Ringing the Liberty Bell in Des Moines

Yes, there is a replica of the Liberty Bell in Des Moines … and if you dare, you can even ring it. And it’s LOUD!

  
A few places around America have replicas like this…

  
Even Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom has one in their Liberty Square section of the theme park, but getting to see one in downtown Des Moines takes less gas than a great American road trip to Florida.

Des Moines not great for biking?

An article published by the Des Moines Register this weekend says that Iowa has slipped a few places in the “bike friendly states” ranking. Considering the vast amount of bikes seen daily, endless biking groups and events, and many bike shops, one can only wonder what the top bike states must be link.

It is a good read:

http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/money/business/2015/08/29/iowa-des-moines-slipping-bike-friendly-trend/32286821/

Turn your bike wheel in to an LED display

Most bicyclers know that lights are one of the most important safety devices a bicycle can have. If a simple front white headlight and red tail light isn’t flashy enough for you, perhaps you might be interested in something more creative.

There are a number of companies producing LED wheel lights that are able to produce text and images as the wheel spins. These devices use an effect known as persistence of vision, allowing one row of lights to blink rapidly as the wheel spins and create patterns that our eyes see.

YQ8007 bicycle wheel light (photo from GearBest.com).
YQ8007 bicycle wheel light (photo from GearBest.com).

Some of these lights produce simple patterns, while others can display full color images, text or even motion video. They all rely on the wheel spinning fast enough to make the effect work (usually around 10-15 m.p.h.), but by adding more rows of LEDs, the effect can be seen at lower speeds.

Simple single-color versions can often be found for less than $10 (including shipping) on e-Bay, and fancier ones that allow loading custom color images are around $40. There are even some that can display animated video. Most are programmed by hooking up to a Windows computer via USB, but some use smartphone apps and Bluetooth.

Here is a chart listing about a dozen different models:

http://subethasoftware.com/2015/08/11/bicycle-wheel-led-light-displays/

If you have something like this on your bike, let us know in the comments.

Dynamic Bicycles Runabout 8 chainless bike photos

Before we continue with our series on the chainless bikes from Dynamic Bicycles (see part 1 and part 2), we thought it might be appropriate to share some photos of the Runabout 8 (both 18″ standard frame, and some of the 16″ Easy Step frame).

