Monthly Archives: September 2010

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).

Continue reading

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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.

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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!

:)

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.

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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.}

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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! }

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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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Bicycle mechanics

Before leaving for France, I got a wild hair and decided to attempt some bicycle maintenance on my Batavus. There’s no Batavus dealer in my area, and I was a little bit worried that no one had checked in on the internal hub after a year of riding, even though I haven’t had any problems. So I grabbed up my manual, thinking, there’s got to be something I can do in here...

And there was. According to my manual, the gear shift unit was supposed to have two red dots on it that needed to be aligned—if they weren’t, then the gears were “out of tune” (I can hear you actual bicycle mechanics laughing their asses off all the way in France—maybe one day I’ll master the lingo!).

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Luckily I had a faithful assistant at my side.

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he already has grease on his nose!

I looked for the dots in the location the manual indicated. Didn’t see them.
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My assistant took a turn. Still no dice.

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Finally, after rolling around a bit and craning my neck, I noticed the red dots—BELOW the gear shift unit, not to the rear of it. Possibly this has to do with some adjustment they made to the bike in Littlehampton, to make it better for hills. Or possibly my Bat is a mutant. Opinions?

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Either way, they were found, and adjusted (very slightly), and we all lived happily ever after. I thought this might be useful to other mechanic dilettantes who don’t have a Batavus dealer nearby!

Have you ever found that something on your bike was different from what was shown in the manual?

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Brownie on a Bike in San Diego

Hi. I go by “beany” online as I’m a bean counter. I’m a brownie who is car-free in San Diego and blog at Brown Girl in the Lane . While Dottie and Trish are off galavanting in France, eating the most delectable of meals and drinking the finest of wines, they have asked me to write a post for you. So here it is :)

I had the incredible pleasure of meeting Dottie and Trish in person earlier this year. It is easily one of the most memorable blogger meetings I’ve had because meeting women who ride a bicycle is harder than finding a pair of shoes that I want. Meeting women who genuinely love riding and ride for the sheer pleasure of riding, like I do? Well, that’s much harder than…fixing a flat in the worst of all possible ghettos in sub zero temperatures, in a hail storm while trying not to dirty a nail. In other words, a very rare occurrence in my world.

This post is a brief-ish history of my love affair with riding a bicycle.

Me and my cousin at age 5

I first began riding when I was around five years old.  My father bought me a red colored bicycle that had a banana seat and came with training wheels. To say that that bicycle became an obsession would be an understatement. My bicycle was parked close to my bed and I rode it every day  and soon graduated to riding a two wheeler like a proper cyclist would.

My bicycle became a constant and steady companion. It was how I was able to explore the city of eight million that I grew up in. My bicycle was my ticket to freedom, exploration and with it an incredible feeling of utter exhilaration. Riding through the city began to define how I viewed the world. Everything seemed possible and doable when I was out riding. It was on a saddle (or banana seat) that I was able to sort out the jumble of thoughts and contemplate about things I thought were worth contemplating over.

In my late teens, I moved to the U.S. where I found myself living in a suburb of Philadelphia. It was there that I realized the futility of relying on others for rides or the shoddy public transit system. I also disliked living in a small town. I thrive on the energy that is found in cities. So I began to date a man in Philadelphia who would one day become my husband. My dates with him all revolved around a lengthy bike ride ending at a good bar and grill. Thankfully, he rode because he loved to ride and rode everywhere. But he was unhappy living on the East Coast and wanted to fulfill a lifelong dream of living by the Pacific Ocean. I agreed to move and convinced him to make the move to the West Coast…by bicycle.

And that was what we did. We got rid of everything we owned and got ourselves touring bikes and panniers and headed west.

I would state that teddy bears provide much more visibility that wearing neon would. Because, who would want to run over a teddy bear?

This was how, in late 2008, we found ourselves in San Diego. San Diego seemed like a nice enough city so we decided to make this city our home. I found that I had become a very different person than the one who had left Philadelphia. The weeks of repeated riding had made me fall deeper in love with riding. Whereas in Philadelphia I found myself only riding because I had, in San Diego I soon found myself extending my commute daily, going out for a ride for no real purpose besides for the sheer thrill of riding.

I moved further away from my job to extend my commute. I began frequenting a farmers market located further way to have a longer ride. This was craziness. Especially in a place where the love affair with the automobile is practically a law.

