Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Starship Has Landed

Paper Bicycle with Rack
As some might recall, I've had a Paper Bicycle on loan since November - but haven't been riding it for transportation because it lacked a rear rack. Not only did it lack one, but the unique frame construction made it challenging to install one aftermarket. Clearly a bicycle as distinct as this called for a custom solution. Turns out the manufacturer had been developing a special rack all along, it just wasn't quite ready. He asked me to hold off on the review so that he could send me the latest prototype. And sure enough, shortly after the holidays it arrived: Behold the Paper Bicycle "Starship" rack!

Paper Bicycle Rack
Trying to picture a suitable rack for this bicycle, my imagination was failing me. While I appreciate the unique and contemporary design, I do not understand it sufficiently - either visually or structurally - to conjure up a rack that would integrate flawlessly with the rest of the bike. What form would it take? How would it connect? How could it be made strong enough to support a great deal of weight (after all, this bike is all about utility), but minimalist enough so that it would not overwhelm the frame itself? Seeing the prototype answered all of these questions. The "Starship" rack adds utility without undermining the bike's unique design, and it does so by literally plugging into the frame's integrated chaincase. 

Paper Bicycle Rack
To install the rack, its tubing is simply inserted into the ever so slightly thicker chaincase tubing, using  hammer to really push it in there. The expander screw on the righthand side is then loosened to further secure the connection. The installation is impressively solid, resulting in a rack that looks seamlessly integrated with the frame. Total installation time was maybe 5 minutes. 

Paper Bicycle Rack
While not secured to the fender or any other part of the bike, this does not seem necessary, as there is no side-to-side play. The rack is solid, and, according to the manufacturer, can support the weight of a person. My requirements are more modest:  I just want it to support my panniers and occasionally some packages.

Paper Bicycle Rack
The rack's tubing is very thick and does not in fact support standard pannier quick-release attachment hooks, such as those by Ortlieb, Jand, Basil, and R&K. It will however support the Po Campo system very nicely, and of course the double-panniers that hang over the rack's platform, as well as any pannier that attaches via straps and not quick-release hooks. I do not think that the rack's tubing choice can or should be altered, as the thick tubing is what gives it strength. But the bike's owner will have to choose their pannier system accordingly. The Paper Bicycle has long chainstays, and the rack's stays move it back even further, so that there is no chance of heel strike. 

Paper Bicycle Rack
As far as strapping packages onto the rack, attaching bungee cords can be a bit tricky - and not all bungee hooks will fit securely around the tubing. In the final production iteration of this rack, a special tab for bungee hook attachment would be helpful. 

Paper Bicycle Rack
The Starship rack is not a lightweight rack - a couple of pounds for sure. This makes the bicycle noticeably heavier to lift, but so far I have not felt any effect on handling or speed. Riding the bike for 10 miles around town in the freezing cold and wind this morning, it felt just as zippy and effortless to pedal as I remember it being pre-rack. I will ride the Paper Bicycle some more (hopefully it will snow again, as I've been trying to test it in the snow) and should have a review soon. In the meantime, what do you think of the rack? 

54 comments:

  1. I am waiting to hear how the rack test out with a real person sitting on the back, Amsterdam style. Let us know results.

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  2. It really does look a bit like the USS Enterprise. I love that.

    It does bother me when racks can't use the most common pannier setups, since it will force some people to either buy new panniers or reconsider the bicycle entirely.

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  3. Yes, the starship is fitting and I'm amazed that only two stays support it...Beam me up, Scotty!

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  4. Still love it.

    The CoG is so low 2lbs. isn't going to effect it much.

    Glad you didn't say anything about clunky welds; the form and function far exceed the fey little racks some big mfgs. tack onto their "transpo" bikes.

    As for rethinking - it's a bike. Get an adapter. Or make one. Or get another bike. C'est simple.

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  5. Supports the weight of person? That's pretty impressive, given the length of the lever. How far does the rack extend into the chainstay?

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  6. It's a strange, but fun bike, and the rack continues that aesthetic, which is nice. It does look like it would touch the fender eventually, but I think that's just because I'm used to seeing the rack attach at the front. Love the way it attaches: actually utilizing the unique design.

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  7. I like it! I think the design really suits the bike, and it's great that the rack is so utilitarian. Looking forward to the full review!

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  8. The open tubing bothers me. I'm sure that it's a good place for a bungie, but it looks unfinished and incomplete. How about some cool end caps as an option to finish it off? I know that I'm quibbling here (the rack design is pretty slick), but they may as well do it right.

