Monday, October 31, 2011

And now a better bike corral . . .

A functional bike corral on Aspen Avenue.
After my brief, sarcastic bike corral rant, I think it only fair to share a local example of a well designed bike corral.  I like the way it's positioned on the sidewalk. 

With lots of room for other bikes.
Each section is placed far enough from the next to allow for two bikes to be set inside without too much difficulty.  I also like that it's next to a bench and an informational kiosk.  Just seems sort of welcoming.  Another identical bike corral sits directly across the street in front of a restaurant, Mountain Oasis (try their Pumpkin Pie Soup for super yumminess!) with outdoor seating.  Nice.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A "why bother" kind of bike corral (if you can even call it that) . . .

Sad, little bike corral.
I've been meaning to stop for some time and photograph this really sad, pathetic little bike corral.  I almost feel sorry for it.  See how it mashed in on one side, making it not only totally inadequate for the job of keeping a bike secure, but utterly uncared for.  Why not just post a sign that says, "We don't give a damn about your effing bike."  I will mention now that it's sitting on the side of a sporting good store.  Kinda odd.  Where's the respect?

A lock.  Really?
But look!  Someone actually locked it to the building!  In kind of a half-ass manner, I will add.  I think I could cut cable in two with my nail clippers.  As if someone would even bother to take it!  For what?  I guess that one could sit it on the side of a desk and use it as a file caddy.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Helmet news from Interbike 2011 without the usual preaching or judgment

Helmet by Bell in an aquatic theme.
When I spoke to the helmet reps at Interbike I kept my comments restricted to good looks, sturdy, concrete resistant construction and comfortable fit.  I'm pretty weary of both sides of the helmet debate.  I don't wear a helmet all that often anymore but sometimes they just make sense; mostly at night on roads with a lot of fast moving traffic.  And yep, when I choose to wear a helmet (and yes, it is a choice in my humble opinion) I wear a one that makes a statement.   I've featured several Nutcase helmets throughout the course of this blog but while at Interbike I had the chance to take a closer look at Bell's selection, which frankly, I've never paid that much attention to.  These are from Bell's Recreational Collection, the Faction model.

Another Bell helmet, like a burst of floral sunshine!
Helmets were on full display in Las Vegas this past September at Interbike and these helmets by Bell were but a few.

Pink minimalism for your head, in Sparkle/Magenta.
Who says helmets don't have style.
Helmets also made the City Style Fashion Show.  I'm actually starting to really like the solid colors of these helmets.  Patterns and designs are fun but I think that I might prefer to wear a solid helmet in to work; the statement being, "Yes, I'm here to work".  I'm not sure who manufactures the helmets featured in the fashion show but I thought they look really sharp and  urbane.

Another solid pink helmet of indeterminate maker -sorry.
 Of course, I'm not advocating one way or another for wearing a helmet.  I wear mine when I feel that one is warranted.  The ones that I've posted here reflect my style preferences, and I hate to admit it but I'm more likely to wear a helmet if it suits my taste.  

I must apologize for not being able to feature any of Nutcases newest styles, which were aplenty.  I could have sworn that I took several pictures but I can't find even one on either my camera or my smart phone.  Nonetheless, I visited their exhibit and tried on their new lighter weight mode, designed in response to complain about sweaty heads.  Same great comfort and fit as their regular weight helmet.  The new helmet comes with a visor; really great for keeping down the glare on bright, sunny days.  The visor is also sold separate on the Nutcase website and can attach to the older model.  I think I'll be getting one for winter riding when the sun's glare on the snow can quite literally be blinding.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Another "I wish I'd ridden my bike" lament

Packed up and ready to go.
I had to drive the car today, which kind of sucked because I really would have preferred to be on my bike.  I needed to let off a litttle (okay, actually a lot) of steam.  Have you ever had one other those days when you just want to throw in the towel, let out a "I give up" scream, and get on your bike and just keep going?  And going?  And going?  And going?  Today was one of those days.  One of the reasons I love riding my bike is the sense of peace, freedom and competence that I experience when I'm on it.   On my bicycle, I can do anything.  I can envision the possibilities and make them happen. Nothing is holding me back.  I got shut down pretty badly today so I could have used a little bit of that mojo and really wished I opted for the stress relieving benefits of my Dahon over the time-saving convenience (yes, the car really was the quicker of the two) of the Element.  I save time but lost peace of mind.  I really should have known better.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

More improvements for bus rider and bicyclists!

