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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bicycle Insurance + Other Goodies

TECHNOLOGY - There are lots of companies out there offering car insurance quotes, but where are the companies offering bicycle insurance quotes? (Seriously, you can get pet health insurance these days, so it should not be too hard to get bicycle insurance.)

I did a Google search for "bicycle insurance" and there are 146,000 hits on the topic.

The top listing was a fellow who apparently does have bicycle insurance (listed under his tenants insurance) and he asked about insuring a bicycle for replacement cost. The insurance agent told him it would be $9.35 per year for every $100 value of bicycle.

Thus insuring a $2,000 bicycle for a year would cost him $187. Some other people have found cheaper rates. (See the full discussion on the TBN forum.)

Some insurance companies even offer advice for cyclists:
How to foil a bicycle thief
A stolen bike - to claim or not to claim

Obviously for theft purposes its best to just have the best quality lock(s) you can afford and always pay attention when locking your bike up so that its in a location that won't be easy to break / remove your bicycle. (I regularly see people's bicycles locked to poles that any reasonably tall person could just lift the bike up and off the pole and then ride away with it.)

If the lock is really good the insurance company should in theory lower their rates... but of course, if you have a really spectacular lock, doesn't that make insurance obsolete? You would hope so, but thieves will also see really expensive bikes as a bigger prize and try harder.

The whole thing got me thinking about niche markets for products/services cyclists would likely want or could use.

In theory there are a variety of things that cyclists should have... #1 accident insurance, #2. life insurance, #3. health/dental insurance... to say nothing of the niche markets available for cellphone, BlackBerry and laptop users. ie. A laptop holder for your bicycle, a place to put your BlackBerry, iPod, iPhone, etc... because talking on your cellphone whilst cycling is just plain dangerous.

For example here's a service some cyclists might like: ShrinkRay Mobile, its a mobile application developer for iPhones. Or for those organic food / ultra clean / botanical medicine people out there is companies like the Wellpath Clinic, a natural medicine clinic... which no doubt has products we could all use.

One of things I'd like to get is a video camera I can stick on the front of my bicycle. I found this website for Building your own Bicycle Camera Mount, but I'd much rather have something professionally made and pointed in the right direction (as opposed to limply hanging on with duct tape).

To paraphrase a fellow blogger "I want to see roads and faces, not the butts of bikers."

(If only Lenzr had video contests instead of photo contests.)

There are a LOT of Bicycle Gadgets out there, you just have to do a Google search for them.

Bicycles with Classical Music

ENTERTAINMENT - Somewhat off topic, I am looking for bicycle videos that contain classical music.

Its actually surprisingly hard to find what I am looking for... instead I've found the Bicycle Bell Symphony, a flute made out of a bicycle pump, and various other shoddily made videos.

Ideally what I am looking for is something like 'Ride of the Valkyries' with Tour de France footage, but apparently nobody has done anything remotely resembling that yet.

On the plus side I did find this wonderful photo of a bicycle and a violin (above), and a rather bizarre German fellow called Christian Adam who rode 60 km backwards on a bicycle whilst playing a violin. Apparently it took him almost 6 hours.

In other news this blog is now being sponsored by Mooredale Concerts, a Toronto orchestra company which promotes "Classical Music for Everyone", has regular performances in the University of Toronto's concert halls and operates a classical music learning program for children and a youth orchestra in Rosedale.

Both U of T and Rosedale incidentally are two of my favourite places to go for a nice bike ride. They're relatively free of traffic and the scenery is quite good.

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAVE A HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

BAM Program looking for students

Toronto's BAM program (a government funded program which trains bicycle mechanics) is looking for more students.

People interested in becoming a bicycle mechanic should contact the Learning Enrichment Foundation and inquire about becoming a BAM student.

Classes last 8 weeks and include an one week placement in a Toronto bicycle repair shop.

The next set of class dates are: January 4th 2010 - February 26th 2010. Sign up early to avoid the waiting list!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Looking for Sponsors

Wouldn't it be great if Park Tools sponsored this website, The Bicycle Mechanic?

Yes, yes it would be awesome.

But in the meantime I am going to put the call out to people, bicycle shops, tools manufacturers, etc... sponsor this site!

In the case of Park Tools they wouldn't even have to pay me... they could just give me free tools every year and I would be happy. Like the tools below in the Park Tools Bicycle Mechanic Starter Kit.

Drool.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Bicycle that folds into a Backpack

The bicycle below folds into a backpack, great for camping in rocky terrain. I think it makes a great xmas gift idea.




