Search results for: brompton

Brompton Urban Challenge coming to Oakland!

New York

Hello Brompton fans,

Bay Area Bikes will be hosting North America’s first Brompton Urban Challenge right here in Oakland, CA. What a delightful treat!

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Here’s an email I received from Bay Area Bikes and want to pass it along.

Dear Christopher,

Pedalfest, our annual tsunami of bike fun is right around the corner. New to this year’s event offerings is Brompton’s first-ever North American Urban Challenge. For the uninitiated, Bromptons are simply the most fabulous compact folding bikes around and as the Bay Area’s most renowned Brompton dealer, we’re honored to be the first to host this event. The Challenge will take the form of a scavenger hunt with all types of bikes tooling around downtown Oakland in hot pursuit of famous landmarks, hidden gems, and highlighted bicycle-friendly businesses. 

I’m inviting you, as a fellow business owner or community leader, to create a team of your cohorts to participate in the Challenge! Make it a team-building event; challenge a neighboring business; have fun with it! 

Rules are simple: follow a series of clues across the city, snap photo evidence of the answers and post to social media. Interpretation of the clues earns extra favor in the eyes of the judges (oh yes, there will be prizes)!  The route will include classic Oakland landmarks and a mix of special locations only revealed on Brompton Urban Challenge Day. 

No Brompton? No problem! Register for the Challenge and we’ll hook you up with one of the limited Bromptons available on a first asked basis. Or you can bring your own bicycle, provided that your team has at least one participating Brompton rider. 

The Challenge starts and finishes at Jack London Square and runs from about 10-4. Family and friends can partake in Pedalfest activities while you’re on your challenge, and can track your adventure by following the hashtag #BUCOAK.  And since your registration includes a free Pedalfest beer token, you’ll be sure to want to stick around after and take in all the Pedalfest activities. 
Take the Challenge and show your Oakland knowledge and pride on July 25th!
Register here!
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Traveling to the Netherlands with a Brompton

What Options to Transport:

My Brompton with a full Brompton C Bag and a full Carradice Nelson long flap saddle bag at an Oakland BART station.

My Brompton with a Brompton C Bag and a Carradice Nelson long flap saddle bag at an Oakland BART station.

There are many options to travel on the plane with a Brompton. You can get a suitcase or a hard case that is designed for a folding bike, you can box it up at home or at the airport, you can also try gate-checking, or bring it on the plane as a carry-on. I took a combined approach. Because I wanted to be able to ride to and from the airports and not having to rely on taxis or transits, I decided to get a portable transport bag and checked in my Brompton. Moreover, I already have enough stress as it is from flying, I didn’t want the extra stress from dealing with TSA and gate-checking staffs.

The Nelson long-flap saddlebag and the Brompton C bag were enough a month's bike trip.

The Nelson long-flap saddlebag and the Brompton C bag were enough for a month’s bike trip.

From SFO to Schiphol Airport:

I took my Brompton along with a Brompton C Bag and a Carradice Nelson saddlebag to the BART station and arrived at SFO. The C Bag was big enough to fill 3-4 days worth of clothes and a laptop, while the saddlebag is filled with electronics, bike repair kits, and a transport bag. I have the Nelson saddlebag hooked up to a quick release clamp for easy on/off the saddle. Traveling during the rainy and cold season for a month requires some extra gears and because I wanted to blog while I was there, extra electronics were needed as well. These extra things made both bags very heavy and bulky, and a real hassle to bring my Brompton as a carry-on.

This transport bag by Vincinta served my purposes very well. When it's folded, it's small in size and can be mounted on the handlebar, bike frame or on a saddle with rings.

This transport bag by Vincinta served my purposes very well. When it’s folded, it’s small in size and can be mounted on the handlebar, bike frame or on a saddle with loops. When it’s opened, there’s enough room to shove in clothes or what have you to protect your Brompton.

When I arrived at SFO, I whipped out the transport bag and put my Brompton in at one of few shrink-wrapping stations. I didn’t remove anything from the bike and just tightened the hinge clamps. Then I stuffed my 3 separate plastic bags of clothes, two on both sides and one on top of the Brompton, all to protect the frame. And had the clerk shrink-wrapped it to keep everything in place. I asked the clerk whether he has a fragile sticker and he didn’t. The cost of shrink-wrapping was around $10-20. You can also have it bubble-wrapped too before putting it in the transport bag but that would cost extra.

Is this ideal for rolling your bike up the stairs or what? There is no sign saying bikes are not allowed.

Is this ideal for rolling your bike up the stairs or what? There is no sign saying bikes are banned.

After arriving in Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, I unwrapped near the baggage claim where there is a nearby desk for assistance. I asked for a scissor and started cutting the shrink-wrappings away. And my bike came out in one piece!

As I walked around the airport, I scanned for anything that would serve people on bikes well. I saw this escalator that could be possibly for people with bikes. The ramp escalator can be activated to move in either direction. The incline is not as steep as a regular escalator and no steps which make it perfect to roll your bike up and down the ramp. Ingenious! I want to call this a “bike escalator” because this type of escalator is used in a few bike garages else where in the Netherlands.

What about showers when you arrive at the airport sweaty from riding your bike?

What about showers when you arrive at the airport sweaty from riding your bike?

