Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My Trip to LA & LA Brakeless

I recently took a trip to Los Angeles, where I mostly drank beer and hung out with cute girls. Besides that constituting an amazing trip, I went to a fixed-gear bike shop. Now I have the post-California blues.

LA Brakeless is a fixed-gear shop that I had heard about before to my trip to LA. I have to admit, I saw a bunch of cyclists in LA, including fixie-riders, but mostly I saw cars. I guess that's what happens with a city that is as spread out as LA - you pretty much have to drive to get where you want to go. Of course, the parts I visited - Venice and Hollywood - are relatively flat and getting around on a fixed-gear is a good way to go. Besides, then you can get a neon colored bike and pretend to be as cool as everyone else in California.

My friend Lauren has a sick bike that I should have taken pictures of because I got the chance to ride it around Hollywood a little bit. She had it built up by the guys at LA Brakeless. They carry all sorts of pretty components and accessories. Here are some pics:

(My next investment is a decent camera and the patience to learn how to use it...) I was surprised to find that the shop didn't carry a ridiculous amount of Chrome bags to rep San Francisco but they did have Wheelman Co. bags and Swerve hats. They sold LA Brakeless t-shirts that were a rip off of the LA Lakers symbol.

I'm not ballsy enough, rich enough or Cali enough to put all this flashy stuff on my bike, but it sure does look good in a multi-colored shop and riding around Los Angeles.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Book Review: Bike SnobNYC's Book

Alas, it's getting cold and my blog is falling to the wayside just like my bike riding. (I'm a wuss). I'm coming up with creative ways to keep blogging, although bicycle obsession clearly sustains bloggerdom. I recently read BikeSnob's book, which was fun and entertaining, although the "how-to" theme was not at all what I expected. First of all, BikeSnob's book is pretty, and I mean pretty in "I'm obsessed with letterpress stationery and tiny birds" kind of way. Check out all the cool accents and tiny bike details. My favorite is the aerial view of stick figure cyclists with different handlebars:

In terms of content, I expected BikeSnob's book to rehash some of his greatest past times and coin phrases, i.e. knuckle tattoos, ridiculous fixed gear accessories, "salmoning," and of course: AYHSMB (short for: All You Haters Suck My Balls). There were references to these things in his book, but the format was mostly a mock instruction guide to would-be cyclists. BikeSnob, ever the satirist, begins the book by referencing the Amish's denunciation of modern technology and he goes (literally) through Queens to the Rockaways, hoping to relive a New York Times article about cycling from the late 1890s.

Aside from his erratic analogies, I was struck by his explanation of what takes a bicycle a Truly Great Invention:

"A bicycle is a Truly Great Invention because it is part of the entire range of human existence, from frivolity to necessity."

Pause. I agree, of course, that the bicycle is a Truly Great Invention. But what really makes it that? Is it that some people spend thousands of dollars on the lightest carbon fiber components and others use their rickety old Schwinn to get to work? I would say: yes and no. I think BikeSnob's point is valid - the bicycle is a beautiful machine in its simplicity and its accessibility - almost everyone can learn to ride a bike. However, as far as covering the range from frivolity to necessity - that isn't what makes a bike super cool. Cars do that too - some people trick out their cars just like some people trick out their bikes and all us cyclists (as BikeSnob would say) would argue that cars are NOT a Truly Great Invention. What makes a bike a Truly Great Invention is what BikeSnob addresses shortly thereafter when he says a bike can "give you a feeling of freedom" and provide you with a "more rewarding life." It's a profound statement for the BikeSnob, but it's true.

Even more surprising than BikeSnob's roundabout discussion of the Amish was his reference of a Christian parable. I felt like I was back in CCD class when he spoke of "Footprints in the Sand," which is funny because BikeSnob's super Jewish name is Eben Weiss. His metaphor in this case was charming: instead of Jesus (his bike) following him around helping him out of a jam, he follows Jesus (in this case, cycling) around.

For all the snarky comments on his blog, BikeSnob's book was an homage to cycling and a guide to bicycling for beginners, including; the different types of cyclists (I still think about his 'Lone Wolf' description) and tips on bicycle maintenance. His love/obsession/career of cycling oozes out of every parable and he expresses sentiments that many cyclists would have to 'cheers' to, including the following:

"You can depend on cycling in a way you can depend on little else."

You got that right, BikeSnob.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Commuting by Bicycle: Days 3 & 4

Ah! I have been bad about reporting my commuting experience - as an excuse, it has been raining a lot in New York. I'm also hurting under my 48/15 ratio, especially after I rode to Tarrytown with DOBC.

Day 3

I chose to take 1st Avenue all the way uptown. I am currently on the fence about this bike lane. I have to say, as someone coming from Brooklyn and headed for Rockefeller Center, it is one of the best options for me. Also - commuting on both days 3 & 4 were relatively stress free on 1st Avenue. The biggest problem I have found is that there are trucks loading and unloading in the bike lane, which causes me to weave in and out of the bike lane. This was also one of the days the UN conference was in session - all traffic going up 1st Avenue was diverted west. I thought this would be fine, but I found myself trying to inch up 3rd Avenue behind several buses. Yuck. I eventually rode/walked by bicycle across 49th Street, but it was a difficult and slow weave through taxi cabs and pot-holed streets. They should repave midtown!

Time: 1 hour
What I drank because I was so thirsty: Water, cart coffee $1.00


I decided to try the 9th Avenue bike lane on the way home. I'm conflicted about the best way to get home because the further west I go, the further I am going out of the way. 9th Avenue doesn't have a bike lane all the way up to 50th street, but I think it starts around 34th Street and it's really nice - it's separated from the street and 9th Avenue doesn't have a lot of foot traffic so you don't run into bewildered pedestrians who are stepping into the bike lane. I had intended to go down Hudson St. to Bleecker but I think I got on Bleecker too soon and end it up riding it all the way to Prince and eventually down to Christie Street. This ride was nice but the day was HOT and it felt like a long ride home.

Time: 1 hour
What I drank when I got home: water

Day 4

If I can coax myself out of bed, the crisp fall days are perfect for bike commuting. I rode one day last week, after taking my fixed gear off-roading on Sunday, and my knees were feeling it. I think I was also slightly delirious because I overshot the entrance to the Williamsburg Bridge (still a painstakingly slow incline- I think because you have to go up twice) and then I didn't make a left on the bike lane on Rivington and I had to cut back in Chinatown. Wha?? I was annoyed by the fixed-geared riders blowing past me, especially the powder blue Fuji that some bald headed dude was riding without breaking a sweat. Oy.

I got to the gym and showered and applied make-up (shocking, I know). Everyday I manage to forget something crucial: the first day it was my regular bra (wore the sports bra peeking out of my work outfit all day) second day it was a comb (considered swiping a brush at the gym but actually just used my fingers) third day it was my work shoes (wore really dirty sneakers into work, gross) and fourth day it was my regular bra again. Sweet. I don't mind the uniboob so much, but it isn't exactly flattering. I had the pleasure of taking off my sweaty bra, showering, and then putting it back on. Party foul.

