Welcome to a New Year! And to start a fresh year, let’s have a happy treat for your bike!
We have a product to review that you may like. It’s from Monkeylectric, made right here in Berkeley, USA. Nellie used to have the first Monkey Light, the Original M133 (now discontinued) and it was great while it lasted. However, it was really bulky, heavy, and conspicuous. In the recent times, they have come out with four new and improved different versions – M204, M210, M232 and Pro; price ranging from $26 to $900; in different sizes and in number of lumens.
The smallest and lightest one is M204 model, which I found to be pretty affordable at $26. It claims to have 360 degrees visibility but it’s not so visible from either the front or rear view. The 40 lumens light is very visible from the sides but it’s still best to complement it with head and rear lights.
M204 is solidly built with silicone material encasing a computer and 4 LED lights (two on each side), making it waterproof. Good for going through wet puddles and rain. There are two user-friendly buttons, one is an ON/OFF switch and the other one is for switching to different colors and themes – 8 colors and 5 themes, which is plenty to play with.
And installation is a cinch. It took me about 5-10 minutes. First, strap the computer/LEDs with two fasteners and rubber blocks to the wheel spokes. Then tighten the battery hub to the wheel hub with two fasteners, making sure they are aligned with the computer/LEDs for balance. Then connect the black wires. Done!
The Monkey Light uses 3 AA batteries and has a run time of 60 hours. That is pretty long. Because of the 3 AA batteries, it makes it visibly bulky and somewhat heavy but a great improvement. I would prefer it to have a USB cord or a rechargeable battery pack although it may sacrifice run time. I just don’t like waste and batteries are not cost-effective.
For an inexpensive light like this, it’s hard to beat. It’s fun and yet, has a practical function- safety. M204 model has a total of 24 colors/combinations from white lighting for even more visibility to pink lighting for those of you expressing cuteness to rainbow colors for Bike Party fun-ness! And a two year warranty to boot that will guarantee its worth.
Have you ever wondered where all those punctured or patched-up bicycle inner tubes go? Where would you like to have them end up at? As an eco-conscious person, it just feels wasteful and wrong to throw out a perfectly fine tube with a couple of small holes. With cracked pavements, potholes, and broken glass from car windows on city streets, it is hard to avoid eventually getting a punctured tube.
Well, I want to introduce you the Ryder rug from RewindLab which is made out of used tire tubes. I thought this was such a creative idea to reuse bike inner tubes! The tubes are reclaimed from local bike shops, and the New Zealand wool blend is rescued from production. The wool is nicely weaved to hold the tubes together, and it’s a solid piece of a rug with the tubes giving it a bouncy and soft feel. I never would have thought a rug made out of tire tubes would look anything presentable, but this Ryder rug does. It brings out the coziness and warmth to any room.
Moreover, the rug can be used on either side and comes with eco anti-slip pad. They also come in different color combinations. With even more eco-consciousness in mind, it’s made locally in the SF Bay Area!
They currently have two sizes, 26″ x 19″ (66 cm x 48.3 cm) and 50″ x 20″ (127 cm x 50.8 cm). The smaller size is priced at $87 USD while the large size costs $158 on Etsy.com.
The front doorway of my unit is pretty wide, so neither of these sizes fit. It would be nice to have a size that’s 20% wider than the current small size they have. Also, I’ve only had this rug for a couple of weeks, so I don’t really know how well it can hold up to dirt and debris over time.
But if you ever cringe when tossing out used tubes or if you want a nice collection item to show that you are an eco-bicyclist, Ryder rug fits the bill nicely.
There is this product that I want to share with you. I just think it is a pretty creative accessory in how simple and easy to operate. We all bike because it is convenient and easy, and that is how I perceive this product.
It’s called Bike Lift and Carry, created and designed in Ukraine (as you all know, Ukraine is in a civil war with Putin’s pro-Russian separatists) and founded by Henry Teterin, a great guy by the way. It’s a retractable strap that attaches at the seat post and stretches to attach at the handlebar which acts like a shoulder strap. And when you are done, just detach it from the handlebar and it coils back. There’s also a great review written by TreeHuggers. The kickstarter for this project just began a few days ago!
