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Cycle Your Way to Fitness | Bicycle Commuter | Gas Prices Fuel Bike Sales | Boomers Biking | The Evolved Bike | Real Riders


The Star Online June 9th, 2004

BICYCLE riding is one of the ideal ways for people to improve their overall physical condition, with just 10 minutes a day enough to start the process towards a more healthy body, the German Physical Education College DSHS in Cologne reported.

In a report summarising some 7,000 studies on the benefits of bicycling as a means to physical fitness, the DSHS said 10 minutes a day already helps muscle tone, circulation and body joints.

Improvement in the heartās condition can come from about 30 minutes bicycling each day, and at 50 minutes daily, the metabolism in burning off body fats is stimulated, the DSHS said. Bicycling also strengthens the back muscles and spinal column.

The report also called bicycling a good alternative to jogging because it puts less stress on the knee joints.


On the road to becoming a bicycle commuter
With some basic gear and a few bells and whistles, you can pedal to work in style
Scott McGregor has been a stalwart bicycle commuter for at least 10 years.
June 7, 2004

"Vancouver has some really good bike routes and if you have the right gear, it's not bad at all. It's certainly easier than winter commuting in Toronto, which I was used to," says the cycling department team leader in Vancouver's Mountain Equipment Co-op store.

"I didn't own a car for the longest time and now I drive just one or two days a year just to pick something up," he says.

McGregor rides 15 to 20 minutes to work -- a 15-kilometre round trip -- and also bikes 45 minutes to school two nights a week.

"Some days when I'm busy, it's really strange, but it's the only quiet time that I have. You just get into a bit of a rhythm and it's relaxing and part of your routine and it's time for yourself before you start your work day."

Bicycle commuting is good for your heart, environmentally sound, inexpensive and "honestly still the most efficient way to travel, especially in cities," McGregor says. And since this is Bike Month in Vancouver, it's a great time to saddle up.

What gear do you need to transform yourself from a recreational or performance cyclist into a bicycle commuter?


Start with a helmet, some kind of noisemaker, front and rear lights and reflective taping on your bike or clothing, McGregor advises. Check bylaws for municipal requirements in your area.

"I just like having a small, clear bell, but some people feel it's not loud enough," McGregor says. "Some people will ride with a whistle in their mouths. Some even go with an air horn depending on how frustrated they are in traffic."

The hottest new trend is white LED lights for the front of a bicycle. The LED's bluish-white, piercing lights "are much more for being seen than for giving you vision," McGregor says.

"They have great battery life, and are nice and small, compact, not very expensive and bright enough for the city. They are very much the perfect commuting light."

You'll also need a red, preferably flashing, light for the back of your bike.

For short commutes, some change for the bus will be all you need to bail out of a sticky mechanical situation. For longer commutes, pack a pump, spare inner tube and some tire levers, McGregor says. For very long commutes, bring a little emergency tool kit with some Allen keys.


Your clothing will depend on personal preference and what change facilities you have at work.

If you commute in work clothes, you'll need a good waterproof or water-resistant shell jacket. MEC's SuperMicroft Cycling Jacket is ubiquitous in Vancouver and good value at $77, although not enough for really torrential downpours, McGregor says.

Year-round commuters will be much more comfortable in a high-end waterproof breathable jacket. The more you pay, the more breathable your jacket.

Commuter jackets have a baggier fit, longer arms to keep your wrists dry, a longer tail to protect your lower back, good ventilation, relective piping or tape, and are often sold in bright colours that many commuters feel are more visible in daylight.

For greater comfort, go with cycling-specific clothes. Cycling shorts differ from basic active or yoga wear by having padding for comfort in the saddle, and are carefully cut out of at least six to eight panels to move with you as you ride. Flatlock seams minimize chafing.

For extra efficiency, buy commuter cycling shoes and "clipless pedals" -- confusing terminology that actually indicates the existence of clips. The cleat on the bottom of the shoe locks on to the bike pedal and gives you a huge boost in efficiency, since you can pull up as well as down while pedalling.

Commuter shoes are softer and more comfortable than performance shoes, have a recessed cleat and "an almost normal sole so you're not going to wipe out in the frozen food section," McGregor says.

MEC alone stocks four or five models suited to commuters.

Bicycle Sports Pacific stocks a Cannondale MC 900 cycling shoe with cleats ($169.99) that is so comfortable that a number of store staff will wear them all day at work, says Chiron Kantakis, assistant manager at Bicycle Sports Pacific.

For extra flexibility, Shimano M324 pedals ($109) are clipless on one side and regular on the other.


For foul weather, consider a pair of water-resistant or waterproof shell pants and be sure to buy waterproof booties to wear over your shoes.

"I made the mistake of not having them for a number of years, just trying to not buy them," McGregor says. "They make a dramatic difference. It usually takes longer than a day for soaking-wet shoes and socks to dry out at work and then you've got to put the wet stuff on to go home."

If you hate the feel of a wet head, a helmet cover will hold off the rain.

Ear muffs are great for cold days, as are gloves.

Full fenders might not look cool, but they will save you from developing a dirt and water skunk line up your back, McGregor says.

"I have fenders on all my foul-weather bikes and my commuter bike in specific, and even throughout the summer, I'll leave them on.

"The fenders that give you the most protection tend to take a little more work to install," says McGregor, who worked as a mechanic for number of years.


McGregor usually travels with a backpack or courier bag, but if he had to carry a laptop, he'll go with a bike rack and panniers, which get the weight and heat off your back.

High-end variations such as the German-made Ortlieb panniers are 100-per-cent waterproof and actually submersible with kayak-style roll tops, says Chiron Kantakis of Bicycle Sports Pacific. The 40-litre pannier costs $199.99. Clip on a backpack option for $74.99. A professional briefcase-style laptop holder costs $169.99.

Bicycle seats come in many different widths and shapes. Some have holes cut into them, others even contain gel for a softer ride.

"You need to be able to try a saddle. You really can't just look at it and go 'yeah, that one should be great for me,'" says McGregor who advises buying from a store that allows you to try out a seat.

Locks are important. A bigger lock provides more security, but also more weight.

"It's a question of how much you're willing to carry and how much security do you feel you need," says McGregor who carries a fairly heavy U-lock in his bag. You can also mount a lock on your bike.

Get a commuter bike map so you can find bike lanes along your route.

A basic helmet is obviously essential safety gear, but if you're looking for adaptability, check out the Bell Metro ($99.99) which offers add-on options such as a winter kit to cover your ears, a removable visor, clips to attach lights and a custom helmet cover.

Ryders interchangeable sunglasses ($59.99) come with three sets of lenses: Clear for heavy rain and night riding, amber for overcast days and regular tinted lenses for sunny days.

Jenny Lee Vancouver Sun


In Central Florida, gas prices pump up bike, scooter sales
Costly fuel has more local residents pedaling or putt-putting around town.

June 8, 2004

Record-high gas prices have taken a toll on consumers, but Gary Woods, owner of Rite Bike Shop in Orlando, considers them a blessing.

Bike sales at his 28-year-old business are up 15 percent, while repairs are up 70 percent compared with six months ago, when a gallon of gas cost $1.48.

With the average price of regular gasoline in Orlando flirting with the $2 mark, Woods sees no reason to think his recent good fortune will change anytime soon.

One recent national study predicted bicycle shops would be among several types of businesses -- from shoe stores to scooter dealerships -- whose bottom lines could get a boost from higher gas prices.

In fact, business is so brisk that Woods is considering hiring another part-time employee to help handle demand.

"Whether they're investing in a new bike, or fixing one that's been hanging in the garage for a year, people are doing what they can to cut back on gas," he said. "It's a good thing for me, but I'm sure I won't win any popularity contests for saying that."

These high prices have most motorists feeling a bit uneasy -- after all, gas is costing them $7 to $10 more a week, compared with last year. At this pace, that's a $500 chunk taken out of the annual household budget.

Although economists say consumers are paying less for gas than they were two decades ago once inflation is factored in, Americans still are more apt to change their behavior now that the pump price nationally has passed the $2 mark, experts said.

"In general, everybody believes that the rising gas prices will help bicycle sales," said Michael Gamstetter, editor of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, a Laguna Hills, Calif.-based trade publication. "Business exploded during the gas shortage in the 1970s."

