Gravel and mixed surface road racing is great fun, and the quick rise in popularity of this sort of riding has brought forth a number of versatile, performance bikes. No longer are road designs completely dominated by the needs of racers, there is a proliferation of bikes for the way the rest of us ride. The Niner RLT 9 is the mountain bike brand’s first foray into not-mountain-twentyniners, and an impressive looking bike for the serious all-around rider. The hydroformed aluminum frame and full carbon fork features “fire road” geometry — slightly longer chainstays, a slacker headtube angle, and a lower bottom bracket than road road bikes. The bike has clearance for up to 1.9″ wide 29″ tires without fenders, or meaty 700c tires with fenders. While the frame and fork do have fender mounts, they also feature the latest in tech with a tapered headtube, PF30 bottom bracket shell and internal routing compatible with traditional cables and Di2 electronic systems. A great real world bike that can get you to work one day, get dirty on some light singletrack the next and tackle a dirt road century on the weekend. The frameset retails for $1049, with complete bikes starting at $1999. Check the full geometry and spec at www.ninerbikes.com
Murdered out bikes don’t always work, but the new 2015 Marin Lombard is an example of it working and working well. This $1500 complete bike features an aluminum frame and carbon fork with geometry brought over from their cyclocross race bike and massaged just a bit for better all day performance. Avid BB7r disc brakes do the stopping with SRAM Apex 10 speed shifters mated to an X7 mountain clutch rear derailleur changing gears and preventing thrown chains. The 50/34 front rings and 11-36 cassette have plenty of range for the commute or all-day mixed surface ride. The tubeless ready rims are a great touch at the price point, and the front fender mounts and double eyelets in the back make it a capable commuter or light tourer. The color scheme will look good no matter the current day’s style, with reflective highlights adding a touch of shine to the black on black frame. I had the chance to ride the new Lombard around San Francisco for along day of exploring, and it proved to be a fun and capable ride. It had the gear range to handle the steep climbs, and felt stable bombing and weaving the other side. Predictable and aggressive, the Lombard proved the versatile kind of bike I tend to prefer. Road, light trails, anything in between. I can see fast weekend rides, in-town commutes, and the occasional two or three night tour on this platform. Look for full specs on this and the lower tiered $1000 model soon at www.marinbikes.com
The Sea Otter Classic is the race season kick-off event, with three days of mountain and road racing centered around the midfield of the Laguna Seca Raceway. The expo area is always home to new product announcements, the race courses new faces and teams. Not a bad place to find oneself in mid-April, and I managed to turn my lens towards the Women’s and Men’s Cyclocross Pro/1/2 races between other engagements. ‘Cross in the sand and sun may seem out of place, but it makes for some great racing ripping through the expo. The packed men’s run at the very end of the day proved to be a rowdy time, as expected after a couple of days of sun where beers at 9 am was hardly a rare sight. Good times. Results available for download at www.seaotterclassic.com
World Bicycle Relief provides locally produced, durable bikes to caregivers, entrepreneurs and students, with 80% of the bikes funded by individuals. This video highlights some of the stories of the people raising money for the World Bicycle Relief, namely that of 9-year old Griffin who rode his bike to school every day for a year, raising money along the way.
Cycling Legalese is our online cycling law column from everyday cyclist and Chicago based injury lawyer, Brendan Kevenides.
Ever expanding bicycle infrastructure is awesome, hands down. But are you compelled to use a bike lane or separated path if it exists, even if it is in disrepair or otherwise not suitable? Read on.
Q:There are new bike lanes popping up all over. That’s cool, but do I have to ride in them?
Bike lanes are awesome, except when they’re not. As someone who has been riding in the big bad city for decades, I am thrilled at the proliferation of bike specific infrastructure in my town and others nationwide. Our cities are evolving. However, no big North American city can claim to be on par with bike meccas like Amsterdam and Copenhagen. In the evolutionary timeline we have crawled out of the primordial ooze, but we are still pretty wet behind the ears. Sometimes bike lanes, and other cycle specific infrastructure, suck. Thankfully, in most places bicyclists are not required to use bike lanes or separated paths.
