Category Archives: Bicycle Times

Tern GSD compact longtail review part Two: Stewart’s ride

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By Stewart Port

I’m a 64-year-old guy with heart disease. I ride for everyday transportation and errands when I can, and occasional 10-20 mi. jaunts for exercise and recreation. I’m otherwise in good shape, but I have a hard limit for sustained exertion– the arteries to my heart are narrowed and propped open with hi-tech Chinese finger-cuffs. So when my (mostly younger and healthier) pals urged me to join them on their annual weeklong bike camping trip. I really wanted to go, but was torn. I didn’t really have any rolling or camping gear that was up to the trip, and 30 miles of all-out effort while potentially rolling along by myself with the pack far ahead didn’t sound like much fun.

And then there was the Tern, conveniently on loan for evaluation to the publisher of this fine outlet, who happens to be my neighbor, and one of the instigators of the tour.

At first, I hated the idea of being the old guy on the e-bike, but Moe patiently explained that it wasn’t a regular e-bike, but rather an e-assisted bike– Pedal, and the motor amplifies your efforts, with a choice of four levels. No pedal, no go. Hell, you could even turn off the electricity and kick the entire 60 lbs down the road purely on burrito power. And the cargo deck solved the problem of having no proper compact, lightweight camping gear– I just stuffed my quilt and pillow in a soft bag and gathered up my usual car camping kit and backpack and mini-cooler, and bungeed the whole impossible pile down on the rear cargo deck.

First, a short ride to the train station. Starting out in the lowest gear, my first pressure on the pedals produced powerful acceleration. (Note: Hold on tight when starting out! There’s a bit of a learning curve, but the various power levels make it possible to really dial in the effort, spin rate and speed for varying conditions) With a hand from an obliging conductor I loaded the thing up into an Amtrak San Joaquin, and we were off to Antioch, our starting point at the edge California’s Sacramento River Delta.

The trip from Antioch to Locke, a picturesque old Chinese town up the Delta, was about 30 miles, and apart from the half mile of 7% grade climbing up the Antioch bridge, the route is the very definition of flat, though the winds can be stiff. For the most part, I found myself switching between equal periods of pedaling unassisted and using the first level (“Econo”) to keep up with my crew’s 10-12 mph pace (Yes, the speedometer is very cool!). I found myself wishing that there was an even lower level of assist available. When I used the assist, I consoled my wounded pride by figuring I was using just enough battery power to make up for the thing’s fat tires, 60 lb curb weight, and the ridiculous pile of gear strapped behind me. I was surprised at how easily and smoothly it rolled un-assisted.
The fit adjustments were convenient, especially the handlebar quick-release adjustments which made stopping and making minor changes to avoid fatigue a reasonable solution to the straight bars’ lack of different places to grip– If I were using it mainly for touring, I would want to add climbing pegs or some sort of bar extension. When we got to our bivouac for the night, an orchard and adjoining wood, the fat tires did nicely on the rougher surfaces.

On the trip back, I put it to a harder test. I was traveling alone for the last 15 miles, and I had a train to catch, so I allowed myself the second and third levels (“Touring” and “Sport”) and cruised along at 15-16 mph, switching to the highest level (“Turbo”) for the bridge. At about a mile from the station, I noticed the ride getting a little squooshy, and sure enough, the rear tire was looking low. With no patch kit or pump, and not much time to spare before my train, I gave it the juice– I put it on the highest setting and the lowest gear, and pedaling hard, fishtailed into the depot on a completely flat tire, with scant minutes to spare. Amtrak came through for me again in Oakland– The agent was kind enough to let me leave the rig in the secure baggage area while I walked to my house to get my car. Getting it into the trunk of the old Jetta for the ride home proved easy enough, and without taking off the wheels it only projected a foot or so beyond the back of the car.

Of course, I wouldn’t recommend that anyone abuse defenseless rubber and aluminum so, but the wheel and tire appeared none the worse for wear when I broke them down to patch the tube (A small sliver of glass that had worked its way through, and eventually cut the tube..)

All in all, the GSD, and its fine-grained pedal assist control system is a great addition to my life. For a lot of folks and situations it can tip the balance towards making a trip on two wheels as opposed to four, or not at all.

Read Part One here: Tern GSD review Part 1

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How I Roll: Dorothy

Dorothy is an 80’s chrome Ross Mt. Whitney mountain bike I obtained from my old pal and frequent Dirt Rag cover artist, John Hinderliter. Purchased from Ambridge Bike Shop in 1983, it was the top-of-the-line model at the time. When I came into her, she was converted directly to use as an urban assault vehicle for fun use. As many accouterments as possible!

First and foremost is the “Dorothy” nameplate I picked up at a bicycle swap a while back. My Mom’s middle name. Much like the bicycle license plates you can buy with popular names on them (Except “Maurice”), there was a day when you could buy sticky tube emblems with all the popular names on them. Except for Maurice. The chrome has seen better days, yes?

