Saturday, December 31, 2011

Bicycle Parts Named, 1898 Version

Taken from The Modern Bicycle and its Accessories: A Complete Reference Book for Rider, Dealer and Maker. New York: Commercial Advertiser Association, 1898. Digitized version from Google, a rare example of a book digitized by Google from the Library of Congress General Collections.

Modern Bicycle Reference Book Title Page (1898)
Above, the title page

Note that Google only got the first part of the title correct ("The Modern Bicycle") and made part of the title into the author - "By Rider Dealer and Makerr". Oops.

Parts of a Bicycle (1898)
A detailed listing of all the parts of the bike

If you click on the image you can get to a better version on Flickr. It is probably an artifact of Google's efforts that the text is straight but the image of the bicycle is not. Also, the poor image quality is another sign of Google digitization. I think this would have been done very early in their digitization efforts.

"Extreme Type" of 1898 Bicycle
An amusing example of the most "up to date" model - a racing bike, presumably

Note the rather large front ring. This almost looks like a bike used with a lead bicycle (with three or four riders) that the rider of this bike would draft behind.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Arlington (VA) Survey of Area Cyclists

This short article summarizes a study of Arlington cyclists.

Here are the survey results. The survey results include information gathered in 2009 and 2011. Apparently they stopped riders on the trail to administer the survey.

The point of the survey, besides understanding who bikes in Arlington and why, was to assess the BikeArlington program.
BikeArlington scored high satisfaction ratings in the survey. 79% of respondents reporting they were satisfied with the service, and more than half (54%) of BikeArlington users have already recommended the program to someone else. Most importantly, almost half of those who used BikeArlington services reported making a change in their biking behavior!!
I confess I don't think of BikeArlington as a service and other than providing rider instruction and managing the bike trail system and bike lanes, I don't know what they do, in the sense of being able to "recommend the program to someone else." And making a "change in their biking behavior. . . ?" Hm.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Good List of New Cycling Books ~

Podium Cafe has a nice list of new books about different aspects of cycling. Something fun to peruse!

It mentions that there will be a fourth edition of The Dancing Chain! Who would have guessed there was so much about bicycle chains (well, and the rest of the drive train too) to update!

Contrasts in Rider Attire - Women Century Riders 1897

The photos below are taken from the C.R.C. Manual compiled by Will L. Krietenstein for the Century Road Club of America in 1898. In the middle are a number of posed photos of century ride champions, including two women.

Champion woman cyclist, 1897 - Mrs. Allen
More manly attire, as shown on this page

Champion woman cyclist, 1897 - Mrs. Matheis
More traditional attire, as shown on this page

Since the photos were posed in two different photographers' studios, one wonders if the second rider actually rode with such a long coat and that particular sort of wind-catching hat; still, one sees other photos of women on bikes in similar attire at that time (but not, presumably, riding 100 mile intervals). The first rider's attire is noteworthy for its practicality. One senses that this may even be her own bike that she has brought to the photography session, with its tool bag attached under the top tube. (I assume that in the first one the bike is a photographer's prop and not her own since it was taken in St. Louis and she was the champion of Minnesota.)

Given that these images are captured from Google book scans rendered in poor grayscale, they are not too bad, I think.

Monday, December 26, 2011

New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest with Bikes

The New Yorker has a cartoon each week that users can captions for - this week's shows two angels (with haloes), both holding bikes at their sides. One is talking to the other. They are standing in the clouds and in the background another angel can be seen riding on a cloud on his bicycle. These three angels are the only ones visible, so apparently in this heaven one has a bike.

Here's the link although next week it will change.

One has to suggest a caption by January 1 to compete. It seems like I should have some sort of idea, but nothing is coming to me.

Cartoon brawing by Mick Stevens - Contest #316, January 2, 2012.

Kickstarter Funded Bike Travel

Reading Kickstarter proposals and seeing what success they have is an interesting way of learning something about human nature. There aren't that many connected with cycling but the few I see are interesting. Most are seeking funding for products related to bicycles for which they believe there is a market; some are for projects that are for projects that use bicycles as the delivery system - vegan baked goods provided on a bicycle sales cart, for example. A few are proposals to fund bicycle travel of one sort or another.

I am puzzled why this fellow's proposal was approved by the Kickstarter folks - it doesn't seem a likely candidate. Kickstarter is mostly, in my observation, about fun and then secondarily some "feel good, do good-ism" but in more high level ways (like funding portaits of South Africans and their bicycles.

A mystery is how this fellow can have 245 Facebook friends and only raise a total of five (5!) dollars (from five people).

There is a long history of riding long trips around the United States or even around the world that started with the "ordinary" bicycles of the 1860s but grew with the development of the more modern "safety" bicycle that is much like today's bikes, funding the travel with ad hoc fundraising along the way. In the 1890s Annie Londonderry funded her travel around the world by raising the money as she went along, primarily by giving talks (for which she was paid) and selling various momentoes. At the end she supposedly received $10,000 from a wager that she couldn't complete the trip.

Map from book "Around the United States by Bicycle" (1906)
In 1904 two men used this route to win a $5,000 wager by visiting all 48 states in 18 months

Friday, December 23, 2011

Columbia Bicycle Co. History

I have been reading Bruce Epperson's Peddling Bicycles to America: The Rise of an Industry - it is very good and I will write more about that later (as a book review).

