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High sales and bare shelves: Clever Cycles will close for two weeks

Posted by on July 2nd, 2008 at 2:24 pm

Clever Cycles expands-1.jpg

The Clever Cycles storefront on SE Hawthorne Blvd.
(Photos © J. Maus)

It’s been just over a year since Clever Cycles open their doors in Southeast Portland, and now they’ll be closing them.

Co-owner Todd Fahrner says that a lack of business is not in the problem. In fact, it’s just the opposite.

During a recent visit to the shop Fahrner said the issue has been too much business, and not enough product to sell. Looking a bit bleary-eyed and overworked, he said their first year of sales far exceeded their expectations and they are sold out of many of their most popular products — the same products that helped them create an enviable niche for utility, cargo and family cycling in Portland.

Opening Day at Clever Cycles

Clever Cycles Co-owners,
Dean Mullin and Todd Fahrner
(seated).

In a post to their shop’s blog yesterday, Fahrner wrote that they’ll close from July 28th to August 11th and that they’re sold out (or close to selling out) of many products including; Bakfietsen (Dutch cargo bikes), Xtracycles, Bobike child carriers, some Brompton folding bike models, Retrovelos (cool new German vintage/urban cruisers), and others.

Clever Cycles has created a niche by stocking items from Europe that are not available anywhere else in the country. Fahrner says that’s part of the problem as well. In addition to some of their suppliers being sold out, others are, “simply too far away for timely resupply.”

During the closure, Fahrner — who owns the shop with his wife Martina Fahrner and friends Dean and Rachel Mullin and — says they plan to rest, improve some of their internal processes, train new employees, and do some R&D on Stokemonkey, Fahrner’s electric assist product that has taken a back-seat since he jumped into the retail business.

Are high gas prices to blame? Fahrner writes that,

“We are reluctant to present bicycling for transportation as a response to hardship, because it is a pleasure and privilege. But gas prices are on so many lips, we can’t pretend that they have nothing to do with this year’s wonderful business.”

[Disclaimer: Clever Cycles is an advertiser on BikePortland.org (which is probably the main reason behind their business boom ;-)).]

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49 Comments
  • Avatar
    C July 2, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    Love to see a small business prosper because they chose a niche that they saw wasn\’t being filled.

    Congrats!

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    nuovorecord July 2, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    Nice problem to have, guys. I\’m glad your business has been successful.

    Also, this is an insight to the \”new economy\” of a post-fossil fuel world. Demand for this practical type of cycling equipment will only increase. It will need to be made locally, though, to eliminate the long delivery trip that the European stuff has to make. And, I have no doubt that Portland will be a major \”hub\” of that activity.

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    bahueh July 2, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    the new economy is beginning to take form as energy demand produces the need…hopefully new businesses like this will continue to gain traction and thrive.

    I know three established shop owners and they\’ve all told me 2008 summer sales are substantially more than they have ever seen…they\’ve had to hire more employees and are ordering parts/bike constantly. after years of eeking by with slim profit margins, I couldn\’t be happier for them.

    any word on how A Better Cycle is doing? they\’ve been around about a year too…

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    Krampus July 2, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    I better hurry and buy an Azor Oma from them. I\’m thrilled these guys are getting such solid business. 😀

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    Peter W July 2, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    re: nuovorecord; this reminds me of Germany.

    In Germany, state support for Solar technologies lead to huge local demand for it (everyone and their neighbor putting up solar panels to take advantage of the gov\’t support). As a result, local companies were started to take advantage of demand and Germany is now the world\’s biggest exporter of solar technology.

    In Portland, city support for bikes (as well as other factors) has lead to a huge demand of commuter bike products. As a result, local companies have started, and more will start, to take advantage of the demand and soon P-town will be (if it isn\’t already) the nation\’s biggest exporter of bike technology.

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    Donald July 2, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    I don\’t buy it.

    I\’m a project manager in linguistics.

    I can\’t find a Dutch translator to save my life in July/August.

    I think they all have a pad in Malibu where they party.

    😉

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    april July 2, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    Well this is both good news and bad news!

    Congrats on the good business!! I hope you get resupplied soon!

    I have a coworker who might buy a bike from these folks…she\’s older and wants to start riding again, when she was in college in Germany she rode a bike everywhere. I showed her a picture of an Electra Amsterdam and she got excited: \”Yes! Like that one!\” Hah! I gave her the address of Clever Cycles right away.

