Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Little bit of a family reunion at my youngest cousin's confirmation in Nebraska over the weekend:

Not far from where I grew up, this looks like a scene from Storm Chasers. Where my MCSes at?!

Somewhere in Iowa.

A great Monday night ride with some friends I've not seen in a while. Gray's new bike is far left and I wish I had gotten some better photos of it. We hammered it on Santa Fe Drive/87th on the way home. Damn near killed me. I am not a racer. Gray is.

Random Tunage:
Coldplay - Talk (Junkie XL Remix)
Hybrid - Dreaming Your Dreams

Friday, March 26, 2010

Blackburn USB/Solar Flea Review

Last year, I reviewed the Blackburn Flea headlight. I recently got the tail light, complete with the new USB charger and solar power adapter, too. Again, there's good money to be saved buying this one online. The bike shops sell it at MSRP.

You can see the whole Blackburn USB/Solar Flea review over on BikeCommuters.com. Bonus: the solar panel can (slowly) charge my phone, too.

That will make my bike camping adventures a little more luxurious, I suppose. Who's ready for the next S24O? I know am!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Skinny tire dreams

I often tell people that I don't dream. I mean, I sleep. And I can get by with surprisingly little sleep. Obviously, I reach REM. I just don't remember my dreams very often. And when I do, they quickly fall apart in my memory as I snap out of my groggy haze. Kind of like one of my favorite xkcd cartoons.

Anyhow, last night, I had a dream that I finally got back out on The Twelve, and for some reason, I remembered it. And I was fast. Like 45 MPH fast. So for today's errands which didn't involve much hauling at all, just getting around to a few places, I took The Twelve. I'm still slow, but the road bike certainly was a nice change of pace. It accelerates better. It has much tighter gear ratios, not to mention three times as many gears to choose from. It's more responsive, and I feel much more in touch with the road. It's more graceful. I've missed it.

Also, Bill interviewed me for Carfree American (even though I'm technically car-lite). You can see his post here.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


ALDI down the street sells these gigantic re-usable grocery sacks. They're almost too big to be useful, sometimes. I could probably fit two or three paper sacks of groceries in here.

I also have my Apple schwag bag, which is the same size as the more traditional re-usable grocery bags. Of course, both of these were made in a sweat-shop overseas out of highly processed petroleum, then sent here, likely on a huge cargo ship that burns a few gallons of diesel per engine rotation, but whatever. As you can see, the custom RNR Rack for the Urbana is designed to carry these style of bags. I generally throw panniers on for trips to the grocery, but I tried the bags today.

The unique top plate of the rack is easier to see in my first photo of the bike before unboxing (cropped):

So how does it work? First, you hold the bag so that the top of it is even with the rack, then you tuck the handle into the two top-facing holes on the opposite side.

Lastly, you reach your fingers into the holes on the side of the rack, and you push the handles under the screws that protrude downward, to hold the bag firmly into place.

I really should have taken both large bags, but wanted to show how you can use a more traditional sized bag as well.

I actually did groceries yesterday, but was in too much of a hurry to take photos. I staged it today for the pictures. I took the Urbana to Hen House, rushed home, dropped off groceries and took it out to the Tienda Casa Paloma Monday night ride. I haven't seen those guys in ages, and it was a fun trip. All told, I put about 25 miles on this bike yesterday. Today, I am feeling it.

While it's perfect for running errands and going to nearby places, the riding position doesn't lend itself well to longer distances, such as riding 4 miles each way to a 10-mile recreation ride. I think next time, I'll switch over to my road bike for the Monday night ride.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Surprise! It's snowing again!

I was hoping I'd get a chance to test the Urbana's 2.6" wide tires on the snow. While Fritz may have sand, I jumped at the opportunity to goof off in 3" of snow. This stuff had a thin layer of ice on the pavement, with slush in some spots, and a thick, wet snowpack on top of that. It's the stuff that I love riding my mountain bike in.

I was a tad apprehensive about the Urbana's tires, because they're very lightly treaded, an attribute that really helps keep the rolling resistance low.

Let me make myself clear. This is bar none the best handling bike I've ever ridden on snow. You want to stay seated to get moving, but once you're up and running, these tires are very confidence-inspiring.

The fenders did their job, and didn't get terribly clogged, either. There's still a lot of snow all over the place, but it kept the slush off my pants and out of my face.

While trying to slide sideways, the tires grip hard again as soon as you let off the brake. It's hard to actually wipe out in the snow. It's not impossible, though. This blurry mess is a still frame from a video clip where I found myself sliding on my ass in slushy snow after laying it down.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Double Dose

You guys get a double dose of my insanity today. It was a busy day all the way around, with a whole lot of riding. I couldn't imagine a more perfect day than this. Too bad it's supposed to drop back down below freezing again and perhaps snow on us this weekend. I had to soak it up while it lasted.

UFO Attack! Actually, these were light fixtures at City Center Square, with some mirrors behind them.

Contrail Redux.