Meanwhile, I found this article online about Colonel Albert Pope that provides a nice brief history of his life and Columbia Bicycles (although not so much about the bicycles . . . )

Pope was influential in the "good roads" movement that sought to improve the conditions for cycling (and thus the sales of bicycles, particularly Columbia bicycles) - this photo (from 1937) shows the one million signatures gathered in 1892 to support federal assistance for construction of better roads. (They apparently couldn't throw the thing away so were at a loss, it seems, to know what to do with it.)
National Archives to get 1892 petition for building of better roads. Washington, D.C., April 30. A petition containing over one million names submitted to the United States Senate in 1892 requesting legislation, "for the purpose of promoting knowledge in the art and construction and maintenance of roads" is to be removed from the Capitol and deposited in the National Archives building.
Pope started out by pricing his bikes under the competition, but by 1897 he was attempting to appeal to those who might understand that low price wasn't everything ~

Understanded Columbia Bicycles Ad
An appeal to reason by Columbia

This ad, and the text below, both came from an 1897 issue of "Cycling Life".

On the same page as the Columbia ad is this "article" that one assumes was supplied by Columbia itself - this sort of thing seems fairly common in this publication, which was produced for bicycle resellers ("the trade") and not for consumers. The line between advertisements and journalism was blurred, to say the least.
Columbia Excel.

A comparison between the smooth running features of Columbia bicycles and those of other makes, reveals at once the superiority of the former. The entire concentrated energy of the army of mechanical experts at the great Hartford factories has been directed during the past year to the perfection of these qualities, and nothing has been omitted that could aid in keeping Columbia s in their universallv recognized position — the standard of the world. The famous crank shaft mechansm, which was the wonder of last year's running gear inventions, has been retained in its original form, having proved a triumph in the art of cycle building. The Columbia bearings are unequalled, and run with a smoothness hitherto unknown. The light, correctly shaped saddles will carry Columbia riders further with less fatigue than any others, and their perfect fitting qualities enable the rider to retain a firm seat and control of the wheel, giving the grace of personal carriage which distinguishes the Columbia rider above all others. Considered from an artistic, mechanical,useful, or any other standpoint, there is but one best bicycle—the Columbia.

Article - Columbia Excel.
The brief "news item" about how good Columbia bicycles remain in 1897

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Young Bicycle Messengers From ~100 Years Ago

Lewis Hine took thousands of photographs that make up the National Child Labor Committee Collection that was used to document terrible conditions for working children - the photographs were used to support arguing that laws should protect children.

The photos below are from the Library of Congress collection and are just a few of 159 at the Library of Congress (although not all show bicycles . . . ) - they are quite amazing.

Lewis Hine - Bicycle Messenger
Group of Western Union Messengers in Norfolk, Va. 1911

Lewis Hine - Bicycle Messenger
Leo Day, Postal Telegraph Messenger, 12 years old, and a very knowing lad. Tampa, Florida. 1911

Lewis Hine - Bicycle Messenger
Isaac Boyett, "I'm de whole show." Waco, Texas. 1913

The caption continues: The twelve year old proprietor, manager and messenger of the Club Messenger Service, 402 Austin Street, Waco. The photo shows him in the heart of the Red Light district where he was delivering messages as he does several times a day. Said he knows the houses and some of the inmates. Has been doing this for one year, working until 9:30 P.M. Saturdays. Not so late on other nights. Makes from six to ten dollars a week.

Déesse 16, rue Halévy, Paris - Lovely Poster

Déesse 16, rue Halévy, Paris
Déesse 16, rue Halévy, Paris, Jean de Paleologue, born 1855, artist

One print (poster), lithograph, color ; 149.9 x 110.5 cm. (That is, about 60 inches on the long dimension.) From about 1898.

Permanent Link is

As of December 22, 2011, not yet online but will be soon. I got an advance copy . . .

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Bicycle Crime in Ukraine

I found this news item online, in Russian, about a bicycle theft in Ukraine. The following is my edited translation. (I started with the Google version . . . )
In Kharkiv two drunken women robbed a pensioner

December 16, 2011

According to the correspondent of the Kharkiv Press Service of the Main Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine (that is, the police) in the Kharkiv region, the incident happened in the village Kochetovka Zachepilovskii area.

That evening the two women were at a party. They eventually tried to go home when the buses were no longer running. They did not have money for a taxi. They decided to "borrow" the money or any transportation from a 72-year-old local resident.

Knowing that the pensioner lived alone, the women boldly opened the gate to his yard and began banging on the windows of the house. They called the man into the yard and asked him to give them money or a bike to ride home. The surprised man opened the gate and tried to drive the drunk women out of the yard, explaining that he did not know them and did not plan to give them anything. Then they pushed the owner, went into the hallway and found the keys to the shed where there was a bicycle, and left. The man called the police - the suspects were arrested for the the crime and spent a few days in jail. The women again came to the pensioner's home and they took metal materials from his yard in order to sell them for scrap. "They have been detained [again] as criminals," - the press service says.

This is now a criminal case under Article 186 (robbery) of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.

A bicycle in this part of the world

Incidentally, the main factory for sports bicycles in the former Soviet Union was not far away, the Khar'kov Bicycle Factory - here is one of their catalogs.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Why Cyclists May Avoid "Their" Bike Lanes

Bridge over Four Mile Run, Walter Reed Drive
My dog isn't too interested, but the dedicated bike lane has some issues

A classic example of how the bike lane, created with much (ok, not much) fanfare when this bridge was resurfaced a few years ago, has become the place for little trashy crap kicked up by the passing cars - just the sort of thing to flat a bike tire. Mighty convenient for all of it to be stored right there in a special lane just for the bikes (and their tires)!

