Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Urban commuting recumbents: best models and requirements

I specialize in selling 'bents for urban commuting and touring. Individual rider requirements may vary outside the NYCity Metro area. These are my notes about the challenges bent riders face here and the models I currently recommend.

NYC urban commuters and tourers tell me they need:

a) Even if heading out of the city, riders need to traverse 5 - 25 miles of city traffic before hitting suburban roads, so good stability in stop, slow and go traffic is important (a low center of gravity helps);

b) many touring trips begin with taking the regional light rail (LIRR, Metro North, NJ Transit, Path, subway, etc.), so bents MUST meet rail restrictions, e.g., must be less than 80 inches in length (no long- or medium- wheelbase), and you must avoid getting grease on fellow passengers;

c) bents need to fit in apartments, around sharp corners, into an elevator, or up the stairwell of a 19th century brownstone (should be narrow, light, short);

d) bikes should be lockable and not too vandalize-able;

e) bike geometry should position your head high enough for drivers to see you in normal traffic (a mere safety flag isn't good enough);

f) high-racers in a "non-twitchy" geometry can work for riders who are comfortable "hobby horseing" in traffic and are able to get their feet on and off the pedals quickly, though many prefer the lower bottom bracket and lower center of gravity of 26x20s and 20x20s;

g) a tight turning radius is vital to negotiate corners at low speed (so the stretch LWB bents aren't great);

h) chain tubes or other chain protection is a plus, not only to keep your clothes clean but to avoid getting grease on fellow train riders;

i) easy to mount accessories like lights, racks, fenders and mirrors;

j) fat tires should fit fine.

Some cities' buses have bike racks which can't handle 'bents. NYC buses don't have bike racks, so it doesn't affect us.

City commuters seem to generally prefer these bents:

HP Velotechnik Street Machine Gte

HP Velotechnik Grasshopper fx

- HP Velotechniks (Street Machine Gte and Grasshopper fx) lead the pack for replacing a car and for riding to work. I like the GHfx because it folds and is designed to take on planes, trains and buses, but prefer a SMGte for long trips. While plenty high in traffic, the GHfx's head height is about 4" lower than a SMGte and slightly more aerodynamic.

Since both the GHfx and the SMGte were specifically designed to handle urban commuting and touring, they do it well. What's great: chain tubes; chain ring covers; fat tires and studded winter tires fit fine; full suspension; high quality racks/fenders/kickstands; mesh and body link seats are cable-locked; easy to install dynamo lighting systems; excellent fairing options.  And best of all, stylish design and a full choice of colors.  And that is important in NYC.

Cons: expense, so a bit painful to lock on the street; some vandalize-able parts. Basically, the HPVs are perfect urban commuting bikes, esp. with secure bike parking.

- Rans' V-Rex and Rocket are nearly perfect with the Rocket better than the V-Rex because a) it is smaller, b) studded winter tires fit along with fenders and c) the Flip-It with Ahead makes the front fork and wheel lockable.  It's too bad that the Rocket is out of production (at the time of writing).  Any that remain in stores should be a good deal since they'll be used and/or amortized.

Rans has always been superb in its design and support for loaded touring, so it's natural for their 'bents to work well for commuting. The V-Rex and Rocket easily take racks and fenders and both frames with mesh seats are easy to lock. Points for being steel and strong. Studded tires won't fit with fenders on rear wheel of V-Rex. Neither bike is terribly expensive, so there's less heartache in locking it up on the street. Some but not all vandalizable parts can be secured (e.g., sprint braces, seats).  The Flip-it build is nice and narrow, making it easier to manage the bike inside buildings.

On the down side, wheel upgrades are needed to handle potholes, cobblestones, old rail lines, etc. at normal speed. V-Rex fork/stem not lockable. New riders may find the Rocket relatively unstable at crawling speed. Current design for V-Rex makes for a wide, real-estate-hog of a bike.

- Volae's Tour takes first prize for bang for the buck, but for a few hundred more, the Century is the better bike. Both are superb frames with excellent stock components and chic and stylish designs.

Being stick frames, they're a bit hard to lock, so we designed and imported a high quality locking solution so carbon seat, wheels, stem and fork can be secured. If one prefers the mesh seat, it's easily cable lockable (and rather comfortable). Rack solutions are good: we've figured out how to fit the excellent Tubus racks onto Volaes, but riders can also use a standard Old Man Mountain rack. TerraCycle makes a good under seat rack. Standard fenders fit fine. We custom-specced an Urban Century(tm) specifically for urban use (with strong wheels, puncture-"proof" tires, and a travel frame for easier storage and travel.

Truly, I love Volaes because they're high quality and a pleasure to ride and behold. I only wish for more wheel space in the frame so we could safely install studded tires along with fenders for riding in snow. They're particularly apt for city streets for several reasons: elegant but not flashy, safe and high quality components, light and thin and easy to carry up stairs, good head height on streets, perfect rear-view mirror mounting. Due to the numerous size variations, riders get a bike that fits like a glove. Good TerraCycle fairings are available. In sum, they're darn nice bikes.

The only downsides might be:
Not many skilled dealers besides New York City Recumbent Supply and fairly extensive dealer training is required to provide proper fitting.
Generally designed for a lighter payload. Rider plus luggage has to be less than 250 pounds.

Cruzbike Sofrider.
I've been positively impressed by the models from Cruzbike. The Sofrider, in particular, is a good city bike due to its low cost, good speed, tight turn radius, full suspension, room for fat tires, and easy lockability. For a rack, use the Old Man Mountain Sherpa. See my blog entry about how to install it. Ordinary Planet Bike fenders work, but they provide incomplete coverage; for total coverage, use two rear fenders. It's good to have a city bike that looks unimpressive, and the Sofrider fits that bill.  In fact, I get more questions about whether I made the bike myself and fewer awkward questions about how much the bike costs. I've heard rumors of on-line complaints that the front tire slips when powering up steep inclines on a wet road. I live in a hilly area of Brooklyn, and I ride in the rain, and don't experience terrible slipping. I've solved this, in part, by installing a fat front tire, learning to ride with steady constant pressure, moving my body weight towards the front when starting on a hill. When none of those work, you can walk the bike up the hill but I think I've only had to do this once. (No commuter will be disqualified for touching the ground with his or her feet.)

Any of these bikes will pay for themselves within a year, when used for daily commuting, based on daily savings plus resale value.

1. HP Velotechnik Grasshopper fx
2. HP Velotechnik Street Machine Gte
3. Cruzbike Sofrider
4. Cruzbike Quest
5. Volae Tour

"Best City 'Bent for the Buck" is probably the Cruzbike Sofrider.

