Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Even the Girls: Female Bike Messenger Documentary (2004)

This film is slightly outdated (circa 2004), but I found it recently on YouTube and found it interesting. I like the testimonials from each messenger, and I find the Yeah Yeah Yeahs provide highly appropriate background music. I also love the girl that rides a fixie with a green bow in her hair; it reminds me of my enthusiastic high school field hockey team. A few questions arose as I watched the film:

1) Where are the fast-paced riding scenes? I'm certain the girls ride just as fast as the boys.

2) Why don't these girls use bar tape? Perhaps they prefer gloves?

3) How does the bow-girl put spin her wheel around so easily as she's getting on to her bike if she's riding a fixed gear? Why can't I do that? (see 4:47)

Whether we really get a chance to see them darting through traffic or not, this film acknowledges some tough women. That's right: you go girl.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My New Bike Obsession: Raleigh Rush Hour

My lack of posting reflects neither a declining interest in bicycles nor a lack of free time, trust me: I have both. My blog seems to have fallen to the wayside, as I have been too busy scotch taping rejection letters from prestigious law firms to my wall (K. thinks this is emo, I think it's funny) and working at a jazz & pig themed diner.

I've also been meaning to visit this supposed "bike shop" in south Brooklyn and waiting to post on that--so be on the lookout soon. It's actually just a bunch of garages jam packed with refurbished bikes, which should be cool and make for a good post.

This morning I was directed to my new bicycle love: the 2010 Raleigh Rush Hour Flat Bar. When I first saw the Rush Hour as a giveaway on Chrome Bags' site here, I thought that Chrome had customized the bike for its giveaway. When I went to Raleigh's site I was astounded to find out that this is the stock version! It's beautiful.

Of course, being the short-legged female that I am, I hit a wall: the smallest size is a 50cm. Now, this is the age old dilemma of this blog: I'm short, I like bicycles that are probably designed for dudes, and I'm not willing to compromise and buy a lame women's bicycle like this one. I thought about writing a heartbreaking email to Raleigh's customer service department, pleading with them to reconsider their specs, but I couldn't find the number online so I called them instead. The conversation went something like this:

ME: Um, hi, do you have, like, a customer service email I can write to?

Raleigh guy: Sure, you can send me an email at (his email). I answer all the customer service questions. Is there something I can help you with?

ME: (awkward, suprisingly) Um..this isn't really urgent. I'm just wondering, because I saw the 2010 Rush Hour Flat Bar on the Chrome website - is 50cm the smallest size?

Raleigh guy: Hold on, let me just pull some stuff up here (tapping commences at computer, followed by mathematical jargon, similiar to doctor-speak). What is your inseam?

ME: Um, I'm about 5'2" so maybe 27"? I used to have a 50cm that seemed too big for I ride a tiny track frame, that's 43cm.

Raleigh guy (in disbelief): WHOA THERE, do you have 650c rims on that thing?

ME: Haha, yeah.

Raleigh guy: Well, actually the standover height of a 50cm would be about 29 inches so it might just be slightly too large for you - but there is ONE dealer in the Bronx that has ordered a 50cm. Here is the phone number, you should call and speak with a manager to see if you can test ride the bike.

ME: I live in Brooklyn, is there anyone closer that has a 50cm? (now I'm presumably thinking about test riding one which is bad, since that's how I bought my last bike...oops).

Raleigh guy: Let me see here - the closet to you would be Fulton Cycles, R&A, Bespoke Cycles--looks like you're right in the thick of things.

ME: (happy to live near so many shops) Yeah, there are a lot of shops around me - I'm happy and suprised that they are popping up everywhere. There seem to be a lot more riders recently.

Raleigh guy: That's great - keep it on two wheels, right? I need to keep answering the phone. Is there anything else I can help you with?

ME: (sad to be losing my Raleigh friend) No, you've been very helpful, thank you.

Raleigh guy: (we're best friends) OK, well, talk to you soon.

ME: OK, take care.

Given my current state of employment, I actually considered asking the Raleigh customer service guy how he got his job, but I thought better of it. However, we are best friends. I am tempted to go all the way to god-knows-where in the Bronx just to see this machine, but that seems I'll probably do it.

I really like the aesthetic of this bike - especially the leather seat and the leather straps. I like the color scheme and the fact that it comes with built-in chain tensioners, something I wish my current bike had. I have seen fixies with Brooks saddles that look out of place, but Raleigh is putting together beautiful bikes, and not just fixies. I was originally intrigued by Raleigh's new image when I saw this bike in a shop in NYC:

This bicycle, called the "One Way" has been reviewed in WIRED magazine. It's not unlike the diner sandwich of a similar name ("Our Way"): a little classy on multigrain bread (leather accents) but undeniably desirable (grilled cheddar cheese and tomato).

The aesthetic of the Rush Hour Flat bar reminds me a lot of Specialized new Globe Brand Roll 1, as seen here on

Apparently BikeSnob himself ran into a promotion for the Globe Roll 1 & 2, which he remarked looked like "the world's most uncomfortable looking production bike," and I do agree that it looks comfortable.

Unfortunately, the question remains: unless you want to spend a hunk of change on a custom-built flashy track bike or not-so-much change on a boring standard frame, how can short ladies find a sexy track frame in their size?

Now I will fantasize about finding the Raleigh Rush Hour in 50cm and tweaking it to fit me perfectly - after all, people come in all shapes and sizes, so why shouldn't bikes?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Interview with a Unicyclist: Mike Richter

What made you start unicycling?

