Category Archives: Learning

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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Review: Lululemon Ride On Crop

Lululemon sent a pair of Ride On Crops along with the other items in the Ride On collection, but the sizing and style weren’t quite right for me. So I passed them along to one of the most faithful members of our bicycle gang to assess! In addition to being a badass cyclist who bike commutes from East Nashville to downtown more often than not, Lauren is a talented seamstress, so her opinion on clothing is probably worth a lot more than mine anyway. :) Without further ado, here’s Lauren’s take on the Ride On Crop

Let me preface this by pointing out that I don’t wear cycling-specifc clothes—nothing against those of who do, I’m just the kind of girl who rides in what she happens to be wearing. Which is usually something tacky like denim cut-off shorts and a ratty tank top. So I was pretty delighted to be given the opportunity to review these sweet little cropped pants.

As both Trisha and Dottie have pointed out, the sizing is kind of weird in this line. I was given the size 8 and it fits perfectly in the legs and bum, which is interesting since I normally wear a 2 or a 4 in ready-to-wear. The waist is a bit large, but I have a fairly substantial hip-to-waist ratio so I’m not necessarily going to blame the pants in this case. [ed: this seems to be common throughout the LL Ride On line; I had the same issue with the shorts. But I also have the waist-to-hip thing going on.] There is an (elastic!!) drawstring on the inside of the waistband, which cinched them to the correct size. The pants I was given are a greyish white, although they also come in indigo and black.

I really like the way these pants are engineered. As a seamstress, I love lurking the insides of a piece of clothing to see how it is constructed—especially something with such a high price tag! The very first thing I did when I got my hands on these pants was to flip them inside out and start inspecting seams. As Lululemon boasts on their website, the seams of these pants are specially engineered to avoid chafing—they are serged completely flat, so there isn’t any bulk to rub against. I’ve never had a problem with chafing (despite the aforementioned denim cut-offs), so I can’t really weigh in on that matter. But it does make for some very strong seams—and combined with how hefty the fabric is, despite the stretch factor, I feel that these pants are pretty hard-wearing.

The extra details (both fashion and functional) are what really sold me, however. The bottom flips up and buttons closed to make your pants into cropped length—and exposes the reflective trim. Can we all stop for a second and admire how cute that reflective trim is, by the way? It looks like rick-rack! So sweet, but it doesn’t scream GIRL’S CYCLING GEAR! Another feature I really love are all those mesh pockets at the hip—yes, those are pockets, and there are three of them.

I like to carry my phone and iPod in my pockets while I cycle, so I appreciate a good pocket. These pockets are awesome! I dropped my iPod in the back pocket for my ride into work (don’t worry —I keep my headphones around my neck while I’m riding :)) and it stayed put the whole way. The mesh is stretchy, so the elastic at the top keeps your stuff from popping out while you ride. Much more secure than pants pockets—I have definitely had my iPod push its way out of my back pocket before, and drop itself into the street! I also really loved that the drawstring at the waist is elastic. I needed to cinch in quite a bit to get the pants to fit at my waist, and the elastic kept everything comfortable so there was not digging into my midsection whenever I bent over.

I was excited to try the “moisture wicking and breathable” fabric—I am definitely a sweat-er and I need all the help I can get when it comes to staying cool :) And you know what? I think the fabric actually does a pretty good job! I was still pretty warm—cycling in 80*+ weather will do that to ya—but my legs didn’t get all sweaty and I found that I cooled down much more quickly than if I’d just been wearing jeans. It’s nice to have a pair of pants like this for cycling, especially since the mornings here start out pretty cool and then progress into those higher temperatures later in the day.

As far as the price is concerned . . . well, $92 does seem a little steep for what is essentially a pair of yoga pants. I will say that I think these pants are really well-made and have great details that definitely push them above your standard stretch exercise gear. And they are stylish enough to wear for non-cycling purposes—which is like getting two pairs of pants for the price of one. My butt has been getting a lot of compliments in these pants, which I’d say is definitely a plus!

