Category Archives: Biking

Detours Toocan Panniers

For a few years I’ve had this Trek Grocery pannier. I never cared for it. When filled and heavy the bottom would sag and clip my back wheel. When empty the lack of deep hooks threw it off my rack too often.

I set out to find a new one, and being a beautiful Saturday I skipped the online search and did it the old fashion way: I went to three brick and mortar stores comparing products and prices. Yup, just like when my parents needed a new appliance and we’d spend all day Saturday touring West Michigan superstores with newspaper ads in one hand and consumer reports in the other.

Performance Bikes on Colorado only had fancy schmancy touring panniers. Too complicated for grocery runs and transporting bulky items. Turin Bikes stock tons of hip messenger bags, some permanent wire racks and baskets, but not the “clip on clip off” pannier I wanted for shopping and transporting bulky wares by bike.

I found the Detours Toocan Pannier at REI, for $45. Now high quality reputable panniers generally start at $100, so I wondered if this would be the same crummy quality as my old one. I bought it and planned to return it should it fail to transport the goods to my liking.

Surprisingly I loved it from day one. On the way home I stocked up to make a tray of lasagna, adding a half gallon of milk and two liter of soda. It weighed about 25 pounds and handled excellent. The bottom is solid rubber, which adds a bit to the weight but makes it sturdier. The hooks are deep so if you hit a bump or bounce it won’t fall off. There’s no bottom hook, but the design is wide rather than deep, so the sides don’t chafe against the wheel.

It also makes an excellent commuter’s bag, protecting folded shirts and pants with a zip up top. There are two side pockets and it even comes with a yellow rain cover. I can fit more in here than I ever have before, and no longer find myself dangling bags of bananas and onions over the handlebars when I can’t stuff them in.

The negative? I don’t really care for the diamond style design and stitching. When off the bike I think it looks like a big bag for women, especially with the pleated upper corners and more so if using the padded shoulder strap. But while I don’t care for the form I’m keeping it for the function. The design is perfect, and at this price it’s one of the best and most solid urban panniers I’ve seen.

I highly recommended this product for the urban cyclist, and I don’t believe it’s that feminine looking to be carried around the supermarket or office.

More photos and designs at REI.com

Da Vinci Designs . Denver

Last month upon exiting Cherry Creek Mall I saw a couple parking their tandem bike.   I complimented them on their ride after noticing that it wasn’t just any run of the mill tandem, but an extremely high end machine outfitted to the nines with accessories and custom gear.

This couple was visiting from Western Australia, and had traveled all the way to Denver to buy a bike from Da Vinci Designs, a local manufacturer of high end touring bikes.  This was the first I’ve heard of this local Denver company, and I was very impressed when seeing their work up close.  They showed me the hand made and welded seams, and while not a cycling engineer I could tell it was top notch work.

They were a pleasure to chat with – and told me after getting used to their bike and breaking it in they were off to tour the Czech Republic and central Europe.  Needless to say I was excited to hear about their adventure. They assured me they had not one but two extremely durable locks as well.

Meanwhile they were excited to learn there was a Target just blocks away. They also were wanting to find a pair of Crocs during their Denver stay, (I didn’t voice my opinion,) so I steered them towards the abandoned Crocs store at the airport.

I wished them a wonderful trip and I hope they’re having a fun and safe adventure.

Da Vinci Designs
2145 South Platte River Dr
davincitandems.com



Denver B-Cycle

Denver has a new bike sharing program. It’s called B-Cycle, and launched April 22nd.  I’ve been noticing these red and white stations all over town, and this morning visited one up close at the University of Denver Light Rail station.

I’m extremely impressed with the number of locations. When I thought of a bike sharing program I imagined a few simple racks at tourists points or busy commuter hubs. There are over 25 stations, in all parts of downtown, and also stations in Cherry Creek, Washington Park and as far south as the Tech Center. This many stations makes it usable on a regular basis rather than one time novelty.

I’m also impressed with the utility capacity of the bikes.  A commuter bike is best when you can actually use it to accomplish errands and tasks, hence onboard storage is a must. All B-Cycle bikes are equipped with locks and baskets, so you can park your bike and do stuff, rather than just circling around City Park dodging geese.   And since I didn’t see a sign forbidding it I assume it’s ok to put your chihuahua or other small dog in the basket.

I haven’t ridden one, but they feel sturdy, solid, are have lights and an adjustable seat.

Another plus:  You can rent and return at different stations. The system is far more intelligent and complex than I expected any bike sharing program to be.  You can see online in real time which stations have bikes available, and which can accept returns.  If your destination rack is full the kiosk will direct you to the nearest open station and give you “free time” to cover transit. Another technological integration: Each bike is equipped with GPS and RFID – and as a member your trips, mileage and logged to your account.

The only negative?  I see it as cost prohibitive for some.  In order to compensate for all the great things listed above they seem pricy. The $5 “one day membership” fee could be ditched. It’s akin to an airport WiFi “one time charge,” in that you’re being forced to purchase a membership for something you may use only once.

