Author: Richard Masoner

“Fixed gear” ebikes are apparently a thing

Whilst reading my Mastodon feed, I ran across mention of a “fixed gear ebike.” This piqued my interest: can such a thing really exist?

The top results when I google “fixed gear ebike” include a blog post on the “Best Fixed Gear Electric Bikes,” which begins with a description of this weird, nonsensical chimera.

What is an “Electric Fixie”?
Electric fixies are simply electric bikes without a freewheel on the rear hub. It might sound like a minor difference, but the freewheel allows the wheel to keep turning while the pedals are still (when you’re coasting, for example).

This gives fixies a unique feel. Whenever the bike is moving, your legs will be moving too. It can take a bit of getting used to, but fixies build fitness, are generally faster and fun to ride. Contrary to what you might have heard, fixies are safe (although it’s advisable to get a bit of practice in before navigating traffic) and road legal as long as they have a front brake.

Fixie E-Bikes vs Single Speed E-Bikes
Single speed e-bikes are already extremely popular and it’s easy to see why. They’re the ultimate in accessibility; you simply hop on and pedal. Fixies are a little more complex. They take some getting used to but can help you to perfect your peddling technique and can give you a fitness boost.

While reading this gibberish, it occurred to me that people now use the ChatGPT artificial intelligence chatbot to generate links for search optimization. I asked the ChatGPT bot, “What is a fixed gear ebike?”

A fixed gear ebike, also known as a single speed ebike, is a type of electric bike that does not have a freewheel mechanism, meaning that the pedals are always turning whenever the bike is in motion. This means that the rider cannot coast on a fixed gear ebike, but must continuously pedal to move the bike.

Fixed gear ebikes are similar to traditional fixed gear bikes, which are popular among urban commuters and track cyclists. The main difference is that fixed gear ebikes have an electric motor to assist the rider, making them easier to pedal and allowing the rider to go longer distances without getting tired.

Fixed gear ebikes typically have a simple, minimalist design and are lightweight, making them easy to maneuver and handle. They are also known for their durability and low maintenance requirements, as they have fewer moving parts compared to traditional derailleur-equipped bikes.

Some riders enjoy the simplicity and the unique riding experience of fixed gear ebikes, while others may prefer the versatility and ease of use of a bike with multiple gears. Ultimately, the choice between a fixed gear ebike and a traditional geared ebike comes down to personal preference and the specific needs of the rider.

Maybe you disagree, but to me this looks similar enough to be suspicious. In both examples, the writer (an AI? somebody from Fiverr?) obviously cribs boilerplate info about fixies, then replaces “bike” with “ebike” in the discussion.

Fixed gear ebikes?

And yet, I find real product pages for fixed gear ebikes. See, for example, this Luna “Fixed Stealth Ebike,” this “Fixie” from Rize, the “Fixie” from Valk, or the “New York Fixie” from Watt. The product names all imply they’re fixed gear bicycles, but are they?

Luna, to their, credit, includes this text in their description: “IT IS NOT a fixie bike… it does freewheel.” Weirdly enough, they put a 3-speed hub in their bike they call the “Fixed.” For the other bikes, you have to hunt through the product specs to verify these are normal singlespeeds with hub motors. These are not fixed gear bicycles.

The challenges of mating an electric motor to a fixed gear makes this seem unlikely as a product, but surely a modern day Prometheus somewhere has married their junk bin of electromagnetism to a 1985 Fuji fixie conversion to create this mad scientist mashup, but my google-fu fails me, and my Twitter inquiries resulted in a handful of “this is a horrible idea” responses.

How about it, you bike nerds: Has anyone built on an electric fixed gear bicycles?

Parking reform’s negative impacts bicycle parking? What?

We’re excited in California for AB 2097 to take effect with the new year. This law bans parking minimums for new developments within a half mile of transit. Cycling advocates and others who care about housing and the climate fought for this bill, and we celebrated when Governor Gavin Newsom signed 2097 into law last September.

But did you know this law might also eliminate bike parking requirements in some California cities and counties?

A bicycle leaned against a wave rack near a white wall, with "BICYCLE PARKING" stenciled above the rack.

I was reviewing plans for a new restaurant for the city of Campbell, California because planners there seem to overlook their town’s bike parking requirements. The developer application includes this paragraph:

Under the recently adopted AB-2097, the City “shall not impose or enforce any minimum automobile parking requirement on a residential, commercial, or other development project if the project is located within one-half mile of public transit.” As such, this project is no longer subject to a parking requirement as of January 1, 2023.

