Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Just a peek...

... at my sister's new bicycle!  I've literally been begging for photographs and finally got a few precious snaps.  Anyway, here it is, with the man-bike (and man-owner) visible in the background, before getting some final work done at Recycle-a-Bicycle:
Just look at that Brooklyn hipster back there.  Can you believe he didn't already have a bicycle?!
Love the white inset on the head tube, and the gum wall tires nicely pick up the gold of the Phillips lion head badge.

Speaking of head badges, the man-bike comes with a rather jaunty one of its own:

My sister and her boyfriend got to pick these bikes out of what sounds like an awesome, giant warehouse, where they also came across a huge fleet of some 200 Batavi:
Apparently, Recycle-a-Bicycle received these as a donation but only to be used as rentals, not sales.  That's too bad because they are kind of cute, in a modern, imagine-the-Entrada-Spirit-had-a-baby-with-the-BUB kind of way.

I'll be heading to New York for the holiday weekend, where I will see if I can successfully ride the man-bike and hope to visit some cool bicycle shops (suggestions?).  That is, unless it's as hot as it is in Boston right now, in which case I will just eat popsicles and scowl all weekend long.  We'll see!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Monday, why can't you be more like Friday?

Today is, in a word, totally disgusting-- oh, snap! So disgusting it needs two words! Anyway, it's hot. It's incredibly humid. And there have been threats of severe thunderstorms all day, which, somehow, are not predicted to cool things down much at all.  I often face a rather stubborn headwind on one stretch of my commute to work; today, it was just as stubborn except it was also BURNING HOT. Ugh. I ended up scrapping my after-work plans to conduct both business and pleasure excursions around town due to the aforementioned disgustingness and also a vague fear of being struck by lightning on my steel bicycle (Question: how valid is this fear?), and instead, I rushed home to guiltily turn on my window a/c, take off my pants, and eat too much of a $15 block of torrone.

It's hard to remember just how gorgeous it was only a few days ago on Friday:
Perfect weather, the gently sinking sun, the river, a book, and a bicycle.  I will have it again!  Just not today.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

ZOMG It's Caturday!

(Paws, you guys!)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Why it took me five years to buy a bike

[Soundtrack for this post is reader's choice: David Bowie or Noah and the Whale]

I moved to Cambridge to start grad school five years ago [unrelated: yikes] but didn't buy a bicycle until this past December, despite the fact that Cambridge is such a bicycle commuting city and I wasn't ever planning on having a car.  I thought about it; I said I ought to do it; but I never did it.  Looking back, I can't help but lament the wasted bicycling potential of those years and wonder why the heck it took me so long to get with the program. 

My reasons for not buying a bicycle were pretty common, and anyone who's reading this will already know the answers to my arguments; but all the same, here they are:

1. I hadn't had a bicycle since I was about 13, and even then, I hadn't really been riding much for my last few years of bicycle ownership.  I grew up in a typical suburban environment, where the high school had an enormous parking lot since kids who lived less than a mile away would still drive.  So it had been a long, long, long time since I'd been comfortable on a bike.  You never forget how to ride a bike?  I wasn't convinced.
Answer: It turns out that even if my first few rides had a few shaky starts, it's true; you really don't forget, particularly when you ride an upright bicycle which keeps your center of gravity at basically the same place as if you were standing.

2. The gear.  Not only would I have to purchase a bicycle, but then I'd also have to worry about all of this extra stuff-- locks and helmets and little blinkie things that you clip to your bag and reflective ankle straps and vests and detachable wheels that you carry inside with you, and then what if something were to break?  It all looked so foreign and overwhelming (and expensive), and I felt like grad school was enough to worry about, so why would I want to add one more thing to stress about?
Answer: Again, the choice of bicycle made a big difference.  Since I went with a Dutch-style bike, I was choosing something that was designed to be more or less stress-free, with its internally geared hub and quick-release nothing and covered chain.  No pant cuff rolling, no wheel or saddle carrying, no Lance Armstrong racing helmets required.  Just get on and go and carry on with your life.  It's actually made my life less stressful, since it's so much easier to get around and I no longer have to spend time planning out elaborate bus and train routes and then waiting for them to show up.

