Category Archives: bike reviews

Cerebral Palsy Has Nothing on This Biking Kid

Today I’m honored to share this guest post by my friend Samantha, who blogs at Ding Ding Let’s Ride!  (This originally appeared there.)  She was profiled here as a Roll Model earlier this year, where the focus was on her personal bicycling history and encouragement of other women to start biking.  This post is an in-depth look at the bicycling history of her adorable stepson.

Besides writing about Dutch bikes and other city bikes, I also write about adaptive bikes for kids. We’ve gone through a number of bike variations over the last three to four years for my 8 year-old stepson, as he has grown and his abilities have changed. All the while we’ve tried to keep him on a bike that he can get on and off by himself and ride without our assistance.  His Cerebral Palsy has made that a bit of a challenge.

These days,  I don’t think twice about our family riding our bikes to meet up with the Kidical Mass families for a ride instead of driving there and unloading our bikes.  Actually though, it’s a big deal that he’s got the endurance and ability to ride those extra miles.   Thinking about that made me take a moment and look back over how far our young cyclist has come in the last few years.

Burley Bike Trailer

We started with a Burley bike-trailer as he grew too big for a regular stroller.  His mom went with a special-needs stroller – they are a little bigger and heavier-duty than typical strollers. We thought we’d try using the  Burley bike trailer with a stroller attachment instead, though we certainly had to borrow the stroller once in a while.  When LD was  4 and 5, trips to places like the zoo or a museum could not happen without something for him to ride in like a stroller or the Burley.  He began walking much later than most kids do, and his legs and energy didn’t last that long either- a typical challenge with CP.  With the Burley, we could ride our bikes to the zoo, neighborhood festival, or park, lock up the bikes,  un-hitch the Burley, flip down the front stroller wheel, slide on the stroller handlebar, and be ready to go.   He could walk around and play, and then climb back in when he got tired.

Red Kid’s Trike

The first bike we tried out with him was a regular kids tricycle –  a used red Radio Flyer even! But it didn’t work. He felt awkward, couldn’t really pedal, and almost fell off. We tried to entice him with a walk-bike, but he was almost too tall for one at that point, and it just wasn’t comfortable for him either.    Then, in 2010, his therapists presented him with a specially-adapted tricycle (as part of a program sponsored by The TelecomPioneers) That was a banner day.   He zoomed around the therapy room with it like nothing any of us had ever seen.  He was ecstatic and so were all his parents.

 

The trike really made us believe that he’d be able to ride a bike one day. We weren’t sure what kind of bike, but we knew there had to be one and that he’d be game for it.

Adapted Kids Bike with ‘Fat Wheels’

It didn’t take too many months for him to overpower that first trike.  As he grew more confident in his ability, like any kid he only wanted to ride harder and faster.  We started our research, and you can find more pictures and details about the first bike we got for him in this post.  We thought we would get a trail-a-bike for him to ride behind Andrew – but realized he would most likely be constantly leaning to one side or the other.  Instead, we bought a standard kids bike, and had it adapted with a larger seat,  weighted flat pedals with foot straps, a hand brake, and an extra set of tires, larger than traditional ‘training wheel’s attached via a sturdy bracket.

 

This bike has been powerfully successful.  He became just another kid on a bike.  He was able to ride it around the block,  ride it on vacation with other kids and family members, and so on. Tentative at times, but still a kid riding a bike.

(Riding with my brother)

Trike Conversion Kit

He took some spills, went through phases where he was too scared to ride much like many kids,  then got back on it again and took off.  Last spring though, he became really uncomfortable riding it as he had grown so tall that he was very top-heavy against the wobble of those extra wheels.   Which meant it was time to change up his bike again.  This time, we went with  a full trike-conversion kit, which you can read more about in this post.   He still rides the same bike frame, but now it’s been converted to the coolest, orangest-looking trike you’ve ever seen.

Both Andrew and I love the feeling we get when we’re out riding – for both of us, a bad day riding a bike is better than any other day not riding one.  We commute by bike and do as many of our errands and everyday trips by bike as possible.  We wanted to include the little guy in our rides and teach him how to ride so that he can share that great feeling and always have an independent means of transportation. Based on how much he loves to ride his bike these days, I think we’ve succeeded.  And most of the time I forget how far along he’s come from that first red trike.

If you want to catch a view of his trike in action, here’s  a video from a recent Chicago Kidical Mass ride (Jan 2013).  He pops up here and there the video, and again at the end of the ride.  I kept the video going for a bit as we rode on home with LD  in front of me, hamming it up, and riding along like a pro.

Thanks so much, Samantha!

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Beautiful Bicycles: WorkCycles Secret Service

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I recently got my paws on a WorkCycles Secret Service Step-Through bicycle from J.C. Lind Bikes in Chicago. (The bike is also available in a diamond-frame version.)  Naturally, I have lots of thoughts after riding the Secret Service around for a few days.  If you’re interested in learning more about this Dutch bike, read on!

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For those of you who are not familiar with WorkCycles (where have you been?!), they are a true Dutch bike company  with unfailingly high quality. Dutch bikes, of course, are known for their practical utility.  WorkCycles shines on that front, offering bikes loaded with bells and whistles that make for a comfortable, all-weather ride.

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I have been interested in trying the WorkCycles Secret Service for years, because the Secret Service is billed as a lighter, tighter, more compact version of the WorkCycles Oma – aka my big baby girl.  As such, I will frame my thoughts about the Secret Service as they relate to the Oma.

First of all, the Secret Service profile is noticeably slimmer.  This is a result of slightly lighter tubing, narrower tires and handlebars that swoop back less dramatically.  The body positioning while riding the Secret Service is straight up, with legs motioning down and not slightly forward as with the Oma.  Oddly, I was not able to place a foot on the ground comfortably at stoplights; I had to dismount instead.  Note that I test rode the 53″ Secret Service and my Oma is a size 57″.