Bridge over Four Mile Run, Walter Reed Drive
Close-up shows how much crap is in the bike lane

Monday, December 5, 2011

Cyclists Annoying Cyclists, or Drivers? Or Both.

Bicycling magazine has had an increase in ad revenue but it's apparently too much to hope that the magazine would be more pleasing to read (at least for me). Fancy road bikes for "only" $2,xxx dollars, products you don't need from Rapha and the like, and then there's the edgy interview with "Alleycat Racer Lucas Brunelle."
Q: Do you worry that you're making drivers hate cyclists?

A: Mostly it's other riders who get pissed. . . But motorists generally don't have a problem with us. We're not blocking traffic like Critical Mass. We know when we're in the way, which most riders don't.
Well, maybe. Mr. Brunelle is a videographer (according to Wikipedia) who made the movie for which the following is the trailer, which glorifies riding in as many risky ways as possible in an urban environment.

A heroic fellow, no doubt. Of course nothing's perfect - in order to make these videos, he has to ride his bike like this:

Cameras facing fore and aft, all strapped to his head

Anyway, I'm pretty sure he is at least partially wrong about who is mad at whom and why. The cyclists who ride more or less like rational people, rightly in my view, of course are annoyed by someone who is out there making cylists look like idiots - but the motorists are plenty unhappy as well. Since they are in their hermetically sealed cars or other vehicles, this point seems to not to have made its way into Brunelle's conciousness plus he is likely most often leaving them behind in traffic. So that's good (for him) as long as nothing goes wrong - because I don't think anyone will be rushing to help him.

I'm puzzled why Bicycling magazine seems to be suggesting that something about this guy is worthy of admiration.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Schrader Valve Patent - 1892

Schrader Valve Patent (1892)
A patent for a product used widely to this day

The Schrader valve had a patent application in 1892 and the patent was issued in 1893 - and they are used on bicycle and car tires even now. (Racing bikes usually use Presta valves, however.) Every once in a while, looking at these old patents, one sees something like this.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Kickstarter Reflective Sticker = Success

This project, creating stickers for bicycle wheels, succeeded quickly

I find it interesting that this project was successfully funded through Kickstarter reasonably quickly. My observation is that Kickstarter bicycle projects that look for funding for bicycle lighting (which is what this is, more or less) that focus on "fun" are more likely to be funded that ones that focus on safety. This seems all about safety, although the video makes it look modestly fun (I guess) to have your wheels light up as complete circles with reflectors that run around the entire rim. The video is remarkably focused on the guy's technical process - perhaps that has an appeal to a certain Kickstarter audience? I have never seen so little video of the product in action.

It's possible that this was funded easily because of the low price point - compared to many Kickstarter projects you don't have to contribute too much to get the actual items when produced, if that's what you want (and apparently it is what people want).

The idea of having more visibility from the side for bicycles is harmless enough, but as usual with such Kickstarter projects, the video shows the bicycle with the product with no other lighting, front or rear, to emphasize the wonderfulness of this product. In reality, of course, this product does not replace good front and rear lighting for a bicycle. The Kickstarter come-on admits this, stating "Even though Fiks:Reflective Rim Stripes offer a huge increase in side visibility, you should always ride with front and rear lights at night" although it kind of suggests otherwise with the statement that "the special retroreflective material offers a [sic] increase in night visibility of bicycles from any angle."

An obvious question, not addressed, is whether the absence of a high level of side visibility for cyclists contributes to bike accidents - the answer would appear to be no. In urban areas, bike accidents fall into a number of categories - this bike safety page, How to Not Get Hit by Cars-important lessons in Bicycle Safety describes the most common. The right hook, which many cyclists do not much worry about, is the most common and side reflectors would address this not at all. In fact, of the ten listed, the only one where side reflectors might help would be the "left hook" where an oncoming car makes a left turn into a cyclist - and as someone who was involved in a major left hook bike-car accident years ago, the usual scenario involves a motorist waiting at a light for traffic to clear, the slower moving bike is screened from the motorist's view and he/she jackrabbits when the car traffic clear and hits the bike - having reflectors on the side would likely not help much for this.

One can also review statistical analysis done in reports such as this one from Colorado that is not necessarily easy to parse but which does suggest a little more utility for side reflectors (looking at the "broadside accident" category) than the Bike Safety page.

Of course one could simply make do with the simple side bike reflectors provided with many bikes.

Wheel, Tire, and Reflector
A more traditional side-facing wheel reflector - not sexy enough, apparently

Other than my questioning how much this contributes to real improvement for operating a bike at night, I tend to question this statement, "Since the profile of rims vary from model to model, there will be a few sizes available to accommodate most modern rims." Rims of course vary endlessly and I can't imagine how a small operation will make clear which version will fit a particular wheelset so that the stickers fit well to create a good looking round reflective circle with the stickers laying nicely flat. One good idea is to have a black reflective version for black rims - then if it doesn't match up quite right it won't be so noticable.

It's not mentioned, but of course this product can't be used on older style box type rims since the only flat side surface available is the braking surface - no stickers on the braking surface.

araya himiko rb-j1 rim
Nowhere to put rim stickers on this classic

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A "Better" Drive System? 1893 Illustration

Lovely Bike illustration from Cycling Monthly (1892)

This illustration from a bound volume of issues of Cycling Monthly is the colophon at the end of the book, advertising the services of the publisher. Cycling Monthly was a publication containing patent applications related to bicycles published in the 1890s.

