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‘Transportation Colonialism’ and Inequality

By Ted Johnson

(c) David Mozer and Njagi Gakungi, 1989. Republished by Permission

Bicyclists and Motorist in post-independence Nairobi
David Mozer and Njagi Gakungi, 1989. Republished by Permission

Before coming to Madagascar I spent a lot of time organizing my storage unit — and getting pulled into the kind of distracted, time-consuming reminiscing that happens whenever I get near all my old junk.

I came across this booklet: “Transportation Patterns in Nairobi & Programs to Improve Opportunities for Bicycling [PDF]” published by the International Bicycle Fund in 1989.

Ted's Peace Corps/Cameroon Memorabilia

Raffia bags… gourd shakers… plastic loafers… Well, well, well… What do we have here?

I sent away for this booklet more than 20 years ago, the last time I was preparing to go live in Africa. And I’ll be damned if it doesn’t read like a laundry list of all my favorite bike advocacy topics — except I’m usually writing about cycling in the United States of America.

Here are some highlights:

Transportation Patterns in Nairobi - p15

It’s like Nostradamus foretelling the age of bike blogs

And they’re not just my pet topics:

But the conversation that doesn’t get nearly enough attention from popular bike blogs is the extent to which infrastructure choices affect and exacerbate inequality within a society.

Sound familiar?

If I didn’t know that Mozer and Gakungi were writing about Nairobi in 1989, I could easily believe that this content is about any major American city — today.

Public works projects that impact mobility impact the poor most of all — for better or worse. Taxes, subsidies, and urban planning that privilege and incentivize automobile use amount to “transportation colonialism” — even in developed countries. They increase inequality between the rich and poor.

Transportation Patterns in Nairobi  - p's 16-17

As opposed to, “Get off my road!”

And this is not some Maoist, tree-hugging, bike loving, propaganda. It’s recommendations for making an urban area work for everyone — not just for the richest citizens of a country.

You can’t get much more free-market than, “Motorists need to pay the real cost of driving?”

That one prescription would drive more changes in transportation policy than all the pleading bike advocates have ever done.

I’ve been saying stuff like this for years — just not for as many years as Mozer and Gakungi have been saying it.

Blog Action Day

Thanks to David Mozer for permission to republish “Transportation Patterns in Nairobi & Programs to Improve Opportunities for Bicycling [PDF]“.

Ted Johnson is a Peace Corps Response Volunteer in Antananarivo, Madagascar. Follow his hardly-ever-about-bikes blogging at Half-Hearted Fanatic, and tweeting at @TedJohnsonIII.

Note that the opinions expressed here by Ted Johnson are solely his own and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

Source:: CommuteByBike.com


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New Crowdsourced Bike Safety Map: BikeMaps.org

By Melanie Colavito


Anything that combines two of my favorite things – geography and bicycling – is something I can’t help but share with you all! Hooray for Of course, as with any crowdsourced map, it relies on other people to populate it with data. Nonetheless, crowdsourcing has been shown to be immensely popular for preparedness and emergency response and has been widely used in recent disasters such as last year’s typhoon in the Philippines or the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Open Street Map is perhaps the most prolific of crowdsourced mapping options on the internet, and it has a cycling friendly spin-off called Open Cycle Map. GoogleMaps also used a feedback option when they first launched the bike directions feature in 2010. And you can still request that they fix a problem on their maps, but it’s not really quite the same as crowdsourcing. What’s nice about BikeMaps.org is that it has a very specific focus on cycling hazards. So if that’s something you’re curious about before you head out on your bike, it could be your one-stop-shop for the information you need. As they say on their About page:

At BikeMaps we love biking as much as we love maps! Our goal is to map your cycling experience to make biking safer. You know your local cycling trouble spots and we want you to map them. Your knowledge of cycling safety, hazards, and even bike thefts will be analyzed using GIS and statistics to identify hot spots of cycling safety, risk, and crime. We are constantly updating our maps and technology, so send us feedback. And stay tuned for updated safety maps generated from YOUR biking experience.

I spent some time playing with the map, and it’s definitely better in some places than others at the moment. Naturally, it’s a little Canada-centric at the moment, but it’s intended to be a global map. But as you can see from the data this morning, there’s definitely more information being populated in North America, with a focus around British Columbia. If you zoom into Victoria, B.C., where the map originated, you can see its got quite a lot of detail. The little circles with numbers tell you the number of incidents in a given area, and when you zoom in, the information becomes increasingly detailed. bikemapsorg_victoria And if you really want to get a sense of where the most incidents are occurring, you can use the incident heat map option, which basically just combines all the incidents into one intensity map with red being the highest intensity of incidents and blue being the least. bikemapsorg_heatmap There’s also a nice bike infrastructure option on the legend, but it looks like it’s currently just limited to Victoria. Another nice feature is the rider volume, which pulls its data from Strava. So although the bike infrastructure is just limited to Victoria at the moment, you can get a sense of where people ride based on the rider volume data. bikemapsorg_density Working in the background of BikeMaps.org is some fancy GIS (geographic information systems) to provide the nice incident intensity bubbles and heat map. All in all, it’s a pretty slick operation. The map’s creator feels that safety fears are one of the number one things preventing people from using bicycles more for transportation, and she hopes that this will help to alleviate some of those fears. Read more of her comments in this article from the Times Colonist. As she notes here:

With only 30 to 40 per cent of cycling accident data captured by traditional data sources, BikeMaps.org represents an important effort to fill data and information gaps. I love cycling and I commute by bike daily. But, especially as a mom, I am always looking for ways our family can ride as safely as possible.

