Indiana Small Wheel Enthusiasts know that not everyone can have the privilege of born in or living in Indiana... that would, of course, be impossible. That's the reason for ISWE's unlimited open-door policy. If you are enthusiastic about small wheel transport--and basically not a horrible person--then ISWE is for you. Case in point: ISWE full member, Sam from Athens, Ohio.
I know, you're probably asking yourself, "How can Sam from Athens, Ohio possibly be a fill member of ISWE?" Here's how: Sam is a great person, a role model, a former ISWE associate member, and he just got an awesome new set of small wheels. Check it out!
That's Sam's new Catrike Trail. Catrikes are manufactured right here in the US by Big Cat HPV in, I believe, Orlando, Florida (the Indiana of the South). Catrikes incorporate some of the most advanced features found in tadpole trikes, including aluminum space frames of their own design and nice components like SRAM shifters and Avid disc brakes. That aluminum frame will really serve Sam well standing up to our Midwestern rust-inducing climate. It also saves Sam a whopping 2.5 pounds compared to the weight of the ISWE Greenspeed. Disc brakes are ano great choice. Breaking is important with trikes. Their lower wind profile and greater mass mean downhill speeds can really get up there, so stopping power requirements are greater than on average bikes. It is very noticeable. Great choice Sam! We look forward to seeing you on the Trail (in more than one way).
Stay tuned as the ISWE staff attempt to secure and interview with Sam to report his first impressions as a Catrike Trail rider!
Well it looks as if the bad weather, combination weather, and more bad weather has finally blown out of Indiana for spring and summer, delivering some of the best bicycling conditions possible... that is baring any possible incoming rain.
The ISWE staff took advantage of one exceptionally sunny day to hit the roads in and around good old Bloomington, Indiana, home of Indiana University, the world renowned Little 500 bicycle race, and the filming location of one of the greatest sports films ever made, Breaking Away staring a young Dennis Quaid, Dennis Christopher, Daniel Stern, and Jackie Earle Haley as "Moocher." Several lessons were learned:
Those who know anything about the Hoosier state know that for all Hoosiers other than Boilermakers and the Irish (Notre Dame fans) and maybe Butler Bulldogs, one of our most sacred Hoosier temples is none other than Assembly Hall. Seats about 18,000. Some of the great games in the history of basketball have been played in there. Ahhh, basketball... And so, as far as I can tell, that's the only sign. No gold leaf, no giant limestone arches, no brilliant lights... heck there's not even a 20-watt bulb. That's it, "Assembly Hall." I guess that says something about Hoosiers. We don't need no signs to tell us where the roundball gets played. Give us tickets anywhere in the building and we're happy. Also happy catching a pic of the ISWE Brommie at such a prestigious locale.
Not more than a block or so from the vinyl-lettered, somewhat oxidized placard of basketball Mecca, I found a new project IU was apparently willing to spend a decent amount of money on, bicycle boxes!
That's them on the left with the ISWE Brommie positioned for scale. I know they look a little like a bank of back-up generators or maybe something installed as part of some big military encampment in Operation Desert Storm, but they're not. They're just big happy bicycle boxes. There are 120 of them in this one location! Wow.
This is the equivalent of a 4-star bicycle hotel. Imagine those 120 bikes in there, snug, basically dry, no matter what the conditions.
If you could see directly behind me (I didn't include the pictures because they were simply too graphic), there was a less fortunate bike that had been tossed aside from its rack after it's chain rusted into an immoveable lump of crusty rust. Tragic. This ISWE friends is simply the only humane way to store bikes outdoors. For heaven's sake, if your university, business, or community is thinking about bike boxes, back them with everything you've got. If not for yourself, do it for the bikes.
BUT! There is even a more humane way to store bikes, one that brings our loyal friends in from the cold desolation of the dog house, urr, I mean bike box, one that brings them in with family, the Brommie cubby. That's one there to the left.
No worries about condensation. No worries about padlocks, crowbar wielding bicycle thief maniacs, or the ravages of loneliness. Just your folding bike in a nice comfy space, go ahead, put your messenger bag or a box of Cheerios on top. Brilliant!
The picture is from a cool Flickr photo stream, by marcus_jb1973. Check it out for lots of interesting photos of Bromptons and other small wheel bikes.
Well, it was a great day. We managed to learn about Indiana basketball, IU's frugality in signage and support for the healthful benefits of bicycling. We were reminded of Breaking Away and the Little 500. We got a quick workout on some rare Hoosier hills and learned something about the humane treatment of bicycles. We also learned that conventional bicycle boxes are ugly and expensive external infrastructure, while Brompton cubbies are furniture.
Thanks to loyal ISWE member, Amy (pictured by the same bear there... perhaps a decade ago!) for providing the excellent excuse for a trip to B-Town.
Thanks small wheel enthusiasts for visiting. Stay tuned for more exciting adventures to come in 2013!
P.S. Congratulations to ISWE Brother-in-Law, Ronnie Dixon for booking a whopping 82.63 miles on Saturday, burning up the roads of San Rafael. By the next post we're sure he will have completed his first century! Disclaimer: he rides a road bike... we'll convert him eventually :)
As ISWE readers know, folding bike sightings around the ISWE headquarters have been becoming more and more frequent lately. But today, the small wheel sighting frequency took an exponential leap.