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    Paolo July 2, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    Perfect fit, the european way, you close your shop, or businnes for at list 2 weeks in the summer.
    Many close for the whole month of August and go on vacation….
    If the USA would do something similar just the savings in AC and the economy boost for the vacation places would be exeptional.

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    Michael July 2, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    What the hell is a \”project manager in linguistics\” ?

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    Russell July 2, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    Wow, great problem to have. And very sad too though, I hope that when they come back they\’ll be swinging harder than ever.

    bahueh – these shops you refer to, do you know if any of them are still hiring? I just interviewed one place, but really really need a job and a bike shop would be a great place to work.

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    IanO July 2, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    Donald,

    Yep, I have personal experience of Dutch \”hitte vrij\”.

    The Philips factory I consulted at during the summer would close for several weeks because folks were sensible and wanted to enjoy the nice weather. Everyone thought us stupid Americans were crazy to keep working.

    So Clever Cycles is simply going with Dutch tradition! Mooi!

    April,

    Actually, the Amsterdam is made in America by Elektra, so it isn\’t sold by Clever Cycles. You can buy the 3-speed Elektra Amsterdam at the Bike Gallery.

    Ian

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    Donald July 2, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    @ 9

    When you buy a doodad, and this doodad is marketed around the world, all of the associated material (documents, user interface, web site) that comes with it has to be translated into the target market languages.

    I\’m the guy who hires the people around the globe to do the translating, the desktop publishing and the engineering to accomplish this.

    Sorry, no Noam Chompsky am I. Just another pawn in the globalization paradigm.

    But enough about me. What\’s up these Dutch vacations? Second or third only to the Spanish or French.

    Anybody know where I can find a Swedish proofreader this time of year?

    (Total Bakfiet envy going on here, too, by the way. Our Pennisula Park neighborhood is crawling with the things.)

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    Matthew Denton July 2, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    \”improve some of their internal processes, train new employees, and do some R&D on Stokemonkey,\”

    That doesn\’t sound like a vacation, that sounds like they are going to do work.

    (Hopefully the Dutch take real vacations.)

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    jj July 2, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    \”Actually, the Amsterdam is made in America by Elektra, so it isn\’t sold by Clever Cycles. You can buy the 3-speed Elektra Amsterdam at the Bike Gallery.\”

    Clever Cycles does carry the Amsterdam, and had them in stock last time i was in, which admittedly was a couple weeks ago. They also sell the Townie, though I heard there\’s been a run on those, for conversion to Xtracycles.

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    Cruizer July 2, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    Actually, according to their Web site http://clevercycles.com/store/?c=web2.67 Clever Cycles does sell the Amsterdam, though after careful consideration, a lot of potential Amsterdam buyers opt for an Oma instead. Ride on, Krampus!

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    Donna July 2, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    Clever Cycles sells Electra bikes. In fact, they sell the coolest ones…

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    Joe Rowe July 2, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    I\’ve worked and saved money all my life to buy a $3,000.00 cargo box bike (Bakfeit) from Clever. Before the purchase I was worried. After the purchase I wondered why I waited so long. The reasons are too many to list here. The real question is how to make people of all income levels feel safe outside their car. America has been sold the myth that cars are total independence and safety.

    Clever Cycles are amazing. We should all take more vacation. A balance in life creates safer and longer lasting products and better worker efficiency.

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    Paul Tay July 2, 2008 at 7:35 pm

    My one and only complaint with Clever and all the other PDX bike shops is there\’s not enough selection of helmet-mounted rear view mirrors.

    EVERY helmet should have one. The problem is not with the stuff in FRONT of the bicyclist. I need to deal with stuff coming up my SIX, way too fast, and way too CLOSE.

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    Brian July 2, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    @Paul Tay — Instead of the dangerous distraction of a mirror, try turning off your iPod and use your ears. I have absolutely no difficulty telling what\’s coming up from behind on sound along. That way, my eyes are focused on where they need to be: what\’s coming up. Try it.

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    steve July 2, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    The Electra Amsterdam is not made in the Untied States. Electra has their overpriced eyesores made overseas.

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    Scott Mizée July 2, 2008 at 10:32 pm

    Are you still on a bus somewhere Paul? or are you back in Tulsa town?