The pricing structure encourages people to use the bikes for point A to B transit, then park them back at a station.  With a membership 60 minutes of use is only $1.10, an excellent rate,  but conversly keeping a bike for a full day will cost $65. It would be nice to have a reasonable day rate, but I can understand the need to keep bikes available for all and not locked up at coffee shops unused for hours.

If you and your sweetheart visit Denver for the weekend and want to see sights by bike, (rather than renting a car or using transit,) it will cost you $5 per day for the membership, and two hours per day would be $6.60.  That rate times two days and two people that would be $46.  Judge for yourself.

If I were visiting town I wouldn’t hesitate to take one out for a few hours.  And if I didn’t own a bike, (or car,) I could see myself picking one at times for errands

It appears that Denver is the inaugural city for B-Cycle, as I don’t see any others listed under “other cities.” I think it’s a great program, I’m proud to see it and I hope for its long term success.

Check them out and take a ride a http://www.bcycle.com/ The slick video demo is well done and informative, but one nit-picky observation: As a bike commuter of seven years I recommend keeping your white dress pants AT work and ride around with dark pants. Trust me.


Bike of the Week 031109

Wend Magazine, an outdoor and lifestyle magazine with positive sustainability outlook has an article called “Pedaling to Profit: The Upswing of Bike Powered Business.”

Included are businesses which operate utility bikes for their deliveries, workforces, and daily errands.

Of course the base for these businesses is the bike utopia of Portland, but also included are Harvest Cycle of Sarasota, and Pedal Co-Op in Philly. Just proving that with community support, initiatives, and resources, it can be an option.

Cutting costs might appear to be the biggest reason for transitioning to a bike operated structure, but just like individuals, the price of driving isn’t the sole force behind choosing pedal power over cars. “When we worked on our business plan, gas prices were low. We did a full price analysis that looked at cars, zip cars, scooters, electrical cars, etc. and for the price and brandability of those, bikes came out way ahead. There’s a low up front, low maintenance costs and you don’t have to worry about gas prices fluctuating,” says Lazar.

Full article here.  p.s. Wend Magazine is at every REI store I’ve ever been to.  It’s a very well done publication – check them out.

Cateye Has Impressive Customer Service

Like any responsible urban cyclist I have a front and rear light affixed to my ride.  Both are from Cateye, which manufactures a wide range of lights in addition to biking accessories like odometers, trainers, and clothing.

Last week the plastic top part of this bracket broke off.   The bracket attaches the light to your handlebars and allows you to snap the light on and off  – so you can take it with when parking your bike.

I found the part number and emailed:   “This broke, could you please send another one?”   I saw their office was in Japan, and figured I’d never get a response.   I was annoyed at the thought of spending $25 on another light, but then found I could order the replacement for under $5 with shipping.

I did just that, but was surprised an hour later when Jeff from Boulder emailed me back saying he had just sent out my part, no charge.  Turns out their North America office is here in Colorado.

I thanked him and explained I had just paid for one online too.  When the both arrived a few days later I sent the extra one back and he promptly credited my card.

I can be cynical but it’s good to remember that not every customerservice@company.com  goes unanswered.  In this case a quick answer and resolution impressed me, and I’ll remember the company and brand when outfitting my next bike.   Not a bad ROI for $4.17.

Bike of the Week 012009

Via Crunchgear – the SwissBike TX Commuter.

Many bike commuters can be stifled by storage logistics, and it can be unweildy to transport bikes on crowded public transport if biking is only part of a commute.

The SwissBike TX folds into a nifty little square, making it easy to throw into a trunk, carry around, or lock up securly.  If you do need to bring it inside somewhere, (business, office, etc.) you’ll probably find fewer objections than you would if carting around a full size bike.  According to Alternative Consumer is retails for $699.

I wonder if I could carry this on my back somehow… Swissbike.com



Boulder Indoor Cycling

Check it out – Boulder now has a velodrome. A velodrome is large track for road cycling, made for racing and training purposes.

According to the Boulder Daily Camera, the track will be marketed towards cyclists of all abilities and levels – creating a nice venue or jumping off point for those wanting to start racing.

I’m an avid cyclist, however I’ve never used a velodrome or worn spandex in my life. I promote more urban and biking for utility and practical use and don’t really run with the racing crowd. But next time I’m up in Boulder I might stop by. (You rent special bikes too, sans brakes for lighter, faster equipment.)

The official name is “Boulder Indoor Cycling,” and they’re located at 3350 Frontier Avenue, in Boulder.

Photo from 303Cycling – visit them for some interesting construction photos.

Share a Cycle 2008

I consider The Cherry Creek Bike Rack is a unique and bright spot in Denver, and an excellent resource for visitors and locals alike. Operated by Campus Cycles, they also receive assistance from the non-profit Denver group Transportation Solutions in order to promote cycling as a viable form of commuting. And any place that’s open for a repair at 7am gets my business.

This month they want YOUR bike.  If you have a child who has outgrown his or her bike, consider donation it to their Share A Cycle program.  They will pass it along to kids and families who may have difficulty affording one of their own.

They’ll be accepting used bikes through November 30th. The Cherry Creek Bike Rack is at 2nd and Detroit in Cherry Creek, and Campus Cycles is at 2102 South Washington, near the University of Denver.