Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The @NYCeWheels KickPed: Early Impressions

I've had my NYCeWheels KickPed for a couple of weeks now and have been scooting around my town of Issaquah, WA. I also folded my scooter, hopped on the bus and scooted around Seattle one day last week. As Christine or my coworkers can tell you, I like this little vehicle. I've been riding it every chance I get. Next month I'll be scooting every day and doing daily #30DaysofScooting posts to this blog, but I can already tell you one result of my scooting experiment: It's a keeper. Scooting is super fun. It can also be a good, low impact workout if you push hard and it's a surprisingly practical mode of transport. As a fifty-four year old man on a scooter, I do get some looks as I scoot about. I assume people are thinking "man, that guy's cool!" but my son tells me I might be mistaken on that score.

The KickPed is very well designed and solidly constructed. Custom built in the USA for NYCeWheels by Patmont Motor Werks (they also make motorized scooters and the Know-Ped and Grow-Ped kickscooters), the KickPed features a trim marine plywood deck, a raw lacquered steel frame and flat free natural rubber tires that are 6 inches in diameter and are a whopping 2.5 inches wide.

In researching scooters, this article by Jeffrey the Barak strongly swayed me in favor of the KickPed. I live in a part of the world that is often damp so I figured a weatherproof deck and tires that grip well in the wet are essential. When I got my scooter I spent a few minutes waxing the unfinished edges of the plywood deck to further weather-proof it.

The wide tires give the scooter a very good ride and while I do ride more cautiously in the rain I can report that they do work well. I wouldn't want to ride a scooter with narrow urethane tires in the rain. My one complaint with the rubber tires on the KickPed is the smell. I work in a bike shop, I'm used to the smell of tires but the KickPed's rubber tires (especially when it was new) REALLY smell like rubber. Like Akron in August. When the KickPed got delivered to the shop had gotten a small hole punched in it in shipping. When the delivery guy dropped the box off he actually asked if there was something dead in there. After a couple of weeks, the smell is better but I still notice it when I fold the scooter and sling it over my shoulder to carry it into a store or onto the bus.

As you can see, when I do the shoulder carry, the scooter's rear wheel is inches from my nose.

I have a nice little folding bike, a Dahon Curve D3, and while I can fold it up in about a minute, it's still a kind of awkward 20-something pound package to lug around. My KickPed folds in one second (really!) and is a narrower 12-pound package that fits into a lot more places. It fits easily beside me on the bus, under a table at a restaurant and I've gotten really good at walking around with it slung over my shoulder or carried like a very odd briefcase.

Because the scooter folds so quickly, I don't need to carry a lock. I just take the scooter in with me any place I go. Also because the tires are solid, I never worry about pumping them up and I don't have to carry a spare tube, pump or patch kit.

The scooter is clearly not as fast as a bike, but I've found it fits a really nice niche in my life. For trips under a couple of miles, it's less hassle than locking and unlocking a bike, but it's faster and more fun than walking. I've discovered that when I walk around town, I go average about 3 miles per hour. When I scoot my average is about 7 miles per hour. When I bike in town my average speed is about 12 miles per hour.

Scooting also has what I call instantaneous mode-switch. I can go from scooting to walking in a second. I walk through tight crowds. I stop to chat with friends or to take pictures of McNugget the Rooster.

I've added two bits of gear to my KickPed, a little bell and a head light. I wear a helmet when I ride because I'm not 100% confident in my scooting skills and I can build up some speed on this thing. 12 mph is about as fast as I go on a downhill before I start riding the brake. I also have a tail light on the back of my helmet and one on my backpack.

With my backpack I can scoot to the store and pick up groceries. If I'm getting a lot or going far I'll take the bike, but the scooter is proving very useful for the short trips.

And it's super fun.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Road Hazzards Motorized Bicycle Club

They are a rough looking bunch. I'm in no-man's land, the rough border country where Fremont ends and Ballard begins, heading to a meeting involving a woman in a donut shop, some maps and plans that I'd rather not reveal at this point. But these hombres have taken over the sidewalk and a chunk of the street. Maybe I can scoot on by.

