Category: Bicycles

Ad Bikes in Leiden

How pervasive is the bike culture in Leiden, a quaint but dense city 40 km southwest of Amsterdam? I say extremely pervasive. Bikes are being used to prop up advertising. I might add it is a smart way to incorporate marketing without being intrusive.

In the States, we have advertising on billboards, ads on the sides of cars and transits, and everywhere else that has space. We get so many ads from watching television and when we go out on the streets, we are bombarded with even more ads. It gets very commercial, obtrusive and makes the surrounding unattractive.

But using bikes for ads, I think it’s a nice touch. It’s small but it can get your eyes drawn to it due the the simplicity and beauty of a two wheeler.  But make sure no other personal bikes are around the ad bike because other bikes can take the attention away. Here are some ads I see riding around Leiden and I am sure this concept is in other parts of the Netherlands, too.

A creative pop-up store for all kinds of arts and products. Pretty creative ad bike!

A creative pop-up store for all kinds of arts and products. Pretty creative ad bike!

A nice contrast between the bike and its phone carrier store, Vodafone.

A nice contrast between the bike and its phone carrier store, Vodafone.

An ad for Eazie restaurants that serve Asian food.  www.eazie.nl

An ad for Eazie restaurants that serve Asian food. http://www.eazie.nl

Amrani beauty shop with its representative white step thru bike.

Amrani beauty shop with its representative white step thru bike.

If a bike can't get enough attention, attach a billboard to a trailer. Thank goodness this ad is inside the building.

If a bike can’t get enough attention, attach a billboard to a trailer. Thank goodness this ad is inside a building.

 

Bay Area Bikes – Burglarized

Hello all,

It’s very sad news to hear that the Bay Area Bikes shop on Broadway was burglarized this past weekend. It’s a unique bike shop that provides service and products that no other bike shop in Oakland can match. It is this bike shop that Nellie and I got our Bromptons, and got to know its friendly staff.

Our new Bromptons in Bay Area Bikes shop

I just can’t believe that all these bikes that once decorated this shop, and now all are gone.

Most of the Bromptons and Tern folding bikes were stolen, and a couple of Stromer electric-assist bikes (without battery chargers) and an Xtracycle cargo bike. Here are the lists of the stolen Tern and Brompton folding bikes.

In case you can’t identify these bikes, here are some typical examples of them.

Tern and Dahon bicycles look like this.

Tern and Dahon bicycles look like this.

This is what a Brompton looks like.

This is what a Brompton looks like.

This is a Stromer e-bike.

This is a Stromer e-bike.

A example of an Xtracycle bike.

A example of an Xtracycle bike.

See below is the police report.

Chris Bolton Chris Bolton, Oakland Police Department 
In the early morning hours of October 25, Bay Area Bikes in Uptown Oakland was broken into, resulting in the near-total loss of their folding bike inventory. 46 bikes in all were taken: 15 Brompton folding bikes, 20 Tern folding bikes, 3 Dahon folding bikes, 2 electric Stromer bikes (without battery chargers) and 1 Xtracycle cargo bike. OPD was able to make arrests and recover some of the Tern folding bikes quickly due to the actions taken by observant community members; in 4 separate circumstances, citizens saw something that wasn’t right and called OPD – officers were dispatched, arrests were made and bikes recovered.In addition, the business owners were able to quickly provide Dropcam footage to OPD that aided in identification and arrests within hours of the break-in.The community’s help is still needed to help locate stolen bikes and arrest those responsible for this crime. Attached are pictures representative of the bikes taken. These bikes are rarely sold second-hand so any offer to sell a bike of these brands or matching the descriptions should be considered suspect and you should call OPD’s non-emergency line at 510-777-3333.Bike theft continues to be a big problem in the Bay Area. Protect your property by registering your bike; this will aid in reuniting you with your bike in the event it is stolen. Bike East Bay has more information and a link to a free open-source database at https://bikeeastbay.org/register

 

Bay Area Bikes needs your help. Please report to the police if you see any suspicious activity regarding these bikes. Bromptons are rarely sold used in the market.  And you’re not going to see a lot of Stromers on the market either.

And please sign this petition to demand Craigslist and eBay to require serial numbers when bikes are sold on their sites.