The most O.G. part on Dorothy is the original Shimano Deore (Meaning Deer) derailleur that’s still on there, serving me well. And Spokey Dokeys. For the unfamiliar, these are beads that snap on to your spokes and slide up and down to make noise when you roll at a slower speed. Popular in the 80’s yet still available in some form to this day…

So many wonderful parts. I once visited Jack Witmer in California and scored these sweet Cook Brother’s not-cruiser bars. They provide a sweet upright lean-back position but render Dorothy untalented when it comes to climbing hills for sure. Props to Wilderness Trail Bikes for their Trail Grips, Honka Hoota for their awesome yet sun-damage-prone horn, and whoever invented the tassle.

Check out my siren. I do need to put an activation cable on there though. These were illegal in many places due to their police car siren sound. Note FAT Schwalbe Super Moto tires and Shimano dynamo hub.

A Ringlé hub expertly laced by Dave’s Wheels. Reelights generate their own power with magnets to light your way whenever you’re moving!

Saddle by Brooks. Bag by Rivendell. Fenders by SKS

D.O.R.c. or Disgruntled Off Road Cyclists of Pittsburgh.

The whole enchilada. Seen on a wonderful ride above Pittsburgh, PA, home of Dirt Rag!

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Are we not journalists? Part 2

One reason I keep doing this magazine-publishing thing year after year is my belief in putting more people on bikes. And my belief that the industry and the cycling media work together to  get more people on bikes. The advertisements that support our magazines not only tell readers about their stuff, but support the journalism that should take place. At Bicycle Times and Dirt Rag we strive for that.

But today my soul is weary. Much like in the more serious and important global political discourse happening in God-Blessed America and the world right now, the bike journalism field is following a steeper and steeper fall-line trail downhill. Pay to play. Where rather than conveying honest, objective opinions, so-call journalists write what corporations pay them to write.

Read on. (But please read part 1 first if you have not, thank you).

http://www.churchoftherotatingmass.com/2014/01/07/are-we-not-journalists/

Recently, in what is now the 2015 ad contract season, I inadvertently  received an email containing a proposal from one of the top mountain bike websites in the world to the marketing department at a parts and accessories and clothing branch of one of the largest bike companies in the world.

Not only did the proposal include the usual “Cost-per-eyeball-per-thousand’ for the site, but it included a specific amount of editorial coverage for 2015. Leaving my heart heavy, especially since the “Client” in question had gotten tons of editorial love from us over the years, yet had never thrown down to support us with an advertising buy.

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This left me questioning. Should I send an invoice to the company that’s getting all the free editorial coverage while not throwing us a dime for advertising support?

Or should we stop covering their products in our magazines as a tit-for-tat response? It’s an option I am considering, but one that I feel would break the journalistic code to tell our readers about stuff they will find interesting.

Does anyone else give a shit about where this is going? It’s looking unlikely. Most of the bike media and the corporate world are playing in the sandbox just fine. They both make money, and you, dear reader know, it is all about following the money.

So look around, do your homework. Take everything with a grain-o-salt. Value and respect real journalism when you read it. And support our advertisers! They get it!

 

 

 

Are we not journalists? Part 1

As some of you may already know, I publish a couple of magazines* about bicycles, Dirt Rag for 25 years now, and Bicycle Times for five . Publish, yes. While I oversee editorial content for both magazines, I mostly chase dollars to keep these ‘zines afloat and food on the table for our now-large staff.

Other staff people are editors, they work real hard to create “Content” to be delivered to our loyal readers. Honest, true, hands-on. Journalism.

Our loyal readers trust us to keep the editorial “Church” and the advertising “State” separate. Journalists on one side, “Ad Slime” on the other. It’s a fine line we have been walking for 25 years now.

 

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But look what I have to deal with now. I have always suspected that there was some kind of “Pay-to-play” thing at some of the other titles, I still found myself flabbergasted when I saw this email from a potential ad client:

“We would really love to work with Dirt Rag, and look forward to doing so in the future, but for now I am going to pass.

My resources are limited and I need to ensure our brand gets the most possible editorial coverage as possible. I understand and respect that you can’t guarantee this, but all the other publications we are working with have been able to guarantee at least quarterly editorial, and have included it in the insertion orders.”

Soooo what the fuck. Guess I am putting this out there for two reasons. One is to share with anyone who reads this blog what I have to deal with on a regular basis. The other is to assure everyone that no, we do not sell editorial.

In fact the current Dirt Rag cover features a company that has politely turned us down for ads this year. While we have better relationships with some companies than others, the editor decides what is going in the magazine based on journalistic integrity.

Thanks for listening, I feel better now. All I can ask is that if you read my magazines you support our advertising and promotional supporters! Thankfully they get it.

 

*Or should I say “Media entities” as we have print, digital and web covered.