Author Archives: Trisha

Bikes + cars at the Frist

Is biking to see an automotive exhibit the ultimate in cognitive dissonance? Don’t ask me; I was an English major. Anyway. Whitney and I did just that a couple of Thursdays ago, for the members-only preview of Sensuous Steel: Art Deco Automobiles.

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I tried to wait out the woman in the background, but no dice.

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Yes, we biked in these outfits.


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Bikes + beer = FUN

The third annual Nashville Tour de Fat was on Saturday, and it was a blast. It was also a hot and humid 90+—the second day of summer and it totally felt like it. Major kudos to those who wore costumes. The best I could do was deck out the Bat.

After the parade, the bike valet set up by Walk/Bike Nashville was just a little bit popular…

After helping park some bikes, I was off to gulp down a squash fritter from Riff’s, and settle down with a beer and some friends to watch the craziness in the bike corral.

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While walking around the festival, I overheard a few different people talk about how they wanted to get a bike and start riding around—one of the many reasons that the Tour de Fat is more than just a fun ride/day in the park.

Another reason: More than $30,000 was raised for local nonprofits. Is the Tour de Fat coming to your town?

{ Read about Dottie’s and my previous experiences at the Tour de Fat here, here & here. }

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New look for LGRAB

So you’ve probably noticed our new look (including a new homepage!). We’re still making a few tweaks, but overall we are very pleased with this theme from the fabulous BluChic. The support and features are totally awesome and worlds above that of our previous theme. </end nerdy WordPress commentary>

Let us know what you think in the comments!

 

This is why I buy stuff online

The scene: Local bike and outdoor supply shop, Nashville, Tennessee, on a beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon. The perfect day to test ride a bicycle.

The players: Two experienced cyclists who happen to be female. One bike shop employee who happens to be male. Two Trek FX 7.2s. Le Peug.

I express interest in test-riding a Trek FX 7.2. Employee (to be called “LBS Guy” going forward) kindly takes it to the back room to top off the tires and check that everything is working properly. He leads me into the back parking lot. The conversation that follows is of course slightly paraphrased (I don’t have perfect recall) but not exaggerated.

LBS Guy: Do you know how the shifters work?

Me: [not having taken a close look at the lever setup] Well, not on this particular bike, no.

LBS Guy: What type of bike do you usually ride?

Me: [List my four bikes.]

LBS Guy: Oh. So you’re just looking for an everyday runaround, then? [Proceeds to give me not only a tutorial on how the shifters work, which was slightly different from my current setup, but also an exhaustive explanation of what the front chainrings do and how the rear cassette works despite my having told him that I rode a 10-speed here.]

Me: [after listening patiently] Is there a hill nearby where I can try this out?

LBS Guy: Oh, you don’t have to worry about that. The parking lot goes way back and you don’t have to think about cars at all.

Me: Well, I rode here on the street, so that doesn’t bother me. I’m interested in seeing how this takes a hill compared to my bikes.

At this point, Whitney comes out of the shop. I ask her if she wants to ride along with me. We make a couple of loops through the parking lot while I get a feel for the bike, and it is obvious that the saddle is too low. I stop, but the seat adjustment requires an allen wrench. I notice LBS Guy is standing in the lot watching us, so I decide to ride back and ask him to raise it slightly.

Me: Would you mind making a quick adjustment? The seat is too low.

LBS Guy: Well, you don’t want to raise it too much. It looked fine to me. If you’re see-sawing back and forth on the bike [which I was nowhere close to doing] the seat is too high. If you’d just point your toes a little when you pedal…

Me: I’d prefer to get closer to full leg extension. I’m not getting enough power.

LBS Guy: [reluctantly raising the seat about a quarter of an inch] Try that. I’ll watch your position when you ride away.

I ride away, with the seat still slightly low but not bad enough to go back and receive more patronizing advice. We get on the street and find a hill, ride up and down it, circle around for a few more minutes and return to the shop. The whole ride takes maybe 10 minutes. LBS Guy is opening the door as we start to bring the bikes back in.

LBS Guy: [somewhat aggressively] There you are! I was just about to go out looking for you. You aren’t supposed to leave my sight on a test ride. You could have just ridden off. I didn’t have anything to guarantee you were coming back.

Me: [puzzled] What do you mean? My bike is here [gesturing to Le Peug, which was parked in the store the whole time].

LBS Guy: [scornful glance at Le Peug] Well, that’s not collateral for a bike like this one. We don’t let people take bikes on the street without leaving a driver’s license or a credit card. [Neither of which he asked me for.]

Me: [a bit stunned] Well, I didn’t realize that. And I’m not sure how people can be expected to get a feel for a bike without taking it outside of a parking lot.

LBS Guy, clearly not really listening: I’ll come back and put the bike up later. I have other customers now.

He walks away. I lean the Trek against a shelf and go to get Le Peug as the insult to me and my bike registers. Another employee comes up as we are leaving the store and wishes us a good day—not sure if he heard the conversation and was trying to apologize or was just being polite. An angrily energetic ride home ensues.

***END SCENE***

I had been planning to browse for some items for the Clarksville Century ride (this shop carries a larger amount of sporty accessories than any other in town) but needless to say that didn’t—and probably won’t—happen. A certain amount of mansplaining, I can put up with (unfortunately, being short and female, I have a lot of practice doing so), but diss my bike and basically accuse me of being a thief and you’ve lost my business forever. Say what you will about Amazon.com, but that’s something you don’t have to put up with online. (Of course, they do already have my credit card number on file!)

