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Fat Tire Flyer: Repack and the Birth of Mountain Biking

When the race that became known as Repack was first run on October 21, 1976, a half-dozen or so people, along with a dog named Junior, lined up at the top of Pine Mountain Road just west of Fairfax, California. Before them was Cascade Canyon Road, a twisting dirt plunge that dropped 1,300 feet in roughly two miles. An Oklahoma transplant named Alan Bonds came in first on that cloudless morning, but it was Bonds’s roommate, Charlie Kelly, who became known as Mr. Repack, thanks to his role in helping to set up that initial race and organizing just about all of the 24 Repacks that followed.

Now, in Fat Tire Flyer: Repack and the Birth of Mountain Biking, Kelly candidly tells the story of the rock-n-roll-soaked years that led up to that race, as well as the business he started a few years later, MountainBikes, with his other roommate, Gary Fisher, with whom he coined the phrase we all take for granted today. Kelly gets to tell this tale not just because he was there -- he was one of the sport’s principal instigators and evangelists, the guy who kept the records, got on the phone, and regularly made lots of stuff happen. Thus we follow Kelly on rides out to Mineral King in the southern Sierra and up over Pearl Pass in Crested Butte, Colorado, a two-wheeled ambassador of sorts for his nascent sport. Filled with Wende Cragg’s cinema-vérité photographs, many taken at a brutally sharp left-turning switchback called Camera Corner, and with a foreword by Joe Breeze, who built what many consider the first true mountain bike in 1977, Fat Tire Flyer is a terrific read, although it’ll probably make you want to put the book down, dust off that clunker that’s been buried in the garage, and head for the hills.

Fat Tire Flyer: Repack and the Birth of Mountain Biking by Charlie Kelly

Take a look at other beautiful paper books at Wink. And sign up for the Wink newsletter to get all the reviews and photos delivered once a week.

Dahon Speed D7 folding bicycle

Of all the ways to navigate cities, I find I get to know them best on a bicycle: not too slow, not too fast, just high up enough to observe, and quasi-meditatively conducive to thought.

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History of mountain biking

1976Excelsiors

Collectors Weekly looks at the birth of mountain biking and the legendary 1976 Repack race in Marin, California:

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Norwegian atheist's velicoraptor trike


Norwegian artist Markus Moestue pedalled it around the countryside to protest "the dogmatic religious education of children."

Crossing the Bible Belt [Markus Moestue]

(via JWZ)

Cheap electric bike: Currie Ezip Trailz

This is the electric bike I recommend for anyone on a tight budget. The Ezip Trailz is a bargain in terms of how much it can affect your life on little dollars. It is by far the best selling electric bike in the United States, for good reason: For less than $500 it is a decent electric bike with reasonable performance. At this price point if you just ride the bike regularly it will pay for itself quickly.

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Just look at this bicycle banana-hammock.


Just look at it.

Banana Holder (via Julian Bond/Boing Boing G+)

Bike seat/taxidermy sculptures


Canadian artist Clem Chen produced a pair of lovely grotesque sculptures by combining bicycle seats with taxidermy, presently on display at the Hot Art Wet City Gallery in Vancouver.

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Kickstarting a portable electric motor for city-share bikes

An entrepreneur is looking for $100K on Kickstarter to fund production of Shareroller, an ingenious, portable, snap-on electric motor for city-share bikes, like those in NYC, London, Toronto, Montreal, DC, Minneapolis, etc. The motor -- which weighs about 7 lbs and is the size of a ream of printer-paper -- clips onto the triangular docking prong on the front of the bike, and uses a retractable friction-wheel to impart energy to the bike. It also works on scooters and personal bikes, though these require a special mount.

Shareroller sports a big, powerful battery, and the inventor is alive to the possibilities here. It includes USB charge-ports for your phone and other devices, so you can charge while you ride. It also has a set of high-powered headlights. The 750W, 1hp motor has a maximum range of 12 miles at 18mph (it will go farther is you help by pedalling).

