Will Ford be the Next Big Bicycle Manufacturer?

Who is bicycle manufacturers’ next big competitor? The biggest competitor may not be who you think it will be. And it certainly may not be the biggest competitor now. Did book stores realize Amazon was going to be their biggest competitor? Did record stores realize that music streaming would be their biggest competitor. My guess is that the answer is no or at least not until it was too late. So what does this all have to do with cycling?

The same is true for bicycle manufacturers, their biggest competitor is anyone with a better idea. The slow to innovate bicycle industry (see Road Bikes = Innovation Constipation) may not realize who will be their biggest competitor until it is too late also. The bicycle market is becoming a very lucrative growth industry, especially with the global bicycle market projected to reach $28,667.3 million by 2027, as reported by businesswire.com (see Global Bicycle Market (2021 to 2027) – by Type, Sales Channel and End-user – ResearchAndMarkets.com). So it may come as no surprise that Ford might be targeting the market by registering a US patent that may have reinvented the bicycle derailleur (see Is Ford about to change derailleurs forever? ) as reported by Cyclingnews.com

Take note bicycle manufactures. If you snooze, you may loose. Nevertheless, it’s good to see innovation in the very slow innovating bicycle industry as well as the potential benefits consumers generally see with competition .

Ken Whittaker

Shame on Thule for Neglecting Safety

Thule Bicycle Carrier Tail Light Mod

If you’ve read my posts Dress Boldly Conspicuous, Tiny Changes Can Produce Big Results or Be Eye-catching Flashy you know that I’m an advocate of being highly visible when I’m riding my bike. So it will not come as a surprise that I am just as passionate about safety when my bike is riding on the back of my vehicle in the bike carrier.

I’ve used Thule racks for years. They proved to be a reliable product for me, especially when it comes to transporting my heavier e-bikes. Unfortunately, while Thule has focused their attention on carrying bikes they’ve neglected safety. With my bikes in the carrier my tail lights are blocked by the bikes. As you can see from the picture, although the tail lights on my vehicle are lit they are barely visible. However, Thule has woefully neglected this safety issue in North America.

To correct this safety shortfall I felt it was necessary to add supplemental lights to my Thule carrier. Now in low light situations or inclement weather I feel more confident that tail lights can be seen. If you would like to see a post on the details of this do it yourself project please leave a comment below.

Ken Whittaker

Fidlock Water Bottle Fails in Implementation

Mounting a water bottle on an e-bike can be challenging. Many e-bikes mount their battery on or inside of the down tube making it impossible to mount a water bottle there, as is the case with my wife’s Trek e-bike. Instead, Trek placed the water bottle mount under the top tube making it awkward to remove and replace a water bottle in a standard cage. Fortunately my Cannondale e-bike has a water bottle mount on the down tube on top of the battery and another on the seat tube. However, if a water bottle cage is mounted on the seat tube, there isn’t sufficient room to remove the battery. I guess Trek and Cannondale don’t use their bikes or they would have recognized these shortcomings.

Struggling to find a solutions for our water bottle dilemma, I found the Fidlock water bottle system. While it seemed insanely expensive, it looked liked the perfect solution to your problem. So I paid the premium price for the system and one purchase one for each of our e-bikes. about $80. Boy did I make a mistake!

The Fidlock water bottle system is an example of creative innovation that failed upon implementation.

Fidlock Water Bottle System

The Fidlock water bottle will only release from one side, so when it’s mounted on the down tube it is righthanded and releases with a twist to the right. When it’s mounted under the top tube or on the seat post it’s lefthanded and releases with a twist to the left, as pictured on their website. Since I am righthanded, it is unnatural for me to reach down with my left hand and twist a bottle to the left to remove it from my seat tube. Compounding the problem for me is drinking from a bottle in my left hand and returning it to the holder with my left hand. Cycling is dangerous enough, without trying to become ambidextrous while grappling with a water bottle on my bicycle.

Bottom line: I cannot recommend the Fidlock Water Bottle.

Ken Whittaker

The Trick to Using Stan’s Darts on Tubeless Tires

Tire plugged with Stan’s Dart

Sooner or later I knew it would happen. I’d get a puncture in my tubeless tire that couldn’t be repaired by the sealant alone. Since I use Stan’s sealant in my tubeless tires, I carry a Stan’s Dart tool to repair large punctures. Admittedly, I was a bit concerned about using the Stan’s Dart tool because I read several negative online reviews were users where breaking the tool or the dart during repairs. I can see how some users could break the tool or the dart if used incorrectly.

Here is how to repair the puncture without breaking the dart or tool.

