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Monthly Archives: July 2013

Bike Rack FAIL: The Throat Choke Torture Rack

The Jaws of Death isn’t the only old-school torture rack in my ‘hood. At the beautifully bucolic Gamble Garden in Palo Alto, next to the delightfully shady picnic area and between the espalier apple orchard and the sapling hut the kids love to play inside, there it is: the Throat Choke Torture Rack. It looks sinister, doesn’t it?

Throat Choke

The Gamble Garden in the only place I’ve seen this particular model, although Richard of Cyclelicious has seen them in action in the Santa Cruz area and found it alive and well for sale on the internet. Cities, if you’re tempted to buy this model, don’t. It doesn’t fit large tube bikes and terrorizes ones that have the misfortune of fitting.

Like the Jaws of Death, we never locked up to the Throat Choke as intended. It seemed too cruel to subject beloved bikes to such cruel treatment. Once again, Zella takes one for the team and submits to the torture.

How would you compare this rack to the Jaws of Death? Which torture would you prefer for your bike?

Location: Elizabeth Gamble Garden Picnic Area, Palo Alto, California, USA.

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2013 in Bike Lane FAIL

 

One Bike Fits All: A Quick Review of Bike Share Bikes

Imagine you’ve been asked to design a bicycle for short urban trips to be used by everyone: from infrequent riders to experienced cyclists, from college students to retirees, from 5 feet tall riders to those well over 6 feet. That was the challenge faced by Michel Dallaire and his team at Devinci Bikes who designed the Bixi bikes used throughout North America: Montreal, Washington D.C., New York City, Toronto, Minneapolis, Ottawa and Chicago, plus London and Melbourne. And very soon we’ll be riding them in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Dick & Megan 2

The seafoam-colored Bay Area Bike Share bikes are not available for viewing yet, but they sent a sample bike from the Capital Bikeshare program in Washington D.C. so folks here could get a look. The Bay Area bikes will be very similar. The main difference is in the paint and the gearing. San Francisco has hills, you know.

My friends and I were lucky enough to get a chance to test ride them last week. We’re all daily cyclists, which means we can be a fussy group to please. And we clearly span the gamut in terms of sizes and shapes. Here are a few first impressions about the bikes after short spins outside the Diridon Caltrain station in San Jose and at a street fair in Mountain View, two of the five cities participating in the bike share program.

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One intital concern the riders had was the weight of the bike. They’re made to be sturdy and 42 pounds sounds heavy, but as Dick said, you don’t really notice the weight when you’re riding it. It just feels slower. Jarrett and Dick also noted how convenient the step-through frame was, something most of the ladies already knew.

The bikes are intended for short trips, not to be carried on Caltrain. But since they’re showing off the bike at bike share locations along the Caltrain corridor, it only makes sense to take the bike on the train for the tour. At 42 pounds you might think lugging it aboard would be too hard, but not for Megan. Look at that girl go!

Have you ridden bike share bikes in another city? What was the ride what you expected?

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2013 in Gear Talk

 

Fashion Friday: Danny’s Got Street Style

I love a man who owns a distinct fashion sense, whether he’s walking down the street, shredding in the skate park or test riding a bike share bike at San Jose Diridon Station. Danny’s stylin’ it head-to-toe from his Fiend Snap Back Hat down to his Vans SK8 Checkerboard High-Top Sneakers. But it’s the coonskin fur rocking the shoulder of his embellished denim vest that to me is the heart and soul of Danny’s street style.

Danny Portrait

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 July 26, 2013 in Cycle Fashions

 

Katie Pimps Her Ride as a Grocery Getter

This post is an excerpt of the Bike Fun story I wrote for the online edition of the Mountain View Voice today.

When people think of bicycling for practical reasons, bike commuting usually comes to mind first. But since work commutes are often the longest trips we make all week, it may make more sense to bike around town for short errands at the pharmacy, post office, bank, coffee shop or grocery store instead. While it’s easy enough to slip a bottle of pills into your pocket or a small package to mail into a backpack, for errands like groceries you’ll want a bike that’s set up to carry a load. You need what my friend Katie calls a grocery getter.

My friend Katie works as the marketing director at Giro, which means she has all the hottest performance-oriented bicycles: sleek road bikes, plush mountain bikes and a custom cyclocross bike so hot it made the rounds as a display bike at trade shows internationally. What she didn’t have was a practical bike for errands. But she did have her 1995 Trek Mt Track 850 in the back of her garage.

Before the Transformation

With a little work and the same cost as two trips to the gas pump we gave her old bike a new life as a grocery getter. First, we pumped her tires, checked the brakes, cleaned and lubed the chain and wiped the bike down. Then we replaced her worn saddle with a spare she had on hand, and rode a couple of miles to her local bike shop to get geared up. She chose a basic rear rack, grocery-specific panniers and a kickstand which we installed ourselves in less than 30 minutes. Total cost: about $120.

We tested out her new rig with a quick trip to the grocery store and discovered a quieter route on the way back. Katie was thrilled. “I live within 2 mile of all the stores I need: Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, coffee, restaurants, the farmers market. Doing errands by bike makes sense,” she said. “Panniers rock.”