    Congrats to all the hard working folks at Clever Cycles. I\’m very proud of what you\’ve done and happy that Portland is able to support you.

    It has been interesting how the comments I get when riding the bakfiets have changed over the last year and a half.
    –At first it was such a \’novelty\’ and no one had seen them… unless they had been to NL or seen the other one or two that were roaming our streets. Now I get more comments like, \”hey there\’s another one of those bikes with the big box on the front. So-and-so has one of those. I hear you can buy them here in town now?\” stuff like that. I always love the conversations they start.

    Here\’s to another year!
    Scott

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    mark July 2, 2008 at 11:25 pm

    wow. that\’s great, I know firsthand how well they\’ve been doing as I\’m a regular visitor there, a friend of mine works there. They are all great people there, and they have great products. They are lucky to have carved a niche, they got in at the perfect time. It\’s funny, the backgrounds that they have and to be running a retail store is not what any of them probably ever thought they\’d do, but I\’m glad it\’s been so successful. I\’ve tried to get a job there a few times to do shipping for internet orders, but I don\’t know if they\’ll ever have time to figure out how to sell stuff to other states, let alone just keep enough stuff in their store for us here in Portland.

    best of luck in continued success guys!

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    ian July 3, 2008 at 12:14 am

    Donald, i do know a swedish proofreader here in pdx if you really need one.

    go to my site and you will find my email.

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    Krampus July 3, 2008 at 12:40 am

    I stopped by Clever Cycles today. I needed a bigger Oma than they had but it should be ready by next week. I cannot wait!

    I also saw an Amsterdam there in the back, so they do stock it.

    I just want to add that the sales girl was cool as hell, actually everyone there was cool as hell and I didn\’t get any of the snotty elitism I always get at City Bikes. Clever Cycles is officially my new favorite bike shop in Portland along with downtown Bike Gallery. Clever Cycles feels nothing like any other bike shop in town. As soon as they put me on the Azor Oma I was SOLD on it. Being on it felt more natural than anything, even standing up. I can\’t wait to pick it up next week!

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    Darren July 3, 2008 at 7:02 am

    Back before America slipped some local lads would have supplied Clever with fully functional knock-offs, you know, welded up and painted in a garage in Southeast. Once they realized they too could make a buck, they\’d have opened their own shop and supplied the city, the state, etc.

    Oh, those good old days. One man\’s supply chain hiccup is another man\’s opportunity. Can\’t you hear the knock?

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    Brad July 3, 2008 at 8:27 am

    Those days will be returning soon. One of the benefits of expensive oil and economic windfall in China is that many manufacturers are already looking to bring jobs back to this hemisphere and very skilled ones to the USA. Rising costs are gobbling up the margin incentives of overseas outsourcing.

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    Red Hippie July 3, 2008 at 8:45 am

    Jonathan,

    You should write this up as a longer article and pitch it to the Oregonian. This would be a pretty interesting piece for the business section.

    By the way, what happened to the local guys that were building their own Bikefeit? Did law and order stop their progress?

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    Jeremy July 3, 2008 at 9:33 am

    I wouldn\’t have been able to nearly sell through my inventory of Yuba Mundos were it not for the hard work and professional commitment to this market made by the folks at Clever Cycles. They created Portland\’s utility/lifestyle cycling market and I am indebted to them for their support and top-tier example. Enjoy the summer, folks! As for Mundos, we sold more than any other city in the country and we\’re nearly sold out –and, like Clever, we won\’t see any more until August.

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    Paul Tay July 3, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    #19, Brian, I do not use any in-ear audio listening device while bicycle driving. If we are referring to bicycles mixing it up with automobiles, in TRAFFIC, automobiles in FRONT is less concern to me than the automobiles closing in on my six.

    Hence, the importance of the helmet-mounted rear view mirror.

    BTW, I was really into the Eclectic Bike Shop Tour. I was totally AMAZED at the nuanced DIVERSITY of the PDX bike shops.

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    Ken Wetherell July 3, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    Sweet news! Go Todd and team. Nice to learn that you are heading back into the shop to work on Stokemonkey. A friend of mine always mistakenly refers to it as Spokemonkey. I guess thats not such a bad slip. 🙂

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    beth h July 3, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    Interestingly, the first thought I had was that I worried about the loss of income for their employees. The bike industry is not a traditionally high-paying one and two weeks without pay could be a real hardship for an hourly-wage worker in a city as expensive as Portland.

