Minoura Interior Bike Rack Product Review

Recently, I ended my longstanding relationship with Subaru Foresters.  I have been driving Foresters for several decades.  They are reliable, strong, and can drive through just about anything.

For bicycle transport, I have always used hitch mounted racks.  The above rack is a Yakima wheel tray rack – an ideal way to transport bikes.  There is no contact with the frame, no disassembly is required, and you can see the bikes at all times in your rear view mirror.  However, this method subjects the bikes to the elements and to potential theft.  Also, the Yakima rack would frequently need tightening at the hitch mount to keep it from wobbling.  The main reason for my hitch on the Subaru was an often expressed birthday wish – a Teardrop Trailer – which has not yet materialized despite years of hints and pleas.

Minoura Vergo-TF2

I recently purchased a Toyota Highlander to replace the Forester.  It is quite a bit larger than the Forester, so before I ordered my Teardrop Trailer hitch mount (hope springs eternal), I decided to investigate whether I could use an internal rack to transport my bikes.  There are many products available, including carriers made by well known manufacturers such as Saris and Thule.  There are also interesting innovations from CycleRest – which uses the rear vehicle seat headrest as a mounting point, and Bikeinside, which uses a telescopic rail to secure the rack to the interior sides of the vehicle.  And, if you are a decent woodworker (which I am decidedly NOT), you can make your own custom interior rack to fit the vehicle in question.

The first thing to consider when deciding on using an internal bike rack is the height of the vehicle’s cargo area.  The Highlander’s cargo height isn’t all that tall, so before I ordered the rack I measured the height, and then measured a bike on hand with its front wheel removed – measuring its tallest point, that being the saddle.  I realized then that it would be necessary to either remove the saddle, or shove it all the way down.  In fact, for the Guerciotti which I enlisted for my first transport trial, I shoved the saddle all the way down, and then reversed it, so that it would follow the sloped contours of the Highlander’s interior.  Once done, it was very easy to get the bike in position, with one of the rear seats was folded down, and lock the fork into the Minoura’s fork mount.  The fork mount rotates fully and can be locked in any position, in case you want to turn the bars sideways, which might be necessary if you are transporting more than one bike.  Then, I went for a 3 hour drive.  The rack worked perfectly despite the fact that nothing is really holding it in place.  The bike never wobbled, and there was no annoying rattling, despite some hairpin turns and sudden stops.

These end pieces have a “no-slip” base, which does actually seem to work.  The ends are not weighted at all.  However, since my initial test was with the 22 lb Guerciotti, a small bike with a low bottom bracket, I thought it would be wise to also try out my heaviest and tallest bike.   The Panasonic MC 7500 that I use as a winter/errand bike weighs 28 lbs and because it is a mountain bike, has a high bottom bracket relative to my other bikes.  Fortunately, it also has a quick release seat post which would help to make it easier to transport using the Minoura rack.

Because this bike is so much taller and has upright handlebars, it was more challenging to get the bike in place and mounted.  I once again shoved the saddle down and reversed it, but it might have been wise to remove it altogether.  Once I had the fork blades mounted to the rack’s QR system, I then placed the wheel in the optional wheel holder which I had also purchased, and which is probably not really necessary.  However, the wheel holder does clean up the look of the interior.  As I was attempting to position the bike in order to close the rear hatch on the Highlander I also realized that the bars needed to be dropped down so they could clear the hatch door.

One way to make sure that your bike gets reassembled to your desired seat and handlebar position is to mark the frame and seat tube with a water soluble marker, as shown above, before altering the position for transport.

Minoura Vergo-TF2 with Panasonic MC 7500 inside Toyota Highlander

Once I had the Panasonic locked into position and seemingly secure, I ventured out on another road trip.  The bike seemed stable, but the rack rattled occasionally over bumps.  However, it did not shift position under hard braking or fast cornering.  Conclusion:  this is a decent, inexpensive internal bike rack which will work best for lightweight bikes with plastic fenders, or with no fenders.  You may have to remove your seat post, depending on the height of your cargo area.  Bikes with steel or aluminum fenders cannot be transported with this rack, as the front fender will interfere with the wheel lock.  You can see from the photo above that the flexible portion of the Planet Bike fenders on the Pansonic allowed the front wheel to connect to the rack mount.  Long front fenders will present a problem, and would have to be removed in order to use this rack.

Bicycle Design History and Resources

Gompertz velocipede with front freewheel – June 1821 – courtesy of Polytechnic Journal.

I recently discovered a treasure trove of bicycle history technical materials.  Germany’s Polytechnic Journal was founded in 1821 and has since been digitized.  The journal was conceived by Johann Gottfried Dingler, a German chemist who worked for Augsburger, a German manufacturer.  He was primarily interested in printing and dyeing, but later got involved in publishing scientific journals.  His goal was to explore “natural history, sciences, chemistry, mineralogy, planting”, and machine theory, among other topics.