The publisher provided this nice line drawing of a bike - note the unusual drive system for the bike with levers as part of the pedal system combined with the usual chain drive.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Bike in a Horse (Patent, 1892)

VeloHorse Patent, 1892
A "VeloHorse" patent from 1892

The oddest claim is that this is a "useful improvement" to bicycle design.
My invention relates to certain new and useful improvements in velocipedes. The object of the invention is mainly, to conceal the motive power gearing of a velocipede having its body constracted in imitation of an animal, preferably a horse or pony, and further to provide a simple, cheap and durable carrying frame of the character named, and to the accomplishment of the above the invention consists of certain novel parts and in certain novel combinations of parts as will be fully set forth and claimed . . .

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Commuting and Bike Lighting

Alas, Daylight Savings Time is over, and it is the season for commuting home in darkness. While there are certain entertaining challenges to this, mostly I find myself having to resist being super annoyed with an ever-increasing number of fellow bike riders.

My approach is perfect, of course. Well, not really, but I think it is OK.

Part one is a good headlight that doesn't blink. I bought a NiteRider Sol 115 lumen headlight three years ago (almost exactly) for $99. In areas where it is truly dark on moonless, cloudless nights (the clouds can reflect a lot of city light back down, it seems) you can see the details of the trail reasonably well. On the other hand, it isn't so bright that it blinds oncoming cyclists.

Part two is to have a couple of those blinking red things on the back. At the moment I have only one because although I bought three; two are broken. The idea was to have the same bracket on several bikes so I could move them from bike to bike easily, but I wasn't expecting them to fail quite so readily. I do not recommend the "ViewPoint Flashback 5 LED Mini Tail Light" - the circuit boards are too fragile.

Part three is to add a yellow reflective belt for enhanced visibility from the rear. I particularly like this one - "3M Scotchlite (TM) Reflective Material Waist Belt" - Home Depot sells them for 11 dollars. When I ride with a messenger bag, I wrap it around the bag and it helps with visibility from the rear. When I ride a bag with panniers, I make the belt as long as it can be and wear it like a sash, which enhances visibility front and rear.

NiteRider 100 Lumen +
The NiteRider "Sol" 115 lumen + headlight I use

The "the more the better" approach is getting more popular all the time, thanks I suppose to the falling price of good (as in bright) lighting. For the same $99 you can buy 250 lumens worth of NiteRider bike light at Performance. (For only another 50, you can have 600!) While I have no doubt it is wonderful to light up the trail ahead with all that light, most cyclists are pretty poor at aiming their lights so as to avoid blinding oncoming riders and I don't think the manufacturors have spent enough time focusing the light output particularly well, either.

The "headlight on head" approach is also more popular since you can now bolt 250 lumens to your helmet with a self-contained battery (no cord to a battery in your back pocket etc.). This generally is worse for the oncoming cyclists than 250 lumens bolted to a handlebar. The headlight on helmet makes a lot of sense for bombing through forests at night on a mountain bike, but that isn't what we are talking about here.

The blinky light approach has evolved to include the super-bright blinky option. 100s of lumens, flashing! Right in your face! Well, obviously I find this annoying. Am I the only one? Anyway, I don't see how this would "scale" - let's say instead of the relatively small number of people riding home in the dark on bikes we have now that we had four times as many. It would be miserable if half of them had these lights. It's bad enough now as far as I'm concerned.

The retrograde approach of little or no light has yet to disappear - perhaps they are protesting the people with too much light by having none at all? I don't know, but they're still out there, sometimes in pretty dark circumstances.

A couple of nights ago I was entertained by a fellow who was in this last group meeting up with someone in the "power light on head" category in front of me on the trail. The underpowered fellow had an anemic headlight using a CVS brand C battery or two purchased several years ago, I would guess - completely useless for seeing the way ahead (and not much for "being seen" either). He was charging along in the dark going south under the many bridges on the GW Parkway (Mount Vernon) trail near the 14th Street bridge. Apparently he forgot that the trail takes a dogleg left and an oncoming bike with both 100s of lumens on the handlebars and on the rider's head blinded him - he rode right off the trail into the grass, but surprisingly didn't lose control. Apparently embarrassed, he tried to power back onto the trail but then the wet leaves kicked in and he almost crashed as he spun out.

No doubt to solve this he went to Performance (or the equivalent) and bought 1,000 lumens of help so as to join the "more is better" club.

Oh well.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

When to Put on New Tires??

Maxxis Re-Fuse Tire - worn out?
Maxxis Re-Fuse 25 mm tires on Traitor Ruben - not as bad as it looks

These tires came with my "urban/cyclocross/whatever" class Traitor Ruben bike, purchased a little over two years ago. Maxxis puts the Re-Fuse in its "road-training" category with an emphasis on "traction, durability and plenty of road miles in any condition." The main emphasis seems to be on anti-flat protection - a "Kevlar® belt and silkworm cap ply combine to provide a tire that Re-Fuses to puncture." (Maxxis, a company in Taiwan, learned their English from the British.) I think the idea is to compete with better known tires like the Continental Ultra Gatorskin and the like.