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The sturdy steel frame and sprung Brooks saddle together make for a smooth ride – almost like my Oma, but not quite as smooth. The pace of the ride is also similar to my Oma, but definitely a bit peppier.  I don’t think I got anywhere faster than I would have on my Oma, but I used a bit less energy.  Some people are thrown off by the front handling of the Oma, feeling that the front wheel way out front is too unweildy.  Those people would not have that issue with the Secret Service – handling is definitely more nimble and responsive.

Like any respectable Dutch bike, the Secret Service holds a substantial amount of cargo.  The integrated rear rack is rated to carry around 65 pounds, while the built-in bungie straps are useful for fastening all sorts of stuff on the rack.  There is an option to increase the cargo capacity significantly by adding a front rack that is rated for up to 50 pounds.  (Same as Oma.)

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Shimano roller brakes in the front and rear are excellent in any weather.  Since they are covered, they are not affected by rain or snow.  With roller brakes, your days of taking twice as long to screech to a stop in bad weather are over.  (Same as Oma.)

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The sturdy wheels are 28″ with Schwalbe tires.  Schwalbes are the best!  The ones on my Oma have never gotten a flat after almost 5 years – knock on wood.  (Same as Oma, but the tires are narrower on the Secret Service.)

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For gearing, there is a Shimano internal hub with 8-speeds.  The bike is also available with a 3-speed hub.  This Shimano Nexus shifting system is a joy to use – transitions are super smooth and allow for changing gears while completely stopped.  (Same as Oma.)

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There are several components that work together to keep your clothes clean and safe. The chain case will prevent your clothes from getting dirty, greasy or eaten by the chain. The fact that the chain is fully covered majorly cuts down on maintenance and helps make this an excellent all-weather, all-season bike.  (Same as Oma, but with a center cut-out and overall lighter look.)

The skirt guard will prevent your skirt or coat from getting caught in the wheel spokes while riding.   (Same as Oma, but smaller and see-through.)

The sturdy two-footed, center-mounted kickstand holds the bike up no matter what. A sturdy kickstand is especially helpful while loading and unloading.  (Same as Oma.)

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Heavy duty fenders are included – an essential for all-weather riding, especially in nice work clothes.  Remember: friends don’t let friends get skunk stripe.  (Same as Oma.)

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The bike is equipped with integrated front and rear lights, which are essential for safe daily riding.  The lights are hub dynamo, which means they are powered by your pedaling and batteries are not needed – a huge benefit!  I really cannot overemphasize the usefulness of integrated lights.  Few situations are more dicey than biking home in the dark after your battery-operated light runs out of juice or is stolen.  (Same as Oma.)

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A sprung Brooks B67 saddle is standard.  This saddle really contributes to the smoothness of the ride.  I can attest that these are absolutely the most comfortable saddles out there, after a short breaking in period of only a few days.  (Same as Oma.)

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The rear wheel comes with a wheel lock, a useful extra that immobilizes the bike – unless someone wants to carry her away.  (Same as Oma.)

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The platform pedals work well with all kinds of shoes, helping to prevent slippage.  (Same as Oma.)

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There is a built-in tire pump that I find to be an odd addition, as I much prefer to use a floor pump.   The chain case makes fixing flats on the go a huge pain and Schwalbe tires rarely get a flat, so a mini pump does not seem very useful.   (Oma does not have a pump.)

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In summary, the set-up of the Secret Service is the same as Oma’s, except the the skirt guard, chain case, and tires are slighter; the handlebars are not swept back as far; the tubing is a tad thinner; and the weight is a bit lower. In exchange for a smaller size and peppier response, the ride is not as smooth and the overall feel is not as luxurious as Oma’s. Those who find the Oma ill-suited because she is too big or heavy would do well to check out the Secret Service. (I’m talking to you, shorter peeps!)

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The WorkCycles Oma is firmly in a class of her own. She reigns as Queen of Citybikedom.

The WorkCycles Secret Service is a first-rate bike with excellent quality, utility and beauty, but could be considered in the same general class as the following:

Gazelle Toer Populair
Pashley Sonnet Bliss
Velorbis Victoria / Dannebrog
Pilen Lyx

Riding the Secret Service reminded me more of those four bikes than of the Oma. Oma is like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Float or a glider rocker on wheels; the other bikes are like very nice bikes.

I would recommend the Secret Service over the Oma for anyone who feels overwhelmed by the size of the Oma, who dislikes the sometimes-unweildly front handling of the Oma, or who travels longer distances or encounters the occasional hill.

As always, I recommend trying to test-ride as many different bikes as possible before deciding which bike is best for you. If you’re in Chicago, you can head over to J.C. Lind Bikes in Old Town (and soon, because he’s getting only one more small shipment of WorkCycles for the rest of the year).

Finally, here is a quick video I put together that hopefully gives you a better idea of the bike.

P.S. Read about our visit to the WorkCycles shop in Amsterdam here.

{As always, we at LGRAB receive nothing for our reviews except the joy of spreading beautiful bike love.}

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WorkCycles Have Returned to Chicago!

To the untrained eye, this bicycle may look like my Oma, but it’s actually a stealthy WorkCycles Secret Service.  She’s a loaner from J.C. Lind Bikes for a few days while Betty Foy gets her (much needed!) spring overhaul.

When Dutch Bike Chicago closed a year and a half ago (their Seattle shop is still in business), I was disappointed that WorkCycles were no longer sold in Chicago.  People often ask me about my Oma, and after DBC closed I had no place to direct them other than the internet.

Happily, this is no longer a problem.  WorkCycles have returned to Chicago!  Jon of J.C. Lind Bikes (at 1300 N. Wells for locals) worked out an arrangement with Henry of WorkCycles, and now the shop carries a variety of WorkCycles city bikes.

I have a review of the Secret Service coming soon, and I’ll try to test others like the Fr8 and Gr8 at some point, since I know many people are unable to test ride them in real life before purchasing and must rely heavily on online information.

Stay tuned!

{J.C. Lind is an LGRAB sponsor and friend. Henry of WorkCycles is an LGRAB friend now, too!   But all of my reviews are absolutely independent.}

 

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Heritage Bicycle’s The Chief – Legacy Edition

Eye candy alert!  Today Heritage Bicycles announced a new creation, the Chief Legacy Edition.

