Sunday, September 28, 2014

OLAF Scooters on Kickstarter

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of kickscooters. I'm really intrigued by the designs from new company, OLAF Scooters. They are currently raising funds and taking orders via Kickstarter. You can see all the details here:

They have two products, a carry-on/scooter aimed at business travellers and a backpack/scooter aimed at urban folks. The urban platform can either be used with OLAF's own backpack but the open design means that it can work with a wide range of backpacks or other bags.

I am now at the "count all my change and save all my pennies" stage to work up the funds to get my hands on the urban platform. As of this writing, the OLAF folks are over halfway to their goal, so I guess I'm not alone in liking their design.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Review: The Velocipede Races by Emily June Street

The Velocipede Races is a fast paced tale of a woman born into a repressive society. Emmeline Escot is a twin, a blood-born Serenia. She is expected to be a proper lady, corsetted into the proper shape for her proper role. Emmeline's family, though noble of birth, have fallen on hard times due to her papan's love of gambling and drink. Emmeline's brother, Gabriel, is a talented velocipede racer and his budding career is the family's best hope for a better life. The fall-back plan is to marry Emmeline off to some rich man of some status. But Gabriel does not love to race and Emmeline has little interest in suitors. Her true love, you see, is the velocipede. But it is forbidden...

The Velocipede Races is fine tale and as written by Emily June Street the first person voice of Emmeline tells a thrilling story. It's a rare novel that I can say reminds me of both a Jane Austen novel and the movie Rocky, but The Velocipede Races is both witty and thrilling. Ms. Street's characters and the world they inhabit are believable and fascinating. The racing scenes are written with skill and perfect pacing.

The Velocipede Races deftly combines sport and romance and I enjoyed every turn of the page and pedal as I rolled through this wonderful book. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who loves a good story, a good fight against long odds and who is thrilled by the freedom that can be found on two wheels.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Clipsplaining Explained

In the years I've been riding bikes I've had the chance to ride all different kinds of pedals. Flat pedals, pedals with toe clips, pedals with Power Grips, and a wide range of clipless pedals (the pedals which, ironically, you clip into via a special cleat that is attached to the bottom of your special shoe). These days all my bikes are equipped with flat pedals and I'm perfectly happy to ride around without having my feet bolted to the pedal. I know about the virtues of clipless and other pedals, but I'm fine riding without them.

Over the years, however, I've had dozens of conversations where some "serious" cyclist has seen the flat pedals on my bicycle and proceeded to spontaneously launch into a sermon intended to enlighten me as to the virtues of clipless pedals. I recently joked that if I had a nickel for every time I've heard such a lecture I could buy a really nice Rivendell. I've dubbed this evangelical pedal preaching "clipsplaining" and my reaction to it is to nod and simply say "these pedals work fine for me."

In my job I get asked about pedals a lot and I can ramble on about the subject with the best of them. I try to give the pros and cons when asked but I don't spontaneously broach the subject and I don't assume that someone who doesn't have clipless pedals on their bike is ignorant of their existence.

Christine tells me that she's never been the victim of a clipsplaining lecture but some of my other friends have told me it happens to them a lot. One of my twitter pals said she switched bike shops after being on the receiving end of clipsplaining condescension.

I'm not sure how common clipsplaining is but if you have a good or bad clipsplaining story, feel free to comment on this post.

And keep 'em rolling, whatever your pedal choice is.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Orp: Light, Loud, and Louder

The Orp is a brilliant 89 gram combination light and horn that is designed to cut through the noise and clutter of the modern traffic-choked city street. The Orp was made for anyone who has ever had their polite but feeble bike bell ignored by cocooned, distracted drivers or been cut off by those who look but do not see.

I first mentioned the Orp back in 2012 when it was a Kickstarter project. In that post I looked at a couple of these super bike horn projects and asked if such things were a Safety Solution or Noise Pollution. Now that the Orp has successfully blown well past its Kickstarter goal and is a genuine product, Tory (the man behind Orp) sent me a couple to review. The Orp comes in several colors. I passed the blue one on to my friends at G and O Family Cyclery for their review and I mounted the orange one on my beloved KickPed to give it a thorough test.

The Orp's electronics are housed in a hard plastic shell surrounded by a colorful silicone skin that also forms the stretchy strap that secures the Orp to your handlebars. The end of the strap loops around a hook at the back  and also covers the USB charging port. It's the dry time of the year here so I haven't yet tested the Orp's weatherproofness, but the Orp folks are based out of Portland and have done a couple of wet winter's worth of testing. I was a bit concerned at the lack of a seal at the front of the Orp (you can see it in the picture) until I realized that the gap is intentional, it lets the loud sound out of the Orp. Behind the sound module, things are tightly sealed.

The Orp has two dazzling 70 Lumen LEDs that can be either off, on or set to strobe quickly or slowly. The Orp's internal Li-Ion battery can fully charge via a standard (included) USB cable in 3 hours.

The Orp's packaging is very nicely done. The box unfolds to be a simple, complete guide to the many functions of the device.