"Oh, I'm sorry," one of of the wild bunch calls out, "Let me get this out of your way." He goes to move his bike.

"No worries," I say, "I've got plenty of room. Nice bike."

"Nice scooter," the dude replies, "Ya got a motor on it?"

"Nah, just me. You guys mind if I take a few pictures?"

The guys don't mind at all. The chatty dude explains their club, The Road Hazzards Motorized Bicycle Club. "No membership dues, but you need a bike with a motor. Heck, a scooter with a motor would be OK." The dude isn't quite sure on this last point and consults with his pals. "Yeah, it doesn't have to be a bike, a scooter would be fine. But it really should have a motor. Gas is fine, electric's fine. The important thing is having fun."

The guys do have awesome jackets and great bikes. A couple of the bikes are heavily modified 1954 Firestones.

I have to be on my way but I snap these pictures before I scoot off. "Check out our website, one of them says as I leave, "and join us for a ride if you ever decide to put a motor on that thing!"

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah, WA USA

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Tell Me What You Know

I know something of my reasons for getting a scooter. I suspected, and so far it's proving true, that the scooter would have a different pace than what I experience while walking or riding a bicycle. On the flat land the equation is a simple one, perhaps twice as fast as walking, quite probably twice as fun. The muscles used are different. I am trying to develop rhythm in my kicks, in how I switch off which leg is doing the pushing. I have already learned that it is not the kicking leg that tires, it is the one on the scooter deck that bends, the one that says to the other leg "hey pal, get up here and do some work."

I am beginning to build an ability to glide, to coast, to flex my foot in the kick off, to hold momentum as I switch legs. I am learning something which perhaps someday will be grace. Today it is something less, but I am out and rolling in the world.

Hemingway wrote this about a bicycle, but it is most certainly true of a scooter: “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.” This truth is sharper on a scooter, the smaller the wheel the greater attention one pays to the lay of the land. I kick up the shallow climbs and if it's too steep then walking is the winning move. With a scooter the transition from rolling slowly to walking is instantaneous and shameless, it is the wisdom of the moment. Similarly, the most subtle dip down is celebrated with a joyful leap onto the deck, both legs resting, the soul free to soar.

When the slope down is greater still, a bargain must be struck. How much control does one have, when does thrill pass to fear, how much faith can we place in the smoothness of the path, the efficacy of a rear fender that is also something of a brake? Like the apocryphal Campy Delta Brake, loved by some and hated by many, "It is not for stopping, it is for modulating velocity." Too much mountain, the mountain I walked up with scooter in hand, can not be safely fed back to the scooter through the wheels. The fender is pressed to the wheel, repeatedly, urgently. Feet drag, speed bleeds. Better to lose speed than skin. I am still learning just how much caution and control I need.

In the level places and the gently sloping ones I'm more apt to stop for moments to gather the gifts of what is noticed more. The green of the moss. The art that is intended and improvised.

The mist hangs on the mountains, the water shines the road. I travel balanced between effort and relaxation, speed and slow study.

There are signs pointing the way home and signs that don't know what to make of me.

Perhaps someday I'll flow more like the creek. Here I'll meander, flowing slowly in the gentle places and learning to speed in the steeper places.

Tell me what you know. I know only that I am learning yet another way of rolling. I have very much left to discover.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Scooter Commuter

I work three blocks from where I live. It's a quick walk, a nice walk, and it really is a distance that is effectively too short to bike. It's not worth the hassle and time of locking and unlocking my bike at both ends of the commute. In fact, as much as we enjoy biking, Christine and I walk quite a bit around Issaquah. We're often not in that much of hurry and walking is even more convivial than biking.

But I have to confess that I like to roll. I like zipping around under my own power and I like gadgets that roll. I've seen the kids with their skateboards but I don't think I have the coordination and balance to ride one of those. But I've long been fascinated with kick scooters and I began researching them years ago. Finally I found the scooter that looked like it would be well worth a try and I hatched a plan.