I value the contributions to the community that local businesses can make, and try to support them when possible. But if local shops don’t deliver on customer service, I have no qualms about firing up Chrome and clicking straight to what I want, without the BS (and usually with a considerable discount).

I guess every good experience has to be balanced by a bad one. But why is it so hard for bike shops to learn how to treat female customers?

 

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My first flat (yes, it’s true!)

Well, it had to happen one day: On Tuesday, I left work to discover that I had my first-ever flat. Poor Le Peug!

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I considered going inside to ask my coworkers for a ride home. I considered calling a friend. But it was a beautiful spring day—the first we’d had in a while—and I had some time before I had to be at the farmer’s market in Sevier Park, so I decided to lock Le Peug back up and walk.

Once I was three blocks away, I remembered that my shoes, while not the least comfortable heels I owned, were not really the best for this sort of activity.

I was jealous of ALL OF THE BIKES that went by. And even one skateboarder, at whom I would have ordinarily scoffed. (Since when has that become a legit form of transportation?)

 

But I made it to the market, albeit a bit footsore, and partook of an Izzy’s Ice as a reward.

The next day, I drove to work. Afterwards, Le Peug and Minnie got to know each other on the way to Halcyon.

When we got there, Andrew offered to show me how to fix a flat myself. Never one to say no to the pursuit of knowledge, I agreed. I’ve always been a little embarrassed that I have never changed a bike tube, because when I first started driving, my dad made sure I knew how change a car tire, change and check the oil, replace the fluids, etc—it was part of being a responsible vehicle operator. Maybe I should be a more responsible bicycle operator? After all, they’re much simpler, right?

Well, changing a tire might be a simple task, but it’s not necessarily easy. It took me a good 30 minutes at least, and there was a lot of awkward fumbling and possibly some moderate swearing. Andrew would demonstrate a 10-second task (like separating the bead of the tire from the rim) and then I would struggle for 10 minutes. My long nails and short dress made it a challenge, and I felt especially inept since there was an appropriately dressed and extremely skilled female bike repairer working at the station next to mine…but eventually I had a new tube in a new tire and that new tire was on my old bike.

While I’m glad I have given changing a flat a shot, I don’t plan to start carrying tools with me on my bike. In an urban environment, when I’m biking short distances, there are too many other options for me if something goes wrong with a bike—calling a friend, taking the bus home and yes, walking, are all preferable to me than changing a flat in my office parking lot. That said, I really appreciated that my LBS offered me the chance to learn something even though I was a woman in business attire—a lot of people would have taken one look and automatically assumed I wouldn’t be interested. Maybe I’ll at least keep a tire lever and some extra tubes at home…although if it takes me four years to get another flat I will have forgotten everything I learned on Wednesday!

Anyone else have a flat tire story? Do you carry tools with you on your bike? Why or why not?

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National Bike Month rolls on in Nashville

Earlier this week, Dottie mentioned all the awesome events going on in Chicago for National Bike Month. We’ve got lots going on here in Nashville, too! Last Sunday, I led a Bike Brunch + MetroCenter Ride, which miraculously was rain-free. Also a miracle: That another cyclist came by, the first we’d seen all day, just in time to take this photo.

MetroCenter Ride crew

MetroCenter Ride crew

Next week is the biggest week yet: Wednesday is the Ride of Silence, Friday is Bike to Work Day, and Saturday is the Tour de Nash! We just found out that Mike Wolfe from “American Pickers” will be leading the Family Ride. I’m hoping he’ll be on some sort of awesome vintage machine…

Check out the calendar for more details on those and other events.
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What’s happening in your city for bike month?

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Spring biking season is here

Hooray for blue skies,

 

sunshine,

 

and bare legs!

Spring in the South is short but oh so sweet. Even when it comes late!

 

 

St. Patrick’s Day ride in Nashville

Oh my gosh. What happened to April? I can’t really blame my vacation, since I was behind on my blogging before I even left: I didn’t post these pictures from our last Nashville group ride, which took place on St. Patrick’s Day. It was dreary and overcast (story of the last three months, it feels like) but we didn’t get *too* rained on. Even though it’s late, I have to share them in honor of the awesome friends who came out (and wore green!).

For those in Nashville, our next ride will be May 5. Find out more here!

Kermit Allegra was decked out for the holiday.

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So was Jessica’s Linus, although I did a horrible job of taking a photo of it.

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We started at Taproom, where I had a corned beef sandwich and a black and tan.

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Then we set off for downtown and our final destination of Fleet Street Pub (there being no satisfactory Irish pubs in downtown, alas).
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Everyone was wearing green.

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The group at Fleet Street.

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Ticker tape bills!

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Afterwards, Whitney and I went to our last Italian lesson and then took the bus home just for kicks.

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How was your St. Patrick’s Day? Your Easter? (How could I have missed two holidays?!?)

Our next outing will be on May 5, and is a Farmer’s Market Brunch + MetroCenter ride. Details here—come and join us!

Nashville B-cycle ride + program update

Last week, I rode a B-cycle downtown for the first time. I know, kinda crazy that this is the first real ride I’ve taken on a B-cycle after being a member for three months. But it won’t be my last. If it has to be said, I’ve gone from cautious optimism about this system to a full-fledged supporter.

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view from a B-cycle on 21st Ave. S.