I ride this particular bike in crummy wet weather and when it is cold enough that it seems simpler to use a bike with panniers to carry all my stuff than a messenger bag. I have a cyclocomputer on it but I don't know where the instructions are, so other than the current speed display, it doesn't provide useful information (like how many miles traveled). Oops! My impression is that I have riden it somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 miles, which is also how far these tires have gone. (I "rotated" them once, putting the front tire on the back and the back tire on the front, since the rear tire wears faster.)

I chose to photograph (above) a section of the tire that is mostly typically, other than that three-pointed ding that looks like something is stuck in it (but other than grit, there isn't). When that first appeared, I took the tire off to see that it didn't go all the way through and otherwise investigate just how far in it went - I eventually decided it looked worse than it was and to see how things went with it. I have no idea what caused it - if it was something sharp, why didn't it hole the tire? Anyway, I think I rode another 1,000 miles after it appeared.

The generally crappy appearance of the tire surface only got this bad recently. Originally the tire had a nice "bumpy" appearance on the entire riding surface, but that smoothed out on the center portion fairly quickly, but this worn appearance with small open ridges into the rubber took a while to develop - as one can see, this gathers grit into the tire surface, but since it is all pretty small stuff, there doesn't seem to be much point in trying to pick it all out. Still, not a good sign.

Anyway, since it is fall and I am going to be riding this thing more, I decided it was time to change to a new set of tires because it seemed likely I would start having problems with these this winter. I try not to spend too much money on tires, so I wait for sales from online vendors like Bike Tires Direct and at some point long before I needed new tires I was able to buy a pair for $65, which seemed pretty good for a folding road tire. (A folding tire has a Kevlar bead rather than pieces of wire - trying to mount a tire with a wire bead at home is bad enough but if I have a flat on the road it's hopeless, so I only buy folding road tires, but of course they cost more.) If I had waited to buy the tires until I needed them (ie, when they look like they do now) I might have considered switching to some other tire, but given the kind of riding I have done and the cost (and since I already own them!), I guess I'm satisfied with putting on another pair of these.

I believe people like Jan Heine write about waiting until they get several flats that they attribute to tire wear before putting on new tires, but I don't want to manage them that way. Perhaps it is using road bike (23-25 mm wide) tires - often something besides overall wear of the tire surface causes some problem that necessitates changing to a new tire. Looking at this Maxxis tire, which hasn't flatted in some time, I'm not really thinking it is worth seeing how much more wear it can take before I spend large parts of my commute on the side of the trail (in winter . . . ).

New Maxxis Re-Fuse tires
New Maxxis Re-Fuse 25 mm replacement tires, mounted on Traitor Ruben

So here are a couple of shots of the same tires when new. The bumpy pattern is a little surprising for a tire classed as a road tire, but there it is. I take the Sheldon Brown point of view on tires that for road use, a smooth tire is ideal and that a tread pattern (particularly one this minimalistic) contributes nothing for traction - on the other hand, it is so minimal that I don't think it slows the ride down, either (and anyway, the bumps wear flat on the center line pretty quickly).

New Maxxis Re-Fuse tires
New Maxxis Re-Fuse tire, close-up view

The assumption that some tread pattern was better than smooth for traction was a selling point for one tire in the 1890s - the "VIM" tires. If only the woman in the ad below had her bike fitted with VIM tires with their "pebble" pattern, she would not have crashed.

Vim tire ad emphasizing "pebble tread"
1896 tire with "pebble" tread - magazine ad pushes advantages

The pattern for the VIM tire is quite like the Maxxis Re-Fuse. Perhaps while riding on dirt roads and the like then (and of course this tire would have been much wider) it was helpful.

The "pebble tread" explained (1896 bike tire ad)
Ad shows the tire pattern (rather than no pattern at all)

1890s Bike Patents, Sensible and Not So

I have posted about drive systems other than chains before - even though the typical bicycle's chain drive approach was the development that made the "diamond [frame-shaped] safety" bike possible in the 1880s and is amazingly efficient, inventors then and after keep trying to come up with better alternatives.

Shaft Drive patent, 1894
Shaft drive patent in 1894 for a "chainless safety bicycle"

The text of the patent application makes it clear that this was just one "chainless" approach~
The invention relates to the driving mechanism of the class of chainless safety bicycles, and the object is to provide an easy running and noiseless driving mechanism for such machines which while simple and cheap will be strong, durable and readily adjustable. To this end the invention resides in details of the construction and arrangement of the parts making up the driving mechanism of such a machine, as more particularly hereinafter described and pointed out in the claims.
This was not the first patent for a shaft drive system for a safety bike. The typical (and easier) shaft drive approach is to have two regular chainstays and to replace the chain drive with the shaft drive - here the right chainstay is also replaced by the shaft drive, so that the shaft drive replaces to different parts of the bicycle, both its drive system and part of its frame. I suppose it seems more elegant to have a single straight piece of metal rather than two in that space.

Some manufacturers still are trying to come with shaft drive bikes that will sell, but I don't expect them to become common any time soon - as the Wikipedia entry notes, a properly lubricated chain is more efficient.

So while the 1894 patent was not a recipe for success, it was an idea that had a tenacious appeal (apparently, judging by its refusal to go away). The Columbia Bicycle folks tried to sell shaft drive bikes during the 1890s-1900s but they were always the most expensive option and never caught on.

Other patented ideas, however, were just goofy ~

The advantage of this patented idea was what, exactly?

