CategoryReview

Testing the Abus Bordo “folding” lock

Testing the Abus Bordo lock

Abus Bordo 6500 Granit X-Plus 85cm locked around my WorkCycles Fr8’s frame, front wheel, and the standard Chicago bike rack (a u-rack).

Updated May 2016: After having two keys break inside the lock, I can no longer recommend it. While Abus replaced the first lock for free, I didn’t bother asking them to replace the second lock because I felt the problem would happen again. The keys broke, in part, because of the way I turned the key, as the lock rested, putting a lot of pressure on, and bending, the key. I did it like this so I could detach the lock with one hand. I now recommend chain locks because they fit around all kinds of fixed objects. Abus locks are still really good quality. I’ve been using this Abus chain lock for two months and I like it – it won’t have the key breakage problem because I have to grab and hold the lock before I can insert the key.

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I’ve been using the Abus Bordo 6500 Granit X-Plus lock for my Fuji Royale fixed gear bicycle for about three weeks now. Previously I had been using a Kryptonite Evolution Series 4 Standard u-lock. The Abus Bordo lock style is very hard to describe; Abus calls it the “foldable lock”. It has a small block for the locking mechanism, and 6 rotating and connecting bars (“links”). One bar is fixed to the locking block, and the last bar gets hooked into the other side of the locking block. (They have the unique ability to be locked to another Bordo, in a chain of them.)

I’m not a lock designer, nor a bicycle thief, so I cannot talk about the advantages or disadvantages of this design over another lock design (like the ubiquitous u-lock, the style I’ve been using for six years). I can tell you its advantages on use: it’s a lot easier to use than a u-lock as it makes possible additional locking situations. The 6 flexible bars (or links) means you can wrap the lock around a variety of bike rack sizes and shapes, through two bikes, or through your bike’s frame and wheel (which is annoying to do with u-locks).

It took me a few days to find the fastest way to lock my bike with the Bordo and I think I’ve found it. Unlock the locking block and let all of the 6 bars drop towards the ground. Then thread the first one through your wheel (no handling necessary), grab it from the other side of your bike, pull it around the fixed object to which you’re locking, and pull it towards the locking block. It takes the same or less time to lock with the Bordo than with a u-lock. U-locks are difficult to get through a front wheel and frame unless the bike rack is empty and you’re the first one there, meaning you get to decide how to place your bike against the rack’s metal tubes.

Testing the Abus Bordo lock

I can fairly quickly lock with a Bordo by slipping the open link through the wheel spokes first, then around the fixed object. Then with both hands I grab each end of the lock and insert the open link into the locking bracket, shuffling them around the bike frame until the open link can reach the locking bracket. The Bordos are covered in a rubber-feeling plastic that protects your frame’s cover/coating.

The specific Bordo model I’ve been using is the Granit X-Plus 6500, which weighs a little more than the standard model (see weight specifications below). It comes with a carrying case that straps to any tube on your bicycle. There are two ways to mount the case: temporary and semi-permanent. With the temporary method, you wrap the velcro straps around the seat tube (reduce the chance for theft of the carrier by wrapping zip ties on it). By having it attached this way, you can move it to another bike in 30 seconds. The semi-permanent method lets you screw the case into braze-ons on the tubes, typically ones meant for a water bottle cage.

My new bike, a WorkCycles Fr8, provides me a new opportunity to test the folding lock’s abilities. The Fr8 has very wide tubes and large wheel rims and tires. I suspect that my Kryptonite u-lock won’t be able to wrap around the front wheel, frame, and the fixed object to which I’m locking. I tested the Bordo: it can definitely hold the front wheel, frame, and fixed object, but only if I’m really close to the fixed object. I haven’t tested the u-lock yet.

For people who are concerned about weight, they are as follows:

  • Abus Bordo 6000 75cm, 1.03 kg
  • Abus Bordo 6000 90cm, 1.22 kg
  • Abus Bordo Granit X-Plus 6500 85 cm, 1.58 kg
  • Kryptonite Evolution Series 4, 1.70 kg

The top-of-the-line Abus Bordo still weighs less than the Kryptonite Evolution Series 4. Kryptonite’s New York Standard weighs 1.97 kg. See the full product line up on Abus’s website and see Kryptonite’s line up of u-locks.

