Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Domestic Bike Share

In an unexpected turn of events, the Co-Habitant has hijacked the Urbana bike that's temporarily in my possession. Well, not hijacked exactly. It's more like we now share it. I keep the bike locked up outside, which makes it considerably more convenient to use than my other bikes, and one day it just happened. "Listen," he said, "I don't feel like dragging my Pashley out. Can I take that bike on a quick errand?" Somewhat surprised that he was willing to be seen riding a U-frame, I replied "Sure, just use the quick relea..." But didn't get to finish, as it only took seconds for him to adjust the seatpost.

The Co-Habitant is just over 6' tall, whereas I am 5'7", but making the adjustment back and forth is easy.

I rode a bike with a quick release seatpost in Austria in early 2009, but found the lever to be stiff and difficult to use. My experience with the Brompton quick release was similar. In comparison, the lever on the Urbana bike is smooth and easy to operate.

And so, this is now our shared errand bike - though he rides it a bit differently from the way I ride it. Why do I suspect that this whole "errand" business was just an excuse to practice curb hopping?

It's pretty weird to see pictures of us both riding the same bicycle. I am of course more upright, because the saddle is lower.

Despite the U-frame, I don't think the Urbana looks "feminine." The Co-Habitant says that he does not feel self-conscious riding it, and just sees it as a practical utility bike.

As a result of this experience, I've changed my mind about the usefulness of bicycles with adjustable unisex designs - such as the Workcycles FR8, the Urbana, and similar concepts (fill me in - what are the other popular bikes that allow for this?). I did not think we would have a need for a joint bike and I did not plan to share the Urbana, yet here we are both using it. For us, the aspects of the bike that make sharing it easy are the quick release seatpost, the low stepover U-frame, the ability to carry loads with minimum fuss, and the durability that allows it to be kept outdoors and within easy reach. A domestically shared errand-bike can be a worthwhile addition to any cycling household.

63 comments:

  1. I'll have to reiterate what a lot of people seem to be commenting about this bike, but the more I hear about it from you, the more I like it. I think the biggest qualm I had about it is the color, so I appreciate the B&W pictures. :)
    It seems like it would be a very useful bike for plenty of people.

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  2. That bike looks awesome in black and white. Maybe painting it a nice dove grey would do it wonders. You focus more on the form and function, less on the bright paint. Now that I see it in dark grey tones, I realize how distracting that paint job was.

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  3. I am amazed at the polarised reactions this bike evokes. Last time a couple of comments quite seriously expressed not enjoying seeing it on my blog - but come on, what can I do if I like it and actually ride it? But yes, as a concession I black and whited the pictures this time : )

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  4. I'm a big lover of bright paint though Velouria. My own bridgestone mixte has been painted white and yellow for higher visibility, especially at night. I don't mind the lime-y green color myself, but seeing it in a midtone grey really shows off those very functional wheels and low center of gravity. It has a certain pugly charm about it. It says "what cobblestones? Did we really run over a man hole cover? I didn't feel it. Let me carry that 30 lb. sack of dog food for you" :D

    Sometimes the ugliest beasts are the most wonderful bikes. I wouldn't trade my pre-Grant Peterson Bridgestone for anything. She's not graceful or sleek, but she puts up with everything I've given her.

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  5. They have a colour called "taupe" that I think could work nicely with the style of the bike.

    The Retrovelo with 26" Fat Franks and even my Gazelle with the 28" Delta Cruisers have a similarly cushy ride quality to the Urbana, so as someone accustomed to those bikes I am not amazed by the tires. But the combination of everything - i.e. the tires, and the load capacity, and the quick release seatpost, and the low stepover, etc., etc., is what makes it super convenient.

    After I return the bike, I am pretty much convinced that I need to keep my Gazelle outside to make life easier for myself. What I am wondering, is whether there is anyway to convert a regular seat tube to accommodate a quick release seatpost? This would allow us to turn the Gazelle into an errand bike once the Urbana is gone.

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  6. umm, be careful. quick released seatposts invite the occasional borrowing of the seat by strangers who may or may not need it....

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  7. The sooner you do your review and get that bike off the site, the sooner you'll go back to justifying your site's name, Veloria.