If you ever come riding to the airport sweating, there are showers that you can use. I don’t know how much it cost, but I am sure your flight mates would appreciate you not smelling.  Moreover, in the basement floor of the airport, there are medium and large sized lockers that you can store your Brompton. The medium sized locker costs 7 euros/24 hrs which can fit your folded Brompton easily. The large sized costs about 9 euros/24 hrs. Either locker can be used up a maximum of 7 days which then your baggage will be stored in the baggage depot nearby at the same rate. The baggage depot carries boxes for bikes but they are for regular sized bikes. You can just cut it up to turn it into a smaller box.

Medium and large sized lockers can be found in the basement floor.

Medium and large sized lockers, along with boxes for bikes can be found in the basement floor at Schiphol Airport.

Taking my Brompton on Transits:

When I arrived in Amsterdam I was too tired to ride to Leiden which was my original intention. So instead, I rode the NS Intercity train which is conveniently connected to the airport below ground level. You can buy fares at a counter or at a machine. If you bring on a full sized bike, you will be charged 7-8 euros extra on a trip. A few times I brought my bike unfolded onto trains without any question asked. However, I folded partially when there are people around. A nice thing about Brompton is that you don’t have to remove any bag when folded partially.

Read small prints:  Conventional bikes

Conventional bikes need special tickets and are not allowed during rush hours from 6:30 – 9:00am and 4:30 – 6:00pm. Folding bikes is mentioned as a luggage if folded away. Space for bikes on trains are limited.

The NS trains go through every cities and stop conveniently in the heart of city centers. Huge bike parking garages are right there when you exit the stations. These are secured parking with staffs and bike repair booths. And there are charging stations for e-bikes! There are large sized lockers at these stations too that have enough space to store your Brompton or heavy baggage overnight (around 6 euros) or longer at an increasing sliding rate. I can say that very few passengers take their bikes on trains and which by design, space for bikes on train is limited, barely fitting a couple of bikes per bike-dedicated car.

This is a state of the art parking facility in Utrecht that accomodates 4500 bikes. Daily rate is 1.25 euros for bikes and 2.50 euros for cargo bikes. They also have bike rentals and bike repairs.

This is a state of the art parking facility in Utrecht that accomodates 4500 bikes. The first 24 hrs is free, after that, daily rate is 1.25 euros for bikes and 2.50 euros for cargo bikes. They also have bike rentals and bike repairs.

The Netherlands are known for their water ways but not everywhere are served by bridges. To help with crossings, water buses are strategically located. Some are free but many charge a fee of around 2 – 3 euros. No worries if you don’t know how to use the ticket machine. Just pay the staff when you are on the water bus. These water buses are nice and comfortable, and they have bike racks for both small and regular sized bikes, which are located in the front of the ferry.

Waterbus station at Dordrecht.

Water-bus station at Dordrecht. A bike rack that fits at least a 16″ inch wheeled-bike.

 On the Fietspad:

During the November in the Netherlands, I was fortunate to have only a few days rained on me while riding. I rode to 13 some cities via some small villages and took transit to 4 cities. On bike, I did about 300 miles and it was pure satisfaction! Where there’s pavement, the bike path is smooth. Where there’s no pavement, it only happens in rare occasions. I got a chance to ask Mark at BicycleDutch, when was the last time he got a flat tire on his bike. He said about 20 years ago! Yep, if I had known that, I would have lightened my bag by leaving some bike parts at home.

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The cycle tracks are constantly flanked by both sides of tall autumn trees and green pastures. More often than not, water ditches line between bike paths and the cows and horses grazing. In these water ditches, I saw swans, ducks, and geese. I saw a lot of ponies and I was wondering if ponies are one of Dutch favorite pets. And I still wonder. There were instances where I rode for at least 10 miles without sharing any road space with cars. Sometimes, I find my bike chain noise was the most annoying noise on the cycle track. Sometimes, I passed several groups of kids on bikes riding home from school far away from my destinations.

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Biking to Schiphol Airport:

Getting to Schiphol Airport by bike from Amsterdam is as easy as riding anywhere in the Netherlands. Most of the way was consisted of cycle tracks and some through shared side roads with cars. As usual, I relied on Google Maps on my I-Phone which was accurate 95% of the time. The other 5% I relied on street signs on cycle paths which are color red coded, different than the blue signs for cars.

Cycle track crossing under the airport

Cycle track crossing under the airport

Again, I didn’t bother with bringing my bike on the plane or gate-checking it. I went the safe route by wrapping the bike with clothes. The packaging booth doesn’t shrink wrap or carry bubble wraps because of security restrictions, so I had to buy a strap from them to keep my clothes attached to the bike. That’s something to think about when you are flying out of Amsterdam. I do recommend two straps for more secured packing. The plastic wrapping costs about 10 euros. The good thing is that they have “fragile” labels if you ask.

Ask for a "fragile" label if you decide to check in your bike.

Ask for a “fragile” label if you decide to check in your bike.

Conclusions:

I would do this again with my Brompton. It complements bike touring the Netherlands very well. Because it’s flat and easy to ride around, I didn’t have any difficulty with 16 inch tires and 2 speeds. Some hotels have very small and some even don’t have elevators with steep narrow stairs, but I didn’t have trouble managing it. Flashing bike lights are illegal, so bring spare lights, extra batteries, chargers, etc. Bring music too! The only complaint I have about the trip was that my baggages were too heavy to go any faster and longer.

