Monthly Archives: September 2012

Bike Gallery: Historic Mountain Bikes at SFO Airport

When I was searching the San Francisco Airport web site for details on how to bike to the airport last week, I was surprised to find “SFO Museum presents: From Repack to Rwanda. Now on view.” Who would have guessed that SFO had a museum and that mountain bikes would be on exhibit in time for my trip?

Despite the unusual location, the exhibit wasn’t out of place since the sport of mountain biking was born on the slopes of Mt Tamalpais across the Golden Gate from San Francisco. I already knew some of the early history from watching the movie Klunkerz, and from hearing pioneers like Joe Breeze and Gary Fisher speak at events hosted by our local mountain bike club. But I had never seen the actual early mountain bikes before.

Of the dozen or so bikes on display, my favorites were the 1941 Schwinn fat tires that the early riders modified to charge down a steep dirt road they named Repack because they had to repack the coaster brakes with grease after every hard-braking run. Maybe I was drawn to them because I just met Alex LaRiviere of Faber’s Cyclery, who sold Joe Breeze one of those 1941 Schwinns from his original shop in Santa Cruz.

Or maybe because they were the kind of bikes my dad and his brother rode to deliver newspapers in small town Louisiana during World War II. The streets were dirt and bike parts were scarce, so the boys developed some mad mechanical and riding skills tout suite. Even at 81, my dad rocks the bike off-road with surprising grace.

To see the Repack to Rwanda exhibit in person, visit the International Terminal at SFO airport through February 2013. No airline ticket is required. For more photos check out the online slide show courtesy of SFO.


Posted by on September 18, 2012 in Bike Gallery, Dirt Trails


Planes, Trains, Buses, Bikes and Feet

When it comes down to it, we have more choices on how to get from Point A to Point B than most people consider. There are the obvious parameters–cost, time, comfort–but most of the time people choose the routes they’ve done before, not what necessarily the ones that are most efficient or convenient.

When I registered for the National Women’s Bicycling Summit, I wanted to take the Amtrak Coast Starlight down to LA and then ride the Los Angeles River Trail down to Long Beach the next morning. But I couldn’t afford the time off work for the all-day train ride and didn’t want to ride downtown LA alone at night, so I opted to fly.

Flying brings more choices: there are multiple airports on either end of the trip. Because I prefer smaller airports I usually fly Southwest from San Jose to Burbank or Irvine, but JetBlue flies from San Francisco directly into Long Beach at a low price and with no LAX hassles so I was sold. Sorry, SJC, SFO won this time.

I had heard the folks at SFO bragging about their bike facilities and knew that the Millbrae Caltrain station was about 2 miles from the airport, so I rode the train and my bike to get to the airport. Baggage wasn’t a problem. From my business trip to Seattle I knew I could carry bags for a two-day trip on my bike, including my laptop.

For ground transportation on arrival, I took a chance with the city bus instead of my usual taxi. My iPhone gave me explicit instructions, the bus was on time, and I got to my hotel in 45 minutes in air conditioned comfort, albeit with blisters from walking in my “sensible” shoes. It was painfully obvious I don’t walk much.

The reverse trip was equally smooth with another bus ride and a handsome man who met me at the airport for our standing Friday night bike date. With several good restaurants along the bay by the airport there were plenty of choices. There almost always are, if you are willing to look for them and take a risk.

Total transportation costs: $186 plane + $11 train + $2.50 bus + $35 bike + $0 feet = $241.50.

How comfortable are you with taking risks when you travel? Do you like trying something new or do you prefer to stick to what you’re comfortable with?

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Posted by on September 17, 2012 in Issues & Infrastructure, Travel


Fashion Friday: Long Beach Cruisin’

It may be September, but it’s still hot hot hot in Southern California. I scored this Nuu-Muu exercise dress at the National Women’s Bicycling Summit, the perfect swimsuit cover-up for cruising the beach in style. With pockets in the back, you can tuck away everything you need for a day in the sun. Don’t forget the sunscreen!

The super stretchy fabric of this simple A-line dress make it both comfortable and flattering. Available in sizes from XS-XXL, the dresses are particularly popular in plus-sizes. No surprise to me, I find it very slimming.

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.


Posted by on September 15, 2012 in Cycle Fashions


Faber’s Cyclery: A Bike Shop Survives in San Jose

In most American cities, where 20th century development meant bulldozing 19th century neighborhoods and leaving others to neglect and blight, there are stubborn survivors who refuse to pack up and move to the shiny new edges of the city. In San Jose, in the shadow of a ten-lane freeway, Faber’s Cyclery is a rare survivor.

In 1912, Jake Faber opened a small bicycle shop on the south side of downtown San Jose. In less than 10 years, he expanded his business and relocated to a former saloon on 1st Street shut down by prohibition. In the back were plumbing and blacksmith shops, built when the saloon anchored the stagecoach line to the mines at New Almaden. Given that the first bike makers were blacksmiths, it must have seemed like a sensible move.