Sunday, October 18, 2009

Wikipedia for Bicycle Mechanics

One of the goals of this blog is to provide a plethora of bicycle mechanic information all at your fingertips...

But what if other bicycle mechanics could add additional information that they feel other bicycle mechanics could use? The result would be a bit like Wikipedia. The problem with Wikipedia (cough cough Crapipedia) is that any amateur can add information on there which is incorrect or potentially dangerous...

Or worse, the information on there is accurate and general knowledge, but some asshole shows up and deletes it. (I know because I've tried adding technical info to Wikipedia and there's always some asshole who shows up and deletes it. Wikipedia is a complete waste of time.)

Thus if you are a bicycle mechanic yourself, and you've come across a technique, a tool or whatever you think other bike mechanics would benefit from please email me and I shall post it for you.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Techie Bikes

TECHNOLOGY - Designer Chen Chun Tung has designed a bike that runs on wind-solar power (the Win-Solar Energy Bike), but only part of the time. It stores up energy from the sun/wind and then uses that energy later when the rider is going up hill by running an electric motor to help speed up ascent.





If you like gadgets there is also the Mercedes folding bicycle. It costs approx. $1,770 USD.



Or for the more mechanical amongst you, the amazingly easy to disassemble "Urban Bicycle" designed by Victor M. Aleman, which can fit into a box after being completely disassembled or reassembled in record time.





And finally here is one that is just plain unusual... the wheels run on a track inside the rim, there's no chain or spokes, and its designed to be extremely lightweight... oh and its ALSO solar powered to boost uphill speed, tracks your speed, calorie loss and plays music. Oh and its being promoted by Olympic cyclist Chris Boardman (whoop dee do, celebrity endorsements!).

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Cycling around Nuit Blanche

CANADA - If you're in Toronto today and tonight, its a good chance to check out Toronto's local art scene and catch live performance art, art galleries and a variety of events going on in the city during the annual "Nuit Blanche" art festival. It starts around 6 PM and goes until 6 AM the next morning.

Call it your chance to cycle around downtown Toronto and meet lots of people interested in art.

One of the things you could see is BICITYCLE (Bike City) by Tokyo artist Sakaguchi Kyohei.

BICITYCLE is about mobile life and is inspired by the lifestyle, innovation and survival skills of homeless people in Japan. His mobile "sculptures" emphasize mobility and recycling. The houses of Tokyo's homeless people are easy to dismantle and remake because people are forced to move their houses regularly. Their homes have water, gas, toilet, and electricity, but they're made from the scraps they find and in this case incorporates old bicycles to make the "houses" more transportable.

From a bicycle mechanic's perspective that just sounds so kewl. It also means these homeless people are pretty good mechanics themselves.

For Nuit Blanche Sakaguchi created 11 'mobile housing units', each somehow attached to a bicycle. The audience can interact and relocate the works within the area. (Thats correct, you get to ride the bikes.)

The BICITYCLE event is near Dovercourt and King Street West. Consult one of the free Nuit Blanche maps that art galleries are handing out.

Kyohei Sakaguchi is also a writer, adventurer and architect and has shown his works internationally. I think this particular art piece is worthy to go in art history books.

If you attend the event could you please email me (charlesmoffat[@]charlesmoffat.com) with some photos of Sakaguchi's bikes / etc? Unfortunately I will be busy at the Ben Navaee Gallery where two of my paintings are showing tonight and schmoozing with attendees.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Bicycles Vs Farm Animals

I posted this just for fun. For reference, I think the farm animals would win in a fight vs a cyclist so please don't try this at home.




Saturday, September 26, 2009

How Safe is your Local Bike Mechanic?

CANADA - I've worked in a few different bike shops and even early on I noticed there is a trend in bike shops to cut corners when it comes to fixing a bike "by the book" with respect to the safety of the customer.

[Right: Craig, a BTAC certified bicycle mechanic.]

Take wheel truing for example. If a wheel has reached a point that the tension on the individual spokes is greater than 30 kgf the spokes are much more likely to snap when the cyclist hits a bump. That will result in "catastrophic wheel failure" and the person will end up crashing, possibly getting injured or dying. [Note - The maximum kgf will vary depending on spoke thickness, strength and the spoke pattern, but 30 kgf is true for all normal bicycle wheels. Consult your Barnett's Manual for different spokes.]

And that is just one example of what could happen if someone doesn't fix your bike properly.

As a responsible citizen you'd think bike mechanics would care more about their customers' safety, but from what I've seen quite a few bike shops out there are selling their services just to make $$$ with little regard to the personal safety of the rider.