Sturmey Archer 1903 3 speed hub, courtesy of Polytechnic Journal.

The Polytechnic Journal is a unique resource which documents creative innovations of the time for a variety of scientific innovations – cycling being one of those innovations. The above drawing of the first internal hub invention – Sturmey Archer’s 3 speed hub – accompanies a discussion in the journal of the many ideas and innovations that were developed to address the need to change the gearing ratio on a bicycle to accommodate differing surface grades encountered by the rider.

F. Konig eccentric pedal design – courtesy of Polytechnic Journal, 1903.

Lancelot & Coste, March 1903, eccentric dual bottom bracket, courtesy of Polytechnic Journal.

Here are a few more of those ideas – a pedal which rotates around the crank arm, and a dual bottom bracket which can alter the gearing ratio at the crank.

One of the first freewheels – designed by Markt, Kirk and Merifield – courtesy of Polytechnic Journal, 1903.

But the freewheel, possibly first invented in 1821 (but not officially acknowledged until 1869), is one of the most important innovations in cycling’s history.  Without the ability to freewheel, all of us would be riding fixed gear, with no ability to coast.  If you want to learn more about the history of freewheel design, I recommend Bicycle Design, by Tony Hadland and Hans-Erhard Lessing.  This book contains detailed discussions regarding most of cycling’s engineering innovations, and has excellent illustrations to accompany the only occasionally fatiguing text.

The above examples are just a few of cycling history’s innovations which are documented in this journal.  The journal is written in German, but using a translate tool, I found it to be easily understood. I look forward to further explorations of this resource which continued in publication until 1931.  There are 33,448 articles in all.  I’ve got lots of reading to do!

Portland BikeShare: 2nd Thoughts

Image result for portland oregon 2017 traffic slow down downtown

With the bizarre traffic maelstrom in Portland, Oregon this spring of 2017, anyone trying to get downtown via car, bus, or MAX Train will be in need of some calming medications to manage their enormous frustration.  Meanwhile, bike riders are the sole bearer of efficient transportation via Portland’s streets which are clogged with construction, lane closures, light rail track repairs, bridge anomalies, and highway shutdowns.

Nike “swoosh” on Portland’s Bikeshare logo

You would think this would mean that enterprising commuters would seek out alternative methods of arriving at their respective destinations, and that they might consider using Portland’s Nike funded “BIKETOWN” bikesharing program.  Think again.

Never have more clunky bikes been pawned off on the public.  These machines feature massive wheel flop (disastrous for bikes designed for a front end load), a 45 lb weight, and, worst of all, a sit up and beg riding position that makes only very tall riders able to master these bikes with relative safety.  I have ridden these bikes exactly 3 times, and hope to never ride one again.  And, that’s me – I love to cycle!  What is wrong with these bikes?  Just about everything.

In fact, my Dad’s 1965 2 speed Schwinn American would be a far more comfortable and efficient choice for anyone seeking passage through Portland’s beleaguered streets.  The riding position on this bike is adaptable to many cyclist’s sizes, and its geometry and excellent bullet proof steel construction means that it has lasted through decades of abuse and neglect.  The handling on this Schwinn is intuitive.  You just get on and ride.

Not true with these BikeTown bikes which were built by SoBi.  One commentator has this to say about these bikes:  “These clunky SoBi Social Bicycles look like they weigh a ton, and have the maneuverability of a circus elephant. With the ongoing costs, invasion of privacy and potential liability on the user’s end – you might want to consider alternatives.” – Hobeken 411.

Indeed, one thing that Portlanders noted right away was SoBi’s demand that users of its system waive their legal rights.   This is yet another reason to re-think whether or not you want to attempt to ride one of these machines.

Image result for brompton bicycle

Brompton Folding Bike

I am a strong supporter of public transportation as a “public good”, and I also support bike share programs as part of the solution to many of the challenges facing urban environments.  I served on TriMet’s budget advisory committee for years, and count public transportation advocates as friends and colleagues.  In short, I am the last person you would expect to criticize Portland’s Bikeshare program.  The problem with the program lies not in its conception, but in its execution.  I would love to see a bike share program designed around user friendly bikes, such as this Brompton folder, pictured above.  Interestingly, Portland’s Brompton retailer – Clever Cycles – offers Brompton rentals. I might try this out!

Obviously, any bikes which are to be used for bikeshare need extra technology and engineering, but there is no reason that should come as a sacrifice to ride-ability.  Having observed numerous riders attempting to master BikeTown SoBi bikes, and seeing their consternation I think its time for Portland to throw in the towel on SoBi, and re-think the Bikeshare program.  We need to offer bikes to all kinds of riders, not just to tall and fit riders who can physically overcome the poorly designed weaknesses of SoBi’s offering.