I grew up in Canaan, New Hampshire and I when I was 11 or 12 my mom bought me a unicycle. I never even asked for it—she just bought it for me. At the time, I’d never ridden one.

Then, when I was 12 years old I went to a summer camp called Circus Smirkus in Greensboro, Vermont. I learned how to do a lot of things there – unicycle and trapeze, stilts and trampoline. All the teachers were former professional circus performers, including some from Ringling Bros and Cirque du Soleil. I went to the camp for many years, and when I was 17 I had the opportunity to do their touring tent show. It included a 14- "city" tour of New England, and we performed 80 shows in one summer. It was a full traveling circus of 25 kid performers, 4 adult performers and a staff.

As I was touring with Circus Smirkus, a talent scout approached me from Ringling Bros who offered me a one-year contract. I knew I wasn’t headed directly to college, so I gladly accepted. It was probably one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make, but I’m glad I did. I mostly rode my unicycle on the slack wire as part of the preshow to the circus, and I also rode the giraffe unicycle (6 foot) in part of the show. I was part of Ringling Bros for three years before I resigned. I loved it but it was a lot of work – in the span of three years, I probably only had about three weeks off. We would perform about 500 shows per year.

How did you learn to unicycle?

I am entirely self-taught. We lived at the end of a gravel driveway and I tried to teach myself for weeks by using the basketball hoop as leverage. I couldn’t really get anywhere on the driveway, but as soon as I tried on the street – I took off. It was a lot easier to use on the pavement.

What do you like best about unicycling?

There are a lot of things I like about it- it definitely allows a different kind of freedom. I like the performance aspect of it; it’s always going to be a unique and eccentric skill, because in reality, it’s not practical. As a unicyclist, you’re always turning heads. In a poetic sense, I like it because you can never find the perfect balance, but you always have to try.

What do you like least about unicycling?

I get a lot of smart-ass comments when I’m practicing in the park, especially where I live in Harlem. Mostly people ask me, “Where is the other half of your bike?” Also, it’s a big workout – it’s tiring because it takes a lot of abdominal strength.

That was one of my questions. How do people generally react to you on the street?

If I’m just riding around, I may get some comments but generally people are excited. They are intrigued by the unicycle.

How many unicycles do you own?

I have four. I have a 20” that I perform with. Then I have an antique unicycle that was sort of an impulse buy. I found it in a bike shop in Huntsville, Alabama. I have a giraffe, which is a special 6-foot tall unicycle for performing, and then I have one unicycle without a tire so that I can use it to ride on the slack wire.

How do you get on the giraffe?

It’s kind of like a tall bike or a ladder– you basically put one foot on the tire, another on the petal and push up as you’re doing it. Then you try to get your foot on the other petal and start balancing.

Do you have a regular bicycle too? What kind?

I do—I have a BMX that I ride around with my roommate. We ride around the FDR and Central Park.

Is unicycling better exercise than regular riding?

I would say it’s a lot different. It’s not so much cardio because you can’t really go that far. To unicycle for a mile would be a pretty good trip. Although, I think someone did unicycle the Great Wall of China once. It’s a different form of exercise –lots of abdominal strength, legs, shoulders and core strengthening.

Do you ever mention this skill in job interviews or icebreaker games?

Not really, I mean it depends what kind of job I’m applying for. If you’re applying at a café, they don’t really care about your circus skills.

Tell me about a time when unicycling has particularly come in handy—when you were able to impress someone, for example.

I recently did a corporate video for Microsoft, which was sweet. They found out I could unicycle and they put that in one of their promotions. Obviously, unicycling has helped me throughout my years as a performer. It gives me one more skill to market myself with that the next person may not have.

Have you ever considered giving lessons for money?

Yes! I have two probable clients right now - a Dad and a son that want to learn how to unicycle. I imagine I could definitely teach more people – I mean parents teach kids how to ride a bike, but I don't think there are too many unicycle instructors around.

Do other cyclists look down on unicyclists?

Generally, when I’m unicycling along other cyclists, they give me a thumbs-up. I think most cyclists think unicycling is totally cool in a ridiculous way, and there is that performance element of it.

Is one wheel better than two?

Um.. (thinks about it for a second) Yes! Absolutely! One wheel puts a bigger grin on your face.

Have you ever commuted by unicycle?

No, not in NYC, most of my work is too far. When I worked at Ringling Bros, I always rode my unicycle around backstage, even from the dressing room to the pie car – it was faster than walking and it was also good practice.

There are a lot of awesome unicycle videos on YouTube. People are doing it for exercise, sport, and fun. There was a unicyclist in the Five Borough Bike Tour recently.

How many fellow unicyclists do you know in NYC?

I probably only know 4-5 unicyclists in the city, but I’m hoping to meet more. There are clubs – I think the biggest one meets near Grant’s Tomb once a month.

What advice would you give to a first-time unicyclist?

When you fall down, smile and get back up.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Bianchi Pista: I Have to Admit I Love It

Although constantly berated as one of the most overvalued, oversold stock track bikes on the market, I will readily admit that I have a soft spot in my heart for the Bianchi Pista (cut to BikeSnobNYC shooting himself in the head, again).

I purchased a Pista after college with the hundreds of dollars I had saved up from being a barista (a.k.a washing dishes - sorry Carma). I had been drooling over Pistas on that blasted fixie porn site and fantasizing about rolling through on my new gang green machine, much like this good lookin' lady:

Unfortunately for me, Bianchi discontinued the gang green model, and I was forced to settle for the lesser INK color - my punishment for years for years of writing bad poetry in college. Roger, my ill informed bike owner at the time, shrugged his shoulders.