A new bus shelter on Beaver Street on the campus of Northern Arizona University.
Nice to see the new bus shelters on the NAU campus.  The shelters are sturdy, attractive and blend in with the campus buildings; they are protected from wind, rain and snow on three sides; they have interior seating; and they include route maps so help passengers find their next stop and transfer points.  I'm not sure if the shelter has LED lighting as I haven't ridden past it after dark yet but I suspect that it does.  Notice that this shelter has a bike corral next to it.  Bike corrals are also located across the street and several feet to the other side of this shelter.  NAU does a great job providing bike corrals all over campus.  They are all very functional, allowing cyclists to lock their bike at the frame rather than just on the wheel.

NAU's bus service links to the City's Mountain Line (like Mountain Lion, get it??) so students can easily travel from campus to jobs, off-campus housing or shopping.  Mountain Line doesn't come out to my neighborhood, however.  I hope that the university and the city will partner to correct that omission in service.  Many students and NAU employees live in Ponderosa Trails and would use the service if it was offered.  My husband and I could easily go car-free if we had bus service out here, and even if we didn't being able to combine bus and bicycle would be a real money saver.  We already have superior bike infrastructure here compared with many communities.  Why not seal that gap in our transportation options?  I know that extending service out here is on the "wish list" and finding a way to pay for it is likely problem number one.  The service does have to be paid for.  I voted a few years ago to raise the local sales tax for expanded routes and lower circulations times outside my immediate area so I'd certainly do it again applying to my own neighborhood.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Interbike fashion moment and my new favorite heels for biking

Knee length jacket from Modrobes
My favorite fashion moment at last month's Interbike in Las Vegas was this really sharp looking coat from Modrobes.  I loved Secret Agent 99 styling with it's minimalist looks, close to the body cut, knee length and moisture wicking fabric, which, I believe, is part of their recycled collection.  I couldn't find this product on their website so I assume they are not ready to ship at this point but I'm going to see what more I can find out.

Smartwool Cozy Gloves
As readers may recall from last winter my usual cold-weather complaint is cold fingers, it's one of the biggest obstacles I've had to overcome as a winter bike commuter.  Usually, even in the coldest weather, the problem is overdressing for the cold.  My hands are a different situation altogether. One problem I encountered was that as soon as my hands started perspiring my gloves would become moist and my hands would immediately become cold. Once they get cold, my fingers eventually turn numb, which can make holding on to the grips of my handlebars or changing gears difficult.  I spent last winter in a near constant search for the perfect glove to keep the circulation flowing in my fingers.   I have the same problem with my feet but discovered awesomeness of Smartwool soaks - problem solved. Unfortunately, I couldn't find Smartwool gloves anywhere in town.  I couldn't have been happier when I came upon the Smartwool exhibit at Interbike and tried on the Cozy Gloves.  They also come in a Cozy Mitten.  Pure, dense, cushy, coziness for the $30.  With cold weather coming soon, I'll be ordering a pair. 

Me in Paris/Vegas.
This past weekend the Planner Guy and I returned to Las Vegas so that he could participate in the Pumpkinman Triathlon, his last event before the Arizona Ironman in Tempe next month. 

Pumpkinman Bob post race.
On Saturday afternoon after Bob had rested from his event we visited the Strip for a little sightseeing .  No gambling for me; I hadn't even meant to spend any money but . . .

Bett from Dansko in Nappa Leather.
I found these Bett shoes from Dansko at the Walkable Store at the Venetian.  I first saw these last year in Louisville but decided that I'd spent all I needed to on clothing for a while.  Though Danskos are pricey they are one of the most comfortable brands of shoes I've ever worn and made to last.    The Bett in Nappa leather doesn't disappoint, either.  It's a Mary Jane style shoe with about a 2.5 heel. 

Perhaps the most comfortable shoes I own.
I've worn them for the last two days and am pretty certain they'll be my favorite shoes for work and pedaling.  So far, absolutely no slipping on the pedals, even when I'm standing.  I'm going to be honest that before moving to Flagstaff comfort was not my highest priority in a shoe.  My pink Ann Taylor sling backs are definitely my preferred shoe but when you live in a ski town at 7000 feet your footwear priorities shift just a little bit.  While not the couture footwear of the New York runway, these Dansko Mary Janes are the funky-cool shoe for a mountain town where sports apparel passes for high fashion.  And let's face it, with a strap across the top of my foot, I never need worry about them coming off my foot when I'm pushing off at a green light.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Child trailers for people without children

Don't cry for me because I don't have a child - it was completely intentional.  But I do like children and have enormous respect for moms.  In fact, I have quite a few of both in my family, the closest of whom live down in Phoenix.