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  8. Anon - I know. But I am a little tired of fear keeping me from doing things that are convenient. I take precautions and accept the risk.

    Jon Webb - I disagree. I would not have accepted the bike for review if I thought that.

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  9. In response to Jon Webb, lovely is as lovely does :) As much as I go for looks, its what is truly ridable that works for me.
    As for the seat, if the seat tube is designed to to adjust with a bolt you can replace it with a quick release. As for security, I have seen all sorts, including a bike chain looped between the rails and the back of the bike and a "seat leash" that I had on a bike years ago. I also use those ardvark brand waterproof covers to "uglify" the seat as well as protect it when parked outside.

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  10. That bike needs a big Wald basket up front, or a front cargo rack, then it would really be useful as a grocery-go-getter

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  11. Living in a country where most ppl consider bikes more utalitarian than sport, I have noticed many men do ride "ladies bikes". I have wonderd why, and the only answer I can come up with is that men buy bikes that are to complicated and brake. Vanity has its price! My latest used bike book purchase was a book from the 70ś where the author was very much against the the use of genderization of frames. Instead we should use terms like Velouria did today.

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  12. We want to get a WorkCycles Omafiets eventually for this exact purpose - the 57cm frame would fit us both well, just with the seat moved up or down, and it would be a perfect errand/cargo/grocery bike for us. I would probably use it more often, but it would be easily interchangeable.

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  13. There is also the Zefel Locking Seat Binder that would make stealing your seat a deterrent to thieves. Of course, that would mean it wouldn't be as quick and easy as the Urbana, as you have to flip the bike over (or, theoretically a magnet can be used), which I'm sure would be hard for the Gazelle.

    But for anyone else looking for a little extra security...

    http://www.amazon.com/Zefal-496001-Locking-Seat-Binder/dp/B002KYERTE/ref=wl_it_dp_o?ie=UTF8&coliid=I3TP82H2UG96MS&colid=QY8TLR2C0RG7

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  14. Velouria said...
    "A domestically shared errand-bike can be a worthwhile addition to any cycling household."

    This is the nice thing about bicycles unlike cars. It IS possible to have a bike for every type of use since the cost won't put you in the poor house with bicycles !! :^))

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  15. I think some loop frame MTB`s can be rebuilt to do what this bike does. That small wheeled (20") bike you showed some time ago is also a great "share bike". Also a great errand bike. Low center of gravity and lots of space for luggage. We use our folders a lot of stuff, more and more.
    badmother

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  16. I agree with JB: the urbana needs a Wald 157GB, the sooner the better. We all know that two wrongs don't make a right, but it is possible that an ugly basket coupled with an ugly u-frame will result in a "lovely bicycle".

    -rob

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  17. Serendipity. And may I say that your posting frequency is awesome. I understand the comments about apparent disparity between postings and the name of the blog, but I appreciate the evolution! Carry on. Steve in MD

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  18. JB & Screech - The Urbana has a rear rack that is designed to carry 160lb of weight and has an attachment system that allows you to mount any bag on it like a pannier. See here. I prefer this to a front basket. What I wouldn't mind though is some good lighting!

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  19. badmother...
    That small wheeled (20") bike you showed some time ago is also a great "share bike".


    The D2R boogie is a nice bike, but it's slower than the Urbana and not designed to carry as much weight. The ride is also not quite as cushy. On the other hand, it's more compact.

    So what is the procedure for converting a bolted seat cluster to quick release then? What parts are needed for this, and is it even advisable on an older bike?

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  20. Our only shareable bike is a Raleigh Twenty. I am 6'-2" and my bride is 5'and a bit. There is no standard sized bike that I am aware of that will fit that size range other than some folders.

    You asked about other cargo type bikes? Torker has their Cargo T. To me as step through makes very good sense on a bike that could be heavily loaded.

    Aaron

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  21. Aaron - The Urbana should accommodate a 5' person. I am 5'7" and have close to a foot of seatpost showing.

    I've seen the Torker Cargo T and the Batavus Personal Delivery, and considered them in early 2009 when I was shopping for a new bike. I like the design of both, especially the very low step-over. But I don't think they will accommodate as short a person as the Urbana will, and I also don't think either is quick release.

    Portlandize - Are you saying there are two versions of the Workcycles FR8?

