Thursday, February 18, 2010

Electra Townie Balloon 8i

Here in the DC area, the only kind of Bike For The Rest Of Us you're likely to be riding following the big blizzard is one that can trudge through snow and slush. Snow has a tendency to render rim brakes useless, clog up fenders and swallow tires less than 2" wide. So what kind of bike would I like to be riding in the snow? An Electra Townie Balloon 8i, of course.

What? No Cyclecross bike? No Surly Pugsley? OK, so a Pugsley would be really nice, but the Electra is a little more upright, a little less extreme. Plus, it has roller brakes, front and rear!! I can probably count on my hands the number of bikes sold in the US with roller brakes. OK, count on one hand for those sold in your local LBS.

The Electra also comes with Schwalbe Fat Frank tires that are 2.35 inches wide to float over the snow. Gearing is a Shimano Nexus 8-speed internal that is more impervious to the elements. A partial chain guard will keep the faux-fur trim on your Sorel Pack Boots clean. The crank-forward design of these bikes will also be useful for putting your feet down as your bike slides out from underneath you on the black ice.

OK, so I'd rather be testing tire flotation on some soft beach sand like Yokota Fritz, but for now just thinking about riding this bike in the snow will have to do.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

VO Polyvalent

In this blog you'll see bikes that have prices ranging from the upper $300 to $1800 or so. With new bicycles over $1000 there are custom or semi-custom options as an alternative to a fully-factory-built bike. What do I mean by custom/semi-custom? You can purchase the frame and a box of components and build up the bike (or have someone do it for you), or you can purchase a a bike that is already built and ready to ride. It's no surprise that people who tour for months on end or bicycle competitively have custom-built bikes. The secret is that you can make the same choices for your Bike For The Rest Of Us.

The Polyvalent from Velo Orange is a multi-purpose bike. It's a Porteur like those that delivered newspapers and goods in Paris in the 1930s. These bikes are made for carrying loads in the front while still being more nimble and quick than a traditional cargo bike. The frame is for 650b wheels that take wider tires than a 700c but are almost the same diameter.

So why is the Polyvalent a Bike For The Rest of Us? It can be fitted with fenders, chain guard and a front rack. It seems like it would be just as happy carrying groceries as hitting the bike path. It's multi-purpose nature makes it perfect for those who can only have one bike.

Velo Orange sells the Polyvalent frames on their website along with anything you'd need to build up the bike. Long Leaf Bicycles has an Alfine-equipped PV on their website. I also heard that Renaissance Bicycles is working on a build. Please drop a note if you know of another places offering the Polyvalent.

Photo credits: Top, Velo Orange. Second, Long Leaf Bicycles

Monday, February 1, 2010

Linus Bikes

Linus makes simple city bikes with 1950s-60s French styling cues. The "bikes as transportation" message on their website makes me smile.
"In most urban cultures bicycles are viewed as legitimate transportation and not merely recreation, but sadly this idea never really caught on in the US. We take numerous little journeys, under 5 miles, as part of our everyday life…. to the store, the pub, to work, etc. Besides the obvious joy of riding a bicycle, these small bicycle trips reduce carbon emissions, congestion, noise pollution, and make for a happier, city experience."
The Linus model line-up includes three steel-framed styles in limited sizes that provide an upright riding position. You'll find a mix of 1-speed and three speeds on the Roadster and Dutchi (step through) models. The three speed models come with a rear rack (not shown on photos) and color-matched fenders. The sweetheart of the bunch is the Mixte, which comes only in a 3-speed. I would have liked to see a full chainguard, but the ring-type guard looks pretty sharp (the Dutchi comes with a partial P-shaped guard).

At less than $600 these bikes have a great look for the price, complete with a stem-mounted bell. With some models at sub-$400 I'm sure you're sacrificing some quality somewhere (bottom bracket, brakes, cranks, stem, perhaps?). If I get a chance to visit their shop in Venice I'll post some more about it. If anyone has seen these in the wild we'd like to hear from you.

You can find Linus Bicycles at limited dealers in the US or at their home location in Venice, CA.

Roadster Classic (1-speed):

Roaster Sport (3-speed):
Duchi (3-speed shown):
Mixte (3-speed):

Photo Credit: Mixte photo at top via Calhoun Cycle on Flickr