• Very Clever, Douze!

    This week we received 4 new specimens of what we see as a landmark product: Douze cargo bikes. They're from France (say DOOZE!). Dean's been riding our first Douze as his own near daily since Winter. He's in love.


    Ever since we brought the Cargobike to Portland in 2007, our best and biggest car-replacement family bike offerings have fallen in the category one reviewer called "land yachts." Upright. Plush. Plain-clothes friendly. Overbuilt, like rolling playground structures, often heavy. We still love these kinds of bikes, in part for how they challenge local sensibilities of what makes a bike good. It's not always about low weight and zip and sporty handling, especially when your family is aboard.

    But sometimes those things are important. Say you live in a hilly area, or are accustomed already to top-end sport bikes. Douze cargo bikes look, feel, and ride like modern high-performance recreational bikes, not Dutch utility bikes. Their novel quad-cable steering mechanism DOUZE_Cycles-CABLE_STEERING provides remarkably stable, consistent, precise handling at both low and high speeds: long an elusive goal for designers of bikes in this format. The cable steering also provides a much tighter turning radius than any other bike in its class, exceptionally easy to manage even walking alongside in tight spaces.

    Douze bikes split into 2 parts, front and rear, very easily in under 5 minutes. DOUZE_Cycles_MESSENGER-STANDARD-SPLIT This makes transporting them in other vehicles not so challenging. It also means they ship more economically. But most of all, it means that we can mix and match front and rear ends freely to assemble just the bike you want. Prefer a step-through to a step-over frame? Both are available. There are long, standard, and short front ends, with a growing assortment of child seating and cargo carriage options for all.

    Electric assist? As you wish. Chain or belt drive? Either. Derailleur or internal hub gearing: uh-huh. Hydraulic disk brakes. Dynamo lighting. All these things are standard options available at modest prices, not special projects to be worked out over months in a flurry of quotations for custom work, or orphaning original parts.

    Test rides are convincing, more than thousands of words. Ride on over with the kids or your sweetie or your dog or all three. Prices for fully-equipped Douzes start around $4,000, with premium electric assist models starting around $6,000.





  • Introducing Vanmoof

    We remember the first time we saw a Vanmoof, in 2009. But then, everybody remembers seeing one the first time: they are strikingly different, with a massive top tube that extends beyond head and seat tubes, the ends then plugged with head and taillight. They must be on to something 5 years early, because 3 of the 5 entrants in 2014's Oregon Manifest design competition for the "Ultimate Urban Utility Bike" also play with this visual and functional design element. We believe that a distinctive look in bikes is as naturally desirable as in shoes, but the early Vanmoofs were a little too spare in function to hold our interest. This has changed completely now with the current, third-generation product line.


    The Vanmoofs we stock now feature:

    • 8-speed Alfine gearhubs: all the range a Portlander needs in town, super smooth and sealed away from weather
    • Disk brakes: keep your rims pretty, stop consistently wet or not
    • Powerful LED lighting, hub dynamo powered: no need ever to turn them off
    • Full chaincases: who needs a belt, really, when your chain stays clean and off your clothes?
    • Anodized aluminum frames: no paint to scratch, no rust, just honest passivated metal
    • Clever, attractive front and rear carriers
    • Full metal fenders, kickstand, brass bell, OF COURSE.

    We could go on. All of the above come in right over the $1K mark, which is pretty great value. A little less gets you a 3-speed. A little more, a nifty ABUS chain lock integrated into that top tube. A lot more gets you the Vanmoof Electrified, which is the freshest, cleanest, almost even pure electric assist bike we've yet seen:

    The battery is in the top tube. (See, it's not so massive just for looks!) It's a 2-speed automatic, 2 speeds proving surprisingly adequate when a motor is added. It has no throttle. What these things mean together is an unprecedented ergonomic simplicity. While other electric bikes add complexity in operation, Vanmoof takes away: you can even ride no-hands uphill with no restriction of function except braking. While it's extra clean in operation, it packs a lot of technology inside, including bottom-bracket torque sensing, remote keyfob power switch and GPS anti-theft tracking! Super lightweight for an electric bike, too.

    What we can't convey in words is the ride, very distinctively Dutch in relaxed, smooth, even stately uprightness. One key is the exceptionally low bottom bracket, meaning that it's easy to get a foot down at stops without needing to lean the bike.