What ensued was long and torturous for some but mostly informative for me: a dive head-first into bike fitting for short ladies, fixed gear riding for newbies and a visit to every bike shop in the tri-state area. My Dad was not pleased.

Now, when applying to work at bike shops (ahem, ahem I'm unemployed if you need a dog sitter/baby sitter/impromptu therapist) I mention that most of my experience is wrapped up in my anal retentive bike swapping agenda: how to fit a near-midget inseam with the high profile, high price tags of track frames.

After months of visiting bike shops during my then-employed lunch break, I've discovered something I clearly didn't know before: track frames DO come in small sizes, although they are harder to find. Swobo makes a 46cm frame - the Sanchez, IRO makes a 46cm frame - the Mark V HD, Cannondale makes a 48cm and Fuji makes both a 43cm and a 49cm.

Bianchi, like any too-cool-for-school outfitter, makes a small 49cm and slaps on all stock parts, whether they are really best for that frame size or not. Despite the ubiquitous nature of this frame, I would still recommend it. It's light, sexy and if you can find it in the gang green I'll be jealous and probably offer to buy it from you.

Despite my shameful love for Bianchis, I've been thinking about the significance of buying USA-made bicycles (eek, sorry for sounding like Dubya). Why spring for an overplayed Bianchi when you can get comparable, sturdy bikes in your own backyard? With this in mind, I've become more aware of what Cannondale and IRO Cycles have got on the line - my favorite is IRO's About Us page, which chronicles their use of environmentally friendly practices while engineering quality bicycles in Pennsylvania. I love the idea: making bikes, which are clean & friendly, in a clean & friendly way.

Maybe it's time to support the good ol' US of A, exercise our desire for fun, healthy transportation and buy a bike that's made right here, at home.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Learning How to Ride a Bike at 24

One of my best friends in the world, J.La, recently learned how to ride a bike. Here's her story.

Why didn’t your hippie parents teach you how to ride a bike?

They claim that when I was of bike riding age, I was too afraid of falling and I would throw tantrums whenever I tried to ride a bike so finally they were like “forget it.” I just think they were just bad parents.

Did any of your siblings know how to ride a bike?

Yep, each and every one of them. All three. There was this bike path in Lexington (MA) where I lived and they would all leave me on Sunday morning to take bike rides together. They would be like “peace out” and I just sat home watching cartoons. That’s why I’m fat.

What did you do when you were a kid and all your friends were riding bikes?

I was too petrified to ride a bike. When I was 12 I remember Jenny Brown had a bike riding party and I didn’t go. I was horrified. I was so afraid that I would go to summer camp and bike riding would come up and I wouldn’t be able to do it. That’s part of the reason I picked Farwell (our summer camp) because bike riding wasn’t an issue.

How did you learn to ski at such a young age if you were afraid of riding a bike?

I learned to ski when I was two because I was too young to be afraid. I turned two in December and by that spring I was skiing. You know those little leashes that some parents put their kids on? My parents would use the same thing—they put me on a harness and we would go down the bunny slope. Also, I didn’t really have a choice: skiing was something we did every weekend of every winter. I didn’t think I’d be able to learn to ride a bike because I don’t have great balance. The only reason I know how to ski is because I learned at such a young age.

What made you want to ride a bike?

I always kind of thought: I really should *bleep*ing learn how to ride a bike and then I’ve met a lot of close friends that would say “I’ll teach you, I’ll teach you” but when it came down to it they’d be like “How the hell do you teach a twenty-four-year-old how to ride a bike?” (you can clean this up for your blog).

Who taught you how to ride a bike?

I made my brother teach me in Denver, where he lives, because I was like, “We’re related, you have to do this.”

Was he excited about teaching you?

At first he was into it but after I made him go to 25 different bike shops to find the bike I wanted, he was kind of over it. I went to Denver thinking I could buy a bike off Craigslist for $125, so I really wasn’t looking for anything fancy but he took me to see all these Craigslist bikes and he’d be like “No, you don’t want that.” So finally we went to all these shops and four days and $400 later I had a new bike. Finally he said, “I’ll buy it for you and your Dad can pay me back.” I still don’t know who bought this bike, I just know I put $125 down for it.

How did your brother actually teach you how to ride a bike?

That’s the thing: he has an alley in the back of his house and we went in the alley and he was like “I don’t really know what to tell you.” I basically taught myself, in all honesty.

Did he hold the back of your seat and run alongside you?

He did that a few times but I mostly cursed at him so much that he left me alone. I was riding up and down the alley. Finally he saw me and he was like “Alright, let’s go to the park.” So an hour after I had learned how to ride a bike, he takes me through the streets of Denver to the park--granted it was 5 blocks away, but I’d never ridden on the streets before. We got to the park and we had to cross this little pedestrian bridge, and I almost rode entirely off the bridge. All these people around were like “Is she wasted?” because I’m so old but I assured them “No, no, this is my first day riding a bike.” I skinned my knee which I think is a rite of passage.

What kind of bike do you ride?

That’s the thing – I’m no Lance Armstrong. I was just gonna get a cruiser and look fly. I ended up getting an Electra Townie. It’s bright blue with white tires.

Were your parents excited that you learned how to ride?