Time: 50 mins
What I drank because I was so thirsty: water, cart coffee


I took 2nd Avenue all the way home from 50th Street. This actually worked pretty well. There wasn't too much traffic or construction and I breezed by all the slow bikers. The problem with my low gearing is starting/stopping and having to push off with a lot of force. (Haven't mastered track stands). I often find myself behind well-dress, middle-aged white dudes with those velcro straps on their ankles, to hold their pants back. But these dudes are serious - and often good at circumventing traffic, so I appreciate being behind them. I had the strange experience of being behind a fixed gear riding with clip-ins who would periodically clip out of his pedals and put both feet on his down tube. It looked fun but also kind of dangerous. His black jeans were really tight, definitely tighter than mine.

Time: 55 mins
What I drank because I was so thirsty: water, leftover Nantucket Nectar Orange Mango juice

Friday, October 1, 2010

Friday Afternoon: Bike Cartoons

Saw these two gems lately, and had to throw 'em up here:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

One Sweet Day

Bridging the Gap Vol.1 from Joseph Lobato on Vimeo.

I watched this video as I was holed up in an office in midtown Manhattan. Hernando was having a sweet day.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Commuting by Bicycle: Day 2

Disclaimer: I am a fair weather commuter. Luckily, I wasn't riding my bicycle during the tornado.

I rode my bicycle to work for the second time last week to keep up the momentum. I had adjusted my seat so now it points slightly downward (picture the graphic in BikeSnob's book where he ridicules hipsters for pointing their saddles at a 90 degree angle towards the floor) but this adjustment was too far in the other direction. Luckily it was tolerable and not as uncomfortable as day one.

The Williamsburg Bridge was still a long, slow incline. My legs were slightly tired from the day before. I chose to day 1st Avenue as far as it would go - not knowing exactly where the bike lane ended (Are the Bike NYC Maps outdated??), but I was very relieved to find that it goes all the way to 34th Street! I guess 34th Street is everyone's idea of where midtown begins, but I'm more of a 49th/50th kind of gal (unfortunately) - if they could only extend it 16 more blocks, I would be golden. After 34th St, 1st Avenue splits and the entrance on the right is for a highway - a little daunting. I chose to make a left of East 43rd Street because I wasn't sure about the UN Plaza Street (I think I will choose that next time). I rode carefully up 3rd Avenue and then across on 49th Street. Let's just say, midtown could use some repaving.

The trip only took me 45 minutes and I had time to shower. My new proposal for New York Sports Club is to have a "Commuter Membership" where bike commuters pay $40/month to use the showers and lockers. $40/month is still a little steep but I can't see them doing it for less, if they do it at all. Right now I pay $79/month for...not going to the gym. Well, I suppose I don't need to if I can keep riding my bicycle to work. SO I take a shower at NYSC - which is always funny because I think all of the shampoo/conditioner/body wash options are just different colors of hand soap. I got to work early and basically washed my hair with hand soap, so it looked amazing all day.

Time it took: 45 minutes
What I drank because I was so thirsty: water, eventually coffee


I was meeting up with K after work because she had ridden her bicycle too. I dared to take the Broadway Bicycle lane all the way from 47th Street, which was a horrible idea (as I suspected). The Herald Square area is full of tourists and I'm not even sure where the bike lane is - it seems to run behind a bunch of the fancy tables but no one pays attention to it. Plus, some kid was playing the piano on top of Macy's and creating a big hold up.

Once I made it down the to 20s it was smooth sailing and I passed a film scene involving bicycles so I shouted "I'm available!" but no takers. The camera guy smiled at me though, so I might be in.

K and I met up unexpectedly on 10th St bike lane and headed over to NYC Velo. I wanted to check out the BaileyWorks small Citizen Pack, which looks like this

I really like the orange color, but I was disappointed to find that the straps and the bag in general isn't as comfortable as Chrome's Dually Backpack. Clearly, I haven't used the BaileyWorks bag, and it seemed high quality, but it is $60 more than the Chrome bag. It is shaped to fit your back so it forms a sort of "V," decreasing the amount of stuff you can fit in it. I fit a six pack of beer (bottles) and mango juice and clothes in K's Dually. Just saying. I'm disappointed that Chrome doesn't have the Dually in a rust color or in a less crazy orange color, but I'm thinking about the brown:


Luckily, after two days of commuting, K agreed to go to Wing Bar with me (275 Smith Street, Brooklyn). You can get a pitcher of beer there for $7.50 but it's Coors Light and K is too classy for that, so we drank Oktoberfest and ate 20 wings. It was delicious.

Time it took: I didn't check because we stopped at NYC Velo
What I drank because I was so thirsty: Sam Adam's Oktoberfest

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Commuting by Bicycle: Day 1

I rode my bicycle from Crown Heights to midtown today (and back)! I decided that the weather is too perfect and the subway depresses me too much. I swallowed my NYC public transportation pride (gross) and bought a strong lock to use outside of work.

Riding from Crown Heights to Rockefeller Center is slightly awkward, mostly because many of the amazing protected bike lanes don't go up as far as they should. If the 1st Avenue bike lane went as high as 50th Street (and the 2nd Avenue Bike Lane), I would be set - then I could get to and from work relatively easily. Instead, I like to choose the "Safe" option on and see where it takes me. The route was this: Bedford Avenue to the Williamsburg Bridge to 1st Avenue to East 9th to Greenwich to 8th Avenue and then all the way up 8th Avenue to West 48th Street. Woohoo.

My first reaction to commuting: Wow, my bike seat really isn't that comfortable. I made a slight adjustment on Bedford Avenue beside the gas station - still uncomfortable but not as horrible as before. Ouch. My second reaction to commuting: Wow, the Williamsburg Bridge is a very long, slow incline. It's time like these I wish I had gears. I reminded myself that skinny hipsters from Williamsburg do it all the time, so I could do it too. Plus a guy whistled at me as I past him so I figured I wasn't the slowest one.

The bike path on First Avenue introduced me to the first of many darting lizards - also known as "people on their way to work." They have glazed-over eyes and are usually carrying a large coffee with a sleeve. I calmed myself down by slowing down and avoiding the lizards. At one point I was behind a girl who was riding slowly on a big mountain bike. As I got next to her I realized she was actually smoking a cigarette and riding her bike at the same time. At first, I thought "Well, at least she's riding her bike" but then, she was probably undoing all that good.

As I got on East 9th Street, around the NYU area, I slowed down to pass an ambulance. I was horrified to see that an older woman had bad cuts all over her arm. She didn't seem homeless and she seemed pretty calm about her bleeding arm but I shuddered with thoughts of domestic violence (and before 9 AM?).

The ride up 8th Avenue was fine until about 34th Street, when it gets really crowded. The clock read 8:24am and people started streaming out of the train stations under Madison Square Garden. It got worse when I neared Port Authority because I was stopped at a light and what seems like hundreds of Jerseyites (?) walking every which way across the street. For lack of anything better to do about the bike lane that suddenly disappears, I stayed as far to the left as possible and continued on.

