Tag Archives: city cycling

A Day in the Urban Outdoors

This time of year, lots of people spend their weekends hiking or taking drives to look at autumn colors. Which is all well and good, but you don’t have to leave the city to spend an active day out of doors.

On Sunday, we had a bicycle brunch at West End Café.  It was a beautiful day with temperatures in the high 50s.

Lauren, Stephanie, Jonathan, Whitney, Sten & Jessica

Newlyweds! Jess & Sten got married on November 3.

 

Lauren knitted her sweater.

I pulled the Bat out for the day.

Afterwards, most of us went downtown to check out the Mayor’s 5K. Stephanie and Jonathan left before the start, but Whitney had registered and Lauren and I decided to walk along with her.

Walking a 5K in boots while carrying a purse? Why not?

We felt a tad out of place, not being clad in sweats, tennis shoes or t-shirts, but walking such a short distance in city clothes is really no big deal. Besides, who could miss out on the chance to enjoy city streets closed off to car traffic? Not this trio.

After the 5K, we ate some free snacks and checked out the Bcycle terminal…bikes TK next month.

Finally, pricing is revealed!

Then we went to get our bikes for the ride home, stopping to admire the picture they made in front of the red trees and new courthouse shining in the late afternoon light. Who says you can’t enjoy fall color in the city?

Whitney and I took the long way home to check out the new 28th Ave Connector, which has a protected bike lane. I was too busy enjoying the ride/huffing on the uphills to take a picture of my own, not that you get much of a chance for photos on a ride that’s only just over a quarter of a mile, but here’s one from WSMV (click for more details on the connector, if you’re curious).

Image courtesy of WSMV, obviously!

When I got home after my 5-hour outdoor day, I headed directly to the couch. Where I’m fairly certain someone else had been for the entire day.

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Fashion Friday: Country Casual

For today’s Fashion Friday, I decided to make it easy and share more or less what I am actually wearing.

Country casual

 

There are two—well, maybe two and a half?—small exceptions: My jacket actually has a black windowpane check, which I think ties the skirt in a bit better; the hairstyle is what I would have done to my hair if I hadn’t had an early eye doctor appointment; and my tights are opaque all the way up. I chose these particular tights to highlight this odd faux-garter style, which I noticed in all the UK stores, and ask if any of you would wear it. Seems kinda like a sexy fail to me…

Oh! And I almost forgot to mention the Biria bike in a perfect fall color.  Has anyone ridden one of these? They’re quite affordable. Digging all the under-$500 city bike options that seem to be popping up in the States at long last.

What are you wearing this fall Friday?

p.s. Dottie is coming to Nashville tonight! She’s shooting a wedding (congrats, Jess and Sten!) so I don’t know how much time we’ll have for bike-related shenanigans, but if we get up to any there will be a full report.

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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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Creative Commuting

This month has been a chilly, snow-filled one for most of the US, and Nashville was no exception. I’ve been surprised by bad weather a few times, and spent one week without a car altogether. The result? Occasionally making transportation reminiscent of one of those river-crossing riddles as rides are accepted, vehicles of all varieties are left at the office or elsewhere and walking and public transport play a bigger role than usual in getting around.

For example, last week Le Peug spent a couple of days at my friend Erin’s house. To get him back, I drove to work, walked to happy hour with the girls, then caught a ride with Erin back to her house and rode Le Peug home. The next day, I rode the Flik to work where Minnie was waiting patiently.

Flik got popped in the back for the way home, et voila — all my vehicles safe at home.

Anyone else gotten creative with their commuting style lately?

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Why is Nashville’s bike share program being kept under wraps?

Last Saturday, I took a trip downtown for BarCamp.  It was a beautiful afternoon, and after a few hours in tech seminars lit only by the glow of Apple computers, I was ready for some sunshine. Wanting to prolong my trip home, I swung by Riverfront Park to check out our much-touted bike share program. I was already feeling guilty for waiting two whole months to visit.

So I left Le Peug tethered and walked the two blocks to the Visitor’s Center.

This is what I found.

How inviting.

A trip inside was no more encouraging. My friend and I stood in front of the reception desk for at least a minute before the young man sitting behind it noticed us (hard to hear an entry bell when you’re listening to your iPod). We proceeded to attempt to extract some info about the program from him. It was like pulling teeth from a hen. He eventually said that to borrow the bikes, we would have to be residents of Davidson County (check) and would have to fill out a form (he implied this had to be done online beforehand; I’m not sure that’s true).

Since I had my own bike, I did not press the issue. But it made me wonder if anyone at all had actually been able to use this program. It’s nice that you can rent bikes for free and cruise around downtown. It’s not so nice that on one of the most beautiful fall days of the year, the bikes were covered by tarps in the back of the building and the person in charge did nothing to encourage their use, even when confronted with people who were interested.

