Friday, March 29, 2013

A Tale of Two Longtails

I had the opportunity to ride two longtail cargo bikes that are both compatible with the Xtracycle standard and both less than $1000. Longtails have an stretched frame to handle huge loads behind the rider.  

The Sun Atlas Cargo is a purpose built longtail like the Surly Big Dummy or the Yuba Mundo.   The Altas Cargo falls below both of these bikes in price while keeping a funky Mixte-Kruisframe geometry and comfortable ride.   

Sun rates the cargo capacity at 400 lbs and the bike feels solid with rails with frame ports to accept Xtracycle accessories.   The 2.1-inch wide tires and BMX bars provide an upright, relaxed ride. 

Most of the time when I ride one-size-fits all bikes I find the reach to be too short, but the Atlas Cargo is surprisingly comfortable reach.  If the Yuba is like riding a pickup truck then the Atlas Cargo is more like an old Jeep Scrambler.   The BMX bars can be rotated to adjust the reach as well. 

The Sun Atlas Cargo was priced at $600 at Bikes@Vienna.  How can they offer it so cheap?  Look at the component list --lots of bottom of the barrel stuff here.  But hey, you can upgrade as things wear out.  The frame is solid and ready to carry whatever you can throw at it.

No one will argue that longtails are not incredibly useful as car replacements.  Storing them is another matter.   It's tough to haul them up stairs or squeeze them into a shed.   Even taking them for a ride in the car is tough. 

Xtracycle teamed up with Tern to offer the Cargo Joe, a folding longtail.   This a great idea who's time has come.   The Tern platform as 26-inch wheels and 21 speeds and comes in two frame sizes.  The Xtracycle bits are a FreeRadical, a HDPE Flightdeck and Freeloader bag set.  You get it all for $1000, which is not bad at all.  At some point down the road you could still repurpose the FreeRadical on an old hardtail mountain bike still have a nice folding bike. 

I felt a little cramped on the Cargo Joe, but I'm not sure what frame size I was riding, I realized.  Like most folding bikes, they adjust easily to fit most riders.  It felt a lot shorter and quicker than the Atlas Cargo, but a bit more flexy with it's higher pressure tires.  Of course the real trick is that you can fold it in half and shove it in the shed or minivan without sacrificing utility.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Kids Bikes

While we're on the subject of kids' bikes, I thought I'd jot down a few of my ideas on the topic. 

1.  Skip the training wheels

Like-a-bike "mountain" bike. Courtesy: LIKE-a-BIKE USA.
The Big Day has arrived!  Your little one, who has been riding around like a pro on her training wheels, is ready to try riding without them.  You'd better take her to a soft grassy field, because she's about to take some falls.

Here's the problem: A child who learns to ride with training wheels does not learn the most fundamental of bicycle fundamentals: How to balance. 

That's why I like Like-A-Bike.  Kids learn how to balance first; then they're ready for pedals. Like-A-Bikes are well-crafted and safe. They are, however, a bit pricey. 

There is an inexpensive alternative.  You know that Toys R Us bike you bought?  Take off the training wheels and the crankarms/pedals. Let her scoot around on that for awhile, and soon she will have mastered balance and will be ready for you to put her cranks and pedals back on.

2.  Introduce new concepts gradually

As discussed above, start with balance.  Then braking. Then turns. But don't expect your 4- or 5-year-old to know how to shift.  Once the basics have been mastered, the next bike can have more bells and whistles.

My 8-year-old's six speed. With bell.
Actually, by bells and whistles, I mean handbrakes and a few gears.  But a bell or horn is a good idea as well, so long as your young rider is not getting too distracted from the basics of bicycling.

3.  Buy used

I'm not big on spending money in the first place, but why would I want to spend it on something that will be mistreated and quickly outgrown?

My 11-year-old's bike.  It has a kickstand, yet he's let it drop to the ground on the drivetrain side.

There are many used  kids' bikes for sale that have hardly been ridden.  I've had great luck finding cheap, tough, functional kids' bikes at the local co-ops. When your child has outgrown her bike, donate it back to the co-op.

4.  Spend lots of time teaching

This is a big deal.  I'm not just talking about teaching your child how to ride a bike.  I'm talking about bike safety issues like seeing the whole road, being visible, and being consistent.

I often see kids riding on the left side of the road, riding in the center of the road, or riding back and forth between the sidewalk and the road.  These are future car drivers. Take this opportunity to teach them the rules of the road. 

There are lots of bike rodeos and other kids' safety programs - enroll your kids.  They'll have fun, learn stuff, and maybe get a free helmet or some stickers for their bike.


These are the four suggestions I share most often with other parents.  As always, feel free to disagree with me or add your own thoughts in the comments.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Linus Kids Bikes

Awww...  Photo by Kat Borchart. Courtesy: Linus Bikes
Linus is now offering kids bikes: The Lil' Dutchie in red and the Lil' Roadster in Metallic Blue.

Click for big.

We've discussed Linus quite a bit in previous posts.  The Linus 2013 catalog is out and features lots of pretty pictures by Kat Borchart.  Well done.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Norco City Glide 8

The Norco City Glide 8 has an MSRP of $890.

We talked about this bike 3 years ago, but Norco deserves another shoutout because their styling has improved.  This is particularly true of the "women's bike," which is now a mixte instead of the U-shaped step-through previously offered.  I also like that they've replaced the roller brakes with caliper brakes.

Here are the 2013 specs for the mixte:

Frame: City Glide Mixte Alloy
Fork: Chromoly
Rims: Double wall alloy - Silver
Tires: Schwalbe Delta Cruiser 700x35c - Cream
Tubes: A/V tube
Front Hub: Formula alloy hub - Silver
Rear Hub: Shimano SG-8R31-VS 8speed IGH 32hole
Spokes/Nipples: Stainless w/brass nipples
Shifter Rear: Shimano Revoshift SL-8S20
Shifter Casing: Shift housing - Silver
Cassette: Nexus 20T
Crankset: Alloy 42T - Silver
Bottom Bracket: Cartridge BB
Pedals: Classic City - Silver
Chain: KMC Z610H
Seat Post: Alloy - Silver
Seat Post Clamp: Alloy - Silver
Saddle: Selle Royal Ondina - Black
Headset: FSA TH-848 Sealed Cups / Semi-Cartridge
Headset Spacer: 3x10mm alloy - Silver
Top Cap: Alloy - Silver w/Norco Shield logo
Stem: Alloy - Silver
Handlebar: Alloy city bar -Silver
Grips: Cork grips - Black
Front Brake: Alloy Calipers - Silver
Rear Brake: Alloy Calipers - Silver
Brake Levers: Classic Forged Alloy - Silver
Brake Cable Casing: Brake housing - Silver