Archive for the ‘bike’ Category

san fran bike shops

In all about the ride, bike, san fran, stateside, west coast on December 6, 2010 at 9:38 am

San francisco is a single speed/geared kind of town and when you see the hills which rear up into view you can understand why.

But more than being a type of bike kind of town, it is a bike town, small enough to be easily navigable and with a vocal enough bike lobby to have made the bike voice heard loudly and clearly. The bike is in the ascendency here, bike lanes, bike racks on buses, spaces on metro’s, more bike shops than you can shake a stick at, and all kinds of bikes circulating across town, day and night.

San Francisco is a city at peace with its cycling inhabitants and the car gives way to the bike at every intersection, and the bike lanes are many and wide. It’s easy to ride here, so I do, over the slight inclines and declines, trying to avoid the steep spikes which hem in certain parts of the city. Down long thoroughfares, boulevards, avenues. Enjoying being part of the multitudes, enjoying being anonymous, just another cyclist. No stares, no doubletakes, no jeers, or ironic cheers, just people making space for the cyclist.

The bike shops are myriad and varied, from designed and curated spaces, to overflowing bits shoved into as many corners as possible. But what each of them has is that American desire to please, greeted on entry, and knowledgeable staff who put you at your ease when asking questions. And despite the disparity in size and stock, each and every one feels like a local bike shop, this is the equivalent of going looking for a bar in Berlin, where everyone is a one-off down some alley or under an arch, the same is true of the bike shops in San Francisco.

Everyone rides everything here and though I’m sure it’s there, I don’t get any sense of snobbery, or disdain for what people ride. Everyone’s still got to get over the peaks, that split San Francisco.

I spend afternoons, tooling around, looking at the fixed bikes rolling past, and heading over to Haight Ashbury, picking a route that avoids the steep bits, only to take a turn and there jutting upwards is the type of hill, I’d been trying to avoid, and its a red-faced surge to try to get up it.

Don’t buy into the hype, the hills in San Fran are steep, and don’t get me wrong they do feel scary when you approach them and they loom ominously in front of you, but every block they plateau so the impartial grid, that was so unceremoniously dumped onto the uneven, lumpy landscape, provides an escape a level section to catch the breath before charging on, out of the saddle, stomping hard, heaving from side to side. Making the journey to Haight Ashbury was one of the most rewarding rides of my journey, because you knew as soon as you got to the top, that on the way back it’d be all downhill, riding the brake obviously, as those crossroads that had provided such eager release and sanctuary, now provided the opportunity to be sideswiped by oncoming traffic if you didn’t get the lights right, as you spent all attention to the spinning of your legs…

Bike wise San Francisco felt pretty unique, in that so many people were riding bikes, of all different shapes and sizes on a regular basis. No fanfare, no look we’re riding bikes, just riding them to go to the shops, to go to work, to go to school, to go out drinking. Just riding. And the range of bike shops had grown to accommodate that as well. Wish we had such a diverse range of bike shops in London, rather than the hegemony of the Evans and Cycle Surgeries, that dot the landscape.

I Linus, I Linus

In all about the ride, bike, los angelenos, stateside on December 4, 2010 at 9:46 am

So I was riding around down in Venice Beach when I came across asome bikes lined up along the central shopping street, all the frames were set up as single speed or geared hubs, and they looked nice enough. So I popped down the alleyway and lo and behold, found a rather fetching little bike operation, Linus bikes.

Little did I know from speaking to the owner, who was south african or australian, memories a bit vague on that one, that I’d be seeing these bikes up and down the west coast and in new york as well. The simple utilitarian design seems to strike a chord with the cycling masses out here on the left coast, and imagine my delight when I saw the range of Brooks saddles and accessories, and the smiling faces of old cycling friends spread across the catalogues.

So as I do I talked bikes with the owner, discussed the desire for the female populace to have bikes in pink or pastel shades, and generally the state of cycling on the west coast. It was fun, think he’d do a good trade if he exported the bikes to the UK, though not sure he’d make enough money out of it, with the exchange rate and VAT and all..

link to website here

orange 20

In all about the ride, bike, los angelenos, stateside, travelling on November 19, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Been in Hollywood for a couple of days and decide I need to find some bike shops, hopefully where the staff aren’t dicks, and a friend who I met in Brazil has told me about Orange 20 which isn’t that far away from where I’m staying.