{Thanks for your take on these pants, Lauren! This review is Lauren’s personal opinion and she was not paid to write it, although she is keeping the pants. :)  Lululemon is not a sponsor of LGRAB. Find out more about Lululemon here. Find out more about Lauren and her sweet handmade wardrobe here.}

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Review: Lululemon Pedal Pusher

A good handlebar bag is hard to find. Lululemon has entered the competition with The Pedal Pusher, a small baguette-style handlebar bag. I received this bag in the dune/fossil color combination, but it’s also available in black.

 

This bag has one main compartment and two external pockets on the front and back. This is a small bag that will easily carry the basics of purse, phone, chapstick, camera, etc,  but not much more. It has a comparable amount of interior space as my Po Campo Pilsen Bungee, though the soft nylon sides do allow for some cramming.

Inside, there are two mesh pockets—one zip, one not—and a strap to secure your keys.
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I love the pinstripe lining.

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Exterior, with a phone pocket. There is reflective piping along the edges of the zipper pocket. This piping is in the back of the bag also and is the only reflective material on the bag.

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Baguette-style bag

 

lululemon ride on collection

Straps with D-rings and clips to attach the bag to the handlebars

 

Straps to go around the stem.

External rear pocket, and straps to go around the stem.

I live on the edge and use this for my phone, not just as a “strap garage.” (I find the type instructions on what goes where to be annoying—both twee and dictatorial!—but realize others might not be bothered.)
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Like most handlebar bags, this one suffers a bit when it comes to actually attaching it to the handlebars (ah, the reality of brake cables!). The main problem here is that the straps that are meant to attach the bag to the stem for extra support (shown above) tend to come loose as you ride along, so that the bag will bounce as you go over bumps, and droop lower. This could be a problem if you have a short stem and no fender or front rack, since it could rub against the wheel.

On the plus side, the clip-on style makes it fast and easy to secure the bag to the handlebars. And the design, while a bit sportier than Po Campo, doesn’t scream “bike!”, nor is it obnoxiously girly. I find the herringbone strap particularly attractive. The material is water resistant and the straps and clips are very sturdy. The price ($58) is competitive. Those in the market for a smaller handlebar bag should take a look at The Pedal Pusher.

{This review is my personal opinion. I was not paid for the review, but the bag was sent to me to keep. Lululemon is not a sponsor of LGRAB.}

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Review: Lululemon Ride On Blazer

Dottie and I got the opportunity to review a few of the items from Lululemon’s Ride On! collection, a limited run of cycling clothes being released this month. (See her review of their rain jacket here.)

I’m also starting out with the item from the collection I liked the most: The Ride On Blazer.

I was sent this blazer in “fossil” in a size 6. If you have never tried Lululemon, know that they do not vanity size: definitely get a size up from what you wear normally. This jacket is a bit snug on me and fits more like a 2/4. Because it is a stretchy jersey-esque fabric, though, it’s not that big a deal.

Like the other items in the “Ride On” line, the blazer has specific details that were conceived with cyclists in mind. For example, the collar of the jacket has a fleecy insert that can be zipped up to your neck to keep out the chill, as shown on the model below. This piece can be removed.

detail photo from Lululemon's site

LIke the rain jacket, the blazer is longer in the back—no fear of showing anyone anything you don’t want them to see while you’re pedaling. I absolutely love the peplum effect that the back has.

Flaunting the back of the jacket

Note the small reflective detail near the elbows, almost a reflective rick-rack. There is another similar reflective detail on the collar if you pop it up, although that would normally be covered by my hair.

Yes, my seat is too low.

The jacket is cut with a generous pleat in the elbows, leaving lots of room for movement. The sleeves, however, are quite long, as you can tell by the fact that the reflective strip is on my forearm and not actually at my elbow. They do have thumbholes so you can keep the wind off your hands.

detail photo from Lululemon's site

There are two pockets with trendy exposed zippers. The fabric is some Lululemon trademarked thing that is breathable and moisture-wicking.