This bike share program has seemed dubious from the beginning — just two locations, Davidson County residents only — but the fact that it was free and the fact that the two stations were in good locations made me think the investment might be worth it, if only to give Nashville’s citizens a risk-free way to rediscover riding a bike on a lazy afternoon. Maybe the Shelby Bottoms location is more welcoming, but if the Riverfront station is an indicator, I doubt they’ll get enough use out of the bikes to justify next year’s planned expansion. The Music City Star all over again?

On a cheerier note, here’s a picture from downtown. I loved seeing the SUV behind the horse and buggy.

suv and buggy in Nashville

And here’s a pic of us  back home. You may have noticed I’m missing about 11 inches of hair. Locks of Love was very appreciative, and I adore my new bob.

me and le peug

A close up:

But back to the subject at hand: Any Nashvillians had a better experience with this program than mine? I’m willing to admit it was just one day and one man, albeit one perfect day for a bike ride…

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

Jessica in Germany

Jessica in Germany

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pashley Princess Sovereign: Impressions

Sometimes it’s possible to write a basic review a bike after a spin or two around the block. But my time with the Pashley Princess Sovereign in NYC resulted only in impressions, since I was faced with both the novelty of the bicycle AND the novelty of riding through bumpy, busy streets. Negotiating traffic, even with bike lanes, doesn’t give you much mental space to devote to the workings of various components. Luckily, the pressure was off since Dottie has already written a review of this bicycle for our site.

Trisha and the Pashley Princess Soveriegn

But I had been wanting to ride a Pashley for the last two years, so it was my first choice for a test ride despite the many intriguing options at Adeline Adeline. How could I not be intrigued by a classic city bike that’s also the ride of choice for so many of my favorite cycling women?

I took out the 17.5″ frame (love a manufacturer who doesn’t forget petite women!) with three speeds, and it was indeed a smooth and sturdy bike. While I won’t say I didn’t notice potholes, they were definitely minimized by the steel frame. The upright riding position was reminiscent of Oma (check out Dottie’s original review of the Pashley Princess Sovereign for a more thorough comparison of the two bikes) and much more upright than my Batavus Entrada Spirit.

All in all, the Pashley Princess Sovereign lived up to my expectation of a high-quality, stylish and sturdy city bike.

Next up: the Linus Mixte, which I got to know a little bit better.

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Camera Karma

As Part II of the LGRAB Summer Games was coming to a close (how has it been six weeks since we started these??) I spent a lot of time reading everyone’s entries and planning how to participate myself.

So imagine my joy when, last Wednesday, I realized I was carrying a load (small box of books, plus a laptop) on my bike.

Then imagine my chagrin when I arrived home, pulled out my camera to get some photographic evidence . . . and realized I had left my memory card in my iMac at the office. Duh.

Luckily I had a backup method: telephone!

The haze over the lens pretty much says it all about the sort of humid, sultry weather we’ve been having lately. And the uptilted seat? well, that’s something that will be addressed when I write up my “complete a bicycle maintenance task” post.

I plan on being a much more timely poster when it comes to Part III!

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Hand Signal Debate

“I thought holding your left arm at a right angle was the way to signal a right turn,” a friend said recently after going on a quick neighborhood ride with me.

Yes, I use the “alternate right turn” hand signal.

bike signals

I’ve decided to break from tradition on this for a couple of reasons.

Continue reading

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More on the Guardian’s Bike Coverage

I’ve long been a fan of The Guardian, so when they launched a bike blog over the summer that collates all their cycling coverage, I signed up to receive updates. So far, I’ve not been disappointed. It covers a broad range of cycling culture and news.

There are women contributors who write about everything from harassment to riding in a skirt. The show’s current podcast, second in what’s to be a monthly series, included an interview with cyclist and Olympic medal winner Victoria Pendleton, who said that while she enjoys racing and can’t wait for London 2012, she looks forward “to the day when I don’t have an agenda [while riding]” and can “just toodle” around with her friends. Perhaps she was imagining that while posing for this picture.

Pendelton with a Pashley Poppy, from the Daily Mail via Cyclechic.co.uk

Pendelton with a Pashley Poppy, from the Daily Mail via Cyclechic.co.uk

Also featured were reviews of the new Trek Soho (described as “stately” yet “slightly chunky”) and the Sirrus Elite (the “boy racer” of hybrid bikes), and an inside look at Pashley (not only is business up, they’re opening a new distribution center . . . in Taiwan!).

Continue reading

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Cycling Abroad

Jess and her bike in Gottingen

I’ve long believed that if everyone spent some time living in a country other than their own, the world would be a much better place. But I never thought about the fact that it could also get people on bikes.

My friend Jessica has been studying in Germany for the past few months. Though she sometimes rode a bike to the university here in Nashville, living there has given her a different perspective on city cycling that she shared in a blog post today. As always, Jessica provides interesting insights on German culture as she sees it—and the pictures of Gottingen’s bike lots on weekends vs. on weekdays are great illustrations of the prominence of cycling in Europe.

So head on over and check out her post. I have a feeling there will be some more pictures of Jessica on two wheels once she makes it back to Nashville.

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