Tuesday, March 31, 2009

bike neurosis

Last week I made the fatal mistake of investigating WSD Trek Bikes (Women's Specific Design), when Chris Garrison held a talk at Bicycle Habitat. I approached this with an open mind thinking perhaps this woman has the best job in the world--promoting women's cycling around the country with high-end, fancy bicycles. I went in my femme work clothes, giving the air of an informed and educated "young professional." The atmosphere was very laid back--mostly women in their 40s and 50s who were milling around, drinking wine and eating cheese.

A cool artist/cyclist named Jennifer Benepe presented a bunch of slick women's jerseys that she had designed with her company hotvelociti. It was clear that her illustrations had double entendres, coming from a political as well as artistic place but she didn't describe each shirt in depth, as I wished she would. I especially like the ones with Spanish sayings, such as this: (it reads: for how many miles should I follow you?)

Chris Garrison spoke shortly thereafter and immediately reminded me of a high school field hockey coach--super nice and approachable but inherently athletic in the way that makes everything she says sound like a pep talk. I think certain people (women?) just speak like that. Anyway, she launched into the importance of bike fitting and parts that are designed specifically for women. Now, before I do any sort of trash talking, I have to say that the extent of market research that Trek performs IS impressive. Giving a few hundred college kids a bike seat and telling them to ride around on it seems pretty legit to me. However, I must admit that I started to feel like it was a bit of a marketing scheme in that ALL of Trek's products are relatively expensive and perhaps unnecessary for the casual cyclist. Although Chris went into a thorough, insistent speech about the importance of chamois cream (placed delicately within, ahem, the bike shorts), I couldn't help thinking: I am clearly not riding 30+ miles a week and this doesn't apply to me. Perhaps in a later life, with a disposable income.

However, Chris mentioned the reasoning behind the smaller wheels and the importance of the shorter top tube--something I had ignorantly dismissed in my last post. And so, she planted the seed, igniting a mild inferno in my bike interest/obsession. Now, after flipping the bird at the recession and spending my hey-it's-March-Merry-Christmas! bonus on these puppies:

Now I'm thinking should I trade my beloved Bianchi in for a Fuji Track 650, the very vehicle I scoffed at? It's just that Chris's talk brought upon a deep insecurity that I could, in fact, be riding something much more suited to my size. And, of course, now I'm obsessed with knowing which feels better (investigative test ride post coming soon).

Saturday, March 21, 2009

bianchi pista vs. fuji kids track 650

Image from www.bianchiusa.com

Frame Geometry

A Seat Tube (center to top)
B1 Top Tube (actual)
B2 Top Tube (virtual)
C Chainstay
D Fork Rake
E Head Tube Angle
F Seat Tube Angle
G Wheelbase
H Standover Height

Ok, here is the deal: YES, Fuji does make a tiny track bike, the Track 650 (see it here: http://www.fujibikes.com/Kids/Track/Track650.aspx. Now, technically this bike fits riders between 4'10" and 5'5" and is labeled "for kids," but it would clearly fit most women (should I take offense to that?). Here's a comparison between a Bianchi Pista and the Fuji Kids Track 650, in a handy dandy graph:

From their specs, it's clear that there are plenty of differences between these bikes.

The Bianchi has:
-a longer top tube (+15mm)
-a shorter chain stay (-15mm)
-a smaller fork rake (28 to 40)
-a larger head tube angle (+2degrees)
-the same seat tube angle (76)
-a smaller wheelbase (-24mm)

I haven't had a chance to ride the smaller Fuji, but I would definitely be interested in comparing them. According to this review from Urbanvelo.com, the Fuji's remedy for shorter (or younger) riders is smaller wheels. Although they are less common than 700c wheels, having 650c wheels shouldn't be a problem. If you are a "shorty" and riding a bike that is 49cm or 50cm, UrbanVelo suggests using short riser bars instead of track drops. No matter what handlebars you choose, if you're worried about too much reach, I would suggest finding a shorter stem!