3. I always lived within 10-15 minutes walking distance from school, so it seemed like it wouldn't really save me any time to ride a bike once you considered the time it would take to carry the bike outside and then lock it up or unlock it and put on/take off all the biking gear.  So I just walked.  It seemed easier and just as efficient for the mostly short trips I was taking.
Answer: While I do like walking and love living in a city where it is possible to get to many of the places I need to go on foot, it is just so much easier to bike.  In the winter, you end up spending less time out in the cold, even if it does take time to lock up, etc.; and in the summer especially, my feet are so much happier.  I think I may have particularly wimpy feet, so even flat shoes-- ballet flats, Keds, strappy sandals-- would leave me blistered and bloody when walking those distances.  (It should go without saying the heels were an impossibility.)  Plus, the brick sidewalks around town will chew up a shoe faster than you can say "$15 heel replacement."  Pedaling suffers none of these problems. 

4. Related to the gear issue, there was the clothing.  And I don't just mean spandex racing suits-- those were obviously out of the question.  But would I be able to cycle in a skirt?  What if I were wearing low-rise jeans-- would my butt be showing when I bent over to pedal?  Would I have to plan out cycling-friendly outfits every time I wanted to go somewhere by bike?  I didn't want to buy a messenger bag or a backpack and, as mentioned before, the pants rolling thing just seemed weird.
Answer: Again, choosing a Dutch bike makes all of these concerns irrelevant.  A step-through frame and an upright riding position mean that skirts and the hip-huggingest of pants are all okay, even if you may occasionally want to wear some precautionary shorts.  And racks, baskets, and panniers mean that you can carry your things in whatever kind of bag you please, and not only that, but you can carry more things farther.

5. The biggest thing that kept me from riding was fear of cars.  Since I was a child in my previous cycling life, I rode on the sidewalk; and since I lived in a suburban neighborhood, there were very few people on the sidewalks, so it was clear sailing.  Riding in the street seemed dangerous and scary, and to be honest, the helmets only made it seem even scarier.  I didn't know if I could do it.
Answer: Getting comfortable riding in the street just takes time, though actually not as much time as I had expected.  Part of that is being lucky enough to live in a place where there are a lot of cyclists on the road, so cars are more used to dealing with them and it's a little bit easier to find your place in the system.  As Velouria from Lovely Bicycle! detailed in a recent post, you just keep going where you need to go and slowly expanding the areas to which you're willing to travel, and before you know it, it simply doesn't feel like a big deal any more.  Even though I was actually hit by a car last month, I still don't find it that scary to ride in the street most of the time now, whether I'm wearing a helmet or (more frequently) not.  I take various measures to increase my visibility, I signal my turns, and I follow the rules of the road including stopping at red lights.  That doesn't mean that cars don't sometimes still ruin my day, but it's all part of the effort to be a responsible, respectful, and predictable user of the street.  And of course, whenever it makes sense for safety or convenience's sake, you can always get off and walk on the sidewalk.

Like I said, I don't expect anything I've written here to be particularly mind-blowing to readers of this blog, but I did want to offer up one more person's experience of reintroducing cycling into her life.  Anyone can do it; more people should; and I hope they do.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mini-post: Bicycles on the brain

I just saw a little sidebar ad for "Framed Wedding Invitations" and got momentarily excited because I thought it said "Frame Welding Invitations."  Which I would want.  Yes please, I would like to come and weld a frame!

I got a new way to walk (walk walk)

Yesterday's mid-morning commute on Cambridge Street was just a mess: blocked lanes, construction,  garbage trucks, city buses, moving vans, one fire truck, and stressed out drivers backed up as far as the eye could see.  I was putt-putting along, sticking out my left arm to merge into the lane whenever some new obstruction would block the de facto bike lane area and gamely stopping for all the lights and traffic cops.  But it was hot, humid, and too close to too many cars.

Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw it: the sidewalk!  Shady, tree-lined, peaceful-- ahhh.  I suddenly remembered that I didn't have to stay on the road; I wasn't stuck on my bike the way I would be in a car.  One look was all it took to convince me, and before you could say "smell ya later, street traffic!", I was hopping off and making my escape.  I walked my bicycle the rest of the way, and judging by the pace of the cars I left behind, I didn't really lose any time.  Just another object lesson in how much more convenient it can be to ride a bicycle in the city.  

