Archive for February, 2009

So that’s why Bromptons are so popular!

February 20, 2009

My Alfine Tikit arrived yesterday. Superbly packaged, it was out of the box and assembled within an hour. It looks the business. The disc brakes will no doubt take a little care getting used to as they seem mega powerful. Tomorrow I may get a chance to get a quick ride although as luck would have it I am working this weekend at the Focus on Imaging show. Just when the weather turns warm, still I will get to spend some time with Jose Navarro whose photography I love (check out ‘Across Mali on a bicycle‘)

Anyway the main observation for today is that the Tikit arrived with a bill from Revenue and Customs, not for 15% VAT but what appears to be 47%. Now I don’t mind paying taxes, that how we can afford an NHS for goodness sake. But 47%? It appears I am not the only one to notice and it seems quite a few cyclists have asked Gordon Brown if he might do something about it. And it seems Gordon would love to, just that he can’t. Over to you Gordon to explain why

Hmm, well British jobs for British workers then Gordon, at least for the time being. The trouble is I personally do not mind whether the worker who builds my bike lives in the UK, the US, Taiwan or Italy. I do rather care that he or she works in a safe environment and gets a decent wage. And I am not sure how taxing bicycles helps.

In the meantime, it would appear the best way to import a folding bike rather than ride a Brompton would be to fly out, ride it around a bit to get a bit of dirt on it, fold it up and fly home as if you have had it for ages.

[Combing my hair warning: The last suggestion is illegal]
[Combing my hair warning: The last suggestion would rather defeat the carbon dioxide objective which may be why your are cycling rather than driving.]

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Is this the future of commuting?

February 13, 2009

I’m excited. After a bit of a wait this little beauty is on its way to me from Eugene, Oregon.

alfine-tikit

With hub-gears and disc brakes it addresses all of my quibbles with the standard Tikit as an everyday commuter in hilly rainy Sheffield. The photo here is from the factory. The final article will have a front mudguard and the saddle and pedals swapped in from the standard Tikit which will be passed on to Julia (Happy Valentines – have a second hand bike!) once it has been well and truly cleaned of salt and grime.

I hadn’t thought of it before but the new Tikit could also run a dynamo front light – reducing the need for batteries – a further green improvement.

Tikit – one year review

February 8, 2009

So I have now had the Tikit for nearly a year and have used it as planned to get to work.

Statistics

Compared to the cost of driving, the bike-train-bike combination has saved me more than the price of the bike. Here are some usage statistics (road bike in brackets):

Work Trips: 106 (39)
Abandoned Trips: 1 (0)
Falls: 0 (1)

Leaving aside the 1 abandoned trip last week due to the heaviest snow in 20 years, it is clear that the Tikit has proved a reliable and stable means of transport, being used on two and a half times as many occasions as the road bike. It is also the case that the Tikit has endured worse weather than the road bike, so the comments should be read in that context.

Pimping my ride

The saddle was too wide for me so I swapped in a Selle Italia C2 Gel Saddle – about £15 from eBay.

selle-italia

I also put on some Time ATAC pedals, a Cateye front light, two Planet Bike rear blinkies and a cordless computer. The intention was to make the already light and nippy Tikit into something approaching a foldable road bike.After a few days I took the cover and the little bag it sits in off because I couldn’t see me using it and it spoils the line of the bike. Finally I bought some Ergon grips on Vik’s advice but todate have not got round to fitting them. time-atac

Later in the year I tired of carrying a rucksack and bought a rear rack from Bike Friday and an Altura Dryline Rackpack

rackpack

This bag has only a 7 litre capacity but serves pretty well holding a pump, wet weather over-trousers, reading matter for the train, mobile phone, memory sticks etc. It has a permanent part which straps to the rack and the bag itself is held in place by velcro and 3 clips, which makes removal prior to folding straightforward. It is completely watertight.

Finally, on the advice of the Bike Friday Yak Group I changed the brake blocks for Koolstop Salmon – more of this later.

What I like

The Tikit rides well, it is a bit twitchy compared to a bike with 700c tyres but that is to be expected. With practice it is easily stable enough to ride hands free.

The gear range – one of the things that attracted me in the first place – is more than adequate. The gear shift is smooth and precise.