Several months ago my cousin, Angie, decided not to get a child trailer to attach to her bicycle.  She admitted to being pretty nervous about hauling Camille around on the car-centric streets of Phoenix.  Since then, she's had a change of heart, which I attribute to her increased comfort with pedaling around town on her Electra.  She uses bike lanes and has learned to research routes to find the most bikable streets when the most direct route doesn't feel as accommodating.  She told me last month that she had purchased a used trailer that she found on Craig's List for a good price.  We decided to take trailer and Camille to the farmer's market the next time I was in town.
So, last weekend I folded up the Dahon and loaded it up into the rear of the Element and off to the Valley I went.  I arrived at 10:30 a.m. to find Camille still sleepy-eyed from her nap and quite a bit taller.  Sleepy or not, she was happy to help me unload the car and hold my cute Nutcase helmet u-lock while I wheeled my little red bike on to the front porch.  She commented on how pretty it was.  Ah, the seed is being planted young, so the roots will grow deep.

Angie sets up the frame of the trailer.
Angie arrived around 11 and suggested we go ahead and head out to the farmer's market since it closed at 2 p.m. and the temperatures were already heating up.  We pulled bike and trailer out of her bike garage and commenced to hooking it up. 

Since I don't own a bike trailer and have never used one, all I could do was watch and, of course, photograph her labors. 

My cousin, the once novice rider, has gone where I never have in utility cycling; she can attach her own bike trailer in 8 minutes flat! 

Damn!  I had no idea how easy it was.  Honestly, I thought it would be such an ordeal that I found it a little hard to imagine that I'd ever own one (for groceries or the dogs).

A handmade basket is the best way to carry home heirloom tomatoes.
The farmer's market appeared to be clearing out when we arrived, probably because of the heat.  We were wiping our brows by the time we arrived.  To distract us from the temperature, we thought about having a refreshing caprice salad later in the afternoon and hit the vegetable stalls in search of heirloom tomatoes and basil.

So easy, even a non-mom can do it!
After we found the vegetables we decided to head back to Angie's house.  Since I've never biked with a trailer attached I asked if I could give it a try, a little nervous that I'd wimp out in exhaustion within five minutes.  Angie consented but said to let her know if Camille and trailer were too heavy, since she said that she found that she pedaled a little more slowly with the added weight.  After securing Camille in the trailer, I climbed on Angie's Electra and took the trailer and an experimental spin around the large patio where we locked up our bikes.   Amazingly (at least to me), I couldn't feel any additional weight from the loaded trailer.  Perhaps the fact that I live at high elevation gave me a bit of advantage but I was quite shocked at how easy it was to pedal with the trailer.  No problem, I told Angie, I'll do the hauling all the way home.  Oh, the excitement!  Now I was one of those women hauling hauling une enfante on my velo!  Okay, I was a total fraud but I know I made it look so easy.

So anyway, both of us noticed that the trailer had a rather significant lean to the right.  We stopped and inspected it for safety.  Nothing appeared loose so we decided to push on until we got back to Angie's house.  She and her husband Doug could work on straightening it out before the next ride.  The other thing I noticed was that the trailer was a bit difficult to back up and turn around on a curve.  At one point, I had to lift the trailer in order to change directions.  Camille doesn't weight much so it wasn't particularly heavy, just awkward.  I like to check out some other trailers to see how this problem is resolved on other designs.  I suspect that a trailer with a single wheel might be easier to navigate.

Someone wishing she had a bike trailer in her life.
While still no plans to get with child, I can see Bob and I purchasing a trailer at some point.  A trailer would definitely be a good investment if we were to go car-free, still a goal of ours.  If nothing else, we could use a trailer to carry the dogs with us for trips to the vet or Petsmart.  A neighbor, a senior gentleman, carries his two little Pekineses in a trailer on his daily bike rides.  It's a pretty cute sight.  He's a big guy with a beard but those little dogs are his precious babies.  Bob and I aren't too far behind in our devotion to our little dogs - we took them with us on a recent trip to Las Vegas.  Surely Jade and Ashby are also worth the cost of a trailer.  We could take them everywhere!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pedaling pre-Occupation!