But here I am. Living in a automobile-saturated culture without ever having owned an automobile. Life here without an automobile is the furthest thing from a hardship, for me. With perfect weather to be experienced every single day, the last place I want to be is boxed up in an automobile. The only place I’d rather be is on my saddle: riding, exploring, discovering and falling in love with the world around me every single day.

Visit the awesome Beany and her wickedly funny musings at Brown Girl in the Lane.

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A Bicycle Named Millicent

Hello very lovely Let’s Go Ride a Bike readers! This is Maria, of Lulu Letty, here to guest blog for Dottie and Trisha while they’re off exploring France. I am very honored to be chosen as a guest blogger and have the chance to chat about my lovely bike, Millicent. Dottie is a bit of a superhero to me – saving the planet while informing people about the joys of bicycling. Reading her posts and seeing that she could still wear her everyday (or even work) clothes while cycling, truly inspired me to finally buy a bicycle of my own.

While my dream bicycle has always been a Pashley Princess Sovereign (Regency Green), I knew that unless I would be commuting I didn’t want to make that financial investment just yet. So being a lover of vintage and thrifting, I started rummaging through Craigslist in the hope of finding the perfect bicycle. I was pretty lucky that within the first hour of searching, I found my dear Millicent. She was a vintage Sears bicycle from the 70’s and was in great condition. So I went to check her out and take a test drive. I knew immediately that, even though she was burgundy and not hunter green, she was the bike I was looking for. After a paint job and the purchase of a straw basket, Millie and I were ready to start the first of our many adventures together.

Visit the fabulously stylish and smart Maria at Lulu Letty.  For more Millicent photo shoots, see Millicent with breeches , with shorts and brogues,  on a picnic, and during her first ride.

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City cycling, San Francisco style

Today’s guest post comes from the lovely Meli, who blogs at both Bikes and the City and Change Your Life, Ride a Bike. Her gorgeous frenchie inspired one of my first cases of bike envy and put me on to the search for a mixte of my own! Meli’s here to take LGRAB readers on a cycling tour of San Francisco, and let me just say that I bitterly regret that Dottie and I didn’t know Meli when we visited the city back in 2007. Guess we’ll just have to head West once again!

Hola everybody. I’m going to show you some of the spots I have stopped by in the last few days and thought I’d include a little map. My usual gorgeous bicycle the frenchie is currently getting some much needed luv+maintenance, so you will see plenty of my much neglected Italian beauty, the smurfette. Also a steel frame and a hill bomber. I am a city girl with a passion for wanderlusting every corner of my beloved city, so here is a little nutshell of my everyday outings. Life is too short. Let’s have fun. All the time. From San Francisco, with love. [map]

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1. Fog tickets
The Presidio is the most hilly-open space in SF with plenty of history in every corner. A military post, a WW Hospital and now you can come across a yoda statue if you look closer, you must. ILM (by Lucas Film) is located just to the right of where this picture was taken. The Golden Gate Bridge is in the background, with some dramatic fog, of course.

Sunday

2. Orange
This is at Civic Center. A little panda shot action. This particular evening was super foggy, so to countercolor that, I wore a dose of the fuschia-polka dot tights of mine and my bright orange sweater. Ride past thru the giant fog machine downtown. Oh yes.

for future guest post

3. Bananas
This is in Cow Hollow. The guys at this corner market here have known me for many years +I used to frequent our-then fave pizza join in North Beach. Good times. I no longer buy cigarettes here, but stop by to say hi and get some iced tea or snax once every couple of weeks. They call me red legs. Another one calls me bike racer, he runs the 1/2 marathon every year. ha haaa =)

for future guest post

4. Flower power
This is in the Inner Richmond. Two girlfriends were having Sushi together and were giggling when I approached their cute blue cruisers and was admiring and giggling over their flowers. This neighborhood is pretty flat for the most part, and it is great for its culinary colours. You can find a vast variety of global flavor from Burmese food to Russian Bakeries to tater tots with your burger.

Cruiser twins
5. Caffeine power
Coffee bar on Mariposa and Florida is one of my fave 3 spots in the city for coffee. I’m not a fan of using computers outside my house or work, but this seems to be a super hot spot for it. I don’t mind it because the location is beautiful, the staff are super nice and the guys know I like triple shots without me asking. Now that is service. I usually sit at the bar. I like to vocal conversations over keyboard bonding while sipping my delicious offee. It is the coffee bar after all.

Love Continue reading

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Emotional Bicycle

Today’s beautiful guest post is from Velouria of Lovely Bicycle, who really needs no introduction.

Earlier this month I tried to sell one of my bicycles – a vintage mixte that I no longer need because a new one has been custom built for me. I say “tried,” because in the end I could not go through with it and decided to keep it. There were just too many emotions tied to this bicycle, too many personal experiences associated with it.

If there is anything I have learned in my year and a half of cycling, it is that a bicycle is more than just a bicycle. When cycling is a part of everyday life, our bicycles become integrated into our memories of everything meaningful and exciting that happens to us. Over time, the bicycle attains the intimate, emotional features of the events and memories it represents.

When I look at my old aqua blue mixte, I see more than just a bike. I see winding paths with overarching trees, I see sunsets over the river, I see the endless sand dunes of Cape Cod, I see familiar Boston street scenes changing with the seasons, and I see events of the past unfolding around me. Those are all things this bicycle allowed me to experience in a new and unique way, and the experiences will always be associated with it.

Some will say that it is foolish to form attachments to objects. After all, it is experience that matters. But experience is fleeting, and since the dawn of time people have sought to keep mementos of meaningful events – something to look at or touch, that would evoke a welcome memory of a favourite moment. Whether we realise it or not, I think for many of us the bicycle plays this role.

Visit the enchanting and informative bicycle world of Velouria at Lovely Bicycle.

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Neighborhood Biking in Nashville

The weekend before Labor Day (wow, am I ever behind on blog posts!) was the second installment of this year’s 12South Concert series. Held in Nashville’s Sevier Park, these free concerts are open to everyone (and their dog—literally!), so I packed a picnic and went to check it out by bike with my friend Chiara, who’s always game for a bicycle outing.

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No parking, except for bikes

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Wine in the grass is a beautiful thing

Relaxing on the lawn
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The stage is set

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On the way to the unofficial afterparty at the Taproom.

The next 12South Concert is tonight—it’s definitely worth checking out.

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Confessions of a biker who’s been doing it all wrong

Jessica in Germany

Jessica in Germany

Today’s guest post comes from my friend Jessica R., a Vanderbilt PhD candidate who some of you might remember from a post last year. As a German studies student, Jessica spends a lot of time abroad; here she shares a lesson learned after a summer filled with borrowed bikes—that “doing it wrong” might just mean doing it right.

Doing things “the right way” is a big deal in my book. Time to cook? I follow the recipe to the letter. Buying a major appliance? I go to the store, Consumer Reports in hand. I know it’s right to protect the environment, so I recycle, buy local, organic or fair trade. Or in German “eigene ernte” or “Bio”.

I think any anxiety about doing things the right way hasn’t been helped any by living repeatedly in Germany, where there is a “right” way to do everything – the less significant, the better. Laundry, taking out the trash, and avoiding drafts (even in stifling summer heat) are chapters unto themselves. For a few weeks this summer I returned to a German university town where by far the preferred form of transportation is a bicycle. Bike only zones and lanes are ubiquitous and well marked, and the terrain is fairly flat. Not only students bike to university, many professors commute by bike — out of conviction. It is the right thing to do.

I was lucky enough to borrow bikes from friends while I was there, which set of my personal cocktail of anxieties: “I’m not an experienced bike rider! I get confused when I have to shift gears! I panic in high traffic situations. I’m totally clumsy when it comes just to locking the bike – I can’t do it without getting black smudges all over my hands. I can’t even get off the bike the right way!”

It’s true, I do this sort of jump-off-to-the-side-of-the-bike thing when I stop. I blame it on riding with a coaster brake, so I can’t do the “right” version of waiting for one pedal to be low, then stepping off with the other foot and setting it on the ground. Because I also can only start pedaling with the right foot, and then that pedal is down, not up….

And to top it all off: I didn’t have a helmet. Riding a bike this summer meant crossing a line I have always clung to: that somehow the danger of riding a bike badly would be miraculously balanced out by wearing protective gear on my head. When I was here a year ago, I didn’t get on a bike until I bought a helmet, and would scoff at the other students whizzing by me while balancing a gym bag on their handlebars and texting. Sure, they can do that, but I have a helmet. I also made multiple trips to the bike repair shop last summer, because I knew it was the right thing to ride with a bike in good working condition.

