Wednesday, December 26, 2007

NYC bike info updates

It may not be life changing, but the monthly email for the city is kind of reassuring. You can sign up here.

I *did* learn that the city is putting up some covered bike racks. I like them simply because they're very conspicuous. But I've never understand why people are so worried about bikes getting wet. They don't melt. I've had a bike parked outside since I found her in Inman Square (on the line between Cambridge and Somerville, Mass) maybe 10 years and fixed her up. She rides just fine.

Expect few updates for the next month as I travel around the world. But I'm sure I'll come back with some pictures and maybe an update about biking in that friggin' perfect city, Portland, Oregon.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Glad to be me

I was leaving a bar the other night. I unlocked my bike and went back to the entrance to say bye to the owner, who was outside smoking. He looked at me as I started to bike away and said, “Man, it’s cold out. I’m glad I’m not you!”

I didn’t know what to tell him. I like biking? I’m not cold on my bike? Why would it somehow be better to walk home? If only you were me, you’d know how fun biking is?

Whenever I bike, I always think I look so cool. But then I'm reminded that to the rest of the world, even the world smoking and shivering outside bars, people biking by are just weird losers.

Keep Biking Pgh!

Can I say enough good about the new Pittsburgh bike map? I love bikes. I love maps. The designer was nice enough to chime in on a comment below (confirming the Ware-eskian influence). He has built a better bike map. I only hope the world comes beating a path to his door.This map isn’t just beautiful. It’s practical. It has a nice simple key.
It notes: “With a 36% grade, Canton Ave. is arguably the steepest street in the world!” Well, I’ll be!

I like the guide for novices. “Watch out for the ‘Pittsburgh Left’.” And I like the fact that the bike map was clearly designed by bikers for bikers. “If you are moving slower than traffic, move as far to the right side of the lane as possible.” That first part is important to add and easy to omit. It would be too easy to simply say, “stay to the right.” But from a biking perspective, that would be wrong.
On the actually map part of the map, the streets are easy to follow, with one-way and steep streets noted. The “landmark” circles give another chance for the art to shine. And the boxed warnings and comments are actually useful and not just C.Y.A. legalese.

“This section of E. Ohio St. is very dangerous but is the only to access the town of Millvale and the Park coming from Lawrenceville. Use extreme caution.” Will do. And thanks for telling me that it can’t be avoided. “Caution! To stay on California, head down the ramp and make the first left. Stay alert—cars move quickly here.” Got it.

My only complaint, and this may not even be justified, is that the “green” streets indicate recommended streets but don’t actually have any improved conditions for bikes. No bike lane or anything like that. Still, maybe they are better streets to bike on. Or streets that actually get you from one part of town to another part (a strange problem in Pittsburgh). Given the care put into to the map, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. On the NYC map, the red lines mean absolutely nothing, serving only to give the false illusion that New York actually has a bike “network.”

And no talk about this map would be complete without noting the Neville St. warning: “Neville St. is narrow and has a poor road surface. Also, beware of the wild turkeys often seen here—they are very territorial.” Nobody want to be attacked by wild turkeys.

Thanks, Bike PGH!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I love Rivendell

It’s a little hard to describe the utter joy I feel when the Rivendell Bicycle Works catalogue or Rivendell Reader arrives in the mail. You could see this as a shameless plug, but it’s sincere. As sincere as I think Rivendell Bicycle Works is. Yes, they sell things. And yes, the sell things to make money. But they’re really not in it just to sell things. Maybe I’ve drunk their Kool Aid, but it sure tastes good.

Rivendell is so much more. If you want to learn about bikes and how to like your bike more, read Rivendell. They have a definite editorial position: old school. They love wool, fenders, high handlebars, friction shifters, steel frames, things that work, things that aren’t trendy, bike bags, riding bikes every day and not in spandex, lugs, and, most of all, bikes that people will ride. Did I mention they make bikes? I assume damn good ones. I’ve never ridden a Rivendell. Maybe one day I will.

If the whole world had their philosophy, the world would be better. It would have to be wealthy, because their bikes aren’t cheap. But they’re not overpriced. But having two-thousand dollars burning a whole in pocket is a good place to start if you want their bike. I don’t have that money, so I don’t have their bike. But I still love them.

The Rivendell Reader is one of the great sources of bike knowledge, both arcane and practical. If you like food, imagine Cooks Illustrated without the annoying pitch from Christopher Kimball every month about the Lake Fucking Wobegon ideals of life in (car driving) rural Vermont.

The catalogue is great because it’s so much more than a sales pitch. They have articles. Read it and learn. The latest (#19) talks about: picking a handlebar, how to care for leather seats, thoughts on socks, a short history of the power ratchet (and thoughts on friction shifting in general), crank design and gearing, tips for happy riding, an ode to brake clearance, and safety on bicycles. Some of the stuff you may care about, the rest you find you may learn about after reading what they have to say. Everything is accessible. Everything is knowledgeable. Everything is specifically not for bike geeks (even though it’s hard to imagine somebody who isn’t a bike geek curling up in bed with their latest catalogue).

