Monday, September 25, 2017

The New England Builders Ball

The New England Builders Ball, a showcase for the best framebuilders (and other manufacturers) in New England came to town and I managed to get there  It was a very fun afternoon, including a multimodal commute, some beautiful bikes, and meeting some cool people.  I had planned on going with my friend Carl, who I had rode the D2R2 with last month.  I lost him to family demands but I wanted to go anyway.  I had a hall pass so I made my plans.  I also touched base with TenMetersFromTheHut and FlakyTartDough, who I follow on Instagram and happened to be ending a tour in Boston.  It was fun meeting them.  They happen to know the chief Coffeeneur and Felkerino in real life.  I collaborate on the maps for the challenge but I've yet to meet Mary in person.  Now I'm only one degree of separation from them in real life.

I thought about riding into the seaport with Carl but I was loath to do so alone - I really am not a city rider.  I do fine in Cambridge but Boston seems a bit too crowded for me.  Not that I never cross the river but I don't do it often and it always seems a big deal.  So I decided that I would make it a multi-modal commute, taking my Swobo 3 speed to Alewife and then taking the Red Line to South Station to the Silver Line, not very far from the venue.  When I rode to Alewife, I changed my mind, thinking that I would rather have my bike for the last bit on the Silver Line, and took my bike on the train.  Fortunately the train was rather empty and there was no issue.  I took elevators to the surface and got on my bike.  It was significantly cooler by the harbor, which added to the novelty of biking there.  I made it to District Hall, which I incorrectly conflated with the Innovation and Design Building, which turned out to be a mile away (and close to a different Silver Line stop than the one I planned on).  No big deal.  I made it there and found that Massbike had an unannounced valet service.  That saved a couple of minutes locking up my bike (here locked at work):

My ride, the Swobo 3 speed.
Inside the show I saw some fabulous bikes, which didn't convince me that I needed a new bikes (I certainly don't need one and my wife thinks I can't possibly need one now).  I stopped at five booths, Firefly, J.P. Weigle, Royal H, Chapman Cycles, and Dill Pickle Gear.  Jerry (TenMetersFromTheHut) managed to find me and I had a chance to talk with him and Carolyn before they left (they managed to get there by the start of the show - I was two hours late). 

Let's see, what did I learn and see?  At the Firefly booth I saw Jamie Meideros beaming about his new gravel bike experiment.  It has a left front suspension fork and noticeably narrow seat stays.  The latter should make take the harshness out of the ride.  I've heard that Jamie likes to experiment and I hope he loves this bike.  I first met Jamie in 2007 before my IF was built and I've run into him several times since.  It's always fun to see him.

J.P. Weigle - I got to see the bike he built for Jan Heine and the Concours de Machines and it was fabulous.  It didn't look especially light excepty for the many cut outs (see the cranks and the brake mounts) but it was elegant.  I've see several Weigles over the years and they are all pretty spectacular, if you like steel bikes.  I got to her Peter talk about working with Jan and his chance, at this point in his career, to only take the projects that interest him, and those revolve around 650b randonneuring bikes.  He was a great person to talk with about the process and I wish I could get one of his bikes but that won't be happening anytime soon.

Royal H - I met Brian in the past, most notably at the first of the Ride Studio Cafe Diverged rides and also at the Firefly opening party (at the new shop).  I had a great conversation with him about how he takes an idea from a customer and works with them to see if he can make it a reality.  I also checked out his new Ti Carbon bike, which is part of a collaboration with Seven.

Chapman Cycles - I've known about Brian from his work at Circle A and watched his work at Chapman Cycles since them.  He has my aesthetic.  In fact, once when visiting Firefly, I had to admit that the bike that I wanted above the others was Josie Morway's Chapman.  I met Brian at the D2R2 - Carl was looking for him to start a conversation about a build and I happened to find the yellow Circle A that Brian told Carl he would be riding.  Brian is as interested in bikes as anyone building them and it was fun to talk with him then.  I got to see the Chapman that was just reviewed in Bicycle Quarterly and it was spectacular.  I also saw a recently built mixte which is a great model for what I wanted to have built for my wife (we ended up with the much more affordable Soma Buena Vista frame).  I hope that Carl talks more of his ideas with Brian Chapman and maybe also with Brian from Royal H.  At least I would want one of them to build a bike for me one day.

