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FELA v. Bike as a Commuter

Updated: Feb 5

What does cycling do for your personal mobility? Can its benefits be leveraged, and setbacks be mitigated or even solved? Let's see from my or FELA's perspective.

Having decided to ride a bicycle for utility, you choose your bike considering the following:

1. Weight: The lighter, the better, provided safety and practical sturdiness. However, two kg lighter bike shaves an imperceptible 1-2 % in the gross weight of you as a cyclist at a few thousand dollars markup,

FELA doesn't present this dilemma. Weighing around 40 kg, FELA can be configured or customized for your purposes and fitness level as you order it. At first, you can get perplexed with so many choices, but no worries – start with a basic, cheap FELA, and then you will trade in for more performing and suitable modules.

2. Multi-geared for hilly terrain, or "fixie" for flat routes: I can imagine guys who develop their fitness with a single-speed, no-brakes but the highest quality material and craftmanship bike. But I'd like to have the choices of cadence, power-assist, kinesthetics, and muscle engagement (to avoid fitness plateau" or repetitive strain injuries).

FELA allows you to do all that and even more because, as opposed to a bike or car, FELA has not only many adjustable or configurable features and swappable modules.

3. Racks, fenders, reflectors, lights, bell, kickstand, chain guard... Forget this fuss: protecting from mud and splashes, FELA doesn't even have oil leakage, which is normal in a bike. And FELA has the same footprint when locked upright to the bike rack.

4. As a utility cyclist, you rule out the most direct but traffic-heavy roads. Forget these constraints: FELA merges into traffic because of its sufficient agility and car-like cruise speed. Still, just like a velonaut, you can use a bike path. Compact as a velomobile (even shorter) but more agile and all-kind-of-road-worthy, FELA effectively increases the specific permeability of the city for you, making it the swiftest urban vehicle despite unreasonably restricted (for cycling devices) maximum speed.

5. Riding aware of trip conditions, you precariously pass clear of parked cars to avoid the “open door accident". You anticipate that drivers entering from the side road haven't seen you and make eye contact with them before you proceed. A headlamp can help by putting a spot on them and getting their attention. Bright-colored clothing and bags can help drivers spot you during the daytime, while reflectors and lights can help at night...and goes on and on... It’s daunting and deterring for anyone except bike addicts.

Specifically for risk-averse: Being a microcar, FELA is much safer than a bike. Still, following those rules in a bit lax manner, you will save the trouble of repairing or replacing damaged parts.

6. Carrying stuff on a bike, consider weight, capacity, portability and waterproofing.

FELA has 100 liters easy accessible weather-proof cargo space. Rather than insufficient cargo space, you have the opposite problem: you want to regularly check for necessities not to impede your performance with excessive weights.

7. Most accidents are due to lack of visibility and conspicuity: ".. with all the bike lights available, you can make of yourself as a Christmas tree. At a minimum, a strong light on the handlebar or helmet lights up the way ahead; a flashing red light on the rear, the reflective tape sewn onto bags and cloth or affixed to your bike frame and helmet, help motorists see and size you in the conflict zone. Brightly colored and/or reflective clothing is easily stashed in a pack when not used. Adhesive reflective strips can also be affixed to the pant legs, shoes, helmets, etc."

Even reading this seems daunting, let alone following meticulously. Yet these measures, turning you into a clown, are inefficient in the flashy at-night downtowns or on a bright day in southern cities. Meanwhile, FELA has standard automotive industry lighting, and for extra traffic visibility, it has a 360-deg camera at 6 ft level and blinkers on its mast for conspicuousness. It is simpler yet of proven effectiveness.

8. On theft protection: Always secure your bike to a post in a heavily trafficked, well-lit area with robust, hard-to-cut locks. Secure a U-lock around the post, through the frame and rear wheel, remove the front wheel, lean it against the bike, and close the lock around the front wheel. This way, a thief is unlikely to force the lock apart. Or carry an armored cable or heavy-duty chain to reach around the post and snake through your wheels in addition to the U-lock.

And again, it is too damn laborious and fussy. As a bike commuter for many years, I've never followed these instructions: it's exercising in futility to protect a high-quality, expensive bike. As with extraneous conspicuity measures, being obsessed about old or cheap bikes is not prudency to me but a reason to see a psychotherapist. Instead, I commute on a Wal-Mart bike and lock it with a $9 cable just to indicate that it's not abandoned and exposed to be taken care of.

Thieves don't want to raise suspicions by selling an innovation or special, easily identifiable items. Before FELA becomes as prevalent as cars, it is unlikely to be stolen (FELA must get coveted by the masses first). Still, until the black market for stolen FELAs or their parts emerges, take the lithium battery with you for recharge or for protection from the cold. Besides, the motor control unit and parking brake can be programmed to recognize only your biometrics or smartphone with the FELA instrumentation app. And with time, your FELA becomes so personalized in its modules and SW configuration that stealing it would be like stealing your underwear.

9. I agree that perspiration is inevitable for any training effect and that: ".. Stock up on baby wipes and plan for a quick change in the bathroom."

Those who are squeamish about their own sweat or too fussy about their "freshness" in an office must educate themselves about the history of hygiene products and physiology, which is worth knowing regardless of what you do for a living.

In a few words, the fresh sweat of a fit and healthy body never stinks. What does is your wetted yet unwashed for a few days cloth. See your doctor if you were fresh before the ride and your sweat stinks. Ancient Chinese quarks diagnosed diseases and cured them based on the smell of their patients.

FELA can go without pedaling if you need it for any reason or have a quirky mood.

The reasonably bikeable commute is 5-10 km in good weather-traffic conditions and with minimal cargo, whereas too many trips require less physical stress to ride beyond 10km at faster than 20km/h, more protection from elements, and in crashes.

The recommendation for long bike commuting is a "fitness vanity". I had and I still can bike-commute over 20km, but not every day, at least not without detriment to my mental performance - after all, I'm not a pro athlete, I'm just a relatively fit yet R&D engineer. FELA pilots don't need those recommendations (pointless for other than athletes) because they can average 40km/h and get optimal daily workouts for maximum fitness.

I'd love to read your well-reasoned objections, not just profanity.

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1 Comment

Michael Akulov
Michael Akulov
Jun 26, 2019

I like my writing ;-) & I would like it more if others liked it too ;-(

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