Wednesday, May 03, 2006
The Special Bike Show again!
Once oil gets even more expensive one of the ways we are going to get about, if we are lucky, is on a bicycle. Whether it will be the conventional two wheeled diamond frame “cumbersome” bicycle or one of the slightly different but exciting or amusing bikes shown at Spezi the Special Bike Show in Germersheim, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany on 29-30 April is not easy to say. Since many children are growing up without learning to ride a two wheeled vehicle, either there is going to have to be a massive adult teaching programme in years to come or trikes are going to be a lot popular.
Spezi started 11 years ago. The organisers, Haasies Radschlag, a bicycle shop in Germersheim, started by not only inviting well known manufacturers of bicycles, tricycles and accessories, but also new small one man companies starting up by brazing frames, the specialist builders of bikes, trikes and tandems for the disabled, the local cycling clubs and the human powered vehicle freaks. It has grown over the years without losing its friendly family atmosphere to become a major event with 80 exhibitors in three halls.
We understand that Bernds do not sell well in the UK which is a pity, although their tandems are offered by Cyclecentric in Cambridge (www.cyclecentric.com). Bernds (www.bernds.de/E/typ-geniesser.htm) still build a fairly conventional folding bike, but also now offer a low step through folder, if one has trouble getting one’s leg over. The same goes for the tandem which now offered as a step through version. Interesting that one can now write about a conventional folding bicycle.
We ogled the new titanium Bromptons and if we came up on the lottery, we would sell off our our heavier steel Bromptons and order the finest of the fine, but unfortunately to win the lottery we need to buy a ticket and common sense says we will win less, but more consistently if we don’t buy a ticket. Ah well!
We said hello to our friends at Altena Bike (www.altena-bike.nl/) who we first met at the York Rally last year. Altena builds recumbent bicycles and tandems that are built more for comfort than than speed. They have a new conventional tandem that looks very nice which is unfortunately not mentioned on their web site. As our one attempt to use a tandem was not a great success, I suspect buying one has a low priority at “Schloss Forsyth”.
Beyond Altena we looked at the Ice stand and were much taken with the concept of the folding trike (www.ice.hpv.co.uk/). Obviously the main advantage of the trike recumbent is that until one is quite skilled a recumbent bicycle at low speeds is a so-and-so to ride. You don’t have to balance a trike. However my own feeling is that the very nearness to the ground brings visibility problems for motorists, but on the other hand one’s bum is a lot more comfortable in an armchair than on a saddle.
We were also quite impressed with the Hase bikes and trikes (http://www.hasebikes.com/). If we were going to buy a tandem, the Hase Pino would be high on the list. Hase is well represented at this show. The firm organises a very popular trike race during Spezi and has a large stand at the entrance to Hall 1. Hase is going to organise a show similar to Spezi on June 17 in Waltrop in the Ruhr called Fez am Flöz (Fun on the Coal Seam). There is a good chance you will see us there. There is more information on the company’s web site, but only in German.
When we get rid of the car, we will have to use our bicycle trailer more (or take more taxis), so we have been practising recently. We have also been playing with the idea of taking the trailer packed with camping gear to somewhere far away and cycling back to Viernheim. We are thus interested in trailers and these were well represented at the show. Used, the European agents for the Scottish Carry Freedom had examples of the Y-Frame platform, the bARK/POD dog carrier and the City trailer (www.used-hq.de/en/cf-en.htm) on show. The latter is a hard shell bike trailer, suitcase or courier bag, probably of great use if you are a commuter in the concrete jungle, but less so for the tourist. The Y-Frame trailer however seems to be a useful all round touring, shopping trailer. Fitted with a dog box it turns into the bARK/POD. I suspect if we had a dog, I would be more interested in the dog pulling me rather than me pulling the dog. Our American friends have stolen a march on the rest of the world, yet again, with the dog scooter: see http://dogscooter.com and www.dogpoweredscooter.com for more thoughts along these lines. Roland and Weber trailers shared a stand. The two companies appear to be cooperating. The single wheeled Weber Monoporter and the two wheeled Roland Carrie both use the same base. Something new that I have not seen anywhere else is a railing that can be fitted to either trailer to act as fastening point when carrying odd loads. (www.roland-werk.de, www.weber-products.de)
Dahon were represented by a local cycle shop and had a goodly number of bikes on show. I must admit I can never quite work out the difference between the various Dahon models, although the web site (www.dahon.com/) does offer a method to find out which bike is best for you. We were most impressed by the new El Bolso bag. This is a nylon trapezoidal bag which is carried on the shoulder. El Bolso is easy to use. The folded bike is put on the ground; the bike placed in the middle of the bag; the bag picked up, and slung over the shoulder. It has a slip over cover so you can hide your bike, if necessary, from the officious eyes of Southern TOC guards, in case bikes are banned, yet again. Dahon state that the bag can be used for 16”, 20” and 26” folding bikes. I think a Brompton would rattle like a pea in a drum, but there would be adequate amounts of room for other less compact folders.
One of the vehicles that would appeal to the generation that has never learned to ride a bike is the Short Bike which is actually a trike. It is a hinged separable trike with a wide saddle and a backrest, a solid well-built baggage platform (which could be fitted with a child seat), Schwalbe Big Apple tyres, a drum brake, and 7 gear Shimano (hub?) gear. The makers claim the baggage platform can take up to 60 kg. See photograph above. One’s initial impressions on riding the thing are somewhat odd, as the rear wheels stay on the ground when turning but the front wheel/handlebars seem to tip over. I suspect with a bit of practice the trike would be very nippy and make a superb utility vehicle. The turning circle is small. It is not as sexy as a tadpole recumbent trike, but one is more visible especially as the trike is offered with a red or blue or yellow plastic fairing and the rider sits higher up making it possible to look motorists in the eye. It costs about £850 in Germany (www.shortbike.de).
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