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It’s crunch time for the HPVDT, with about two weeks left to finalize the bike for the ASME Human Powered Vehicle Challenge East, this year in Gainesville, FL. The team has posted this rendering of their bike on their blog.
abstractImage As you can see, it is quite a departure from their previous fully faired machines. The team didn’t want me to post any pictures of the actual bike at this point, but I’ll post some retrospective construction pictures at some point.

As an additional teaser, here’s a picture of Victor working on some disc wheels for Eta.IMG_1999

A bit windy and cold today, so we bundled Lucy up.
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Checking the High Park Sakura, you can see that they are still a long way off.
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The High Park Nature Centre projects peak bloom on May 9, on the basis of this graph correlating blooms with the average temperature of the preceding March.
Peak-Bloom-predictions-2015image source: High Park Nature Centre.

I don’t know if it’s my imagination, but since they repaved and restriped the High Park loop last year in anticipation of the Pan Am games, the bike lanes seem wider.
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A little cross country action with Lucy.
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At this point, everyone is tired of me taking pictures.
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A Lucy eye view leaving the park.
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I’ve spent a week now with our Haul a Day, and it has proven to be a terrific cargo bike. It is noticeably more responsive to ride than my Xtracycle, and it is more rigid as well. The other thing that I notice is that the low single frame tube makes it much easier to mount than a regular bike. This fact is actually more significant for a cargo bike than a regular bike. I remember the one time that I almost kicked my daughter in the head when I mounted my Xtracycle with her already sitting on the back.

I’ve been tweaking the bike to fine tune it. Firstly, a set of YNOT pedal straps that I bought over a year ago at the Toronto Bike Show. They are made locally here in Toronto. Perhaps back then I had an inkling that I’d be buying an orange bike?
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Next up, fixing my shifter. This is probably relevant to exactly zero% of fellow Haul a Day owners, but I don’t like twist shifters and at the same time I wanted the cargo bars (which are awesome, BTW). This is the shifter as delivered. DSC05178

I had to move my hands to be able to shift, and it was bugging me, so I tried to move the shifter to the other section of the bar. However, the shape of the shifter housing prevented it from getting anywhere near the corner.DSC05179

This is the final compromise. In this position, I can shift with my thumb while still having my right hand on the bar, which feels much better.
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Next up, making a trip down to Urbane Cyclist to see if some Yuba accessories fit. The first thing I tried was their big bag, but as you can see from this picture, the height of the bag puts the hooks way above the frame rail if the bag is resting on the footrests.
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This is how the bag hands if I remove the footrest.
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DSC05184 The bag just happens to be orange, and the hooks are perfectly positioned for the bike. I’ll think about it if the cargo capacity of the bike seems too limited.

I didn’t leave empty handed, though. I picked up a soft spot seat pad.
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The next thing was to transfer some things from the xtracycle. Before I did that, I discovered that an old pannier cover that I had fits the front basket perfectly.
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Transferred over the rear view mirror.
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and the taillight. I found on the Xtracycle that it was better not to mount the taillight rigidly as I kept bumping into it, or it would get knocked off.
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A bungie cord, stowed around the rear deck.
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Now the acid test: the weekly grocery trip. I knew that the Haul a Day would definitely carry less, and you can see here that I can fit two oversize grocery bags on each side. The bungie cord came in handy as well. I didn’t load anything in the front basket this time around.
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Just to compare, I reloaded the same load on the Xtracycle, where the bags fit much more comfortably in the black slings. On the Xtracycle, it is easy to get two bags on a side, and it is possible to squeeze a smaller third bag as well.
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If I use the front basket on the Haul a Day in addition to the bungie cord for light, bulky items, I should be able to carry about as much. However, I will note that the foot rests on the HaD are not very wide, and this made loading the groceries trickier than on the Xtracycle, where I was used to having the bag rest on the wideloader before having to tighten up the sling. On the other hand, it is just barely possible to get the Xtracycle through a standard door. My ideal would be if the foot rests were about 4″ wider in total width.

