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July 4, 2010

Introducing Emily
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 05:35 PM *

I may have mentioned that I’m changing jobs; indeed, this is my last week at the old place. My new job is south of the river IJ, in central Amsterdam.

Unfortunately, central Amsterdam is pretty much Bike Theft Land. And whenever I go there on my bike, I feel like a well-dressed stranger in a bad neighborhood: vulnerable. It’s just too expensive a shape to sit outside every day south of the river. So I decided that I’d get a somewhat more inconspicuous commute bike and save the touring bike for weekends in the park.

May I therefore present Emily the bike?

IMG_5841

I’ve no idea why she’s named Emily; she simply is. Like every bike I’ve ever owned (except Slime, the ill-fated green one), she’s dark blue. She’s about five years old, and is basically a 3-speed Dutch mom bike. Think of her as the equivalent of a Volvo station wagon. I bought her from the village bike store for €150, which is about the best price you can get on a bike with gears that hasn’t been stolen.

So what makes a Dutch mom bike?

Step-through frame

Step-through frame is the new name for ladies’ bike. The low crossbar not only means that I can wear my long skirts on the bike (to be honest, I wear them on traditional men’s bikes too), but also that I can get onto it easily even when it’s heavily laden. I mean, I can get on a men’s bike that’s already got a week’s worth of groceries in the panniers, a basket on the front, and a small child on the back, but it’s just not that much fun to do so.

Step-through frames are increasingly popular these days. It used to be that a young man wouldn’t be caught dead on one, but I see as many teenage boys on step-throughs as I do on high-crossbar styles. Because Dutch bikes aren’t trying for maximum stiffness at minimum weight, there’s little practical argument for any other structure. And since even the disabled cycle, there’s a substantial market for easy-on, easy-off bikes. I suspect they’ll be the default in another decade or two.

Coat catcher

You can barely see it in the picture, because it’s transparent, but Emily has another feature that makes her useful for skirted cyclists. The top portions of the back wheels have guards over the spokes that prevent them from shredding long skirts or long-skirted coats.

Incidentally, if you cycle in skirts and can’t get one, you might want to make your own.

Fully enclosed chain

Most Dutch bike chains are at least guarded; Emily’s is fully enclosed. That’ll keep the rain (and my trouser legs) off of it, but it does make a little more work for the periodic chain cleaning and re-oiling. This is the sort of inconvenience that may mean I take her in for services rather than doing my own bike work. (Then again, maybe I’ll just learn to take it off.)

Disk Drum brakes (thanks, kid bitzer)

Now those, I’m leaving to the bike shop.

Sturdy back rack with snelbinder

It’s not uncommon here for adults to perch on the back of someone else’s bike. So the rack has to be strong enough to take more than just a week’s groceries or a few small articles of furniture.

The person most commonly on the back of this bike will be Fiona, perched on a folded towel, with her arms around my waist. At six, she’s not that much of a weight on the cycle. Since she finds it tiring keeping her feet out of the spokes, I’m planning on adding some footrests, which can be purchased and mounted on the frame.

Another thing of interest on the back rack is the snelbinder (literally, quick-tie): the black, white and grey thing attached to the back axle bolts. They’re ubiquitous here, but I gather that when Patrick brings his bike to the shop in New York, the staff find the specially imported spellbinder strange and kind of neat. So I guess everyone else in the US just uses elastic spiders with hooks on the ends?

Nighttime visibility gubbins

The bike has a dynamo-powered headlamp with halogen bulbs. Most Dutch bikes do have dynamo headlamps, simply because that means you never run out of batteries.

Also visible in that picture is the white reflective strip along the outside of the tires. Those, or a ring of reflective material woven in and out of your spokes, are mandated by law here. They’re hugely effective, side-on. I’ve driven up to a T-junction at night and seen two ghostly circles drifting by, even when the cyclist hasn’t bothered with any other form of illumination.

There is also a battery-powered back light, which includes a sensor function to turn on when it gets dark. I haven’t mastered those intricacies, so I switch it on manually.

Bell

The police levy a stiff fine if you can’t produce a dinging noise to warn people to get out of your way (running them down without warning is considered unsporting). When I test-rode this bike, I thought it lacked a bell, but it turns out to be the flying saucer-shaped thing just above the left handgrip (rotate the widest portion to ring it).

Ring lock

Another ubiquitous feature of Dutch bikes, which I had never seen before moving here, are ring locks. They are generally attached to the frame and send a curved bar through the spokes of the back wheel. One of their real advantages is that the key stays in them when they’re unlocked, so you never get to your destination and find you’ve left the key of your lock behind.

(One of the real disadvantages of a ring lock alone is that someone—OK, someone strong—can pick the bike up and carry it off while it’s still locked. Alternatively, ordinary mortals can just drag it away.)

My ring lock has a space where you can plug in another lock cable. These ones generally have a loop at one end, so one passes it around an object, through the loop, and then into the ring lock to be secured at the same time as the main ring. I don’t have such a cable—I have a heavy orange-covered chain with its own lock instead—but I might get one someday.

Wide stance

Note the very long kickstand. Just as one wants the bike stable while mounting, and therefore appreciates a step-through frame, one also wants it stable after dismounting. I wouldn’t let go of the bike with a human being on the back, but with such a well-braced kickstand, I’ll have an easier time of unloading the crate of beer from one pannier and the six-pack of 1.5 liter cola bottles from the other.

I kinda like her already. She’s a bit of a chopper: one leans back slightly when riding her, and her front wheel feels like it’s sticking out a good deal.

I hope she doesn’t get stolen.

Comments on Introducing Emily:
#1 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2010, 06:23 PM:

Nice! The bike guys gave us funny looks when we insisted on kickstands being installed. I haven't a clue why they're not more popular.

Used to have a dynamo headlamp when I was a kid, but now they all seem to be battery powered. I liked the dynamo, except for how it went dark whenever I stopped at junctions. I probably shouldn't have been out that late, anyway.

I like your Emily. Next bike will be a cousin of hers. Very sensible, and therefore ridable.

#2 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2010, 07:00 PM:

Will your new hike mean you'll still bike by the dike?

#3 ::: Bob Rossney ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2010, 07:03 PM:

I like watching a young mother riding on her bike, toddler on handlebars, shopping bag hanging from one wrist, and chatting on her cell phone, and thinking about the moral panic that would break out if anyone in the US rode a bicycle like that. I also like how unlovely Dutch bicycles are to American eyes, and how quickly you develop Dutch eyes once it becomes your principal form of transportation.

#4 ::: Edgar lo Siento ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2010, 07:30 PM:

Oh, that's very nice! Particularly the enclosed chain! Advice on practical bikes is hard to come by in the U.S., and is full of macho stories about how you have to take the chain off every two or three rides and clean it. (Which is to say, biking here is a hobby and a sport, not a utilitarian form of transport. No wonder people don't commute on bikes, even when the stars align and they live in the perfect spot, relative to their job. So far the rant :) )

#5 ::: jnh ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2010, 07:33 PM:

That kind o lock is very hard to find in the US, and I've frequently wanted one for quick stops at the store or library where going through the whole lock-the-bike routine is overkill.

But what is the purpose of the gears hanging from the key? Is it something to do with the lock? An easy way to identify the key in your pocket? An homage to Steampunk? What's left of your watch?

#6 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2010, 07:41 PM:

Serge #2: You're a joker. If she takes a poker, you'll find her by the koker.

#7 ::: jnh ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2010, 07:55 PM:

I'm down to two basic ways to maintain my chain:

1) Remove chain from bike, clean thoroughly in a solvent bath, dry, and then submerge in a melted wax/graphite chain lubricant. This works great, but is a bit of a pain. I do it about once a year, and to new chains*.

2) I've got a little chain bath thingamajig which runs the chain through a lubricant/cleaner† bath while on the bike. The bathtub goes under the chain, and a set of gears and brushes clamp over the chain pushing said chain into the bathtub. Add cleaner and/or lubricant to tub, support bike with rear wheel off the ground, and crank slowly.

*No matter how well maintained, chains stretch. If you let this go on too long, the chain starts modifying the gears (especially aluminum alloy chainrings)to fit.

† My favorite cognitive dissonance dual purpose product is something called Lube-N-Glue, which is used to slide foam handgrips onto handlebars, and then make them stick tight. If an oxymoron is a word that disagrees with itself, what is the name for a product with a similar conflict?

#8 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2010, 08:04 PM:

Hmm. I was going to make a crack about The Americanization of Emily, but after reading the plot synopsis, I'll pass.

#9 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2010, 08:23 PM:

jnh #7: My favorite cognitive dissonance dual purpose product is something called Lube-N-Glue, which is used to slide foam handgrips onto handlebars, and then make them stick tight

Would Lube-N-Glue work to make it easier to apply hard rubber cane tips to the end of wooden canes? They're such a pain to put on, and when they start to wear out, I usually end up having to saw and tear the cane tips off in chunks.

#10 ::: J Meijer ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2010, 08:28 PM:

Nice bike, surprising how many things I take for granted seem to be typically Dutch.

The big drawback of fully enclosed chains is that no-one has yet come up with a case that is actually convenient to open. And it is even worse when you need to replace the tires. And they tend to collect lots of dirt on the outside. The lower amount of chain-maintenance needed is worth it.

The disc-brakes themselves are essentially maintenance free, or that is the way I have always treated them. Cables need some tightening or replacing every now and then, but that is relatively simple.

The ring-lock has been the main lock on all Dutch bikes for ages, and they are still usually the highest rated ones. The lifting to open somewhere else approach of thieves results in the need for cable or chain-locks. Those started flimsy, but in an arms-race are now often stronger than the object you chain the bike to.

There should be dynamo-powered head-lamps that have a small capacitor or battery that continue to shine if you're not moving. There is a reason tail-lights are battery powered nowadays, the wire back to the old dynamo-powered lights was very vulnerable, and the lights prone to burning out.

Hope she won't disappear on you.

#11 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2010, 08:38 PM:

My husband hates step-through frames with a white-hot passion. Not because they make him look un-manly, but because when he wants to take the bike somewhere without riding it (for example, up a flight of stairs), his preferred method is to hoik it up to shoulder height and rest the high crossbar on his shoulder, stabilizing the balance it with one hand, and go right ahead. This leaves his other hand free (for example, for groceries).

He grew up in Toronto and cycled enough in high school to permanently change the shape of his calves (they're still 'high and tight', even after over a decade of largely-couch-potatoing). He came to Chicago for college, and suddenly realized he was in cyclist's high corn -- the steepest street inclines you'll get in the city proper are generally bridges or overpasses. Otherwise, we're very flat. Especially compared to Toronto. :->

I was never able to make the coordination work for bikeriding when I was the prime age (I was great with training wheels, but then once they came off couldn't go more than half a block without falling/putting a foot down). Once John came into my life, his enthusiasm encouraged me to give it another go ... and I'm now older and self-meta-analyzing enough to realize it's a mild phobic feedback loop (Worry. Wobble. Clench handlebars in DEATH GRIP. Wobble more. Iterate until fall over), which will be conquerable with sufficient time, effort and practice ... so sometime in the next few years we need to institute whole-family bikerides.

John gets to carry the kids until I stop keeling over in traffic, of course.

I crave a bakfiets, and will be saving up for one; they just feel safer to me than those pop-up drag-behind mesh-and-polyester two-wheeled trailers.

Plus, since they're MY kids, I much prefer to keep 'em where I can see what they're getting up to. :->

#12 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2010, 09:42 PM:

She looks like a great bike. Enjoy.

#13 ::: Torrilin ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2010, 09:45 PM:

There should be dynamo-powered head-lamps that have a small capacitor or battery that continue to shine if you're not moving. There is a reason tail-lights are battery powered nowadays, the wire back to the old dynamo-powered lights was very vulnerable, and the lights prone to burning out.

No should about it. That capacitor's a perfectly ordinary feature that is available on most generator lights. Including my exceedingly American bike. Only the cheapest of the cheap generator lights skips it.

And no, the rear light's wire is not all that vulnerable, in the hands of an adult. Nor are the bulbs prone to burning out. The usual procedure is to run the wire along the underside of the frame, with a lot of attachment points, then up along the inside of the fender or the inner side of the back rack, depending on where the light mounts.

You *don't* want a battery powered light. People steal those.

#14 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2010, 10:28 PM:

Fragano @ 6... I'd rather hear an epistle about her bicycle.

#15 ::: janra ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2010, 10:41 PM:

I love my dutch bike. Ten years ago I lived in Amsterdam for most of a year for an internship (lived a little ways south of the IJ, worked just north of it, crossed at Centraal Station). While there, I bought a nice bike - fortunately I could keep it indoors while at home and where I worked the entire site was secured so I wasn't worried about theft.

I like the high cross-bar type frame for the same reason as described in #11 - if I have to carry it, that's how I carry it.

It definitely caused some consternation when I bought it ("You want a gentleman's bike?!") but outside of the store if I shocked anybody they were too polite to say anything. My dutch relatives did report to my mother that I had bought a man's bike, in rather dismayed tones, she told me :-) My co-workers in holland said it was such a nice light bike it was a shame to install a heavy lock on it; the bike shop in north america knows they can suggest heavier wheels (cheaper) and tires (got one on the back that's probably as close to puncture-proof as rubber can be) because my bike is already heavy, another couple of ounces isn't a concern.

I'm long since back in Canada but the guys at the bike shop where I take it for its annual tune-up and any other maintenance it needs know me as "the girl with the old dutch bike". I guess from their point of view, a ten-year-old bike is old.

#16 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2010, 10:59 PM:

Nice bike! I hope the thieves don't get her, or if they do, that she bites them and runs home to you.

#17 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2010, 10:59 PM:

I was unreasonably happy yesterday to find a little kid's bike bell with robots on it that's the same color as my bike. :) Is so cute! I've been biking to work 3-4 times a week and hope to keep it up in the fall, but the traffic may get much too heavy when all the students come back. There just isn't much respect for cyclists, even in a nice flat college town where you think more people would bike.

#18 ::: jnh ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2010, 11:09 PM:

Earl Cooley III @9:

Close to ideal for that, but it can be a bit hard to take off, since it has hardened to a gummy glue. There are actually lots of stuff that are both slippery and sticky, and for your cane tips I'd suggest methylcellulose, because it dissolves in water. Make a slippery, thick solution, apply to end of cane, slide on. To remove, squirt some water between the tip and the cane with a syringe, wait a while and slide tip off.

#19 ::: Claire ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2010, 11:53 PM:

I am in envy of people who live in cities where motorists know how to handle cyclists. Or, heck, where cyclists know how to handle traffic.

The standard is getting better here, but I've still been honked at or given the finger for biking on the roads, and most cyclists stick to the not-wide-enough-for-a-bike sidewalks. :(

Have fun with Emily! :)

#20 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 12:32 AM:

She's pretty! Practical-looking, too.

Re: cycling with Fiona, I remember riding around with my dad that way all the time at her age. He had the back rack that had the wire cages on either side, perfect for little feet. (http://www.rei.com/product/782410) Also it had an upturned bit at the end that I would hold onto (hands behind my back) rather than holding onto him--I think the seat on his was more forward, putting him a bit out of comfortable reach.

Anyway it's one of my fondest memories of my childhood...thanks for the reminder!

#21 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 12:40 AM:

I was told when purchasing my bike (in 1977) that a kickstand deforms the frame, and they said I should take it off, so I did. I still have the original bell.

