Archive of ‘Media’ category

We’re back!

OK, it has been WAY too long since we’ve been able to blog. We’ve missed you! Won’t bore you with too many tech details, but we have a new hosting company and a brand-spanking fresh installation of WordPress, so here’s hoping that we’ll be good to go without any major outages for another five years. And yes, I said five: Our first real posts at LGRAB were in January 2009.

Since we were gone for so long, I feel it is only right to give  you a little sneak peek at what will be appearing on LGRAB soon!

  • Review of Bookman bike lights
  • Our story of biking the Lustica Peninsula with Feel Montenegro
  • A Trisha & Dottie Midwest adventure, coming in March
  • Coverage of the Tennessee Bike Summit in May

And if you’re in Nashville, join us this Sunday for a bike brunch!

Guess that’s all for now! It feels good to be blogging again.

 

 

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U.S. cycling from a Dutch perspective

This week I came upon a video on Facebook by Bicycle Dutch called “U.S. Cycling from a Dutch Perspective.”  The video may have already made the rounds, but I’m posting it here because the (lack of) infrastructure and driver behavior in the U.S. and Chicago in particular have been on my mind lately, with several people I know being hit by drivers in the past year (including, of course, myself).

As the video says, “This situation makes clear why you are 30 times more likely to get injured as a cyclist in the  U.S. than in the Netherlands.”  This is a outrage and needs to change.

A few more choice quotes from the video:

“It almost looks as if these people are riding a race, rather than going home after work.  They’re trying to outrun other traffic.  It really seems like a chase.”

“There’s a lot of cycling here despite the infra[structure], rather than because of it.”

“There could be a good future for cycling in the U.S.”

I hope so.

 

 

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Bye bye, Google Reader

As hardcore Google Reader aficionados, Dottie and I have been mourning their pending loss since it was announced. And it’s almost here: As of tomorrow, GR will be no more. But! You can still follow LGRAB by RSS. I’ve already switched over to Feedly and am pretty happy with it—cloud-based, with IFTTT integration. I just wish they made it easier to email posts. Anyway. If you’ve switched to another reader and weren’t able to import our RSS feed, here they are:

Follow LGRAB on Bloglovin’

Follow LGRAB on Feedly

Our Feedburner feed, which leads to subscription options in other readers—at least, until Google decides to retire that, too.

And hey, if you want to subscribe to our posts by email, click here. It goes without saying, but your address will NEVER be sold or otherwise shared with third parties.

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Indy’s Impressive Protected Bike Infrastructure

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On LGRAB’s Facebook page, I shared a photo of the recently-completed separated bike lane on Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago’s busiest bikeway.

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Photo from Chicago Bike Program

I’ll write more about this new infrastructure after I bike it myself next week.

In response, Facebook Friend Matt shared an article about the separated bike infrastructure in Indianapolis, Indiana, via an article from Treehugger, The biggest bicycling infrastructure achievement in North America that you’ve never heard about.

Trisha biked around Indy four years ago and was impressed with the trails and bike lanes, so I knew that the city has some bike infrastructure, but I had no idea it was so sophisticated and extensive.  After watching the video below by Streetsfilm and reading more about the infrastructure in their article, The Next-Gen in U.S. Protected Bike Lanes, I am in awe of what the city has accomplished.

Other mid-size cities should try to replicate this type of project, which must be great for quality of life, health and tourism.  I know that Indy is now on my list of places to visit.

I’m curious: do any of you live in Indy?  If so, are these protected paths useful for biking to work and errands – that is, actually getting around the city?

WorkCycles Have Returned to Chicago!

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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.

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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.}

 

Video: Bicycle Bag Basics

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We here at LGRAB get a lot of questions about which bike bags we use and recommend.  Over the years, I have accumulated quite a collection!  I’m constantly switching from bag to bag – usually between my two Po Campo panniers, my regular purse and canvas shopping bags.  In this video, I go through my entire collection and discuss which styles I like best.

I figure this post will be a resource for new bicyclists searching for ideas about how to carry stuff on their bikes, so please share your bike bag recommendations in the comments.

Brands:

Wald basket

Basil

Arkel

Detours

Po Campo

Fieldguided canvas

Patagonia

Chrome

P.S.  For more info on my bicycle, see my Rivendell Betty Foy video.  Also, my bungie straps and Po Campo review.