So ride down to it, across the bumpy, cracked tarmacadam, with the large buses, and cars strangely enough giving me quite a wide berth, and discover that the guy who does trackosaurus Rex, who was super cool and was arranging for me to go and have a look at swrve’s (cycling clothing manufacturer) office space, runs the shop, or is one of the bods who runs the shop.

Orange 20 is a cool not so little store that is down on Heliotrope, opposite the bike kitchen, which was closed when I was down there, but I’m going to go back as I hear they have a very good bike map of Los Angeles and at this point in time that is what I really need.

Orange 20 felt like a bigger version of Brixton cycles, cool staff willing to answer your questions without any attitude, interesting selection of bikes and bits, obviously more track than geared, young men coming in with their bikes to be repaired or buy parts, or just joke and laugh with the staff. It’s good to be back amongst bikes and bike people.

Grabbed a couple of t-shirts, some caps, and hung out for a little while. They also let me know about a track day for Fast Friday which was happening out in Encino, on the weekend, and the critical mass that was happening on the friday. All in all, I had a lovely time there, and was well fucking stoked to have found it.

Round and round

In all about the ride, Argentina, bike, Sud America on May 1, 2010 at 5:07 pm

You will not believe this, but Mendoza has a velodrome! A motherfucking velodrome, and it’s got the most gorgeous, high concrete banking, that you’ve ever seen, with a swoop and a curve to it that makes the jaw drop, and in a place that gets as little rain as Mendoza it should be in use 24/7.
But it’s not, it’s derelict, cobwebs everywhere, main gate locked tight and with nobody around and only the sun and the clouds above to observe what I’m doing, that gorgeous steep short track gets me rolling slowly round it, gearing to low, fear in my heart as my tyres squeal and scratch and I try to maintain enough momentum to keep myself up by the blue line.
The track feels shorter than Herne hill, maybe 250 or 300m long and the banking makes me dizzy just looking at it, I wanna say it’s as steep as Calshot of Manchester but I’ve been to neither and so can’t make any sort of informed decision.
To get to the track I have to crawl under a fence, after sliding the bike under it as well, brushing the dirt from my knees and walking the bike across rocks and shrubland, that makes me wish and not for the first time why I didn’t bring some bigger tyres with me, or even a mountain bike. But when I get to the track and see those smooth curves, I know why.
I stare at it for ages, who knew it would be here, I’ve only found it because I was round by the old Malvinas football stadium, trying to find new paths through the big park which sits at the bottom of Cerro Gloria and looking at my little map I see there’s a velodrome. I don’t believe it’ll be any good but you know I’ve got to go and check it out. I’m travelling the world with a track bike for chrissakes course I’ve got to check it out. And for those three short laps it doesn’t disappoint, forum track days would be acecakes here, with the sun always shining, using the long low ramp that connects to the back straight to get upto racing velocity and then just attack those curves hands tight on the drops channeling the spirit of the Hoy, thighs pumping, breath coming slow and deep, before getting out of the saddle for the last dig for the line, the bods cheering and drinking in the infield.
God it’d be magnificent!

addendum: on an early saturday morning ride, saw two guys on track bikes, drops and everything, heading past me in the opposite direction, possibly heading to the track. so it may not be totally unused..

google map linky,-68.880316&sll=-32.884135,-68.880157&sspn=0.001083,0.001666&ie=UTF8&ll=-32.883083,-68.881016&spn=0.017335,0.02665&t=h&z=15


In Argentina, bike, Sud America, travelling on May 1, 2010 at 4:52 pm

1st full day in Mendoza, I’m not counting yesterday as it was a travel day and not having slept well on the bus I was just tired, and had no urge to do anything, plus Barca were playing inter in the semi finals of the champions league so I wasn’t going to miss that. Barca lost after a dirge of a game, inter defended well enough to scrape through and my position that the best team doesn’t always win wasn’t changed.
So after that disappointment it was time to build up the bike, which I’m getting quicker at, I should be having done it so many times now and knowing what I know now I wouldn’t have packed in half as much stuff.

