More Mixte Emotions

The Friday Cyclotouriste - an SF based comrade in the 'ride beautiful bicycles slowly' struggle

It seems I’m not alone with my distate for velo-gender-prejudice. Nathan at the achingly well-shot The Friday Cyclotouriste rides his Nishiki mixte (avec basket) with pride. He also stated his case far more eloquently and succinctly than I could ever hope to:

“People sometimes tease me for riding a girl’s bike, but I could care less if it’s a girl’s bike. This is not just a case of a well developed Jungian anima at work. The step-through frame is downright practical for city riding and for things like getting on and off at red lights.”

Check out the full blog entry and more here: http://thefridaycyclotouriste.com/?p=2752

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The Utility Bike – is there any other kind?

A friend of mine described my all-rounder bike as a utility bike the other day. Although not intentional, I detected a hint of condescension in his choice of phrase. But I didn’t take offence. I mean what could be so wrong with owning a useful bike?

Seriously, is there any other kind of bike? Let’s break this down for a moment. A ‘Utility’ bike is presumably a bike that’s built to be used. Surely all bikes are built to be used, no? I mean, who would buy a non-useful bike?

Plenty of people – is the answer, certainly if the product ranges of the major manufacturers are anything to go by. Carbon bikes, bikes with tight clearances, bikes with no room for mudguards, no braze-ons for racks, painted and decaled too flashy to leave hanging around anywhere. Such bikes dominate the sport-obsessed market.

I’m a bike enthusiast. I’d shy away from the word evangelist or advocate – too laden, but I won’t buy anything that’s too outwardly flashy or expensive. It’s not an Amish tendency at play here – it’s all about the point on the graph where the utility curve and the expense curve intersect. Or to put it simply – after a certain point, the more you spend on a bike, the less useful it becomes.

How so? Because if you spend too much on a bike, you’re less inclined to leave it locked up in town, you’re less likely to leave it in the bike rack on the train and you’re less happy with using it as your everyday bike. And I’m not just talking about high-end road or mountain bikes here. I’m forever tempted to upgrade my all-rounder tourer/commuter/trail/road bike with a better frame, wheels, etc and ditch some of the begged/borrowed/ebayed parts for something more flashy, but when all’s said and done, I’ll end up with a bike that I’m so precious about, I’ll never use it.

As it stands, I’ve got a low key, comfortable, adaptable bike, that, with care and a bit of luck, I’ll still be riding in a decade.

Daily Commuting Tip: Is your bike “Ready to Ride”?

My overriding philosophy (don’t you just hate people who’ve got overriding philosophies) for a commuting bike is that it’s got to be ready to ride whenever you are.

Your commuting bike shouldn’t sit there, like that impulse buy home multigym, making you feel guilty for not doing ‘serious’ exercise. It should lean casually in your hallway, like a two wheeled 50s era Marlon Brando, casually ready to ride.

Your commuting bike should never make you dress up for a date. A proper commuting bike should take you just the way you are. You don’t need to put on special shoes or special pants before you’re ready to go.

Your bike should be ready to go at all times and in all weathers. It should have mudguards, flat pedals and bags to put things in (bags on your back are a bad idea).

Your bike should also be ready to stop whenever you feel the need. A built in wheel lock, Dutch style, is the way to go. Flip the lock, immobilise the back wheel, pocket the key and pop into the shop on the way home for those groceries. Swap out that quick release on your front wheel too. Get a security skewer or a nutted front wheel. Seriously, how much longer does it take to undo a nut as opposed to a quick release? You’re not racing are you?

Get a prop-stand. Practicality aside, there is simply no cooler sight that a bike leaning, James Deanesque, at the side of the road, and that jaunty, 10-degrees-off-vertical angle.

The elite level commuting bike will not only have all these utiluxuries. It will be a Plain Jane – it’ll dress down, blend in with the street furniture. Subdued, natural colours and no logos are the way to go. Who wants to be a billboard, when your target audience is are bike thieves?

You can buy bikes like this everywhere, but bike shops seem reluctant to sell them. There is a movement out there, but it’s glacial. Google ‘Dutch Bike’ and you’ll find loads of outlets for quality town bikes.

