socksIt’s raining. Jasper and I biked to his school and got completely soaked. Even I have to admit that biking in the rain nullifies the primary reason for biking: that biking is fun. Biking in the rain is not fun. Something must be done about this.

I am idealistic. I feel that bikes can replace cars as Americans’ mode of transportation for trips less than 10 miles. However I recognize that people have concerns about/biases against using a bicycle:

  • I get sweaty and exhausted going up a hill
  • I can’t carry my stuff
  • I can’t carry a passenger
  • I can’t go very far
  • it’s too expensive
  • it’s too slow
  • it’s dangerous
  • it’s uncomfortable in rainy or cold weather

I feel that all of these concerns will be answered with existing technology, market forces, city planning and perhaps a bit of well-placed propaganda. The advent of the electric cargo bike addresses the first four concerns here: believe me with such a bike it is no problem for you the average person to carry your kid and four bags of groceries up and down steep hills for several miles. Try it.

Expensive. An electric cargo bike is an expensive bike. But it is a very inexpensive “car”. My bike costs what the Clarkbergs pay for repairs to our car for a couple of years. And as more people buy electric cargo bikes their price will plummet.

Slow. Yes biking is slow. Relax everybody, slow is good. Enjoy the ride.

Dangerous. Studies show that as the number of bicyclists on the street increases, safety increases thereby attracting more bicyclists. You can see where this will go. Once the first few intrepid every-day bicyclists (not just you crusty weird obnoxious bike commuters already out there!) take to the streets, the rest will follow, exponentially.

Uncomfortable. This is the one concern that I still share with yet-to-be-bicyclists. Maybe some forward-thinking garment designer can come up with a solution. Maybe we should just do what our ancestors did when the weather was bad: stay home.

If we can fix the rain issue, I think this bicycling revolution is going to take the experts by surprise. The media sees everything from a motorist’s perspective, as if no alternative exists. It pains me to read about our Cash for Clunkers program to encourage people to drive cars that get 20-something miles per gallon, or people who buy a Toyota Prius so that they can brag about getting 40 mile per gallon. An electric cargo bike gets the equivalent of 2000 miles per gallon. And I read a lot of articles about how we need to bailout General Motors, about how such-and-such automotive technology is going to change the world and fix the climate, about how we need to generate such-and-such amount of solar, wind, and water energy to power our automotive fleet in the future. Screw the automotive fleet, we don’t need it. What we need is better rain pants.

SKS Chainboard: solving the greasy pant leg problem

SKS Chainboard
The SKS Chainboard in action

A significant deterrent to everyday bike riding is the prospect of getting chain grease on your clothing. European city bikes generally solve this problem with internal hub gears and partial or full or chainguards. The internal hub gearing also reduces the maintenance.

But here in the US, most bikes now have both front and rear derailleurs. And it’s just about impossible to find a chainguard that works in combination with derailleurs. But the new SKS Chainboard seems to be just that.

Read Patrick’s review of the SKS Chainboard on the Velocouture blog for a full review.