I started in 1999 on the road in Boston; I was a bike messenger there off and on for 6 or 7 years and then I moved to California and worked with Godspeed—probably a collective 10 years out on the road.

What are some of the big alleycats that you’ve been involved in organizing?
The biggest one would the North American Cycle Courier Championships in San Francisco, I believe that was in 2007. And then for a couple years after that I ended up in some way either helping or advising.

What was that like?
My role was to deal with the police and the city. I went to the city council meetings and got street closures, and police detail. My main partner, Fergus Liam, who was a messenger in San Francisco for a long time—he dealt with mapping out the race course and I dealt with the logistical backend, making sure that we paid the right people the right amount of money that would get the streets closed.

NACCC’s is one of the few alleycats that was ever kind of sanctioned, or had the streets closed. Most about of the time it’s about really knowing the streets, but this one was more about what you could do.

How have things changed since NACCC’s in San Francisco?
The biggest change I saw happen would be that when I first started there was no such thing as a non-messenger showing up to an alleycat. They were smaller; there weren’t a plethora of sponsorships. It was more about folks just getting together and having a good time. People weren’t really that concerned with the financial aspect of it; the prizes were not what they are now, but it was more of a tight knit community. Read more →

Eurobike 2013 Day 1 Gallery

It’s tradeshow season in the bike industry again, with Eurobike 2013 being the kickoff for product introductions across the company spectrum. Check out a gallery from the first day below, with more detailed posts of the latest and greatest from Germany to follow.

Light & Motion Taz 1000 Review

Light & Motion Taz 1000Light & Motion has always been at the forefront of the high-powered commuter light market. The venerable Vega came out more than 10 years ago, and at the time 85 lumens seemed more than impressive for a self-contained, rechargeable headlight. I ran that thing for years, and eventually gave it to a young cyclist who’s still using it to this day. That speaks volumes about the quality of Light & Motion products.

The market has seen tremendous advances in technology, and now the 1000 lumen Taz isn’t even the brightest light on the market. As you might surmise, it’s way more light than most people need, but there are folks out there who want or genuinely need such a light. There are definitely roads in my city that are pitch black at night, but you could still coast at more than 20 mph. Head out into the suburbs and the number of similar situations is multiplied.

DSC_9498And let’s not forget the potential for using the Taz offroad, as I have been doing extensively. I used to own a top of the line 600 lumen mountain bike light that was twice as expensive as the Taz. It had a heavy battery and cables that never ceased to get in the way. Imagine how happy I was the first time I hit the trail with an unencumbered 1000 lumens beaming from my handlebar.

Sheer brightness is only part of the story here, as the Taz has some of the best light distribution I’ve ever experienced. The lens is designed to spread a softer beam directly in front of you, while the road ahead is clearly illuminated for a long, long way.

Light & Motion Taz 1000The controls are simple, but rather sophisticated at the same time. The main button handles on/off duty, and lets you cycle through the modes. The secondary button allows you to “lock” the light while not in use (helpful if you carry it in your back during the day) and also controls the optional side lights (which help provide 180° visibility).

The mode selections include 1000, 500, 200, flash and pulse. The light also has “race mode” which limits you to just two settings, 800 and 350. This is especially handy for off-road riding, where you need to switch between high and low more often, but don’t want to spend time cycling through as many modes. Expect to get about 1:40 burn time on high, and up to 6:00 on low.

DSC_9499Like most lights these days, the lithium ion battery is USB rechargeable. Depending on your device it can be fully recharged in as little as four hours. The mount is tool-free and unlike some of the rubber strap-style mounts I’ve used in the past, this one holds tight, even on the bumpiest of rides. Color me impressed.

The Taz 1000 retails for $249. Check out www.lightandmotion.com

Alleycat Insights: Q & A with Sean Martin

Picture 7Alleycat Insights is a series of interviews about the evolution of alleycat culture that took place over the course of putting together the Urban Velo #38 feature story, Alleycat Explosion. In this installment we catch up with Sean Martin in Los Angeles where the races he throws keep the fixie foo’s pumped. Martin rides for CBNC and Affinity Cycles, and documents his biking exploits at TakeoverLA.

You’re one of those dudes who is entrenched in urban cycling but you aren’t a messenger. Have you ever been?