Other bicycle-shop owners also said sales have grown since the start of the year, and customers are pointing to fuel costs as a factor in their decisions. But it isn't just bike shops that stand to benefit from the spike in gas prices.

More and more consumers are expected to ditch their cars from time to time in favor of walking or riding bicycles. Instead of driving to sit-down restaurants, they'll order pizzas to be delivered. Rather than trekking to suburban shopping malls, they'll walk to nearby neighborhood stores or shop online. Some may even start shopping at dollar stores if it will save them money.

If more consumers adopt the "drive-only-when-necessary" philosophy, expect some unconventional winners as a result, said John A. Challenger, chief executive at Chicago-based Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., a firm that tracks the economy.

His firm is predicting increased sales on everything from board games -- if people stay home to entertain -- to all-in-one vacation retreats. Comparatively, suburban malls, fast-food restaurants and national parks could see a decline in business.

"The rising cost of gas is so visible," Challenger said. "Motorists see how much more they're paying each time they fill up or drive by a station. It's that perception that's changing their behaviors."

While it sounds far-fetched, even neighborhood drugstores could see a boost, said Cynthia Cohen, president of Strategic Mindshare, a Miami-based retail-consulting firm. Why? Because they tend to be within a short drive for most consumers.

"To cut back and save money, they'll spend fewer hours on the road, take fewer trips to Grandma's house, eat fewer meals out at restaurants," Cohen said.

Take Orlando resident Joe Pearce, 47, who picked up his bicycle at Rite Bike Shop last week after getting it repaired. He and his family are riding their bicycles more often these days because of the rising fuel prices.

"I use it now to run to the grocery store when I would have normally driven," he said.

George Paul, 45, a caterer from Winter Park, went to even greater extremes to cut his gas budget. In April, Paul sank $5,600 into a new, black Vespa scooter to drive to and from work.

Compared with Paul's Range Rover, which gets just eight miles per gallon and costs about $60 to fill, the gas-sipping Vespa is a cost-saver. Paul spends just $4 to fill the tank and can get 60 to 80 mpg.

"It just doesn't make sense to spend all that money on gas when I can just ride my Vespa and save," Paul said.

Besides, he added, his scooter can go up to 80 mph, suitable for trips on Interstate 4.

Sales of Vespa scooters jumped 35 percent in the past 90 days, said Bruce Albertson, owner of Vespa Orlando in Winter Park. Customers are drawn to Vespas' fuel efficiency and are using that as a chief reason to buy one, he said.

"We've had customers who were thinking about buying a Vespa before gas prices went up," Albertson said. "The higher prices just convinced them to go ahead and get one."

It isn't just scooters and bicycles that consumers are buying to stay mobile. Sales of athletic shoes -- for walking or running -- also are expected to increase if fuel prices don't wane soon.

"Consumers will want to use their cars at an absolute minimum," said Mike May, director of communications for North Palm Beach-based SGMA International, a global trade group of manufacturers, retailers and marketers in the sports-products industry. "They'll turn to human-powered ways to get around. That involves footwear -- unless they want to go barefoot."

Jon Hughes, owner of Track Shack in Orlando, said sales in May surprisingly beat forecasts by about 3 percent. Most of the improvement was because of increased sales of shoes.

"It's hard to say if the increase is related to the higher gas prices," he said. "But I'll take it."

Toby Hoff, assistant manager at Urban Think Bookstore in Orlando's Thornton Park, also wasn't sure whether the increase in sales at his neighborhood store was a result of the climbing gas prices.

"If you need a gift and your choices are A) Drive to the Mall at Millenia or B) Walk to Thornton Park and shop there," he said, "you're going to go with B, especially if you just spent $40 to fill up your SUV."

Mai Hoang of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report. Sarah Hale Meitnercan be reached at 407-420-5718 or smeitner@orlandosentinel.com.

Full article (registration required)


Bad knees, yen for exercise lead more boomers to cycling
Thursday, April 15, 2004

AP Business Writer

NEW YORK -- It's a sound dreaded by baby boomers -- the creaks and pops that can emanate from knees after years of running, skiing and other strenuous exercise.