I think they were more surprised than anything else. Basically, they don’t have a lot of faith in me.

Are there bike lanes in Jackson Hole, WY?

There are bike paths—it’s awesome, you go through this little field and then there’s the mountains and there’s a creek too. I’d definitely want to try mountain biking so that I could try riding on some of the trails. Maybe if I’m here next summer.

How was riding a bike? Was it different than you’d imagined it would be?

Now I know what people mean when they say: “It’s like riding a bike” – it’s an indescribable thing, but eventually your body just gets it – it clicks. You never regress. I don’t know if it’s your brain or your muscles, but something just clicks.

How often do you ride your bike?

I ride it every day to work (4 days a week) and I ride it once or twice a week to get around town.

Do you think you would feel comfortable riding in a busy city?

I would like to think so, but in Jackson where I ride my bike the speed limit is 25 mph tops. Also—people are a lot nicer here so I feel like they are used to yielding to bicycles. I’m not sure that would be the case everywhere.

Would you opt of out having a car?

That’s what I like about living in town – but I can’t [ride my bike] all year around [in Jackson Hole]. But I’m doing it while I can.

If you had kids (cough yeah right? cough) would you teach them how to ride a bike?

Oh yeah, my kids are learning how to ride a bike. I’ll just tell them: “Listen, Mom didn’t learn how to ride a bicycle until I’m 24 and you’re not going through the same thing I did.”

Are you surprised you actually taught yourself?

I’m proud that I learned at an older age. Whenever I’m riding around, I feel happy that I finally learned and I have a huge smile on myself. It’s such a simple thing—it’s great.

What would you say to someone who is learning to ride a bike?

If I can do it, anyone can do it.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Bicycle Film Festival June 17-21

This weekend I went to the Bicycle Film Festival, complete with rainy fans and raucous bike messengers alike. We were a motley crew snaking around the Anthology Film Archives on 2nd Avenue; all the bikers were sporting cute bike hats and funny combination leggings/shorts or the requisite Japanese fish-on-my-huge-calf tattoos. They wore black shorts, black bags and black Vans. I, being naturally tough, was bike-less, carrying a yuppie umbrella and a tricycle tote bag.

Once we got inside, the theatre smelled like was packed, and kind of smelled like wet bike messenger. The majority of the films were adrenaline pumping, high speed head-cams of messengers in NYC--rebels of the streets weaving in and out of traffic and running red lights, just like this guy, there were also a few truly good films.

One of the films, "Put the Fun between Your Legs" I had actually seen before, but it is so sweet I'm going to post it here. The women riders live up to their reputation for being rad, riding in the rain and composing diddies to boot. I like the part when Birdie Bird talks about working in a bike shop:

The other film I really liked was a short film of the Paralympic Games that depicted a tandem track bike (one of the riders was mostly blind). It was pretty unbelievable to see the tandem bike rip around the curved track, the riders were perfectly synchronized. Watch until the end to see them on the track.

Karissa & her pilot, Mackenzie:

A GOrilla plug, but not the one they showed at the film festival. I have to say: it's a beautiful bicycle.

Wonka EUROTRIP TEASER. from GORILLa Bicycles. on Vimeo.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Brooklyn Bike Jumble May 31st

This week has been rough. My foul mood was alleviated only momentarily when I walked by Claire Danes in SoHo on Tuesday. She was super cute and wearing a white linen jacket--she's shorter and skinnier than I'd imagined. This was almost as exciting as I saw Natalie Portman in the hot-girl-dance-class that was before my yoga class at Printing House, but that was before I quit the gym.

I've neglected to post about a few incredible events that have been happening, most of them Pride related. It was been a fun couple of weeks, thanks of course to DOB-C.

First though, I have to recap my visit to the Brooklyn Bike Jumble on May 31st, the first of its kind. The Jumble was held on 5th Avenue in Park Slope between 4th and 5th Streets--when I got there it was crowded, which made me really happy. I saw a few beautiful fixies and older frames for sale. It seemed like the vendors were a combination of legitimate businesses and also messengers who were just interested in selling their wares. I considered arriving with camera in hand, a set of laminated press credentials (my spoke card?!), but felt sheepish and thought better of it. I basically walked around like a nut and snapped photos. Oh! I also had the pleasure of meeting Taliah Lempert, and I bought one of her handmade hats. (You might remember her from one of my previous posts). She was really nice and she carts all her artwork in a bike with a big carrier on the front. That's what I'm talking about.

The Jumble:

My new Taliah hat:

Taliah's booth:

Cute tees:

Hot bikes:

Outlier Responds!

I am as excited about Outlier as my male bike-blogger counterparts. And if I was at all on the fence about them because they haven't exposed any of their potentially sexy girl clothes yet, Abe wrote me a sweet email. Thanks Abe! And if you need anyone to demo your female line, you know who to call...

(It also just so happens he rides a bike I posted about here.)

Hey Quinn,

Wait you don't think women look best in Intense Fuschia, Overwrought Aqua and Diaper Change Yellow? The contract we signed with our fabric mill says we need to use at least 2 of those colors in the women's line...

Ok I'm lying, actually we are working on some women's stuff using the exact same fabrics as our mens line and with a very similar minimal aesthetic. Basically expect versions of our current garments cut to fit women's body's properly.