There are several reasons why a cyclist might choose not to ride in a bike lane. It may be in disrepair, full of potholes, ruts or broken glass. Leaving the bike lane may be the safe thing to do. It is common in U.S. cities for the lanes to be occupied illegally by cars, delivery trucks or other vehicles. Here in Chicago, buses are permitted to share bicycle lanes with people on bikes. In the winter months, bike paths maybe rendered impassable due to the accumulation of snow and ice. There are even times when cycling on a path or in a bike lane clear of obstructions just does not make sense. For example, a roadie on a training ride may be advised to avoid a path crowded with cyclists traveling at a more leisurely pace.
There once was a time when the majority of U.S. states had what are commonly referred to as “mandatory use laws,” that is laws that require cyclists to use a bike specific path or other designated area located adjacent to a regular travel lane. These laws were more common at a time when there were actually fewer such paths in existence, and virtually no bike lanes in North American cities. According to the League of American Bicyclists, “In the 1970s, mandatory use laws of some sort existed in 38 states.” Now, however, there are far fewer such laws, many having been repealed. Illinois’ vehicle code has no mandatory use requirement. Until recently, the municipal code of Chicago had such a requirement which read, “Whenever a usable path for bicycles has been provided adjacent to a roadway, bicycle riders shall use such path and shall not use the roadway.” The ordinance did not define what a usable path was. Was it a bike lane with nothing more than a painted line separating cars and bikes? Or, was more substantial separation required, like a jersey barrier? This vagueness ultimately lead to repeal of the ordinance in June, 2013.
Cyclists throughout Illinois and in places like Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and many others cyclists may ignore bike lanes and paths for any reason. In other jurisdictions a cyclist’s right to do so is qualified. For example, in California a bicyclist must use a bicycle lane where one is provided, unless he or she is traveling at the same speed as traffic moving in the same direction. California bikers may also abandon the lane when overtaking another bicyclist or pedestrian, when preparing to turn left, to avoid debris or hazardous conditions or when approaching a place where a right turn is authorized. The law in New York seems to be the same. Where there are bike lanes, cyclists have to use them. It appears, however, that cyclists there may abandon them under the same circumstances set for the in California Code.
The state with perhaps the scariest mandatory use language is one generally considered the most bike friendly in North America, Oregon. Its vehicle code states that, “A person commits the offense of failure to use a bicycle lane or path if the person operates a bicycle on any portion of a roadway that is not a bicycle lane or bicycle path when a bicycle lane or bicycle path is adjacent to or near the roadway.”
An “offense.” Yikes. Still, even in Oregon a bike lane or path may be abandoned to pass other cyclists, to make a left turn, to avoid hazard and to execute a right turn. Also, Oregon provides that a person need not comply with the mandatory use law unless it has been determined after public hearing that the bike lane or path is “suitable for safe bicycle use at reasonable rates of speed.”
As is generally the case, knowing what the law requires depends on the particular circumstances and where you are. If you want to check the law on mandatory use in your state, The League of American Bicyclists has a very helpful chart online. Be advised, however, that laws can change at any time without notice.
Cycling Legalese Question Submission Form:
Nothing contained in this column should be construed as legal advice. The information contained herein may or may not match your individual situation. Also, laws differ from place to place and tend to change over time. No reader should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information presented herein without seeking the advice of an attorney in the relevant jurisdiction. This column is meant to promote awareness of a general legal issue. As such, it is meant as entertainment. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.
It’s just starting to thaw out in Minneapolis, and the NACCC crew promises that it will be warmer when everyone goes tubing post-race in August.
Cogma is a small clothing manufacturer out of Steamboat Springs CO, founded out of the frustration of a long time racer’s feelings that the technical female clothing choices were particularly lacking. The Brigitte riding dress is made in San Francisco from 4-way stretch Italian fabric, and sports a large rear pocket and on-the-bike features that don’t leave it looking out of place the second you step into the coffee shop. The $105 dress features a large back pocket with reflective accents, a long front zipper for ventilation, and a pleated back opening to prevent snagging on the bike seat. What the dress doesn’t have is a liner or shelf bra — the Brigitte is meant to be pulled over your favorite sports bra and riding shorts. I’m admittedly not the best at picking out women’s clothing, but I could see this one from Cogma reaching a number of riders that otherwise haven’t been able to find riding clothes that fit their style. Available in grey or mint, see more at www.cogmabikewear.com
Where do you live and what’s it like riding in your city?