I am quite surprised to read there was a whole "class of velocipedes" using a "continuous circular track" that the bike operates within, as stated in the patent application's text (see below) - I guess if I looked at more old bike patents I would probably find them.
The object of this invention is to improve the construction of that class of velocipedes embodying a continuous circular track or rim in which is mounted a wheeled frame for the rider, and which is pedal driven by the rider. The improvements relate to the construction of the inner machine with reference to its engagement within, and guidance by, the great wheel or endless track.
How do you steer? I confess in the end to be more intrigued by the triangularly shaped chain ring - how does that improve things? There was the famous Shimano "Biopace" chain ring that was oval, but triangular?? Hmm . . .

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans Day

Riding a single speed
On Veterans Day I am reminded of this fellow, who I saw several times and talked to during the summer of 2010 on my commute.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

1895 Cycle Racing, Home Version

1895 Patent for a "Racing Index for Home Trainer Cycles"

From the patent application:
The idea of the invention is, to form a game or sport by which persons can contest against each other on home trainer cycles; a model on the track representing each contestant and the faster either person pedals his home trainer cycle the faster will the model representing him, travel on the model track.

In other words, you pedal your stationary bike and the little bike in front of you races your opponent (at the correct relative speed, hopefully).

Looks better from this angle . . .

Perhaps a modern version focusing on the exercise and "fun" aspects would be suitable for a Kickstarter funding proposal?

I think a proposal for funding a modern racing trainer duo cycle thing would do better than yet another Kickstarter LED cycle lighting proposal - enough, already.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Cycling Patents Monthly (1890s) & Bike Child's Seat

Looking at Cycling Patents Monthly in the Hathitrust digital library is easier for browsing old bicycle-related patents than searching for them in Google.

The digitized issues of the journal, Cycling Patents Monthly, cover the years 1892-1895. Nothing but cycling related patents! Apparently the volume of patents connected with bicycles was unprecedented during the cycling craze of the 1890s. As usual, I found a patent for something that one sees today as "new."

1895 Child's bike seat patent
1895 patented version above includes a sunshade

Front Kiddie Seat
Today's version, but no shade

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Bike + Umbrella, Then & Now

I have noted this before, but there are very very few new ideas for how to improve bicycles (that are good, anyway).

A "new" product first patented in 1896

Other bloggers have looked at this device, the "Überhood," and critiqued its likely performance, for example Mr. BikeSnob and the Wired Gadget Lab. (It turns out an Überhood isn't a neighborhood that is better than all the rest.)

And I had a blog post about a similar product - patented in 1896!

Patent Application for Parasol Attachment (to a Bicycle)
One assumes they weren't trying to get the 1896 equivalent of $79 like the Uberhood people, but it still failed

I wonder why they haven't looked for Kickstarter funding.

Long Freight Fuji Bike on National Mall

The National Mall is hardly a place to see many hipster bikes. While jogging at lunch I snapped a photo of this "longbike" with my cell phone camera. On the way back, we saw another one near the Supreme Court! Now I'm wondering if it wasn't the same bike. . .

Fuji frame, Xtracycle platform bike

At the moment Fuju does not have its own Xtracycle platform bike (like the Surly Big Dummy) so this is a custom modification of a standard frame - a mountain bike, in fact, with a disk brake and full suspension fork on the front, and the person has added a fender as well. With the Xtracycle add-on to the frame, the freight-carrying bags and the childseat, the thing probably weighs 50+ pounds. Not to mention that NYC-style chain.

Fortunately Washington has few steep hills

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Small Change Where 14th St Bridge Meets GW Trail

National Park Service had a bit of asphalt added to make this better

This is where the "off ramp" from the outbound 14th St Bridge trail/path meets the north-south GW Parkway trail. The NPS apparently realized that for cyclists the narrow "T" intersection was not working particularly well (which it wasn't) and added some asphalt to ease things.

By the way, in the above photo, it isn't that the cyclist (heading left-to-right) is incredibly fast so much as the camera is incredibly slow.

Looking south - extent of added asphalt more visible

It isn't clear if they are done adding turf or if there was some particular reason to add turf right next to the path, perhaps to make things safer/better for bikes that run off the trail?

Dismount sign down
I suppose they will put it back up, but I liked seeing the "dismount" sign this way

Saturday, October 29, 2011

What! Yet Another Kickstarter Bike Lighting Project

If I strap LEDs to my bike's fork and seat posts, it becomes relevant???

Earlier in the day, I posted about another, successfully funded Kickstarter bike lighting proposal - well, I had forgotten to search on Kickstarter for both 'bike' and 'bicycle' and it turns out there is this one as well, for the 'LED by Lite' bicycle lighting system.

These folks are taking the more difficult fundraising approach and emphasizing safety over fun. (Fun proposals seem to do better on Kickstarter with bikes in my experience than ones emphasizing safety benefits.) They also introduce a "dashboard" and the ability to have your bike lighting system operate as a turn signal system - a recipe for previous failed Kickstarter proposals.

As someone who rides somewhere over 4,000 miles a year on my bikes, there are a number of issues with this thing. Mostly it is just too complicated - the idea of having these things attached all over my bike plus a 12 volt battery system is just a non-starter. It takes the clean elegance of a bike and messes it up.

I also don't think much of the turn-signal idea. I don't think electric bicycle turn-signals contribute to safety; they are more of a distraction/complication for the rider. What's important is that motorists see the cyclist - that's it.