In the 1950s, neighboring homes and businesses one block over were cleared for the I-280 freeway, and the block across 1st street became a cloverleaf ramp. But Faber’s Cyclery survived. In 1978, Alex LaRiviere, a bike shop owner from Santa Cruz, took over the Faber’s business and kept it going.

In 2007, it was nearly shut down due to building code violations and a dispute with his landlord, the granddaughter of Jake Faber. But Faber’s Cyclery survives and remains in operation, albeit only one day a week, Saturdays from 11am-5pm.

What’s the secret of its survival? From what I’ve read it’s Alex LaRiviere’s passion for bicycles and their history. LaRiviere doesn’t give up on old bicycles, mending them from his stockpile of parts. He doesn’t tire of educating others of the bicycle’s impact on society. Most importantly, he won’t give up on preserving an important piece of San Jose’s bike heritage, the bike shop he claims is the oldest in continuous operation in the US.

Last week, Faber’s hosted the State of Bicycle Planning in the South Bay, a meeting for urban planning, transit and bike geeks. A crowd of 50 or so listened to key stakeholders and discussed our vision of San Jose’s future, while we sat in the backyard of a Victorian-era shop surrounded by vintage bicycles and parts.

At times it was hard to hear the speakers over the loud rumble of the freeway, punctuated by the roar of airplanes on their landing approach for SJC. But it reinforced to me why we were there to talk about how much better a city could be, and how much better it will be once the projects discussed at the Faber’s are completed.

What do you know about your city’s past? Are there shops, houses or whole neighborhoods with stories to tell? What vision do you see for your city’s future?

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Posted by on September 13, 2012 in Issues & Infrastructure, Local History


Fashion Friday: I’m a Barbie Girl in a Biking World

Poor Barbie. For someone who smiles all the time, she annoys a lot of people. Despite an impressive career starting with astronaut in 1965 to surgeon to Army ranger to presidential candidate, she’s criticized as a bad role model. Like many females, she gets the most criticism for her fashion choices and for her figure.

But not from me. I’ve been a fan since I got my first Barbie, a red-headed Stacey I plucked out of a shelf full of blonde Barbies for my 6th birthday. I liked dressing her up for different occasions: a swimsuit for the beach, an evening gown for a formal party, a spunky mini-skirt for hanging out with friends. My sister Lucy and I would sew little outfits and craft little accessories for her, from silver plates and goblets out of foil to balsa wood furniture.

Our budgets didn’t allow Barbie to get her Dream House or own a Barbie convertible. Nor did she get a bike, like the 1970s 10-speed I saw on eBay and had to buy, especially since it was yellow, not Barbie pink. Next thing I knew I’m at Target buying not one, but two Barbies with bicycles that the dolls can actually pedal.

Ruth Handler, Barbie’s creator and co-founder of Mattel, said that Barbie appeals to girls because she lets them imagine being adult women. That makes sense to me. It’s like putting on mom’s dress and heels and prancing around the room. Barbie’s exaggerated features are caricatures of women, just like GI Joe is for men or Cabbage Patch dolls are for babies. They don’t look much like the real deal, but they make sense to a kid.

Next week I’m headed to Long Beach for the National Women’s Bicycling Summit. I’ll get to meet lots of women who are passionate about bikes, discuss critical issues like how to get more women and girls bicycling, and hopefully ride around sunny SoCal on beach cruisers with my new friends. My Barbies would be jealous.

Were you a Barbie girl or did you prefer other toys? Would it bother you if Barbie were your child’s favorite toy?


Posted by on September 7, 2012 in Cycle Fashions, Women & Bikes


Bike Rack SUCCESS! Hobee’s in Mountain View

We tried something special at Hobees last weekend. It wasn’t on the menu, it was in the parking lot: a new bike rack. It was installed in an awkward location, so we couldn’t use it properly without blocking the sidewalk. And we had to move a bench to make room for our two bikes. But I’m not looking this gift horse in the mouth.

The rickety rack it replaced was so bad that it was featured in my first ever Bike Rack FAIL last year. On that trip, I politely asked the restaurant manager if there were plans to replace the rack since it was falling apart. Her smile fell into a look somewhere between irritation and resignation. She said she had asked the shopping center owner for a new rack before, but she’d ask again. She offered little hope and I had none.

But here was a new rack, most likely installed due to requests like mine. I don’t enjoy asking, but having a sturdy rack to lock up our prized bikes was worth the awkward conversation with the manager.

Have you ever requested a rack before? What was the manager’s reaction? Did it work?

Location: Hobee’s Mountain View, Central Expressway at Rengstoff Avenue, Mountain View, California, USA.


Bike Commute Diaries: The Elevator Pitch

One of the most basic marketing messages is the elevator pitch: your story, succinct enough for a 30 second elevator ride. Almost every morning, the elevator at work gives me a chance to hone my pitch. Co-worker: “Where did you ride in from?” Me: “From the train station downtown. It’s only a few miles away on the river trail, so it’s easy and relaxing.” Co-worker: “Oh yeah, the river trail is really close. Maybe I’ll try it this weekend.”


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.


Posted by on September 5, 2012 in Commute Diaries

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