If a person has $3,000 - 5,000 to invest in a 'bent to replace their car, an HP Velotechnik is the way to go.  Looking to spend less?  Go with a Cruzbike.


Robert Matson
copyright 2009 Robert Matson

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Does a long chain get dirtier than a short chain?

A diamond frame rider named Joel posted the following message on Peter White's Google Bicycle Lifestyle forum:

>> I have always been curious about the long chain on most recumbants.
>> To this decidedly-not-an-engineer that seems a possible source of
>> maintenance issues.
>> Are any recumbant designers experimenting with the drive shafts that >> have been popping up on bikes of late? Is this even an issue?

(Photo: Timo Sairi's shaft drive prototype recumbent -- with smile. www.pyora.fi)

The following was my reply on the forum:

First of all, please understand that, like diamond frame (DF) bikes, recumbent models vary in quality and have a wide variety of designs. Some of the manufacturers' engineers have addressed the problems mentioned, and some have not.

First of all: 'bent designs

There are two basic 'bent designs: long wheelbase and short wheelbase. I only work with short wheelbase 'bents since a) they are the best adapted to the widest range of uses and b) the manufacturers I choose to work with only make short wheelbase models and c) I like them better.

Chain wear:

My belief is that chain metal experiences wear when it moves and hinges to pass over cogs, and no additional wear as it moves through the air. 'Bents use identical gearing systems to uprights, with identical cogs and pulleys except that many 'bents also use one or two guide wheels -- called idlers -- to maintain chainline and tension. It seems that, overall, long chains wear slightly slower than short chains since any given link is passing over a cog fewer times over a 100 meters of travel distance.

Accumulation of chain dirt:

It seems to me that dirt is introduced onto a chain from the bike's own tires, from other nearby vehicles and from the wind. It is logical to believe there is a saturation point for dirt on any given link on any given chain; once a chain link is covered with dirt, no more dirt will accumulate.

Naturally, a 2 meter chain saturated with dirt will be hold more weight in dirt over it's length than a 1 meter chain saturated with dirt. However, I would anticipate that each dirt-saturated chain link is saturated with the same amount of dirt.

Chain care:

It's the same on 'bents and DFs. A 2 meter chain will have more dirt over its length than the one meter chain; so a two-rag cleaning job on a 'bent will be (roughly) a one-rag job on a DF.

Protecting the chain from dirt and your pant legs from the dirty chain:

The most common way to protect the chain from dirt, as on DFs, is with fenders. Everyone knows about those.

Specific to 'bents, the next most common chain protection is the chain tube, best implemented by HP Velotechnik (HPV). HPV's chain tube is intended to protect the rider's legs from chain dirt, to slow down the accumulation of dirt on the chain, and to help prevent chain dirt from getting on the clothes of fellow passengers when you take the bike on a train (or ferry, etc.). This photo from the HPV website shows the chaintubes.

Dutch manufacturer Flevobike, with their Green Machine 'bent, follows the Dutch tradition of attempting to design a low- or no-maintenance bike. They fully enclose the chain. It's an intriguing solution since they seem to be using the chain-protecting case as a structural element. But it's also about 50% more costly than a similarly specced HPV. The metal chain cover appears almost certainly to be structural, efficiently serving a dual-role.

If the bike is not an HPV, I prefer to fit it with fenders, at minimum. With the HPVs, the chain tubes come standard.

Alternatives to Chains:

Shaft drive:
Timo Sairi (www.pyora.fi), a Finnish architect has designed a shaft-drive 'bent, not yet in production. One can see it here. We do not think the rider is Mr. Sairi.
More info. http://www.recumbent-gallery.eu/finnish-recumbent-with-shaft-drive/

Gates carbon:
While the most promising cost-effective solution would be Gates Carbon Belt Drives, there are numerous design challenges involved in having a long belt drive. At Interbike 09, Gates belts were shown as tandem timing chains, so we are hopeful to see them on a bent some day.

Imagination Drive:
An entirely maintenance-free and weightless solution that is available everywhere for free.

All best,

Robert Matson
copyright 2009 Robert Matson

Friday, December 4, 2009

HP Velotechnik. Yes it's true. Lower prices.

Demonstrating the best of business ethics and their deep commitment to cycling, at Interbike 2009, HP Velotechnik announced a slight price DECREASE for 2010.

2009 StreetMachine Gte, base price: $2,590 (USD)
2010 StreetMachine Gte, base price: $2,390 (USD) (With the same specs on both bikes. _NO_ component downgrade.)
This is extraordinary.

Generally, in all areas of business, whether it's bikes or sofas or soilant green or milk, every year, manufacturers increase prices to reflect inflation on raw materials, labor, real estate, shipping, etc. To gain marketshare, factories sometimes choose to NOT raise prices one year, just to slightly undercut their competitors.

With foreign companies, who may benefit from fluctuating currencies, they can get "secret" double benefits from better exchange rates along with the typical annual increase. No one would have thought twice if HPV raised prices 4% due to inflation. Or left prices static to encourage customers to buy their products. However, what THEY did, was LOWER prices on some key models.

Why? Their explanation: the better exchange rate between Euros and dollars meant they were making a bit more money on each bike sold. And they're willing to pass back that benefit to the people who buy and ride their bikes. In other words, quite simply, they lowered prices BECAUSE THEY COULD without impacting product quality.

What other business in the modern world would extend themselves in a similar way?

Does that mean they may raise prices again if the dollar strengthens? Possibly. Either way, 2010 is a good year for buying HPV products.

The economy is tough in The States right now. Not many of us have $3000 or so to spend on an HP Velotechnik. However, the overall cost/benefit of buying a high quality bike remains in favor of the bike: overall, the bike will save you substantial amounts of money.

There is no better time than now to get rid of the costly burden of a car -- or the extra car -- along with your gym membership -- and replace them both with a Street Machine or Grasshopper*.

You'll save time that you'd otherwise spend on your commute plus the time spent at the gym. You'll save money on car costs. You'll be more fit. Your heart will be healthier. And you'll be a lot happier. I can almost guarantee it.

* I do continue to think Volae's are darn good too, and an incredible value.

Robert Matson
copyright 2009 Robert Matson

Monday, November 30, 2009

Former Asheville, NC firefighter gets 4 months for shooting cyclist

Only 4 months?!?


Saved by the helmet??