"Well that's what I do on my bike and I've never been in an accident yet."

The key word is YET. Its bound to happen eventually.

[Right: BAM Instructor Smokey Dymny shows John how to properly tune brakes. John is now a BTAC certified bicycle mechanic.]

The problem lies in that 99% of bicycle mechanics out there have never been properly trained. They are either self-taught or taught by a shop mechanic who wasn't really trained either and is relying purely on experience.

Its my opinion that bicycle mechanics should have to go through a certification course, like the BAM program here in Toronto, the Winterborne Bicycle Institute at Conestoga College, or the John Barnett Bicycle Institute in Colorado. Or some similar program.

At the very least every bicycle shop should have one properly trained bike mechanic who can then pass their knowledge unto lesser mechanics on how to do things properly/safely. True, sometimes people get impatient when you've got X number of bikes to fix in a day, but I should point out a properly trained and experienced mechanic is also faster and more efficient, in addition to being safer.

In Toronto the BAM program has only been around since the start of 2009. It was created because of two things: 1. Toronto has a shortage of bicycle mechanics; 2. Toronto has a shortage of properly trained bicycle mechanics. The plan is to eventually open more BAM programs across Canada so that more and more bicycle mechanics can be properly trained.

So even though its not mandatory by law or anything, the Bicycle Trade Association of Canada is proceeding with a plan to create an industry wide standard wherein bicycle mechanics will eventually be expected to be certified. Its essentially self regulation.

And that is a good thing because it means safety standards should go up with respect to properly serviced bicycles.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bicycle Station Open House

CANADA - The Bicycle Station is having it's second Open House on Friday, October 2nd 2009 to celebrate the fall bicycling season.

From 7 AM to 10 AM they will be offering fresh pastries as well as hot coffee. Go and have a free bite to eat and learn about Canada's first bicycle station until 7 PM. There is a new parking pilot policy for the Bicycle Station as well as updates on the progress of the Bicycle Station.

Plus its a chance to hang out with your fellow cyclists and chat. Spread the word about your local cycling group or organization while meeting fellow members of Toronto's downtown cycling community. If you would like a table for your group or organization, please contact the Bicycle Station as soon as possible.

Bicycle Station at Union Station
City Of Toronto
Transportation Services
20 York St.
416-338-3666
bicyclestation@toronto.ca
toronto.ca/cycling/bicycle-station

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bike thefts down 17% in the GTA

CANADA - Last year in June Toronto police did a sting operation and discovered 2,865 bikes stored in garages scattered through the city.

The bicycle thief and mastermind was Igor Kenk, now facing a lengthy jail time for running one of the biggest bike theft operations Toronto has ever seen.



Since then however the number of complaints about bicycle theft has dropped 17% leading police to suspect several things:

#1. Overall bike theft is down about 17%.

#2. There is approx. 24,000 to 30,000 bike thefts in Toronto per year. Most go unreported. Presumably the number is dropping.

#3. There is probably several other people like Igor Kenk running large scale bike theft operations.

#4. If Toronto police did another sting operation they could probably catch another bike thief just as big as Igor Kenk. They could do a sting operation every year until bike theft becomes a crime that is just plain foolish on a large scale.

LOCK ADVICE

I recommend purchasing what's called a pinhead – a lock for the wheel. Then buy the best U-Lock you can. Some people prefer the larger U-locks because they're easier to lock up in difficult locations.

A Pinhead lock set sometimes comes with horseshoe shaped U-lock which is more difficult to break.

Pinhead locks replace original parts of a bike and remain in place. A nut, for instance, replaces a quick-release wheel skewer and can be released only by the owner's key. Best to have a mechanic install it for you, although if you are mechanically inclined you should be able to figure it out.

The Pinhead lock set was invented by Linda Young (see above photo), who had her bike stolen when she was 9 and has since dedicated her life to making bike locks more effective, both for the frame and the tires. Way to go Linda!

A Condo for Cyclists?

CANADA - The Toronto-East York community council approved today a controversial new 42-storey condo building with 315 spaces for bicycles... and only 9 parking spots designed for car-share rentals.

In other words its a condo specifically made for cyclists.

City staff were originally skeptical about the idea, but I predict 30-something cyclists will be battling each other to get first dibs on the condos being put on the auction block.

The condo will be built on the site of the old Royal Canadian Military Institute on University Ave near Dundas Street. The façade of the old building will be preserved. The RCMI will be maintaining several of the lower floors for themselves.