I turned East on W. 48th Street. I locked my bike up a hundred times to make sure the lock actually went through the frame and then I ran into NYSC to, literally, change my clothes. Had I been more ambitious, I could have showered too, but time was running out before work, so I rocked the half sweaty/half envigorated style.

At work, I was elated. Commuting makes me feel much more like a cyclist - even if I still worry about my rickety bike or what components everyone else is flashing around.

Time it took: 1 hour
What I drank because I was so thirsty: coffee (I do that a lot)


Unsure of which route was the best to take home, I convinced myself that taking 2nd Avenue all the way down would be worthwhile - since parts of that route have bike lanes. I also didn't want to take Broadway, and I'm reluctant to ride all the way to the West Side Highway, although I may do that in the coming days.

If I thought the lizards were out BEFORE work, being in midtown at 5:00 PM is much, much worse. Near Rockefeller Center, people dart around cars and behind parked trucks to cross the street - it's not really J-walking so much as playing DDR in the middle of the street.

Second Avenue was a poor choice. Although the street is really wide, it's undergoing a lot of construction and there are crazy old people that don't know what exactly what bike lanes are. By the time I got down to St. Marks Place I was happy to beeline home over the bridge.

Taking Wythe Avenue from Williamsburg to Crown Heights was not as easy as I had hoped. I was sure the Hassid bus drivers were gunning me down and at one point a large bus sped up, cut me off, and then put out it's little STOP sign. (Is it illegal to pass those?).

I took Franklin all the way to Shorty's Deli and purchased many beverages (not beer, they don't sell it). I am using commuting as an excuse to eat everything and probably go to bed as early as possible. So far, so good.

Time it took: 1 hour 12 minutes
What I drank because I was so thirsty: Nantucket Nectars Orange Mango, ice water

Monday, September 13, 2010

Rockaway Debacle: On Being Prepared

I shudder to think about my most recent flat tire fiasco. Two weekends ago I rode with DOBC to the Rockaways. This is a pleasant ride from Park Slope/Prospect Heights area because you can take the protected bike greenway on Ocean Parkway almost all the way to the Rockaways.

I should have known the morning was doomed because, when I woke up, I had a horrible hangover and I was in a fight with my girlfriend. I had work looming over my head (LSATs) but since I knew I wouldn't do anything productive, I headed over to meet DOBC. I spoke dismissively with a friend about how I had been getting so many flat tires, but I had just bought new Continental Gatorskins and was feeling confident.

On the long bike path that runs alongside Flatbush Avenue, before you hit the Marine Parkway Bridge, I heard the dreaded "pop." Considering the terrain we had been going over - the path turned to sand at one point, and the sidewalks are pretty choppy - I shouldn't have been surprised. Unfortunately, I was unprepared. Fooled by the thought of my protective new Gatorskins (C'mon! They're called Gatorskins!), I just didn't have anything with me - no tube, no patch, no pump. Also, I ride baby tires, so any old 700c tube wouldn't do..

My bro Dez stayed with me as we started the 2 mile trek towards the beach. Now I was hot, hungover and keeping my friends from getting to the beach. At one point a very friendly and enthusiastic biker chick stopped and tried to patch my tube with her friends (Emily, wherever you are, I will come cheer you on at the track). My other bro, Candice, rode back and forth over the bridge to bring me a patch kit. The tire had popped along a seam and the glue from the patches weren't sticking. Emily and her friends were able to repair it enough for me to get over the bridge, and I rode with a flat tire along the beach's boardwalk.

After a few hours of sunbathing and watching many, many drunk gay men strut around in tiny bathingsuits, we headed home. My friend Heidi walked the 60 small blocks to the subway with me. (Hell yea, hell yea). All I could think of was how I didn't want to be a burden to my bike friends again.

Enter: Bike Nashbar. I have been getting promotional e-mails from Bike Nashbar and for quite a while, but I hadn't bought anything from either website. They offer bike parts and accessories at a discounted price and they have a wide range of products. I tend to think of these stores as being geared towards the Dad riders - people who work in the financial district and buy fancy Trek road bicycles. Whether or not this is accurate, they have some good deals. I bought two tubes, a patch kit, glueless patches, and a small hand pump for $22.50. I also got a really cute pair of gloves for K (I think BikeSnob would enjoy the knuckle tattoo theme:)

I am finally coming to the realization that bicycles, like any vehicle, require emergency repair kits. Usually I just get angry and think that I am the only person who suffers from flat tires. Now I have my Chloe bike bag stocked for the next ride. No more walking to the beach.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Juliet Elliott & Charge Bikes

What's not to love about a hot girl on a fixie wearing a plaid shirt? Oh yeah, and she's sponsored by Charge, who seem to make some sweet bikes. There is a comment under this YouTube video that says that she is married (boo) but I couldn't find any information to confirm that. Check out her blog here:

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Interview with Kt, Folding Bike Enthusiast

This is my awesome friend Kt talking about her Brompton folding bicycle. Disclaimer: I say "sweet" about a thousand times in the video and "unfolding" twice and I may or may not flip the camera around while I am filming. So much for the Director's cut...

Why a folding bike?

I wanted a bicycle in New York but I wanted something that I could take with me everywhere. With the folding bike you can carry it around and it’s easier to maneuver than a regular bike.

What makes Brompton different from, say, Dahon?

I like the look of Brompton better – it’s classic, it’s the best folding bike in terms of design and stability. With this kind of bike, you want something that isn’t fragile – something that won’t crack or break because you’re constantly opening and closing it. And from what I had heard, you rarely have a problem with the chain staying in place or with the bike unfolding when you don't want it to. And the way this bike folds, the greasy chain is kept far away from you (and your clothes) when you carry it. This bike also has a built-in hand pump and it has one of the most compact folds you can find. When I was still trying to make my decision (and it was a big decision, considering the price tag) I met a guy from Long Island who rode his Brompton to and from NYC everyday for three years and he never had a probem.

Well, a disadvantage of owning a Brompton is that the replacement parts can only be bought from the U.K., where the company is based. There are a few shops in NYC that get shipments of Brompton parts, but they sometimes have so send away to the U.K. for a part if they don't have it in stock. But then again, it's nice to know that each bike is designed and built by hand in West London, England, where the company was founded.

I really like the design of the Brompton. They’re creative with their accessories – the wheels that allow you to roll the bike around when it is folded become a rack for your stuff when it is unfolded. They also offer mudguards, different styles of handlebars and I put a Brooks seat on mine. I like the style of Bromptons; you can mix and match because there are a lot of color options. I chose blue and black, but they have a bunch of different color options. You can also buy a carrying case that looks like a bag. There is a hard box you can use to travel with – for airplanes, etc – it’s more of a protective case. It’s so mobile – you can carry it around with you wherever you go, and it’s not that heavy.

What is it made out of?

The frame is mainly made of steel.

How long did you want a folding bike before you bought one?