The other quirk that I’ve found is that the metal footrests are loud. There is a loud bang whenever I raise the kickstand. I thought I could fix this my putting some handlebar padding on the kickstand, but it still made a (less loud) bang. DSC05176 I never had this issue with the wideloaders since they have a fabric sling rather than a rigid metal deck. I’ll have to figure out a long term solution. The other issue with the rigid footrest deck was that I had my U lock in the rear for a couple of days when I noticed that the fabric of the sling was already showing some near perforations where the corner of the lock was banging through the fabric against the metal footrest. Since then, I’ve put the U lock in the front basket.

However, on balance, my experience with the Haul a Day has been very positive, and I’ll be putting the Xtracycle up for sale soon. Picking up a point from the previous post, with the single, low frame tube, the small diameter tubing on the rear part of the frame, and the frame mounted basket, I like to think of this bike as a Moulton F Frame for a new generation.

Update: a quick comment on Facebook about the kickstand banging on the frame rails gave me an idea, so I wrapped a bunch of inner tube around one of the legs (basically an entire 700C tube).
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No more banging for the moment, and this method has the advantage that the padding doesn’t touch the ground when the kickstand is deployed. I’ll work out a more elegant solution at some point.

Today turned out to be a day packed with bike related activity. First order of business: assembling the Bike Friday Haul a Day that I picked up from FedEx on Wednesday. My good friend Steve was here to lend a hand.

First, unboxing
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All the paperwork. Including a mint for refreshment during the build was a nice touch.
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Parts all over the living room.
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About 45 minutes later:
DSC05115 The assembly went very smoothly. We were very impressed how easily the frame bolted together. Once everything was together, none of the cables needed adjustment.

As soon as it was together, it was time for the inaugural ride, with the whole gang to our favourite patisserie.
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I think Patisserie 27 needs more bike parking out front…..
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Back towards home on the Annette St. bike lane.
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Now I had some time to compare the Haul a Day to my Xtracycle, and to mount some accessories. First the weigh in: Haul a Day bare, 38 lbs, Xtracycle 51 lbs. Once I added the bigfoot rests and the mini stoker bar to make it more comparable to the Xtracycle, this added about 3 pounds.

Here are some pictures of the two bikes.
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The Haul a Day bags. I am a bit bummed that there are no rain flaps on the slot pocket.
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The Xtracycle wideloaders are much wider than the bigfoot rests, but the Haul a Day will be much easier to get through doorways.
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The bigfoot rests are much shorter than the wideloaders, but because of the different shape of the backs of the two bikes, the top decks are not that much different in length.
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Xtracycle: 26″
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Haul a Day: 24″
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I was grateful that the rear fender came pre-installed as it looked like it would have been a pain to do it once the bags and deck were in place.
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The dropout mounts for the SKS front fenders were also preinstalled, with a standoff on the left side to clear the disk brake.
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I must admit that one of the things that pushed me over the edge to commit to a new cargo bike was the fact that there was a frame mounted front basket that was large enough for Lucy. I added the padding and straps from her old bike seat.
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Two minor hitches during the final assembly. First, there were no nuts for the four bolts that mount the front basket to the platform. I had to dig thru my bag o bolts for replacements.
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The second thing was that while I was finishing the assembly, the front tire blew. Close inspection showed that the tube had punctured near the valve stem, on the rim side of the tube.
DSC05136 There were some burrs in the hole for the valve stem. It looked like these rims had a presta hole, and the holes were enlarged rather crudely. I deburred the hole with a Dremel, just in case.

While changing the front tire, I take advantage of the fact that the Haul a Day is also designed to stand on end.
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After everything was buttoned up again, it was time for a group ride down to the lake.
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Lucy really likes the front basket. She used to have to peer around me when she rode on the rear deck of the Xtracycle. However, she still complains if I’m not in the lead of our little group.
DSC05146 Having her out front attracted a lot of attention.