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  22. The Urbana may not be a 'lovely' bicycle, but it is a functional one. And every collection that I know of... bicycles, cameras, firearms, boats, tools, etc... will contain one or two, not so pretty, but very important functional items... be it an Urbana... a pick-up truck... sledgehammer... etc and etc... the beauty of these items is their no-frills, functionality that makes them a joy to use... so I will gladly allow the Urbana to join the 'Lovely Bicycle' convoy.

    As previously written... any bicycle with an adjustable seat-post will allow you to use a quick-release seat binder... cost a few dollars from any well stocked bicycle shop. If you are concerned with seat theft... a length of chain and padlock appropriately deployed will deter all but the most determined borrowers... or just pull the seat and seat-post out and keep it in the hallway... this will reduce the likely hood of bike theft even as most thieves prefer to ride a bike with a seat.

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  23. Grouch - But the Gazelle has a bolted rear triangle. Are you saying it doesn't matter? I am trying to imagine how that would work...

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  24. *sigh* Ok, I just walked in the door and see no one's answered your questions. C'mon people.

    Re: adjustable frames. It's not so much the frame is adjustable, but the seat height easily is. It just so happens the Urbana is correctly sized to fit you and MDI, just like a lot of bike share bikes.

    Re: fr8. The fr8 isn't adjustable, but is adaptive. Henry Cutler's Adaptive Seat Tube tech puts the seat tube at a funny angle, but is said to adapt to morphologies from 5'4" to 6'7". Big Dutch peeps. I've ridden one and like it quite a bit.

    The Oma doesn't have this ST and is a different model from the fr8 with many of the same options.

    Re: quick release adaptation. I spoke too soon earlier - I don't know what your funky Dutch seat post pinch bolt looks like, so can't say if a QR will work. Bike shop question, for sure. Steel is highly malleable and durable, so you should be good. If the top of the ST is rusted and it eventually breaks off, Bryan can weld you a new dealie lickity split.

    Y'know, I set up a cat question answering service and got no response.

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  25. Velouria, all you need to convert to quick release seat adjustment is a quick release seatpost clamp bolt. It's just a short, fat version of a regular wheel quick release skewer. They used to be on every mountain bike sold but MTB riding styles have changed and folks don't move their seats down for climbing like they used to. I haven't seen new ones for sale lately(I'm sure someone still makes them) but there are a frillion of them around, if your LBS can't fix you up with one I'll cheerfully send you one of the 20 or 30 that lay behind the basement door. I have an unused Campy version in flawless chrome from when Campy first stuck their toe in the MTB market. You can't have that one.

    You can make a leash for your seat with a brake cable, The quick and dirty way is to remove a waterbottle bolt from the seat tube(if you have a set on your seat tube that is)and thread the cable into the hole and up out of the seat tube and top of the post. The lead end of the brake cable keeps it from going through the waterbottle mount hole, then you simply clamp the other end of the cable between the seat rail and the seat clamp. Make it so the cable is just as short as necessary for height. This is effective but ugly but you aren't going to leave a really nice bike out in the rain anyway(Are you?).

    I'm having a vision of a grubby old down on it's luck 15 year old hardtail, chained up to the back porch like some ornery Rottweiler just waiting for someone, ANYONE, to take it for a wobble down to the liquor store. Probably a different vision than your ideal shared utility bike, eh?

    Spindizzy

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  26. V, I use a quick release on my Raleigh DL1(with bolted rear triangle) and it works perfectly, just make sure it's tight enough to keep the post from sliding and you're cool. If you cann'a find a quick release seatpost bolt of the right diameter up there my offer still stands to send you one of my orphans with an appropriate bushing.

    Spindizzy

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  27. Thanks GR Jim & Spindizzy.

    Was just about to type "I'll take the Camp..." then read the next sentence. Darn! : )

    I *would* leave the Gazelle out in the rain (with several plastic bags wrapped around the Brooks saddle) if we converted it to a shared bike, that would be the whole point. I might even get a cheap non-leather saddle for it to make life easier. I am not too sentimental about that bike (as opposed to my precious DL-1), so it would work well in that capacity.