I certainly am out here in these streets; urban riding is my love and passion and to address the messenger question, once before I became so engrossed in “urban cycling” I worked as messenger for like a month or two many many many years ago in Seattle. The job didn’t last for me at all, I was into other “things” and I wasn’t doing my best in life. I don’t claim to be one, I don’t claim to be an ex-messenger, never was. It was one of those times in a young man’s life when I was bouncing around from job to job and place to place for a brief period. I call it the skateboard years.

I’m curious to know how you got into fixed gear riding. Where did you discover the bikes and what influenced you back then?

My sister, Kelly Martin. My sister was living in L.A. more than 10 years ago at this point and was getting into the early stages of bike culture in L.A. She would tell me about what they were doing. I was interested in it, but there wasn’t much happening in Seattle. I bought a BMX, rode to bars and work and walked up hills.

She was taking a trip with her soon-to-be husband Ben Guzman, Jimmy L. (both founders of L.A.’s Bicycle Kitchen) and a few other L.A. messengers to Portland for the Westside Invite. I hopped a train with my BMX and chased her, the L.A. boys and Portland’s finest all over the city for a weekend of bike games, alleycats and other races.

I saw my first fixed gear there and got hooked on the idea. Went home to Seattle, told my friends about what I had done, seen and that I was getting into this thing called “Bike Culture.” Most of them shook their heads and thought it was cute I wanted to be like my sister and her cool friends. I bought a road bike–a Univega 10-speed–while a friend built up a fixed gear, and away we went. It took me about a  year before I built up my first fixed, but I was hooked. I would visit my sister back in L.A. during these growing stages of my bike addiction and went to some amazing events back then–the first Bike Kitchen Benefits, the first Bike Summer, a couple early Midnight Ridazz rides and went to CMWC when Seattle hosted it in 2003–and would always come home to Seattle full of ideas and stoked.

What constitutes an alleycat in your mind? 

First and foremost an alleycat is a checkpoint race thrown by a working messenger or has messenger approval to call it an alleycat, period. An Alleycat to me is a checkpoint race: race to a checkpoint, drink a beer, do something silly, fix a flat, answer a question, play hopscotch; whatever you need to do to get your manifest signed to head off to the next checkpoint, or a race meant to simulate a day in the life of a working messenger. For example, picking up packages or envelopes and routing yourself to the next pickup/drop location.

How have street bike races become less messenger-oriented and more open to everyone, and what is your role in the progression? 

Nowadays, everyone worldwide are throwing street races. It was a natural progression from what messengers were doing worldwide back in the day and the fixed gear is the reason why. The fixed gear and the fixed gear scene really made these non-messenger ran streets races/ events happen. Riders wanted to show their bikes, tricks, bike handling and of course who was the fastest. There was always non-messengers racing alleycats throughout the years, but the explosion of the fixed gear bike, through blogs, forums, word of mouth, shops, etc., really made it accessible those who didn’t know messenger culture, or in some cases there were no messengers in their part of the world, but there were bikes. The mother of invention and all that, ya dig?

I would go to messenger races in Seattle, then a few months later a non-messenger or two would throw a street race (fixed-gear specific). Then Fast Friday was started by Dustin Klein, a messenger, but was assisted by non-messengers. It was the community getting behind each other and progressing the fixed gear scene. It wasn’t about messenger or non-mess, it was about the bike, the fixed gear and what could be done with it, by throwing races, games, tricks, it was progression at it”s finest. I took what I saw in happening in Seattle with these events, moved to LA and I wanted to give back to the city and people that showed me how to ride, by organizing races, trick comps and documenting through a blog (takeoverla.wordpress.com). I just throw quality races here in LA and if I inspired other riders/ organizers to do the same, then maybe I have some role in the progression of non-messengers throwing street races and that would make me happy, but there were other guys that deserve that credit and were doing right along with me or at the same time or before and after me (Matt Ruscigno, Joe Lobato, Hern, Chris Cono RIP, Juan, Beaver) and I feel like we threw some great events and amazing street races, ones that I would hope be worthy of LA and it’s working messengers who were also throwing some of the best alleycats and crits (13skids!!!) I have ever been too at the same time and before what I was doing. Those early days (5-6 years ago) of me racing and riding in LA were the best. I miss it.

You’ve taken heat on occasion for being what some might call a “fakenger”–How do you react when people come at you about that? 

