Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thinking It Through: Why Unique Bikes Should Come with Accessories

Paper Bicycle, Railroad
I've been riding the Paper Bicycle for just over a week, and in some ways my experience with it reminds me of when I first got the Bella Ciao last year.  My initial reaction was that of ecstasy over the ride quality. Not that the two bikes feel the same - far from it. But each rides great in its own distinct way, and works better for me than most other city bicycles I've tried thus far. 

When I am this happy with how a bicycle rides, of course my first thought is "Oh my God, this thing is amazing, I want to ride it all the time!" And therein lies the problem... because I can't. Like the Bella Ciao of yesteryear, the Paper Bicycle did not come with lights or a rack. Okay, so I can begrudgingly clip on battery lights when it gets dark. But the problem of how to carry my things on the bike is more serious. I am just not willing to ride around with a backpack for weeks for the sake of my blog's test ride reports, after investing in racks and panniers on my own bikes specifically to avoid that. 

Paper Bicycle, Rear Non-Triangle
Whereas for a "normal" bike I could simply buy a rack, that is not an option when a bicycle is so unusual as to make standard racks functionally or aesthetically unworkable. There is only one rack on the market with which the Paper Bicycle is compatible (the Burley rack, with the use of an adaptor). But even that option is a bad idea in my view, because it kills the unique look of the bike. Similarly, the Bella Ciao was, in theory, compatible with the Pletscher rack, but using it undermined both the elegant form of the frame and the pains the manufacturer had taken to make the bicycle as light as possible. For the Bella Ciao, the only solution I ultimately found was to have a custom rack made. I think the same must be done for the Paper Bicycle in order to make it appealing as not just a design concept, but a complete package. I know that the manufacturer is working on a rack design, and I am really hoping they make it sufficiently "paperbikey," integrated with the rest of the bicycle in the same elegant manner as the chaincase. 

It's only natural that the more enjoyable a bicycle is to ride, the more crucial these details become. The customer's joy after experiencing a fantastic test ride can quickly turn to disappointment upon learning that the bicycle cannot be made practical for commuting without destroying its looks. Similarly, as a reviewer I cannot properly evaluate a transport bike if I am ultimately unable to use it for everyday transportation as I would my own bikes. I strongly believe that this is something manufacturers need to consider and address when they create a unique product.  

59 comments:

  1. Yeah, that's the problem with doing something so different -- and not just in bicycles. You have to provide all the other stuff that is already there for conventional designs.
    What about a front rack or basket on the Paper Bicycle?

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  2. Front rack/basket? Wald, CETMA, V-O, or Azor frame mount?

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  3. They have a front basket prototype that has not yet gone into production, as I understand it. I kind of like it, though it covers up the unique front end of the bike. But, given how this bicycle handles, I think it would work much better with a rear rack and ultimately needs one.

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  4. Surely the trick is not to buy the Paper Bicycle in the first place if you want a bike for everyday use.

    The Paper Bike is obviously an example of aesthetic form over function, just like a pair of high heel shoes. It's meant to look trendy and different, not be practical. Surely any buyer would realise that.

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  5. Interesting illustration of the inevitable and incessant intersection of innovation and... convention.

    If a new rack does need to be made to fit this bike, could it be designed to also fit others, making it more useful/universal and extending the design aesthetic?

    Sometimes new designs just can't be made to work together... but how great when they can, like all the "you can make it work" mechanical items shared in books and online.

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  6. pete - Au contraire. The ride quality is truly amazing. The wide tires and hub brakes make it perfect for winter. It is surprisingly lightweight. It rides very fast and takes hills well as a single speed. I like it so much that I am considering buying this one after I am done reviewing it. Just need to figure out how to carry my stuff and rig up the lights.

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  7. There's a prototype rear rack, too, which looks great, and fits the aesthetic of the bike very well. But there's also a complicated story about delays to putting it into production, and no ETA on the finished thing.

    (I nearly owned one of these, but was reluctantly forced to admit that the lack of carrying capacity was a deal-breaker.)

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  8. Wrote a big thing that got eaten.

