Sunday, September 25, 2011

Interbike 2011: Like an Explosion of So, So Many Bicycles!

Bobbin Bicycles, the Birdie.
I wrote in my last Interbike 2011 post that this eagerly anticipated annual North American bicycle trade show is a huge event.  Two full convention floors of the Sands Convention Center, plus and Outdoor Demo and Advocacy Alley are dedicated to thousand of attendees.  If it is bicycles or even slightly bicycle related, it is at Interbike.  Interbike is the bicycle equivalent to the Detroit Auto Show.  Like that auto trade show, all major bike manufacturers and many, many up and comers present their newest models to the oohs and ahhs of retailers, other industry folks, journalists, bloggers like me and the die-hard bike consumers who are able to swing a admission pass.

For the cycle chic crowd, Interbike is our version of New York Fashion Week.  And, oh, the fashions!  I'd be hard pressed to say that the fashion forward pedaling on the stage and down the bike ramp (only the loveliest of bicycles, of course) at the Momentum Magazine's City Style Fashion Show wouldn't make almost anyone day-dream just a little about a commuter cyclist transformation.  Say what you will about the fashion industry, the City Style show featured models of every skin color and body shape in great clothes, much of which could be worn by anyone with some daring and they all made bicycling look cool, fun and functional.  Pretty big pulls in my book. 

A Gazelle, I believe.
Guys like to look good, too.  On a Linus w/ a Linus pannier.
The show was very well attended (I saw it twice) by both men and women so I was a bit surprised at the hum of debate about whether or not the connection between fashion and bicycles is a good thing for cycling or for women.  Fodder for an upcoming post.

Every kind of bike imaginable can be found at Interbike: mountain, triathlon, hybrid, recumbent, or even tricycle.  Naturally, the stylish, up-right, city bikes caught my eye.  To me, they spell romantic adventure, where the most routine trips send my mind propelling (yet still focused on the road) to some distance land of lively cafes, antique book shops and spectacular museums and far away from the horrors of reality TV and People magazine.  I couldn't have been more taken with the 2012 collection from Bobbin Bicycles, which included baskets, pannier and other bike bags.  Very smart and old-school British in spirit.    Swept back handlebars, fenders, and chain guards.  To think, just a few years ago these features had to be purchased separately or were simply impossible to find at most bike shops.  Now all can be found on the entry level models by Giant, Specialized and Trek.  Bike racks are even integrated into the frame.

More Birdies by Bobbin Bicycles.

The Linus logo is a great example of "less is more".

And then there were the Linus bikes, which I've heard great things about.  I was a little disappointed that the saddles on most of the models did not live up to the elegance of the bicycle frames and accessories but the Linus rep explained to me that the bike shops prefer to up-sell higher end saddles to their customers rather than having them pre-equipped.

The Breezer Uptown Infinity LS.

The Nuvinci Variable Twist Grip Shifter on the Breezer Infinity.
Of course I had to see the newest version of the Breezer Uptown 8, my favorite ride.  The Breezer Infinity seems to be a repackaged Uptown 8 as it has the enclosed chaincase and now comes with the new Nuvinci N360 Continuously Variable Planetary Transmission and Variable Twist Grip Shifter.  The Uptown 8 has downgraded back to the open chaincase.  Sadly, the rudy red version is no longer available.  I really miss the old colors. 

Breezer Downtown 8
I also wanted to check out the new Breezer Downtown series of Town bikes, which have steel fenders (I like).  Breezer seems to have expanded their line of Town bikes, with the Downtown series consisting of diamond and unisex frames.  The saddles appear to be leather, although I couldn't be certain.  Regardless, I thought the new saddles were quite attractive and if they are as comfortable as the one I have on my 2008 Uptown 8 I wouldn't feel any great temptation to upgrade to a Brooks.

