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One thing that needs to be considered when outfitting your bike for commuting or errand running  (or even longer recreational rides) is how you'll carry your cargo.  Whether it's groceries, work clothes, your laptop or just lunch and a blanket to sit on, you need to find a way to transport those items with you. Many folks use a backpack, or courier bag, but in general, I think it's more pleasant, especially on longer rides, to get the weight off of your back and onto the bike.  It's both cooler when the weather is hot, and more comfortable for your back.   Think about it: cowboys don't carry their gear on their backs – it goes in saddlebags on the horses! So, bike mounted bags are the way to go.   However, many modern bikes, particularly full suspension mountain bikes, have no racks and no good way to mount them.  In addition, electric bikes are somewhat limited by the rack that they have, as it's already tasked with carrying the battery.  Often, the rack is limited to a fairly low weight. My favorite solution to the issue, particularly on the EVELO Aurora and Aries, is the Topeak BeamRack MTX.   This a seatpost-mounted rack, which rides above the battery.  It clamps in place on the seatpost of the bike, and doesn't interfere with the battery.  On the Aurora and Aries, the   A-Type BeamRack is the model to get as it's the best fit almost all riders.   One thing to note: you do need about 3” of seatpost sticking out of the frame of the bike for one of these to clamp onto.   Something to keep in mind if you're on the shorter end of the spectrum. Used in combination with one of the various models of MTX TrunkBags, you get a quick and easy solution to this issue.   One of the great things about the MTX system is that it uses a very well designed quick-release mechanism.    This allows you to remove or install the bag in just a few seconds.  To remove, just push down the latch that holds the bag firmly in place, and slide the bag off.  To install, just slide it in place until the latch engages.   The bags come with handles, and, my favorite: a padded shoulder strap, so you can take the bags easily wherever you go.  This is great for making sure your gear is secure if you're going to be locked up somewhere and leaving your bike, and it also means you can carry it into the store for shopping and/or into work if you park outside.  Many bags use an attachment system consisting of velcro and straps, as they're intended to be used on different types of racks.   While these are a great universal solution, by working with a complete system, specifically designed to be used together, you get a much faster removal and installation. My favorite of the MTX bags is the MTX TrunkBag DXP, which is a expanding trunk bag that has two decent-sized, fold-out panniers.   If you're not carrying too much with you, just leave the two side pockets zipped up and the panniers up and out of the way, and if you find you need more room, unzip, and unfold.  Presto, your cargo capacity just tripled!    I leave mine installed all the time, with the basics in it:  lock, multitool, small adjustable wrench, patch kit, spare tube, pump,  and my emergency kit (discussed in a previous blog entry: What To Carry In Your Basic Bike Repair Kit), and have plenty of room for a jacket and rain pants,  and the inevitable other “stuff” that I seem to end up carrying!   Then, when I get to the grocery store, for example, I unfold those panniers, and can fit  2-4 small grocery bags worth of food and such into them.   It's very convenient, and it means that I can go shopping if the mood hits me when I'm out for a ride!   If you're using it for work, either of the two side panniers is big enough to hold a 15” laptop in a padded case, with additional clothing packed around it for padding. Most versions of the MTX bag, with panniers, or without, also have a nice little, “net” on the top, just big enough for a single item of wet clothing that you don't want to pack away, or something you want to keep handy, such as a map.  They also have a water bottle holder on the tail end.   While this isn't particularly convenient when riding (it's too far back to reach while in the saddle), it's a great place to carry an extra bottle for those long rides. Finally, the thing that I possibly like the best about this whole setup:  it's made by Topeak, who have great customer service and a policy of looking after their customers well.    I have several bits of their gear installed on my bike, and they've always taken care of me when something went wrong.   A quick story:   I was once a bit “enthusiastic” about how much I could fit into one of the fold-out panniers of my MTX bag, and was definitely over it's weight limit.   The combination of this overstuffed bag and a really bumpy road at EVELO Electric Bike speeds was a bit too much for the bag to take and it came off.   I called Topeak, fessed up, and asked how I could get the bag repaired.   They said: “No problem, just give us your address and we'll send you a new one.”    While I can't guarantee they'll do that for you, I've heard other, similar stories.   They're a company that, like EVELO, cares more about happy customers than making every dollar possible.   In these days where it seems like everyone is looking all the time at the bottom line, it's always refreshing to work with a company that does otherwise! So, set yourself up with a BeamRack and an MTX bag to go with it, and always be ready for that extra cargo you suddenly need to carry!