Let me set the scene. Gray sky, windy, 30 degrees Fahrenheit. For our international readers familiar only with the Celsius scale, that translates to cold. In other words, we're talking pretty cruddy cycling weather in the Circle City.
Leaving work headed east on New York Street, there it is... moving slowly but steadily into the wind, a Brompton. We'd have pictures, of course, but the slightly less intrepid ISWE staff were autobound also heading east on New York Street and we all know that cell phone cameras and driving don't mix (ISWE safety tip #37). We were amazed. Seeing a Brompton in this city, in this weather, at this time of day... a little like seeing a Pileated Woodpecker. We watched it head past the Herron School of Art, contemplating it and it's small wheels as aptly a work of art as well. But then, what to our wondering eyes should appear but another Bromton heading west... on the very same street. That's right ISWE readers, a Double Brompton! Two smart young women, both mocking the elements, peddling along in opposite directions on the same block. Awesome. We felt like calling... well, we didn't know exactly who to call, but we sure felt like calling someone.
Calculating the probability of seeing a Brompton in Indianapolis, multiplying that of the inverse of the degrees Farenheit, carried to the power of gray on a 0 to 10 scale of sky color cycleability, divided by two for the two Bromptons and 462 for precisely the same time of day, that equates to approximately 1 chance in 1.5 babillion of occurring. It's the only possible explanation... other than, I suppose, the possibility that these little gems are really catching on!
Could it be they are? I mean what are the chances that smart young people are realizing these bikes are awesome and they're going out and buying them, finding they are indeed awesome, and riding them even when the weather is cruddy because they are awesome. Probably it could be they are. Judging from the other bikes I saw on that particular street at that time, the probability is 2 to 0. Total dominance for small-wheeled Bromptons!
However you do your math, be it by gross underestimation or by anecdotal factorization, it all adds up to the same thing... you really should check these little bikes out. They're portable, fun, and smart. Try one out and you may find yourself running into someone just like yourself heading in the opposite direction. What a surprise that would be.
For those of you who are not aware, ISWE was the victim of a heinous and unconscionable bag/laptop/basically-all-my-important-stuff theft at the end of November. Someone simply walked into the office, grabbed the ISWE Brompton C-Bag with the laptop in it, and disappeared. Yikes! Needless to say, the police weren't exactly concerned. I think they put out a no-points bulletin. Where's Sherlock Holmes when you need him? On TV for sure, definitely not at the ISWE office. Luckily, find-my-phone was enabled, allowing ISWE to remotely erase the computer to protect against unauthorized access to the ISWE blog. Imagine, someone could have accessed the page to post something about a bike with say 26" wheels. Perish the thought!
We say we're back... almost, because during December, central Indiana was bombarded with quite a bit of snow--and it's pretty cold too. Just take a look at that bicycle barometer to the right. Have you ever witnessed such an inhospitable thing? Trust me when I say that that snow was neither fluffy or light. It had the texture and consistency of lava rock. Crunch!
Yet, some are braving the snow. Much to the ISWE staff dismay we learned at 10:00 AM of the 10:00 AM Mayor's polar bear ride today... an hour's commute away. Drat! We won't let a mistake like that happen again! You never want to miss a good polar bear ride. I mean, they had hot chocolate afterall!
Meanwhile, just prior to the snow... futher evidence that the small wheel revolution continues unabated! Check out this rare sight, an Oyama Swift Pro.
This unique little folder was pretty impressive. Note the features, an alloy frame, full front and rear mountain bike-style suspension and huge disc brakes. I think it had 7-speeds. At 24 pounds, not to shabby for basically a full-fledged mountain bike. Cool!
Who would ride such a thing? Let's speculate. It was found at an urban research institution, so I'm guessing he/she is probably a rocket scientist with a social conscience, or maybe an engineer with a heart. Hmmm?
Judging from the aggressive shocks, knobby tires, and water and mud-resistant disc brakes, he/she is probably also outdoorsy, adventurous, and brave. Considering the fenders, he/she is probably more concerned with functionality than appearances--definitely not a poser. I'm guessing this bike belongs to the sort of person you could definitely count on to help you change a flat tire in the rain or maybe even help you post bail. Prediction: pretty cool, interesting person. We'll stay on the look out to see if we can catch up with the owner. We'll see if the prediction is right.
So, what's going on with this little small wheel revolution? The new small wheels keep popping up left and right? What's the story? It's probably the result of more and more people becoming aware of the awesome benefits of small wheel bikes. Everyone loves a mountain bike--how about one that fits underneath your desk? You could go from sorting out your email inbox one minute to thrashing around on the river trail the next. You could go from office drone to urban adventurer. Why not? You'd could do it all and even be back by 1:00. Think about it!
Anyhow, thank you all for your patience with the Great Laptop Theft of 2012. It's good to be back and it's good to be thinking about getting ISWE adventures back in action. Tomorrow, we'll stop by Accent Bicycles to pick up the last remaining replacement for the stolen items. Dave Tortora's going to set us up with another awesome Brompton C-Bag, and all will be right with the world again... except for that whole US Senate and House of Representatives thing.