The front reflector is rather cheap, and is actually too small to fit around the handlebar near the center. Instead, it sits off-center and tilted.
The front reflector is rather cheap, and is actually too small to fit around the handlebar near the center. Instead, it sits off-center and tilted.
The Runabout 8 (standard frame) with optional rear cargo rack and a 3rd party smartphone mount.
The Runabout 8 (standard frame) with optional rear cargo rack and a 3rd party smartphone mount.
Instead of a chain, the Dynamic Bicycles use a Sussex internal shaft drive.
Instead of a chain, the Dynamic Bicycles use a Sussex internal shaft drive.
The front and rear brakes are normal.
The front and rear brakes are normal.
Shimano Nexus Premium SG-R36 internal gear hub (8-speed).
Shimano Nexus Premium SG-R36 internal gear hub (8-speed).
The rear reflector attaches to the adjustable seat post.
The rear reflector attaches to the adjustable seat post.
The seat has a shock, and is adjustable without tools.
The seat has a shock, and is adjustable without tools.
Top view of the seat.
Top view of the seat.
Shimano twist shifter (8-speed).
Shimano twist shifter (8-speed).
Front view of the bike (with 3rd part smartphone mount attached). Notice the off-center, tilted reflector.
Front view of the bike (with 3rd part smartphone mount attached). Notice the off-center, tilted reflector.
Another view of the standard front brakes, and shocks.
Another view of the standard front brakes, and shocks.
Another view of the rear hub.
Another view of the rear hub.
The kickstand is rather wobbly. It is adjustable, and we had to adjust both of ours to keep the bike from falling over.
The kickstand is rather wobbly. It is adjustable, and we had to adjust both of ours to keep the bike from falling over.
Basic pedals (no cage).
Basic pedals (no cage).
Rear brakes.
Rear brakes.
The standard frame can mount two bottle cages.
The standard frame can mount two bottle cages.
The Easy Step frame can mount one bottle cage.
The Easy Step frame can mount one bottle cage.
Easy Step model with optional rear cargo rack, and 3rd party bottle cage and bottle attached.
Easy Step model with optional rear cargo rack, and 3rd party bottle cage and bottle attached.
Standard frame with optional rear cargo rack.
Standard frame with optional rear cargo rack.
Standard 18" frame (left) and Easy Step 16" frame (right).
Standard 18″ frame (left) and Easy Step 16″ frame (right).
Adjustable handlebar post.
Adjustable handlebar post.
View of optional rear cargo rack.
View of optional rear cargo rack.
Rear brakes and adjustable seat post.
Rear brakes and adjustable seat post.
Front view.
Front view.
Pedals.
Pedals.
Another side view.
Another side view.
Handlebar angle adjustment.
Handlebar angle adjustment.
We are not sure what this weird clip was for, but it was attached to one of the front cables.
We are not sure what this weird clip was for, but it was attached to one of the front cables.
One of our test bikes had the left (front) brake spaced away from the grip, so the finger position was the same as the right (rear) grip that had extra space taken up by the Twist Shifter.
One of our test bikes had the left (front) brake spaced away from the grip, so the finger position was the same as the right (rear) grip that had extra space taken up by the Twist Shifter.
Our other test bike has the left (front) brake flush against the grip, so finger positions on front and rear brakes were slightly different.
Our other test bike has the left (front) brake flush against the grip, so finger positions on front and rear brakes were slightly different.
The rear frame where the cargo rack mounts also has a few drilled holes that appear to be for some other accessory.
The rear frame where the cargo rack mounts also has a few drilled holes that appear to be for some other accessory.
After two rides, the logo text on the seat was rubbing off from one of our two test bikes.
After two rides, the logo text on the seat was rubbing off from one of our two test bikes.
The 1998 Trek seat (same rider) has yet to rub off. Perhaps the seats are different enough to cause extra friction?
The 1998 Trek seat (same rider) has yet to rub off. Perhaps the seats are different enough to cause extra friction?

Dynamic Bicycles part 2 – first impressions

Dynamic Bicycles Runabout 8 review, part 2.

In part 1, we discussed ordering and assembling a Dynamic Bicycles chainless bike. This time, we share more information on the bikes and some initial impressions from our first rides.

The main bicycle categories from the Dynamic Bicycles website.
The main bicycle categories from the Dynamic Bicycles website.

Although the website lists three models, there appears to be four (or five?) distinct models of bikes offered by Dynamic Bicycles:

  1. Runabout 8 – An 8-speed “comfort hybrid” available in a 16″ Easy Step model or an 18″ or 21″ normal frame, in standard or Premium configuration. ($979-$999 list price, on sale for $589-$699.)
  2. Comfort 7  – A 7-speed “comfort cruising” bike with an 18″ unisex frame. ($999 list price, on sale for $699.)
  3. Sussex 8 – An 8-speed “city bike” with a 16″ step-thru frame. ($899 list price, on sale for $629.)
  4. Sidekick 8 – An 8-speed folding bike, available in normal model ($999 list price, on sale for $699) and Sidekick Elite ($1099 list price, on sale for $879) model with a different frame.

As you can see, pricing can vary depending on special sales. Over the past two years, we have never seen the bikes actually selling for the full list price. Instead, there has always been a discount offer such as percentage off, free shipping (normally $59), or half price accessories. At the time of this writing, bikes were 30% or 40% off (depending on model), and free shipping was available if you ordered two bikes (saving $118).

Choosing a Bike

We asked Dynamic Bicycles to recommend a bike after we described where and how we would be riding. They suggested the Runabout 8 model.

Runabout 8

The Runabout 8 is available in normal and premium versions. According to the description, the premium version comes with a Shimano Nexus Premium 8-speed Gearing and Shaft Drive System rather than the normal Shimano Nexus. We weren’t sure if that would be worth an extra $110.

Since there was no explanation on the website, we wrote in to ask what made a premium model premium. One of the owners, Patrick Perugini, responded:

“The Premium hub is what makes it the Premium model.”