This review shouldn’t be taken as a dis-recommendation of the Kryptonite u-locks. I like them – I have three – and they may have prevented theft of the various bicycles I’ve used for 6 years; the lock in combination with other factors prevented theft, which can’t be known unless my bike was monitored 24/7 (in other words, have no idea if anyone’s tried to steal my bicycles). The Bordo lock’s sole disadvantage is its price: $100 for the short version, and $117 for the 15cm longer version. The Granit X-Plus is $153. My personal bike locking strategy is to buy the most expensive lock you can afford and to make your bicycle harder to steal than the bikes you park next to. The Bordo should do that.

My only gripe about the lock is the velcro strap on the carrier: it’s long and sticks out to the side a little and scratches my leg on every pedal. I used a zip tie to hold it down; I would prefer a kind of slot to insert the extra velcro to keep it out of the way.

Abus was a sponsor of the 2012 Cargo Bike Roll Call, donating a Bordo 6100 combination lock to the raffle. They gave me a second lock to test, a Bordo 6000, 75cm. However, I gave that lock to Brandon Gobel and I was given the lock I’m using in this review by Harry (Hans) of Larry vs. Harry. Here’s Brandon’s short review:

I like this lock for its compact size and light weight, while maintaining strength. It takes longer to lock, unlock and put in the frame holster than a mini u-lock, though. [For comparison, the Kryptonite Mini weighs 0.98kg and the lock Brandon is using is 1.03kg.] I carry the mini u-lock in my back pocket so it’s slightly more convenient. However, the Bordo is much more versatile, and you can wrap it around objects that are larger than the typical Chicago bike rack.

Testing the Abus Bordo lock

This photo of a Kryptonite mini lying on top of the Bordo 6000 75cm shows the open areas of each lock. The Bordo has a significantly larger open area and weighs less. 

Both of us are also using an Abus brand rear-wheel lock. Mine came with the WorkCycles Fr8 while Brandon’s was a gift from Harry. We both appreciate the piece of mind and ease of use of the rear-wheel locks. See all photos in the Abus lock review gallery.

 

Buying links

Brief history of suburbs and sprawl, according to Taras Grescoe’s “Straphanger”

The Metra station in Riverside, Illinois, a version 1.0 streetcar suburb designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. 

I’m reading another book a publisher sent to me. It seems pretty biased, and it’s biased in the direction I already feel, so it’s really easy reading. But it seems that people like me are its only audience and that it assumes I’m already pro-cities, anti-suburbs and maybe even anti-car. Definitely not a book that’s going to espouse the benefits of transit to those who don’t use it, don’t want to use it, or are on the fence for either situation.

If I could get my father or brother to read this book, that would be an accomplishment just short of a miracle.

The book is Straphanger: Saving our cities and ourselves from the automobile, by Taras Grescoe. I really like the section I just finished reading, a “condensed history of sprawl”. I had recently “argued” with my father about the development of the subdivision he lives in, east of Phoenix. He posited that suburbs were the result of consumer desires. Grescoe writes to the contrary. Here we go:

The origin of the Anglo-American suburb has been traced to Clapham, five miles south of London, where, in the 1790s, Evangelical Christians eager to remove their families from the evils of the city began living in what had formerly been their weekend villas, and commuting to the City by private carriage. In the United States, [author Kenneth] Jackson dates the beginning of the process to 1815, when regular steam ferry service to Manhattan made Brooklyn Heights the nation’s first true commuter suburb. (page 89)

American suburb version 1.0

  • When: 1853 onward
  • What it was: picturesque, full of green space, near central cities, attached by rail line
  • Who lived there: As mortgages didn’t exist, only those who could afford to buy a home outright
  • Examples: Llewellyn Park, NJ; Riverside, IL.
  • Note: Ebenezer Howard’s “Garden City” design is related.