Stay tuned for plenty of ISWE adventures in a post-Mayan apocalyptic 2013!
P.S. Congratulations go out to long-time ISWE associate member, Robbie Janik on the new addition to the family. Can't wait to set William Joseph up with his first small wheel ride... it's certain to have small wheels!
Hello fellow small wheel enthusiasts. I'm sure you've all been wondering what it's like to see the world from the perspective of one of our beloved small wheeled companions. Well, wonder no longer. ISWEVision is here (albeit at a fairly low resolution). Sit back and enjoy one day in the life of the ISWE Brommie as he travels from trunk to trunk at IUPUI. For those of you non-YouTubers, click the lower right of the video to increase the size or on the YouTube link for a variety of viewing options.
Thanks for watching!
The past few weeks have been exciting weeks for ISWE. Why? Three small wheel sightings on the campus at IUPUI in downtown Indianapolis.
You might ask yourself, "Who would go to the trouble of locking up a bike that's been run over by a car?" That bike hasn't been run over by car, it was made that way. The little red bike to the left is, I believe, a Dahon Speed P8.
Founded in 1982 by physicist Dr. David Hon, Dahon is the world's largest manufacturer of folding bikes. Headquartered in Los Angeles, CA with primary manufacturing facilities in Shenzhen, China, Dahon makes tons of folding bikes. By the end of 2012, Dahon will have produced in excess of 100,000 bikes in its Bulgarian facilities alone. Is it just me, or is that a lot of bikes? That's a lot of bikes?
Dahon not only produces a lot of bikes, they produce a lot of models. They range in price from the Dahon Boardwalk at less than $300 all the way up to the Vector X27h at about $2300. Dahon has something for pretty much everyone. Because they have so many models, they tend to make each model in only a few colors. The Speed P8 comes in red and black and the IUPUI campus last week had both.That little bike to the left is the Speed P8 Black, apparently making friends with a purply little bike with a watermelon seat. (Sorry about the picture quality. It's a glass building and light was reflecting like I was in a solar oven!
Because Dahon makes so many folding bikes, they're able to use some pretty impressive components. Every bit of a Dahon is impressive--great hinges, great components, nice fit and finish. If you look closely at the photo, you'll see a quick release in the center of the simple straight handlebar. That's a nice feature. It allows the rider to rotate the bars after folding to tuck the brake levers closer in, resulting in a narrower folded width. Cool.
In the photo above, you can see the impressive handlebar stem hinge. It' a lot more sophisticated piece of engineering than that the hinge on the ISWE Birdy. I can imagine it working better, longer, and providing a much tighter ride. Nicely done.
Where the Dahon's fall slightly short is in suspension and overall compactness of fold. Only their new Curl comes close (but not too close) to the Brommie.
Dahons don't have rear suspension like Bromptons or front and rear suspension like Birdy's or some of the Pacific Cycles folding bikes. Suspension isn't a big deal on bikes with 26" wheels, but it makes a big difference on small wheels.
Small wheels have the advantage of being compact and super strong, but that comes at the cost of smoothness of ride and rolling resistance. To overcome rolling resistance, manufacturers of small wheel bikes spec high pressure tires (75 psi to over 100 psi). Because the tough little wheels don't flex like their giant flimsy counterparts, that translates into a rougher ride on rigid frames. Bromton and Birdy both add elastomeric shock absorption to the rear triangle to smooth out the ride to your seat. Birdy also adds a front spring shock to the fork to smooth out bumps to the handlebars. It really does make a difference. On one ride I frequent, there's a strip of bluestone I loath on the Brommie. I have to say, I cringe a little while crossing it. Rode it on the Birdy the other day and it was like gliding across... well, something one would glide across.
Dahon makes up for their lack of suspension on the P8 by using 20" wheels (as opposed to more compact 16" wheels) and big, fat, Schwalbe Big Apple tires. You may remember 20" wheels from a kids BMX bike, same size. Bigger wheels smooth out the bumps. Bigger tires absorb the shocks. Unlike a kids BMX bike, however, the P8 features an 8-speed derailleur. Combined with powerful v-brakes, the Speed P8 is basically an urban assault vehicle. While there's no way I would want to take a P8 touring, or on a 50-mile weekend ride, I would happily give it a turn hopping curbs, rolling over broken glass, or potentially bumping into wayward cars. While the P8 is not an all-purpose folding bike, it is a formidable urban commuter.
Along with the Hummer 16", some ISWE readers are already aware of, the P8's were found prowling the IUPUI campus. Like the Hummer, the Black P8 was captured at the Campus Center, while the Black P8 was caught at the Robert H. McKinney School of Law. This all bodes well for the future of folders in Indy--I've never seen any folders on the IUPUI campus other than those owned by ISWE members. Apparently, the movement is afoot!
The ISWE staff have also encountered a fast-moving Bike Friday on Washington Street and a parked Dahon Broadway on, I believe, Vermont St..
