Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Touring Tuesday - Mountain Bike Murder Mystery

Ken Kifer, ready to go touring
Today is Halloween, which means it's time for scary stuff. Check out Ken Kifer's The Mountain Bike Touring Trip, where mountain bikers on an isolated trail disappear one by one. Ken was one of the first to put a lot of material about bicycle touring on the Internet. I think he started back when most people didn't know what the Internet was. His site, Ken Kifer's Bike Pages, features a lot of  how-to information on bicycle touring and articles about his many bicycle tours. On three of those trips, he traveled over 4,000 miles.

As many of you know, Ken was killed by a drunk driver in 2003. The driver had been released from jail just four hours earlier for drunk driving. He apparently went to a bar, got drunk again and hit Ken. Kifer was only 57 at the time of his death, and he no doubt had a lot more bike touring left in him. His bike pages have been preserved out on the Internet, and you can still visit them today. It's just a shame that Ken's not adding to them. On the bright side, he made good use of the time he did have on Earth.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Friday Photo - Cycling and Deer Hunting

Off to the deer stand (photo courtesy of The Bicycle Blog of Wisconsin)

Here are four popular activities in the state of Wisconsin:
  • Rooting for the Green Bay Packers
  • Eating cheese
  • Deer hunting
  • Cycling
Here's a guy who has managed to combine the last two.  It's Dave Schlabowske, deputy director of the the Wisconsin Bike Federation. He's heading out to his deer stand on a fat bike with a Gates carbon belt in place of a chain.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Thursday Video - How We Do Laundry Off Grid with a Bike Powered Washing Machine

Reading a book while washing clothes off grid
Last week on Weird Bike Wednesday we featured a bike you could ride around town while washing your clothes. This week's video shows how the Fouch family wash their clothes while living off the grid. Power is provided by a stationary bicycle. In the video Esther takes you through the entire process: Wash, spin, rinse and a final spin. Don't worry - The video has been edited down to two minutes and 41 seconds. The family has three kids, so Esther must get plenty of exercise from doing the laundry.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Weird Bike Wednesday - Di-Cycle

My what big wheels you have!
According to Wikipedia, a dicycle is any vehicle with two parallel wheels. This particular one was developed by a Dutch company called GBO Design. The goal was to come up with a bike that could travel on land or water. In Holland, this would allow you to take the canals when the roads are too crowded. This vehicle won a 2005 design competition, but there isn't a lot of information about it on the Internet now. Steering is tricky on a dicycle, since you have to make a turn by slowing one wheel. How much you slow it relative to the other wheel determines determines the sharpness of the turn. I assume the lady in the photograph has her right hand on the steering control. There is probably a similar control on her left side as well. You can read more about the Di-Cycle on MethodShop.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Touring Tuesday - Paying for Your Bicycle Touring

Team Road Show providing entertainment at RAGBRAI
Let's say you want to go on a nice bicycle ride like RAGBRAI, but you don't have the money to pay for it. What do you do? Well, for the folks at Team Road Show, the answer was obvious. They would provide entertainment nightly in exchange for their registration fees. They have done this every year at RAGBRAI since 2003. According to their website, the group includes:
  • Jugglers
  • Clowns
  • Circus folk artists
  • Musicians
  • Acrobats
  • Engineers and scientists
Most of them are from Iowa and Wisconsin, but they also have members in Oregon and Indiana. Below is a short video from one of their performances. If you want to see more, check out their video page.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Zombie Bike Ride

Open to anyone - You don't have to be a zombie to ride
There will be a free famtly bike ride this Friday night in Irvington. It's called the Zombie Bike Ride, and it starts at Indy Cycle Specialist in Irvington. Sunset on Friday is at 6:48 PM, so lights are highly recommended. We have a very inexpensive set of lights that sells for only $13. They aren't particularly bright, but bright enough that people will see you, especially in flashing mode. Both have lithium batteries that are good for 100 hours, and operate in either steady or flashing modes. We also have a front light that provides 450 lumens for only $25, which is a great deal.