Katie and her Grocery Getter

If you’re a cyclist that doesn’t have a grocery getter, go get one. Doing errands is so much easier with the right equipment. And when it’s not your prized bike you don’t worry as much when you lock it up outside a store. You probably have an unloved bike in the back of your garage that’s itching to get back on the road. For tips on recommended gear and how to shop by bike, read the full article in the Mountain View Voice.

Do you have a bike set up for carrying groceries or other big loads? What’s the most you’ve ever carried?

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Posted by on July 25, 2013 in Around Town, Gear Talk

 

Bike Rack FAIL: The Jaws of Death Torture Rack

I’m all for creative ingenuity and building a better mouse trap. I probably wouldn’t appreciate living in Silicon Valley otherwise. And bike theft is rapidly increasing in the area. But when I see attempts to make bike racks more secure that are more like instruments of bike torture, I scratch my head: Who designed these things?

Behold the Jaws of Death. I see these racks all over town, outside shopping centers, movie theaters, strip malls and government buildings built or remodeled in the 1970-1980s. The bike’s frame and wheels are secured in its jaws while an open-ended cage blocks thieves from cutting your ordinary school locker padlock.

Jaws of Death Whole Bike Wide

As many times as I’ve seen these racks, I’ve never attempted to use them as intended. Why subject my bike to the torture of jamming metal rods in its spokes? My cable and U-locks don’t work with the little lock cage either.

Then the other day I talked to an old-time bike commuter who said he likes them. So I grabbed my old mountain bike, bought a padlock and took the old-school racks for a spin. They worked much better than expected.

Although it seems secure, I’m not sure I’ll regularly subject my nicer bikes to this torturous rack. Would you?

Location: Bloomingdale’s at Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, California, USA.

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2013 in Bike Lane FAIL

 

Fashion Weekend Edition: Watercolor Sundress

When you can’t get away for your family’s annual beach vacation, doing errands around town in a sundress is the next best thing. With its seashell-inspired cutwork embroidery in soft ocean colors, it’s only fitting that I found this sweet little number in Watercolor, Florida, the best bike beach town on the Florida panhandle.

Cutwork Sundress

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 July 21, 2013 in Cycle Fashions

 

Bike Lane SUCCESS! Hedding Street in San José

Breathing room. That’s what you get when a city gives you more than a skinny strip for riding your bike. And when the city paints it a bold green that make its purpose clear, the city gets new riders in return. Like Sarah, who rode with me on the newly minted Hedding Street bike lanes. With the wide lane, it was easy to chat.

Sarah and her girlfriend recently bought new bikes to ride on the rapidly expanding network of buffered bike lanes near their home in San José’s Japantown. Before the lanes she never considered bicycling. In fact, she hadn’t ridden a bike in 15 years. “The fast cars were too intimidating,” she said. Now when her girlfriend rides to work on Hedding Street and the Guadalupe River Trail, Sarah goes along for the ride. “We rock climb together. Now we can ride bikes together too,” she explained. Bravo, San José!

Sarah Thumbs Up

The Hedding Street green lanes run from the Guadalupe River Trail east to 17th Street (near Hwy 101). The lanes provide a critical east-west route that complements existing north-south bike lanes in central San José.

Location: Hedding Street between Guadalupe River Trail and 17th Street, San José, California, USA.

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2013 in Bike Lane FAIL

 

Bike Commute Diaries: Brief Encounter on Caltrain

“Nice bike,” he said. “Nice bike,” I said. “Is that special edition Golden Gate Bridge orange? It goes with my dress.” “Yes, and it matches my pants.” “Can I take your picture for Silicon Valley Bike Style?” “Sure.”

The only way to meet people on your commute that’s better than riding transit is riding transit with a bike.

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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 July 16, 2013 in Commute Diaries

 

Fashion Weekend Edition: Black & White for Tea

Who needs the Kentucky Derby to break out the big-brimmed dressy summer hats? Afternoon tea with the ladies is the perfect time to pull out a flower trimmed hat, double-bow peep toe pumps and suitcase-style bag, all done up in crisp black and white. A whole new look for my favorite little black dress.

White Hat

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 July 14, 2013 in Cycle Fashions

 

Bike Spotting: The Intuit-ive Way to Bike Share

Bay Area Bike Share may be gearing up for its launch next month, but I’m seeing little reminders that bike sharing isn’t exactly new here in Silicon Valley. Like this lovely blue Dutch-style bike that’s been parked at the Mountain View Caltrain station for the past few days. A quick glance at the chain guard gives away as a campus bike for Intuit, the software company that brought you Quicken and TurboTax.

Campus bikes are perfect for company sites that grow so big that walking between buildings is tedious but driving is silly. With 1800 employees at their bayside campus, Intuit is much smaller than its neighbor Google who has higher-profile bike sharing program. Like the Google bikes, Intuit bikes are built tough and practical for short trips by Republic Bikes. And like the Google bikes, they sometimes show up far from campus. I guess what’s good for getting across campus is good for getting across town. Good thing there aren’t any late fees.

Intuit Bike

Republic Bikes specializes in sturdy fleet bikes that can be easily and colorfully customized for your business.

Location: Downtown Mountain View Caltrain Station, Evelyn Avenue near Castro Street.

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2013 in Bike Gallery, Bike Spotting

 
 
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