Recreational vehicles, or RVs for short, are a great way to see the country.  

In July 2015, I hopped on a plane in Argentina, and after a pretty exhausting overnight flight, I landed in Los Angeles. The plan: a 4-week RV tour of the West Coast.

After visiting Los Angeles, Vegas, San Francisco, Monterrey, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica and a handful of other jaw dropping places, I can say that RV'ing is a fantastic experience. You can soak in the continent’s best sights while enjoying the comforts of home. You don't have to worry about finding a hotel room, and if for some reason, you can't make it to your destination for the day, you can always stop short when you need to and rest as you need to.

It's the perfect way to get much closer to the sights you want to see, especially if you're the kind of RV'er who likes to get out into the back-country and not stay in established campgrounds.

However, after experiencing the RV life first-hand, I can safely say that not everything is perfect. There are several hurdles that come with driving a 12,000 pound monster!

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Something that caught my attention during my trip is that electric bikes are especially popular among the RV crowd. At first I didn't get it. Why would someone take a vehicle when they already have one?

Then it hit me. An Electric Bike is the perfect, simplest and most affordable way of sorting all the 'challenges' of RV'ing.

Why Electric Bikes Are The Perfect Complement For Your RV

The lure of the open road and the comforts of home come together when you're traveling in a recreational vehicle, or RV. But before you hit the road, there are a few things you should understand about RV's.

One of the things you need to consider is how you'll get around once you've made your camp.  And even if you stay in campgrounds, you're still going to want to get out and see the sights.  

The first option is to disconnect your RV and drive that. But who wants to unhook everything and drive a mobile home for a few miles to the store? If you are towing, you can always unhook the camper but odds are your tow vehicle is a big truck or SUV. 

An alternative option is to tow a small car behind their camper. While that works well enough, it's an extra “thing” that you have behind you, making your rig even longer and more unwieldy.  In addition, if you use one of your regular cars, you'll be putting lots of miles on it. Even though you're not driving, the wheels are turning, and parts are wearing out. Not a smart move.

Some people take regular bicycles. While they're great, the distances you need to travel and the terrain you will be covering can make that a chore, too.   As we know, some of the most beautiful places are in the mountains, and the stores and sights may be 10 to 15 miles away.   Riding a regular bike may be more than you feel up to doing.

Another option that some people use is a moped, or small gas powered scooter.   While these can be practical, the fact that they use gasoline places a lot of limitations on where you can use them. Since it's a gas motor vehicle, you'll be excluded from a lot of really nice places where you could ride a bicycle. Also, there is storage and transportation. A scooter or moped will weigh two to three times as much as a good electric bike, and due to the gasoline engine,  will absolutely need to be carried on a heavy duty rack attached to the outside, where it will be exposed to weather, road debris and possible theft.   Plus, gasoline engines require significantly more maintenance, and as any RV or trailer owner knows, service and maintenance is often hard to get while on the road.     

This is where an electric bicycle comes to the rescue!   

Besides being extremely easy to transport, and much more affordable than towing a car or purchasing a moped, electric bikes offer a few solid perks for the RV lifestyle.

First and foremost, they are the perfect way to move around camp. If you are a regular RV'er, you are well aware that some parks are gigantic, and the best spots are often secluded and far away from most amenities. If you don't feel like walking 10 minutes to check if your laundry is ready, just hop on your electric bike!

Second, your electric bike will give you the freedom to visit the closest town, or get to the store without having to break camp or unhook your truck.  With ranges up to 60 miles, an electric bike is the perfect way to run errands will get you to the store and back, and you'll get to enjoy the sites, close up, while you do it!   

Finally, what in my experience is one the best reasons:  you can really get out and experience the area you're visiting.  Why spend your time behind a pane of glass, looking out at the sights at 40 mph, when you can bike?  A car, or truck or RV isolates you from nature; a bike, on the other hand, gets you up close and personal.

Being out in the open, on a bike, will give you a much greater connection to the place you're visiting.  It offers you the possibility to be much more in touch with your surroundings, while giving you a bigger radius that you can comfortably explore on foot.

This is especially true if you're the kind of camper who likes to get off the beaten path. If you love exploring and you like finding back-country sites that are far from the main roads, an electric bicycle can serve as a valuable tool for scouting out potential sites.  

