Rock The Bike

Welcome, young Jedi

This is what happens when people get the passion for a new way of transportation. A way that challenges you and inspires others. This is what happens when you really want a bar table.

Photo:Band Of Bicycles
Rides and Events: Band Of Bicycles

Antioquia is on Tour to Santa Cruz

Ran into Antioquia on my way to work. The band got seriously inspired by riding around San Francisco with us at Bicycle Music Festival this year and are now on their way to Santa Cruz on Xtracycle SUB’s. It’s a shake-down tour, getting used to being bike-touring musicians. In the future they’re hoping to have their own pedal-powered PA system for live shows. Here’s one of their videos below from performing at the Bicycle Music Festival in June.

Check out their upcoming shows this weekend and October 7 at the Elbo Room in SF!

Bike Culture and traditional advocacy — a powerful combo for growing and sustaining a movement to two wheels

Heading home last night I spotted a new blue print of a bicycle on the wall of one of the BART cars. I wheeled my Xtracycle into that car and parked it in the new stretched out ‘Bike Space’. It was as if it were made for my Xtracycle. On other BART cars, my rig sticks halfway into the doorway, which can slow other passengers down at stops. Usually I try to avoid commute hours and tuck the bike in as much as possible, but with the new layout, I won’t have to.

The new design removes one seat from the train, allowing full leg room for the passenger sitting by my front wheel and full access to passengers at the door. Commuting by BART had never been stressful with my Xtracycle — the other passengers were always cool — but the new design makes it easier for every one. I also have to give it up for the non-carpeted floors. They feel much more ‘subway’ and less ‘commuter rail’.

This cool improvement to BART’s design is probably the result of some hard-working bicycle advocate working within or with BART. And these types of practical improvements — bike lanes, parking, public transit access — are exactly what traditional bike advocates do best. But focusing on practical improvements is only half of what it takes to grow our bicycle movement. We also need passionate bike culture heads to do the work they do so well — outreach.

Working together, Bike Culture’s outreach and traditional bicycle advocacy’s hard-fought improvements are a powerful combination that can grow and sustain the bicycle movement.

Passenger eye level, a little known subtlety of social biking

After helping Myles install the Xtracycle FreeRadical on his Cruz Bike recumbent, it got me thinking once again about the passenger experience. On most long bikes such as the Xtracycle and the Mundo, the passenger’s eyes line up roughly with the middle of the back of the rider. This limits the front visibility of the passenger and leaves them to simply trust that the rider knows what they’re doing.

By serendipity, Myles’ Xtracycle build offered a much different passenger experience. As you can see in the picture, my eyes as a passenger lined up with the top of Myles’ head, allowing me a nearly complete view of the road as we cruised. Another subtlety of the passenger experience on the Cruz Bike / Xtracycle combo is how close the rider’s and passenger’s heads are to eachother. This makes conversation so much more easy going. You don’t lose nearly as many words to the wind, and you can talk to each other the same voice you’d use in a room.

The Cruz Bike isn’t for everyone, so before you run out and buy one, you should know that, like other recumbents, it’s going to make it more difficult for you to climb hills. There’s no way to climb ‘out of the saddle’ like you do when you need a burst of power on an upright bicycle.

When I designed the Soul Cycle Convertible Chopper, my goal was to provide both the powerful leg extension of an upright bicycle with the attitude, comfort, and passenger experience of a chopper / semi-recumbent bike.

Passenger and rider on the Soul Cycle Convertible Chopper
Above: Lisa can see over my shoulders while cruising on the Choprical Fish, based on the Soul Cycle Convertible Chopper frameset. Photo: Paul McKensie

Riding the Soul Cycle Convertible Chopper in the upright position.
Above: When it’s time to climb a hill on the Soul Cycle Convertible Chopper, the seat comes into upright position, allowing full leg extension for maximum power. Photo: Fast Boy.

Our commute home.

When your new assembly and shipping employee has a hernia, and he’s carrying a heavy messenger style backpack with the used mountain bike frame you gave him strapped on it, and he’s on the cell phone with his father as you ride home to West Oakland BART together, telling his dad he has back pain that shoots down his left leg, and you know he doesn’t have health insurance and is fighting the system to schedule his surgery, you don’t just keep riding. You stop, take his pack, and strap it to your Xtracycle, even though you’re already carrying your own stuffed messenger bag, 8 DLG‘s, and a box of Schwalbe tires that the Ginger Ninjas need for their tour. Because you can.

And then, when you take a few pedal strokes, you ‘re surprised how good it feels, not the good samaritan act of helping your employee at the end of a long day, but riding the bike itself, and you say out loud, “Whoah, it’s even easier than before; I think the load is more balanced now. I must have been fighting it a little before.” When those types of this things happen to you, on a regular basis, you’re riding an Xtracycle.

OK, here’s another one. I was literally in the BART the other night and an attractive grad student pulled her face out of her text book to say “Nice bike. What do you carry on that?” And it’s not the first time it has happened.

I urge bike people who haven’t seriously considered getting themselves a long bike to let these anecdotes sink in. It’s only by experiencing magic scenes like these that you understand how transformative it can be to have a dependable, nimble, fun cargo hauling ride like the Xtracycle or the Mundo.

We eat our own dog food

One evening I dropped off a DLG to a customer on 18th St. in San Francisco. As he opened his door and walked down his steps towards my glowing bike, he said “You guys really eat your own dog food.”

We are a bicycle based business. We do not have a company car. We use public transportation and bike to work. We ship our products on our Xtracycle SUB’s.

Being a bike based business has been a conscious choice. We’ve had chances to buy and use cars that were very affordable. And we do borrow vehicles occasionally for distant or especially awkward tasks, perhaps 4-5 times per year.

The main benefit of being a bike-based business is that we get to be out there in the bike community. It helps us connect with future customers and employees. And it feels good to carry your DLG orders to the FEDEX depot on our bikes.

Flow Toys festival rig

Sean's festival rig

Sean and his wife run — they make light toys for Poi dancing and staff spinning. They recently came out with a new product called the FlowLight, a cool fish-shaped toy with about a dozen different light modes that look especially cool while spinning or moving. The LED’s flicker in ways that cause a ‘persistence of vision effect‘.

Sean was heading to the Oregon Country Fair, a multi-day festival, to sell his wares. He tricked out his Xtracycle with bins to showcase his staffs and store his inventory. There are shimmering reflective holographic stickers on the main triangle of the frame. He also purchased some custom “ghost” colored Down Low Glow (a light purplish white).

Sean came up with a custom kickstand for his rig too.

It should be noted that Xtracycle frames have a cantilevered rear section. So supporting it from the rear is not appropriate for some applications, like bike blending, when there will be a rider on the bike.


Does that thing fit on the bike shuttle?

We often get this question from peope who use BART and the bike shuttle. And I’m happy to say, yes. An Xtracycle fits on both BART elevators (tipped up) and on the bike shuttle. It takes a little finesse to go on Caltrain with an Xtracycle, because it exceeds the 80 inch length limit, and many conductors are strict. City buses can work if you remove the front wheel, and place the hook over the top tube of the bike.