In terms of the breath of the women's range, that's really a step by step thing. We don't exactly make that many men's items to begin with. For now we really are a men's line, a couple years ago none of us had any knowledge of the clothing industry at all and we bootstrapped it together in a large part because we knew what we wanted. We are experimenting with women's stuff because women keep asking us for it, and it seems like an interesting path to follow. But how far we go on that path really depends on both us learning how to make clothes for women properly and women actually buying the initial ones we make. So stay tuned, should be interesting.



Thursday, June 4, 2009

Oh, Chrome: I Spoke Too Soon

Not too long ago I posted about the slight discomfort of my Chrome bag, estimating that it is slightly too big for my back. A short week later, I got an an email from Chrome (I'm on their email list) announcing the arrival of a smaller, more manageable bag! They read my mind!

The new bag is called the Corsair , and it is a slightly smaller, "stripped down" version of the mini metro. Even better for all you smaller riders out there--I think this will fit your back. It measures 18" wide, 12"tall and 4"deep compared to the mini metro's 20" wide x 11.5"tall x 6"deep. It also costs a reasonable $80 to the mini metro's $120: a good deal.

The Corsair has less pockets (not the four expandable ones on the sides--good for storing sunglasses or beer bottles) and it doesn't have the signature seat belt/button clasp but it still has the metal fastener, that somehow seconds as a bottle opener (or so I'm told). It doesn't come in as many fancy colors as the mini metro yet, but grey is pretty cool:

I'm also trying to figure out: does Chrome make custom bags? I've seen a few sweet color combinations that haven't been on their website. On Sunday, at Bike Jumble, I spotted this one (white and pink?!), and it was so sweet I had to take a picture:

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Outlier: You're What Women Want

As I've frequented other bike blogs, I've noticed a clear reaction to Outlier: everyone loves 'em. They make durable, urban, work-appropriate clothes for cyclists who commute--what's not to love?

Here's my question: Where is the women's section?

According to Outlier's Twitter, women can "expect something in the fall." This, although promising, does not support the number of women already commuting or thinking about commuting to work during the present time. Of course, commuting presents its own set of obstacles, including: am I going to be really sweaty when I get there? How am I going to wear work clothes/change into work clothes when I get there? Where can I store my bike so it won't get stolen?

The everlasting question also remains: what can I wear? Although Top Shop is slotted to come out with a line of cycling-inspired clothing soon, practical work clothes must be both fashionable and durable: two qualities that seem to prevail at Outlier. Although I'm sure they've heard it before, I decided to write them an email:

Dear Outlier,

From your Twitter post, I see that you have plans to introduce women's clothes to Outlier. I think this is a fantastic idea, and only hope that the new garments--perhaps pants, shirts, skirts, jackets and caps, exemplify the same sleek, urban style of your men's clothing.

I also hope that you won't adorn the women's line with too much "flare," but that it remains as solid colored and simplistic as the men's line. With products as attractive as yours, it would be a shame to belittle women's cyclists and commuters with overtly feminine decorations. I envision a complement to the 4Season OG Pant--practical, durable, and presentable.

In addition, I hope you allot your women's line equal attention to that of the men's clothes. To see a sparse women's cycling section in any sports catalog or cycling catalog is disheartening to say the least--not only are manufacturers insistent upon clothing us in pink, but they seem to have trouble providing us with an equal amount of choices. I'd love to see Outlier outdo the odds and make a terrific, wide range of women's clothing for cyclists and commuters.



PS I'm jealous of Abe's Cannondale.

Let's see how Outlier responds, hold on for future posts.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

You should ride your bike to DUMBO

On Saturday, I rode out to Red Hook with Brooklynbybike's bike crew. We rode the greenway from Williamsburg to Red Hook, parts of which I had seen before and parts of which I hadn't. I must say: I like DUMBO more and more. I first visited it last summer when I went specifically to Recycle-a-Bicycle for a riser handlebar (I'm cool) and didn't think much of it, except that it was weird to see hip furniture places alongside swanky dog boutiques. I thought, "Do people take their pups all the way over here for a shampoo?"

Recently, I've found myself visiting more often--I had meant to go to Blogfest at the powerHouse arena, but at the time I couldn't force myself to pay $10 to hear a panel of OCD bloggers speak. Normally, I'd be into that, except I was focused on trying the divey Mexican place on the corner--margharitas have a particular calling.

I did, however, visit the park that lies between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges and was astounded to find how beautiful and serene it was. I felt like I'd been placed inside a good postcard of what New York looks like when you can't hear it. The sky was purple and there were a bunch of dorky Spaniards excitedly snapping pictures in front of the backdrop. I found myself jokingly embittered, thinking "Why do I resign myself to this city?" because it looks so terribly awesome from afar and it feels so terribly crowded when you're inside. It's a good thing I live in Brooklyn.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

bag post

This long weekend was amazing, and makes going back to work that much harder. On Friday K. and I went to Williamsburg, semi-exhausted from heat stroke and too many beers the night before. We went to Penny Licks and I ate a mint chocolate chip cone, which brought me back to the days of my youth. (Fun fact: from Zinger's history of ice cream: "[Back in the day], most ice cream from vendors was sold in serving glasses called "penny licks" (because you'd lick the ice cream from the glass, and it cost a penny to do so)." Anyway, the girl behind the counter asked me how comfortable my Chrome bag is. I answered in a rather sluggish, unhelpful way, which leads me to this post.