If your travelling with a bike (I’m assuming it’s fixed or single speed) to a major city for a weekend of week or two all you really need is a multi tool with 4/5/6mm Allen keys, 15mm pedal spanner, flat head and Phillips screwdrivers, spare inner tubes and puncture repair kit, front and rear light, oh and a lock, preferably a mini d of some kind, plus a good small dual action pump. Put all of these into a hip pouch of some kind, I recommend a rosie from archies grobags and you’re all set.

There’s no need to take a lock ring tool, chain breaker, chain whip, full set of Allen keys, degreaser, anti seize lube, chain lube, spare spokes, spoke key, adjustable spanner, freewheel tool, and some other stuff which is in the bottom of the tool pouch which I never open, in the bottom of the bike bag which I leave in storage as soon as the bike is built up.

So built up the bike and then updated the blog, think it might be best to do that as I arrive at a place, use that travel day to good effect, as I’m now up-to-date, apart from a couple of Buenos Aires and Australia posts which I hadn’t written up initially but plan to do now.
So I’m now sitting in the sun in the parque de general San martin, whose kind of a big deal in south America having liberated Argentina, chile and Peru I believe from Spanish rule, with his army of the Andes. No wonder there’s so many parks and main streets named after him. It’s a big park which sits to the north of Mendoza and most of the main streets end up here, so it’s not that difficult to find, there’s a man made lake in the middle, and a Cerro past that which will give you a panoramic view of the city. I’m just glad to be back to someplace warm, it must be like 22/23 degrees, probably more and I’m enjoying just feeling the warm rays on my arms and legs, there’s a cool breeze which is whispering through the trees and they themselves have leave which are turning yellow and orange.
Mendoza is a man made oasis in an arid desert, based on the old indigenous aqueducts, irrigation and waterways, something green and lush has been created where before their was desert and sand and brush. I’m hoping to see the desert side of Mendoza tomorrow when I go rafting and horse riding for the day, then I’m hopefully going to do a couple of wine tours over the following couple of days, I’d love to buy lots of wine, but lugging it around would be hard, though I suppose I could just drink it in the hostel.
Quick note on the hostel, Its nice enough and the people running it are really cool and helpful, but the kitchen is a bit cramped, only one hob and sink, though they do have a big BBQ on the roof patio, but it’s quite quiet, most of the beds are vacant and I get the sense I’m going to have to make my own entertainment, which after the constant passage of people in Bariloche is a bit of a shock.

Bussing Buenos Aires Stylee

In Argentina, bike, Buenos Aires, Sud America, travelling on April 20, 2010 at 3:17 pm

So been in bs as for about a week and i’ve got a week more booked in, then off to Bariloche and Mendoza for a week each and then off to Iguazu.

Buenos Aires has a certain style and grace, reminds me of those photos you see of Havana, a bit worn at the edges, but still able to charm you. The meat here as expected is spectacular, the hostel I’m staying in had a BBQ, sausage, chicken and beef, with an egg potato salad and a green salad to cut the protein. All of them perfectly cooked and flavour filled, filling my belly with meaty goodness.

Right now its the middle of their Easter holidays they have Thursday and Friday off, and a lot of porteńos have fled the city for the weekend. Avenida de Mayo where I’m staying was a ghost town on the Friday when I actually managed to drag myself out of bed and take a walk down the street to get some cash out. For your information Argentina has a cash shortage, literally no more money is being produced, so making change is vital in this town as if you try to break a 100 pesos note at a kiosko or with a cab driver they will just shake their heads and get the stroppiest face on you’ve ever seen, supposedly cabbies will drive you round looking for change, and running up the meter if you try to use a big note.

They do love their dogs out here, and men on rollerblades and a handful of leads can be seen taking dogs for walks up and down the city. The rumbling growls of dogs confronting each other can be heard constantly. You can also see the dogshit laying like smelly, slippery landmines across the pavement. So many dogs, so much mess, so little clean up.

I’m trying to be on the bike as much as possible as I didn’t spend anytime on it in new Zealand apart from a brief jaunt out to ben’s place and around Wellington harbour. The bike of choice here is the beach cruiser, you know those curvy framed schwinn monstrosities, not sure if they have a geared rear hub, but they definitely have a coaster hub, as they all seem to ride them brakeless and freewheel. You see them all over, as well as low end mountainbikes, and cargo bikes.