Big thanks to cycler for introducing me to my new favorite web comic, Yehuda Moon.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Ships that pass in the morning, and speak each other in passing

Last night, Dottie from Let's Go Ride a Bike recounted her story of a brief but unpleasant interaction with a fellow cyclist she encountered on her morning commute.  While she didn't explicitly describe this passive-aggressive fellow, for better or for worse, my mind immediately supplied the following image:
Thank you, Merriam-Webster Visual Dictionary Online.

Oh, this guy.  Can't we all just get along? 

But it's not all bad news out there.  See, I ran into him, too, on my way home this morning.  Since I was coming from the gym and my legs were exhausted, I was pedaling even more slowly than usually up the barely existent hill that leads to my house.  This guy was coming down the hill the opposite way (of course, not coasting!) and I caught him looking over at me as we got closer.  He opened his mouth to say something, and with Dottie's story fresh in my helmetless head, I was bracing myself for some kind of disparaging remark.  So what did he say as he zoomed by in all his speedracey glory? 

"Nice bike!"

Oh Frida.  Is there a man alive who can resist your charms?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A sweet little nothing

I've already put in two official entries for Part II of the LGRAB Summer Games, so this act of Frida decoration is purely for its own sake.  I had been forming elaborate plans to craft my own headbadge, with thoughts of various metals and glues and laser cutters in the works; but then a lovely package from an etsy order showed up to remind me that decorating your bicycle can be as simple as tying a bow:

It's so basic that it almost seems not worth mentioning, but I've been surprised at how happy it makes me every time I see it.  It seems that J-Lo may have been right about something...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Much Madness is divinest Sense- To a discerning Eye

These things are bound to happen.  You go from ignorance and a lack of comprehension to gathering knowledge and developing a sense of perception and discrimination.  You start to see things that would have escaped your notice in the past.  Sometimes these things bring you joy... and sometimes they bring you pain. 

I've never been much of a fan of "beach cruiser" style bikes.  Still, coming home the other day, I was drawn over to this display in front of a local bike shop that I never visit (not a Frida kind of place):
So beachy, so cruisery; but colorful and clearly eye-catching, and I can see how people would be attracted to them.  Before I started really looking at bicycles, I would have simply chalked them up as not my style and moved on.  But now-- and especially after reading certain blogs-- all I can see is this:
what the holy hell is going on here??!!!!

I hope none of the employees was watching me while I was photographing, because I know I was grimacing heavily and making audible gagging sounds the entire time (with a rising pitch of hysteria as I saw more of the... details).  I know these things won't bother a lot of people, who might just see the flowers and the plaid and think "cute bike!"; and like I said, I probably wouldn't have paid attention earlier---- okay, except for the bizarre and horrible termination of the top tube on the blue bike (Seriously, what the eff is that?  That entire area is just a cluster fuck).  They're still bicycles, they'll still make someone happy, and there are many far worse things existing in this world.  Right?  And it's nice that a "hard core" bike shop is making an effort to carry styles for a different kind of rider.

I just need to remind myself of all of the beautiful and interesting bicycles I'm seeing for the first time.  And breathe.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Night rider

While there are some issues surrounding cycling safety that are clearly up for debate, nighttime visibility is really an uncontroversial Good.  For those whose personal preferences tend toward the subtler end of the spectrum, then, this can seem like an area where practicality must trump style.  Fluorescent triangle vests for everyone!!

But it needn't be so.  Recall the lovely Cordelia:
in daylight
One of the things that attracted me to the KHS Green in the first place was that its look was so basic, so unassuming, it was as if it were trying to look like a silhouette of a bicycle.  Cool.  The bad thing about silhouettes though?  Hard to see in the dark.  So:
with flash
Here Cordelia is sporting a Bright Bikes kit in "Black Caterpillar."  As you can see, what is essentially invisible in daylight becomes quite noticeable under direct light, adding a layer of safety that doesn't scream, "yooooooooo! check out all my neon fluorescent reflective decals!"   The $18 kits come in a variety of colors and are super easy to apply in almost any kind of configuration you would like, so you can be as subtle or unsubtle as you please.  I immediately felt more confident about riding my bike at night after I got her taped up good and intend to give Frida a similar treatment in the near future.  I highly recommend checking them out

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A blushing bike

Wednesday ended up being an unexpectedly stressful bicycle day, what with the sudden news of the lady Raleigh's infirmity.  Fortunately, the day didn't end there.  Wednesday was also the long-anticipated first meeting of my five-week bicycle maintenance class at Broadway Bicycle School here in Cambridge.

