September 2010 archive

Russ & Laura in print

Over the summer I had the pleasure of meeting Russ and Laura of The Path Less Pedaled during their three-week stay in Nashville. These two have a gift for getting to the heart of what makes a city tick—especially when it comes to bike-related matters—and seeing Nashville through their eyes was a real treat. (Especially since they turned out to be big fans of my adopted hometown!)

Russ & Laura with the Bat outside Fido

Somehow, between touring across the country, metalsmithing (Laura) and taking stunning photographs (Russ), they’ve managed to pull together an e-book full of advice for touring, Panniers & Peanut Butter, that’s available for download for  just $20.

Anyone thinking of setting out on a bicycle tour can benefit from the experience of these two pros, who are currently in the home stretch of their cross-country tour. After the jump, read the intro (click on the image to make it larger).

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Where has your bicycle journey taken you?

We may be back from France in body, but not in spirit.  Therefore, our fabulous guest blogging continues just a bit longer!  Today we have the lovely Sigrid from My Hyggelig.

My Hyggelig
began as
A place to share
A place to be positive
A place to be creative
A place to focus on happiness.
Along the journey
bicycles, bicycling, and bicyclists,
something always close to my heart,
began to become an important and enjoyable focus.

It is interesting how an interest
can open a world
enhance the everyday
bring like-minded people together
and create new journeys…

My interest in Dutch-Style bicycles in particular
has taken me to…

…Denmark
where I have found
that there can be happiness and beauty
in a cold and wintery climate:

thank you Mikael

…The Netherlands
where I can wander the streets of Amsterdam everyday
and enjoy a vacation trip with Marc via Dutch Bicycle:

thank you Marc

…Edmonton
where a chat with
Miss S
helped seal the deal on the Pash…Edmonton

thank you Sarah

…San Francisco
My Hyggelig
Where Meli-g takes me on all her adventures
And lets me know it is okay for home to be where the heart is.

thank you Meli-g…Soon my friend, soon….

…England
where I was along for Trisha’s Batuvus adventure.

thank you Trisha

…Chicago
where D.O.T. inspires me
when it is -20 below, grey, and windy
or 98 above, sunny, and humid…Chicago

I love this picture, Dottie looks like a Scandinavian Ice Princess
Thank you D.O.T.

On a business trip to San Francisco
I had a lovely morning
test riding and talking bicycles.

On a vacation trip to Sweden
I spent two of the loveliest afternoons of all time
test riding a Skeppshult and a Kronan

And in Minneapolis
I make small local trips
more about the journey
than the destination.

Fitting bicycles into my daily life,
where ever I may be
or want to go
brings me unique experiences
and lasting memories.
Finding happiness in the ordinary
by making it extraordinary
is what my life in Minneapolis has taught me.

Where has your bicycle journey taken you?

Continue the journey with Sigrid at her beautiful blog, My Hyggelig.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Dottie!

Props today to the man behind the blog, who takes many pictures, insists on putting air in my neglected tires, takes me on bike dates and actually likes the nickname Mr. Dottie.

Happy birthday to you -

Happy birthday to you -

Happy birthday dear Greg -

Happy birthday to you!
:)

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First Suburban Critical Mass a Success!

The Critical Mass ride that Melissa organized was a huge success! Fifty people showed up for the first Critical Mass ride in Aurora, a town about an hour from Chicago. There was a mixed group, including families with children, city employees, young hip guys, lycra racers, older riders, chic cyclists and even a tall bike.

The ride was definitely a Critical Mass in all the best ways.  We had lots of cheery balloons, smiles, waves and “Thank You” signs. The reaction from drivers, pedestrians and other on-lookers was overwhelmingly positive.  Motor vehicle traffic was very minimally obstructed, as most of the route had two lanes going in each direction, making it easy for cars to go around the group.  (I did not witness any negativity at all, but if some drivers were upset by the ride, that is their problem. No progress is ever made without upsetting some people who prefer the status quo.)

Check out these pictures, which describe the ride much better than my words can.

…and there was the press.