But, evolved as Amsterdam Black Widows are, there’s no need to go Dutch. Maybe you’ll want a bike that’s good for high days and holidays too? Base your commuting bike around a good, light touring, hybrid or all-rounder frame and you’ve got a true multipurpose bike, ready for day rides and touring, as well as the daily potter to work; highly evolved for commuting, but not too specialised that it’s not suitable for a quick getaway.

Ch, ch, ch, changes





The postman arrived today with  two packages containing three items, which meant some QT with the all-rounder bike. New additions are:

The ultimate barbag, seatpack or manbag – A Swedish Army Gas Mask Bag re-purposed as a bike bag. I’ve long thought that Army Surplus kit can be made into great cycling luggage and this is my first item. 
I saw it first on OYB – a cool sustainable living blog. This guy adapts his to make it work on the bike even better, adds his OYB (Out Your Backdoor) patch and resells ’em. And good on him. Take a look.
I bought mine from Ebay shop Jungle Clothing UK
The second item was a kickstand – I always loved the kickstand on my Raleigh Chopper when I was a kid, so why not have one now. I’ve got one on the Dahon and I use it at least three times every ride. 
Last item from the postman, and definitely least, was a very boring pair of curved rack mounts for my SL Tournee rear rack, meaning I can use it in conjunction with V brakes. 
The other change I’ve made is to swap the 610mm North Road bars for a narrower 490mm pair with a greater sweep-back. They were on a Pashley trike I’ve got that was just begging for wider bars. I’ve polished them up – they’re a little scratched from about 20 years of usage, but I think the scratches polished out count as beausage.
I’ve finished them with a minimalistic wrap of bar tape and a pair of wine cork bar end stoppers. 
Most people think I’ve created Frankenstein, but to me, she’s a workaday Venus.  

York – City Cycle Commuting Photodocument

The first in a series of photo documents that I’m doing in major UK cycling cities. The idea is simple – just me, a camera and some cyclists, and pretty much let the pictures speak for themselves.

Not a new idea. Amsterdamize and Copenhagen Cycle Chic have been doing it for ages. But I’d like to document what’s going on in UK towns and cities. 

http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=71649

Primal Blueprint – 5 and a bit week Update

13st 1.2lbs on the scales this morning. The weight is still coming off slowly but surely. 
The further away I get from my old carb laced diet the happier my body seems to be. Its getting to the point where I’m so satisfied with my food intake that it’s hard to eat over 1800 calories a day without really trying or really feeling bloated. I’m trying to push it up to around 2000 calories per day, which will still leave me around 900 calories in defecit even on a really sedentary day. 
My body fat is down to just over 20 percent now, which is great. I’ve been upping my bike riding and walking, plus doing Tabata sets and free weights every other day. 

Above: Primal gearing for a Primal Blueprint kinda ride? The country bike in singlespeed mode.  
I’m also going to convert my green country bike back to singlespeed (how it started life) to give my ride some ‘muscle confusion’ as Mark Sisson would put it. 
You see, cycling seated at a constant cadence isn’t a very good primal exercise – Grok didn’t do turbo sessions. He sprinted, climbed, stooped, lunged, lifted and stretched. 
I think that a one speed bike will encourage me to use more of my body when climbing or muscling the bike through mud and rooty sections. Plus it will give me natural variations in cadence, torque and so on. Sometimes I’ll have to get off and push/carry – i.e. more variation – more primal. 
Plus I get some valuable shed time… Always thinkin…

Carry Freedom Y Frame

Toying with the idea of getting a load carrying trailer for shopping and touring and, as chance would have it, and my mate Oli has a Carry Freedom Y Frame hanging around that he no longer uses. 

The Y frame is a simple but high quality beast with a box section aluminium frame, laminated ply top, top quality button release wheels (like QRs on a wheelchair) and Schwalbe Marathon tyres. It takes all kinds of bags and boxes, with the Aberdeen (Scotland) based outfit offering a variety of different containers. The simplicity of the design, essentially just a flat bed, means that it can accommodate loads of all shapes and sizes. Some people even port kayaks around on theirs. The main use that I can see will be for shopping trips, with occasional camping trips in the summer. The great thing is that the trailer quickly and easily folds flat for storage, meaning that it won’t impinge too much on the shed/under-stairs real estate. 

Oli is currently ferreting around trying to find all the pieces for it – then I’ll take a closer look before hammering out a deal…

http://www.carryfreedom.com/Y-Frame.html