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  28. "I use a quick release on my Raleigh DL1(with bolted rear triangle) and it works perfectly"

    Oh, you do? Awesome! Okay, this will definitely be a summer project once all the other stuff in the works is wrapped up.

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  29. I've found your post today to be quite helpful and encouraging. I am 54 years old and am thinking ahead to cycling as I get older. I'm already noticing some stiffness in "hiking" my leg over the seat on my standard frame bikes. I'm thinking a loop frame/step-through version would be ideal for me in a few years as I would like to continue cycling as long as I possibly can.

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  30. We had a bike-share bike, the converted Cannondale mtb. It worked fairly well in that regard, what with it's 1980s QR seat binder. But with Mrs. S's new Soma, the Cannondale has been permanently relocated to our summer house as the resident shared bike.

    The other bike share we have is the Bike Friday tandem. It has a telescoping seat tube, and it has twin QR binders (one for the seat post, one for the seat tube) to allow for a range of rider heights from about 5' to 6'5":

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/7516215@N03/5090418329/

    Mrs. S and I each take the tandem and just have to raise the enormously long seat post-- we don't even have to fuss with the telescoping set tube.

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  31. GR Jim - Yeah, almost. The Urbana is def "vacuum cleaner" though. It also has a more "user friendly interface" than my other bicycles. Now that I'll soon be returning it, I am seriously examining what it is about this darn bike that makes it so convenient to use, then I will try to add those elements to the Gazelle. The clever and ridiculously simple rack system will be hard to emulate. I'll have to ask them whether it's patented, or whether it would be okay for me to rig up my own system for personal use. It's basically 2 bolts attached to each side of the platform - how can no one have thought of that before??..

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  32. GravelDoc - I am 32 and don't like swinging my leg over the back, when riding a city bike! I rode a diamond frame bike for transportation for 3 weeks last September, as that was the only bike I took with me to stay on Cape Cod - and was sick to death of that by the end of the trip. A low stepover is a must for me, for transportation cycling. It's just more convenient, and I would even say safer.

    Somervillain - A bike like the Cannondale would not work for me, as I'd really need that U-frame. That is also why I don't really consider the Civia Loring or the Globe Haul to be sharable. Sure, it's doable with those sloping top tubes - but not optimal. With a deep U-frame, everything is just so easy. Easier than a traditional loop frame even.

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  33. Good point about the Cannondale not being a step-through... but the Bike Friday pretty much is!

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  34. Okay, this bit about the Gazelle being relegated to the porch really does surprise me. Say, did you ever find out if the fork was bent or cracked?

    -Corey K

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  35. Corey - It's pretty hard to tell, but we are fairly sure at this point that it's just bent, not cracked. When I got the Gazelle, I had actually intended to keep it outdoors from the very start, that was kind of the point of it. But then I lost my nerve!

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  36. I rigged up a bag-hanging adaptation to the smugfiets but it wasn't structurally sound so took it off. It really isn't an original concept, tho. A peasant in any number of countries with a million plastic bags can figure out and equal number of ways of carrying their stuff.

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  37. http://www.bikesfortherestofus.com/2011/04/urbana.html

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  38. I would like to get a quick release seatpost since I am still trying to figure out the correct height for my bike. Is it easier on the hands? I have very bad tendonitis. But I am afraid my seat might walk....you know, with a stranger.

    Sr. Helga

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  39. in Montréal we have something similar called "bixi", with dinamo hub, drum brakes, 3 speeds and a loop frame.
    they're extremely heavy but they are F*** tough, taking their share of abuse.
    http://blogue.sblouin.ep.profweb.qc.ca/?p=443

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  40. I could not find a picture of the detail concerning the bolt-on rear triangle on the Gazelle... checked here and Flickr... but I cannot foresee any trouble... I used a QR seat-binder for my son's tourer that allowed him to adjust his seat and it held on the rear rack as well without any complaint... even when fully loaded... here is the best photo I have...
    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3464/3378210023_c2664879b4_o.jpg
    Take the Gazelle to Harris Cyclery... they should have both the QR seat-binder and the knowledge to make it work or not... and you should have enough change out of a $20 note to have a coffee for you and the Co-Inhabitant.