    Anyway, margins come from accessories; the bike not so much.

    Offer a stripped down version to keep the price low, offer accessories that integrate. It's the way the industry (car too) is set up.

    As for this bike, a rack plus battery lights and it's a done, not so big deal. As you know, integrated lighting systems are expensive compared to a clippy light.

    Looks light the dt already runs the r hub brake. Very easy to run the generator wires through it, it's so big.

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  9. As for pete's comment - c'mon, an entire city adopted it as a bike share.

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  10. I suspect the tubing may be too large for the Azor frame-mounted front rack, but something like the CETMA half-rack or a Wald basket might work. Does it have a hole drilled where a caliper brake would be, if it had caliper brakes? I know the CETMA half-rack is made to attach there, not sure about the Wald.

    I definitely agree with the idea that, if you're making a bicycle which you hope people will use for transportation purposes, and it is unusual enough to make using currently available "accessories" impractical, you should design and sell ones that are made to fit. Even if you make them optional, you should have something for people who will want them, as people will undoubtedly want them.

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  11. Liz - Is there a picture of it I can have a look at? I've seen a couple, but the rack is at least partly obscured in them and I cannot make out how it looks and attaches.

    Jim - Oh I understand about the margins and would be willing to pay extra for a rack. I just think it's important that it should be made available.

    A dynamo lighting version of the bike exists and looks like this - which surprised me, because I figured the headlight was supposed to go here. I am going to try and figure out a way to do that.

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  12. Well, I guess that answers my question about the hole in the fork crown :)

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  13. Definitely. It isn't happening currently for evolutionary reasons only--bicycle development (and developers) in the States evolved from road and mountain bike racing.

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  14. Have you seen the Vanmoof bikes with the integrated lights?

    I think that's a great example of the issue you describe.
    http://www.vanmoof.com/vanmoof-no3

    It breaks down a bit on their step through frame, but it's a similar aesthetic to the Paper Bike. They solved the light issue, but their rack setups are a bit sparse though..

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  15. cycler - I've seen the Vanmoof bikes. I do not how they are constructed, but I like the idea of the integrated lights and locks.

    Seven Cycles does a nice job with integrated lights and racks on their "commuter bikes" like the Berlin bike. Headlight embedded into the stem. Tail light embedded into the seatpost. Rear rack seamlessly integrated. I don't care for the bike as a whole, but bravo on thinking it through.

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  16. ^ that should be "I do not like how they are constructed" above

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  17. You going to try to mount the headlight bracket to the dt aperture cover thing? Awesome. Only concern would be the weight-bearing ability of the cover bolt.

    The Seven is awesome. And repugnant. IMO integrated light systems like this have too small a surface area; they may be bright but don't cover enough acreage.

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  18. Agreed 100%. I have a Batavus BUB, and my initial excitement at having such a sturdy, stable bike gave way to frustration once I realized that there was really no way to attach anything to the extra heavy-duty racks. I toyed with the idea of getting a pannier with leather straps, but that would have destroyed the modern paperclip aesthetic. And, of course, the accessories that Batavus designed for the BUB were all frilly things like colored grips. So it sits in my garage, virtually unused. Not as extreme as your example, but still...Manufacturers who make city bikes need to think of the whole package.

    Yikes, I can't even imagine a Burley rack on the Paper Bicycle!

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  19. @V - given that your intuition about how the bike would ride turned out to be not entirely accurate, how sure can you be that a front rack would not work well? If that down tube is 1-1/4 " (32mm) the Azor frame rack would fit; if you want to try the experiment, I have one handy (*), we would need to use a paint-protecting shim for the demo bike.

    (*) I need to build a drum-brake wheel to go with it; it interferes somewhat with caliper brakes.

    As to the light mount, note that the obvious-to-you place moves with the frame, not the handlebars, and that might not be what most people expect. You don't get quite as much lighting around curves that way.

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  20. The only photo of the rack I was able to find when I was looking is this one: http://www.flickr.com/photos/simple-city/5998309537/, which I guess you've seen. There is a better picture in existence, because my local bike shop showed it to me, but it doesn't seem to be online anywhere.