If you live in a home that have stairs or you’re a frequent BART commuter, this item should simplify your life. Maybe now, you don’t have to leave your poor bike outside. Or maybe you can now take your bike onto BART or MUNI metro. You don’t have to deal with slow and smelly elevators, and many stations don’t even have them. Many escalators only go up, but not down.
The shoulder strap can lift up to 70 lbs or 32 kg, which pretty much can work on any bike. This is great because more and more people are buying heavy urban bikes from makers like PUBLIC and Linus, and electric bikes are gaining popularity, as well. I wonder if this would work on long-tailed cargo bikes though, such as the Yuba and Xtracycle.
They come in many colors and should complement SF’s hip bike style! The kickstarter price starts at $45.
About a year ago, I wrote a post on how a mini velo style bike is a great bike for urban living. Well, I changed my mind…it’s not just great- it’s actually the perfect urban city bike!
After moving to Oakland, we were confronted with a new set of conditions. First of all, the streets in downtown have way too many traffic lights for bicyclists. The stop and go momentum makes it harder to ride a full-sized bike. This is where mini velo excels. Its small 20 inch wheels with a lower rotational mass overcomes this problem. It makes it easier to start and stop.
Very often living in a city, the weight of what you ride/carry to run multiple errands affects your overall experience. Picture yourself locking up your bike several times to different bike racks and also having to lift up the bike from the street level onto the sidewalk. It can get pretty cumbersome. What about those times that you forget to bring your u-lock (or u-lock key). Well, with the mini velo, it is small enough to just bring with you into the shop.
BART is a great public transit option in Oakland. There are 8 stations and it covers the city pretty well, but the few elevators they have are tiny and escalators (bikes supposedly are not allowed on them) are super narrow. Many times, carrying your bike down the stairs is the only the option. So, carrying a smaller bike down the stairs and maneuvering a compact bike into a crowded area helps a great deal.
Moreover, the bike infrastructure in Oakland is relatively bad. You have bike lanes disappearing and even bike sharrows that disappear suddenly. Sometimes, the bike sharrows are in the door zone. And one way streets are common. As you know, it is an obstacle course for cyclists. Sidewalks clearly are not the place for bikes; but when it’s a one way street or you feel your life is on the line, I have to admit I do sometimes ride on the sidewalks (certainly at a very slow speed and where pedestrians are almost absent). Riding on a smaller bike such as the mini velo feels like you are not intruding as much into the pedestrian space.
Nellie and I moved into another place that doesn’t have nearly enough indoor bike racks in the garage and keeping your bike indoors makes a huge difference to how long your bike stays in good condition (and clean). Thus, we have to store our bikes in our unit. Size does matter. Also, I used to have an office space that a full-sized bike wouldn’t fit, but with a mini velo, of course!
In addition to riding in the city, she wants a bike that she can go for a long distance ride sometimes. None of her current bikes meet all of these criteria in one bike. So, Nellie decided to give the mini velo a try on a long ride. We just did a 30 miles/48 km ride, and Nellie wasn’t a bit tired. She said it’s the best bike she’s ever had.
Here are the specs and comments for the Biria Mini-20:
– Aluminum alloy frame and fork. After a long 20 miles/32 km ride, it can be harsh on your wrists because shock is not as well absorbed. But going just around town, you won’t notice it. Remember, city streets in America are poorly maintained so this is not a factor if you live in the suburbs or on foreign soil where there is good infrastructure. The good thing about aluminum is that it’s pretty light at 22 lbs (under 10 kg).
– 51 cm (c-t) frame, one size only. Nellie’s 5 ft 3 in/160 cm tall and there’s only 5mm to go at the minimum at the seat post. I’m 5 ft 8 in/173 cm and I can still fit, however, I need a longer stem. The great thing about mini velo is that it really can be ridden by a male or a female.
– Two choices of colors for the Biria: matte black or nickel silver. Nellie had the black one and it’s a nice color in person. Very chic and stylish.
– Tektro Tenera brakes and calipers. Good, solid and soft brakes.