    The Grouch

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  41. couple FYIs: Much has been made in these comments of the "elevated risk" that comes with a q/r seatpost clamp. If someone wants your seat, they're gonna get it. Removing a post with an allen takes approximately 7 more seconds than removing one with a quick-release. Thieves in cities will take your Brooks, as sure as they'll draw air. It's been their "job", ever since they dropped out of art school.

    An old drive-chain tether helps, b/c it'll take maybe an additional minute to liberate the saddle, and there's a chance that the casual thief might not have a chain-break tool on their person. FWIW, i'm not a bike thief, but i carry a multi-tool with both a full set of allens and a chain-break with me at all times. Imagine how most thieves are equipped.

    Lastly, I saw the post about the Urbana's brilliant rack. However, there's nothing to stop you from having both a brilliant rear rack and a front basket, if you wanted. I realize that front baskets often cause a lot of swing-weight issues with handling, which'd be exacerbated by the short stem. However, just looking at that bike, it seems obvious to me that it is crying out for a big honkin' basket. As much for the look as the use, but the things are useful...

    -rob

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  42. What tires are on that bike... 26" or 700c? I love it all... Chunky, cheeky and fun! No wonder the co -habitant wanted to ride.

    Thanks for the change of pace.
    Marc of Seattle

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  43. Marc - The tires are 26" x 2.6" !

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  44. I'm piloting the Urbana as well! Unfortunately, the massive rack plus that extra junk on the bottom of the seat prevent the seat from being lowered enough for me to ride it:( When I'm on the saddle I've got a good 4 inches from the tops of my toes to the ground!

    Apparently I can move the saddle forward so that those coils can clear, but it's taxes week and I won't get to that until the weekend. Looking forward to riding it! Keep writing about it:)

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  45. You can both review it! It looks like a bomb proof bike that people haul loads on, so it's a perfect shared bike.

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  46. Cool. I think any bike that's used for carrying stuff and especially children needs to work well for multiple riders, so that one member of the household does not get stuck doing all the hauling. The cargo bikes I've tried have been pretty good at this, although some inexplicably did not have quick release seats.

    A couple of random thoughts: What is it with guys and curb hopping? Greg does that, too. Also, I like the Urbana much better in black and white. :)

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  47. Velouria- have you heard of an old mountain bike seat adjuster called a Hite-Rite? It might be of some interest to you and MDI. I don't know if the amount of adjustment is quite long enough to work for you both, but it might help make the seat adjustment that much faster. They're not made any more, but they are not uncommon. Here is one attached to my Stumpjumper:

    http://i97.photobucket.com/albums/l230/Koreyhead/full_shot.jpg

    -Corey K

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  48. Whaddaya mean,"What is it with guys and curb hopping?" What is it with guys and bar-b-que, guys and cars, guys and planes, guys and guitars, guys and model trains? We're dopes.

    Give us a perfectly good lawn tractor and we'll rip the hydrostat out trying to pull a stump. Let us watch 1/2 of a documentary about Belgium and we start brewing beer in the basement.

    Oh dear. This can't be new to you.

    Spindizzy

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  49. I found those vinyl-y sprung saddles that come with cheap Dutch bikes to be surprisingly comfortable. I would probably put one of those on a cheap Batavus if I wanted a utility bike I could leave outside. I recently got a cheap modern mixte so I had a bike that could be stolen without my heart breaking. I'm all for not letting fear dictate one's activities but I can't afford the emotional wreckage that would come from stolen Retrovelo. I am just really attached to that bicycle.

    The Urbana really touches a nerve -- is pretty interesting how much so!

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  50. I have no problem with the bike. I just find it funny how you call him 'the Co-Habitant' instead of 'room-mate' or 'friend'.

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  51. I just love that Urbana. I love it -- color and all. I want one.

    neighbortease, I could not bear to lose my Retrovelo, either. As much fun as I am having on road bikes, Paula is my favorite bicycle ever. I will be riding that bike in my old age.

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  52. miss sarah - Thanks for pointing this out. It hadn't occurred to me that the frontmost part of the rack could stand in the way of the saddle being lowered all the way. But good to know this can be remedied by adjusting the saddle position. Will watch for your test ride reports.

    neighbourtease said...
    "I found those vinyl-y sprung saddles that come with cheap Dutch bikes to be surprisingly comfortable."


