It's not all that unusual to spot small wheelers on the IUPUI campus these days--ISWE readers may recall a couple sightings of Dahon P8s last year--but something pretty interesting showed up outside the Lecture Hall last week. Meet the P8's grandpa (or grandma, not sure about how bike gender is determined), the Dahon Stow Away. It's an interesting little bike with a history worthy of a Steven Speilberg film. Short version: Largely in response to the 70's oil embargo/crisis, tactical/nuclear fusion laser beam physicist, Dr. David T. Hon founds Dahon in 1982. This little bike shows up in the mid-80s. Dahon goes on to conquer the folding bicycle market, becoming the world's largest folding bicycle manufacturer with well over 2 million folders sold by 2011. Then, Hon's son and wife, Florence and Joshua rebel, splitting Dahon in two, creating one of Dahon's major current competitors, Tern. Whew, drama.
There are a couple of interesting features on the Stow Away. Perhaps most notable is the Moulton-esque space frame handlebar support. The support undoubtedly adds a good bit of strength and stiffness to the long handlebar stem. It also, in the opinion of ISWE, adds considerably the look of the bike. Another unique feature is the location of the bottom bracket. Check that out, it's mounted at least a quarter of the way up the seat tube. That adds clearance for the cranks and pedals. Without that extra three or four inches, cornering the low-to-the-ground frame would be tricky to say the least. Moving to the rear, we see a five-speed freewheel on the far side and yes... a band brake, the bike's only brake, on the near side. Hmmm? Wonder what that's like in terms of stopping power? Finally, that's an integrated reflector in the rear fender. Cool. If this one shows up on campus again, we'll definitely take a much closer look.
Here's Dr. Hon with his original Da-Bike (smiling pre-rebellion). Notice, the Da-Bike pictured lacks the the distinctive handlebar support. But there is something extra there, a third wheel! If you look closely in the folded picture, just to the right of the crank, you'll see a swivel castor. While there appear to be brazings for its mounting on the Stow Away above, it's not there. Likely many owners opt to opt out of it or ditch it after the fact to partially reduce the steel bike's, I believe, approximate 40-pound overall weight.
While the fold is quite compact, almost rivaling that of Brompton, it is a bit complicated... check it out in this excellent set of YouTube clips. Any time you have two YouTube videos to demonstrate fold and unfold, you know it's going to be a little rough :)
Thanks to whomever you are intrepid IUPUI Stow Away rider for providing us a look at such an interesting machine!
Recumbent trikes, while becoming a more common site on bike paths everywhere, remain a bit of a mystery to many of the general cycling public. How much did that cost? Where did you get that? and What is that like to ride? are questions common to just about every trike owner out there. For those of you still in the noodling phase of trike appreciation, Sam Binnig of Athens, Ohio has generously some initial trike impressions from his first few weeks as the owner of a very popular trike, the Catrike Trail. Check out the interview below the pic.
ISWE: While tadpole trikes are becoming more popular everyday, they're still a rare sight on the road in some locations and somewhat idiosyncratic choice when it comes to transportation. What were you thinking? Are you crazy? What initially attracted you to trikes? What was it that convinced you finally take the plunge?
Sam: I first saw a recumbent trike a few years back at Quaker Haven camp in northeast Indiana when my uncle brought out his Greenspeed trike. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before. I remember being able to take a ride down the gravel path there and thinking it was a really cool bike. After that, I was removed from the trike world and even the bike world for a bit as I finished up high school and college. When I finally got closer to graduation, I was thinking about getting a bike to ride around town to both exercise and just relax on a bit and figured the best fit would be a trike.
ISWE: Tell us a little about your buying experience. Where did you purchase your trike? What was that like? Were you able to gauge from the process how well trikes are selling these days? What's the whole trike scene like over there in the Buckeye state (what we like to call the ISWE east annex)?
