Category Archives: bike reviews

Beautiful Bicycles: De Fietsfabriek Bakfiets

Look what I found! An amazing cargo bike from De Fietsfabriek, a Dutch bike shop that I ride by every day during my commute. I got to borrow the Bakfiets overnight for an ambitious Costco bulk food shopping trip, 9 miles total riding distance.

This beast means business. The De Fietsfabriek Bakfiets is the Dutch company’s biggest cargo bike (except the Stretch Limo?). I recommend the Bakfiets for those who regularly haul a lot of cargo or a troop of children, or who want to use the Bakfiets to promote their business in some way (that’s my way of saying that at times I felt like the Good Humor Ice Cream man).

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Bicycles on a Budget

We all love beautiful bicycles, but what if you’re on a tight budget?

At Let’s Go Ride a Bike, Trisha and I aim to show how transportation cycling can be simple, stylish and fun. A major factor of “simple” is low cost – the only lower cost transportation option is walking, which we also enjoy, but it takes quite a bit longer. A major factor of “stylish” is a good-looking bike, and a major factor of “fun” is a bike well-built enough to free you from the stress of bad brakes and uncomfortable seating positions.

At some point, “simple” (i.e. inexpensive) may seem to conflict with “stylish” and “fun.” True, there is a vast array of bikes to choose from at all different price points. However, with the recent emphasis on cycle chic, someone looking to purchase an attractive city bike may feel that the options are limited to relatively expensive Dutch bikes and elusive-in-reality pretty vintage bikes. Our own Beautiful Bicycles series is skewed toward these options.

Reader Carrie wrote us today seeking advice on a sub-$500 bike to ride around the suburbs, with and without her kids on their own bikes, “Perhaps a little more girly, one that will give me that Mackinaw Island feel, basket in the front, do a little grocery shopping, go to the library, pool, etc…” In the comments to the Velorbis Scrap Deluxe post, reader Katherine laments the apparent lack of city bikes that fit in a student’s budget. Others have chimed in with ideas, so I wanted to move the conversation up here for more attention and input.

This we know for sure – one can embrace the simple bicycling lifestyle without a lot of money. Although we now have sleek rides, our beginnings two years ago were humble. Trisha began bike commuting on her childhood Schwinn, which her grandparents kept in their garage for ten years. I bought a $400 Jamis Commuter with my tax stimulus check, and boy did that seem like a lot of money at the time.

Let’s put our heads together – collectively we are a massive resource! – and come up with ideas and solutions. Later, I can put everything together as a guide for all future cash-strapped bike lovers.

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Beautiful Bicycles: Velorbis Scrap Deluxe

When my friend Ms. Elle called to ask if I wanted to meet up at Copenhagen Cyclery after work, I was quick to agree.  She has been loyal to her vintage bike Cilantro, but decided to explore less “rickety” options.

While she quickly fell in love with the Velorbis Studine (they make a hot couple – see above), I flirted with the Velorbis Scrap Deluxe, a bike I’d never ridden before.

The Scrap Deluxe’s stand-out feature is the set of cream Schwalbe Fat Frank tires.  Aside from being eye-catching and unique, the tires deliver a soft ride over even the most rutted Chicago streets.  There is a bit more drag and weight with these tires, but not as much as you’d think.  Overall, a fair exchange for someone interested in comfort and class.

The bike comes with a Brooks sprung saddle, which breaks in quickly and provides the ultimate in comfort for both short and long rides.  Plus, a Brooks saddle makes any bike look better: an ugly bike gets a distinguished touch of class and a beautiful bike is pushed over the edge into dreamy elegance.  This is a case of the latter, obviously.  Matching Brooks leather grips and a leather mudflap complete the look.

The five speed internal Sturmey Archer hub makes riding on hills, in headwinds and carrying cargo manageable.  I’ve heard here and there that Shimano is a slighty better quality hub, but I don’t have enough experience with Sturmey Archer to compare it to my Oma’s Shimano.

Finally, this handsome Dane has all the attributes that make this style of bike so practical and appealing.  Front and rear integrated generator lights shine brightly when you pedal, no batteries required.  The rear light remains shining even when stopped for a few minutes.  Internal brakes and gears keep the ride safe and smooth in rain and snow.  Fenders and mudlfaps protect your clothes and shoes.  The front wicker basket and rear rack carry lots of cargo – I recommend a bouquet of flowers and a case of beer, respectively.   The shiny “briiiiiiing” bell is tres charmant.