Tern LinkD
The range of folding bikes on the market, or soon-to-be, truly surprised me, since I don't see that many where I live. At Interbike, folding bikes were everywhere.  Without a doubt, though, the folding bike buzz was all about the breakup in which Dahon USA, is now Tern and the old company is now Dahon China. From what I gather the split was the result of supposed differences in opinion among family members about company direction.  I won't get in to the details because it is all rather vague, although you can read Josh Hon's statement about the split by following this link but as the happy owner of a Dahon Eco3, I wish both companies the best.  I'm mostly interested in finding out who I turn to when or if I want to make any upgrades to my Eco3 but I couldn't get an answer to that question primarily because the of the language barrier between me and the rep I spoke with at the Dahon exhibit.  The Tern exhibit was entirely to busy for me to even attempt to speak with anyone.  Unfortunately, the Dahon exhibit, featuring their new products, was closed to photograpy but I can report that Dahon China appears to have changed the fold on their new models.

New from Dahon; note the new hinge!
Photo ban or not, I did get a few shot of the newest offerings by Dahon at the fashion show.

Tern Verge1
Tern, on the other hand, allowed photograpy and their bikes, including the fold, seem to be very much in keeping with the more sporty looking Dahons of past years. They even have bike luggage similar to Dahon's Airporter.

A Brompton w/ "M" style handlebar.
Speaking of Dahon, I couldn't help but be amused by my new found insights into the strong feelings folding bike enthusiasts have about merits of Brompton versus Dahon, also known as The Poor Man's Brompton. Two people I chatted with over dinner (including Ted of Commute by Bike) feel that Dahon delivers the superior ride, while offering greater affordability. 

Brompton.  It's all in the fold.
On the other side, a passionate Brompton owner insisted that Brompton is the better bike because of its engineering and tight, compact fold.  I have to admit, as much as I love my Dahon, I am enthrawled by the fold, so neat and tidy that it fits in the smallest of spaces.  Just as amazing is how easily the Brompton can be wheeled around by the handlebars when folded.  The Dahon only folds into a V-shape so wheeling it into a building by the handlebars is slightly awkward.  I didn't get to test ride the Brompton but I suspect that if I lived in a large city and used the train or bus a lot, I'd have to become a Brompton girl, perhaps to the exclusion of any other bicycle.

Anthony at Prodeco will convince you that electric motors will turn non-cyclists into cyclists.
Even more shocking to me than the volume of folding bikes on display at Interbike was that many of the folders were electric!  Though I admit to having initial reservations about electric bikes, having ridden one in windy, hilly Flagstaff early this spring  am more than sold on them and their potential to increase the number of cyclists on the road.  One still has to pedal but the electric motor provides the cyclist with a helpful boost in strong wind and on hills.   A daily, 10-mile bike ride to work is tough sell for a lot of on-the-fence bike commuters but the electric assist makes the longer distance much more managable. 

The battery for this e-folder prototype is under the bike rack and panniers.
An e-folder makes even more sense to me, especially when I fantasize about living in a large, urban area where car ownership is both prohibitively expensive and often impractical.  A person living in a small apartment, with little room for bike storage, such as in New York City or San Francisco, could much more easily manage car-free living if they were able to combine the an e-folder with public transit.

Bianchi love.  Will I ever be worthy?
Of course, I cannot omit a few words about the time I spent gawking at bicycles of which I am in awe but would never have the nerve actually to ride.  These would be the Italian bikes, which for some reason I perceive to be in a class far beyond what I could ever aspire.  Brought to Interbike by the Italian Trade Commission. the Italia exhibits radiated beauty and sexiness second to none. 

No lightning bolts or glittery graphics on the Italian bikes, be they racing bikes or commuter.   Sleek, classic, minimalist markings decorated the Italian bicycles; clearly meant for riders who begin each day with only a strong espresso in a white demi-tass.  Feeling unworthy, I could only hope to ever achieve that level of style and grace. . . perhaps when I am 80?

Now you might wonder at my show of humility when confronted by Italian bicycles, but had you seen me back by suddenly large ass into a group of Montante commuter bikes and single handedly knock them all over you would understand.  Luckily, it the show was closing for the day and nobody was nearby to observer by clumbsy, unworthiness, which was probably all due to the fact that I was overcome by their angelic beauty.

Umbrella holder or wine carrier?
But really, who but an Italian bike maker would have understood how essential is a white, leather umbrella carrier to a properly turned out city cyclist?  I went back to see the Montante bikes a second time and when I was inspecting the umbrella carrier more closely (as I originally thought it was a wine holder) a group of gentlemen asked me if I thought anyone would actually use such a feature.  After some split second consideration I said that while I probably wouldn't in Flagstaff, where we don't get a lot of rain, that if I was a bike commuter in Seattle, Portland or Louisville where it rains quite a bit that I would probably quickly learn to use use an umbrella while I pedaled and definitely value it.

