Thursday, December 30, 2010

Have Folding Bike, Will Travel to Northern California!

The Airporter suitcase and ArcLite rack from Dahon.
Bob purchased a cute red Dahon Eco 3 for me back in October while we were in Greenville, SC for my sister's wedding.  I had been researching folding bikes for quite some time because I liked the idea of being able to take a bike with me on our out of town trips.  While exploring Dahon's website, I found they have a couple of options for traveling with by airplane with a folding bike.  The Airporter suitcase looked like just the thing for me.  I also planned on getting one of the rear bike racks Dahon created specifically for their bicycles.  Always the attentive husband, Bob gave me an Airporter an ArcLite rack for Christmas. 

Detail of the Dahon ArcLite rack.
We're planning  a trip to San Francisco for a long weekend in March and want to spend our time there siteseeing on bikes.  What better way to indulge in a huge plate of guilt-free pasta in North Beach than by pedaling up and down those famous SF hills?  Later in May, we're joining our little nieces in San Jose for Girls on the Run and plan to also take them on a bicycle excursion.  We'll round off our second California trip with a few days biking in the wine country.  All-in-all, I'd say my new Airporter and ArcLite rack are going to come in very handy.  Thank you, Bob!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

She Rides a Vintage OLMO: Don't Hate Her Because Her Bike is Beautiful . . .

Rosie admiring the newest member of the family.
When my sister Valerie exchanged vows in October with her husband George, I knew that he liked biking and their first date (it was a date, George) was a bike date.  Score one for George!  What I did not know was the extent of George's utter bikey wonkiness!  How wonky is George's bike obsession, you ask?  He rebuilt  and refurbished a vintage Italian OLMO for my sister for Christmas, that's how wonky.  Score two!!

George, bike and Rosie.
It all began with this tattered but still elegant frame he found at Lucky Bike in Greenville, SC (2 Sydney St, 864.271.1214).  Bikes are lucky at Lucky Bike because wonky people like George find discarded old jewels and lovingly restore them to their former glory (and them some).  Here is a "before" shot of the OLMO.

I'll let George tell the rest:

OLMA after
"Although I did a lot of research on the web, I was unable to find the model of the bike or a photo of a vintage one like it, even with the serial number 325D. All I could find were their road bikes,but their site didn’t have any bike history.  Since my Italian is nonexistent, I didn’t  e-mail OLMO to see if they could help date it. The bike still had, on the other hand, some of the vintage parts that helped me date the bike such as Wienmann brakes, Gnutti bottom bracket, Philippe stem and a Magistroni crank.

Moustache handlebars
"The original handlebars were shaped like the moustache handlebars but without the drop. Looking at them from above they are the same except flat looking from the front. I tried to clean them up but they just were too rusty. Even though the new moustache bars I selected for the rebuild were developed in the 90’s, I still think they look classic.

Woody fenders!
"The original fenders were plastic and completely destroyed.  I wanted to replace them with something cool. One day I was looking for a wooden bottle cage for my bike and found Woody’s Fenders,, there was my answer to replacing the old ones.

Lovely Brooks saddle
"The design wasn’t hard at all because Valerie and I really have the same type of vision. We had seen a new bike in Savannah, Georgia, a single speed in a similar color.  However, Valerie she would not be happy with a store bought bike since I had built my own bike. With the exact color already determined, I knew that a Brooks saddle would be the obvious choice. The only heartache was having the wheels built all white with just the nipples red at the end of the spokes. In my mind I knew the rims had to be white and it needed that little splash of color.  But was the color right?

George's Raleigh Technium, rebuilt as a fixed gear.
"Now, about my bike: a Raleigh Technium with 26” tires, which I've had since 1987 . All that was left prior to rebuilding it was the frame, so I decided to become part of the fixed gear cult. The wheels were the bling of the bike, Velocity Deep V’s, the burl image, and the Brooks saddle, of course.

