Équipage de voyage

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.

My dream city bike...
Me, showing off our Christiania trike. Photo by Elly Blue

“Did you build that yourself?” That’s the first question most people ask us about our Christiania cargo trike. This question is followed shortly by “How can I get one?” And lately, a lot of people ask us about it, as interest in bikes like this has become more commonplace.

Of course, I did not build our trike; it’s a specialized piece of equipment whose design has been refined over several decades by Christiania Bikes in Copenhagen. But the naïveté of the question reminds me that bikes like this are an oddity in North America. And it reminds me of how lucky I am to call this vehicle my everyday transportation.


I’ve had a set of Dapper Dan grips from Portland Design Works (PDW) for several months now, and have put them to the test on my daily urban travels.

The grips are well-designed, easy to install and use, comfortable, and attractive. The construction consists of a rigid tube wrapped in a piece of vegetable-tanned leather, laced up on one side. The ends of the tube are fitted with binder clamps, to secure the grips onto the handlebars.

The grips are available in two shapes: straight, and ergo. The straight grips are cylinder-shaped. The ergo shape has a bulb-out to support the palm of your hand. I tested the straight grips.

SKS Chainboard

One of my first posts on this blog was about where the trousers meet the chain — a peculiar but persistent sticking point in the story of North American transportational cycling. Any American who has cycled in everyday clothes has had to confront this issue at least once. You’ve rolled up your right pant leg, or stuffed it into your sock, or decided that you’ll only wear knickerbockers — all because otherwise your pant leg would get grease-stained or shredded by the chain and chainrings of your bike.

This is a good example of what’s wrong with the bikes we’re accustomed to. Instead of designing the bicycle to solve the problem, we solve the problem by changing the way we dress, in a minuscule but significant way (and if you’ve ever walked around a conference for two hours, shaking hands and passing out business cards, only to realize that you forgot to roll down your right pant leg, you’ll know what I mean by “significant”). The American way: Going by bike? Wear special pants, or at least a Trouser Accessory.

In contrast, on a city bike, the bike protects your clothing by using a chainguard or chaincase to keep your pants or skirt (and shoelaces) out of the chain and chainring teeth. With a chainguard on your bike, you can go ahead and wear whatever you want. Et voilà, Vélocouture!