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VCB eNews, Vol 12, #15 - What's a Bicycle?

E-mailed without cost or obligation to bicycle advocates around the world.

Velo Cape Breton is the Island wide voice of cyclists, working for better cycling in our great Island. We have made significant progress since our formation in 2004.  Visit our website that will introduce you to some of our activities.   If you have any questions, suggestions, or want to contribute to this eNewsletter,  please contact us at (902) 562-8137 or

Joining VCB is a proof of support to the community development and advocacy work done by the hard working volunteers of this club.  Your $10 will go a long way.  It's your 2015 legacy to the rising generation.  To join click  here. Check our Facebook page.


In this Edition

-  Editorial: What's a Bicycle?

- Rides Captain's Report
-  Job Offer 

- Loose Chain Links

- Bike Buy and Sell

- About That Funny

- Submission Guidelines, etc.



"On the avenues people ride on a vehicle with only two wheels, which is held together by a pipe. They sit above this pipe and push forward with movements of their feet, thus keeping the vehicle moving . . . They dash along like galloping horses."
— Bin Chun, Chinese official reporting on his visit to Europe in 1866





The invention of human-powered vehicles goes back to at least the early 18th century, and the motivation to invent a truly efficient one was inspired by a number of poor grain harvests in the early 19th. Transportation relied very much on animal-power, specifically horse-power, but given the choice between feeding the horse and feeding oneself, humans generally displayed self-interest. There is no denying that the energy required to power a 150 lb animal is much less than that required to power a 1500 lb one. 


We tend to think that the bicycle as we know it in the 21st century was created as is, but it had many and varied -- indeed in some cases bizarre -- predecessors. Versions with sails, parasols, integrated treadmills (this design has actually returned in modernized form), and of course, the "high wheeler" with its huge front wheel balanced precariously above a small rear one. The high wheeler was actually a very successful design and this was the kind of bicycle in use when the cycling craze of the late 19th and early 20th century began. 


The safety bicycle -- so called because it was much safer to operate than the high wheeler -- was invented around 1885. This is the design most of us would recognize as a modern bicycle. In the ensuing 100 or so years there have been many improvements and embellishments (who could forget the banana bike of the 1970s?), but the shape of the bicycle has remained relatively unchanged. It is interesting to note that the very first electric bicycles were also invented in the early 20th century. Unlike their purely human powered counterparts, electric bicycles never caught on, especially not in North America.


Some commentators have suggested that the North American lack of enthusiasm for the electric bicycle derives from the Puritan tradition of hard work and individualism -- sort of a Pilgrim version of "no pain, no gain". Having the electric motor assist is seen to be "cheating" in some way. In fact, not everyone would even agree that a cycle with an electric motor is a bicycle at all. 


In Nova Scotia, a bicycle is defined by law as a device propelled by human power upon which a person may ride, and has two tandem wheels. The legal definition includes devices with electric motors. This means eBikes fall under legislation covering bicycles, not motorcycles. Cycling purists (or Puritans, if you will) might object to eBikes sharing their space on the road, but the presence of eBikes can be a benefit to "regular" cyclists.


The use of eBikes is exploding in Europe and China, places where people of all ages use bicycles for transportation much more than North Americans do.

E-Bikes for rental in Copenhagen.  Photo:  Albert Bohemier

Electric motor assisted bicycles can allow older or disabled people to cycle, and cycle for many more years than they could if restricted to muscle- powered bicycles only. Electric motor assisted cargo bicycles allow for the transport of heavier loads over more extreme terrain than non-assisted bicycles, and pollute much less than any internal combustion powered vehicle, including scooters and motorcycles. This holds true even when the power source for the electricity used to charge the bicycle battery comes from a "dirty" source, like a coal-fired power plant. In any case, many if not most electric motors used on bicycles are actually charged by the pedalling of the rider when they are not using the motor. 

Electric assist recumbent bicycle.  Photo: David Sims.