Resulting in the third positive article about bicycling in one week in the local paper, “Fifty turn out for Sunday (Critical) Mass.” The next ride will be October 31.

Go Aurora!

Anyone out there living in other a smaller town or the suburbs should consider starting their own movement. All it takes is some people, bikes and passion.

A Critical Mass: bicycling as a social movement and the importance of working together

If you ride your bike, you are part of an important social movement.  Regardless of your level of involvement in any organized effort, this movement would be impossible without your participation.  We, as people who ride bikes, are the only ones who will look out for the interests of bicycling as a viable form of transportation.  Most people who drive everywhere never give bicycling a second thought, and I’m not holding my breath for politicians lobbied by oil and car companies to take proactive steps.  Therefore, bicyclists working together and agreeing at least on the very basics (bikes = good) is essential.

Melissa rides her bike

The issue is on my mind this Friday morning because of great efforts that our friend Melissa has taken to create positive change in her suburban town of Auroral, Illinois – and the subsequent blowback she’s received from a sport cycling club and vehicular cyclists.  Melissa is not some political strategist, she’s a woman who rides her bike, feels that the roads should be much safer and is doing something about it.

There will be an organized ride in Aurora on Sunday afternoon that Melissa and others have publicized as a critical mass ride, Aurora’s first.  This ride has already garnered much attention, including an article in the town’s newspaper and a follow-up article today.  Both articles are pretty positive about the event and bicycles.  Unfortunately, the response from subsections of the bicycling community has not been as positive.

First, she received a message from a certain suburban cycling club, stating that they would never participate in or support an event that carried the Critical Mass name and did not follow all traffic laws.  They also suggested she get a permit from the city of Aurora – a permit to ride bikes in the street.  Then, in the follow-up article a vehicular cyclist is featured to give an argument against bike lanes.

“It’s not that Klenke doesn’t support better access for bikes, but he says, “Lanes don’t address education, training and attitude for cyclists and motorists to coexist. They’re a feel-good panacea that likely worsen the problems instead.” He referred me to the book “Effective Cycling” by John Forester, who, according to Klenke, “cites studies that suggest bike lanes lead to increased car-bike accidents and are inherently destructive to traffic management.”

On top of this, there are the typical mean-spirited comments at the end of the article from drivers about bicyclists.

I understand where anti-Critical Mass cyclists are coming from.  The event can create hostility in drivers and sometimes, with a big enough crowd, lead to unruly behavior.  However, the ride on Sunday will be a group of cyclists exercising their right to the road in a lawful manner – nothing more, nothing less.  If the ride were not called “Critical Mass,” would anyone have paid attention?  Would the newspaper have written two articles about the ride before it even took place?  A critical mass is an appropriate description for the purpose of the ride.

I understand where vehicular cyclists are coming from.  Bicyclists should be empowered to ride in the street with the rest of traffic.  But bicycling will never become a widespread mode of transportation in America without bicycling infrastructure.  Vehicular cycling may work for a very small minority, but telling a parent toting kids or an elderly woman to get out in the street and fend for herself will not work.  I feel even more strongly about this after visiting France and seeing the bicycling infrastructure – and people on bikes – in every city.

People who ride bikes – and people who want to ride bikes but do not feel that the roads are safe enough – have to work together for change.  Debates within the bicycling community are both important and inevitable, but there comes a point where rifts stall progress and play into the hands of those already-powerful groups working to maintain the status quo.

So I have a simple request.  Could we all in the “bicycling community” agree that people riding bikes lawfully down the street in the hopes that others will note their presence is a Good Thing?  Otherwise we are stalling our important social movement.

Sunday.  2 p.m.  West Aurora High School.  I’ll be there.

{If you would like to thank the writer of today’s column, Deena Sherman, for bringing attention to this issue, you can reach her at deenasherman@att.net.}

Home

I’m back from France, feeling lousy from a cold, jet lag and the inevitable disappointment of real life.  Just as I was contemplating my escape to a life in Paris (step one: learn French), I rode my bike home along the Lakefront Trail in the crisp autumn air and remembered why I love Chicago.

