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Monthly Archives: September 2013

Bike Date Profile: Ryan & Jessica at Cafe Stritch

Ryan and Jessica live in downtown San José not far from City Hall where Ryan works on bicycle and pedestrian programs for the Department of Transportation. They’re big fans of the SoFA district in general and Cafe Stritch in particular. It’s big enough for large groups with mobile furniture that’s easy to rearrange, a great feature since they almost always run into friends there. All it takes is a quick glance at the bike corral to know who’s around.

Cafe Stritch offers a great beer on tap (IPA for him, hefeweizen for her) and outdoor seating that’s refreshing on a warm evening. Stritch offers a variety of well-priced vegetarian dishes, including a vegan french dip sandwich and fries that’s a favorite. They’ve seen some incredible jazz bands perform there lately too.

Ryan & Jessica Portrait

Cafe Stritch is on the other side of downtown from their house, so although it’s just a short ride away, there are different routes to choose from and they pass a lot of interesting people and places along the way.

The venue: Cafe Stritch at 374 South 1st Street, San José, California, USA

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2013 in Bike Date, Cycle Fashions

 

What Makes a Bike Shop Attractive to the Ladies

Last spring at the Women’s History Ride in San Francisco I met young woman who had worked for one of the “Big Three” bike manufacturers on their successful women’s product line. On the long train ride down the Peninsula, we chatted about how, why and when women buy bicycles and gear, based on her experience and her company’s extensive research on how to reach this huge, largely untapped market.

Part of her job as a product marketing manager meant visiting retailers and training them on best practices for selling to women. As surprising as it may sound, some of her company’s dealers were able to do over half their business selling to women. Their key strategies included hiring women to work in their shops, offering repair classes for women, organizing women’s group rides, and hosting “ladies nights” at their shops.

She found it frustrating that many dealers weren’t receptive. Maybe they didn’t think there was much demand out there. Maybe it was too big a shift from the status quo. Maybe they didn’t know how to take that first step.

Lots of Bikes

But some shops do get it right, like Passion Trail Bikes in Belmont. That’s remarkable since Passion Trail focuses on mountain biking, a market that in our area is even more overwhelmingly male than road cycling. Even more remarkable is that it focuses on high-end bikes that are more commonly purchased by men.

Passion Trail’s founders started off building community by setting aside a beer and root beer lounge area for customers and by hosting “Wednesday Wrides” with post-ride BBQs that regularly draw over 50 riders. Then they went one step further by reaching out specifically to women, starting with founder Patty teaching new mostly female riders in small groups as a part of the Wednesday Wrides, and expanding to host monthly “Female Fridays” where dozens of women gather to ride together and are given the royal treatment.

This crowd was just the middle group. The chill and fast pace groups were elsewhere in the park.

All rides leave from the shop and roll a couple of miles across town to Water Dog Lake, a small city-owned open space that’s is known for challenging trails, most built by experienced mountain bikers, including founders and staff from Passion Trails. Water Dog is all about skinny singletrack carved into sides of steep canyons and tight turns and narrow wooden bridges. More technical than most local parks, it can be intimidating for less skilled riders. Many have been bitten by the ‘dog and have limped home with severe sprains or broken bones.

So how does a shop selling high-end mountain bikes entice women to a group ride on technical trails? They started by recruiting a few female customers with experience as ride leaders that also had female riding buddies. Then they recruited men as BBQ chefs and bartenders (that part was pretty easy). They promoted the event in the shop’s weekly newsletter, on their Facebook page and asked their ride leaders to promote it too.

Start by recruiting friendly, fun and experienced ride leaders.

At the event, the ride leaders helped the women divide into groups: a “chill” group taking a slower pace on less technical trails; a faster-pace group with fewer regroups for riders wanting a workout; and a large middle group that wanted to do the same technical trails as the fast group but at a more casual pace.

After the ride, the shop hosted a party with a gourmet dinner and cocktails prepared by the guys. I can’t tell you how much the women appreciated being served and how proud the men were to show off their culinary skill. The shop was also open for minor bike repairs and shopping for that next pair of favorite shorts or a new cute new jersey. Having other women around for gear advice and to help with important decisions like jersey color choice made shopping not only more efficient but a lot more fun too.