Recent surveys have shown that most people believe eBikes are indeed bicycles, and deserve space on the road where bicycles are normally present. Encouraging the use of eBikes could mean more bicycles on the road, less pollution, quieter city streets, demand for more cycling infrastructure, healthier citizens -- all the benefits to a community normally associated with "regular" cycling but available to a wider cross section of community members. If you are an able-bodied cyclist with a minimal cargo, by all means, keep pedalling your human powered bicycle whenever and wherever you can. But don't look down your drop handlebars at those riders who choose to get a little charge from an electric assist. From the looks of the market trend, we are all in this together.






 When you read this, it will already be a week since I wrote it. I spent my 'snow day' -- well, actually, every day is a 'snow day' for me as I am retired - but every Canadian understands the joy and excitement of having a 'snow day', just saying those words can make you feel a sense of happiness - reading a binder full of information on Velo Cape Breton and my position as Rides Captain. I received the binder last night at my first Board meeting of VCB, having broken the cardinal rule "never volunteer for any position without knowing everything that is involved with that position". Looks like I am going to be busy this year.

 Rather than running for cover (which was my initial impulse) I gave the opportunity some sober second thought and, reflecting upon my experiences over the years with other organizations, I decided for better or for worse to cross the Rubicon.

Velo Cape Breton is the organization it is because of volunteers. People who, over the years, have come together for no other gain than to see the people around them have a healthier lifestyle, to enjoy the world at a slower pace, to preserve the environment. I may be on the Board but essentially that is what all Velo members are - volunteers, because we all share, to a greater or lesser extent, these same goals, expectations, and ideas. Because we are all volunteers, talk to your friends, neighbours, and even strangers about this great organization. It really is worthwhile to stop and smell the roses and only you can make it happen. Last but not least, give a big shout out for all the B52ers on getting out and riding. The weather has not been very co-operative but we are all Canadian and Velo members are tough. Good riding everyone.   Any ideas, comments, or suggestions you can reach me at:






Work in Nova Scotia and the Atlantic Provinces as a bike tour guide with Freewheeling Adventures. You should be outgoing, and service-minded. Necessities include first-aid training and a good driving record. Desirable assets include knowledge of bicycle fitting and repairs, familiarity with bike routes in Atlantic Canada, some knowledge of European travel, and a class 4 driver's license. Work is seasonal and part-time to begin with, but can become busier over time if that's what you want and all goes well. If interested, please apply in writing to









Survey says, YES:


Winter Bike to Work Day:


Cycling goes underground in London:




Register for the Bike Summit today:


Adapt your bike and go electric with the Flyky wheel:


Good advice for buying a used bicycle:


Cycle during flu season? Maybe:








For Sale: Brand new Crank Brothers cleats for eggbeater, Candy, mallet, or smarty pedals. $10. Contact







Sitting behind a couple of nuns at the Riverport Duathlon, whose habits partially blocked their view, three men decide to badger the nuns in an effort to get them to move.

   1st Man said, "I think I'm going to move to Manitoba, there are only 100 nuns there."

   2nd  Man said, "I think I want to go to Ontario, there are only 50 nuns there."

   3rd Man said, "I think I'll go to Newfoundland, there are only 25 nuns there."

One of the nuns turned around, looked at the 3 men and in a very sweet calm voice and said, "Why don't you go to Hell, there aren't any nuns there."   







Regular articles, including Loose Chain Links:

Word document or compatible, 12 pt Times New Roman. Please have submissions for the current edition submitted by the Monday prior.


Ads for Bike Buy & Sell: Word document or compatible, 12 pt, Times New Roman, submitted by the Monday prior. Ads will run for 3 weeks. Please inform the editor if the item is sold before that term is up. If the item doesn't sell, you may re-submit your ad.  


Photos: high resolution (photos taken with a phone are usually too low, but there may be exceptions); please name all the people in the photo, and give the event, date, and location.







Shelley Porter,  

Editor, Velo Cape Breton eNewsletter

VCB Cycling Ambassador.

February 12th, 2015


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