Product Review: Biria’s mini velo

Biria Mini-20

Biria Mini-20

About a year ago, I wrote a post on how a mini velo style bike is a great bike for urban living. Well, I changed my mind…it’s not just great- it’s actually the perfect urban city bike!

After moving to Oakland, we were confronted with a new set of conditions. First of all, the streets in downtown have way too many traffic lights for bicyclists. The stop and go momentum makes it harder to ride a full-sized bike. This is where mini velo excels. Its small 20 inch wheels with a lower rotational mass overcomes this problem. It makes it easier to start and stop.

2012 model

2012 model

Very often living in a city, the weight of what you ride/carry to run multiple errands affects your overall experience. Picture yourself locking up your bike several times to different bike racks and also having to lift up the bike from the street level onto the sidewalk. It can get pretty cumbersome. What about those times that you forget to bring your u-lock (or u-lock key). Well, with the mini velo, it is small enough to just bring with you into the shop.

Tektro Tenera brakes and SRAM-X5 shifters.

Tektro Tenera brakes and SRAM-X5 shifters.

BART is a great public transit option in Oakland. There are 8 stations and it covers the city pretty well, but the few elevators they have are tiny and escalators (bikes supposedly are not allowed on them) are super narrow. Many times, carrying your bike down the stairs is the only the option. So, carrying a smaller bike down the stairs and maneuvering a compact bike into a crowded area helps a great deal.

Pro Wheel Chariot crankset, standard 53/39T chainring.

Prowheel Chariot crankset, standard 53/39T chainring.

Moreover, the bike infrastructure in Oakland is relatively bad. You have bike lanes disappearing and even bike sharrows that disappear suddenly. Sometimes, the bike sharrows are in the door zone. And one way streets are common. As you know, it is an obstacle course for cyclists. Sidewalks clearly are not the place for bikes; but when it’s a one way street or you feel your life is on the line, I have to admit I do sometimes ride on the sidewalks (certainly at a very slow speed and where pedestrians are almost absent). Riding on a smaller bike such as the mini velo feels like you are not intruding as much into the pedestrian space.

SRAM X7 rear derailleur

SRAM X7 rear derailleur

Nellie and I moved into another place that doesn’t have nearly enough indoor bike racks in the garage and keeping your bike indoors makes a huge difference to how long your bike stays in good condition (and clean). Thus, we have to store our bikes in our unit. Size does matter. Also, I used to have an office space that a full-sized bike wouldn’t fit, but with a mini velo, of course!

This is my office at work. The Mini-20 easily fits in there.

This is my office at work. The Mini-20 easily fits in there.

In addition to riding in the city, she wants a bike that she can go for a long distance ride sometimes. None of her current bikes meet all of these criteria in one bike. So, Nellie decided to give the mini velo a try on a long ride. We just did a 30 miles/48 km ride, and Nellie wasn’t a bit tired. She said it’s the best bike she’s ever had.

Beautiful, isn't it?

Beautiful, isn’t it?

Here are the specs and comments for the Biria Mini-20:

- Aluminum alloy frame and fork. After a long 20 miles/32 km ride, it can be harsh on your wrists because shock is not as well absorbed. But going just around town, you won’t notice it.  Remember, city streets in America are poorly maintained so this is not a factor if you live in the suburbs or on foreign soil where there is good infrastructure.  The good thing about aluminum is that it’s pretty light at 22 lbs (under 10 kg).

- 51 cm (c-t) frame, one size only. Nellie’s 5 ft 3 in/160 cm tall and there’s only 5mm to go at the minimum at the seat post.  I’m 5 ft 8 in/173 cm and I can still fit, however, I need a longer stem. The great thing about mini velo is that it really can be ridden by a male or a female.

- Two choices of colors for the Biria:  matte black or nickel silver. Nellie had the black one and it’s a nice color in person. Very chic and stylish.

- Tektro Tenera brakes and calipers. Good, solid and soft brakes.

- 20 x 1 1/8 CST tires. They are heavy and cheap, and prone to punctures. We immediately changed them out. The narrow size of tires helps reduce the high rolling resistance from small wheels.