Stan’s Dart Inside Tire
  • Stan’s Darts have a pointed plastic tip for easy insertion. However, as counterintuitive as this may sound, in some cases I had to make the puncture bigger to accommodate the dart’s plastic tip. Trying to push a larger plastic tip through a much smaller hole could break the tool or dart. The solution is to simply make the puncture just large enough so that the dart’s tip can be pushed through the tire.
  • A Stan’s Dart has a barbed tip to keep the plug from pulling out. Unlike a bacon strip, you DO NOT twist the dart like you would a bacon strip type plug. The dart goes straight in and is pulled straight back up. Twisting the dart during installation could break the tool or the dart.

Fortunately, using these two simple tricks when plugging a tire with a Stan’s Darts tool has always worked GREAT on my road tires. In fact, repairing the puncture couldn’t be easier. Simply position the tire so the puncture is at the top of the tire and with the tool perpendicular to the tire, pushed the dart straight down into the puncture until it can’t go any further, then pull it straight back up and you are back on the road. It’s that simple!

Ken Whittaker

An Argument for the Garmin Edge Remote

When the weather gets cooler the touch screen on my Garmin Edge becomes more of a hinderance than a feature. I can never find the right gloves that will keep my hand warm while cycling and will also work well with my Garmin Edge touch screen. As a consequence, each time I want to change the screen on my Garmin Edge I have to stop and take off my glove.

It wasn’t until I started using Shimano Di2 shifters on my road bike that I realized how convenient it was to flip though the screens remotely with just the touch of a button. Nevertheless, I’m very happy with my nine speed bar end shifters on my touring bike and I not willing to pay to upgrade to Shimano Di2 system just for the convenience of operating my Garmin Edge remotely. There had to be a better solution to my problem.

Then I learned about the Garmin Edge Remote Control. This little 3-button Edge remote (pictured above) mounts on my handlebars and uses ANT+ wireless connectivity to scroll through the pages of my Garmin Edge bicycle computer. I can also mark laps and program the third button to a function of my choosing from a list of preset functions. Although space on my handlebars is scarce, this little device has earned a spot and is well worth the space.

Ken Whittaker

A Secret Use For Koozies

Nothing says swag, the promotional items that are given away to advertise a company or product, like a can or bottle koozie. Koozies are those collapsible neoprene or foam rubber insulating sleeves designed to keep a canned or bottled drink cold.

Generally, most of the swag I get at bicycle events is useless junk and gets tossed in the trash immediately, except for koozies. While I’ve never used a koozie to keep a drink cold, they’re ideal for transporting a bicycle packed in tight spaces. Since the cleats on my touring pedals can easily scratch the interior of my car or other items packed in with my bike, I’ve found that slipping a koozie over the pedals is an ideal way to prevent scratches from my pedals. They work great!

While I hope you will share this tip about koozies with your cycling friends, please don’t let anyone in the bicycle industry know. Otherwise, instead of getting koozies free at cycling events, they’ll be selling for $50 a pair at your local bike shop.

Ken Whittaker

Bafang E-bike Conversion Kit Design Deficiency

Its been about a year since I built my Bafang conversion e-bike and I still enjoy riding the bike. I am impressed with how powerful the 750 watt motor is and the range the 840wh battery provides. However, the Bafang conversion is missing one key feature that I’ve become very used to on my Bosch e-bike. That is a continuous range estimate on the control display. Without a range estimate provided by the e-bike system, you have to guess the range left in the battery based on your experience.

So it finally happened. I ran out of juice while riding the Bafang. I must admit it came as a surprise. I started the ride with 3 out of 5 bars displayed on the battery indicator. Three out of 5 bars means I should have somewhere between 40-60% of the battery’s charge left. However, after about a mile into my ride the battery dropped to 2 out of 5 bars meaning I had a 40% charge. Still, I wasn’t worried sine I was planning an out and back ride. I simply planned to turn around when, or before, I reached 1 bar. My plan was to use 1 bar going out and 1 bar to return. However things didn’t go as planned.

To my surprise, about 10 miles (16 km) out while climbing a hill the battery dropped to 1 bar. Only 10 miles (16km) on 1 bar? That was unusual. Still I wasn’t worried. I just turned around and headed home. If I used 1 bar going out the remaining bar should get me home. Right? Wrong! Only a few miles more while climbing a short steep hill the battery indicator started flashing empty. No way! I should get more than 15 miles (24 km) on a battery that was at least 40% charged when I started. Was the Battery Management System saving power to protect the battery from completely discharging? There was no way to tell. Not willing to take a chance on damaging my battery, I shut off the power and started pedaling my dead e-bike home unassisted. Luckily it wasn’t as hard as I expected. The motor didn’t add much drag and the additional weight was only noticeable on climbs. About half way home I turned on the system again. What was happening? The display showed 1 bar again and I was able to make it home on assistance level 1. In my opinion, not having a continuous range estimate is a BIG DESIGN DEFICIENCY in the Bafang system, especially when for some unknown reason the first half of a charged battery provides a lot more miles than the last half of the charge.