I had biked to work on my own bike that morning, and if I took a B-cycle downtown the lack of stations in my neighborhood meant I would have to take the bus home, but I decided to go for it. Biking downtown and then taking a bus home (or vice-versa) is kind of my jam these days anyway. Plus, Kermit Allegra doesn’t mind spending the night in my office and I don’t mind walking to work in the morning when the weather is decent. Win-win.

The Hillsboro Village B-cycle station was pretty full, and only one of the bikes had a flat tire.

flat tire

Just like bathroom stalls, inspect your B-cycle carefully before use.

I picked a bike that looked OK, adjusted the seat, checked the brakes, threw my snacks in the basket and was off to the Walk/Bike Nashville annual meeting.

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It was a really windy, gusty afternoon, but the sun was out and the ride was otherwise uneventful, even though it was right at 5 pm. The bikes are solid, but not too heavy, and once I got used to the way the front basket affected the steering, I didn’t have any trouble at all.

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When I got downtown, returning the bike was a breeze.

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Here’s how I knew I’d done it right.

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My selection of a mode of transport was quite apt because a Nashville B-cycle coordinator spoke at the meeting, and he divulged several intriguing tidbits about the way the program was going so far.

Since its launch in mid-December, Nashville’s B-cycle program has recruited more than 200 annual members and has had more than 2000 24-hour rentals. We have the longest check-out time for bikes in the country—more than 45 minutes on average—perhaps because the most popular station in town is the one at Centennial Park. (The second most popular is the one that I used on 21st and Wedgewood.) We also had the most annual membership signups at a launch event ever, though, which I thought was pretty cool. Oh—and bike share memberships are reciprocal. So if you are a B-cycle member in Nashville, you can rent B-cycles in every city that has a B-cycle program. This is an especially great deal because Nashville’s B-cycle program is the cheapest in the country (yeah!).

Though the system still needs more stations and bikes to be a transportation cyclist’s dream date, I have really been impressed with the launch and implementation so far. Anyone else ridden a B-cycle in Nashville or elsewhere?

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My trip to Detroit

Here are a few snapshots from my trip to Detroit — I did get up to a few things besides going to Shinola.

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My flight was a little delayed because of the weather, so our first stop was Corktown and The Sugar House — Detroit’s Patterson House (or for you Chicagoans, Detroit’s Violet Hour).

 

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After a few too many delicious cocktails and a charcuterie plate to die for, we went across the street to Mercury Burger Bar and ended up having s’mores and a snowball fight in the courtyard outside. No, s’mores were not on the menu, but when we mentioned how sad it was to have a fire pit but no s’mores, our friendly waitress handed us a bag of supplies and told us to go to town. You’ve gotta love Detroit. And the night wasn’t over yet—we walked down Michigan to hear some (pretty bad, but enthusiastic) music at PJ’s Lager Bar and stopped to make snow angels in the Tiger Field. This itinerary is recommended, but be sure to take a few ibuprofen before going to bed.

The next day, we toured a few spots in the city, after breakfast at Le Petit Zinc.

My favorite stop was The Fisher Building—I could have spent ages gawking at the amazing Art Deco interior.

I loved the food—and the incredible prices!—at our lunch spot, Green Dot Stables.

 

We checked out the Heidelberg Project, which looked even creepier in the snow.

 

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On Sunday, we visited the Detroit Institute of Arts, which has one of the 20-odd original casts of The Thinker outside. I’ve now seen two of them—maybe I should try to visit them all!

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The museum did a terrific job of integrating activities for kids into the permanent collection; there were lots of families there.
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The Diego Rivera mural is incredibly impressive. That’s Henry Ford in the panel.

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Then we went to the recently renovated and reopened Detroit Historical Museum. Along with the car-focused exhibits you might expect, the museum devoted some space to bicycles. Fitting, since many car manufacturers got their start in the bicycle business—including the Dodge Brothers.

To top off our day of culture, we went to the Fisher Mansion, an estate built by one of the Fisher brothers in the 1920s. It is now a Hare Krishna temple, and every Sunday night they have a free vegetarian feast that’s open to the public. They also offer tours of the mansion for a $5 donation—our guide knew the building’s history from top to bottom, and the blend of slightly run-down 1920s luxury with the Indian art collection that the current owners have amassed is something to see. Definitely worth visiting if you’re up for something different, although I didn’t take pictures for obvious reasons.

Before going to the airport, we drove past this bike shop with an awesome low rider mural.

detroitbikeshop

This was my second time visiting Detroit—it’s a fascinating city, the sort of place where you end up having interesting conversations with strangers.

My next trip will be just a little teeny tad different: I’m heading to Italy next week! Stay tuned for some Italian bicycle shots. I’ll do my best to capture Europe without Dottie’s amazing photog skills.

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Inside Shinola—Detroit’s newest old name brand

Few things make me happier than the increase in the rise of affordable city bikes available in North America. When I bought my Batavus in 2009, I went all the way to England to get it, because Batavus bikes were only sold by a few North American dealers. Now Public and Brooklyn Cruiser and even mainstream manufacturers like Trek have added city bikes to their lineups for well under $1000.

Of course, selling bikes at that price point means having the frameset built overseas. If you want a city bike built in the US, your choices are myriad, but your price options are not: Most run upwards of $2000 for the frame alone. Which is not a criticism—if you’re getting a handbuilt frame from Ant, for example, it is cheap at the price. But what if you want similar quality on a smaller budget? That’s the gap that Shinola is trying to fill with their line of city bicycles.