Robert Matson
copyright 2009 Robert Matson

Robert Matson New York City Recumbent Supply (TM) The Innovation Works, Inc. http://www.NYCRecumbentSupply.com copyright 2009 Robert Matson

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

15 Cities for People Who Hate Driving and Long Commutes

15 Cities for People Who Hate Driving and Long Commutes:
Where to go if you don't want to spend a lot of time behind the wheel

From: US News and World Report
Posted: November 11, 2009

Includes wise-cracks from yours truly. Ranked in order of non-car commuters.

Cambridge, Mass.
Average commute time: 24 minutes Non-car commuters: 58 percent
-> Of course.

Average commute time: 23.1 minutes Non-car commuters: 33.5 percent
-> Nice city. Good hills. Great architecture. Eat at Savoia's great Italian restaurant Dish Osteria.

Boulder, Colo.
Average commute time: 18.4 minutes Non-car commuters: 30.6 percent
-> Let me at it.

Davis, Calif.
Average commute time: 20.3 minutes Non-car commuters: 28.7 percent
-> From 35 years ago, remember it being beautiful with a wonderful aquarium. I'd go.

Ann Arbor, Mich.
Average commute time: 18.4 minutes Non-car commuters: 27.5 percent
-> Veni, vidi... and attended college. Town with great core. Too bad about the sprawl.

New Haven, Conn.
Average commute time: 21.6 minutes Non-car commuters: 27.3 percent
-> Got Crime?

Chapel Hill, N.C.
Average commute time: 20.1 minutes Non-car commuters: 26.2 percent
-> Frequently, when a NYCity driver is dangerous and reckless, the car will turn out to have a North Carolina license plate. Maybe all these drivers hail from Raleigh-Cary, no. six on the 2007-08 listof the most dangerous cities for walking and not from Chapel Hill, but I've learned to steer clear of all cars with NC license plates. So, I'd have to learn not to hate 73.8% of the commuters in Chapel Hill. Might be difficult. Sorry. Learn to drive.

Average commute time: 21.9 minutes Non-car commuters: 24.2 percent
-> Got cold. Got art and culture. Got snow. I think I'd like it.

Portland, Ore.
Average commute time: 24.1 minutes Non-car commuters: 22.7 percent
-> Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm sure it's great. But I'm getting sick of hearing about how great it is.

Ames, Iowa
Average commute time: 15.3 minutes Non-car commuters: 22.6 percent
-> I'm sure it's nice, but I've never been there. Here is the webpage with the City of Ames' Urban Deer Management Hunting Rules. Presumably you can buy a firearm when you get there. Please sell it before you come back to New York.

Madison, Wis.
Average commute time: 18.7 minutes Non-car commuters: 21.9 percent
-> "F. 'em Bucky." I like WI people.

Average commute time: 23 minutes Non-car commuters: 21.7 percent
-> Who could say noo to Honolulu?

Provo, Utah
Average commute time: 16.2 minutes Non-car commuters: 21.4 percent
-> Home/grave (?) of Word Perfect. Probably nice. Would I have to be Mormon?

Eugene, Ore.
Average commute time: 16.9 minutes Non-car commuters: 20.7 percent
-> I think I'd like it for a while, but would find it small. However, I do like Oregon.

Syracuse, N.Y.
Average commute time: 16.3 minutes Non-car commuters: 20.1 percent
-> If it ain't NYC, it ain't NY. Just kidding. It's probably stupendously beautiful.

Enjoy cycling.
- Robert
Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply (TM)
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2010 Robert Matson

Monday, November 23, 2009

Warm Clothes for Winter Biking

The cold fall has made me want to write a few notes about wind chill and staying warm while riding during the cold months.

What I've done is seek out winter clothing favored by winter rock/ice climbers, backpackers and sometimes cross-country skiiers, who require: lightweight, flexible, often thin, zero-failure, temperature adaptability, somewhat abrasion resistant, highly adaptable, warm damp or dry. Also, climbers/backpackers require gear that is smooth on the back (for backpacks), so good cross-adaptability to 'bent riders.

Generally, easy-to-find commercial bike and running gear rates well on the fashion scale, but not on the outdoor-comfort scale. By this, I mean: it tends to look great and be okay if you're out for a few hours; but it tends to be heavy for the warmth it provides and often (nearly always) will sacrifice temperature performance for appearance.

And although I'll sometimes wear running clothes while biking in the summer heat, runners (like X-country skiiers) generate a lot of body heat and sweat with comparatively little activity-added wind-chill, making winter running gear less than ideal for cycling. Cyclists, on the other hand, generate a lot of windchill without generating much body heat.

For backpackers and climbers, in the woods/on the cliffs, no one cares how you look, so performance rules (unless you're on a date); for cyclists, on the roads, fashion seems to rule -- maybe because everyone sees you.

Major outdoor equipment manufacturers -- including, but not limited to -- The North Face, Mountain Hardware, Gore, Outdoor Research, Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS), REI, and others -- have clothing with "wind stopper" technology. In my exp., the windstoppers have provided excellent warmth even in situations with a high windchill.

The best place in NYC for this gear is Tent and Trails on Park Place in Manhattan. It's a true mountaineering store, unbelievably, in NYC. However, EMS in SoHo has good wind-stopping fleeces and shells at good prices. The Rivendell MUSA pants are good wind-stopping (as well as good for cycling), but are bulky to pack.

Since, for backpacking/camping, you want gear that serves multiple purposes, e.g., if it gives warmth, even better if it also stops wind, it's ideal for cycling. The Merino clothing companies (e.g. Ice Breaker, Smart Wool, Ibex) get close to this with tight weaves, but at some point, wool falls behind the best technical gear for the outer layers. For the base/inner layers, merino wool is the best, hand down.

Another key for staying warm during winter riding (for me) is to try both to stop the wind and maximize the warmth at the extremities -- hands/wrists, feet, head/neck -- I'll maybe go to excess here. But it's the lightest and "smallest" way to get body warmth.

I struggle with cold feet. At this time, I'm riding with 15-degree insulated hiking/climbing boots. What I like about them is they are lightweight and designed to fight windchill and cold air and protect the user in extreme conditions (as in "stay warm or die"). If I must wear bike shoes with cleats and it's very cold, I do two things. First, I use chemical "toe warmers" (and carry along extras). Second, I seal off any holes on the bottom of the shoe (bent riders break the wind with the bottoms of their feet) and also try to create warmth in the insole. So, I use tape to cover the holes from attaching the cleats. An insulating insole is great. I also cut up an emergency "solar blanket" (a.k.a. "space blanket") and wrap it around my feet to help keep the heat in/cold out. I'm not a fan of the cycle-shoe covers or neoprene I've tried. Maybe I haven't yet found the good ones. They seem either to inadequately block the wind or else make my feet sweat and then freeze.