The Netherlands is a beautiful place for cycling. Wherever you are, a bike path is footsteps away. The air is always fresh and pleasant, and you are away from car exhaust fumes. The built environment, whether the manicured trees or the row of brick houses, is intimate and human-scaled. It’s really safe, as expected. Drivers are considerate and mindful because they are also cyclists. I didn’t bring my helmet and rode everywhere without one. From the first day to the last day of my trip, I was just as amazed and awestruck. The cycle bridges are true wonders, the cycle tracks are long-lasting, and the number of people riding are like music to my ears.

Me and my Brompton in Bike Utopia...

Me and my Brompton in Bike Utopia…I will visit, again.

 

Brompton Folding Bikes Review

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I would like to review our Brompton folding bikes because I think folding bikes can meet most bicyclist’s needs. Many people don’t consider purchasing folding bikes because they are small, awkward-looking, may have an uncomfortable ride, or can be perceived as expensive. Although my first bike was not a folding one, I can tell you after owning one that it is the most versatile and well-rounded bike that I own. I use it for almost everything except for very long distance rides.

Folding bikes make commuting on transit and traveling much more convenient. In San Francisco, the MUNI light rail does not allow bikes at any time and BART only allows partial access. This is because a regular-sized bike usually takes the space of 2-4 people, so to make space for the greatest number of people bikes are not allowed. Also, carrying your bike on your shoulder, down the narrow escalator and through the turnstile to board the transit car is just too cumbersome. Elevators are crammed and slow and far too few. So, using a folding bike is a great way to bring your bike with you onto transit since you can fold it up and bring it on any transit line, even those that restrict full-sized bikes. Just make sure to fold it before you get on.

When we traveled to Copenhagen, we planned on using their bike share system to get around and did not realize how difficult it would be for us to do so. Although it’s been called the bike capital of the world alongside Amsterdam, their bike share program City Bikes was not very good. I don’t fault them for that though because their bike share came out 18 years ago and every Dane already has his/her own bike so the system is old and there is little need to improve it very much. The Danish are very tall people and so all of their bike shares are for tall people. Nellie could not find a single bike share she could fit on, even when adjusting the seats all the way down. Also, the bike shares were very heavy with only one speed. They did not come with locks and the social agreement there seems to be if you see one laying around, just grab it even if someone is already using it and is just setting it aside for a second. My bike share was taken from me when I wasn’t looking twice. So then, we tried renting bikes from our hotel, and their bikes still didn’t fit Nellie either. We asked for a child’s bike but it was too small. Eventually, we did find a bike rental shop but we had already wasted so much time. We told ourselves that the next time we travel, we are going to bring our own bikes!

Our criteria for folding bikes are that they have to be compact, light, and have the ride-ability of a full-sized bicycle. I want compactness so that they can fit through the airport scanner, light enough to carry them from check-in-counter to gate-check, and they have to have a comfortable ride. I read many positive testimonials about Brompton folding bikes. They have been handmade in London since 1981. They have received numerous awards such as Bike of the Year in 1996, Award for Innovation, and Bike Biz Brand of the Year in 2010. There was one blog, The Path Less Pedaled, where Russ and Laura reported on their tour around the country on Brompton folding bikes. I thought that if this couple could endure 5,000 miles (8046 km) on them, these folders must be downright awesome! So, when we went to Portland for another bicycling adventure, we paid a visit to Clever Cycles, an authorized dealership for Bromptons. We went there because they have a full array of Bromptons in stock, and Portland doesn’t have sales tax! We bought both of our folding bikes from them with travel cases to boot. The great thing about Brompton folders are that they are pretty customizable to your specific needs. We decided to get the M Type handlebar for a more upright position, standard 3 speed version, fenders, EZ wheels and a front carrier block for mounting Brompton bags. Turkish green for me and hot pink for Nellie. The cost came out to be $1345 USD each.


As the video demonstrates, the bike can be folded in less than 15 seconds. You don’t want a folder to be complicated when you’re in a hurry.

Brompton stands up without the need for kickstand or leaning against an object.

Brompton stands up without the need for a kickstand or something to lean on.

Compact fold of 23" x 21.5" x 10.6" (585 mm x 545 mm x 270 mm)

A small compact fold of 23″ x 21.5″ x 10.6″ (58.5 cm x 54.5 cm x 27 cm).

Our first test for traveling with these bikes was when we brought them with us to Strasbourg, bike capital of France. We were not mistaken as to how convenient and enjoyable it would be for us! It was our favorite city to ride in. You got the beautiful parks and rivers all over the city, bistros and brasseries around every corner, charming pedestrian bridges and historical buildings to inspire your curiosity, and calm streets that make riding as enjoyable as it can be. Much of the exploring and getting lost requires frequent stops but these Bromptons made it simple. The wheelbase is similar to a full-sized bike which makes it as stable as riding a regular bike; but the small 16 in (40.6 cm) wheels brings the size of the bike smaller by 20 inches (50 cm) in length which makes it not intrusive to pedestrians on sidewalks, and the expended energy from having to stop and go is not noticeable. The frame being that low to the ground makes getting on and off the bike super easy. Furthermore, we didn’t experience bumpiness from such small wheels (maybe it’s the steel frame configuration that is dampening the bumpiness).