First, I should say that I really like the aesthetic of the Chrome bags--they're sexy, sleek and colorful. They're also very durable, they come with a lifetime guarantee and the seat belt doubles as a bottle opener. However, I wouldn't call them particularly comfortable. I have the smallest messenger bag, the mini metro, which measures 20" x 11.5" x 6". I'll see guys wearing this bag, and be like "Is that the same size?" because it looks so much more comfortable on them. I think, practically speaking, it's slightly too big for my back. I've also found that once you put anything in it, it feels pretty heavy--even when I just carry around my U-lock. With that said, I have used it to carry a full can of paint home.

If you're thinking about buying a Chrome bag or a messenger bag, I would consider buying a backpack instead. Chrome makes a messenger backpack called the Dually, that gives you the double strap support messenger bags lack.

Freight also makes a roll-top backpack and a regular backpack that look pretty sweet.

I've become a fan of R.E. Load bags, even though they tend to be on the pricey side because you can customize them. They make a cute hip pouch:
If you're really into a custom bag, you should check out seagull bags. They make some cool originals, like these:

Not sure why you would put this on your bag, but it's funny.


State outline that says "So far, so good."

Eat, Sleep, bike

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Interview with Dagga, bike messenger

What does your nickname mean?

One day I was walking home wearing boots that laced up to my knees and this guy on the street, who needed to say something just to say something, starts talking to me, saying, “Are you hiding weapons in those boots? You got daggers in there?” and he just starts saying “Dagger, dagger, dagger,” and my friends were with me at the time, so it just stuck.

Since then, the spelling has changed to Dagga.

How long have you been a bike messenger for?

Three years. I worked in a bike shop in college and a friend of mine saw that I was racing on a single speed and he was like, “What? You have to come to this party.” He brought me to the pre-party to Monstertrack, New York’s biggest messenger race. I competed in a race at the party and won. Then all of a sudden people were like, “Who is this girl?” “Are you from New York?.” Immediately, I was introduced to this underground community of messengers, which was awesome. I raced for two years before I started messengering.

How many female messengers are there in New York City?

There are different kinds of messengers, walkers and bikers. Maybe 50 out of the 1,000 total messengers in the city are women. There are also all kinds of people who are messengers; there are 20-somethings that like the freedom of it, and then there are jailbirds who can’t hold down other jobs. There is a great diversity among messengers, people from different backgrounds and ages. I know messengers who have been at it for over twenty years. It was a very lucrative profession that was very lucrative in the 70s and 80s…

Things have changed a bit since the economy has slowed down, so there may be a few more, but I would say there are 10-12 female bike messengers. My company likes to employ women and we have three women working for us right now.

How does it work? Do you each cover a part of the city?

No, you can be at any borough at any time. Most of the riding occurs in Manhattan, but I also go to Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. Some companies will even have you ride to Connecticut.

So you work off commission?

Yeah. As a bike messenger, I’m technically an independent contractor. It sucks because I get taxed out my ass and I don’t get health insurance.

Do any companies offer health insurance?

Yeah, but they’re shitty companies. There are courier companies that offer health insurance and 401(k)s but they’re exploitative and they might pay you $2 for a package.

Do you ride in any weather?

Yeah, rain or shine. Unfortunately, it’s in my best interest to go to work on a rainy day, because fewer messengers will probably show up, and I’ll get more work.

Is there camaraderie among the female messengers?

That’s complicated. A lot of it has to do with seniority. Now that I have been working as a messenger for three years, I’m considered one of the “elders.” I was at a bar the other night and I heard a (female) messenger complaining about a new girl that just started working at her company. She was saying how the new girl was taking money away from the other messengers—but I was thinking, “That’s not the new girl’s fault. It’s the company’s fault for over hiring. They over hire so they can pay each messenger a little less. “ As a female messenger, you should never hate on another woman. You should support her.

I recently read an article in the NYT that was published a while ago about female bike messengers. Do you know the women mentioned in the article?

Yeah, I know them. Cassandra [the woman featured in the article] sounded bitter, but the truth is: she loves this job. She wouldn’t do anything else. She’s been a messenger in three different cities: Philadelphia, Portland, and New York City.

I see Carmen (also mentioned in the article) in my neighborhood all the time. The article claims she only drinks coffee for hydration, even in the summer. Is that true?

Yeah, Carmen is a veteran—she’s been around for a while. Her husband is also a messenger, and he contributed to my zine. I’m not sure if that’s true, but I can tell you I drink 6 cups of coffee a day.

Man, doesn’t that make you dehydrated?

Well, yeah. But another thing is—as a messenger; it’s really hard to find a place to use the bathroom, especially as a female. You can’t just go anywhere. Some clients will let you use their bathroom but most won’t. I have my go-to places in the city that I like to stop and use the bathroom and wash my face, etc. I like 645 5th Avenue; it’s really clean and I can rest for a little while. But in general, you don’t want to be drinking too much because it’s a pain to find a place to pee.

Wow, I never even considered that. So…that might be something you dislike, but what do you love/hate about your job?

Well, first I should say, there may be some things I hate about my job but the things I love are weightier. First, I love riding my bike. I like the freedom of being a messenger, I don’t have a boss looking over my shoulder and telling me what to do. I like the fact that I can just get on my bike and do my job. This is definitely one of the best jobs I’ve ever had—I’ve learned a lot from this job. I’ve seen how many different jobs people do in this city—I’ve seen what it takes to make this city work. Also, I like seeing different neighborhoods in a day and how they’re changing.