  • Faraday Bicycles

    Faraday Porteur Electric Bike

    Come on in and test ride the Faraday Porteur so we'll have an excuse to stop riding it ourselves!

    You can now reserve a bicycle from Faraday's second production run (shipping late 2014). Simply contact Clever Cycles to save your place in line and guarantee the earliest delivery possible.

    We know that they are onto something, because all our our staff keep wanting to ride it everywhere. This is the electric bike that you'll want to ride too.

    cc-0418 cc-0417cc-0430

  • Game changer: Magnic Light

    Springtime a year ago we were pleased to contribute to a Kickstarter campaign for a new kind of bike light called Magnic Light. There was a lot of speculation voiced in various forums whether it was a hoax, because the physics involved defied most peoples' understanding. If this very simple invention was for real, why hadn't it already been invented? "Everybody said 'that's impossible.' Then somebody came who didn't know that, and did it."

    We're happy to have received our first shipment straight from inventor Dirk Strothmann in Germany, for sale right now. Wait, it's August, not even dark until late? More about that in a bit. I've got them on the only bike I own without built-in lights, a Brompton. Everybody who likes playing with magnets, magic tricks, or seeing and being seen on a bike smiles, and some even laugh in amazement to see Magnic Lights work. Come by for a demo.

    Now is ze time that we look (advisory: techno soundtrack):

    Magnic Lights are very bright, lightweight, incredibly efficient bike lights that use no batteries, are self-contained, and don't require building a wheel around a dynamo hub. This makes them a game-changer, I dare say historic because I think someday most bike lights are bound to work similarly. All you do is position the small light units in proximity to any normal metal bike rim, and they work. Unlike superficially similar "be seen" products like Reelights, these don't require mounting magnets in your wheel, and are plenty bright enough to be your only lights. This is the jaw-dropping part: just the motion of the metal rim itself, not magnetic or even necessarily ferrous, is enough to power the lights. No contact or noise, no external parts or wiring, lighter weight and an order of magnitude less drag than the very most expensive dynamo hubs. There's no such thing as free energy, but any resistance created by Magnic Lights is utterly negligible, even with a wheel turning free in a stand, for minutes. They boast the brightest dynamo taillight on the market (aim carefully please!), and while the headlights don't measure up in brightness or beam shaping to the best available, they aren't too shabby either.


    They run about $250 for a set of 3: 2 headlights and a taillight. That's more than most battery systems, but less than most dynamo systems not built in at the factory. And if you are really focused on high efficiency and light weight, whether for practical, aesthetic or obsessive reasons, Magnic Light is simply the best bicycle lighting system there is.

    This concept could not previously have been realized practically because only recently have rare earth magnets become powerful enough, and LEDs efficient enough, for supply and demand to meet, so to speak. It turns out that any conductive material such as an aluminum rim - not just magnetic or ferrous - will produce so-called eddy currents when moving through a magnetic field. This invention harnesses these currents to turn a tiny generator without contact.

    There are some issues. The biggest for people like us who use bikes to carry stuff is that since the lights and the generator units are integrated, they can be mounted only in locations that provide the correct small rim clearance and good light placement simultaneously. The provided mounting hardware doesn't have an answer for rear racks, whose mounted luggage will block the light. If you don't have either a skinny-tire fenderless road bike (Portland?!), or a bike with cantilever brake studs, there are only somewhat compromised mounting options. What's more there's no standlight, so you go dark when not moving. We'll make sure you understand all these issues before selling you a set: please bring your bike if at all possible.

    We're pretty sure it's just a matter of time before the technology makes its way into more form factors, with broader feature sets. How about a stand-alone generator you connect to fork blade or seatstay that has power out for standard lights and other electronics? For now, for many, being an early adopter of the first, purest expression of the idea is part of the appeal.

    What's wrong with cheap simple battery lights, anyway? No matter how much better they are than, say, 10 years ago, the inescapable reality is that the more you use them, and the brighter they are, the faster they burn out. The bigger the battery, the heavier and more fragile the light when dropped. Nobody would accept this dynamic in any other form of transportation. Battery lights are essentially disposables, at odds with the sustainable elegance of bicycles that can serve for decades.