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Small enough to fit into the Scion IQ’s small rear trunk space with rear seats folded down.

In an old town like Strasbourg, the older hotels usually have small elevators. But at our hotel, with our folding bikes we were able to fit the two of us and our folding bikes just fine.

Standard tires that comes with Kevlar belts to resist punctures and good treads to grip slippery road surface.

Standard tires that come with Kevlar belts to resist punctures and good treads to grip slippery road surfaces.

bike pump and easy wheels

Zefal bike pump attached to frame comes standard and EZ wheels for rolling.

Each bike comes with a Zefal bike pump which I find to be pretty decent. I am not a strong person but I am able to get enough air in the tires to be ride-able using it. I don’t recommend getting the EZ wheels because they are actually not so “EZ “to roll on.

groove on saddle

Grooves under standard saddle serves as a handgrip, a nice touch.

The standard gear ratio is too high for us but you can request a lower gear ratio at no cost. Nellie and I rarely use the highest gear- it is actually kind of hard to pedal. You can always opt for 6 speed but that comes at an extra charge and additonal weight. The small front tire makes steering very sensitive but you will get used to it. Another issue I have is that although it weighs 26 lbs (11.8 kg), it gets heavy when you have to carry it over a long distance.

TSA lock, wheels, pull out handle

Brompton fits perfectly in the Tern Airporter Mini.

If you don’t like the hassle of getting your bike gate-checked at the airport (you will have to check with your airline if they allow folding bikes at gate check), you can get a luggage to transport it. I find the Tern Airporter Mini to be perfect. The Airporter has integrated TSA combination locks, two rolling wheels and a telescopic handle. It is of airline regulation size at  11.4 × 22.4 × 28 in  (29 × 57 × 71 cm). The saddle from the bike has to be removed in order to fit. Not a big deal – just make sure to bring your tools to screw it back on. However, if you order a bike with a rear rack, it will not fit  (update 10/23/16 – thanks to a reader – Nenad, the rear rack on a Brompton will fit). The combined weight of both folder and luggage at around 45 lbs (20 kg) is well within the 50 lbs (22.7 kg) limit. Price is $250 USD.

We will be taking our folding bikes to Amsterdam on our next trip, and we will not bring the Airporters luggage. Since we are flying on KLM, a Dutch airline, hopefully they will understand and I have heard of people gate-checking their Bromptons without any problem. One person even brought their Brompton onto an airplane and stowed it in the overhead cabinet (Boeing 777 or larger).

Overall, we love these durable, well-made, stylish, and adorable bikes and have no regrets about purchasing them.

One last piece of advice: When ordering, the wait time is 6-9 weeks but expect at least 8 weeks. If you are planning a trip using them, make sure to order your bike way ahead in advance.

Ideas of places to ride your Brompton folding bike:

5 Unusual Places to Ride A Bike

Strasbourg – Bike Capital of France

Seeing the Netherlands by Bike

There are many bike-friendly cities in the world that are great to explore on two wheels but what if you want to safely navigate between cities? That’s where the Netherlands comes in. A country built for two-wheelers. It is a country that has terribly flat terrain, dense cities that are 20-40 km apart, and where traffic engineers/urban planners take cycling seriously as a form of transportation.

The dark green lines are bike lanes. They are cycle tracks. They are everywhere, even from one city to another.

The dark green lines are not bike lanes. They are cycle tracks. They are everywhere, even from one city to another. (Note: not a complete map of the Netherlands)

What the Dutch municipalities do for its people regarding transportation is to provide equal opportunity for all modes of transportation, and that involves building an extensive network of cycle tracks not only within a city’s boundary, but extend beyond it. As a result, Dutch choose bike for shopping, commuting, transporting children, etc. 30% of all their journeys.

The country just screams bike utopia! and this is where a novice bike tourer like me would want to begin his/her bike tour.

The Amsterdam Nescioburg bicycle bridge is the longest in the Netherlands at 780 meters long. It connects Amsterdam and Diemen.

The Amsterdam Nesciobrug bicycle bridge is the longest in the Netherlands at 780 meters. It connects Amsterdam to Diemen.

Because I have never bike traveled before and will be doing it alone, I want to do it in a place that is safe. Safe meaning, I am not going to share roads with motor-heads. Safe, meaning I will always find indoor housing to rest for a night or two after a long day’s ride. Safe, meaning I will feel safe riding solo and if I get stuck due to bike malfunctions, I wouldn’t be afraid for my life.

The Second Heinenoordtunnel connects Rotterdam and Heinenoord. City to city connection for bikes.

The Second Heinenoordtunnel connects Rotterdam and Heinenoord. City to city connection for bikes.

I will be there for a month throughout the Netherlands on a 2-speed Brompton folding bike, packing light for 3-4 days worth of clothes, and will combine some transit with a folding bike to have a different dimension to bicycle traveling. Moreover, I choose this month because I want to know what’s it like to see the Netherlands during rainy season. Rain doesn’t deter them from biking and I hope it doesn’t deter me, as well.