The plan is also quite reasonable. Most people who live in downtown Toronto don't drive anyway.

"If you look at the evidence of what sells downtown, the majority of units under 750 square feet in the downtown core sell without parking," says Stephen Deveaux, vice-president of the developer Tribute Communities. Plus its cheaper. Parking spots add approx. $20,000 to the cost of a condo in downtown Toronto. Normally when a building of this size is built there would be approx. 140 parking spaces for residents, according to city standards.

Deveaux says the building is an opportunity to design & market an "environmentally progressive building". With so many jobs, lots of cyclists and transit nearby, the units will sell quickly.

A city staff report originally turned the plan down, citing the lack of parking, but they have since been overruled by the community council. The building still has to be approved by the larger Toronto city council.

The problem is nothing else can be built on the location anyway. Because the facade of the building is to be preserved there's no room to build a parking entrance. The only solution is a building designed explicitly for cyclists or people who prefer transit.

City Councillor Adam Vaughan, ward for the region where the condo will be built, called the car-free building "an interesting experiment and statement about the future of downtown living."

"In the past it was natural to allocate parking spots, but in 21st century Toronto, where we're battling climate change, we don't need that any more," says Franz Hartmann, co-executive director of the Toronto Environmental Alliance, also saying such buildings are uncommon and should be promoted.

The 9 parking spots will be devoted to car-share arrangements, whereby residents can rent a car as needed by the hour.

The RCMI building was a private club constructed in 1907 and is a heritage property. Behind the façade will be a 6 1/2-storey structure and above that would rise a 35 1/2-storey condo tower with about 315 units, mostly one-bedroom condos.

In other words its ideal for young professionals (with no kids) who either walk, cycle or take the subway to work.

The $65 million project is a partnership between Tribute Communities and the 1,500-member RCMI club. Once rubber-stamped construction will begin in 2010 and be done by 2013.

The building will continue to provide space for the RCMI club, its library and its extensive archival collection of military artifacts (including the seat of Baron von Richthofen [aka the Red Baron]'s Fokker Triplane). The RCMI club will be using the income from condo sales & fees to keep the archive and the club going.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Surveillance footage shows Bryant deliberately hit cyclist

CANADA - Surveillance camera footage has been released showing exactly what happened in the incident where Michael Bryant ran over cyclist Darcy Allan Sheppard.

In the footage Bryant first uses the car to intimidate Sheppard. Then Bryant strikes him and pushes him ten feet, the length of a car. Bryant then put his car in Reverse then Drive and drives it past Sheppard. As the cyclist struggles to get up, he grabs the passing car mirror to try to keep the car at the scene.

According to witnesses Bryant then drove into the wrong side of the road trying to knock Sheppard off his car mirror and ended up running over Sheppard with the rear wheels of his car.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Will Bicycle Couriers become Unionized?

Following in the wake of the tragic death of Toronto bicycle courier Darcy Allan Sheppard (who was run over by a politician on August 31st 2009) members of Toronto's bicycle courier community are advocating membership in the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.

As such they would be given the same legal rights and be able to get benefits and a pension in the future.

It also means bicycle couriers (and many other Toronto cyclists) will be pushing for more bicycle lanes in downtown Toronto.

Robert Melnyk, who has been a bike courier since 1984 says Sheppard's death has not helped to make the streets safer for cyclists, but instead has escalated tensions with motorists.

He says he's heard car drivers shout "You're next!" as he tries to navigate the downtown streets.

Impatient motorists suffering from road rage tend not to realize the danger they put cyclists in when they try to own the road and think cyclists have no place on it, which reinforces the idea for why Toronto needs more bicycle lanes.

FYI: In Toronto you can be fined up to $400 CDN if you cycle on the sidewalk with any wheel larger than 24 inches. The typical fine is $90, but if you're going really fast and acting recklessly you can be given additional fines and even charged with reckless endangerment.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Attorney General kills Toronto cyclist

Michael Bryant in the back of a police cruiser.CANADA - Former Ontario attorney general Michael Bryant killed a 34-year-old Toronto cyclist last night with his car and has been charged with criminal negligence causing death and dangerous operation of a vehicle causing death.

The victim was bicycle courier Darcy Allan Sheppard, a father of three. Sheppard was heading home to the Dupont and Dufferin area of Toronto.

Bryant, 43, is scheduled to appear in Old City Hall court on Oct. 19 2009.

Witnesses on Bloor Street last night described a heated argument between the driver of a black Saab convertible and a cyclist that began near Bloor and Bay Streets. (Blog author's note, that's right near my gym... and I was there last night working out!)

