Posts categorized "Bike"

Introducing Wilhelmina

Today I got my new bike.  I am in love.

image from www.flickr.com
A week ago Friday, I rode all the bikes on my shortlist and this Royal Gazelle Toer Populair gave me that "you are the bike for me" vibe that I needed to make my decision.

Funny thing is, I saw this bike at Curbside Cycle in early March and was told it was too big for me.  It's a 57cm frame which is for riders over 170cm or just over 5'7" and I'm only 168.5cm--5'6".

So I waited for them to get in the smaller bike and when I rode it, it felt too short.  I rode it again on another visit, and it still felt like my butt was hanging off the back of the seat.

Last week, after riding two Velorbis models (which still kept that bike in contention--but the price really is prohibitive) and a Pashley Princess which was very nice, I asked if I could ride the 57cm Toer 7 speed to see if the gearing worked for me.  I still felt like 3 speeds weren't enough; mostly because the steps in between the gears are so big.  I also live at the top of a pretty big hill and would like a few of the lower gears to help that climb.

I rode the bright white version of the bike (which seemed like riding a tube of toothpaste colour wise) and the bike started quietly begging me to take it home. 

The bike was a bit tall; I can just reach the ground with my tiptoe with the seat all the way down, but the top tube length was just right.

Ally, the very nice salesperson talked me through the pros and cons of a larger frame.  She made some adjustments, let me ride the smaller Gazelle for comparison and then literally, sent me out in traffic (on a Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend no less) to really get a feel for the bike. 

I didn't mention it had a coaster brake.  Suddenly I wanted that too.  I like how you can use it to moderate your speed with your feet instead of your hands and how the bike stops more gradually instead of abrubtly.  I also liked how the front handbrake was on the right side leaving my left hand for signalling.  The whole experience was fantastic.

But, this bike is a limited edition replica of a 1968 model (though this classic Omafiet is pretty much the same frame they made in 1892) and only comes in Premium White (I have this thing about white vehicles) or what's called Rembrandt White, which is more of a hard to describe creamy green colour.  I wasn't sold on those options.

image from www.flickr.com
So I asked about ordering the black 8 speed that doesn't come with coaster brakes, went home empty handed needing to wait on whether a black bike was available.  I thought about the bike all weekend and into the next week.

Thursday I finally managed to get out at lunch and back to Curbside.  I rode the Rembrandt White bike.  Two hipsters commented on it's fine looks while I was rode--I don't really care what hipsters think--I found the whole interchange funny since I'm well, not very hip!  I noticed how the Brooks seat added a nice vintage touch to the overall design.  It was pretty.

image from www.flickr.com
I still loved the ride and really don't mind the colour.  It's subtle but very different.  I probably won't ever see another one like it.  I bought it.

Today I brought her home.  There are beautiful, apparently handpainted, red stripes and accents on the fenders (this spot makes me thing someone really did paint these stripes--they are just a little too human looking),

IMG_1575
Around the lugged connectors,

image from www.flickr.com
And on the chain guard (though these look like a machine did the work). Finally a fully enclosed chain guard.  No more dirty pant cuff!

image from www.flickr.com
This bike is beautiful, smooth and a pleasure to ride.  All I need now are some panniers.  I think something red would be lovely.  I've always been partial to these Basil ones.

http://mybeautifulbike.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Basil-red-pannier-bag.jpg

Emma has already adopted Claudia and I think they'll have a lovely time together.  I will likely ride her again sometimes too, but I can already feel the difference of this bike.  The bumps are less bumpy, the gears are silent and nothing rattles. 

So why is she Wilhelmina? 

I wanted a Dutch name so did some searching and discovered that Wilhelmina is a Dutch royal name which I think suits a big regal bike like this one. 

And I've always remembered this Sesame Street bit for W-W-W-Willamena so I couldn't resist.

 

W-W-W-Wonderful Wilhelmina!

image from www.flickr.com

 

 


So many lovely bicycles

I'm sure many of you remember Claudia, my lovely Electra Townie Bicycle.

Small claudia
I still love her very much, but I also want a new bike.  I have become a true bike commuter and use my bike for some daily errands and general getting about town and because of that I want a bike that *does* a bit more than Claudia and really *is* more.

Like many things in life, you get what you pay for, and a seven speed Townie is relatively inexpensive in the grand scheme of bikes.  After 5 years the quality issues are starting to show.  I've had to replace the back wheel (not the tire, the actual wheel after the bearings failed), the bottom bracket is going--the bearings are starting to grind, I've had to replace all the cables, the back fender is bent (thanks Mr Don't Look When I Turn Right) and it has always rattled and well it's feeling like a bike of "all style and no substance".  

I promised myself that if I rode all winter (when the conditions weren't dangerous) I could start looking for my next bike.  Luckily for me, this winter was one of the dryest and warmest on record and I rode all winter.  I should also add that I'm not someone who "gears up" to ride her bike.  I want to ride in my street clothes.  Here's a winter shot of me in my regular coat.  The only add-on was leggings over my skirt tights because of the temperature.