Two-and-a-half years. I first saw the Brompton at a bike shop on the Upper East Side called NYCeWheels, and it was love at first sight. It was one of the biggest purchases I’d ever made and it took that long for me to actually do it. But if you’re gonna buy it you want to buy one that won’t break when you fold and unfold it. I tried out different folding bikes for two years before I bought this one. Before I bought it, they let me test ride it around the block (I actually went in there about a million times to test ride it, and they somehow remained patient) and I got used to it fairly quickly. At first when you ride it, it feels like the bike is wobbling because the wheels are so small, but you get used to it quickly.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of having a folding bike?

Well, the one of the advantages is (obviously) that you can take it everywhere. You can take it on the subway train during rush hour, the LIRR, you can take it on the bus, even though that gets a little annoying. You can travel with it on planes and check it in like a suitcase. I have even been known to ride it to the theater and give the coat check dude an extra tip to keep an eye on it. It also fits right under my desk at work, so I never have to worry about locking it up or someone stealing it. I just keep it under my desk during the day and then I ride it home after work. When it is folded, it is an extremely compact package (22.2" x 21.5" x 10.6") that you can basically carry with you anywhere.

The disadvantages are…it’s harder to pedal uphill. You do have to work harder than someone who is riding a road bike. You can’t really conquer massive hills. I mean, that’s not really a problem in New York, but I would just try to avoid big hills anyway, since I know it would be hard to get up them.

Where do you generally ride your bicycle?

Home from work, the West Side Highway bike path and Prospect Park.

Do you have camaraderie with other folding bike enthusiasts?

Yeah, it’s definitely a wink and a nod. When I was thinking about buying a Brompton everyone said good things about them. I met people who had even bought more than one because they were so happy with theirs.

Also, there is a Brompton community (cult?). There is a folding bike race – The Brompton World Championship that takes place in the U.K., but they recently started one up in the U.S., I think it was in Philly.

How did you decide what components to put on your bicycle?

There are a few options in terms of handlebar shapes, with the straight handlebars being the lightest. I liked the look and the feel of the U-shaped ones, though, so I opted for those. I’d always wanted a Brooks saddle because they mold to your butt. I added the mud flap and I chose the blue/black two tone colors because I liked them the best. And the rack/rolling wheel contraption is just plain convenient.

Tell us about that bicycle accident and why you were/are afraid of riding in the city.

Well, I’ve had more than one… but when I was 11 or 12 and I was riding down to my friend’s house..and then, I dunno, I was unconscious. I still don’t remember what happened. My bike was totaled, so I’ m thinking I got hit by a car. I was off the road and my friend’s mom found me at the bottom of the driveway. My bike was 50 yards away from me and I fractured my skull.

You’d think I would have been totally scared to ride after that, but I’m a freak, and I wasn’t scared. Recently, and at first, I was afraid to ride in the city because I get into a lot of accidents. I still have a rock in my knee from one of my accidents.

Where is your favorite place to ride in NYC?

The West Side Highway bike path.

If you didn’t have a folding bicycle, what bike would you have?

I’m not going to get another bike (haha). But yeah, I can see myself owning a road bike or something, depending on where I wanted to go. I can ride the folding bike long distances but I can’t go on dirt roads with it or anything – it’s not really the distance but more the terrain that would be the problem.

What do you like about your Brooks saddle?

It’s not a saddle, it’s a seat! I like that it’s really comfortable and you can wear it in.

How much does your bicycle weigh when it’s folded up?

About 23 pounds. Depending on the parts you choose, Bromptons can be as light as 20 pounds.

What do you love more: your bicycle or ultimate Frisbee?

Probably ultimate Frisbee… I like the social aspect of ultimate Frisbee.

But you can be social by riding bikes too!

That’s true..

Can you take long bike rides on your folding bike?

15-20 miles, it’s not so much how far I go – because I don’t mind taking long rides, it’s more of where I go.

Do you feel like you have to put in more effort to ride your bike because the pedals are so small?

It depends – if there’s a hill involved, then yes, but it’s minimal. Your pedal radius is smaller so you’re working more but I’m always just riding for leisure, I’m not trying to race, so it’s not really a problem.

Does it feel strange to ride a “regular” bicycle now?

I haven’t ridden one in a long time but I don’t know…

Do you feel safe on your folding bicycle?

As safe as I you can feel in the city with my track record.

What advice would you give to someone purchasing a folding bicycle?

I would say if you have the money go for the better quality because you’re going to be folding and unfolding it all the time. So don’t get a folding bike if you don’t have the money. Just get the best quality you can.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Two Teeth Forward, One Tooth Back?

Despite my infatuation with fixed-gear bicycles, I don't know much about bicycle mechanics. I distinctly remember meeting a dude outside of Brooklyn Bike and Board who rode a celeste Bianchi Pista Concept with a BMX stem that looked like a Lego piece. He asked me about my gearing and I told him I rode a 48/15. "Wha??" he couldn't believe it, he said, because he rode a much easier gear.

My bicycle is mostly stock - I go on bike spending binges and envision myself outfitting my ride with deep black rims and personalized decals, and then I acknowledge the futility of it and I sober up for a few good months at a time. Recently, I decided to change my cog because it will give me an easier ride and it's a lot cheaper to change a cog than a chainring. I've visited Sheldon Brown's fixed-gear calculator, but I'm a writing major so I pretty much just gloss over numbers (which may explain my bank account). My rudimentary understanding is this: the harder the gear, the more ground you cover with each rotation (?) and the harder it is to start pedaling from a full stop and...the more you feel like an old lady because your knee caps start hurting. There are many, many bike tutorials on the topic of gear ratios, gear inches and Sheldon Brown's gain ratio. From a more practical and less geeky perspective, you can talk about fixed-gear ratios all you want, but the reality is: you have to get out there and try 'em. The ratio on my mini Fuji (48/15) was the stock setup, and I opted for something easier - a 17t cog.

I've been riding the 17t cog through the sticky summer days and mostly enjoying myself. The first few rides made me feel silly and I felt like I was spinning out of control on the downhills - perhaps 16t may have been a better and less dramatic choice. However, for feeling less like an old lady: 17t is smooth and easy. I would recommend it to strategic bike forum writers as the "summer fun gear."

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Asbury Park, New Jersey: Second Life Bikes

K. and I recently went on a vacation to Asbury Park, New Jersey. Asbury Park/Ocean Grove is an eclectic mix of gays/churchgoers and (of course) Jerseyites. I was pleasantly surprised to find this shop as soon as we stepped off NJ Transit at Asbury Park:

We walked in and I was stunned. We were at Second Life Bikes (formerly known as The Bike Church, when they were in a smaller location). Similar to the praiseworthy New York/Brooklyn establishment Recycle-a-Bicycle, Second Life Bikes is a non-profit organization that allows people, especially youth, to learn about bicycle and bicycle repair. In exchange for working hands-on at the bike shop, they are eligible to build their own bicycle using recycled parts. And they have many, many parts to choose from:

The shop also functions as a bicycle repair shop, which is how they generate money in order to keep it open as a non-profit. It was very, very cool. K. looked around for a special teeny frame for her but they only had a few bicycles that were actually for sale. Most of the hundreds of bicycles were built up by the young volunteers who work at Second Life Bicycles.

a. The Bike Church from Brian Johnston on Vimeo.