For the decades in which my bike hasn't been new, I've always considered one of its features to be the sort of theft resistance (not proofing, but resistance) that comes of always parking it next to better-looking bikes. Perhaps you could cultivate this by having an artistic friend paint it to look beat up and even somewhat damaged, and have a wire that looks like a brake cable dangling loose somewhere where it won't mess you up.

#22 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 01:00 AM:

*expression of personal nonbiking shame*

When I commandeered my mother's bike-- it was basically a little kid's bike only bigger-- my dad had to file down part of the kickstand so the pedals didn't rub. It still doesn't work properly.

One bike-theft technique I have seen is that the thieves put their own lock on the bike. It happened to someone in my department and I am *still* disappointed that no one said, "Hey, we're engineers. WE FEAR NO BIKELOCK," and cut the rack apart that night.

#23 ::: MacAllister ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 01:48 AM:

She's lovely! May you cover many happy miles together.

#24 ::: Ann ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 02:19 AM:

I’ve no idea why she’s named Emily

...subconscious Syd Barrett mashup?

#25 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 02:36 AM:

"So I guess everyone else in the US just uses elastic spiders with hooks on the ends?"

Never heard that term; it took me a moment to realize that the people I know refer to those as "bungee cords."

I rode my bicycle to high school, 3 miles each direction for four years. My freshman year I'd been in an accident on it and tacoed the front wheel; my dad straightened the frame but it was never quite straight again. (You couldn't ride it handsless and I finally gave it up after college* when a friction problem developed with the back wheel rubbing against the frame at higher speeds.**)

It was— I kid you not‚ a ten-speed Huffy. Bought for $80 in 1990. I once saw a statistic on how long cheap bikes like that were supposed to last and I'd gone more than double that.

Because of that thorough imprinting, I want a ten-speed with racing handlebars that have the cheater brakes on top. I've ridden other bikes and my reflexes don't like other handlebar styles. And unfortunately, I live near a bike and bike-theft mecca, so prices on new and used cycles is absurdly high and a barrier to entry. I. Just. Want. A. Bike. Not a $600 high-performance frame, or even a $300 fixer-upper frame.

Though I do want the ability to crank the handlebars up way higher than any bike-lover would consider. I am not a cycling competitor and I don't bend way over.

*I didn't so much give it up as allow my mother-in-law to donate it to charity while I was out of town. She'd forgotten that I'd told her where the lock key was, so she donated it with the U-bolt still in place.

**You go faster, the wheel shifted against the frame. That was a maddening problem to diagnose since it only happened with the particular pressures of actually riding it.

#26 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 03:28 AM:

Torrilin @ 13: You *don't* want a battery powered light. People steal those. That's why they come in "small" and "tiny" nowadays, so they're easy to take off the bike and carry in your pocket. With modern LEDS, batteries last for ages. I did enjoy having a bike with a dynamo, but the bike got stolen...

Abi: snelbinder My (Raleigh, folding) bike has one of those. However, I still carry three bungee cords, for when I'm overloaded with large heavy books or similar.

Abi: I think making reflective sidewalls or similar mandatory is a great idea. I have a couple of reflectors on each wheel. As a car driver as well as a cyclist, I agree with you that making the turning wheels visible is advantageous.

Bell: I use mine a lot in central London, due to the tendency of pedestrians to walk out into the road without looking, so long as they can't hear any (powered) vehicle coming.

Kickstand: My folding bike has one, and now I miss it when I'm on the full-size bike.

#27 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 05:20 AM:

Edgar @4:
Which is to say, biking here [the US] is a hobby and a sport, not a utilitarian form of transport.

Yes, this is why when I once advised someone who was visiting our office for a week to rent a bike, he said, "Well, that, or maybe rollerblades." "No," I replied, "I meant the way you would rent a car back home. Transport, not sport."

jnh @5:
But what is the purpose of the gears hanging from the key? Is it something to do with the lock? An easy way to identify the key in your pocket? An homage to Steampunk? What's left of your watch?

The second reason and the third, plus another. If I lose the key (I have done, twice, with Vera), then it's useful to have something distinctive to ask after. "Has anyone handed in a bike key?" gets you two or three candidates at the local elementary school. "Has anyone found a bike key with gears on the keychain?" is much more specific.

(The gears themselves are from a box of clock parts I got from a friend. I use them to make indentations in the leather for steampunk bookbinding.)

Elliot @11:

I am not planning on carrying Emily anywhere. She's kinda heavy.

You can get bakfietsen with two front wheels, which would solve the balance problem. And when the kids are older and have their own bikes, you can put the picnic gear in there. Or a smallish elephant.

Kip W @21:
For the decades in which my bike hasn't been new, I've always considered one of its features to be the sort of theft resistance (not proofing, but resistance) that comes of always parking it next to better-looking bikes.

The old joke about outrunning a tiger comes to mind here. I'm certainly planning on doing this.

Perhaps you could cultivate this by having an artistic friend paint it to look beat up and even somewhat damaged, and have a wire that looks like a brake cable dangling loose somewhere where it won't mess you up.

Well, there are many bikes in Amsterdam that are either very distinctively painted (to reduce resale value) or actively junked. I may do something like that, but I don't want to completely trash my suburban street cred.

B Durbin @25:
Because of that thorough imprinting, I want a ten-speed with racing handlebars that have the cheater brakes on top.

I did that too, though I found that I was OK with more gears. But a few years here seems to have widened my views. I just have Dutch bikes classed as a somewhat different species in my head; I still don't like mountain or non-Dutch city bikes.

#28 ::: anja ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 05:51 AM:

nice sturdy bike. someone will relieve you of the pump quite soon. you might consider engraving your postal code somewhere on the frame so if it does get stolen (and is found discarded elsewhere), you at least have a small chance of getting it back.

#29 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 05:56 AM:

anja @28:

Forgot to mention that the pump's already off and in the bike shed. Since most bike shops will lend out a pump for the asking, I'll probably just go without one. Alternatively, I have a miniature pump that'll fit in a fietstas.

Good notion about the postal code. Do bike shops do that, or should I just get my Dremel out?

#30 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 06:20 AM:

abi -- do you register your bike with the police, and/or have it coded? There are various systems here in Germany, but all a bit hit-or-miss, and there are some disadvantages with the coding if one moves. (On the other hand, they're able to clear up way more bike thefts with registration/code than without, and areas with many registered/coded bikes have lower theft rates).

#31 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 06:38 AM:

Hi Abi;

Congratulations on your receipt of Emily*.

I notice from the shot of Vera that she has panniers attached - can I ask what type and how you decided? I've started a work commute and I'm considering replacing the current solution (small rucksack).

Do you carry any emergency repair gear, or are bike shops common enough in Amsterdam that you will always expect to be able to hobble to one?

Happy cycling and may she be invisible to the eyes of thieves!

Diatryma@22

"One bike-theft technique I have seen is that the thieves put their own lock on the bike "
I don't understand - how would that help them steal the bike?


*which is, coincidentally, also my new daughter's name.

#32 ::: Q. Pheevr ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 06:55 AM:

Congratulations to Abi and to Russ on their respective Emilys!

#33 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 06:58 AM:

Pretty bike! About the chain: When it's fully enclosed, the oil is kept in and the dirt out, so it does not need much servicing. I had a similar bike, and went 20K kilometres without chain maintenance.

I tried to get a dutch bike in southern Germany some years ago, but it was impossible. Only 25-kilos, aluminium-frame, over-suspended "City bikes" that took twice as much effort to move as my old three-speed Dutch bike (which got stolen after 15 years of service, sigh).

pericat #1: Modern lamps keep going for a minute or two after the bike stopped. And axle dynamos are not effected by rain and snow, as those running along the wheel are -- but with that equipment, the bicyle's risk for theft is already increased.

J. Mejer #10: There is a reason tail-lights are battery powered nowadays, the wire back to the old dynamo-powered lights was very vulnerable, and the lights prone to burning out.

Burning out is much rarer with LEDs than it was with the old light bulbs. The main practical issue I found with the battery powered lights I used for a short time was that in cold weather (below freezing), the battery life was counted in minutes. I used a heat pack to keep them going. A friend mounted a motorcycle battery on the bike in winter to keep the lights on. And you have to take the battery-powered lights off and carry them with you when you lock the bike.

Occasionally (rarely) fixing the (well-attached) wire is less of a hassle IME.

anja #28: you might consider engraving your postal code somewhere on the frame so if it does get stolen (and is found discarded elsewhere), you at least have a small chance of getting it back.

Or write down the frame number. Don't know how it is in the Netherlands, but in Germany if the police finds a bike that might be stolen, they check the frame number against a list of stolen bikes.

#34 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 08:00 AM:

Russ @31:

Congratulations on your Emily, who is probably somewhat more high-maintenance than mine!

I notice from the shot of Vera that she has panniers attached - can I ask what type and how you decided? I've started a work commute and I'm considering replacing the current solution (small rucksack).

Vera's onto her second pannier configuration. Both of them are built around what I've carried to the office these past three years: a laptop case with my work computer, my wallet, pens, and assorted gubbins, and my rain gear, pump and secondary lock.

When I started commuting with her, I had a set of silver flop-over-the-rack panniers. I'd put my laptop case inside one of them, while the other things lived fairly permanently in the other. But the plastic stiffeners of those sorts of panniers bend inward over time. Eventually the back corners are playing the spokes of the back wheel like a marimba. It's most annoying.

So I switched to a laptop case with bike mountings, which lasted until the plastic clips that hooked it onto the rack broke (the only damage was my iPod, which caused my husband to buy me an iPhone*). But I still liked the case, so I drilled through the back plate and bolted on some spare Ikea hardware that happened to be lying around. Then I attached some webbing to the hardware, further webbing to the rack, and now can clip the bag on. It's the best solution I've ever dealt with, and I suspect I'll replicate it in future. The bag is wearing out at the corners now, but I figure a new configuration can wait for the new job; I don't know that I'll be bringing a laptop home every night.

On the other side, for the rain gear and suchlike, I've tended to a variety of clip-mounted panniers, one after another. They don't carry much weight unless I've been by the supermarket on the way home. Their main disadvantage is that they stand a little proud of the rack, so I can't have one of them and a kid on at the same time (bruises the little legs).

Do you carry any emergency repair gear, or are bike shops common enough in Amsterdam that you will always expect to be able to hobble to one?

On the first photo I linked to in this comment, you can see a black pouch mounted under the seat. It has an inner tube, three tire levers, and a multitool, which allows me to change a flat on the side of the path, or do quick adjustments on the way home. After the seat bolt broke the second time (my frame's a little small for me, and it comes out in pressure on the back of the saddle), I started carrying spare bolts and moved the bag to the pannier.

However, that degree of repairability was contingent on quick-release hubs and cantilever brakes. I would not expect to be able to change Emily's inner tube by the side of the road.

The main problem with relying on bike shops for repairs is that they're closed from time to time (evening commute hours and Mondays, for instance). I suspect if I have bike trouble I'll have to choose between walking it home and locking it somewhere to come back to at a more convenient season. Fortunately, my new job is also accessible by bus, unlike my current one.

-----
* O Happy Fall!†
† Note the apple connection.

#35 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 08:44 AM:

Reminds me of my old 3 speed black Schwinn. I had that bike from about 12 years old through college. This was back when there were sturdy, simple American bikes. With mudguards.

#36 ::: a chris ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 09:19 AM:

Elliott @ #11: We have a bakfiets (bakfiets.nl brand) with a car seat strapped into the box. We do have a Burley cargo trailer (not much used since we bought the box bike!) and we knew from riding with that that we wanted (a) offspring in front, so we can see her situation and no one can run over her from behind without running over us first, and (b) no extra wheels on either side of the line of the bike wheels. It's hard enough to avoid potholes and broken bottles as it is.

The bakfiets is very heavy and its turning radius is very large, but the death grip wobble is in fact the main problem I had to overcome after purchasing the bike. Something like the Winther Kangaroo might be a good alternative; it's more high-tech and more spacious for two kids (or kid and cargo), but definitely wider, so its practicality depends on your route. You also can't exactly swoop around corners like on a bicycle.

#37 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 10:08 AM:

Abi @29: Postcoding - the police did my old bike; a bike club did my newest folding bike. take care where you put the number - not somewhere the frame will be weakened by having the number hammered/etched into it. Mine are also marked in several places with "Smartwater"* - which you get from the police in the UK, and they register it to you when they give it to you. No idea whether that's also possible in the Netherlands.

Bits of the bike (seat, wires etc.) taped up goes a long way to making a new bicycle look older and less desirable...

*As are many of my belongings - if stolen, then recovered by the police, it allows the marked objects to be traced back to you.

#38 ::: Mark Wise ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 10:15 AM:

Just eyeballing her from the side, the seat looks like it's tilted back ~10 degrees too far. That would explain the chopper/leaning back feeling.

#39 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 10:24 AM:

No, the seat's about right. What's driving the whole structure is the backward slant of the forks/handlebar stem. It means there's rather a lot of wheel in front of one.

(The slightly backward stance actually feels right now, as I move from the very forward position on Vera. It reminds me of aikido, in that my chi is properly centered when I'm riding.)

#40 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 10:35 AM:

Congratulations on Emily. I would like a bike with a step-through frame, but in the interest of frugality my husband just did a major overhaul of my old bike, which I like quite well except for the bar.

It is in theory possible for me to bike to work, but probably not practical. But I hope to use it for weekend errands as well as for the general pleasure of getting outside.

#41 ::: Dichroic ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 10:38 AM:

You're lucky to be able to buy a used bike. I had to buy new because at 5'2"/158 cm I am apparently just too short for most adult Dutch bikes in the used bike stores.

I've concluded that Dutch bikes are a brilliant design for commuting to work - basically everything about them is designed to protect your good clothing. I'm currently riding in about twice a week, because I have to turn in my car in a couple of weeks (it was a moving benefit from my company) and after that I will be dependent on the bike or bus, so I need to prepare for it. Now if I could just figure out how to ride 6.5 km without working up a sweat...

#42 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 10:52 AM:

Elliott Mason @ 11, your story makes me feel better. I never learned to bike as a child. At 15, my father taught me how to stay upright, but I haven't been on a bike since that day. I fear I couldn't do it again. This was a huge embarrassment when I was a teenager -- but suddenly I read your comment and find that as an adult, looking silly on a bike no longer terrifies me.

Think I'll try it again.

Now, just need someplace to bike to.

#43 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 11:00 AM:

On the subject of picking up bikes to go up stairs: here in the Netherlands, most outdoor steps have a small sloped channel next to them, looking rather like a gutter. This allows you to wheel your bike next to you as you climb or descend the stairs.

It's rather a push going uphill, and you have to use your brakes going down. Skilled cyclists will often just bike down, but it's narrow and Vera is fragile*, so I've not tried it.

It's a system that reduces the amount of time humans spend carrying bikes rather than the reverse, which is a mercy in a country where the cycles are so very heavy.

-----
* OK, I'm fragile, at least in the face of going down a narrow concrete channel with sharp concrete steps to one side.

#44 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 11:05 AM:

abi@34

Thanks!

In terms of repair kit, you listed pretty much what I currently carry (3 tyre levers, multitool, spare inner).