The machine is a KickPed and it is sold by NYCeWheels in New York City. They are an excellent shop selling folding bikes and scooters and I wrote them explaining who I was and what my blog was about. I also told them about the 30 Days of Biking Challenge. In both 2011 and 2012 I rode my bike and blogged about it every day. While that was fun, I wanted to do something a bit different for 2013. So my proposal to NYCeWheels went like this: Would they be interested in giving me a discount on a KickPed if this April I scooted and blogged a 30 Days of Scooting Challenge? They're nice folks (maybe they're NYCe folks!) and they gave me a deal. So each day next month you'll see a post from me about my scooter adventures in Issaquah and other places around here. I'll do some guest posts on the NYCeWheels blog as well. Stay tuned!

In the next few weeks I'll post scooter stuff as I discover it. I'm already learning a lot. The scooter is nowhere near as efficient as a bike, but I think it has a definite niche. I've been scooting back and forth to work for the past few days now. Mike (my boss) asked me "Is it really any better than walking?" My quick answer is that it's about twice as fast and twice as fun. My son Eric seems convinced I've taken up scooting just to embarrass him.

More detailed posts to come.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah, WA USA

Friday, March 08, 2013

Justifying One More Bike

Yesterday Christine and I were chatting with Connie Kleitz about the hoarding tendencies of some bicycle collectors and Connie recalled a bit of writing modified from an essay on gun collecting by Patrick McManus. It took me a bit of digging through the archives of the i-BOB list, but this morning I found the bike essay. It's timeless advice that some of you (I'm not going to name any names or make any judgments here!) may find handy.


Date: Wed, 3 Nov 1999 15:38:49 -0600 (CST)
From: Bob Hufford
Subject: RE: [BOB] Bike Limit (long)

I can't remember where I read this (seems like the BOB list a couple of years ago), but it seems like an appropriate time to repost it. Originally by Knapp Hudson of Portland, Maine:


First of all, let us consider the psychology of a person as their partner brings a bike home. It is important to note that the first bike is greeted with considerable enthusiasm by the partner, and they may even brag about it to their friends. The new bike will be great for riding to work and getting exercise. It is important to let your partner know that this is a road bike and to fully be able to exercise, ride on the poor roads in your area, and to ride on the great woods trails a mountain bike is going to also be necessary.

"Why can't you ride in the woods with the same bike?" they say. "I really think you could if you wanted to."

You will then need to explain the difference between a road bike and an off-road bike and your partner will finally agree that you probably do need another bike.

Now that's the typical sitution the new collector faces. He or she will start with a base of two bikes, their partner granting them the benefit of the doubt that two bikes are actually needed. After the second bike, the argument that you need a new bike will be dismissed by your partner with an upward roll of the eyeballs and a big sigh. We are talking only third bike here, remember, nothing more. If you are newly together, upward-rolling eyeballs and big sighs may seem formidable obstacles, but they're really not that serious. Go buy the bike and bring it home. The eye-roll and big sighs will let up after a few days. Now comes the biggie - the Fourth Bike.

With the mere mention of your need for a fourth bike, the partner skips right over the eyeball-rolling and big sighs and goes directly to a recital of your deficiencies of character, weird quirks, and all sins
committed to date. They will bring up such matters as saving for retirement, the fact they are still wearing the clothes their parents bought them in high school, the threatening note from the electric company, etc. "And you want another bike!" they will finish, the sarcasm flickering about the room like sheet lightning.

The fourth bike is the tough one, and in the face of this assault, there is always the temptation to sneak the fourth bike. That's a mistake. Your partners knowing you purchased a fourth bike is essential to further development of your bike collection. Here's why. After you bring the bike home and show it to your partner, they will shake their head and say, "I don't know why you need all those bikes." Note that they don't say four bikes but rather the vague and general all those bikes. Henceforth, they will think of your bike collection not in terms of specific numbers but as a single collective entity - all!