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When I was in Detroit last week, I was able to visit Shinola and learn a little more about the brand—and the bikes. The brand Shinola has been around for quite some time—and yes, it’s the same one that inspired the famous catchphrase.

Headquartered in the famous Argonaut Building, GM’s former design headquarters, the entry to the offices is a nod to the brand’s history of shoe polish production. Now, however, the company focuses on bicycles, watches and leather goods.

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Original Shinola products

The first thing everyone asks me when I tell them what Shinola makes is why those three products—so of course it was the first question I asked Alex Stchekine, Shinola’s bike assembly specialist, when I arrived. The answer? People who geek out over watches and people who geek out over bikes have a lot of overlap—and of course, bikes and watches are both efficient, useful technologies, and can be investment pieces that are built to last. As for the leather goods, well, if you’re going to make watchbands, bike saddles and grips, you might as well make bags, wallets and journals. (Plans are in the works to make leather bike bags to match the bicycles.)

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As an aside, apparently people are *really* eager to see Shinola watches—even more than the bikes! They’ll be available for men and women soon, and feature quartz movements and leather bands made in Missouri.

women's watch/men's watch

women’s watch/men’s watch

This is where the watches are assembled.

This is where the watches are assembled.

But I know our readers are here for the bikes, so let’s move on! Shinola is starting out with two models: The Runwell and the Bixby, which are sold as complete bikes. The Runwell has 11 speeds and retails at $2950. The Bixby, a three-speed with a distinctive decal and geometry, retails at $1950. Both come in three frame sizes and three colors, and the Bixby comes in a relaxed diamond or a step-through frame. The diamond Bixby is sold in black or the emerald shown below; the stepthrough Bixby is sold in black, cream or mauve.

runwellheadbadge

Runwell

Green Bixby

Green Bixby

Made in the same Waterford, Wisconsin, factory that formerly built Schwinns and now produces its own line of bicycles and those of some other small manufacturers—including a few of the higher-end Rivendell models—the bikes are then assembled in Detroit. They can be shipped fully or partially assembled.

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runwellframes

Runwell frames

Whether they’re building bikes, watches or leather journals or bags, attention to detail is important at Shinola. Most of this post will focus on the Bixby, since that’s the bike I test rode, but let’s take a minute to admire the lugs, custom dropouts and reinforced front fork on the Runwell. Can you see how the cables are routed through the frame?

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shinoladrivetrain

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Both bike models feature internal Shimano hubs, Shimano disc brakes, Velo Orange fenders and stems. The saddles and grips are custom Shinola-branded leather. Somehow, I cut the nose off this one when taking the photo! But the feel was similar to a new Brooks B17, although I think the nose is slightly longer.

Shinola saddle

Shinola saddle

These are pictures of a Bixby, which is accented with warm copper rivets, pedals and grip borders. The Runwell accents are silver.

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The tires are Schwalbe, of course.

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And the bell is a Crane.

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Each bike also has a serial number.

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The Argonaut Building is also home to the College for Creative Studies, and several students have worked on projects with Shinola dealing with bike design. The walls are decorated with student prototype ideas—elements of some of them have made it into the final Shinola designs, including the elegant cream decal on the Bixby. You can also see here, again, how the cables are routed through the frame.

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Here’s one example of a student project. We at LGRAB support the creation of a bicycle meant to haul wine!

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I only got to ride the Bixby around the offices, but here are my impressions of it.

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FIrst, the posture was more agressive than any of my other bikes, with the saddle positioned slightly above the handlebars. I felt perched on the bike, although still fairly upright. Obviously this is something that could be adjusted by raising the handlebars, but it also felt like something I could get used to easily and seemed to be a good position for this bike’s geometry.

ridingbixby3

ridingbixby2

The 47cm Bixby fit me almost perfectly, something that, as a short-torsoed 5-feet-and-change girl, I find to be pretty rare. The only other bike that I’ve ridden that fits me as well is Kermit Allegra. This is the only size ladies’ Bixby listed on Shinola’s site, which says it should fit riders up to 5’8″. I’m not sure that would be true if the 5’8″ person in question has long legs. The inseam measurements say that the 47cm Bixby fits those with inseams between 25-32, and as usual that seems like a better way to judge whether the bike will fit you (my inseam is 28 inches).

ridingbixby

Stopping power felt good, and pedaling was a breeze, though obviously there was no real challenge on terrain like this!

inspectingbixby

inspectingbixby2

That said, this bike is light! Hard to say without a comparison around, but for a bike with fenders and a steel frame, I was surprised to find it so easy to lift. They don’t list weights on their site, but I’d say that it is under 30 pounds—at least as light as my Abici, if not lighter. Of course, it doesn’t have lights or a rack on it yet.

pickingupbixby

Alex told me that response to the bikes has been better than expected so far. They’re currently building about 50 a month at Waterford, and they expect to build around 500 this year.

Obviously it’s impossible to compare the Bixby to the competition in any meaningful way after a short indoor test ride, but I was impressed with the attention to detail and the quality feel of the bicycle. Luckily, those of you in the market for a bike at this price range can check the Bixby or Runwell out for yourself. Currently they are available at Copenhagen Cyclery in Chicago, and in a few other shops across the country, but Shinola will be opening two storefronts in the near future: One on West Canfield street in Detroit, and the other in Tribeca in New York City. I really enjoyed my test ride of the Shinola Bixby and might have to take another spin when I’m in NYC this spring.