    What dynamo lights bring to the table, that battery lights never will, is liberty to run them IN THE DAYTIME. All the time, without a care in the world. With no bulbs to burn out and no resistance perceptible, why not? Tipped up just a bit, today's brighter LED lights are conspicuous a mile away in broad daylight! No battery light is bright enough to be useful in daytime without committing the user to a really onerous recharging scheme all the time. To my thinking, that's a better single safety investment than a wardrobe full of day-glo plastic garments and even a crash helmet for non-sport biking, because it can ward off rather than mitigate collisions. Our experience running bright daytime lights supports the conclusion of studies conducted with motorcycles, that they draw significant notice from other road users, preventing right-of-way violations in particular.

    One last thing: one reason that battery operated lights have remained popular, apart from their lower initial expense, is that they can easily be transferred from bike to bike. If you care enough about safety and convenience to value the benefits of generator lighting, there's a good chance you own more than one bike. But then, equipping multiple bikes with generator lighting can be prohibitively expensive. Magnic Lights can be moved from one bike to another in seconds with no tools: only the inexpensive mounts need installation in advance.

    One of the better early reviews:

  • Happy birthday to us: the Clever Index

    We opened in June 2007, five years ago. We were the first, and we remain the largest shop in town dedicated more or less entirely to bikes as practical urban transportation for families like ours. And yours. We've learned a lot, since none of us except our mechanics had any bike shop experience, and we've expanded three times to 7,000'sq through a recession in a town with nearly 70 other bike shops.

    Various reports and some spreadsheet dinking on five years of business data, several thousand bikes, produce some interesting "Harper's Index"-type statistics about who we are and who we aren't. We're weird, for sure. We think being non-redundant accounts partly for the success we've enjoyed.


    Percentage of bikes sold with kickstands* : >99.9
    Percentage of bikes sold with factory-installed fenders : >97
    Percentage of bikes sold with full or partial chain covering : >95
    Percentage of bikes sold with belt drives : 0
    Percentage of bikes sold with factory-installed racks : >85
    Percentage of bikes sold with internal hub gearing : >70
    Percentage of bikes sold with generator lighting : >38

    Percentage of bikes sold with drum brakes : >20
    Percentage of bikes sold with disk brakes : <3
    Percentage of bikes sold with coaster brakes : <1
    Number of "cruisers" sold : <5
    Width of skinniest tire on bikes sold : 1.25"
    Width of fattest : 4.5"
    Average tire width : 1.75"
    Ratio of beer growlers to water bottles sold : 8:1
    Ratio of wool to non-wool garments sold, excluding rain gear : 18:1
    Ratio of steel to aluminum bikes sold : 7:1
    Number of bikes with carbon fiber components sold : 11
    Number of bikes with suspension forks sold : 4
    Most common number of speeds on bikes sold : 8
    Percentage of bikes with front derailleurs sold : <2
    Number of single-speed bikes sold : 17**
    Number of 300-lb fixed gear cargo trikes sold, mahogany : 5
    Number of child seats sold : almost 1000
    Number of child trailers sold : <20
    Number of Brooks saddles sold, either loose or factory-standard on bikes : >900
    Number of non-Brooks saddles sold, loose : 4
    Number of car racks sold : 0
    Average weight of bikes sold : can we help you lift it onto your rack?
    Lightest bike sold : <20lbs
    Speed of a 20-lb bicycle at 160 watts effort : 14.8 MPH
    Speed of a 60-lb bicycle at the same effort, level ground : 14.6 MPH
    Speed of a 20-lb bicycle at the same effort, 5% uphill : 7.2 MPH
    Speed of a 60-lb bicycle at the same effort, 5% uphill : 6.1 MPH
    Speed of a 20-lb bicycle at the same effort, 5% downhill : 23.9 MPH
    Speed of a 60-lb bicycle at the same effort, 5% downhill : 25.5 MPH***
    It never gets easier; you just go faster : what Greg LeMond said
    You don't have to go faster; it just gets easier : what we say

    Lemma : carrying weight doesn't make it harder; you just go slower. Until you get stronger.
    Number of helmets sold, with fitting advice : 2414
    Number of helmets sold to people who did not ask for them : 0
    Percentage of bikers who are women in Portland : 31
    Percentage of women customers at Clever Cycles : 64****
    Women to men on staff : 4:5
    Average customer age : 36*****
    Average staff age : 34
    Cumulative years of staff experience riding bikes for transportation, as adults : 113

    * Bromptons don't need kickstands to sit up
    ** Mostly kid bikes, excluding balance bikes
    **** We don't have a pink division
    ***** We guessed

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