What a beauty!  The basic Chief is also available at a much lower price point.

This bicycle is made even more alluring by the story of how it’s made.

Here at Heritage Bicycles we take pride in creating locally handcrafted bicycle frames. Using local steel from the mills of Chicago, we use top grade american high-tensile steel, welded into smooth riding and looking bicycles built to take on the rigors of city life. We do all of our handiwork in-house. From design to welding, painting, and assembly, we employ hard working american craftsmen, right here in Chicago, IL.

Very cool to see this work going on in Chicago.

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Surly Stories

My friend Megan, intrepid world-traveler, recently bought a Surly Cross-Check.  She already had a Gary Fisher Simple City for in-town riding, but wanted the Surly for longer, faster rides and for a bike tour around Iceland next summer!

I ran into her by chance today on my way home from work and she had been riding around the city for hours, enjoying the swiftness of her new bike.

The Surly seems like a popular bike for people looking for the right combination of quality and (relative) affordability.  I know of many who use Surleys both for commuting and for touring.

Do you have a Surly story?  If so, share it in the comments!  I’m sure Megan and many others would be interested to hear them.

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Beautiful Bicycles: Civia Twin City Step-Through

I recently tested the Civia Twin City Step-Through from J.C. Lind Bikes.  I picked up the Twin City on Friday, returned it on Monday afternoon, and had a lot of fun in between.


The Twin City is a steel frame mixte with a great commuting set up – fenders, chain guard, rack, 7-speed internal gear hub, roller brake, and albatross bars.  Unfortunately,  smaller necessities such as lights and a bell must be added after market.  (During my test ride, I kept reaching for a non-existent bell – bells are so important in the city!)

The attachment you see on the bottom tube is the Abus Bordo lock, which is sold separately.

 

Overall, the Twin City has an attractive and kinda ’70’s look (is it just me?).  A metal Civia headbadge decorates the front of the bike.  I really appreciate a well-designed metal headbadge, instead of a sticker.

This bike comes in only one color, a deep and almost pearlescent red.  My friend’s 12-year-old daughter loved this color and declared that she wanted her old Schwinn painted the exact same.

The top tube is split all the way down, like a traditional mixte, but curved to allow for an easier step through.  I think step through frames make the most sense for anyone looking for a commuter bike, regardless of gender.

The bike has front caliper brakes – the kind most commonly seen on modern bikes – which stop the bike by clamping on the tire rim.

The rear wheel has a Shimano roller brake, which helps with stopping power in the rain or snow, because the elements cannot reach the enclosed hub.  There is also a Shimano Nexis 7-speed internal gear hub – again, great for all weather.  This is an excellent hub, the same I have on my Oma.

The bike is built with steel fenders and a chain guard, all painted to match the frame.  Fenders and chain coverings are so necessary for a transportation bike and I like how these are integrated and blend well.

The pedals are metal with sharp teeth and side reflectors.  They are okay, but I would swap them out for rubber-padded pedals.  My feet slipped several times while wearing both my Keen cycling sandals and my rubber-soled sneakers.  I can imagine they would be even more slippery with dress shoes.  Plus, my history with spikey pedals tells me I would eventually scratch the crap out of my calves when walking the bike.  For the more sporty type, clip-in or strap pedals would work well with the bike, too.

There is a single-footed kickstand.  While I appreciate that a kickstand is included, I would swap this out for a double-footed stand because I like my bike not to fall over constantly.  (Single-footed kickstands offer only an illusion of security!)

The quill stem and handlebars are great, similar to the Nitto Albatross bars I have on my Rivendell Betty Foy.  The positioning is more leaned forward and down than my Betty, but not as much as drop bars.

I added my personal rearview mirror because I always like to know what’s coming up behind me.

I also added my personal Brooks B17 saddle because the plain black saddle that comes with the bike is uncomfortable as hell.  Atrocious.  I suffered through my five mile ride home from the bike shop, until I could swap in Betty’s saddle.  I highly recommend upgrading to a Brooks or a similar not-awful saddle.

In addition to the fenders and chain guard, there is an integrated and matching rear rack – another essential element of a good commuter bike.  The rack held a good size load in a big pannier with no problem, although it is not made to be super heavy duty.

I borrowed an Ortlieb pannier for the test period, because the Basil pannier I use on my Oma would not fit on the Twin City rack – the Basil connectors were too wide.  I will review the Ortlieb pannier soon.

 

The Twin City is much more than the sum of its parts.  The ride quality and versatility are both high, as is the quality to cost ratio.  Someone looking for a commuting bike that also works for longer recreational excursions and is fairly light (compared to a Dutch bike) would do very well with the Twin City.  She or he would also do excellently with a Rivendell Betty Foy, but the price would be at least 150% more.

I rode the bike home from work on Friday, to the neighborhood movie theatre on Saturday, on a long ride on Sunday, and to work on Monday.  I found the bike to be excellent for every type of ride.

At first, when biking home on Friday, I felt way bent over and down, but that extreme feeling went away once I got used to the bike. I realized that it only seemed extreme after riding super-upright Oma.  The geometry is somewhat leaned over, but no more so than most typical commuter bikes on the market.  The steel frame allows for a smooth ride, even over Chicago’s notoriously potholed streets.

I was a little worried about how the bike would feel during my long 31 mile ride on Sunday, but there was no need.  The bike performed beautifully and proved to be nimble, quick, and comfortable.  I never felt like I was weighed down, even with a strong headwind, and totally enjoyed my ride.  I did wish that I had some harder gears in the tailwind, though, as I could not really open up and use all my energy without spinning.

The Twin City would be great for hilly terrain.  Of the seven gears, I mostly stayed in 7th gear, shifting to 6th at stoplights.  If I were using this bike for daily riding in Chicago, I would prefer a more difficult set-up that allowed me to use the other gears more.  That said, I used 5th and sometimes 4th gear when hit by a strong headwind and the full range of gears would be essential for a hilly city.