MAX. JR wasn't feeling too great today, so we took MAX down to Waldo instead of biking the whole way. By the way, the MAX buses now play advertisements over the PA system whilst displaying a scrolling text ad inside the bus. Mega annoying.

Theresa at Family Bicycles took the Urbana for a spin, and she likes it.

I hadn't been to Family Bicycles this year. They are almost entirely devoted to utility and commuting bikes. This battery-assist Torker Trike caught my eye. It uses a 3-speed Nexus in the back, and a motor hub in the front. The new Breezers are also really nice. I was in utility bike heaven this afternoon!

I also saw some of Axiom's new saddle-bag style panniers. They're sewn together as one piece that drapes over your cargo rack.

One of the customers showed up on this beauty. Longbikes are hand-built in Colorado and this particular specimen was one of the slickest LWB Bents I've seen, ever.

Miscellaneous Downtown-ness

JR's Folder

Lorin tries the Urbana.

Hanging out in the Mexican Consulate meeting room

Gratuitous stair descent

Graffiti 1

Graffiti 2

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Bicycle Swap Meet: April 10th/11th

Mark Rainey alerted me to this one:

With the previous "big" bike swap meet venue closing up shop last year, it looks like Bike America picked up the slack. Looks like a perfect opportunity to offload some of your extra stuff or score some sweet deals.

Bicycle Swap Meet

Saturday, April 10th from 7:00 a.m. to 5: p.m.
Sunday, April 11th from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Free to the Public

Buy! Trade! Sell!

Bike America of Overland Park, KS has leased space adjacent to our 95th & Nall location for this 2 day event. Bring your merchandise, bring your tables, bring your cash. This will be a bike bargain hunter's paradise. With 20 years worth of accumulated bikes and bike parts, merchandise from half a dozen stores that closed their doors! Expect great deals on new and used bike-related goods, from complete bikes to small parts. You never know exactly what vendors will bring to sell and what treasures you will find. Don't miss this two-day-only sale!

9514 Nall Avenue, Overland Park, KS
(913) 381-5431

Bike America merchandise is cash & carry, all sales final, no returns, no exchanges

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Google: Bike There

I know the entire blogosphere is abuzz about Google Bicycle Directions, but let's put it to the test.

I've ridden many, many places a bicycle can legally go in Johnson County over the past 3 years. From the busiest, unfriendliest roadways to the rarely-seen unmarked shortcuts, aqueducts, and un-intentional paths. I know how to get around. I won't claim to know all the routes, but I can usually find a cozy course to nearby destinations. I believe this makes me qualified to judge a proposed route.

Let's start with a route I drew up a few weeks ago. Normally, one would hop straight onto the Interstate. I used Veloroutes to draw the route I had in mind. I later rode it, and I'm very pleased with it, even during rush hour.

Let's see what Google Maps did. A bonus is that all the bike routes, bike lanes and paths appear to be highlighted in "Bike mode," at least for here in Greater Kansas City.

I see kind of what Google was trying to do. They exploit some diagonal route choices to cut a little distance from the ride: about .3 mile worth. Here is an overlay merging the two to see the differences:

They also offered an alternative route that looked almost identical to my route from the point where they join just west of Antioch. The diagonal section east of 69 highway actually does make some sense from a distance and traffic perspective, but it's less than a quarter mile shorter with the disadvantage of technical navigation. The proposed stretch on 103rd street to get across Metcalf is a disaster. The optional route that crosses Metcalf at 99th Terrace is much safer.

I mapped some other destinations as well. My old commute, for example. Here, I noticed that Google Maps seems to give extremely high priority to multi-use paths, roads with bike lanes, and city-designated bicycle routes, sometimes even when they don't make much sense to those who know the area. Case and point in the second map above: Quivira Road is a "Bike route" - yeah, right. At rush hour, you'd be best to take Pflumm (a mile west) or very carefully stick to the sidewalks while preparing to be hooked by inattentive motorists. The outer lane is not wide enough to share with cars, and construction detours in the area have Quivira even more overloaded than usual. This has less to do with Google, and is more of a problem with the cities misrepresenting Quivira as a bicycle-friendly road, even without using it as a detour for highway-bound traffic.

All in all, though, I'm satisfied with the route choices that it comes up with. As a programmer, I'd like to see their algorithm. Pro-tip: you can drag the route to comply with your personal whims. Using the "My Maps" feature, you can save, print, and share your refined routes easily.

And, as always, you can feel free to ask me for input on getting from point-A to point-B in greater KC, using bikes and buses, although my experience really is best around downtown and JoCo. There's also the KC Bike Commuters list.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

In tribute to Tron Legacy

If you haven't seen the trailer for Tron Legacy yet, WHY NOT?

Tron was one of my absolute favorites as a kid. And what was my favorite part? The light cycle arena, of course!

A flash photo and a little editing for color.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

No trails for me

The trails are still too wet to ride on without leaving damaging ruts and erosion. I was looking forward to some off-roading. That's okay, I suppose. I had a very hilly 10-mile round trip to the park and back.