I've still more to report on Interbike, including more beautiful bicycles, cute helmets, and every manner of bike bag and pannier.  I'm also going to do at least one post, alluded to in an earlier paragraph, about the bike/fashion debate.  I almost hesitate in even discussing it because issue seems tired and done into the ground.  As I noted in my last Interbike post, the question kept popping up about who speaks for women cyclists, and I'd like to add my two cents to the discussion.  This writer can only speak for herself and perhaps the handfull of women who identify with her.  But that's a later post that is still turning over in my head.  I'll look forward to your thoughts as well.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Bluegrass Bike Date at the County Fair

Bluegrass from Chatham County Line.
My sister lives in Cary, North Carolina, outside of Raleigh and sent me an urgent message that Chatham County Line one of her favorite local bluegrass bands was going to be playing on Labor Day Weekdend at the Coconino County Fair, just up the road from our house.  Yippy!  The fairgrounds are just a short bike ride from our house, most of which are on the urban trail system and a short, short stretch of bike lane.  Nothing beat bluegrass by bicycle.  Actually, I think the two go together really well.

We first saw CCL last year at the Orpheum and are now committed fans so, no, we wouldn't miss them.  We arrived about 20 minutes before the beginning of their set and got out bikes locked up under a ramada.  The County discounted admission for people who arrived before noon by bike, which is a nice incentive for those who don't normally consider taking a bike to family oriented events like the fair, but just getting to enjoy the ride with my husband on a lovely early evening was pretty much all the encouragement I needed.  We arrived just in time to get good seats and margaritas. 

I also purchased CCL's new CD Wildwood, which I got autographed after the show.

Bob with carnival tokens in hand!
After the music, we wandered over to the midway where Bob bought tokens for the carnival games, which by the way, I'd never played before.  Ever.

As it turns out, I have no skills at carnival games.  Not surprisingly though, Bob does.  He proved to be excellent at darts and soon I was choosing between cute teddy bears to take home. My hero!  A void was filled in my life.  Eventually, the small, plush bear will become one of Ashby's dog toys (aka her "baby") but for the moment it would become my very first carnival  prize.

We did not partake in carnival food, mostly because Bob is in the final months of training for his Arizona Ironman competition and is focused on shedding a few pounds for this grueling event. 

We did however enjoy the lights and the people watching before heading back to our bikes for our night ride home. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Interbike: Where to Begin

I returned to Flagstaff late Thursday night after two exciting days in Las Vegas at Interbike 2011.  And no, I did not hit the casinos or go to any shows; I was there only for bicycles and all things bicycles and that's exactly what I got!

Uh oh!  I'm at the Brompton exhibit!  Like a moth to the flame . . .
In truth, I wanted to go to Interbike last year but didn't even consider doing so since I questioned what right I had being there.   I am, after all, a mere bicycle dilettante, barely able to put air in her tires.  I don't belong to the bike industry, nor am I a member of the "working press".  More than that, who cares what I think?  But you know, I soon learned that a few non-industry people I am acquainted with went last year.  Some bike bloggers who I follow went as consumers and reporters for their readership.  I've even learned how handy an allen wrench is for making on the emergency adjustments to handlebars and seatposts.  Why shouldn't I go?  As one of my readers alerted me just a few weeks back, I landed number 41 on's list of 50 Most Influential Cycling Bloggers of 2011 so maybe a handful of people actually are interested in what I have to say.  I told Ted at Commute by Bike, the blog I write product reviews for, that I wanted to go and he invited me to tag along with them this year.  I registered and was accepted as a member of the working media, but still, I hesitated just a little.  Did I really belong there?

The answer turned out to be most definitely!