I also stopped at the Dill Pickle Gear booth to get new reflective ankle bands and a reflective sash.  I also wanted to see her front bags.  I worry that I can't fit the front bag on my Surly but she said I could stop by her shop with the bike to see.  She does make amazing, light bags and I look forward to getting one.  And, I hear, she can put one of my Coffeeneur badges on the bag.

Between those five booths, and meeting up with Jerry and Carolyn, I had a very busy, if short visit to the ball.  I recall noticing it was 3:15 when I was getting on the train at Alewife to head there and I was home by 6:15 for dinner.  But it was a fun afternoon.  Commuting on the Swobo certainly added to the adventure.  I've been trying to do what I can to get out of my car (I think I've driven 1,500 miles this year, including a couple of trips to the Cape) so finding my way on multi-modal commute seemed like something I should have done.

And my two favorite bikes in the show:

The bike I would have built for my wife if she was want to get a custom frame/

Brian Chapman's light tour, recently review in Bicycle Quarterly

A day time ride?

As they say, I think, when you have kids, you spend a lot of your free time with kids.  That's certainly true in my family and when I ride, it is usually starts between 5 and 6 and ends by 9 AM.  That's fine but I'm never quite awake at that early hour to have a great ride.  But sometimes I get lucky, like being able to ride the D2R2 with a friend.  And a week ago I was told that maybe I didn't want to head over to my sister-in-laws.  I got a hall pass and took it.  I didn't have time for more than 40 miles but that was good enough. I managed a 16 mph ride before I had to stop for a snack (at #ponyhenge).  I slowed down from there but it was a great ride and easily my fastest ride recently.

The ride on Strava.   For comparison, here is yesterday's early morning ride on Strava - it's only a bit slower.

Snacks at Ponyhenge.  It's an odd place but in a beautiful setting.

MY ride, the 2007 IF Club Racer.  It remains a fabulous bike and I smile whenever I get on it.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Geo Orbital Electric Wheel in the Wild

I've been known to check out bikes when I am riding and sometimes I see something unusual or cool.  Riding home last Friday, I turned around and noticed this wheel on a bike:

Quite the wheel.  Those aren't spokes but the guides and engine for turning the rim.  
It was clearly an unusual wheel and turned out to be an electric wheel from Geo Orbital.  These are locally designed wheels (and maybe locally made but that isn't obvious on their website) are heavy and somewhat odd, compared to the Copenhagen wheel.  The rim seems loose on the motor but then you can lift the bike and the wheel sensors notice this and don't run.  They also don't use standard tires - these are form tires.  The bike seen here has front suspension so whatever lack of suppleness in the foam is made up for with the suspension.

That's a hefty battery.
The battery is large and heavy but has a twenty mile range without pedaling (with a rider of an undefined weight).  That's enough for many possible commutes coming into Boston or Cambridge.

Andrew bought an inexpensive bike just for the purpose of adding the electric wheel.
Andrew, the owner of this bike, knew the folks who are making these wheels and bought his bike to use the wheel.  I believe he wasn't riding before so this wheel may be getting him on the road when he otherwise may not be.  And this wheel is under $1,000, about $700 less than the Copehangen wheel.  He was able to sprint away from the rest of bike riders at intersections and likely on any road.  The one drawback was that the wheel was both very heavy and the ride seems somewhat loud to me.

One thing about this and other e-bikes that worry me - are the brakes sufficient to stop the bike at pedaling plus electric assist?  The other issue is whether these should be allowed on bike paths.  It's clear that mopeds are allowed on bike lanes but I'm not sure if this meets the criteria for keeping off bike paths.  I am generally concerned about overpowered bikes on bike paths with kids around.  This concerns includes bikes with the Copenhagen wheel and also racers (or pathletes) that keep me from taking my nine year old on the Minuteman.  Another concern about the wheel is that the fork you use is up to you.  I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't want to try this with a carbon fork and I would feel safest on a steel fork that was made for the purpose (although that means losing suspension).  Your mileage may vary.