I was the second to last of seven students to arrive, and all eyes were immediately on me as soon as I rolled in the door.  Okay, not me, Frida.  With everyone else riding some variety of hybrid or road bike, Frida came along with her giant handlebars and full chain case, looking like some kind of beautiful alien, apparently.  The room was full of questions about how the ride was and what kind of bicycle was that exactly and wow it's big, isn't it, and where did it come from again?  One person actually said, "I don't think I've ever had bike envy before this!" and got an "I know!" response-- awww.  I tried to keep Frida from preening too much, but I think I spotted an extra glimmer in her rear fender...  After the crowd reaction, our instructor came over and gave his own version, which was more along the lines of, "I'd better take a look at this.  Oh boy, this... is going to be different..."

The first class was on changing a flat and had us learning about such things as tubes and tires and bicycle nipples.  Mr. BroadwayBicycleSchool mentioned the process of changing out a rear tire on a bicycle with a chain guard and internally geared hub with a distinct tone of dread; but we were only doing front tires today.  Perhaps as Frida's way of making up for her "difficulty," I found it super easy to get the tire off and on and was done long, long before many of the others with their quick-release levers.
I did it!  And I replaced the rim tape.
I'm sure that had a lot more to do with the particularities of our individual tires and rims and whatnot, than with any preternatural mechanical dexterity on my part, but it still felt a little good to make it look so easy in front of all the guys (plus one other girl).

Throughout the class, the nice Air Force man working on the other side of my stand kept asking me questions about how I liked the Brooks saddle and the hub brakes, and it just seemed like he was so curious about the Dutch bicycle in general.  So I offered to let him test ride her after we got out.  He took a little zip around the block, and when he came back, he explained that he would've gone farther except he thought he would get "too jealous" if he kept riding!  So much Frida love!  Then it was a quick trip to the pet store to buy some ridiculously expensive but eco-friendly cat litter (a portion of which, it turns out, was spilling out of one of my bags the entire way home; look for the trail on Cambridge Street tomorrow!), and Frida was in for the night.

Now, I don't at all mean to say that my bicycle was "the best" out of any of the others there, or that quick-release levers are "bad" and bolted-on wheels are "good."  I mostly certainly had the hardest time lifting my bike onto the repair stand, for instance.  But it should come as no surprise to anyone reading this blog that I've decided that my gigantic, heavy Dutch bicycle is the best bicycle for me, and I've accepted all the various trade-offs involved with bringing such a creature into my life.

She was definitely the prettiest, though.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My poor lady

Bad news from the shop: lady Raleigh needs a new rear wheel.
Oh lady Raleigh, you're suddenly so much pricier.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The squeaky [saddle] gets the grease

I'm really enjoying the Let's Go Ride a Bike Summer Games, not only for the thrill of potentially winning some truly fabulous prizes, but also because the various "challenges" provide that perfect little push to do things you might not otherwise think to do or get around to doing.
Part II: June 7-June 27: Learning Experiences
  • Perform a maintenance task — big or small!
  • Decorate your bike
  • Read a book about cycling
  • Carry a load on your bike — groceries, etc.
  • Test ride a different type of bike than you normally ride
Last night, I took on a (very small) maintenance task with my Brooks saddle.  I'd been noticing on some of my quieter rides that the springs on this sprung saddle had been making a small racket, which I think made Frida sound like an old lady-- which she is not!  After some basic googling, it seemed that a few drops of 3-in-One on all of the metal bits on the underside would clear things up... and really now, when has a little extra lube ever been a bad idea?

Normally, I would've just held a paper towel under the saddle to catch the drips and done it without taking anything apart, because I am lazy.  But since this would be my official maintenance task and I wanted to be thorough, I went all the way and removed the saddle from the seat post.  I'd also read that when you first get your Brooks baby, you should put a coat of Proofide on the underside to help protect it from water; which seems less of an issue when you have fenders and non-porous skirt guards, but hey, here was my chance to do it up right.
Hello, squeaky.