Overall, this jacket is a win for me. Though the fit is not perfect, it is comfortable, I’ve gotten countless compliments on it in just a week, and it has a lot of thoughtful functional details that prove it was made with cyclists in mind. The one thing that surprises me is that they weren’t a little heavier on the reflective details—as with the rain jacket, there are no reflective pieces on the back of the jacket other than the one on the collar. I would love to know why this didn’t happen. Maybe they’re worried about limiting the market, despite it being a cycling-specific collection? In most of the online reviews of this product, the purchasers make no reference to bicycling.

And then there’s the price: $168. Not outrageous for this sort of well-made piece, but certainly not an amount of money I’d throw down without a little bit of inner turmoil. Your mileage may vary, of course! Still, if you are looking for a unique, stylish jacket with cyclist-specific details to wear on your rides, the Ride On Blazer is the cutest I’ve seen yet.

More on the jacket on Lululemon’s site.

{This review is my personal opinion. I was not paid for the review, but the jacket was sent to me to keep. Lululemon is not a sponsor of LGRAB.}

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Review: Lululemon Ride On Rain Jacket

When Lululemon approached me and Trisha to review some products from their new Ride On collection, we were intrigued. First, because we are fans of Lululemon (I love their yoga pants and tops with built-in bras). Second, because free stuff is fun, as long as it does not suck and waste room in our closets. Finally, because it’s really cool to see a mainstream brand acknowledge the growing popularity of transportation bicycling.

We recently received several pieces each and overall we are impressed, especially since the collection is not covered in pink and flowers (not that we’re opposed to such, but we see a bit too much of that in women-specific bike wear). We definitely have mixed reviews on some of the items, which we will talk about later, but I wanted to post specifically about the product that I absolutely fell in love with: the Ride On Rain Jacket.

Lululemon Ride On Rain Jacket - Unzipped

As you can see, the Ride On Rain Jacket is similar to a classic rain trench, but it is optimized to be worn for transportation cycling AND it’s super elegant.

The fit of this jacket stands out as unique among all rain jackets I have seen. The fabric is light and drapes beautifully. The waist is cinched by pulling two drawstrings on the inside of the jacket. Brilliant! This allows for a perfect fit and makes the shape so much more flattering.

Soft lining, inside pocket, waist cinching drawstring

Zipped with waist cinched

The fabric is breathable and not heavy, which is important for a rain jacket, because I’d rather get wet by the rain than by sweat. I wore the jacket in 30 degree weather by simply layering a cashmere sweater underneath. This jacket performed well in light rain and windy conditions. I have not had the luck to test it in heavy rain yet.

On the bike

The hood is large to fit over a helmet, although I usually find a helmet alone sufficient to keep my head dry and a hood could interfere with peripheral vision. There is a drawstring on the hood to keep it in place the also helps with vision.

Zipped up with the hood

The back of this rain jacket is the best part, in my opinion, with an elegant and stylish shape that drapes nicely over my thighs and keeps my pants dry all around. I had no problems with the back getting near my wheel on either my Dutch bike or my Rivendell (which has no skirt guard). There are cords that can be pulled to bunch the bottom up and stop it from draping.

The back

The cuffs are strongly reflective and there is some additional reflective strips around the pockets. For a jacket made specifically for bicycling, I would prefer more reflective pieces and I’m bewildered by the decision not to include more, especially on the back.

Reflective Cuffs

Reflective cuffs at night with flash

This beauty of this rain trench does not fully come through in photos, so I made a quick video to give you a better idea of the draping and fit.

Now, price – $298. Would I walk into a store and pay that much….ummmm, probably not. Would I stalk the store in hopes that it eventually would go on sale? Absolutely, although that usually does not end well for me.

I’m not saying that the jacket is not worth the price, because it seems to be very well-made and it’s so unique, but I’m not exactly rolling in the dough and I’m not the type of person to drop 300 bones on a rain coat. BUT now that I have the jacket, I want to wear it every day forever, so who knows.

