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Category Archives: Bike Gallery

Pedal Power: From Workhorse to Wacky in Los Altos

What makes a bicycle a bicycle? Ask the Department of Motor Vehicles and it’s a device a person rides that’s propelled by human power through a system of belts, chains, or gears and has two or three wheels with at least one wheel bigger than 20 inches. Ask the UCI, racing cycling’s governing body and the answer for road bikes is much more specific, including weight limits (at least 15 pounds), and geometry requirements (triangle frame, equal sized wheels). It even has standards for saddle length (24-30 cm).

The designers of most bikes are not bound by UCI regulations, which makes the “Pedal Power: From Workhorse to Wacky” exhibit currently running at the Los Altos History Museum so intriguing. From penny farthings to recumbents, from wooden bikes to bamboo, from cruisers to folding bikes, to bikes too hard to describe, you’ll see them all. For the purists there are historic racing bikes from Greg Lemond that meet the UCI regulations, plus a variety of mountain bikes from the pioneer builders that screamed down Mt Tam.

Entrance

The opening reception for the exhibit is next Sunday evening but I rushed to get there early. I had met one of the contributers at the Wine, Women & Chocolate party who asked if they could display one of my photos. I sent her a link to my Flickr photostream and she said she found one she liked for the display on town bikes. To my surprise, I found several more photos I took of family and friends in the “Wear What You Like… Go Where You Want” section, along with some lovely shots of Los Altos native Melissa of Bike Pretty.

I’ll have to go back for the opening reception, though. I spent so much time talking to Jan the exhibit’s designer about her options for buying a city bike that I didn’t get to read all the displays. Plus bike builder Craig Calfee will be there to talk about how bike designs have changed over time. If you’re on the San Francisco Bay Area, I’d love to meet you too. It’s Sunday, April 27 from 4-6 pm. Admission is free. (details).

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2014 in Bike Gallery

 

A Closer Look: Phil Wood by Sycip Custom Road Bike

Some people covet them for the precise fit. Some have them built to perform a specialized task. Some seek the status of riding a one-of-a-kind item. For my husband Dick, treating himself to a custom built bike meant choosing exactly what he wanted like a kid in a candy store: frame material, tubing, joining method, geometry, paint scheme and application method, components and more. And of course, to fit him precisely.

I don’t know if Dick caught the custom bike bug at any of the North American Handmade Bike Shows we’ve attended over the years in San Jose, Austin and Sacramento, but it certainly hastened the symptoms. It’s no surprise. Dick has had a soft spot for lugged steel bikes since he bought his 1987 Bianchi Super Corsa with its flashy chrome lugs, and the NAHBS showcases some of the sexiest lugged steel bikes found anywhere.

With a generous offer from a close friend at Phil Wood, weeks of planning and painfully long months of waiting, the reward was sweet: a SyCip road frame built with Richard Sachs lugs, branded as Phil Wood & Co.

Phil Wood Sycip Road Bike

Dick set the bike up originally with a carbon fork, but switched to a custom steel fork made by Steelman Cycles, which he had chromed vintage-style by Superior Chrome in San Jose. That’s a lot of custom work by a lot of master craftsmen. But to Dick, the result is well worth it. It fits like a glove and rides like dream. His dream.

Location: Historic Woodside Store, Woodside, California, USA.

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2014 in Bike Gallery

 

Make It Your Own: Soma Double Cross Commuter

When I saw this Soma Double Cross I did a double take, and not just because of its flashy orange accents. Soma designed the Double Cross for cyclocross racing, trail rides, commuting and light touring. That usually means drop bars and a rigid fork, so when I saw swept-back bars and a suspension fork I knew it was special.

As we pedaled from Caltrain to his office at San Jose’s Martin Luther King Library, Jon filled me in on his bike’s story. Born a traditional cyclocross-style commuter in 2006, its transformation began with when couple of broken spokes led to a bent rim and new wheels with bright orange rims. Why not add a little pizzazz?

John with SOMA Double Cross Portrait

From there it spiraled: a hard-to-find suspension fork for 700c wheels; bullhorn bars first, then swept-back bars with flame grips; downtube shifters; a springy new Brooks saddle for the more upright stance; a cable to secure the saddle; bright orange Ortlieb panniers and a helmet to match. No need for a high-viz jacket here.

And no need for Jon to hold back on making his Soma Double Cross his own. What customizations have you made to your commuter bike? Did you make them all at once or did your bike’s style evolve over time?

Location: Martin Luther King Library, San Jose, California, USA.

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2014 in Bike Gallery

 

Make It Your Own: Jessica’s Custom Trike Crate

Jessica’s grandfather must be proud of her. A German immigrant who made his living as a cabinet maker, he knows the satisfaction of sawing, nailing and sanding to build something practical and attractive using his own two hands. I know I was impressed by the cargo crate she built for her trike. It seems the basket that came with her trike didn’t meet the standards of a craftsman’s granddaughter so she hand-built herself a new one.

Portrait

Jessica built the custom crate because the original basket wasn’t big enough or sturdy enough for everything she wanted to carry, like groceries, gardening supplies, and most importantly hay and feed for her bunnies.

Location: Horace Mann neighborhood, Downtown San Jose, California, USA.

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2013 in Bike Gallery, Gear Talk

 

Bike Spotting: Electric-Assist Urban Arrow Cargo Bike

I’m not a mom. Unlike Cherie and other parents I’ve been chatting with lately, I don’t have kids that I need to drop off at school in the morning, or to take to soccer practice, swim lessons or dance class in the afternoon. And yet I find cargo and family bikes intriguing, like this Urban Arrow I spotted parked in downtown Palo Alto.

At first glance it looks like just another variation on the traditional Dutch bakfiets (box bike), this time with a hard foam box instead of wood. A closer look reveals much more: a factory electric assist motor. That sounds like a winning combination to me. After all, not all parents are like the unstoppable Emily Finch of Portland, who’s determined enough to carry her six kids and way to much cargo on her box bike.

Urban Arrow Cargo Bike

The Urban Arrow looks long, but it’s about the same length as a traditional bakfiets. The passenger box can be replaced with a cargo box, or the box section can be replaced with a new front end to form a standard bike.

Location: Lytton Plaza, Palo Alto, California, USA.

 
9 Comments

Posted by on October 16, 2013 in Bike Gallery

 

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

 
8 Comments

Posted by on September 19, 2013 in Bike Gallery

 

Bike Spotting: Real Men Ride Pink Road Bikes

I spotted the ice pink vintage road bike on Caltrain, obviously too large and too old to be designed for women. “Who owns the pink bike?” I asked the group behind me. “It’s mine,” said Dean.

Dean’s no girly man, nor is his 1987 Schwinn Prelude a girly bike, as you can see in his feat of strength outside the station. Dean’s lovely pink bike was built lightweight for racing speed, and with a 25″ frame, built for a rider well over six feet tall. That’s 63.5 cm for you folks too young to remember when road bikes were measured in inches. In 1987, Schwinn still made their bikes at their headquarters in Chicago, you see.

Real Men Ride Pink Bikes

Dean isn’t the only manly guy I know who rides a pink road bike. There’s Ron who has a 1991 Diamond Back Master TG bike in a far less demure shade of pink. I found many others, like this 1972 Sekine, this La France, this Miami Vice inspired Centurion and these two by Francesco Moser. Lovely, lovely, manly pink bikes.

1987 Schwinn Prelude 25"

Location: Caltrain Diridon Station, San Jose, California, USA.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on August 28, 2013 in Bike Gallery, Bike Spotting

 
 
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