Often, the best places to go are down a forest service or logging road, and it can be a bit nerve-raking to be headed down a narrow path with your complete camping rig!  You can often find yourself in a situation where the road just becomes too narrow or rugged for your setup, and having to back up if you can't find a place to turn around is a huge hassle.  Also, think of the trails that are open to hikers and bikers, but not to cars.  If you're driving an RV, you'll definitely be limited in where you can go, if the roads get rough.  

A bike, on the other hand, being smaller and more maneuverable, will get you into places that you'd never get to with a big truck. With your electric bike, you can park at the head of the road, jump on the bike and make sure that you're going to be able to find a place to stay, and get back out again!

Again, the greater range provided by an electric bike lets you go further and explore even more.  

One side note: remember, not all trails are open to bikes, so make sure the ones you choose are.  Also, be polite, and give way to hikers – be a good ambassador for bikes!

3 Practical Considerations of RV'ing with an Electric Bike

Although carrying an electric bicycle is orders of magnitude easier than any other vehicle, there are a few things you'll need to think through during your trip. Let's go over a few of them.

Charging Your E-Bike

At the top of the list is charging.  If you camp in campgrounds, you'll have power available to charge once you're hooked up to the local utilities.  If you are the sort of camper who likes to get out into more remote areas, don't worry. An electric bike requires very little power for it's charger – typically around 80-100 watts – so a small inverter can handle the load.  

Transporting And Storing Your E-Bike

You also need to consider how you will carry your electric bike, or bikes if you have two of them!  Fortunately, there's a number of options available. 

If you want to carry them on the back of your camper or RV, there are hitch-mounted racks that work very well.  The best option is usually one of the versions that support the bike by its wheels, in a tray.  These are both more secure, and also easier to get your bike up on to, as the loading height is much lower. 

One that we recommend to EVELO customers is this one: Hollywood Racks Sportrider Rack for Electric Bikes. However, there are plenty of other ones available as well.

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If you have a truck and are towing a camper, the bed of your truck is an excellent location to, if you've got the room.   In my opinion, the best option is to keep them inside while you're on the road.  Since they're not much bigger than a regular bicycle, and don't have a gasoline engine and tank that a moped or scooter would, this is a great approach that keeps them out of the weather and road dirt. 

Once you've made it to your campsite, just take them out and lock them securely to your vehicle.  

I also recommend a cover, especially if you are going to be transporting them on the outside of the vehicle.  These aren't expensive, and are available from many sources.  This is a particularly good one that I've recommended to customers in the past:  YardStash Bicycle Cover XL

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Rules and Regulations

Something you also need to consider before departure is the rules and regulations of the campgrounds or areas where you are staying.  

Private campgrounds have their own rules and the Bureau of Land Management  and National Park Service also have rules that you will need to make sure to adhere to.  There's some variation, but in general, most campgrounds require you to follow the rules of the road and avoid pedestrian-only areas.  In addition to that, if the state you are riding in has a helmet law, you will of course need to comply with that. 

The specifics depend a lot on where you are. Therefore, the best advise I can give you is to check ahead of time.  Most campgrounds and parks have their rules and regulations available on their website, so it's easy to do!

Using Your Electric Bike When You Are Not RV'ing

The last thing you'll to consider is that your electric bike isn't only useful when you're camping.  While there are plenty of full-timers who spend their lives on the road these days, most people can't do that, and are at home the majority of the time. 

That's when an electric bike really excels! Most of our customers don't own RVs, but they are extremely happy with their bike. No matter your age or where you live, you can use it for running errands or going shopping, commuting to work, getting your exercise or just plain fun recreational rides outdoors!

All in all, electric bikes will make your travels more fun and convenient – go for it!

An electric bike is the ideal solution for many people who travel by RV, and can be useful in your everyday life as well.  They're affordable, convenient, easy to use and maintain, and most of all: FUN!  So, the question is: where will your electric bike take you?