According to witnesses the argument erupted following a collision between Michael Bryant's black Saab convertible and the cyclist Sheppard at 9:45 PM on Bloor, just west of St. Thomas Street. The cyclist reportedly hung onto the side of the car (possibly because his shirt got caught on something) and Bryant drove off dragging him over 100 meters down the street, driving onto the wrong side of the road into oncoming traffic and brushing against trees and poles in an attempt to knock the cyclist off his car.

Darcy Allan Sheppard with his bicycleBryant then ran over Sheppard's head with the rear tires of his Saab and drove off. He was later arrested.

Police also questioned an unidentified female passenger who was in the convertible. Police say alcohol was not involved.

"Lots of people were watching and they couldn't believe what was happening," said construction worker Ryan Brazeau, who was laying sewer pipes on Bloor.

"The guy hanging onto the car, hit the mailbox, hit the road, (then) . . . the car ran over him with the back tires," another witness said. "The guy bounced and the car sped off . . . the person was there just bleeding." Sheppard was bleeding from his head and mouth.

Sheppard was taken to St. Michael's Hospital with serious head injuries and died around midnight.

A large portion of the incident was captured on surveillance video and that investigators are working to fill in the gaps. (This is practically guaranteed to end up on YouTube.)

Mourners leaving flowers and letters for Darcy Allan Sheppard near where he was killed.Bike couriers in Toronto are planning a special memorial service.

Sheppard also a guitarist and an amateur stand-up comedian who sometimes performed at open mike nights at local clubs.

Bryant was first elected MPP for St. Paul's in 1999 and won re-election in 2003 and 2007. He was awarded Now Magazine's Best Toronto MPP for 2008.

Michael Bryant was Ontario's youngest-ever attorney general, and during his time in public service legalized paralegals, fixed election dates, banned pit bulls, overhauled the human rights system, re-created the Law Reform Commission, re-established civilian oversight of police and depoliticized Justice of the Peace appointments. He eventually stepped down from the position.

BLOG AUTHOR'S NOTE:

I ride along Bloor Street regularly to go to my gym which is near the Bay and Bloor corner. I think I know what happened in this incident... the problem is all the construction currently going on at Yonge and Bloor and all the potholes along Bloor street near the construction.

As a cyclist when you cycle through there is no bike lanes on Bloor street, and because of the construction at Yonge/Bloor there is only one lane on each side of the street. So I submit to you here is my theory of what happened:

Both Michael Bryant and Darcy Sheppard went through the Yonge/Bloor intersection, and the cyclist was likely in the way of the car because there's only one lane.

Furthermore after getting past the construction its not safe to drive on the far right because of the potholes. Thus its safer to stay in a lane where the road surface is more even. Sheppard did what any cyclist would do, he avoided the potholes.

This however only pissed over the driver behind him, who in this case was Michael Bryant riding with his female friend and possibly feeling cocky. Had he not been a convertible this could have been prevented, but because he was in a convertible he decided to shout at the cyclist and an argument ensued near St. Thomas Street.

Bryant then drove along beside the cyclist, the argument became heated and somehow the cyclist either grabbed hold of his car (or got caught on it). Bryant then decided instead of slowing down he would speed up, drive onto the wrong side of the road into oncoming traffic in an attempt to knock the cyclist off.

Sheppard held on for dear life and was eventually ran over by the rear tires or Bryant's black Saab convertible.

Conclusions? Construction, convertibles, cockiness and being in the wrong place at the wrong time led to a cyclist's untimely death. The fact Bloor Street still doesn't have a bicycle lane is also a problem, despite numerous petitions for the city of Toronto to solve the problem.

It doesn't excuse Michael Bryant's reckless driving or his role in Sheppard's death, but it could have been prevented had common sense prevailed.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Dealing with Bike Vandals

Sometimes, for no apparent reason, somebody decides to vandalize your bicycle.

Some of the common ways are to:

1. Rip the seat.

2. Puncture the tires.

3. Dent the wheels.

4. Break the chain.

5. Break the derailleurs.

6. Bend the handlebars.

7. Cut brake or shifter cables.

8. Break various fixings on the bike (lights, reflectors, waterbottle holder, etc).

Breaking the frame of the bicycle requires a lot more effort, so even if someone heavily vandalizes your bike frame should still be good.

And the sad part is there is little you can do to prevent such things, unless you're keeping your bicycle inside your home or in your garage. If your bike is on the street or in front of your apartment building its pretty vulnerable to vandalism.