Later that day, K. and I tried to get cocktails on the boardwalk. We gave them our New York licenses and they asked if we had any other picture IDs on us. What?! Granted, K. looks like a sixteen year old, and despite the gray hair, I don't look that old myself. However, I had only put three cards in my wallet to go to the boardwalk and I didn't have another picture ID on me. Our waitress (in her 40s) looked skeptical and called the manager over. The manager, a funny blond woman (also in her 40s) told us we looked really young and then asked us how we were getting home. "Um..we're walking back to our inn" we replied. "Okay, well..just BE CAREFUL" she warned us and then brought over our cocktails. We had one drink each and I'm pretty sure she still thinks we were underage. Don't they scan IDs in Jersey? Jeez..

It rained most of Saturday but we were determined to ride a surrey. For those of you who don't know, a surrey is one of those touristy 2 (or 4 or 6) person bicycles that is essentially a golf cart you can pedal. And, we learned quickly, it moves incredible slowly. I also learned that I don't know how to press the record button on my video camera, so you can't see us in action, but we got some funny surrey pictures. I think if you put the bicycle on a lower gear, we might not have looked so silly pumping our legs so much and gaining so little speed. It is a nonsensical machine is many ways, including the aesthetic steering wheel for the right-side driver, which has no purpose. It did have a really awesome bell. You should try one.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Bike Money: Unexpected Maintenance Fees

I feel like I have been bleeding money this month. This is not a surprise, since it is summer and I have recently escaped from my studying spot ("the nook"). This weekend my supposedly low-maintenance fixed-gear bicycle ended up costing me $47.50 in repairs. What?! This should not upset me, as I'm more than willing to spend money on my bicycle for upgrades (handlebars, seat, stem, etc.) but $47.50 is a lot, especially when you're waiting for your parents to cash the money-that-you-owe-them check and you're not sure when that's going to happen, but it may leave you with a considerably small amount of money in the bank.

On Saturday morning I woke up early and couldn't go back to sleep. I debated staying in Brooklyn and having a relaxing day but I decided to hoof it to Manhattan to see if I could find some cheap and cute earrings (I'm so femme). And by earrings I mean I went to this wholesale piercing/tattoo place on Canal Street called UNIMAX where you can get wholesale plugs for less money. This would have worked out well, but my ears aren't really stretched and most of the earrings they had there were for BIG stretchers like my friend Asher (see Asher and Morgan here at

As I rode over the Brooklyn Bridge, they were repainting it with a wide, thick white line to separate the tourists from the cyclists. I find this comical, and while helpful, it probably won't keep the wondering tourists from coming into "our lane." It was funny to see them rolling the paint over though - creating a veritable highway on the famous Brooklyn structure. As I was riding over the bridge I heard a lot of clinking, but I chalked it up to the planks below me, or I thought maybe I had lost some change out of my pocket. When I reached the other side of the bridge and nearly collided with a cyclist headed straight towards me (YO! YOU'RE GOING THE WRONG WAY!) I stopped and examined my ride. I thought the chain was too loose, but it turns out all but one of the bolts that was holding on my chainring had fallen off! That explained the clinking noises. I sighed and started my early-morning walk through Chinatown.

I went to NYC Velo because the guys are nice in there and I thought they might not even charge me. How much could it cost for 5 new screws + refitting the chainring + refitting the chain? I happily washed my greasy hands in their little bathroom and headed towards to the register, expecting at most, $15 charge. It was $29. Twenty-nine dollars?! In retrospect, this charge isn't that insane, but at the time I was somewhat certain that they had seen me, greasy-handed and sweating profusely with the explanation "Um..the bolts fell out" and thought - OK charge this girl whatever we want. This, of course, is not true. I asked another bike shop today and they said they would have charged $25, so NYC Velo is still on my list of stupid-girl-friendly shops. I was still annoyed so I ate a chicken kabob sandwich and rode back to Brooklyn.

THEN when I was visiting my old neighborhood (I have serious nostalgia for South Slope), I heard my tire roll over something and go PSSSSSssssssssstttttttttt. I freaked out and dismounted my bike in the middle of the street but I couldn't hear or see what was happening. I was able to ride home but this morning my tire was flat. UGH.

K. and I checked out Ride Brooklyn because they have been really nice to Dykes on Bike-Cycles and we thought they might not charge us as much to fix a flat. After all was said and done, they charged $18.50. $18.50?! I assume that is $7.00 for the tube and $10 maintenance fee plus tax. They may even charge a flat rate $10 maintenance fee on small jobs there because he said the cost to put in a new cog would be $10.

The lesson learned: either fix your tire yourself ($7-$8.00) or go to Brooklyn Bike & Board because they only charge $13 (probably $8.00 for tube and $5 maintenance).

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

DOBC's Amazing Pride Season

My beloved Dykes on Bike-Cycles are in the midst of a wildly successful pre-Pride and Pride season, no thanks to me and my incessant "I have to study for the LSATs" excuse. I can't boast that I took amazing pictures at all the events - at our DOBC benefit party at Bar 4 I was running around collecting raffle tickets and simultaneously trying to take full advantage of the free PBR (hey, a girl has got to multitask), but here are a few highlights:

Our raffle table was incredible - I was pleasantly surprised that DOBC received donations from Outlier, Sigg, Ride Brooklyn, Taliah Lempert, Vaya Bags, Transportation Alternatives, Beast, Velo Brooklyn, Autostraddle and Babeland (well...Babeland doesn't really surprise me). We had a whole bunch of REALLY nice stuff and I was sad I wasn't able to enter the raffle myself (ahem, I'll take the Outlier hat). Ride Brooklyn - you might know it as bike shop right next to Babeland - was generous enough to donate a sweet Kona bike, which I "tagged" with my spoke card. A nice lady from the Brooklyn Community Pride Center slipped me her ticket (the raffle was at midnight...two nights before the LSATs - woohooo) but I didn't win. There were mostly gays at the party, which explains why my ex girlfriend's friend's ex girlfriend DID win but hey: that's another story (all true). We're all friends here.

Sunday was Queens Pride but none of us made it because we were too sleepy and I was freaking out about the LSATs. I missed BUM BUM BAR, so hopefully we can go again next year.

Last Saturday was Brooklyn Pride. DOBC was looking sharp in their handmade screenprinted t-shirts, black with pink logos. I attempted to help with this but I was sent out for mojito mixings. Here is an embarassing photo of me wearing the cool t-shirt:

That night we attended Brooklyn Community Pride Center's party at BAMCafe. BAMCafe is sweet - it kind of reminded me of a movie set with all the pinball lightbulbs on the wall, but we had fun dancing in all the open space. I would definitely consider going there for all the free music they host. Thanks to everyone who rode in the Parade - be sure to come to DOBC rides too!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Dykes on Bike-Cycles Video on DapperQ

DapperQ Exclusive -- Dykes on Bikecycles from dapperQ on Vimeo.