This post was originally posted on Electric Bike Report on August 19, 2015.  EVELO-Luna-errands-300x199One of the great things about a bike, especially an electric bike, is how you can combine exercise and fun with the daily tasks you need to get done. We’ve already talked about how to commute by bike, but now let’s think about adding even more riding to your day, or just some at all – commuting by bike isn’t possible for everyone, or maybe you’re retired, or like me, you largely work from home. When you think about what you dislike the most about running your daily errands, like shopping, what is it? For me, it’s sitting in traffic, and trying to find a parking space. Even if there’s a parking lot, you still have to cruise the lot looking for a spot, and that’s incredibly stressful. I know a person who used to be an insurance adjuster for a major insurance company, and she told me that nearly a quarter of the cases she dealt with involved parking lot fender-benders. I have no problem believing this! Like any new endeavor, the hardest part is getting started. Until you know the tips and tricks, the perceived (and real) challenges can seem daunting. Let’s list them, and then we’ll talk about the solutions. It’s important to realize that like almost everything else in the world, this isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. If you need to buy groceries for a family of four, maybe you still will want to do some of your shopping by car. Do your big shopping trip once every few weeks for the things that are heavy and/or bulky and last a long time (think: big bottles of laundry detergent, 24 packs of paper towels and toilet paper, cases of soda, canned goods, etc.) in your car. Then, buy the perishable items more frequently. The Europeans have this down to a fine art. Think of the French person who stops daily at the boulangerie so they always have fresh baked goods. Vegetables and fruits are another good thing to buy this way, especially if you’re lucky enough to live somewhere that has farm stands or farmer’s markets. Same with dairy products and eggs. Maybe daily isn’t an option for you, but perhaps every 2 or 3 or 4 days works better. Of course, if you do want to go all out, there’s ways to do all of your shopping by bike. Especially in urban areas, not everyone owns a car, so there are plenty of people who do all of their shopping without one, even in the car-dependent USA. It can be done! EVELO-errands Number One on any list has to be the question of how to carry your cargo. As we’ll see, there are many options, and the ones you use depend on what you want to do. Firstly, I want to start by saying that hanging grocery bags off of your handlebars is a really bad idea! I’ll admit I’ve done it, but you definitely compromise the handling of your bike quite a bit, and that’s not a great thing to to do. When they start swaying around, you can easily lose control. Which is bad – trust me on this one :-) Say you want to start small. So, first you equip your bike with racks and bags. There are some great combination rack-top pannier bags that are big enough to fit a surprising amount of stuff! I have one, a Topeak MTX Trunk Bag DXP Bicycle Trunk Bag with Rigid Molded Panels, that I can fit up to a week’s worth of groceries for one person in, no problems. EVELO also sells one that works really well: Rack Top Pannier Bag And there’s bigger options available, like this one: M-Wave Double Day Tripper Bicycle Pannier. It’s a great bargain at $25. Or, a smaller option like this: Sunlite Rear Wire Basket Rack Top Quick Release. Some bikes, like the EVELO Luna can carry quick-releasing front baskets that go on the handlebars: Electra QR Steel Mesh Basket. These are great for quick trips: just pull it off the bike on your way into the store, and put your items right into the basket – no need for a separate bag! If you want to regularly carry more than 30 lbs of cargo on your bike, dividing the weight between the front and back of the bike starts to make sense. Some combination of the above is one way to do that. But say you want to carry even more. Well, you can add a front rack, that will take the same panniers and bags mentioned above. This one fits front suspension forks, including the ones on all EVELO bikes: Zefal Touring Raider Front Bike Rack. Be aware, though, that before venturing out into traffic, it’s important to get comfortable with extra weight on the front of your bike. While this is good advise no matter where you put the weight, it’s especially important when it’s the front wheel. And of course, there’s always a knapsack. For short trips, and light loads, that might be all you need. I often put the more fragile items in mine, like eggs, and fresh fruits, since they’re a bit more isolated from the bumps on the road. That’s it for now. Stay tuned for part 2 with ideas on cargo trailers and more ways to incorporate running errands by bike into your life.