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  21. dr2chase - Well, my initial intuition about the ride had to do with judging the bike based on its looks, which I really need to stop doing. Like others here, I did not "take it seriously" because the design looked fun but silly. I also thought it would be super heavy, because - well, it's steel and has the huge tubes and huge tires.

    By contrast, my thoughts that a rear rack would be better than front have to do with how the bike rides and balances - in other words, the thoughts are now based on real sensations and not prejudiced assumptions. Also, this bike's geometry is somewhat similar to the Urbana I rode earlier (including the low center of gravity - according to the manufacturer), and the Urbana worked wonderfully with a rear rack.

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  22. So there you are again, behind the warehouse by the tracks, what do you do, sneak back there for a smoke?
    Looking at the bike, I "see" an integrated rack, but it's welded with the frame, so it wouldn't be an "add". Tough for a tiny builder.

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  23. Ground Round Jim, I'm not sure that being chosen for a bike share scheme is a recommendation. Those bikes are usually designed to be good for short trips only, very rugged to cut down on repairs, and unappealing to thieves.

    I'm sure the Paper Bike is a good bike of its kind, ideal for slow but sure cycling in comfort, but it is quite expensive. You can get lighter, good quality single speed city bikes with a rack and other extras fitted for quite a bit less.

    I think people are being asked to pay for the funky, off-beat design, and some people don't mind doing so.

    You can ride sedately around town on most bikes, but the Paper Bike seems to be restricted to just that by its design and weight. I'm not sure the intersting design is enough to offset this disadvantage.

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  24. pete, I looked at the Paper Bike site and was struck at how high quality the parts spec was and apparent care with which the design process was vetted. In the UK this bike is like 679 pounds, really quite a good price for a good bike.

    Is it good? I trust V's judgment on this. Apparently it rides sprightly, is lightish, fun and she wants to buy it. Mind you she just had an extended stay on a Seven and has tried numerous transpo bikes.

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  25. pete - I've ridden 30 miles at a time already on the Paper bike, including some hills. Sure I can do it on other single speeds, but they are not as upright or comfortable. This is one of the good bike designs.

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  26. A new white bike for winter? r u srs?

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  27. Velouria said...
    "The customer's joy after experiencing a fantastic test ride can quickly turn to disappointment upon learning that the bicycle cannot be made practical for commuting (or utility) without destroying its looks "

    This is where "doing your homework" comes into play to establish if there are accessories that will convert the bike to one's needs before one buys it.

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  28. Speaking solely for myself, I would rather get a bike that handles well but is lacking accessories, than a fully equipped bike that handles poorly. The former can be fixed, the latter cannot.

    There are many wonderful artisans who make custom racks now; Jon Gehman of Red Barn Designs can probably invent something for this bike for a decent price.

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  29. I'm thinking something like the Freeload Rack would work well, if it could attach to those chainstay loops. The plastic load deck is a little less-than-ideal aesthetically, but it might be a good starting point for a mounting design.

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  30. I don't think any bike *has* to come with lights, though it's nice if they do. I don't like riding at night, and wouldn't necessarily use dynamo lighting if it significantly raised the price of the bike. There are many decent add-on headlights and taillights that aren't expensive that can be put on later if folks want them, and there are designs that will work on basically any bike. They may not be beautiful, but they will work.

    That said, I think the design of this bike is silly unless one can purchase a rack that works with it. In eliminating the rear seat stays, they have to have thought about the fact that they're essentially making 90% of the bike racks being produced unworkable with their design. I would think this would necessitate a custom rack available through them.

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  31. Matt - Oh my lord, that just might work! And I think the aesthetics suit the Paper Bike better than other racks on the market. My only cause for concern is that the chaincase structure sticks out quite a bit, so it might interfere with the rack stays. I wonder where I can find one of these in the US.

    rideblog - But as I understand it you do not use your bikes for transportation. For me, they are my only source of transportation; I gotsa to have my lights!

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  32. Hi Velouria, Tim from Freeload here - I just stumbled across your blog now by chance! Our racks are available through QBP in the US, so virtually any dealer can get hold of them. If you'd like me to send one out to you maybe drop me a line tim@freeload.co.nz and we can sort something out : ]
    Cheers!

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  33. Very good points made here.

    I only skimmed through the comments(really pressed for time,sorry I'll read em later),but um....seatpost rack?

    Steve

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  34. Ah the magic of the internets. Thanks Tim, I'll drop you a line.

    Steve - but that would ruin the "seatstay-free" look!

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  35. I found this on Paper Bicycle's flickr, so they must have something going...

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/simple-city/5998309537/in/photostream

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  36. Well, that worked out well! Perhaps Tim can strike up a conversation with Paper Bike as well if the rack fits.

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  37. I am not actually sure how the rack will fit, since this bike has no seat stays, but maybe Tim has a suggestion. Will keep you posted, and thanks!

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  38. cannot fathom why people seem to think that bike is attractive with THAT chaincase, but nevermind...

    Mark

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  39. The bike doesn't look as though it's designed for anything quite so utilitarian as everyday use, More form over function.
    However the Swiss manufacturer Pletscher has some nice carriers. This one should fit -
    http://www.pletscher.ch/wDeutsch/pages/Demos/quickrack.php

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  40. According to the Paper Bicycle website, when ordering the bike, you have the option to add dynamo lighting, the front basket mentioned above and the Topeak Super Tourist DX rear rack, with special bracket, for the rear rack.

    I think I understand you want a different kind of rack visually, but, at least these *are* offered options.

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  41. I've been eying the Paper Bike as well. I've decided against the Linus, because I feel like I'd be blowing my money on a so-so bike. I would need an 8 speed. I also need the bike to NOT be heavy, because I'll need to carry it up stairs. I was told by the folks at Adeline Adeline to give the Paper a try. I don't find the bike silly-looking at all. The black matte frame is amazing. Downside for me is price- $1695 for an 8spd, plus NYC tax... oh boy.

    I just want something better than the Linus, that offers an upright ride, is under $1200, and weighs less than 35 lbs.. and 8 spd. Where is this bike?! I'll take any suggestions. [Insert sad face]

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  42. A better photo of Paper Bike's own rack, i.e. the prototype, can be seen in the latest issue of VeloVision here: http://www.exacteditions.com/exact/browse/399/442/8970/2/28/0/
    but I'm not convinced that it would work for most panniers. Too much design. On their website a Topeak rack is offered: http://www.paper-bicycle.com/buy-prices.php

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  43. http://www.oldmanmountain.com/Pages/RackPages/RackGalleries/Pages/sherpaRear_gallery.htm

    A Sherpa from Old Man Mountain should work. It attaches directly to the hub. They currently have it in white too.

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  44. @Teresa - craigslist mountain bike frame, replace parts as necessary.

    Daughter of a friend is riding around Somerville/Cambridge on a bike like that; replaced tires, chain, saddle, stem, bars, built dynamo front wheel, added fenders, lights, rear rack (inadequate IMO, but the budget was getting tight) , and a front Wald basket. I think it's under 35lbs (it's near), and was definitely under $1200. If you wanted IGH, that would be another wheel build and more money, but still well under $1200. You could also add a chainguard/case to keep your pants clean, if you went IGH.

    (If anyone in Somerville sees a blue bike with amber/white daylight running lights mounted under the front basket, that's the bike).

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  45. Bikes that carry stuff well will become more and more popular as more people use them and see what works - as a partial car replacement these are still in their infancy in the U.S. so this discussion is an important one.

    I think the Paper is gorgeous, rides great and - as mentioned - is surprisingly lightweight. It is amongst my favourite looking city bikes... its designer Nick and also Philip from Simpel are nice guys.

    I am one of those people who has bad luck whilst carrying stuff unless it is held in mostly by gravity (rather than bungies) and with both hands on the bars most of the time and nothing hanging on my arms...