    For me it's been 50/50, my favourite so far being the one on my Austrian bike, which is a cheap Selle Royal. But when you find one that's comfortable, it's actually more convenient to use on a bike that is kept outdoors, since there are no worries about rain. To my utter amazement, the stock saddle that comes with the Urbana is comfortable, at least on rides under 5 miles.

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  53. Corey K said...
    "Velouria- have you heard of an old mountain bike seat adjuster called a Hite-Rite?"


    No. And thanks, I'll have to look into it. I have hitherto had practically no experience with things like quick release seatposts, threadless stems, V-brakes, and all the other newfangled modern stuff.

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  54. FYI: I hated the stock saddle on the Urbana. The springs felt weird on such a cushy ride and the foam promptly got compressed by my sit-bones and shoved upwards between them. Hate soft saddles.

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  55. It's bike -- not a toothbrush or razor, for heaven's sake!

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  56. ^ Um, meaning that you share toothbrushes but not bikes?...

    MDI - I think you're having these problems because you are quite a bit heavier than I am (no offense). I do not feel the springs flexing at all, and the surface itself feels pretty firm compared to other padded saddles. I am trying to picture the Urbana with a black Brooks B17, but can't really see it.

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  57. It's bike -- not a toothbrush or razor, for heaven's sake!

    Like this razor?

    Back to Velouria's question: my wife and I share a bakfiets with a quick release seatpost binder. We don't bother to secure the seatpost and saddle with anything, but then again, it's got a stock saddle, not a Brooks. (At some point I'll try a B67 on it, because the stock saddle gets uncomfortable after about 10km.) I don't care for quick releases in general, but mainly it's because most of the ones I've had on my bikes have actually been harder for me to operate than Allen bolts or axle nuts would have been. I just took the winter tires off our bikes last week (we still might get another snowfall in Winnipeg, though) and I had to use an adjustable wrench to get enough leverage to open one of the quick releases on her bike.

    If you operate a quick release frequently, it's very convenient. If you don't, it's just the opposite.

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  58. Vhy has nobody suggested just taking the seatpost w saddle with you when locking the bike outside?

    And: Velouria, I am not giving in on the 20" theory! Maybe the 20" bike you tested was not the best example, i just used it as an example since you used and tested it. R20 and Bike Friday has been mentioned, and I think we are all trying to say the same thing.

    Small wheels are stronger (and smaller) than small wheels! No problem lowering the seat enough if you are older and bigger than 6 yrs.

    I have a new folder w 20" wheels. Yesterday I used it to ride 14 km to town. Needed to drop off a bunch of (bike related) pamflets. A severe back problem made me realise I am not going to carry the stuff, or the folded bike onto the bus for then suffering trough all the bumps so I rode to town (and back). As I arrived I left the bike outside and had a look around and found the shortest route to the elevator. Then quickly wheeled the bike into the elevator. It fitted when the front wheel was twisted to one side. Went all the way up to the 5th floor and wheeled the bike out. Parked in the hall and carryed the stuff innside, had to go several times. Then I left the same way.

    A frame with a hinge is weaker, and a folder that is made to be light ansd small vhen folded is not the strongest option. Some detatchables are stronger but the small wheeled 20"s are the strongest depending on how it is made. Also you can start with a BMX bike if you are worryed about strenght.

    I converted two old detatchables. Used BMX rims to build wheels w 7 speed IGH. Strong racks can be found- or made. Maybe drill out holes to atach it with a thicker bolt? Weld it to the bike? Attach to the axel instead of small bolt? Have you seen the mules some peopel build out of BMX bikes? Size DOES count. That is why I like small wheels..
    badmother

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  59. In the country where I live, bike theft is incredibly common. You could leave a brand new, shiny bike outdoors and it be gone within 2 days. @_@

    But there is something I found out. If you wrap a plastic grocery bag over the saddle, chances of the saddle or bike getting stolen decreases 50-fold!

    Guess there is something very unappealing about a bike with a plastic bag wrapped over the saddle. :D

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  60. DIY seat lock: http://www.bikemandan.com/blog/how-to-make-a-free-saddle-lock

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  61. The bike looks great in black-and-white. So do you guys.

    If a couple can share a bike, they really work together!

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