Indianapolis, perhaps due to $4.00/gallon gas a few year back, is rapidly increasing its residential density downtown. New urban apartment complexes are popping up left and right. Indianapolis is also quickly adding to its bike lane and trail miles. This means we'll inevitably be seeing more and more small wheel folders in years to come. There's no better match for efficient urban living than a really compact folding bike. Right now, the ISWE Brompton is inhabiting roughly the same square footage in the ISWE headquarters as two pairs of shoes (seriously). The neighbor's bikes are outside, blocking the hallway, creating a potential hazard for secondary egress (or entry of firefighters) in the event of a fire, etc. We'll keep our fingers crossed on that one.
Well, thanks everyone for tuning in for an ISWE update. If you happen across a small wheel vehicle in your daily adventures, please feel free to pull out your phone or camera and snap a pic. Send them to ISWE and well put them on the site, because there's nothing better than looking at pictures of small wheels... except maybe for puppies... puppies and cats are pretty popular out there on the web. ISWE gives credit where credit is due.
Isles of Wonder
Prior to spending nearly every available minute of the last two weeks watching nearly every imaginable Olympic event, I was fortunate enough to be able to ride the Brompton in the 12th Annual Great Greenway Tour. The annual bike ride benefits the Cardinal Greenway rail trail running from Marion to Richmond, Indiana. While routes are available from 10 to 100 miles, I chose to ride from the Wysor Street Depot in Muncie to the Richmond Depot District. The route included 42 miles of trail and about 2.5 miles of city streets to Barbara and Phil Jenkins’ home for some quick woodworking on their kitchen remodeling project, a grilled cheese sandwich, and a much-appreciated ride back to Muncie.
Given the recent drought conditions in Indiana I was amazed right from the start of the ride by the healthy green foliage lining both sides of the trail, even in an industrial area of Muncie. I thought perhaps Muncie had received more rain than other places, but the Kermit-the-Frog greenness held true the entire ride, increasingly so as I traveled south. At a certain point near Economy, hard as it is to imagine, the scene actually had me recalling director Danny Boyle’s “Isles of Wonder” London Olympics opening ceremony from the night before the ride.
Boyle’s ceremony opened on a set depicting a idyllic English countryside. From there, his script followed the course of British history from the time of hunter-gatherers, through agrarianism, to the emergence of the Industrial Revolution, eventually culminating with the rise of British pop culture. A portion of my ride traveled through a strangely similar trajectory. I rode through through dense, almost jungle-like Indiana woodlands, the realm of our own hunter-gatherers. From there, I passed by tiny farms with small plots of corn, huge vegetable gardens, and little red barns. Finally then, at Richmond, I reached the remnants of the Industrial Revolution, crumbling brick factory buildings, smokestacks, and all. Of course, Richmond was also a birthplace of recorded jazz, our early pop revolution. Given the context of Boyle’s display, the ride was a little like traveling through time. Cool.
Zipping along a particularly new portion of the trail, I marveled at the contrast between the silky smooth asphalt and the brush and trees to my left and right. How long would it have taken, I wondered, for say Chief Little Turtle to travel a similar route? Several days, I’m sure. I imagined his men blissfully navigating the thickets by narrow and curvy wooded paths, hunting deer, enjoying the warm summer sun, perhaps the smell of rain. Paradise! I imagined that… right up to the point I arrived at the sign along the trail marking “Mad” Anthony Wayne’s establishment of the Greenville Treaty Line following his victory over a confederation of Indiana forces in the Battle of Fallen Timbers. Yikes! So much for the idyllic imagery… but I guess Boyle left out a little but of British history as well.
The Battle of Fallen Timbers
The difference from car to bicycle is quite amazing. Having traveled the road from Muncie to Richmond perhaps several hundred times, I never once considered the territory's place in history, the plight of its earliest inhabitants, the blessings of our current era, or the potential for its future. It all simply slipped by at, we’ll say, just a little above the posted speed limit. Not by bike. The bike is quick enough to make you feel fleet in comparison to mere chipmunks and squirrels, but not so hurried to prevent you from noticing a toadstool, wooly worm, or poignant point of history. It was nice to ride the Brompton, blow the cobwebs out of my head, and contemplate.
Overall, the Brommie did an excellent job on the trip. It ran 45 miles without a hitch, carried all my supplies in my messenger bag clipped on front, got me to Richmond two hours earlier than I thought, and tucked invisibly into the Civic hatchback (along with at least three baseball stadium seats) for a cozy trip home. Speed-wise, I suppose I paid a tiny penalty in terms of the (alleged) rolling resistance of small wheels and (verified) mechanical resistance of the Sturmey Archer internally-geared hub, but I can’t say I noticed it. I passed more than a few fellow travellers along the way I assure you. A couple of riders did somehow manage to pass me. Had to be 2012 Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins and his wingman Chris Froome. Who else could have pulled off such a feat as passing me and the Brommie on my own home turf? Mysteriously, however, they seemed to be competing in the London Olympics at pretty much precisely the same time… Hmmm? Interesting...
So, it was a ride of moderate length... I thought some interesting thoughts... but that happens on every small wheel ride. Because, be it forty-five miles of rail trails or a 30-minute work-break ride downtown, every small-wheel ride is an adventure of its own. Try it for yourself today!