Jersey Shopping

I’m sure my friends can add more, but here’s my advice for bike shops who want to sell more to women:

  • Host a women’s ride. If you don’t have enough women on your staff or among your loyal customers to host one, take a hard look at how inviting your shop is to the average woman who walks in off the street.
  • Offer bike repair classes for women. But avoid implying that riders “should” be able to do much more than pump their tires and fix a flat. Many women do want to learn how to repair their bikes, but not all. Don’t assume one way or the other, just ask: “Do you want me to show you how to do this?”
  • Don’t call mellow, less technical trails “beginner” trails. Many riders who prefer gentler trails (or roads) have been riding for years, they just may not be looking for technical or physical challenges when they ride. Don’t imply they should be advancing their skills or strength.
  • Put some women specific items out front. When women walk into a store and see items designed for women they get the message that they belong, even if the bike or jersey isn’t their style. Don’t worry, the guys will find mens clothing. Most are probably paying more attention to the bikes and gear anyway.

Women Specific Gear Wide

What’s in it for retailers? Women’s products currently only account for 14% of sales in bike industry, but they account for 34% in snow sports and a whopping 46% in running. I’d say there’s a huge opportunity knocking.

Women, does your local bike shop do anything special that you like? Are there things they could do that might make you a more loyal customer? Are there things you wish they would quit doing?

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Posted by on September 26, 2013 in Dirt Trails, Women & Bikes

 

Will Drivers Apply the Golden Rule to Cyclists?

After two vetoes, Governor Jerry Brown finally signed a 3-foot passing law for California that requires vehicle drivers to give adequate space when passing cyclists on the road. Why were previous versions of the bill vetoed before? Because they weren’t watered down to allow drivers to pass closer than three feet when the driver “slows to a speed that is reasonable and prudent.” Note that the law doesn’t specify whether the assessment of a “reasonable and prudent” speed and passing distance is according to the driver or the cyclist.

Putting it another way, in a narrow lane will drivers slow their vehicles down to a speed that would be comfortable for them if they were on a bike and the vehicle were passing them?

Will drivers to abide by the Golden Rule and do unto others as they would have others do unto them?

Three Foot Passing Law Front

That begs the question: Would the average American driver even consider riding a bicycle given the street and road conditions available today? Sadly, the answer is no, Americans aren’t riding our inhospitable streets that favor people in cars over people on bikes. Most don’t think it’s safe to ride bicycles on our streets.

But that doesn’t mean that when they’re behind the wheel they’ll wait and change lanes to pass either.

Am I the only one who thinks this way? If not, why do you think some drivers don’t apply the Golden Rule?

Three Foot Passing Law

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2013 in Issues & Infrastructure

 

The Bright Colors of Summer Have Washed Away

Here in sunny California the festival season is officially over. Not because summer is officially over (which it is), but because an early season rain storm blew in and shut down the fun at festivals throughout the Bay Area. For those who don’t realize how good we have it here, California is blessed with a Mediterranean climate, so rain is concentrated in late fall, winter and early spring, leaving summers predictably and pleasantly dry.

That makes it easy for event planners, from weddings to baseball games to street fairs. Plan something between June 1 and October 1 and you’re 99% safe weather-wise. Except this past weekend, where heavy rain sent people scurrying at outdoor events from San Francisco’s Tour de Fat to Lafayette’s Art & Wine Festival. But I think the hardest hit was San Jose’s Luna Park Chalk Art Festival. Chalk art and rain is a disaster.

Luna Park Chalk Art Festival

Being optimists, we ignored the weather report which said 75% chance of rain between noon and 1pm. Most storms in the South Bay are pretty light, especially in the off-season. But there we were, riding in heavy rain to an outdoor chalk art festival. Whose dumb idea was it anyway? That’s right, mine. I owe Dick big time.

Riding in Rain Wide

As expected, most of the chalk art was smeared into a watercolored mess by the time we arrived. As cold and wet as we were, we felt worse for the disappointed artists who could do little to save their art.

Disappointed Chalk Artist

The sun is back out today and it’s warmed up a bit, but there’s no mistaking that fall is on its way. Time to hunt down my raincoat and boots, and my heavy coat too. The carefree days of warm-weather riding are numbered.

