Posts Tagged ‘bike shops’

2013 by bike, so far

Halcyonparty

I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I look back on the year before and try to tweak the formula a little to come up with a better year to come—more of this, less of that and a little of something new. Still, I always try to start the New Year out by doing things that I want to do more of (or keep doing) in 2013.

So on New Year’s Eve I made sure to take my bike over to my neighbor’s for a quick dinner of Fat Mo’s and prosecco.
NewYearsRide
Freezing rain on New Year’s Day—and a persistant cough that I can’t seem to shake (along with half my office)—meant that my next ride had to wait a while. But I did take a quick ride to Halcyon last night for a party for the volunteers for the 12South Winter Warmer. The place was packed (I love parties in bike shops!) and the beer was great.

Halcyon

The party

10thavepanda

IMG_0875

Other things I have done so far in 2013:

  • Attended the Belcourt (they’re doing a Hitchcock retrospective! I got to see The Lady Vanishes on the big screen)
  • Spent a whole day lying on the couch watching a BBC miniseries (The Crimson Petal and the White, very good)
  • Visited the new coffeeshop in my neighborhood, run by the best roasters in town
  • Eaten Pad Thai twice
  • Made a galette des rois (in progress now)

Judging from this list, I’d better get up to something a bit more active this weekend, lest 2013 be a year of sloth and screen-staring. Luckily Anna is coming into town today and can perhaps save me from myself with a nice long bike ride.

How’s everyone else’s New Year going so far?

Breakfast at Heritage Bicycles

If someone asked me last year what kind of business I would most like to see open in my neighborhood, I might have said {deep breath} a combination bike shop and coffee shop that sells steel frame mixtes made in Chicago, cupcakes, and fancy coffee, with a friendly atmosphere and a communal table where I could gather my bicycling friends.

I mean, that’s awfully specific, but I could have said it.

Bicycles + Coffee = Love

Either someone read my mind or I am not the only lover of bikes, coffee, community, and local goods, because exactly this kind of business just opened a hop, skip, and pedal from my home. This magical place is Heritage Bicycles.

Excited by this development, my friend Elizabeth and I met there for breakfast this morning.  I learned that Heritage is a sort of sister store to the popular Bowery Lane Bikes in NYC.   The owner, Michael, was a founding partner of Bowery Lane.  He and his wife decided to bring the concept to his native Chicago.

"Coffee Guy" Cameron and owner Michael

Unlike Bowery Lane, Heritage is way more than simply a bike manufacturer and seller.  The place is also a full-fledged cafe, communal hang-out spot, and bike workshop.

Heritage perfectly executes the mixed-use concept.  Potential cafe customers should have no fear of being stuck in a crammed and greasy workshop while trying to enjoy their cappuccinos.  Everything about the space is beautiful, from the light-bathed reclaimed wood to the mirrored walls and sparkling chandeliers.  There is no reason to limit cafe visits to bike-related errands.  Anyone looking for a relaxing neighborhood spot would love Heritage, regardless of any interest in bicycles (although perhaps uninterested parties could be persuaded by the beautiful display bikes).

The coffee and food live up to the gorgeous space and inviting atmosphere.  With pastries from local favorite Southport Grocery and coffee beans from Portland’s Stumptown, the fare is as good as – if not better than – other independent coffee shops in Chicago.  Waaaaay better than Starbucks, it should go without saying.  While I’m partial to Chicago roasters Metropolis and Intelligentsia, the Stumptown brew was delicious.

On the other side of the business, potential bike shop customers should not write Heritage off as all style and no substance.

Separate from but open to the cafe is a bike workshop room.  There are two bike mechanics on staff and interns from non-profit West Town Bikes’ educational programs.  The crew will assemble Heritage bikes and perform maintenance work like a regular bike shop.   The place seems low key, the opposite of pretentious.

There is another small area that stocks accessories, including clothing, saddles, books, and Yakkay Helmets.  (You can also shop online.)

And the bikes?  Why, they’re the best part, of course!

In addition to carrying the Bowery Lane made-in-NY bikes, Heritage has its own Chicago model, the Daisy,  a mixte starting at $695 for a single speed, $795 for a 3-speed, and $850 for a 7-speed.  I haven’t had a chance to test ride her yet, but she is lovely.  Split top tube, Velo Orange Belleville bars, brass bell, sprung leather saddle, cork grips, chain guard, fender = love!  The best part?  She’s made of American steel and welded, painted, and assembled in Chicago.