To thoroughly grasp this important concept, suppose your partner is looking at the bikes. You and all your bikes, they might say, possibly with a very tiny tolerant smile. What they fail to notice is that there are now five bikes! Once the psychological barrier of the fourth bike is crossed, the bike collection can be expanded indefinitely with the partners not noticing, provided you use some common sense and don't add too many bikes at once. Two to three a year is about right, spaced at decent intervals.

There is one pitfall in this strategy - the area the bikes are stored in. Although your partner will never bother to count the bikes, they will notice three empty spaces. Therefore, you must make sure that there are always three empty slots, even as your collection expands from four to forty bikes. If you plan on enlarging your collection, select a storage area that can be expanded by adding on new sections, so that there are always three or more empty slots. It works.

But how do you get all those bikes into the house without your partners knowing, you ask. Actually, it is all right if every few years you simply walk right into the house and say, "Look, dear, I bought a new bike." "Neato," they will say. "I'm ecstatic. Now tell me, what did you want to buy another bike for when you already have all those bikes? Ill bet you haven't ridden most of them in the past five years."

Ride them? Yes, a partner will actually say that. They will not be able to comprehend that you needed the bike because you needed it. They will not understand that you need the bikes just to be there, to be your bikes, to be looked at and fondled from time to time. They will not be able to fathom that you need the bikes even though you don't need to ride them. Tell them a bike collection is like wilderness. Even though we don't use all of it all the time, we need to know its there. Probably it won't do any good to tell them that, but's it's worth a try.

Stating the simple truth often works in explaining an occasional bike purchase. But why take unnecessary risks? Go with your best lie and get the bike stashed in your expandable storage area as quickly as possible. Oddly enough, there are a few really good lies for explaining the purchase of a new bike. There's the classic "A Fantastic Bargain," of course, in which you will tell your partner that the bike you just paid $600 for was on sale for $27.50. If their eyebrows shoot up in disbelief, you mention that three men in white coats showed up at the bike shop and led the manager away before he could slash the prices on the rest of the bikes. Indeed, you say, you could have picked up five more brand-new bikes for a total of eighty-five dollars, but you didn't want to take excessive advantage of a crazy person.

The "Play on Their Sympathy Ploy" works well on young, inexperienced partners. It goes something like this: Rush into the house wiping tears of joy from your cheeks. Then cry out, "Look, look! A person at work sold me this bike. Its identical to the one my grandfather gave me on his death bed. Gramps said to me, Im givin' you ol' Betsy here, because every time you ride it, you will remember all the good times you and I had together." Oh, how I hated to sell that bike to pay for mothers operation! But now I got one just like it! Or maybe its even the same bike! Do you think it might actually be the same bike?

Warning! Don't try the "Sympathy Ploy" on your partner if you have been together for longer than five years, unless you want to see a person laugh themselves sick. Its a disgusting spectacle, I can tell you.

The "Fantastic Investment" lie will work on occasion provided you lay the ground work carefully in advance. "That ol' Harvey Schmartz is a shrewd one," you say. "He bought this classic Lightening Whizzer for six hundred dollars as an investment. Three weeks later he sold it for eighty-seven thousand dollars! Boy I wish I could lay my hands on a Lightening Whizzer. Wed sell it when we retire and buy us a condo in Aspen and tour Europe with the change."

After you've used up all your best lies, you are left with only one option. You must finally screw up your courage, square your jaw, and make up your mind that you are going to do what you probably should have done all along - sneak the new bikes into the house.

Here are some proven techniques for bike-sneaking:

The Surprise Party - You arrive home and tell your partner that you have to go to a surprise birthday party for one of your riding partners and picked up a special cake on your way home. "Oh, how clever!" they will exclaim. "A birthday cake shaped like a bicycle!" This is also known as "The Bike-in-Cake Trick."