Inside Shinola—Detroit’s newest old name brand

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Few things make me happier than the increase in the rise of affordable city bikes available in North America. When I bought my Batavus in 2009, I went all the way to England to get it, because Batavus bikes were only sold by a few North American dealers. Now Public and Brooklyn Cruiser and even mainstream manufacturers like Trek have added city bikes to their lineups for well under $1000.

Of course, selling bikes at that price point means having the frameset built overseas. If you want a city bike built in the US, your choices are myriad, but your price options are not: Most run upwards of $2000 for the frame alone. Which is not a criticism—if you’re getting a handbuilt frame from Ant, for example, it is cheap at the price. But what if you want similar quality on a smaller budget? That’s the gap that Shinola is trying to fill with their line of city bicycles.

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When I was in Detroit last week, I was able to visit Shinola and learn a little more about the brand—and the bikes. The brand Shinola has been around for quite some time—and yes, it’s the same one that inspired the famous catchphrase.

Headquartered in the famous Argonaut Building, GM’s former design headquarters, the entry to the offices is a nod to the brand’s history of shoe polish production. Now, however, the company focuses on bicycles, watches and leather goods.

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Original Shinola products

The first thing everyone asks me when I tell them what Shinola makes is why those three products—so of course it was the first question I asked Alex Stchekine, Shinola’s bike assembly specialist, when I arrived. The answer? People who geek out over watches and people who geek out over bikes have a lot of overlap—and of course, bikes and watches are both efficient, useful technologies, and can be investment pieces that are built to last. As for the leather goods, well, if you’re going to make watchbands, bike saddles and grips, you might as well make bags, wallets and journals. (Plans are in the works to make leather bike bags to match the bicycles.)

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As an aside, apparently people are *really* eager to see Shinola watches—even more than the bikes! They’ll be available for men and women soon, and feature quartz movements and leather bands made in Missouri.

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women’s watch/men’s watch

 

This is where the watches are assembled.

This is where the watches are assembled.

But I know our readers are here for the bikes, so let’s move on! Shinola is starting out with two models: The Runwell and the Bixby, which are sold as complete bikes. The Runwell has 11 speeds and retails at $2950. The Bixby, a three-speed with a distinctive decal and geometry, retails at $1950. Both come in three frame sizes and three colors, and the Bixby comes in a relaxed diamond or a step-through frame. The diamond Bixby is sold in black or the emerald shown below; the stepthrough Bixby is sold in black, cream or mauve.

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Made in the same Waterford, Wisconsin, factory that formerly built Schwinns and now produces its own line of bicycles and those of some other small manufacturers—including a few of the higher-end Rivendell models—the bikes are then assembled in Detroit. They can be shipped fully or partially assembled.

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Runwell frames

Whether they’re building bikes, watches or leather journals or bags, attention to detail is important at Shinola. Most of this post will focus on the Bixby, since that’s the bike I test rode, but let’s take a minute to admire the lugs, custom dropouts and reinforced front fork on the Runwell. Can you see how the cables are routed through the frame?

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Both bike models feature internal Shimano hubs, Shimano disc brakes, Velo Orange fenders and stems. The saddles and grips are custom Shinola-branded leather. Somehow, I cut the nose off this one when taking the photo! But the feel was similar to a new Brooks B17, although I think the nose is slightly longer.

Shinola saddle

Shinola saddle

These are pictures of a Bixby, which is accented with warm copper rivets, pedals and grip borders. The Runwell accents are silver.

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The tires are Schwalbe, of course.

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And the bell is a Crane.

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Each bike also has a serial number.

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The Argonaut Building is also home to the College for Creative Studies, and several students have worked on projects with Shinola dealing with bike design. The walls are decorated with student prototype ideas—elements of some of them have made it into the final Shinola designs, including the elegant cream decal on the Bixby. You can also see here, again, how the cables are routed through the frame.

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Here’s one example of a student project. We at LGRAB support the creation of a bicycle meant to haul wine!

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I only got to ride the Bixby around the offices, but here are my impressions of it.

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FIrst, the posture was more agressive than any of my other bikes, with the saddle positioned slightly above the handlebars. I felt perched on the bike, although still fairly upright. Obviously this is something that could be adjusted by raising the handlebars, but it also felt like something I could get used to easily and seemed to be a good position for this bike’s geometry.