The Hovenring Eindhoven lies at the outskirts of the city Eindhoven, built so cyclists won't have to intermingle with drivers

The Hovenring Eindhoven lies at the outskirt of the city Eindhoven, built so cyclists won’t have to intermingle with drivers.

So, follow this blog for a month because this entire month will be dedicated to the Netherlands, the land of fiets!

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.

Three epic sites, one no bikes in sight

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We have visited 9 historical sites and found 2 that are awesome for casual bike rides and one that has the potential but fails miserably.

1.  If Paris is your destination, you must pay a visit to Palace of Versailles. It’s only 13 miles/31 km train ride (or bike ride!) that costs about 3.5 euros. The Chateau de Versailles is an UNESCO’s World Heritage List for 30 years and it is one of the most marvelous achievements of French architecture and art. 3 kings from Louis XIII, XIV and the XVI with Marie Antoinette had lived there until the French Revolution.

Looking out to the Gardens and Park of Versailles

Looking out to the Gardens and Park of Versailles. This was taken in Oct. 2009 when we were last there (see clouds).

Adjacent to it, are the Gardens and Park of Versailles where you can ride your bike for miles (~6 miles/10 km). It is heavenly and breathtaking! And it’s free for admission. If you don’t have a bike, there’s a bike rental. And if you want a different angle of the park, they have boats for rental too. The downside to the bike paths is that some parts are not paved, but quickly you forget about it due to the immense beauty of the park.

No bikes allowed to the right of the red line, however, it is free for admission to the left of the line.

No bikes allowed to the right of the red line, however, it is free for admission to the left of the line.

This is where I want my ashes to be spread at.

This is where I want my ashes to be spread at.

Beautiful!

Beautiful! French signature of parks – Groomed trees that are aligned with each other in rows.

You can rent these boats.

Boats for hire!

Image of the lake in the shape of a cross.

Image of the lake in the shape of a cross.

Yes, there are sheeps grazing there too.

Yes, there are sheep grazing there too. A wonderful experience to see on a bike.


2. Another epic casual bike ride is to Mont St. Michel, another UNESCO site. It is situated in between Normandy, France on a island when high tides occur. Mont St. Michel started off as a monastery during the 8th century and over hundreds of years became a fortified city. The city of Minas Tirith in the Lord of the Rings, director Peter Jackson used this castle. It is majestic and godly.

Majestic, isn't!

It’s like a mirage.

Photo above is a new path to Mont St. Michel. From the car parking, it’s 1.6 mile/2.5 km of bliss riding to the place. As I was riding on this path, I felt as I was on a horse galloping from the danger behind me to safe haven like in Lord of the Rings. It also hosts night events and the place is lit up after dusk. A bike ride to it at night must be amazing!

Majestic, Isn't it!

Majestic, magical and magnificent, isn’t it!

I am glad they are tearing the parking lot next to Mont St. Michel and place distance away.

New path includes tearing down the parking lot which enhances the island effect.

Once the new path is completed, I hope they let bikes in and to include bike racks at the foothill. For now, bikes are allowed. Moreover, it would be wonderful to have a bike/ped path that wraps around the island commune, too.

A Brompton lover from Barcelona.

We met a Brompton lover from Barcelona.

The abbey is really high up and it's worth the 9 euros admission.

The abbey is really high up and it’s worth the 9 euros admission.

Even during the ancient times, people still know how to appreciate greenery.

Even during the ancient times, people still know how to appreciate greenery.

Inside Mont St. Michel.

Inside Mont St. Michel.

Currently, there are 40 some residents living inside while the site get 3 million visitors, the most outside of Paris. It is pretty packed at the bottom of the castle, but the crowd thins out at the top where cost of admission is applied.

The architecture is beautiful.

The architecture is beautiful.


3. The last but not least epic site to check out is Chateau de Chenonceau in Loire Valley. It’s most visited chateau in France after the Palace of Versailles. Chenonceau was built during the early 1500s and overseen by 2 different queens, a rich heiress and a mistress, all women.

A view of Chateau de Chenonceau from Catherine's Garden.

A view of Chateau de Chenonceau from Catherine’s Garden.

Again, we brought our folding bikes expecting to ride throughout the vast garden of the chateau, but it was a huge disappointment! I understand that some parts of the chateau should only be designated for pedestrians, like Catherine’s Garden, Diane’s Garden and the Maze. These are crowded places with lots of details to appreciate, so you would most likely want to walk anyway. What they did with the Palace of Versailles is a great example. The Palace and the nearby Gardens are off limits, while the Park is opened to all.

A map of Chateau de Chenonceau - there are many paths potential for a epic casual bike ride.

A map of Chateau de Chenonceau – there are many paths potential for an epic bike ride.

A huge and beautiful place like this, does the organization of the place expect people to walk throughout the whole area? As anyone knows, biking is quiet and covers large distance, which won’t degrade the emotions and the appearances at all.

Bikes are banned from entering and must be parked at the entrance. You can see in the next few photos that most of the paths away from the chateau and the gardens are all empty of visitors. It’s a great shame!

All these bikes are parked outside the Chateau - it's such a shame!

All these bikes are parked outside the Chateau – it’s such a shame!