I used a long, thin paintbrush to help me reach some of the nooks and crannies that would otherwise have been tricky.  Fairly obvious, maybe, but I still felt pretty clever and resourceful when I thought of it!

As I was sitting there lovingly spreading goo across my saddle and smelling all of the oil and grease and leather, I felt very "Charles Ingalls in Little House in the Big Woods"-- all those scenes of him coming home on winter nights to sit by the fire, greasing his bear traps and filling his gunpowder horn and repairing the leather straps on his bullet bag.  The Little House books were a huge part of my childhood, and I still read the entire series an average of once a year, so this was a very comforting parallel.
Totally Ingalls style.

Now I just want to color some butter with carrot peels and eat a roasted pig's tail, and I'll be all set.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The wind beneath my wheels

Follow-up regarding the Gap shorts I mentioned earlier for riding in skirts.  I tried them out under my dress for the Tweed Ride (I promise to stop talking about this now), and they worked... kind of.
Here we are, riding along, with my lightweight skirt beginning to blow up and reveal the dress's lining.  Still, everything's basically where it should be.

Wheee!  Fun!  And then every so often, this would happen:
Photos from iamtonyang's flickr album
Wheee-oooaaa!  Can you read my internal monologue at this moment? 
"Feeling a little naked... but I know I'm wearing shorts... I'm going to continue on as if this is entirely what I intended.  Play it cool, play it cool!"  
I'm glad that from the photo it does look like those are shorts and not just underpants, because it kind of felt that way.  I mean, I don't think it would be Earth-shattering if my underpants were showing, but I was just a little thrown by how much less... substantial they felt in practice versus what I had imagined.  I like, too, how photos from the ride reveal that I spent much of the day pedaling a bit knock-kneed-- a valiant effort to preserve my modesty, as a lady ought.

Also, the shorts tie at the waist with a ribbon drawstring, which is very cute and everything, but it means the waist won't always lie as flat as one might like under thinner fabrics.  Again, not unworkable, but not ideal either. 

So there you have it: another idea that is perhaps better in theory than in practice.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Speaking of cats

My contribution to the Bike and Cat Gallery: This is Stella, examining my first bicycle last December.

Stella is a very photogenic cat.  When she's not sniffing bicycle wheels, she enjoys such things as
posing with typewriters,

attempting camouflage,

emphatic lolling,

and most frequently, relaxing in a ladylike fashion, with paws crossed just so.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

This is not what we had discussed!

Self, what have you done??  Does this look like a mixte to you???

We need to talk.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Sweet and sour

What is it with Jerk Season????

Today, while I was performing the intricate choreography of one way streets required to get from Point A to Point B around Harvard Square, I had my own run-in with jerkiness.  I was on a two-lane one way approaching a light at one of those intersections that has a hard left, bear left, straight, and right turn.

View Larger Map

I needed to bear left, so I signaled to move out of the bike lane into rightmost lane.  There was one car far behind me, and the light was just turning red, so I took the lane thinking this would be simple and obvious to all involved.  But the far away car?  Suddenly was bearing down behind me, accelerating toward a red light (with a very clearly marked 'no turn on red' sign), and honking insistently.  It honestly seemed like he started going faster as soon as he saw there was a bike in the lane.

When he came to a stop behind me, I heard the driver shout something about, "use the friggin' bike lane, lady."  I kind of awkwardly half-turned over my shoulder and called back (not as calmly as I might have hoped) that, "I'm turning left-- this is what I'm supposed to do!"  There was some more unintelligible shouting, when the couple in the car stopped in the other lane starting yelling, too, and I thought, "Oh great, more?"

But no!  The Nice Couple were shouting, so that everyone could hear, "We're with you on the bicycle!  You're doing the right thing!"  As I was thanking them, Aggro Driver screamed again about "you have your own lane, dumbass!", and the Nice Couple kindly shot back, "She's supposed to be in the lane to turn left!"

Aggro Driver gave a few, now slightly halfhearted grumble-shouts; the light turned green; and A.D. had to wait approximately 2 seconds for me to push off toward the left before he made his (very fast) right turn.