What do you use as a pump? That bag looks quite small and you mentioned Emily's attached pump went straight into the shed. I got myself a CO2 pump because it was:

a) small, and (frankly)
b) cool-, technical- and gadgety-seeming*

I can't comment on the effectiveness as I've fortunately not yet had a mechnical failure. I am also keeping my fingers very crossed that carrying around small pressurised cannisters of carbon dioxide is not going to lead to any kind of explodiness.

*I will leave deciding which of these was the deciding factor as an exercise for the reader

#45 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 11:05 AM:

abi@34

Thanks!

In terms of repair kit, you listed pretty much what I currently carry (3 tyre levers, multitool, spare inner).

What do you use as a pump? That bag looks quite small and you mentioned Emily's attached pump went straight into the shed. I got myself a CO2 pump because it was:

a) small, and (frankly)
b) cool-, technical- and gadgety-seeming*

I can't comment on the effectiveness as I've fortunately not yet had a mechnical failure. I am also keeping my fingers very crossed that carrying around small pressurised cannisters of carbon dioxide is not going to lead to any kind of explodiness.

*I will leave working out which of these was the deciding factor as an exercise for the reader

#46 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 11:06 AM:

met belgerinkel naar de winkel!

great bike--having a new bike is almost as bubbly sweet as having a new puppy.

i'm having trouble seeing disc-brakes on the front wheel--are you sure it's not a drum brake? (on the rear wheel i can't see anything disc-y or drummy.)

agree about step-through frames--for commuting, they make total sense. as a young man whose squishy bits occasionally collided with the top bar of bike frames, to my infinite regret, i always regretted the gender-typing that forbade me to ride a step-through frame.

(let's put it this way, guys. i'm going to make you balance on two wobbly wheels. meanwhile, i'm going to hold a steel bar, an inch in diameter, between your thighs, a few inches from your cobblies. if you make one wrong move, i'm going to whack you with several hundred pounds of force, right where it hurts. now there's a deal any guy would take, right? the whole thing is, well, nuts, especially when one is young and has ambitions to make use of said organs. at my age, they're only an historical footnote.)

on theft--i always make sure to deface a new bike when i get it. wrap some duct tape around bits of the frame and shred it. that gives it a good used look.

here in the states, there is a new program to encourage biking to the shops:

http://www.bicyclebenefits.org/

bikers get discounts at shops. could be good if it catches on.

#47 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 11:06 AM:

(Apologies for the double post)

#48 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 11:15 AM:

abi@43, now THAT is clever architecture. Okay, if I ever own a house again and have steps plus the opportunity to do something with them, I'm putting in a bike gutter.

#49 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 11:18 AM:

Russ @44:
I may have been unclear: my pump is a normal 10-inchish manual one that lives in the panniers, not in the bag under the seat.

I tend to pick devices that don't take refills and can be operated without additional purchases over ones that need canisters and suchlike (it's a deep value thing, and a reason I'm pleased to have a dynamo headlamp as well). So although the CO2 pump is neat and gadgety and shiny, I'm probably going to stay manual on this one.

kid bitzer @46:
You are correct; they're drum brakes rather than disk ones. I'll amend the entry.

I always thought guys rode bikes with those bars to demonstrate their machisimo. I know, frame rigidity, yadda yadda, but most of the people who buy them aren't doing bunny hops, and don't need that much strength. Still, that much visible risk proves you are a Real Man, a Warrior, and a Skilled Rider.

(I believe that, as a woman, I'm supposed to fall in love at this point. I'll consider it.)

#50 ::: Q. Pheevr ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 11:28 AM:

kid bitzer @46:

In the immortal words of, um,... [Googles quickly] ...Rita Mae Brown, as it turns out, "if the world were a logical place, men would ride side-saddle."

#51 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 11:40 AM:

@50--

sounds totally fine with me, q. pheevr, except then it's the wrong location for my crank.

um. i mean to say, then both feet would be on one pedal, and there'd be no foot on the opposite side of the crankshaft.
maybe a new pedal design, with two pedals on one side?

maybe it works better for horses?

#52 ::: Joyce Reynolds-Ward ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 11:53 AM:

I broke down and bought a new bike because I concluded my old ten-speed American road bike wasn't going to be my vehicle for biking the urban world. I'd planned to buy used, but once I saw the local used stock and the local used prices, I went for a new one.

Purple. Electra Townie 7D, which looks quite a bit like a Dutch bike. Gear shift is a dial on one handle which I love to death. It sits me quite a bit more upright than the road bikes did, which I really like and has done wonders for my confidence. I added a fender on the rear (rain protection in PDX), and many, many stickers (operating on the same principle as stickering my laptop. Not many people are going to have the combination of ski/Quarter Horse/Grateful Dead stickerage on their bikes, so I can ID it. Plus now I can pick it out from other purple Electra Townie 7Ds--same principle as stickering my champagne gold 2005 Subaru Outback. That was the favorite loss leader car for all the local Subaru dealerships when we bought it, and by plastering it with stickers, I can figure out which Subaru is mine, either in the ski parking lot or the mall parking lot).

#53 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 11:55 AM:

Thieves locking the bike to the rack: I think it was to give them time to work on the original lock. The student came down, found his bike locked to the rack twice, once with something he couldn't remove, and left it there. Presumably, sometime that night someone else did whatever engineery stuff we didn't.

#54 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 12:01 PM:

abi@49

Oops no...you were not unclear in #34, I simply failed to read for comprehension.

And in general I very much agree with you on the desirability of practical gagets that continue to do their job without additional input/outlay - I clearly remember a thread in which Jim McDonald vehemently* described books this way.

But the CO2 cannisters are literally shiny. And cute. And I'm pretty sure I saw someone use one to breathe underwater once.**


*I hope that's not an inappropriate way to put it, and since I wouldn't know how to dig up the thread apologise if I'm misrepresenting him.
**Although presumably that was compressed air, not CO2, as Her Majesty's agents are many things but not, generally, plants.

#55 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 12:02 PM:

Good luck working with the ex-Psion folk at TomTom.

By reputation Brilliant, British, and Bat-Shit insane...

#56 ::: Q. Pheevr ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 12:05 PM:

kid bitzer @51: Mutatis mutandis!

#57 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 12:13 PM:

Some of the features on that bike make me think of things I looked for in the BMW (centerstand, for wide kickstand, panniers, fairing). They make locks for bikes, which clamp to the brake disk. One needs to make sure there is a foolproof reminder on them, or starting the bike gets expensive. I do have a cannister set on my patch kit... but I have different space/weight issues (My toolkit runs to about 6 lbs), and don't really want to be inflating the volume of my tires to 40 psi by hand.

I've always had a kickstand, and I can't see how they would deform the frame, unless one has a very light set of tubes and sits on the bike. I suspect the real aversion is that we don't, as a culture, see bikes as practical transport. They are more entertainment and sport, so lighter is better, and kickstands aren't needed, because what's the point. It's not as if one is going to carry anything, or need to do things while the bike is free of a rack, and not mounted.

re "spiders". I don't think she means bungee cords, I think she means elastic nets, with removable hooks. Motorcyclists are very fond of them. I have one, and it's just the ticket for a small load of groceries, or keeping me helmet safe when I'm in a shop (I don't trust helmet hooks. I worry someone will bash it, and I won't know. Without something inside, that's not really a risk of damaging the helmet's function, but I'm a trifle paranoid about the armor for my skull).

I never understood the stigma of frames. I know why the rigid frames are, "better" and by the time I learned to ride a bike (late in life) "women's" frames were almost impossible to find.

#58 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 12:28 PM:

I ride a bicylce with a "male" frame, because I have this very unhealthy habit of balancing heavy loads on the upper bar and the center of the handle...

#59 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 12:30 PM:

Alex @55:

Brilliant, British, and Bat-Shit insane

That's consistent with the interview process...batshit insane trying very hard to approximate normal. I got to use an unreasonably large number of cultural references and clever turns of phrase to win over my interlocutors.

(Basically, I managed to convey the impression* that I'm also batshit insane trying to pass for normal. I also managed to convince them that I spent long enough in Big Corporate to teach them how to do a better imitation of clinically sane as the company grows.)

-----
* an entirely accurate impression, too

#60 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 12:32 PM:

Terry @57:

No, I meant bungee cords; my family always calls them "spiders", even single ones. And the Dutch call them "spinnen", which means "spiders".

#61 ::: Q. Pheevr ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 12:51 PM:

So, I've been thinking about getting a bicycle myself, and would like to ask the advice of any experts around here who care to weigh in (an "expert" being, in the relevant sense, anyone who knows more about this than I do, which is a rather low bar. Actually, you don't even have to know more than I do; you just have to know different things than I do...).

I'd like to get a good Dutch fiets. Fortunately, I live in Leiden, so this shouldn't require going too terribly far out of my way. The canonically Dutch properties I'm primarily interested in are (1) sitting upright, rather than hunching aerodynamically, and (2) having a nicely contained hub gear rather than a derailleur. The other major consideration is that I'd like to take this bicycle with me when I move from Leiden (which is very flat) to Halifax (which is not very flat at all). (Dutch bikes are cheaper in the Netherlands than they are in Canada, and the move is being subsidized.) This presumably means that I want more gears than I might on a bike that was destined to remain in the Low Countries, but I don't really know how many. It should also not be too expensive, partly because I don't have a lot of money, and partly because I don't want it to be too tempting to potential thieves. I don't have strong feelings about the weight or gender of the frame, or about whether to get a new bike or a used one.

Any thoughts on what kind of bike I should get, or where would be a good place to buy one, or stuff I haven't thought about but should?


#62 ::: Ralph ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 01:10 PM:

150 Euros sounds high to me, but I live in the crumbling US, where low cost is more important than mere human life.

#63 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 01:19 PM:

abi: Ok. I see how I got to where I was (net/web), and don't see how the Dutch/your family got there, but I'll file it for future reference.

#64 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 01:22 PM:

Terry @63:

I think it's by extension from the thing where you have multiple bungee cords (usually three, meaning six hooks) joined together at the center. This kind of thing.

(My first impulse would be to call that a "spider king", on analogy with "rat king", but I think that's several degrees off of normal.)

#65 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 02:36 PM:

Terry Karney @ 63: Bungee cords/Spiders. I was confused the first time I heard them referred to as spiders as well, but I think it's not so uncommon over here.

#66 ::: anja ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 03:24 PM:

abi@29:
amsterdam has special engraving offers like this at least once a week (page is in dutch).

i see they don't do the postal code any more but a unique code. makes sense, it's not unique and when you move the postal code will no longer be valid.

you'll have to bring id along.

#67 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 04:37 PM:

Yay, Emily! She sounds like a very Loyal and True Steed.

I just finished having my bike reconditioned. Basically, we replaced everything but the frame, rack, and handlebars. Wound up with what amounts to a medium-quality new bike for somewhat less than a new low-quality bike would have cost. Plus, PLUS: It's cleverly disguised as a beater.

Jon (my bikesmith) was tickled by the idea of having a stealth bike. They managed to leave a lot of the accumulated schmutz on the frame and rack, and the handle bar is thoroughly worn, so at a glance, it looks like it's in terrible shape. This Is A Good Thing, because it's been my sad experience that the only really effective bike lock is a good coating of dirt and rust. There are a few shiny bits that need to be scuffed up. Jon couldn't quite bring himself to take my suggestion of grubbing them up with his nice bike-greasy hands. Ah well. I'm sure time will supply the appropriate patina.

Oh, Panther is a sweet ride now. My bike-racing friend Brian was suitably impressed with its heft, even including the 10ft cable. (I use that instead of the fancier locks because I can loop it through both wheels and the frame, and have enough left over to strap it to a bike rack. I've seen far too many empty U-Locks abandoned forlornly on public racks to have any faith in them.

I'm particularly tickled with abi's post here, because this gives me the perfect venue for this.

(Serge, you're up.)

#68 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 05:12 PM:

At Anticipation, I used the Montreal "bixi" system a fair bit. Nice step-through frame bikes available for cheap rental on many street corners. Built-in lights, too. I think I spent maybe $15 on it, including the party night where I made four or five round trips from the convention centre to the Delta. Pricing for casual use is $5/day, plus overage if any trip was over 30 minutes.

#69 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 05:58 PM:

My name is Emily and I have no tank.
I'm fueled by leg power.
Driven by obstinance and stopped by bike-crumpling-cars.
I'm a soda can spirit in a get-around-rush-hour body.
From Schwinn to Pinarello.
I'm built not too fast, but not outclassed.
Not to heave, but to interweave.
I'm built to frustrate the commuters who are stuck in traffic every day by riding in the bike lane.
I carry water bottles. I carry groceries.
I provide exercise without fail.
The bike lane ahead of me is long, but I know my destination.
I will downshift climbing up hills.
I will coast to a stop.

My name is Emily and I have no tank.

#70 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 06:11 PM:

Elliott Mason @11: (Worry. Wobble. Clench handlebars in DEATH GRIP. Wobble more. Iterate until fall over)

It's entirely counter-intuitive (especially when one is feeling afraid) that the way to stabilize a wobbling bike is to accelerate. I finally got this firmly installed as reflex when I was riding in Sarasota, FL where their bike "trails" were often tracks of sand. Came in very handy later when I was faced with riding on snow and ice in Boulder.

Torrilin @13: That capacitor's a perfectly ordinary feature that is available on most generator lights.

I'm going to have to look into this. My dynamo dates from ~20 years ago.

Kip W @21: I was told when purchasing my bike (in 1977) that a kickstand deforms the frame, and they said I should take it off, so I did.

IANAEngineer, but IMnotparticularlyHO, "Balderdash." In my observation, kickstands went out of style in the '80s because they weren't "cool." I went along with that for too many years. I added a kickstand in my upgrade, dammit! (Now if I could just figure out how to configure it so it's not quite so tippy.)

dcb @26: Torrilin @ 13: You *don't* want a battery powered light. People steal those. That's why they come in "small" and "tiny" nowadays, so they're easy to take off the bike and carry in your pocket.

The problem, of course, being that you have to remember to take them off and put them in your pocket. Assuming you have a pocket to put them into.

I had a Cats-Eye for a while. Until I forgot to take it in and it got stolen. Feh. Dynamo, all the way.

abi @34: bolted on some spare Ikea hardware that happened to be lying around. Then I attached some webbing to the hardware, further webbing to the rack, and now can clip the bag on.

Oh, now that's a slick idea! I don't use panniers because I carry Too Much Crap, and I want to be able to grab my pack, sling it over my shoulder, and go. So I've been bungying it to the rack. But your solution sounds ever so more elegant! Bet I can figure out how to do it w/o having to drill holes, too. Heh.

Russ @44: I've gotten out of the habit of carrying a tool kit because (1) the Kevlar thorn-resistant tires I've traditionally used are effective enough that I don't (knock-on-wood) have much trouble with flats. Jon, (my previously-mentioned bike guy) sold me on the newer version, which is a New and Improved material (the name of which escapes me). He says he just rolls right through broken glass with his, it's so sturdy. Add'ly, if I get a flat, I just bus myself and my bike home.

#71 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 06:13 PM:

Me @70: the italicised "Name @NN:" are formatted that way because, well, I wasn't paying attention. Ahem.

#72 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 06:49 PM:

Brilliant, British, and Bat-shit insane.

Well, we're not British (but it's close), but otherwise that's a pretty good description of our company (I don't pin one end of the Weird-meter, for the first time in my employable life, for instance). I like it...

