Friday, February 14, 2014

Science Fiction or Bike Now?

Here in Humboldt County our politicians are in the 23rd consecutive year of discussing a five mile bike path to connect the cities of Eureka and Arcata. It would run along Arcata Bay, the most beautiful waterway in California. It would get bikes off five miles of Route 101, the only Freeway in our county. It would become an instant tourist attraction, thus stimulating the economy and helping to pay for itself. And it would give thousands of Arcata commuters and Humboldt State University students a way to live car-free in nearby--and more economical--Eureka.

A daily ten mile bike ride wouldn't hurt anyone's health around here. My recent commuter flight from SFO was delayed due to "weight issues:" a passenger who wasn't able to fit in a single seat.

About ten years ago the city hired expert consultants from Sacramento who set up a community meeting at Arcata City Hall. Local cyclists drew ideas and "input" on a large white board. We discussed options, we planned routes, we estimated costs. All this would be incorporated into a study, a necessary "final step," we were assured. To cap off the evening we admired photos of a new bike path in Sedona, Arizona. Then the consultants went back to Sacramento and billed the city a million bucks.

Recently, we had a breakthrough in the discussions: everyone agrees that we are going to have a bike path and more discussions will be scheduled soon.

Meanwhile, in Eindhoven, Holland, where I began my adult biking back in the early 80's, this:

What's it like for bicycle commuters where you live?

A tip of the helmet to Roland Wostl for this incredible video. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Review: The 2013 HP Velotechnik Scorpion fs 26


I am a 200 lb. septuagenarian who has been riding recumbents (long wheelbase, short wheelbase, trikes) since 2002. Here are some of my bike tours and travels.  

A few years ago I purchased a Terra Trike Tour 1 (a Wheel Wiz product), which, like the Scorpion, has the ‘tadpole’ configuration (two front wheels and one rear). It doesn’t take much imagination to see how the name derived from the frog’s larval stage.

The Tour was a fun ride but ill-suited to rough local roads. It had no suspension and the brake handling was dangerous, particularly on freeway down hills where I found myself trapped between guardrails and nasty rumble strips (more on trike braking below). The latter combination led one morning to my being flipped upside down into the slow traffic lane of our freeway. So, after a couple of years, I traded the Tour for a long wheelbase Easy Racer, my second. I assumed my trike days were a thing of the past.

Then the trike bug hit me again; it’s such a fun ride! I turned to the Hostel Shoppe catalog to see how trikes had evolved in ways that might be more suitable locally, and to discover what was available. I settled on one—I thought, but a friend suggested that due to my earlier complaint about the Tour, I might want to shell out a bit more money and go for suspension. The result: my excellent (for the most part) new Scorpion! Although this trike has a long name, it boils down to this: ‘fs’ (folding and suspension), and ‘26’ (rear wheel size). All you need to know about HP Velotechnik is that it’s a German company (English option on page 1 of their site). HPVelotechnik has a dealers all over the world


1.     I opted for grip twist rather than bar end shifters. The right-hand shifter (rear derailleur): Your hand is in a slightly different position because the shifter is vertical. Shifting is easy and natural, however, if you remember that turning the shift knob counter-clockwise moves you into a lower gear (bigger cog), and turning the knob clockwise results in a higher gear (smaller cog).

2) Left-hand shifter: The Scorpion fs 26 comes standard (from the Hostel Shoppe) with a 3-speed hub (SRAM DualDrive), so no front derailleur. You can opt for chain rings, but I have found the hub arrangement very satisfactory, although I do wonder about maintenance.Twisting the knob counter-clockwise moves you to a lower gear. If you imagine having 3 chain rings instead of the hub, the same counter-clockwise motion would move your chain to the left onto a lower (smaller) ring. Turning the knob clockwise results in a higher gear, or larger ring, if you prefer thinking of it that way. 

To me, the big advantage is that any hub selection (1, 2, or 3) gives you the full range of the rear cluster in each setting. You never need worry about an awkward chain angle, front to rear, which can throw your chain if you are not paying attention. You will also find that shifting the hub is much smoother than shifting rings. (Notethe hub configuration prevents use of a trailer that attaches to the right side of the rear axle.)


As I had so much difficulty with braking on the Tour, I opted for a single lever on the right shifter for my Scorpion, which makes shifting significantly safer and less compacted  On the Tour, with a lever on each shifter the rider is required to squeeze them equally lest the bike swerve dangerously. This is especially problematic when instant, hard braking is necessary, such as on a hill with traffic on the left, assuming you have a shoulder, or in a bike lane. I recommend the single lever, but I also recommend you have it installed on the left shifter so that your right hand is completely free for shifting. Although the Hostel Shoppe can give you a free brake setup adjustment, you may have to fiddle with the mechanical discs until the braking lever pulls evenly on both wheels.


The full suspension of the Scorpion fs 26 is perhaps its most outstanding feature. Fully adjustable, the front and rear wheel suspension smooths all but the worst potholes you’ll encounter. They add immeasurably to stability and make riding this trike a pleasurable experience. 

Believe me, our local roads are as tough as they come, but the Scorpion provides as close to an air ride as you are likely to get on two or three wheels.


I haven’t tried folding the bike yet, but the instruction manual provides a step-by-step guide.


Again, I have yet to remove the rear wheel (knock on wood), but here is the explanation provided by a Hostel Shoppe mechanic: Shift into the lowest hub gear (it’s labeled ‘1’); press ‘in’ the button on top of the gizmo that receives the shifting cable from the shift lever (pictured above); remove the gizmo and unthread the axle caps with the proper size wrench. There is no quick release, which strikes me as a distinct but correctable design flaw.