American suburb version 2.0

  • When: Post World War II
  • What it was: cheap, small housing on vast land tracts; pre-assembled homes
  • Who lived there: Families with soldiers that expanded quickly so new homes were needed fast.
  • Examples: Levittown, Long Island; Lakewood, Los Angeles.
  • Note: “The prevailing myth”, writes Kenneth Jackson, “is that the postwar suburbs blossomed because of the preference of consumers who made free choices in an open environment. Actually, most postwar families were not free to choose among several residential alternatives. Because of public policies favoring the suburbs, only one possibility was economically feasible”.

American suburb version 3.0

  • When: Late 1980s, 1990s to now
  • What it was: Found near office parks, also known as “edge cities”, “common interest communities” (gated and homeowners associations)
  • Who lived there: Single races (self-segregating), people who lean conservative
  • Examples: Silicon Valley, Nevada, Florida
  • Note: Under the George W. Bush administration, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac offered easy credit and homeownership rate rose to 69% by 2004. “(By 2012, it is expected to drop to 62%, the lowest level since 1960.)”

American suburb version 4.0

  • When: 2008, easy credit crisis, underwater mortgages
  • What it is: Least glamorous, the clichéd image of the inner city has moved to the suburbs. Arizona has highest rate of property crime. Nevada and Florida, the most suburbanized states, have highest rates of violent crime (Florida also has highest rate of pedestrian and bicycle fatalities).
  • Who lives there: A diverse group of people.
  • Examples: See “What it is”
  • Note: “Humans are social animals. I [Kenneth Jackson] think the biggest fake ever perpetrated is that children like, and need, big yards. What children like are other children. I think we move children to the suburbs to control the children, not to respond to something the children want. In the city, the kids might see somebody urinate in public, but they’re much more at risk in the suburbs, where they tend to die in cars.”

What are those public policies as described in American suburb version 2.0?

The federal government had carrots and sticks. Carrots were subsidies for homeownership (could be deducted from income taxes) and no down payment required for returning soldiers. Sticks included redlining (racial segregation), propagated by the Federal Housing Administration and banks. Zoning was another stick, which dictated what could go where.

Another carrot was the federally-funded highway system, the “greatest public subside to private real estate in the history of the world”.

Book review of Steve Inskeep’s “Instant City: Life and death in Karachi”

Bear with me, this is my first book review since high school when the majority of the work was summarizing parts of the book and how you liked it. I feel that a book review at this age should be add in a critique about the book’s topic, strengths, and shortcomings. (Numbers in parenthesis are page numbers.)

A bus in Karachi carries more passengers than seems safe. The photographer’s accompanying essay is worth reading. Photo by Ejaz Asi. 

Buy the book on Amazon.

The premise of the book is that it’s about an “instant city”, one that grows from 500,000 to 13 million in 50 years – probably what you thought it would be like. I felt that the author never defines the instant city in a single sentence, paragraph, or page*. He instead uses the stories and interviews and little explicit mentions here and there. His approach, though, is more interesting and readable than what you might find in a book about urban planning or theory.

The instant city Inskeep refers to is Karachi, Pakistan, on the Arabian Sea. It used to be the capital of Pakistan until an army general tried to create his own Brasilia at Islamabad (no word in the book on if this was accomplished). Continue reading

I went to Detroit

Update: I’ve started uploading my own photos now, starting with some of musicians who performed at Movement.

There were so many “firsts” this Memorial Day weekend for me.

  1. I traveled on a Greyhound bus to Detroit. Coming back, I took Greyhound to Kalamazoo (another first!) and switched to an Indian Trails bus (same itinerary, though).
  2. I visited and stayed in Detroit.
  3. I went to Movement, the Detroit Electronic Music Festival.

You can bet that all of these have urban planning and transportation links, even the festival (you have to manage the influx of 100,000 people somehow!).