One of the great things about a bike is the ease with which you can make it “yours”.   Customization to make it fit your exact needs is both inexpensive, and simple to do yourself.   One of the best ways to do this is to swap the tires for ones that are the best match for your riding style and terrain.   When a manufacturer chooses tires for a bike, they are always a compromise, and the goal is to meet most of the needs of most of the expected riders.   What this means to you, the rider, is that there's probably a tire out there that is even better for what you want to do.   Especially on hybrid bikes, the manufacturer will have chosen a tire that works decently on the road and on the trails, too, but isn't the perfect tire for either situation.  Also, there's trade-offs to be made between weight and durability. If you know you're going to be doing more of a certain kind of riding, or have a strong preference about whether you care more about weight or lifespan, you can usually find a tire that's a better match.  This isn't to say that it's “bad” to stay with the stock tires, either.  If they work for you, by all means, keep them and use them until they wear out.   Then, when it's time for new ones, get the perfect match!   So, when I buy a bike, one of the first things I do is swap the tires, and if the bike is one I plan to ride mostly on the road for recreation and commuting, my choice is something from the Schwalbe Marathon line of tires.  In addition, they have some that are great off-road, and even studded snow tires for the winter!   While they aren't as common as other brands (you're unlikely to find them in the local big box store), and are a bit more expensive up front, they are very well made and generally last longer.   For an excellent budget choice, there's the Marathon HS 420.   It's a good, solid tire at a reasonable price that has good durability and rolls quite well on the roads but will still work on stone dust paths or well maintained dirt roads.   Or, if you want serious protection against flats, you can go with the Marathon Plus HS 440.  Again, it's a good on-road tire, with a bit of tread, and it has an extra thick layer of rubber which makes it very unlikely you'll get flats.   You do pay a bit more, and it's somewhat heavier, but if you want a tire that you can really depend on to get you to work or the store, and you ride in challenging conditions, it's worth it, in my opinion.   While the price is higher, the lifespan is as well, so on a miles per dollar basis, it's a bargain.   On my own EVELO Aurora, I use the Marathon Racer HS 429.   It's still pretty resistant to flats, but it's lighter and rolls very well.  It's a great tire for people who want to go fast, or maximize their range on electric power.    It is pretty expensive, but again, you get what you pay for.   I generally find that mine last around 4000 miles before they wear too thin and start getting flats more than I want to deal with.   Maybe you want to ride more off road, but still need something that's decent on pavement.  Try the Marathon Plus Tour HS 404.   It's a good, solid tire, a bit heavy, but it will last a very, very long time, and again, has great flat protection – if you ride in the southwest USA and you want to get on the trails but are worried about flats from those goathead thorns, this is your tire, unless...   ...you're a really serious off road rider, and don't care if your tire is a slower and buzzier on the roads.   Then, Marathon Plus MTB HS 412 is just for you.   It's knobby all over, and I've had a chance to take this one off road, and it really grips in the mud and dirt.   It's also a good choice for winter riding if you don't want to go all out for studded snow tires.   Durability and flat resistance is also excellent.   Finally, I have a winter bike that I ride when the roads are covered in snow, or there's a high likelihood of black ice.  I've equipped with these:  Winter HS 396.   On dry pavement, they do make noise, but in the snow, or on ice, they're amazing.   Despite that, they do roll pretty well , all things considered.    Generally, you don't want to do that to much, though, as you'll dramatically reduce the life of the studs.   One more is the Fat Frank HS 375.   It's not part of the “Marathon” series, but it's a cool looking, fat tire with minimal tread.   It rides very well on the roads and can give a very comfortable ride.   There's one other line, which you might find: the Schwalbe Energizer series.   These versions of other tires that are specifically rated for electric bike use in Europe.  Due to certain regulations, bikes need to have tires that are rated for powered bike use, if they are going to be used over certain speeds.   These tires are the ones that are “certified” up to 50 km/hour, or 30 mph.   While there's no reason not to use them, there's also no specific reason that you do need to either.   You can find Schwalbe tires in many bike shops, especially those that cater to the commuting rider, and they're also available from many sources online.   Niagara Cycle and Amazon.com are both good sources and have a wide selection.   Take a look at the full lineup here:  http://www.schwalbetires.com/bike_tires/road_tires   So, how are you going to make your bike work better for you?