– 20 x 1 1/8 CST tires. They are heavy and cheap, and prone to punctures. We immediately changed them out. The narrow size of tires helps reduce the high rolling resistance from small wheels.
– SRAM X-7 rear derailleur and SRAM X-5 shifters. The shifters are easy to shift with just your thumbs, but it’s a bit slow (not a problem if you’re not racing). Nellie’s bike is 2012 and the current model comes with Shimano 105 rear derailleur, and with 27 speeds (18 speeds for the 2012 model).
– Prowheel Chariot crankset (53/39T). Other than it’s made in China and provides a standard range, I don’t have any comment here.
– Saddle, grips and pedals. The saddle is very narrow at 35 cm wide , and it was immediately replaced with a woman’s saddle. The pedals are horrendously small and one sided only, and was also immediately changed. The grips are fine.
– Joy Tech hubs with Joy Tech quick releases. The quick release wheels and seat post makes it a good storage bike. Surprisingly, it really can fit into our Scion IQ with both wheels removed.
The current model retails at $900, which is not a bad price. Overall, the bike feels solid, more solid than any bike I have ridden. It is zippy and stops on a dime. I could see why these type of bikes are so popular in cities in Asia. I may have to get one for myself in the future.
I’ve been sporting a messenger bag while riding for a few years now. That was the only way I knew how to carry stuff while riding my bike. Ever since I started commuting full-time by bicycle, I have noticed that I really need to have less weight on my back and would also like to have a less sweaty back.
I knew about panniers but it seemed a little bit too much for my needs and I also wanted to be able to see the things that I am carrying in front of me (so I can tell if something has fallen out). So instead, I thought that a basket on my bike could work and aesthetically, I just like how a front basket looks on a bike.
There are many front baskets but none come with the quality build and looks of the Copenhagen Bike Porter. It is a Danish product but you can order it from Mission Bicycle in SF. It has a minimalist look, a trademark of Danish design. It is made out of 6061 aluminum with an integrated handlebar. The size of the basket is 17 in x 14.2 in x 4.33 in (43.3cm x 36cm x 11 cm) and the width of the handlebar is 20 in (508 mm) long. It is about 3.6 lbs (1.63 kg) light but can carry up to 10 times its weight. I once carried an old Hewlett-Packard printer on it (yes, I got a lot of looks and comments on it that day) and there’s no other way I could have carried an object like that on my back or in a pannier. It’s a good-sized basket and retails at $199.
The downside for this rack is that it has big gaps. Stuff can easily fall through but that can be remedied but securing the cargo in different ways, like wrapping it with a couple of bungee cords.
While I like the minimalist design of the Danish, Nellie likes the folksy style of the Dutch. Coincidentally, both countries, Denmark and the Netherlands, are known for their awesome bicycle infrastructure.
Nellie does her grocery shopping sometimes by bike and needs a basket that can hold more than 10 lbs (4.5 kg) of groceries. Her old hand-woven basket from Peterboro Basket Company failed to do that. So we got a new basket for her and this new one goes extremely well with her Dutch-style Linus bike. It is a rattan style wicker basket by Eleven81. The wicker plastic material is reinforced with a metal frame while the bottom of the basket is made out of aluminum wires. Its durability, size (15.5 x 11 x 9.38 in/39.4 x 27.9 x 23.8 cm), and very easy lift off/on operation makes it a perfect grocery shopping basket. Now you don’t need to bring your re-usable bag with you to the market. Moreover, if you get stains or debris on it from the grocery items (produce can be very dirty sometimes) or what have you, the smooth material plus the wire mesh bottom make it easy to wash and rinse off. The basket retails at $48 USD.
The only negative she can think of is how the basket affects where you can mount a headlight onto the bike’s handlebar. Because the basket is mounted high above the middle section of the handlebar, the bike light needs to be mounted away from the center so it sits high enough. This makes it harder to see what’s directly in front of you in the dark since the light will not be pointed near the center of your path. But this may not be a problem with other bicycles out there, because the basket may sit differently on each of them.
