Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Lovely Bicycle for Everyday Cycling

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34 comments:

  1. Not a shaft drive bike (no chain to get grease on your clothes or hands, and no maintenance needed)? Go to Amazon, and see if the ladies version of the more expensive model doesn't suit your needs? $486??? Search for Dekra Ladies bicycle. Seven speeds, twist shifters.

    I prefer wide tires, for a smooth ride (these are 1.75x26"). I prefer rubber and cork grips, 9 dollars at Amazon. The brooks saddles are also there, in case your local bike shop is too stupid to carry them.

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  2. Ah, so that's what these look like! I have never seen one in person or in photos before. Very, very cool. I agree that this bike would need a Brook seat and cork grips -- though the look would probably still be too sci-fi for me. The lack of chain is psychologically difficult to process and would take some serious getting used to.

    But wow, this is fascinating. They even make cruiser bikes!.. Thanks for posting this.

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  3. Brakes: Rod brakes are the ultimate braking system for a lovely bicycle. Many Dutch bikes have them.

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  4. Rod brakes do have a lovely, vintage look to them, but I distrust their functionality. None of the rod brakes I have tried (on vintage or modern bicycles) have been sufficient. When a person is starting out, especially commuting in traffic, effective brakes are crucial. Maybe I have simply never met really good rod brakes. But until I do, I am quite weary of them and would not recommend them as a system on a woman's one-and-only bicycle. This is a personal opinion, but it is a strong one...

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  5. Do any of these lovely bikes take child seats as an accessory?

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  6. Anon. - Yes, I believe any of them will, and these are usually mounted on the rear rack. There are those that attach to the handlebars as well, but I have heard that such systems are not recommended for very young children.

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  7. Almost any bike can accommodate a child seat. They usually mount to the seat tube and seat stays, not the rack. Bobike seats are my favorite and are worth the money. I use one daily.

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  8. Help, I love your Pashley bike however, I'm only 5'3" and I'm concerned about the overall height and weigh of the bike. I live in RI and no bike shops here carry European bikes. I also live in the country and ride for pleasure on counrty roads and bike trails (bike rack needed) in RI and MA. I can't seem to find a bike shop that would have several European style bikes for me to try. I'm not the type on person who will order a bike without first taking her for a ride. Any suggestions would be great. Love your blog! Linda

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  9. Linda,

    Size-wise, the 17.5" frame ("small") should fit you if you are 5'3". Weight-wise, it is very different for every person. I consider my Princess to be on the borderline of being too heavy, but then I am not very physically fit. Others consider the Pashleys "light" compared to Dutch bikes, which are even heavier. Of course, the question is also "too heavy for what"? It is not too heavy to ride, but too heavy to haul up and down flights of stairs. So if you live in a 3rd floor apartment and plan to keep the bike in your livingroom, I would not recommend a Pashley (or any proper Dutch-style bike) unless you are a professional weightlifter. But if you live on the first floor, or will store the bike in a garage/shed, than the weight is fine.

    Since you are in RI, drive over to West Newton Mass. and visit Harris Cyclery. They have a 17.5" Pashley in stock right now that you can try. It is not a Princess, but the frame is the same. Hope this helps!

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  10. I've recently decided to ride a bicycle as my main form of transport and am having a difficult time finding anything in my area to test out. I live in the southern most part of Texas in a town called Mcallen. I've been doing lots of research online (on budget bicycles) and am interested in several Biria models, possibly the Torker Cargo (though I do not like that it is one size fits most), and the Breezer Freedom. I also just discovered the Flying Pigeon brand on your site but can't seem to find any online that are more than one speed.

    I am also small like the above poster. At 5'2", 100 lbs. i'm not sure if i could handle a steel bike, but I do need something sturdy as I will be toting around packages, groceries, and sometimes an oversized backpack (though not all at the same time :).

    I'm willing to travel to San Antonio, Austin, or Houston to find a great bike. Are you familiar with any bike shops in these areas? Any other suggestions would be wonderful. Thanks so much for the fantastic blog!