The device is reportedly ready for production. $1000 gets you one from the initial run. $1300 is full list price (more if you opt for the range-extending extra battery). They'll sell you one of their functional, pre-production prototypes for $2000, shipping as soon as the Kickstarter is fulfilled, and replaced with a production model when they are available.

The creator has a fairly impressive track record of making and shipping stuff, though, as with all Kickstarters, there is no guarantee that your money will get you anything.

I like the exercise I get from pedalling around on short-hire bikes in London. But I also like the idea of getting all the way across town in the middle of summer and arriving without being drenched in sweat. I don't know that I'd spend $1,000 (or $1,300) to attain that state, though.

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Documenting the NYC snowpocalypse's neckdowns: latent traffic calming revealed by climate and crowds

Clarence Eckerson made a splash with a pair of videos that documented the latent traffic-calming measures lurking in New York's streets, revealed by heavy snowfall. These "neckdowns," left behind by snowplows, provide an existence proof of the ways that changes in curbs and streets would make things safer for drivers and pedestrians.

With the current NYC snowpocalypse upon us, Eckerson is back in the streets, calling on people to document and tweet the city's ice-neckdowns, tagging them with #sneckdown (they're also documenting unplowed bike-lanes). It's a marvellous example of live, networked urban theory, and shows how people can organize to build the evidentiary basis for real change to their cities.

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Wearable planters: 3D printed translucent jewelry, with plants!


Etsy seller Wearableplanter has a wide range of 3D printed planters: rings, jewelry -- even bicycle vases! They're intended for use with succulents, small flowers, and sprouts. They're watertight and translucent, and you can see the roots through the material.

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Cops parked in bike lanes


The Cops in Bike Lanes tumblr is just what you'd expect: photos from around America of police cars illegally stopped in bike lanes, a practice that forces cyclists to abruptly and dangerously enter the stream of automotive traffic.

The photos are often annotated by their submitters; the commentary on the photo above notes that "There is clearly plenty of room for this van to parallel park and not obstruct the bike lane if the officer gave half a second’s thought to cyclists' safety."

Cops in Bike Lanes (via Making Light)

Bike helmets and safety: a case study in difficult epidemiology


Ben Goldacre and David Spiegelhalter have published a paper in the British Medical Journal called " Bicycle helmets and the law", exploring the complex epidemiological conundrum presented by research on safety and bike helmets. As Goldacre pointed out, this is a perfect teaching case about the difficulty of evaluating risk and its relationship to law and the behavior. The paper is short and very clearly written, and makes a great companion to Goldacre's excellent books, Bad Science and Bad Pharma.

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Bike light with laser cannon creates a glowing, personal bike-lane


ThinkGeek's $25 Blazing Skull Bicycle Tail Light has a pair of "laser cannon" that draw six-foot lines of red light on either side of your bike, creating "your own glowing bike lane."

Blazing Skull Bicycle Tail Light With Laser Cannon Lane Markers

Hand-carved replica Campagnolo derailleur in walnut


Brook sez, "My cousin Max made this amazing replica out of walnut of a Campagnolo bicycle derailleur."

Self-balancing unicycle

The SBUV3 is a self-balancing, motorized electric unicyle that you steer by shifting your center of gravity. They cost about $1800, feature regenerative braking, and have a top speed of 12.5mph. The steering software adapts to you (and vice-versa), fine-tuning its responsiveness based on your riding-style.

One Wheel. ∞ Fun (Thanks, Rob!)

San Francisco City Hall hears horrifying tales of cops' hostility to cyclists

Dozens of cyclists attended a hearing on police hostility to cyclists at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors last week. They told stories of undercover cops threatening to beat them up after cutting them off on their bikes; of cops refusing to take action against drivers who had attempted or threatened vehicular homicide; and of a systematic refusal to investigate cases where cyclists were injured or killed by drivers.

Before the inevitable, victim-blaming round of "but cyclists are so aggressive and horrible," please read this (tl;dr: statistical analysis of cyclist behavior does not bear out the caricature of the lunatic rider, who is significantly less common -- and less dangerous -- than the lunatic driver cohort).

