Ohm Urban XU700 Electric-Assist Bike

IMG_3433I did it! I went electric! Or as my buddy Tom said, “you’ve crossed over to the dark side”. Of course, I don’t see it that way. I’ve now been riding my electric-assist bike for just over a month and I love it. I’ve put on about 250 miles in that time and haven’t driven my car to work once. I feel like I have super powers, but in actuality, the electric-assist just evens out the playing field a bit. That has been made clear to me by the experience of people riding non-electric bikes still occasionally passing me by. I’m 50 years old with recalcitrant knees. My electric bike basically allows me to keep pace with other riders and allows me to get out of harms way more quickly.

There are some downsides to this bike. The biggest issue for me is the weight of the bike which primarily comes into play when I’m performing routine maintenance on the bike. Even when I take the battery off the bike, the extra weight of the motor in the rear wheel hub, makes it more difficult for me to lift the bike into the stand. The second week I owned the bike, I experienced a rear flat. The extra weight of the rear wheel definitely made re-installing the wheel more difficult. I actually needed to sit under the bike on a stool so that I could use my leg to apply upward pressure while I used my hands to position the wheel into the dropouts. I also recently attempted to put the bike on a bus bike rack at a test rack site. I was unsuccessful in part due to the heft of the bike and in part due to the design of the rack–I don’t have enough hand strength to stabilize the bike with one hand and squeeze the trigger and extend the support arm up over the front wheel. I may attempt this again when I’m feeling a bit stronger. I don’t anticipate a need for bike/bus commute, but I thought I would explore this option in the event of a dead battery situation. Another issue is the fact that since this bike has electric componentry, it is less compatible with being left out in the elements for long periods of time. For this reason I decided to rent a bike locker at work. Having a locker also eliminated worrying about my bike being stolen while locked up all day at work. For locking up in other situations, I purchased an Abus Bordo folding lock which gives me the most flexibilty for locking both the frame and the battery simultaneously.

The bottom line is my new bike makes me want to ride every day! If you see me out and about and want to talk electric-assist bikes or bikes in general, just give me a shout. I’m so psyched that electric-assist is becoming more popular and that more bike shops in our area are offering some pedelecs or add-ons. My feeling is that whatever it takes to get us out there riding and keep us out of cars is a positive thing.


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Thoughts on Electric-Assist Bikes

I’m seriously considering purchasing an electric-assist bike. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my knees are shot. On flats, my legs can still crank pretty well as long as I keep my cadence high and my gearing low. Even in the “granniest” of granny gears, though, the hills take their toll on my old creeky joints. For this reason, I am considering the move to electric and, well, because an electric bike is super fun. Have you tried one?

I can’t get out of the saddle and climb hills like I could thirty years ago. As a prideful person, I have to admit that it’s sometimes hard for me to have people passing me at what appears to be warp speed. An electric bike would allow me to keep pace with my fellow bikers, but more importantantly, it would allow me to move more quickly among vehicle traffic. Seattle is one of the most bike-friendly cities, but there are still motorists who have little tolerance for cyclists. On many narrow arterials there are not dedicated bike lanes instead there are sharrows which indicate to motorists that they will be sharing the road with cyclists. However, when drivers have worked all day and are anxious to get home or if they have had too much coffee and haven’t left themselves enough time to get to an appointment, their ability to share the road is diminished. As Seattle traffic continues to become more congested and drivers become more impatient, there seems to be ever increasing hostility towards a cyclist who may be slowing them down. I feel an electric bike would allow me to ride more safely among traffic, by being able to move along and out of the way of motorists more quickly.

My reservations about going electric are two-fold. One, my pride. I know that there will be other cyclists who will view me with disdain. In the past, I myself have viewed cyclists using electric-assist as wimps or less than “real” cyclists. I know…why do I care? Again, did I mention my pride? Two, I’m worried that I won’t get enough exercise. My goal would be to use the electric-assist on hills, but not on the flats. I will use my time on the flats as my opportunity to get some real cardio. I’m worried that I will get complacent and use the assist all of the time. Speed is pretty enticing. On most electric-assist bikes, you can set the level of assistance. Even a mere 30% assist is amazingly helpful and if you choose to, you can still obtain a great workout. Not getting lazy while having the option of using full power may be a challenge though.

I would love to be able to be a full-time bike commuter and I feel an electric-assist bike would allow me to do so. These bikes offer a great option if you want to avoid driving a car and be part of the Seattle traffic solution. As long as an electric bike doesn’t exceed 20mph, it is legal to ride in the bike lanes and no license is required.  I would love to know where you stand on electric bikes and, if you have one, about your experiences. Just being out of a car and in touch with my surroundings, smelling the smells, hearing the sounds and feeling the freedom of childhood is the most important aspect of biking for me.