Inspired by Occupy Wall Street and not feeling like I do my share in the making-the-world-a-better- place department, I pedaled to downtown this afternoon to participate in Occupy Flagstaff.  The "occupation" was the first demonstration or protest I have ever participated in.  At nearly 49, I decided that I needed a change of pace and this felt like a better idea than going all Madame DeFarge in my frustration with the current economy and political climate. 

The woman here on the right is a teacher from Phoenix.  She probably traveled here by car, but that's okay.
It was a peaceful protest of about 100 citizens of all ages, shades of skin and life situations.  Everyone behaved themselves quite well, with no swearing or disrespect to the few car drivers that gave us the finger (and in one case, mooned us).  Overall, the clear majority of the passing motorists supported our efforts and knew what we were protesting since they gave lots of honks and thumbs up.  I prefer to focus on what I support, one of them being funding for transportation alternatives that serve the needs of all.  My husband asked me if I was going to wear a Corporate Zombie costume but that's no more me than Lycra.  I just wore my usual combo of JCrew and Eddie Bauer.  Most everyone dressed pretty much like me, with the occasional Nordic ski cap with ear flaps. 

The bikes not his but he made the sign.
I was not the only cyclist to attend.  Actually, there were quite a few of us.  I wonder if that means bicycles are unAmerican?

Nobody at Occupy Flagstaff wore Lycra.
I also met a very nice woman whose hours were cut back and had her car repossessed.  She rides her bike for transportation, too, and told me she likes it very much, thank you.  I hope things turn around for her soon, and if she needs another car that she is able to get one.  We get a good bit of snow in Flag so it's not always that easy to bike here in the winter.

Visitor from NYC!  I kinda think they've done this before.
I also met this couple from New York City - Stanton Island, to be exact.  They told me they both work in health care.  They were traveling down Rt. 66 on the way to the Grand Canyon and were so happy to see that the Wall Street event had spread to other cities that they had to stop and chat.  Their son is very active in Washington state biking community.  They stayed for an hour, borrowed signs from the sign pile and joined the protest.  When we said goodbye I gave them directions to the Grand Canyon and pointed out the Visitor's Center where they could pick up information on other area attractions.  They told me they like Arizona very much.  For those few hours, I warmed to it as well.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

More on traveling with a bicycle

Me and my Dahon on the way to Sausalito.
Is it just me or does the thought of going out-of-town and being separated from your bicycle leave you feeling a bit dysphoric?  Maybe just a little?  Well, there is a solution!  Pack up your bike and take it with you.  As SRAB reader might recall, I did just that back in early March during a long weekend in San Francisco.  Finally, I've gotten around to posting about it; this time on Commute by Bike.

On Filmore Street.  I admit to having to walk this one.
I also recently carried my Dahon down to Phoenix, a trip I made by car, where I spent the weekend with my cousin and fellow bike girl, Angie (the one with the bike garage).  While I pedaling, I discovered that Phoenix is hot as hell in early October, just under 99 degrees!  Yes, it is a dry heat but I really wished I had a cotton cloth for patting down my perspiring forehead, something I never have to do in Flagstaff.

My cousin Angie, her Electra, and my Dahon.
Quite the car-centric town is Phoenix but they're trying.  With Angie as guide, we traversed several miles of bike route to enjoy  a cup of jo at Luci's Healthy Marketplace

At the Luci's counter.  It's all so good.
I just had to share this awesome Luci's logo!
Even in the scorching heat, there's just nothing like a really, good cup on hot coffee.  I also had a slice of quiche as I was quite famished after our ride.  It was yum!

We don't buzz red lights!
Now you might wonder if a woman who usually pedals in a small town with lots of segregated bike paths gets scared when traveling by bike in a large, unfamiliar city.  Well, the answer would be, no, not a bit.  I actually love large, crowded cities and, as long as I'm not driving, feel perfectly safe biking in traffic, especially on own of my own familiar bikes.  I follow the rules of traffic, use hand signals and eye contact, and check my rear view mirror before changing lanes so I rarely have problems.  Cars seem to travel faster in Phoenix than they do in San Francisco but, at least where we rode, it has plenty of bike lanes, and where there were none we just mapped out quieter side street to our destination.

Feeling the bike love in heart-shaped sunglasses.
If you haven't taken a trip with your bike then I urge you to do so.  Nothing beat getting to know a new city then hitting the road on a bicycle, ensuring that that not a moment of your journey will be wasted.  Your bike will turn even that unexpected trip out to purchase forgotten toothpaste into a mini-adventure.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What women want (I think) in a bike bag

At Interbike 2011 last month, I heard the oft repeated question “What do women want” followed by the observation “all the people making the decision about what women want are men”.  I’m not an industry insider so all I could do was nod and wonder if that is really the case.