To stay in shape and keep the pounds off, many boomers are forgoing running and turning to bicycling. Retailers are seeing brisk sales of bikes to boomers, especially ones that emphasize comfort.

Charlie McCorkell, who owns the Bicycle Habitat store in Manhattan, says he has seen an increase in sales to boomer-age customers over the past year or so, especially of easy-to-ride models that have an upright riding position that's easier on the back.

But these customers, who still see themselves as fairly athletic, shy away from bikes that seem to be designed for older people, with wider saddles and higher handlebars.

"I don't think the boomers are ready to be written off yet," McCorkell said. "These are people who had mountain bikes in their 20s and 30s, and they're looking to recapture that experience."

Despite this large, ready-made market, industry experts say bicycle makers have done an overall poor job catering to boomers, choosing instead to go after young enthusiasts who want the latest in cool, high-peformance machines that will turn heads.

"Our industry underserves baby boomers," says Jay Townley, a bicycle industry consultant based in Lyndon Station, Wis. "There are a lot of baby boomers who ride bikes but who are intimidated by going into a bike shop. They feel that bike shops are elitist."

However, there are a growing number of signs that bicycle manufacturers and retailers are doing more to reach out to boomers:

--Next month, a national cooperative of bicycle retailers called Ya Ya! Bike is launching a marketing campaign specifically aimed at drawing boomers into stores. The campaign, the first of its kind, will be headed by Michael Basch, one of the founders of FedEx. The campaign begins in four markets this year and go national in 2005. "The untapped potential is huge," Basch says.

--Bill Fields, a leading consultant for the bicycle industry, has been recruited to do infomercials for a company that markets easy-to-ride bicycles with automatically shifting gears directly to consumers. "The demographic is clearly boomers," Fields says. After starting up last spring, the company, Landrider, has already sold 40,000 units.

--Several high-end manufacturers are catering to boomers by making custom bikes that are both high performance and comfortable. Seven Cycles makes about 2,500 bikes a year that average around $5,000, and business has been growing about 30 percent a year since the company was founded in 1997. Marketing chief Jennifer Miller says boomers are "the heart of our market."

Harvey Minsky, a 56-year-old computer network technician, says he got seriously into cycling about three years ago for a reason cited by many boomers his age: "Basically, my knees were going."

Now, he leads hard-core rides of enthusiast riders with a New York City-based cycling club, and has even pulled off several double centuries, or rides of 200 miles in one day.

Along the way, he's met a number of people in his age group, who are either single or with kids who are grown up, who now find themselves with a little extra income to pay for a fancy bike as well as some more available time.

"There's a certain group of us that are getting grayer," Minsky says with a chuckle. "But it's fun, we get out there and stay in shape. It's a social thing. My doctor tells me that I'm his poster boy -- I've kept my blood pressure and cholesterol down, and also my weight."

For some boomers, it's not bad knees or doctor's advice that gets them back into the market -- just luck. Dan Gallo, a 57-year-old retiree based in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., got a folding bike for his sailboat last year after his daughter and new son-in-law egged him on. He hadn't been on a bike for 25 years.

Gallo is now a devoted convert, bringing his two-wheeled contraption ashore in his dinghy and tooling around just for the fun of it when he goes on shore. "You can meet people when you're on a bicycle," he says. "It makes me feel like a kid again."


Chainless Bicycle - A more highly-evolved bike

by Kevin Kelly posted on CoolTools June 17, 2003

I've renounced chains on bikes now that I've fallen in love with the chainless bicycle. Drive shafts for bikes were invented at least a hundred years ago; what's new is their new low cost, clever shifting, and improved efficiency. A chain can be more energy efficient if -- big if -- it is kept well-lubricated, aligned precisely, and fine-tuned with constant attention. Mine never was. But a modern sealed drive shaft beats the efficiency of the average neglected crusty chain -- like mine. Getting rid of a chain removes the least stable part of a bike, the item most likely to need adjustment or fail, and the dirtiest component. Shifting is a breeze on these drive shafts; just click into discrete gears. I don't mind tossing the bike into a car (no grease) and I can ride with long pants (no pinched trousers).


Real Riders