There's a Fuji for sale on craigslist right now: http://newyork.craigslist.org/brk/bik/1081556034.html.

i heart cannondales from the 90s

Before I got my bike, I spent hours pouring over pictures on http://velospace.org/, a bike site not uncommonly referred to as "bike porn." These Cannondale track bikes from the 90s seem to have a perfect design, I even like the wide down tube that Cannondale is known for--not to mention the metallic blue color, which seems to be hard to reproduce (see this thread: http://www.bikeforums.net/archive/index.php/t-409067.html). I think the smallest size this frame comes in is a 50cm but I would love to get my hands on it someday. I just checked ebay for this frame out of curiosity--which for some reason is advertising brass knuckles for $10.95--but found only this model, which is selling for $399. It kind of reminds me of something from Nascar:

Please, let me stumble upon this frame one day:

The newer Capo:

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

old bike pic

Amber took this photo of me in college. We drove to an industrial park in Dundalk and I pretended to climb the fence. My bike at the time was a Dawes I bought off of ebay for $150. I put red cork tape on the handlebars and I used it to ride uphill to my job at the liquor store.

how to become a cool bike mechanic: take 1

I'm usually aware of the bike shops in my area, similar to the way you might know a local deli or coffee shop. You go there, you eat some eggs or a bagel--just the way I go to these places and drool over blinking red lights and purple chains (NOT USELESS, I swear). So, imagine my surprise when I found out the bike shop closest to me, On the Move (7th Ave between 12th & 13th streets) is woman-owned! Yes! I love when that happens. This has, of course, turned all my bike daydreams into bike-shop-owning-day dreams. How hard can it be, right?

Hmmm. This coming from someone who recently got her rims installed by assuming that the hubs on my bike came with 32 holes. They come with 28. Cue to embarassing call from bike shop lady, Deborah, telling me I either need new hubs or I need to pay for them to rebuild my old wheels. SIGH. I can't seem to get this stuff right, despite being obsessed with it. I guess I could have counted the spokes...

ALSO: one of the mechanics at my bike shop is a girl my age! Ah! She stole my bike-shop-owning-path daydreams by planting herself in the local bike shop and changing pedals on middle-aged women's Schwinns while wearing a dirty black cycling cap and sporting a lip ring. Damnit, how do people get involved with these things? I had fantasies of asking Deborah if I could hang around her shop on Saturdays and learn things about fixing bicycles but it seems my role as bike mechanic girl has already been filled. Perhaps it is too little, too late...

I recently stopped into the bike shop on Vanderbilt Avenue. When I asked what kind of bikes he carried -- thinking he only did used bikes -- he told me he basically finds bikes and "city-fies" them. Though unfamiliar with this term, I think he meant he just strips down the gears and makes them either fixed or singlespeed. He also likes to use old steel frames and riser handlebars. I am jealous of him too, and think that he may be plan B to bike shop owning stardom (plan A being: become Deborah's right hand mechanic girl by learning everything I can from mechanic girl #1 and then taking her place when she moves to Portland, OR or San Fran like any self-respecting bike enthusiast).

In other news, K. is looking for a bike. This isn't too difficult, considering her criteria is "blue or green" and "has a basket." We saw this pretty Gary Fisher Simple City bike on the street:

We also stopped into a bike shop and saw this 2009 Raleigh One Way, that looks like my bike, but nicer:

I also saw a Fuji fixed gear, which I have been told is the best fit for women. This basically means its a miniature version of the smaller fixed gear bikes, and all of the dimensions, like the top tube, are slightly smaller and therefore better for petite frames. It means you won't be leaning to far or overextending to be riding your bicycle. I'm interested in comparing my bicycle (49cm) to this Fuji, but alas, that will be another post.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A token of Stu's affection

I don't know how I stumbled upon this story--I think jumping from blog to blog to blog, but this is one of the sweetest gift/love/bicycle stories ever (scroll down for my comments below):

A friend of mine who is a bicycle aficionado recently created what is probably one of the most thoughtful birthday gifts I’ve ever encountered. In combining the two most important aspects of his life – cycling and his girlfriend, Maya –, Stu Campbell created a custom-assembled and handpainted masterpiece.

I interviewed Stu about the production, and Maya about her reaction. Here’s the lowdown about Maya Bankovic’s sick new ride:

northpublik: What was the impetus behind such a gift? Why not just a regular bike?
stu campbell: I have been riding in the city for over ten years and introduced Maya to city riding this past summer. She instantly loved it, even though she was either riding a friend’s bike significantly inferior to mine or my over-engineered mountain bike which was a little big and uncomfortable for her to ride. A difference of a couple centimetres here and there on a bike can really make an unbelievable difference in efficiency and enjoyment. So we spoke quite a bit about fit and what kind of bike she would buy for herself. I didn’t want a “regular or store bought bike” because, while I could get the fit right I would always have to make concessions regarding the overall look of the bike and quality of the parts. For example, a bike that fit the aesthetic criteria would have most of the right parts but the grips wouldn’t match the frame color or I didn’t like the pedals or the bike store had hidden a cheap freewheel in it etc. so rather than conceding even the smallest amount, and replacing the odd part, I just built it from scratch and chose every single part on the bike.

