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Monthly Archives: June 2012

Bike Spotting: Babboe Cargo Bike at the YMCA

The only thing sweeter than seeing a full bike rack outside our local gym is spotting a full-on Dutch cargo bike. I didn’t see the parent, but based on two small kids bikes parked next to it and the infant seat inside, I’m guessing there were three young children in this caravan. Impressive, at least here for in the states.


We first spotted Babboe cargo bikes in Amsterdam where moms were hauling their kinderen in bikes like these.

Location: El Camino YMCA, Mountain View, California, USA

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2012 in Bike Gallery

 

Bike Date: Time Stands Still at Vahl’s in Alviso

Rolling up to it, the flickering old neon sign looked like it came straight out of 1952. Walking in, I felt like I was in a Scorsese film. Seriously. It was like time capsule where you have a big dining area, some old décor and well, pretty much a mixture of old charm ambiance and glossy-pink and baby-blue cake frosting painted walls.

I think the bar is the only reason why this place is still open. There are always a handful of locals in here, which accounts for about 75% of the Alviso population. If you read all the reviews, you’ll find they all say the exact same thing. But depending on the kind of person you are, it will either be a 1-star or a 5-star. For me, a 5-star.

Truthfully, the reviews on Yelp are where I stole everything I wrote above (including the title) from five different reviewers. Call me a plagiarist. The reviews and the retro building have intrigued me for so long that Vahl’s has been on our Bike Date Friday bucket list since I worked in Palo Alto, about 12 miles north on the Bay Trail.

After I moved to my new job just six mile south on the Guadalupe River Trail, it moved up on the list. But it took an upcoming 10 month closure to pave the trail to get us down there last Friday. It was well worth the sketchy gravel ride on our touring bikes with overfilled tires. Why did we fill them to 90+ psi?

Along the way to Alviso we crossed the river to see the James Lick Mill and Mansion. Built in 1855, when there were few settlers in the area, it’s now surrounded by suburbia, smack dab in the middle of an apartment complex. I correct myself, a luxury gated apartment community. Since we arrived just past the official 9am-6pm visiting hours, a helpful resident let us through the gate to see the mansion and the mill.

The story of James Lick has the makings of a Gabriel García Márquez novel: an unplanned pregnancy, a father refusing his daughter’s hand to a man of no means, the young man escaping to Argentina, Peru and then San Francisco to make his fortune in a lifelong battle to win his bride. Monetary success, romantic failure, and a legacy that lives today. I can’t do the story justice here. I encourage you to read about his amazing life.

Fast forward a few miles and a century later and we’re at Vahl’s in Alviso drinking Manhattans and eating what was considered upscale Italian in the 1950s in a dining room of mixed vintage–none of it currently in fashion. Meanwhile, the real soul of Vahl’s is carrying on in the bar, where a packed house of 80-somethings were belting out the hits of another generation, karaoke style, and shuffling along cheek to cheek.

“Anything that’s older than my parents has longevity for a reason,” one of the Yelp reviewers wrote. How true. Another wrote: “The fact that a place like Vahl’s still exists and is not overrun with people under the age of 30 is empirical evidence that Hipsters do not exist in the South Bay.” I don’t think that’s true, they just haven’t followed the Guadalupe River down to Alviso yet. I’m hoping the hipsters don’t find Vahl’s before we make it back there.

Is there a place near you that’s stuck in a time warp? Would you be sad if it went away–or worse, remodeled?

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About Bike Date Friday: Since September 2010, my husband and I have had a standing date every Friday night. We eat at a different place every week and arrive by bike. There’s no better way to end the work week.

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2012 in Bike Date, Local History

 

Bike Commute Diaries: A Picnic Getting to the Park

When traffic for a big event chokes city streets and roads, a cross-town bike ride can turn bumper-to-bumper traffic into a ride in the park. The 45,000 spectators for the U.S. Open golf tournament didn’t spoil our Father’s Day picnic in Golden Gate Park. Neither did the fog and wind that had us bundled up in sweaters.