Overall, this bike has a lot going for it.  I was impressed.  The base price is $850 for the 7-speed or $595 for the single speed, which probably seems like a lot for someone who is looking for a bike to get started – my first adult bike was $450 and I felt like I was spending a fortune! – but is a good and fair price for the quality and features.  I strongly suggest that someone buying this bike upgrade to a Brooks saddle ($80) and add a bell ($10-20) and lights (at least $30).  I would also recommend swapping out the kickstand and pedals.  However, please note that such extras would not necessarily be expected on a bike at this price point.  I know that bike companies cut where they can to present a product for mass market appeal under a certain cost.  Even with those extras, the Twin City is a good value for a steel frame bike with fenders, chain guard, rack, internal 7-speed hub, and roller brakes.

I made a short video about the Twin City.  Not the best ever (I swear, sometimes I sound like I’m talking gibberish – my mind gets ahead of my tongue), but hopefully it gives an idea of how the bike looks in motion.

The bikes that seem most comparable to the Civia Twin City are the Public and Linus.  I think those two are not as high quality, but I have not tried them yet, so I cannot compare. I’ll try to do so in the near future, since we get a lot of questions about them.

As always, I highly recommend that anyone considering this bike try to arrange a real test-ride, if possible.  Your opinion of a bike could be totally different from mine.

p.s. There is also a Twin City Step-Over.

{J.C. Lind Bikes is a sponsor and friend of LGRAB.  This is not a sponsored review, but my own honest opinion.}

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Previews!

Here is a preview of the new Civia Twin City Step-Through from JC Lind Bikes.  I picked her up today for a weekend review.  The  last bike I reviewed was way back in October, although I posted the review in February, so I’m excited to try a new bike.

I have big weekend plans for me and the Twin City, including a trip to the farmer’s market.  Stay tuned for a full review next week.

Also, check back on Monday morning for an exciting announcement about the evolution of Let’s Go Ride a Bike!  You may have noticed our brand spanking new look (still working out the kinks!) – that’s only the beginning.  ;)

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Beautiful Bicycles: The Pilen Lyx Step-Through

Last fall, I had the pleasure of test-riding for two days a completely new bike to me, the Pilen Lyx Step-Through from J.C. Lind Bike Co.

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The Pilen is a beautiful and utilitarian bike made in Sweden.  The ride is super sturdy and smooth, while also being pretty swift, and the bike has loads of utilitarian features.  I will point out all those features below, but first, here is my main thought on the bike: if I were forced to choose only one bike to own, I would choose the Pilen Lyx.  My WorkCycles Oma is a fully upright bike that allows me to bike in any type of clothing, carry lots of weight, ride regally, and weather any weather.  My Rivendell Betty Foy is the inanimate love of my life and gets me places quickly and comfortably.  However, these two bikes must work as a team to compliment my needs and moods.  Alone, each bike has weaknesses.

I’m not saying that I like the Pilen more than my bikes (never!  I’m fiercely loyal to Betty and Oma) but the Pilen manages to combine the most important qualities of each: all-weather sturdiness, swiftness, beauty, and carrying capacity.

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Swooping frame that makes it super easy to mount.

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Pretty badge, sprung Brooks saddle and lugs.

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Front basket with support from stays down to the front wheel.  A spring to keep the front wheel from swinging around based on weight in the basket.

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A rear wheel lock and chain guard.

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Rubber-padded pedals to keep your shoes from slipping off (especially helpful with high heels).

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Schwalbe tires.  These are my personal favorite, because I’ve never gotten a flat on my Schwalbe tires since I’ve had them, after almost 4 years.

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Internal 7-speed gear hub that you change by twisting the handlebar.  This is my favorite system, the same that’s on my Oma, the Shimano Nexis.

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Built-in branded bell!  You ding by spinning it.

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Extremely sturdy rear rack that is extra wide and can hold lots of goodies.  There is so much I could do with that rear rack, even more than with my Oma’s sturdy rear rack.

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Beautiful front profile.  Sturdy kickstand (soooo helpful for loading and unloading), although I would prefer a double-footed kickstand for more uprightness and for easy access from either side of the bike.

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Front generator light, meaning they’re powered by pedaling and never die.  Rear battery-powered LED light.

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The ride of the Pilen is quite upright.  Not quite as upright as a traditional Dutch bike, but certainly comfortable.

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The proportions of the bike worked very well with me (I’m 5’7 with a long torso).  The ride was swift, easy, and smooth —not quite as swift as my Rivendell and not quite as smooth as my Oma, but an excellent combination of the two.

I cannot comment on how well the bike would age, but it seems like it would withstand the elements and wear-and-tear quite well. The only part I would be worried about is the chain, since it is not fully covered.  I hate having to keep a chain clean.

Overall, I thought this bike was pretty kick-ass. I was impressed.

As always, I recommend that you test ride the bike – and as many others as possible – before making a decision.  J.C. Lind Bike Co. is a sponsor of Let’s Go Ride a Bike, but  my review is my own.  For another perspective, including off-road performance, Lovely Bicycle had the bike for a month and you can read her review here.

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J.C. Lind Bike Co. and Pilen Preview

I know I’m spoiled by Chicago’s collection of bike shops and unique bicycles. The least I can do is take full advantage and share my experiences through this blog.

In that spirit, below is a photo of me saying goodbye to a Pilen this afternoon, after a three day test ride. I’ll provide a full review here soon, but spoiler alert: I loved it!

(As an aside, today was 90 degrees and a black t-shirt is great for disguising sweat spots. I’m going to regret saying this in a few months, but – damn, who else is ready for fall? I’m so tired of sweating.)

Anyway, back to the Pilen. It’s a Swedish bike, the newest addition to J.C. Lind Bike Co.

J.C. Lind is a sponsor of LGRAB, but I’m saying this as a friend and bike-lover: any bicyclist in Chicago who has not visited the shop and gotten to know Jon Lind is missing out.

If you’re in the city, you really should stop by and chat with Jon, test ride some bikes, and check out the cool accessories. People always ask where they can buy a Nutcase helmet or Basil pannier like mine – that’s where! The shop is in Old Town, on Wells Ave between North and Division. If you’re far from Chicago but looking for a cargo bike or unique city bike, you can visit his shop virtually. The impressive list of bikes includes Christiana, Batavus, Gazelle, Linus, Civia, Golden Lion, Kangaroo, Yuba and Pilen.