To read the rest: http://northpublik.ca/2009/01/04/a-boy-a-girl-and-her-bike/

The art on this bicycle is incredible, and reminds me of something Nikki McClure would draw. I especially like that Stu had to hide the bike frame in the closet and the fact that the bike shop was so close to his house, they would both pass it and he would see it hanging in the window. I like the idea of the subway map tying all the small illustrations together. I sort of understood Stu's hesitation to write his personal messages to Maya on the top of the frame, but they're also lost on the underside. He should have written them on the handlebars, or maybe if he was embarassed to write her cute things, he should've written her something cooler that was visible on the frame...

This bike is such a piece of art, I'd be too scared to ride it. I know they said they use $400 dollars of chains to lock it up, but even leaving it for a short amount of time would make me nervous. It's so personal, it's like someone emptied the pages of a sketch journal on this white frame. I think it's beautiful.

The way this story ends does no justice to the cute couple. Although Stan is clearly a very thoughtful boyfriend, there's no way Maya's intention for riding the bike around town is to "reach her man." Maybe this is some Canadian blog joke that I'm missing, but I feel like that last sentence took away from the sentimentality of the whole thing. Sigh.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

near the cemetery

mb. was here this weekend. she took photos for me.

riding really fast.

photo love.

me & julio, down by the school yard.


mb, photographer.

Bikes I like..

Ok I've spent hours trying to manipulate the photo sizes on the blog but I think the banner photo is still too big. I fear I can't be a true bike blogger until I have a sexy landscape banner like this guy: http://twofivefix.blogspot.com/. Sigh.

I recently stumbled upon a Flickr site featuring "Brett's favourite fixies." http://www.flickr.com/photos/x1brett/3117655141/. It has inspired me to create my own list, in ascending order - here are four of my favorites:

#4 - Trek's Urban District: This bike is sexy and makes me think twice about Trek. Apparently, the chain is made of a flexible carbon steel fiber that doesn't require any grease. It's basically the Prius of singlespeeds. I like the colors, but I haven't seen any cruising the streets. Maybe if I had a large disposable income, I would buy one.

#3 - Specialized Langster, New York: This bike is styled after a NYC cab, complete with black-and-white checkers. I'm sold.

The close-up:

#2 - Schwinn Madison: This bike is cheaper and it has fantastic 80s decals. A cool (American! gasp!) bike.

#!1 - Felt Curbside: I just found this bike while I was searching for the Langster and it comes equipped with pretentious top tube pads but I LOVE the blue color and it seems to be a pretty good bang for your buck. Yes, please.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I got $5 on my tax return

On Saturday I went wondering through Park Slope trying to install my dope rims..first I went to On The Move (7th Avenue between 12th & 13th Streets) and waited for the shop to open. On my trip over I had embarrassingly harnessed the new rims around my shoulder, thinking I'd be able to balance them all the way to the bike shop. This lasted until about 15th Street when they fell out from under my bag and proceeded to get stuck around my chest and the back of my bike seat, creating a veritable seat belt that disabled me from moving forward or backward to unhinge them. Luckily, I wasn't going very fast but I had to come to a painful stop at a green light to unhinge the rims and lay them in the middle of the street while I redid my bag and got back on my bike. Needless to say, I walked the rest of the way there...

The dude at On the Move is really nice and they had a young lady (?) working there before so I was happy to see that. He took one look at my current (stock) rims and told me that I would need all new spokes. My heart felt. Spokes are $2 a piece and I have 32 on each wheel, so already we're talking $128 to install the rims + the labor. Sigh. This small project has now fallen under my get-rich-quick scheme of pooling my nonexistant bonus + subletter + tax return into sexy clothes and bike parts that I can't afford. So...I decided to get a second opinion.

I went to Dixon's (right next to the Food Coop--many stories to be t
old about that), which I love. The guys in there are really nice and this kid that was like 14 years old or something fixed my break last time, so I was in awe. The guy there told me that I would indeed need new spokes (balls!) and that the labor would cost $25-$30 per wheel. I told him I was waiting on my bonus and that I would come back when I won the lottery. He laughed and said it wasn't that bad..

Yesterday my brother G. and I did my taxes. After being pegged a self-employed farmer and fisherman (see MISC form 1099), I got a whopping $5 back from New York State. SO MUCH FOR MY GET-RICH-QUICK SCHEME. My rims are idling in the hallway, between a grandma cart and a yellow vacuum.

I dream on:


equals (not my bike): http://velospace.org/node/2984