So, out of all the many bicycle baskets sold out there, we really recommend these two. A basket for him and a basket for her.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I was really ecstatic about the implementation of the Bay Area Bike Share (BABS) and I think it is a sign that bicycles are less marginalized in SF than previously. Having the bike shares lends great legitimacy to the whole bicycle movement. It’s not just obligatory bike lanes going down. Now, the city is backing and putting actual bikes on the road.
Just riding this bike around town branded with its official Bay Area Bike Share logos, I feel that I get more respect from motorists. Now if these anti-cyclists get angry at us like they often do, while riding these bike shares they would be putting the blame on the city too. We’re no longer fringe outcasts in the mean streets of SF. We are now officially backed by the government, consummated in the coolness of a celeste green color.
Right on the day it was launched, Nellie and I couldn’t wait to get on one. We had tried City Bikes in Copenhagen and it was a terrible system, but of course it was implemented in 1995. My workplace has a free bike share system but it is rarely used due to its campus location on hills. So, I was hoping for a better overall system.
We just wanted to test out the bikes so we got the 24 hours pass. The 24 hours or 3 days pass is inconvenient because you would have to buy it at the kiosk, not online. You would have to first to stick your credit card to purchase, it gives you a 5 digit code on a small piece of paper, and enter it into the keypad on the rack. Then you have five minutes to pull out a bike from the docking station (if you don’t undock your bike within the grace period, repeat the process), then when you want to get a new bike at the next kiosk you would have to do the process all over again. I thought it was annoying. However if you purchase the one year membership of only $88, you just swipe the key fob (which they mailed to you) over the keypad and you get the bike instantly.
So we set up a test ride around South of Market (SOMA) to get lunch, errands, shopping and dinner in the end. We got the bikes at Townsend and 4th St kiosk across from the the Caltrain station, and rode toward the Embarcadero because that was the safest route to get to Financial District for lunch. It took us 25 minutes to get to the kiosk at Market and Battery St close to Specialty’s, our lunch place. On the way there, we passed 5 other stations!
It was a little exhaustive pedaling the 50 lbs (23 kg) clunky bikes for 25 minutes but it was very comfortable. They absorbed shocks very well from cracked pavements and potholes. We felt safe riding them, even without helmets. It’s probably due to a few reasons; the upright position you’re sitting provides a better all around view of the surrounding; the stability of the bike from the weight and fat tires; high visibility from the bright celeste green color; and the bike can’t go that fast. These bikes should fit anyone from 5 ft (1.5 m) to over 6 ft (1.83 m) tall. Moreover, I like that the seat post has markings on it to help adjust the next bike you rent to your specific height quickly.
The nice thing is that we just dock the bikes without having to find a pole (bike racks are rare in the Financial District) to lock them. We walked 2 small blocks to get lunch at Specialty’s. That was a nice one hour lunch and felt pretty relief that we didn’t have to worry about leaving them outside. When we were done, we walked another small 2 blocks to get to another kiosk at Market and Sansome St. We stick our credit cards into the machine to get the 5 digits code again to get the bikes. That is about the only hassle we experienced all day – swiping our credit cards to get the 5 digits code and entering on the keypads.
Then we rode for a few blocks to Union Square for shopping. We docked the bikes at Market and 4th St. We usually don’t take our bikes to Union Square because of bad experiences. I have two friends that got their saddles stolen. Also in our first few months living in SF our bikes were stolen in the vicinity, albeit we used cable locks. Even though now we have u-locks, but we still don’t want to take any chance.
After shopping we walked to Howard and 3rd St to get some photos for this blog. We wanted to get some cool looking people and their bikes going home from a long day’s work. Howard St is a one way thoroughfare going from east to west, and it has a high volume of bicycle commuters. Then we rented the bike again to get dinner at Tin’s (our favorite Vietnamese restaurant in the city). It was pretty cool to ride down on Howard St with a bunch of bike commuters.
Tin’s is located on Howard between 5th and 6th and guess what, a BABS kiosk was nearby. Wonderful! Dropped off the bike at Howard and 5th St, and walked half a block. After dinner it got dark, so we returned to the same station, picked up the bikes and rode almost 2 miles (3.2 km) home passing one other bike share station on the way.