Jon is so friendly and he’s in this business for the love of bikes and bike culture. He really cares about bringing the best cargo and city bikes to Chicago – just what our city needs!

If you stop by, tell him Dottie says hi. :)

I’m glad this blog gives me an excuse to try out bikes. Someone tell me I’m not the only one who lusts after new bikes, knowing full well that I have neither the money nor the space for any more.

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Beautiful Bicycles: Kate Spade for Adeline Adeline Abici

Whew. That is a mouthful of a name.


So I just call her “Kermit Allegra.”

The first thing you need to know about Kermit Allegra is that, despite being one classy lady, she fits in pretty much anywhere. And she’s especially at home with me in Nashville.

I had ridden an Abici before and dreamed of one pretty much ever since. But superstitiously I feared getting one, because of Nashville’s hills and because reality seldom lives up to memory/dreams.

Well, the Abici ended up being one of those exceptions that proves the rule. Thank goodness. Despite being a single speed, this bicycle’s light weight and sporty geometry make it a pretty solid hill-climber and a joy to ride. The Kate Spade for Adeline Adeline Abici is a Granturismo Donna that has been customized by Kate Spade. Customizations are minimal, but include a rear rack, a front headlight with a vintage look, a special logo and, of course, the signature Kate Spade green color. The bicycle is priced at $1,100, vs. the $995 price tag for the non-Kate Spade Donna, which is a fair additional amount to pay for the addition of a rack and front light (although I have minor issues with both of these components).

The front light has a vintage look. It is battery-powered, which doesn’t bother me—but the fact that the button to turn it on, which is on the back of the light, is jammed up against the front fork (shown in the photo above) does. Perhaps this design flaw will be corrected in future iterations? There are plenty of attractive lights with a side switch.

I take consolation from the creamy ivory grips in marbled plastic and the classic ding-dong bell.

And the Brooks B17 saddle, which was comfortable for my 20-mile ride, the longest for the two of us yet.

The KS Abici’s rear rack is not the Pletscher that is shown on the product page, but something different and curvier. With the addition of rack straps, it is quite functional despite the delicate lines, though unfortunately there is no good place to attach a rear light.

The frame is lugged, with a delicate swoop to the top tube that is oh-so-Italian. The fenders and enclosed chain case make this an all-weather ride, while the coaster brake and front handbrake allow you to keep your hands free to sip a drink. (Drink holder is after-market.)

Kermit Allegra offers you a sweet treat

Kermit Allegra offers you a sweet treat

Despite my single-speed qualms, so far I have ridden this bike everywhere that I have ridden my Peugeot or Batavus—and then some. As someone who prefers to use strength over rapid spinning when it comes to pedaling, I haven’t found the single speed to be any more challenging than my geared bikes, even on the toughest hills. Sure, I’m not speeding up them, but I wasn’t doing that on my other bikes, either.

The reasons for this remain something of a mystery to me, since I have spent more time enjoying the effect than investigating the cause. I have read that there is some loss of power due to the friction between the chain and derailleur  when you’re riding a geared bike, but the reported loss percentages vary between 5% and 20% (and some claim it’s complete BS).

1951698-R2-052-24A
What I know for sure about this bike is that it suits me perfectly in myriad ways. The 47.5 cm frame makes all my other bikes feel too big. The bright, cheery color makes it impossible not to smile when you see it. The single-speed makes riding feel carefree and easy. The drawbacks: less than perfect lighting solutions; rack is not functional without the addition of straps.

If you, too, are looking for your bicycle soul mate, I recommend giving the Kate Spade Abici a whirl. At the very least, you’ll have fun.

Trisha on Rolleiflex

{If you couldn’t tell by looking at them, all photos were taken by Dottie.}

Kate Spade Abici for Adeline Adeline, as reviewed here.

MSRP $1,100 includes:

47.5 cm lugged steel frame
Front caliper brake
Rear coaster brake
Enclosed chain case
Ivory marbled plastic handgrips
Brooks B17 saddle
Front battery-powered headlamp
Rear rack
Fenders
Kickstand
Bell

Add-ons by me:
Rack strap
PDW Bar-ista

This bicycle was given to me in exchange for ad placement on this site. However, the views expressed in this post are completely my own.

Jamie’s Stylish New Folding Bike

Jamie, the stylish NYC photographer behind one of my favorite photo blogs, From Me To You, recently got a new bike.

This is the Barcelona model of a Citizen Folding Bike. I am not familiar with the brand, but the $399 sale price is right. Check out those cream balloon tires and wicker basket! What a beauty! Both of them. :)

Folding bikes are an excellent choice for city-dwellers who have to carry their bikes into their apartments every night. As Jamie notes, this one fits in her tiny apartment.

{Photo (c) From Me To You and used with permission}

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Beautiful Bicycles: Gouden Leeuw Oma

While having Betty Foy serviced last week, I borrowed a Gouden Leeuw Oma from J.C. Lind Bikes (a sponsor of LGRAB) for a couple of days.

Although the Gouden Leeuw may look a lot like my Workcycles Oma, the two are very different bikes. My Oma is a full luxury brick house, while the GL Oma is relatively diminutive, much lighter and $700 less. Also, the GL Oma is a single speed with coaster brakes.

Aside from those factors, there are many similarities.  The GL Oma has a powder coated steel frame and all of the accessories that I demand from the best city bikes.

Fully enclosed drivetrain. The full chain case acts as a barrier between the chain and the outside world, meaning both the drivetrain and your clothes stay clean and protected. Fenders! Essential to keeping yourself clean and dry in any weather.

Front and rear battery powered lights.  I prefer hub lights that receive energy from pedaling alone, but these battery powered lights help keep both the weight and the cost down.

A wheel lock to provide extra minimum security and a skirt guard to keep your clothes from getting sucked into the wheel.

A comfortable saddle. This Brooks saddle is an upgrade that I highly recommend as the most comfortable saddle ever. A rear rack to carry heavy loads with strong rubber straps to hold down all sorts of packages.