Lululemon sent me a size 8 and I think a size 6 would be a better fit, but because I can cinch the waist, it’s not a big deal.

You can learn more about and buy the train trench via Lululemon.

If you’re interested, you can see the rain coat I’ve been using for years here. I bought it from Patagonia and it was not cheap (over $160) but it leaves much of my legs exposed, does not always cover my seat, and gets very icky humid inside. The Lululemon jacket is an improvement.

{This review is my own personal opinion. I was not paid for the review, I just get to keep this sweet trench. Lululemon is not a sponsor of LGRAB.}

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Review: Mini Monkey Light

For the last two months, I’ve been dazzling Nashville with my Mini Monkey Light M210 from Monkey Electric. And I really mean that—while it’s no Christmas light set, this is the sort of lighting option that draws oohs and ahs from pedestrians and is difficult for motorists to miss. Very important attributes when it starts getting dark at 4:30!

The Monkey Light is easy to install, with a battery case  (3 AA) that rests on top of the wheel’s hub and a small circuit board that fits between the spokes like a baseball card.

 

The on/off button, and the button that allow you to select which pattern you want the light to display, are on the circuit board, as you can see below—they’re labled “Power” and “Theme.”

You may also notice that there’s a “tire” and “hub” indicator, and mine is facing the wrong way.  This did not seem to affect its performance, although I’m sure it alters some of the patterns, so I changed it around after these photos were taken. I attached the Monkey Light to my rear wheel only; I felt like both would have been overkill and I was worried that the battery pack would affect the bike’s performance. That does not seem to have happened,  although my definition of “performance” is doubtless less stringent than most.

Sadly, I can’t seem to get a picture of the light at night to save my life, though I’ve made a few efforts. Whitney finally helped me out and got the best snaps yet. I believe the pattern I have selected is the red “fireball” shown here. I may look like a ghost, but you can definitely tell the lights are BRIGHT.

Luckily, they have a video that better displays what the Monkey Light can do (and has me thinking that maybe I should install it on both wheels after all?).

You can find out more about Monkey Electric and the Monkey Light on their site, or their Kickstarter page. The Monkey Light Mini will be available in February for $49.99, but you can pre-order now. While the price is a tad steep (especially if you want to use the light on both wheels) this light definitely delivers when it comes to visibility (and in two months of use, I haven’t drained the batteries).

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Beautiful Bike Accessories: Po Campo Rack Tote

A year and a half ago I met Emily and Maria, two young women who started a company designing and producing stylish bike bags in Chicago called Po Campo. Holding one of their bags, I instantly saw that it was very high quality and the chicest bike accessory I’d ever seen.  Since then, their business has really taken off and their bags are now carried all around Chicago, the country and the world.

Last April, I bought my Po Campo Rack Tote. I’m sure there are dozens of photos of my Po Campo bag on this site – almost every picture of my Betty Foy has the Po Campo on the back rack. Now that I’ve put the bag through extensive use and abuse and we’ve had time to bond, here is my full review.

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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!

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Review: My Basil Blossom Postmenbag

Basil Blossom Postmenbag

Dottie and I have both had a lot of questions about our Basil bags. Now that I’ve had mine for 6 months, it’s time for a review. I have the Basil Blossom “Postmenbag” in white, and have been extremely pleased with it since I bought it at Copenhagen Cyclery in June. (The bag is also available on Amazon.)

Based in the Netherlands, Basil has been producing Dutch bike accessories since the 70s, and their whimsical patterns and quality construction have made them a well-known name. They make bags, panniers, seat covers, baskets and more, and their line is becoming available in more and more bike shops across the U.S.

The Postmenbag is basically a messenger bag modified to attach to a bike rack: the back is reinforced to add structure, and the design on the nylon fabric is moderately reflective (there are two reflective stripes on each side of the bag).

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