She also hopes to see the map expand globally, and she and her team are working on an eventual mobile map with a route finder. This would be a pretty great way to dynamically provide riders with the data while they’re en route. Another bonus is that riders can point out areas with hazards such as potholes as they appear, so it has the opportunity to be pretty real-time. Anyways, I encourage you to check out BikeMaps.org and start adding data where you live. You can also the hashtag #bikemaps to share your data on Twitter, as well. Happy Bike Mapping!

Source:: CommuteByBike.com


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DIY Trailers and Cargo Powerhouses – A Reader Round-Up

By Melanie Lipton

The trailer folded

Here at Commute by Bike and our sister site, BikeShopHub.com, we get a lot of happy folks who are very excited to share how they use their bikes for tours, commutes, and all other fun adventures. Today, we’ve got a round-up of some of the creative and epic uses of some great gear.

Lots of our readers are crafty and choose to design and build the trailer that works perfectly for their commuting and touring needs. We love learning about their ingenuity and seeing the solutions they create!

Trevor designed a compact trailer that folds up and fits into a large shoulder bag for easy transport. The bag then becomes the cargo carrying mechanism when the trailer is in use. This little gem has great potential for multi-modal commuting using public transportation.

Here are some photos of Trevor’s trailer:

The trailer folded

Trailer and cargo bag - ready to go

Trailer and cargo bag – ready to go

Our reader pal Robert created a snazzy red cargo trailer to go with his cruiser. It looks like he can head down to the beach with his rig and sell some ice cream out of the back of his trailer!

Bike-trailer-6 Bike-trailer-4

We love seeing kids and dogs on trailers and these next submissions exemplify how versatile cargo bikes and cargo trailers can be.

Jamie loves all the ways she can use her Surly Big Dummy decked out with lots of Xtracycle parts. She’s got the Snap Deck on top to carry her son (who loves riding the bike), the SideCar, Running Boards for extra stability on the side, plus of course the FreeLoader Saddlebags to carry all the gear on the sides of the bike. Jamie has made AMAZING use of her bike, and as any family with kids knows, there is always plenty of gear to carry when commuting with a family!

Big Dummy with Xtracycle kit towing a bike

Big Dummy with Xtracycle kit towing a bike

Kiddo, groceries, toys, oh my!

Looks like a successful trip to the grocery store!

Haulin' toys

Haulin’ toys

And finally, in the carry your four-legged friend category…

Bob purchased his Burley Nomad trailer for camping on overnight bike rides, but the maiden voyage was with his sister’s dog, Cali. They strapped her into the Burley and took her on a 10 mile trek on nearby bike trails. She seemed to love it, and people along the way thought it was real cute. One young girl shouted, “We need to get one of those!”

Dog in Burley Nomad Trailer

Cali cruising in the Burley Nomad

Mikhail from Russia took advantage of some lovely weather to try out his Burley Tail Wagon to take his pup out for a nice ride. Looks like both dog and rider had a great time!

Dog in Burley Tail Wagon trailer

Riding with the Burley Tail Wagon

Our thanks to all the folks who have submitted photos of their trailers in use. If you’d like to send us some pictures of you and your favorite commuting set up, send photos and stories to info@bikeshophub.com.

Source:: CommuteByBike.com


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2014 Holiday Cycling Gift Guide

By Josh Lipton


Its beginning to look a lot like Black Friday, soon it will be Cyber Monday. Take a look at our bike gift recommendations, glistening once again with exactly what the cyclists in your family really want.

I’ve broken down our gift recommendations into a few main categories. As this is CommuteByBike.com we’ll start with bike commuting gear.

The Thule Commuter Pannier Set is an amazing deal at only $89.99. This set is normally $239.99 and we’ve had to spend telling customers that this deal is for real. It is and this is truly an amazing set of panniers. I recommend them for both bike touring and commuting. See John Coe’s recent CbB review.

Today through Cyber Monday we are running our only sale off the year on Chrome Bags offering them at 25% off through Dec. 1st. Not only that, we also have just added Chrome’s clothing lineup into the mix. Chrome backpack and messenger bags have both style and function that is built to last


Talking about great bike commuting gifts, Banjo Brothers offers some amazing bike bags at very reasonable prices. Checkout the full selection of Banjo Brothers which is on sale for 10% off through Dec 15th and will surely put a smile on your favorite bike commuter’s face.

Now some holiday cheer for the family cyclists out there. Perhaps there is a cyclist in your family with a new little one with them or on the way. Or maybe having a little one around is just what they needed to get them inspired to get out on the bicycle.

weehoo-igo-bike-child-trailer-side-stockA Weehoo Trailer is sure to put a smile on the face of both the parents and the kids in your family. The kids love the Weehoo because they get to pedal too, all in a comfortable, leaned-back position. The full Weehoo lineup is on sale while supplies last, including the iGo Pro for $298.99, the iGo2 for $449.99 and the Venture for $449.99.

thule-chariot-cougar2-avacado-cycling-kit-stockThule Chariot is known for making a truly premium kid carrier. Our favorite use for it is of course cycling, but it is also perfect for strolling, jogging, hiking or skiing with your kids. Our full lineup of Thule Chariots are 20% off through December 1st.

burley-dlite-green-2013-cycling-angle-stockAnd we’ve also got Burley Child, Pet and Cargo Trailers at 10% off through December 9th.

