Sunday, February 26, 2012

Let Me Show You How to Walk a Dog

As I mentioned, I'm getting a new puppy soon, but what I haven't brought up quite as much is that I already have a best good friend in the form of the dog I already have, Guinness.  Some time ago, I stumbled across this video by Rivendell Bike Works:

It's certainly got its charm, but my first thought after viewing it was "I'll show YOU how to walk a dog!" That is to say, I often walk my dog Guinness with my bike, both on and off-road. I had visions of creating a response video, hopefully set to Elvis Presley's "Hound Dog," a montage of videos of Guinness and I running with the bike, through Walnut Creek, my neighborhood, and all the various other places we've been together on a bike. On one occasion several years ago, this included a 12 mile round trip run between three cities in California.

Our running together works extremely well for us, mostly because for Guinness, it lets me keep up with his favorite pace, and for me, it gets my dog a much more energy-draining walk in a shorter amount of time.

One very happy boy
As you're probably noticing from the pictures, I usually run Guinness in-harness, both to keep control of him and to avoid putting pressure on his neck.  Lately, we've been running to a big open field near my house for a rousing round of fetch.  The longer I cycle, the more I feel I integrate it into my everyday, and while for me this is actually a pretty mundane activity, I occasionally realize how unusual this is.  So, Rivendell Bike Works.  This is how you walk a dog.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


I have an unfortunate tendency to get bored - when things stay the same too long, I get itchy.  So it is with happiness I report changes are afoot in my biking and non-biking household!  A new member of the family will be arriving in a few weeks - Guinness and I are getting a puppy!  I've decided to get a significantly smaller dog this time, as the size and energy of Guinness can sometimes be a bit of a job to manage.  This also means I get to bring my dog on my bike!

In that effort I'm going to be modifying the Surly to accept a front rack and a basket.  The big issue is what while the bike is totally made to accept a front rack, I'm really short and as a result, my bike is really small.  I don't have a lot of head-tube "real estate" to mount a basket, especially without messing up my cable housings.

So I'm going to make the leap and swap out my drop bars for le moustache!

I've already purchased the basket and am demo-ing it on the back rack until I somehow come up with the money for handlebars and a front rack.

I've decided to use the Soma Moustache bar as it will not require getting new brake levers or shifters.  It is with great sadness though, that I realized this change will require new bar tape.  Now, the bar tape I have on the bike now is the Velo Orange Perforated Leather Bar Tape, which isn't exactly cheap at $70 per box, and I'm fairly sure there's no re-using what's on the bike now.  But it matches my saddle and feels like a baseball glove, so I've gotten pretty attached to leather bar tape.  So the bike is going to look less than coordinated for a period of time while I save up for another roll of leather, and will possibly go through a series of wacky color configurations before I can re-leather myself.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A Yay Bikes! Review: Kona Africabike 3

Today was bikeariffic!  I had the chance to test ride the Kona Africabike 3 at Ozone Bikes.  I went in for a set of handlebars, and while I was there couldn't help but test ride the Africabike.  This bike interests me for a couple reasons - it's an upright aluminum framed bike with an integrated rack welded right to the frame.  It comes standard with a chainguard, fenders, a bell, and a handlebar basket.

The Africabike is equipped with a three-speed Shimano Nexus internally geared rear hub, which as internally geared hubs go, is one of the best systems in the world. All these features, and this bike rolls in at under $500.  As a a budget-conscious, fully loaded commuter readily available through American bike shops goes, that's one hell of a deal and pretty hard to beat.

As much of a bike commuter as I am, I was caught majorly off guard by this bike's braking - namely, this bike has a rear coaster brake and a hand brake in the front.  I've never actually ridden a bike with coaster brakes before and as I was working it out in the parking lot I almost collided with a guy on a fixie hauling ass off Guadalupe into the parking lot, so I really got that new-cyclist feeling again!  The first time I kicked back with too much vigor and almost went completely over the handlebars.  With time and laps around the parking lot, I learned to modulate my braking with the coaster, but didn't quite get the hang of stopping with the pedals in the correct position to start.

The ride quality of this bike was amazingly smooth for an aluminum bike, though I'd attribute that to the awesomely fat 26x1.9 inch tires.  I'm not used to sitting up so much on a bike, but this one gave me the same sensation as the Electra Townie in that I immediately felt like I could have carried on a phone call, eaten lunch, and if I were so inclined, smoked a cigarette while riding.

The rack is an interesting feature of this bike, as it is a welded, integrated part of the frame.  I've been unable to find a stated weight limit, but the rack is made of very stout tubing and could probably carry a person.  Interestingly, it also has four braze-ons welded to the top of the rack, but I'm not sure what you could secure to those bolts.  This rack may not work with some pannier systems, as the tubing really is pretty big, so in order to use panniers you'll need to consider the magnitude of the rack tubing as it effects the attachment. The bike is also equipped with a rear wheel lock, ideal for quick stops in safe areas.

The basket is fairly small and could hold a purse, a chihuahua, or a few this-and-thats very nicely, but not much more than that.

 The bike has an partial chain cover - wear what you want, no snagged pants or greasy right calves!

The long and short of this bike is that it is an impressive deal in terms of utility, value, toughness, and ride quality.  If you're looking for a classic bike, a steel bike, a lugged bike, or anything that's going to illici coos of amazement from fellow bike dorks, this may not be the bike for you.  Additionally, if you live in a seriously hilly area, the upright positioning and three-speed gearing range may hamstring you, but then again, tell that to the citizens of cities like Tokyo.

In short - I like this bike.  While I'm new to the universe of upright bikes, it strikes me as having most of the bells and whistles at what is quite frankly an astonishing price point.  Many thanks to the guys at Ozone for the test ride, and to see it in person, they'll have it available at just about any Kona dealer.