#73 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 07:30 PM:

Slippery, slidey handlegrips: We dropped in at our local medical supply store the other day because Hilde's wheelchair was having this very problem. The tip the service guy gave us was simple: hair spray. Spray a burst inside the grip, slide on, and the handlegrip will stay tight.

The comments here seem to suggest that the natural life-cycle of one's bicycle ends when it's stolen, rather than wearing out. That's depressing.

But then, I remember that it was depressing back when our son Chris was in his early teen's, and had about seven bicycles stolen over about a three-year period.

One of those times was when he was taking the bus home and had the bike on the front rack. The bus driver wouldn't allow bike riders to lock their bicycles onto the rack (took too much time, he said). Well, fine, but the driver could at least have sung out when he saw one of the other passengers get off, lift my son's bike off the rack, and ride away on it.

Another time was when Chris got off the bike to get a sip from a public water fountain. Less than ten feet away, and someone jumped on and pedalled away. (Chris ALMOST caught up to him before the thief gathered speed and sped off.)

Recovered bikes twice all from those thefts. Once the thief just dropped the bike to the ground in the middle of an intersection about six miles from our house and walked away; the bike was distinctive enough to identify it from all the other lost/stolen bikes being held at the police storage yard.

The other time was a few days after the theft, when Chris got off the city bus home from grade school, about a mile and a half from our house, and saw his bike at the bottom of a deep hole in a construction project next to the bus stop. A deep hole filled with even deeper mud from recent heavy rains. He got me from home and we managed to get the bike out, at the cost of a heavy coating of mud up to the elbows.

"Uglifying" a bike didn't stop it from getting stolen either. One of his bikes he uglified to the point where calling it a "shitpile" would have been polite. Lasted about two months before getting swiped.

Those experiences left me with little sympathy for bicycle thieves. Deep into the negative numbers, rather. (Add in auto thieves, ever since the time our minivan was stolen a few years ago.) The old practice of hanging horse thieves seems eminently practical, and one wishes it had survived into the modern era's equivalents. (The neighbor down the street has a big old pine tree with a thick branch that would be perfect for slinging a noose over.)

#74 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 07:59 PM:

My bicycle is about an inch too tall at the crossbar: whenever I rode it in college I was ready to lay it down during a stop if necessary since I didn't want a cracked pelvis. Can't afford a new frame, which is why I don't ride it much: I don't know if it could be rigged up with wheels that are an inch smaller in diameter or what that would cost.

Then someone took a hunting knife to my moped and cut every fuel line they could find, every electrical cable and brake cable, and tried to stab the seat to death: they also threw the air filter down a sewer hole and stole one of the fairings/chain covers. I don't have $400.00 to get that one fixed, either, but boy do people try to buy it off of me!

#75 ::: J Meijer ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2010, 08:49 PM:

Torrilin@13

It was a should as: I think there are but cannot remember how common they are, not a : I wish there were.

Lots of the newer bikes have a battery-powered back light integrated in the back-reflector (that one might be typically Dutch, obligatory red reflector mounted on the back). But I still prefer the type you can click on and off, you'll have to get into the automatism to always remove them though :)

#76 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2010, 12:40 AM:

abi @27, in response to my 11: You can get bakfietsen with two front wheels, which would solve the balance problem. And when the kids are older and have their own bikes, you can put the picnic gear in there. Or a smallish elephant.

There are, yes. However, bakfietsen are very thin on the ground here in Chicago; I've found precisely one company so far selling them, and theirs are two-wheelers. They're imported from overseas, so the price is inflated by transatlantic shipping costs. There's a group in Portland that welds their own, but, um, again, shipping. And they're not even all that much cheaper. I'm probably going to be out about $3,000 for one, and I'll be limited to the models the people I buy from happen to be willing to sell me. This will have to wait till after I have a job again, in all probability, which is at least 3 years out.

Sigh. At least the place in Chicago sells a 'shorter' bakfiets, total length 6.5ft instead of 8ft, which is 'nimbler' while still having a wonderfully unreasonable amount of cargo space. We'll see if nimbler is what's wanted, by the time I'm actually considering buying one. The Winther Kangaroo does look good (thanks, 'a chris' @36!), but unfortunately they seem to have no US presence at all, and no distributors here.

abi @43 said: On the subject of picking up bikes to go up stairs: here in the Netherlands, most outdoor steps have a small sloped channel next to them, looking rather like a gutter. This allows you to wheel your bike next to you as you climb or descend the stairs.

I meant indoor stairs, from the street to our apartment, upon arriving home in the evening. At least, that's when my husband mostly carried his bike. Sometimes up several flights, with groceries in the other hand -- he's a better man than I, Gunga Din, etc. I'd've just figured out some way to secure the bike on the ground level, but he hupped it up and down every time he used it. Those gutters sound awesome, though. Almost as awesome as this [typography-geek humor, though mispronounced].

abi @27, in response to Kip W @21's suggestion she "havi[e] an artistic friend paint it to look beat up and even somewhat damaged...": Well, there are many bikes in Amsterdam that are either very distinctively painted (to reduce resale value) or actively junked. I may do something like that, but I don't want to completely trash my suburban street cred.

Then Jacque said @67: Jon (my bikesmith) was tickled by the idea of having a stealth bike. They managed to leave a lot of the accumulated schmutz on the frame and rack, and the handle bar is thoroughly worn, so at a glance, it looks like it's in terrible shape. This Is A Good Thing, because it's been my sad experience that the only really effective bike lock is a good coating of dirt and rust. There are a few shiny bits that need to be scuffed up. Jon couldn't quite bring himself to take my suggestion of grubbing them up with his nice bike-greasy hands. Ah well. I'm sure time will supply the appropriate patina.

My mother, in the 80s, owned a very expensive French racing bike. She needed to use it for transport, and leave it locked up in urban Chicago. She tested out a bunch of finishes on some spare metal downspout material we had lying about; this was the winner for being both convincing and perfectly reversible: She disassembled the bike entirely, then put a sturdy clear-coat on most of the metal parts. She spraypainted the frame unevenly a coat of the ugliest flat-finish spraypaint she could find (which was, at that time and in that place, how people refinished cheap bikes). Then she quite artistically applied a layer of rust-colored spraypaint in careful mists and glops on parts of the frame, spokes, etc, chosen for verisimilitude.

When she was done, it honestly looked rusted from more than about 8 inches distance. Then she reassembled it, and used a lock method that looked like crap but was quite strong. Never went anywhere. When she was done with that period, she applied her carefully-tested solvent, and took off all the spraypaint (but not the clearcoat), and had her old pretty bike back.

Jacque @67 said in response to my particular bikewobbles and phobias: It's entirely counter-intuitive (especially when one is feeling afraid) that the way to stabilize a wobbling bike is to accelerate. I finally got this firmly installed as reflex when I was riding in Sarasota, FL where their bike "trails" were often tracks of sand. Came in very handy later when I was faced with riding on snow and ice in Boulder.

I grasp the theory just fine. However, the faster I go, the more the niggling voice over my mental shoulder keeps insisting (in increasingly frantic tones) that I need to WATCH OUT or I'm just about to RUN OVER a whole sidewalk-full of NUNS AND BABIES AND OLD PEOPLE and then they would DIE and it would be MY FAULT! Which makes my whole body go tense, even when I'm fighting it, and tense tight body == keeling over. I just keel over faster into more things if I speed up. In my case, the solution is to quit deathgripping, while going a sufficient speed as to engage the gyroscopic effect.

I had phobic problems with driving cars, too, but at least cars don't wobble. Usually.

#77 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2010, 04:26 AM:

Jacque@70

I changed out my mountain tyres for road tyres last night (I've been commuting for a three weeks and it looks like it's going to stick, so the bike is officially repurposed). It made a massive difference to the speed/effort this morning, but the real eye-opener was that the change-out took man an hour. Per tyre.

Either I have particularly awkward tyres*, or I'm doing something wrong** - but if a roadside puncture repair is going to take an hour, then there's no point (gadgets notwithstanding). Plan B is phone the wife and get her to bring out large car (and baby) to rescue me. Plan C will be a long walk***, I guess, unless a London taxi can be convinced to carry a bike.

Q.Pheevr@32 & abi@34

Sorry - I forgot to say thank you very much! My Emily is3½ and very sweet - just learning to reach out and grab stuff. It feels a bit like having a puppy that smiles at you.

*Continental travel contacts; actually the reviews do indicate they're a pain to fit. I should have paid attention.
**I'll look for a youtube instructional tonight, which is something I should have done first.
***Worst case scenario, 7 miles.

#78 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2010, 04:32 AM:

Uh, 3½ months (obviously?).

#79 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2010, 05:38 AM:

Ralph @52:
150 Euros sounds high to me, but I live in the crumbling US, where low cost is more important than mere human life.

It's my picky requirements that boost the price. I wanted a bike that I was fairly sure hadn't been stolen, and which had at least some gears.

The default Amsterdam bike is a one-speed. I could get one of them reconstructed from thrown-away cycles for €60 - €80, or a more conventional used one-speed for €100ish. If I'm not so nice about whether or not it's been stolen. I can probably get a one-speed for €50 or thereabouts; a three-speed will be somewhat more expensive even through grey channels.

But you know, I don't want a stolen bike. It's part and parcel with not wanting mine stolen. And I wanted the gears so I could zooooom along on the flats and still be able to climb the steeper bridges with ease.

#80 ::: Mark Wise ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2010, 06:58 AM:

abi @39:

It reminds me of aikido, in that my chi is properly centered when I'm riding.

*wave* *wave* I'm a sandan in the ASU and train with Dennis Hooker-sensei in Orlando.

What's aikido culture like in the Netherlands?

#81 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2010, 08:35 AM:

Russ @ 77: At least with my folding bike (essential when part of commute is on the train, sometimes in rush-hour) I know I can hop on a bus or Tube with it if necessary, and it will fit into a taxi or car. I try to take the carry bag with if I expect to put it in someone's car.

Bruce Arthurs @ 73: my first adult bicycle was a no-name built by the local shop. That went to the final bike rack in the sky about 15 years later. It did get pinched once, from my parents' garage, but since the chain was still locking the back wheel to the frame, the thief got fed up of carrying it after a few hundred yards* - the police found it up the road and brought it back to us (it was postcoded). I've still got the replacement, a Raleigh 10-speed - I deliberately avoided a Trek or Ridgeback or anything more fancy.

My first folding bike, a Dahon, was stolen from outside the British Library (and the police couldn't be bothered to look at the video the library had of the thief on CCTV, which really annoyed me. The replacement is Raleigh branded for reduced street cred/resale value, painted old-fashioned green instead of shiny modern grey, and has artistically placed tape and other signs of "age", as well as being postcoded and Smartwater marked - and I don't leave it locked up outside anywhere I can't see it, and if I have to leave it in e.g. a cloakroom, I lock it to something immobile.

*Ha! Wimp! I once half-carried (wheeling it on the front wheel, carrying the back wheel) the best part of two-and-a-half miles when my keys ended up going home from the Cam (we were punting; I'd put them in a friend's rucksac for safety) earlier than I did.

#82 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2010, 10:13 AM:

Biking: still not very feasible at -30C, on icy ground.

Also still not very feasible in the summer, without showers at work.

Most of where I live is flat enough for biking to be pretty easy, but that's an issue some places as well. Pittsburgh, say, or Ithaca, or San Francisco.

A bike was my main transportation until I was 22, when I got licensed to drive (there was no public transport where I grew up, too small at the time). Well, bike and walking; I often preferred to walk in the winter. I never had an inconvenient collision between the cross-bar and my dangly bits; never particularly worried about it, either. However, my frame was the right size for me, which was easy since I'm tall but not too tall. And I'm yet another person who lifts and carries bikes by the cross-bar; it's much the easiest way since it lets you grip at the balance point.

Mine was once stolen on campus. I found it parked at the library. With books in the baskets. I seriously considered the potential revenge pathways, and finally wimped out -- I just took my bike back, and returned the library materials.

#83 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2010, 10:19 AM:

in #31, Russ asked, in response to Diatryma@22

**"One bike-theft technique I have seen is that the thieves put their own lock on the bike "

* "I don't understand - how would that help them steal the bike?"

The way I'd learned it when living in the Netherlands, is that the thieves hope an owner unlocks their own primary lock, realizes the bike remains immobile, then forgets to re-lock their own onto the bike before starting to look for help. The thieves are nearby, and when the owner goes looking for help, they swoop down and remove their own lock, and take the now (semi-)freed bike.

It occurs to me to consider that this gambit probably works less well than it used to in the days before one could phone for help on one's own mobile phone.

Crazy(and glad of this thread for the celebration of Dutch bicycles - hers is now Belgian, but also a dearly loved conveyance)Soph

#84 ::: dajt ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2010, 10:31 AM:

To me, a spider(web) (or octopus) is made by attaching three bungees to a sturdy metal ring, producing a six-legged device that is useful for holding down the cargo in an open-topped trailer or similar 2d applications. I've never heard of a single bungee being referred to that way.

#85 ::: Jasper Milvain ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2010, 10:44 AM:

Q. Pheevr: It is certainly possible to get seven and eight-gear hubs at somewhat greater expense - this is them on the website of a British supplier of Dutch Azor bikes - but NB that more gears in a hub = more complicated and harder to service.

#86 ::: Dave Weingart ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2010, 10:52 AM:

She's a great-looking bike. Alas, working during the week in Houston (where it's too hot to WALK anywhere, much less cycle) means that I don't get to ride my bike to work (although I do have a proper laptop pannier for it now).

The concept of a bike without a kickstand is weird, though. Even the slightly too-small bike I bought in Zurich had one!

#87 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2010, 12:21 PM:

Elliott Mason @76: the faster I go, the more the niggling voice over my mental shoulder keeps insisting (in increasingly frantic tones) that I need to WATCH OUT or I'm just about to RUN OVER a whole sidewalk-full of NUNS AND BABIES AND OLD PEOPLE and then they would DIE and it would be MY FAULT!

I tend to follow the Tennessee Earnie Ford school: "If ya see me comin', ya better step aside!"

Russ @77: I'll look for a youtube instructional tonight, which is something I should have done first.

"When all else fails, read the instructions." Story of my life. (An hour per does seem excessive, though.) The other advantage of street slicks is that they don't fling mud up your nose when it's raining.

ddb @82: Biking: still not very feasible at -30C, on icy ground.

Pish-tosh. I did it for years before I could afford to take the bus. Before there were any bike-paths, too. (And it was up-hill both ways!)

Most of where I live is flat enough for biking to be pretty easy, but that's an issue some places as well. Pittsburgh, say, or Ithaca, or San Francisco.

Heh. This is where I worked during the early '90s. Squint real hard and you see the little castle on the hill. At 6Kft above sea level. Nice exercise!

#88 ::: Doug K ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2010, 12:26 PM:

Emily's a handsome woman.. long may she run.

Once on a business trip in Germany, I noticed the 3-speed commuter bike in the grocery store could be bought for €150, rather less than it would cost to bring the boy-racer bike over on a plane flight. Hm thinks. There was a nice little 2 or 3 day Odenwald loop tour nearby the office, too: but never managed it, to my lasting sorrow.