Thanks to the unparalleled support of Swimbo, the ISWE family, and Bromton Guru, Dave Tortora at Accent Bicycles, the ISWE fleet has unfolded to include the legendary Brompton M6R folding bike! It's been about a week. I'll give you a breakdown of some first impressions.
Let's begin by saying that, in the age of being able to get anything from the Internet, there is no substitute for seeing something in person and getting advice from someone who knows. There are two features on the Brompton that one simply has to see to believe. I probably wouldn't have purchased them online. Today, I can't imagine life without them.
The first feature is the Shimano hub dynamo lighting system with Busch & Muller halogen head and tail lights. The front hub generates enough power to illuminate everything practically from the first pedal stroke. Ride for about three minutes and the back light will stay on for about five--plenty of time for stoplights. And it's really bright. Much brighter than the 3-AA battery-powered light that is sometimes on the Birdy (sometimes in my toolbox). I would compare the power to lights found on mopeds. No charging or changing batteries. Always on the bike. Always ready to go. Very little, if any, drag. As a confession, I have to say I have rarely used the lighting setup on the Birdy. It's unhandy and turning on the blinky light on the rear truly is a pain. As such, I've ridden less than safely. Those days are over. One switch and the Brommie lights are on, safely leading the way and alerting drivers to your presence. But best of all, you are generating power on your own. Take that wind and solar farms. I'm a one man power plant! If only I could use the hub to charge my phone... hmmm?
The second feature is the combination luggage block/C-Bag combination. The Brompton luggage system is based on a sturdy little luggage block attached to a boss on the head tube. This accepts an aluminum frame. It just clicks on. Brompton's various bags then velcro onto the rack. Click on, click off. This setup is truly magical. Week one of the ISWE Brompton experience included lugging equipment for a cancer study across campus--one bag containing two laptops and power supplies, another bag containing study materials. The whole thing probably weighed well over twenty-five pounds. Note: Swimbo was unable to lift the two-laptop-containing C-Bag today. Not that she's all that muscular, but it was heavy :) Clicked onto the bike the weight simply disappeared. Yes, the Brommie defied the laws of physics. No weight on the shoulder. No sweaty strap in the 100-degree heat. The bags just sat there on the luggage frame like they were nothing at all. There is simply no feeling quite like zipping along the sidewalks and streets of campus, transporting tons of stuff, as if you were just going out for a ride. It feels like your doing something illegal. People look at you like, "Hey, he can't do that! He can't carry all that stuff with no effort! Can he?" Yes I can. Zip!
Here are the brilliant little mechanisms exposed. That black trapezoidal gizmo thing is the luggage block. Two screws hold it to the head tube. Below that, you see the Busch & Muller headlight. On the back side of the light, there's a small switch. It's a little hard to reach with the luggage block in place, but just a flick and both the front and rear lights come on. I imagine with practice, I'll get better at operating it (while riding), turning slightly left or right before trying it... or, I could remember to turn it on before getting on the bike. There's an idea!
This little guy is the luggage frame. It weighs practically nothing (especially in comparison to two laptops). Some people I've heard also zip tie milk crates to it. It's available as an accessory without a bag. It's actually much more functional than the rear rack. Dave Tortora often recommends foregoing the rear rack altogether. One thing about the rear rack he notes is that you have to take whatever is on it off before parking the bike (folding the rack under the seat) or folding it completely. He's right. This week, I used the rear rack for carrying my u-lock and a spare inner tube. Yes, I forgot and tried to park the bike without removing either. Yes, they got in the way. That said, I'm glad I have the rack. It makes the bike sturdier when parked and it's there if I need it. Plus, it's cool!
Much to the dismay of Swimbo, the first day out included a 25+ mile Brommie ride in heat topping out at an potentially egg-frying 104 degrees. Yikes was it hot. Not sure I'd do that again real soon, but it was a great test for the Brommie. At the midway point, I popped in to see fellow small wheel enthusiast Robbie Janik at his home just north of downtown Indianapolis. Robbie's wife Jenn almost reported me for stealing a kid's bike! Luckily, I was able to change her mind by briefly demonstrating the features of the Brommie. She was amazed to find that it was actually a full-sized bike. Whew, that was a close one. I was surprised to find that after 15 miles, I was pretty much fresh. Riding the recumbent a lot, I often find long rides on uprights tiring on my shoulders, arms, and hands. Not so on the Brommie. The riding position is upright enough to keep most of the weight off of your arms. The seating position, I'd say, is about halfway between a 10-speed and a cruiser. Brompton offers a new H-model that is even more upright, probably too upright for me. I like to think I'm at least a little Tour de France-ish even if I'm not.
