Monday, January 25, 2010

Dutch bike spending defies recession

This interesting tidbit brought to you by Reuters.  Here's the link:


AMSTERDAM (Reuters Life!) - Recession or not, the cycle-happy Dutch are still spending a lot of money on their bicycles -- nearly 1 billion euros' worth a year, in fact.

About 1.3 million bicycles were sold in the Netherlands last year, at an average price of 713 euros ($1,008) each, an industry association said on Monday.

That led to total revenue of 950 million euros for the year, up 4 percent on 2008, the RAI Vereniging said. The per-bike price was also up 3.5 percent.

The country's flat geography and high population density has made the bicycle one of the primary modes of transportation, with 18,000 km (11,180 miles) of cycle paths nationwide.

Statistics compiled by the International Bicycle Fund show a higher percentage of all trips is made by bike in the Netherlands than any other country in the world. According to Statistics Netherlands, in 2007 nearly one in four Dutch workers commuted by bike.

(Reporting by Ben Berkowitz, editing by Paul Casciato)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Amsterdam beer bike

It certainly looks like a good time, at least for those on the bike.  Maybe less of a good time for those who encounter the "cyclists" after the ride is over.  These Kiwis seemed harmless enough, though.  It's interesting that none of the customers seemed local.

We're always praising the Dutch for doing everything by bike... carrying children to school, buying groceries, delivering lumber...  now that list includes getting tourists hammered.

What do you think?  Would you welcome a beer bike in your city?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Uncle! Uncle!

I stand by my earlier post and my opinion that what passes for winter weather in Northern California is not something about which we residents should complain.

We do not suffer the November-March freeze I remember growing up near Chicago.  Nor do we contend with hurricanes, as 2whls3spds pointed out -- there are places where storms get names on a regular basis. For that matter, house-threatening wildfires happen more often in the foothills and in Southern California, and mudslides seem to be a SoCal thing too.
But... even I have to admit that these past few days have been noteworthy.

There.  I said it, NorCal friends.  Bad weather here is still capable of being pretty bad.

I'm thinking specifically of tree-falling -- the annual routine of enormous trees shedding pickup-trcuk sized limbs and others apparently deciding "to hell with it" and cashing in their chips altogehter.

I don't think I've lived anywhere else (and I've lived in a lot of different places) where trees make such a habit of falling down.  Here's my amateur explanation, which I'm pretty sure is full of errors.

Sacramento is surprisingly tree-lined, despite being in a dry climate.  Huge oaks, a few remaining elms, giant redwoods, you name it and we've got it.  Indigenous varieties and even some imports aren't built for coexisting with irrigated lawns and suffer a lot of water damage.  Roots are shallower than they should be and even giant trees are less secure in their footing than you'd imagine.

Now, add three or four days of nonstop rain, making the ground a squishy, pliable mess.  Throw in a few gusts of 50 mph, and you've got trees lying on the ground. 

The photo below is from the park near my house.  You can tell it's been raining by two signs: there is a tree lying on the ground; and there is no one sleeping off a hangover or shooting up on the lawn.

The photo at the top is offered as proof that even bad weather around here is punctuated by periods of sunshine, suitable for testing the fenders on your Schwinn Racer.  Mine's named "The Mayor" in honor of its Chicago roots.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Time for a day off

The big storm we've been promised for the past week is finally here.  Before you start up a collection at work to assist us, I should point out that while Northern California weather can be dramatic now and then,  the words "big storm" are most frequently used to mean "period of windy rain." That appears to be the case this time, as the "storm," is basically rain with some wind.  Of course, if the winds achieve tree-toppling speed -- as they usually do once or twice a winter -- I'll be the first to weep and wail.

Regardless of how you define "storm," it's no day for bike-riding out there... at least in my book.

We've been promised foul weather since the middle of last week.  So, I was sure to ride to work and errands via bike on Monday and Tuesday.  When Wednesday and Thursday came and it was still dry, I rode then too, delighted to be sneaking in a couple extra outings.  Same for Friday and Saturday and Sunday.  It was the bicycling equivalent of the bishop's round in Caddyshack... "I don't think the hard stuff's gonna come down for some time..."

So, I'm going to chill for however many days the wind blows.  Rain doesn't bother me, but gusts of 40 mph don't strike me as the right conditions for a fun, safe ride. 

In the meantime, I'll try to produce a few items I've been saving for, well, a rainy day.  And, be sure to check out our bike blog friends along the left side of this page and pay them a visit too.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Always bet on black...

After an outpouring of comments, emails, telegrams and letters, the "Which Color Saddle Should I Pick" debate has come to an end.

Thanks to everyone who lent their opinion.  I was sincere about wanting to hear from the visually oriented and bike lovers on this and I did ponder the suggestions carefully. In the end, though, the final choice was driven in part by some mundane factors.

First, I'd already ordered a black B67 for my Schwinn, before deciding the current saddle is just too comfortable to replace.  Second, I'd abandoned the idea of cork grips, after finding that I tend to pull on the north road handlebars a bit when accelerating or climbing and was constantly convinced I was about to pull the cork grips off altogether.