- SRAM X-7 rear derailleur and SRAM X-5 shifters. The shifters are easy to shift with just your thumbs, but it’s a bit slow (not a problem if you’re not racing). Nellie’s bike is 2012 and the current model comes with Shimano 105 rear derailleur, and with 27 speeds (18 speeds for the 2012 model).

- Prowheel Chariot crankset (53/39T). Other than it’s made in China and provides a standard range, I don’t have any comment here.

- Saddle, grips and pedals. The saddle is very narrow at 35 cm wide , and it was immediately replaced with a woman’s saddle. The pedals are horrendously small and one sided only, and was also immediately changed. The grips are fine.

- Joy Tech hubs with Joy Tech quick releases. The quick release wheels and seat post makes it a good storage bike. Surprisingly, it really can fit into our Scion IQ with both wheels removed.

The current model retails at $900, which is not a bad price. Overall, the bike feels solid, more solid than any bike I have ridden. It is zippy and stops on a dime. I could see why these type of bikes are so popular in cities in Asia. I may have to get one for myself in the future.

Nellie and her mini velo.

Nellie and her mini velo.

Velo Love

You all know that the French word for bike is “velo” and with those four letters word, it can spell out “love” in English.  It’s so fitting, right! Because we know how much we love our bikes and if we our significant others have bikes they would love each other as much.  =)

bikes in love3

bikes in love2

Bay Area Bikes – A nice and niche bike shop

This location is located in Uptown, on 2509 Broadway.

The shop’s new location is in Uptown, on 2509 Broadway St.

I passed by and discovered this bike shop called Bay Area Bikes at 2424 Webster St. when I was going to a car rental nearby. It is ironically situated in an area (Auto Row in Oakland) that is filled with car dealerships. Stick it to them, Bay Area Bikes! When I walked in and spoke with Clay who owns the place with his wife, Glenda, I knew this shop was for me. They are great people who believe in making the community livable through biking, and they carry quality bikes because they don’t believe in “race to the bottom prices”. They have bikes and accessories that I really like and they appear to carry bikes for everyday folks, in addition to performance bikes.

A nice setup for Tern bicycles.

A nice display for Tern folding bicycles.

Here is a review from a friend, Kristen, that I think says it all about Clay and his bike shop. One day on the ferry to work, I told her about Bay Area Bikes, and she said, “That’s where I got my bike!” She said that at first, she went to at least 4 to 5 shops all over Oakland and everyone ignored her completely. I have always felt that bike shops intimidate women, particularly women that are buying a bike for the first time, and Kristen is in this category. Most shops carry mostly performance bikes, the employees are usually men, and the way the bike shop looks exudes masculinity. But this particular shop is different from the norm.

These words were taken from our conversation: “When I got to Bay Area Bikes, I was immediately greeted and treated with respect. I had no idea what I needed or wanted, other than a good-for-commuting bike that wouldn’t hurt my back. They suggested a Tern folding bike, demonstrated to me, and let me try out the bike, but I still wasn’t sure if it would hurt my back. They then recommended me to go rent one for a day at their Bay Area Bike Rentals in Jack London Square, but then a friend let me borrow one for a whole week. So I tried it and and went back to Bay Area Bikes.” She got everything from them, from a bike helmet and lock to a commute bag and her dear Tern Link D7i folding bike. She says that through the whole process “everyone was friendly and helpful, and to this day every time I go in for a service (or yet another accessory) they are just as nice and easy to work with, and they never talk down to me.” A great recommendation from a new devoted customer!

Xtracycles cargo bikes for family, headquarters in Oakland!

Yuba Mundo cargo bikes for families, rated #1 by the Danish Cycling Federation (No kidding! From a country known for its cargo bikes).

wefksfljkea

You can get these cargo bikes electric-assisted too!

Stromer e-bikes is made in Switzerland.

Stromer e-bikes are made in Switzerland “because the Swiss don’t build cars.”

There are four locations of Bay Area Bikes now. One is in Pittsburg and the other three are in Oakland. One is a bike rental in JLS as I mentioned earlier; the second is in Uptown and carries commuter and performance bikes. The newest shop just opened about a month ago at 2509 Broadway and 25th Street, which sits in between an Ethiopian restaurant and Smythe’s Accordion Center (yes…that folksy instrument, accordion!). It’s a nice and niche bike shop.