A empty path because no on would walk that much!

A empty path because no on would walk that much!

Another empty path because no bikes are banned.

Another empty path to the right because bikes are banned.

Again, another empty path.

Again, another empty path over the Le Cher river.

Diane's Garden.

A view of Diane’s Garden from the chateau.

To conclude, France is a beautiful country with many huge spaces dedicated to historical monuments and buildings and if bikes are allowed and regulated properly, the enjoyment of these sites would be even more enjoyable.

Related reading:
Video: Biking from Versailles to Paris
Vélo Paris

Bike Denver

Flat Irons, near Boulder, Colorado

The Flat Irons near Boulder, Colorado, not far from Denver.

We have lived in and visited both coasts of the US and have a pretty good understanding of both sides. But we never quite understood Middle America, aside from what the media shows us. So, we decided to go visit Denver, Colorado. (No, not because of marijuana legalization there.) It’s not too far of a trip to take from the Bay Area, and I heard it’s not a bad city to bike in. Denver is referred to as “the mile-high city” or 5280 which is the number of feet it sits above sea level, and it’s located next to the Rocky mountains, which are the highest mountains in the United States.

This time, we planned to travel light which meant that Nellie brought only a single backpack and I brought only my messenger bag. We left our Bromptons at home because we thought the bike-share program that they have in Denver would suffice and be more convenient. The closest bike-share station would be only a block away from our hotel, so why not. As a bonus, our hotel was located next to the only cycle track in the city, on 15th St.

This bike share station is located on the sidewalks near our hotel on 14th St. and Welton St.

This bike share station is located on the sidewalk near our hotel on 14th St. and Welton St.

As a matter of fact, the bike-share stations are nicely distributed across downtown Denver. There are 700 bike-shares in 83 stations, twice as many as in San Francisco. It’s called Denver B Cycle, and sourced from the same company as most other bike shares in the US, Alta Bikeshare. Although their mobile app didn’t work, we could locate another station without even looking for one. It’s that ubiquitous. There was this brand-new redeveloped neighborhood called Prospect which was not completely done, and a bike share station was already in place. I was impressed.

A bike share station is placed in Prospect neighborhood which is not completely finished.

A bike share station is placed in the Prospect neighborhood, which is not even fully built out.

The bike shares are always located on the sidewalks and not in the street, which I think is an ideal setup. The sidewalks there are generally very wide, up to 20 ft/6 m wide. By locating the stations on the sidewalks, you don’t feel the pressure to hurry because you are in a safe zone. Also, it’s nice to undock or dock your bike off the street, unlike how it is in SF. Bike shares invite newbies, so having them on the sidewalks makes them more welcoming.

However, I still don’t like using bike shares when I would like to mindlessly wander throughout the city exploring. The 30-minute grace period was always on my mind because I didn’t want to accrue penalties. Also, docking/undocking is a huge hassle when you have to do it every 30 minutes. My opinion is that bike-shares are good if you know where you are going and only need it for going short distances. It would not be good for recreational our touristic cycling and for going long distances.

The only cycle track in the city on 15th St.

The only cycle track in the city on 15th St.

Our hotel was located next to the only cycle track in town on 15th St. It was nicely done with crossbikes and protected barriers, but the intersection was not protected. Also, what I don’t get is why the cycle track was on the left-hand side. I heard that another cycle track is coming to a nearby street on Broadway, a north-to-south commercial corridor which should make a better network of bike paths.

A crossbike with a right turn bike box.

A crossbike with a right turn bike box.

Another commercial corridor in downtown that is bike-friendly is the popular shopping area, the 16th Street Mall, which is closed off to cars. There are hundreds of shops and street vendors located on this long stretch. The identical tiles on both the street and sidewalks give it a very pedestrian-friendly feel to it. No need for bike signage.

16th Street Mall is closed off to cars except buses and bicycles.

The 16th Street Mall is closed off to cars except buses and bicycles.

Denver has a bike modal share of 2.9% in 2012 (20% jump from 2011), most of which I see riding on the extensive Cherry Creek bike trail. The Cherry Creek trail stretches 11.2 mi/ 18 km from Cherry Creek Reservoir in the south and through downtown in the north. It serves for both recreation and transportation. It’s a must if you do visit Denver and go for a bike ride. Some of the best scenery within the city is along this riverside bike trail. The water running next to it is surprisingly clean!

You see both recreational and utilitarian cyclists on the Cherry Creek bike trail.

You see both recreational and utilitarian cyclists on the Cherry Creek bike trail. I like how there are street signs installed on the bridges, so you know where you are going.

People actually go rafting on the creek and the water is pretty clean.

People actually go rafting and kayaking on the creek and the water is pretty clean!

Confluent People street art by local artist, Emanuel Martinez, under Speer Blvd. and Little Raven St.

The “Confluent People” mural by local artist, Emanuel Martinez is located at Speer Blvd. and Little Raven St.

What I like about Denver is it’s numerous parks, and the majority of them you can really bike within them for quite a distance with flat topography. City Park is my favorite and has a zoo and the Museum of Science and Nature. It’s located not too distant from downtown. Another park I recommend is Washington Park in the Pearl St. neighborhood. It’s voted as the most favorite park in Denver by the locals.