A leather saddlebag in the Italian Commerce Authority exhibit.
To the question of what women want in bikes and bike accessories, I can only speak for myself. I am but one woman and I really only know what I’m looking for in a bicycle and bike products. I can certainly guess what other women might choose but my theory would be largely formed around a specific woman rather than women in general. When I first went hunting in search of a commuter bike I studied up on Paul Dorn’s website for the hard science of bike commuting but I found my inspiration on Copenhagen Cycle Chic, also authored by a man, Michal Colville Anderson. Both I found very helpful, despite each having very different perspectives on transportation cycling, and I didn’t give their gender a second thought. Both writers helped me determine what I was looking for in a bicycle, and when I visited the many local bike shops in Flagstaff I was able to find the bike for me, or at least accessorize one to meet my needs.

Leather Bobbin pannier.
Meeting my needs, however, is not the same as meeting my wants. Up until a few years ago I couldn’t find bike bags and panniers that balanced function with style. They seemed to be designed for the male bike messenger in mind or a college student.  A functional bag or pannier means that it can carry all my daily necessities of life (wallet, glasses case, cell, camera, rechargers, gloves, scarves, notebook, magazine, water bottle and lunch), will be waterproof and easy to transport off-bike. Style means that I can carry it into a work meeting or a boutique looking professional, well organized and pulled together.

The Toocan pannier, by Detours.
I couldn’t have been more pleased when I walked into Absolute Bikes two years ago and found the Detours’ Toocan line of bags and panniers displayed in the accessories section. I purchased the pannier immediately and went back for the small shoulder bag a few weeks later. As I discussed in my review of the Detours pannier, it was not just the attractive floral pattern that motivated my purchase but the combined elements of style and functionality. Just slapping or flower or a butterfly on a bike bag is not responding to what I need.

Interior of the Toocan bag, by Detours.
I purchased the Detours bag for, among other things, the sturdy, heavy-duty construction of the quilted, nylon fabric; the a hard, flat, rubberized bottom that allowed the pannier to sit firmly upright on the floor; and the numberous pockets of varying sizes for efficient organization of contents.

A Brompton bag offering.
I would never try to speak for other women. Half the time, I have no idea where other women are coming from. What I am pretty sure of is that most women want to offered a variety of bike bag options that they can examine in order to figure out what will work best for their individual needs. I love Elly Blue’s writing on the economics of bicycles but I am pretty sure that our pannier and bag selections could be pretty divergent. More power to us both for choosing what best suits our individual needs and preferences. While at Interbike last month, these are some of the bags that caught my eye from Detour, Koki and Linus:
Alki Beach Basket in Feather, from Detours.

Detours Fremonster Flap in poppy.

Bagaboo R, recycled chic from Koki
Panniers and handlebar bags from Linus.
Ladies, what are you looking for in bike bags and panniers? I suspect that most of you also seek a happy medium between style and function, with price playing a role as well. And gentlemen out there, where are you? Are you finding what you need? Is finding a bag that supports a professional image an issue or not?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

People who should know better, but don't . . .

College students pedaling in downtown Flagstaff . . . yeah, on the sidewalk.
Recently, Ted at Commute by Bike asked me if I had any editorial ideas that I wanted to share on their blog.  At this point, he's known me long enough to know the answer to that question.  I possess a wealth of opinions that I'm more than happy to share.  The recent Congressional budget squabble over the inclusion of funding for bike infrastructure and other transit alternatives in the six month extension of the Transportation Bill provoked my most recent rant.  Ultimately, the critical funding was saved but the debate reminded me of the insistence by many I encounter that roads are only for cars and that "people won't/don't ride bikes to work", followed by my reminder to them that I do and that many among us have no other option but to do just that.
A Portland commuter knows how lucky she's got it.
As I stress in my Commute by Bike post, linked here, bike commuting is not just something that is reserved for tough economic times or for the poor, and it is wrong to assume that the only reason that a person who rides a bike does so because he or she cannot afford a car.  However, a lot of people are going through financial hardship, or at least getting by on considerably less money than they have in the past, and may well remain in that situation for a good long while.  Is it too much to ask that a small slice of our auto subsidizing budget be used to support more economical options such a bicycling?