"We plan on riding our bikes down on the Swamp Rabbit Trail in Greenville and around town. I ride to the grocery store when weather is good. Riding a fixed gear is so different and loads of fun! Also anytime we head to a ride that will be flat, like the beach or places like Savannah, we will take the bikes."

Valerie is gushing about her new stylish, vintage bike and can't wait for the weather and the roads to clear out enough for her to take her bike out for a ride.  She admitted she is looking forward to the looks of envy that will no doubt follow her down the bike trail.  I have no doubt she will get them.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

On Bike and Relationship Maintenance

Recently, after pedaling home well after dark, I decided to stop by Single Track and pick up a rear view mirror and headlight.  Normally, I would have just asked the manager if he would attach both for me before I left but lately I've been feeling ashamed of not taking a greater responsibility for my own bike maintenance.  About the most I know how to do (or really want to do) is put air in my tires. 

My personal bike mechanic.
Usually, I'm perfectly happy to let Bob take care of my bike upgrades since Bob seems to genuinely like helping me with tasks, both large and small.  Surprisingly to me, sometimes maintaining a few of the traditional gender roles seems to serve a practical relationship function.

He performs many helpful tasks and looks good in a suit.

Bob, me and my romantic advisor, Winn.
I must digress for a moment.  I have always been very self-sufficient but when Bob and I were first dating I was cautioned by most of my friends, both male and female, to reign it in a bit, that most men really want to be able to "fix stuff" for their girlfriends in order to feel valued by them.  I found this concept utterly absurd.  If I were a man I would be annoyed by a helpless woman who needed assistance with hammers, paint brushes, and electric drills.  Nonetheless, my friend and romantic advisor Winn repeatedly stressed to me that men were "simple creatures" whose brains are mostly preoccupied with sports, pizza, beer, and boobs, and that after the initial excitement of regular contact with boobs they like to "perform helpful tasks" as a way of showing their love. 

Is my mother smiling because she thinks I still don't know??
After, checking in with other men and my girlfriends who were in successful relationships (including my sister Alison who is married to a really great guy), shockingly, EVERYONE agreed with Winn's theory.  Winn and friends also agreed upon several illuminating theories that they shared with me, very much in the same manner as would share, say, the launch code for a nuclear missile strike.  I will not go into their conclusions in this post but I am quite sure they DO NOT APPEAR in any graduate level psychology textbooks.   I would also like to take this moment to ask my mother, why if these notions are so universally held, did she never bother to explain them to me?  Apparently, she explained them to my sisters . . .  Anyway, over five years with Bob, I've tested all the theories and found each to have some validity.  After we got engaged I ran each by Bob, and to which he replied, "Yes."

So, back to bicycles and guilt.  Bob has previously lovingly performed the tasks of installing fenders, bike racks, headlights, rear view mirrors, bells and seat posts on to my other bikes.  The guilt comes in when I read posts by other women bloggers who are personally, with their own manicured hands, putting studded tires on their rims, sand blasting and soldering rusted old Schwinn frames, and rebuilding vintage Raleighs.   I'm not doing any of those things.  I'm not even sure I want to either but you can take the Catholic out of the girl but never the Catholic guilt. 
Two rubber washers are attached to the screw to secure tightly in the handlebar.

So after watching the mirror and the headlight sit idle on the coffee table for several days, I thought to myself, "I can do it!  I can do it."   Bob asked me if I needed help.  I told him that I just wanted him to take pictures as photographic evidence that I really did it by myself.  "Oh, yes," he said, "you really should learn a little bike maintenance just in case something happens and you're out by yourself."  Well, if you insist!

A cap at the end of the handlebar was easy to remove with a butter knife.

Twist and push.
So I found that there is nothing to installing a rear view mirror, especially if your bike has a little cap at the end of the handlebar that can be easily removed with a butter knife.  I hate it when special tools are involved.  

Really, the most important thing to remember about attaching new accessories to one's bike is not the toss the instructions in the recycling bin.  Look at them.  Match the various parts to the enclosed diagram.   Read the instructions a couple of times.

