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. Read the rest
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. Read the rest
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. Read the rest
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. Read the rest
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. Read the rest
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."
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. Read the rest
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.
(Thanks, Rob!) Read the rest
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). Read the rest