Generally speaking when you lock your bike up securely you think its safe. But that does very little to prevent people from stealing parts off it or just being plain mean.

Sometimes you might know who did it because of some kind of private feud. In which case you have a choice of reporting to the police or maybe retaliation. If you actually knew the person's name that would be helpful to the police, but otherwise there is not a lot you can do about it.

Which can be very frustrating for bike owners who have had their bikes vandalized.

Today, I personally had not one but two of my bicycles vandalized. I don't even know who did it and am confused about why they did it. If they had a problem with me, my name and cell phone number are written on my bikes (to prevent theft) and they could have easily contacted me and discussed their problem.

Instead they decided to vandalize someone else's property. Some people have no respect.

How to Wrap Bicycle Handle Bars

Confused about how to wrap drop down handlebars? Here is an excellent video on how to do it: 4.5 Stars out of 5.

Audobon's Guide to Cyclists











Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Logo Image for Bicycle Mechanic

I have decided to use the following image as a Logo for this website: The Bicycle Mechanic.

I think it gets the message across nicely.

:)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Cycling Toronto's somewhat safe streets

Two things happened to me today on my way to and from the gym.

I took my retro blue Road King cruiser which I have fully restored and went carefully through one of the busiest areas in Toronto (Bloor and Yonge intersection). I parked and locked my bike up and while walking across the Bay-Bloor cross-walk a crazy old bitch in a Honda nearly ran me over.

Proof to me that walking is just as dangerous as cycling.

In 2008 there was 1,068 bicycle accidents reported to Toronto police (see map of 2008 bike accidents). In contrast there was many thousands of pedestrians hit by cars. True, there is way more pedestrians than there is cyclists, but the number does seem relatively low for a city of 5 million people. At approx. 3 accidents per day and only 1 fatal bicycle accident in all of 2008, that seems awfully safe.

The Top Five Most Dangerous Intersections in Toronto
Bay and Dundas - 7 accidents in 2008
College and Crawford - 7 accidents in 2008
Queen and Broadview - 5 accidents in 2008
Yonge and Dundas - 5 accidents in 2008
Bloor and Bathurst - 4 accidents in 2008

Approx. 90% of the accidents are the result of "doorings" (someone opens their car door and unsuspecting cyclist goes straight into it). For those keeping track, if a police officer notices a dooring or gets called to the scene of a dooring accident its a fine that can range over $200, and the cyclist can sue for injuries because its 100% the fault of the person who opened the door without paying attention.

Doorings however are reduced significantly on streets with bike lanes. Its a tricky matter. Cycling in the middle of the vehicle lane tends to piss off car drivers. Cycling on the side of the lane puts you at risk for more pot holes and doorings.

So there is the need for more bicycle lanes (and safer intersections for pedestrians too). To that end the city of Toronto has announced it plans to spend $70 million over the next 10 years increasing Toronto's bike lanes, removing pot holes, etc. The plan hasn't been approved yet, but proponents of it are pushing hard for it. Cycling advocates approve of the plan and say giving bikes more room on the road and more people will ride them, reducing congestion and smog.

Leaving the gym I crossed the street once more (no crazy drivers this time) and found a little surprise waiting on my bike: A printed note titled "I LIKE YOUR BIKE, SHOW IT OFF!!!!" which was promoting a June 6th 2009 event for a Vintage Bicycle Contest, a silent auction, a bike accessory sale, obstacle course and a free BBQ.

Its taking place at 29 Barton Ave (1 block north of Bloor/Yonge).

For more details see batemansbikeco.com (which is sponsoring the event).

So apparently I am not the only one who fusses about my retro blue Road King.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Designer bicycle baby stroller from the Dutch

Is it a bicycle? Or is it a baby stroller? Or is it an expensive death trap for your toddler?

The Dutch sure do love their bicycles, so its really not surprising a designer from the Netherlands has come up with hybrid bicycle-baby-stroller. Its not the first of its kind... but its one of the more stylish. (Technically its a tricycle-baby-stroller, but whatever.)

The problem with mixing two different things is that the final concoction tends to be... ugly. This one, known as the Taga, attempts to be as stylish as possible, hoping to lure the high-class cyclist parent.

More so, it converts (in roughly 20 seconds) into a regular stroller, and is thus "the ultimate get-fit gadget for yummy-mummies" says the company. Children are carried in traffic-facing seats between the handlebars and strapped in with a five-point seatbelt, effectively making the baby a hood ornament (although thats pretty standard for baby strollers).

