Unusual Cycles Gain Momentum
Though it may not catch on anytime soon here in the Rogue Valley, Portland boasts a unique pedal-powered "party bike" that accommodates 16 people. This takes tandems to a whole new level.Dale Griff, owner of Fire Bird Bikes in Medford, has a collection of unusual bikes. "We have a museum in the store with bikes that go back to the 1880s," he says. "I just rode the penny-farthing high wheeler in Ashland's 4th of July parade. They are a little hard to ride until you get them rolling." Though difficult and sometimes dangerous, this early two-wheeler caught on and since then, bicycles have evolved in ways early designers never could have envisioned.RECUMBENTS"A lot of people have health or back issues and they need that extra support," says Griff, "and some people just prefer that riding position." The reclining body posture changes the dynamics of pedaling, he says. "On a conventional bike, you can stand up and power up the hills, but with a recumbent you really have to use your legs more like a leg press to push your way up the inclines."If you're considering a recumbent bicycle, Griff says be prepared for sticker shock. "There are no cheap models. They are all expensive, at least a grand and up. We sell about a dozen configurations because people like different features. Some people like their hands by their hips, or out in front, or their feet up high or down lower. They might want two wheels or three. There are so many different choices."ELECTRIC BIKES"Electric bikes have been around a long time," explains Blaine Pickett, co-owner of Piccadilly Cycles in Ashland, "but up until recently they have been something someone would build in the garage as a project. I think some companies are figuring out there is a market for them."More accurately described as electric-assist , the small battery-powered motor allows riders to select the level of power by pushing a button on the handlebars. Blaine says e-bikes expand riding capabilities for people who may not have the ability or stamina to propel a conventional bicycle. "What we're finding is that people who like to ride a bike but find it too difficult are coming back into it because of the e-bikes," Pickett says. "It's great for people who have knee and hip injuries because they can still get some exercise, but it's not so stressful on those areas. We like to say that e-bikes remove barriers to cycling participation."Variable power levels "assist" riders with peddling on the flat or with hill climbing. "To still be classified as a bicycle, they are limited to a speed of 20 miles an hour and that's what they'll do on flat ground, but not up a steep hill," Blaine says. "The safety rules as far as lighting and helmets (16 and under) are all the same, but because they have electric power, the rider must be 16 or older."Higher-end e-bikes come with a lithium ion battery from 24 up to 48 volts. The range tends to be anywhere between 15 and 40 miles depending on the size of the rider and the topography, so climbing hills reduces the range. "The technology is pretty innovative," Blaine says, "and a number of our bikes even have a self-diagnostic feature so when you have a problem, it will send you an error code that corresponds with what's going on with the bike."This new technology doesn't come cheap. "Most of them are going to start around $1,600 on up to $3,000," he says, "and you can even go way above that. You can find less expensive e-bikes, but when you cut costs you also cut quality and reliability. In the $2,000 range, you're going to have a worthwhile investment."CARGO BIKESSince the early 1900s, tradesmen have used freight bicycles to make local deliveries. More recently, in communities that favor pedal power, similarly outfitted cargo bikes are becoming an increasingly common sight. These SUVs of bicycles haul a variety of goods with all the benefits of exercise, ease of parking and no stops for fuel."I personally ride a cargo bike," says Eric Michener, new owner of The Rogue Bicycle shop in Ashland. "This morning I was able to carry 10 new tires for the shop. It's longer than a standard bike and it has a big platform on the back over the wheel, big saddle bags on the side and a big basket on the front."Manufacturers offer a variety of options, even three-wheeled versions that, when heavily loaded, remove the balance issue. Many models are built to handle multiple people or loads up to 400 pounds on a single frame and can cost between $1,000 and $5,000."Most bikes can be retrofitted to carry loads," Michener explains, "but mine is factory-made by Kona, a brand I carry, and it's intended to be loaded up and be used like a truck. The benefit is that you can still use the bike like a bicycle if you don't have it loaded and it still cruises around town easily."FOLDING BIKESThere are conflicting opinions about who is really the father of the folding bike idea, but several European designers have had a wrench in its evolution. While not quite as popular here in the U.S., folding bikes are a great convenience for people who want their bikes to be easily stored or portable. They come in a variety of wheel sizes ranging from 16 to 26 inches and can be folded into a compact size for commuting, transporting or storing."We sell folding bikes to people who have RVs, boats or planes," says Griff. "They just have a few knobs on them and they fold up on themselves. People use them when they have a long walk to their boat or around RV parks. They only weigh about 30 pounds."As with conventional bicycles, there is an overwhelming array of brands, models, sizes and prices, but surprisingly, you don't have to rob the bank for the convenience of this tote-sized compact. Prices can start in the low $100s and rise up into the $1,000s.ELLIPTICAL STREET BIKEFor the fitness enthusiast who enjoys the cardio benefits of cycling, riding can be taken to a new level with the outdoor elliptical-motion street bikes. The elliptical bicycle is propelled by long, running-like strides, so it provides a low-impact, outdoor exercise experience that feels like running. The rider's standing position allows for better breathing capability and improved visibility. Riders can choose variable levels of resistance to accommodate changes in terrain and adjust the intensity of the workout.The Eugene-based company ElliptiGO has brought this unique, two-wheeled design into the market and the response has been enthusiastic from runners who use it for cross-training, injured runners who are looking to ease back into the sport, and fitness enthusiasts who enjoy getting out of the gym.A similar, three-wheeled version called the StreetStrider has two wheels in front and incorporates more of a cross country ski movement, using arms, legs and core muscles for propulsion. For both models, prices range from around $1,500 up to $4,000.