{Thanks to Bridget and Alex at Shinola for setting up the visit and being so generous with their time, and to my brother Charlie for taking most of these photos!}

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A bike-only week in Nashville

I’ll admit it—I’ve been a little lazy when it comes to biking lately. It’s just so easy to drive here, so if it was cold, or raining, or windy this winter, I’d been hopping in the car at least half the time. It’s so darn convenient to be able to haul unlimited stuff and wear whatever you want without thinking about the weather. And in my world there’s no paying for parking, not any longer than my bike commute, no traffic to speak of . . . of course, some of these things also make it equally easy to bike, as I have been recalling the past few days. My Mustang needs a new alternator and so my bike has been my only means of transport since last Thursday.

Without the option of a car for getting around, I was soon reminded of the lesson I learned when I went car-free for a short time last fall: It’s not really that big of a deal. While it will be a while before Nashville’s public transportation and bicycle infrastructure renders cars a total luxury item, living where I do I can get a large portion of what really needs to be done done without a car, as long as I’m willing and able to sink in some extra time. So far I’ve walked to the grocery store, taken the bus to Italian lessons and biked to work and social events.

busstop

Of course, taking the bus has its own hazards—here’s the current state of the bus stop by my house. Oops? Me and the two other people trying to catch it moved a bit further down the block…

And none of my excuses have presented any problem so far. Cold? Biking warms you up, and there are such things as scarves, hats and gloves. (Here in the South we like to forget how to use those.) Even rain isn’t too big a deal for a short commute like mine: You just wear the right clothes and watch for a gap in the radar, like I did this morning.

I had fun coasting through puddles with my legs in the air to minimize the spray on my jeans (gotta figure out how to take a photo of that). And listening to the awesome new Kate Nash album. I got to work in the nick of time; it started pouring minutes after I entered the office.

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Really, biking in the drizzle was harder on Kermit Allegra than it was on me.

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Although I do have the perfect saddle cover for her.

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French readers: enjoy the pun!

Which is more than I can say for my own self, who is suffering badly from rain hat hair. Why did I get bangs again, again?!?

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Car culture and the driving habit really is insidious, even with the best of intentions. I’m sure this is a lesson I will have to keep learning (and that my 11-year-old car will be happy to remind me of by breaking down). Yes, it’s a hair less convenient, but I feel so much more energized when I get to work by bike!

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News from Nashville

It’s not even spring yet, but there’s a lot of bike and transport news items happening in Nashville!

Last week, I attended a “visioning session” at Oasis Bike Workshop about the Tennessee portion of the United States Bicycle Route System.  The route system, which was started in the early 1980s, has ramped up again in the last 10 years—six new routes were added in 2011, and two in Minnesota and Michigan last year.

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Now, they want to plan a route to bring USBR 25 through Tennessee, connecting Franklin, Kentucky, with Ardmore, Alabama, and passing through Nashville. David Shumaker and Bruce Day from Bike/Walk Tennessee came to explain the concept of the Bicycle Route System.

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After their talk, we divided into two groups and marked a map of the greater Nashville area with stickers, highlighting places of interest (yellow), bike-friendly routes (green) and places to avoid (pink).

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Once a route is pulled together, it will have to be submitted to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials at their spring or fall meeting for approval. Looking at the map made me realize that I need to expand my biking horizons a little—there wasn’t much that I could add outside the urban center and the greenways! Maybe it’s time for a more ambitious ride…

You can follow the USBRS on Facebook or Twitter (@usbicycleroutes)—and of course I’ll be posting anything I hear here.  If you have a brilliant idea for a route through Nashville (or between Nashville and Franklin—we were slightly stumped!), email me and I’ll pass it along. If you’re curious about what might be going on with the USBRS in your state, this PDF gives a brief update, state-by-state.

The other Tennessee project I got a glimpse of this month was the Nashville Bus Rapid Transfer project, which is going full steam on the East-West Connector. They wanted input from cyclists about how we might use the BRT, and where they should put bike racks (answer: all of the stops!). It was encouraging to see that the people involved really cared about getting this right, for the city and for the citizens—including cyclists.

a mock-up of the BRT, at the intersection of Broadway and 21st Ave. S.

Concept mock-up of the BRT, at the intersection of West End and 21st Ave. S.

The buses, which will be double length and hold around 80 people, will have designated lanes for most of the route, which goes down West End from St. Thomas, merges onto Broadway, then takes a left on 5th to Church and then across the Woodland Street bridge to Five Points in East Nashville.

I won’t lie, I’m kind of bummed we aren’t getting light rail—but BRT is about a million times cheaper (why yes, that is an exact figure!) and quicker to build. There will be kiosks at each stop, where you can buy tickets, as well as sheltered waiting areas and the aforementioned bike racks. There will be park-and-ride locations and extra bike racks at both termini. And the buses are going to act like light rail, which is the important thing. You don’t have to consult a schedule, because they’ll be coming by every 10 minutes.

We were told that it currently takes 16 minutes to get to downtown from St. Thomas. If traffic continues to grow at the pace it has been over the past few years, and no major transportation changes are implemented, by 2018 the same 5-mile trip will take more than 30 minutes, so this project is definitely needed. Construction could start as early as this fall, although it probably won’t be completed until 2015. For more on the BRT plans, this video is a good summary.

What’s going on in your city’s transportation world?

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LGRAB aime Paris

Since we’ve been going on about our fall vacation over the last week, here are some scenes from our October trip to the City of Lights. We didn’t bike while we were there—it was just a 48-hour trip—but we walked our feet off. We’d both been to France and Paris before, so our priority this time around was acting like locals. Well, and doing a little photo shoot on the banks of the Seine.