Part of visiting and staying in Detroit obviously includes many other firsts like,

  • Riding the Detroit People Mover in a complete circuit while also being temporarily ejected so a team of Department of Homeland Security agents could bring a dog aboard to sniff for explosives. I didn’t know anyone took the DPM seriously enough to do this, but it was also during a large festival, so I guess that’s appropriate.
  • Riding Detroit transit buses. This was weird. Thankfully the Detroit bus routes are in Google Maps so finding a route is dead simple. Finding the bus stop is not as simple, as not every bus stop sign indicates the routes it serves!
  • Visiting three museums! My friend and I checked out the Motown Museum (awesome, a must-see), the Detroit Institute of Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.
  • Dancing at the Magic Stick club for an after party with local DJs. Unfortunately no one told us they stop serving Alcohol at 1:30 AM. Or was it 2 AM?
  • Walking 2 miles to see the Michigan Central Train Station, abandoned in 1988. This local guy came around to us while we were walking along the fence and showed us how to get in.

My poor perceptions of Detroit and Greyhound were reversed thanks to this trip. I’ve got a lot of ideas for Greyhound, but only one so far for Detroit. Detroit’s an interesting place and it’s not like it was bombed like Hiroshima as I imagined it was after reading countless news doomsday articles about the city. It’s probably best if you have a car in Detroit if you want to see many things in a short amount of time, or increase your taxi budget – everything is far away from everything else and you probably don’t want to wait 30 minutes for the bus.

I’ll write more about Detroit when I upload my photos.

Photo of Michigan Central train station, abandoned in 1988 when Amtrak quit service here, by Kyle Gradinger.

Photo of the Renaissance Center, world headquarters of Government Motors and a Marriott Hotel, on the Detroit River waterfront, by James Marvin Phelps.

Bike businesses that keep me pedaling: UV Metal Arts (1 of 4)

Four part series of Midwest bike-related businesses that keep me and my bike rolling without hassle.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Well, my rear rack was broken and I wanted someone to fix it. I didn’t want to buy a new rack if it could be fixed – I don’t want to send raw materials to the landfill. I contacted Owen Lloyd for help with welding a piece of my Planet Bike Eco Rack back together. The “deck” had detached from the last rail and was flapping around making noise but also reduced the strength of the rack structure. Thinking about it now, I could probably have asked Planet Bike for a replacement as they have a lifetime warranty on all of their products. But I wanted it fixed here and now.

Owen brought me over to Yuval “UV” Awazu of UV Metal Arts in Bubbly Dynamics at 1048 West 37th Street and his UV Metal Arts workshop in Bridgeport. The rack is made of aluminum and UV was the only craftsperson in the “factory” who can weld it. He can do way more than repairing small parts like these. He also powdercoats bike frames and “bakes” them in a tall, custom oven he built himself.

10 minutes later, I had a rack that was stronger than brand new!

My repaired rack. I highly recommend this rack as it only costs $21 on Amazon, but if you expect it to last longer than two years and carry weight on it daily (and maybe sometimes too much or lopsided), then get something stronger.

UV at the Bike Winter Cycle Swap in February. See more photos from this event.

A bicycle that UV colored. UV says you can choose just about any color (including metallics) for your item (powder coating is for more than just bicycles).

More in this series

  1. UV Metal Arts – You’re reading it!
  2. Lloyd Cycles – coming soon
  3. Kozie Prery – coming soon, and with a contest!
  4. Planet Bike – coming soon

A better way for bike storage on trains

UPDATED: How BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit, San Francisco region) treats bikes on board. Simple signage and a bike graphic tell all passengers where bikes belong. Photo by Jim Dyer. More photos.

Look at the photo below and take in all the details about the bicycle’s position and orientation in relation to the vestibule, modesty panel, doors, seating, and aisle. Accommodating bicycles on many of the Chicago Transit Authority’s ‘L’ cars can be a hassle, not only for the bicycle-toting customer, but for the other passengers as well.

This photo shows what I see as the only appropriate location for a bicycle on the Red Line’s 2600-series car.

The passengers may be hit by wheels or handlebars, or have their personal space intruded upon or reduced.

The bicycle owner has the responsibility to ensure they don’t hit or disturb other passengers – to be successful with this on every trip is nearly impossible. Additionally, according to the platform position, the owner will have to move their bicycle to the other side of vestibule to allow access to the doors and aisle. Sometimes other passengers are already standing there, not paying attention, and it can be almost embarrassing to ask them to excuse you and your bicycle.