Much to the delight of the ISWE staff, the rest of the week included several really fun rides around downtown Indianapolis. One day, I circumnavigated the Indianapolis Zoo to try to catch a glimpse of their new baby elephant. Another day, I rode through downtown Indianapolis, around Monument Circle, to the library and back. Two times, I rode the Canal. All of this, by the way, on my half-hour lunch break. Why eat when you can ride! The Monument Circle ride was the best. I can't say how many times I've traveled the same roads by car without ever noticing all of the the interesting details I saw from the Brommie. There's a lot of strange stuff down there, including war memorials with marble columns and golden eagles, some pretty large fountains, and a sculpture that looks a lot like a giant, little chocolate donut. And that's the beauty of small wheels. Even though it was a very hectic week, I was able to squeeze in several little urban adventures. Next week I'm going to get to see that baby elephant for sure! I'll be sure to forward a full report. Baby elephants are, after all, the small wheels of the elephant world.
On a related note, yours truly would probably not be here today without the ISWE-approved Two Fish Quick Cage. Small wheel bikes often have a lot of trouble with water bottle cages. For one, there's never anywhere to put them. Folding bike tubes are often odd sizes and/or curved. Second, they tend to get in the way of the fold. The Two Fish Quick Cage uses a rubber block and velcro strap for attachment. While it's not light, its stainless cage and attachment are nearly indestructible. I've had mine for years and it works like new. It's a very good thing I had it on Saturday. Thanks to Robbie and Jenn for the fill-up by the way. The ice was greatly appreciated! Sometimes I see bottles attached to the head tube boss on Bromptons. That would mean no luggage and a pretty serious reach for a drink. I put the Two Fish on the handlebar stem and its right there where I need it. I could even put two on there... hmmm? A much better solution. ISWE approved!
Well, we passed up a discussion of the Al Inglis Invisibility Rule to bring you this report. We'll be sure to get back to it soon. Thanks for reading and remember: ISWE? We is!
For questions about Brompton bikes, don't hesitate to contact:
11700 Oak Tree Way
Carmel, IN 46032
One of the great things about riding bicycles, and small-wheeled bicycles in particular, is that it is a great way to get to meet and interact with a lot of really interesting, enthusiastic people. Recently, I had such an opportunity. I spent the afternoon getting to know David Tortora and his Brompton bicycles.
David Tortora is a bicycle enthusiast who operates Accent Bicycles in Carmel, Indiana, selling folding bikes and electric bikes. David has a great deal of experience with bikes and people. This allows him to expertly match a rider with the bike that most closely fits his or her needs.
Currently, David has a pretty impressive inventory of Bromptons. He’s also evaluating Tern folding bicycles as perhaps a lower-cost alternative to Bromptons for beginner riders or riders on a budget. Although David sized me up immediately as a Brompton fan, he couldn’t resist showing me his new Swiss-designed Stromer electric bicylcles. They operate in three modes: 1) bike mode (in which the bike operates basically as a cruiser-type bike that handles pretty well for its weight); 2) power-assist mode (in which the bikes purpose-built 600-watt electric motor helps you pedal and makes you feel like Superman; and 3) power-on-demand mode (in which the bike basically functions as an electric motorcycle). Wow.
David has been generous enough to contribute some of his thoughts on folding bikes in the form of a short interview. I hope you will enjoy reading it. We’ll look forward to keeping in touch with David in the future. Perhaps he can send us a report from one of his many Brompton cycling adventures.
If you are interested in folding or electric bicycles, don't hesitate to contact David directly at:
11700 Oak Tree Way
Carmel, IN 46032
Thanks again to David for a great afternoon and a great interview!
Barry Barker: During my visit to your shop, you mentioned first discovering Brompton folding bicycles on a trip to England. That seems like the perfect introduction to what is the quintessential British folding bike. For those of us who haven't had the opportunity to see a Brompton for the first time in its native land, can you share a little bit about what that was like?
David Tortora: Thank you Barry. I’d be happy to, as it was a very nice, educational experience for me.
I saw my first Brompton while visiting London about ten years ago. The first one I noticed was when I was going into a teashop for a cup of tea. As a side note, I do not drink much tea, but while in London, I just sort of go with the crowd. Anyway, as we were walking into the teashop, I noticed what appeared to me to be a crunched-up wheelchair. I had never seen a folding bike before so I had no idea what I was looking at.
When we were about to leave the teashop, an elderly lady got up to leave just in front of us. She was using a cane to walk and was walking quite slowly as it was apparent that she had difficulty walking. My wife and I walked very slowly behind her. She paid her bill near the door and proceeded to walk out the door. We paid our bill right after she did. When we got out of the shop, I saw her put the cane on the handlebars, flip the bike in a single motion into the riding position, and ride away better than she could walk!
Before I left London, I actually interviewed some riders. The night before we were to leave, we were in an outside pub and about a dozen riders all came by and every rider was on a Brompton. I went up to them and ask how they liked the bikes and how they use them. To a man (and woman) they said that they ride them to work, ride them to race, and ride them for general fun and travel. They had NOTHING negative to say about this bike.
The next day I was scheduled to leave in the afternoon. In the morning, I went to a Brompton dealer and purchased my first Brompton.
Barry Barker: Some people say the Brompton just feels different. I think I experienced a little of that riding your Arctic Blue M6R, it just felt right. What do you think it is that makes the ride of the Brompton feel so different from the ride of other bikes?