Modern smart phones have made our everyday lives easier in so many ways that it's often hard to remember what it was like before they were commonplace. One of the places they can really be useful is on our bikes.   We can track our speed and distance, run various apps that will show our heart rate and cadence (with appropriate accessories) , provide music to listen to, and of course, the big one: give us directions and help when we get lost! But using one on a bike can be a pain.   Keeping it in your pocket is one option, but then you can't see the screen, and hearing the directions can be hard.    If your route is simple that may not be such a problem, but when you're constantly having to make turns, missing a single instruction can be a hassle – you need to pull it out of your pocket and have it tell you the instruction again. So, the best option is to keep it somewhere convenient, like on the handlebars.   However, given how much a replacement costs, you need to consider protection, both from bumps and such, but also weather.    One of the best ways to do this is with a dedicated, padded case that has a window so you can see the display.    There's lots of options on the market, and they range from $5 up to $100.    The cheap ones often aren't very good, and well, I don't know about you, but I consider $100 for something like this to be a bit much! Fortunately, I've found a good budget option: Gear Beast Waterproof Pouch Apple iPhone 6 Bike Mount Holder Compatible with Smartphones with up to 4.8 Inch Displays I've been testing this one out for a few months now, and I have to say it works really well!   In my case, I'm using it with a Samsung Galaxy SIII with an extra large (and thick) battery pack and it fits nicely. Almost any phone except for the biggest “phablets” will fit with no problems.     The case is sturdy, well made, has good padding for protection and since it comes with additional bits of foam padding, you can get a good, snug fit with almost any phone.  It also fits my small, thin Nokia Lumia quite well, due to the extra foam.   Just find the combination of bits that works best for your phone and you're good to go! Installing and removing your phone is a snap; there's a zipper along the side to make getting the phone in and out easy.   The plastic screen cover is nice and clear, so seeing the display is no problem at all (this can often be a problem with completely enclosed cases), and touch gestures transfer through well on all the phones I've tested. While it isn't completely waterproof, it's certainly enough to protect against moderate rain to even heavy rain.  In a torrential downpour you might get a bit of leakage around the zipper, but not too much.   It mounts easily to your handlebar, or handlebar stem, whichever is more convenient for you.   And it's easy to take your phone out when you leave your bike unattended. Oh, and a final note for you with EVELO bikes: if your bike comes with the new display panel that we've been using since 2014, you have a charge port on the side of your display panel that can be used to charge any device that has a USB charging cable. For $15, it's a bargain.     Highly recommended!
This is more of a set of thoughts and stories and not a review of a particular product, so bear with me. When I first started riding as a kid, I never thought much about mirrors.  My bikes didn't have them.   And the few that I'd seen on adult bikes were big, ugly metal things that I would never want on my bike.   How uncool!  Besides, they wouldn't have lasted a week, or even a day, given how many times I crashed!  Such are the joys of growing up as a kid in what was then still the countryside and not quite the suburbs :-) Then, when I was a little older, I started riding for transportation; to school, to the store.   Still, no mirrors. I just looked over my shoulder.  Eventually, cycling became a sport for me as well.   And no racing bike ever had any mirror on it!  Down in the handlebar drops, a quick glance through between my arm and torso was all I needed.  Plus, most of the time where I rode, you could tell if someone was behind you because you could hear them. After a few years off of riding due to wrist discomfort, I decided to get back into it on recumbents.   Well, there I discovered mirrors!   Almost every recumbent has at least a left, or traffic side mirror.  England, Japan, Australia, and other countries that drive on the left, have them on the right.  Many have both.   Why?  Well, because mirrors make riding easier when it isn't as simple as looking over your shoulder.  The backrests on most recumbents make this less practical, especially on sportier recumbents with really low, shallowly reclined seats. Once my wrist issues had been healed, I started riding regular upright bikes again, especially in the city, where they're usually more maneuverable than a recumbent. And I discovered something: now that I was older and not so flexible in the neck any more, looking over my shoulders all the time got to be pretty uncomfortable and annoying.   Plus, I was now riding in heavier traffic; living in the city or on bike paths (something that didn't exist when I started riding), and there's always someone behind you.  But it's nice to know approximately where they are, and constantly looking over my shoulder, just to know if I could move left a few inches to avoid the pile of broken glass or enormous potholes we have in the northeast was a real pain.  Literally.  So, as they say: "I got religion".