What signs of the end of summer do you see? What will you miss? What do you look forward to for fall?

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5 Comments

Posted by on September 23, 2013 in Around Town

 

Fashion Friday: Bike Share Lets Leah Skirt the Issue

When your standard commute bike is a diamond-frame road bike, your standard work uniform gravitates toward dress pants. In a skirt, it’s hard for Leah to throw a leg over the top tube with grace and modesty. Now that step-through Bay Area Bike Share bikes have come to San Jose, Leah’s dress options have opened right up.

Leah Portrait

Leah is the Director of SPUR San Jose, an independent civic planning organization focused on urban issues.

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 September 20, 2013 in Cycle Fashions

 

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A Closer Look: 2009 Trek District Singlespeed

Every once in a while one of the big bike manufacturers steps out of their comfort zone to offer something super-flashy with the latest technology that costs less than the average monthly rent for an apartment in Silicon Valley. That’s about $2100 and climbing monthly now that the valley is heating back up.

In 2009, that manufacturer was Trek, America’s top selling bike company, and the bike was the Trek District. My friend Brian was intrigued at first glance. And when he got a job in downtown San Francisco that meant a Caltrain bike car commute, he jumped at the chance to buy this belt-driven, singlespeed beauty. Who wouldn’t?

Trek District 2009

Flashy as a hipster’s fave fixie, but with modern technology and carefully planned little details.

Location: San Carlos Caltrain Station, San Carlos, California, USA

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2013 in Bike Gallery

 

Three Bikes for Three Courses: A Bike Share Date

It’s been three weeks since Bay Area Bike Share launched and given the number of blog posts I’ve written (six) and photos I’ve taken (hundreds) and public speaking I’ve done (ok, only once) it feels like a lot longer. It does feel weird to be promoting bike share since without a station near my home or work, I don’t have many natural opportunities to use it. And Dick hadn’t even tried it yet since he missed out on the trip to San Francisco.

It was time to get creative with a Bike Date Friday hopping around downtown San Jose on bike share.

1st Street Bus Lane

As usual, Dick came down on Caltrain and I met him at the station. But this time we locked up our bikes and checked out our first pair of bike share bikes. First course: cocktails at Cafe Stritch on South First Street. Cafe Stritch is a rare place that feels comfortable for both 20-somethings and their parents, so we fit right in. The cocktails straddled old-school and modern, just like their patrons. A good choice for our first course.

Cafe Stritch

From Cafe Stritch it was a short bike share hop up First Street, then across to the comfy bike lanes on Almaden Boulevard where we redocked the bike pair #2 at Santa Clara Street. It took Dick a few tries to get it right.

Push Hard at Almaden Station

Our dinner destination was The Farmers Union, a new place specializing in hearty American favorites reinterpreted for a new generation in an upscale sports bar setting. We chose an oversized booth with minimal big screen intrusion and a view of the parade of people walking and biking on San Pedro Street.

I enjoyed my Roast Chicken with Mac and Cheese and Dick enjoyed his Bangers and Mash. But it was the Poutine that has me craving a trip back. Hmm, how long would it take to ride there for lunch?

Poutine at Farmers Union

With all the Poutine and Mac and Cheese, I had very little room left for dessert, but we had another course to go. No bike this time, just a short walk down to the ever-popular San Pedro Square Market.

San Pedro Square

We grabbed dessert from Chocatoo and managed to find a quiet table on the sidewalk that was perfect for people watching. There were plenty of people out and about on the warm night. Then it was back to our fourth bike share station to grab our third pair of bikes for the trip back to Caltrain. So much fun, we added an extra loop out to City Hall and the wide bike lanes on Fourth Street. As usual, a great finish a lovely night out.

When you go out, are you a hot spot hopper or do you prefer to settle into one place? Would bike share help connect your favorite spots in your city or are they all clustered in one district?

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About our route: We covered about four miles in three bike share legs and one walking section (orange). With bike share we were able to not only easily travel from Caltrain to downtown, we were also able to easily connect the South First and San Pedro Street entertainment districts. A win all around.

Route Map

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2013 in Bike Date

 

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