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  9. Supporting the weight of the builder!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/simple-city/6386052435/in/photostream/lightbox/

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  10. It sure looks nice Veloria, and regarding panniers, some practical Dutch throwover bags will no doubt go on ok...

    ...but from an engineering point of view it doesn't look right.

    Anonymous' Flickr pic doesn't show an adult passenger sat side-saddle or a child sat in a seat.

    It looks more bling than a load lugging addition, and that's a real shame because the rest of the bike appears to manage to both look quirky and be without any compromises 'for the sake of being stylish'.

    I'd still have a Paper Bike, but would have to think about the rack.

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  11. It's sharp looking bike. The rack appears very unobtrusive and I am somewhat surprised that it is functional.

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  12. Ian, how does this look to you: http://www.flickr.com/photos/simple-city/5998309537/in/photostream

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  13. Love the look of it . . . very stylish and well thought out. However, I do prefer racks that are a little more flexible about fitting the commonly available panniers (not keen on the 'throw over' doubles). I too would worry about the rack finally touching the fender, but, that's probably due to the fact that I don't undrstand the engineering side of things. :D

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  14. The bike equivalent of cars with fins? Racks were far lighter and less restrictive about panniers 50 years ago.

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  15. It's a heavy rack, thick, it has to be. It's not triangulated.

    I see pictures of people sitting/standing on it, and that's great. But I don't know how gingerly they got up there because there is not a doubt in my mind that it would deform under my weight if the bike went over rough terrain.

    The whole thing is a solution in search of a problem. Yes, there is no other way to make a rack for this bike. This is it. But is that a good thing? I don't think so.

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  16. Why not create another tube(stay?support?) which parallels the down tube, and also some which can create more bungee options.

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  17. I should probably add that I wouldn't sit on most of the racks our bikes have, Dutch-style. They would break. Supporting a person's weight isn't really that great a design standard/goal for city transport racks that will carry at most a laptop bag.

    My point is more about the overarching design here. About how the whole thing could be lighter if it had seat stays, no left side ghost chain case, regular right side chain case, and a regular thin/light rack. But of course it would then not be as weird/interesting.

    I don't know--maybe I am being reactionary--but not having seat stays or a triangulated rack somehow offends me, to be honest.

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    1. MDI - I confess that I don't understand your criticisms of this bike. You complain about the weight and blame it on the lack of seat stays. Yet you own a bicycle that weighs close to 60lb, despite its normal construction. Might I remind you also that you hardly use the rear rack on said bicycle, because its tubing is too thick for quick-release panniers also. So, while I wouldn't bat an eye if someone else were to complain about the <40lb Paper Bike, I just don't get it coming from you. The bike handles exceptionally well for me, and it's plenty fast even as a single speed. Obviously the designer got something right. No idea whether it's due to the weird construction or entirely independent of it, but this is a good bike and no heavier than the myriad of other Euro city bikes I've reviewed here.

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    2. I can see MDI's point on this.

      There is certainly some latitude on how bicycles need to be designed to perform well, but the Paper Bike has obviously traded some functionality for style.

      Heavy European city bikes are designed to be functional, and their distinctive style, if you'll forgive the phrase, is a function of their functionality. That wouldn't be true for the Paper Bike.

      Nevertheless, the look is distinctive, and city bikes don't have to optimize the strength-weight ratio.

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  18. Realistically, people don't carry much more than a laptop and a few sundries. So a 100+ lb. capacity is quite over the top. It's apparent it can carry, say, about 50lbs. quite easily but at that point any bike with a rear rack is going to have handling issues, save a long tail.

    It's an elegant solution given the constraints of the frame design, I think, and if the bike rides nicely, unlike many others, then the design conceit really doesn't have many draw backs.

    Just my opinion. Remember this is a prototype - I challenge you to break it in the name of science.

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  19. I want one of these so goddamn bad. Fantastic.

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  20. It is not difficult to make a rack that can carry an adult "Amsterdam-style" for brief periods of time (they don't actually travel that way long distances you know, just for a short lift around the city), if the weight of the rack and the thickness of the tubing is not a concern. My Gazelle has such a rack. MDI's Pashley has such a rack. The Pilen and Urbana I reviewed earlier have racks capable of this as well.