My favorite places are:

- Backpacking Light (Rivendell for backpackers in terms of sophistication and knowledge level, but they count grams over durability and the gear is for EXPERIENCED users; know your limits.)
- Moosejaw
(But maybe don't get the packages delivered to work because they enjoy having fun with the recipient, e.g., with big kiss and heart stickers on the outside.)
- The North Face


- Tents and Trails in NYC

For beginner- to intermediate-level quality, I strongly recommend REI or EMS. They often have good bargains and are a great source for buying a full kit of gear, even if it may not be what you ultimately want after you've gained experience. The best gear can be rather expensive, and I believe it's best to understand what and why you need something better, than to just spring -- for example -- for the world's best coat without realizing that actually you needed to buy the world's best base layer.

Scarf not. Please don't wear a scarf while you cycle, lest you get it caught in your wheel or on a passing car. If you need something around your neck, wear a neck gaiter. For more about ill-fated scarf wearing (and the beginnings of modern dance), remember Isadora Duncan.

All best,

Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply (TM)
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2009 Robert Matson

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Coordinating tires and rims.

Questions arise about tire sizing. For the recumbents I ride and sell, fortunately, diameters are pretty straightforward; the 26 and 20 inch wheels are well-established standard sizes.

Rim widths are another matter. Questions are bound to arise because recumbent manufacturers frequently supply bikes with narrow rims and relatively wide tires. That's alright as long as the components are high quality and in top condition. But a rider who tries to cheat the system, by using lower quality rims or tires, or not replacing worn out rims or tires -- is risking an equipment malfunction and possible injuries.

Volae Centuries and Tours usually come with Alex DA 16 rims (with roughly a 16mm internal dimension) and generally mount 1.35" tires on them. Though that's pushing the capacity of the rim (in the opinion of a Velocity wheel builder I spoke with at Interbike) with high quality rims and tires (e.g., Alex or Velocity), and high-pressure tires at full pressure, riders are likely to be okay. The NYC Urban Centuries comes with a stronger-than-stock wheel build, with Velocity rims and Schwalbe Marathon tires.

The stock HP Velotechnik Grasshoppers and Street Machines also use Alex DA 16s but mount 1.5" Schwalbe Marathon Racers. Again, this is okay only as long as the rims and tires are in top condition.

If you are thinking about trying different tires, for example mounting Marathon Winters for the icy months, be sure the tires match the capabilities of your rims. In the case of Winters, the main issue will arise when you run the tires at low pressure in order to have maximum traction on icy roads. With the DA 16s, you could be asking for trouble -- the tire may come off the rim while you're riding.

Sheldon Brown has a good page on the subject of matching rims and wheels. It includes an extremely useful chart from cyclist Georg Boeger. This will assist you in making intelligent and safe decisions about fitting tires on your rims.


Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply (TM)
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2009 Robert Matson

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Where is my bike made? (Or, who actually made my bike?)

Where is my bike made? Or, who actually made my bike?

A very interesting article about the originations of bikes, posted to the Prospect Park Peloton Yahoo group by Andy Feldman.

Focused on diamond frames, but eye-opening nevertheless. Readers note: you can be sure your Volae is made by Waterford Precision Cycles, in Wisconson, USA.

- Robert

Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply (TM)
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2009 Robert Matson

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Q. How can I stop getting grease on my calf and pant leg?

Q. How can I stop getting grease on my calf and pant leg?

The other week, a trike-riding customer asked me to keep a look out for something that would let her ride her trike without getting grease on her leg or pant leg.
Her objective, as she described it, sounded extraordinarily familiar. "I just want to be able to put on my work clothes and ride to work, without getting grease all over my legs." In fact, almost every customer asks the same thing. Diamond frame (or upright, "head-first") commuters have the Dutch- or Danish-style fully enclosing chain covers as an option. What do we have?

Recumbent riders have chain tubes. Essentially, these are low-friction plastic pipes that cover part of the chain. If positioned near the cranks, not only do they keep grease off one's pantleg, but they also help keep that long chain clean. However, while third party chain tubes are available, few recumbents are designed to readily accept them. I have had customers for whom the aftermarket solutions did not work as well as hoped.

Who else but HP Velotechnik would make a chain tube system that works perfectly? Since HPVelos are optimized for commuting and touring, it's natural that they would make an excellent chain tube mounting system. In fact, their frames include special braze-ons to enable secure mounting of the chain tubes, which are attached via metal springs on the tubes. The chain tubes themselves are made of special high-quality, low-friction material. That the tubes are integral to the bike's design helps explain why the system works so well.

The chain tubes mount securely and are designed for the natural chain line. The top and bottom tubes terminate close to the chain ring in a way that neither interferes with gear changing nor allows your pant leg to get dirty. Honestly, it's amazing.

Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply (TM)
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2009 Robert Matson

HP Velotechnik, Grasshopper fx - pics, notes

That's me on the bike. :-)

It's a dreadful business to be sure. Every new bike has to be tested. This unbearable task falls to myself, since it pains me to delegate the job of riding a Grasshopper fx for 50 miles of pure Jersey on a crisp fall day.

Tasks like this put one in an awful temper, so you can well imagine my delight upon finding something wrong with HP Velotechnik's new Grasshopper fx. I'll just get it out now: the platform pedals that are supplied with the bike are crap. Truly awful. Specifically, they are too small. Most people would be grateful they provide pedals at all to make demo rides easier. And most people think cheap stock pedals are more than good enough, since most people stuff the stock pedals in a drawer anyway after a week, having replaced with either a clipless system or good platform pedals (e.g., MKS Touring or Grip Kings).

Beyond the stock pedals, from there on out and for the next 50 miles, HPV's Grasshopper fx simply ruined a perfectly well-tuned bad attitude. And as hard as I looked for something to dislike, I simply couldn't find it. Instead, I found a bunch of nicities. And a darn fast folding recumbent touring bike.

Let me give you some examples, however, by no means is this list complete. For example, I didn't mention the rear rack, which is large, light and strong as the dickens.

- OK. The chain tubes that protect your pants and keep the chain clean? They work perfectly. Friction is low. The chain is quiet. And I didn't get a speck of grease anywhere on my legs, socks or hands, which is odd. The chain tubes are a matte, classy black color. Grumpy people, who prefer ugly and tacky colors, won't like the color.

- The USS steering is comfortable and enables confident and effortless steering. We easily hit 40 mph on downhills where 35 mph was the speed limit. Nit pickers with a grudge will argue that the Grasshopper fx's under seat steering is less aerodynamic than other options and might slow a person down by two or three mph. These same people might prefer something harder to steer, like no handlebars. As for me, I dig USS; it's like steering a rocket.