"If you come to a situation where you don't want to cycle or you're not allowed to cycle, at the subway or in a supermarket, in less than 20 seconds you can convert it into a stroller," says Jeroen de Schaaf, Taga's European manager. The company is hoping to launch the Taga in North America this summer.

So far the Dutch manufacturer has won three European design awards for its coveted bicycle-buggy concoction and is being wildly endorsed by parenting blogs online (freaking yuppies jumping on the latest bandwagon). It sells in Britain for £1,695 (over $3000 CDN).

Its not lightweight however, clocking in at 64 pounds despite Taga's aluminium alloy-frame Taga. That is roughly three times heavier than an average bicycle, so I guess the yuppies will be getting a workout pushing this thing everywhere.

Worse, it has an internal 3-speed gear hub (which means good luck cycling up hills in that thing). Anybody living in San Francisco or a place remotely hilly would be better off choosing a different way to tote their kid around.

The thing is apparently so hard on the uphills that health experts are warning its not good for post-partum mothers. "The abdominals and lower back are so fragile post-partum," says Toronto mom/personal trainer Dara Duff-Bergeron, who specializes in helping post-partum mothers get back into shape. "I don't know how many moms could take that."

Some mothers are just plain concerned about the scary prospect of sticking their kid way up front. In a frontal crash the kid would be the first to be injured (and bicycle helmets for toddlers are hard to come by).

So does the Taga get my thumbs up? $3000 CDN so you can put your kid's life at risk while looking like a complete yuppie? I think not.

(At the very least it should have a lot of bicycle mechanics scratching their heads and muttering about idiots who will buy anything when people come in to have it repaired.)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Inexpensive Folding Bike

Check out this great article in Momentum magazine by musician/bicycle mechanic guru Smokey Dymny:

A Great Little Inexpensive Folding Bike

In the article he says:

"I was worried about ergonomics and gear ratios but was soon very gratified. Quadra Island is hilly, but the 48-tooth chainring, enclosed on both sides with a guard, and the 11-28 tooth cog had me spinning up and down hills without a problem. This folder comes with a no-nonsense twist shifter. The seatpost adjusts over a wide range, fitting riders from 4'8" to 6'4". The stem has much less adjustability since it has to fold in half, so short riders will have their hands higher up in front.

The greatest feature is its easy portability. A quick-release lever unlocks the stem, which folds down in front of the crank. Another quick-release on the down tube unlocks the frame, but not until you pull up on a spring-loaded pin. This prevents the frame from accidentally folding under you while riding in case you did not tighten it properly! Having folded the bike in half, you now have the front wheel right beside the rear one. You then fasten the frame together with a Velcro strap (provided) to keep it from opening up. The left pedal tucks under the folded parts, and the right one folds up, increasing the space saving. If you have to take it anywhere at this stage, don’t lower the tall seat post yet. I use the saddle and seat post as a long handle to roll the folded bike ahead of me, or to lift the bike onto a bus. Because of this feature, I don’t actually carry the bike much. When I’m finished moving it around, I release the seatpost and it drops all the way down to the low frame. With practice this only takes 30 seconds. Unfolding is only a few seconds slower.

If I were ever to take it where it needs to be protected for travel, I would use a soft-sided suitcase. I would pack my other gear around the bike in panniers and bags and no one need know I was hauling a bike. Well, not until the metal detectors spotted it. Do I need to buy a high-tech expensive folder? Nope. This one does the job admirably."

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Cadbury's bikes for Africa

CANADA - Canadian bicycle mechanics are assembling 5,000 bicycles to be sent to Africa and given to poor families. The move is being sponsored by Cadbury. See the TV ad to the right that Cadbury is promoting.

HOWEVER! I want to point out that the cost of building 5,000 bicycles... is relatively little compared to the amount of money Cadbury is wasting on advertising.

In theory Cadbury could have skipped the advertising scheme and just purchased 5,000 bicycles to be sent over there. Depending on the price of the bicycles versus the advertising campaign's costs they could have purchased 10,000 or 20,000 bicycles. Chalk that one down to corporate wastefulness and wanting to use the advertising as a charitable tax write-off.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Barnett's Manual for Bicycle Mechanics

Looking for a comprehensive manual on how to repair bicycles?

The book, the absolute best, is known as Barnett's Manual, and it is used by bicycle mechanics and bicycle mechanic instructors all over the Earth. The writer John Barnett is the chief instructor at the Barnett Bicycle Institute in Colorado and considered to be the foremost expert on bicycle mechanics because he has narrowed it down to a science (I swear he measures EVERYTHING).