Took a bus after a failed jaunt to a hip hop club on aràoz which had a London sized queue out front. The buses here are privately owned and run, bit are cheap and plentiful and of you can speak Spanish will get you round the city with pesos to spare, but they are fast and militant and their drivers are on the clock. None of that waiting for everyone whose been waiting to get on, if the driver wants to leave he pulls away and closes the door, even if your still waiting politely to step up and pay. They will pull into the kerb with no warning at the merest hint of an outstretched arm. Think of them as big bus versions of the black cab and you’ll be getting a rough idea of what it’s like to travel on one, a rollercoaster of a back and forth with a driver with hair trigger feet on both the break and the accelerator.

Buenos Aires

In Argentina, bike, Buenos Aires, Sud America on April 20, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Just arrived in Argentina, flight left Auckland at 5pm Monday afternoon and touched down in buenos aires at 4pm Monday afternoon, watched three films on board: the invention of lying – could have been better/funnier, ricky gervais isn’t romantic lead material; the blind side – based on a true story American football drama for which sandra bullock won her best actress award, only works  if you like american football really; and finally whip it drew barrymore’s nicely done, low key take on womans roller derby, like a less bloody female version of slapstick, the bearded zen/surfer Coach is a particularly nice performance. Also should be noted I started watching coraline, but had to grab some sleep about twenty mins in, from what I could see it was looking good, but it was not going to come close to the fantastic mr fox.

Suns come out as I sit on a bench by a skate park, listening to the grumble of skate wheels over concrete. I slept for eleven hours, as I tried to stay up as late as possible and get my body into south american time.
Built up the bike that evening, had a few problems, the rear brake lever screw cable adjuster has been bent somehow in transit, might have something to do with the bars coming away from where I’d cable tied them to the fork, And then this afternoon on my first ride, noticed some rubbing of the front wheel on the side of the fork and also one of the axle ends on the front hub had started to unscrew itself. Stopped adjusted wheel in fork, noticed axle end, took wheel out tightened both ends with my Multi tool Allen key, couldn’t tighten it down, went to loosen it only one would come free, the other stayed resolutely tight. Didn’t have another Allen key to work with! Front wheel in one hand, frame in other no way to put them together. Fucked!!!

I walk along looking for someplace that might have an Allen key. Pass a mechanics. Pop in I don’t speak Spanish they don’t speak English. I manage to borrow a ratchet with a 6mm Allen key attachment, I manage to tighthen the axle end down, and get one nut out, but then the other one holds fast. No amount of twisting or cursing will get it loose. I manage to communicate that I need a bigger pair of pliers than the needlenose ones that come on my Multi tool. I get handled some mull grips. I grasp the loosened then tigthened axle end in the mull grips and turn like buggery on the Allen key on the otherside. The axle end comes away in the mull grip the threads all curling away from the metal. I’ve fucked my phil hubs and will have to find a bikeshop to buy a front wheel. Fuck!!!
I sit back on my heels and curse my lack of mechanical ability and know how. The mechanics look at me as I hold up the now seperate axle end and hub and shake their heads as i explain in English what’s happened. I try and twist the axle end back on but no go.