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About the Bike Commute Diaries: Launched in May 2012 for National Bike Month, this series explores the unexpected and surprising things I’ve learned about bicycling for transportation.

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2012 in Commute Diaries

 

Fashion Friday: All Star Dad

It’s a blast from the past for a Father’s Day picnic. Dick sports a Coast Guard jersey from back in the day when he patrolled the Oregon Coast, plus Chuck Taylor All Stars just like those he wore for high school basketball.

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The Bike: 2006 Lemond Fillmore single speed outfitted with flat bars and a Selle Anotomica saddle.

About Fashion Friday: Inspired by a 2011 Bike to Work Day challenge sponsored by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, this series highlights the broad range of “dress for the destination” bicycling fashions.

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2012 in Cycle Fashions

 

What Makes a Bike a City Bike?

Maybe it’s the warm weather or the long days, but in the last month I’ve had more requests from friends about city bikes: What should I look for? Which bikes do you recommend? Where should I go to buy one? Considering these questions came from experienced road racers that taught me bike skills over the years, I was flattered.

Before I can answer what bikes I recommend or where to find one, let’s start with the basics: Just what makes a bike a city bike anyway? First, a city bike is designed for cross-town trips in street clothes–you’ll hop on and pedal away. City bikes are not about riding your fastest or getting a workout. They’re about getting from point A to point B with minimal preparation. City bikes are about dressing for the destination, not the ride.

This means that city bikes have details that performance bicycles–both road and dirt–don’t have, either because they add weight or get in the way when you’re hucking off a boulder. First on the list are flat pedals. How can you hop on and go if you have to change shoes or clack around in shoes that have cleats at your destination?

Next is a basket or rack to carry your briefcase, your groceries, your purse or your jacket. If you carry things on your bike, you’ll want a kickstand. It’s too much work to balance the bike when you’re loading gear. And city bikes have upright geometries, so you can relax as you pedal and have a clear view of the city around you.

A good city bike also comes with handy features that few bikes for sale in North America offer:

  • Fenders: if you want to ride in the rain or after a rain
  • Front and rear lights: if you want to ride after dark
  • Chain guard: if you want to ride in pants
  • Step-through frame: if you want to ride in a dress
  • Bell: if you want to ride on paths shared with walkers

It’s interesting to me that most of these features were standard on American bikes until the 1970s when 10-speed bicycles pushed the industry toward racing-style performance at the expense of all-around usefulness, comfort and just plain fun. I don’t know why the market couldn’t support both. I know my garage does.

What do you appreciate most about your city bike? If you don’t have a city bike, what city bike feature do you wish your bike had?

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2012 in Around Town, Gear Talk

 

Bike Commute Diaries: Business Suit on a Scooter

Bikes weren’t the only two wheeled transport on the Guadalupe River Trail today. This man in a handsome suit with a nice leather briefcase was riding his electric scooter. It’s a fast and easy way for him to get from the Caltrain station to his job on Hedding Street, even on days like today when his battery is low on charge.

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Posted by on June 13, 2012 in Commute Diaries

 

Bike Lane FAIL: Door Zone Sharrows in San Jose

The bike route to the hospital is striped with good intentions. Bike lanes that suddenly disappear mid-block. The bike path that blindly crosses a busy road. Sharrows that guide you perfectly into the door zone. Like an ugly sweater from your Aunt Edna, you know they’re trying to please you. But it’s something you really can’t use.

Location: North 7th Street just north of Taylor Street in San Jose, California

What are Sharrows?Shared Roadway Bicycle Markings are intended to help bicyclists position themselves away from parked cars to avoid being struck by suddenly opened car doors, and to alert other road users to expect bicyclists to occupy travel lanes.” That’s the exact opposite of what these sharrows are doing.

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2012 in Bike Lane FAIL

 
 
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