Do you know someone with a bike touring addiction? Tell-tale signs include staring out the window longingly, listening to the Eagles while reading Adventure Cycling magazine and well always being out bike touring. If you know someone with this affliction, there really is no hope. You can only support them in their downward spiral towards having fun. How do you help them? Well here are a few gifts that will keep them thriving. Or better yet if you can’t cure them, join them. Get yourself a great bike touring gift this holidays!

revelate-designs-gas-tank-frame-pack-color-range-stockRevelate Bags are on 10% off through December 15th. Revelate Designs is leading the way with building the latest and greatest in bike packing gear. By bike packing we mean gearing up a mountain bike for light weight adventure touring. But Revelate Designs gear is great for all sorts of uses. Finding convenient ways to stow gear on a bike is really what Revelate is all about.

2013_NOMAD_STUDIOWe’ve already mentioned our Burley Sale, but when it come to bike touring I wanted to be sure to mention our best bike trailer deal. We’re clearing out the 2014 Burley Nomad for only $239.99. That is $100 off the original price!

extrawheel-voyager-with-panniers-in-desertAnd finally, Extrawheel Trailers are 10% off through December 15th.

Well that’s a wrap. Happy Holidays and Happy Cycling!

Source:: CommuteByBike.com


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17 Bike Commuting Accessories Schlepped 10,000 Miles

By Ted Johnson

Left Behind

by Ted Johnson

More than ten thousand miles from where I sit, there is a storage unit filled with the other 99 percent of my life’s accumulated crap; the stuff I left behind when I shipped off to Madagascar. This includes all four of my bikes.

It’s probably safe to leave behind those studded snow tires.
Click to enlarge
Photo: Ted Johnson

I crammed that unit full of my material attachments like a minor league Tetris player, and said a sad goodbye to my tax records, my collection of coffee mugs, and a big cat scratching post that used to be a nice wing-back chair.

“But what crap did you take to Madagascar,” you ask?

Well, that’s the purpose of this post.

I have more posts forthcoming in my Tananarivize series on bike commuting in Madagascar’s capitol, but I thought it would be helpful to lay out the gear that I brought with me–right there on the asphalt in front of my storage unit.

I will refer back to this post in future dispatches.

Not a yard sale.
Photo: Ted Johnson

  • An assortment of ratty old cycling gloves:
    Because I commute with gloves, in any weather. Is that strange?
  • An Ortlieb Mud Racer LEDsaddle bag:
    I had to pick a saddle bag, and this one came by default because the mounting hardware was already attached to my saddle.
  • An Ortlieb 10-Liter Water Bag:
    Not really for cycling. I brought this knowing that I would probably wouldn’t be able to drink my water right out of the tap. I didn’t even know if I would have a tap. (I do.) I have to filter and treat my drinking water ahead of time, and in this Ortlieb bag is where I store it.
  • My Detours Coffee Bag:
    I already reviewed this interesting oddball of a bag. I haven’t found a purpose for it yet in Madagascar, but if I do I will write all about it.
  • My Ortlieb Back Roller Classic Panniers (with BSH logo):
    Collectors edition–these are no longer available in black with the logo in white. Jealous?
  • A Quivver (“The Speedo of Messenger Bags”):
    I keep thinking I’m going to use this, then I don’t.
  • A balaclava and…
  • Apair of racquetball goggles:
    These may seem like weird things to bring to Madagascar, but right before I left the US I was reading all about a plague of cannibal locusts terrorizing Antananarivo. I thought these would protect my mouth and eyes from billions of bugs. By the time I arrived, the swarm had subsided. But we can always hope for next year.
  • An assortment of pant leg cuff clips:
    Not to nitpick, but cuff clips either take too long to put on, or the ones that go on easily also come off too easily. See that silly big one that looks like a shin brace? That’s a Leg Shield, which I reviewed a long time ago. The Leg Shield folks are sending me their newest pant cuff product, which promises to be the easy-on-and-stays-on solution I have been waiting for my entire life.
  • A Dajia Cycleworks Trekking Handlebar from Velo Orange:
    Sadly, I pulled this handlebar from my luggage along with my ukulele. I was just a couple of pounds over my weight limit. I was rather proud of how I had wrapped the ukulele and the handlebar together so that the uke was protected. (For thoughts on trekking bars, see Bluescat’s “Trekking Handlebars and Other Comforts.” For thoughts on ukuleles, see “Mother of Pearl” by Nellie McKay.)
  • A Velo Orange Model 3 Saddle and a jar of VO Saddle Care:
    It’s only been three years since I got this, but I continue to believe that one day this saddle will be broken in; adapted to my unique butt bones, and I will see what the fuss is all about. Either that or I will try a Brooks saddle like all the other snobs.
  • G-Form Knee Pads:
    Because I might be commuting one day, and I’ll start to fall down, and I will pause time, run home, put these on, run back, un-pause time, and fall on my knees and escape injury. Or (to be less of a smartass), I might go mountain biking and want to protect my knees — assuming I can plan ahead.
  • Philips SafeRide 80 Headlight:
    This just showed up one day a couple of years ago. I probably should have reviewed it. It’s a nice, bright USB-rechargeable bike headlight with a fancy brushed-aluminum casing. I would have given it a good review. But then, here in Madagascar, the mounting bracket broke just from the bike falling over. And then I would have felt really bad for anyone who had purchased the light based on my recommendation. I totally dodged a bullet there, didn’t I?
  • A Busch & Mller Topfire Bike Helmet LED Tail Light:
    This little thing pokes four LEDs out the ventilation holes of your helmet. Will it measure up to my beloved Fire Eye tail light, left behind in the storage unit? I’ll let you know.
  • Tire levers:
    If you don’t know what these are for, this is not the post where it will be revealed to you.
  • Two HubBub Helmet Mirrors:
    That’s right! I like this mirror so much I brought two of them with me. I just may feel generous one day and give one of these to a deserving Madagascan.
  • The Bike Light Formerly Known as Gotham:
    Now known as the Defender Glare. I like the theft-resistance of this. We’ll see how I like changing the batteries, which requires a special skinny screwdriver that I have not lost–yet.
  • Bonus: Smack in the middle of the photo of all my stuff spread out on the ground, there is a can of hairspray. Leave a comment if you know what that is for.

    Some of this gear will get a full review, some of it I already have reviewed, and some gearmay never be mentioned by me again. If there’s something you’d like me do definitely review, let me know in the comments.

    And now for the big reveal…

    My Madagascar commuter:

    Ted's Madagascan Commuter

    Sigh… It’s just a bike.
    Photo: Ted johnson

    Ted Johnson is a Peace Corps Response Volunteer in Antananarivo, Madagascar. Follow his hardly-ever-about-bikes blogging at Half-Hearted Fanatic, and tweeting at @TedJohnsonIII.

    Note that the opinions expressed here by Ted Johnson are solely his own and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

    Source:: CommuteByBike.com


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    Riser Bars become Drop Bars South of the Equator(and more Science from Madagascar)

    By Ted Johnson

    Dropped Risers and Bar Ends - Miarinarivo

    We all know for a fact that toilets and drains swirl counter clockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern hemisphere. (And by “fact” I mean “falsehood.”)

    But did you know that south of the equator riser bars become drop bars? That’s right. I have the scientific proof from Madagascar.

    Check it out:

    I’ll drop my risers and have asymmetrical brake levers if I damn well please!
    Photo: Ted Johnson

    I think it’s about comfort and having multiple riding positions. If dropped risers were about being trendy, then this young man would be riding a fixie, and he sure as hell wouldn’t have disc brakes:

    Dropped Risers - Antananarivo

    Although some hipsters would kill to have his Power Rangers backpack
    Photo: Ted Johnson

    I estimate that nearly half of the bikes I see in Madagascar have dropped riser bars. I’ve only seen one set of actual drop bars here, and one set of bull horn handlebars that once had been drop bars–both in their northern-hemisphere configuration. So the inverse of this scientific principle does not hold.

    Dropped Risers - Miarinarivo

    I am the three-foot passing law.
    Photo: Ted Johnson

    And I think they are on to something. Make the bike comfortable to ride. Having slightly lower bars allows you to hunch down if you need to and lower your wind resistance. But you can also ride as upright as you could with flat bars.

    Dropped Risers - Miarinarivo

    Hauling charcoal and riding in a skirt. I call it Charcoal Chic.
    Photo: Ted Johnson

    Another accessory that is ubiquitous in Madagascar are bar ends–those things you mount to the end of your bars for an extra hand position, and are extremely handy when climbing hills.

    Bar Ends - Miarinarivo

    Are those bar ends, or are you just happy to see me?
    Photo: Ted Johnson

    In the town of Miarinarivo, I found this guy selling new and used bike parts in the local market. When he demonstrated bar ends, it was only natural that he held them on inverted riser bars.

    Miarinarivo: One stop shopping for bike parts, dried fish, and fresh fruit.
    Photo: Ted Johnson

    For some inexplicable reason, bar ends never caught on with utility cyclists, and even seem to have fallen out of favor among mountain bikers.

    And what happened to all of those bar ends once they became unfashionable in the west?

    Bar Ends - Miarinarivo market

    I think I know.
    Photo: Ted Johnson

    The angle and position of the bar ends are clearly tweaked according to individual preferences. I’ve even seen bar ends not on the ends of bars, but nearer to the middle of the handlebar–like those weird-ass antenna things on the head of a giraffe. (They’re called “ossicones.” I looked it up for you.) Giraffe are not native to Madagascar, so that doesn’t explain it.

    Double Bar Ends - Alarobia, Antananarivo, Madagascar

    Cramming for the bar
    Photo: Ted Johnson

    I’ve even seen bar ends used in very impractical hand positions, such as this bike, where I think they are installed to protect his brake levers from breaking off if the bike were to fall over or get loaded indelicately onto the roof of a bush taxi.

    Bar Ends - Miarinarivo

    A fairly simple cost-benefit calculation. Bar ends are cheaper than replacing brake levers–again.
    Photo: Ted Johnson

    My personal favorite style of bar ends are these, that just somehow look more badass than bent cylindrical tubes. I don’t recall ever seeing this style in the US.

    Bar Ends - Antananarivo

    Somewhere a hacksaw is missing a handle.
    Photo: Ted Johnson

    I kept my eyes out, because I knew I’d eventually see a bike both with dropped risers, and with bar ends.

    I looked no farther than this roadside mechanic–one of many I see on my short commute.