Cool, right? The application, though, makes no mention of bike parking, so I looked up Campbell’s bike parking rules. Campbell adopts by reference the California Green Building Standards Code (“CalGreen”), which in turn stipulates “permanently anchored bicycle racks within 200 feet of the visitors’ entrance, readily visible to passers-by, for 5 percent of new visitor motorized vehicle parking spaces being added.”

Do you see the problem? Five percent of zero is … zero bike parking.

Alarmed, I next looked at city code for cities in Santa Cruz County. Each of the cities of Santa Cruz, Capitola, and Watsonville have at least a portion of their bike parking requirements defined as a percentage of car parking. Update: The city of Santa Cruz already started work to amend their bike parking code in light of AB 2097; good job!

The County of Santa Cruz just yesterday finalized and approved an overhaul of the Parking and Circulation section of their planning code which significantly improves bicycle requirements for new developments. Guess how this brand new code specifies bike parking? Yep: as a percentage of car parking.

As a member of the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission Bicycle Committee (whew, that’s a mouthful), I’ve already asked the committee chair for an agenda item and action in which we’ll send a letter to each of these cities and the county asking them to update their bike parking code to reflect the new reality of AB 2097.

While most cities I’ve looked at have this problem, I found three cities that define bike parking requirements with a formula based on building square footage or occupancy: San Jose, San Francisco, and Oakland. Well done to those cities.

I encourage you to look into your city and county zoning code. You can find this by Googling [ your city or county ] planning code bicycle parking. I’d love to know your findings so comment what you find here.

Bike light prices are crazy right now

I received a press release announcing a Black Friday Sale for Outbound Lightning (more about them in another post, but the short of it is I think I like them). I haven’t thought about bike lights in a while because I’m happy with what I have, but it reminds me of a long time rant I’ve had in store for bike lights sold at America’s favorite bike shop.

While writing this post, I’m checking retail prices for brands I trust and I don’t know what to believe anymore. I planned to describe how to tell frauds from the good deals, but the outdoor industry’s bursting bubble makes this more challenging. Maybe you all can help me out.

Let’s look at this “OLIGHT BFL1800 Bike Headlights 1,800 Lumen LED Bike Light“, which seems fairly typical of cheap, copycat products that sell predominantly through Amazon, with a quick reminder that this post contains affiliate links.

Marketing graphic illustrating the OLITE BFL1800 Bike headlight. "Illuminate your cycling adventure. Max output 1800 lumens, max runtime 8.5 hours, max throw 210 meters, battery customized rechargeable battery. Drop test 1 Meter. Water resistant IPX6."

I haven’t tested this light so can’t speak to the claims of battery life, water resistance, “max throw,” and durability. Before the pandemic bike boom, I would’ve dismissed the lumens claim just based on the price of the light — a ludicrously low $67.96 on Amazon at the time I’m typing this. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

Brands I trust such as Light & Motion or NiteRider test the brightness of their lights. When they claim 500 lumens of output, you’ll actually get that level of brightness. Light & Motion in particular puts some attention in their beam pattern as well. I trust them, I trust their claims, I trust their product. I use their lights as the benchmark.

I browse to Light & Motion’s website for the light that’s probably the most equivalent to this Olite thing and hello? L&M’s “VIS 1000 Custom” is only $65? This light is “only” 1000 lumens compared against Olight’s claimed 1800 lumens, but I’m confident in Light & Motion’s claim. We also need to pay attention to the battery life claim, and notice Light & Motion shows battery life when operating at high power, while Olite shows “max runtime” which means low power operation.

Still, we have a very comparable price from two apparently similar bike lights. Is Light & Motion selling inventory at a loss as they pivot to photo and video lights? Or is Olight’s marketing approaching something like the truth?

I found this video from the Torque Test Channel helpfully approachable, and if you buy lights online you might find it helpful too. He explains lumens and brightness and why the claims for many of the handheld lights he’s interested in are so ridiculous.

The #biketwitter diaspora locator

How to find bike people on Mastodon

Who remembers Follow Friday on Twitter? I haven’t blogged much over the past several years in part because Twitter makes quick interactions with you so easy and fast. I’m undecided on my Twitter future, but in the meantime, I’ll share my other social media links here, along with those of other Twitter users as I run across them. Please feel free to share your social media connections in the comments.

Lupe the Mammoth, a metal sculpture of a juvenile mammoth on the side of the trail in San Jose, California.