 

 

 

The weather could have been better, but we were just happy to be in Paris. We were also incredibly pleased with our budget hotel, the Hotel Tiquetonne. For just 60 EUR a night, you have this view.

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If you look carefully, you might see Sacré Coeur in the background.

And you’re incredibly close to this wonderful restaurant. We had to settle for the wine bar, but it was worth the wait. Afterwards, we shut down the café near our hotel—the perfect Paris night out!

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More beautiful Paris pictures:

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Pretty sure Dottie was taking the photo above when Trisha took this one:

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We also made time to stop for an apèro. Or three!

 

Coffee and crepes on a rainy day.

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Shopping at Galeries Lafayette‘s flagship store. We spent our time/money in the food hall, but admired everything else.

A quick stop at the Musée Carnavalet.

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That is all.  <3

P.S. see our previous trip to Paris here, plus bicycling Versailles and an American girl(s) on Velib.

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Amsterdam shenanigans

Lest you think all we did on our trip to Amsterdam is visit bike shops and examine cycling infrastructure, let me assure you that we also did what we could to sample the culture, food and drink. Here’s what we got up to during our three nights and two-and-a-half days in the city.

We stayed in a houseboat on a canal—highly recommended.

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Dottie unlocks the door while our suitcases wait patiently to enter.

We discovered Little Bear on the Water thanks to Cup of Jo, and Anno was an incredible host. He even left us two Heinekens in the fridge.

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Our welcome gift

 

Our first night in Amsterdam we were lucky enough to have dinner with locals—Malay takeout! The next day, we set off on our bikes to check out the Van Gogh Museum. Well, as close as we could get to the Van Gogh museum, which turned out to be the Hermitage Amsterdam since the real museum is being renovated. Since we were right there, we had to try to take a picture in the i amsterdam sign—with limited success (that’s us in the “m”!).

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After admiring the exhibit (I thought it was interesting that Van Gogh and his brother corresponded in French!) we went to lunch at Gartine, a spot Dottie had uncovered during her Amsterdam research. It’s hard to pick a favorite meal on this trip (see below, plus we ate here in Paris!) but this lunch was definitely the best meal for the money that we had on our trip. We each had a delicious sandwich and shared a custard dessert.

After lunch, we got back on the bikes and struck out for Bols Genever, with an unscheduled stop at a book market that we just happened to pass through (love this aspect of traveling!). Dottie bought a vintage bike print.

The House of Bols museum was definitely a slick, commercial tour—still, it was a very nicely done and affordably priced one. We went on a Friday night, so the entry was just € 7,50—which included a cocktail and three tastes of Bols.  The perfect aperitif! We felt like we got an interesting glimpse into the history of this precursor to the gin we both love so much. :)

 

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The four main types of Bols Genever

 

After our time at Bols, we pedaled through Vondelpark to our first dinner out in Amsterdam at Restaurant Blauw. We ordered the rice table, which was a first for both of us but definitely something we want to do again—nothing like having scads of tiny, delicious dishes spread out before you.

On Saturday morning, we took a ferry to Noord Amsterdam, which had a completely different, more bohemian feel to the rest of the city. Lots of street art. But BRRR it was cold on the ferry!

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Me on the ferry to Amsterdam

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Bike Parking!

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Waiting for the ferry…brr!

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Dottie waiting for the ferry

Then, we returned the bikes to Henry at WorkCycles before hurrying back to our houseboat to meet my brother. Charlie had arranged for a stopover in Amsterdam on his way back from a work trip in Italy. After a brief cultural detour and a couple of drinks, we headed to dinner.

We had dinner at a place called Marit’s, which was in a quiet neighborhood and was another of Dottie’s discoveries. Marit serves dinner a few times a week in her home—so it’s sort of a cross between a restaurant proper, and a supper club. The service was professional, but the atmosphere was homelike and cosy.
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You know, like the sort of place where you might pause in the middle of the meal to pet a dog.
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We walked home, intending to stop at the windmill brewery that Henry had recommended. Alas, it was closed, but we found a bar next door that would serve us their beer. It was quite good. I guess it’s a good thing to have something to look forward to on our next visit…

 

Our walk took us past the Vanmoof factory—we saw a handful of these in the wild on the trip.

Eventually, we returned to our houseboat and reflected on how lovely it is to bike and walk everywhere so easily in such a cozy, friendly city.

It was up early the next day to head to the airport. Amsterdam, we’ll be back!

 

 

 

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Valentine’s Day Ride

Public service announcement: Make sure your belt is fully secured before you start biking. Mine (a loop through style, worn on pants without belt loops) fell off halfway to work this morning and started clanking against the frame. Luckily it caught on the rear rack rather than in the spokes, but I had to pause and put it in my purse.

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Other than that, it was a beautiful morning for a bike commute here in Nashville. About 40 degrees, with sunshine and blue skies. I took it slow and had a sip of coffee every so often, just because I could.

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I can tell I’m a little out of condition after biking infrequently for the past few weeks, but in some ways it’s fun to have my commute be a little bit of a challenge for a change.

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I was even happier that I had biked to work when I got to the office and found someone had brought us some Valentine’s Day treats!
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Hope there’s some glorious weather in the forecast for the rest of you, too—especially poor New England. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Our trip to Amsterdam—cycling thoughts

It’s been months since we got back from our first visit to Amsterdam. It’s safe to say that both Dottie and I loved the city even more than we expected to, and not just because of the biking. We were impressed by the city’s beauty and charm, the friendliness of its people and the deliciousness of its food. But first things first: Here’s a little bit on how we felt about biking in the City of Bikes.