These folks are hot, they bike, and they want you! On the road this summer and at their fundraiser this Saturday nite. It's June 4, Bar 4 in the Slope.

Learn how they drink, how they dress, and how they want you!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bespoke Spoiler: The Handbuilt Bicycle Show

Bike Love graffiti on the Manhattan Bridge

Last Saturday was K's birthday, so I decided: "What better way to celebrate it then by going to see an exhibit that I'd been wanting to see! Yay! Happy Birthday K!"

We started our adventure by going to Milk Bar, this cute place on Vanderbilt that I love to go to in the summer because all the open doors and windows make the place feel breezy. Also, they serve coffee that looks like this:

K is officially 24, which she says makes her feel old and puts me somewhere in the dinosaur category. I overheard some woman talking on the train the other day about getting her first gray hair. I wanted to be like, "Girl, I've had gray hairs since I was 14." Some of us are... old souls (a.k.a neurotic Irish Catholics). K had expressed interest in going to an outdoor dance festival in Tompkins Square Park, but I convinced her to take the long ride up up the West Side Highway on a busy Saturday afternoon. We debated over taking the Brooklyn or Manhattan Bridge - I prefer the Brooklyn Bridge even though it is jam-packed with tourists that are incapable of interpreting pedestrian/bicyclists symbols, it's pleasant and of course, cooler. K said she hates all the planks that make her rickety bike rattle non-stop. So, we took the Manhattan Bridge and I dealt with the racing zealots that pumped and passed me on my left. After all, it was her birthday.

Admittedly, every bicycle sojourn is an opportunity to add to this blog, and I forced K to stop and take some action shots. This is what we look like on our bicycles:

me (Q.)


The West Side Highway bicycle path was a blast, but also very crowded on a Saturday afternoon. I cringed as K rode her $20 wonder bike head-on in the other direction as she passed leisurely cyclists. Nevertheless, riding on the path is a lot more relaxing than having to stop every five minutes at a red light. The crowd thinned out once we got to 34th street and we took the path all the way to W 60th, where we were forced to climb a short, steep hill full of potholes. This climb reinforced the fact that NYC is, in fact, hilly.

We got Columbus Circle and parked our bikes outside. I made K take pictures of me posing/blocking the Bespoke sign:

The ponytail is a new-old look for me. K says it makes me look like Gaston. For everyone that doesn't know (and for all you Disney enthusiasts that DO know, that's kind of weird), Gaston is the French dude from Beauty and the Beast that wears a low ponytail. I'm unclear about his exact role in the film but I think he wanted to get with Belle. Here he is:

Alas, I digress. The Bespoke Exhibit. Although a modest exhibit, this made me happy for a variety of reasons. First of all, I know A.N.T. Bike Mike, who was interviewed for this blog, was going to have some bikes on display, and I've never seen his bikes in person. Secondly, I'm glad that bicycles are being acknowledged as beautiful and museum-worthy pieces of design. While some may balk at the idea of fifteen (or so) bicycles adorning the inside of the Museum of Art and Design, it confirms the importance of practical, well-made and stylish designs that we can use in our everyday life.

A perfect example of these well-built, stylish bicycles were the Vanilla Bicycles on display. I had heard of Vanilla Bicycles and visited their website before, but I had never seen one up close. I loved the clean blue design of the Track 2006 model, and I was impressed by the attention to detail and precision of the bike as a whole. My favorite, however was the Radonneur, which they had on display in a lavender color, with matching fenders. It seemed well-built and sturdy but thin and light at the same time - it looked like you could pick up a good amount of speed on that road bike.

Track 2006


Then, of course, the question becomes: if I had a few thousand dollars to spare, would I commission Sacha White to build me a sexy Vanilla bicycle? Probably not. It would be a shame to add scratches to something so expensive. However, there is something appealing about having a custom bicycle made for you and knowing that your exact measurements were kept in mind while it was built.

A.N.T. Bike Mike's bicycles were sleek and sophisticated, exactly as I had imagined. K was partial to the thick white tires on his Truss Bicycle (2010), but I loved the simple black paint and rusty A.N.T. emblem. I also enjoyed the playing card chainring that he put on that bike - another subtle addition that complements the bike's simple style.

A.N.T. Truss Bike (2010)

He also had a sort of pizza delivery bicycle that I liked. I'm not sure how much one would use this carting stuff around Brooklyn (unless you are in a band?!) but it has that "no frills" style for which Mike is known.

A.N.T. Basket Bike (2010)

As for the other bike builders, I wasn't into Richard Sach's bikes as much as his bad ass persona, complete with red Ray Bans that he used instead of protective goggles when welding. I also liked his collection of New Yorker magazine covers showing dating back to the '50s. J.P. Weigle had an impressive set of bikes that reminded me of Vanilla Bicycles, although more classic. One of them was a pretty blue that made me second guess my preoccupation with Bianchi gang green.

J.P. Weigle's "French Blue"

J.P. Weigle's bikes are accentuated by intricate lugs, a bike part that still mystifies me. My impression is that these little pieces are a important element of the bike building process and their craftsmanship is a signifier to others that this handbuilt bicycle is rad. A Google search of "why lugs important" brought me here, which depicts the lug as a controversial but respected addition to handbuilt steel bicycles, one that serves to strengthen the joint of the bike.

J.P. Weigle lug designs

Personal additions like the detailed lugs above are what sets apart the builders featured in Bespoke from other bike builders. Whether it was A.N.T. Bike Mike's handbuilt racks and fenders, Sacha White's subtle V's, or Peter Sach's insistent use of firetruck red, all these bikes spoke to their builder's true style.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Post NYC Bike Culture Summit: A Rant

I went to the NYC Bike Culture Summit hosted by Transportation Alternatives on Thursday. On Twitter, the Summit has received some mixed reviews, mostly of the racial profiling variety. I have to admit, I was unsure what to expect and how fun and/or productive the event would be. They invited Bike Snob, so I knew it would be bearable because he would be making snarky comments all night.

Here's the deal: a room full of mostly white, self-righteous, middle-aged, progressive New Yorkers doesn't surprise me. When I first got there, I thought: these people are probably members of the Park Slope Food Coop! It kind of had that vibe like, "We work for organic groceries and you better believe we commute 15 miles by bike to work too." Taking into consideration the $15 ticket price and the Thursday evening slot, it's not shocking that the crowd wasn't more diverse. These are people who are already invested in biking, probably commuters, and they're angsty about the trials they face as cyclists. I'm okay with that - I don't think I'll survive in New York into old age, but hell, you have to give it up to the people who do. And if these middle-aged progressives want to make donations to a forward-thinking non-profit like T.A. so they can gripe, then let them gripe.