The Lamp - You buy a lampshade and attach it to the seat of a new bike. "Look, sweetheart," you say to your partner. "I bought a new lamp for the living room."  They gag. Not for this living room, they growl. "Take it to your bike shop and don't ever let me see that monstrosity again!" A variation on this ploy is to tie picture wire to the new bike and call it a wall hanging (this works especially well with antique bikes).

The Loan - A riding friend shows up at your door and hands you your new bike. "Thanks for loaning me one of your bikes," they say. "I'll do the same for you sometime."  Make sure your accomplice can be trusted, though. I tried "The Loan" with a friend one time and he didn't show up at my door with the bike for a month, on the day after first snowfall, as I recall.

Spare Parts - Disassemble the bike and carry it home in shopping bags. Mention casually to your partner that you picked up some odds and ends from the junk bin down at Joe's Bike shop. If there is a question about the frame, you can explain that you found it at the dump when you were taking the trash. Works like a charm! (By the way, does anyone know how to get all those tiny bearings back into a freewheel?)

Hope the above ideas are helpful in building your collection.

Knapp Hudson
Portland, Maine


Date: Wed, 03 Nov 1999 15:42:46 -0800
From: Kenneth Stagg
Subject: Re: [BOB] Bike Limit (long)

Bob Hufford wrote:
> I can't remember where I read this (seems like the BOB list a couple
> of years ago), but it seems like an appropriate time to repost it.
> Originally by Knapp Hudson of Portland, Maine:

Just in the interest of completeness I'll mention that this is lifted, almost word for word, from a piece by Patrick McManus on gun collecting.  Substitute things like "gun" for "bike", "shoot" for "ride" and "end of hunting season" for "first snowfall."  (For all I know McManus copped it from somewhere else.)

I've seen the same piece munched around to fit antique tools.



Sunday, March 03, 2013

Idiot Wind

Every now and then news stories come up that are so stupid you feel that they need a big "NOT THE ONION" disclaimer attached to them so they aren't mistaken for satire. Yesterday, my twitter feed erupted with the story of Washington State Representative Ed Orcutt's letter to a state resident regarding the proposed Washington state bicycle tax. The Seattle Bike Blog wrote a good article on Orcutt's letter here and the Cascade Bicycle Club has good coverage here, so I'm not going to repeat their stuff. I will, however, repost Orcutt's email and the note from Dale Carlson to which Representative Orcutt is responding.

—————————- Original Message —————————-
Subject: RE: No new bicycle tax
From:    “Orcutt, Rep. Ed”
Date:    Mon, February 25, 2013 9:59 pm
To:      Dale Carlson


I am not a fan of much in the House Transportation tax proposal nor of many tax proposals, but I have to admit I think there are valid reasons to tax bicycles. Think about this for a moment: Currently motorists are paying to use their cars on the roads while they are actually driving their cars. At the same time, they are paying for bike lanes because there is no gas tax — or any transportation tax — generated by the act of riding a bike on the roadways. So, if cars pay for the roads they are using, it only makes sense that bicyclists would also be required to pay for the ‘roads’ they use when they are actually biking on them.

Also, you claim that it is environmentally friendly to ride a bike. But if I am not mistaken, a cyclists has an increased heart rate and respiration. That means that the act of riding a bike results in greater emissions of carbon dioxide from the rider.  Since CO2 is deemed to be a greenhouse gas and a pollutant, bicyclists are actually polluting when they ride.

I know, you own a car and drive so are paying gas tax — but not while you are riding your bike. When you are driving your car and generating gas tax you are also driving on the roads so are only really paying for the roads when driving — not while biking.

Sorry, but I do think that bicyclists need to start paying for the roads they ride on rather than make motorists pay.