To start, if you are wondering whether Amsterdam’s reputation as such has been overstated, I can tell you emphatically that it hasn’t been! Bikes are literally, absolutely everywhere. Drivers are in the minority and in general act accordingly.

When your bike is one of many, it seems even more important to make it stand out. Many Dutch bikes were decorated or had custom baskets, etc.

Sunflowers seemed to be a popular theme.

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Amsterdam bike

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One of Amsterdam’s beautiful bikes

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A Mac Bike rental

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A Vanmoof in the wild

 

Henry at WorkCycles set us up with bikes (more on that in another post) and our first ride in the city was with him and his family, including 2-year-old Pia and 4-year-old Pascal, who rode his own bike alongside us through a light rain.

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Henry and his family

 

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Dottie’s bike was called Bonnie!

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Dot & Bonnie

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Hug a bike today!

 

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My bike, which was sadly nameless. I propose “Trisha”!

The infrastructure was pretty much a cyclist’s dream—lights, turn lanes, bike paths, signage.

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Casual Amsterdamers on their bikes.

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So much bike parking.

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Bike keys

 

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A good reminder

 

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Amsterdam cyclists

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Bikes parked outside the book market

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Cyclists in a blur of speed

But we thought that the most bike-friendly thing about Amsterdam was the terrain. Neither dully flat, nor obnoxiously steep, in general the terrain seemed to be made up of  what felt like gently rolling hills, which give you opportunity to coast without ever seriously taxing your legs. It really seemed like we could have biked forever.

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Dottie on one of the city’s beautiful bridges

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Bikes and the sun

 

We did find the city’s circular structure and canals slightly tricky to navigate at times, but biking in Amsterdam never felt less than completely safe.

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I check the map for the 10th time.

But it wasn’t entirely stress-free. Coming from a city where bike parking is not exactly at a premium, at times it was frustrating to spend as much time trying to find somewhere secure to park the bikes as I might have to spend stalking a parking spot at the Green Hills Mall on Christmas Eve!

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Sometimes bike parking was frustrating—no empty spots on the rack!

A lot of Amsterdam cyclists seemed pretty sanguine about the whole thing, often just parking their bikes  on the sidewalk and locking the wheel to the frame, à la Sheldon Brown. We didn’t feel comfortable doing that with our WorkCycles, so often Dottie and I would split up and head in opposite directions to find our spots.

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Bikes locked, but not to a rack.

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Bike path!

Despite the parking issues, bikes are absolutely the most efficient and economical way to get around a compact city like Amsterdam. We did take the tram and the subway during our trip. While both were convenient and easy to figure out and use, they were extremely expensive: 2,70 Euro for one hour of transit, or 7,50 for 24 hours. While I’m sure residents have the option of buying less expensive monthly or yearly passes, riding your bike is free and probably takes about the same amount of time, if not less.

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The tram map

 

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The tram payment person—not to be confused with the driver!

Basically, biking around Amsterdam is easy, fun and makes you feel like a local (well, if locals had to consult maps every five seconds). It lived up to everything we imagined, and then some.

More Amsterdam posts on the way in the next couple of days!

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Biking vicariously

For once, I’m glad that I know most of you only virtually: For the last month and a half, I’ve been sick to various degrees. I’ll spare you the detailed explanation of what’s been wrong with me at what points, but suffice to say that other than a few short neighborhood rides and a handful of commutes, I’ve not been on the bike much this year. Like Dottie, I’m not interested in biking when it doesn’t feel right and am happy to cede the hardcore title to others when necessary (I have biked four whole winters at this point, after all.). And chest colds and biking in the cold air don’t mix! Good news is, I’m finally feeling better and had my first commute in a while yesterday.

While I was off the bike, I’ve been biking vicariously via some interesting reading material. Bikes and Riders, by Jim Wagenvoord, was one of my flea market finds last month. The book was originally published in 1972, and much of it reads completely of the time—would that today’s cycling advocates adopt the fashion sense of Harriet Green, who wore “a brushed suède riding cloak over dark-blue hot pants” (sadly, not pictured) to a demonstration in New York City.

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On the other hand, some of it has the feeling of “the more things change . . .” Like this passage on media coverage of bike rallies.

From the press’s standpoint it wasn’t so much the bike-lane demands that had drawn them but the fact that bikes—just about anything about bikes—had with relative suddenness become a story.

Isn’t this more or less where we are now? The press coverage is all well and good, but will bicycling still be something of a novelty story in 40 years?

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Speaking of things that date the book, Futura is pretty popular these days–but its use in longform text definitely screams ’70s.

The back cover copy on this book cracks me up—once again, 40 years on, the same concerns about people being stuck in front of the TV.

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But on to the content! Bikes and Riders focuses mostly on urban cyclists, which was obviously of interest to me, but it also includes a pretty comprehensive history of the bicycle’s development and use throughout history. Did you know bikes were used in combat?

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Photographs of early cyclists are always of interest, and there are plenty here. Here’s a little reminder that riding in a suit has been the rule rather than the exception in the history of cycling!

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I was tickled to discover this twin of Le Peug in the book’s pages. And the rider is a woman to boot! I might have to recreate that shot.