Ken Whittaker

Checkout Gravelmap.com

Gravelmap.com is the best cycling related web site I’ve found in a long time. I live on the east coat of the United States where it is a rare treat to get away from traffic and find a nice quiet road for cycling. Nevertheless, on my first visit to Gravelmap.com I found a quiet gravel/dirt road close to my home to explore on my bike quickly and easily.

While Gravelmap.com sounds similar to TrailLink, ridewithGPS, and other bike route websites that may offer some of the same routes, what makes Gravelmap.com different is that it is an interactive database of only gravel and dirt roads and paths submitted and managed entirely by riders.

If you enjoy cycling gravel and dirt roads or would like to share your favorite route with other like minded cyclists then you should visit Gravelmap.com today! You may just find a new quiet less-traveled gravel gem close to home to explore on your bicycle.

Ken Whittaker

Garmin Edge Speed and Cadence Sensor Alternatives

Speed & Cadence Sensors

When I purchased my Garmin Edge 1030 I didn’t think much about the sensors. However I have several bikes, and it isn’t practical for me to move the sensors from bike to bike. At $69.99 for a pair of speed and cadence sensors it can get a bit costly for me to equip my other bikes with sensors.

Luckily, there are cost effective alternatives to Garmin’s speed and cadence sensors. In fact, after one of my Garmin sensors failed, I purchased a pair of Magene S3 Speed Cadence/Sensors for about the same price I would have paid for just one Garmin sensor. Although I only needed one, I bought a pair because the Magene sensors can be used as a speed or cadence sensor. Now if another speed or cadence sensor fails, I have a replacement readily available.

Worried about the quality of the much less expensive sensors compared to OEM Garmin sensors? If customer reviews are any indication, as of the date this was published, the Magene S3+ Cycling Speed/Cadence Sensor got 4.3 out of 5 stars from customers on Amazon and the Garmin bundle got 4.6 out of 5. I would say they are of comparable quality.

Ken Whittaker

7 Reasons Why You Don’t Want a Carbon Fiber E-bike

It is a bit of a paradigm shift when it comes to thinking about e-bike frames. It’s true that high quality carbon fiber bicycle frames are known for being light weight with lateral stiffness and vertically compliance. But, you have to ask yourself if that is important when it comes to an electric bicycle. In my case I wanted all those feature on my non-electric bike, but when it came to purchasing an electric I didn’t need or want to pay for these features.

Here’s why:

  1. Light Weight: The difference in bicycle frame weight is highly overrated. Since the difference in weight only accounts for about one or two watts of additional power, the reason bike riders lust for the lightest carbon fiber bicycle possible is to lighten the load when climbing hills. Similarly, the number one reason most people give for buying an electric bike is to make hills easier. Although you may need the lightest possible bicycle you can afford or an electric bike to make it up hills easier, you don’t need both. The lightest e-bike with a carbon fiber frame isn’t necessary when it comes to hills because the weight savings just isn’t significant when a rider is being assisted by an electric motor.
  2. Lateral Stiffness: In theory a stiffer frame is more efficient as less energy is lost to the frame flexing. This is most important when pounding the pedals because it can create energy robbing flex. However, since the rider is being assisted by an electric motor there isn’t a need to pound the pedals. As a result, there isn’t a significant energy loss by the rider due to frame flex.
  3. Vertical Compliance: When I think of compliance, I think of comfort. But handling is also a part of compliance. I find that tire size and pressure make a more significant contribution to compliance than frame materials. A wider tire with more air volume and lower tire pressure gives me a sure footed and comfortable ride. Therefore, a frame with tire clearance that will accommodate wider tires is much more important than having a carbon fiber frame.
  4. Durable: All other bicycle frame materials such as steel, aluminum, and titanium are more durable than carbon fiber. A significant scratch in a carbon fiber frame can ruin the frame, whereas a scratch in the other frame materials just adds character and to the story of the frame.
  5. Precision Engineering: Steel, aluminum and titanium are easier to precision engineer than laying up carbon fiber.
  6. Recyclable: Carbon fiber is not recyclable while the other bicycle frame materials can and should be recycled.
  7. Reduced cost: Carbon fiber frames are expensive to make and, as illustrated above, offer no significant advantage over other frame materials when it comes to e-bikes. The savings could be used for better components or just more money in your pocket.

The bottom line? Ask yourself if there are any real advantages to a carbon fiber e-bike. After careful consideration, I think you will agree that a carbon fiber e-bike is not worth the additional expense over other frame materials.

Ken Whittaker