What is pedal assist? Electric pedal assist bicycles are a brilliant invention designed to flatten hills, and to turn modest effort into solid transportation. Electric assist bicycles have all the great qualities of high quality bikes. They are light weight, inexpensive to operate, and are easy to maintain, as long as the bike is one of the very reliable brands sold today at good bike shops like Blue Heron Bikes. The assist makes it possible to ride everywhere you need to go, with modest effort. To really appreciate the elegant beauty of these bikes it is necessary to try one out. Come by here any time from 9-6 on Monday through Saturday; any day except Sunday. No appointment is necessary. Just drop by and try this out. You'll be amazed, and delighted. It's the best thing since....the bike!
Editors Note: One of our favorite customers, Bronwyn Michaelis, shared this blog post about the transformative power of a family cargo bike. She lays out her compelling case in 7 reasons. We share 4 of the reasons here with her permission. For the remaining three, you'll need to read the full post on Bronwyn's blog.
Have you heard how awesome it is to have a bike? Word on the street is that it makes life better, leveling up your transportation game, while aligning your lifestyle with your values of wellness for yourself and the planet. How fun would it be if more people had bikes and our streets turned into big fresh airy bike lanes? Bikes are a beautiful, quiet, sweet lovely YES to life.
When Nymue turned two I bought a new bike. It has been a major life upgrade to the next level of awesome. This bike was one of the best purchases ever, and I want everyone to have one.
Why are bikes the best? Imagine not getting into a car for weeks at a time, but having the freedom of mobility, fresh air, and the good health that comes from regular cardiovascular engagement.
We only get in a car when we need to leave town, otherwise you'll find us rolling around town on two wheels, and here's why:
1. Built-in exercise
How hard is it to get exercise every day as a full time single mom? Easy when you have a bike as your major transportation! I ride up and down the hill we live on several times a day. It's perfect. I have exercise built into my everyday routine with this bike habit!
2. No parking problems
We live in the SF Bay Area where parking can range from tricky to stressful! Not with a bike! There is no price for parking and there is always space for bicycle parking and no parking tickets. Also, with kids, there is often lots of stuff. I can ride right up to the door of where I am going with out having to carry things from my car parking spot.
3. With electric assist, it helps you up hills
Electric assist is the way to go if you have a kid and live in the hills. We haul library books, groceries, and other kids around. I barely ever have the excuse, "I'm too tired to ride my bike," because I can decide how hard I want to work. The electric assist has settings to charge when you go down hills, and works for you the more you pedal. If you don't pedal it won't run on its own by pushing a button. Like a regular bike, you have to pedal. The harder the bike feels you pedaling the more it helps you.
4. This bike carries precious cargo
The Bullitt bike I have is a front loading cargo bike. This means my daughter, Nymue, is lower down to the ground, making tipping over much less likely. She and I can easily chat as we ride. I can see her. She can see the world around her. She can have books, snacks, a blanket, toys, and things she picks up along the way on our adventures.
For the past two weeks, I have been riding with an Efneo GTRO gearbox on my Univega. The GTRO is a 3 speed internal gearbox that replaces the front crankset and derailleur. This is a complete replacement, as you retain three distinct gear ratios – virtual 28/40/50t combinations. The crank was lent to us for testing and review. It was decided that I ride the most and would sufficiently test its abilities so I put it on my touring/commuting/mountain bike, replacing the triple crankset.
I was actually very impressed by the installation procedure. You are basically just replacing the BB then sliding a shifter onto your bars. The crankset comes out of the box ready to roll, fully assembled and totally adjusted, with what looks like a Microshift shifter branded Efneo. According to the company, the pull ratio matches Shimano’s MTB line (Deore) so you could use existing levers but I opted for the provided one because the cable pull and gear indicator numbers are reversed. The bottom bracket is dedicated to this system because it has a specific 30.5mm axle length and 46mm right cup size. Despite this, it is a high quality threaded bit made by Tange. Efneo offers it for 68mm & 100mm shells, and hopefully soon they will offer it in 73mm to fit touring mountain bikes, such as the Surly Ogre. All of this combines for a product that is not bound by proprietary, soon-to-become-obsolete pull ratios or – god forbid – bottom bracket standards. It will work on your average bicycle, which is a great thing. See here for further compatibility info.
TOURING IN MARIN
At this point, I probably have almost 500 miles on the crankset. These miles are composed of a couple weekend adventures, daily commuting, and those extra-long scenic commutes through the East Bay hills. I often ride loaded on this already-heavy bike, and the lowest gear was relied on for much of my riding. I found the 40t appropriate for riding on flats, and 50t perfect for ripping downhill or cruising in the fast lane. On the road, shifting is smooth and flawless, though you do have to let up on the power a little bit just like an IGH. I did take the GTRO on a lightly loaded two-day expedition through Marin County, where I found another advantage to internal front shifting when climbing Mt Tam back into civilization: you can keep your front in the smallest gear, while having full use of your cassette. This is a benefit on a climb with varying gradient, where the road may flatten out a bit but you know it will steepen up so you don’t want to shift completely. The same goes for downhill routes with small rollers. Essentially, cross chaining does not happen. The gearbox is also useful off-road, where you can shift without pedaling or use your whole cassette in any front combination. I had a few rides with the cranks off-road, and while I did break a bottle of beer in my pannier, the gearbox survived.
I see the GTRO shining in niche applications, like adapting your 8 speed town bike to hills without adding a derailleur, a low maintenance folding bike, or for the front drive of a cargo bike allowing you to shift while stopped. It seems durable enough for touring, generally uses standard parts, and can be combined with just about any rear drive – though be aware of max torque recommendations for SRAM and Shimano hubs.
