Posts Tagged ‘Bike Shops’

Shopping For A New Bike – Test-Riding the Electra Townie

September 23, 2009 4 comments

Monday I was in the mood for looking at bikes, so we dropped by the Miami Beach Bicycle Center, one of the locations on the Beach that carries Electra bicycles.

We found the store fairly easily (corner of 5th Street and Washington Ave, or the place with the loaded bike rack right in front) and quickly stepped inside a small store packed to the gills with bikes and accessories. The Bicycle Center only carries Electra Townies, which is fine as I wanted to give these cruiser-types a fair chance as I shop for my new bike.

Mike answered all my questions about the Townies without batting an eye, which speaks wonders to me about their knowledge. He also asked key questions of me, like how much riding I would be doing (as much as possible), what was my intention in getting a new bike (to replace my car as much as I can), and offered suggestions. He also offered to let me test-ride the Townie, which I wasn’t expecting but gladly accepted.

Electra Townie

The Townie

I rode the 7-speed men’s Townie (in blue). It comes equipped with a Shimano handgrip gear shift system and a hand brake, plus a top-cover chainguard. The seat was adjusted to my height and off I went down the sidewalk. My first thought was, “Wow, this is a very comfortable seat!” It was followed very quickly by, “Wow, this thing is fast!” It’s not so much a fast bike as it is an efficient ride; the gears allowed me to get the most out of each and every push of the pedal and that was a wonderful feeling.

The bike rides super smooth as well; this model did not have balloon tires, but the default Townie tires are very roundish as it is (compared to the fat-and-flat tires my current cruiser has) and this made for a feeling of gliding over the surface. Understand, as you can see in the photo, I’m a heavy guy, so I’ve come to expect my weight to basically nullify any natural shock-absorbency the tires on any bike I ride may have, but that wasn’t the case here at all. That alone impressed me quite a bit.

I’ve been riding a bike with coaster brakes for more than a year, so my natural instinct is to pedal backwards to stop, which on this bike doesn’t do anything other than let your feet spin around freely. The hand brake, however, worked like a charm; just a squeeze and the bike came to a full stop in less than a foot of distance. While riding I tried some of the various speeds and each performed just right. The transition between the gears was barely felt or heard and I never felt a loss of motion between shifts. I wish I could have taken it up the bridge I climb every morning, but even on the flat surface of Miami Beach I could tell the selection of speeds on this bike would allow me to ride that incline a lot more efficiently and without so much stress to my knees as my current ride.

The big deal with the Townies is their angle of riding, which tilts the angle of riding, putting the rider a bit towards the back and the pedals more towards the front, creating what Electra calls Flat Foot Technology®: when you sit on a Townie, you can put down your foot flat on the floor when standing still, and when riding, you pedal forward instead of downward, allowing full extension of the leg. It works wonders, let me tell you. I was able to simply put my foot down and stand with the bike without any balance issues. When riding, the angle of the pedals allowed my long legs to get an almost full extension; I truly felt that I got the most out of each push of the pedals, all while sitting in a relaxed position that kept my back straight and without feeling any noticeable strain.

There are three things I did not like about the Townie, though. First, I did not like the straight handlebar; after riding my cruiser, and even my wife’s Amsterdam, both of which have handlebars that bend back towards the rider, the arms-straight-out position I had to adopt to ride the Townie felt just wrong. Second, the top-half-only chainguard as opposed to a full-cover chainguard. The Red Beast has this kind of cover and I have constant problems with the cuff of my jeans getting caught in it and bending it out of shape. Even assuming that the material on the Townie chainguard will be better than the one in my Target-bought Schwinn cruiser, that’s one hassle I’d just like to avoid altogether. And last, the lack of all the accoutrement that are needed to make this a functional day-to-day bike: fenders, back rack, back and front lights, and bell. There is a Townie Euro version that comes with all of these (except the bell), but the price shoots up quite a bit from the version I rode. Yes, these are all things that can be likely customized at the store level, but they would add considerably on top of the basic price (and the 7-speed I tested was fairly priced at just under $500).

Overall, I really liked the Townie experience, enough to make this bike a real contender for the title of My Next Bike. People who prefer cruisers should definitely check the Townie out, because if I can sum this bike in 4 words it would be Cruiser: The Next Generation, and I don’t think I’d be doing it a disservice at all.


My First Flat Tire

September 16, 2009 Leave a comment

Flat Tire

I rode out this morning to prayers as I always do; went up the bridge, down the bridge, rode on the street for a bit, took the sidewalk for another part, took the left turning lane and crossed the incoming lanes into a parking lot through which I shortcut into my synagogue’s parking lot. As I am about to turn into the synagogue… BAM!

It sounded like a huge balloon popping, which in essence it was: my back tire had blown out and gone flat.

After more than one year of riding, I had just gotten my first flat tire on the Red Beast.