Photo
Also, Emma needs a bike for occasional use and Claudia would be perfect for her.

In March I started the hunt.  Fuelled with excellent reviews and tips from several great bike bloggers like Lovely Bicycle! and Let's Go Ride a Bike, I started to see what bikes I could find in Toronto that had the following criteria:

  1. Full chain guard (I have ruined too many pairs of pants)
  2. Skirt guard (to keep some of the mud off me)
  3. Integrated lighting system 
  4. Internal hub gears (less maintenance)
  5. Internal hub or disc brakes which are better for stopping in wet and snowy conditions
  6. Solid, heavy frame
  7. A proper, solid Vee kickstand (I'm left handed and am always on the wrong side of my bike to operate a regular stand).
  8. Solid rear rack 
  9. Eye-catching.  If you don't love your bike it won't get ridden.

While there were a few bikes I wanted to try that I can't get in Toronto (mainly Batavus and Workcycles) I have test-ridden a number of fantastic bikes.  Here are the current contenders in no particular order.

Royal Gazelle: I thought at the outset that I wanted a traditional Dutch bike and I've ridden a few different Gazelle models yet can't quite fall in love.  I started out trying a 57cm sized frame 7speed because that was all that I could find and it was just that much too big for me.  

The 28" tires make these bikes go fast and they don't want to stop once they get rolling.  The handlebars take some getting used to and they handle very differently than any other bike I've ridden.  It was a smooth easy ride (even though my toes couldn't quite touch the ground).

I also rode a basic 3 speed 51cm size (I'm 5'6" and this is the right frame for me) and while I feel like it's enough bike for me, I'm also considering the long term (Gazelles and all the bikes I'm showing here are meant to be 30 year investments) and might want something with 5 or more gears.  

tour basic

I'm also not super crazy about the coaster brake on the Basic, but know I could get used to it (some people prefer them).  If I did get this bike I would swap the seat for a Brooks saddle.  Since is the least expensive bike in my possible list, that's not a big deal.  Then there's the issue of colour.  The basic black is always nice, but this Tardis-shade of blue is awfully pretty

This 8 speed Toer Populair, is really the one I love.  Those little extras like the Brooks saddle and the mudflap give it the edge on style.  The only thing this model doesn't have is the nifty traditional dutch kickstand, but I could easily add a vee shaped one (I think!).  I would have to order this one, but the frames are all the same, it's just whether I want the extra gears and the extra cost.

Gazelle

Velorbis: This is the most stylish of the bikes I've tried.  The Dannebrog just knocks me out and is definitely in the running.  A Danish company, Velorbis bikes are built in Germany and this one has 5 speeds, leather grips, a leather mudflap, that striking red colour, it *kills* me with pretty.

It's also the most expensive of the lot (I wouldn't buy the optional basket as I'm more of a pannier girl).  I notice on the Velorbis site that this bike now comes with a 7speed Shimano grip shifter--I prefer that to the Sturmey Archer flip shifter (I'm not sure what the technical term is) which might seal the deal.  It's a quick and nimble ride and has everything I want.

Pashley: This is the bike I'm still waiting to try.  It's elegant looking and someone on my commute rides one--i just purrs down the street.  

It's a 5 speed which is probably the right number of gears for me, but also somewhat smaller in stature than the Velorbis and Gazelle so I'm not sure if it's what I want.  The thing is I can't say yes to one of the others until I try this bike out. I'm just waiting for them to arrive at the shop.

I rode a Bobbin Firefly that Curbside Cycle has configured to be almost identical to a Pashley (the one below doesn't have the Brooks seat or lighting system that was on the one I tried).  

Bobbin - Monsieur

It was okay and the price is near the low end for these sorts of bikes at $999 but it didn't speak to me the way I was hoping it would.  

I find that many women's loop frame bikes feel too short between the handlebars and the seat--I find myself riding with my butt half off the seat regardless of what size frame I'm riding (even some that are too big for me). The Bobbin was definitely like that.  If you're more petite, a Bobbin bike might be for you--the Birdie comes in some sweet colours.

So, what will it be?  I keep hoping one of these bikes will choose me but I think with all choices, there isn't a perfect one.  The other hard part is not being able to ride them all in one go (the Velorbis is at Cycle Couture and the rest at Curbside) and the waiting for the Pashley.  I hope to make the purchase soon and I'll let you know how it goes.


:Cringe: cyclist stupidity

When the weather is good (ie there's no snow) I bike to work. Over the years I have had tangles with many stupid drivers which have thankfully lead to nothing more than a wrecked fender, sweaty palms and a rapid heart beat.


This year, the traffic and stupid drivers are NOTHING compared to some of the things I have seen my fellow cyclists do. Luckily I haven't had to see them being smucked by cars but even cringing as they run that red light, or move out of the bike lane into traffic without freaking looking (and hearing the squeal as a car brakes) is too much for me.


