Sea of bikes

A sea of bikes at Oregon Manifest 2011.

In late September 2011, I attended Oregon Manifest in northwest Portland. I visited the opening night showcase, and was able to get a peek at most of the entries. I saw some beautiful bikes, some silly bikes, and some extremely interesting bikes. Though I did not spend enough time at this year’s Manifest events to provide a thorough or detailed report, I will write here about some of the bikes I saw that will be of interest to my readers. (If you care to read a very thorough, well-written, and well-informed report, get your hands on the Winter 2011 issue of Bicycle Quarterly.)

In the interest of full disclosure, note that I had a few cards in the game this time around. The Antload/Joe Bike team hired me to design the logos and website for their entry, the Byerley. Metrofiets and Clever Cycles are clients of my design studio (for work not pertaining to their Oregon Manifest entries).

The Byerley

Full disclosure (and plug): I designed the logos for the Byerley,
a collaborative effort between Mike Cobb's Antload Fabrications and Joe Bike.

Oregon Manifest’s primary event is a design competition called the Constructors’ Challenge, where framebuilders are asked to enter bikes that meet a certain set of criteria. This year’s challenge sought the “ultimate utility cycle.”


Steel fenders are important

Every year I hear from friends who have removed their fenders “for the summer” and then been surprised — shocked! — by a “freak” summer rainstorm. And I always think, wait, wait… back up a bit. Fenders are removable?

OK, I’m being snarky, but I just don’t get why you’d take off your fenders. Even if it NEVER rains, there is plenty of stuff on the roadways that I’d rather not have splashing up onto my pants.

Also, if you’re Anastasia, keeping fenders attached at all times is pretty important. You can use them to climb up into the box of the trike.

(I’m guessing that by the time she is heavy enough to damage the fenders by doing this, she’ll also be big enough to get into the trike without climbing up the fenders.)

I am always game to try out a new city bike, so I was excited to test out the new Pilen Lyx ‘Portlandia’ for a few weeks this past spring.

Pilen Lyx Portlandia, loaded for bear

Pilen is a Swedish bike company, founded in 1999 with the intention of creating a sturdy line of city bikes in a classic Scandinavian style. Like most American bicycle companies, the firm designs and assembles its bikes in Sweden, and has the frames constructed in Asia.

The Pilen Lyx is their all-road model, meant to be used on pavement as well as dirt roads and gravel. It’s got easy handling and a super comfortable ride. In a nutshell, it’s a lighter-duty version of the venerable Dutch city bike—a lighter weight, no skirt guard, a chainguard instead of a full chaincase—but still fully equipped for the rigors and pleasures of everyday urban transport.

Li'l minivan
This is a pocket photo I made in late January. As you can see, my daughter Anabee is doing a little drawing while we head to the grocery store. She had just started in with her habit of kicking back across the bench seat. She doesn’t do it any more… perhaps because her legs are too long to fit now!

nihola panda

I finally took a Nihola trike for a test ride and thought I would share my impressions.

Nihola is a cargo bike company based in Denmark. Nihola trikes, like Christiania trikes, are popular among parents there, as well as businesspeople who want to haul stuff, advertise stuff, or otherwise use a bike commercially.

Like the Christiania, Nihola trikes have a well-designed rain canopy, and have design amenities specifically aimed at carrying one or two kids in the cargo box: the rain canopy, a sturdy bench, seatbelts, and a carriage design that maximizes head and legroom.

Unlike most cargo trikes, the Nihola uses a steering linkage system. Most cargo trikes steer by using the box as the steering mechanism: the front wheels are on the box, and you steer by rotating the box on a pivot — the headset — which is positioned underneath the box, near the center. This sounds crude but can be quite sophisticated and well-engineered (as in the Christiania, with its inverse-angled floating headset, and hydraulic steering damper).


Boxcycles, the US importer/distributor of Christiania trikes, is starting the new year off with a new Twitter feed and a contest to win one of their amazing cargo trikes. Follow them on twitter at @boxcycles and check out the contest information on their site to play along.

Christiania story on Riders' Collective

A few weeks ago, my extensive post about our Christiania trike was republished in Riders’ Collective, an online magazine that collects content from around the internet and edits and redesigns it into a magazine format.

My Christiania article was featured in the November issue. Click here to download it.

I added a conclusion to the original text; for some reason, this new content was not included in the Riders’ Collective version, but you can read the new conclusion in the original post.

Public Bikes

I got a note from the folks at PUBLIC bikes about a new line of bikes coming this fall. Unlike their previous internally-geared bikes, these will feature derailleur gear systems, and a remarkably low price (under $500). Best of all, to promote the new line, they’re giving one away. See the contest page on their web site for more info.

I haven’t tried any of their bikes, so I can’t speak to their quality or ride, but I hope to put one to the test soon. In the meantime, they certainly look good, and the people I know who’ve tried them say they are fine bikes indeed. (UPDATE: I found out that Public does not lend out bicycles for review. So, a brief test ride from a local shop will have to do.)

Photo by Patrick Barber. North Williams Avenue, evening commute, mid-October 2010.

Thus far, this blog has been more about other folks’ photos, and not so much about mine. I’ve been getting some pretty good ones lately, though, so maybe that will change.

Here’s a truly autumnal ensemble, a simple earth-toned outfit accented by a beautiful knit sweater — or shrug, it’s hard to tell.

As I spend more time making photographs of pedal-powered passers-by, I’m struck by the moody, quiet world that the images sometimes inhabit. I’m reminded of the way that an ensemble can be so beautifully presented when the wearer is on a bicycle — something that I love about the intersection of fashion and bicycle transport.


Some of our favorite baskets from around the Vélocouture flickrverse. Click through for credit information. 1. What I wore today…, 2. Sheryl, 3. 365/136 Me and Holly, 4. Folsom street basket shine., 5. ava, 6. bikes’ height reflect our height.

From a makeup case to a briefcase to a case of beer, getting around means carrying stuff. When you use a bike to get around you will often want to take some things with you: your purse or bag, your camera, your knitting supplies, the book you’re reading. And, of course, you may have things to carry with you on your way home; if you stop at the grocery store, for example. Fortunately, it’s easy to set up a bike as your own personal beast of burden.

One of the simplest ways to carry your stuff is to sling a backpack or messenger/shoulder bag on your back and head out. Plenty of people do this, and if you’re just starting out, it’s a convenient and low-cost option: you probably already own a small backpack or shoulder bag. But riding a bike with a bag on your back, for anything but the shortest trips, can become sweaty or uncomfortable. Good heavens, you may even rumple your jacket. That’s why I like to use a basket for my everyday transport.

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