    That said, I do not think this feature is a big deal. It's cute and gimmicky, but is it really all that useful? How often do you need to give people lifts on your rear rack? I am much more concerned with a rack's ability to quickly and comfortably accommodate real life scenarios - such as panniers and boxes and packages. Does a pannier slide back and forth along the rack? Is there heel strike? Are there attachments for bungee cords? Does the tubing limit the panniers that can be used? Does the rack make a bicycle too rear-heavy and slow it down too much? Those are the important questions for me.

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  21. @V - regarding rear racks that can carry people. If you have one, you will use it. When the weather is nicer, I haul my lazy-butt daughter uphill to school on the back of mine. More often, to her music lesson. Non-winter, probably two or three times per week.

    Another time a few years back it had snowed a good bit, and my wife had to be somewhere not too far away, but I was in no particular mood to shovel through the plowed berm across the driveway, so I gave her a lift in the back.

    I don't usually pick up random strangers, but one time I passed a woman in town obviously running to catch something (train or bus), and it was downhill, and it was easy.

    This is all on a longtail, where the passenger is supported by two not-terribly-thick 7/8" aluminum tubes (with a plank on top). I've stood on mine to take pictures and to prune hanging limbs on the MM trail. It does flex -- when I had two kids on mine (and 700c snow tires), I rapidly carved clearance for the snow tire each time I hit a bump in the road.

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    1. Well I *have* had these racks on various bikes. The only times they were used to transport people, if at all, were to show off for the blog. Even if I had children/friends who wished to be transported in this manner, remember that it is illegal to do so here. I probably wouldn't risk it.

      Having tried riding as a passenger that way a few times, I can say with confidence that I don't like it and prefer to be on my own bike. To each their own though.

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  22. I think this is pretty cool. I see a lot of potential for additional customization—albeit with proprietary bits and pieces or DIY. What's wrong with more options? I don't really get why people hate on more cycle choices. You can just pass on what you don't like.

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  23. Looking at this bike I feel old. I know there are some that will like it and it probably is a very effective tool but I don't want to ride a tool.

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  24. "Even if I had children/friends who wished to be transported in this manner, remember that it is illegal to do so here."

    You've got to be kidding me. That's one law I'd make it a point to break as often as possible, speaking of being a 50s antique.

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    1. According to the Mass Bicycle Law (Massachusetts General Law Section 11B):

      (2)(i) The operator shall ride only upon or astride a permanent and regular seat attached to the bicycle; a passenger shall ride only upon or astride a permanent and regular seat attached to the bicycle or to a trailer towed by the bicycle.

      (ii) The operator shall not transport another person between the ages of one to four years, or weighing forty pounds or less, on a bicycle, except in a “baby seat”...

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    2. Yikes, and here I was, with my 4-yo daughter riding stoker on our Bike Friday tandem. Bad parent... ;-)

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    3. Well, to me, between the ages of one to four years means 2 and 3. So you should be in the clear. These one-year olds sure will be pissed being confined to a baby seat on their second birthday :)

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    4. I was riding my own tricycle at age 3, the baby seat law is insulting to toddlers!

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  25. What a clever rack. I admire some of the features of this bike/frame and this rack is just as interesting as the rest of it. I think you could make some simple bungee loops that fit in the open ends of the rack tubes that slip into the frame. In fact it appears that there is already a plug with an expander screw in one of these tubes already. Just make a metal tab with a big hole for the bungee and a small hole for the expander screw and stick it on.

    The feature I like the best on this bike is the "seatstays" that are almost horizontal. Make them substantial enough and they are obviously strong enough for this type of bike and they certainly give it some character.

    I dig it.

    Spindizzy

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  26. I know a lot of laws like these still exist, vestiges from an earlier time, some updated. Many still have applicability and, if not, are not widely enforced. The two brake one, lights, two hands on the bars at all times, etc.

    In the mean time very few states have a mandatory safe distance passing law. Punks.

    Just read an account of a cyclist, in his car, watch a Suburban driving mommy texting with both hands drive into the back of a street sweeping truck. No word if the street sweeper was wearing a helmet.

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  27. Just a note on seat stays: race bikes have tended towards humongous front triangle tubes lately, with seat stays on some becoming scarily thin.

    The Paper Bike, it seems to me, follows the same design principle to an extreme.

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  28. @V - on a longtail at least, the plank is designed as a seat. My daughter reports that it is at least as comfortable as some bicycle saddles.

