It’s raining, you just bought six bags of groceries, you’ve got your kindergartner with you, and you live at the top of a very, very steep hill. Couldn’t bike even if you wanted to, right? Not anymore. As more and more people are pedaling their way to a car-lite way of life, crafty green businesses are developing innovative new gadgets for bicycles and for bikers, making a bikecentric lifestyle more possible than ever. Here are a few of our favorite must-have bike gadgets.
1. Billboard Large Deluxe Messenger Bag
from Ecologic Designs
Fun meets function with the waterproof Billboard Deluxe Messenger Bag designed by Green Guru Gear. Comfortably transport all your daily gear while also helping divert waste from landfills with this billboard messenger bag designed from recycled PET and old rubber bike inner tubes. While it might seem that a bag made from the remnants of a used tire would be sturdy but not stylish, guess again—because the front of this messenger bag is designed out of old billboards and banners, each sporting a unique design. Billboard Messenger Bags average about $100 and are available in both small and large sizes. All bags are sustainably made in Colorado.
2. Cargo Trikes
from Lightfoot Cycles
Why settle for two when you could have three? Three wheels, that is. With Lightfoot Cycles’ broad range of cargo-hauling trike models, you can have all the capabilities of an automobile, but through pedal power. Lightfoot trikes come in a variety of models meant to meet cyclists’ varying needs. All-around trike models like the Courier are designed to hold a cargo box or child seat, where more recreational models like the Sprite are lighter and sportier. Extra-wide trikes like the Roadrunner accommodate people with varying physical needs. A rain canopy or plastic “Rainshadow” shell, also sold by Lightfoot, fits around some models, protecting riders and cargo from the elements. If you’d like an extra boost up hills, the trikes can also be equipped with electric assists. “Our most consistently popular products have been our recumbent trike models that provide cargo capacity to carry groceries, passenger capacity to carry one or two children, a small adult, or a big dog, plus adaptive options for people with a bum knee, bad back, weak hand, and so on,” says Rod Miner, Lightfoot’s founder. Lightfoot trikes are manufactured at the family-owned business’s home base, Singletree Farm, in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana, where sustainable forestry, solar energy technologies, and green building initiatives have been practiced for nearly 20 years. Prices start at $2,500.
3. Via Mezza Low Step Foldable Electric Bike
The hybrid electric iZip Via Mezza gets you where you need to go—either by old-fashioned pedal power, or with an extra kick from the electric motor. Since this bike can reach up to 25 miles per hour, in many cases you can travel faster on it than by car, because you won’t have to sit in traffic. At approximately 58 pounds, the Via Mezza’s lightweight frame also folds up, making it as easy to carry as it is to ride. The sleek design also includes a rack for transporting items. Available for $650 from iZip, the Via Mezza also includes a rechargeable battery and charger, which can be plugged into any standard outlet. To find other electric bikes, visit www.electriccyclery.com, www.izipusa.com, www.optibike.com, or www.schwinnelectricbikes.
4. Stokemonkey Electric Assists
from Clever Cycles
If you really want to go car-free on all fronts, but haven’t won the Tour de France, one helpful option is the “Stokemonkey” electric assist, an electric motor that can be added to bikes with an extended back wheel, such as those with an Xtracycle FreeRadical attachment (see #5). In fact, the Stokemonkey was designed to perfectly complement the FreeRadical. The Stokemonkey empowers bikers to be able to truly make a car-free lifestyle possible. You can bike unassisted, then turn on the Stokemonkey when you need an extra boost—climbing hills, crossing long distances, or hauling cargo. As described by Clever Cycles, based in Portland, OR, “Stokemonkey is different, designed for bikers who want to continue to ride on their own power most of the time, but want a more capable car alternative some of the time.” With the kit itself costing about $1,300, and the battery and charger packages in the $375 range, the Stokemonkey does require a bit of an investment, but one that will quickly pay for itself the more trips you make by bike rather than by car. Other companies selling electric assist add-on kits for all types of bicycles include: www.lightfootcycles.com, www.bikemotor.com, www.bionx.ca.
5. FreeRadical and Cargo Kits
888/537-1401, ext.1; www.xtracycle.com
Got a favorite bike but just can’t seem to haul around everything you need on it? With the help of the Xtracycle FreeRadical and the company’s cargo-hauling kits, any bike can be retrofitted to carry groceries, kids, camping gear, and even pets. The FreeRadical attachment adds an additional 15 inches to the rear wheelbase of a bicycle. Once you’ve installed the FreeRadical, your bike is ready to accommodate whichever of Xtracycle’s range of cargo trailer kits meets your hauling, transportation, and commuting needs. The Family Van Kit, for example, will essentially turn your bike into an SUB— Sports Utility Bicycle—with room to accommodate child seats as well as cargo. If you’re flying solo on an extended road trip with a ton of gear, the Adventure Kit is a good bet with room to haul up to four panniers. With Free Radicals available through Xtracycle for $250, and cargo kits ranging from $250 to $400, you won’t find a more affordable SUV.
6. The Down Low Glow
from Rock the Bike
The majority of nighttime bike-car accidents are caused by issues with side visibility, since most LED bike lights only aim forward or backward. In what can only be described as a really bright idea, the Down Low Glow bike light, available in six colors, envelopes bikers in a halo of neon light, providing bikers with maximum visibility at night. By utilizing what the manufacturer calls “GSR Technology”—short for “Gimme Some Room”—the Down Low Glow attaches to the frame and projects light ten feet in all directions around the bicycle, making the bike appear to take up more room on the road than it actually does. And since it appears that you need more space when you bike with one of these nifty lights, cars will actually give you more space. Don’t worry about being weighed down by a lighting system, because the Down Low Glow weighs one pound. It is also designed to fit bikes of all sizes, including recumbent trikes. The systems is available in both a single and double tube, with a single tube system with charger available for $115.