A double footed kickstand to keep your bike upright when parked, especially helpful for loading and unloading cargo.  This kickstand model is better than a regular one-footed design, but is not totally sturdy and I much prefer the two-footed center kickstand on my Oma.


A minimalist cockpit features comfy rubber grips and a bell.  There are no cables or other distracting elements because there are no handbrakes and no gear shifters. I prefer coaster brakes (where you pedal backward to stop) combined with a front hand brake. The coaster brake set up alone on this bike is not my favorite for city cycling.

The bike comes in two frame sizes. I am 5’7 and I rode the 50 cm frame for riders 5’2 to 5’8.  The other frame is 57 cm for riders 5’8 to 6’2.  The 50 cm fit me fine after raising the seat and handlebars, but I felt like I could have ridden the 57 cm.

Riding this bike around Chicago was fun, smooth and swift. The gearing was spot on and I never felt limited by one gear (although I never rode up any hills).  I felt like I was perched atop one of those European bikes from the early 20th century, on which you sit straight up but keep your hands down low. A jaunty ride that made me want to talk with my terrible British accent. ‘ello!


Overall, I liked this bike. While it lacks the indestructible feel of my Oma, it’s a good choice for someone who appreciates the design and utility of a Dutch city bike, but not the weight or the higher price tag. All of the bells and whistles that make for a utilitarian city bike are there, rolled into a classic and stylish design.

I’m not sure about the price, though. $900 is substantially less than most other Dutch bikes on the market and it’s an okay asking price for a bike with so many features, but at that price point there are other excellent bikes that I would consider, such as the Abici, Pashley Poppy or base Civia Loring. The Gouden Leeuw may be as good as those bikes, but without the name recognition and reputation, it’s impossible for me to say. I don’t know if this is the kind of bike that can be used and abused and still counted on a decade later. I’m also not a fan of the coaster brake set up and would want to add on a front hand brake.

I would love to hear from any Gouden Leeuw Oma owners out there. I know of some who were lucky enough to snap them up during the Groupon deal at an amazing price.

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Beautiful Bicycles: Yuba Mundo Cargo Bike

As I mentioned yesterday, I recently test rode a Yuba Mundo from J.C. Lind Bikes for 24 hours. Yuba is a utility bike company based in California and the Mundo can carry up to 450 pounds of cargo on the back while riding like a regular bike. As some of my co-workers noted today, this is the station wagon of bikes (as opposed to Oma, which they’ve called my Cadillac).

The bike is not super heavy for its size and is equipped with 21 gears on a derailleur system to help make any load do-able.

You change the gears by turning the grip shifters on the handlebars.

Fenders cover both wheels to help keep you clean and dry.  A spring above the front tire keeps the handlebars stabilized and prevents the bars and the wheel from flopping to the side.

This bike requires maintenance to keep the v-brakes, derailleur and huge exposed chain clean.  Not a big deal, but a factor that does not come into play with traditional Dutch and Danish cargo bikes. Note that the frame could be built up with disc brakes and internal gear hubs, but that would cost extra.

The frame is covered with braze-ons, like the water bottle ones below, to make attaching racks and other add-ons easy.  The top tube is unusually thick, which was annoying at first because my knees kept knocking against it as I pedaled.  But after a few minutes, I adjusted to carrying myself a bit differently and the bumping stopped.

The frame comes in only one size, but the bike is highly adjustable to allow multiple family members to ride it by changing the seat and handlebars.

The one thing that I would change is the step-over height, but maybe that’s a necessity of the design.  Mounting and dismounting in my skirt was inelegant, to say the least, and an easier step-over would be especially beneficial when hauling a load, I assume.

The riding position is pretty straight up, as you can see, although I moved the handlebars more upright to match my preference and the bars could be placed lower and further forward for a slightly more aerodynamic feel.

The main attraction, of course, is the long tail, which is rated to hold up to 450 pounds of cargo.  In addition to the rack itself, rails extend out below the rack to make hanging and strapping stuff along the side super easy.

If I owned the bike, I would permanently attach two saddlebags (those suckers are huge!), one on each side, and distribute bigger loads evenly between both sides.  I think it would be awesome to ride this bike around all the time, never having to worry about my ability to carry any load, while at the same time not feeling weighed down by a big cargo bike when not carrying anything.  This bike also has kid seats that clip onto the rear rack, so if you’re comfortable carrying kids on the back, it’s the most versatile kid/cargo carrier that I’ve test-ridden.

Since I borrowed the bike on the spur of the moment, I did not get to try it with a load.  I wanted to go grocery hauling or do something cool, but I really did not need groceries or to spend any more money.  I carried two bags and a heavy lock in the saddle bag, so there was some weight, but nothing monumental.  I know that greatly limits the helpfulness of this review – sorry about that.

I rode along the lakefront in a stiff headwind this morning, and while the bike was not speedy, it was not heavy like my Dutch bike would have been. The 21 gears are really awesome to use.  The thick 26″ wheels and long wheelbase make the bike draggy, but are essential for carrying sturdy loads.

Handling in general is superb for a cargo bike.  The Yuba rides like a regular bike – granted not like the best bike in the world, but like a smooth and sturdy hybrid.  I got used to the feel of the bike after a couple of minutes and after that could have forgotten that I was riding a strange bike, if it weren’t for all the stares I got from pedestrians.  I’m sure a heavy load would affect that to some degree, but the quality of the ride unloaded is a good sign.

The Yuba Mundo really stands out for its ability to haul massive loads, while functioning like a regular bike when all you want is a regular bike.  If you want to haul stuff on your bike but find the idea of a bakfiets-type bike cumbersome and/or too pricey, the Yuba is definitely worth checking out. Priced at $1095 for the set-up I rode, it’s a relative bargain.

My test ride review can only scratch the surface of this bike, so I encourage you to try it out in real life, if possible (available at J.C. Lind for Chicagoans) and check out Steven Can Plan to hear from an owner. In particular, check out his “Rules for Yubering” and impressive all-Yuba Flickr set.

I know there are quite a few of you out there who ride a Yuba or the similar Surly Long Haul Trucker Big Dummy, so I’d love to hear from all of you about your experiences, especially with carrying substantial loads.