    Besides which, it's an irrational nanny-state law. If we lived in a rational nanny state it would compel bicycle commuting, because that would save far more lives (28% lower mortality rate, 2-5 years expected extra longevity) than most of the others we have (helmet laws, seatbelt laws, etc).

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  29. I think it's a really nice rack design. The single expander is an elegant solution.

    I want to try one of these bikes out at some point.

    The pic of the designer riding while sitting on the rack made me think of Shel Silverstein, for some reason.

    A good solution to the rack tubing dilemma would be for the Paper bike folks to come up with proprietary pannier clips.
    Maybe make them available for sale as an accessory. They'd probably sell a bunch to Gazelle and Pashley owners, too.

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  30. Lovely. And Kirk would be proud.

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  31. I don't understand is why they didn't just add a second set of smaller diameter tubing just below and parallel to the horizontal tubing of the rack. An easy solution to allow it to accept a wider range of panniers. Done correctly, it could look pretty sharp as well.

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  32. Not to steal a name from Surly,but that's a Nice Rack :)

    The Disabled Cyclist

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  33. The paper bike is clearly a bit of a 'marmite' bike - you either love it or hate it, the people who hate it aren't going to be converted by a rack even if you could carry a baby elephant on it and the people who love it will love it regardless. Having ridden one, I have to say I really love it and this rack makes me love it more. Now I just have to come up with an excuse why I need to buy one. See also: Brompton

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    1. Eew marmite : )

      That is a good point, that the rack is not meant to convert those who don't like the bike. It was meant for those who do like it, but need that additional utility.

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  34. Personally I don't care for the bike, I find it a design novelty and the craftsmanship of the rack makes me wonder if the whole bike isn't just a one liner that will be forgotten in a few years.

    On the other hand I try to be agnostic about these things. I like the fact they are trying things new. I like the fact that someone might see these bikes and say, that's a cool bike, I'd like one like that, or I love riding my new bike, isn't it great.

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  35. Well if you have to have a single speed for getting around how much will this package cost me? I can pick up a used Bianchi Rollo or Schwinn 3 speed on Craigslist that doesn't make me look like a pretentious ""ick. Oh, BTW I already have a Rollo and Schwinn for milk and beer runs.

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  36. Unknown - Kind of an odd thing to say. Forget how the bike looks for a second and think of it in terms of utility. The Paper Bike has certain features that are useful to some people, which the bikes you name lack. For instance: enclosed hub brakes, extremely wide tires, full chaincase, no toe overlap, a low BB for full leg extension while still being able to put a toe down in traffic, extremely stable handling. Whether or not one likes how the bike looks, there is much more to it than the visual design.

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  37. I love the rack. I don't know why, but I just like the looks of this bike. At first glance, it appears more interesting than strikingly beautiful, but the more I look at it, the more I like it.

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  38. Ground Round JimJan 26, 2012 03:37 PM
    Ian, how does this look to you: http://www.flickr.com/photos/simple-city/5998309537/in/photostream


    Ok, that's just showing off!

    I carry 50lbs in panniers once or twice a week on my Gazelles sturdy rack, and occasionally my eldest daughter pillion. As heavy duty as that one looks, having that amount of weight trying to pull those single struts this way & that won't make for happy cycling.

    Surely a bike such as this is pitching at the utility market - it's a bit over engineered a machine for just for carrying a laptop to work :>/

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  39. At least this rack is useable, contrary to this one:
    http://www.boughbikes.com/ (site in Dutch only)
    This is a bike with an wooden (oak) frame, built by a yacht builder. Available with three handlebar heights as the handlebars are integral. Originally the concept had wooden wheelrims, too, but the production version now has regular wheels, allowing for a choice in transmissions. brakes and lighting systems. But the rack was apparently designed with cupholders in mind.

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  40. Such a charismatic bicycle!

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  41. It looks very nice and fits for your paper bicycle!

    Is it true that it can support the weight of a person?

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  42. When we bought our Paper Bicycle we had a standard issue Tubus rack fitted. http://flic.kr/p/aHBVD6. Suits us fine. And, of course, can take our existing panniers. http://flic.kr/p/b21zen.
    I do like the "Enterprise" rack, though, but won't be replacing the Tubus.

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  43. A very unique looking bike and rack.
    But could you PLEASE tell me what kind of pedals those are??
    I need a better look at them!

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  44. A very unique looking bike and rack.
    But could you PLEASE tell me what kind of pedals those are??
    I need a better look at them!

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