As with all Velorbis bikes, the seating position is straight up, and legs push down and only slightly forward to pedal.  This seems to require a bit more effort than pedaling my Oma, especially when starting from a complete stop, because I can’t take advantage of my thigh muscles as much.  However, I have to attribute this to my personal riding comfort.  After a year and a half of riding Oma, my body is used to pedaling her and my leg muscles have developed in response to her particular needs.

Before testing the Scrap Deluxe, I assumed the ride would be similar to the Retrovelo Paula, since both are elegant city bikes with Fat Frank tires.  I was wrong.  The rides are totally different.  The Scrap Deluxe has a smoother and sturdier ride, more akin to my Oma, while the Retrovelo Paula is sportier.

As always, I highly recommend that anyone considering a bike like this test ride as many as possible.  Only you can decide which is the best choice for you.

In North America, you can order the bike from the lovely Copenhagen Cyclery. I think they’re currently the only NA dealer, but please correct me if I’m wrong. The price is $1,895 (If you think that is too expensive for a bike and own a car, please state the cost of your car when commenting ;) ) For those who really need a more budget-friendly option, Velorbis has a new Studine Balloon in gorgeous cream for around $1200 – similar to the Velorbis Studine Classic.

One last note about the Velorbis Scrap Deluxe – riding this bicycle is sure to get you noticed   ;)

{As always, we at LGRAB receive nothing for our reviews except the joy of spreading beautiful bike love.}

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Fleet, Fun Folder: the Jango Flik

It’s been several weeks since the Jango Flik T8 arrived at my door. Overall, my time with this fleet, flirty folding bike has been a real pleasure. Cute as a button, the Flik is something of a social butterfly, with the ability to attract stares and start conversations.

the Flik in Dragon Park

the Flik in Dragon Park

This is a ride that’s  sporty yet practical, with 8 speeds, a rear suspension and an eye-catching design. With an MSRP of $1199, this is no bargain bicycle, but the smoothness of the ride and the ease of the fold demonstrate real quality. My favorite design feature is the wide, comfy grips that make the slightly bent forward riding position an easier adjustment for a sit-up-and-beg-er like me.

flik grips

the wide, comfy grips

Like all Jango bikes, the Flik is compatible with a wide range of Topeak accessories. I was sent a few of these to try: a spacious rear rack bag, which I liked quite a bit; a handlebar headlamp, which was pretty much useless; and a handlebar bag that can hold a cell phone or iPod — well, if said iPod is newer (and hence smaller) than my circa 2005 Mini. The bike also has space to fit a headlight or tail light and a customizable head badge area.

That said, the bike lacks a few of the amenities you might want in a commuter bike, like fenders and a chainguard — much to the dismay of my gray pants. :)

flik rear wheel

flik rear wheel

In the above picture, you can also see the rear suspension. This is the first bike I’ve ridden with a rear suspension, and it feels like riding in my grandfather’s Grand Marquis rather than my Mustang. The Flik actually bounces up and down if you’re pedaling hard. It’s a subtle movement but definitely a movement! Personally I didn’t find the suspension a major plus as I tend to “post” when I ride over large bumps on a bicycle, but if you ride regularly on rough pavement or gravel roads (which the Flik’s wider tires can do easily) it might be appreciated by your bottom.

One thing my bottom never grew to appreciate was the seat, an “Allay Racing Sport saddle with AirSpan technology.” Despite repeated adjustments (you can actually pump it up or deflate it using a little button under the very front of the saddle) it never felt quite right for me. That’s an easy change, though.

flik seat

Flik seat: not my fave feature!

“Flikstand”

Pedals, rubberized and collapsible

Now it’s time to talk about what it was like to have a folder in my life. Like most folding bikes, the Flik is aimed at multi-modal commuters, who go from train to bus to bike and back around again. Though I never took it on a bus, Nashville’s only form of public transportation, I did end up taking many car/bike multimodal trips  that wouldn’t have been possible (for me) without a folding bike, like the East Nashville Greenway ride. You end up riding more, in a lot of ways. I have to admit I also took advantage of my friends’ trumk space a couple of times, after a night out or if it suddenly started raining. Why not?

There was one more benefit of having a folding bike in a city without many bike amenities: In the absence of bike racks, you can just take it in with you! The Flik waited patiently for me in the office, and even accompanied me into the coffee shop a time or two. Having a folder also meant that it could fit in my condo with no problem.

My only complaint about the Flik’s foldability was that it didn’t get quite small enough. It didn’t fit in the trunk of my Mustang convertible (though it did fit in any other trunk) and when completely folded up, it was difficult to maneuver, with the handlebar stem flopping awkwardly alongside of the frame. (There is a second folding mode that preserves steering ability on the more expensive V-bar version of the Flik.)