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Switching Gears

In 2006, I returned to cycling after a long hiatus. I started off by setting up my early 90’s Trek Multi-Track hybrid as a commuter and began commuting to work as often as possible. Soon, I joined the Cascade Bicycle Club and started participating in CTS their training series (which, at the time, was free and drop-in style) in preparation for my eventual goal of riding Cascade’s Seattle-to-Portland (STP) event. I purchased a rather expensive, semi-custom Rodriguez road bike and starting logging as many miles and rides as my spare time and lifestyle would allow. I ended up riding STP in both 2006 and 2008.

This year, I had planned on riding both STP and RSVP (Ride Seattle to Vancouver, BC and Party), but this didn’t materialize. I successfully registered for both rides as well as the training series, which is no longer free and is only available to those who have signed up to participate in a Cascade ride event. I rode with CTS the first couple training rides, but then I missed a couple rides due to vacation and upon return felt I was too far behind in mileage to hang with the pack. I was already struggling with longer rides due to my weight gain the previous year. I needed to begin cycling to help me lose weight, but my degenerating knees were screaming at me about having to drag all of this extra weight, especially on longer rides. I decided to bow out of CTS, STP and RSVP and instead dedicate myself to improving my health and reducing my weight before embarking on any future distance riding.

In July, I decided it was time to really take the bull by the horns and get serious about losing weight. I joined Weight Watchers and have dropped nearly twenty pounds thus far. I have a long ways to go, but each pound lost allows me to enjoy biking that much more. When I have a heavy pannier, I often think about how much more I was lugging around. I haven’t been doing rides much longer than 20 miles, but I have been riding pretty often. I commute to work when my schedule allows, ride to appointments and run errands. I have begun to realize that utilitarian cycling is really my favorite type of cycling. I really enjoy having a reason to ride…I mean an actual purposeful destination as opposed to just riding to log miles. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with just riding to ride, but I really like ditching my car and using my bike rather than riding for exercise and then using my car for work, errands and appointments.

My style of cycling has changed in recent years and that’s okay. In 2009, I purchased a Surly Long Haul Trucker (LHT) and I soon set it up with swept back Nitto Northroad bars for upright, city riding. I love this bike and much prefer riding it to my Rodriguez. Sitting upright is comfortable and I love the feeling that the Trucker can handle any load and terrain I throw at it. No, it’s not a light weight or fast bike, but that’s okay with me. I’ve decided that being the fastest is no longer my goal. I’m just gonna keep on Truckin’ and most importantly Ride Happy!

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Two-Wheel Tolerance

I want to say a bit about two wheel tolerance…or maybe just plain tolerance in general. This being the month of May, the Bike-To-Work month, I have been seeing many more cyclists out on the roads during my commute and other times. While many cyclists are courteous, there are a surprising number who seem as intolerant of their fellow cyclists as some motorists. I just don’t get it.

I can actually more easily understand intolerance of bicyclists by motorists. For motorists, seeing cyclists and having to share the road is difficult, I think, on many levels. It may make them more nervous because they don’t understand how to share the road and they may worry about injuring cyclists. It also may further impede their ability to text while driving, apply make-up, shave, etc. Many drivers are in a hurry and having to deal with cyclists is irritating. It causes them a great deal of inconvenience and hardship by requiring them to lift their foot off the gas pedal and onto the brake and then back to the gas pedal, etc. Motorists may also have to slow down for a short while until they are able to get around a cyclists, greatly delaying their arrival time at their destination. However I must say, I’m always so impressed when they finally do get a clearing and are able to really put the pedal to the metal– a truly amazing feat of athleticism. 

Bike on bike hatred is just harder for me to fathom. I find that most of the intolerance that I experience comes from the hardcore road bike racer-type folks and the rebel cyclist. The road racers are just peeved that I’m taking up the bike lane. Basically, it seems that either because I’m not as skinny and fast as they are, I don’t have a right to be there–that I am not a real cyclist. I realize that our reasons for riding may be quite different, but aren’t we both on bicycles.  The rebel bicyclist will ride in any way that s/he feels without regard to other cyclists, cars or laws. In some ways, I can appreciate this style of riding. Cars don’t always make it easy on cyclists so why should we make it easy on them by playing by their rules–or at least the rules that were created for them. It seems they may be in just as big a hurry as some motorists so they don’t heed any stop signs or signals, and may make some very unorthodox moves in order to get through busy intersections and traffic. They sure do know how to keep motorists off balance and they are certainly doing their part to create a stronger hatred of cyclists by them. While I often feel like yelling at these cyclists, “you give us all a bad name”, I realize that I can’t control the universe. It’s hard to resist “giving guidance” when I see people taking life-threatening risks while trying to prove the point that it’s not all about cars. They may be right, but they may be dead right.

Are we all in such a hurry all of the time that we cant afford a moment of kindness and tolerance of each other? It honestly seems to me that some people are angry and/or miserable so they intentionally try to make others equally miserable; or at the very least, try to make things difficult for people. I’ve been commuting by bike in Seattle for about eight years now and I really feel like the cycling atmosphere is different this year. Although, the city has and continues to do much to improve our roads and bike lanes, it’s not getting any easier to coexist out there. I would like to throw out a request for a little more tolerance of others.