My Schwinn Continental commuter is theft-proofed with a horrible paint job and artfully applied smears of dirt. However as part of the new No Net Gain in Stuff policy, it must make way for a MTB bought to ride with the boys on local trails. I'm deeply conflicted about getting rid of it though - it's a perfectly good bike but no-one else will want it, hate to see it landfill bound.

abi @ 59,
"batshit insane trying very hard to approximate normal"
it took me thirty years to start learning how to fake normal.. this is a company I could like ;-)


#89 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2010, 12:43 PM:

dajt @84 -- wouldn't a spider or octopus have to use four bungees? With three, you'd only have a hexapodal bug (cucaracha or some such).

#90 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2010, 01:12 PM:

Hey, I never said the "spider" was a logical term, just a family one! But it's so deep-rooted that I literally could not think of another word.

Mark Wise @80:
What's aikido culture like in the Netherlands?

Well, first off, it's in Dutch, which means I'm only about 50% sure what's being said at any point in time. I've only been doing it a few months, and it's currently caught up in the blast radius of my soon-to-be-former job. I'll come back to it afresh when I start at TomTom.

But for aikido culture in general, you do know we have some serious aikidoka here on Making Light? Of course, they won't start a conversation on the subject, but they will respond if you start talking about it to them...

#91 ::: Dave Weingart ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2010, 01:16 PM:

Doug K @ 87: Re the old bike...freecycle it?

#92 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2010, 01:19 PM:

Doug K @ 87: are you sure nobody else will want it? How about offering it via your local Freecycle group or similar? (A friend of mine was very pleased to get a bicycle that way). Or put small adverts in your local stores, saying it's free to a good home - you can always arrange to meet the intended new owner somewhere public, so they don't know where you and your new, shiny stealable bicycle live (says she, getting cynical)?

#93 ::: Q. Pheevr ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2010, 01:21 PM:

Jacque @86: A lotta nuns didn't, and a lotta nuns died?

#94 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2010, 01:46 PM:

@89--

of course. i should have realized that there would be overlaps between the aikido world and the making light world.

i studied for awhile with mitsugi saotome in his d.c. dojo, decades ago. i was no damned good at it, and had neither the physical nor mental abilities necessary. and now my knees are shot and my attitude is worse, and i haven't swept canvas in ages. but i have always been grateful for the experience.

may have taught me something about taking falls, in any case, even if now they're mostly pratfalls.

#95 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2010, 01:56 PM:

Doug K #87: Certainly don't landfill the old bike -- if you're committed to not having a spare and don't have anyone to hand it down to, there are all sorts of charities and such that will happily take it!

#96 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2010, 02:09 PM:

Q. Pheevr @92: Not sayin', but I try not to make a habit of it.

(I tried to follow through the theme, but lyrics not Zathras' skill.)

#97 ::: dajt ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2010, 02:25 PM:

Tom Whitmore@88: You would think so, but it turns out that eight legs tends to overcrowd the metal ring and is a bit difficult to use on a rectangular trailer, unless you make four of the arms longer than the other four. I suppose we could call it a hexapus, but I don't know of any six-legged web-spinning insects. And it'd confuse people. So we stick with the inaccurate but familiar terms.

#98 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2010, 03:18 PM:

dajt @96 -- but octopodia don't spin webs either!

The Dead Equine Flogging Commission is now in session. Logic is suspended until further notice.

#99 ::: Neil in Chicago ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2010, 03:20 PM:

One of the best plans I made for the '90 Worldcon in the Netherlands was to rent a bike in Amsterdam and bike to the Hague.

I first saw “ring locks” on the ubiquitous Chinese bikes in Bali thirty-five years ago, and still haven't seen on in the States. And I still don't know why.
All Balinese bikes are women's step-through, to accommodate sarongs. A male in a sarong has to learn the proper agility to mount one; it's a much more imminent threat than the accident of sliding forward off the seat onto the top crossbar.
But I like the crossbar for carrying the bike up the back stairs to my apartment, if only for the joke that the stairs exercise my arms to balance the bike's exercising of my legs.

Bicycles still aren't Real Transportation in the United States, alas. During my stay in Silicon Valley, which makes Chicago look hilly, I was able to find an old Raleigh 3-speed, and in less than a week, riding on the sidewalk on Saratoga-Sunnyvale-Saratoga Road, I was going through the pedestrian crosswalk and some idiot watching only the stop light ran into me from 3 feet away. From a standing start, fortunately. My triumphant tale of being persistent enough to extract revenge is too long to fit in this marginal note . . .
And I never did find out why ALL the bikes in Silly Valley are mountain bikes (I got mine in Berkeley) when it's flat as a pool table.

#100 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2010, 04:06 PM:

A ring lock would prevent people stealing a bike to use immediately, but not stealing a bike for profit.

This being the US, of course the bike thieves have a pickup truck or van, and a bike not solidly locked to a well-anchored object will simply be lifted up and placed in the truck.

#101 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2010, 11:36 PM:

Two-Wheeled Travel in the Silicon Valley area has gotten a lot better. A lot of racing bikes, and a fair number of "Townies". Mountain bikes are about 1/3rd of the bikes.

But the cars tend to give room, the bike paths are clear, and (wonder of wonders) there are a number of left turn lanes which have electromagnetic sensors set to "bike" (which are marked). Those are really nice for someone riding a motorcycle too.

#102 ::: Mark Wise ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2010, 06:56 AM:

abi @89:

I know there's a significant overlap between the sets of fandom and aikido. I don't know which ML habitues are sitting in that intersection. On the internet, nobody knows you wear funky pleated culottes. And, I mostly lurk. The room, it is too smart for me.

Kid Bitzer @93:

The ability to fall safely is a life-long benefit of aikido training. It's the only training that most people are likely to use. Taking a 3-foot razor blade away from someone? Not so much.

#103 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2010, 08:42 AM:

**points to self** another aikido practitioner here (I wouldn't call myself an aikidoka, since my understanding of the term is more someone who is expert, and teaching the art).

Like Mark Wise at 101, I frequently stay quiet because others here are saying it smarter.

It would be hard for me to answer the question Mark poses to Abi upthread because even with the longish practice time over residence in two countries, I haven't ever trained in my home country, and don't know what the basic experience would be like outside of Ireland and Belgium. (For what its worth, the experiences of those two places were similar enough to help me through the trauma of an international move....)

In the meantime, I've also learned that a lot of my fan-friends seem to have found not just any martial art, but aikido as their choice of art. Wow, I think, whodathot? Is it statistically deviant, though? Or just accountable by some larger world process? I keep thinking aikido is really well known, but of course, I'm getting a biased sample, and my reality gets re-adjusted when I travel outside that cozy circle. (One does get very tired of responding to the same jokes about the martial arts, though the nut-shell description of aikido, "No one's in any trouble unless they actually do attack..." seems to settle most of the worst sort.)

Our kind hosts here probably wouldn't want to make a top post about aikido specifically. (I'm only guessing, of course, based on a feeling that the top posts are for items of special expertise in their respective areas...) But to lure all the fan/aikido/lurkers out to chat specifically, perhaps a post about something more general to the situation - the intersection of many fandoms/hobby activities, and how they share many details on the level of social dynamics? I seem to vaguely recall something like that might have been done already, but not very recently. (Was it knitting, then? **scratches head** Phooey, can't recall just now.)

Crazy(but saner for her commitment to training in aikido)Soph

#104 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2010, 08:44 AM:

Oh double phooey - one other thing:

On the internet, nobody knows you wear funky pleated culottes.

He shoots, he scores... thanks, Mark!!

Crazy(and giggling)Soph

#105 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2010, 09:02 AM:

crazysoph wrote @ #102

(One does get very tired of responding to the same jokes about the martial arts...

Q How many Aikido experts does it take to change a lightbulb?

A: Just one, but the lightbulb has to attack first.

#106 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2010, 09:24 AM:

Falling is actually one of the things I know I didn't get from aikido. Hazard of a mixed-level group and my own issues with doing just about anything with my body. I didn't commit myself to it the way I could have and I never figured out rolls in a reliable way.

I think that the aikido-in-fandom thing is self-reinforcing. I picked it up because people here mentioned it.

#107 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2010, 02:11 PM:

I never studied Aikido, but I did study a Korean martial art (Han Mu Do, a Baton-Rouge-based offshoot of Hap Ki Do, and incorporating many elements of other schools, whichever captured the interest of Dr. Kimm) as well as a karate (Goshindo, supposedly a very old form but later research indicated that it was originally a scam that became a school, sort of. YMMV).

Hanmudo was extremely helpful, as they taught falling from day one and every class began with dozens of falls, rolls and then punches/kicks. I know from personal experience that the lessons I learned then have never left me, for which I am grateful (specifically, my back and shoulder muscles, along with my knees -- very grateful we are).

If I had enough time in the day, I'd consider aikido, although kung fu has been interesting me for years -- learning yet another language would be additionally tempting.

(Digression: when watching the new Karate Kid -- call it Kung fu Kid -- I heard the Chinese words for "begin" and they sounded an awful lot like the Korean. Jun bi!)

#108 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2010, 02:12 PM:

Mark Wise @101: funky pleated culottes

A silly idea I've been playing around with for some time is writing a children's book (maybe a mystery or detective novel kind of thing) wherein one of Our Heros is an Orthodox Jewish rabbi and the other is an Aikido master, and they're both lawyers. The title of the series would be Hakama & Yarmulke: Attorneys at Law.

#109 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2010, 02:35 PM:

Coming soon! Kevin Kostner's "Shoeless Joe vs Les Sans-Culottes"...

#110 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2010, 03:09 PM:

But crazysoph, how could we possibly have a knowledgeable top post about aikido? Clearly whoever posts first loses....

#111 ::: Åka ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2010, 03:12 PM:

Wow, over a hundred comments! I haven't read them, I just want to quickly say that I looked for a bike like this when I moved to Canada, and they could not be found. Bikes there were sports articles, not everyday vehicles...

Do you have cruiser brakes? I love them, mostly because I'm used to it of course -- pedaling backwards feels stronger and more resolute than pressing a little handle.

#112 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2010, 03:23 PM:

Åka (110): Cruiser brakes! Thank you for that term; I've always just thought of them as 'foot brakes'. I have used hand brakes, but I never liked them. Step-through frames are wonderful, too.

#113 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2010, 03:33 PM:

Åka @110:

We always called them coaster brakes. But then, see the thing about spiders above.

Emily doesn't have them, though.

#114 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2010, 03:36 PM:

@110, 111--

in the midwest in the '50s, the usual term was "coaster brake". don't know if that's common, official, anything.

hmmm...for what it's worth, wikipedia acknowledges "coaster brake", and gives "foot brake", "back-pedal brake" (surely the most accurate description) and "torpedo" as synonyms:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coaster_brake#Coaster_brakes

their description of the mechanics is not comprehensive, however--in addition to the coaster-brakes that function via a drum-action or a split collar, i have also disassembled brakes that had a series of 8 or 10 clutch-disks stacked on the axle, with all the odd-numbered disks rotating with the fixed axle, and all the even-numbered disks rotating with the wheel. free-wheels when no pressure, brakes when the stack is squeezed.

it's a great design for kids, and for flat-lands. however, it cannot dissipate heat fast enough to handle major braking loads from heavy people going down big hills. they burn up.

#115 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2010, 03:44 PM:

on coaster brake failure, read this very interesting account where a sophisticated amateur tests various kinds of bike brakes:

http://www.johnforester.com/Articles/BicycleEng/safe_brakes_that_burn_up.htm

excerpt:

"The coaster brake was destroyed in one run. It started smoking a short distance down the hill. At 700 feet down the smoke was streaming behind. Several times during the run its effectiveness changed, sometimes more, sometimes less. About 1500 feet down the brake refused to release fully, and it dragged for the remainder of the run. At the bottom I found my heat-measuring instrumentation had been burned off and the chrome plate was a white powder. On examining the inside afterwards I had to pry apart the stack of brake discs because the steel discs had softened and jammed onto the stationary mandrel."

neither rim-brake, by contrast, went above 200F (= roughly 90C).

#116 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2010, 03:50 PM:

I've been doing aikido for about 17 years, off and on (and sadly more off than on). I've found that dojos, (though all in english) have much the same feel... even when the style of aikido in them is very different.

I would say (from my sense of it) that an aikidoka is one who takes it seriously. Even when I am away from the mat, I work on things. With the various upheavals of the past few years I've had almost no time on the mat, and none of it in a regular way.

I was checking out a dojo I've wanted to train at for most of fifteen years (it's local to me now), and one of the dan there said he wasn't sure I was 4th kyu. I was pretty much ready to move up the last time I hurt myself, but it's been three years since I was in practice. That was flattering.

It's amazing to me (from experience) what keeping up with ukemi and footwork does for movement. Simple things, working on kokyu ho (I work on it when kneading bread, or doing fencing practice forms, opening doors, you name it), standing in hamni, and any number of other minor techniques one can work on anywhere.

#117 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2010, 03:53 PM:

'Coaster brakes' sounds familiar, now that I hear (read) it.

Hand brakes don't work all that well on wet tires, in my experience.

#118 ::: russ ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2010, 03:57 PM:

I am also Spartacus!

I started Aikido with a student club in Scotland (that was somehow weirdly affiliated to the Belgian Aikikai) and continued with the UKA for several years. I never made it past 1st kyu and haven't practiced in a short age - but when I moved to London, Aikido provided me with a group of friends I still have ten years later, practice or not.

I'm biased, but I think Aikido of all the martial arts tends to attract (or rather, keep) thoughtful people.

And...I don't think I've ever posted this many times on an ML thread before (for the same "other people say it smarter" reason as Mark and CrazySoph), but it seems like Abi made this one just for me :D

#119 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2010, 04:06 PM:

Yes, "coaster brake" is what I grew up with.

People regarded front brakes as dangerous, I remember (makes sense, in that if you squeeze them too hard, you flip the bike; I'm pleased to say I never did that). Even with hand brakes, people used them as a secondary or auxiliary brake. (This was back when bicycles were kids' transportation and sometimes adult transportation in a small town; before they became high-tech madness.)

I really should get the old bike back on the road a bit.

#120 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2010, 04:08 PM:

russ @117:
I don't think I've ever posted this many times on an ML thread before

And yet you have not been struck by lightning, turned to gold, or otherwise affected by the traditional symptoms of hubris. Must mean it's not so intimidating as all that. Might even be safe to post more often in general; what do you think?

(Remember that I too am an ex-lurker, then poster. It's not actually impossible to settle in and feel at home, you know. We're just people.)

#121 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2010, 04:10 PM:

Russ, take warning! You can see, in abi, just what can come of starting to actually post to ML!

#122 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2010, 04:15 PM:

oh... re the "passive" nature of aikido:

Yes and no. If someone can be induced to attack, then the skilled aikidoka can pretty much end things. A really skilled aikidoka, who want's to induce an attack can do it in such a way as to make it, relatively, trivial to then cope with it.

And there are, "hard" forms of aikido, some of the very basic techniques (like tenchi nage) can do tremendous physical damage to the attacker, if they are done in a more, for want of a better word, "open" fashion (by which I mean, the joints aren't closed up tightly when the leverage is applied).

It was such a mistake which caused me to leave the mat this last time. I didn't (given my other problems) want to risk making things worse for rushing back too soon.

A good dojo makes a point of emphasizing ukemi. If you have good ukemi (which I think is more properly thought of as awareness of one's place/self protection, more than it is the "art of falling" as it seems to be most often described), everything else tends to fall into place, because one is more confident.

I find I am much more confident as uke (the "attacking" half of an exercise) than I am as nage, in solo practice. In more free-form exercises, I am happy with either. I suspect because in things like rondori am too busy to think about just what I am trying to do, and so I can be more liquid. Those are times to just flow with what is happening, and carry through to completion.