It’s good to be home.  More coherent ramblings to follow.

P.S. For anyone interested, I’m posting a lot of France photos on my other blog, Dream Camera.

Bike fun vs. fun by bike

Our next guest post is from the fabulous Dave of Portlandize, whose cycling advocacy is a huge inspiration. Today he’s giving LGRAB readers a glimpse of his recent trip to Amsterdam. More on the European cycling scene through American eyes is coming later this week as Dottie and I overcome jetlag and post about our time in France.

Folks in the U.S. bicycle scene often talk about what markers distinguish an established bike culture in a city or country. We talk about infrastructure and percentages of people riding to work and that kind of thing. But I think one of the biggest indicators is a slight (but rather important) perception shift from bike fun to fun by bike, and the idea behind that shift.

Portland is notorious for its bike fun, and people even internationally know us for organizing rides at the drop of a hat for the most mundane or silly kind of events. We have huge bike-related festivals and events and a lot of typical Portlandy events have emphasis on bike themes. There is nothing wrong with this, bikes are fun tools, and these events give people a chance to use them in creative ways and people really have fun with them. But to use these events as a marker of an established bike culture isn’t really accurate, in my opinion.

We were recently in Amsterdam for about a week, and one particular day we spent running around the city with Marc from Amsterdamize. As we were riding around and later sitting at a cafe, we saw hundreds of people riding by dressed in more-or-less religious themed attire (with some notable exceptions, like broccoli). We were probably seeing people go by for an hour and a half. We learned later they were all on their way to a huge party where the dress theme was religious attire.

Amsterdam 2010

Amsterdam 2010

Amsterdam 2010

What stood out to me is that they were not out to have fun on their bikes, they were out to have fun, and it just so happened that the way they were getting there was by bike. It wasn’t a deliberate decision, just like it’s not a deliberate decision for most people in the U.S. to hop in their cars to get somewhere. It’s just a given. When you
have to get somewhere that’s beyond easy walking distance, you hop on your bike.

Amsterdam has its share of bike fun, too – fixies and bike polo and tall bikes and the whole works, but what really marks it as an established bike culture (among other things), is that pretty much everyone uses their bike(s) without thinking about it. There are a lot of things that go into making this the default choice for people, and that’s a theme for many more posts, but there is no doubt that in Amsterdam, the bicycle is as usual as bricks, glass, and humans. It’s a natural part of the everyday flow of people, whether it’s to work, school, restaurants, parties, shopping – whatever the destination, the bike gets you there.

Read more about Dave’s trip to Europe and his everyday Portland cycling life at Portlandize.

Timeless Cycle Chic

Hi, Chelsea from Frolic! here! I am so glad to be guest blogging on Let’s Go Ride a Bike today! It’s one of my daily reads. I recently came across these old photos and I think the girls and their bicycles are super chic!

Photos from Flickr: 1, 2, + here.

The more things change, the more they stay the same

Today’s guest post is from Elisa, one of the two women who make up Bike Skirt, a blog based in Birmingham, Alabama. Elisa and Anna started blogging about the same time Dottie and I did, and it was so wonderful to discover kindred spirits here in the Southeast! They are doing their best to bring cycling to the mainstream through work at the Bici Coop and organizing Alleycats and other events (including one tonight).

First, thanks to Dottie and Trisha for asking me to guest post (and apologies for my tardiness on getting it to them…oops).  When they asked me to post, I didn’t know what to write about, since our blogs seem to have talked about everything under the sun with biking!  So, I decided to write about just that: that riding a bike, while it hasn’t changed, is new every day.

Birmingham bikers back in the day

I love that everyone knows and uses this statement: ” It’s like riding a bike.” Why do we say that?  Because riding a bike is something that we never forget how to do and always want to get back to it.  Yes, we may get rusty and need a few practice runs, but once you remember how…oh, how wonderful it is!  Each day I ride roughly the same route, but it feels new each day.  I see new people on the corners, new delivery trucks taking up my space and the seasonal flowers that I get to smell every day.  I see how my neighborhood changes with the seasons, heck, each day.  I feel the slightest crisp in the air and the hint of a storm when it is coming.  Those things are hard to get in a car, and I get them every single day.