Also, I think this is the most I've ever put on a cargo rack. All told, it was about 50 pounds, or about 1/3 of its rated capacity! I had some refrigerated stuff in my backpack as well. The grocery store is only a mile and a half away via parking lots and lightly-trafficked residential streets, so I didn't have to ride too far. The bike was surprisingly stable, and as you can see, the kickstand even holds it upright when loaded in a top-heavy manner.

Not a girl's bike

I've had to correct a few people on the Urbana's step-through frame when they call it "a girl's bike." Then Fritz made this post. He's also reviewing an Urbana. But mine is cooler because it has the kickstand and a chain guard.

Locked up next to a commuter-adapted Bianchi mountain bike at the JCCC campus

Culturally, women weren't allowed to wear trousers in the olde days. That, as you know, has changed. The step-through bicycle frame allowed them to easier mount and dismount the bike without flashing the audience. Also, it allows women to ride without their skirts riding all the way up to their crotches, which would be somewhat inappropriate.

As it turns out (and as Fritz mentions), the design also makes it easier for a man to get off of a step-through bicycle. Imagine that! In urban settings, it's not uncommon to see people riding a few miles from their lofts to their offices slowly whilst wearing business casual attire, suits or dresses with skirts. Suit pants and dockers don't like it too much when you pull a Chuck Norris roundhouse maneuver to get on or off the bike. You simply don't have to worry about that with a step-through frame. You can tilt the bike to reduce this effect to a certain extent, but if the rack is loaded with stuff, you might not want to do that, either.

At any rate, the traditional diamond-frame design allows for a stronger, lighter bicycle. In fact, many bicycles designed for women these days are not step-through frames. Step-through frames are gaining world-wide unisex popularity for utility and recreation applications where the weight and speed of a bicycle aren't quite as important, particularly among the elderly who are prone to be less bendy than us darn whippersnappers. Like Fritz, I've come to enjoy the ability to get on and off the bike a bit easier. I'm also really enjoying the chainguard, much for the same reason I liked it on the Swobo Baxter: I can wear long pants and I don't have to worry about my cuffs becoming stained or masticated by the evil chainring monster.

Friday, March 05, 2010

The Maul

It's that time again. Locked up at Oak Park Mall, where you're likely to be mauled by rabid consumers, trampled by moms with strollers, or be subjected to the obdurate moping of emo kids. If you're lucky, you may only get run over by Paul Blart in one of the day-glow-yellow golf carts with doors Smart fortwo coupes.

After the usual first-friday meetings, the guy we'll call "Cog" took the Urbana for a spin. He has a farm a way outside of town, and is looking for a do-all bike for errands around the farm. One of his requirements is that it'll survive the apocalypse. He says "I want one." It was interesting to see a 60-year-old dude ram the bike straight into a curb to get back up onto the sidewalk. I love how the reflective sidewalls turned out in this otherwise horrible photograph.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Things I would not do on a beach cruiser

I spent about an hour on the phone with Haniya from Urbana bikes the day that I put this thing together. Haniya almost dared me to break the Urbana. Well, she told me that I wouldn't break it, and wanted some action shots if I decided to try to break it. That sounds like a challenge, right? I'll save the video and other highlights for my final review, but let's just say this is one of the more tame things I subjected the Urbana to this afternoon.

Urbana is trying to position themselves in the niche of hard-working, durable utility bikes for the urban, car-free lifestyle. They're meant to be comfortable and bomb-proof over everything else. sturdy alumimum frame, CrMo fork, quality welds, beefy drop-outs, well-built wheels and flat-resistant balloon tires mated to high-quality hubs means that it'd work fine for weekend strolls down the bike path or boardwalk, but it'd be a waste. Comparing it to my wife's dainty Townie cruiser also made it clear that this isn't a beach cruiser.

I put another 15 miles on it today, and some of those miles were over some of the worst railroad crossings I know of, and on some of the most blighted streets near my place. Lots of curbs were taken at speed without making any attempt to pop over them, and, as you see here, I did the obligatory stair descent. I also ramped it off a shorter stairway, but couldn't get an action shot of that.

I'm having quite a bit of fun with this bike, and I haven't even been able to knock the wheels out of true.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

43 Pounds, as delivered.

Curious, I weighed the Urbana on my bathroom scale this morning. I stood it up and balanced the rear wheel on the scale and it came up with 43.0 pounds.

Not believing it, I weighed myself alone, then weighed myself holding the bike. 43.2 pounds.

This is one heavy bike.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Okay, okay...

Hy-Vee, originally uploaded by KC-Bike.

It's an Urbana Bike. And I think they only have one model. The low step-thru design is gaining a lot of traction as a unisex design for utility bikes, and the rear drop-out kickstand is a nice touch. This bike is HEAVY, and the tires are absolutely huge! It reminds me of a Surly Pugsley, but not quite as extreme. Urbana is letting me play with it for a while. They included a factory-installed rack as well as some fenders with decent coverage. Many more details coming in future posts.

This looks like fun

Just a sneak peek of Test Mule 1...

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