While the LEDs are bright, no doubt about it, they end up being low on the bike, which is the opposite of what is wanted generally. That's why some people wear headlights and tail-lights on their helmets, for example - to get the "be seen" lighting up high.

Even if you concede the "be seen" function of these lights as OK, the "see" part seems a little sketchy as shown in the video - the front-facing white lights are housed in a defuser (that is waterproof and crushproof should a car drive over them, an interesting possibility presented in the video, that a car might be driving over them) that means there doesn't seem to be much focused light forward.

I switch between four different bikes, but three if you don't include the semi-serious road bike. A "lighting system" that can't be swapped between different bikes in less than 5 minutes isn't particularly useful for me just on that basis.

But what really fries my something-or-other is the notion that wacky technology like this is what's needed to make my bike a "relevant vehicle." I tend to assume that they simply are using "relevant" (oddly) to mean that the bike will be as visible ("relevant") as a car, but . . . anyway, ugh.

A Successful Kickstarter Bike Lighting Project

The "mini-monkey" wheel lighting system

This is one of a number of products out there trying to push the combination of making cycling in the dark safer (by providing a more visible bicycle) with a version of "fun" achieved with a bike that displays lighting patterns on the spokes.

The video shows riders chugging along with their wheels lit up nicely by these devices, making amusing patterns of light. As is usual with such videos, the riders don't have either headlights or tail-lights, so while they have lights they aren't following the law (in most jurisdictions) or common sense, for that matter.

The video spends a fair amount of time on technical aspects and not just showing how much fun this is, which is good. The design does seem better than some others - the "mini" aspect is that the unit that attachs to the spokes is small, so it doesn't throw off the wheel balance (much). The battery pack attaches to the hub, again to prevent the wheel from being unbalanced. Of course it does mean you have a wire running down a spoke to connect the hub unit to the lighting panel thing.

I am not much in favor of solutions (if one considers this a solution to the bicycle lighting problem) that don't scale well. If there were lots of cyclists all using this sort of lighting, it would be annoying and distracting.

Fortunately (again, in my view) at 50 bucks a unit (and what cyclist wouldn't insist on one for both wheels?) I don't think we'll be seeing too many of these around. I was also amused that they supply a steel security strap - nothing like having something new on your bike to attract "mini-theft."

What might be kind of cool would be something far more subtle (not making patterns) that would put a couple of LEDs on the wheels of bikes that have power generator hubs. I guess.

Anyway . . . they got over-funded, so good for them.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Parking in the Bike Lane -Moscow

Moscow site with nothing but photos of cars parked in what is the first dedicated bike lane in Moscow, near Moscow State University. The person posting the photos, on a more or less daily basis, is a chemistry student who one assumes is doing this as some sort of protest.

I think acclimating Russian drivers to cycling will be tough.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Police Unity Tour on GW Trail

Sunday, mid-day - despite the excellent weather, not really that many riders out - any many were part of a local event supporting a national "Police Unity Tour" (by bike). The riders had event numbers on their clothes.

Police Unity Tour - GW Parkway
Came up upon this fellow heading north on the GW trail near National Airport

Police Unity Tour - GW Parkway
Riding with gun

I guess maybe this is a work-related activity? I don't see the need for this guy to be riding with his sidearm. I wasn't able to work out what jurisdiction he was from.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Four Mile Run Trail Flooding

Four Mile Run Flood
Minor flooding of trail along Four Mile Run under Route 1

This is part of my morning commute - the heavy rain combined with the tides can lead to some flooding at this location, the low point of the trail along Four Mile Run. You can see that earlier the high point was perhaps 2-3 inches above where it is now. There was one time last winter after one of the heavy snows when there was a heavy rain storm that also melted snow and the flooding was probably a foot higher than this - I pulled myself along the fence to keep from peddling underwater. This was a dumb thing to do since bottom brackets are generally not watertight and enough grease was washed out that the bottom bracket started to emit rather amazing creaking noises. Always learning something . . .

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Overdue Bicycle Parked at Library Branch

Bicycle parked at Aurora Hills Branch Library, Arlington VA
Bicycle parked at Aurora Hills Branch Library, Arlington VA

You can't leave your bike locked up at one location for more than five days, or it gets removed. To where is a bit vague.

Tag on bicycle parked at Aurora Hills Branch Library, Arlington VA
Tag on bicycle parked at Aurora Hills Branch Library, Arlington VA

I guess we won't have any books published like Bicycles Locked to Poles with its photos of bicycles in New York City (in various states of disassembly, mostly attached to poles with chains as heavy or heavier than the bikes themselves).

Sunday, October 2, 2011

500 Hurt in New York City by Bikes - Good? Bad?

The Wall Street Journal (that is mostly behind a paywall, so no point in linking to it) has an amazingly bad article titled "A Different Spin on the Dangers of Urban Cycling" - the first sentence states, "Two recent studies appear to expose cyclists as a potent urban menace." I guess for this fellow it appears that way.

The first study he quotes compares soot accumulation in the lungs of five (5!) cyclists who commute by bike in London with Londoners who don't. The cyclists had higher levels of black carbon in their lungs. When I think of something as an "potent urban menace" I am thinking it means to other people and not to themselves. But it says cycling is bad, so he tosses that into his article.