The format of the event was disorganized, but that was also to be expected. At first, I was like, "Oh wow, they actually chose a neutral moderator." But when the blond actress (still don't know her name) cut off TA's legal counselor when he was explaining the new laws about parking garages, I lost all appreciation for her. It's one thing to adhere to the 2-minute cut-off with the silly bike bell, it's another thing to disrupt an important conversation that everyone wanted to hear. Also, she wasn't neutral once she claimed she felt "raped" every time she went into a bike shop and suspected that someone was judging her rusty chain. Wow.

Despite it's shortcomings, the Summit raised a lot of significant concerns about cycling in NYC. The most important and provocative question was: are we, as cyclists, expected to obey all the rules of the road?

This is the crux of many cycling-related issues in New York. We're all too quick to condemn drivers for inching into the bike lane, but we're also the least likely to make a complete stop at a red light or a stop sign. (Or any stop for that matter). What does this mean? Well, I think the chef/messenger/dad/son/entrepreneur/cyclist said it best when he said, "This is not an issue we, as cyclists, can ignore." And he's right: this isn't an issue we can brush off. Perhaps if we institute traffic signals specifically for cyclists that work with a "wave signal" like those mentioned by Caroline Samponaro (*swoon*), the animosity between opposing means of transportation would be lessened.

But as the majority of traffic currently exists in New York, there isn't room for both bikes and cars to be happy. There is too big a dichotomy because NYC was built around cars. So, on one hand it's unfair to expect cyclists to adhere to a city plan that excludes them. On the other hand, we can't evict cars from a city that was built for them (unfortunately). This is an issue that remains unresolved, despite Biking Rules' efforts to promote positive attitudes between car drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. We still live in NYC and everyone is trying to get everywhere as fast as possible. That is a huge part of what attracts people to NYC and I'm not sure how easily that mentality can be changed.

Another issue raised at the Summit was the unfriendliness of bike shops. I took issue with the women who said they are totally intimidated by entering bike shops. OK. I am a woman (though perhaps not the most feminine) and I have a nice bike, but either way I would not feel horribly self-conscious about entering a bicycle store. Don't get me wrong: I have been brushed off my "too cool for school" bike dudes who really don't care at all if I spent money at their shop or even if I come back (hello, R&A Cycles). My response to these women is this: if you are mistreated at a bike shop, go to a different one. To say that ALL bike shops are full of pretentious dudes is not true and I know of more than one bike shop in Brooklyn that can attest to that.

However informal this event may have been, interrupted by babies, Bike Snob, stuttering dudes, and a "neutral" moderator, I think it was an important forum for biking in New York and I would encourage T.A. to do something similar, but more organized, in the future. To promote a more diverse population, perhaps the next event should be highly publicized, on a weekend, and free or based on a sliding scale donation.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Giant Chixie: Cool or Uncool?

I was drawn to a twitter post today that mentioned Giant's new bicycle: the "Chixie," a fixed-gear ride built specifically for women. Though perhaps gimmicky and slightly offensive (chixie? really?), I think there are some good ideas behind this bike.

Let's be honest: bicycle components and clothing built specifically for women have to walk a fine line. Ideally, they would appeal to urban hipster 20-somethings AND forty-year-old suburbanites who are more likely to actually dole out the cash to buy their products. The incentive to make products that people actually buy seems to mean that most of this stuff is designed for the forty-year-old suburbanites (re: trying to buy decent cycling gear here), and less for the 20-something urban rider. The Chixie represents a big step away from the grandma stuff towards the cooler stuff.

My initial reaction to a large manufacturer like GIANT is: ugh, another factory pumping out bicycles without any style. I feel this way about Trek too, although my father would probably disagree. Perhaps it's pretension, but there's something achingly uncool about GIANT and Trek; I just feel like these ubiquitous navy blue/silver hybrid bicycles have no soul. Of course, was my mini Fuji pumped out by some other assembly line in China? Yeah. But at least Fuji knows a thing or two about style (check out their 2010 Classic series: it's so sexy).

I think the ideas behind this bike are good. I know I sound like a broken record when I talk about bicycle sizing, but it IS nice to see a mainstream manufacturer produce something that fits. There is a lot to be said for that. Also: the Chixie incorporates a Sugino crankset, the 46T Messenger, which is a nice crankset for a stock bike. Also: this bike is a little bit cool. It has the plain chrome frame that some fixed-gear riders crave and a nice bright blue color scheme. My guess is the Giant Classic Road saddle is neither comfortable nor designed for women, but that is easily replaceable.

Clearly, if you're a female fixed-gear rider, this isn't the bicycle you're going to take to the track. Also, it's way overpriced. You could buy a small, nicer IRO for $200 less. In fact, I think is speaks more to the "I have money to burn and I might ride this cute bicycle to get my coffee" crowd. But, I'm happy to see companies producing small, sexy(ish), fixed gear/singlespeed bicycles for women. Amen to that.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Interview with a Bike Builder: A.N.T. Bike Mike

Photo from

This is my interview with A.N.T. Bike Mike who owns his own bike building business in Holliston, Massachusetts. Check out Mike's sweet bikes and read his blog here.

Did the name A.N.T. precede Alternative Needs Transportation or were you looking for a name as you started your bike-building company?

Yes. I always liked the name A.N.T. and I think the image fits what I was trying to convey. An ant is small, but can carry many times it's own weight, it works independently, but is part of a larger group [like a bicycle].

How did you initially land a gig at Fat City Cycles and what exactly was your job there?

I rode my bicycle cross country, ended up in Boston and just got a job at Fat City off the street. I worked in the paint department and moved up to lead painter after 5 years.

Did you enjoy working in a bicycle factory? What were some things you liked and disliked about that job?

Fat City was a sweat shop, but a good one. It was a lot of fun, being with other young people that were into bikes, music and art. I disliked the politics, the low pay and lack of benefits...long hours etc... I guess the same issues other jobs in sweat shop factories have.

Are you still involved in Independent Fabrications? I have seen their bikes sold at NYC Velo.

I am still friends with everyone at Indy Fab and drop by there every once in awhile to see what is going on. It is a good place to work, but I wanted more.

How long did it take you to get your independent shop set up (machines, tools, income) to a point where you were able to start your own company with your partner Betsy?

I worked part time as A.N.T. for about 1 1/2 years, before going full time with it. I was still at Indy, working full time, when I started A.N.T.

Do you do any advertising for A.N.T. or do you just rely on word of mouth?

I advertise in Momentum Magazine, Urban Velo Magazine as well as Eco Velo [blog]. I used to advertise in more magazines and blogs/websites, but have tapered off. I depend more on shows and events, like NAHBS and local events. It is better to meet with people in the flesh and show my work off.

Do you enjoy working alone your shop? Do you ever miss having co-workers?

Yes, I enjoy working alone. It would be nice to have someone do the dirty keeping, clean the bathroom, clean the machines, assembly and shipping...answering emails.

What was the first bicycle you made and how did it go?

My first one was made at Independent. It went easy, because we already had a system in place and someone to help me. When I started A.N.T. I was already moving along fine.