David Tortora: The Brompton was designed from the very onset as a folding bike. Andrew Ritchie, the inventor of the Brompton, had worked for Brickerton, another folding bike manufacturer. Mr. Ritchie felt that he could design a better folding bike. It turns out that he did, as this bike is considered by almost everyone as the best folding bicycle made anywhere.
The Brompton has many patents that protect its uniqueness. One of the very best patents is its unique contoured main frame. This allows the wheel to fit snuggly under the mainframe thus making for a much smaller over package than other folding bikes. Also, many other manufacturers use standard bicycle parts to make their folding bike offering. This clear compromise usually makes for a more difficult, less compact fold, and can compromise the ride as well.
Finally, many people feel that because of the 16” wheel that speed is compromised. This is simply not true as the Brompton is certainly fast enough. The 16” wheel does allow the rider to make much sharper turns than a bike with a larger wheel.
Barry Barker: I know I have a really nice memory of riding my Birdy folding bike around the National Mall in Washington D.C. It's a trip I'll never forget and I don't think it would have been so enjoyable, or even have happened at all, with a conventional 27" bicycle. Is there any favorite memory you have that you can share about riding a Brompton?
David Tortora: Yes. One place that I like to go is to Milwaukee during their many ethnic summer festivals. They have one every week. My wife and I have gone for four or five weekends every summer. We simply put the Bromptons in the trunk and go. Many times when we’re traveling with our Bromptons, we chuckle when we see others carting their bicycles on racks on the back of their cars. Usually, the wheels are spinning and if it rains, the bikes are filthy. Also, there is always the danger of a bike falling on the road and causing an accident. This can’t happen when you carry your Brompton inside your vehicle. Also, I’ve taken many trips to Chicago and ridden along the lakes and visited the popular spots for eating and enjoying the atmosphere.
Barry Barker: What advice do you have for people who are thinking about buying a new bicycle? Should they consider a folding bike? Should they consider a Brompton?
David Tortora: I think a folding bike is more practical for almost any occasion as it has flexibilities that are not available with a standard-size bicycle.
I would always consider a Brompton. The Brompton is probably the most costly but then again, it is considered by almost everyone to be the best folding bicycle made. I, too, am one of those people.
Barry Barker: You spent much of your career prior to bicycles as an entrepreneur working on the cutting-edge of computer technologies. You are also a long-time Indianapolis area resident. You know bikes. Throwing all of those things into the mix, what do you think the future holds for bicycling in the Indianapolis area? What does it look like ten years from now? What, if anything, should cyclists be doing now in anticipation of years to come?
David Tortora: To begin, Mayor Ballard, a bicycle enthusiast, has contributed much to embracing bicycling here in Indianapolis. I believe he has added close to (or maybe more) than a hundred miles of bicycles trails in the city. He also has his yearly summer ride and just last year started his day after New Year’s ride. The Monon trail, which connects to the Cultural Trail, which connects to the Canal makes for an excellent offering to/for bike riders.
In short, bicycling is fun and healthy. I ride to work almost every day in the summer. I typically lose about ten pounds without really trying. It also saves a bit of money by not using as much gasoline.
It seems like a forgone conclusion that bicycling will grow both here and in other locals. Actually, Indianapolis is still very much behind in its acceptance of bicycles. We do have some disadvantages, as the Indianapolis area is not conducive for commuting to work. Many people that live in Carmel, Fishers, and other surrounding towns simply do not have the correct roads to commute. I think someday that a high-speed rail connect (which has been discussed in Fishers) might solve part of that problem (i.e. commute to a downtown location and ride the rest of the way to work).
Barry Barker: Thank you so much for taking time to contribute to the ISWE blog. To finish things out, I would like to like to ask one more question. I'm fascinated with axioms, adages, maxims, and (for lack of a better word) rules of thumb. In your experience with bicycles, or folding bicycles in particular, is there one simple rule you can share with readers that will improve their bicycle riding experiences?
David Tortora: Yes, the folding bicycle is so very easy to take anywhere so, simply do it. Make it part of your life, especially when visiting other areas. You can see so much more when visiting other places on a bicycle than by walking and/or cab. Your latest trip to Washington DC essentially proved the point. Thank you, Barry, for this opportunity to discuss something that I enjoy so much.
Stay tuned for more from David Tortara in future ISWE Blog posts!
Today, the ISWE staff visited Accent Bicycles located in Carmel, Indiana. David Tortora, the Indianapolis areas' Brompton expert showed us around some of his extensive stock of foldable Brompton beauties. We'll interview David in an upcoming blog entry. For now, we'll discuss some first impressions of the Bromtons, benchmarked against the ISWE Birdy.
First of first impressions are that Bromptons fold small, really really small. Take a look at the comparison with the ISWE Birdy, which folds to a size common for most foldable bikes with 16" wheels. The Brompton is much more compact. Theoretically, a new Birdy folds to 21" tall x 30" wide x 15.4" deep (9702 cubic inches). A Brompton, on the other hand, folds to 23" tall x 22.2" wide x 10.6" deep (5412 cubic inches). The side by side comparison really shows the difference.