Denver City Park

City Park, not too far from downtown Denver, is a great place to bike recreationally.

Denver Bicycle Cafe

Our favorite cafe is the Denver Bicycle Cafe. You can get food, beer or coffee while you wait for your bike to be fixed.

Denver Bicycle Cafe

Denver Bicycle Cafe also has comfortable outdoor seating (not shown here).

Coolest looking bike corral in Pearl St. neighorhood.

A nice looking bike corral in the charming Pearl St. neighborhood.

Green Cyclery bike shop in Pearl St.

Cute little Linus bikes in the Green Cyclery bike shop on Pearl St.

Nice window dressing!

Creative window dressing using bike wheels!

I still think Denver has some ways to go in terms of bike infrastructure and reducing their use of cars. But I admire how much they are embracing the ideas of New Urbanism and I feel like they are doing the bike thing better and faster than many other American cities. For example, their 15th St. cycle-track was completed this year and now, the city is proposing another cycle-track on Broadway St. In addition, I really like their ubiquitous bike-shares, but it’s just not ideal for visitors to use them to explore the city because of the time limits. Visitors and recreational riders should rent a bicycle instead. Their Cherry Creek bike path is great fun to bike on and quite scenic, but then, it doesn’t go in every direction to really serve bike commuters. However, I do think that overall, the city government gets it and it’s just a matter of time.

A couple of more things I want to mention for anyone who is going to visit Denver and bike around. You may need some time to adapt to the higher elevation. At higher elevations, oxygen is less concentrated and so your body will have to adjust and breath shorter but more frequent breaths. At first, you might feel worn out faster when exerting yourself. However, the air is just fine for Denverites who are known to be very active outdoors. So once you adjust, you should be fine. Also, one of the fun things you can do in Denver, if you are of drinking age, is to ride your bike around to all the different local breweries and do some free tastings. Denver has great local beer! Many can be easily reached by bike.

Happy Trails!

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).

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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!

What is better than biking?

Answer: Biking and eating!

In this post, I share our experience biking in Half Moon Bay, California and cooking a recipe from The Pedal Inn Weekender cookbook right on the beach. If you love biking and eating/cooking, then read on!

hmboverlook

Our bikes and cargo overlooking the sea at Half Moon Bay.

A few years ago, on one of our memorable nights out biking with the SF Bike Party at a rest stop upon a hill taking in the sights of the beautiful city, someone handed us a yellow matchbox with an illustration of a crest on it with “The Pedal Inn” written across the top and an image of two people wearing outdoor gear having a picnic beside their bicycles. On the back it read, “For lovers of adventure and good eating”. I was curious what that was and the woman who handed it to me told me it was a cookbook. I was intrigued because I love biking (that’s the name of our blog) and I love eating and cooking too and here was a couple that had combined these things into a single concept that they could share with others- a cookbook and guide to biking/cooking/camping. After visiting their website at www.pedalinn.com I said to myself, I have to try this one day!

Not too long ago, I decided it was a good time to try out the cookbook. Thanks to Nick and Lindy, the authors of the cookbook, I was able to get a copy of it for myself. When it came in the mail and I unwrapped it, I saw it was beautifully put together. Inside the plastic pouch, was an assortment of booklets/pamphlets. The main book had Weekender written across the front and was nicely illustrated inside and out. The others were more like simple folded pamphlets with recipes in them and were designed to be easy to travel with. Each recipe pamphlet had the name of a great Bay Area biking locale such as China Camp, Lake Del Valle, and Mount Diablo to name a few and the corresponding recipes that matched the theme of each place. The writing was a joy to read and it began to dispel the mysteries of camping/biking/cooking to me.

The Pedal Inn Weekender cookbook.

The Pedal Inn Weekender cookbook.

You see, although I love biking, I have very little experience in the long-distance touring sort of rides. Also, I have only camped outside maybe once or twice in my life when I was young and my much older sisters took care of everything. They packed the tents and brought all the provisions. I still remember the yummy baked bananas my sister made over the grill using foil but I didn’t really know how it all came together, just that it tasted unbelievably good (something about eating food in the great outdoors enhances it).

So as I perused these guides with names of places that called out to the adventurous side of me, a feeling of anxiety began to set in. After cooking for five nights a week for the past seven years, I can now say I know how to cook with complete confidence. So perhaps it was because I know how to cook that seeing the recipes made me break into a sweat. Because of my experience, I could quickly see this wasn’t just a cookbook about throwing together some Chex Mix to bring with you onto the trail. This was, you could say, gourmet stuff and what made it challenging was picturing myself trying to cook this stuff not in a kitchen in the sterile comfort of my home, but outdoors in an unpredictable and variable environment. I was sure the efforts would probably have been worth it once we tasted the finished dishes, but getting to that point was the hard part.

As I began to plan the trip, I was thinking in my head, “How the heck can I do this? I can’t do this. No, I CAN do this. No, I can’t! Yes, I can! And finally, “Okay, I just won’t camp out overnight and even though I don’t know how I am going to cook this stuff outside, I am going to do it anyway! I will do this whether I can or not.”