It was such an easy and pleasant experience with the bike shares at our finger tips. Most bike share stations are located in SOMA (and Market St.) which I think is wonderful. SOMA is such a large neighborhood with some sketchy areas and shops/eateries that are located far apart. Walking could be long and dangerous, so bike shares help in these kind of situations. Moreover, these bikes are available 24/7 any time you need to be transported. You can’t count on taxis and buses during odd hours. Now you may not need to buy a new bike since these bikes are available. It’s almost like you have your own bike but without any maintenance to worry about. Pretty cool, eh!
Even though we didn’t encounter many issues with the system as would be expected at its start, the BABS system can certainly be improved. Here are some of the things that may help:
– There must be a way for kids younger than 18 y.o. to use them besides having their parents or guardians be around to borrow them for them.
– I find the process of checking out bikes for the short-term 24 hour or 3 day memberships to be inconvenient as I explained above. Since it’s part of the public transit system, I think it would be great to be able to use the Clipper card with it.
– Why do all bike shares weigh so much? Nellie has a hard time picking up the bike onto the sidewalk.
– Having a built-in lock would be a nice addition I think. What if you need to make a quick stop in between stations, like for a quick coffee? Maybe, a cup holder to go with your coffee?
– They should put a map near the handlebars visible from the seat of the bike that shows where the locations of the kiosks or a smartphone app to display availability of bikes.
– When they expand this next year, hopefully they will put a few stations in other neighborhoods such as the Mission District, Dog Patch, and Mission Bay.
– In addition to SF and the cities on the peninsula having bike share stations, Oakland should have them too!
More related posts:
I would like to review our Brompton folding bikes because I think folding bikes can meet most bicyclist’s needs. Many people don’t consider purchasing folding bikes because they are small, awkward-looking, may have an uncomfortable ride, or can be perceived as expensive. Although my first bike was not a folding one, I can tell you after owning one that it is the most versatile and well-rounded bike that I own. I use it for almost everything except for very long distance rides.
Folding bikes make commuting on transit and traveling much more convenient. In San Francisco, the MUNI light rail does not allow bikes at any time and BART only allows partial access. This is because a regular-sized bike usually takes the space of 2-4 people, so to make space for the greatest number of people bikes are not allowed. Also, carrying your bike on your shoulder, down the narrow escalator and through the turnstile to board the transit car is just too cumbersome. Elevators are crammed and slow and far too few. So, using a folding bike is a great way to bring your bike with you onto transit since you can fold it up and bring it on any transit line, even those that restrict full-sized bikes. Just make sure to fold it before you get on.
When we traveled to Copenhagen, we planned on using their bike share system to get around and did not realize how difficult it would be for us to do so. Although it’s been called the bike capital of the world alongside Amsterdam, their bike share program City Bikes was not very good. I don’t fault them for that though because their bike share came out 18 years ago and every Dane already has his/her own bike so the system is old and there is little need to improve it very much. The Danish are very tall people and so all of their bike shares are for tall people. Nellie could not find a single bike share she could fit on, even when adjusting the seats all the way down. Also, the bike shares were very heavy with only one speed. They did not come with locks and the social agreement there seems to be if you see one laying around, just grab it even if someone is already using it and is just setting it aside for a second. My bike share was taken from me when I wasn’t looking twice. So then, we tried renting bikes from our hotel, and their bikes still didn’t fit Nellie either. We asked for a child’s bike but it was too small. Eventually, we did find a bike rental shop but we had already wasted so much time. We told ourselves that the next time we travel, we are going to bring our own bikes!