One guy whose been sat watching from the beginning offers a hand. We screw the Allen key bolt back in and as we do this, it tightens up the axle end that had come away from the bolt. Semi result. Maybe I haven’t completely fucked my hubs. One of the reasons I bought the Phils is because they are bombproof, unless of course you’re a mechanical philistine like me. He takes the mull grips and attaches them to the axle end on the other side, gesturing for me to try with the Allen key,  nervously I do and I push, I push harder, and it turns.
Thanks Christ for that, as I wasn’t looking forward to the walk back to the hostel, as I quickly re attach the front wheel into the dropout and thank whoever bought me to this place, the guy bends down with the mull grips and holds the axle ends as I give it another quick twist to tighten it just that little bit more. I dont want it too tight as I’ll have to take it out at some point in time in the future to leave the country.
I thank them gracias, give then a thumbs up and head over to a park (parque de centenario) which looks impressive on the map but in person has the same dilapidated, down at heel feel about it that is my first overriding impression of buenos aires.
I’ve felt slightly apprehensive about riding around buenos aires and in between nodding off on the bus and taxi journey in, I was making sure to look out of the window and watch how the traffic moved, to see how difficult or not it would be to navigate by bike. On the first ride it’s not that bad at all, the grid system means you’ve got a lot of one way streets crisscrossing a main thoroughfare of like 2-4 lanes wide, and right now my main difficulty is getting across the lanes to turn either left or right, as I’m never quite sure whether the road coming up is going to be one way or not.
Traffic is heavy, but buenos aires should be a biking city, pretty flat, distance across doesn’t seem that bad (please note these are my first impressions I can change said impressions at anytime in the future when more information is gathered) and everyone rides scooters and motorbikes anyways what is stopping them. Traffic does tend tend to move a bit more without indicating over here, think it’s from their motorbike/scooter upbringings, drivers will see a gap and try and hit it, as long as your aware of this it’s pretty easy to see whose going where and why, plus I’m looking for that gap before them and where they are sometimes nervous about making the gap, I know I can and so just jump through it.
Kerbs here are high like a foot, maybe higher, just straight up from the once cobbled roads – looks like they’ve just tarmacked over a load of cobbled streets which aesthetically isn’t the nicest but having been jostled around on them for a while I can understand why it was done. But what’s also bad for cyclists is that they’ve just carved these drainage ditches along the edges of roads and then across roads as well, they are about 2-4 inches wide an a good 3-4 inches deep, think of them as tramlines without the trams. Pretty easy to avoid, but dangerous nevertheless.
Today started out grey, with patches of blue sky hinting of a good day sometime later. It is sometime later and the suns out and it’s hot here, mid to late 20s I’d say, traffic is out in force, long lines of it, which you can carve a line through or just roll along between stationary lanes, just chilling chilling.
The signage here like in Australia and japan and to a certain extent new Zealand isn’t the best in the world, not every road is sign posted, though those that are do have numbers letting you know whether you are going up or down numerically, which is good. But if there isn’t a road sign up I have no idea where I’m going and this first day has been spent mostly riding past my turning as there hasn’t been a sign saying which road is which. And with the grid system and up and down one way streets it makes it a bit haphazard in the trying to discover new things department as you either have to go round the block to come back and check out what it was you saw or, pull over right then and there.
I’m writing up a load of these thoughts on benches in the parque de febrero, by the lago de palermo, this place seems to be a refuge for lovers to hold and kiss each other on the many benches, rollerbladers doing laps of the exterior loop, with power walkers and joggers and the odd cyclist, doing a lap or two.
Bikes here from what I can tell fall into the transport catergory, solid mountain bikes, cruisers with coaster brakes, delivery bikes. Haven’t seen anything fancy or fixed just yet. And this town would be great to ride fixed, flat, wide roads, high kerbs to bump if your freestyle inclined. Nice cycling to be had as long as your comfortable in traffic…
Also last but not least, I’m not sure what it is about me and why I thought when I got out of japan that the looking/staring/perusing would stop, but is hasn’t. I’m still getting all sorts of looks from all sorts of people. And I’m still flummoxed by it, will just have to start putting it down to my magnificent personal aura of attractability…

Touring new Zealand

In all about the ride, bike, Kiwi, travelling on April 18, 2010 at 7:56 pm

I’ve seen about twenty or so brave or foolhardy souls cycling across new Zealand, most on the south island, generally in bunches of twos and threes, and a few solo. Me in the comfort of my car and them struggling along, panniers fully loaded, some with a trailer as well. Those on the south island by the west coast wrapped up in waterproofs, as the rain hammered down and I was glad to be ensconced in my car cocoon. And it’s not just the weather it’s the terrain, continuously up and down, over the islands many hillocks, hills and mountains. New Zealand is one for the granny gear. Whilst at the summit of the crown range , the highest sealed road in new Zealand at 1076 meters. I spy a tourer struggling upto the top of the hill. His name is phillip and he has been touring non stop around new Zealand for the last eight years. He has a jesus saves flag attached to his bike, and he tells me he was cramping up as he reached the summit. He puts on a head scarf, some leggings and zips up his jacket. His bike has three water bottles, two rear panniers, two front and wide curved Multi position handlebars. He looks exhausted and is heading towards wanaka from queenstown. We both mention that it’s all downhill from here. I take his photo, shake his hand and wish him good luck.