Representative Ed Orcutt
20th Legislative District

Olympia Office:
408 John L. O’Brien Building
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504
e 360.786.7990

—–Original Message—–
From: Dale Carlson
Sent: Sunday, February 24, 2013 9:40 PM
To: Orcutt, Rep. Ed
Subject: NC: No new bicycle tax


TO:  Representative Ed Orcutt

FROM: Dale Carlson(Non-Constituent)

SUBJECT:  No new bicycle tax


People who choose to ride a bicycle instead of driving a car actively
reduce congestion, save wear and tear on our roads and bridges, and reduce the state labor needed to patrol our highways. Additionally, bicyclists produce fewer emissions and reduce healthcare costs through increased physical fitness. Therefore, it is unfair for bicyclists to subsidize the construction and maintenance of highways that they impact far less than the motorists. If anything, new bike purchases should earn a $25.00 tax credit because of the savings they provide to the state.

Not only do I believe that a bike tax is unfair in principle but the proposed amount is disproportionately large compared to vehicle excise taxes in the state. A tax of $25 on a $500 bicycle purchase is 5% of that sale. The vehicle excise tax in the proposed package for the state is 0.7%. The federal government even offers tax credits on electric vehicles, up to $7,500 depending on the value of the vehicle. It’s absurd that Washington state plans on taxing bicyclists while such a credit system exists to promote energy efficiency. Bicycles are far more efficient even than electric cars. Bicyclists already pay substantial sales, property, and federal taxes which fund two-thirds of transportation spending in Washington. Bicyclists who own cars pay the same license tab and other car-related taxes even if they drive less.

This new tax would also hurt the bicycle industry in the state of Washington, an industry that already competes with internet vendors and bordering states with lower sales tax. Bicycle stores near the edges of our state have been impacted for years by the reduced sales tax in Oregon and Idaho. Residents would have 25 more reasons to purchase bikes outside of Washington should this proposal pass. In-state bicycle sales would also be lost to internet vendors based elsewhere which neither pay taxes in Washington nor employee residents of Washington. Surely the loss of tax revenue on in-state bicycle sales would offset the forecasted gains from the proposed tax.

Dale Carlson, Owner
Bike Tech
Olympia, Lakewood, Tacoma


I'll also link to Elly Blue's fine analysis of who really pays for roads.

And then you might be thinking I'm going to rant. Well, maybe a little. But I'm kind of speechless, right now. Fortunately, a fellow ex-Minnesotan penned some words a few years back that I'm gonna borrow. Yeah, my buddy Bob, he's got a way with words.

All the lines in italics below are Bob Dylan's from his great song "Idiot Wind" off the classic "Blood on the Tracks."

This was my reaction when I first heard about the proposed bike tax:

Someone's got it in for me, they're planting stories in the press
Whoever it is I wish they'd cut it out quick but when they will I can only guess.

This was my reaction on first reading Rep. Orcutt's letter:

People see me all the time and they just can't remember how to act
Their minds are filled with big ideas, images and distorted facts.

And then Bob really sums up what I'm thinking about Rep. Orcutt when he sings:

Idiot wind blowing every time your move your mouth
Blowing down the backroads heading south
Idiot wind blowing every time you move your teeth
You're an idiot babe
It's a wonder that you still know how to breathe.

I also think Bob nails the broken politics of our country here:

Now everything's a little upside down, as a matter of fact the wheels have stopped
What's good is bad what's bad is good you'll find out when you reach the top
You're on the bottom. I noticed at the ceremony, your corrupt ways had finally made you blind
I can't remember your face anymore, your mouth has changed your eyes don't look 
Into mine
The priest wore black on the seventh day and sat stone faced while the 
Building burned
I waited for you on the running boards, near the cypress trees while the 
Springtime turned
Slowly into autumn.

It's far too easy to just see the idiocy in Rep. Orcutt's letter. But Bob will never let us get off that easily and we, the people of Washington State, have to remember that we elected this guy.

Idiot wind blowing through the buttons of our coats
Blowing through the letters that we wrote
Idiot wind blowing through the dust upon our shelves
We're idiots babe
It's a wonder we can even feed ourselves.

Vote. It matters.

Write letters. It matters.

Speak truth to power. It matters.

Rage against the machine now and then. It matters.

Listen to our poets. Buy their stuff and keep 'em alive. Because sometime, when you're speechless, they'll have the words you need.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah, WA USA