- The Grasshopper fx folding 'bent rides like a strong, straightened and trued, non-folding bike, riding true at all speeds -- slow uphill or breakneck downhill. At 40 mph, it remained responsive and felt sure-footed and safe. This particular morning, the roads were slick from a morning drizzle, so it was a good test of road feedback and traction, both of which were excellent. The bike's aerodynamics help press it into the road at speed, providing greater stability and grip.

And there's the rub. When I'm in a bad mood, I prefer bikes that feel unstable and set my teeth on edge when I'm riding in traffic. If I'm going so fast that my eyes start to water, I also want to feel like the bike is out of control. I want to see my life flash before my eyes. On the Grasshopper, the level of control is fantastic, and that will leave the ill-tempered crowd sorely disappointed.

- The DT Swiss (rear) and Spinner Grind (front) upgraded shocks are extraordinarily nice. I stopped bothering to avoid bumps, cracks, manhole covers and road debris, as I normally do, even at speed. High quality shocks provide a safer bike for several reasons. One, when you hit bumps, even at speed, the wheels remain in contact with the road, providing positive traction. Two, you never feel the need to swerve from your line -- and into the path of cars -- to avoid obstacles, like broken pavement and potholes, that could cause you to lose contact with the road. Three, they absorb shocks that would otherwise impact the frame which, over many years, can cause frame fatigue. Four, they absorb shocks that would otherwise go into your body, which causes rider fatigue.

- The fenders are solid, provide good coverage, are intelligently designed, and are built with better materials than we normally see on USA bikes. Americans are used to seeing a certain quality (low) in fenders, and we tend to think of these as standard: plastic fenders with adjustable supports that are designed to LOOK like expensive fenders, without all the expensive manufacturing.

The fenders on the GH, like everything on an HP Velotechnik, are on a new level. For example, the braces are reinforced with a metal bridge; the metal bridge connects the supports from the left side of the fender to those on the right side, making the structure very strong. The bolts and fasteners for clamping the supports are especially strong. And the fenders themselves are no ordinary black plastic; they feel especially strong and thick. What this means, in short, is that these fenders aren't going to break anytime soon.

Fenders are great. The only bad thing about fenders is when they break. And "ordinary" ones break all the time. But the HPV fenders are going to be with you for a long time. For everyone other than the grumpy, that is good news.

-The Magura Louise hydraulic disk brakes work so well I felt like I was driving a luxury car; which makes me mad, because I don't necessarily like cars. The Louise brakes provide a full range of stopping force from soft to hard, are responsive, give excellent feedback and control, and are, in short, essentially perfect. To sum it up, like any good brakes, these make the bike significantly safer and easier to control on any road at any speed.

- The SRAM dual-drive. I admit to being dubious, at first. Although I like the potential for internally geared hubs, I also like the simplicity of chain rings and sprocket/derailer* systems (*using Sheldon Brown's spelling). However, I think SRAM is on to something here. I won't go into the benefits of the predictable stuff -- like the fact that you can change the internal gears while standing still, which is helpful on a 'bent -- but what I particularly liked is how widely spaced are the three internal gears, compared to a standard chain ring setup, providing a huge range of gearing for the 27 gears.

I found myself treating the three internal gears more like my main gears, not unlike a 3-speed gear box on a car. I'd find a cog in the cassette that worked for most of what I was riding, and then change the internal gears depending on whether I wanted more speed or was heading up hill or hitting a stop light. I'd use the cassette simply to fine-tune the gearing. It enabled me to take a new approach to gear selection which I thought befitted 'bent riding particularly well.

- Seat: I was using the ErgoMesh seat, which has a mesh back. I expected to prefer the hardshell BodyLink, but after 50 miles of hills and flats, I can honestly say, pros and cons weighed, I have no preference one over the other. They are both very good. I hope that doesn't disappoint you.

The ErgoMesh seat is positioned higher off the frame than the BodyLink seat, so your head is higher in traffic. The mesh fabric back is tight and strong so climbing performance is almost equal. It's comfortable under your bum -- I didn't get recumbent butt -- and the ergonomics of the back support is good. While hard-shell seats generally enable better power transfer, I did not notice any loss of performance with the ErgoMesh seat. Maybe there's a little; I couldn't tell.

HPV is famous for their attention to detail, and in the case of the seat, there are many examples. I'll point out the pocket in the seatback. First of all, (a) it closes and (b) with a zipper which is (c) decent quality. Inside the pocket, you'll find a rain cover for the seat, along with space for a cell phone, wallet, keys, a multi tool and a few gels. I was also able to cram in a warm hat and gloves.

Other details they've attended to include the seat back straps used for tightening the mesh. They are wide and strong and include velcro for securing the straps after you've tightened them. Lesser seats will loosen during a long ride, so this is a detail I appreciate. After taking the time to adjust the seat mesh to provide good support for my back, I prefer it stays that way.

Another nice detail is they've left the structural bars exposed at the back of the seat, so a rear light can be mounted or a water bladder bag can be hung there.

- Being a folding bike that is rated to carry a remarkable 275(!) pounds (rider weight and luggage combined), it should come as no surprise that the aluminum Grasshopper is both exceptionally strong as well as comparatively heavy.

This is a good thing: the bike is engineered to last indefinitely, even under the stress of touring. And a strong frame means it's efficient with your energy. But riders who don't need a folding 'bent and prefer a lighter bike may prefer non-folding touring machines like HPV's Street Machine or Volae's Tour, Century or Expedition.

If you care more about sturdiness, lifespan and practicality than ounces, this bike has it in spades. Urban dwellers will appreciate the ability to fold the bike for easy storage at home or work. Air/train/boat/car travelers, who wish to take their favorite 'bent on a trip, will also appreciate the fold. The long and short is that this bike is a workhorse touring machine that also folds and is fairly small. If that's what you want, this is your machine.

- More aerodynamic than you might expect, especially from a touring bike. The Grasshopper is a hybrid touring/speed machine. With a bottom bracket at 26.25" from the ground and a seat height with the ErgoMesh seat of only 22", we have a 4.25" raise to the feet. It may come as a surprise that this raise is similar to what you would see with a high racer. For example, Volae's Team, an ultra-fast 650x650 high racer, has a bottom bracket height of 33" with a seat ht. of 29" (with their mesh seat) which gives a 4" raise to the feet; one-quarter of an inch less than on the Grasshopper fx!

However, giving the Volae it's due, when using hardshell seats, the Grasshopper fx with the BodyLink hardshell seat gives a 5.25" raise to the feet. A Volae Team, using the hardshell carbon seat at a height of 26" provides a very aerodynamic 7" raise for the feet. This is 1.75" more than on the Grasshopper.