An accurate answer, but unhelpful. We requested an explanation that even a blogger could understand:

“The premium hub runs a bit more efficiently, and is about 1/2 lb lighter. It makes longer rides and hills a bit easier. If you live in a flatter area, you likely would never notice the difference.”

It was refreshing to hear such honesty about an upsell. We chose to go with the premium version since, in spite of Iowa’s reputation, there certainly are plenty of hills here.

Our two test models are the Runabout Easy Step 8 Premium – 16″ Frame Size (aka, “girl’s bike”) and the Runabout 8 Premium – 18″ Frame Size (aka, “boy’s bike”). A simple sizing guide on the website (and e-mail inquiries) assisted in picking the proper frame size. The presales support of Dynamic Bicycles has been great.

Test Ride

After assembly (as detailed in the previous article), we were eager to take our first test ride. We took a short ride around a residential neighborhood (probably no more than a mile) and were amazed by how silent and easy the bikes shifted. With a traditional chain bike, shifting can only be done while the bike is in motion, and usually takes a moment for the gears to spin and the chain to jump to the next position. With the internal gear hub on these chainless bikes, you can shift to any gear even while the bike is standing still, and the shifting happens the moment the twist-grip shifter clicks in to place.

It was a strange feeling to click to a higher or lower gear and feel the resistance on the pedals instantly change. It is the bicycle equivalent to what power steering and brakes feels like in a car.

One of our riders was used to riding a 1998 21″ Trek 6000 mountain bike with 26″ wheels. He found that on the smaller 18″ Runabout frame, its larger 700×35 wheels and more vertical seating position made it feel like a larger bike. As expected, the thin street tires did provide a noticeably rougher ride over bumps than the mountain bike. Though both old bike and new provided front shocks, the Runabout added a seat post shock which the old Trek did not have. Without it, the Runabout might have even felt rougher. One other difference was going from speed shifters (operated by index finger and thumb) to twist shifters (operated by twisting). He much preferred a speed shifter over twist, and Dynamic (sometimes) does offer that as an optional upgrade.

Our other rider, who was used to a 2004 Trek 7300 hybrid bike (official Trek archives page) with 700x35c tires, did not think the Runabout ride was that much different. She was already used to having front shocks and seat post shock on her Trek and the same size street tires, as well as the twist shifter.

Gearing

Both of our riders were used to having a much wider range of gearing, so a major concern was that going down to 8 speeds would be a problem. However, even with only 8 speeds versus 21, the range felt great. Dynamic Bicycles explains on their website that most 21 and 24 speed bikes have redundant coverage of the gears, so you never really get that many distinct speeds anyway:

Our chainless bicycles use the Shimano 8-speed internal gear hubs. So you get a surprisingly wide range of gearing, while eliminating the number one complaint people have always had about their bikes – the chains and derailleurs. In fact, the Shimano 8-speed hub has 80%-90% of the gear range of a traditional 21-speed or 24-speed chain bike.

In preparing for this review, we submitted information on the gearing of the 1998 Trek 6500 mountain bike, and Dynamic Bicycles sent us back a spreadsheet showing where the 8-speed fit in with the 21-speed.

Trek 21-speed versus Dynamic 8-speed.
Trek 21-speed versus Dynamic 8-speed.

They also have a downloadable Gear Ratio Chart you can use to compare with your existing bicycle.

As you can see, while a 21-speed bike may have two lower gears and one higher gear than the Runabout 8, the overall range was very similar. The 21-speed only had 18 distinct gears, and many were very close to each other. The 8-speed had more of a gap between each speed, allowing it to cover most of the same range with no redundancy. Also, our test riders generally stayed in the center gear (speeds 8-14) on their old bikes, and thus the range of the Runabout was actually greater than what they normally used.

Our conclusion is that for casual bikers who do not routinely use all 21 or 24 gears of their bike, the 8-speed of the Runabout is more than sufficient. In fact, we expect it would be sufficient for all but the most extreme shifters.

In the next installment, we will share a gallery of photos covering practically every inch of these bikes, and share some of the downsides of going chainless.