And... when I am hitting the mat, my joints are happier.

(and follow that link, esp. if you have ever done aikido)

#123 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2010, 04:31 PM:

We're just people.

Yes. It is true. Even abi and Teresa and Patrick and Jim and Avram are just people.

In the same sense that a ruby is just a rock.

#124 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2010, 04:39 PM:

Mary Aileen @ 116: What I've noticed with handbrakes and wet weather is that it depends on the rims. Modern alloy rims do pretty well, but steel rims get dangerously slick. (My daughter's lovely old Robin Hood 3-speed has steel rims and she won't ride in wet weather.)

#125 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2010, 05:18 PM:

Mark (123): Thanks. It's been a long time since I rode a bike with handbrakes, so I'm sure that it had the older style rims. Also, the handbrakes were only on the front, so applying them too hard and flipping the bike over, was a real risk, as ddb notes in 118.

kid bitzer (114): It never would have occurred to me that weight of the rider would make a difference with coaster brakes. Do you know how big a hill it would take to burn them out? Probably depends on exactly how heavy the rider is, I suppose. And I daresay the damage would/could be cumulative, too.

If I'm ever in the market for another bike (doubtful, at this point), I'll bear all this in mind.

But I still insist on a step-through frame. :)

#126 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2010, 05:28 PM:

abi@119

Thankyou kindly for the encouragement :)

I can't begin to enumerate the cool stuff I've discovered via Making Light, including introductions to the work of John Scalzi and Charlie Stross, who became two of my favourite authors and bloggers. To list everything great about this place would be a thread in itself* (and I'm not even into knitting).

If I appear reticent, it's not that you're unwelcoming. Rather, the opinions I read here matter to me, and the quality of contributions is often very high. This makes me think rather more before posting here than I might elsewhere. Nevertheless, I promise to speak up when I have something to say :P

Terry Karney@121

The best instructors I've trained with have placed a huge emphasis on ukemi; I've heard it stressed that it's a matter of receiving the technique (and potentially coming back/countering), rather than of learning how to fall.

I was fascinated by an instructor who follows Seishiro Endo Sensei. Endo Sensei seems to perform amazingly soft, sensitive aikido, yet apparently came to that after 20 years of being known as the hardest of the hard. When I saw him teach a seminar a few years ago, he focused a lot on ukemi - it seemed like he thought the feeling he was trying to teach might be grasped more easily from that side of the exchange. Then again, I'm second guessing an 8th Dan aikikai here, so YMMV.

I'm also firmly of the opinion both that there is a single pure thing we can call aikido, and that there are at least as many ways of doing it as there are people**.

*and embarrass various commenters unnecessarily
**I'm specifically staying out of the political side

#127 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2010, 05:38 PM:

Oh I forgot - if there are any martial arts afficionados who have never seen The Way of the Exploding Pen, I highly recommend it*.

*declaration of interest - I know the creator, who is an aikidoka with a keen sense of humour.

#128 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2010, 05:48 PM:

My bike has coaster brakes on it for the very simple reason that if I need to stop suddenly, I'm not going to remember the hand brakes. My instincts say "pedal backwards to stop" (and it took a while to train that in, after a few too many months as a child learning that the way to stop was to drag my feet on the ground); experience with hand-brake bikes shows me that the more urgent the stopping need, the more likely I am to forget about the hand brakes and pedal backwards, thus failing to stop anyway.

I could probably train myself out of this again, but I don't bike all that frequently, and I'm loath to add one more obstacle to the little biking I do. Besides, I hate biking up or down steep hills, and am inclined to just walk my bike on those anyway.

#129 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2010, 08:19 PM:

re brakes: I never really like coaster brakes, because I never had the sense they were very controllable. All to quickly the rear tire locked.

I had a bad set of rear brakes on my ten-speed in high school, and no matter what I did, I couldn't get them to function. This isn't really much of a problem. Despite the stories of people pulling an "endo" and flipping the bike, it's not easy (I don't weigh much more than I did in high school, and at 115-125 lbs. and a tendency to forget the rear brakes exist, I've never flipped a bike; even in a "panic stop" which lifted the rear tire).

Since braking moves weight to the front tire, and off the rear tire, the more the rear tire is used to brake, the less braking power it has; and the faster it will come to a full stop, which reduces both braking power, and control (in anything other than a vertically oriented stopping posture).

This is, in fact, the technique for laying a bike down. One get on the front brakes, leans the bike, and then clobbers the rear... when the rear tires stops... the bike falls to the side, with the back end sliding out from under the rider (this has the caveat with motorcycles that if the rear wheel stops, you don't reengage it until the bike is vertical, or it will try to level itself, and fling the rider away. This is known as a "highside" crash, because instead of hitting the ground on the "lowside" of the falling bike, you hit it from the side which was "high". There is more energy in your body at that point, and you are hitting the ground, rather than the usual sliding of a lowside crash. Since this is often accompanied by the motorcycle trying to follow one, well it's bad).

Concomitantly the front brake gets more effective as it is applied, which is why motorcycle riders are strongly preferential to the front brake. I am trying to make sure I recall to engage the rear when stopping so I won't have to think about it in case of a need to stop with all possible speed (this is complicated by my BMW having ABS, which engages when the rear brake pedal is engaged. The rear brakes actually co-ordinate with the front, and ABS has a longer stopping distance [if more controlled] than non-ABS on dry pavement).

#130 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2010, 08:46 PM:

119 we're just people.

Did anyone think we were unjust people?

#131 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2010, 09:27 PM:

@125 mary aileen--

think of brakes as energy converters--they take the kinetic energy of your forward movement, and convert it into something else (mostly heat, plus a little mechanical work of grinding off rubber and aluminum, or grinding off little particles of asbestos).

because it is converting your movement-energy into heat-energy, the brake is going to get hotter and hotter unless it can offload that heat elsewhere. that's why coaster and drum brakes can have problems, because they are enclosed and don't get a lot of air circulation, and why rims and discs get hot, but then do a good job of handing the heat on to the ambient air.

that's also why rims sometimes *don't* do a good enough job in extreme conditions (e.g. tour de france descents down the alps), and cause the air in the tire to expand enough to burst the tire. bad scenario.

e.g.:

"Tire blow-off occurs most commonly on tandems where substantial energy of descending mountain roads is converted to heat in rims by braking. In contrast a single bicycle is usually able to dissipate enough of its descending energy by wind drag to not suffer from this. Rim heating with rim brakes on continuous steep descents can increase inflation pressure substantially. For this reason some mountain passes in the Alps prohibit descending by bicycle while up hill riding is permitted. For instance, Zirlerberg between Zirl and Seebach (Innsbruck), a major road between Germany and Austria, is one of these. "

http://www.sheldonbrown.com/brandt/blowouts.html


the amount of energy that you release in zooming down a hill is pretty phenomenal. to a rough approximation, it is the same amount of energy that would be required to get you up that hill again, at that speed! imagine trying to fling someone up a big hill at 20mph--that would take a lot of energy! and all of it has to be absorbed/transmitted by your brakes.

now imagine trying to fling a heavier person up that hill: more energy! more heat!

but i have no way to put numbers on this (e.g. "if you weigh x kilos then you may descend no more than y meters at z kph"). too many factors (e.g. wind resistance, condition of brakes, rolling resistance of bike, etc.)

check the link from my #115, though--it's very interesting.

#132 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2010, 11:52 PM:

kid bitzer (131): Thanks. You're right; that is an interesting article at your link. The hill he used for the test is a *lot* longer than anything I'd ever ride down, however.

I wonder, is hand/grip strength a limiting factor on the usefulness of hand brakes? It seems as if it ought to be, but maybe the brakes are sensitive enough that it's not a problem. Anyone who's ridden a bike more recently than I have (i.e., within the last ~25 years) care to weigh in on this one?

#133 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2010, 12:01 AM:

Mary Aileen: It depends. On the newest styles, with systems more like car disk brakes, not so much. On older styles, with rim brakes, a bit. But the relative power of the brakes are enough that most people can more than adequately stop the bike.

Because for most purposes, maximum braking power isn't needed for more than a few seconds.

#134 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2010, 12:23 AM:

Terry Karney (133): That makes sense. Thanks.

#135 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2010, 12:47 AM:

The police levy a stiff fine if you can’t produce a dinging noise to warn people to get out of your way (running them down without warning is considered unsporting).

If they ran me down after ringing their bell, would it count as warning, even if I couldn't hear it? How do Dutch bicyclists handle communicating with deaf and hard-of-hearing pedestrians?

(Actually, I am really nervous and not a little irate about the people who ride on sidewalks here and expect people to hear the bike coming. I got clipped the other day, though only a little. It almost makes me want to wear a tshirt that says on the back, "I AM DEAF, I CAN'T HEAR YOUR DAMN BELL, AND YOU SHOULD NOT BE RIDING THAT BICYCLE ON THE SIDEWALK ANYHOW." I have not done so, though. It seems unduly hostile, and I don't care for retaliation. I've been cussed out enough by adult bicyclists riding on the sidewalk.)

#136 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2010, 12:56 AM:

elise @135:

If they ran me down after ringing their bell, would it count as warning, even if I couldn't hear it? How do Dutch bicyclists handle communicating with deaf and hard-of-hearing pedestrians?

Flippant commentary aside, you are expected, as a cyclist, to be in control of your vehicle. If the person doesn't move aside when you ding them, ride around them in a safe manner.

Some cyclists may say something rude, because ableism transcends cultures (alas! I'd love to live somewhere where it didn't). But losing control of your vehicle enough to so much as touch a pedestrian? It would be a source of deep shame, a failure of essential Dutchness twice over*.

-----
* Once for not cycling well enough, once for a failure of samenleving.

#137 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2010, 01:50 AM:

elise: In Calif. riding on the sidewalk is legal. Sadly, as with so many things like this, it's not properly taught, nor enforced.

The bicyclist on the sidewalk is a second class pedestrian, and must yield to foot traffic. Further, they are required to dismount at all intersections, and walk the bike across the street. Failure to do so makes one eligible for a citation for, "operating a vehicle on the sidewalk."

But it never happens.

#138 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2010, 03:58 AM:

Mary Aileen@132

I have disc brakes on my bike (excuse: originally spec'd for downhill), and it takes very little pressure to stop the wheel dead.

This has its own problem of course, as locking the wheel raises pressing questions re: the amount of traction the tyres have with the road, and how quickly the bike can lose momentum and still retain its association with the rider.

My recollection is that rim brakes give a more analogue experience.

Terry Karney@137

Wow; presumably rather than make the roads safer, they allow riding on the pavement*. That's...not a good solution. But then I hear California doesn't exactly have a local government budget surplus.

Brakes and i18n: In the UK, the rear break is on the left and the front break on the right. According to my brother (who did seasons there), in France it's vice versa, which caused all kind of humorous situations when he went mountian biking. Which way round are our friends the Dutch?


*American: Sidewalk == English: Pavement, which you probably knew. What I didn't know (and nearly screwed up my California driving test many years ago) is that American: Pavement == English: Road

#139 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2010, 04:00 AM:

I once precipitated a flamewar by saying how angry I got when bicyclists told me they rode on the sidewalks "because the streets were too dangerous."

You'd think I had been stomping puppies or something, instead of telling them that they were merely passing the scared down to a more defenceless class of person than they were.

(I'm married to a former almost-all-seasons bicycle commuter, just for the record. It's not like I hate bicyclists. I just hate being terrified by people whizzing past me and dropping obscenities in my ear because I have the temerity to not be able to hear their bell.)

Anyhow, Emily looks like a lovely bicycle, and I too hope she stays with you and is not enticed elsewhere.

#140 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2010, 04:00 AM:

Kid @ 131,

You're a bit fuzzy about the energy needing to be dissipated on a downhill run with a bicycle.

It's the gravitational potential energy: height multiplied by mass multiplied by acceleration due to gravity. Air drag can be significant, so it isn't all down to the brake system.

The faster you're going, the greater the rate the energy has to be dissipated. This requires a higher temperature for the friction components to give a fast enough heat flow. And it's the temperature difference with the surroundings which matters.

All this is the same for any kind of braking, on any vehicle. When you're on the level, it's the kinetic energy that has to be dissipated. If you want to spend enough money, you can use the same sorts of expensive materials as are used in jet engines, so that the brake disks can reach red heat on a Formula 1 car.

The wheel brakes on airliners have to stop a lot of mass, travelling at quite high speed. A Boeing 787 has a maximum landing weight of 193 Mg, and a Landing speed of maybe 200 knots, about 100 metres per second. Which is about 950 gigajoules for the brakes to cope with. (It may be quite a bit less, I'm pessimistic about the speed.) For an airliner, you want the brakes to be undamaged by that. And remember, there are much bigger airliners out there, and you can't build a longer runway.

This is why older military jets used braking parachutes. They didn't have the materials, fifty years ago.

It's also part of the reason why big 'planes have a lot of wheels. It's not just to spread the weight over the runway structure, it's to give enough brake units that the heat can be handled, and the tyres don't skid.

We've come a long way from those two guys who ran a bike shop, and that day on Huffman Prairie.

(Apparently, Sir Patrick Moore has, in his long life, met Orville Wright, Yuri Gagarin, and Neil Armstrong. That's how fast we came on.)

#141 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2010, 04:01 AM:

It's worth noting that there are relatively* few situations where the cyclist and the pedestrian share spaces in the Netherlands. Bikes are generally expected to be in their own bike lanes or on the road‡. If they're on a footpath† that's shared with pedestrians, it's generally a wide enough one that, unless the pedestrians are walking multiple people abreast, they can get by without needing the bell.

Exceptions are when pedestrians walk in the bike lanes (not uncommon in Amsterdam, where tourists don't read the road enough to realize that's what they're doing) or step in front of a bike while crossing the cycle path (without looking, in other words).

-----
* in comparison to most places I've cycled in the US and UK
‡ this is made more feasible by the fact that Dutch drivers are neither homicidally inclined toward cyclists nor blind to them
† by which I do not mean a sidewalk, but the sort of path that wends its way through a nature reserve. I do not recall ever needing to share an ordinary urban sidewalk with pedestrians; I belong on the road in that context‡.

#142 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2010, 04:07 AM:

Dave Bell @140:

Air drag can be significant

...particularly in a country famous for its windmills—and its wind. I've come to a complete stop coasting off the highest bridge in the area into the prevailing wind.

#143 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2010, 04:11 AM:

Russ @138:

I was weirded out by the brake placements when I bought Vera in Scotland, but they wanted me to sign a release before they'd rewire them. I didn't bother.

Emily also has the back brake on the left and the front on the right, so, the British fashion. I have no idea what Dutch sport bikes do.

#144 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2010, 04:16 AM:

I would like to live in a place where life was good enough for bicyclists and where vehicle drivers treated bicyclists well enough that the bicyclists did not feel that they had to take refuge on the sidewalks.

It's rare that I'm out doing any kind of errand that involves sidewalk walking and am NOT passed on the rather narrow sidewalk by an adult bicyclist riding at something close to speed. They were a bit more careful when I had the cane as a signal, but now that I'm off the cane a fair amount of the time, it's back to the old playing-chicken-from-behind game, and as I said, somebody clipped me lightly the other day. I don't have the balance yet to react as well as I'd like, either.

