Just when you thought you’ve seen it all someone puts a Supergear crankset by Ziegler-Lam Cycling on the table. At first glance it looks like any number of other small maker cranks from the ’90s mountain bike and CNC’d everthing boom, needless stress risers, chunky corners and all. Grab hold of the bottom bracket and spin it forward and it acts as per usual, pedal backwards and the rings continue rotating forwards at about half speed, doubling the number of available gears. Retrodirect systems pop up through bicycle history now and again, an old design from before effective derailleurs that allows two gears (one gear pedaling forward, a lower gear pedaling backwards). Tinkerers put together modern retrodirect bikes just to prove the concept, and it still works (1, 2). The Supergear is a three ring setup with a planetary gear system that achieves the same effect, and was marketed as the only crankset to integrate a retrodirect system. This is likely from the days of seven speed cassettes, building up as a 42 speed bicycle. Throw some 11 speed rings on there and make a 66 speed bicycle, pair it with an internally geared hub and really go nuts. Interesting, but no surprise that the design isn’t around today. If only I could go back in time and see people mountain biking with a Supergear in the wild, or find someone running one on their bike today. Someone out there has one of these and swears by it.
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 email@example.com.
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.
All of the bikes! All of the shiny! Bestill my heart, Ritchey! I’m weak in the knees, Van Dessel! Oh Fairdale, how fair you truly are! Interbike is best place to really do a good pulse check on what people are asking for, as the industry responds to the market with new and updated bikes, components and accessories. While the skittle-colored track frames have settled into their rightful place in the bike world, with muted tones and refined designs, bicycles made with the commuter or casual rider in mind are really coming to the forefront now.
At least a dozen different brands had city bikes on display this year, reasserting the look and feel of classic Dutch bikes, with swept-back bars, upright positioning and beautiful paint jobs. The trend is a direct response to what the riders want – with offerings from the likes of State and Pure Fix’s younger sister company, Pure City, it’s clear that the streets will soon be flush with handsome frames topped with fresh-faced cyclists. My favorite from the show were from Creme Cycles, a Polish bicycle maker that has recently entered the U.S. market.
What else is new, you ask? Here are 10 tidbits to whet your appetite:
- State is releasing a single speed cyclocross bike in November that will go for around $500. CX Explosion in 5, 4, 3, 2…
- Hero Bike unveiled its bamboo/carbon track prototype. Every bike in their line is custom by order and all bamboo is sourced locally in Greensboro, Alabama, where Hero Bikes is headquartered.
- Brooks is releasing a helmet line in collaboration with Carrera. The collapsible helmets will come in seven colors and compliment the Brooks aesthetic seamlessly. “We weren’t prepared to make our own but we wanted to do a collaboration,” said Gianmarco Maorni “Thinking about a normal commuter, something that can go in your bag and is easy to carry is a better option.”
- Green Guru has added locking bolts to its panniers, and its 2015 product line will include the FreeRider fold-up carry-anything pannier that was successfully funded on Kickstarter earlier this year.
- DZR has released a version of their Marco clipless shoe for women. Rejoice little feet!
- Bern’s newest helmets made with Zip Mold Plus are 18 percent lighter than before. In addition to a lighter foam, they also found little ways to reduce weight by removing the plastic Y-dividers that held the two side straps together and replacing it with stitching.
- The makers of The Interlock are developing a more secure version. The current design features a cable lock that extends from within a seatpost, so that a rider never need make room or forget it. “It’s the perfect lock for a low-risk area and a secondary lock for a high-risk area.”
- Terry is turning 30 and re-releasing their classic Butterfly saddle, redesigned with Poron XRD for better shock dampening than foam. The biggest brand in women’s cycling began when Georgina Terry set to work in a basement welding shop fabricating a bike frame fit for a woman’s build; today Terry is the leader in women’s saddles, and have a men’s line of saddles as well.
- Linus is expanding its line to include a 29er made with the city in mind – the Rambler will be out in 2015, along with another crossover-style bike on 700′s called the Rover.
- Boombotix will have a new product release in October. Couldn’t get them to spill the beans yet, so we will just simmer in anticipation for the next few 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.
We made the rounds and between getting lost amongst the zeppelin halls shot some of the latest that caught our eye from the likes of Giro, Abus, GT, Bombtrack, Koga, Kryptonite, Surly, Pashley, Blackburn, Hiplok, Brooks, Canyon, Lezyne and more.
Straight from the slopes to a bicycle near you — skittle thug is the new black. Definitely coming from the enduro mountain bike side of things, the mismatched, matte neon look is making a strong appearance this year. Sure to trickle into the urban and commuter realm, better put your sunglasses on so you can see a little. Earthtones are out, skittle thug is in, I’ll stick with black.
Timbuk2 and Red Hook Crit Founder David Trimble set out to create the perfect pack for competitive cyclists en route to the big race. And one that’s also good for everyday cyclists riding around town. The Red Hook Crit Backpack features super-lightweight materials and specialized pockets for your helmet, U-lock, cycling kit, cleats and traveling essentials. It easily converts from a backpack to duffel, it’s water resistant thanks to silicone coated fabric and PU coated zippers, and there are reflective elements for nighttime visibility. MSRP #99. Check out www.timbuk2.com and www.redhookcrit.com
Always a fan of the videos that Portland Design Works produces — here’s the latest showcasing their $35 Ninja pump that works with either a CO2 cartridge or old fashioned arm pumping.
Green Goddess is a female friendly extension of Green Guru, with the first product being the Athena Clutch. Meant as a go-to clutch that can attach to the bars, frame or rack easily for the ride and work as a small clutch for the essential off the bike. Made from either repurposed bicycle tubes or the colorful outdoor banner discards. It features a divided interior to keep your keys and phone separate, and a magnetic closure on the flap for a clean finish. Available for preorder for $58 each at the Green Goddess Kickstarter launch.