    I would happily use the Paper with racks and such as described and also suggest the Workcycles Fr8 http://www.flickr.com/photos/henryinamsterdam/6258918490/in/photostream and new Gr8 http://www.flickr.com/photos/henryinamsterdam/6258918490/in/photostream designs - made by my friend Henry - with their modular change-the-add-ons-as-your-family-grows philosophy. The bikes also "grow": http://www.bakfiets-en-meer.nl/workcycles-faqs-overviews/overview-fr8-transport-bikes/

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  46. The above links for the Fr8 and Gr8 are the same... May I suggest this Fr8 photo:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/henryinamsterdam/6169609718/

    Alexander

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  47. @dr2chase: I don't know anything about changing parts (altho I'd like to learn), and I currently don't have a friendly, trustworthy bike shop to go to. I'm caught in the middle between going to Manhattan or going to CT to find a place. I think I'd be willing to maybe spend about $1500 for a bike that gives a good upright ride but doesn't weigh a ton. Ideally, something that weighs no more than 35 lbs... I think.

    Linus' are really popular in NYC, but the rust problem isn't cool. I was told I could winterize the bike by putting wax on the frame, but it sounds like a hassle. I'm wondering if this is normal practice for people that ride in the winter.

    Are vintage Raleighs heavy? I've seen plenty of those on Craigslist and lots of stores in NYC are selling vintage ones. I'm thinking of checking them out too.

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  48. Teresa: A vintage Raleigh Sports might be a decent option for a pretty upright ride, decent carrying capacity and not too heavy. Though if it has the original steel wheel rims, you might want to get new aluminum rims, as you'll get much better braking with them, and they won't rust. Still, if you can get the bike in good condition for something like $300, then have new wheels built for $100 each or so, that's still a pretty good deal, if a little more hassle than buying a new bike.

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  49. Teresa - Re Raleigh 3-speeds, you might want to read this post.

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  50. It be must be a natural law that making a correction inevitably introduces another error. I meant to fix the link to the Gr8 photo, but then wrote "Fr8".

    In summary,

    Fr8: http://www.flickr.com/photos/henryinamsterdam/6258918490/

    The new Gr8: http://www.flickr.com/photos/henryinamsterdam/6169609718/

    Alexander (the Gr8 is on my mind/wishlist)

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  51. FYI the rack situation is not as dire as it might seem. I adapted a Racktime rack to my Paper bike and it's works great. I know that Nick from Paper has a proper rack in the works, but for now there is a rack adapter that will allow you to attach one.

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  52. Alexander, thanks for putting in the right links.

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  53. Velouria... regarding the Raleigh link from your website, thank u so much for passing that along!

    I wanted to also mention that I own a 2007 Specialized Dolce, a road bike, but have never felt comfortable on it. I went to a bike shop in NYC, and it was suggested that I could bring the bike in and have it changed up for a more upright positioning. I would also like to change the tires to something slightly wider. Does this sound like a crazy idea? I feel like I'd be losing a pretty good road bike. Then again, I don't ride it, because the I've never gotten used to road bike positioning. I'm sort of a road weenie :-/

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  54. Ah Paper Bike has now posted a prototype picture on flickr - yes! I wonder how much this will run. I am serious that I am considering getting this bike, but it will depend on sorting out the rack thing.

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  55. Are you serious?! That is more amazing looking than the bike.

    Corey K come look!

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  56. Velouria,
    It looks like the Velo-Orange Constructeur Rear Rack might work:
    http://store.velo-orange.com/index.php/accessories/racks-decaleurs/racks/vo-constructeur-rear-rack.html

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  57. @teresa... Which Linus are you looking at? I have one of their Mixte 8's... sits pretty upright, but not as upright at their Dutch bike. Great racks that look sharp too, and I paid just under $800 including the additional front rack. I can't speak for how the bike will hold up to harsh winters as I live on the West coast. But when I read your desired bike, I immediately thought my Linus Mixte 8 was exactly that. IMO

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  58. I like the title of this post. The first three words describe exactly what the makers of the Paper (weight) Bicycle did not do.

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