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The mysterious physics of bicycles

We don't actually understand why bikes stay upright as they move, writes physicist Michael Brooks at The New Statesman. A 2011 paper, published in the journal Science, poked big holes in the old theories about gyroscopic effects, and nobody has come along with anything to fill them yet.

Edwardians doing bike tricks


The Guardian commemorates the reissue of Isabel Marks's 1901 classic "Fancy Cycling" by publishing a sweet gallery of Edwardian ladies and gents doing bike tricks: "Marvel as these tailored tricksters demonstrate how to pick up a handkerchief without dismounting, ride backwards while seated on the handlebar, and 'tilting at the ring'"

(Thanks, Jonathan!)

Tokyo's underground bike-storage robots

Culture Japan Network TV shows us the underground bicycle-parking robots of Shinagawa, Tokyo. These machines ingest RFID-tagged bicycles and whisk them into their bowels and set them lovingly into huge subterranean crypts, from which they are robotically disinterred when their owners are ready to ride. Each machine holds 200 bikes. The manufacturer's representative explains that storing bikes underground protects them from "pranks" and frees up surface area for better applications, but inexplicably the area around the robo-ingesters is a blank field of paving bricks of approximately the same area that the bikes would occupy on the surface.

Underground Bicycle Parking Systems in Japan (via Kadrey)

Boneshaker: A Bicycling Almanac

I’m slightly ashamed to admit that, as of mid-2013, my print reading has, on a whole, fallen into two categories. The first is comics. I’ll stubbornly argue the superiority of the physical media for sequential art for the foreseeable future. Even as a tech journalist, I’ve yet to encounter an experience compelling enough to convince me to swipe through panels (I love you, Comixology, but I’m just not ready for the commitment). The second is travel -- until the day the FCC comes to its senses, I’ll continue to shove a paperback into my carryon, between the laptop and Kindle. As of late, the latter has begun occurring with increasing frequency, an so, too, has my consumption of small, tree-based volumes.

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Sting-Ray bike creator dies at 88

RIP Al Fritz, inventor of the Schwinn Sting-Ray.

For much of the 1960s and the early 1970s, no suburban streetscape would have been complete without them: A squadron of kids clutching sky-high handlebars on low-slung bikes in eye-popping, hot-rod colors.

Equipped with a curved banana seat, the Schwinn Sting-Ray was America's most popular bicycle. Its godfather, Schwinn executive Al Fritz, became known as an industry visionary for transforming a Southern California street fad into a national phenomenon.

"It looked incredibly sporty," said his son Mike Fritz, a bicycle industry consultant who lives in Newbury Park. "It gave kids too young to have a driver's license the opportunity to have the Corvette of bicycles."

Fritz, the Chicago-based Schwinn manager who heeded a salesman's tip that "something goofy is happening in California," died Tuesday in Barrington, Ill., of complications caused by a stroke, family members said. He was 88.

Al Fritz dies at 88; Schwinn exec developed the Sting-Ray bike (Thanks, Bob!)

Concept design for a bike-light that projects a grid on the ground, highlighting bumps/holes


A team from the University of Sichuan won the Red Dot Design award for a concept design called "Lumigrid" -- a bike-light that projects a grid on the ground ahead of the rider, making terrain irregularities easy to spot:

Lumigrids can project a grid onto the ground. On a flat road surface, the grid will consist of standard squares. On a rough road surface, the grids will deform accordingly. By observing the motion and deformation of the grids, the rider can intuitively understand the landforms ahead. In addition, the luminous grids can make it easier for nearby pedestrians and vehicles to notice the bicycle, reducing the likelihood of collision.

Lumigrids can be fixed onto the bicycle’s handlebars. Its power is supplied by either an internal battery or by the rotation of the bicycle’s wheels. It has only one button so that the rider can easily use it while riding. The first press will turn on the power, the second press will change the mode of projection, and holding the button down for two seconds will turn the power off. Lumigrids has three modes with different grid sizes that can be used to adapt to different situations: normal mode (140x180mm), high-speed mode (140x260mm), and team mode (300x200mm)."