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I want to do a little research on Jim Wagenvoord. If the flap copy is to be believed, he’s some sort of Renaissance man, so surely he has more of a legacy than this book, The Violent World of Touch Football, How to Surf and Flying Kites. After all, “[t]here have been witty writers, good researchers, and fine photographers before, but never within one 6’2″ frame.”

Have you read any good books on biking lately?

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Guest Post: Multimodal commuting in Nashville

Today’s guest blog post is from my friend Whitney, a dedicated member of the Nashville Bike Brunch gang. She had an adventure in multimodal commuting last Friday, when she used car + B-cycle + Music City Star to get to her office in (Hip) Donelson. Definitely something I’ve never done before! 

On Friday, I went on a bit of an adventure. My car had to go to the shop for the day, and it turned out that none of my coworkers who live in my neighborhood were available to take me to work. Trisha has mentioned before that Nashville has quite a car culture, but it does have a few public transportation options. Unfortunately for me, they’re all designed to shuttle people in and out of the downtown area, whereas I live outside the downtown core and work in the suburbs. But since the car dealership was close to downtown, I decided to use this opportunity to try out a couple of these options to get to work.

I’d always been curious about the Music City Star, a commuter train that runs in the mornings and the evenings and serves the “east corridor” of the Nashville metropolitan area. Its western terminus is downtown on the riverfront, and the train makes four stops before reaching its eastern terminus in Lebanon, about 30 miles outside of Nashville.

To get to the train station, I rented one of the new B-Cycles. There is a kiosk at Music Circle, one block from the dealership, and another at the train station. After an easy walk to Music Circle, I checked out a bike, which was a very simple process, scraped some frost off the seat, and hit the road.


I knew this would be the easy part, since I’ve ridden downtown on Demonbreun many times before and it’s downhill all the way. And the construction of Nashville’s new convention center on that road slows the traffic considerably. But I was surprised at the lack of traffic at this time of day. Even the dreaded section where Demonbreun passes over I-40 and I-65 (where off-ramps turn into cross streets and cross-streets turn into on-ramps) was very stress-free. And I was excited to see the hustle and bustle of downtown Nashville on a weekday morning.


When I reached the train station, I simply popped the bike back into the kiosk and went inside to warm up before the train arrived 10 minutes later. It was amazing to see all of the commuters who use the train to get downtown from the suburbs. Dozens of people poured off the train at 8:15, the last downtown stop of the morning. Going east, however, I shared a carriage with only two other people.


I was the only person to get off the train at my stop—in fact, I don’t think it would have stopped there at all if I hadn’t told the conductor where I needed to go. A coworker kindly picked me up at the station and drove me to work.

I barely had time to turn around a take a photo before the train continued on its way

In the evening, I repeated the process—caught the train, rented a bike…and then, as I said, getting to the station was the easy part. The ride back to Music Circle is entirely uphill. And here in Nashville it’s completely dark by 5:30. Evening rush hour is evidently much busier than morning rush hour, there are no bike lanes on Demonbreun, the B-Cycles are heavy cruisers with only three speeds, and remember that the day was freezing. So…I didn’t quite make it to Music Circle. By the time I got just over halfway, I was huffing and puffing pretty violently. Looking ahead, I saw the hills I still had to climb; looking to my right, I saw a B-Cycle kiosk, and I decided to give in: I returned the bike and walked the rest of the way back, just over half a mile. I got to the dealership just as they were closing and gratefully hopped in my car.

It was a really gratifying and educational experience, and now is the time I’m supposed to draw some conclusions about this experience. I guess they are as follows:

1.) The Music City Star is amazing. It gave me a strong desire to move downtown and train/bike commute to work every day.

2.) Biking south out of downtown is difficult in the best of cases and really intimidating at night. A safer and/or easier option is needed, even if it’s just a bike lane on Demonbreun.

3.) Though the B-Cycle is a convenient option, they should consider offering seven-speeds rather than three-speeds in hilly Nashville.

3.) Working in the suburbs doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doomed to a life of sitting in traffic.

5.) There are more people voluntarily using public transportation in Nashville than I ever thought!

{Thanks, Whitney!  I have yet to try the Music City Star—maybe a trip to the outlets in Lebanon is in order. Any multimodal commuters out there? Does your city make it easy for you?}

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2013 by bike, so far

I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I look back on the year before and try to tweak the formula a little to come up with a better year to come—more of this, less of that and a little of something new. Still, I always try to start the New Year out by doing things that I want to do more of (or keep doing) in 2013.

So on New Year’s Eve I made sure to take my bike over to my neighbor’s for a quick dinner of Fat Mo’s and prosecco.
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Freezing rain on New Year’s Day—and a persistant cough that I can’t seem to shake (along with half my office)—meant that my next ride had to wait a while. But I did take a quick ride to Halcyon last night for a party for the volunteers for the 12South Winter Warmer. The place was packed (I love parties in bike shops!) and the beer was great.

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The party

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Other things I have done so far in 2013:

  • Attended the Belcourt (they’re doing a Hitchcock retrospective! I got to see The Lady Vanishes on the big screen)
  • Spent a whole day lying on the couch watching a BBC miniseries (The Crimson Petal and the White, very good)
  • Visited the new coffeeshop in my neighborhood, run by the best roasters in town
  • Eaten Pad Thai twice
  • Made a galette des rois (in progress now)

Judging from this list, I’d better get up to something a bit more active this weekend, lest 2013 be a year of sloth and screen-staring. Luckily Anna is coming into town today and can perhaps save me from myself with a nice long bike ride.

How’s everyone else’s New Year going so far?

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