    As long as we\’re talking about \”new-world\” economies, let\’s not forget that we still live in an American one where people are expected to make do largely on their own no matter what.

    I certainly hope that Clever Cycles\’ employees will not see undue hardship as a result of a two-week layoff.

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    todd July 3, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    beth @31: this is a paid vacation, not a layoff.

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    IanO July 3, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    Cruizer et al.

    Holy crap! Last time I checked in at Clever Cycles, they were only *thinking* about offering the Electra Amsterdam. Now they\’ve jumped in with both feet, selling all models above and below the standard $600 configuration! Man, if I\’d known, I would have waited to buy from them. (I wonder if they do trade-ups?)

    Ian

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    BURR July 3, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    @ #19. Mirrors a \”dangerous distraction?\” LOLz!!! In that case, maybe we should remove all the rear view mirrors from the motor vehicles as well. Personally, I\’d much rather ride without a helmet than without a mirror…

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    Paul Tay July 3, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    Yep, BURR, without a helmet-mounted rear view, helmet, or seat belts, I feel NAKED. #19, who cares about the cars in front? They are long GONE. It\’s the cars closing in on your six that you have to dance with.

    If ya can\’t see \’um on your six, ya can\’t dance with \’um.

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    Shane July 3, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    Paul Tay- You like the six… but really it\’s the noon, 9, 10, and 11 you have to watch out for. Statistically a VERY small percentage of crashes happen with cars hitting cyclists from behind (and the majority of those are at night). The MAJORITY of car-bike crashes are from right hooks and left turns in FRONT of cyclists.

    I use a mirror all the time mounted on my helmet to help ME move in traffic better (and yes, dance with \’um) but don\’t waste your \’attention budget\’ on your six.
    Straight up.

    -oh and congrats to Clever, hope they re-open revitalized and ready for the promising new future.

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    Opus the Poet July 4, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    Shane, that may be true in PDX where assaulting cyclists with a motor vehicle is a crime, but here in TX (and I assume OK) hitting cyclists from behind is a sport, albeit one in which the object is to not actually hit the cyclist but to drive by so close and so fast that the \”bow wave\” from your SUV or pick\’em up truck knocks the cyclist over, partial points for hitting with a sideview mirror… I would no more ride without a mirror than ride without shorts.

    Opus

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  • […] And now Clever Cycles in Portland is closing for two weeks because they have sold out their inventory! […]

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    Paul Tay July 5, 2008 at 7:55 am

    Shane, #36, you are ABSOLUTELY right! At the intersections with a left-turn lane, I got my hands on the brakes, AND watching my 10.

    At night, I flash an LED light at the motorist at the 10.

    While the rear-enders are RARE, they are 99% deadly. I\’ve been nailed by a Texas redneck on the six, outside of Austin, where Lance Armstrong rolls. As I hit the deck, I saw the mean satisfaction in the man\’s eyes. I escaped major bodily, with only a collapsed rear wheel. That was a long long time ago.

    I got started with the rear-view in Hollywood, Florida, the home of the Canadian snowbird geriatric set who really should NOT be operating deadly weapons on four wheels.

    Ever since, I use the rear-view to do a ritual dance with every motorist closing on my six.

    How to Prevent the Right-Hook, WITHOUT Really Trying:
    1) Check your six in the rear-view;
    2) Signal the position change to the left;
    3) Move in FRONT of motor vehicle, toward the center line or lane marking;
    4) Wave the motorist through on the right.

    Problem SOLVED.
    3)

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    Paul Tay July 5, 2008 at 8:06 am

    Scott, #21, I\’m in T-Town now. Last night, Tulsa did a Sunday Parkways. But, not too many people noticed or took advantage.

    Every 4th, the City shuts down a MAJOR riverfront scenic road for the fireworks. People DRIVE motor vehicles to the event. Scramble for scarce parking. Then, get stuck in MAJOR jams all night long on the way home.

    This wasteful ritual could be avoided if the City Hall encourage everyone to bike.

    I doing support for the One Love Music Fest ArtBike Parade next weekend. Nabbing wheels for crunky frames. Installing coroplast for the artwork. And, moving them 10 miles to the start, without leaving a MAJOR carbon footprint.