I have heard that rumor before and I don’t listen to it. For some reason, I only hear myself being called that in the city I call home, nowhere else. It’s kind of sad and old really. I don’t pretend to be anything but me. If I wear a big bag when I commute in L.A. or have one on when I travel to street events on my track bike or road bike, then so be it. If I get labeled that because I have thrown great street races in L.A. and have tons of racers and riders show up to them consistently year after year, then so be it. I don’t really care about that label, ’cause I don’t pose as one.

I just wanted to have a good time by making racers have fun (suffer) on their bikes by going fast and testing their limits in the streets. If someone wants to label me as something, then call me an “Urban Cyclist” or an “Organizer of Awesomeness.” Ha!

What was your experience at the North American Cycle Courier Championships in Seattle this year? 

This was the second NACCC I have been to and it was amazing. Last year Mel and I went to the NACCC’s in Richmond. It’s an great event, where I get to see all of my messenger friends from around the country in one place, catch up with everyone, race bikes and have damn good time doing it. It being in Seattle was extra special for me, because I got to see friends, both cyclists and non-cyclists, that I haven’t seen for years, and spend time riding in a city that holds a small part of my heart. I wish it was longer, it was so much fun!

Wyatt Street King Bike Review

An increasing array of single speed bikes offering flip flop free/fixed hubs are on the market these days, as the ease of riding and maintenance grows in popularity among riders old and new. Whether you don’t understand gears or just don’t want to deal with them, the single speed Wyatt Street King is a no-fuss bike made with the commuter in mind. It’s both stylish and practical, with thoughtful accents like two brakes, brushed metal cable guides and built-in chain tensioners, with a reasonable price point of $449.

The Street King is ready to ride in short order. Practical features include rack and bottle cage mounts, and the inclusion of both a fixed cog and freewheel, giving this Wyatt a leg up on many bikes being designed for urban riding which tend to lack the more utilitarian braze-ons. Another nice thing about it is that it ships with two brakes—the Street King certainly doesn’t forfeit any stopping sensibility in the name of fashion.

It’s a solid machine, built with 4130 chromoly frame and fork, and weighs in at 25.5 lbs. with semi-aggressive geometry that makes it good for both cruising and crushing on the street. The frame design mimics sleek aluminum track frames, with a large diameter downtube, but being that it’s not made of aluminum or intended for track racing it seems like an unnecessary flair that adds weight more than anything else. That said, the bike is not cumbersome to ride, nor particularly sluggish when cranking up hills—and it did generate a host of compliments out on the street.

It handles nicely. The Street King is a solid single-speed with a tight rear triangle featuring 405 mm chainstays behind the 74º seat tube and a 73º head angle with a 45 mm road-offset fork up front, making for fluid turning. The 50 mm of bottom bracket drop helps to keep pedal strike under control and the bike feeling responsive at low speed while sacrificing some of the stability that a lower bottom bracket would lend.

With 46×16 gearing it’s a reasonable city gear to pedal, riding fixed or freewheel. The 28c tires are great for getting around town, but they also wide enough to take a ride on some dirt or gravel without feeling wary, especially seated in the double-walled 35 mm deep V Street King wheels. The chain tensioners built into the dropouts make for easy wheel alignment, though the rear hub is not equipped with proper track nuts, which is a drawback that almost cancels out the presence of the tensioners. Sealed hubs and a cartridge bottom bracket (along with the single speed drivetrain) ensure that the bike won’t need much major mechanical work for a good while.

One of the less appealing features of the bike is the clunky plastic department store pedals. Toe straps would be an ideal addition to this build, since riding fixed without pedal retention is not the best idea. The other parts on the bike are standard for a bike in its range, of decent quality—that is nothing exceptional but entirely reliable and functional OEM parts. All parts come with a 45-day warranty and the frame and fork have a limited lifetime warranty.

The Street King comes in six standard colorways, including three single-color setups that feature matching rims and chain—white, black, and lime green—and three two-tone options: pink/blue, yellow/blue, and silver/orange. If none of those suit your tastes, you can pick the individual colors of the frame, fork, rims, seat, chain and decal on your own Street King for the same price as the standard models.

Issue #38 – Available Online

Contents Include: I Love Riding in the City, Product Spotlight, Alleycat Explosion, Gallery: The Bike Messengers, Product Reviews, The Cheetah: Nelson Vails, Denver’s ReCyclery Café, Cycling Legalese, Rim Brake Maintenance, Fixed Without Dix

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

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