Here's a video of riders leaving at the start of the 2011 Zombie Ride:

Friday, October 20, 2017

Friday Photo - Red Baron Bicycle Trailer

The Red Baron is about to go out on patrol
There are a number of bicycle trailers that you can buy for transporting kids. Burley trailers are the best known, but there other companies who also make quality bicycle trailers. To get something really cool like this Red Baron trailer, you'll need to make it yourself. Fortunately, Instructables has a ten step guide to making one. Most of the materials are fairly common: Things like boards, brads, screws and brackets. The finished product looks really good. There's even a dashboard with switches and buttons for the kid / pilot to push. The only thing missing that would make it look more authentic is a black Iron Cross on the sides, just like Baron Manfred von Richthofen had on his plane.

Here's a 20 second video of a flight up the driveway.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Thursday Video - How to Build a Bike-Riding Centaur Costume

Ready for a Halloween ride
Here's a video that might come in handy this month. Kyle Scheele shows how to make a centaur costume. For those of you who have forgotten your Greek mythology, a centaur is a half man half horse creature. Kyle starts with a tandem bicycle, to which he makes no permanent alterations. He uses simple materials like cardboard, PVC pipe and paint. The final product looks pretty good. The back legs move in tandem with the front pedals, so it actually looks like the centaur is moving forward.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Weird Bike Wednesday - Deliveroo Upcycle Bike

The Deliveroo Upcycle bike has 34 kitchen gadgets
This has to be one of the weirdest bikes featured on this blog. It was created by the European delivery company Deliveroo and Designworks. The inspiration for this machine was the fact that the average British household has $345 worth of unused kitchen gadgets. This bike contains 34 kitchen utensils, including:
  • Rolling pin handlebars
  • Potato masher pedals
  • Panini press seat
  • Whisk spokes
  • Can opener brake levers
  • Countertop frame
  • Turkey baster horn
  • Microwave as the rear storage unit
  • Meat thermometer speedometer
You can read more about the bike on GearJunkie. Here's  a video about it:

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Touring Tuesday - The Little Train of the North

Have Native Americans traded in their horses for bicycles?
You might want to put this trip on your schedule for next summer. There is a 200 kilometer (124 miles) bike trail north of Montreal, Canada called the P'tit train du Nord. The name translates to "little train of the north" in English. It's a popular trail, so it has all the amenities you would expect. Things like bed and breakfasts, campgrounds, restaurants and bars. The trail winds through the Laurentian Mountains, but since it's built on an old rail line, the grade is very gentle. The northern part of the trail is paved, while the south end is crushed limestone. If you just want to ride the trail one direction, there are shuttle buses that can take you from one end to the other. If you are going to ride one way, the prevailing wind in the area is out of the northwest.

You can find more information about the trail at - Cycling in Ottawa-Gattineau. One thing they don't mention is the tee-pees you can camp in along the trail. According to information on Oopsmark, they camped in tee-pees all three nights they spend on the trail. Here's a four minute video of a three day ride on the trail:

Monday, October 16, 2017

McKinley and Hobart Bicycle Club

1896 Campaign button for the McKinley and Hobart Club
Bicycling was a crucial component of the 1896 presidential election, and not just because cyclists advocated for better roads. The Panic of 1893 and widespread dissatisfaction with Democratic President Grover Cleveland seemed to indicate an easy win for Republican William McKinley. Democratic candidate William Jennings Bryan threatened to pull off an upset with a radical new campaign strategy. Up until this time, presidential candidates did little traveling for two reasons. First, it was very difficult in those days. Secondly, by the standards of the day, it was considered beneath the dignity of a presidential candidate to actively campaign in that manner. In regards to the first point, Bryan realized that railroads made travel much easier. As far as the second point was concerned, he just didn't care. He was going to take his message to the people with a "whistle stop" campaign and establish a new norm.

McKinley stuck to his "front porch campaign," where he remained at home and made speeches to supporters who came to visit. He reminded an aide, "Don't you remember that I announced that I would not under any circumstances go on a speech making tour?" Over 750,000 people would come to his home in Canton, Ohio before election day. Republicans came up with the idea of flooding the country with their campaign literature, much it transported and distributed by cyclists. They also formed the McKinley and Hobart Bicycle Club (Hobart was the Republican vice-presidential candidate). The club was formed on August 5, 1896 in Chicago, and chapters were soon springing up all across the country. Members of this club took part in many parades, and also escorted Republican candidates and speakers. On October 9, three hundred cyclists rode through Indianapolis before getting on a train to Canton, Ohio for a speech by McKinley at his home. Along the way, the train stopped at other cities to pick up additional cyclists heading to Canton. On October 30 one hundred Indianapolis cyclists rode to former President Benjamin Harrison's home and escorted him to Union Station, where he embarked on a speaking tour supporting McKinley. The McKinley and Hobart Bicycle Club was prominent in smaller towns also. By the end of October, the Terre Haute chapter had 850 members. Thirty-five members of the Rockville chapter attended a rally in the town of Montezuma.