Why is his book the best? Because its actually four huge volumes, covering everything from old bikes to new, every different kind of brakes, derailleurs, wheels, spokes, etc. in excruciating detail with lots of diagrams. Everything you could possibly want, over 1000 pages in 4 volumes. The set is now in its 6th edition and has so much mechanical knowledge it puts university physics textbooks to shame. You can also get the CD version for easy searching/indexing.

The books aren't cheap however. Depending where you go you can get one for approx. $160 USD. If you are on a budget I recommend trying to find an used copy on eBay, Amazon or asking around on Craigslist.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Montreal launches bike rental service

CANADA - There's a new bicycle rental service in Montreal, and its known as Bixi.

Just insert your credit card, get a code, choose a bike at its dock, type in the code and, voilà, you're riding.

The first 30 minutes are free. The second 30 minutes cost $1.50, the third $3, the fourth and subsequent 30-minute periods cost $6 each.

With a membership – $28 for a month or $78 for a year (the bicycle riding season is only May through November) – you get a keycard and the process is faster.

Bikes can be dropped off at any station across Montreal (see the map on the right and you can see how convenient that is). If the docks are full, you get an extra 15 minutes free to drop it at the nearest station.

The program is currently in phase 1 and will double the service region in coming years.

Montreal's system is slightly more expensive than those in Europe, because Bixi is city-owned and does not, as in the case of Vélib (a similar program in Paris), rely on an advertising company to operate the system in exchange for ad space.

Bike rental services tend to do poorly in North America, often due to lack of maintenance on the bicycles or outright theft. Because this new system requires a credit card it should cut down on thievery significantly. The city hasn't confirmed whether they are hiring bicycle mechanics to repair the bicycles regularly.

Montreal has a lot of bicycle lanes and is very bicycle friendly (enough to make Torontonians jealous). In recent years Montreal has been dramatically prioritizing bicycles.

"Bixi for me is not just a bicycle," said André Lavallée, the man responsible for the Montreal's transportation plan. "It's like an ambassador for our vision of transport in Montreal, of our values and willingness to change the city." Lavallée is out to "change the mindset" of Montrealers, to reduce city congestion, dependence on cars, and one major way is through the bicycle and he has a lot of support from the people of Montreal.

Montreal's efforts are getting noticed. Toronto's Green Living magazine named Montreal the "most bike-friendly city in the nation." Time Magazine called Bixi one of the 50 best inventions of 2008. The service won an Edison "Gold" award for the best new energy and sustainability product.

Montreal is one of the continent's bike theft capitals, so the new system of using credit cards will be put to the test. Montreal drivers can be relatively aggressive too, but then again so are Montreal cyclists.

Montreal hopes to have 800 kilometres of bike routes by 2013 and believes it will be in an investment "good for our health and good for the environment," says Suzanne Lareau, president of Vélo Québec, which has been promoting cycling for decades.

Montreal hasn't been building many bike paths for the last 20 years and in recent years demand for them has grown so much they don't have much choice any more. Montreal NEEDS more bicycle paths.

Lavallée attributes the change in political attitudes in part to the relentless activism and growing population of cyclists. He also says "it's cultural, because Montreal is in the middle, both European and North American, so it's a different way of life."

The elegantly designed bike path along de Maisonneuve Blvd. through downtown is even plowed in the winter, which some called a waste of money but cyclists say taking the subway/cars/taxis in the winter would be an even bigger waste of money and clog up Montreal's streets during the winter.

Bixi has 3,000 bikes and 300 stations, with each station just a few hundred metres from the next. Lavallée says he is confident Montrealers "will fall in love with it."

Public bike rental systems have become popular in European cities, notably in Paris, where its service, Vélib, has been a huge success and whose bikes are now as familiar a sight on the landscape.

Toronto is hoping for a public bike system of its own and has asked for companies to show their interest in running one. It wouldn't be operational until Spring 2010 at the earliest.

Montreal's program cost $15 million to start up and will be run for non-profit (unlike the Paris program which is privately owned and for profit). In Paris thousands of Vélib bikes have been swiped in the last two years (and thrown in the Seine river out of disgust for the for-profit company). The bicycles unique look guarantees that no one will steal the bikes and try to sell them because everyone will know it was obviously stolen.

NOTE

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Looking for a bicycle mechanic school in Canada? The Quadra Island Bike School in British Columbia is a Canadian bicycle mechanic school that trains professional bicycle mechanics against the backdrop of the beautiful Quadra Island.