Questions? Leave them in the comments. I may not be able to answer them all, but hopefully someone with more intimate Yuba experience could jump in.

{J.C. Lind Bikes is a sponsor of LGRAB. That’s not why I decided to test this bike, but I should point out that relationship.}

{Also, tying this back to yesterday’s post, I took these photos using the film SLR camera I bought for $25, I’m wearing the wool-silk skirt I bought for $2, and I’m displaying my Irish pride for St. Paddy’s day.}


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Coco’s Geometry

Because of the icy weather, I have not been riding Coco, my Velorbis Studine Balloon, as much as I desperately want to, choosing instead my studded-tire bike.  I can count the substantial rides I’ve taken with her on one hand – not enough for a real review, but enough to talk a bit here and there as I get to know her better.

After my first work commute with Coco a couple of weeks ago, I talked about her ride.  In that post, I mentioned how Coco’s geometry is different from Oma’s, even though the two look like similar style bikes.  The photos below demonstrate how Coco’s distinctive geometry affects my riding position.

As you can see, my hips and legs are aligned almost straight down, while my torso is slightly leaned forward.  My posture is straight, but not totally upright.  You can compare to my positioning on Oma here.

I thought this geometry difference would cause my legs to work more, but thus far I have not noticed a difference in the amount of energy required for pedaling. If anything, Coco may be a bit swifter, although I’m still trying to determine if that’s all in my head.

The geometry does make slight differences to the details of my ride. For example, starting from a stoplight is easier. My foot on the raised pedal simply goes straight down to propel the bike forward; I don’t have to simultaneously push down and forward on the pedal while my other foot pushes off the ground. Another detail is that I can stand up on the pedals for a boost of energy, which I cannot do on Oma. Also, good posture is easy to maintain; I don’t have to keep telling myself to sit up straight and roll my shoulders back as I do when riding Oma.

These subtle differences are hard to describe, but they make riding the two bikes not as similar as some may assume.

I do realize I’m firmly in the “splitting hairs” territory that EcoVelo recently wrote about. To me, at least, Coco and Oma are like apples and oranges. :)

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Coco’s Ride

I rode Coco to work Monday, before Tuesday’s snowfall sent me back to Oma and her studded tires.  I was so giddy to have a new bike, I decided to take Coco on a spin to the lakefront during lunch with my camera and a roll of film.

I haven’t ridden Coco enough yet to provide in-depth opinions on how she performs, but I’ll offer some initial thoughts.  She feels great!  The ride is similar to Oma’s and nothing like Betty Foy’s.  She weighs a bit less than Oma and is a bit more sprightly, but speed (or lack of it) and comfort are on pretty much par.

There are some notable differences.  First, Coco’s balloon tires are super cushy and help me laugh in the face of Chicago’s potholes and train tracks (one of my biggest fears).  Second, Coco has only three gears.  I ended up using all three gears during my ride, depending on incline (ramps in and out of the Lakefront Trail) and wind direction, and the range felt spot on.  Third, Coco’s geometry is almost straight up and down, but a tiny bit bent forward to reach the handlebars, whereas Oma’s geometry is a tiny bit leaned back with legs pushing a tiny bit forward.  I thought this would make riding Coco feel substantially different after a few miles, but my body felt the same while pedaling and once I arrived at work, no more or less fatigued or energized.

I probably don’t even need to mention looks.  She’s a beauty that I love to gaze at.  Beauty should not be underestimated when choosing a bike.  If you’re going to ride a bike every day, it should call out to you.  Coco certainly accomplishes that!

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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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Beautiful Bicycles: Kangaroo Family Bike

Allow me to introduce you to the Kangaroo, the most sophisticated cargo bike I’ve met. The Kangaroo is a Danish bike, designed specifically – and wonderfully – to carry children. Although I was initially skeptical of a bike made of such modern materials and with such a narrow purpose, after my test ride the Kangaroo now ranks near the top of my bike list.

the Kangaroo

The frame is aluminum 6061, the cargo area is impact-resistent and UV-stabalized polyethylene, and the cover is nylon. Good old-fashioned wood and steel is more appealing to me initially, but these materials go together to create a unique and utilitarian set-up that would not be possible without them. The cover, when fully set up, is wind, water and snow proof, although there is an additional tarp for heavy downpours and outside storage.  The convertible cover is impressively simple to operate, going from fully-enclosed to open-air in about ten seconds.

ready for action

There is only one frame size, but everything is adjustable to allow more than one member of a family to hop on and drive. In addition to the seat, the handlebar system is highly adjustable, able to go up, down, forward, backward and all around. The position of the bars in these photos is a little further from me than I would have them set up for long-term use. There are also several hand positions for comfort, kinda like cargo bike drop bars. The steering responsiveness is also fully adjustable, so the driver can set it how she or he feels most comfortable.

riding

The amazing part of this bike is the cargo area, designed to hold kids with many different set-ups.  The seats look super comfortable and a harness holds the kiddies in.  Here is the main set-up with two seats facing the front.

two seats

The seats are held on with these rails and quick-release levers.  Adjusting the seats take a little more time than adjusting the cover, but no more than a couple of minutes.  The seats can slide back and forth to adjust for necessary leg room or cargo.

seat rails

The seats can be turned around so one or both face the back.

facing backward

One seat can be removed to carry only one child in the center and keep a good balance of weight.

one seat

And the seats can lay totally flat for some nap time.

seat laying down

When turning, the front moves separately from the back and the back leans to the side slightly. The turning radius is amazing for a big trike like this.  I was going around and around in tight circles and weaving in and out of parked cars.  The bike always felt completely stable.  My least-favorite part of riding the De Fietsfabriek trike was feeling a bit topsy turvy over every grade change and pothole, even if it was mostly in my head.  With this bike I deliberately went over a lot of uneven pavement (there’s plenty to choose from in Chicago) and never had that feeling.

turning

tight turning radius

The front has hydraulic disc brakes for serious stopping power, although I cannot say how they feel stopping from high speeds, carrying a heavy load or while going downhill.

hydraulic disc brakes

The rear has a coaster brake, which by itself was suitable for my stopping purposes during the test ride. There is a seven speed internal hub – more than enough for Chicago. Again, I cannot say how this bike would feel up hill. I imagine it would be a hard slog, as it would with any cargo bike.

coaster brake, chain guard, 7-speed internal hub

Need even more carrying capacity? There’s a sturdy rack on the back. For keeping your clothes clean, there are fenders and a chain guard. LED lights in the front and rear are built-in. I prefer dynamo lights that automatically work without batteries when I pedal, but at least LED batteries last a long time.

rack, fenders, LED lights

There is a short-term parking brake on the handlebars. For long-term parking, the front kickstand is sturdy. The number you see on the front is also on the frame and serves as a theft deterrent or at least a way maybe to get the bike back if a thief tries to sell it.