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Old Spokes Home

This is a group of old spokes found among a huge lot purchased at a going-out-of-business sale from a bike shop that had been in business for more than fifty years. I’m guessing there must be collectors out there that would be interested in these NOS spokes either to add to their collection or to put into use in a restoration project.

If you have interest in any or all of these spokes send me an email. If I don’t sell them, I may just display them in some fashion in my home or shop. Does anyone know anything about the Giuseppe & F. Redaelli brand spokes. I have no idea whether these spokes are still made nor the approximate age of them. The spokes are in fabulous condition, are beautifully swaged (double-butted) and if the way they’re wrapped is any indication, appear to be somewhat old. Again, if anyone knows the history of these, I would love to learn about them.

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Velocity Chukker Rims

When I set out to build a new set of wheels for my Surly Long Haul Trucker commuter bike, my main objective was to create a solid set of wheels that would be rugged enough to withstand Seattle’s, often, rough roadways.  Anyone ridden westbound down Ravenna near Cowan Park lately? Over the last seven years, I’ve ridden that stretch of roadway pretty regularly and the poor conditions there haven’t improved during this time. Can I designate my tax dollars be spent on this spot specifically? Okay, I digress and this subject is for another post.

Anyhow, I’m a larger rider so I require a solid rim. Since my wheels are 26″, Velocity’s Deep V was not an available option. Of all the 26″ options, the Chukker seemed to tick all of the boxes. Originally called the Deep V ATB, the Chukker is wider making it stronger and able to accommodate larger tires. During the past year, I have run everything from a 1.25″ slick to a 1.90″ studded tire on these rims. The versatility of this rim makes it a great all around rim. It is a heavier rim that won’t interest the weight conscious, but since the first place I would look to reduce overall bike-rider weight is at myself, this is not a concern.

After the initial re-truing (approximately 200 miles ridden) about a year ago, I hadn’t touched the wheels so I took them off the bike just last week to check them out. To my amazement they were still as true as could be. Seriously, no tweaking necessary whatsoever. These rims held true even though rider, gear and full saddlebags range from 220 to 250lbs and have been jumped off curbs, pounded on rough roadways and  slammed over root-destroyed sections of the Burke-Gilman trail. I’m not a big fan of the term “bomb proof”, but I would say these rims are just that. Having such a solid, reliable set of wheels provides great piece of mind while riding and reduces the maintenance workload. If you’re looking for a great, durable rim that won’t give you reason for an upgrade anytime soon, the Chukker is a superb choice.

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Get a Grip

I love cork grips for their cushy comfort and classic good looks, but I have had to give them up in order to get a better grip. I have decided that cork grips are simply not practical for the Seattle rainy season. Not only do cork grips, and especially the cork-foam composite type, absorb water and soak my gloves once I grab hold, they also become extremely slippery when wet.

cork grip

Definitely not desirable qualities in a bike grip. Applying shellac to them will keep them from absorbing water, but then they become stiff and no longer cushy. So until dryer days, I have swapped out my cork grips for some rubber grips with non-slip texture and vibration damping properties. I rode with my new grips yesterday and they were very grippy, almost tacky, even when it was raining.

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NOS Beauty

Beautiful NOS Suntour Superbe Pro Hub-set paired with bright silver Velocity Razor rims.  I recently built these up for a client and I must say these are some nice older hubs. They spin for days…seriously some of the smoothest, longest running hubs I’ve ever spun in the stand. The skewers alone are a thing of beauty.

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The Corporal

Just wanted to share some pics of an awesome bike that was built up by my new friend, Tom Atkinson.  Every component except the frame and fork (1986 Schwinn LeTour) is brand new. The bike is showroom ready, has zero miles and is up for sale. A real beauty!

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Obsession and Perfectionism

When does a passion become an obsession? When does doing a job to the best of your abilities become perfectionism? I’m sure many wheel-builders have asked themselves these questions. I’ve always been a perfectionist by nature and in my work as a pharmacist for more than twenty years, I’ve generally considered this a positive trait. Medicine and health care are not areas where you ever want to say, “good enough”, but in wheel-building one must say this at some point. I know that even the best hand-built wheels will have some imperfections in lateral rotation and roundness. It is, though, sometimes difficult to say enough is enough.

When I begin the process of truing, I often like to work on a wheel and bring it to a point where I’m mildly satisfied with it and then walk away from it for awhile. I’ll come back to it later with fresh eyes and tweak it some more to come up with the finished product. If a wheel that I’ve built hangs around the shop long enough, however, I might just walk by it sometime and be compelled to give it another spin in the stand just to see if perhaps it can be even further improved upon. Is this perfectionism or obsession or simply the madness that comes with building wheels?

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