I have heard from newbie bicycle welders that it “takes a while to get the handle of it.” Would you say this is true?

My first 50 frames were pretty good, but then the next 100 I thought were not that great. I did not feel good about my welding until I welded about 300 frames. I have welded many, many hundreds now, so pretty good at it now.

About how many bicycles do you build a year?

I build about 45 to 50 complete bicycles a year. These are most often with forks, stems and racks made by me and I build the wheels too, along with being a fully equipped bike with fenders, dyno lights, chainguards and stands. If I were building racing bikes I could make a lot more in a year or if I were only making frames.

How long does it take, on average, to make one bicycle?

Anywhere from one a day to one in a week or more. I have basic bikes that are easy and cost less and others that take a lot of hand work and those take a lot out of me. Making the bike is the easiest thing I do. I am good at it and have a great honed system. It is the running of the business that is hard. I get so many emails and phone calls it can take up a whole day.

What is your favorite part of the manufacturing process of a bicycle, from start to finish? What is your least favorite part?

I like the whole process. I guess that is why I wanted to work alone, so I can do just that...well I don't like shipping.

On average, how much do your bicycles cost?

I don't like averages. My bikes range from $1,400 complete to $6,000 I can make a very nice bike for $2,000 to $3,000

I know you make commuter-minded bicycles that have a retro style. What is your favorite kind of bike to make and why?

I can't have a favorite. I like bikes to much and think you should have many to fill any void. My favorites change with my mood, the weather...but I guess if I had to boil it down...a fixed Roadster with a D-Rack in the front.

How many bicycles do you have and which do you enjoy riding the most?

Right now I have 3. I normally have about 4 or 5, but one just got stolen and the other I sold and have not replaced yet. I have a fixed Scorcher that I like the best right now.

What are people generally looking for in a bicycle when they come to A.N.T.?

Most people see what I have made and offer and just go for an image that I have shown and then maybe modify it a little. I have a nice niche of building a certain style and people come to me for that.

Do you approach your bicycles from more of a design perspective or more of a functional perspective?

I do both. Sometimes from design and others from just function and then melt them in the middle.

How do you think your bicycles reflect your personal style?

Simple from a distance, taking a closer look finding something of interest and much more intricate.

What is the main thing that separates A.N.T. bicycles from other handmade bicycles?

It used to be that I was the only classy black bike with a front flatbed I guess now it is only my personality and they way I work with people.

You say in the Zachary Lee video on your blog that U.S. cities were (unfortunately!) built around the automobile. I think NYC in particular is initiating changes that encourage cyclists to hit the streets—whether it is more bicycle lanes, more bike parking or even free helmets. But there is the feeling, especially in Manhattan, that cars still rule the streets. What do you think we can do as cycling enthusiasts to change this? What do you think is the most important change that we need to see in order to promote cycling as a viable means of transportation?

I think cycling enthusiast are doing all they can and they are getting somewhere. These things take a long time. In the 20 years I have been in Boston it is way better now. Unfortunately I think what would really do the trick is having two things happen...Celebrities on bikes and cute girls on bikes. Most of us in the U.S. are TV babies. We need TV people on bikes. Cute girls on bikes, make boys want to be on bikes [not in a SUV, motorbike or whatever]. Now this is already happening and I think it is helping a lot. Just need more of it and for it to not stop [like a fad].

What would you be doing if you weren’t building bicycles?

I just can't think of what I would rather do.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Dagga in New Bike Film: "Empire"

As I was reading through old Spokes articles (the NY Times bicycle blog) I noticed that Dagga, a female bike messenger who was interviewed for this blog, is featured in the film! I can't wait to check it out. Here is a trailer:

Monday, March 29, 2010

Spring Cleaning

I am back to bloggerdom, I have Spring Fever and I have reinstated my unhealthy obsession with websites like and (enter: Nitto riser, no luck so far...).

In an effort to reclaim my bicycle fanatic status, and in keeping with all things "Spring," I cleaned my bicycle this weekend. This was a poor idea on many levels, namely (1) I wasn't quite sure what I was doing (2) it was 30 degrees out - a brisk and unpleasant change from last weekend's 65.

One good thing about fixies is: there isn't too much you can mess up. I can take off the wheel and the chain without doing do much damage, and that is reassuring. Before I decided to clean my bicycle, I referenced the website of the bicycle encyclopedia man, Mr. Sheldon Brown. Unfortunately, his chain cleaning instructions called for a can of Coca-Cola, but I'm more of a Dr. Pepper kind of gal. With that said, I did what any self-respecting young woman would do: I visited

TeamEstrogen was much more encouraging, complete with discolored photos from the '80s, featuring dish towels and products called, remarkably, "Clean." I noticed the toilet bowl brush they pictured but steered away from using anything that had previously scrubbed the... tub. As a rag I used a black pair of embarrassing Capri pants I was forced to buy at CVS on the way to the gym when I forgot my gym shorts again. They were kind of too big around the waist so I folded them over a thousand times and they were still too baggy in the crotch, but... I digress. I also used a brand new bottle of Simple Green, a bucket that seconds as my bedroom trash can, a Tupperware that became the official chain degreasing machine, and two old toothbrushes. I began scrubbing my BMX grips (I think the dirt is forever stuck in all the ridges). Next I set to work trying to get my back wheel off so I could unhook the chain. This proved a lot harder than I had previously thought - especially because I was using a .99 cent wrench I had just bought at the dollar store.

I was huffing and puffing trying to put all my weight on this nut, when this old (homeless? dude saw me and probably felt bad for me so he offered his assistance. He seemed to know what he was doing but when he tightened the wrench and brought his whole foot down on it (kind of kicking it) I couldn't stop myself from yelping: careful! He didn't seem fazed. He got one side loose and but couldn't get the other side off. He left and told me "I'll be back in awhile." This was interesting, considering I hadn't anticipated a team effort, but sure enough he came back within 5 minutes with a bigger, stronger wrench. He secured the wrench and kicked (wince) it down until the bolt came loose. Yay! When I tried to thank him profusely he just said, "We help each other darling."

I set about diligently scrubbing with toothbrushes, but my fingers got so cold I that I had to take breaks, one of which involved me jumping up and down and running water over my frozen hands in the sink. I scrubbed off the dirt as much as I could from the chain with my toothbrush and scrubber sponge, and I wiped Simple Green over the whole bike. I found that the scrubber sponge worked a lot better than a toothbrush on my chain--the toothbrush seemed to be just spreading the grease and dirt around instead of wiping it off.

In my heated living room I scrubbed down the rims and spokes, and I used Q-tips to get behind the cog and under my brake. I tried to clean as much as I could without taking it apart and I think it turned out pretty well (excuse poor flash photography). Now it just needs to stop raining.

Notes for next time:

1) Wait until it's at least 60 degrees outside
2) Get a wrench that costs more than .99 cents/doesn't strip the track nut when the homeless? man jumps on it
3) Use brushes bigger than a toothbrush