The 2600-series car in which I rode and took these photographs was built in the 1980s. I think it’s safe to say that the designers and engineers at CTA and Budd Manufacturing didn’t consider the spatial needs of bicycles in the plans. And retrofitting train cars is expensive. Bicycle riders in Chicago “get by” with the current rolling stock. (The train cars with the butterfly doors cannot accommodate wheelchairs or bicycles – there are 2 of these cars on many Blue Line runs.)

But there’s an opportunity to change things because the CTA will be asking Bombardier Transportation for some refinements on the 5000-series cars that the transit agency has been testing on all lines. Now’s our chance to request changes!

If you don’t know of the differences beforehand, you can’t recognize that this is a brand new car with a slightly different exterior design. The interior, however, differs wildly.

The most striking distance is the longitudinal or aisle-facing seats.

The new train car now provides two spaces for passengers in wheelchairs (look in the middle for the wide seat backs facing you). The seats flip up and there’s a seatbelt to hold the wheelchair in place. Photo by Kevin Zolkiewicz.

Based on the design we’ve all seen, I suggest the CTA and Bombardier make the following changes to better hold bicycles on board:

  1. With signage and markings (on the interior walls and floor), indicate that the space for wheelchairs is a shared space and that passengers with bicycles may also use it. The signage would mention that customers with disabilities always have priority as well as mention the times bicycles are allowed on-board. This change would send a stronger message to all other passengers that bicycle owners also have a priority to use this space and they may be asked to move so a bicycle can fit here.
  2. In an educational and marketing campaign, teach customers about bike-on-board rules, where to place bicycles on the ‘L’, and where and when customers can expect passengers with bicycles.
  3. On or near the train door exterior, use markings to indicate where passengers with bicycles should board. The current system has a sign on one entrance saying, “Limit 2 bicycles this car” (see photo below). The other entrance has no sign. The confusion lies here: Should two bicycles occupy the same space, at one end of the car and only enter through the door with the sign? Or should two bicycles occupy opposite ends of the car and enter through either door? If the former is preferred, the second door could have a sign that says one should enter with their bicycle through the other door.
  4. Install a method or mechanism that can hold a bicycle still. This could be with a hook, a seatbelt, or a “groove” in the floor. In Minneapolis, passengers with bicycles can hang them (see photo below).
  5. Install a light at each door in the car that would pulse to indicate which doors will open at the next platform (left or right). This can help passengers with bicycles know where other customers will be alighting and boarding.

I have some other ideas for the 5000-series cars but not related to bicycling.

Photo of exterior bicycle sign. Photo by Payton Chung.

Photo of bicycle hanging from hook within the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metro Transit Hiawatha light rail train.

I value photography

I’ve made photography a very important feature of this blog. The photos help me tell the story. I spend an equal time taking and processing photos for the blog as I do writing it. I take over 200 photos each week. When I travel, I take 1,000 photos. Of 5,814 published photos, almost 64% have been added to the map, bringing more context to the subject and allowing it to be discovered geographically.

I think photography (and photos) is an important aspect of quality urban planning. When talking to the public and trying to get across your ideas, photos and other graphics make a vision come to life. They demonstrate what is and what could be. The right photo will invoke, without prompting, passion and enthusiasm – support you might need. The wrong photo may do the opposite, or have no effect at all. Take as many photos as needed so you ensure they will intimate the feelings you need for your project, or story.

What’s the story here? It could be several things. Simply, that it snowed recently. Or complexly, that while growth in this area has been phenomenal and immediately recognizable (most of the visible buildings starting at the blue-topped one and going south did not exist 10 years ago), our 100 year-old electric interurban train still runs.

I take photos for two reasons: to share on my blog, and to share them publicly, worldwide so that anyone who needs a photo can find it. A variety of my photos have been used to narrate events and ideas in organizational publications (with and without attribution), websites, and even a book!

I want my readers to take photography seriously. I don’t want you to be discouraged by that term, either. Don’t think you need a good camera or know how to take good pictures. Begin today and take one photo per day for a year. In one year, you will be an extremely proficient photographer (or “picture taker”). You’ll be able to tell your story, without a caption, in little time.

