Thursday, November 15, 2007

New cars -- lots of poor options. New bikes -- lots of great options!!

So, in the past year in the USA, more bikes were sold than cars. Maybe it's because most new cars these days pretty much suck (poor gas mileage, wars required overseas to provide fuel, expensive for any level of durable quality, high maintenance costs beginning 5-7 years after purchase, etc.), whereas there are a LOT of really good options for new bicycles! For what you would spend for about two to three months worth of payments and insurance for a new car, you can get yourself set up with a *really* nice commuter bicycle.

In the past year especially, there has been a veritable explosion of excellent upright-style bicycles (think Amster-bikes, old Schwinns & Raleighs, etc.) released, packed with the latest in new bicycle technology. Shimano has a new automatic "transmission" for the bicycle, called the "Coasting," which does the shifting for you in the rear hub. Excellent! There are also other, manual-shifting bicycles where the gears are still internal to the rear hub. Why is this so cool? Because it makes it easy to tuck the chain away for good behind a chain guard, which saves your clothes from grease or rips due to contact with the chain.

These have also been lots of advances in lighting technology, including new automatic lights that are powered by dynamos (the motion of the bicycle wheels produces their electricity), that remain on even when you come to a stop, and that turn on automatically when it gets dark!

In short, there has never been a better time to get a new bicycle for cruising around town, commuting, or otherwise just enjoying the pleasures of human-powered two-wheeled transportation. I'm serious. You've got to check these bikes out to believe it. I'm not getting paid to say this -- it's true. And these bikes are selling for between $400 and $800, for the most part, plus taxes and whatever extras/accessories you want/need to throw in -- which is an incredibly good deal!!!

So, without further ado, I present to you my recommendations, so that you can go and test ride a bunch of them, and pick your favorite:

Raleigh Coasting (automatic shifting):

The Original Dutch City Bike, Jorg & Olif: (only $545!) ***!!! (automatic shifting)

Trek Lime (automatic shifting):

Schwinn Cruisers:

Giant Suede Coasting DX (automatic shifting):

Breezer Uptown (great all-around package):

Available at REI:

Electra Townie:

Novara Fusion:

My recommendation definitely goes to the Jorg & Olif — I didn't realize their prices were so affordable!! However, the Breezer also looks wonderful, and I would love to test ride all of the bikes listed here. Schwinn probably has the weakest lineup, surprisingly, but they're still worth mentioning because they're less expensive on average.

Other bicycling pages:


Shimano Coasting home page (this is the automatic shifter lifestyle page):

So, if you don't yet have a nice bicycle that you feel comfortable hopping on and riding around town every day, I think it's time you consider changing that. Do your research, check out these links, go test ride some of these great bikes, and purchase one. You'll love it for life. Guaranteed. Just make sure that you test ride a bunch before you make your decision... it's fun, and then you'll know more about the one that you ultimately do decide to buy, and you'll feel good about your decision!

Happy bicycling!


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Raise Fuel Economy Standards NOW: Click & Clack Weigh In

The House and the Senate are currently considering their competing proposals to raise fuel economy in the U.S. to around 35 mpg by 2020 (or, something like that, depending on which version you're reading).

Click and Clack, the Tappett Brothers, aka Tom and Ray Magliozzi, have just sent a letter to the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, claiming that Detroit can actually achieve a fleet-wide average of 35 mpg within just FIVE years! This has made the Select Committee quite happy, or so it seems from this press release:

Tom & Ray are quite witty in their letter, but they pull no punches. They mention enough relevant, existing technology to leave no doubt in the reader's mind that, indeed, Detroit not only can achieve a 35-mpg standard within 5 years, but it is in its own best interest to do so, and furthermore, Detroit has a long history of being on the wrong side of pretty much every battle involving Congress and the safety/efficiency of its vehicles.

Go ahead and read the original letter, at this link (pdf):

I completely support Tom & Ray, and would love to add my signature to their own. Congress should require 35mpg by 2012, and 1mpg increases annually between then and, say, 2035. Not only would this be well within the range of engineering possibility for that time frame, it would revolutionize the domestic auto industry, and perhaps even help it turn around and recover from the tens of thousands of worker lay-offs that it has been "forced" to undertake recently.

Read the letter, and let me know what you think!