The fold – slightly bigger than a Brompton – but simple with no fiddly unscrewing and works in seconds once you have the knack. It has meant I can get on trains which otherwise would have been barred to me. Actually Northern Trains aren’t too bad. They have a two bike policy, but the guard usually tolerates more. However the fold guarantees a place.

The fitted tyres – Schwalbe Marathon Plus – seem bomb proof. No punctures in the year. Others have complained about them, but I find they run quite nicely if kept at 85 psi.

Things I don’t like

The brakes. Very early on I decided the Tektro brake blocks were not doing the business on my very steep morning descents. The Koolstop Salmon blocks made an immediate difference, and I have been through two pairs. However this greater stopping efficiency comes at a price. After 11 months I noticed the rear rim was dangerously worn. Look at the concave profile below:-

img_3679

This came as a serious shock. A replacement 349 rim from St John Street Cycles would only be £11 but it would mean being off the road while the wheel was rebuilt. I ordered a new wheel and rode carefully for a week.

In a way this shouldn’t come as a shock. The much smaller 16 inch wheels are rotating far faster than 700c wheels for any given speed. I was using the bike in very hilly terrain and often on wet days. My riding style is hardly conservative, accelerating fast and then scrubbing off speed. The perfect recipe for wear. Nevertheless it is disappointing. I think it is probably something which is outside of Bike Friday’s control. There is little choice in 349 rims and certainly, to my knowledge, no one making rims with a ceramic coating.

The cleaning The Tikit’s chain line runs very close to the road and picks up the muck. If you want to get reasonable wear out of the chain, cassette and chainring you need to clean that muck off. And keep cleaning it off. Bike Friday make it easy by having a KMC chain with a magic link, but it still gets tiresome.

Conclusion

The Tikit is a great bike. It is a pleasure to ride. For me it has easily paid for itself in the last year. I think if the Seasons Tikit, with its Nexus hub gear, had been around a year ago I would have gone for it to save on cleaning. The brakes would not be an issue anywhere other than the hilliest city in England, but they are here in Sheffield. Which set me to thinking…but that’s another post.

Tikit – where it all started

February 8, 2009

2278101864_cb5a7ff92a_b

12 months ago I bought a Bike Friday Tikit from Condor Cycles in London. I had a new job about 17 miles away and two weeks of driving had convinced me that commuting by car was a stressful boring experience (I already believed it was environmentally unsustainable). The idea was to do a bike-train-bike commute during the winter and on bad weather days during the rest of the year and use my road bike to get fit otherwise. As the bike was going to be used as the bad weather ride I expected it to take some hammer. It had to cope with Sheffield’s wet climate and the copious amounts of salt which spread on the road during the winter. More than that it needed to cope with the hills. Sheffield is built around a valley and part of the return trip from the station would include a short 14% gradient.

I was attracted to the Tikit by the number of positive reviews on the web, the wide gear range, and the speed of fold as illustrated in this video. Straight out of the shop, the impression was highly positive. A quick flat ride to St Pancras and onto the train without a second glance at the ticket barrier. Arriving in Sheffield the impression was slightly different, coming up the hill the bike creaked like crazy and it felt as if the handlebars might fold towards me at any moment. Still I was home in a fraction of the time it would have taken to walk and still feeling positive.

The next day I decided to try a trip to the shops. A high speed descent to Waitrose, the bike folded and in the trolley I was free to wander around with no worries about whether I would be walking home. Free to take my time I chose the museli and red wine, chatted to the guy next to me in the queue about how impressed I was with the bike and was outside ready for the trip back. The unfold proved as simple as the fold and I was happy. However the ride back up the hill revealed the same problem. It just didn’t feel secure.

A quick investigation on the web revealed the underlying problem. Condors had sold me (at full price) a 2007 twin wire hyperfold Tikit, a model Bike Friday had phased out for a far more robust version. Faced with a 150 mile trip to take it back, I decided to email Bike Friday. They were back to me the same day offering a free upgrade kit. Hugh said I may need to take it to the LBS to have the upgrade installed, but when the kit arrived a week later I was pretty pleased. Great customer service Bike Friday. The upgrade needed the front mudguard hole re-drilling and then tapping and getting this bit right was essential to both the headset staying together and the fold. I knew this was beyond my capabilities but my Dad has an engineering background so offered to do the business. Soon I was effectively in possession of a 2008 model and the uphill handling was transformed.