ID number for theft, front kickstand

Overall, I’m highly impressed by this bike. The design is ingenious for kid-carrying, the ride is smooth and the handling is superb. The limitations of my short test ride without kids in the front means I cannot give complete information about using the bike, but I know that when the time comes for me to buy a family bike, I will be going back to test ride the Kangaroo again.

better than a Subaru

For more info, check out this Danish article via Copenhaganize that test rode several family bikes and ranked the Kangaroo as the best, giving it a 5 out of 5 rating. The article also calls it the Volvo of bikes and says it has a suburban look to it. Certainly, the Kangaroo is not sexy like the wood and steel Bakfiets, but that would be the least of my concerns while toting a kid around the city.

The company has another version, the Wallaroo, that is shaped like a two-wheeled bakfiets, but has a similar child compartment on the front. I’d be interested to try that version, as well.

As far as I know, the Kangaroo is carried by only one store in the USA and, lucky me, it’s in Chicago. The store is J.C. Lind Bikes.

{As always, we at LGRAB receive nothing for our reviews except the joy of spreading beautiful bike love.}

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Beautiful Bicycles: Civia Loring

Chances are good that you’ve already heard of Civia Cycles, the relatively new company in Minnesota making beautiful utilitarian bikes. Civia’s motto is: Life’s better by bike. We agree!

I recently test rode the Civia Loring. The Loring is the most relaxed of the company’s five models. Civia markets the Loring for “tooling around town, cruising campus, or pedaling to the grocer.” This seems to limit the Loring more than necessary, as it is a sturdy utility bike and they make it sound like a cruiser.

The steel frame and sprung Brooks saddle make for a smooth ride, almost like my Dutch bike, but not quite as smooth. The pace of the ride is also similar to my Dutch bike. I had expected the Loring to be a little more peppy, but the bike demands smooth, steady and slower pedaling action. The swept-back handlebars are comfortable and allow for a somewhat upright riding position. The position is similar to that of my Rivendell Betty Foy.

Civia Loring in all her glory

The Loring has the unique combination (at least unique for city bikes) of an internally geared hub and disc brakes. Both of these components are excellent for riding in rain and snow. I rode the 3-speed version (there is also a 9-speed version). The first gear was useless during my test ride in flat Chicago, but could come in handy for people with hills or carrying heavy loads. Second and third gears felt good. Braking at normal speeds and in normal conditions felt no different than braking with the roller brakes on my Dutch bike.

Rear wheel with disc brakes

Front view of Civia Loring

Carrying capacity is outstanding, with integrated front and rear aluminum racks with bamboo slats. A spring prevents the front from swinging around when loaded. The fenders are also bamboo and work to keep you clean and dry in the wet weather. Other stand-outs are the chain guard to keep your pants and long skirts from getting greasy and mangled, and the two-footed kickstand to keep your bike sturdy and upright. Minus a couple of points for the lack of an integrated lighting system.

Integrated front rack with wood slats

Integrated rear rack with wood slat

Wood fenders and 26" wheels

Civia Loring

The Civia Loring is a high-quality and well-thought-out bike. If you are interested in a beautiful and dependable bike to get you and your stuff around town, you may want to add the Loring to your list of bikes to consider. As always, I recommend trying to test-ride as many different bikes as possible, before deciding which bike is best for you.

For other Civia Loring reviews, check out Ecovelo’s and Fortworthology’s great write-ups.

{As always, we at LGRAB receive nothing for our reviews except the joy of spreading beautiful bike love.}

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Beautiful Bicycles: Pashley Sonnet Bliss (yes, again)

Today I stopped by Boulevard Bikes to visit the Pashley Sonnet Bliss. Lucky for me, one of the very few Pashley retailers in the U.S. is in Chicago. My love for Pashleys is no secret and I hope to own a Pashley one day. Of course, I also hope to own a bakfiets cargo bike, Brompton folding bike, ANT Light Roadster and Sweet Pea Little Black Dress, so… we’ll see.

Two years ago I seriously considered buying Pashley Princess Sovereign. I decided to buy my Dutch bike instead, but now I think owning both would not be too crazy.

A year ago, I rode and reviewed the Pashley Sonnet Bliss and fell in love. You can read all about the bike at the original review.

This is going down as “test ride a different type of bike than you normally ride” for the Summer Games. I swear the Pashley is different enough from my Oma to count! ;)

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Beautiful Bicycles: De Fietsfabriek Oma

I recently test rode the De Fietsfabriek Oma for three days and thirty miles. De Fietsfabriek is a Dutch bike company and the U.S. distributor is a lovely shop along my daily commute route, owned and run by Jon Lind. (A great interview with Jon is here.)

This is the first bicycle I have tested that matches the quality of my WorkCycles Azor Oma and has features that I wish my Oma had. In fact, my Oma has now been slightly altered to incorporate one of the De Fietsfabriek’s accessories – more on that later.

I’m not saying that this bike is a rival for my love, but I wouldn’t kick her out of bed for eating crackers.

Before I begin to discuss all of the components, I must point out the design touches that make this bike extra special. As shown below (the “FF” stands for “Fietsfabriek”) lettering can be die cast into the frame, between the top and bottom tubes. You can choose to spell your name or anything else you want. Now I totally want “Dottie” on my Oma!

Continue reading

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