I learned that it really is just fine to ask for help.  The garage was freezing so I accessorized my Dahon in the living room and asked Bob turn on the overhead light so I could see better.  I also asked him to steady my bike a couple of times and one time I asked him to unscrew a bolt that was too tight for me to manage on my own.

Mirror installation complete!

Cat Eye headlight
I moved on to the headlight.  I bought a Cat Eye, by the way.

Attaching the bracket.
Even though I really wanted, indeed, needed, to attach the headlight on my own, I struggled just a bit with fitting the mounting bracket and accepted some critical feedback from Bob when he pointed out that I was attempting to put it on backwards.  I have a bit of a tendency to reject assistance in a defensive manner but I was extremely proud of myself for balancing Bob's need to perform a helpful task with my need to be self-sufficient and capable. 

Adjusting the Ziptie.
Attaching the light really was stressful.  I remembered that among Winn's sage advise was "Let him show you how to do something."  The little voice inside me kept whining, "But I want to do it."  Unfortunately, I couldn't figure out how to get the attached Ziptie to tightly secure the mounting bracket.  The thoughtful solution was to allow Bob, who was clearly biting his tongue, to demonstrate how to do it and then try it myself.  And that is what I did.  Bracket securely attached.  Both marital partners have their divergent emotional needs met.

It works!
I'm really pretty pleased with myself.  I've pedaled around a couple of times on the Dahon since then and found everything functioning well.  I'm looking forward to purchasing a rear rack for the Dahon and mounting it on my own.  I don't know how that compares with rebuilding your own drive train but just about ready to declare myself Bike Shop Girl 2.0!

As for helpful tasks performed by Bob, he's been on a bread making frenzy for  the last two months.  He's been getting a great deal of satisfaction every time he hands me a slice of warm Italian bread, slathered with unsalted butter and seeing my eyes promptly roll back into my head.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Good Racks, Bad Racks and New Fangled Racks

On a couple of recent bike outings I had the chance to ponder bicycle rack design and placement. While poor design and placement can't compare in urgency to questions like the tax cut deal (unlike), DADT (like), or events in the Middle East, when I can't find a decent place to lock up my bike it hurts my feeling just a little bit.
Barnes and Noble's bike rack.
I always find this grill rack at Barnes and Noble very unsatisfactory. Here, I 've locked by bike to the outside of the rack in the interior of the sidewalk, which is the only way to securely lock my Expedition to the rack. I prefer not to lock my bike in this manner especially when the sidewalk is narrow since it can limit accessibility for sidewalk users who get around in wheelchairs or are pushing baby carriages. I could roll the front wheel into the grill but only the wheel would be locked. I could also lift the front of the bike over the top of the rack, and I've done that before, but it's clumsy and awkward for a petite woman like me to hoist up a 35 lbs bike over the top of the rack. The fact that the rack is up against a tree doesn't really help either since it limits the number of bikes that can be stored in that manner to precisely two. The other side of the rack is at the edge of the sidewalk and the curb, rendering that side of the rack completely useless.  A more functional rack could be installed at one of the islands in the parking area and be a huge improvement for customers arriving on bicycles.

A very serviceable rack on Aspen Avenue in downtown Flagstaff!  Assuming some cyclists are traveling in pairs up to six bikes could easily be locked to this rack design.  The extra wide sidewalk, of course, makes this a good location for this type of rack set up.

These ring racks at City Hall have always seemed pretty functional, primarily because they provide stability and they are spaced widely apart allowing bicyclists traveling in grops of two or more to lock their bikes together.  Their placement also makes access and removal easy.  And again, a U-lock can can attach the frame to the lock.  Finally, they are set under a covered walkway right next to the front door of City Hall, which I appreciate because of the added security and protection from the elements.

NAU bike racks on North Campus.
My favorite racks in Flagstaff can be found all over Northern Arizona University campus. I like these loop racks are a stable base and the any bike frame can easily be locked to the rack rather than just the front tire. I also like the fact that the loops are spaced to house multiple bikes without them becoming crammed together so tightly that removal is difficult. The loop rack is also placed in an open area making it easy see and simple to access from any direction.