It is a very well thought-out product, and is something that I can happily recommend for someone looking for a low-maintenance replacement to their front derailleur system, or looking to add range to their existing one-by town bike. I hope to continue riding the Efeno, and pass it along to some other mechanics in the shop to see how they use it in their own riding.
by Chris Corral
Blue Heron employee, UC Berkeley sociology student, adventure cyclist
Here at Blue Heron Bikes, we love handlebars. They’re the most important component on a bicycle. Swapping handlebars to better fit the rider, or make the bike more suited for a particular type of riding, is one of the many services that we offer.
If you haven’t already, come on in some time and take a gander at our handlebar tree, where most of our handlebar stock is displayed. We leave the handlebars out on the tree so people can see the differences between them and put their hands on them, to get a sense of how they might feel on their bike.
by Jeremy Till
Blue Heron Bikes' first employee, Sacramento resident and handlebar guru.
Browsing through our handlebar selection, you’ll notice that while there’s a big selection, that there’s a definite trend. We like swept-back handlebars, that bring the rider’s hands back and maybe up a little bit. We have one of the biggest selections of swept-back handlebars around. There are chromoly steel ones, aluminum ones, ones with no rise, ones with a few inches of rise, ones that are narrow and ones that are wide. Most are silver, a few are black.
Why the focus on swept-back handlebars? Mostly because they are the most suited to achieving an upright riding position for the rider. Sitting upright is great, for many reasons:
Sitting upright changes your weight distribution on the bike. It shifts your weight back, so you carry more of your weight directly on the seat. This can reduce the strain on your
● back, arms, and hands, and make the whole experience of riding more comfortable and enjoyable.
● A more comfortable bike also makes it easier to ride without cycling-specific clothing, so it helps make your bike more practical for commuting, running errands, and short rides around town.
● It makes it easier to see the path ahead, since you don’t have to pull your neck back to see far. Thus, you’re more likely to see potential obstacles. Sitting upright also means that your visual profile is maximized, making it easier for drivers, pedestrians, and other cyclists to see you and avoid you. Seeing better and being more visible makes riding safer.
So overall, swept back handlebars help you sit more upright on your bike, and sitting upright makes your bike more comfortable, more practical, and safer. To put it another way, it makes your bicycle something you just want to hop on and ride, no matter the occasion.
Sometimes, when people see a bike with upright handlebars or we suggest such a modification to their existing bike, they think it will make it harder to ride, for two reasons.
● The first is aerodynamics. It is true that sitting more upright presents a larger surface area to oncoming air, and can increase wind resistance. However, in our experience, the aerodynamic disadvantage of upright riding is much less than you’d think, especially if you’re talking about stop-and-go urban riding, or rambling in the hills.
● The second reason is power. Many people think an upright position doesn’t allow your muscles to produce as much power as a hunched over, stretched out one. Again, our experience shows that to the extent that this is true at all, the effect while riding is minimal. If anything, being in a more relaxed position allows you to ride longer and easier, without your muscles fatiguing as quickly. It’s a tradeoff many of us gladly make, especially since we’re not racing.
Which gets to our final point: while we’ve made the case for swept back bars and upright riding mainly based on their advantages for short rides and everyday transportation, they can also work great for longer and more adventurous rides. We ride our swept-back bars everywhere, doing long rides, checking out dirt roads in the East Bay or Marin hills, and even on multi-day tours up and down California. Many of our bikes that previously had drop bars or flat bars for “serious” riding, are now outfitted with swept-back handlebars, and are more comfortable and more capable for it.
photo: Manny Acosta
Come on in yourself and check out our selection of swept-back handlebars, or try one of the great bikes we have in stock that feature similar handlebars.
It’s been about 5 years of development, and long awaited after Xtracycle discontinued the legendary and game-changing FreeRadical in 2014. The Leap is the evolution of the FreeRadical concept - that is, a bolt on bike-extender that accepts the wide array of Xtracycle accessories that help you carry kids, cargo, ski gear, surfboards, kid bikes, groceries, and so much more.
I still ride a FreeRadical converted bike and I love the simplicity and resourcefulness it represents. I am excited about the Leap because it addresses some of the core shortcomings of its predecessor, that being flex in the frame and wheel size limitations. The new Leap is simple, strong and incredibly well designed. It will accommodate up to 29” wheels with 3” tires. For 26” wheels, you can run slightly larger than 3” tires - it seems to depend largely on the tire manufacturer and tread pattern. Of course, if you want to convert a smaller wheel bike, the telescoping tube will enable a whole new breed of small wheel cargo bikes never before possible.
For instance, Xtracycle has teamed with folding bike maker Tern to offer a folding cargo bike with 24” wheels, called the Cargo Node.
The Tern Cargo Node, built from a Tern folding bike and the Xtracycle Leap conversion kit, was successfully funded on Kickstarter - here’s the video that tells the story of this cool collaboration and some of the finer details of the Leap kit.
Both the Leap and the Cargo Node are currently in production and available for pre-order here at the shop. As soon as we have a unit for you to test drive, we will let you know. In the event that you are already sold on one of these products, we encourage you to call or visit the shop and make your interest known.
Questions? Please leave them in the comments or send us an email from the Contact page.
High quality casual. It's what we need.
High quality serious? There's too much of that already.
Budget casual? Fine.
But high quality casual? Now you're talking.
Want full car replacement? Get a cargo bike and a car share plan, for out of town trips. All of my bikes carry stuff, but only my cargo bike works for truck replacement.