Ergomesh wide seat (Hostel Shoppe technician recommends this seat).

Wide mirrors (2) attach to kingpins. Essential on both sides for rider safety!

Rear Rack with a built-in flag holder (note: with 26 in. rear wheel you can’t mount a flat surface to the top of this rack because the top of the wheel exceeds the height of the rack). A flag makes a trike much more visible in traffic. 

Planet Bike Protégé 9 computer.

CHAIN LENGTH ADAPTER (‘front boom-quickadjust’) 

The boom quickadjust is additional equipment for HP Velotechnik recumbents that feature a telescopic front boom for leg length adjustment. It replaces the standard bolts of the of the front boom clamping by quick release levers. Two pulleys provide chain length compensation while moving the front boom.


I don’t have fenders yet, but the Hostel Shoppe recommends them.


HP prides itself on ergonomics, and judging by their Velotechnik fs 26, they have succeeded. The controls are easy to operate. The bike’s ergomesh wide seat fits my body well, and it’s easy to get in and out of the seat. There is no need to adjust your position as you ride. I have experienced no aches and pains during or following an outing. This is a vastly superior ride when compared to the Terra Trike Tour I owned. Credit for this belongs to the engineers at HP who have given us full suspension, a 26 in. rear wheel for increased smoothness and speed, and single lever braking. 

Suspension; folding; stability; overall comfort.

Turn radius; no quick release; bottle cage attachment requires "hot punching" the ergomesh seat.


The HP Velotechnik fs 26 is a terrific ride (lots of fun!) and well worth its price tag. The pros so outweigh the cons that I am a bit embarrassed to mention any. If possible, you should go to a trike dealer and try several brands and models. Then get yourself a Scorpion! The contrast will amaze you.

South Side of Arcata Marsh on Arcata Bay

Mary Bradley, Steve Sipma and Steve Fox. Washington and Oregon Tour

If you had a trike, you could eat like this. 

Trike fans: Steve Fox will be happy to respond to your questions or comments below.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Scenic Drive, December 1

The view from my bike.

If you are touring the Pacific coast, make time for Scenic Drive. It runs parallel to Route 101 and gets you off the Freeway. These photos were taken about 2 miles south of Trinidad, California.

 I rode my Rans Stratus XXP

Ten miles to the south skeletons of old barns dot the Arcata Bottoms. Fog country. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"I'm not part of gang bangers," said the mayor

Cycling Hall of Shame member Rob Ford is back in the news. 

Mayor Ford also said he was “not an addict,” a week after admitting to smoking crack cocaine while in a “drunken stupor.” 

When the dust settles (on Ford?) Toronto can begin to undo his attacks on cyclists and could end up with a bike-friendly transportation system.

Monday, November 11, 2013

What to Do on Sunday If You Have an Artificial Knee

Had to stop for a chat with the engaging Ingrid of Westhaven. A lot of people with plastic parts inside their knee would be propped up in front of the widescreen on a Sunday afternoon. Ingrid saddled up her bionix-assisted (battery) Greenspeed trike and headed out to Scenic Drive. She can make 10 miles in hilly country, 50 in the flats with a combination of pedaling and battery boost. The trailer with passengers adds 150 lbs to the package, a no-brainer if you've got puppies who are up for a Sunday cruise along the Pacific. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Beautiful Willamette Valley

We moved south into Oregon. 

The valley has great bike rides in every direction with little traffic. The hills were gentle but the summer heat made midday riding uncomfortable. On some days, we left very early and stopped after lunch. 

Northwest Lakes and Forests

White sand dunes, Florence, Oregon

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

See Washington From Your Bike

I rode west to the Pacific from Florence, Oregon.

Near the river's mouth, Florence Oregon. No sun that day...or ever?

Florence, Oregon

On display behind the bar

For some reason, not a popular hangout

Friday, August 9, 2013

American Cycling: The Frantic Style

You'll find many good points to consider in this thoughtful Dutch video. Is your ride to work a mad dash? Is your weekend riding group relaxed or driven? Hopefully, if you flat or break down you are offered help. But if you linger  for a moment to smell the roses are you quickly left behind? Sure, speed is fun but racing bikes have terrible ergonomics. I've yet to see a runner, swimmer or hiker bend over double for hours at a time. We might justify weird postures on a bike to win a race but why practice acrobatic contortions in public in the name of exercise?

 I started this blog back in 2008 after an eye-opening bike tour of Holland. The Dutch cycling model changed the whole society in a few years and certainly could work here.  If you want to see bikes become a part of American life, take note.

The High Road to Woodland

About 5 miles north of Woodland, Washington the bike route starts to climb.

The Columbia River

And then the road turns to loose gravel and serious  climbing...

I pressed on through small farms, mini-mansions and antique shops. 

At the summit I sat back and let the bike fly downhill all the way to Woodland with just one unavoidable stop on the way. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Road South from Elma Washington

The Chehalis River

To continue last year's Northwest tour, Steve Fox and I met a few riding friends in Elma, Washington and headed south.

From left to right: Steve Fox, Steve Sipma, Linda Roddy, Sheila Ross, Mary Bradley, Noreen O'Brien. And in the foreground Steve Fox's awesome new HP Velotechnik Scorpion 26. 

8 AM Push off.

Central Washington, the flat lands

Near Centralia we discovered an unopened new bike trail. Consider it open now.

After a long day on the road, we met for an unhurried dinner in the historic Centrailia downtown. Good food and beer, unhurried conversation. We sat in a front window booth, well away from the earnestly awful house band.

You could do a lot worse than end up in downtown Centralia. This beautiful old hotel, now converted to offices and condos, was a few blocks from an antique railroad station. Both have seen some Washington history.