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  11. upsun - I think the Biria Classic is one of the best deals out there, as far as bikes of that style go. It seems very well made, comes with the accessories necessary for commuting, and the price is very reasonable. I am not as much a fan of the Torker and never tried the Breezer.

    Have you asked Flying Pigeon LA or Flying Pigeon NY whether they can make the bike into a multi-gear for you? One thing to be aware of with the FP is the rod brakes: They work fine, unless it rains - in which case they lose 70%+ of their effectiveness.

    Being short does not mean that you cannot ride a steel bike. After all, the weight of the bike varies depending on the frame size - So if you get a smaller bike, it will be lighter.

    I am not familiar with Texas, so can't help with bike stores in the area. My guess is that San Antonio is your best bet and you might just want to look up "San Antonio bike shops" online and see if anything interesting comes up. You can also contact Biria and the other brands that interest you and ask them about local retailers. Good luck!

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  12. Thanks so much for the response! I've decided to first get used to commuting on my old bike and then step up to something better. Although I've also been looking at the Electra Amsterdam I'm still leaning towards the Biria Classic and may even end up taking a leap of faith and ordering one online. :) Thanks again for your help.

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  13. upsun - There is a reason that virtually every bicycle in the world made for real work hauling is steel, even though these days aluminum is roughly the same price. Actually there are several reasons; all of them very good. Millions of Asian women under 5' and under 100 lbs. handle steel bikes every day just fine; often carrying loads heavier than the bike as well. As Filigree says, unless you have to routinely pick it up there is no reason at all to avoid it.

    If you want a real hauler the Torker Cargo may be your best choice. Its a very good generic bike with the money put into stuff that works instead of how it looks; and is actually rather prettier than it looks, if that makes any sense to you.

    And you shouldn't have to travel any farther than Bike World to get one. It's "maker" is Seattle Bike Supply, a company that nearly every American shop orders from. If you see a Redline on the floor you know for sure they have an SBS account. Reline is SBS's "Pontiac" brand and Torker is their "Chevy."

    If you just want to buy something and fugedaboutit the Breezer would be the choice, even given that it is aluminum. It not only comes well equipped, but the equipment works well. It is, however, more of a middle class suburban commuter than a real hauler. More briefcase and watercress crowd than backpack and case of Bud. I don't mean this in any "class" sense, but in the way the bike is actually built and equipped.

    The Biria has a well made frame and is offered at a good price, but one of the ways it manages this is to cut corners, particularly on the quality of the accessories. The lights in particular seem to be something that people find simply have to be disposed of and replaced with something of the quality that comes standard on the Breezer. If you want an old Dutch style or an Easy Board, consider them (in fact in the Easy Board it's your only choice), but in a standard U frame, I'd suggest looking elsewhere.

    As for the Flying Pigeon, only buy it if you are Chinese - and IN China. Around here its a novelty piece that will only be a headache.

    And speaking of China, there is no reason to let country of origin enter into your decision making, all of the bikes above, despite what their marketing might imply, are "Asian" to the core.

    Given your needs and location I'd go with the Torker if you can ride it even with the seat slammed all the way down. Then change the handlebars to whatever works to place the grips where you want them. Fitting a utilitarian bike is a very different thing than fitting a "road" bike.

    I've never been to McAllen, but I'm not entirely unfamiliar with your area - I spent a year in Laredo one weekend.

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  14. kfg-thank you very much for the information. I had already taken the Torker Cargo out of the running but now I'm rethinking it. This is day two of commuting by bike (on my old bike, a $60 Huffy :) and I'm still trying to gauge how much I will need to carry around with me. I don't want to overkill it by purchasing the Torker if I don't really need that much hauling power. Today I put my oversized backpack in my front basket and tied my purse onto that. After leaving work I need to buy groceries, but will have to make a trip home first so that I can drop off the backpack. It would be nice to be able to just go directly to the grocery store. If I did this on another bike, it would need to hold an oversized backpack, purse, two gallon jugs of water and groceries for a week. Is this considered a huge load or would it be something that a Biria could handle? What would the bike equivalent to a Subaru Forester be? :) That's what I drive.