The second study has been reduced by the Internet (and the Wall Street Journal) to "500 pedestrians hurt by bikes in NYC a year." The study, done at Hunter College, was more nuanced that that and tried to determine if more or fewer pedestrians were injured by cyclists over a four year period - their conclusion was that despite more cycling and cycling infrastructure, the number has dropped (slightly). So this is a good metric - that is, even if we want to think that cyclists are a potent urban menace, it seems to be declining, or anyway not growing at the rate that cycling is growing. No one suggests that the 500 figure is good but there are questions such as, "compared to what?" and "is it going up or down?" that these articles typically ignore.

Different publications draw different conclusions - the New York Daily News takes the view it suggests a "need for tougher enforcement" which I guess is step beyond the Wall Street Journal position. But a physical fitness advocacy group takes the position that this is good news since the number isn't growing - "The city says that while bike use is up, the total number of accidents is stable. According to a Hunter College study, some 500 pedestrians are hurt each year by cyclists. At Bike New York, there is nothing but optimism." Kind of oddly put, but anyway.

This takes the "is the glass half full or half empty to new heights (or lows, depending on your point of view). And it does nothing for confidence in the Wall Street Journal.

Another point of view is provided by the trailer for the new bike messenger movie set in NYC - it makes it look like it is the messengers and the taxi drivers who are having dramatic traffic interactions.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Kickstarter Funded Folding e-Bike

A Kickstarter project for an e-bike that is fully funded. It is a very attractive design.

Kickstarter page for folding e-bike

The informational site (that doesn't have much information yet.)

Since a $1,390 Kickstarter pledge meant one received one of the early bikes at a "special" price one can deduce that the expected sale price will be somewhere north of that. A Dahon electric folding bike with a more traditional derailleur shifting system can be had for around $2,000, so that's a point of comparison in the folding bike world. Performance has a Schwinn 8-speed comfort bike (no folding) with a 250 watt front hub for $999, which is probably the low(est) end for pricing for what is probably an OK (not for heavy use) electric bike.

Putting the battery in the frame seems lovely from a design standpoint but not necessarily very practical otherwise, but in the notes to funders, apparently it will be possible to attach supplemental batteries.

A strong advantage of this design compared to many e-bikes is that it looks to be reasonably light. In one of the videos, someone commented on the bike being light, which is hardly the first thing people typically say about e-bikes. The Schwinn mentioned above, near as I can figure out, must be around 50 pounds (or about 20 pounds more than it would otherwise).

Otherwise it has some issues, I think. Looking at the set-up, there appears to be a single brake lever yet one can see two brake units, front and back. A single brake lever that controls both brakes? I know this is technically possible but it seems highly undesirable. There does not appear to be any shifting mechanism for the pedal-drive system - the traditional drive system that the electric drive in the front hub supplements. Perhaps it just a single speed bike? And the use of a direct drive system rather than a chain (or a Gates belt drive, if one is insistent on getting rid of greasy chains) isn't something I find appealing, even if it is a elegant design element. I suppose since it is an electric bike, the loss of some pedal power due to the inherent inefficiency of direct drive is OK. Real bikes have tires that run on roads and sidewalks etc where there is dirt - in the rain, quite a lot of messy stuff, actually - so while you can get rid of the chain, folding the bike may still involve some mess.

I find most puzzling the use of "recycled aluminum" for the frame - presumably this is recycled aluminum appropriate for a bicycle frame and not just former beer cans. Or perhaps turning former beer cans into 6061 bicycle frames or similar is easy.

At least this bike project got funded!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Shirlington - Officially "Bike Friendly"

Bike Friendly Shirlington
New sign on bike trail near Shirlington - that one in the middle

A crew appeared today and installed the sign stating this is a "bicycle friendly community." (I realize I don't know if those signs stating the distances to various places were there before or not - I don't think so.) The sign faces the bicycle trail, as this picture mostly makes clear. There are several problems with this:

* The ones who need to hear this kind of thing more are the motorists in the sense of, "hey, don't run over the cyclists; this community is supposed to be bicycle friendly!" Ironically this sign is posted right at one of the worst crosswalks for cyclists in Arlington. Arlington is bicycle friendly, and by the way try not to get hurt crossing this street with cars zipping off 395.

* I suppose pointing this sign celebrating the League of American Bicyclists' designation of Arlington as a "bicycle friendly community" is fine but in the end, it's deeds not words. We aren't going to think, "oh yeah - Arlington loves cyclists because they put up this sign. We are going to think that because of useful things that the County does for cyclists (and their safety), which does not include the layout of this particular intersection (from a cyclist perspective).

It reminds me of socialist realism to have a sign proclaiming the glories not of today's reality but tomorrow's shiny future.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Washington Monument on Bike Commute

Washington Monument & news crews
During my morning commute -

As a result of the earthquake, apparently climbers were going to rappel down the Washington Monument to inspect it; as a result, camera crews came early to get positioned to shoot video and stand-up news interviews. Around noon they were still there . . .

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bad Street Crossing for Bikes

Cyclist middle of 14th
Hoping traffic clears, then he'll finish crossing

This kind of thing is crazy - this cyclist, having seen this intersection before, assumes that the traffic pattern is the same every day. The cross traffic has the green light. Traffic from the left clears and then, usually, traffic from the right. So if you go out as he has done and wait in the middle, it should be possible to get across once the traffic from the right clears (without waiting for a green light, that is).

But what are motorists to think of this? They have the green light, and there you are in the middle of the road. There is no center island. And sometimes the traffic pattern doesn't work out and traffic ends up coming from both directions at the same time, and there you are, in the middle of the road with no place to hide.