Case one: Tuesday June 28 morning Bloor and Parliament
Man quizzes by on bike. Turns out he is holding on to the wheel well of a van to propel himself! Lets go, crosses 6 lanes of busy traffic then rides the wrong way in the bike lane before running through a red light.


What a stupid douche.


Case Two: Wednesday June 29 morning Bay and College
This was a slow cyclist. He looked careful and knowledgable. Until I passed him. Obviously bothered that a vagina passed his penis, he rode in the very skinny space between a city bus and a very big truck in order to pass the bus and make a right hand turn in front if it. I waited behind the bus because I know that the bus wouldn't see me and I don't want to be flattened. The bus didn't see him at first evidenced by the hard braking and I cringed.


Bonehead.


Why do I relay these? Not because I want to set back cyclist rights or because I'm sanctimonious because I too am not a perfect cyclist or driver but because stupid people like these endanger themselves, drivers and ME. I hope they don't drive cars the way they cycle and I want them to know they are reinforcing the views of drivers and our mayor who is poised to banish cyclists from the streets.


So stop it okay? Be sensible. I don't want to be in therapy after witnessing your death.


To the woman driving the red volvo:

Dear Madam, thank you for your kindly shouted words regarding my ontological status as you buzzed by me in your car going north on Pape at Danforth.  You are correct: I am indeed not a car.  I am a person. 

I was also on a bicycle making a properly constituted and signalled left turn under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act.  I am sorry you had to wait behind me,however, I can assure you, the oncoming traffic southbound hampered my attempts to make the turn without creating further peril for myself and inconvenience to others including yourself.  Unless, as I may conclude from your words, that you would consider my bloodied and broken body sprawled on the street proper punishment for not being a car and delaying you by 60 seconds from what must have been a very important engagement.

Sincerely,

Woman on the Orange Bike


A little too much morning adrenaline

To the woman in the black mercedes who decided that her need to get past a cab making a left hand turn was more important than MY LIFE:

Next time wait your fucking turn.  It is never ever ever okay to suddenly, without signaling, veer into the BIKE LANE to get around another car.  If you had looked over your shoulder you would have noticed that I was biking rather quickly down that hill on Sherbourne and had to brake very suddenly and yell at you for your fucked-up move. 

I feel rather fortunate that I didn't bounce off the trunk of your fancy car.

When I caught up to you a few seconds later, smacked on the passenger window, startled you and yelled "NEXT TIME STAY OUT OF THE BIKE LANE!!!!!" I really meant it.  Learn how to drive and THINK. 

I prefer the uneventful morning bike to work.  Fuck.


Good thing I wasn't riding Claudia

I haven't had any opportunties to ride my bike for the last 2 weeks.  The kids are coming in to work with me so they can attend daycamp, so we've been taking the TTC.

Claudia, my bike, is parked in the living room (like she was last year...weird), whilst the shed is being built (hopefully finished by this weekend) and is starting to get cranky about not being out on the road where she should be.

Then today, as I step off the street car, I see something that looks a lot like this biking by me (this woman's pannier's were red though).

If I had been riding Claudia, she would have slapped me.  So pretty.

A bit of google-fu later and I have located a local shop, Curbside Cycle, that sells the bikes (bad Steph, you don't need another bike, yours is a gorgeous, fun to ride, original), and the panniers.  The bag company is called Basil and of course, it's Dutch. 

There's nothing covered in Daisies, but I'm sure I can find something that will work to tart up my bike a bit.  I consider it a little back-to-bike gift for next week.

Here's some on a townie--so cute!

Townie with bag

These are my current favourites...tough to decide (I like these too, but don't think they go so good with orange).

Panniers

Bike Lane On Bloor!

TO: Paula Fletcher

CC: Mayor Miller, Case Ootes, Kyle Rae, Adrian Heaps, Glenn deBaeremaeker

RE: TEYCC 16.26 Bloor Transformation Project

As a resident in your ward who bikes from Jones ave across Bloor/Danforth to my job at the University of Toronto, I've been watching the changes planned for the Bloor St. redevelopment between Yonge and University.  The plan to NOT include bike lanes (and from the drawings, even ring posts) is deplorable.  Traffic conditions along that stretch are very perilous for cyclists and I feel the City is missing out on a perfect opportunity to encourage active/green transportation by facilitating both pedestrian and bicycle traffic along Bloor St.  Just as buildings implement changes to encourage accessibility for people with disabilities, the City must endeavour to encourage bicycle traffic on our streets; bike lanes are integral to this strategy and their omission on the Bloor St redevelopment merely cements the primacy of the automobile for transportation.
 
I urge you to INSIST that a bike lane on Bloor be part of any redevelopment.  It was first proposed in 1992; 16 years is too long a wait.
 
Bloor Bike Lane Design 


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Want more info?  Google Bike Lanes on Bloor, or visit Take the Tooker.  The vote is Monday June 23; let your councillor know how you feel!