I’ve no idea what caused it. There was a small bump on the road right before the tire busted, but I could not see anything on the floor that could have caused it. I’m sure it was a bike ninja. I left the bike at the synagogue and walked back home, going back with the car a couple of hours later to pick it up to take it for repairs.

I tried one store first but there was no one in (an emergency had come up, I later found out), so I went to JB Bike Shop on Collins Ave. What I thought would be a matter of replacing an inner tube turned out to be a lot more complicated. The actual tire had blown out (from me filling it up at the gas station air pumps, I was told) and I had two broken spokes. Great.

I know I’m going to replace this bike soon, but it isn’t now, so I needed to get it running again. The tube was replaced, the tire replaced as well with another wide (slightly off-)whitewall  tire, this new one very knobbly, new spokes installed and the rim aligned. It actually wasn’t as much as I though it would come out to, so that was a pleasant surprise.

New Knobbly TireI took out the bike with the new tire for a spin around the block, to make sure all was well. The bike runs well, but the different texture of the new back tire makes sounds that I’m not used to, so it throws me off. We needed to “adjust” (and by adjust I mean push, pull and bend into submission) the back fender and I’ll probably have to tweak it again soon. The new tire changes the way the bike rides, but it still rides well, so I can’t complain. I need the Red Beast to last me at least a couple more months, so I gotta take care of it.

The good thing about the new tire is that it does give my bike a lot more traction on the back, useful for when it rains and the road’s wet.

I’m a tiny bit ashamed that I have no idea how to fix a flat bike tire, but then again, these babies will run over the detrius of society and come out pretty much unscathed, so it’s not a problem I’ve ever have to deal with.

So yay for the new tire on the Red Beast, may it carry me safely till it’s time to get the new one.

My Bike Miami Wish List

September 10, 2009 4 comments

Bike Miami DaysAs we stand on the threshold of autumn (for whatever that is worth in Miami), and with it a new season of Bike Miami Days, I can’t help but be excited. What started as a one-day event back in November 2008 has exploded into a whole entity, now with seven all-day ciclovías under its belt, as well as a handful of rides to tie people over during the hot summer months. During that time the event has grown and attracted more and more sponsors, ranging from commercial endeavors to non-profit organizations, which has helped extend the experience from “just biking around” to (if you’ll permit me the grandiose language) a celebration of community.

I wrote the above about a week-and-a-half before current news on the possibility of there being no Bike Miami Days in the fall became available. I decided to leave it because it expresses how I feel about Bike Miami and why it is important enough to keep around. Perhaps we’ll get good news, Bike Miami Days will be back on the schedule, and the above will once again fully apply. As we ponder the future of Bike Miami Days, I’d like to talk about some things I would like to see in future events, features that I think will enhance the Bike Miami Days experience and help the general cycling community in Miami at the same time.

#1. Lights & Bells For Every Bicycle

Florida Bicycle Law requires every bike that rides at night to be equipped with both a front and a rear light.

Lighting (see Section 316.2065, F.S.)
A bicycle operated between sunset and sunrise must be equipped with a lamp on the front exhibiting a white light visible from 500 feet to the front and both a red reflector and a lamp on the rear exhibiting a red light visible from 600 feet to the rear.

I cannot count the number of bikes I’ve seen riding after sunset that have no lights at all; at most they have the reflector that came with the bike when they purchased it and that’s all. We need to educate all riders, especially the casual ones, that having lights on their bikes is the law. The ideal here would be to have a partnership with a bike shop or bike light manufacturer so that discounts and/or free samples can be given out.

Likewise, though Florida Bicycle Law does not require it, every bike should be equipped with a bell. Every bike. Even you, Lycra speedsters. Just like every car needs a horn to signal, so does every bike. A loud “excuse me” when the rider is already on top of pedestrians/other riders is not acceptable. Bells are de rigeur in countries with high bikeability because they are essential parts of the riding experience. I’d love to see a company donate a large number of bells that can be given out to Bike Miami participants (perhaps these can even be branded with Bike Miami stickers!).

#2. Bike & Ride Support from Miami-Dade Transit

Miami-Dade county’s public transit already has in place a good Bike & Ride program for bicycle commuters. I would love to see a kiosk with representatives educating people about this program, answering questions, processing and handing out Metrorail bike permits (currently these can only be obtained at the Government Center Metrorail station or by mail – why not online baffles me) and teaching people how to properly use the Metrobus bike racks (right). For a double-whammy, have folks there also from Tri-Rail (though maybe not, considering their bicycle policies seem a bit off-putting).

#3. Bike Miami-branded Merchandise

Frankly, this should have been instituted right from the second Bike Miami Day event! By the end of the inaugural Bike Miami in November I wanted a T-shirt and stickers with the Bike Miami logo (which actually changed from that very first one used to the current one). I wanted to show my support by wearing that shirt around, and I still very much do. I have a feeling of this being a case of Bike Miami team members being overwhelmed by their regular daily duties plus the event work to have time to get this done. Silk screening on T-shirts is fairly inexpensive, especially in bulk quantities, so Bike Miami shirts aren’t that unfeasible; sold at $25 or so, depending on how many were printed, these could pay for themselves fairly quick and bring in some extra revenue. (Click on the image for a larger version)

Aside from T-shirts, stickers are another great an inexpensive way to spread the news about the event. I would go with both bumper stickers and 2″-3″ round stickers right off the bat, as these are the most versatile sizes.