So did the McKinley and Hobart Bicycle Club make the difference in the election? It's hard to say. The 45 states were split pretty evenly. McKinley took all of the Northeast and most of the Midwest for 23 states. Bryan took all of the South and most of the sparsely populated West, totaling 22 states. Since McKinley carried the more populated northern states, he won the electoral count handily, 271 to 176. For more information, check out The Bicycle Boom and the Bicycle Bloc: Cycling and Politics in the 1890s.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Friday Photo - Heading to that Great Bike Path in the Sky

Gordon Thorpe's family transporting his body to the funeral
Avid cyclist Gordon Thorpe died from pancreatic cancer at the age of 49. He never liked coffins or hearses, so his family took him to the funeral on a modified tandem bicycle. His coffin had a window in it so he could see the sky during the ride. Gordon liked to ride BMX bikes, so two of his riding buddies followed behind, holding onto opposite end of the handlebars on Gordon's riderless bike, which was between them. Other riders followed them.

You can find more photos and information at Here's the video of Gordon's final ride - May he rest in peace.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Thursday Video - Bike Lanes by Casey Neistat

Beware of obstacles in bike lanes!
This week's video is by Casey Neistat from 2011. He had just received a ticket for not riding his bike in the bike lane. This isn't illegal, but the cop told him he always had to ride in the bike lane. So he made this video to show that there are often hazards in the bike lane that make it dangerous to ride there.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Weird Bike Wednesday - Bicycle Powered Washing Machine

Go for a ride and wash your clothes (photo courtesy of Design Buzz)
Now here's an interesting bicycle that was created by industrial designer Mitch Shivers from the Philippines. It's a 30 gallon drum attached to the bike that washes your clothes while you ride. The best part is that you don't have to be stationary like other systems I have seen. You can just go on your normal ride (at a slower pace) and wash your clothes at the same time. Also the washing attachment will force cars to give you reasonable clearance when passing. Additional photos can be found on the Design Buzz website.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Touring Tuesday - Cycling in Tennessee

River crossing by ferry in Tennessee (photo courtesy of Peter C. Koczera)
Tennessee is a very picturesque state with friendly people and drivers who are patient and courteous to cyclists. If you are looking for a place to do some bicycle touring, it's a  good choice. While touring, you might come across a river ferry like the one above. The state operates one on the Tennessee River, and one on the Cumberland River. According to their fee schedule, a car is one dollar and a person on foot is fifty cents. It doesn't say what they charge someone on a bicycle.

If you would like to be part of an organized tour, the Bicycle Ride Across Tennessee (BRAT) is held each fall in mid-September. It's a five day ride with camping each night at one of Tennessee's state parks. The route varies, and visits a different part of the state each year. If you would like to tour on your own, the Tennessee Department of Transportation lists five bicycle routes in different sections of the state. Turn by turn directions are available for each route. These routes are all from previous BRAT rides.

There are many interesting sights to visit in Tennessee, such as:

Monday, October 9, 2017

Newby Oval - The 1898 Indianapolis Velodrome

Advertisement for opening races (photo courtesy of Indiana Historical Society)
Indy's Major Taylor velodrome opened in 1982 and hosted track cycling events that were part of the 1982 U.S. Olympic Festival. Over 80 years earlier, The Newby Oval was opened for the 1898 League of American Wheelmen meet. Considering the state of sports at the time:
  • Baseball's first World Series would be held five years later in 1903
  • The Indianapolis 500 would not be held until 1911
  • The National Football League wasn't formed until 1920
  • James Naismith invented basketball just 7 years earlier. The National Basketball Association wouldn't come along until after World War II
Hosting the LAW Meet was like hosting the Super Bowl today. To get them to come to Indy, Arther Newby built the Newby Oval in the northeast corner of 30th Street and Central Avenue. It was state of the art at the time, featuring electric lighting (Edison demonstrated his first incandescent bulb less than twenty years earlier) and the grandstands could accommodate 20,000 fans (Today Bankers Life Fieldhouse can only seat 18,000 for basketball games (19,000 for concerts). The track was a quarter mile long and made from white pine. It was one of the fastest tracks in the country and numerous speed records were set there. The LAW meet went well, but railroads raised ticket prices, and the attendance was less than anticipated.

