Sunday, May 29, 2016

Summer of Reviews and Projects



As my readership is always somewhat fluid, I imagine not everyone is aware that Lovely Bicycle began primarily as a product review/ industry commentary type of blog, from a then-beginner's perspective. Frustrated by the lack of information on comfortable, attractive, and beginner-friendly transport bicycles available at the time, my intention was to - well, provide some, in the process also raising issues that, while important to those new to the cycling scene, were then very seldom addressed.

A lot has changed since 2009 - both in "cycling culture" and in my own circumstances. For one thing, I am no longer really a beginner cyclist (a status that would have been difficult to maintain over 7 years of constant cycling for transport and sport!). Through continued dialogue with builders and manufacturers, I have also developed a keen interest in the design aspect of things, and have learned quite a bit about bicycle production over the years - to the point that I now freelance as an industry consultant.

More recently though, my personal life has undergone a pretty dramatic upheaval. This led to reviews and design talk taking a back seat on the blog for a while - to the point that whenever I do post a review these days, new readers almost seem to feel it is out of character. So I guess one reason I am writing this, is to remind everyone that product reviews, design discussions, and general industry musings, are really at the root of this blog. It is the reason I try so many bikes and cycling-related products. It is the reason I never tire of examining and gushing about bicycles, new and old, despite being perfectly happy with my own personal ones.

Moving to rural Ireland did present some logistical challenges for continuing in this vein. But now that life here has settled, I am fortunate to be making new connections. I am equally fortunate that manufacturers are actually willing to work around my hermetic lifestyle and send me products to collaborate on, test and review.


All that is to say: This summer the reviews aspect of this blog is coming back in full force. Being a little bit older and (maybe?) wiser now, my aim is for the reviews to be accessible to those for whom they are most relevant, and for the comments area to maintain a welcoming atmosphere. Should you ever feel that either of these falls short, please feel free to drop me a line.

Among the bicycle reviews coming up this summer:

The Bike Friday Haul-a-Day
A small-wheel, fat tyre, disassembleable cargo bike handmade in Oregon, USA. I have already posted an introduction to this very cool machine, and a long term review should be ready by mid-summer.

The Bobbin Birdie
I first reviewed the Bobbin Birdie just after it came out. Since then it has been the upright 3-speed I probably recommend most often to those looking to buy their first new bike. This summer I will be revisiting the Birdie in an interesting two-rider comparative review that will include the impressions of a "real-life" beginner cyclist shopping for her first bike, as well as my own.

The Rivendell Clementine
It has just arrived at my door, and I am speechless. The Clementine defies attempts at a brief summary, except to say that I think Riv has hit the sweet spot with this one. Long term review by the end of summer, but an intro and related posts will start popping up sooner.

Also in the works are a few one-off test rides, including of the Urban Arrow electric cargo bike. Stay tuned!


The biggest product review coming is that of the Brooks Cambium Range. At one point I had mostly stopped using Brooks saddles. The Cambium brought me back to the brand, in a big way. At this stage I have been lucky enough to try nearly all of the Cambium models (including the new carbon saddle). A very detailed long term review is coming in June.

Other product reviews in the works include a sample from Brompton's new luggage rangeTim+Tas Porteur Bag from Holland, Svelte cycling clothes from London, Pelago racks from Finland, Bookman bicycle lights from Sweden, as well as bicycle lights from Lezyne, rain gear from the Irish brand As Bold As, handmade cycling underpants (oh yes!) from Oregon-based IvelieuRustiness grips from Velo Orange, and a multi-rider 650B fat tyre comparison extravaganza.


On the designery front, I am going to talk about the rear rack (in production for two years now!) that I designed for Bella Ciao bicycles and have been stress-testing the heck out of with only minor consequences.

In a somewhat different vein, I am hoping to soon introduce you to Donard Bicycles - an Irish maker of steel and carbon bicycle frames, documenting his process of - and thoughts on - producing carbon fiber tubes from scratch.

Last but not least... and I nearly have to pinch myself as I write this, but I am working on a project with Seven Cycles that has me close to peeing in my pants with excitement. We are considering a collaborative special edition bicycle, based on the Seven 622SLX model, with a ... shall we say very particular geometry designed by me (can you guess what it is?), a special paint scheme, and Lovely Bicycle decals into the bargain. Whether anyone will actually want to buy such a thing is another matter. But in any case, we have a prototype (unpainted), which I am now in the process of testing and will write about very soon.

All that said, I will leave you to process this jumble of an announcements bulletin and enjoy the rest of your (long, in some cases) weekend. Wishing you lots of bicycle rides, and thanking you, as always, for reading Lovely Bicycle - be it stories, reviews, or general two-wheeled nonsense!