So I rode the Brompton folding bike in Las Vegas during CES. I rode from the hotel right into the Intel booth in the same time that it would have taking me to get to the line waiting to buy monorail tickets (to wait in line for the very slow monorail to the waiting point at the station across the street from the convention hall..blah, blah waiting for traffic to cross blah, blah etc…etc).
Setting aside how much I hate the streets of Vegas, here are my impressions:
The folding system works well enough, but the little wheels on the rack, that help keep the bike upright when folded, are right in the path of my heels when I’m riding. Highly irritating.
The 2-speed drivetrain works like a charm. Shifts dependable and tucks in out of the way. It’s light and simple too.
The most flexible (“flexible” as in not good) part of any small-wheeled folder is the handlebar stem, or for these bikes often called the “mast”. This is because the mast has to be tall enough to get the bar to a comfortable height for average stature riders (more on “average stature” later) and yet fold out of the way. I’d say the stiffest I’ve tried is the unit installed on recent Dahon folders, but the Brompton was pretty good. However, there is still much more flex than I would prefer.
But the deal breaker for me is the lack of adjustability for the handlebar height. At 5’3”, I’m distinctly shorter than the “average” rider and I like my bars low. For Byron, maybe the height feels appropriate but once I lower the saddle to my position I feel like I’m sitting in a highchair. The relatively short (compared to say, my Redline bmx) top tube doesn’t help. I can’t stretch out and go.
On the plus side, the handling was quite reasonable. Riding on of these small-wheeled bikes is different than a regular bike, so you will need to adjust to it. The Brompton was very nimble, so as to possibly catch the uninitiated off guard, but I was soon taking advantage of the bike’s low speed agility.
The great thing about a folder like the Brompton is the how easily you can carry it into places impractical for a standard-wheeled bike, but I wonder how it would be to design a bike that used tiny wheels and the S&S couplings. I’d trade-off the ease of folding for a lighter, stiffer set-up tailored to my body.
Walking the aisles of CES, I noticed some audio equipment and telephones that were made in a style that recalls the Forties and Fifties without exactly mimicking a particular item. This reminds me of all the Rivendell Bicycles styled bikes popping up bikes that are made to look vintage while still taking advantage of more modern features.
The Rivendell commune might disagree with me, but it really isn’t about lugged steel being superior despite the advent of carbon fiber. It’s about style. If it wasn’t, would Grant Peterson be obsessing about curlicues on lugs? I think not.
But am I saying that’s a bad thing? On the contrary, I say why not go all out?
I’d actually like to see something really creative in full steampunk style.
For those of you more fluent in Japanese, you can see the webpage with this bike here and the graphic artist Range Murata who designed the bike here. Apparently, you buy this bike from the Gallery of Fantastic Art (GoFA) in Tokyo.
At CES, I was walking by the Haier booth when who would call out my name but Hilary Crowley, my favourite booth girl from Interbike? She’s worked the bicycle trade show the past couple years for Bianchi. But she’s not all show and no go! She’s got plenty of racing cred on a bike, and in fact her team is sponsored by Bianchi. This year they’re running those special edition Bianchis in Ducati motorcycle team red colour.
Her carbon model is the same frame as the 928 T-Cube that I’ve been eyeing for myself. Myself, I have a serious jones for Bianchi’s traditional celeste paint, but last week Bianchi presented the new Barloworld team bikes. Those bikes are celeste with red accents, and I’d kill to get a 49cm frame.
Hilary is working CES for Haier, a Chinese electronics manufacturer. They had a special edition laptop with Intel Core 2 Duo processor that was in that œfashion show on Tuesday. I would have preferred Hilary as the model for the Haier laptop, because (a) I know her (b) she’s got a nicer bike than me and (c) she’s not a guy. Male models always seem silly to me anyways.
Hilary gave me some serious bike envy. She also gave me a friendly smooch. Did I mention she’s waaayyy better than the Haier runway model?
Update: The Bianchi rep just emailed me this image of the Barloworld Team bike.
I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about how bikes aren’t the zero-environmental footprint vehicles they might seem. Petroleum based chain lubes have got to figure somewhere on the list of environmental impact (for a bike), along with tire manufacturing, plastic parts, and various other sundries.
Thinking of reducing your bike’s environmental impact? Ernestolube’s 100% soy oil, US grown according to their site. I haven’t had a chance to try it out yet, and I’ve got to admit there’s a little light that goes off in my head every time I get a whiff of the bottle of my favorite petrol-lube.
Ernesto’s not the only game in town, Pedro’s Chainj is made from good old Canola, and I’m pretty sure the enterprising among you can find source of similar oils at your local grocer.
It took us an hour in a car the day before to get to CES and under 5 minutes on a bike. At the door, I folding the bike up, and walked right into the booth. Then later, out of the booth, unfold, and off to a ride.
I commute most days. I’ve become accustomed to a much smaller commuting population in the winter months, but this year there appears to be a pretty solid lift in numbers. As I wind my way out of downtown at night there’s a pretty steady stream of folks working their way along the bike-friendly routes.
Last night, as I was cruising up Eastlake I rolled up on a guy and greeted him with an “evening” as I passed him. Not a second later I got a big, “Hey BikeHugger!”. I had my green kit on and the guy (Mike) was a reader. He started commuting this summer and has been diligent about sticking to it. He lives up past UW by Sand Point and has been commuting home most every night (he takes the bus down in the morning). He’s lost 20 pounds and says he’s never felt better. Very cool - and sort of exciting to see that the Hugger is getting recognized!
Bug Labs is up for a Best of CES award for Emerging Technology with their Tinker Toy-related system.
The components could possibly make a bike-related mobile device: there’s built-in WiFi, open source software, and modules including GPS and an Accelerometer/Motion Sensor. Mount it on the bike, track your ride, and blog away.
Question is what would you make for your bike with emerging technology?