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The 47cm Bixby fit me almost perfectly, something that, as a short-torsoed 5-feet-and-change girl, I find to be pretty rare. The only other bike that I’ve ridden that fits me as well is Kermit Allegra. This is the only size ladies’ Bixby listed on Shinola’s site, which says it should fit riders up to 5’8″. I’m not sure that would be true if the 5’8″ person in question has long legs. The inseam measurements say that the 47cm Bixby fits those with inseams between 25-32, and as usual that seems like a better way to judge whether the bike will fit you (my inseam is 28 inches).

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Stopping power felt good, and pedaling was a breeze, though obviously there was no real challenge on terrain like this!

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That said, this bike is light! Hard to say without a comparison around, but for a bike with fenders and a steel frame, I was surprised to find it so easy to lift. They don’t list weights on their site, but I’d say that it is under 30 pounds—at least as light as my Abici, if not lighter. Of course, it doesn’t have lights or a rack on it yet.

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Alex told me that response to the bikes has been better than expected so far. They’re currently building about 50 a month at Waterford, and they expect to build around 500 this year.

Obviously it’s impossible to compare the Bixby to the competition in any meaningful way after a short indoor test ride, but I was impressed with the attention to detail and the quality feel of the bicycle. Luckily, those of you in the market for a bike at this price range can check the Bixby or Runwell out for yourself. Currently they are available at Copenhagen Cyclery in Chicago, and in a few other shops across the country, but Shinola will be opening two storefronts in the near future: One on West Canfield street in Detroit, and the other in Tribeca in New York City. I really enjoyed my test ride of the Shinola Bixby and might have to take another spin when I’m in NYC this spring.

{Thanks to Bridget and Alex at Shinola for setting up the visit and being so generous with their time, and to my brother Charlie for taking most of these photos!}

News from Nashville

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It’s not even spring yet, but there’s a lot of bike and transport news items happening in Nashville!

Last week, I attended a “visioning session” at Oasis Bike Workshop about the Tennessee portion of the United States Bicycle Route System.  The route system, which was started in the early 1980s, has ramped up again in the last 10 years—six new routes were added in 2011, and two in Minnesota and Michigan last year.

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Now, they want to plan a route to bring USBR 25 through Tennessee, connecting Franklin, Kentucky, with Ardmore, Alabama, and passing through Nashville. David Shumaker and Bruce Day from Bike/Walk Tennessee came to explain the concept of the Bicycle Route System.

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After their talk, we divided into two groups and marked a map of the greater Nashville area with stickers, highlighting places of interest (yellow), bike-friendly routes (green) and places to avoid (pink).

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Once a route is pulled together, it will have to be submitted to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials at their spring or fall meeting for approval. Looking at the map made me realize that I need to expand my biking horizons a little—there wasn’t much that I could add outside the urban center and the greenways! Maybe it’s time for a more ambitious ride…

You can follow the USBRS on Facebook or Twitter (@usbicycleroutes)—and of course I’ll be posting anything I hear here.  If you have a brilliant idea for a route through Nashville (or between Nashville and Franklin—we were slightly stumped!), email me and I’ll pass it along. If you’re curious about what might be going on with the USBRS in your state, this PDF gives a brief update, state-by-state.

The other Tennessee project I got a glimpse of this month was the Nashville Bus Rapid Transfer project, which is going full steam on the East-West Connector. They wanted input from cyclists about how we might use the BRT, and where they should put bike racks (answer: all of the stops!). It was encouraging to see that the people involved really cared about getting this right, for the city and for the citizens—including cyclists.

a mock-up of the BRT, at the intersection of Broadway and 21st Ave. S.

Concept mock-up of the BRT, at the intersection of West End and 21st Ave. S.

The buses, which will be double length and hold around 80 people, will have designated lanes for most of the route, which goes down West End from St. Thomas, merges onto Broadway, then takes a left on 5th to Church and then across the Woodland Street bridge to Five Points in East Nashville.

I won’t lie, I’m kind of bummed we aren’t getting light rail—but BRT is about a million times cheaper (why yes, that is an exact figure!) and quicker to build. There will be kiosks at each stop, where you can buy tickets, as well as sheltered waiting areas and the aforementioned bike racks. There will be park-and-ride locations and extra bike racks at both termini. And the buses are going to act like light rail, which is the important thing. You don’t have to consult a schedule, because they’ll be coming by every 10 minutes.

We were told that it currently takes 16 minutes to get to downtown from St. Thomas. If traffic continues to grow at the pace it has been over the past few years, and no major transportation changes are implemented, by 2018 the same 5-mile trip will take more than 30 minutes, so this project is definitely needed. Construction could start as early as this fall, although it probably won’t be completed until 2015. For more on the BRT plans, this video is a good summary.

