Formula One for Bikes?

carbon%20rotor.jpg I was touring CES when I wandered over to the Intel/BMW Formula One Auto Team exhibition. The F1 team had a bunch of displays for people to touch and play with. One impressive display was the steel disc brake rotor for a normal production car…and the full carbon disc for the F1 car. Talk about a huge difference in weight.

I’m not a big fan of disc brakes, but I was wondering why carbon disc brakes are not being built for cycling. Is it cost? Service life?



Touch Screens for Cyclo-computers?

touch%20screen.jpg I saw this touch screen display for a GPS unit while walking about the Sands Expo during CES. It’s clear to me that the technology is very close to having touch screens for cyclo-computers. I’m not sure if that would work out well, since the tactile feedback of actual buttons allows one to actuate the computer functions without looking. That of course could be important for cycling.



CES for bikers: Mainnav GPS

IMG_4710.jpg I found this tight GPS unit for bicycles from Mainnav at CES! You can see where you rode on Google Earth after you ride!

After dropping off the bike at the Intel booth, I went to the Sands Expo hall. This is the same place where Interbike is held every year, so it seems familiar. The Sands was filled with a lot of the smaller companies with much modest booths than Samsung, Hitachi, and Mircrosoft.

There I found the MG-950d GPS unit for bicycling. It’s got a lot of cycling features, but one cool new thing is the software for plotting your ride on Google Earth. You can then click on various points on your ride and get your time, speed, and altitude at that point. Brilliant!

The unit features a magnetic mount for stem or handlebar.

IMG_4711.jpg

You can find more info at the Mainnav site. Thanks to Cecily Huang for the demo!



Riding the Brompton at CES

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.



Retro Style at CES

telephone.jpg 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.



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