And while I found the bike a little uncomfortable on the 20-mile ride, it performed excellently on my 5-mile roundtrip commute. Every time I rode it I felt fast and sportier than usual, not a bad thing! The 8 gears gave enough versatility to get around hilly Nashville, although I used the higher gears more often than I do on my Bat and wasn’t able to increase speed through pedaling at speeds above 15 miles or so.

At $1199, the Flik is priced similarly to the Bike Friday Tikit (which starts at $1298). It is nearly twice as expensive as the Dahon Vitesse D7, the other folder I have experience with. The Flik provided a better ride than the Dahon — you don’t feel like you’re riding a folding bike, From what I could tell from a brief test ride (it was too big for me, sob) the Tikit was comparable. The Bike Friday folds smaller and a bit more quickly, and has fenders, but the Flik has rear suspension and a sportier look. Which one you choose is probably a personal preference.

With bike commuting on the rise, folding bikes are going to be more and more in demand–it’s nice to see another quality choice out there for cyclists. The Jango Flik is definitely a strong contender in the category.

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Beautiful Bicycles: Velorbis Mobii Trike

When I visited Copenhagen Cyclery this weekend, I also test rode the Velorbis Mobii Trike. Yay, trike! I’ve been wanting to test ride a three-wheeled beast for some time now. When I wrote about the WorkCycles Bakfiets a couple of months ago, I mentioned that I could not know for sure how I felt about it without riding a trike for comparison.

The Mobii (love the name!) comes in one size and two powder-coated colors: orange and gray. Designed and handmade in Denmark, this thoroughly modern, steel-framed stunner has the power to erase whatever old-fashioned connotations the word “tricycle” has.

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Beautiful Bicycles: Velorbis Studine

Today I met a new beauty in town, the Velorbis Studine at Copenhagen Cyclery, a “younger” and more affordable version of the Velorbis Classic bikes (which I reviewed here). The differences are subtle – fewer gears, painted rims and no lights or leather grips.

Designed in Denmark and handmade in Germany, these stylish steel bikes are chic and cheeky at once. The Studine aka Student comes in three colors (red, green, black) and four sizes (51 and 56 cm for step-through, 54 and 59 cm for diamond frame). If cream-colored Schwalbe tires are not luscious enough, these ones are coupled with powder-coated rims to match the frames. The classy and comfortable Brooks B67 sprung saddle tops the design off perfectly.

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Folding the Jango Flik

I’ve been out of town for a few days, but I’m looking forward to getting back and spending more time with the Flik. It’s a pretty sweet ride so far, and a real conversation starter. Before I left, I recorded this brief, bare-bones video of the folding process over my lunch break — couldn’t pass up the opportunity to spend some time outdoors in “Dragon Park” on such a beautiful fall day! Apologies for the lack of close-ups — a full review is coming soon.

p.s. if you haven’t found it yet, check out our YouTube channel. From the whimsical to the informative, we’re adding all sorts of things to it these days.

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My Rivendell Betty Foy Video

After posting my Oma video I got several requests for a Betty Foy video.  Ask and thou shall receive.  (Wait, did I just compare myself to God?)

Anyway, this is for all those interested in the Rivendell Betty Foy.  It’s a very new bike and there’s not much information out there, but there is another video from Velo Fellow of his wife buying her Betty, so any interested parties should check that out, too.

I wanted to write up a detailed Betty Foy review before posting the video, but the darn job really cuts into my blogging time.  Maybe next week. In the meantime, feel free to subscribe to our YouTube channel. More videos to come little by little, based on our whims and with no organization whatsoever. ;)

 

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Beautiful Bicycles: Bakfiets (a real S.U.V.)

There are two types of bikes that look so odd, I had a hard time imagining how they worked: folding bikes and bakfiets. I experienced the magic of the folding bike while riding the Dahon, and now I have experienced the feat of engineering that is the bakfiets.

Since Mr. Dottie and I sold our only car in January, I’ve never missed it or needed a car for any purpose. Recently, I encountered a challenging situation: hauling a folding table and folding chairs for a fundraiser I helped organize. The bakfiets came to my rescue. I borrowed the folding table from Dutch Bike Chicago and, knowing that I am car-free, one of the owners offered me the use of his personal bakfiets. Yesss!

On the way to the event: me with a folding table

On the way to the event: me with a folding table

The bakfiets carried the folding table and the eight folding chairs perfectly – as two different loads, although if I really wanted to push it, I could have piled it all on together. Each load also included several bags of supplies.