    There is so much more thinking involved when commuting by bike. Figuring out what will fit and what won't, finding the best routes, etc. I find it challenging and fun though. :)

    I've emailed Torker asking them what the frame on the Cargo bike measures. I can't do anything over a 17". This could be the deal breaker, we'll see what they say...

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  15. kfg-just realized that I have to take my backpack home because it has expensive recording equipment in it which i definitely cannot leave outside. going directly to the grocery store isn't even an option no matter what bike I'm taking.

    So that leaves me with these 3 load options: an oversized backpack and purse; 2 gallon jugs of water and a weeks worth of groceries; or a few packages to deliver to the post office. Would any of these scenarios require a Torker or would that just be too much? Thanks again for the input.

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  16. "I put my oversized backpack in my front basket"

    Your idea of an "oversized" backpack appears to be different than mine. :)

    Therefore:

    The bike you love is always the right bike. If you've got your heart set on an Oma then I certainly don't see any reason to rule it out. You'll just have to fit a basket that has a metal mounting bracket to sit low over the fender, or a porteur rack with a box/milk crate on it. Milk crates are cheap, functional and weather proof. A wooden box on an Oma looks smashing though, especially after they've weathered a bit. Or a plain old Wald paperboy would do the job, if you don't mind looking all cross cultural and shit.

    A set of Dutch shopping panniers on the back and another box/crate on top and you're good to go. Biria HO! Oh, wait, that phrase could have an unfortunate interpretation these days. Never mind.

    "What would the bike equivalent to a Subaru Forester be?"

    The Surly Big Dummy, but you REALLY don't want people shouting "Big Dummy HO!" at you as you go by. Don't ask me how I know. Just trust me on this one.

    "There is so much more thinking involved when commuting by bike."

    Only because it's new thinking. In a couple of years you'll just take it for granted. People will ask you how you get places and you'll wonder what the question is all about; "You get on the bike, point it in the direction you want to go and start pedaling. When you get there, you stop peddling. What's the big deal?"

    An awful lot of thought has actually gone into your commuting by car if you stop to think about it, but it's old thought you just routinely apply now so it SEEMS thoughtless as you do it thoughtlessly.

    "I find it challenging and fun though. :)"

    You're the kind who'll do OK. We can stop worrying about you now.

    "I have to take my backpack home because it has expensive recording equipment in it"

    Ahhhhh! Yes. I've been known to head out with a Porta-Studio or a Mac and interface, with a Bucket-O-Shure 57s and maybe a couple of M-Audio Luna mics. If I ever hit the lottery I've been drooling over the Blue Dragonflys.

    Now if I could only figure out how to carry two guitars, a banjo and a fiddle without people yelling "Big Dummy HO!" at me all the time I'll be set. Maybe I just need to get a Subaru Forester, but I'm not sure how people manage to get around in car. They must be super human or something.

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  17. kfg - I need to learn to swallow the coffee in my mouth before reading your remarks
    : ) Thanks!

    upsun - Bottom line is, that you've got to be honest about what you really want. If deep down you have your heart set on an "Oma" frame, you will still want it even after you buy something else. So just go for it, eh!

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  18. kfg-Surley Big Dummy is such an unfortunate name for a bike, or for anything for that matter. :)

    Yes, I agree with the new thinking comment. Pardon my naivety when it comes to the bike world. Hey, we're all naive at some point.

    My "oversized backpack" also carries an M-audio and Mac, headphones and oxygen keyboard. It gets the job done.

    Thanks Filigree. The Torker Cargo would be very handy if it's a good fit. It's come down to size at this point.