Why do I like this shop particularly? They are the only Brompton authorized dealership in town and secondly, they fill a niche that most bike shops don’t. Furthermore, they sell great quality bikes:  Tern and Brompton folding bikes, Swiss-made Stromer e-bikes, Oakland-based Xtracycle and Yuba cargo bikes, and nice accessories to go with the bikes. The target here is for everyday cycling with utility in mind. And any woman stepping into this shop is not going to shy away. They carry stylish bags and an equal number of bikes for females and males, which reflects the almost equal gender split of ridership in Oakland.

Bromptons of all sorts!

Bromptons of all sorts! Oakland A’s in the top left and Cal Berkeley in the bottom right. I think someone just bought a SF Giant’s one.

Stylish Po Campo bags for the ladies.

Stylish Po Campo bags for the ladies. Yes, they carry Brooks saddles too (not shown).

Clay is a believer in Bromptons, so much that he has a tattoo of it.

Clay has so much faith in Bromptons, so much that he has a real tattoo of it!

Finally, when you talk to Clay, you will certainly feel like you bought the right bike because he only carries bikes that he believes in. Moreover, he has immense knowledge of his bikes and is happy to share his knowledge with you. He knows every little detail about the bikes he carries and can make an informed opinion for you if you like. Oh, his wife Glenda is super patient and I am glad for once there’s a woman working in a bike shop.

If you have a love for Bromptons like I do, this is the place to go to!

Happy Pedaling!

Review: Our experience with the Bay Area Bike Share

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was really ecstatic about the implementation of the Bay Area Bike Share (BABS) and I think it is a sign that bicycles are less marginalized in SF than previously. Having the bike shares lends great legitimacy to the whole bicycle movement. It’s not just obligatory bike lanes going down. Now, the city is backing and putting actual bikes on the road.

Just riding this bike around town branded with its official Bay Area Bike Share logos, I feel that I get more respect from motorists. Now if these anti-cyclists get angry at us like they often do, while riding these bike shares they would be putting the blame on the city too. We’re no longer fringe outcasts in the mean streets of SF. We are now officially backed by the government, consummated in the coolness of a celeste green color.

Townsend and 4th St. kiosk

She’s a beauty! Look at the cushy saddle, perfect for upright bicycling.

Right on the day it was launched, Nellie and I couldn’t wait to get on one. We had tried City Bikes in Copenhagen and it was a terrible system, but of course it was implemented in 1995. My workplace has a free bike share system but it is rarely used due to its campus location on hills. So, I was hoping for a better overall system.

This is where you insert your cc to request a bike

This is where you insert your credit card to request a bike. It doesn’t take Discover Card.

We just wanted to test out the bikes so we got the 24 hours pass. The 24 hours or 3 days pass is inconvenient because you would have to buy it at the kiosk, not online. You would have to first to stick your credit card to purchase, it gives you a 5 digit code on a small piece of paper, and enter it into the keypad on the rack. Then you have five minutes to pull out a bike from the docking station (if you don’t undock your bike within the grace period, repeat the process), then when you want to get a new bike at the next kiosk you would have to do the process all over again. I thought it was annoying. However if you purchase the one year membership of only $88, you just swipe the key fob (which they mailed to you) over the keypad and you get the bike instantly.

The green arrows pointing to the kiosks were the ones that we used that day.

The green arrows pointing to the kiosks were the ones that we used that day.

So we set up a test ride around South of Market (SOMA) to get lunch, errands, shopping and dinner in the end. We got the bikes at Townsend and 4th St kiosk across from the the Caltrain station, and rode toward the Embarcadero because that was the safest route to get to Financial District for lunch. It took us 25 minutes to get to the kiosk at Market and Battery St close to Specialty’s, our lunch place. On the way there, we passed 5 other stations!

It was a little exhaustive pedaling the 50 lbs (23 kg) clunky bikes for 25 minutes but it was very comfortable. They absorbed shocks very well from cracked pavements and potholes. We felt safe riding them, even without helmets. It’s probably due to a few reasons; the upright position you’re sitting provides a better all around view of the surrounding; the stability of the bike from the weight and fat tires; high visibility from the bright celeste green color; and the bike can’t go that fast. These bikes should fit anyone from 5 ft (1.5 m) to over 6 ft (1.83 m) tall. Moreover, I like that the seat post has markings on it to help adjust the next bike you rent to your specific height quickly.