Impromptu bike rack outside of Diablo Burger on Heritage Square.
Often times, fences and posts become racks. The decorative iron fence rail outside Diablo Burger on Theater Square is very serviceable as a bike rack, and I always like the romantic look of bicycles secured next to alfresco dining areas.

Street signs are popular bike racks in most cities and towns. Sometimes I worry about whether or not I can get ticketed for locking up on a No Parking sign but so far it hasn't happened so I'll probably just keep doing it.

Ultimately, when no rack space is available cyclists will use whatever is available.

A very popular impromptu bike rack outside Pay n' Take on Aspen Ave.
For the past several months, the Southside business district has been getting a facelift - new sidewalks, benches, protective tree irons and - decorative bike racks.  I'm always a little suspicious of decorative  bike racks because often they are more decorative than functional.  Here are a few.

I'd probably be more inclined to use the protective tree iron than the very short semi-circle rack, cute though it may be.  Using my U-lock, I'd only be able to lock my wheel to the rack rather than the frame.  The low-to-the-ground design doesn't allow a much stability for a bike either so if one locked a bike with a cable the bike could easily get knocked over on to the street or across the sidewalk. I suppose I could lock my Dahon to the rack if it were folded.  I suppose that I could lock a BMX or a Big Wheel, too, not that I ride either.

This new bike rack resembles the wheel of a sailboat and looks like it would accommodate a maximum of two bikes or four bikes if two bikes are locked together side-by-side.  Bob and I usually lock our bikes up in this manner when we secure to a rack in order to free up space for more cyclists.

Perhaps it was unclear to the owner of the cruiser that the blue object is indeed a bike rack.  Oh, well poles and signs work well, too.
Another decorative rack with a star pattern.  Looks like this rack could accommodate a single bike at the curb side, a bike in the middle section, and up to two inside the sidewalk area (although sidewalk accessibility would be compromised).  I hesitate to use the curb side of bike racks because of the difficulty it creates for people getting out of the driver's side of a car.  No, I'm not supposed to worry about accommodating car riders on a bike blog but sometimes it pays to keep the peace.

Shipping Container House Update 

Progress on the shipping container house on the Southside continues.  Recently, my husband has also taken an interest in recycled shipping containers as a future affordable housing solution for us.  They offer a very low cost per square foot, as compared to traditionally built homes.  In a town like Flagstaff where high priced land adds significantly to the cost of homeownership, the shipping container house could help lower housing costs for both low and middle income residents.  Interestingly, research has shown that "upscale" homeowners have also chosen to build with shipping containers for reasons of sustainability.  Anyway . . . .
Side view of the shipping container house.

Street view of the shipping container house.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Little Things

Today was my birthday.  A sweet, romantic birthday card from my husband is always worth the 12-month wait.  Thanks, Bob.  xoxoxo

Friday, December 10, 2010

More From Louisville: Bike Safety 101 With Councilman Tom Owen

Prior to moving to Flagstaff and taking up an experiment in bike commuting, I worked for Louisville's 8th District Councilman Tom Owen.  Tom has been a dedicated bike commuter for over 10 years, always in his regular work clothes - although he'd never admit to being cycle chic.  Below is Tom's Bike Safety 101 video that he made a year or so ago for Louisville Metro TV.  Whatever you might think about bike helmets and reflective vests, Louisville is not Portland or Copenhagen when it comes to sharing the road.  Louisville is gaining more and more of a reputation as a bike friendly city, and is in the process of considering it's Master Bike Plan.  Nonetheless, cars still dominate and driver's frequently do not expect to see bicyclists.  I think Tom offers some realistic advise for the River City's bicyclists. He definitely believes that bicyclists have a responsibility for creating safe biking conditions.  Give his video a watch.  Does his advise make sense for your community?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Bakfietsen Paparazzi - A Louisville Dispatch from Sushi K!