The thing is, I'm convinced there is no perfect mirror.

Sometimes, we're asked at EVELO why we don't put mirrors on our bikes.  The reason we don't is because there are so many choices, and everyone is different.  Do you want regular, or "objects in mirror are closer than they appear"?   High up or low down?  Big and prominent or more compact and less likely to get damaged?  Paper, ahem, I mean, glass or plastic?   Glass is optically much better, but plastic is obviously more durable.  Here, I'm talking about the reflective surfaces, not the body.  The body on almost every bike mirror is high impact plastic. Then there's helmet/eyeglass mounted mirrors.  Some people love these, because a small movement of the head gives a wide field of view.   Others hate them, because they can be hard to adapt to.  For me, they're troublesome.  I see (hah!) the benefits, but my focus tends to adjust for the object that is very close to my face (the mirror) and not the object I'm trying to see (the car/motorcycle/truck/bear/tiger/whatever).  So again, problems. This sounds grim, but in practice, it's just something we all learn to deal with, like mosquitoes on a lovely summer night.  Bug repellent isn't perfect, but we still use it! So here's my recommendations:  Read reviews.  Amazon is a good source for these.  Look at them at your local bike shop, if you have one.   You'll make a better decision for yourself than I could. When you use a mirror, use it as a supplement to looking over your shoulder if at all possible.   Some people find that moving their whole torso instead of just their head is a bit easier on their bodies.   Especially in traffic,  I'd never try to move over in traffic to make a left turn without doing that, the same as I would in my car.  That's why trucks have several giant mirrors on each side and markings on the back that say "If you can't see my mirrors, I can't see you".  Their drivers don't have the luxury of being able to look over their shoulders.  We mostly do, so mirrors are a helper, but not a complete replacement. Some people ask if they're needed on trails.  Absolutely!  You never know when someone faster is coming up behind you.  So while you may think you are the fast one, passing the parent walking with their two toddlers on their bikes with training wheels, there may be someone even faster than you!  And while etiquette says you should ring your bell or otherwise let the person you are passing you are doing so, not everyone is so polite, and even if it's the other rider's fault that there was a crash, that's little of comfort to your skinned knee :-) So. Mirrors.  Use them! And finally, because I know if you've gotten this far, you're wondering, this is the mirror I usually use:  Third Eye Bar End Bicycle Mirror As I said, it's not perfect, but it's readily available, has a wide field of view, and it's cheap, and for me, that's a big deal. Because I still break them :-)  Not once a day, but I go through a couple a year.  Usually not by crashing, thankfully, but because as a lover of bicycles, my garage runneth over and it's really easy to break off the mirror on one bike when moving another, especially at the end of a long day of riding. In the never ending quest for the perfect mirror, my next new one will be this:  Ultralite German Mirror by D+D Oberlauda    At 3 times the price, I suspect I'll be a little more sad when I break it... Do you use a rear-view mirror on your bike? Let me know what your like and dislike about them.
This article was originally posted on Electric Bike Report on June 20, 2015 One of the many things people consider when making a lifestyle change is how to make their commute to work simpler and less of a hassle. They think: wouldn’t it be great to eliminate the pain of being stuck in traffic and then parking your car. The expense of gas, maintenance, tolls and parking. Or waiting for public transit and making connections that slow them down. There are health reasons too. Why drive to the gym before or after work, again sitting in traffic when you can just get your exercise during the commute? Often, they think about it, but then can’t figure out how to make it work. The distances are too long or the terrain too hilly.  Maybe they’re worried about how to deal with getting sweaty. In this post, I’m here to show you that it’s possible for almost anyone to do at least some of their commuting by bike, particularly on an electric bike. In some situations, it may even be a year round mode of transportation. There are three major areas of consideration when getting started:
  • You and your comfort
  • Your route.
  • Your equipment.
First, you and your comfort. This is partially about gear, and partially about your route, but both of those things are very important for your comfort. Firstly, your bike needs to fit you well. Your clothing should also work for you, not against you. You need to be seen and safe to feel confident on the road. You need to know you “belong” on the roads and that they’re there for your use, no matter how you are traveling. Let’s first address the elephant in the room: Sweat! Most of us need to show up at work clean and not dripping in sweat. But how to do this? Well, there’s many, many options, depending on your situation and facilities available to you. Firstly, is there a place at your work to take a shower? Many workplaces have these and yours may be one of them. It may not be readily apparent, and you may need to go searching for it. Asking other cyclists at your workplace might prove enlightening. Or, ask the people in facilities or housekeeping. They might know as well. But what if this isn’t an option? Well, all is not lost! One of the best inventions of the last 40 years is the now ubiquitous “baby wipe”. Keep a box of these in your desk or locker, and use one of the stalls in the washroom to freshen up. I like to wait a few minutes after I arrive at the office to cool down a little bit, and then change out of my cycling clothes, clean up using the towels and then get dressed. This works really well and nobody will ever know you didn’t just come straight out of the shower! Here too, an electric bike is a tool that makes riding to work easier: Just don’t sweat at all to begin with! When you’re riding in, take it easy and let the bike do the work for you. Pedal lightly, and dress in a way that keeps you cool. If you don’t exert more effort than you would by walking, you won’t sweat any more than you would walking. Often, it’s even less, as you’ve