Early impressions? This bike is much more rigid than my Free Radical based Xtracycle. It assembled very easily. The build quality is very high; the small diameter steel tubes and the frame mounted front reminds me very much of my Moulton ATB, and I’d say that the build quality of this bike is at least as high. It is impressive that they can hit this price point with this complicated a frame design that is welded in the US.

I did upgrade the base configuration with Avid BB7 disk brakes, front and rear, better hubs, headset, and tires but the biggest upgrade was the cargobike bars, which I am loving.

A little pool caper

I challenged our graduating class to reach a certain goal in fundraising (beating the previous best class participation rate of 75%) with the promise that if they did it, I would ride a bike into a pool. Industrious students that they are, they reached 100%, and so it was time to pay the piper.

It took a while to work out the logistics. Hart House graciously agreed to let me do it if I didn’t use a full size bike, and if we took some precautions not to chip any of the historically important tile.

Here is our beautiful venue.
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Just to show that I was taking this seriously, here I am earlier in the week practicing with the bike. The objective was to try not to go headfirst into the pool.
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Here with some of the graduating class in attendance.
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The little silver badge shows that I also participated in the fundraiser.
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I could just post one frame to show the jump itself, like this one:
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but that wouldn’t give the complete picture. There was a very short run up. I don’t think I even got two full pedal strokes in, so I didn’t achieve escape velocity.
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and here, as seen by the gopro clone on the handlebars. At least I verified that the housing is waterproof.

Afterwards, I see this notice on the wall.
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I wish that I had done a little better on the jump, but not enough to want to do it again!

Update: a video here, showing that I get less than a full pedal stroke in.

Dash cams for bikes

If you Google the internet for dashcam videos, you can see all sorts of automotive carnage that has been recorded all over the world. There are also a growing number of cyclists who have routinely been recording their rides to document bike/car conflicts of various kinds.

I have been resisting putting a camera on my bike, partially because of the expense, and partially because of the odd appearance of a helmet mounted camera. (Although from this post, you might think that it is deeply ironic that I would care about aesthetics.)

However, recently these cameras have been coming down in price, and there has been a whole slew of GoPro clones of varying quality advertised on various Chinese websites. Last month I decided to try out a Go Pro clone called the “SJ4000 sports camera” that advertised 720p recording for well under $100. In fact, the final cost including shipping and duties was about $60 CAD. (does not include a micro SIM card). I was interested to see how it would compare with a GoPro (which I do not have on hand), or one of several bike cameras are about to come onto the market for around $200 USD or higher, such as the Rideye, or the Fly12.

Here is the camera.
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Here are the bits that it comes with, notably a waterproof case and many different kinds of mounts.
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Here is a shot from the skimpy page of instructions that shows the various modes of mounting the camera.
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Here is the helmet mounted camera.
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It does a decent job of recording, although the frame rate is only 30 fps. The resolution is enough that you can catch license plates some of the time, if the car is relatively close, as you can see from this screen shot.Screen Shot 2015-04-05 at 6.02.18 PM

The runtime for the camera is more than 90 minutes, which is more than adequate for my roundtrip commute. If you put it into 10 minute loop mode, it records your ride in 10 minute segments.

My quick impression of the camera is that it gives perhaps 75% of the performance of the lowest end GoPro, at about one third the price.

As a more useful comparison, I shot some video with the GoPro clone and the Fly6 taillight that I got as a kickstarted project back in June 2014. I had not used the Fly6 as of yet as it is only designed to mount off a seatpost, and this wouldn’t work for any of my regular bikes since they all had racks and panniers that would block the view.

Here is the box for the Fly6.
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The contents.
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A comparison of the Fly6 with a regular taillight.
f3 Note that the current version of the Fly6 is slightly smaller than the unit I have.

This company is also working on a front camera, the aforementioned Fly12, due to be delivered fall 2015. The kickstarter price for the Fly12 was $199 – $239 US.