I've read so much recently about the abuse taken by law-abiding cyclists, so it's clearly widespread and not specific to me.  But.  I can't help but wonder: while I do stand behind my fashion choices and my right to wear whatever the hell I want to, today I happened to be wearing a big, ribboned headband and pink Mary Janes, a combination that doesn't exactly scream "Formidable Adult Adversary;" and I was riding a loop frame bicycle with colorful, flowery bags in my rear baskets.  Now in all likelihood, Mr. Aggro would have acted exactly the same way if I were a man riding a road bike... but I sometimes can't help but feel that when I look more superficially "feminine," male drivers in particular might feel more able or more entitled to act out their aggressions toward me.  Certainly, I would appear to be in less of a position to object than, say, a giant muscle-y man who might threaten physical violence in response to verbal abuse.  I suppose this just may be an added layer of ickiness on the already uneven power relationship between those on bicycles and those safely ensconced inside two-ton steel boxes.

They should watch out, though-- carrying Frida up and down the porch steps is starting to give me really big guns.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Kind of blue

First off, in case any of you have been wondering, Frida is not a trashcan!
How rude!  It's true that this particular stretch of Harvard's campus does not have any trashcans right there, if you walk 30 seconds in almost any direction (as I did shortly after taking this photo), you will find one.  I normally don't leave the rear baskets unfolded when I park, but the bike rack I use has been so deserted now that school is out, and plus it was raining that day so it was even emptier; so I just left the basket open.  But this kind of thing (who does this?  really!) does encourage one to continue the habit even when it would seem otherwise unnecessary...

The other thing I noticed on the way home was that I was surrounded by blue mixtes!  Observe:

Blue mixte #1

Blue mixte #2

And blue mixte #3

Which was right next to blue mixte #2 
These last two caught my eye as I was riding home.  I just had to pull over and walk my bike back a few blocks to take a closer look.  They were right on top of each other, so it was tough to get a good look at either of them individually-- especially the outer one, with its delightfully unmatched mish-mosh of blue rims and tires and bright blue handlebar tape and blue Knog light!  I really wanted to cross the street to get a better shot of it, but it was starting to be rush hour, and there were just too many cars going by.  More to the point, probably, I am a terribly impatient (and accordingly, poor) photographer (working with a camera phone, no less). 
Frida retreats behind a tree, jealous of these mixte buddies and their blue camaraderie.

The outer one is a Peugeot, and the inner one had a Lotus headbadge.  They both look well-used and well-loved, and beautiful in their own individual ways.  I'm glad I decided to stop and turn around to look at them instead of just continuing on my way home.  Maybe this is all I need, mixte-wise, for the time being.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Spreading the word

The last time my little sister and her boyfriend came to visit me from Brooklyn, we had many discussions about Frida, the merits and joys of cycling, and the beauty of vintage bicycles.  Neither of them has had a bike since they were in middle school (at least my sister hasn't, for sure), and I was encouraging them to start again.  Well, today, I got this in my email:
J__ and I got bikes today! well, we put money down for them at Recycle-a-Bicycle and we will be bringing them home next week. I got a black Phillips step-through (made in England, merged with Raleigh in the 70's?) and James got a black Triumph man-bike (also made in England and was bought up by Raleigh). Both are from the early 70's and look totally cute together. James almost got a Peugeot mixte, but the one they had was a bit too messed up. Our bike place didn't have as many cool looking old bikes and mixtes as the Cambridge Antiques Market, but we were at least able to find these two gems once we went to their warehouse (after being disappointed with what they had in their shops). We're both getting coaster brakes put on at the warehouse and James' bike still needs be reconditioned, so we can't have them just yet :( . But now we're looking for bike accessories! How do you like your bike lock? Is it a standard u-lock or a long one? Kryptonite? Now I have to think about bells, lights, racks, baskets - eek.
Hooray!  I cannot wait to see pictures of the new additions to my bicycle extended family!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Bicycles are awesome

Putting mixte madness aside, yesterday I had a night that reminded me how great it is to have a bicycle at all.

For starters, instead of walking to the laundromat that's about half a mile from my apartment, I figured out that Frida can comfortably hold about 2-3 smallish loads of laundry between the rear baskets and rack.  While the total amount of time it takes to load/unload/lock up/etc. is probably equal to (or even a little greater than) the time it would take to walk, it was so much more pleasant to zip over with Frida shouldering the load instead of... my shoulders shouldering it!  The other bonus was that where I would normally kill time at the nearby cafe (which is also enjoyable), I was able to use the washing and drying times to ride to the farther-away grocery store that carries the brand of ginger beer I like and then aimlessly toodle around on the neighborhood side streets for the fun of it.  I think I may be taking Frida on laundry runs from now on.