Jessica on Nashville's Ride of Silence in May, before leaving for Germany

But this summer was different. I would only borrow a bike for a couple of weeks, at most, so even a basic stop in a repair shop was hardly worth it. So what if the fender was about to rattle off, the bike had one working gear, no lights, and a loose cable that made a lot of noise, even if it never got stuck in anything. Some days though, when I went through that list of anxieties and broken parts, I decided “Maybe I’ll just walk.” But as the summer went on, my days got busier, and the weather got warmer, even the “wackligste” bike seemed like the best choice. Riding would get me there faster and cooler than walking. But what if I did it wrong?

Finally, moral rightness vs. equipment and skills rightness both lost out to sheer practicality. It was just too far to walk! So off I would set, bike rattling, hair blowing free in the wind, sitting on the bike at stops with my feet on the ground. And nothing happened, besides getting where I needed to go in a timely manner. There were no ill effects of doing it all wrong. There is a part of me that is still holding her breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop on that one.

Now that I’m back at home, I haven’t kept my promise to ride as much as I can, just as always. To be fair, always returning to the South at the beginning of August makes it a little harder, but mostly the choice is due to the luxury of owning a car. That my boyfriend and I live together but each have our own car still raises a few eyebrows in Germany, especially since we’re still students. But I feel that it also shows that even for someone very convinced of how much more “right” it is to bike those three miles to campus, it would take a choice of walking or biking, and not driving, those three miles to make me a more consistent cyclist.

On my drive to school, I’ve seen more bike commuters this year than I’ve noticed before. It seems the increase comes from happy-go-lucky college students pedaling to campus. A more consistent, though smaller population of cyclists comes from a less well heeled part of the neighborhood, people for whom, for whatever reason, driving a car was not an option. In every city in America there is a population for whom a car is still a luxury. An insufficient cycling infrastructure limits them in more ways than it inconveniences me. So I’m glad to see more people making demands on the city just by getting out there on two wheels, which will eventually help all bikers, whatever their motivation.

Sometimes I feel when I read about cycling that I’m just missing the right stuff: spandex and those clippy shoes, or a vintage bike with a charming basket. What I learned this summer, though, is that the truly “right” way to bike, regardless of the benefit that bike lanes, LED headlights, waterproof panniers, helmet or not may provide… is to actually do it. I’m going to try again tomorrow. How about you?

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Biking with Dog

This is the first in a series of guest posts that will be published while Dottie and I are away. First up is S., a former blogger at academichic who now chronicles her bicycle life at the lovely new blog Simply Bike.

One of our first purchases after my return from Germany this summer was a Burley trailer for our dog. I had seen people pull their dogs to the park in Germany this way and was dying to try it out with our Indie. Much avid Craigslist searching and $60 later, this Burley child trailer was ours.

Burley "inbetween" picture

Burley makes both child and pet trailers for bikes. (New Burley trailers cost around $300-400, both in the pet and child variety, so we figured that at the discounted Craigslist price we could make the necessary conversations to make the trailer fit our needs). This particular trailer was designed to hold two small children so we figured that it would be adequate for one mid-sized dog. My dream was to convert this trailer to hold our dog and some odd picnic items to take our family on bike-powered day trips to the park or to the lake. My husband and I love riding our bikes to our local lake for a day of swimming but whenever we wanted bring our pup along, we were faced with the decision: bikes or dog? With this trailer, we could have our cake and eat it too. Or, more accurately, our bike ride and our dog.

Family Picture

Family portrait

We thus set forth to make the necessary changes to the trailer. We cleaned the trailer (it had a slight mold problem, we were dismayed to find); we removed the child seat; and we added a sturdy floor mat to flatten and reinforce the bottom of it. We bought an orange flag for visibility and we waited for a nice cool weather weekend to give this new ride a try. And, like every safe cyclist, Indie wore a helmet.

Safety First

To help Indie associate the trailer with happy moments, we planned her first ride to beover to our friends’ place, whose dog is Indie’s best friend. A short two-mile ride and a doggie date awaiting sounded like the perfect plan for our maiden voyage. Treats in stash, we loaded her in the trailer and headed out the door.