Here are both cameras mounted on my bike.
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I’m mounting the Fly6 upside down on the headtube, which is not recommended as it can slip out of the mount when used this way.
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Here is a screen shot from the GoPro clone.
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and the Fly6 at the same place on the video.
fly6shot Note that the date time stamp is upside for the FLy6. From the still shots, the image quality is not that much different, although the colours for theFLy6 are much nicer.
However, the Fly6 seems to shoot at a higher frame rate as can be seen from this video. Note that the GoPro footage is shakier because it is mounted on the handlebar as opposed to the headtube.

Bottom line: the Fly6 is a better unit, but at more than three times the price. I’ll stick to my Go Pro clone.

In actual fact, since the shipping cost was high, I ordered six of these cameras.
DSC05079If you are interested in having one (local pickup in downtown Toronto only), they would be $57 CDN. Send me your email in the comments (which I will not publish) and I’ll get back to you.

Last Friday, word went out that Share the Road Cycling Coalition was planning to award the City of Toronto a Bicycle Friendly Community Gold designation at their annual Bike Summit.  A number of cycling advocates wrote the Coalition with our views that this type of award would be insulting to many in the cycling community given the actual state of cycling in our fair city.  Nevertheless, the powers that be went ahead and handed out the award, which was accepted by a group of people including many of the hard working City staff on the bike portfolio.

I’ll quote from my letter to Share the Road (with a change of tense here and there) to point out how meaningless this “Gold” designation is in my opinion.

“As a long time, four season bike commuter who has also biked in many other cities in both the US and Canada, I feel that although Toronto is starting to make strides in this direction, it is a long way from being a bike friendly city. Specifically, Toronto has virtually none of the attributes that the League of American Cyclists use to define a “Bike Friendly City” let alone one that is rated as “gold”. The LAB list reads like a wish list towards which Toronto can aspire

Do we have 65% arterial streets with bike lanes?  Do we have “very good access for bikes to public transportation”? Looking at the LAB criteria, we score better on the “encouragement” spectrum, but we are silver at best on mode share, and not even bronze on the infrastructure side.

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As such, having awarded Toronto “gold” greatly undermines the credibility of this award.”

I wish that they had given it a couple more years (or given the present pace of progress, perhaps ten years). Once the West Toronto railpath goes all the way downtown, the Richmond Adelaide bike lanes are permanently installed, Queen’s Quay is done, and there is a serious, protected east west route (bike lanes on Bloor/Danforth, for example, and the bikeway along the Eglinton corridor), and there are more bike lanes on outlying arterial roads where the majority of bicycle fatalities have occurred over the last decade, then we can begin to point to a connected “Minimum Grid” network of bike infrastructure leading from all points of the city through to downtown. At that point, we can start putting ourselves on a plane that approaches what cities like Vancouver and Montreal have done.

At the time that I wrote the letter, I hadn’t realized that Toronto was already rated silver, as was brought up by Herb at ibikeTO.

Now that Toronto is now “gold”, I really hope that the politicians will not make hay and stall further progress. If we are gold now, then what in five or ten years? Platinum?  Diamond? Unobtanium?

Cycle Toronto posted this reaction to the award, and chose not to be present at the ceremony. What is unfortunate is that although organizations such as Share the Road and Cycle Toronto are working towards many of the same goals, this type of award creates a split in the community as it sends a mixed message about cycling in the city. Getting the gold doesn’t mean that things are good for cyclists.

Granted that there has been some progress in bicycle infrastructure over the last decade, but we are just at the beginning of a long journey towards having cycling taken seriously as a significant and safe transportation option for Torontonians. We all see the present situation where it has become more and more difficult to get around the city, and with the significant densification that is happening in many neighbourhoods, things are only going to get worse if we continue along our present path.

Further note: there is a rationale for rating Ontario differently than the US or other jurisdictions in Canada: in the US there is federal funding for bike infrastructure, despite the Republican’s efforts to strip it out every time the highway bill comes up for renewal. In the Vancouver area, there is funding that I think is associated with Translink. I don’t know about Montreal or Quebec. The City of Toronto bike infra budget is very small, and despite this recent announcement, provincial funding is limited as well.

Update: this recent article indicates that all is not unicorns and rainbows in Montreal as well.

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