So, for riders who are concerned about speed, and whether the smaller 2 x 20" wheels can cut it, you need not worry. Being a heavier bike (especially compared to a Volae Team), the Grasshopper fx will be slower on the uphills, but on the flats and downhills it's truly an impressive ride.

It is for this reason that I consider the GHfx a folding version of the HPV Speed Machine, but more suitable for urban traffic conditions. The SpeedMachine has a seat height of 20" with the ErgoMesh seat and a bottom bracket at 27.5". This raise is 3.25" greater than on the Grasshopper. The StreetMachine has a seat ht. of 26" with a bb. of 27.2", a total raise of 1.2"; more comfortable on a long tour, perhaps, and higher-sitting in traffic, but less aerodynamic than the GH.

The summary of my very positive experience with the Grasshopper is that I think it will appeal to the customer who wants to be able to carry a lot of weight and wants a fast bike that folds down into a small package for traveling or storing at home or the office. The GHfx will also be preferred by an "experienced" rider, by which I mean one who fully understands the advantages that come with functionality and who is comfortable with a fairly low-riding bent in urban traffic. Also, stronger riders will be less bothered by the weight penalty than newer riders.

All in all, it's all good stuff.

Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2009 Robert Matson

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Human Powered Velomobile on Land and Sea.

This just in.

Here's a nice and fun-looking velomobile that also doubles as a boat. You've got to love the ambition, but it seems to work better on land than on sea. Being a swimmer, I'd rather park my HPV and swim to my next destination. Still, one can dream.

Things go smoothly until the rider drives it uphill -- always tough on a 'bent anyway -- and out of the water. Presumably the tires skid or get stuck. I'm not sure how I would ever use this?

Human Powered Velomobile Bikes over Land or Seahttp://www.inhabitat.com/2009/10/13/human-powered-velomobile-bikes-over-land-or-sea/

Robert Matson
NYC Recumbent Supply (TM)
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2009 Robert Matson

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Volae bikes and trailers: two-wheels better than one.

A quick note. Was talking with folks at Volae about trailers.

Volae is discouraging Volae owners from touring with BOB single wheel trailers.  Now, I own and love my BOB, but apparently, at high speeds -- e.g., downhill -- a heavy BOB can cause steering problems on a Volae.  This might be due to the fact that Volaes are designed with about 60% of rider weight towards the rear wheel.  Instead, Volae recommends two-wheel trailers, e.g. the Burley or Croozer, or loading the bike with panniers.

The Croozer Cargo Trailer (manufacturer's information):

The Burley Flat Bed (manufacturer's information):

The Burley Nomad (manuf.'s information):

I personally own both a BOB and a 2-wheel Burley flatbed. I've used the Burley trailer regularly for hauling things to storage, back from the grocery, and once with a heavy load for a video shoot in car-free Prospect Park. It's been a reliable design for me, so far, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it. Moreover, it should be easier to adapt to most SWB 'bents, given that you need not use the special quick release skewer as one must with a BOB. Even better, you don't have to sacrifice your Pitlock skewers to use it.

The "Croozer" brand also looks good. I've seen it in person and spoke with an owner but haven't ridden with it as of my writing this today.

Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply (TM)
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2009 Robert Matson

Special Adventure Cycling regional gathering in Manhattan, Thu. 10/22/09. 6:30pm.

Adventure Cycling Special Meeting in Manhattan

I rec'd this note from Adventure Cycling. I helped in a small way to make this happen by hooking them up with Bike NY for a meeting space. Should be interesting to hear about updates to the national bike route system. 

 --------------------- Announcement follows: ---------------------

We'd like to invite you to a special Adventure Cycling regional gathering in Manhattan on Thursday, October 22 from 6:30-8:00 pm.

Our Executive Director, Jim Sayer, will be in town and will be sharing the latest news on bicycle travel and adventures in North America (and perhaps beyond!). He'll be looking to the year ahead, with new routes, trips, and policy and outreach initiatives to improve bicycling and bike travel in the U.S. There will also be time for you to share your thoughts, ideas and stories. Refreshments will be provided.

Join us at the historic HI-AYH building on the Upper West Side (also headquarters to Bike New York). It is located at 891 Amsterdam Avenue (at West 103rd Street). The subway is nearby on the #1 train at 103rd Street.

For more information, go here: http://www.bikenewyork.org/about/contact.html

Please RSVP by October 19th by responding to this email or calling me, Beth Petersen, at 800-755-2453 x 211. We also encourage you to invite friends or family. We are looking for a few volunteers to help with the event by picking up some snacks and beverages, and prepping the gathering location.

Please contact me at bpetersen@adventurecycling.org or 800-755-2453 ext. 211 if you are interested.

Thanks and hope to see you there.

Happy autumn,
Beth Petersen
Adventure Cycling Association
800-755-2453 x 211
Inspiring people to travel by bicycle for fitness, fun and self discovery.
---end message---
Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply (TM)
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2009 Robert Matson

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

HP Velotechnik, Grasshopper fx


Fall is always a time of change in my business, where bicycle sales start to fall off, but the new bikes and bike technologies begin to arrive. At the same time, the creative side of my business begins to pick up, as if everyone is madly catching up on the time lost during the hot summer months.

The weather is better -- cooler -- for riding and hiking, though the leaves are beginning to fall, hiding the potholes and glass shards and making the wet, oily NY streets yet more slippery.  However much I like Spring, Fall may be my favorite time of year. The time of change. And "change" is always a nice place to be. Besides, with bike sales falling off, I suddenly have more time to ride again, and that is so nice, indeed.

Today I took time to study the details of the HP Velotechnik Grasshopper fx: the frame and clamps and springs and braze-ons and the myriad of quick releases and the other details that make these bikes the masterpieces of engineering that they are.

People often ask what could possibly be the difference between an excellent bike, like a Volae, which is really everything a person could reasonable want from a road bike, and an HP Velotechnik, which might be two or three times the price and triple the wait for special orders.

Although the question falls into the category of "you simply have to own one to understand," today, an explanation began to vaguely take shape: it's in the details of the darn thing.  Unfortunately, this is a used cliche, but it's perfectly apt.

HPV engineers have thought carefully and intelligently about each one of the tiniest details. There is nothing misplaced, neglected, forgotten, misaligned. Quite simply, it seems to me, the HPV team set out to create the absolute best human powered vehicle that their collective intelligence could fabricate.  And they succeeded.