While the Orp strap is somewhat stretchy, if your handlebars are of a smaller diameter (like my scooter's are) you may need to use a rubber shim underneath the Orp to fatten the effective diameter of the bars. The Orp folks thoughtfully include such a shim. You want to make sure the Orp is secure on your bars because you activate the horn by pressing up or down on the tail section of the Orp and if the Orp is too loose it will just rotate on the bars.

Pressing and holding the top switch for 3 seconds wakes or sleeps the Orp. In sleep mode tapping the light button or brushing against the horn tail has no effect. You want to have the Orp asleep when you take it off for charging. You pretty much can't undo the strap without triggering the Orp's horn if it is awake, a feature that I realized is a good theft deterrent. The casual would-be Orp thief will be quite surprised when the light he's attempting to steal yells for help!

As a light, the Orp's beams are diffuse and eye-catching but this is much more a "be-seen" than a "see-by" light. In a city environment at scooter speeds I find it is all the light I need but the Orp is not a light for long rambles on dark country roads. According to the Orp documentation here's what to expect in terms of run time per charge:

Slow Strobe -- 15 hours
Fast Strobe   -- 8 hours
Constant On -- 3 hours
Anti-Dooring Mode -- 4 hours

I'll explain the anti-dooring mode in a minute, but first, let's talk about the horn functions. The Orp has two voices, a 76 dB tone designed to be a friendly "hey!" and a more hostile 96 dB "get the hell out of the way" tone. You can go to

and hear samples of both sounds.

And this brings me to my main problem with the Orp. Both sounds are obnoxious. I find even the friendly sound too grating to use. These sounds are great for grabbing attention, which is their intended purpose, but I can't be the guy blasting pedestrians out of my way with a "Hey, I'm scooting here!" And I do find the Orp too in-your-face for my tastes.

But the Orp is perfectly designed to grab attention. Even if you don't have the lights flashing, triggering the horn (either tone) flashes the lights. That's smart. The tone makes folks look, the lights makes them see. The anti-dooring mode mentioned earlier combines the flashing light with the 96 dB sound in a constant display of obnoxiousness. You probably will not get doored if you use the Orp in this manner. You may, however, get shot.

The Orp is a beautifully integrated light and horn combination. As a be seen bike or scooter light, it's great. And the obnoxiousness of the horn may be a virtue. In extreme situations, like an oblivious dude in a BMW cutting across my lane, I won't hesitate to use it.  Loud and bright is what's needed there. In an ideal world, we'd move swift and silent through our days and nights. The Orp has a loud, obnoxious voice that's hard to ignore. It is a voice for times of danger. I hope such times are rare. 

Sunday, August 03, 2014

The Road To Wellville: Bicycle Smile

The Road to Wellville is a terrific novel by T. C. Boyle. The book is fiction set in the John Harvey Kellogg's  1907 Battle Creek spa and it's a marvellous comedy examining our obsession with health, vigour and right living. The book was made into a movie in 1997 and while the movie has a first-rate cast (Anthony Hopkins plays Dr. Kellogg), the movie cuts, changes and dilutes the book. I enjoyed the book about ten times more than I did the movie.

While the book obsesses on food, the movie places a greater obsession on sex. This, of course, is not surprising. I guess the producers figured sex scenes are more interesting than food scenes. And what does this have to do with bicycles? Well, John Harvey Kellogg was a proponent of bicycles and there are some great cycling scenes in the movie. This particular (safe for work) one minute clip is something I don't recall from the book, but it is one of my favorite bits from the movie.


The whole movie can be found free on YouTube and it's probably worth a couple hours of your time. But I got a good solid week of pleasure from reading the novel and I'd say it's well worth seeking out at your local bookstore or Amazon.

Keep 'em rolling,
Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah, WA USA

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Razor A5 Scooter: Some Observations and Modifications

While my NYCeWheels KickPed is a terrific scooter and well worth it's current $260 price tag, I've been wondering how well a less expensive scooter would perform. While many scooters are sized for kids and have tiny wheels, the Razor A5 is rated for riders up to 220 pounds and it features large, 200mm wheels. This scooter is currently selling for well under $100 on Amazon, so I figured "what the hell" and ordered one for myself.

The warning sticker on the A5 amused me.

At full extension, the A5's handlebar height is the same as my K ickPed's. Note, I have the "short rider" version of the KickPed, recommended for riders 5'7" and under. Riders above 5'10" or so are probably going to be too cramped on an A5.

The A5 bars are narrow and the grips are tiny. Too narrow and tiny for my tastes, but I have some ideas about that.

The Razor's deck is smaller than the KickPed's. This could be problematic for folks with big feet.

The Razor A5 is smaller and lighter than the KickPed and it folds smaller. The folding handlebars let it become a really thin package, but in day to day use, I found myself lowering the stem and folding the scooter, but not folding the bars.

The aluminum Razor A5 has hard polyurethane wheels and it has a harsher, louder ride than the KickPed. In terms of speed and kicking effort, the two scooters seem about the same to me.

The narrow bars made the A5's handling too twitchy for my tastes. I found a Youtube video of a guy who added 18" wide bars to his Razor. I thought this looked like a good idea. While he used aluminum for his bars, I decided to try using an oak dowel instead. The oak is inexpensive (I got a 36" long 7/8" diameter dowel for under $5 at my local hardware store) and I figured the wood would provide some natural vibration damping. Wood, after all, is nature's original carbon fiber.