They say timing is everything, and Newby's timing was terrible. After years of rapid growth, LAW membership peaked in 1898. Automobiles were starting to appear, and they drew attention away from cycling. The facility was used for other purposes as well as bicycle races, but it was never able to generate enough revenue to pay its operating expenses. Demolition on the Newby Oval began just four years after it opened.

So did Arthur Newby declare bankruptcy and die penniless? Oh no - He and three other investors later built the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In 1915 the state of Indiana was outbid by a lumber company for the property that would become Turkey Run State Park. Newby and the other investors donated money to the state so they could buy it from the lumber company. Newby was a prominent Indianapolis philanthropist and later gave $100,000 to the Riley Children's Hospital. He also donated $50,000 each to Butler University and Earlham College.

Nearly everything is more expensive now than in 1898, but a look at the handbill above shows there are exceptions. Note the part that says "Wheels checked on grounds .... 5 cents." Today, with Pedal & Park, you get that free at many major events in Indianapolis.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Friday Photo - Cycling Past a Rainbow

Cycling Past a Rainbow on Glacier's Weeping Wall
Here's a sight that would cheer up any cyclist - A rainbow on the Weeping Wall in Glacier National Park. This is along the Going to the Sun Road, which is a National Historic Landmark. The road was the first major project by the National Park Service designed to accommodate tourists in automobiles. Construction began in 1921 and the road opened in 1933.

This photo comes from the Traipsing About: Stories and Insights from the Road website. Its about a couple named Dakota and Chelsea, who spent about three years cycling around the world. The last post on their website is from 2016, when the said they were going to spend some time in one place. That one place is Bend, Oregon.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Thursday Video - Bike Lane Opponents

Coronado, California has won national awards for bike friendliness
This week's video comes from the September 29, 2015 broadcast of the Late, Late Show. James Corden shows people at a public hearing speaking out against bike lanes in Coronado, California. Among their arguments:
  • We are covering Coronado with "paint stripe pollution"
  • The "graffiti" on streets reduces property values.
  • Markings can induce "a dizzying type of vertigo."
Despite the absurdity of the arguments, city officials tabled the plan, at least temporarily. I have no idea how this eventually turned out.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Weird Bike Wednesday - Motorhome Bicycle

Brian Campbell with his motorhome bike (photo courtesy of
Brian Campbell in Portland, Oregon built the motorhome bike shown above. Despite its size, the bike is relatively light. The structural pieces are aluminum and the panels are styrofoam roofing panels. It has a fairing and a canopy to protect him from from rain, which is especially important in Portland. This is the only home that he has. He earns some money building these bikes for others, but there isn't a lot of demand. Brian and his bike have been featured on Tiny House Blog and

 Here's a video of Brian talking about his bike with some interested visitors. He says he has ridden it all over the country. He also says that he has gone over 70 miles per hour in it, which I find a little hard to believe.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Touring Tuesday - Cycling in South America

The sign says 'Share the Road" in Spanish
Here's an interesting blog called Rob's South America Trip 2014 by Rob Ainsley. It's about his travels through South America a few years ago. He did a lot of traveling by bus and took side trips by rented bicycle. Rob did a good job of getting to know the locals and visited many off the beaten path places. He found out that in Bogota, Colombia, they close off many of the downtown streets to cars from 7:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M. on Sundays. During that time it's a festival with street vendors and people biking, walking, jogging and skating.

One of the most interesting places was an isolated town of about 500 inhabitants called San Cipriano. It used to have train service, but the trains have stopped running. To get there, you now have to take a three hour bus ride, then cross a river on a footbridge. Once on the other side, it is time to wait for what the locals call a "little witch." It's a small wooden platform with wheels that fit on the tracks. In one of the back corners is a motorcycle with the front wheel on the platform and the rear wheel on one of the tracks. These contraptions take travelers the final 7 miles to San Cipriano.

Rail service to San Cipriano