Everything seems perfect. Everything is easy. Everything is right. Everything is complete. But, it's a complex piece of machinery. The user manual, for the bike alone, not counting the manuals for the lights or suspension or Magura hydraulic disc brakes, is 72 pages long (in half letter-sized format). And that's only the English language version. But it's easy to read and it's useful; it's not merely a marketing piece in disguise. It's a manual, truly written for the rider. And, as I looked through it, I realized how well it answers many of the questions new riders have. Not all bikes are this complex, but it would be nice if every manufacturer invested in creating a user guide like this. If nothing else, a good manual helps remind riders of the importance of taking care of the bike and how to recognize wear and tear. (Photo of table of contents for Grasshopper fx manual, below.)

There's only one way to describe the Grasshopper fx: it is a masterpiece. There are other great bikes, Volae's Century ES foremost among them. But of masterpieces, there are very, very few.

I keep searching for a comparison, something that most of us can relate to. What is this like? What is this extraordinarily good, and that many of us are blessed to have experienced? What is wonderful and fascinating and perfect in a way that -- surprisingly -- is calming?

Try this. Imagine the most perfect day of your life, the day when everything goes your way. Imagine every ingredient of that perfect day. Imagine the feeling of total perfection of the day, as if everything fits snugly and perfectly. It's the day we each aspire to obtain, but by all rights, can not ever exist. It is unreachable within the imperfection of life. Or, if it happens, it's by chance; a fluke; an oddity that could only happen once.

Or, maybe it could happen, if you could only control each and every detail of the day -- or, rather, by entirely giving up control over every detail of the day. A day, built entirely of flow, and peace. A day of such evenness that you feel thoroughly alive, eager, alert.

The Perfect Day is the nearest description I can offer for this bike. And, like the perfect day, it oozes life energy. Some things are so fine you don't dare touch, taste or use them; they're intimidating; what good is a bike that's so beautiful that you're afraid to ride it? Grant, from Rivendell Bicycle Works, wrote a piece in early 2009 describing exactly this phenomenon; that of the conflict between pride of ownership and fear of usership. What's so wonderful about a Grasshopper is the way it embraces you, instead of intimidating you.  You just want to ride it, no matter where or how.  I've even zip-tied a plastic milk crates to the rack, like the cheapest ghetto cruiser, to carry heavy junk across town.  I treat it like a truck as well as like a sports car.  It just wants to go.

For me, the Grasshopper increases my yearning to take it on a trip; it feels like a good companion, for you can see and feel all the attention that has gone into making the bike complete. It's a bike with soul. It's a good friend in those quiet moments.

In this way, like anything that is extremely well made, it transcends its existence of merely being a bike. Truly, it is a vehicle, a vehicle for experiencing some of the richness of life.

Neptune's rig (photo by R. Matson).

Oh, by the way, all those on-line "experts" who say it's heavy and slow?  Don't believe them.  Ask for a photo.  They're probably weak and out of shape.  It's an aerodynamic frame, goes as fast as you want, and weighs only about 7 pounds more than my Brompton folding bike.  Heavy, my eye.

All best,
Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply (TM)
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2009 Robert Matson

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Locks on my mind.

A friend's Dutch-style upright, made by NYC Bikes/Spokes and Strings was stolen this evening from in front of Mark Morris Dance Company / BAM (Bklyn Academy of Music).

Darn it.

Admittedly, she might have been using a stronger lock. But still, I'm irritated. We had it nicely fitted out with Danish running lights, new steel handlebars, a large Wald basket, a nice seat, 3M reflective tape, and a few other practical niceties.

The lesson remains what I've known for a long time: use a lock made from hardened steel, no matter how heavy it makes your bike. One has to spend at least $80 for a lock that will discourage a professional thief. Also, get locking skewers for your wheels and seat and a locking Ahead bolt so your front fork can't be stolen.

Here is a good article at Slate, including lock reviews that consisted of breaking them open. Among the surprises was that a Kryptonite U-lock that I've used for a long time and believed to be strong, is not. The writer sawed it open in a New York minute.


If you're riding a 'bent, call me for Pitlock locking skewers and bolts. You need them.

By the way, a little research on Craig's List reveals a surprising number of $70-$100 bikes. Presumably they're stolen. Please don't support the business of bike thieves by buying cheap bikes.

Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2009 Robert Matson

Monday, October 5, 2009

2010 HP Velotechniks Start to Arrive.

In case you were wondering what it looks like when HP Velotechniks arrive, here's a photo.

These are the first of the 2010 HP Velotechniks, ordered at Interbike 2009: a Grasshopper fx and a Street Machine Gte, both with a full commuting and touring fit-out. The SM has HPV's new seat (photo below).

Thinking inside the box:

Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply (TM)
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2009 Robert Matson

Friday, October 2, 2009

It's not about the helmet; it's about safe habits.

When the arguments are in and weighed, I shall likely remain in favor of me and my loved ones wearing helmets when we bicycle, even though some research suggests that the act of wearing a helmet actually makes us more likely to be hit by a passing vehicle.

According to a September 2006 BBC story (link below), research demonstrates that "Cyclists who wear protective helmets are more likely to be knocked down by passing vehicles, new research from Bath University suggests."

Still, I shall continue to wear a helmet, because I stubbornly believe that if, or more pessimistically, when I am in an accident, it will help protect my head to some degree. And, if nothing else, by wearing a helmet I am showing my wife that I want to see her again, even if we just had an argument. And I am promising to my nieces and nephews that I want to see them again. And I'm promising to my clients and customers that I'm going to come through on my promises. And I am promising to myself that I'll take the precautions necessary so I can compete in next season's masters swimming events. In other words, I'll wear a helmet because I take myself seriously, I care about my well being and I care about other people.

After years of cycling in New York City, and witnessing the habits of other cyclists, I have come to strongly suspect that it is the act of caring, and having safe riding habits, rather than the presence of a helmet on the cyclist's head, which results in cyclist safety. Too bad once again motorists have to spoil the party -- as well as the environment -- by driving yet more dangerously around helmet-wearing cyclists.

Unfortunately, those who would legislate bicycle helmet wearing seem more concerned with winning their argument than with saving lives or protecting cyclists' health. Presumably they make money if they win their argument; no other force is powerful enough to distort simple evidence or widely accepted notions of self-determination.

The most typical argument, as it is revealed in public anyway, goes something like this: In the first place, helmets protect the head. In the second place, facts show that when cyclists are hit by motorists, fewer of those who wore helmets end up dead; and, in contrast, more of those who were NOT wearing helmets, DO end up dead. Therefore, helmets must provide the cyclists with safety.