Cyclelicious bike blog social media

Update 8 November 2022

I’m migrating my Mastodon from what I think is a sketchy site to the much cooler sfba.social, where you can find me at @bikes@sfba.social.

Darryl Collins has created a Google Docs #biketwitter finder for Mastodon, so I don’t need to update the list below. Read his post here for the details.

Mastodon does hashtags well. If you want to be findable, I search Mastodon for #bicycle, #bicycles, #cyclingtwitter, and #cycling. Feel free to let me know what you use and recommend.

#biketwitter and friends

I’ll begin with this quick placeholder of people I know about who have created other social media accounts. Today is a busy work day so I won’t get to everybody just yet, and perhaps paradoxically the people I’m least close to will probably be recorded here first, not least of all because converting @user@mastodonserver username to a URL which is not standardized across the servers is time-consuming. You’ll see not everybody here is strictly about bikes, but they’re adjacent to my personal interests. Some of you all have multiple Mastodons, but I’ll only list the first one I see.

I hope this seed is an okay enough start because now I have work to do. I’ll add more as I have time to update this page.

Who is that metal elephant?

The photo above is a statue of Lupe, a juvenile mammoth who lived about 14,000 years ago in what is now Santa Clara County, California. Her bones were discovered in 2005 by Roger Castillo as he walked his dog along the Guadalupe River. You can learn more about Lupe at the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose.

Ride Bike! A book about Jobst Brandt

I just kicked in some cash to support the Jobst Brandt Ride Bike! book.

Jobst Brandt and a friend sit at a table in an ice cream parlor. Jobst wears a blue polypropylene bike jersey with yellow trim and a Fredy Ruegg Velos cycling cap, while his friend, who is looking into a paper cup, wears a white and purple bicycle jersey and a yellow ag2 cycling cap.
Jobst Brandt with a friend sitting at the Foster Freeze in Boulder Creek, California.

Jobst Brandt, who passed away at age 80 in 2015, was a gruff, know-it-all Bay Area mechanical engineer who developed bicycle computers, a touring bicycle shoe, and high performance bicycle tires. He’s perhaps best known for freely giving advice on the various bicycling forums on Usenet back before Jack Dorsey invented Social Media. Brandt authored The BIcycle Wheel, which remains the authoritative work on building bicycle wheels.

I ran into him exactly once. He and a friend were bicycling over Highway 9 from his Palo Alto home as is his custom when they stopped at the Foster Freeze in Boulder Creek, California, where he held court and opined on farm tractor design and computer company logos.

He’s also known for touring all over the Alps on unimproved roads, and leading crazy rides on dirt roads througout the San Francisco Bay Area, all on skinny high pressure sew-up tubular tires. You can read about some of Brandt’s adventures at the blog of Ray Hosler, another legendary local road cyclist.

Isola Press in the UK have launched a Kickstarter to publish a book on the life of Jobst Brandt. They promise to share some of the thousands of photos from his life. I’m still a fanboy of Brandt and I admit to an unreasonable level of excitement. You can learn more about this project at the Kickstarter Project Page.

I come to Sea Otter for the people

I wander the Sea Otter Festival Expo area looking for interesting new products that fall outside of the mold of manly mountain biking bling with big gnurly tires that dominate at this outdoor event, so for Sea Otter 2022 this Bluejay electric cruiser step-through bicycle nicely appointed with racks and a sidecar caught my attention, and of course I had to learn more.

Besides the bikes of Sea Otter, I’m especially interested in the people of Sea Otter. In this photo, Bluejay CEO Jennifer Cohen Bogan stands behind the bike she designed from her office in Marin County, California, and her backstory fascinated me.M

Many bike industry people are bike nerds. People like me, and people like many of you who read Cyclelicious. Maybe they were athletes, or they love outdoor activities, or they have a proclivity for mechanical gizmos and googags.

Ms Bogan took a different path. She was a marketing executive in beauty , fashion, and cosmetic businesses. She took time off to spend time with her children when she saw families riding electric bicycles around town. She tried these bikes and loved their ease of use, but disliked their looks.

She started Bluejay to create functional yet on-trend electric bicycles. Their display at Sea Otter evokes picnic rides and family getaways.

If you’re at Sea Otter, I invite you to find their booth not far from Dippin Dots cart. Bluejay began in 2018 and, like many outdoor businesses, sold bikes like crazy during the first eighteen months of the pandemic. They’re building out their dealer network, or you can buy online and have a bike shipped to a shop for assembly.

For more from Sea Otter 2022, I invite you to follow me on Twitter.