Fast forward two weeks later, and it is the morning on a fine Sunday. Chris and I are shuffling around the house trying to pack stuff. I grab our propane stove we have used many times for Chinese hot pot. I grab some spatulas, spoons, and pour some olive oil into a small plastic case. I didn’t pack everything I needed because the idea was that we’d stop by a market along the road during our bike ride to buy fresh ingredients. That would be part of the Pedal Inn experience.

Our destination was Half Moon Bay, a place where we would ride along a path overlooking the sea and then camp out on the beach for the afternoon. The recipe pamphlet for Half Moon Bay was stuffed into our Brompton bag pocket, and we were off in our tiny car with the bikes and cargo stuffed in the back.

When we got to Half Moon Bay, we first stopped into a market on Main Street. We found what we needed there and even a fresh pack of creme fraiche. We were going to make Pedal Inn’s version of Eggs Benedict. They use creme fraiche instead of Hollandaise sauce. That was just the breakfast recipe and the only one I felt confident enough to try. They also had a recipe for dinner and dessert. Dinner was Fish Tacos with Pom-Persimmon Salsa and dessert was Blackberry “Shortcake” in origami folded cups. Sounds delicious, doesn’t it? These are also the perfect recipes for Half Moon Bay, a place by the sea that is influenced by Mexican culture due to the migrant workers that live in the area and who work on the local farms.

Red cabbage at Cunha Country Grocery Store at 448 Main St. in Half Moon Bay.

Red cabbage at Cunha Country Grocery Store at 448 Main St. in Half Moon Bay.

We then rode our bikes along the path by the beach and it was a picturesque and lovely experience. The view was amazing and the waves crashing onto the beach were furious. We saw people riding horses and many people walking along the path. People were sitting out on the beach down below. I had the stove in a backpack on my back along with all the ingredients. It was getting kind of heavy. Having panniers would have helped a lot with that.

One of the interesting wooded parts of the path.

One of the interesting wooded parts of the path.

Others rode real horses and we rode horses made of steel. =)

Some people rode horses and we rode horses made of steel.

Ahh, the beautiful sea at Half Moon Bay.

Ahhh, the beautiful sea at Half Moon Bay.

After riding around a bit, we went down to the beach and opened up our picnic blanket. We set our bikes on top of some succulent plants so that less sand would get into the chains. We set up the stove and the wind was blowing so hard, I was afraid that we would not be able to get the fire lit. But it was lit. We poured water into the pot and waited for the water to boil. I cut the red cabbage on a small cutting board on top of my backpack. I added the cabbage to the pot and then…

This story is getting long so check back next post for what happened to the pot of cabbage!

To be continued…

Continue reading here!

Bike Vancouver – Part 2 of 2

Engraved bike sign along the route of Vancouver Convention Centre

Bike signage chiseled into concrete along the route of Vancouver Convention Centre. It’s on there for good.

If you are ever heading to Vancouver to bike, you should never skip the Seaside Bicycle Route. It is the best way to see the beauties of Vancouver and it will take you to many tourist attractions such as the new Vancouver Convention Centre, Stanley Park, English Bay and Granville Island. The route also takes you through local towns such as Coal Harbor, West End, Yaletown and Kitsilano. It is 15 miles or 24 km long, separated far away from noisy cars and next to the shore the entire way through.

However, on some sections of the Seaside Bicycle Route bicyclists have to share it with pedestrians (better than sharing it with motorists though). Because there are so many interesting and breathtaking sites to see, it may take the whole day, so you may want to separate the trip into a couple of days which we did.

The bike route starts at either end of

The blue line indicates the Seaside Bicycle Route which is 15 miles/24 km long.

If anything, you must not skip riding on the seawall of Stanley Park (see video above). It’s spectacularly wonderful! There are a lot of bike rentals in the area if you need to rent a bike.

An Aquabus ferry that accepts bicycles. Look for that big bicycle sign.

An Aquabus ferry that accepts bicycles. Look for that big bicycle sign.

You could cross over False Creek to cut your trip shorter by hopping on the Aquabus or False Creek Ferries at designated terminals.  The fares are pretty reasonable and they make frequent pickups. The Aquabus accepts bicycles but not False Creek Ferries.

The popular Olympic symbol for 2012.

The popular Olympic symbol for 2012.

Canadians biking near the English Bay.

Canadians biking near the English Bay.

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What a beautiful day!

Sunsetting on the English Bay.

Sunsetting on the English Bay.

Bicycle route along Stanley Park.

Bicycle route along Stanley Park.

Pretty cool that a street is named Penny Farthing.

Pretty cool that a street is named Penny Farthing!

Interesting park at a new neighborhood of Creekside.

Interesting park at a contemporary neighborhood of False Creek.

Located outside of the Science World museum, this bike rack is powered by solar panel.

Located outside of the Science World museum, this bike rack is powered by solar panel.

My Brompton is sunbathing on Kitsilano Beach.

My Brompton is sunbathing on Kitsilano Beach.

After a nice ride, you have to go this place that serves delicious Belgian waffles. It is called Nero Belgian Waffle Bar, located in the West End neighborhood.

After a nice ride, you have to go to this place that serves the best Belgium waffles called Nero in the West End.

Yes, Nero Belgian Waffles Bar welcomes bicyclists.

Farewell Vancouver! Till next time.

Farewell Vancouver! Till next time.