Our criteria for folding bikes are that they have to be compact, light, and have the ride-ability of a full-sized bicycle. I want compactness so that they can fit through the airport scanner, light enough to carry them from check-in-counter to gate-check, and they have to have a comfortable ride. I read many positive testimonials about Brompton folding bikes. They have been handmade in London since 1981. They have received numerous awards such as Bike of the Year in 1996, Award for Innovation, and Bike Biz Brand of the Year in 2010. There was one blog, The Path Less Pedaled, where Russ and Laura reported on their tour around the country on Brompton folding bikes. I thought that if this couple could endure 5,000 miles (8046 km) on them, these folders must be downright awesome! So, when we went to Portland for another bicycling adventure, we paid a visit to Clever Cycles, an authorized dealership for Bromptons. We went there because they have a full array of Bromptons in stock, and Portland doesn’t have sales tax! We bought both of our folding bikes from them with travel cases to boot. The great thing about Brompton folders are that they are pretty customizable to your specific needs. We decided to get the M Type handlebar for a more upright position, standard 3 speed version, fenders, EZ wheels and a front carrier block for mounting Brompton bags. Turkish green for me and hot pink for Nellie. The cost came out to be $1345 USD each.
As the video demonstrates, the bike can be folded in less than 15 seconds. You don’t want a folder to be complicated when you’re in a hurry.
Our first test for traveling with these bikes was when we brought them with us to Strasbourg, bike capital of France. We were not mistaken as to how convenient and enjoyable it would be for us! It was our favorite city to ride in. You got the beautiful parks and rivers all over the city, bistros and brasseries around every corner, charming pedestrian bridges and historical buildings to inspire your curiosity, and calm streets that make riding as enjoyable as it can be. Much of the exploring and getting lost requires frequent stops but these Bromptons made it simple. The wheelbase is similar to a full-sized bike which makes it as stable as riding a regular bike; but the small 16 in (40.6 cm) wheels brings the size of the bike smaller by 20 inches (50 cm) in length which makes it not intrusive to pedestrians on sidewalks, and the expended energy from having to stop and go is not noticeable. The frame being that low to the ground makes getting on and off the bike super easy. Furthermore, we didn’t experience bumpiness from such small wheels (maybe it’s the steel frame configuration that is dampening the bumpiness).
In an old town like Strasbourg, the older hotels usually have small elevators. But at our hotel, with our folding bikes we were able to fit the two of us and our folding bikes just fine.
Each bike comes with a Zefal bike pump which I find to be pretty decent. I am not a strong person but I am able to get enough air in the tires to be ride-able using it. I don’t recommend getting the EZ wheels because they are actually not so “EZ “to roll on.
The standard gear ratio is too high for us but you can request a lower gear ratio at no cost. Nellie and I rarely use the highest gear- it is actually kind of hard to pedal. You can always opt for 6 speed but that comes at an extra charge and additonal weight. The small front tire makes steering very sensitive but you will get used to it. Another issue I have is that although it weighs 26 lbs (11.8 kg), it gets heavy when you have to carry it over a long distance.
If you don’t like the hassle of getting your bike gate-checked at the airport (you will have to check with your airline if they allow folding bikes at gate check), you can get a luggage to transport it. I find the Tern Airporter Mini to be perfect. The Airporter has integrated TSA combination locks, two rolling wheels and a telescopic handle. It is of airline regulation size at 11.4 × 22.4 × 28 in (29 × 57 × 71 cm). The saddle from the bike has to be removed in order to fit. Not a big deal – just make sure to bring your tools to screw it back on. However, if you order a bike with a rear rack, it will not fit (update 10/23/16 – thanks to a reader – Nenad, the rear rack on a Brompton will fit). The combined weight of both folder and luggage at around 45 lbs (20 kg) is well within the 50 lbs (22.7 kg) limit. Price is $250 USD.
We will be taking our folding bikes to Amsterdam on our next trip, and we will not bring the Airporters luggage. Since we are flying on KLM, a Dutch airline, hopefully they will understand and I have heard of people gate-checking their Bromptons without any problem. One person even brought their Brompton onto an airplane and stowed it in the overhead cabinet (Boeing 777 or larger).
Overall, we love these durable, well-made, stylish, and adorable bikes and have no regrets about purchasing them.
One last piece of advice: When ordering, the wait time is 6-9 weeks but expect at least 8 weeks. If you are planning a trip using them, make sure to order your bike way ahead in advance.
Ideas of places to ride your Brompton folding bike: