30 September 2009

Bixi Bike Boston

Bixi bike in use
At the Mayor's Cup criterium race I got to try Bixi bikes, the bikes currently proposed for the Boston Bike Share program. Having just returned from France I can't help but compare them to the Velibs. They do compare favorably, holding their own, different but as good. Velib has less obvious branding on the bike itself, and more plastic, making it "cuter". Bixi has some qualities of its own which I will outline below.

Bixi bike basketThe basket system is less obvious than Velib's, but perfectly functional. It's two bars with a set of pegs on which you strap an elastic band in myriad permutations depending on your needs. My purse did not shift at all on my test ride.

The distance from the handlebars to the seat was much greater than Velib. I'm 5'8" and I felt the Velib was somewhat compact for me, however I felt that I was stretching to reach for the Bixi handlebars. These bikes are North American-sized! My 6' dad will love it, my 5' mother-in-law will not.

Bixi bike measured seat postThe measured seatpost - what a brilliant idea! Once you know your Bixi seatpost height you can set it easily each time you pick up a bike.

The integrated tail lights are a nice design point, though they may be too low to the road. At least they appear robust. The front wheel has the same Shimano dynamo hub as is used in all the French bike shares, I don't know much about this rear hub.

Bixi bike unlockHere is the access point for your bike. You insert your key and when you get the green light you pull your bike to remove it.

Bixi bike member card
This is the key that you would insert into the access box to check out your bike. It's larger than Velib's proximity card, but not too large. Is it a more reliable system? I don't know. I don't think the Bixi agent knew that her manicure was going to end up on the internet!

Bixi bike stationHere's the bike station. They say they can set these up in 20 minutes, and could thus move more at a moment's notice to, say, Fenway if needed. Though I'd be pretty bummed if my favorite station suddenly disappeared. We will need an application for the iPhone like they have in Paris, giving real-time status updates for the nearby stations.

Bixi bike locking mechanismThis triangle-shaped piece is what locks into the station. You roll the bike in between the upright bars in one fluid motion (3 points for your field goal!), and there are pins that then lock around the triangle. This is a *much* more robust system than Velib where a bent locking piece had us looking for a crowbar just to be able to return the bike. You can see in this photo that they don't use the Schwalbe Marathon tires used across France, it is some sort of generic.

My overall impression was of a true North American bike - less chic, more practical than her Parisian sister, and still something fun to ride. A subscription would cost $70-$80/year and I would happily pay that for access to these Bixi bikes, assuming I had access to stations where I need them.

29 September 2009

It's time to start thinking about....

Gentleman's best dressed prize embroidered hankie Boston Tweed Ride

...your outfit for the Tweed Rides this weekend!

The Holliston Tweed Ride is Saturday at 11AM, the Boston-Cambridge Ride is Sunday at 2PM.

Lady's Best-Dressed prize embroidered hankie Boston Tweed Ride
On Sunday's Tweed Ride the best dressed lady and best dressed gentleman, in addition to the natural bragging rights that come with that distinction, will also receive the hankies pictured above, embroidered for the occasion by Initial Impressions. I do so look forward to seeing you.

25 September 2009

Installing Chainguards and Chaincases

chainguard chain guard France
You know, those things on European bikes that make them easier to ride in your work clothes... I got the three pictured above on eBay France, and my friend held them until our visit (merci encore Julien!).

We don't have many chainguards here in the States, and getting them installed takes more than a little Yankee ingenuity.

If you're lucky your bike will have tabs for a chainguard and installation is easy.

Often they're attached with clamps (the Mistral clamps are particularly pretty) which seem the easiest approach, particularly if your bike had a clamp-on derailleur which left a ring of rust (like mine). A friend of mine has mounted the Velo Orange chaincase with clamps and blogged about the process. His required even more Yankee ingenuity because he rides a cargo bike.

I'm getting ready to work on mine this weekend. We'll see if my plan to cannibalize an old SKS chainguard for its guts, and attach it to the winged Simplex chainguard pictured above, will work... I hope to develop a protocol because "La Perle" will be going on Mom's bike (her name means "Pearl"), and the last one pictured will be on Dad's bike. By the time I'm done I'll be an expert at this! (Or I'll give up in frustration).

Additional suggestions gratefully welcomed!

24 September 2009

No Bike in this photo : 2

busted U lock bike parking
A follow up to the broken cable lock, here's a U-lock compromised outside Target this week.

Be careful, there seems to be a rash of thefts recently!

23 September 2009

One Lucky Girl's Motobecane Le Champion

The question of building up Dad's bike has made me new friends. I think you'll all enjoy this rags-to-restoration story of a Motobecane saved from the dump. It's a very chic bike, J's 'not-chic' protestations notwithstanding!

Motobecane Le Champion
I'm not particularly chic, even when riding a bicycle, however, I offer this anecdote which may be of interest. In the spring I refitted a Motobecane Le Champion that I had found at my local town dump / recycling center last year. This was a bicycle that had been neglected for some time and deposited next to the scrap metal dumpster at the dump. I noted the chromed fork, seat and chain stays and thought it might have a higher end pedigree.

 Motobecane Le ChampionIndeed, it was a 1968 Motobecane Le Champion. This was Moto's top Reynolds 531 frame with Campagnolo drop-outs, comparable to Raleigh's Professional model and built with Campagnolo Nuvo Record components when it was new. I wasn't sure what to do with this, too small for me, 52cm frame, until my daughter expressed an interest in having a more refined city bicycle, an upgrade from her old Bridgestone. She lives in NYC, is an occasional recreational rider on the Henry Hudson Green Way and Central Park; the benefits of commuting to work have yet to become apparent to her.

The finished bicycle fits her well, provides a good ride and she likes it, much to my relief, as I had spent a considerable amount of time messing around with it. To sum it up: precipitous in cost, but fun.

Motobecane Le Champion drivetrainAttached are some pictures of the bicycle built up as a fixed gear / single speed and my notes and descriptions of the components used. This might suggest some ideas or offer inspiration for refitting your Raleigh Competition GS, which, in my opinion, would be lovely built up with the original paint work in a black and silver theme.

Motobecane Le Champion

Motobecane Le Champion frameI neglected to photograph the frame in the as found condition, so this picture is of the Motobecane Grand Record frame, (with Nervex professional lugs, comparable to the
Raleigh International, but without the chromed rear stays) and is similar to what the paint scheme was originally like. The pictures of the bicycle with the fenders and chain guard were from an early configuration. Later, I had to remove the bottle cage to the down tube and move the rear fender attachment as close as possible the chain stay bridge behind the bottom bracket to allow for easy removal of the rear wheel.

I'm a Brooks fan, and if you have an everyday relationship with your bicycle with a Brooks saddle you will eventually become best of friends with it. Many riders are unwilling to work through any initial discomfiture to reach that point. Occasional bicycle riders will have a more difficult time liking a Brooks. I wanted my daughter to appreciate Brooks and that is why I splurged on the Brooks Imperial saddle, which is fairly comfortable from the start. If you ride a lot with this particular saddle, it is necessary to keep the lacing properly tensioned so that the seating area will not hammock. Rather a bother, and if riding daily and willing to persevere, one would probably be better off starting with a B-17.

Rene Herse porteurIn building the Motobecane Le Champion up I was influenced by the beautiful Rene Herse Criterium des Porteurs depicted and described in Jan Heine's book "The Competition Bicycle". Picture from book here, but also refer to Bicycles of the Porteurs des Journaux -and- Rene Herse for many more examples.

Motobecane Le Champion
The 1968 Motobecane Le Champion--

  • Frame: Reynolds 531 double butted frame, fork & stays, Prugnat lugs. I considered having the frame repainted as the existing paint work was very poor, but opted for glossy black powder coating, which is a much less costly alternative.

  • Headset: 25x1mm, french threaded, Stronglight Competition V4. Was able to use some of the bits from the headset as found on the bicycle, being one of only two of the original components that were salvageable.
  • Motobecane Le Champion
  • Stem: 8.5mm, 22mm French head tube diameter, Philippe aluminum forged. The French answer to Cinelli.