But this isn't to say I wasn't influenced by the eloquent arguments in favor of black as the color of choice.  With the new-but-temporary Schwinn-style grips, the saddle looks great against the Nishiki's coppery brown frame.

Thanks to all for your input.  If you voted for brown, you have my permission to second-guess my choice in the comments below.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sunny surprise

Here in Northern California, the sun has not made an appearance since the new year.  And, while a dozen days of overcast skies can be a bit tiresome, there is something far harder to endure: listening to Northern Californians complain about the weather.

It's true.  Whether on the local news, on blogs or in Facebook updates, my fellow Sacramentans are talking about a lack of blue skies as though it were some kind of hellish torture.  Most complaints are of the quiet, "enough already" variety, but a good handful are genuinely peeved at the injustice of it all.  "I've just about had it with this s--t," read one.

Keep in mind this is a place where the sun shines 300-something days a year.  By any standard, the weather is outrageously generous. To me, getting to live in a climate like this requires that you keep quiet when the weather makes rare forays into less-than-ideal territory.  It's an implied contract.  Besides, complaining about January fog when people in Chicago are listening is like kvetching about your scuffed shoes to a man with no feet.

A few days ago, my daughter asked me about the coldest day I could remember.  I answered without hesitation.  January 20, 1985 -- it was 27 below zero in Chicago and 83 below when you factored in the wind chill.  Eighty-three degrees below zero!  (I pause here to point out that on this coldest day in the history of Chicago, my friend Kevin and I drove to an indoor tennis match between Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe.  Kevin's Dodge Dart started on the first try -- maybe they should bring that model back to save Detroit.)

Today's weather forecast called for rain, the beginning of a week of wet days.  But when the morning was a balmy, drizzly 55 degrees,  I decided to bike to work.  I'm happy to say I was rewarded richly for this decision.  Not only did the rain fail to gather any momentum, the sun struggled out while I was riding alongside the river. 

You can call it another error of weather forecasting if you like.  I prefer to think that the sun chose to thank me for not nagging it during its brief time away.

Three-speed Elvis

With thanks to Change Your Life, Ride a Bike, I offer this very cool photo.  I can't identify the bike, but I love that one of the all-time coolest chose a 3-speed -- at least on this day.

Funny enough, I was watching an Elvis documentary the other day and there was a cool scene where he and one of the Memphis Mafia hop on a tandem and take a happy spin around the studio lot.

Happy belated birthday, Elvis!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Binshou's big moment!

A bit thank you to our friend at The Mixte Gallery for featuring our own Binshou in that fine site's latest posting.

The more I look at this bike, the more amazed I am at how clean it is and what a great deal it was.

By the way, I've since added a taller seat post and now ride much more comfortably.

See Binshou's moment in the sun here.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Missed it by THAT much!

Recent experience on Craigslist has taught me to be very skeptical about deals that seem too good to be true.  I've lost count of the number of times I've come across ads with photos of pristine-looking vintage bikes and prices that are unbelievably low, only to find it's a bizarre scam or someone just out to waste everyone's time.

That must have been why I didn't jump in my car and speed to Roseville the moment I saw an ad for a 70's-era Columbia three-speed for... wait for it... $25.

The photos showed a bike that looked new.  I emailed the seller, fully expecting no response or one that would indicate tomfoolery.  Instead, I got a phone numbrer and an invitation to come see the bike.  It was a 30-minute drive, however, and I kept thinking of how furious I'd be to get all the way there and learn no such people/place/bike existed.

Finally, I decided I had to try.  I called the number and was told that someone was on their way to see it.  The seller seemed to be an older gentleman.  The bike was as good as gone ($25!), but The Kid and I got in the car and gave it a try anyway.  When we were five minutes from our destination, the seller called to say the bike was sold...

I need another bike like I need a hole in the head, but man, it would have been fun to buy a mint-condition three-speed for $25.

Next time.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Year's Day Tweed Ride!

The Kid and I made a last-minute decision to join the New Year's Day Tweed Ride in Sacramento.  We'd missed the debut tweed ride in November due to my injury and the Kid was eager to show off her new Raleigh.Besides, years of living here gave me the expertise I needed to dismiss as foolishness any thought of rain...
It poured.  The conditions weren't much for taking photos, but I did snap a couple as the group took shelter under I-5 before continuing on.

We met up with the group between Sac State and Discovery Park and rode along happily for a mile or so until the drizzle turned into a steady shower.  We soldiered on to Old Sacramento, where we traded the wet streets for a dry bistro. The Kid's Christmas-new Ugg boots were soaked, my Basil panniers were getting there and cold rain covered both our faces.

Still, it was a great time.

Somehow, in Old Sacramento, we zagged when the group zigged.  We parked our bikes in my office across the street and walked back to the coffee shop where everyone had gathered two minutes earlier.  There was no trace of them.  Apparently there had been a quick vote and a new destination was selected.

This was the sign we needed.  We hunkered down over hot drinks and a bowl of zucchini soup and proclaimed the tweed ride a smashing success!