Read more about my photographic arsenal:

This photo tells us about the practice of designing malls, and designing malls for dense cities (like Chicago, where it’s located). The escalators are designed to get you in fast, but getting out requires a bit more walking.

Readers Ask: Choosing a GPS-enabled camera

Readers Ask. Once or twice a month, a blog reader asks me a question about GIS, software, or schools. I’ll be relaying my responses and answers in this new column. This is the first entry.

Question

On Oct 29, 2010, J wrote:

I see from your blog that you use the Sony  DSC-HX5V camera to record the locations/photos, and that you also use ESRI software.  I am just about to buy that same camera for my work, and have been looking for information about if it is easy (or not) to upload the info in Arcinfo/ESRI software.  Would you mind letting me know?

Thanks,

J

I used an external GPS logger to create the map of my bicycle trip around New York City.

Response

Hi J,

I have no experience with using the GPS in the camera. I believed that reception would be poor, especially in urban areas, like where I live – Chicago. I use an external GPS logger (in the same list as the camera) and external antenna. When I get back from a trip, I use software to link the GPS tracks with the photos. The software embeds the coordinates into the JPEG metadata.

I also have no experience using GPS with ArcInfo. I know that ArcExplorer Desktop allows you to import GPX (GPS XML files) but I don’t know what you can do with them in the program. I tried, but failed. I use Windows inside Parallels for Mac, so not everything works 100% of the time.

I did load a GPX file from my external GPS logger into QGIS using the GpsTools plugin. I can export a shapefile from it to work in ArcGIS just fine.

I looked at your organization’s website and it seems you work in the open country. I think you’ll have better GPS tracking results out there with the camera than I do in Chicago. Even with the external antenna, the results in Chicago can be weird – it seems the signals bounce off skyscrapers and trick the GPS receiver into thinking it’s in Lake Michigan.

Lastly, I do recommend the camera for its low-light capabilities, iSweep panorama mode, and 1080i60 HD movie mode.

Steve – contact me

Verifying LEED certification and eco-friendly features

Read more commentary on LEED certification.

If a building claims it has environmentally friendly features (is that the same as eco-friendly?) but hasn’t applied for and received LEED certification, should we still call it “green”?

I’m talking specifically about Emerald, a two-tower (mid-height) condominium development on Green Street in Chicago’s Greektown/West Loop neighborhood. I watched its construction from beginning to end because I passed it daily on my commute to work.

The development’s sales website claims that because it sits on Green Street, it’s “naturally eco-friendly.” The website says the building has “bamboo flooring, low-VOC paint and beautiful fabrics made from recycled fiber. Even our marketing materials utilize recycled paper manufactured with windpower and printed with soy inks.”

These scaffold panels are advertising office space in a new tower that has since been built on this site. The one on the right reads “Reflect the social conscience of your organization.” Photo by Payton Chung.

Additionally, it has a 4-pipe HVAC system versus an “inferior” 2-pipe system, and high efficiency windows.

But I looked in the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Certified Project Directory and didn’t find a project named “Emerald.” Let’s assume my search and the results are correct and Emerald does NOT have LEED certification. Are the claims on the website accurate? How can we trust that the paint truly has less volatile organic compounds?

If it was LEED certified would we trust it more then?

The building advertised in the photo above, 300 N LaSalle, received two certifications: Silver in Commercial Interior, and Gold in Core & Shell. The advertisement’s claims have some verification, but how trustworthy? My photo.

I’m not a LEED AP (Accredited Professional), but I understand that LEED certification requires thorough documentation. After a review of your application and submittals (essentially an audit), the USGBC makes its determination. I don’t believe anyone representing the USGBC inspects the building.

We then have to question why the Emerald developers didn’t seek LEED certification. Or did they?

Cargo bike review in Momentum Magazine

Go read my first-ever article published in a magazine!

Turn to page 48 of Momentum, a magazine for people who like bikes. You can view it in its print form here or read the article on the magazine website.

A photo of the review. The printed photo was taken by Stefano Rini.

Carrying three bags of recycling to the drop-off center in Bridgeport. My goal was to get a bike that can carry as much as possible.

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