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  19. Hi I wrote you last weekend about the Pashley. I took your advice and went to Harris today and I'm now the very happy owner is a Pashley Sonnet Bliss. No name for her yet but I love the ride and feel of the bike. Harris staff were just over the top with help. A little noise in the fenders and seat tilt adjustment fixed my first concerns. The basket that was on the bike was damaged they very nicely gave me a Peterboro woven basket which I like better. I wasn't in love with the gribs and they changed them to a leather style no charge for this either. She rides like a dream. I can't wait till Saturday to take her on a long ride. One question she needs a dress guard. I was going to order one from the sites you listed. Since there isn't a guard on the bike now how to I attach the dress guard? This was one question that Harris couldn't answer. Will any fender take a guard - do they snap on? Thanks Linda

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  20. Linda - Oh cool, you got the Sonnet! The people at Harris are indeed very nice and will go out of their way to accommodate.

    Re dressguards: When you buy them, they come with connectors. The type of connector differs depending on the dressguard. Some clip to the fender, others have attachments that go over the top of the fender.

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  21. Bike Jewelery from Holland

    Take a look at my website to make your bike even more beautiful... Everything is handmade.

    Kind regards,
    Simone.

    www.simeli.nl

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  22. Simone - your handmade dressguards are beautiful. are they resistant to rain? And do you make custom colors?

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  23. That is a lovely criteria list - for very lovely bicycles.

    Now comes the part 'shameless self advertising - but not without a good reason':

    Please have a look at our pretty beautiful BELLA CIAO bikes here http://www.bellaciao.de/

    Kind regards and best wishes from Berlin.

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  24. We set up a hiring scheme in Darlington, England with city-Dutch-Bikes: Have a look
    www.velodarlo.org
    We are starting to extend it now. Does anyone want to copy that? We are happy to help with advice.

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  25. Dear bellaciao, your bikes look nice but they are not very practical, sorry. No lights, no rear luggage rack, no skirt guard. Do not copy British or American habits, it does not help and does not get people on bikes. Maybe in Berlin???

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  26. Simeli, do you export your bikes to Britain? Do you work with a British retailer?
    We are expanding a Hire Scheme in Darlington right now, but we have to buy the bikes in the U.K.

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  27. I have an idea for lovely bicycle bag. KLICKfix bags by Rixen and Kaul. Now are available on Velofred.com

    http://www.velofred.com/index.php?manufacturers_id=16

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  28. Just to put in a word for the Flying Pigeon, I have had one for four years, and I love it, rod brakes and all. I do live in Los Angeles, so rain is not an issue, but neither would it be in South Texas. I did change to an SRAM S7 hub in the rear and an electric hub motor in front, but the bike looks stock for all that, and is a gorgeous thing. A whale among minnows, as someone said.

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  29. I'm looking for a budget(!) bicycle and reviewed the ones you've suggested. Though Biria's dutch model is no longer available, they have a "Citibike" step-through that looks quite stunning. The website is so bare bones, in a way that is almost like a scam... but it doesn't seem to be. I tried googling it in hopes of finding a review or 2 and maybe a candid photo of it, but nothing! I did call Biria's info line and was given a $389 price point!

    Have you seen or heard of this series?

    http://www.biria.com/bicycles/cb/cb_700c_lady.jsp

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  30. I'm sorry... I've been nosing around your blog with several tabs open and posted under the wrong entry. :/

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  31. Called again this morning about the Citibike. They just launched the series last week... explains why I couldn't find anything on it! They also said they have no plans to reintroduce the dutch series in the foreseeable future. I guess the Citibike is selling very well in New York City already.

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  32. Michelle - Thanks for the link. They have put derailleur gearing on this version of the bike - I am guessing because people complained about hills when riding the Dutch bike with 3-speed internal gearing. The derailleur on this model will make cycling uphill easier, but it reverts to the problem of maintenance and getting ones clothes dirty. Overall, it simply depends on the cyclist's priorities: Do you need to zip up hills and cycle fast, or do you need to arrive to work with your suit unsoiled? For the latter I would recommend a bike with an internally geared hub.

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  33. Oh darn, your page for "A Lovely Bicycle for Everyday Cycling" is not available. Any suggestions for getting to this posting? Having found your blog, i'm dying to read it all, as your early posting seem to match my feeling about the usual bicycling culture. I really feel I can learn a lot from you.

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  34. Sorry Diane, the link was broken; I've fixed it now.
    It is this page here!

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