Your pardon; I am morose for all sorts of tedious reasons today, and I would much rather be happy for your bicycle.

#145 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2010, 04:27 AM:

There are days like that. I'm just sorry you're having one.

#146 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2010, 06:14 AM:

abi@141

TFL* have an initiative to get more cyclists on the road (the Mayor of London is a keen cyclist), and are updating roads and junctions with varying degrees of success**.

*Transport For London - they run the tube & buses and make road policy for the capital
**The intention is to get you across to a cycle lane that runs (against the one-way) to the right of pub across the road, thus avoiding a major road junction further up. It doesn't help that it's typical in London for drinkers to crowd outside pubs in the summer, hugely increasing the number of pedestrians you come into confict with here.

#147 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2010, 06:59 AM:

Russ @146:

Now that is a bloody stupid intersection. Feeding cyclists onto a pavement, so they're perpendicular to the foot traffic on a busy road? That'll build amity between road users.

At the very least they should put up a dismount sign and an end cycle lane so at least the alert cyclists know that they won't be given space. On a crowded morning, I bet you can't even see what's under the pedestrians' feet to realize the cycle lane ends.

(I would take a bit of nerving up to cycle in London—or Manhattan, for that matter, as Patrick does. I gave up on Edinburgh after a taxi tried to chase me down for the crime of existing where he was trying to pull to the kerb.)

#148 ::: Teemu Kalvas ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2010, 07:19 AM:

Brake sides @ 138, 143: As far as I have been able to figure out, the norm all over Europe except Britain and Ireland is left-front, but especially among sport cyclists the reversal is very common for the purpose of having the more accurate, right hand control the main, front brake. With modern brakes it is really not so much a question of strength but control. Brakes on bikes used to be much weaker even a couple of decades ago, and back then this kind of reasoning was correspondingly different.

(Personally I don't feel too strongly about this: I accidentally miswired my brakes on one bike the last time I changed the cables and could not be bothered to redo it. No problems so far.)

Dave Bell @ 140: Commercial jets cannot brake with the wheel brakes to standstill from touchdown speed. The brakes would melt. The primary mechanism for high speed braking is thrust reversing engines. Of course the planes are so huge that even for the purpose of low speed braking the brake discs need to be substantial.

#149 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2010, 08:58 AM:

re: thrust reversers--come to think of it, this is another method of bike-braking.

many hipsters these days are riding "fixies" in which the rear wheel has no mechanism for free-wheeling: if the rear wheel is spinning, then the pedals are spinning, too.

this means that the rider can apply braking force merely by resisting the push of the pedals as they come up on the rear part of their stroke. if you are strong enough, you can lock your feet at 3 and 9 and cause the rear wheel to skid.

as with any braking, the energy is transmitted to heat, this time in the rider's leg, plus the mechanical work of grinding off little bits of your knee's cartilaginous lining.

there's nothing wrong with the system if you are young, stupid, and have plenty of knee-lining left. for the rest of us, it's easier to change rubber pads now and then.

i was told that u.s. hand-brakes run right-rear, left-front because right-handed people have a natural tendency to grip with the right first, or are more likely to do that quickly. sudden application of the rear brake is less likely to result in flips.

if that rationale made sense, then it would make sense to reverse it only in countries that had a strong preponderance of left-handers. something doesn't make sense.

#150 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2010, 09:00 AM:

Illinois has just passed a statewide law claiming it will punish motorists for intimidating, chasing, or intentionally driving too close to cyclists with a large fine and up to a year in jail.

I doubt it will be enforced.

However, the reason it was passed at all is that a month or two ago, a Chicago driver who DELIBERATELY COLLIDED WITH a cyclist he felt annoyed by was CONVICTED of doing it ON PURPOSE ... and was fined $70, apparently the maximum available punishment.

No idea why he wasn't arraigned for Assault With A Deadly Weapon; the cyclist was put in the hospital with at least broken bones.

Apologies for the SPoraDIC CAPitaliZAtion ... we feel rather strongly about this case in our household, and I had to vent it somehow.

#151 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2010, 10:06 AM:

Fortunately or unfortunately, it is generally legal to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk in Minneapolis. Not, of course, to do so so as to endanger other pedestrians (a bike has the rights and duties of a pedestrian while using the sidewalk, so "other" pedestrians seems proper usage); but just the presence of the bike on the sidewalk is generally not an infraction. (Bikes are banned on the sidewalk in Minneapolis in "business districts" which mostly means areas where more than half of the building fronts are businesses. Which may be relevant to some of the places Elise walks, as I remember it.)

#152 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2010, 10:08 AM:

Maybe hybrid cars, and especially all-electric cars, will either train pedestrians to not depend so much on hearing, or else weed out those who do. This could also be good for bicyclists (fewer people stepping out in front of them without looking).

#153 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2010, 05:10 PM:

elise @ 144: Sympathies, and apologies for my fellow two-wheelers; I'm aware not all of us are as courteous as we should be. Have you considered continuing to carry the cane for a while, just as a signal? I know it's probably even more annoying that you should have to think about doing this (you shouldn't need to).

Re. T-shirt, you could get one of the yellow high-res. vests sold for horse-riders saying "Please Pass Wide and Slow" - the way the buses and lorries treat me (a law-abiding cyclist) I'd probably wear one myself, if not for the fact that my backpack would cover it.

#154 ::: Mike McHugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2010, 06:31 PM:

On bikes and brakes, I've always rationalised it this way:
* holding on to the handlebars with one hand is not the most stable position to be in.
* in front of a car is not the most safe position to be in.
* you're most likely to be in an unsafe and unstable position when signalling that you want to cross the flow of traffic and following through.
* in an unsafe and unstable position, you don't want to pull the front brakes unless you really mean to.

Hence, drive on the left, front brake's on the right. Drive on the right, front brake's on the left. I've no idea if that's the real reason or not, but it makes sense to me.

#155 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2010, 06:48 PM:

abi 142: I've come to a complete stop coasting off the highest bridge in the area into the prevailing wind.

Wow. That's some wind. Could you get back up onto the bridge, or were you just stranded in midair?

#156 ::: Torrilin ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2010, 08:24 PM:

Oh my, I had no idea the Twin Cities were that uncivilized.

It's against WI state law to ride on the sidewalk. I view this as a great and glorious good thing... however it's also possible for municipalities to override the state law via an ordinance. Madison has, which means I often have other cyclists blow past me at an unsafe speed while I'm walking my bike. I find this particularly egregious on State St, since the street is closed to car traffic. (not that you can tell...)

The trail network is shared between pedestrians, cyclists, rollerbladers, skateboarders and the like. It is generally not as gloriously wide as a Netherlands style cyclepath. In the Netherlands, a cyclepath is a ROAD, and has SIDEWALKS. Most Madison cyclists seem to treat all pedestrians as if they were hearing impaired or two tho. I walk on the paths about as often as I ride, and I don't often get buzzed.

I'd still rather have a Dutch path tho. The big in town ones would actually be wide enough for Madison's rush hour.

#157 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2010, 08:54 PM:

Russ @ 138: The law was written when it 9 year olds were still allowed to ride their bicycles to school. There are any number of dedicated bike lanes, some with medians to keep cars from sharing the space.

Motorcycles have the front brake on the right, rear under the right foot (the left hand is operating the clutch, and the left foot the gears).

ddb: Sadly, here in an place with large numbers of Hybrids/Electrics (the Tesla is made here), the most common response seems to to tell cyclists to use less of the road, because they can't hear quiet cars. The idea of educating drivers seems to be something most drivers; even those who say they think cyclists have rights, don't comprehend.

#158 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2010, 09:24 PM:

@154--

i like that rationale, mike, and i think i may have heard that, too. it does go with the idea that your center-line hand is your signaling-hand, and then your rear-brake goes with your non-signaling hand.

it certainly explains the reversals in the uk better than my story does.

#159 ::: Roy G. Ovrebo ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2010, 03:12 AM:

Terry Karney @ #157: Motorcycles have the front brake on the right, rear under the right foot (the left hand is operating the clutch, and the left foot the gears).

Unless it's an old British-made bike, in which case the brakes are on the left and clutch and gears on the right...


I use my bicycle to and from work when weather permits. It's a nice trip, except for the bridge I have to cross to get over to the mainland. Tall, steep, narrow lanes, narrow pavements (sidewalks) and a notorious traffic bottleneck. Any conversation about bikeriding will touch upon the horribleness of that bridge.

#160 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2010, 04:14 AM:

Roy G. Overbo: Yes, and I left classic Triumph and BSA, etc. out of it as being rare enough; and pricey/in need of attention that it wasn't really worth bringing up, because they are, at this point, exceptions to the norm.

#161 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2010, 05:38 AM:

Took Emily into Amsterdam this morning (last-minute shopping for gifts to bring home). I tried to replicate my commute timing as well, leaving from dropping the kids off at school, taking the anticipated route and ferry. Timing works well for a 9:15 - 9:30 arrival in the office; I can probably beat that if I take a different route and a shorter ferry ride. But the time on the boat was exceedingly pleasant.

Left her locked in central Amsterdam, with both the ring lock and the chain (round a drainpipe). She was near some nicer and less well-locked bikes.

All was well. She's a good commute bike, though I will have to rig a water bottle holder (I have a few ideas for a handmade one that could hold a thermos cup of coffee or tea in the winter).

Good bike. I like her.

#162 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2010, 06:44 AM:

Commercial jets cannot brake with the wheel brakes to standstill from touchdown speed. The brakes would melt. The primary mechanism for high speed braking is thrust reversing engines. Of course the planes are so huge that even for the purpose of low speed braking the brake discs need to be substantial.

Rather, the primary mechanism for braking is brakes. Reverser is a means of reducing the braking effort required, in order to improve the landing minima and extend the life of the brakes, and also to improve braking in the wet (reverse thrust acts against the airframe and doesn't need any friction with the surface).

It is entirely possible for an aircraft to land engine-out (and therefore without any reverse available), indeed, it's a key safety requirement. As is landing with reversers locked-out, for example if only one of them works (you wouldn't want assymetric reverse!)

#163 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2010, 09:41 AM:

Alex@162: Sure, engine-out landings are a consideration. However, the brakes surviving the experience aren't an important part of that plan, whereas it is an important part of a "normal"landing.

Yeah, asymmetric reverse would be a Bad Thing, and if you knew about it you'd certainly want to avoid it.

#164 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2010, 09:56 AM:

Alex @162 said: It is entirely possible for an aircraft to land engine-out (and therefore without any reverse available), indeed, it's a key safety requirement. As is landing with reversers locked-out, for example if only one of them works (you wouldn't want assymetric reverse!)

Except that at certain airports, you really need both.

There was a nasty case at Midway♦ several years ago where a pilot unfamiliar with the airport who assumed everything was standard -- and who was landing in ucky wet snow -- landed further out than he should've and then didn't bother engaging the thrust-reversers at the first possible moment, and therefore overshot the end of the runway, crashing through the airport fence and ultimately colliding with a minivan in the middle of an intersection. Everyone in the van but the child in the center-mounted carseat survived (everyone else could exit the van fast enough once the plane was spotted). The van and several other cars were totalled.

This is why pilots need to be intimately familiar with the idiosyncracies of every airport they fly through, even though nowadays most of them are pretty standard ...

♦ MDW is a square mile. Its runways are the hypotenuses. Simple math shows their maximum possible length -- which is shorter than many airports are currently designed as having. Also, immediately at the end of the runway is a fence, a single foot of grass and curb, and then multi-lane city streets with heavy car traffic. Which is why the runways haven't been/can't be lengthened ...

#165 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2010, 10:15 AM:

@163, @162

"Yeah, asymmetric reverse would be a Bad Thing"

i don't know why you say that. people pay a lot of money for whirligig rides at the fun fair.

people would surely pay even more for a whirligig powered by several g.e. turbojet power plants. and with free in-flight meals!

#166 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2010, 12:10 PM:

Yeah, but try getting free inflight meals these days.

#167 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2010, 01:54 PM:

Even if you have to pay for the meals, they'll be in free flight once the plane starts going whirly.

#168 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2010, 02:19 PM:

Incidentally, runway length is why I don't like DCA in the winter. They're short, and they end in the river. I'd much rather go into Dulles, with it's huge tracts of land and much more sane approach.

#169 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2010, 03:01 PM:

eric @168: Try the Charleston, WV airport sometime. Every runway ends with a drop off the mountain...

When I go to Chicago I prefer to fly into Ohare, but it's cheaper to use Southwest into Midway (no bag fee). Midway's runway layout gives me the heebie jeebies -- I'm not sure being in the cockpit would help.* I know turbulence doesn't bother me as much when I have the stick as it does when I'm stuck in row 23 looking out a dinky dark window...

The only good thing about landing at DCA is if it's a VFR day and you get just the right landing pattern sometimes you get to see all the wonderful buildings -- especially the National Cathedral.


*I took aviation ground school as one of my high school courses. Never had enough money to complete flight school, so I know just enough to be dangerous.

#170 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2010, 03:22 PM:

Ported over from the wrong thread I initially posted to, with added photo link.

The old Kai Tak airport in Hong Kong had one of the more...amusing...approaches for a major international airport (from Wikipedia):

The landing approach using runway 13 at Kai Tak was spectacular and world-famous. To land on runway 13, an aircraft first took a descent heading northeast. The aircraft would pass over the crowded harbour, and then the very densely populated areas of Western Kowloon. This leg of the approach was guided by an IGS (Instrument Guidance System, a modified ILS) after 1974.
Upon reaching a small hill marked with a checkerboard in red and white, used as a visual reference point on the final approach (in addition to the middle marker on the Instrument Guidance System), the pilot needed to make a 47° visual right turn to line up with the runway and complete the final leg. The aircraft would be just two nautical miles (3.7 km) from touchdown, at a height of less than 1,000 feet (300 m) when the turn was made. Typically the plane would enter the final right turn at a height of about 650 feet (200 m) and exit it at a height of 140 feet (43 m) to line up with the runway. This manoeuver has become widely known in the piloting community as the "Hong Kong Turn" or "Checkerboard Turn".


And stills giving some idea what Kai Tak Runway 13 approaches were like.

#171 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2010, 10:10 AM:

My grandfather flew into China regularly in the 80s; he had some bloodcurdling stories about coming into Kai Tak. On at least one trip, he could look UP out the plane windows at people's laundry hung off their balcony windows to dry ... just past the tip of the airplane wing, or so it looked.

#172 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2010, 06:56 PM:

Elliott Mason @ 171:

I have heard stories (I don't know how true) that occasionally the jets would clip people's laundry off the line as they were heading in to land there.

#173 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2010, 01:45 PM:

Catching up late because this thread happened while I was on the road without ready access...

Joyce, #52: OMG, I love the Electra Townie! As in, I don't have the $500 to buy one, but I've test-ridden one and it was fabulous. They have what's called "crank-forward" design, which means that the pedals are a little ahead of your body instead of being directly under it as you ride -- not like a recumbent, but it feels more like sitting in a chair. And yes, they do need fenders in a wet or dusty climate, but those are readily available.

Re kickstands: say WHAT?! I've never had a bike without one, and wouldn't want one so lacking in the first place. How else do you park it when there's not a rack handy, forghodsake? And for more serious riders, how do you do on-the-road repairs without the ability to stand the bike in a stable configuration? That just doesn't make sense.