My apologies to my Louisville, KY correspondent Sushi K for being so late in posting her newsy piece on Bakfietsen!  In this post Sushi K relates her experience as utility cyclist upon the purchase a year ago of a bakfiets.

Do you ever stand in the checkout line at the grocery store and stare in amazement at the celebrity magazines? Do you ever sigh and think with a tinge of sadness that your face will never be amongst those of the famous folks featured on the covers of the glossies?

If not, stop reading now. This article is not for you.

For the rest of you, I am going to share a secret. Like many of you, I do not have any particular talents in sports, music, acting, magic, or anything else which would be likely to turn me into an overnight sensation. I have become accustomed over the years to my status as a plebian, a common person living out my days in relative anonymity.

However, that changed about a year ago. That's when I bought a bakfiets and my status as an ordinary person changed forever!

Tricked out for the holidays!
Let me start this story from the beginning: last August I was visiting Portland for the Safe Routes to School national conference. While in town, I stayed with some friends, who like many Portlanders, rely on their bicycles almost exclusively for getting around. In the smidgen of free time I had during my stay, my friend R suggested I visit Joe Bike. Their tiny shop held a thoroughly exotic assortment of bikes, including Flying Pigeons, Yuba Mundos, and the eponymous Joe Bike.

Just for fun, I decided to take a couple bikes out for test rides. The Yuba Mundo I found to be an impressively sturdy machine. Their website features photos of Mundos with all sorts of crazy cargo and humans stacked on the back end. While I had no doubt it could carry almost anything I might need, I found the Mundo to be heavy, slow, and clunky and I thought it was difficult to turn.

Joe Bike'a bakfiets - it's Dutch for box bike!
Next, I hopped on the Joe Bike. It felt as sturdy as the Mundo, but was surprisingly nimble, responsive, and easy to maneuver. It had the standard wooden box on the front (bakfiets is Dutch for box bike). I asked about buying one, and was told that the one I was riding was the last one left. It was their first year of production, and that bike was the floor model. After a bit of frantic decision-making, I surprised both myself and Joe by deciding to buy it right then.
It was shipped to Louisville via freight, and arrived a few weeks later. I assembled it that night, and was riding it the next day. Immediately, I saw my status as a regular, anonymous woman on the street had changed. I found I was late getting almost everywhere because so many people wanted to talk to me! I increasingly found that when I was introduced at social gatherings, people would say that they had seen me around town riding my crazy orange bike. Sometimes they would call it my "bike dump truck" or "that zany contraption" or some such.

Bakfiets is not just for hauling kids.  And look at that cute Nutcase helmet.
I soon found that I was "enjoying" all the "benefits" of being a celebrity: people wanted to talk to me, ask me lots of questions, take my picture, and many wanted to try out the bike themselves. Everyone commented how surprised they were that it was so easy to ride. I have used it to carry people, dogs, dog food, groceries, other bicycles, and even helped out with a bike move. I quickly discovered that I couldn't remember how I had managed without it. It is just so durn handy.

Now that is one big haul!

What can't Sushi K carry from here to there in her Joe Bike bakfiets?

Some of the features I appreciate: the flexibility to have either a wooden box on the front or double-decker flatbeds, the nimbleness ever with a significant load, the sturdy four-point kickstand, and the responsive drum brakes (which are inside the hubs of the wheels).

The downside: it is a little heavy and slow.

I am feeling very famous, but still haven't seen my face on the cover of People magazine, but I am sure that will be happening soon. Keep and eye out and let me know if you spot me, okay? Thanks.

There are many other brands of bakfietsen (that's the plural of bakfiets) as well as other types of cargo bikes. Google "cargo bikes" or "bakfiet" or check out the links below:

Bakfietsen Flickr Photo Pool

Bullitt Cargo Bikes

Madsen Cycles


Well, Sushi K might not make the cover of People magazine but the cover of Momentum could be in her future.  Many thanks to Sushi Kin Louisville, Kentucky for her latest contribution to SRAB.