Nellie's foot is 80% better and biking is her best way to get around town.

Nellie’s injured foot is 80% better since the Amsterdam trip and biking is her best way to get around town.

The nice thing is that we just dock the bikes without having to find a pole (bike racks are rare in the Financial District) to lock them. We walked 2 small blocks to get lunch at Specialty’s. That was a nice one hour lunch and felt pretty relief that we didn’t have to worry about leaving them outside. When we were done, we walked another small 2 blocks to get to another kiosk at Market and Sansome St. We stick our credit cards into the machine to get the 5 digits code again to get the bikes. That is about the only hassle we experienced all day – swiping our credit cards to get the 5 digits code and entering on the keypads.

A BABS staff was there on the first day to show how bike shares work.

A BABS staff was at Market and 2nd St on the first day of the launch to show how bike shares work.

Then we rode for a few blocks to Union Square for shopping. We docked the bikes at Market and 4th St. We usually don’t take our bikes to Union Square because of bad experiences. I have two friends that got their saddles stolen. Also in our first few months living in SF our bikes were stolen in the vicinity, albeit we used cable locks. Even though now we have u-locks, but we still don’t want to take any chance.

Almost empty at Howard and 3rd station

Almost empty at Howard and 3rd kiosk on the first day!

After shopping we walked to Howard and 3rd St to get some photos for this blog. We wanted to get some cool looking people and their bikes going home from a long day’s work. Howard St is a one way thoroughfare going from east to west, and it has a high volume of bicycle commuters. Then we rented the bike again to get dinner at Tin’s (our favorite Vietnamese restaurant in the city). It was pretty cool to ride down on Howard St with a bunch of bike commuters.

I love it when car space are removed for bike facilities.

I love it when car space are removed for bike facilities.

Tin’s is located on Howard between 5th and 6th and guess what, a BABS kiosk was nearby. Wonderful! Dropped off the bike at Howard and 5th St, and walked half a block. After dinner it got dark, so we returned to the same station, picked up the bikes and rode almost 2 miles (3.2 km) home passing one other bike share station on the way.

pretty bright front LED headlights

Every bike is equipped with bright front LED headlights.

Flashing rear LED lights.

Flashing rear LED lights.

26 inch x 1.95 inch, are comfortable and wide enough to slide over active light rail tracks.

26 in (660 mm) x 1.95 in (50 mm) tires, are comfortable and wide enough to slide over active light rail tracks.

It was such an easy and pleasant experience with the bike shares at our finger tips. Most bike share stations are located in SOMA (and Market St.) which I think is wonderful. SOMA is such a large neighborhood with some sketchy areas and shops/eateries that are located far apart. Walking could be long and dangerous, so bike shares help in these kind of situations. Moreover, these bikes are available 24/7 any time you need to be transported. You can’t count on taxis and buses during odd hours. Now you may not need to buy a new bike since these bikes are available. It’s almost like you have your own bike but without any maintenance to worry about. Pretty cool, eh!

Even though we didn’t encounter many issues with the system as would be expected at its start, the BABS system can certainly be improved. Here are some of the things that may help:

- There must be a way for kids younger than 18 y.o. to use them besides having their parents or guardians be around to borrow them for them.

- I find the process of checking out bikes for the short-term 24 hour or 3 day memberships to be inconvenient as I explained above. Since it’s part of the public transit system, I think it would be great to be able to use the Clipper card with it.

- Why do all bike shares weigh so much? Nellie has a hard time picking up the bike onto the sidewalk.

- Having a built-in lock would be a nice addition I think. What if you need to make a quick stop in between stations, like for a quick coffee? Maybe, a cup holder to go with your coffee?

- They should put a map near the handlebars visible from the seat of the bike that shows where the locations of the kiosks or a smartphone app to display availability of bikes.

- When they expand this next year, hopefully they will put a few stations in other neighborhoods such as the Mission District, Dog Patch, and Mission Bay.

- In addition to SF and the cities on the peninsula having bike share stations, Oakland should have them too!

Happy pedaling!

More related posts:

BABS launch ceremony (8/29/13)

Bay Area Bike Share launching this August