As I’ve said, I’ve never bought a Rivendell bike, but I do buy stuff from their catalogue. Along with 650B tires, mostly little stuff: velcro wheel reflectors ($5), hemp twine, wool beany caps (the best for biking. And it’s they only thing I’ve ever worn that inspired my sister-in-law to say, surprised, given my general wardrobe... “that actually looks cool!”). They also sell beeswax and pine tar soap. I believe them when they say they don’t really make money on a lot of this stuff. They sell this stuff because they like this stuff. And somehow, all put together, I guess they make enough to live on. Good on ’em, I say.

As the years go buy (I’ve been reading Rivendell for probably 10 years now), I find I disagree with them more and more on the details, but still love their philosophy. And I’ve only come to disagree after learning from them and trying out what they preach.

Most people’s handlebars should be higher (at least as high as the seat). But I’m that 1 in 100 that actually lowered my handlebars again, at least on my main bike. It’s comfortable for me, so I’m sure they don’t object.

They don’t like skinny tires. I think they’re the best, at least on bikes meant to go fast. And I ride in potholed NYC and weigh 220 pounds. 700X23 Continentals, baby. I love ’em.

I love bike shoes. They don’t. What can I say?

I wish they were more urban, but they’re not.

But I can disagree with some of what they believe, and they’ll still like me. They’re right for most people, and I want more people to ride bikes, because my bike ride would be safer. If bike stores pushed sensible clothes along with bikes with bags, fenders, wide tires, and simple sifting mechanisms, the world would be better.

Go buy a membership today, I’m sure you’ll thank me later.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Memorial Ride Tonight

Anonymous left this info in a comment:

After 2 deaths in 2 days last week, and 23 deaths so far this year, we are ready to ride, are you?

Memorial Ride for David Smith and Franco Scorcia
Wednesday December 12

7:00pm Gather Union Square North
7:15pm Ride leaves Union Square North
7:30pm Ghost bike dedication and memorial for David Smith, 6th Avenue at 36th Street
8:00pm Ghost bike dedication and memorial for Franco Scorcia, Broadway at 40th Street
Bring flowers, candles and love.

NYC Street Memorial Project

SAVE THE DATE: 3rd Annual Memorial Ride, Sunday January 6, 2008. 4 start locations, check for details.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Bike Pgh!

I just got back from Pittsburgh, I city I didn't know at all. Thanks to this blog, I was able to meet some of the fine journalists at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and talk about my upcoming book (don't worry, I'll tell you, too, when it's out in May).

I have this thing for rough-around-the-edges (post) industrial cities. I'm much more excited arriving in, say, Pittsburgh, than I would be in say, San Diego. I guess many would find that strange.

I did not bike in Pittsburgh (there was snow and ice and very steep hills) but I applaud those that do. At first glance, Pittsburgh seems like the city with the least potential to be bike friendly. This is just a matter of topography and weather. But of course there are people trying to change that (not the topography or weather... you know what I mean).

Pittsburgh now has what must be the most beautiful bike map in the world. Like most bike maps, it's also the best map to just get around the city. But the map is really a work of art. I checked to see if it was drawn by Chris Ware. It isn't. But it's beautiful. If anybody has a pdf of the art (useful instructions to the novice cyclist), please let me know. Otherwise, I'll try and scan some of it when I have time.

Pittsburgh also features a stellar standard bike rack: Simple and functional and sleek looking. What else do you want in a bike rack?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

You call that snobby?

He says he's cranky, but I'd bet he's a pretty good guy to drink a beer with. Here's his handy template for writing the next story breaking the news of these strange things, called fixed gears.

Bikes for two

A few weeks back we had the pleasure of hosting Laura and Aaron Beese for a few nights. They wrote us through looking for free lodging. Mostly I was interested in seeing their cool bike. I mean, their bio is a little too earnest and has a too few many mentions of the All Mighty one for the comfort of this typical New York City heathen. But then again, they are for Norman, Oklahoma. If they weren’t a little earnest, I wouldn’t know what to think. And some of my best friends believe in God.

Anyway, they were great. And their bike was indeed way cool. But it was disassembled before I got to ride Zora around Astoria.

This was the end of the first third of their biking trip to see the geographical center of all 50 states. Meanwhile, they’re wintering in Hawaii, picking coffee.

It was great having you two, and hopefully you’ll peddle by New York to see us again sometime!

These are hardly the best pictures (see the link above for better), and my bikes in the background make it hard to figure out. But their bike is already partially disassembled. But basically it's a standard bike in the rear, and a recumbent bike in the front. The front passenger can peddle, but doesn't have to.

Bicycle Lift

This is the coolest thing ever! If I lived somewhere with hills. I've always sort of dreamed of a sort of ski lift for bikes. I had no idea my dreams have been realized for over a decade, in Trondheim.

Here's the official PR:

Here's the renegade action shots: