North America

I wrote a review of Amy Walker’s On Bicycles for the Sightline Daily Blog. I’m cross-posting about it here because I thought some of my readers would be interested in the review, and also because Sightline is a smart, interesting organization that you should know about. Read the whole review on Sightline, and here are a few paragraphs to get you started.

Bike books are like bike infrastructure. Their purpose is either to attract new riders, or appeal to experienced users. Effectively appealing to both groups is difficult, if not impossible.

Yet that’s what On Bicycles: 50 Ways the New Bike Culture Can Change Your Life does. It’s an all-around guide to bike culture, filled with useful information and bursting at the seams with earnest enthusiasm for all levels of interest. But will this self-proclaimed bike culture make the bicycle a vital part of North American transportation networks? Does bike culture necessarily help to bring bicycling to the mainstream as a method of transportation?

Read the rest of the review on Sightline.

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.)

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!

Vélocouture is based in Portland, but we aim to have have a global scope and a regional (Cascadia) focus. So we don’t spend a lot of time on these pages talking about the town in which we live.

You probably know that Portland is one of the best places in the United States to get around on a bicycle. We’re no Copenhagen, at least not yet. But every year more and more people decide to go by bicycle, and more and more of them do it in everyday clothes, just like the rest of the world. Now that the easygoing weather of summer has arrived, I’m seeing a marked increase in fabulously dressed, pedal-powered people.

June is when Pedalpalooza happens here in Portland, so the streets are more festive than ever. I thought it’d be a nice time to highlight some of what we’ve seen from the Portlanders in the Vélocouture photo pool.

ashia on steele bridge_226
Photo by Flickr user Hart Ryan Noecker

Portland Bike Culture - Spring 2008
Photo by Flickr user SmilingMonk

pretty dress panda
Photo by Flickr user jdubble

Lemolo Bags
Photo by Flickr user Dapper Lad Cycles

Summer in the City
Photo by Flickr user kirstykat

Early photo of Søren and I
Photo by Flickr user poetas

Photo by Flickr user model337

Favorite Things
Photo by Flickr user amyadoyzie

Photo by Flickr user cleverchimp

Here’s to all the people, be they young or old, big or small, fluorescent or tweed, who pedal their way along Portland’s streets.