I removed the stock bars. The oak dowel was a snug fit into the aluminum collar, so I cut two nine inch lengths off the dowel, sanded them smooth and finished them with Danish Oil and then gently pounded each one into the collar. I drilled pilot holes and secured the dowels with brass screws.

The A5 still folds into a fairly compact package, but it's not as quite as small as before.

While the wood bars looked great with just the Danish Oil finish, I did add grips and a bell and a light for practical reasons.

This is still a pretty handsome scooter cockpit.

Another view of the fold. The Razor folds pretty quickly. There is one toggle for the hinge and one quick release to lower the bars.

Out of the box, the Razor A5 is rather noisy. Most of the noise comes from metal on metal interfaces at the hinge. I applied a bit of Velox cloth rim tape to a couple of the surfaces and now my A5 is much quieter.

The rear fender of the A5 serves as a brake and it seems quite effective. With the larger, harder wheels the fender braking on the A5 is quicker than the fender braking on my rubber-tired KickPed. While I added a hand brake to my KickPed, in the month or so I've used it, I haven't found it to be a "must have". I have no plans to add a hand brake to the A5.

The deck of the A5 is just big enough for my size 9 feet (with a little bit of creative footwork when I switch off which foot is kicking). The ride of the A5 is harsher than that of the steel-framed, wood-decked KickPed.

It's obviously unfair to expect a sub-$100 scooter to perform like a machine costing several times as much and I have to say I'm impressed with how good the A5 actually is. The build-quality and finish of the scooter is very nice and with these few adjustments and modifications, it's a very fun, solid feeling scooter.

I am toying with the idea of sawing the deck in half and extending the length of the scooter by several inches. I'd have to bridge the two halves with either strong wood or metal, but the added foot space would be welcome and the longer wheelbase could improve the comfort of the ride. I'm not sure that I'll do this, I want to ride the A5 a bit more before I decide.

I feel the stock A5 is well worth its selling price. And as a platform for tinkering, it's first rate. My main complaint with my KickPed has been that it really didn't need any changes!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Adding a Hand Brake to a KickPed

While I hadn't felt the need for a hand brake on my KickPed in the first year I owned it, certain members of the Let's Kick Scoot Forum are such huge proponents of hand brakes, that I got to wondering what I was missing. Given that I'm a bike mechanic by trade and will take almost any excuse to go to the hardware store, I put together a hand brake for my KickPed.

The brake lever I used is a little DiaTech BMX lever that I had in my parts box. I combined this with some other bike bits (a brake cable and housing, a cable binder bolt, a barrel adjuster and a brake pad) together with some parts I picked up at my local Lowe's hardware store. Someone with a less extensive home collection of bike bits could buy a Promax Brake Assembly and get all the bike-specific bits in one package. A trip to the hardware store is still needed for a few bolts, nuts and other metal bits.

The pictures tell the main story, but here are a few notes that may make things a bit clearer.

I didn't have to drill or cut anything on the Kickped, so assembly was easy. Best, if I didn't like the outcome, I knew I'd be able to completely remove the parts, returning the Kickped to its original state.

I replaced one of the rear deck bolts with a stainless steel 1/4-20x1-1/2 bolt. This longer bolt serves as the brake pivot.

The brake arm is a Stanley 3"x3" T-Plate. I gave the stem of the T a half-twist with a pair of pliers so the brake shoe would line up with the edge of the tire.

The big spring holds the brake away from the rear wheel when the brake lever is not pressed. When I press the brake lever, the spring compresses, the arm pivots and the brake pad rubs the tire.

1" steel corner braces are used for the cable stops. I used various washers and nuts to get the spacing right for the brake pivot and the proper tension on the spring.

My first test of the brake was a scooter trip in the rain. It worked!

The KickPed's rear stomp brake is not very efficient in wet conditions and the hand brake with its rubber on rubber interface is an improvement. The one-sided (versus dual) hand brake seems to be efficient enough. This isn't a stop-on-a-dime brake, but I did a little testing in the Issaquah, Washington, drizzle.

Our paths are concrete with seams every six feet. To test, I counted the seams to see how long it would take to go from speedily rolling to a stop once I hit the brakes. Here's what I found:

Using the stock fender brake alone - 5 seams, or 30 feet.

Using my hand brake - 3 seams or 18 feet.

Using both the fender brake & hand brake - 2 seams, or 12 feet.

This test was conducted on a slick day and the distances were reached on level ground. My speed measurement was based upon how far it took me to go from about 8 mph down to 0 mph. Your mileage may vary.

In dry conditions, both the hand and fender brakes work well.

The outer arm of the T-Plate extended slightly past the edge of the KickPed deck. so I bent the little excess bit over with a pair of pliers.

The hand brake has proven to be, well, handy! It's not the prettiest thing, but it works fine and I think it's a keeper. It adds a little bit of weight to the KickPed and I'll be keeping an eye on brake pad and tire wear.

Keep 'em rolling (and slowing and stopping!)