Even better, though, was when I got home and decided I suddenly wanted to make a late night run to Target.  This used to be something that would require a bus or a Zipcar-- i.e., money and time and a particular schedule-- but with a bicycle?  I could just go.  There's something about a summer night that tends to make you feel free anyway; add in a nighttime bike ride sailing along mostly empty streets, and it feels acutely pleasurable to be alive.

It was nice, too, to come out of the store at 11:10PM and see that a few other people had the same idea. 
One of these things is not like the others...
Now all they need is some carrying capacity-- I guess it was messenger bags for everyone?  The two ladies who belonged to the middle two bikes came out as I was preparing to wheel away, and I caught them stealing envious glances at Frida's commodious baskets!  Maybe inspiring someone to have new insights on the merits of owning a big, heavy bicycle??
That's right: workin' hard and lookin' good. 

On a decidedly less than awesome note, I saw a craigslist post today about a bicycle stolen right outside the Design School at Harvard.  As this is one of Frida's more common locales, I find the report particularly disturbing....  But I suppose at least it makes my new U-lock + cable lock + rear wheel lock + Brooks-hiding shower cap system seem less paranoid.

Oh noes!

UPDATE: Remaining strong in my resolution not to purchase a bicycle right now.  (I think...?  Oh, gah.)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Third Sunday: Avant moi, le deluge

After the storms subsided yesterday evening, I was itching to get out of my stuffy apartment and into the open air.  So the Bat and I took to the Charles River bike path once again, passing a few spectacularly downed tree branches on the way [not pictured].  Everything had that after-the-rain, super saturated feel to it, which was especially nice as the sun was setting.

It was really good to get out, and the bike path was empty enough that I felt okay about posing Frida for some beauty shots next to the puddles.  (I was also really enjoying riding straight through the giant lakes of water that everyone else was avoiding, lifting my feet off the pedals to keep my feet dry and also to make it more fun.)

Happily, Cordelia's new owner, C, was able to join me for a little zip along the river.  She was wearing such a bright and adorable blue and red outfit and told me that she's been really big on cycling in skirts.

We stopped at one of those outdoor workout stations, which was right next to another huge fallen tree branch [not pictured].  It had this fun, springy/spongy ground material and some ellipticals that seemed more like swings for your feet than anything exercise-y.  There were two girls there already, playing on the various contraptions, so we chatted a bit while I photographed Cordelia and Frida together again.  One of them was doing some impressive somersaults in the background!

It was getting surprisingly chilly and windy, so we headed off to my favorite cafe to warm up-- ! in June!  I love warming up though, much more than sweating out.

The streets were so quiet and empty, and the air felt somehow full of mystery...

... but inside was cozy and full of good things to eat and drink.

We stopped for frozen yogurt afterward, but it was so cold by that point (both in the air-conditioned shop and outside) that we decided to head home.  So I took mine to go.
I'm going to say this officially counts for the Let's Go Ride a Bike Summer Games Part 2: carry a load on your bike!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

8 reasons why I shouldn't buy a mixte

1. I just bought a brand new, beautiful, and expensive bicycle.
2. Rear derailleur?  What?

don't want to buy

3. I don't know how to use those little thumb shifters (and see #2 above).
4. I like riding slowly, especially now that it's summer/sweaty time.  So I don't need a sportier bike.

not interested

5. Where would I put it?  My apartment is small; Frida is large; and I'm increasingly distrustful of the bike storage in my building's front hallway as the front door's lock seems to be constantly malfunctioning, i.e. not locking at all.
6. I don't want to hurt Frida's feelings or make her think she is less special to me.

mixtes are stupid

7. I'm still new to bicycles and still figuring out what I like and don't like, so it would be premature for me to be making more purchases, especially of a kind of bike that I don't know much about.
8. I enjoy daily scanning of craigslist to see if there are any interesting bicycles, and if I bought another one now, I would really have no reason to do so.

Yeah!  That's right!
Any others?