Neil, #99: Oh, do tell; I love hearing tales of proper revenge. And the answer to why all the bikes were mountain bikes when there was no mountain is most likely "because that's what was trendy and cool at the time, and either no other style was available or nobody would be seen dead on something Not Cool".

Re coaster brakes -- mileage varies; I loathe them and would never buy a bike without hand-brakes. The ability to adjust the position of the pedals at a traffic light is too valuable to lose. Besides, coaster bikes are single-speed by definition, and therefore only useful in areas which are nearly flat (like the Detroit suburb where I grew up). Our first art-bike tandem was a coaster bike, and getting up the 2 underpasses on the parade route was a major hassle; this year we bought a geared tandem, and it was amazing how much easier those underpasses got!

Also, while I understand the "front brakes are dangerous" comment, every bike I've had with hand-brakes had them on both wheels, one hand controlling the front brake and the other the rear. You get used to adjusting the relative pressure on the grips very easily -- so much so that it came back to me by reflex when I started riding again after 30+ years off the bike.

elise, #139: As a cyclist, I'm with you -- wheeled vehicles belong on the street, not the sidewalk. For one thing, cars coming out of a side street are less likely to hit you because the drivers are looking at the street for cross-traffic! (Also, the sidewalks in Houston -- where they exist at all -- are generally in absolutely terrible repair, with potholes and root-heaves and ledges. The streets are at least marginally better.)

Terry, #157: The idea of educating drivers seems to be something most drivers; even those who say they think cyclists have rights, don't comprehend.
Boy, does that sound familiar from a different context. Rather like the resistance to educating men about what constitutes rape (and why it's wrong) rather than telling women what they should do to "prevent" it. :-(

#174 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2010, 03:53 AM:

So, the days are drawing in in the Northern Hemisphere, and a couple of weeks ago I had my first commute through what was essentially a wall of water.

It made me think of this thread and inspired me to ask - what do the cyclists here do for weather proofing in the winter months?

It seems to me there are a two working approaches to cycling in the rain: You either swaddle yourself from head to toe in Gortex(tm)*,or you accept that you're going to get wet and rely on dry clothes at your destination.** Anything in between is doomed to failure, and damp socks.

What do you think?

* and therefore sweat buckets
** free copy-editing sought - was that the correct use of a colon?

#175 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2010, 04:00 AM:

I ride a motorcycle. I have gear, but it's not perfect. I carry a second set of gloves in my luggage. I am thinking, now that I have new luggage, of carrying shoes; a change of shirt might also be in order.

It mostly depends on how far I expect to travel, and how long that will take.

#176 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2010, 06:37 AM:

Russ #174: Not a M-biker, but: That was a perfectly good use of a colon. (There are a few different things you can do with them.)

#177 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2010, 01:50 PM:

Russ @ 174: Fenders, and GoreTex with vents?

Ian-my-husband cycles in most weather, and so he put out for a jacket he could adjust the warmth of easily. The armpits unzip, and a bit across the back.

(My motorcycle jacket has a similar arrangement; shoulder vents in front, and lower back vents in back)

But, realistically, unless you generally ride at a demure and scenic pace - and in rain, who does? - this is just going to make you more comfortable on the bike. You probably still want clean dry clothes at the other end because, well, sweat happens, as does mud and crap from passing cars.

Motorcycling has a similar issue: if you're dressed to be comfortable outdoors with no gear on, you're probably dressed more-or-less right for in motion WITH gear. But there's a period in warm weather after the gear goes on but before the bike gets up to speed when it's just HOT. And I sweat. If it then rains, or the wind picks up ... so it turns out that I can do up my front vents - and Terry's back vents, actually - while sitting on the back of the bike at highway speeds. With numbish fingers.

#178 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2010, 02:13 PM:

Russ @ 174:

I have a well-vented, waterproof jacket, but I've never been able to bring myself to put rain pants on over my regular ones. I carry a change of clothes in the water-resistant pannier bag.

#179 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2010, 02:27 PM:

Lee @ 173: I agree whole-heartedly about handbrakes, kickstands, and not cycling on sidewalks! I think the most important thing about bike safety is having lots of bikes on the street, which is not exactly something an individual can do to protect themself. It's amazing what a sea change it's been in Portland as more bikes have appeared. In the neighborhoods with lots of bikes, drivers see you. When you get into the hinterlands without bikes, they don't. And I experience this myself when I'm the one driving the car.

I'm checking out bikes with a more upright position now. I only ride short distances, all in city traffic, so I want to see where I'm going at all times. I've currently got a crappy old mountain bike with a Rube Goldberg handlebar contrivance that gives me a fairly upright position.

I've ruled out Amsterdam bikes due to weight. I don't have a garage, and have to carry my bike up and down the stairs to my basement. I'd worry about theft with a bike left outdoors all night, even locked up.

I tried the Raleigh Roadster briefly and loved it. I tried some Trek cruiser bikes, with the pedals forward of the seat,and hated them. The position, and the high handlebars felt very out of control to me. I'm going to head back to the store with the Raleigh and give it another spin. What's a bit crazy-making for me in shopping is that I know how a bike feels can be changed dramatically by raising or lowering the seat by a few centimeters, or changing the angle of the handlebars. Decisions, decisions!

#180 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2010, 03:27 PM:

By coincidence, I cycled to work in the heavy rain today. It's about a 40-minute trip.

Rain suits (trousers and jacket) are easily obtainable here, at good prices. But the cheaper ones don't breathe, so it's possible to end up wet and smelly at one's destination, rather than simply wet. A further complication is the fact that I am very much in a skirt-wearing phase of my life right now, but I'm not a big fan of ponchos (you can get them for biking, but they put up some fierce wind resistance. And the Netherlands doesn't have all those windmills just for show, you know...)

Now, although I wear skirts, I tend to wear bike shorts under them all the time. This is because (a) I bike in skirts in a windy country, (b) I never did learn to be ladylike even off a bike, and (c) in the winter they keep my tights from sagging†.

So my solution is to put the skirt and my shoes for the day in my panniers, and wear the rain trousers over my bike shorts. That's generally thin enough that I don't overheat (indeed, I have to bike reasonably hard to keep from chilling.) I have a pair of cheap wellies I use to keep my feet dry. I put my rain jacket on over my work shirt (usually a T-shirt), and draw the hood over a baseball cap (the bill protects my face and moves the hood when I look over my shoulder).

(I have considered seeking out, or making, an overskirt of rainproof material. It would be less trouble than the trousers.)

At the office this morning, I ducked into the ladies' room and changed into the skirt and shoes, then left the rain gear to dry over an absent colleague's chair (dry side inward; I'm not a beast.) I have, in the past, changed into the skirt in the underground bike parking, since with bike shorts on as a base layer it's not even immodest.

-----
† unspoken (d) it's like a girdle? yeah, maybe.

#181 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2010, 04:10 PM:

Last winter I bought Gortex-lined hiking trainers (sneakers) because I was fed up with spending the day in wet socks if it rained on a day I was cycling in to work. Then I realised the rain would run off the waterproof trousers and into the shoes. So I bought ankle-gaiters. The combination does work.

The trick is judging when the rain is getting strong enough that you're going to need to put the waterproofs on, and doing so before your other clothes are already wet. Then, yeah, dialling the speed down a bit to reduce sweating. Decent "breathable" waterproofs do help.

An alternative I use in moderate temperatures is to wear fast-drying convertable trousers and sports sandals,and zip the legs off when it's raining. Combine with a lightweight, "breathable" waterproof jacket and let your legs cool you down - they dry pretty fast when you arrive, then you can zip the legs back on.

Also, you can get trousers now that are waterproof but look like normal hiking trousers and are designed to be worn all day. Not tried them myself (they came out just after I'd bought lightwight, fairly breathable waterproof overtrousers on sale).

#182 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2010, 06:21 PM:

Lee (I was travelling too): Bikes on sidewalks: I like California's rules, and would be happier about it if they were enforced.

Neil at 99 was breaking those rules (which I explained at 137. Given the actual danger to cyclists on the roads, and the lack of lanes for them in most places, the sidewalks (with such rules as aren't enforced in Calif.) isn't always wrong.

In Calif. the law was made because of the large number (though not so much the case now) of kids who were commuting to school on bikes. I know that I was clipped twice, as a teen, when someone didn't notice me in the street (and also once, a lot worse, when someone didn't think crossing a sidewalk in a car, leaving an alley, required slowing down. I was on that sidewalk to avoid a really dangerous left turn further up the road (no left turn lane, major thoroughfare, more than one left turning cyclist killed there; from behind).

No kickstand, and field repair... most of those can be done (at more easily) if the bike is on the seat and handlebars. I know that I, with a kickstand, do most of my work in that configuration.

As to gear. I used to bicycle all the time, about nine miles to school, and eight to work (before that, in high school it was about 2 1/2 miles to school). This was in Los Angeles, where it may only rain 30 days in the year, but when it does, it pours.

I used to carry spare clothes. If I was waterproof, I was drenched and overheated. That the rain was always cold, and had wind, didn't help. If I wasn't going fast enough to overheat, I would freeze.

On the motorcycle, I had abandoned waterproof gloves. The water runs down the outside of my jacket sleeves, and into the gloves, which it then refuses to leave. Better to carry a couple of pairs of gloves, and swap them out if they get to wet/cold.

As Marna said, having clothing you can vent, or seal, big advantage.

#183 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2010, 04:22 AM:

Thanks to all who responded to me@174, you've given me a couple of things to thing about.

Currently, my plan is a GoreTex jacket and waterproof trainers* and snowboarding trousers** over my biking gear, and clean trousers/shirt at my destination (which I do anyway, wet or dry). I haven't tested this particular combination yet, so I'll see how it goes.

If I get around to buying custom kit, I'll bear in mind the recommendations for a properly vented waterproof jacket (doesn't the rain get in?) and dcb@181's suggestion of gaiters, which I wouldn't have thought of.

David Harmon@176: Thanks! I seem to be a little afeared of colon usage other than of the "new paragraph, list" varitey, as it seems such strong punctuation***. This temperament leads me to litter my prose with semi-colons, and choose pastel shades when decorating. Must be bolder

* which I already had for walking
** which already I had for...ok, you probably get the picture.
*** coincidentally, this morning I was randomly pointed at "The Deluxe Trasitive Vampire". I'm tempted to pick it up for the title alone, but I wonder if anyone has read it and can comment on its usefulness?

#184 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2010, 07:21 AM:

Russ #183: Have you seen the Oatmeal's "How to Use a Semicolon"?

#185 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2010, 10:35 AM:

Russ: If the vents are properly located for the purpose, not really. There are places, for bicycle and motorcycle, where the rain isn't likely (in less than a huge downpour), to be going; protected by body arrangement and forward motion.

#186 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2010, 11:23 AM:

By the way, my poem @69 was a filk of a Dodge Ram truck commercial.

#187 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2010, 11:53 AM:

A friend in Seattle is on the short-wait-list for one of these, a tripod bike.

She recently wrote me:
[...] But the hub motor-assist is powerful enough to go up a reasonable incline in high gear and NO pedaling. So it should handle my unreasonable grades in a lower gear with some pedaling just fine. These are customizeable within limits (his abilities, my price).

For summer, the top comes off and there's a mini-windshield. A fabric cover snaps into place for parking and it even has a slit and hood to convert to a poncho if you get caught out in the rain in the between seasons. (We have quite a bit of that here...though this year I probably wouldn't have bothered to remove the top until July. The winter shell comes with a manually operated windshield wiper, but with Rain-X, he says he rarely needs to use his, and Portland's weather is mighty similar to Seattle's.

It has LED headlights, tail-lights, and turn signals. I'm going to ask him to do a night video to show the brightness. My current headlights are halogens, but that would no doubt use a lot more battery power.

I might want a bigger electric assist motor and/or a bigger battery because of the hills around here. They definitely beat the hills he is used to traversing. Base price WITHOUT the battery is $3800. If we sell the Camry, no more taxes or insurance, I don't think it'll take that long to recoup the cost.

#188 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2010, 12:37 PM:

David Harmon @184
I like very much; I have bookmarked it.

#189 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2010, 08:53 PM:

tykewriter #188: yeah, the Oatmeal is one of my favorite non-daily comics sites. Did you see the "minor differences" strip?

#190 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2010, 01:56 PM:

Well, I was looking forward to testing out the rain gear in yesterday's showers, but unfortunately I'd gotten barely 100 yards from work when my pedals fell off*.

It was, as may be imagined, quite the comedy moment. I guess I should feel good about providing entertainment for a number of amused onlookers at relatively little cost to myself; as I happeded to be a very short distance from this place, I was able to drop the bike in and tube home with only a modicum of disruption.

I've just picked up the (inexpensively) repaired bike up now, and cycled through a lovely sunny evening. Yay, bike shop & cafe!

In other, hyperlocal, news: 5½ month old Area Baby, Emily**, tried her first banana (mashed) and apple (segmented and sucked, lollipop style) today. Both met with cautious approval.

* To be precise, the right crank (and associated cogs) sheared off from the bottom bracket, leaving half the bolt wedged in place.
** This is, after all, partly her thread.

#191 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2010, 05:00 PM:

Russ@174 — Fine use of the colon, but the way I remember it, you're not supposed to capitalize the phrase after the colon. That may be more of a rule for British usage, though.

#192 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2010, 06:05 PM:

Capitalizing the word after the colon is acceptable if the new phrase is the start of a complete new sentence; not capitalizing it is also acceptable. If the phrase is something that can't stand on its own as a sentence, then its new word should never be capitalized. That's American usage at least, British may be different.

Charlie Stross has a tendency to put some stage business ending in a colon, and then have a line of dialogue after the colon, and he consistently does not capitalize the start of the dialogue. E.g:

He takes your wrist. His fingers are clammy from his beer glass: "let me explain. [...]"
To my mind, the open quote overrides everything else, and the start of the dialog should always have a capital letter. This too might be a British thing.

#193 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2010, 09:33 AM:

David Goldfarb@192: I was noticing a lot of use of the colon to separate business from dialog while working on an etext of Rex Stout's second Nero Wolfe book (The League of Frightened Men; initially published in 1935). (I had occasion to refer to a paper edition for some corrections, and it appears not to just be an artifact of the OCR process or something.) I don't remember seeing that frequently, but apparently it's not uniquely British, anyway.

#194 ::: Spiny Norman ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2010, 01:32 PM:

@ #7 -- "*No matter how well maintained, chains stretch. If you let this go on too long, the chain starts modifying the gears (especially aluminum alloy chainrings)to fit."

All of this is correct, except that chains stretch. This is not the case. Bike chains do not elastically deform to any meaningful extent. What they do do is lengthen through abrasion of the plates and pivot pins. Details here. More details here and here. Related: why you probably don't want to commute on the latest-greatest racing drivetrains here.

#195 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2010, 11:50 AM:

"Stretch" is not a bad term; it captures the "get longer and looser over time" thing (as so many elastic things do).

I agree the mechanism is pretty much unrelated; it's not about anything elastic loosing it's stretch.

If you don't have a concise, clear, familiar term to substitute for "stretch" (and I hope you'd have mentioned it if you did), you're basically tilting at a windmill. People will continue to say "stretch". And most of them will understand the actual mechanism, you know; so at least for those people, no harm will be done.

#196 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2011, 01:39 PM:

ddb @ #195
Indeed, "chain stretch" is a well-attested term of art. "chain wear" would do, but is less evocative.

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