What’s going on in your city’s transportation world?

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Koyaanisqatsi: life out of balance

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On Sunday, my friend Maria and I went to a screening and panel discussion of Koyaanisqatsi at indie theater Facets. Koyaanisqatsi (subtitled “life out of balance), a sequence of images set to a score by Philip Glass, is described as such:

An art-house circuit sensation, this feature-length documentary is visually arresting and possesses a clear, pro-environmental political agenda. Without a story, dialogue, or characters, Koyaanisqatsi (1983) is composed of nature imagery, manipulated in slow motion, double exposure or time lapse, juxtaposed with footage of humans’ devastating environmental impact on the planet. The message of director Godfrey Reggio is clear: humans are destroying the planet, and all of human progress is pointlessly foolish.

Sounded wonderful in a beautifully depressing way – sign me up! For a better understanding of the film, watch the short trailer below:

For me the film displays an overwhelming grimness and hopelessness for the human species. City life is portrayed as absolutely Kafkaesque, with a focus on endless streams of cars and people being sucked into and spit out of public transportation like so many hotdogs on an assembly line. By the end, I felt ready to flee Chicago for a quiet country cabin in the middle of nowhere.

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However, this feeling of oppression lifted as soon as I stepped outside and started riding my bicycle home. Nothing seems so grim while bicycling down tree-lined streets in the sunshine and fresh winter air. I really think I would not have lasted in the big city this long (6 years and counting!) without my bicycle, because being stuck on a crowded subway train or in car traffic every single day is oppressive. Bicycling allows me to break away from all that.

(Here is what I wore on my bike, before piling on the winter layers.)

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You can watch all 1 hour and 26 minutes of the film for free on Hulu. Warning: if you watch, be sure to have some kittens, puppies, or bicycles nearby afterward to cheer you up.

Has anyone else seen Koyaanisqatsi? What did you think?

Biking vicariously

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For once, I’m glad that I know most of you only virtually: For the last month and a half, I’ve been sick to various degrees. I’ll spare you the detailed explanation of what’s been wrong with me at what points, but suffice to say that other than a few short neighborhood rides and a handful of commutes, I’ve not been on the bike much this year. Like Dottie, I’m not interested in biking when it doesn’t feel right and am happy to cede the hardcore title to others when necessary (I have biked four whole winters at this point, after all.). And chest colds and biking in the cold air don’t mix! Good news is, I’m finally feeling better and had my first commute in a while yesterday.

While I was off the bike, I’ve been biking vicariously via some interesting reading material. Bikes and Riders, by Jim Wagenvoord, was one of my flea market finds last month. The book was originally published in 1972, and much of it reads completely of the time—would that today’s cycling advocates adopt the fashion sense of Harriet Green, who wore “a brushed suède riding cloak over dark-blue hot pants” (sadly, not pictured) to a demonstration in New York City.

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On the other hand, some of it has the feeling of “the more things change . . .” Like this passage on media coverage of bike rallies.

From the press’s standpoint it wasn’t so much the bike-lane demands that had drawn them but the fact that bikes—just about anything about bikes—had with relative suddenness become a story.

Isn’t this more or less where we are now? The press coverage is all well and good, but will bicycling still be something of a novelty story in 40 years?

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Speaking of things that date the book, Futura is pretty popular these days–but its use in longform text definitely screams ’70s.

The back cover copy on this book cracks me up—once again, 40 years on, the same concerns about people being stuck in front of the TV.

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But on to the content! Bikes and Riders focuses mostly on urban cyclists, which was obviously of interest to me, but it also includes a pretty comprehensive history of the bicycle’s development and use throughout history. Did you know bikes were used in combat?

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Photographs of early cyclists are always of interest, and there are plenty here. Here’s a little reminder that riding in a suit has been the rule rather than the exception in the history of cycling!

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I was tickled to discover this twin of Le Peug in the book’s pages. And the rider is a woman to boot! I might have to recreate that shot.

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I want to do a little research on Jim Wagenvoord. If the flap copy is to be believed, he’s some sort of Renaissance man, so surely he has more of a legacy than this book, The Violent World of Touch Football, How to Surf and Flying Kites. After all, “[t]here have been witty writers, good researchers, and fine photographers before, but never within one 6’2″ frame.”

Have you read any good books on biking lately?

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