And send out a silent chapeau to each and everyone i’ve passed, and wonder whether the flat will have enough space for a touring bike!

tour down under

In bike, ozstraylia, travelling on April 18, 2010 at 7:45 pm

So I rode round Melbourne alot more than I did in Sydney maybe that’s why I saw more people on bikes, maybe it’s the flatness of the city. Sydney is a trial sometimes, the hills constant, if your not going up, your going down. Not really conducive to riding fixed but people manage it. But in Melbourne there were bikes everywhere, ridden from here to there, mostly commuting I concede but ridden none the less and the fixed thing seemed to have taken a much tighter hold than I perceived in Sydney – well until I hooked up with the sunday arvo ride boys and the polo crew and the robocog massive. Likewise in the bikeshops I saw there were more fixe specific/fixed leaning shops in Melbourne than in Sydney, you had the boutiquesque saint cloud up on gertrude st,  just opened and run by the amiable nick, and which had some lovely keirin frames in as well. Then you has the knog concept store down on chapel st which was a big supporter of the fixed scene in melbourne, giving out prizes for alleycats as well as having a couple of full bikes for sale inside. Then there was shifter bikes which had just moved above the knog store, a stalwart of the fixed scene in Melbourne, building bikes, giving advice,  from what i could see shifter dan was moving into tour de ville ( now sadly closed ) territory, high class European geared bike porn, whether the bikes would ever sell is up or debate but they were lovely to see nevertheless. I spied as well a couple of bikes in a supreme store down on flinders lane, as well as a couple for sale in the window of a interior design shop. When the “coolness” of fixed reaches the lifestyle shops you know it has taken hold.
Whereas in Sydney apart from sable and argent run by the lovely kat who’d moved down from melbourne to run what was more of a geared bike store than a fixed one. Lots of rapha, lots of assos, lots of geared bikes on the wall and for sale. With a smattering of fixed attitude and gear. But sable and argent like deus the other big fixed store I found in Sydney, it felt like bikes were an offshoot of motorbikes, especially in deus, a custom bike shop, where they recondition old bikes, respray add a little chrome, swap exhausts and retune the engine and then sell on for more than they bought it for, has a section of their shopfloor dedicated to fixed machinery, expensive keirin frames, overpriced custom builds, aerospokes in a multitude of colours, if you’ve got the cash it’s a fixed perverts wet dream. But motorbikes take up most of the space and the bikes are an adjunct to them. Then you’ve got robocog, the adhoc little weekend repair resource, run by house. Though they are starting to sell stuff, they had a load of purple and blue deep wheelsets just waiting to adorn somebody’s ride. But most of the time it is a space to hang out, to talk shit and to talk bikes whilst people get some help pulling bikes apart and putting them back together. I liked hanging out there, it reminded me bit of the stoop out front of shop14 or the walled in front of tour de ville (rip) it is chilled and friendly and it should be a shop. Sydney needs a place where the fixed cognoscenti can hang out and shoot the shit and buy what they need to buy. Otherwise it’s just another niche in the market which can be scratched by any bike shop putting up for sale a load of off the pegs.

Spotted Down Under

In bike, ozstraylia, travelling on April 18, 2010 at 2:39 pm

If you don’t like photo’s of bikes you may want to skip this post. As below is pretty much all the bikes I saw in Australia, in the lovely cities of Melbourne and Sydney, which I felt the need to photograph because they were lovely, interesting, or just plain weird.

These are the gaudy and the shiny, the workhouses, and ratbikes, the Sunday best and the beaters. These are the bikes that caughtg my eye down under. The fixed thing is getting bigger here, as long as they can keep from getting lumped in with those lycra wearing weekend road warriors, riding fixed is an everyday thing, a way of life, not a lifestyle choice. And long may that attitude continue. All that is required is a few more fixed specific shops.

So I present for your viewing pleasure Spotted Down Under. There’s probably some reposts from previous posts, but as the man dem say, the bikes so nice, me haf to show it to you twice…