Other possible branded items include water bottles (to promote proper hydration while riding), bike bells (see how I tied points #1 and #3?) and cycling jerseys (I don’t particularly care for them, the time-trialists don’t ride without wearing these).

I, of course, am assuming that most Bike Miami fans are rabid about the event like me and would buy all these branded items.

#4. Support/Presence from Bike Companies

Though ultimately this is out of the Bike Miami team’s hands, I’d love to see bicycle manufacturers and other related bicycle companies sponsor and present at the events. Bicycling Magazine has already sponsored a Miami edition of BikeTown, so get them to return with a kiosk. Has anyone other than me noticed the high number of Electra bicycles present at Bike Miami Days (starting with our very own Willow)? Let’s call them and get them to come down. Same thing with Trek, Giant, Jamis, Schwinn and any other major manufacturer (if you want to really target it, start going through the photos and picking out bike brands). Be bold and call emerging/new to the area companies; brands that are starting out or entering a new market could benefit from the exposure. While at it, call Lazer Helmets and Bell (helmets & accessories) as well. You get the idea: if it’s a major bicycle article manufacturer, call them up and try to get them to sponsor and present at the show. Events like Bike Miami and the (hopeful) adoption of programs like Miami 21 make the city an emerging market in serious bicycling, and these companies have a chance to make an early and important impact on consumers.

Got thoughts on these ideas or further ones? Let me know in the comments.

New Bike Store in Miami Beach: Federal Bike Depot

August 30, 2009 1 comment

This store opened during my time out of town so I just recently had a chance to stop by and visit. Here’s the store’s info:

Federal Bike Depot
327 W 47 St (Pinetree Dr & 47 St)
Miami Beach, FL 33140
305-538-BIKE (2453) (not operational at the moment of this article)
federalbike @

The store is located in the Middle Beach area, which seems to have become something of a hub of Miami Beach cycling as it sports the most bike lanes I’ve seen around. It’s a small shop but it carries all the essentials, and I’m sure they can order anything else you might need without a problem. Their selection of bikes is fairly varied, including cruisers from Sun Bicycles, mountain and hybrid bikes from Marin Bicycles, and racing-style bikes. They also offer bike repair services for most brands and they offer delivery and pick up. Most convenient for us is the fact they are open on Sundays (Mon-Sat  11-7, Sun 10-4), something the store we’d been using thus far in Aventura does not have.

I spoke a bit with co-owner Orlando. He’s been a bike mechanic for years, having worked at other Miami bike shops, and finally decided to open one himself (with a partner, whom I did not meet during my visit). He knows his stuff, and was very eager about the store and the nice location they got, right in the middle of Miami Beach. They’re still getting the word out about the store and looking to get more business, so if you’re a Miami Beach cyclist that rides around the Middle Beach area, drop by and take a look. I know that with this shop located just a hop away from my home, I’ll be visiting a lot.

Bicycle Accessory Hunting

August 31, 2008 1 comment

We went out to do a couple of things today, and along the way we decided to stop by one of the dedicated cycle shops near my father-in-law’s house, in southern Miami. We went to Cycle World (on Bird Rd., for the locals), and found it to be a pretty nice shop overall, carrying a lot more products than we thought they would. Of note were the various racks and packs they carry, although they are all part of one brand that features interlocking pieces; very neat feature, but limiting unless you only buy that brand. We also took a look at some other storage options and… well, that was it, really. The rest of the store was all racing bikes, and mountain bikes, and some cruisers (and some tricycles that were just awesome and which I’d love to get for my mom, if she had a place to ride it), clothing, shoes, and parts.

Now, there are the sort of things you’d expect to find in a bike shop, so that’s fine and dandy, and Cycle World certainly has a great selection. The problem is that if you’re not into racing or mountain biking, the product selection geared towards your needs diminishes fast to a very small sampling of their catalog. They did have a good selection of seats (something I need to research) but a bit too expensive when compared to what we’ve seen at Target.

In fact, we’ve actually done most of our bike accessory shopping at Target simply because their selection of equipment and accessories for the slow/recreational/family biker is a lot wider. I was able to get a crank-powered headlight for my bike for only $10, and the two seats I am currently researching are each less than $20, compared to at least that price for a gel slipcover at the other store.

Cycling shops need to become aware that there is a growing portion of the population that are using their bikes as regular modes of transportation, as reliable forms of recreation, and that we have needs when it comes to equipment and accessories that are different from those of a racing or mountain biker. Cater to us as well; at the very least highlight the existing stock you have in a way that appeals to the slow biker. Otherwise you’ll keep loosing business to Target and other such stores.

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