Proud mama

Apparently, two miles in the trailer was about a 1.8 miles too much for Indie. We barely made it down our street when she started whimpering and whining and digging at the mesh cover with her paws. No amount of sweet-talking from me or treat bribery could calm her down. By the time we reached the end of our block, she sounded like her leg was being sawed off.

Halfway to our destination, I was riding behind the trailer when a little black head poked out and turned around to say hello. The only thing: the trailer had been fully enclosed and secured. There was no opening or ‘window’ for a convertible-style doggieride. Indie had successfully clawed her way out of the mesh enclosure and T-rexed her way to freedom. We had, of course, anticipated resistance and had tied her leash to the inside, essentially seat-belting her in. While her head was free, she had no way of making a great escape and so, with no reason to abort the mission, we trudged on. And in case you’re wondering, having partly escaped her confines did nothing to soothe her spirits; she continued to wail and cry at decibels that could have shattered glass.

Biking with Dog

Indie en route was not a happy camper

After what felt like an eternity, we reached our friends’ home with nothing other than our hopes and Burley trailer harmed. Indie was fine and, within minutes, she was the overjoyed pup she usually is as she got to run and play with her friend Shasta. But the bike ride did not go quite as hoped and – I hate to admit – we rode our bikes home and returned in our car to pick up Indie. So much for that much anticipated family bike outing. Our only consolation: when we do have children and we strap them in a bike trailer, their nails will have been trimmed to non-shredding capabilities and a pacifier will hopefully dampen the sound of their cries. I’m not quite ready to give up our dream of group bike rides yet, you see.

Visit S. at her simply beautiful blog, Simply Bike.

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Bon voyage

♦ Café et tartine à la fraise ♦

And . . . we’re off! To the land of wine and cheese, bikes and monuments and maybe, if we’re lucky, a Mulhousien flashmob (ah, the things you find on Flickr).

FlashDance Kuduro, place de la Réunion à Mulhouse (04 septembre 2010)

But the blog will not be dead: along with a few of our own posts, we’ve lined up contributions from some of our favorite bloggers to amuse and entertain you. And you can always follow along with our adventures on twitter. À bientôt, mes amis!

Beautiful Bicycles: Linus Mixte

We get tons of questions from readers about whether affordable, stylish bikes exist. Some of them haven’t ridden bikes in years and are reluctant to plop down two weeks’ salary on something that may be a passing fancy. Others are simply unable to afford to spend that much money on something that is a secondary form of transportation. Some are just plain looking for a bargain. Though I am not among the crowd that believes that bikes like the Pashley and Oma are overpriced, I can certainly understand all of those impulses—after all, I was on a tight bike budget and scoured the globe to get the best deal on my Batavus.

Which brings me to Linus Bikes. The specs and price seemed too good to be true: how could a bike with a 3-speed Nexus internal hub retail at a mere $559? Could it possibly be a quality ride at that price? Well, my limited experience with the Linus Mixte I test rode at Adeline Adeline indicates that the answer is yes indeed.

I hopped on the Linus after my Pashley test run, and switching between the two bikes reminded me of switching between my two bikes at home. The Linus was nimble, sporty and fun. Dottie was supposed to take pictures of me riding, but she says I got away too fast. That pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?

The Linus Mixte comes with painted fenders, and the steel/Cro-moly frame is partially lugged. The model I rode had three speeds and was very light, with leather handgrips and a basic rear rack. No lights, although that’s typical in a bike in this price range—and of the basic commuter components, to me this is the easiest thing to add to a bicycle.  Same goes for the generic saddle, which is serviceable—but this bike’s looks beg for a Brooks.

When Dottie asked me how the Linus compared to Le Peug, I said, “it was so quiet” (though this speaks more to my procrastination when it comes to routine bike maintenance than anything else). The two bikes weigh about the same, though I think the Linus has a slightly more aggressive riding position. Certainly any true bargain-hunter out there could probably scour craigslist for a vintage mixte and eventually come up with something cheaper than the Linus that is very similar—but with a vintage bike, there’s always the risk of unseen issues like rust, or difficulties finding replacement parts if something does go wrong (Portlandize had a great post on this over the summer). If you are not mechanically inclined and on a limited budget, the Linus Mixte is worth checking out.

I know a few of our readers ride Linus Bikes (they also make a Roadster and a Dutchie)—please share your experience in the comments.

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