Yes, it really DOES matter that it's cute!
Yes, Interbike is the huge North American bicycle trade show but it is so much more than that.  It is an event for and by people who are passionate about bicycling, whether it is racing, cycle cross, recreational or commuter/utility.  I met bike builders, engineers, marketers, journalists, retailers, designers, advocates, consumers and fellow bloggers.  Just like me, they came to Interbike because they love bicycles and everything it contributes to how they live.  I met the CEO of Timbuk2, Mike Wallenfels, and immediately knew why I love my Shift Pannier-Messenger so much.  I got the feeling that Mike organizes a good portion of his life around his commute and getting to where he want to go by bike.  The Shift is a product that is perfectly designed to do what he needs it to do.  I met so many people just like him.

Haniya Hussain (Urbana), Richard Masoner (Cyclelicious), Josh Lipton (Bike Shop Hub), Ted Johnson (Bike Shop Hub), me, and Paul Harris (Urbana)
How often do any of us get the chance to be surrounded as far as the eye can see by so many people who feel strongly about the same things that we do?  You forget to eat in that kind of energy.  It happened for me in art school and much later when I was a Legislative Aide in Louisville, Kentucky.  And it happened again last week at Interbike where, refreshingly, nobody thinks it's strange that I show up to meetings or the doctor's office on a Dahon.  It is agreed by all that keeping funding for bike infrastructure in the transportation bill is a no-brainer.

Sheila Moon apparel, designed by a woman, for women.
My final point in this first post about my experience at Interbike 2011 is that my thoughts and YOUR thoughts as cyclists, consumers, or bloggers does matter.  Almost everyone I spoke to at Interbike seemed to care about not only educating me and finding out about my experience with their products but also learning about how I acquired my passion for bicycles and what I hoped to accomplish as a bike blogger.  Interestingly, at least to me, there was quite a bit of buzz about who speaks for women cyclists. The consensus seemed to be that despite the fact that the event was well attended by women, it is men who are usually doing the talking.  True or not it is fodder for discussion and I hope some of that will happen here.  I'll be posting more on Interbike 2011 throughout the next few weeks in between other posts.  As always, I look forward to hearing your reactions.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Better Bus Shelters and Bicycle Parking

A new bus shelter on Beulah, near McConnell.
Some new bus shelters recently went up in Flagstaff for the Mountain Line.  I like these very much, especially the mountain architecture of the design.  The heavy columns of stacked rock make the shelter look strong and stately.  I strongly believe that bus riders and potential bus riders want a place to wait for bus that provides protection as much as shelter.

A handy Mountain Line/Mountain Link route map.
This one has a bench and, rather than advertising, it has good sized route map.  I've never noticed that Mountain Line has advertising on its shelters, which really is my preference.  Nothing makes a shelter less attractive than a shelter covered with advertising.  I suspect that advertising increases graffiti, something I also rarely see on Flagstaff bus shelters.

One thing I'd like to see added that would contribute to the function of this shelter would be a bike corral.  Mountain Line buses have a bus rack on the front of the bus for those who need to transport their bikes with them.  However, most rack can only accommodate two bicycles at a time and sometimes the racks are full so the rider must either leave the bike at the shelter or just continue riding.

It appears that a bus rider may have decided to leave her cute little, pink cruiser locked to this tree because of a full rack on the front of a bus.  I'm not sure the restaurant that maintains the landscaping will continue to allow bikes to be locked to one of their trees.  Too bad there's not a bike corral next to the bus shelter because worrying about what to do with my bicycle in the event that the bike rack is full would definitely be a factor in my decision of whether or not to combine bus and bike to get to where I want to go.  The transportation planners working on this project may very well have considered this idea but budget limitations made it impossible.  I've noticed other shelters in town that do have corrals nearby so hopefully some are already on the drawing board for this location as well.  Nonetheless, I think I'll drop an e-mail to Mountain Line to suggest a bike corral be added when funding allows.

In other bike parking news,  Bob and I recently joined Anytime Fitness and the club manager noted our bike gear and said that she has spoken to the property owners of Woodlands Village Center about adding some bike corrals to the location.   As we already knew, she said that many of her members bike to the club but have nowhere to lock their bikes, other than, again, trees and the railing along the steps.

We have dinner at a few of the restaurants at the Woodlands Village Center and have found only one portion of railing where one can reasonably lock bikes without thoroughly interfering with accessibility.  The ramps up to the store entries become completely inaccessible for people in wheelchairs and electric mobility scooters when bike riders lock their bikes to the railing.  I'm certain that most cyclists are not considering this when they lock up their bike to the railing, but it no less creates a problem for potential customers.

