Clever Cycles Interview – Part 2

We continue our conversation with Clever Cycles’ Martina and Todd (see part I for the first installment). This time we talk about sources of inspiration and innovation, and get their advice on promoting everyday cycling.


UYB: In addition to Holland, where do you look for inspiring new ideas for innovative uses of bicycles?


Martina and Todd: England has a strong mixed commuting history (bike to train) which favored the development of the Brompton and Denmark has a strong bike culture –Christinia trikes! The key point is utilitarian riding vs recreational riding…But we also found very cool products right here: Chris Brown, a bike maker from Colorado created a tandem on which the kid rides in front, but the parent steers, Bike Friday has their Friday Traveler, a family tandem with 2 kid seats and there is also xtracycle, the wonderful hitchless trailer that can accommodate 2 kids on the back of a bike.


What are the key trends right now and what trends are emerging, like baksfiet?


Martina and Todd: We’re amazed how many xtracycles we sell and how much they are liked (very happy,since Todd and I owned one of the first generation xtracycles in the 1990). We see more and more kid seats on bikes – we all love the bobike mini (front) or maxi (back) that fit 90% of all bikes we see. My personal favorite is the Kidztandem in the moment since it grows with the kids – from baby seat to regualr saddle to basket (when the kid is old enough to ride its own bike!) …and yes, there is still the bakfiets that allows me to behave like any other soccer mom without owning an SUV – I just rode 350 popsicles to my son’s school in my bakfiets!


The good news is that we have advocacy underway and that we are raising the profile of using cycles every day. What advice can you give us that will help us grow cycling?


Martina and Todd: For us it is very important to be a good traffic participant and adhere to the street rules and to be courteous towards cars. I think talking about bikes and just being out there riding is great advocacy. Organizing rides and safety workshop help including people that might normally not ride!



You’ve been so generous with your time. Thanks for sharing your insights and experiences with me and our readers.

Bike Racks as Transportation Network and Spur for Economic Development

In a letter I wrote to The Hour thanking the political powers for their bike rack support, it struck me that you can think of bike racks in an area forming a transportation network. In my area, the train stations are mostly located in or near town centers. In my case, riding to the S. Norwalk station takes me into SONO, a thriving retail, office and restaurant center. Westport to the east, Darien to the west, New Canaan to the Northwest, for examples, are all vibrant interesting towns, short rides away and reachable via secondary roads for good stretches. Promoting rack-to-rack trips seems like a way to encourage people to use their bikes to visit, keep appointments, shop or grab a bite, with the benefit of juicing the local economy a bit. If government and merchants catch on their efforts could give some welcome support for utility cycling.

The Bike Rack Virus

Bike Rack installation conferenceSince the article on the bike rack appeared, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the attention it’s received and the positive comments a variety of people made to me. At the press conference, Sen. Duff expressed interest in getting a bike. Last weekend, when I went for a haircut, one of the barbers asked “where’s your bike?” which lead to a conversation among people in the shop. Just yesterday I ran into an old friend who’s interested in riding his bike to the station and wanted advice on locking up. And at a local community event I was asked to participate in a small group of people who are interested in helping make Norwalk more bike-friendly.  Who ever thought that a bike rack story would have a positive viral effect?

So Long Moon Dog, Hello Mountie

After the accident, I gave up on Moon Dog as a commuter bike – decided that the cruiser-type wasn’t suited to my route. Am in the process of refitting an older Cannondale MTB I own – turned handlebars up a bit for a more vertical riding position, added rear fender and rack (front fender is another story still being worked on), swapped out the quick release seat post binder for one requiring an allen key, put a blinking red light on the post, and screwed on a kickstand. To thwart theft,  installed the mount for the U lock and plan to change the front/rear QR skewers with ones that secure the wheel with allen bolts. Named the new bike Mountie. I’m not into pet names at all, but referring to the bike as Moon Dog (named by Pacific Cycles, the manufacturer) humanized it and made it seem like a companion. Naming my “new” urban bike just seemed natural.

Rode it this morning – big improvement in rideability and commuting confidence.  However, on the way home I noticed that I couldn’t shift the rear derailleur through all the gears. The rear brake and derailleur cables run under Mountie’s bottom bracket, so I suspected the kickstand attachment might be pinching the derailleur cable. A quick look confirmed this; detaching the kickstand solved the problem. Now I need to figure some way to add a bit of space for the derailleur cable, or get one of those stands that mount on the rear stay.