I live and work in the Lowry neighborhood of east Denver. I ride to the office everyday no matter what (ha! it’s only a one-mile round trip). On evenings and weekends I cruise the city’s extensive grid bike routes and river trails while exploring the old neighborhoods and historic landmarks, then I assault the traffic of lower downtown before finding a microbrewery relax in before heading back home. It’s hard to lose weight biking in Denver because each ride results in a search for beer.
What was your favorite city to ride in, and why?
Besides Denver, the place I grew up: Mason City, Iowa, because kids like me could go anywhere in town by bicycle, be safe doing it, and your mom wouldn’t care unless she had a premonition about a river. The older I get, the more I value having had a childhood like that. We’d get our bikes in the morning and spend all day exploring the lime pits, cornfields, and railroad tracks around town before returning home at dinnertime. About thirty-five years ago the Winnebago River swallowed my green Schwinn Stingray with the banana seat. It’s probably reached the Gulf of Mexico by now—if you find it, let me know.
Why do you love riding in the city?
When you drive you plan your route in advance (hopefully) and worry about where you’re going to park. When you ride you plan on getting lost and worry about not remembering all the cool new hangouts you spotted along the way. That’s freedom—that’s childhood. We need that.
Or just say whatever you want about riding in the city… Poetry anyone?
Spandex sucks. Flannel is cool.
The fixed gear bandwagon pulled out a few years ago, and in its wake left a number of inexpensive complete options. Long gone are the days of retired track frames and hard to find parts, today there is no shortage of of complete bikes to choose from at most any price point. Pure Fix sells complete fixed gear bikes consumer direct and through shops complete for $325 ($400 as shown with glow in the dark paint), making them an attractive entry point for price conscious buyers such as students, first time adult bike buyers, and people looking for a secondary city bike.
The bike looks the part with aggressive lines, deep section rims and riser bars. Where some color matched complete bikes can be garish, I’ll give Pure Fix credit with having choices that match the aesthetic seen on much more expensive builds. Good looks aside, the bike remains an entry level bike at an entry level price with a high tensile steel frame and mostly no-name parts spec to match. Both a freewheel and fixed cog setup are included, but only a front brake, leaving single speed riders to budget $25 for a matching rear caliper and lever. The bike isn’t a lightweight—the hi-ten frame, deep rims, steel chainring and other parts mix mean that our 58 cm Pure Fix weighs in at 25.75 lbs. The frame has a single bottle mount and has mounts for a fender, though the fork does not have dropout eyelets. It was nice to see the frame ship with chain tensioners to aid keeping the rear wheel just right, and reasonably sized 28c tires for city riding. Five sizes between 47-61 cm are offered, making Pure Fix an economical choice for people of a wide variety of heights.
In the name of a proper test we handed off the Pure Fix Kilo to Jet Messenger rider Shane Montgomery for a few weeks of daily duty, figuring a month of courier work is worth a year or more of riding from an entry level consumer. “Overall, the geometry felt pretty good. For the fun-ride or short commute and casual rider, it’d be a great ride. Wheels roll as they should, and the BB is actually buttery for a no-name. I had to replace the brake as the quick release came off in my hand as soon as I opened it to swap the brake pads for more reliable stopping on the non-machined rim (accompanied by a crowd-splitting, loud squeal). Glowing worked well as long as it was set under bright lighting just before night riding, though the paint had a few pock marks and was easily chipped.”
While Pure Fix does have a number of dealers and recommends professional assembly, there is no doubt that many of the bikes are going direct to consumers for unboxing and assembly. In that light it is worth noting that the rear triangle of our test frame seemed askew—it was difficult to place the rim evenly between both the chainstay and seatstay, no matter the placement the rim was off-center in one or the other part of the rear triangle. A skilled mechanic would catch this upon assembly and it would be covered under warranty, but a consumer purchasing direct may fail to notice.
As a starter bike meant to give the single speed or fixed gear world a try, the standard Pure Fix bikes can prove a reasonable choice, especially with professional assembly. Lowering the barrier to entry into bikes is a good thing all around, and alignment and brake quick release issues aside if the Pure Fix Kilo can handle a few weeks of harsh courier use it can handle more entry level riders. It’s easy to point towards bikes “only” $100-150 more that are undoubtedly better, but that is not an insignificant sum as compared to the $325 base Pure Fix price. In fact, Pure Fix themselves now offer a $450 option with a 4130 chromoly frame, and nicer fork, wheels, and tires for those looking for upgrades out of the box.