Check out the width comparison. In the real world, the Brompton folds smaller than the Birdy in height, width, and depth. More importantly, the Brompton also folds smarter. When folded, the Birdy has little bits sticking out everywhere. Part of that, of course, is the ISWE staff's fault for putting on bar ends. Some folks have figured out how to make those things fold also, but it really is a major modification. That combined with a Brompton-style folding left pedal would make the Birdy more compact, but it still woldn't be as solidly compact as the Bromton. Not only does the Brompton fold to a compact size, it stays that way. While the Birdy's front wheel has a tendency to unfold itself in two troubling directions, often with no notice, the Bromton clips together and stays together. You can darn near shake the thing like a Basset Hound shaking a sock monkey and it will stay folded and secure. That's a big deal when you're loading it in the trunk of the wife's car. You don't have to worry about scratching any paint--not that the ISWE staff has done that :) The left folding pedal on the Brompton is an excellent touch. It makes that side of the bike virtually flat. That makes it set well in the trunk. While the Birdy flops around, the Brompton stays where you put it. That left folding pedal also makes the Brompton easy to carry. SImply pick it up by the saddle and you're off, no odd parts sticking out to jab you in the shin.
What is it they say, "Two Bromptons in the boot are worth one Birdy in the trunk." Hmmm?I don't imagine anyone says that exactly, but I was able to put two in the trunk of the Swimbo's (She Who Must Be Obeyed) Volkswagen Jetta.
Not only was I able to fit two in the trunk, there was plenty of room for other stuff to spare... stuff like Swimbo's grocery bags! There was also a lot of room vertically. I could imagine fitting two Bromptons and enough luggage for two for a couple of days with little or no problem. No roof rack. No bike rack on the rear. No problem. Excellent design.
For comparison, here's how the ISWE staff normally rolls. There's still room in that trunk, but it's hard to access. Note that the Birdy and a Bromton are both 16"-wheeled bikes, virtually the same size unfolded.
One of the little bits sticking out on the Birdy is the seat hinge. It has sharp edges that have scratched and marred the inside plastic trim in that trunk. That will be a little secret between ISWE readers and staff. We'll consider Swimbo on a need-to-know basis. Rest assured with a Brompton, such an occurrence of scratching would be much less likely.
Overall engineering on the Brompton is just plain smart. Here we see two really super cool features of that engineering. 1) Notice the semi-folded, "parked" position. Flipping the back wheel of the Brompton under the bike serves as a really solid kickstand. The ISWE staff just broke the kickstand on the ISWE Birdy. If only we had this function. 2) Notice the messenger bag. One really cool feature of the Brompton is the luggage block. It's a little trapezoidal thing attached to the headset. It enables one to quickly and easily clip on all sorts of luggage from the T-Bag for touring, to a basket, to this bag, the S-Bag, for general messenger bag type stuff. No sweaty back here. Just clip the bag on the bike and go.
Just below the bag, you can see the halogen lighting system on this Brompton. It operates off of a Shimano hub-driven generator. No batteries here. Turn it on, start riding, and it lights both the head and taillight. It also charges a small battery in the rear to power the lights during stops. It really is a neat system. The drag it creates in the on position is virtually unnoticeable. My experience with battery-powered lights is that, when you need them, they are either dead or missing (because you popped them off of your bike to use as a flashlight). This is a very smart design.
And here we see the little blue Brompton in shopping cart mode. When the bike is completely folded, the luggage block remains accessible. Clip on the internal-frame bag or basket and you're off to the store or office or wherever. You can actually pull the bike along with the handle of the bag. It rolls on the four casters attacked to the rack. Cool. I could really see this option coming in handy. The Birdy has been so handy that even stopping long enough to lock it to a bike rack seems a nuisance. Why not just fold the bike, slap on the bag, and let the little guy carry the weight of your laptop all the way to your meeting. I'd really like to give that a try.
One of the many advantages to folding bikes is security. I once met a bike store owner in Columbus, Ohio who was absolutely paranoid about carrying his bikes around on roof or trunk racks on his vehicles. Imagine that, always being stressed out wondering if someone's stealing your seat while you're in the grocery buying Twinkies (Did they stop making those? I hope not.) Why not stash your little bike in the trunk instead. Rooftops are no place for bikes or politician's dogs. Keep them inside the car, safe, and happy. They are family after all.
Overall Brompton Advantages:
If the ISWE staff could have only one folding bike (which is subject to the approval of Swimbo) it would probably be a Brompton. In that the point of a folding bike is to fold, and the Brompton does that like no other folding bike, there really is very little question. It folds easier, smarter, smaller, and more solidly than anything I've encountered. A+ to Andrew Ritchie. For this fold, one pays a little in performance, but only in a way that actually increases the character of the experience--again, like shifting the standard VW bus. The fold, combined with the ride character, and the virtually endless array of Swiss-Army-like accessories, makes the Brompton an easy choice. Now, if only we can convince Swimbo :)
Thanks to Dave Tortora at Accent Bikes in Carmel, Indiana for providing ISWE entre to the wonderful world of Bromptons. Stay tuned for an interview with Dave. For more information on Bromptons, feel free to contact Dave directly via the Accent Bicycles website.