However, it is a causal assumption, and precisely the sort of superficially convincing argument put forth by a person who is more concerned with winning arguments (and making money) than with being right (and saving lives).

I would imagine that in and among the many cyclists who are hit by cars every year, there are some who are tragically or mortally injured someplace other than the head, like, perhaps, the spine or the internal organs. It is obvious that a bicycle helmet does not prevent a car from hitting a cyclist in the first place. Add to this the research demonstrating that, rather than protect the rider, the presence of a helmet INCREASES the likelihood that the cyclist will be struck.

(Foot note: one wonders if it's better to wear no helmet at all, rather than one that fits improperly or is incorrectly adjusted, since an ill-fitting helmet provides little protection and the act of wearing a helmet increases the risk of being hit by an over-taking car.)

Being as I live in America and no longer so naive, I believe the insurance companies likely have a hand in advancing the cause of helmet wearing laws. For one thing, who else would care. It can't be mothers, because Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) are...against drunk driving. I can't imagine doctors and dentists objecting as a mass political force; after all, it gives them more work, and some of it probably pretty interesting. That leaves perhaps the unions of school teachers, compelled to mass march because they're fed up with their math and history lessons going down the drain when their ex-students are hit by cars. Right? I don't think so.

The weather vane points to the insurers -- motor and health insurance, at least. The logic is so simple most dunces could follow the money trail: when (not if) motorists -- drunk, tired or distracted -- hit cyclists, the insurance company of the driver will be called upon to pay damages to the injured cyclist or the family of the killed cyclist. The insurance company will be compelled to pay LESS money to a less severely injured cyclist than to a more severely injured cyclist (and presumably still more to the survivors of the dead cyclist). Furthermore, the health insurance company of the injured cyclist will be looking at a smaller average medical bill from cyclists -- dead or otherwise -- who were protecting their heads, but larger average medical bills from those who were not.

From the perspective of insurance companies who are involved in the equation, obviously, the financial incentive is to pay as little as possible for claims. That's been proven often enough. Therefore, insurers would naturally prefer there to be laws that require all cyclists to wear helmets. And not because it will save lives.
The question I wish to raise is this: if motorists drive more dangerously around cyclists who wear helmets, why are not more helmet-wearing cyclists killed?

Presumably one reason is because when they are knocked off their bikes, they suffer fewer brain injuries. But I don't believe that's the main reason. The main, overwhelming reason is that those riders who care enough to wear helmets to begin with are simply more inclined to ride cautiously; they care more about their health and well-being and they're motivated to take safety precautions to protect themselves. ...Like wearing helmets, yes, but also, precautions like not running red lights, using lights at night, getting regular tune-ups and checking their brakes before each ride, etc.

About a year ago, I mentioned this notion to a researcher in the automotive industry whom I met at a transportation conference here in New York. (His name was John, he had a PhD, he was from Michigan, he worked for Ford, and he also happened to be a touring cyclist.)

In reply, and in support of my theory, he relayed a true story about Volvo cars, which are famous for being particularly safe. And why are they safe? John's story went along the lines of this: transportation researchers were looking at video footage taken from above a roadway to observe how much space motorists were allowing between their own car and the other cars on the road. As the data accumulated, an intriguing fact began to emerge: on average, drivers of Volvo cars, in comparison to the drivers of other makes, put more space between their car and the car in front.

In other words, the operators of Volvos drove more cautiously. Their cars didn't FORCE them to drive more cautiously. They, simply, drove more cautiously. Now, Volvos may well have features that make the cars safe. But could it ALSO be, that Volvo cars, through successful marketing, particularly appeal to drivers who are inclined to drive cautiously? And is it too far-fetched to argue that cautious drivers have fewer bad accidents than incautious drivers? I think not.

I shall go out on a sturdy limb and suggest that cautious cyclists are less likely to have accidents than incautious cyclists. And cautious cyclists are more likely to wear helmets. And are more likely to behave, overall, in ways that decrease the likelihood they will have an accident.

Generally, when I see a cyclist riding like an idiot -- riding the wrong way down a one-way street, running red lights, swerving through traffic, talking on a cell phone while riding, riding with ear phones in their ears, riding at night without lights, riding an inappropriate or ill-fitting bike, and generally riding carelessly -- they are also rarely wearing helmets.

Conversely, I rarely see cyclists who are wearing helmets but also riding like idiots (I have indeed seen it, but in my experience, it's simply more rare). One can even see this casually, for example when a newspaper publishes an article on-line about some contentious cycling subject. In the reader comments, one will sometimes read multiple criticisms of those who would ride like utter fools "without even wearing a helmet" as if the helmet will protect the idiot from his idiocy. It would be odd to find the perpendicular observation: of cyclists riding idiotically but at LEAST while wearing helmets.

I have no faith that it's the helmet that protects me. But I am a safety-centric cyclist and I shall continue to wear a helmet, even if it compels drivers to drive closer to me. To ward them off a small amount, I put reflective tape on my helmet. And I wear a high-viz highway workers safety vest (research shows it wards drivers away a bit more).

To keep out of the hospital, I shall try to keep from being hit in the first place. If nothing else, I am confident that the mere fact that I think at all about things like safety tape and driver behavior will increase my chances of survival.

Should my efforts to be safe fail to ward off every single one of the millions of terrible drivers in New York, it is my hope that if a driver still manages to hit me -- in spite of the helmet, the high-viz vest, the good cycling habits and the adherence to traffic rules -- that I'll have provided my lawyer with a much better foundation for securing a judgment that adequately pays for my medical needs and/or the needs of my loved ones left behind.

If insurance companies continue to hold the reins of power, one can anticipate future laws that are meant to decrease the insurance payouts but not intended to save lives: cyclists must wear helmets. And cyclists must not wear high-viz safety vests or use bright lights at night. For the insurers, there's more profit to be earned from blaming dead cyclists for their own deaths.

Obviously, from my perspective, I do not consider that an acceptable state of affairs.

All best,

Robert Matson
NYC Recumbent Supply (TM)
 The Innovation Works, Inc.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The first Volae Urban Century has arrived - wow

Today, the first of the Volae NYC Centuries arrived. All I can say is "wow." And that's my reaction merely to the paint job and the ES coupling. Once again, I'm left speechless by Volae's design and Waterford's framework. What Volae calls a "silver metallic" for the ES frame is what artists would call a cold deep metallic gray -- a deep blue gray. I could almost lose myself in this color. The ES joint looks and feels tight and solid, as if it's a permanent seam.

I'll post photos first chance.

It's likely this bike will go on display at New York Naturals over the winter.

All best,
Robert Matson
NYC Recumbent Supply (TM)
The Innovation Works, Inc.