After seeing the shop, chatting with Michael and Cameron, and enjoying breakfast, Elizabeth and I set off for work well-fueled.

I foresee that I will mention stopping by Heritage for coffee a lot in the future, especially since it’s along my commuting route. For sure I will stop by for their Grand Opening party this Saturday, 6 – 11. Heritage Bicycles is located at 2959 N. Lincoln.  Note: I think the shop will be closed the rest of the weekend and then open for normal business starting next week. See you there?  :)

For all of you who don’t live in Chicago, you might want to consider moving there, where all the cool kids are.  In the meantime, you can get your paws on these bikes through the power of the internets.

{Chicago’s bike geeks are all excited about Heritage.  Read Elizabeth’s take  on Bike Commuters and another write-up on Grid Chicago.}

A Fresh Start with Betty Foy

Last week, Betty Foy got a major freshening up for the spring: a complete tune-up and cleaning, plus a new chain, brake pads, cables and a two-footed kickstand. She’s such a lovely bike and rides like a dream, still like new.

I documented her cleanliness, since she won’t look like this again until her next tune-up.


I guess the original chain would have lasted longer, if I had been better with preventative maintenance. I’ll try to be more conscientious from now on, but I’ve always been lazy with upkeep, whether for cars in the past or bikes now.

What is your routine for maintaining your bike(s)?

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.}


A Midwinter Celebration

On a very cold Saturday evening, a group of fun-loving city cyclists came together for a midwinter celebration at local Chicago shop, Dutch Bike Co. A time to recharge batteries, talk with cool people and drink lots of wine out of a cargo bike.  :)

Among the cool people there (I wish I’d taken even more pictures!) was Janet, a writer and illustrator who rides an Oma and blogs at Tuttle Tattle.

And Steve, who just returned from a whirlwind European trip, including stops in Amsterdam and Copenhagen.  You can read about his trip at Steven Can Plan.

The array of bikes parked outside was beautiful, including this Madsen owned by Ashley of new blog One Less Minivan.

Between chatting and sipping, I had time to gawk at all the cool stuff, including Po Campo’s new prototype laptop pannier made by local ladies, Maria and Emily.

Also on display, Dutch seat covers and Yepp kid seats.

And these amazing navy blue and green Brooks saddles.  Has anyone seen colored leather saddles like these before?  I’m intrigued!

I’m lucky to have such great local bike shops in Chicago. A good local shop can become a meeting place for like-minded folk and help create a feeling of real community, even in a big city.  This celebration was all about socializing, talking to old friends and meeting new ones.  Such opportunities are rare.  Usually in the bike community, every event is organized around either recreation, like a group ride, or advocacy work.  I think merely talking with other people who “get it” is an effective, subtle form of advocacy, and a fun recreation to boot.

I encourage everyone, wherever you may live, to approach your local bike shop about hosting a similar celebration.  Get the ball rolling in your own community!

(Dutch Bike Co. is a sponsor of LGRAB. It’s also my local bike shop, which I’ve been writing about since long before we had sponsors.)

Beautiful Bicycles: Meet My New Bike!

Drum roll, please…

After a teaser several weeks ago, I’m happy to report that a new bike has finally joined the Dottie household:  A Velorbis Studine Balloon: designed in Denmark, made in Germany and sold in Chicago at Copenhagen Cyclery.

Rust-colored Schwalbe Fat Frank balloon tires, creamy white steel frame…

Integrated rear rack with briefcase hook…

Wheel lock, double kick stand, chain case…

Bell, comfy rubber grips…

3-speed Sturmey Archer internal hub…

Brooks saddle, rattan basket, fenders, all around super classiness…

Alas, no integrated lights, skirt guard or fancy leather grips, but that’s what keeps the price at a reasonable $1,295.

I want to be perfectly clear about my acquisition of this bike.  I did not buy the bike, but it is not a tester or a freebie.  Rather, it’s bartered using good old-fashioned economics.  Companies advertising on LGRAB usually pay a certain amount per month.  Instead of money, Copenhagen Cyclery is “paying” with a bike.  I view it as a fair exchange for something Copenhagen Cyclery wants (advertising) and something I want (a gorgeous bike).

I also want to be perfectly clear that the exchange includes nothing about my editorial content.  Copenhagen Cyclery will get an ad on the sidebar, nothing more.  There’s no agreement that I will talk up the shop or Velorbis or write about the bike.  Naturally, the bike will show up as part of my usual posting, just as my two other bikes show up, but I hope that you all will continue to trust that I have not turned into a corporate shill.