  • Handlebars: 50cm Nitto "Dove Bars" (much like a Northroad bar) with Origin-8 "Ivy" rubber grips with Velox bar end plugs.

  • Brake levers: Early 80's long lever Dia Compe Mountain bike levers. Yes, inverted Mafac or CLB levers would be cool, but she didn't like them.

  • Seat post: Simplex aluminum 26.4mm.

  • Saddle: Brooks Imperial, womens model. This is the cut out model patented in 1898, so far no complaints.

  • Brakes: Universal 61 center pulls, original to the bicycle. Nice looking, good working brakes. Black brake cable housing. Original Universal cable clamps.

  • Bottom bracket: Phil Wood, french threaded 35x1mm cups, 110mm spindle, 5mm drive side offset. The original spec. Campagnolo BB and cranks were long gone. As found Spidel BB was toast. An expensive upgrade.

  • Crank set: Sugino Mighty Touring, 110mm BCD, 170mm arms, 44 tooth Sugino black BMX 1/8 chain ring. This is a very nice, versatile 110 BCD, crank set.

  • Chain: Izumi 1/8 silver track chain.

  • Pedals: MKS Stream.

  • Wheels: Mavic Open Pro 700c 32h black rims laced using silver DT butted spokes to Formula black high flange 32h hubs, solid axle - bolt on (don't forget your 15mm or adjustable spanner when riding), rear hub is a flip-flop with a White Industries Eno 19 tooth freewheel / Euro-Asia 17 tooth fixed gear cog. This provides a 62" and 69" gear inch, respectively.

  • Tires: Hutchinson Top Speed 700cx28, folding kevlar, black wall.

  • Bottle cage: TA clamp-on black top chrome steel. Klean Kanteen stainless steel bottle.

  • Fenders: Honjo 43mm smooth fluted aluminum.

  • Bell: Universal brass bell.

  • Chain Guard: English Mfg. chrome steel.

  • Seat Bag: VO Croissant bag, looks like a Berthoud, but like that it straps on and costs less. Two spare tubes, tire levers, Lezyne tire pump, (the Zefal hp X is the best frame pump ever made, but the Lezyne works well and fits in the bag) Park chain tool, adjustable wrench.

22 September 2009

No Bike in this photo

broken cable lock
Spotted in East Cambridge, on the sidewalk. Be careful out there.

broken cable lockbroken cable lock

20 September 2009

The New Bike

Raleigh Competition frame in black
OK, we own it, I can tell you all about it now.

Riding Pretty, I'm sorry it's not a step-through for the Boston Tweed Ride. That WOULD be exciting! No, it is the bike I promised to build my Dad if he rode his other bike regularly.

Carlton Raleigh CompetitionIt is a Raleigh Competition GS. The seller says it's from the early to mid 1970's, but I'm starting to think it's later, it has more in common with Sheldon's 1979 than his 1976. Anyway, we're certain it was handmade by Carlton from Reynolds 531 Butted Tubes with Campagnolo dropouts and fork ends. It has delicate gold pinstriping around the head tube lugs.

Raleigh Carlton Competition bottom bracketThe Competition was 3rd among the offerings from Raleigh/Carlton, after both the Professional and the International (which I love). This bike is perhaps even nicer than my Dawes townie (I love you that much Dad!). It's certainly in very good shape, particularly the decals and that rich black paint.

Here are the specifics from the seller:

Seat Tube (center to center) .......... 23" (58 cm)
Top Tube (center to center) ........... 56 cm
Wheelbase ............................. 100 cm
BB Height ..............................10 5/8"
Chain Stay Length ..................... 42 cm
BB Threading ........................ English 1.37 x 24
Seat Post Size ........................ 27.2
Rear Spacing .......................... 122 mm
Stand Over Height ..................... 33"
Drop Outs (rear) ....................Campagnolo 1010
Fork Ends (front) .................. Campagnolo

Reynolds 531 Raleigh CompetitionIn many ways this bike will be a group project with friends of this blog. I will use the three-step paint cleaning procedure taught to me here by longtime reader ALF, which is particularly effective on dark paint. I will use the chrome restoration brush technique taught to me by Monotomy Vintage Bicycles. I will use everything I've learned in the last few years, from reading, riding, and volunteering at Bikes Not Bombs, in order to make Dad the best possible bike.

Aside from the technical considerations, there are the aesthetic ones. I'd had a firm plan, but like all early plans this one needs revision. I thought I'd find a lower-quality frame in the first place, and it would be green or aqua, or something that I could turn green or aqua. My father is a life-long surfer and those are his favorite colors. He also has, for his whole life, wanted to own a Woodie. I thought I would get wood fenders and chainguard and so he would finally have his Woodie.

Trouble is, this frame is black and chrome, a little more sophisticated than I had planned. To add to that, I have chrome hammered Honjo fenders that are not being used, and an extra chrome chainguard from France - all just taking up precious space in my apartment. They would look so good with the chrome stays on this bike.

So what do you think readers? Aesthetically, do I build the bike that would tickle my Dad's fancy? Or do I build the best-looking bike for the excellent frame that I have? I will add that the frame is closer to my husband's size than my father's (though Dad is aging and a smaller bike is ok). If we ever found the perfect frame for wood fenders, I imagine the chrome Raleigh could find itself a home...

What would you do?

See Next Installment

18 September 2009

New Bike Excitement

Shhh, it's still a surprise.

I can't wait to share photos!!!!

See Next Installment

17 September 2009

Sporty Bike Flowers

townie mountain bike with flower on the basket
This humble bike is certainly more fun with the addition of some basket flowers. Hurray for personal touches, they really do bring a smile to more than just one person.

basket flowers bike

16 September 2009

Autumn Arrives

plaid and boots pretty cyclist
Today the wind is cold and the leaves have started falling. You can't see this pretty lady's front but she had a colorful neckline peeking out of her plaid top. I love her boots, and how they match her helmet.

15 September 2009

Make Way for Ducklings

children's bikes locked in front of school
I've seen some discussion about schools not allowing children to arrive by bicycle. I can tell you that is not happening in Cambridge! On our way to the café this morning we saw at least 15 little people under the age of 8 pedaling to school. This photo is of a bike rack in front of one of the schools, every rack and street sign was full.

11 September 2009

Bike Party Boston

My husband came home all excited from a leisure ride the other day. He was riding with some guys on "carbon fiber rocketships" and they were telling him about a criterium race that's going to be held in downtown Boston on September 26. They are all super excited to see the real professionals racing in our city's streets, up close and personal. Even though it's not strictly chic cycling you can call us both really excited, the adrenaline in this setting makes lycra seem appropriate. We did get to see the end of the Tour de France in Paris, but by then they're no longer racing each other. This race will be the thrill of competition at close quarters in our town so it will be fun.

Here's the race course downtown:

Mayor's Cup bike race
The only thing I think is too bad is that they didn't take a page out of l'Eroica's book. My husband has always wanted to do that because his old Italian bike will apparantly qualify him for a bottle of chianti at the finish, in recognition of his appreciation for old Italian things. I hear that the upcoming American Eroica will double the purse for winners on Italian bikes made before 1990.

I think the Mayor's Cup would be more fun if they were to highlight our incredible bike builders here in Massachusetts and have some kind of recognition for people who complete the race on handmade-in-MA bikes. I can't imagine they could double the purse for the pros (already $20k!), but maybe there could be some special made-in-Boston Harpoon beer, or something like that, for the first made-in-MA bike to finish? Wouldn't that be nice?

There will be a concert and party afterward, and of course the next day is the annual Hub on Wheels. We'll be seeing you all there!

10 September 2009

Boston Pedicab makes me sad

My Mom is here! Hurray! Her last visit to Boston was in 2007. When she was leaving I asked what the highlight of her trip had been. My wedding shower? Visiting our family? Nope. The highlight of her trip was taking a pedicab downtown to dine at the harbor.