What is my point?  My point is that riding a bike itself hasn’t changed…still 2 wheels, a saddle and handlebars (yes, the components have changed and it has gotten easier), but the ride changes every day.  That is probably the thing I love the most about riding.  The everyday mystery of it. That, and that I get to wax poetic about my commute of all things.

Birmingham riders today

Thanks again to Trisha and Dottie, I hope you two are having the most fabulous time in France.  Can’t wait to see the photos of all the bikes and fun that you have

.

{Thanks for this guest post, Elisa! }

Tall tales of chic cycling

Today LGRAB welcomes Kara of Knitting Lemonade, who offers a unique perspective on her search for a stylish bicycle.

When you’re tall, finding pants that are long enough is a Herculean task. So imagine the trials of trying to find a ladies bicycle that complements your inseam.

The average height for women in the US is 5’4”. I am 6 feet tall with a 35” inseam. For perspective on how tall that is, here is a picture of Dottie (who is pretty tall) and me.

Dottie and Me

Inspired by bicycle blogs (this one in particular), I decided to invest in a classic loop-frame bicycle. But I found the size options available in the US to be somewhat limited. It seemed like a lot of the women bicycles came in one size—like the Electra Amsterdam. And in my experience “one size fits all” really means “one size fits small.” As far as the bicycles that came in several sizes, they seemed to max out for a woman with a height of 5’8”.

Of course there was the option of buying a man’s bike. And it was a solid option. There are a lot of amazing, classic-looking bikes for men. But I was a little stubborn. Just because I was man-sized didn’t mean I wasn’t feminine. So the challenge was set, I wanted a bike that was big enough for a man, but cute enough for a woman.

A Dutch-style bike seemed like a good choice since the Dutch are a very tall people. And after some exhaustive research, I was able to find some manufacturers that offered larger Dutch bikes. But then I saw it—the Pashley Princess Sovereign. In my eyes, she was perfect. I immediately had visions of riding through the English countryside in tweed. Also the Princess has more aggressive angles than the Dutch bicycles, 5 gears to tackle the hills of Salt Lake City, and is a smidge lighter (every pound counts when you have to carry a bicycle up a flight of stairs to your apartment). What’s more, the bicycle comes in a 22.5” frame. Even with that size frame I still wasn’t sure if it would fit. But according to the Pashley website, this size would fit an inseam up to 36.5”. Without having the option of a test ride, I took a leap of faith and ordered her.

Adelaide in action

By adjusting the handlebars to their highest position and getting over the fact that I was flashing some seat post, my Pashley Princess Sovereign turned out to be a lovely fit for me.

You would think that would be the end of the story, but I was on a roll. Now that I had my classic loop-frame bicycle, I decided to also get a fast bicycle. More specifically, a mixte for longer, sportier rides. Looking at vintage and modern mixtes, I ran into the same problem. Too small.

Loving Dottie’s Betty Foy, I e-mailed Rivendell telling them that “tall girls need cute bikes too.” They agreed and informed me that they would be coming out with a 62cm Betty Foy. Well, that sealed the deal. In August, I got my own “Kara-sized” Betty Foy. I couldn’t be any more in love.

Betty and me

These bikes were definitely an investment. And I don’t want to convey that you need to spend a lot of money to get a tall woman’s bike. Just hope to say that with such limited options available, when you find something that you love AND works for your body, seize the opportunity.

There is just something magical about getting a bike that truly fits you, physically and emotionally. In my case, I have two bikes that are big and girly, just like me.

The gal pals

Are you an Amazon looking for a bicycle? Here are some leggy options:

PUBLIC M8 and M3 mixtes come in large (fit for 5’8” to 6’)

Rivendell’s Betty Foy mixte comes in 62cm

Soma Buena Vista mixte comes in 58cm

WorkCycles Oma comes in 61cm

Achielle Oma frames come in 61cm

Pashley Princess and Sonnet models come in 22.5”

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