Incidentally, if other bike shops or companies are interested, Trisha is open to entertaining offers for an Abici or similar light and classy creature.  ;)

Now that all of that’s out of the way, we can focus on the real important stuff. Like, what should I name her? She reminds me of cream and sugar, a cafe au lait, but how does that translate to a name?

(p.s. Squeeee! New bike! :))

FAQ’s – Part II

Earlier this year, Trisha and I opened a Formspring account and welcomed you all to ask us questions.  We’ve been answering the questions on Formspring individually as they come in.  Now we’re putting the answers together as a cohesive FAQ section, although some of the questions are not so frequent.  :)  This is the second half.  Read the first half here.

Amsterdam is flat. Chicago is flat. Is Nashville flat? What effect does topology have on how bike-friendly a city is? I suppose Portland is not flat.

I don’t think Portland is flat, no. And Nashville definitely isn’t! IMO that is not the biggest consideration for bike-friendliness, although it may be an obstacle in developing a large bicycling culture since hills can be intimidating. You will develop the necessary muscles, and there’s always the downhill stretches! And hey, as Dottie pointed out in a recent post, there’s no shame in walking your bike up a hill if you need to.

Don’t your feet get sweaty when wearing heels? Even when I wear just flats its definitely not as comfortable as when I wear socks + some sort of sneaker

No, my feet are actually cooler when I’m not wearing socks and sneakers. Maybe you could throw a bit of talcum or baby powder into your heels before you set off and see if that makes a difference.

(more…)

FAQ’s – Part I

Earlier this year, Trisha and I opened a Formspring account and welcomed you all to ask us questions.  We’ve been answering the questions on Formspring individually as they come in.  Now we’re putting the answers together as a cohesive FAQ section, although some of the questions are not so frequent.  :)  This is the first half.  We’ll post the second half soon.

How and when did Dottie and Trisha meet?

Trisha and I met through our mutual friend, Erin, at a group happy hour. The first meeting I really remember was at a Russian dinner party I threw at my apartment. Trisha showed up with a shirt that said, in Russian, “I love Russian.” Awesomeness. Soon after, we went to a midnight showing of Gremlins and I drank too much beer and had to leave before the movie ended (beer buzz + crowded theater + gremlins driving Barbie cars = overwhelming). From then on, we were fast friends.  :)  That was, I think, about 4 years ago when I lived in Nashville for law school.

What saddles do you use on your bikes?

I (Dottie) have Brooks saddles, which I love. On Oma it’s the B67 with springs – the most comfortable saddle ever. On Betty it’s the B17S – no springs and took longer to break in, but still great. Trisha’s Batavus came with a Selle Royale and her Peug has a vintage saddle.

(more…)

Bike Fun with Girls & Bicycles

On Saturday Mr. Dottie and I had the privilege of spending the whole day with Miss Sarah of Girls & Bicycles and her husband Don. We showed them Chicago, local style. First they came to our place to get fitted on Oma and Sir Raleigh. Despite the height differences, the bikes worked out.

Then we rode a few miles to the Bucktown/Wicker Park neighborhood, where we had brunch at Toast and walked around. While Sarah scored at the BCBG sale and the thrift store, I finally found a good straw hat at Goorin Brothers hat shop. Eventually we ended up at the gem of the neighborhood, Copenhagen Cyclery. Much riding of awesome bikes and talking of sustainable living with owner Brett and manager Phil ensued.

We all had lots of fun with the Velorbis Mobii.

Then we rode the Larry v. Harry Bullitt.  That bike got the best of me – I could not even ride it a few yards without bailing, lest I fall over.  Something about the steering is very odd, but Don and Greg managed to figure it out.

After the shop, we drank delicious cocktails at The Violet Hour speakeasy.  Our drinks: Swingin’ on the Lawn, The Etiquette, Georgia Peach, Tattooed Seaman, Tequila Old Fashioned, and Juliet and Romeo.

Next we bought wine and picnic food from The Goddess and Grocer and rode our bikes to watch To Catch a Thief in the park with bike friends Elizabeth and Dean, before finally returning home 12 hours after we set off.  A very good day!

Sadly, Sarah and Don – and their crazy foreign accents – are now heading back to Canada.  I’ll have to start planning my trip to Edmonton.  :)

You can see more fabulous pictures of the whole day from Sarah at Girls and Bicycles.

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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