    Drop Bars and Bar Ends - Antananarivo

    I’ll take the combo, please.
    Photo: Ted Johnson

    Although I have a frame pump, I’ve never used it. When my tires are getting a little squish in them, I pull over and see this guy and pay him 1000 MGA to top off my tires with a floor pump–about 40 cents. And when I don’t need my tires topped off, I wave as I pass and he waves back because we are pals now.

    Antananarivo Roadside Mechanic

    But that’s a whole other blog post
    Photo: Ted Johnson

    I had planned to bring trekking bars (a.k.a butterfly bars) to Madagascar (See Exhibit 10). It was disappointing to leave them behind (along with my ukulele) on account of my luggage being a few pounds overweight. Now, I’m kind of glad I didn’t bring them. I don’t think trekking bars would ever catch on here. Bicyclists here south of the equator have figured out how to configure handlebars to every hand position they need. I do miss my ukulele though.

    The first time I saw this phenomenon, I thought, That looks dumb. Before long my perception changed to, Why not? And now I have arrived at, That looks cool! I should do that!

    Ted Johnson is a Peace Corps Response Volunteer in Antananarivo, Madagascar. Follow his hardly-ever-about-bikes blogging at Half-Hearted Fanatic, and tweeting at @TedJohnsonIII.

    Note that the opinions expressed here by Ted Johnson are solely his own and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

    Source:: CommuteByBike.com


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    High Visibilty and High Fashion? Yes Please! – Vespertine Vespert Review

    By Karen Voyer-Caravona

    The Vespert in Eco Citron

    Let me just cut to the chase; I dont normally wear clothes made for bike riding. However, Vespertines reflective Vespert vest intrigued me as a fashionable solution to my recent concerns about being visible on Phoenixs often inhospitable streets.

    The Vespert in Eco Citron

    When I started blogging about my experiences commuting by bike, one of the points that I wanted to stress was how easy it actually was. No special gear or clothes, just a bicycle in good working order with a few accessories such as lighting and some reliable bike bags for carrying work necessities or transporting groceries.

    Mikael Colville Andersons Copenhagen Cycle Chic blog was a huge influence on my willingness to give transport cycling a try because he presented an image of bike commuting that didnt involve Lycra, a fabric that often causes me to resemble a brightly colored sausage. I didnt want to be that woman who arrived at work dressed for sports and not for getting down to business. I took pride myself as an urban cyclist who wore regular clothes when I set on my journey each day. As someone who wanted to do my part in promoting an alternative form of getting around, I wanted to make it look easy to those who insisted that it was impossible.

    Pedaling around in my normal clothes wasnt too much of an issue in bike friendly Flagstaff, Arizona, which enjoys an abundance of bike lanes and multiuse paths. Its a community where almost everyone is at least a recreational cyclist. As a Dark Skies community, street lights take a back seat to starry, starry nights in Flag so I purchased a couple of fashionable bright yellow coats for the sake of visibility. It wasnt uncommon for a complete stranger to tell me they noticed me on my bike earlier because of my bright yellow coat and what a smart idea it was to choose that color.

    Nonetheless, when we relocated down to car-centric Phoenix, I was not immune to the fact that my biking conditions would change drastically. And they did. Not so many bike lanes and even fewer multiuse paths. A lot of my bike commuting is on regular city streets with car drivers who dont think I should be there and arent looking for bicyclists. Additionally, Phoenix is darn hot a good portion of the year and having the extra layer of a yellow coat or jacket is often not very comfortable. I needed something lightweight for trips in 80 116 degree heat that would make in visible when biking. I also wanted something that would easily fit over a bulky sweater or coat for cooler weather. My husband and I have some sleeveless reflective vests we wore for night running but, I admit, they are just so ugly I just couldnt bear showing up to work in them. Yes, Commute by Bike readers, these are the shallow worries of some riders out there. We are peacocks and nothing will change us in that respect.

    Easy to pair with any clothing without looking bulky or awkward

    Easy to pair with any outfit without looking bulky or awkward

    The Vespert is a super-duper lightweight sleeveless vest that comes in four colors (flame, cotton candy, lime and citron) and provides 360 degrees of reflective Scotchlite material on the crossing straps at the should, around the V-neck, along the bottom edge and with the tie closure. The look is minimalist and modern, slightly shaped in cut but roomy.

    Sleek, minimalist and stylish

    Sleek, minimalist and stylish

    It doesnt look like the typical reflective vest in safety green or neon pink, and theres no Velcro to get stuck together or on to sweaters or gloves. I requested the Eco Citron (yellow) color in a medium. In the month Ive had it, Ive worn in running and on my bike, both during the day and after dark. Ive worn it over thin running shirts and my bulky grey peacoat and usually forget I have it on, it is so weightless and nonrestricting.

    Everyone saw me coming on the way to the Phoenix Sun's game

    Everyone saw me coming on the way to the Phoenix Sun’s game

    Amazing visibility day and night

    Amazing visibility day and night

    Among the other features that I like about the Vespert are two pockets sewn into the inside. One located on the left interior of the vest is perfect for small items like lip balm, ID, or emergency cash. I usually use this pocket when I wear it running for those little incidentals.

    Internal pockets for this and that

    Internal pockets for this and that

    The other pocket is sewn into the inside of the neck and is used to fold the entire vest into for easy storage in ones purse or pannier upon removal. I really like it because I just immediately tuck it into my bike bag once I get to work and I dont have to worry about it getting damage as I pull other things out of my bag the rest of the day and its there where I need it at the end of the day when Im ready to ride home.

    Vespert folds up for compact storage

    Vespert folds up for compact storage

    Usually, when I review products I comment on what Id change. There really isnt much to say there. No complaints, although a third pocket on the right interior side wouldnt hurt as sometimes when I have items in the left interior pocket I feel a bit weighed down on that side and find myself adjusting the vest.

    As with every review, I like to spend some time on the companys website to review their history and other products. According to the companys vision statement, designer Sarah Canner founded the collection to inspire, empower, and protect bikers on their daily journeys creating clothes youd like to wear. The reflective materials used in her work provide great visibility in car headlights from 2,000 feet or .38 miles away. Products are made in New York City using 100 percent sustainable fabric polyester, as well as luxury fabrics sourced from artisanal European mills and beyond. Looking at other product offerings, Vespertine carries a long-sleeved riding dress and a sleeveless shift dress, both with reflective Scotchlite material woven into the fabric. Neither scream bike-wear, but are instead are simple, elegant, and timeless in design. Ill be honest, though I had sworn off bike specific clothes, the Dash Dress looks pretty awesome, and Im wondering how well it would do with a white turtle neck underneath for the month or so of cold weather we have in Phoenix. The company also sells a compactly cut womens blazer and a smart looking mens long sleeve, hip-length riding jacket, both of which I wouldnt mind seeing in Eco Citron as well.

    Vespertine products are not cheap, with the most expensive product being over $500. The Vespert is listed for $68, which though pricy, is probably worth the price when I consider how often I have been wearing it. Since its attractive I dont talk myself out of wearing it, and I really do feel more visible, especially on a particular section of my commute where I mix with busier rush hour traffic.

    Karen Voyer-CaravonaKaren Voyer-Caravona is a some-time city cyclist living in Phoenix, Arizona. She is a founding member of Phoenix Spokes People, which is dedicated to promoting bicycling as a viable transportation option in the city of Phoenix. When she is not conspiring socialist plots against her city’s infamous car-centric culture, she is studying for her masters degree in social work at Arizona State University.

    Source:: CommuteByBike.com


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    Selling E-Bikes Online, an Eye-Opening Experience Concluding in a BionX Clearance

    By Josh Lipton

    In 2011 we decided to explore the opportunity of selling electric bicycles and e-bike kits online. It didn’t go well, but we learned quite a bit along the way. I’m here to tell the tale and while I’m at it announce our 25% off BionX Clearance.

    As you may already know the business behind this blog, BikeShopHub.com has grown by focusing on selling bike commuting, bike touring and family cycling equipment online. Electric bicycles were interesting to us from the perspective of being a useful upgrade for our commuter and family cycling customers. There was also quite a bit of buzz in the air about electric (pun intended once realized) bicycles at the time.

    Getting started into E-bikes involved poking around on the internet, prodding CBB readers about their e-bike emotions and a week of test riding at Interbike.

    To kick things into gear we decided to bring on 4 different brands of electric bikes along with Ridekick Trailers and BionX e-bike kits. Meanwhile we continued ramping up our number of thought provoking posts concerning E-bikes here at CommuteByBike.com.

    We conceptualized and launched the J.O.Y.B.A.G. project, focused on discovering bicycles and accessories that made bicycling as easy an experience as driving a car. While being electrified was not compulsory to our definition of what mad a bike a J.O.Y.B.A.G. (Jump On Your Bike And Go!) bike, for many cyclists it helps fulfill the J.O.Y.B.A.G. vision in a substantial way.

    These preparatory efforts were followed by the launch of BikeTechShop.com in the fall of 2011. BikeTechShop.com was stock with the aforementioned electric bikes and kits. Tech meant technology (not technician) and we rounded out the shop with other technology gadgetry used on bicycles including bicycle lights, bicycle GPS, smart phone mounts and various sound makers.

    The energy that we put into the launch of BikeTechShop.com sustained an air of success during the initial effort. As the initial buzz and attention faded away and we began to have time to see what was really happening in this department, we realized that the opportunity in these products was not proving to be very substantial.

    There were a variety of circumstances emerging that we had not anticipated:

    1. We were not able to sell a significant number of E-Bikes through our E-commerce platform. We concluded that E-bikes were not something that many consumers would buy sight, unseen without a local dealer. Additionally, there was likely less real consumer interest than we had hoped for coupled with a high price point.

    2. The E-bikes that we did sell online proved to be very expensive to ship. Once the customers received them, they were prone to have many issues that we had to resolve.

    3. BionX E-Bike kits while being the single bright spot for online sale, provided quite a few customer service issues for us to figure out an overcome.

    By 2013 we had decided to clear out E-bikes and reduce the focus just to BionX and Ridekick.

    On the Ridekick Trailers front, we had done fairly well selling this innovative product. The product was a ground break solution to electrifying bikes by adding a very easy to use assist mechanism that could be quickly installed to any bicycle. The self-contained system was about one of the most cost-effective ways to add electric assist to a bike while offering the added benefit of cargo capacity.

    Despite the success that we were seeing selling Ridekick, the fledgling company was struggling to get running smoothly. Towards the end of 2013 the supply of trailers began to dry up and we haven’t been able to get ahold of them since. While it sounds like they will likely have inventory for 2015, the supply issues for 2014 were one more nail-in-the coffin in our experiance with offering electric bike products online.

    Each time we sold a BionX kit we were excited to make a high dollar sale but wary of the customer service demands that were to follow. For a time it seemed that every other kit that we sold had some issue for us to sort out. And while BionX does make the leading E-Bike kit I think it is fair to say that the squeeky wheel approach is necessary to get decent customer service from BionX.

    Two factors made handling BionX customer service substantially more difficult than other products. The first factor was that all warranty issues had to be diagnosed by an authorized BionX dealer. The second factor was that all BionX kits had lithium iIon batteries which are considered HAZMAT for shipping companies and can only be shipped by authorized HAZMAT shippers (something that we quickly became).

    Having been beat up by the experience of being an online BionX dealer, I finally came to my senses and figured out how we could sanely proceed with offering these products.

    First, I realized that we had to begin doing a full test of every BionX kit prior to shipping it. There were a surprising number of kits that were missing parts or had some malfunctioning part. This obvious solution resolved quite a few of the issues we were having.

    Second, I realized that I needed to write a detailed explanation of how BionX handled their warranties and what anyone purchasing the product should anticipate especially with the problem of returning lithium ion batteries. I then both published this on the BionX Kit product listings and sent it for verification to any customers who made a purchase.

    We saw an immediate improvement to our customer service record with BionX once these two changes were instituted. We were finally content with the experience of offering BionX to our customers.

    We proceeded through 2014 with BionX as our last grasp on offering electric bikes. The final death knoll came in November when our product liability insurance broker told us that we could save a substantial amount of money if we switched to a different insurance plan. The one catch was that they could not offer coverage if we were selling electric bikes or kits. Running the numbers made the decision simple. The savings that we would gain in the insurance policy was eight times the profit we were making from selling BionX kits.

    So we are wrapping up selling electric bikes and kits for the time being. Things may change if our new insurance carrier perks up and can include e-bikes in their policies. Or if there if some major shift in the opportunity for e-bikes shifts, we may go back to our much more expensive provider.

    There is quite a bit more that could be said about what we learned about E-bikes, perhaps I’ll save that for another post. And we’ll continue to show our support and belief in this important technology. I still believe electric bikes are coming in a big way to the US, just perhaps not as fast as works for our business.

    For now we have a few more weeks to clear out our remaining stock of BionX before we turn on our new insurance policy. If you are looking at a BionX kit, I’m pretty sure you won’t be able to find a better pice than what we’ve got going on now.

    Source:: CommuteByBike.com


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    Monkey Lights Lighting up a Chilly Commute – A Review

    By Troy Marino

    What ya get with one M204

    by Troy Marino

    I spent one week bicycle commuting and mountain biking with a front-wheel mounted Monkey Light M204 a wheel light that offers (mostly) 360 visibility. The M204 is the less expensive model of Monkey Lights from MonkeyLectric.

    What ya get with one M204

    After watching the installation video, installation went fairly smooth. A quick peak of the user guide then I was off into the night.

    With the M204 light and battery holder mounted on opposite sides of the hub, my wheel felt balanced and I did not notice the weight of the light and batteries.

    M204 Mounted to Front Wheel

    M204 Mounted to Front Wheel

    Good visibility of the light is more like 350 and the advertised 40 Lumens is only achieved with the solid whitish color setting and a side bicycle view. It appears that slimmer tires would increase front and rear visibility.

    For slow-speed commutes or rides that are well lit and have low traffic, then a single Monkey light might be enough, but a dedicated front and rear facing light will increase your visibility. I chose to mount the light on my front wheel, believing that a turning wheel would provide more visibility.

    The fun factor is the highlight of the M204. At high speeds some patterns are beautiful. The effect has certainly turned a few heads in my small mountain city.

    Having fun with the M204 and a long camera exposure.

    Having fun with the M204 and a long camera exposure.

    The M204 proved its ruggedness during a rainy commute and muddy mountain bike ride.

    If you want to add some visibility and fun to your commute then I recommend trying the Monkey Light M204.

    • 40 Lumen Brightness, 4 Full Color LEDs, 360 degree visibility.
    • Rugged and Waterproof for daily use in all weather conditions.
    • Made in USA with 2 Year Warranty.
    • 8 colors and 5 themes included.
    • Runs up to 60 hours on 3 x AA (batteries NOT included)

    Source:: CommuteByBike.com


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    Pro Tip: Hauling and Treating Questionable Water

    By Ted Johnson

    Montague Bike with Thule Tour Rack and Commuter Pannier

    There are lot of photos of my left hand and arm in this post. But if you look closely, you’ll see a couple of bikes.

    Some bicyclists do need to carry water — a few yards, or even miles from where the water will be consumed. It’s the way of the world, but maybe not your world.

    I have in mind people in a situation similar to my own; people who have to live every day with an unsafe (or unpalatable) water source. And that water source might not be right inside your domicile — your house, your tent, your dumpster, etc. And sometimes the water you carry isn’t ready to drink just yet.

    This community well in Madagascar is right next to a pit latrine — and hopefully the well is much much deeper.
    Photo: Ted Johnson

    If you will be commuting, touring or Peace-Corps-ing somewhere where the water may contain disease-causing organisms, this pro tip is for you.

    Back in 2013 I was hauling filtered water in Tucson in an Ortlieb 10 Liter Water Bag. (See Exhibit 3.)

    The tap water in Tucson is safe to drink, but as I wrote at the time, it “tastes like a weak tea made from a hobo’s pocket change.” (If I’m not going to remind you of my literary gems, who will?)

    In Tucson: The first world version of the community well. Coins, bills, and credit cards accepted.
    Photo: Ted Johnson

    Back when I was hauling filtered water from a fake windmill in Tucson, I had no idea I would be living in Madagascar in less than two years. But the Tucson experience was instructive. A good water bag, a roomy pannier, and a sturdy bike rack made hauling water easy.

    Now, here in Antananarivo, Madagascar, the municipal water is…

    Well, let me put it this way: For several weeks after I arrived here, I would go into my bathroom, look into the toilet bowl and wonder, Did I forget to flush again?

    I eventually realized it wasn’t that I needed a potty training refresher. What I was seeing is just the color of the city water as it is delivered to my apartment.

    Antananarivo Water -- before and after.

    Were you hoping for photos of my toilet? Sicko.
    Photo: Ted Johnson

    So I treat my drinking water at home using both filtration and a water purification solution. And that’s where the Ortlieb 10 Liter Water Bag comes in again, along with a water purification product and a portable luggage scale.

    I purchased this luggage scale, and I’ve been satisfied with it. (It’s the only luggage scale I’ve ever owned, so I don’t know any better.)

    The purification solution that I use is called Sûr’Eau, which is a product developed by USAID and is distributed at subsidized prices in many developing countries.


    Thank you, American taxpayers. Seriously: Thank you.
    Photo: Ted Johnson

    For those of you not living in a developing country, you may find yourself needing a product such as Aquamira Water Treatment Drops, or perhaps good old bleach.

    The luggage scale comes in when I add the water to my 10-liter Ortlieb water bag. How do I know how many drops of the water treatment solution to add to the water?

    I remembered from grade school that one liter of water weighs one kilogram. (What do you say now, Mrs. Berg, who had me transferred to a different school in fourth grade?)

    So I take my portable luggage scale and weigh the water bag before I add water.

    Weighing the Ortlieb 10L Water Bag

    I write this number down because I can’t keep three digits in my working memory for more than a few seconds.
    Photo: Ted Johnson

    Then I add water.

    I have a nifty trick where I rest the bag in a kitchen drawer so I don’t have to support it the entire time it is filling up.

    Ortlieb 10L Water Bag in a Kitchen Drawer

    It happens to be my knife drawer. What could go wrong?
    Photo: Ted Johnson

    Then I weigh it again after the bag is full. I subtract the beginning weight in kilograms from the end weight in kilograms.

    For example: If my water bag weighs 2.69 Kg before I add more water, and 8.57 Kg afterwards, that means I’ve added 5.88 Kg of water — which is also 5.88 liters of water. I would round that up to an even 6. The recommended number of drops of Sûr’Eau is 3 per liter.

    6 liters

    x 3 drops/liter


    = 18 drops

    Adding water treatment to Ortlieb 10L Water Bag

    Or maybe only 17 drops–if I feel like living on the edge.
    Photo: Ted Johnson

    Whatever water purification drops or tablets you use will have its own units-per-liter instructions. Knowing the weight of the water in kilograms makes the math easy.

    If you find yourself with nothing around but plain old household bleach (unscented, if possible), here’s the ratio:

    Purifying Water During an Emergency -- Washington State Dept. of Health

    If you want to make the math more complicated, with gallons, quarts, and teaspoons, you’re on your own.
    Source: Washington State Dept. of Health

    If I had approximately 6 liters of water to purify, I’d use 30 drops of bleach (rather than 18 drops of Sûr’Eau as in the previous example).

    If you find this math hard, then you might not be smart enough to live or travel abroad.

    After I put the cap back on, I can flip the bag over so the nozzle is pointed down.

    Ortlieb 10L Water Bag

    Upsy Daisy… Dispensing position.
    Photo: Ted Johnson

    Then, before I dispense the water, I wait the recommended period of 30 minutes while the germs die a horrific death, their tiny bodies burning in chlorine.

    The whole set up.

    Your water station may vary.
    Photo: Ted Johnson

    The only problem I’ve had with this system is that sometimes the gasket around the lid pops out partially. I just need to pop it back in with my finger tip.

    Ortlieb Water Bag Cap

    Now I check this before I flood my kitchen floor.
    Photo: Ted Johnson

    Pampered priss that I am, I actually have hot water and a shower in my apartment to deliver that warm yellow liquid all over my body. However, you might not be so lucky. Consider getting an Ortlieb Shower Valve which will allow you to use this same water bag for bathing.

    Ortlieb Shower Valve

    Ortlieb Shower Valve
    Photo: Bike Bag Shop

    And you probably want to get a black water bag so it will heat up faster in the sun. I haven’t tested this scenario.

    I have to give credit to Josh Lipton for introducing me to portable luggage scales. When I bought mine, I had no idea I’d be using it to weigh anything but luggage, to say nothing of keeping it in my kitchen for weekly use.

    Ted Johnson is a Peace Corps Response Volunteer in Antananarivo, Madagascar. Follow his hardly-ever-about-bikes blogging at Half-Hearted Fanatic, and tweeting at @TedJohnsonIII.

    Note that the opinions expressed here by Ted Johnson are solely his own and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

    Source:: CommuteByBike.com


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