What I hate? Messengers get very little respect. There is a stigma associated with messengers; that you’ve spent time in jail, that you’re uneducated. Of course, some of that is true, a lot of guys have been in jail or they just have issues so they messenger because they can’t function in an office. But I’m college educated, and people are rude to me just because of the stigma. Pedestrians and cars also disrespect messengers. Even if I have the right of way, pedestrians still walk out into the middle of the street. You can get really hurt as a messenger. I’ve been really hurt and that sucks because I don’t have health insurance and then you can’t work. I’ve cracked my skull and then worked three weeks later. Its just part of the job.

What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you as a messenger?

The craziest thing that’s ever happened…was when another messenger pushed me over. I ran into this guy in Park Slope and he wouldn’t get out of the way as I was riding towards him, even though I had the right of way. We exchanged some words, and then I rode off. I saw him again in the city and he was wearing headphones. I told him I didn’t want any trouble, but he didn’t hear me over his headphones and he just saw my mouth moving, so he thought I was giving him shit. He started riding up really close to me and swerving into me, being an asshole. Finally he rode right along side me and elbowed me hard, so I fell off my bike. He was laughing as he rode away.

I told my office this and they told me to call if I ever saw him again. I did see him and I called them. I went to get my bike and when I came back he was surrounded by five guys from my company who were taunting him, “You wanna pick on a GIRL?” They made him apologize to me on the spot and now when I see him he just says “Hi.”

What would you be doing if you weren’t a messenger?

I worked in a library as a clerk before I started messenger-ing.

Wow, that’s the completely opposite job.

Yeah, but I liked it. I had a job in a library at Columbia University and it was really chill. I actually worked at the library and as a messenger for a while, because I worked the night shift at Columbia. I thought [working at the library] was what I wanted to do. Now I’m looking to get into the iron workers union, so I can help low-income people fix their houses.

Do you look forward to work everyday?

Not so much anymore. I’m kind of over it. I’m over being disrespected and even some “elders” not speaking to me. It took awhile for some of the females to come around and even now there are messengers who don’t talk to me. I’m thinking about what I will do next.

Cool. Something I’ve always wondered about messengers: do you still bike for pleasure?

I’m always biking. I hang out with Dykes on Bike-Cycles. Whenever I go on the subway or bus, it’s the first time I’ve been there in months. I bike for work, I bike for pleasure, and I love racing. I’ve been going to the Nationals every year since 2006. It’s really the worldwide messenger community that has kept me going in this job. From racing, I’ve made friends from London, Europe and Japan. If I went to Japan I would have a couch to sleep on. That’s something that I love about being a messenger.

What kind of bike do you ride?

My work bike is a Bianchi Pista. I also have a Cannondale Capo, a Kirin frame, a Specialized Hybrid, a Surly single speed and an old school Schwinn. I’m building a tall bike with my bike club. The tall of my tall bike will be a girl’s bike so I can easily swing my leg over when I get on.

What is your favorite part of NYC to bike through?

Hmmm. I’d have to say riding into Manhattan over the Brooklyn Bridge at night…it’s like riding into Gotham, you know?

I like going over the Brooklyn Bridge, but there are always so many tourists in the way.

I know! There’s a little picture of a biker in our lane. Even if you don’t speak English, there’s a picture!

What does the tattoo on your wrist mean? (a pic of a diamond with the word fo’eva next to it):

Everyone in my bike club gets a diamond tattoo. Everyone has a different one, but there is always a diamond.

The tattoo on your arm is really well done. Who did it?

Alex from Three Kings. He’s also a messenger, and a lot of us get tattooed there. This is Pan from Pan’s Labyrinth.

I know that movie! The little girl in the movie is Catalan. I always think of the gnarly ginger plant that comes to life.

I know, right? But it’s a mandrake root, not ginger, so don’t worry.

What would your advice be to newbie messengers?

To a female, I would say: if this is what you want to do, go for it. It’s going to be hard, and you should probably save money before you go into it, so you can get by. Don’t get discouraged. Other women might snub you but if you want to do it, and you enjoy it: go for it.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

portland is the land of bikes

I read this article in the New York Times yesterday. It makes Portland sound like a cooler Brooklyn where everyone wears rain gear. Check it out here.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

spoke cards

My friend Jason designed these awesome spoke cards for me! I'm looking for a cheap/guerilla way to laminate them because Kinko's is too expensive. Then I'm going to leave them on sexy bikes in the neighborhood. They're rad.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Queers take on Queens

Last Saturday, I led a DOBC ride through Queens! We painstakingly chose the beginning and end of the ride based on two pillars of importance: queers and beer.

We started at the Queens Pride House and ended at the Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden in Astoria.

This was the route:

View Queens Ride April 25th in a larger map

I was slightly nervous about leading a ride through Queens, having been there only once to look at an apartment and drink a beer on the sidewalk. Luckily, Queens is quite bike-friendly, and I mapped a route along the main bike lanes, thinking that would be best for a group of 15+ riders. Despite being slightly late and awkward (not to mention looking not as sexy/skinny in my tank top as I had imagined), the turnout was great! I think we managed to coerce a few more ladies into DOBC, which is awesome. I love these girls.

We started out from Queens Pride House and continued west on 34th Avenue, eventually hitting Skillman Avenue. Leading was fun, I just tried to stay in front of everyone, note when we got cut in half by red lights, and look cool. Truthfully I had a folded map that I kept pulling out of my pocket to check and re-check our location, but we rolled smoothly through Queens.