"OK" I thought, "we can start this visit off with style". I had it all planned. Mom would arrive at Logan and take the Blue Line just to Government Center where my husband and I would zip over by bike. We'd dine on the waterfront and caravan to my apartment by bike & pedicab for mom and her suitcase.

I checked the Boston Pedicab website, we would be well within the service area, timeframe, and guidelines. Just to be safe we made a point of finishing up our cappuccino before the bottom of the sixth inning, knowing that a home game would make cabs scarce. I had no idea that a home game meant that they would refuse us service entirely. They don't say that on the website!

All this has led me to the sudden shocking revelation that Boston Pedicabs are a fun gimmick if you can get one, like the horse-drawn carriages or the rockin' party bus, but not a reliable transportation solution. My own mother doesn't read this blog and I think our experience last night underlies why - we loaded her into a gasoline cab and raced across town to not leave her on the stoop too long, because pedal power remains a fringe activity which is not something my mother can embrace.

I sit here chastened, no longer so smug in my certainty that bikes are a solution for our city transportation needs. Bummer.

09 September 2009

Parallel Parking

blonde on her bikeShe was looking summery as she parked her bike in front of the café. I think of this as an "extreme step-through" frame, is there a more technical term?

04 September 2009

Sexy Brompton

OK, so you all already know that I've got a thing for men who ride Bromptons. So when I saw this handsome man I chased him down and asked to see his bike bag (and also take his photo!).

Brompton cyclist Boston
I noticed his very tasteful summer clothes and his clever black pant clips which discreetly protected his jeans. They're so discreet you can't even see them in this photo! UPDATE: He tells me "They're standard velcro clips with reflective strips, but I wear them inside-out during the day." C, you're clearly a man with good taste who recognizes elegant design.

He showed me his front-mounting Carradice bag and I'm now convinced that this is the only bag to use with a Brompton. The Brompton-made bag leaves a lot to be desired and the original Carradice rack bag has issues of its own. But they've finally gotten it right with this bag and there will be one coming in the mail to my house right away.

Carradice bag on a Brompton

I was particularly impressed with the mounting system onto the Brompton proprietary front carrier block, and structural support for the rest of the bag. Carradice has outdone themselves this time, it's an incredible piece of engineering, well thought out and well executed. I was especially impressed by the two pockets facing the rider while the bag is mounted. I imagine those would come in particularly handy for sunglasses and headlights, etc.

Carradice front bag for Brompton

03 September 2009

LEGS! in Back Bay

great legs on a bike in Boston
I wonder if she has the secret to her great legs there in that bag?
Looking good!

02 September 2009

Boston Tweed Ride Preparations

Massachusetts cycle chic
Image from Wha'ppen

Massachusetts has a long history of both bicycle manufacturing and chic tweedy cycling, as evidenced by this vintage bicycle poster from Northampton, MA.

I'm very excited for our Boston Tweed Ride on Sunday October 4th, 2PM and am working on outfits for myself and my husband. Have you got yours? Will I see you Sunday afternoon?
I hope so!

Spotted this morning

UHaul soldier ride bicycle advocayThose of you who have lived in Boston over the period of Aug. 25-Sept. 5 know what's going on - the entire city is FILLED with vans, trucks, and UHauls, many driven by students who have never operated a vehicle of this size, and all parked haphazardly everywhere.

It kind of feels like a slightly dangerous party.

Anyway, on the side of a UHaul this morning I saw an announcement for Soldier Ride, a program to help combat wounded veterans return to an active lifestyle by cycling. I think this is exciting on many levels. Certainly I am thrilled that our veterans are getting support, I hear so many horror stories about the VA hospitals, etc. that it's good to hear a supportive story for a change. These testimonials make me get all teary-eyed. On a completely selfish level, I'm thankful that these heroes are out cycling, acting as ambassadors of the activity perhaps to people who otherwise wouldn't consider cycling a respectable endeavor. Thank you soldiers. Again.

The blog about the effort is available here: http://wwpsoldierride.blogspot.com/

UHaul Soldier Ride bicycle advocacy