Local Paper Says “Bikes should be part of transit efforts”

The Advocate (Norwalk)One of my local hometown papers editorialized this morning for more mixed-mode transportation – using bikes with buses and trains. I’m glad they did – transportation editorials in my area typically concern cars, congested roadways and their economic impacts, while leaving the benefits of cycling out of the discussion. I hope The Advocate and our other local papers will weigh in from time to time and increase their coverage of mixed-mode developments.

The editorial stresses the value of bikes and buses, rightly praising the 2-capacity bike racks installed on the front of each bus. After reading, it occurred to me that not all cyclists need their bikes at their destination. Installing bike racks at selected, high volume bus stops may be another option for consideration. With good racks in place, cyclists could lock and leave their bikes, take the bus, do their business, and then return to their bikes while opening up the bus bike racks for people who really need them. 

Additionally, bikes are banned from trains during peak hours. This has engendered a fair amount of polarized discussion. Our Metro-North cars are scheduled to be replaced over the next 3-4 years, and they weren’t designed with bikes in mind at all. The interior designs are not yet final, so the possibility remains that bikes can be accommodated through interior design or some other means. I plan to look into this further and see what is – and can – be done.  

If the link goes bad, you can view the article.

Interview with Clever Cycles’ Martina and Todd Fahrner, Part 1

Finding Clever Cycles online made me really want to know more about the shop and the people starting it – Martina and Todd Fahrner. So I wrote them and they graciously granted an interview. In Part 1 they tell us of the shop’s origins, customers, and why Portland is so cycle friendly. In Part II, we talk about trends, sources of inspiration, and advice for people like me in the Northeast planting the seeds for a bike commuting culture.


UseYourBike: What lead you to establish Clever Cycles?


Martina & Todd: At one point in 2007 the Fahrners and the Mullins met at a friend’s house… the Fahrners ogled the Mullins arriving with a tandem, pulling a trailer bike, pulling a trailer and the Mullins were amazed by the stoked xtracycle of the Fahrners. Todd and Dean started talking and 3 months later we founded Clever Cycles!


UYB: When did you open the doors?


Martina & Todd: October 2006 we founded the company, by February 2007 we were selling bikes out of the basement, in June 2007 we opened our shop.


UYB: What are your customers like? How do you describe your business so far?


Martina & Todd: Parents who want to ride with their kids on their bikes and commuters who want to ride in an upright position. We also have a high percentage of people who traveled in Europe and love the European bike culture.


UYB: Portland is one of the most bike-friendly cities around. Bike- friendliness depends on people, businesses and government having the desire and the will to use their bikes, to encourage people to use their bikes, make infrastructure investments and pass favorable legislation. What makes Portland’s bike culture work so well?


Martina & Todd: I think it’s the layout of the city which strikes me as very centralized, very European… Portland was planned before the car became the main transport and luckily it wasn’t cut apart by free- and high ways.


Next: Part II.

Moon Dog Down … And Some Good News About Commuting

Wiped out on the way to the station this morning. Tried to go over a broken piece of sidewalk, probably raised by a tree root, but somehow lost control and went down. Took the fall’s force with my shoulder. My pants ripped and I scraped my knee a bit, but otherwise no bruises but ego. Bike’s front wheel warped, handlebars twisted. I forced handlebars back into neutral, nothing I could do with the wheel which must be trued now. Went back home, bandaged the knee, changed clothes, then drove to station. Although commuting a few days, deeply appreciate being out of the car and out of the car vibe. A great feeling.

I’m not too happy with Moon Dog – especially the stem which never seems to get tight enough. And the cruiser steering leaves much to be desired. The long handlebars are long levers that magnify small movements, making for a nervous, twitchy ride.

Now for the good news…
Bikes at ENRR Station 6/2/208The bike rack at my local station is new, installed a little over a week now. Best thing is that it’s being used. Only a couple of bikes locked up the first few days; yesterday there were four, plus a couple others locked to fences or handrails.

Master Lock Force 5 Standard U-Lock

I purchased this Master U-lock, a closeout from Sierra Trading Post, for securing Moon Dog to the rack at the train station. Works well, comes with included frame mount, and the sliding cover for the lock is a nice touch.

NB. I didn’t plan on writing a review for the website. A Sierra TP review invitation showed up in my inbox, so I decided to try it. Afterwards, a publish to blog option appeared, which I also tried. Pretty impressive feature and nifty programming to support it, but the post that appeared had too much commercial intent. As a marketer or retailer this kind of capability makes sense from a viral/word of mouth/lead generation standpoint, but I was put off by it. I edited the ‘review’ to that above. I’m going to be more careful in the future about features like review posting.