Once we approached the Queensboro Bridge, I stopped and pulled over to consult the map, terrified of leading a group of cute queers mistakenly into Manhattan and not to our beloved destination: the beer garden. We rode through a mini-park with wide streets, which was really pretty and eventually hit the "greenway." This particular "greenway" so was not so much green as adjacent to a large Con-Ed plant which could be mistaken for a prison, given the ferocity of the shiny barbed wire surrounding the place. Eventually, as we stumbled upon the sculpture garden (recommended by a rider), we made our way against the water, riding on a smooth, wide sidewalk that jutted out into the Hudson. This was what I had wanted the entire ride, and it provided the perfect near-end to our journey. We continued through Astoria Park and onto the beer garden.

The beer garden was super crowded. I determinedly waited for 30 minutes in front of a strong, bald Polish dude and implored him for beer with my eyes. I didn't want to shout at him, as I noticed none of the frat-type boys around me were doing that, nor the cute straight girls. So I just stood there, leaning further and further into the draught taps, hoping he might notice me. Eventually, after his co-worker spilled an entire pitcher of sticky stout on the bar, he served me. Three pitchers of Hoegaarden later, I forgave him. I was happy to return to the DOBC table, a crazy group of cyclists/queers among college boys.

Can't wait for the next ride!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

i want this

Check out: fast boy fenders.

This falls under the category of things I DON'T need to buy my bike right now, given my "bikes accessories moratorium" where I try not to spend my money on this stuff. They are super sweet though.

The fenders are handmade, as are the frames that this dude Ezra builds. Ezra also has a very artsy, eclectic Flickr account that makes leaves me with a slightly saddened, sickened feeling. He has cancer and takes pictures of his nosebleeds (argh). His photos remind me on Nan Goldin's work.

Check out Ezra's photos here (scroll down).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

sweet weekend: sunday

I seem to be mourning the loss of such a fun weekend, and my work ethic has reached an abrupt standstill.

Here are pics from a lovely Sunday (what I'd rather be doing):

Sunburnt, with chapped lips (aka sexy).

Action shot. I was movin'.

Cortado @ Smooch. I looked for a burger on the menu, but I'm pretty sure they're too healthy for that.

K. with the crossword, saved from Wednesday:

How sweet it was. Sigh.

Monday, April 20, 2009

sweet weekend: saturday

I have been informed by two strongly opinionated and extraordinarily good looking Michiganders that my blog isn't as "funny as it used to be" and has taken a turn for the "technical." I found this slightly disheartening, though perhaps true--and so: here's an anecdotal post.

This weekend was incredibly sweet BUT FIRST: I have a confession to make. I bought a new bike (yikes!). I did this in a typically impulsive style, in full frontal denial of our current economic crisis, holding on to the fragile notion that people are bike-crazy like me, and yes, they will buy my old bike (thank you, craigslist). And they did! I sold my Bianchi to a cool girl named J. It's silly that I couldn't transfer the wheels but my new bike is 650c wheels and the rims on the old one are too big for it. Remember the "kids size" Fuji I said I was going to try? I loved it and I bought it. (The black-grey theme fits well with my embarassingly short skinny jeans and urban lifestyle. It's very Gotham.)

Everyone had told me this weekend we were supposed to have amazing weather and I was excited because I planned to go on this ride to Floyd Bennett field, an semi-abandoned hangar, with BrooklynbyBike. I woke up on Saturday with the intention of eating a healthy, energy-sustaining meal that wouldn't dehydrate me too much for the miles to come (usually I ride maybe 20 blocks at a time, not 12 miles). I went to Colson Patisserie on the corner of 6th Ave & 9th Street and attempted to order sensibly: yogurt with granola, please. The deep voiced countergirl looked at me with pity and said, (literally): "Aw, we ran out of yogurt." Now, feeling slightly childish and clearly incapable of eating a healthy breakfast, I came up with a quick back-up, "Oh, ok--what is in your croissants?" to which the girl responded, "Oh, um..butter and sugar..and (turns to baker co-worker) and asks 'What else is in our croissants?" then I interrupt her, embarassed, and say "I'll take one." So much for my nonbutter option, maybe croissants are the Tour de France breakfast of champions?

They DID have really good fresh squeezed orange juice though.

As I sat there this Mama Dyke kept starting at me. She was wearing a white baseball cap with a pink NY Yankees emblem on it. I felt like turning to her and saying, "No, I'm not hungover, this is just what I look like when I wake up..."

Sitting there, and eavesdropping on the Mama Dyke's conversation, I noticed this:

A new bike shop in my hood! I'm excited about it (be on the lookout for how to be a cool bike mechanic follow up post).

Finally: the ride. We met up at Grand Army Plaza and rode to Floyd Bennett, which was a smooth ride even with the amount of riders we had. It was a great turnout, and I loved riding and talking with everybody.

Here are some pics:

This girl on the ride had a sweet IRO that looked completely new, complete with riser handlebars, front and rear brake, wrap-around lights, a bell, and OURY grips. I really liked that bike and would definitely consider an IRO (not that I'm buying another, I swear).

After the ride, I attempted to sprint up the hilly part of Prospect Park loop, and got really sweaty so my jeans were sticking to my legs. Then we all went to Franklin Park! and I drank 100 Hefeweizens (yes, I had to look that up), which were delicious. At one point some dude's bulldog broke out in an ungodly scream, I think because his owner had sat him in a wire chair (why not leave your dog on the ground?!) but other than that, everyone was well behaved. Jason and I bonded over being prematurely grey, a sign of true maturity. I hope to see everyone I met at the next ride!