I hope the manager at Anytime Fitness is successful in getting the property owner to place some bike corrals.  As the business spaces fill up, lack  of car parking will become increasingly difficult to find.  Already during the few times Bob and I have driven their for dinner, we've had trouble finding an open parking space.  I wonder if the property or any of the businesses would be eligible for a waiver on parking space requirements if they placed bike corrals at the location.

Here would be the perfect spot for bike corrals but the shopping center has plenty of other workable spots, some of which are covered.

On My Way to Interbike!
Yes, tomorrow I hit the road early along with some folks from Bike Shop Hub to check out this year's Interbike in Las Vegas.  This will be my first year attending and I'm very excited to see all the new bikes and associated products, meet other bloggers, see the fashion show and to get inspired with new ideas about how to make SRAB a more informative resource, especially for average women who are trying to overcome the "I would do it but . . ." kind of thinking that might be holding them back taking that first step to exploring bicycling as a legitimate and life enhancing form of transportation. 

So, I'll be at Interbike Wednesday and Thursday so I'm not sure if I'll actually get to do any posting but I hope to have plenty to share when I return.  I'd love to meet up with any other bloggers who are in attendance so please drop me a message here or via Facebook if you want to try and get together.

Monday, September 12, 2011

More from the Target Bike Corral

I almost never visit Target without meeting an interesting cyclist.  I noticed Michelle's black, vintage Raleigh first.  Michelle, an interior design student at Northern Arizona University's School of Art, proudly told me she found it at AZ Bikes at 217 South San Francisco.  They helped her upgrade it for bike commuting with  a new saddle, handlebars, fenders and rear bike baskets.  This bike is a keeper, a classic that any self-respecting art student can be lock up on campus with pride.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

From the Bike Path, a Last View of Summer

Summer pedaling is coming to close.  I shot this sunflower just days before most had disappeared.  What happened?  There were so abundant.  Oh, well, they will return next summer.

Nice, though, that the multiuse trails in my neighborhood are being patched and repaved.  Much appreciated by Bob and I, whose commuting bikes have little in the way of suspension.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Bringing People Together: Another New Belgium Fun Ride

I'd like to give a special thanks to New Belgium Brewing and Beer Ranger Grant Dunstan for hosting another enjoyable Fun Ride on a recent Tuesday night.  We met up around 6 p.m. at Altitudes Bar and Grill for a pre-ride beer - I enjoyed a Sunshine Wheat.

About eight of us pedaled through downtown Flagstaff and nearby to Francis Short Pond. 

Will's ride was his New Belgium Cruiser, won this past spring at a raffle after another New Belgium Fun Ride.  I love the red rims and the porters rack.

Grant was on one of his New Belgium Anniversary Cruisers.  Yep, New Belgium Brewing rewards employees anniversary bike as part of their commitment to happy employees and bicycling as a legitimate form of transportation.

One of the things I really enjoy about the monthly fun ride is the chance to meet new people.  Usually, the meeting and greeting begins right before we head out and continues while we're waiting at lights. 

By the end of the ride, it seems like we're all friends, back at Altitudes, pulling together table where we share another beer or two over dinner.  Proving that it really is a small world, I finally met Grant's wife, Melissa, who much to my amazement not only attended the University of Georgia at the same time as I did but also worked at one of Athens' perennial institutions for beer and good times, The Georgia Theater.  We did not work there at the same time but shared a few laughs about common experiences from behind the bar.  Athens was a big bike riding town when I was attending (and attending and attending and attending) UGA and I have many fond memories of pedaling around campus on my bright yellow Giant Iguana mountain bike.  Athens was the home of the Athens Twilight Criterium, a pro cycling race runs through downtown Athens (or did back then).  The Georgia Theater was located along the race course, always packed for that event, so those of us who worked there used to take turns watching from the race from the upstairs, the roof and out over the marquee.  Looking back, I am quite sure we probably were not supposed to be watching the race from the roof or the marquee or drink beer while on duty but for some reason, it seemed reasonable at the time.