Sam: Talking to some of my friends and colleagues, they all seemed both amazed and confused by pictures of the bike before the purchase and that's when I was really set on getting one and bringing the tadpole trike world down to Athens. To purchase the bike, I met up with my awesome parents, Bruce and Betsy, in Lisbon, Ohio at Lisbon Rail to Trail Bike Shop (and Catrike Megastore). Here's the link to their site: http://www.lisbonrailtotrail.com/
On our arrival, we were greeted by their friendly staff and within the first 2-3 minutes they had me on a trike cruising down the local streets. I tried a few different trikes out while we were there and the staff even got Dad out riding around on a trike as well. The roads up around the store consisted of quite a bit of crack and seal pavement as well as occasional gravel on the road. The ride was a little bumpy at parts, but overall it was quite easy to navigate the short trip. Once we were back and I had decided on the Trail model, I selected a brand new blue frame from the many colors in stock and we went down the street to get a bite to eat while the staff assembled and setup the trike. I couldn't tell how well trikes were selling from this store, but it seemed like they sold quite a few and they will have between 60-90 trikes in stock at any one time. I've only seen one or two other tadpole trikes out in the wild over here in Ohio, but I'm sure there have to be more.
ISWE: Now, let's get down to it. You just finished a nice 45 mile ride? We'd like to hear about that. Where did you go? What did you do? What were the road conditions? How was the ride?
Sam: The (approximately) 45 mile ride was great. Some of my friends and colleagues have started a group called the Old Man Bike Club (although I think the average age of the group probably sits around 26) and this was the inaugural ride. Starting out we set a pretty lofty goal: Ride the entire bike path from Athens to Nelsonville. We all met up and hopped on the path at Peden Stadium and eventually covered the entire path from end to end--more information here: http://www.athensohio.com/whattodo/534)
We picked a nice sunny Wednesday afternoon to go on the ride, but it was not too hot. A lot of the path is also covered in trees, which was nice. The path is flat the entire way with no real steep grades which made for a nice first ride. Overall, it was a great ride. Everyone was pretty tired at the end of it since most of the group is fairly new to long distance riding, but we all made it.
ISWE: How well would you say the Trail perform on your ride? Pros and cons? Finally, if you had to sum up your whole experience with the Trail in 3 words, what would they be?
Sam: The Trail was great and a lot of fun to ride. It turned quite a few heads and even got a few "Awesome Bike!" shouts from others on the path. Parts of the ride were a little bumpy as you feel every bit of even the smallest bumps, but the low profile gets your eyes closer to the ground and it is a lot easier to see them coming up. I feel that the trike helps reduce fatigue quite a bit on the ride. One of the great pros of the trike is definitely the seat. It offered a great deal of comfort that the traditional two wheel bikes lacked. However, since you are laid back more, your legs are more exposed to the sun throughout the trip and unless you smother them in sunscreen before, you will probably get burnt (trust me). Another pro of the seat though is that I was able to change shoes (from my running shoes to my clipless shoes after a pit stop) while riding. It was a little tricky, but possible.
If I had to sum up the Catrike Trail in three words I think they would be: Comfortable. Head-turning. Fun.
Thanks Sam for the great report!
For those who can remember back a few years in terms of recumbent bikes and trikes, Sam's shop picture is an encouraging, perhaps even astonishing, indicator of the current climate for recumbents in the Midwest. It has to be improving! For years, brave recumbent bike shop pioneers (e.g., Valley Bikes of Carmel, Indiana) struggled uphill both ways to get people to even entertain the idea of an alternative to conventional diamond framed road and mountain bike configurations. Back then, a shop with one or two trikes and/or one or two two-wheeled recumbents was a treasure trove. A shop with 60 trikes was something completely unthinkable, to great to be imagined--perish the thought! So, let's all take a moment to thank the designers, retailers, and mechanics who supported these machines through their development. Today their efforts mean more people can access cycling in more ways than ever before, and they don't have to know how to use an acetylene torch and brazing rod to do so. If you haven't yet tried an alternative mode of pedal-powered propulsion, there's no better time than this weekend. Do your a favor, take a road trip, hit a shop, and give one of these new rides a spin. You'll be glad you did.
Stay tuned for more reports from ISWE riders and friends!