Lumigrids (via OhGizmo)

Bike lanes led to 49% increase in retail sales


Back in November 2012, the New York Department of Transportation released a report called Measuring the Street: New Metrics for the 21st Century, which had some compelling figures on the way that local business benefits from bike-lanes, for the fairly obvious reason that cyclists find it easy to stop and shop, as compared to drivers, who are more likely to continue on to a mall with a big parking lot, or shop online.

In many ways, these data come as no surprise. We know that when towns invest in bicycle infrastructure, people will ride more — the number of people traveling by bicycle increases when there is infrastructure to make traveling by bike safe and easy.

We also know that people who travel along a street by bicycle have fewer barriers to stopping at a local business than people who travel along the same street by car. It's very easy to hop off a bicycle and find a place to secure the bike; not so with finding parking for an automobile. In fact, a recent study suggest that bicycle riders tend to spend more at local businesses over the course of a month.

This new study makes it clear: investing in bicycle improvements boosts small businesses. And what town or city doesn't want to boost activity at local businesses?

NYC Study Finds Protected Bicycle Lanes Boost Local Business (via Kottke)

Loud Bicycle: Car horn for your bike

An outstanding Kickstarter project - a bike horn that is as loud as a car horn!

Cycling in traffic can be frightening and dangerous. The Loud Bicycle horn prevents accidents by alerting motorists with a familiar sound. The safety benefits of the horn give more people the confidence to travel by bike.

How does it work?

Drivers react to car horns before they even know where the sound is coming from. A driver that gets beeped at while backing out of a driveway for example, will immediately brake. These kinds of reflexive reactions are perfect to keep cyclists safe. Some motorists don't realize that their driving habits can be dangerous for cyclists. Drivers will learn to be more aware of cyclists after a Loud Bicycle horn is honked at them.

I want a loud horn for pedestrians.

Loud Bicycle: Car horn for your bike

Dragster bike of 1969


Zaz Von Schwinn uploaded this 1969 Popular Mechanics diagram showing the specs for a spectacular dragster bicycle with all the trimmings.

Popular Mechanics July 1969 page 152 (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Bike helmet with signal lights controlled by head tilting


Last night I went to Crash Space, a hackerspace in Los Angeles, to see the cool things that its members have been working on. One of my favorite projects was Naim Busek's "Bike Luminance," a signal light that you can attach to a bike helmet so drivers can see where you are and where you plan to go. When you tilt your head back, the bright LED light strips blink red. When you tilt forward they turn green. When you tilt your head to one side or the other, the light strips become turn signals.

He's seeking funding on Kickstarter

How to make bicycle handlebars that light-up


[Video Link] Our pal Becky Stern shows you how to make LED bike handlebars using nifty LED tape.

NYC man "steals" his own bike in front of police stations, etc, and very few damns are given


Filmmaker Casey Neistat writes in the NYT about his recurring project to steal his own bicycle in really obvious ways in places across New York, to see if anyone intervenes. Very few people do.

I recently spent a couple of days conducting a bike theft experiment, which I first tried with my brother Van in 2005. I locked my own bike up and then proceeded to steal it, using brazen means — like a giant crowbar — in audacious locations, including directly in front of a police station. I wanted to find out whether onlookers or the cops would intervene. What you see here in my film are the results.

Solutions to the bike theft problem are hard to find. More bike racks in better-lit areas, stronger locks and bike garages all help. But ultimately, greater public awareness may be the only way to substantially curb theft. If someone saw a car being stolen, they would surely call the police. Why should a bike be any different?

‘Bike Thief’ (via Kottke)

Here is a video of a person in a Darth Vader mask and cape, and a Utilikilt, riding a unicycle, playing Star Wars music on a bagpipe, in Portland, OR

As you do.

Darth Vadar bagpipe unicycle (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Men and Motorcycles, Nairobi, Kenya (photo)


"Nairobi, Kenya," a photo from Boing Boing reader Biketripper shared in the BB Flickr Pool. On the bikeflaps of one rider, "A Strong Enemy Is Better Than a Weak Friend."