    The weekend after that, someone is doing a benefit bike-in for a bike \”kitchen\” for the street people. Pretty kewl.

    And, I am still doing consultant work for Bicycle City. If things work out, cya guys after the Denver DNC!

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    kate g. July 5, 2008 at 8:42 am

    WOW! I had no idea this was going to happen. I squeaked in just in time, and nabbed myself a Brompton foldable! These people were so great! On the phone and in person. I visited their shop two or three or four times to test ride and ask my hundred and one questions and weigh every decision about what features to get on this bike. They took me so seriously, and never made me feel rushed as I snailed my way through deciding on each (expensive) option. And now I have no doubts that I got exactly the right thing. I\’m having SO much fun with it! It\’s Christmas every morning when I get on it!

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    todd July 5, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    thanks kate. and see, every time i\’ve told a shopper over the last couple weeks something like \”this is the last of these before august and a price increase\” they look at me like i\’m a car salesman dialing up the pressure. but it\’s the truth! it\’s getting to be a drag to break the bad news.

    yup, prices are going up from pretty nearly all our suppliers, including those in the US, because demand is so stiff everywhere, the dollar is tanking worldwide as oil climbs, and almost nothing bike related is really truly 100% domestic.

    \”expensive\” is relative, you\’ll see. any bike that gets ridden instead of a car driven is a great investment, continuous dividends, and any that doesn\’t is, well, an instrument of leisure at best, no matter how cheap initially.

    as for \”local lads\” #25 welding up replacements in their SE garages, bring it. but don\’t underestimate the commitment in tooling, skill, and scale to compete with the dutch on feature/price: http://www.azor.nl/index.php?page=info_bakfiets&laat_zien=1 . hint: the transport costs are not all that big a deal when we\’re talking containers full. and competing with asia… it takes less energy to float bikes from taiwan to the west coast than to truck them over the rockies. that\’s how effed our transportation system is.

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    eli bishop July 5, 2008 at 10:43 pm

    well, as they say, it\’s a good problem to have.

    @Paul Tay: ha! were you at the fireworks last night? there were plenty of bicycles and not enough parking, so people were (foolishly) trying to weave their bikes through the crowds and taking up twice the space they should have. one guy even tried to carry his bike over his head, which only led to him knocking someone else in the head (talk about fireworks!).

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    heather w July 6, 2008 at 8:59 am

    @todd – you gave me the \”bad news\” on thursday, but you were only confirming what I suspected would be the case, and I definitely did not get the impression it was a sales technique. At the same time, knowing that prices would likely increase helped me make my decision sooner rather than later. And details like #32 above (regarding paid vacation time for employees) made me feel even better about my purchase.

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    Paul Tay July 6, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    Eli, no, I was not at the PDX fireworks. But, Santa was at the Tulsa fireworks, where bike parking was not a problem. But, CAR parking was. Crazy Tulsans!

    So, as the traffic backed up for over THREE miles on the way out, Santa sneaked up on unsuspecting passengers and scared the livin\’ daylights outta as many as possible, while the cops weren\’t lookin\’.

    Cheap bikey FUN! 😛

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    Keith Walker July 6, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    Cheers to Clever Cycles. Proof that you don\’t have to bend over at the waist like a gorilla clad in lycra to pedal a bike.

    If you disagree with me, just take a trip to Amsterdam in the Netherlands and see the logic of the upright position.

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    steve July 7, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    Todd, I think you need to look into the actual pollution and energy expended when floating crap across the pacific.

    You clearly have no idea what you are talking about.

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    todd July 7, 2008 at 7:53 pm

    Steve, why the rudeness? Why don\’t you tell us about the \”actual pollution and energy expended\” for moving, say, a 40\’ container full of bikes across the Pacific ocean aboard, say, a Leviathan class Maersk ship, versus moving that same 40\’ container behind a Mack truck from here to Eugene on I-5? Do you have any idea, or are you just thinking of all that dirty bunker oil and jettisoned plastic and thinking \”bad, bad\” while lamenting the decline of US manufacturing and pining for revival of our railway system? Perhaps you would rather argue sideways that most of the stuff on the ship is frivolous crap anyway, made by people with dirty drinking water or worse, in rebuttal of various globalist positions I have never espoused?

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  • […] High sales and bare shelves: Clever Cycles will close for two weeks […]

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