got that nice, cool 15 mph breeze coming over you. You’ll get your cardio exercise on the away home, since you have a shower there! When dressing for a ride, obviously you need to take the weather into account. One thing I learned after many years of traveling by bike is that when dressing for cold weather, it’s important to make sure not to over-dress. If you aren’t slightly chilly when you start out, I guarantee you’ll end up way too warm very soon, likely within a couple of minutes. Layers are also your friend. Dress in layers; that way if you need more or less protection, you can add or remove an item of clothing. You don’t want to have to choose between freezing in your tee-shirt and sweating like crazy in your down parka. Now, let’s talk about routes. This is where the advice: “think outside the box” really starts to make sense. It’s important to remember that what makes a good car route may not be a good bike route. When driving, we tend to focus on the roads that get us there most quickly, and we also consider the same thing when riding. However, there are differences. One of the big ones is traffic lights and stop signs. When picking a route for our car, we look for trips that have a minimum number of these, as every one of them slows us down. Especially at rush hour, it’s not uncommon in many places to have to wait several cycles of the light to get through the intersection. On a bike, this isn’t as big of a problem. Just filter up on the right side of the road, being careful to watch for people turning right or opening car doors. This is important – getting “doored” is no fun, so when doing this, use caution. Some cyclists won’t even do this as they consider it too dangerous. I do it, and find it works for me, but I do it slowly and carefully.  Even if I go 5 MPH, that’s still faster than 0 MPH! Please be aware that I’m not saying you should run red lights or blow through stop signs. This is illegal, unsafe and inconsiderate. So follow the rules of the road. Since cyclists are less common than drivers, our offenses are more obvious to others when we make them. Don’t be one of those “bicyclists” that drivers hate! While this may seem unfair (what percentage of drivers on the highway are actually going the speed limit?) it’s a fact of life.  We’re doing something different, and our infractions are more noticeable. Plus, you don’t want to get hurt, either. Another thing to consider when thinking about this is that since we aren’t as worried about stop signs, red lights, and speed limits, that the best route may not be on the main road, but through residential neighborhoods. In your car, you probably don’t want to drive on the adjacent residential streets with a 25 mph speed limit, when there’s a main road with a 40-50 mph speed limit right there. On a bike, you likely won’t be going over 20 MPH most of the time, so these speed limits don’t slow you down. But, and this is the big point I want to make here: those roads are much more pleasant to ride on! So giving some thought to your route makes a big difference. Consider alternatives, like side streets, roads with bike lanes, and bike paths as well. I often use the “bicycling” mode of Google maps. It tries to build a nice, safe route for you, based on feedback from users about the roads. You can also drag the route around something you would prefer to avoid. Now, this is where electric bikes give us even more options. What if the pleasant route is longer or hillier than the shortest route? Well, with an electric bike, this is much less of a concern. You’ll be going faster, and have assistance up those hills, so it opens up new route possibilities for you. Here’s a personal example: I regularly need to make a trip that is around 15 miles each way by the shortest bicycle-legal route (not on the interstate). I could take the busy, 2-4 lane state highway with the 40-45 MPH speed limit and minimal to no shoulder, (Route 28 north of Boston, for those of you who are curious), but I don’t. Riding on that road is no fun at all, and I say this as someone who’s used to riding in heavy traffic and has done so for decades. Fortunately, there’s another route that I can take that is about 18 miles long, and has more hills. But with an electric bike, I care a whole lot less about these factors. Result: a much nicer route that doesn’t stress me out. In some situations you may not be able to eliminate all of the undesirable parts from your route; for example, there may be a river you need to cross, and there are only a few ways over it. Still, doing your best to minimize them sure helps a lot! On the other hand, there may be routes that are impossible or difficult in a car, but doable on a bike. Dead end roads often have a short, old trail that cuts through to another dead end road. Sometimes, there’s that one pesky one way block that’s in the way. Ride carefully on the sidewalk or walk your bike. By the way, please remember that pedestrians have the right of way, so ride slowly and cautiously if you plan to do this. Also, consider recreational paths. Sometimes, even cutting across a city park on the pathways can make a route feasible on a bike. Again, even if it makes your route longer, you might find it much more pleasant. Finally, consider time. Make your estimates of travel time reasonable, so you won’t constantly be rushing. If you need to be at work at 9AM sharp, make sure you plan to arrive with time to spare, especially at first. While this applies to any method of commuting (how often have you cursed the traffic making you late in your car?), it can be even more important when cycling. Having to take risks to get there on time is not something you want to be doing. On the upside, bicycle commuting times can be more consistent and reliable than other modes since unexpectedly bad traffic slows you down less. Soon, you’ll have a good idea of how long it takes you, and can adjust your departure time. One final note: try out any new route out before depending on it to get to work on time. Pick a non-workday and see how it works out for you, or, if you can’t do that, at least leave twice as much time as you think you’ll need. I recommend the first option. Since traffic will likely be lighter, you can concentrate more on the ride, and less on timing and traffic. It also gives you the option to make changes. For example, you might spot a potentially better route than one you planned. This gives you the time to explore that option.
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