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Beautiful Bicycles: Gazelle Toer Populair and Chamonix Pure

A new Dutch bicycle brand has arrived in Chicago, and you know I was all over them faster than you can say “Dottie is freakishly obsessed with pretty and utilitarian city bikes.”  The Gazelle Toer Popular and Gazelle Chamonix Pure are now at Dutch Bike Chicago. The names are unweildy and hard to pronounce, but everything else about them is lovely.

The Gazelle Toer Popular is a super traditional Dutch bike with gorgeous looks, a sturdy steel frame and all of the expected features.

Gazelle Toer Populair

Gazelle Toer Populair

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Beautiful Bicycles: My Workcycles Azor Oma

One year ago I purchased a Workcycles Azor Oma, and that decision has changed my life for the better. I already cycled to work daily, but with Oma I was able to integrate cycling more easily and fully into my life. I no longer needed to coordinate my outfits around grease and chains. I was able to cycle through the harsh Chicago winter with no worries about frozen drivetrains. I left behind annoyances such as falling chains, deflating tires, and compromised braking. Now I simply get on my bike and go. It’s really a lovely way to travel.

7-18 profile 9-4 outfit

3-21-dress-bike29-1 oma dress

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Beautiful (Budget) Bicycles: REI Novara Transfer and Fusion

The other day while at REI with my friend L., I spotted a couple of intriguing Novara commuter bikes in the clearance section, but didn’t have time for a test ride. The Transfer has won Bicycling Magazine‘s editor choice award for the past two years, so I was eager to give it a shot. After our slightly disappointing Electra test ride Dottie and I decided it was a good time to head to Brentwood and check them out. The models we tried were the Novara Fusion and the Novara Transfer.  Overall we found the REI Novara Transfer to be a good value for money, especially when on clearance. (What can I say, I love a good sale!)  The higher-priced Fusion with upgraded components is nice, but not as budget-conscious.

Dottie on the Fusion

Dottie on the Fusion

Trisha on the Transfer

Trisha on the Transfer

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Electra Bicycles: Townie and Amsterdam Sport

Electra makes bikes well-suited for city cycling, but Trisha and I knew them only by reputation, advertising, and second-hand sightings. Today we stopped by a bike shop to take a closer look. Unfortunately, the shop recently sold its only lady’s Electra Amsterdam, so we were left with a Townie and diamond-frame Amsterdam Sport.

Trisha and the Electra Townie

Trisha and the Electra Townie

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Beautiful Bicycles: Pashley Sonnet Bliss

My new bike crush is the Pashley Sonnet Bliss.  I’ve discussed the Pashley Princess Sovereign previously, which is very similar except the Bliss is different colors and does not have a full chaincase.  I seriously conisdered buying a Pashley last year, but the Azor Oma Dutch bike won out based on its incredibly sturdy and smooth ride. Recently I’ve been wanting a Pashley again – not instead of Oma, but in addition to Oma. Is that bad? If loving Pashley is wrong, I don’t want to be right. I can’t buy another bike at this time, anyway, so it’s only imaginary.  For now I will be satisfied with my recent test ride at Boulevard Bikes in Chicago. This was the first time I saw a Sonnet Bliss in real life and she is quite blissful :)

Test riding the Pashley Sonnet Bliss

Test riding the Pashley Sonnet Bliss

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Beautiful Bicycles: Abici Granturismo Donna

Though we’d altered Oma, she still wasn’t a perfect fit for long rides with lots of stops and starts–so for the cocktail ride, the nice folks at Copenhagen Cyclery in Wicker Park agreed to give me a loaner. The shop’s manager, Phil, and owner, Brent (who was on the Cocktail Ride with us looking quite dapper) set me up with the elegant red Abici Granturismo Donna.

Abici Granturismo Donna

Abici Granturismo Donna

This sexy red single-speed with a rear coaster brake and a front handbrake was easily the most attention-getting bike I’d ever ridden, so it was lucky I had a few of Copenhagen Cyclery’s cards to give out to curious passers-by.

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Oma’s Operation

Just before the mixer on Thursday, Mr. D and I discovered that Dottie’s 53-cm Oma could not be adjusted to fit me. The seat post was a bit too long for the tube, so the seat wouldn’t go down to the top of the seat post. That left those last two crucial inches that meant the difference between my toes grazing the ground and my toes having to stretch to complete the revolution of the pedal — not the safest method of riding in city traffic.

Contrary to what Friday’s post might imply, Dottie is more than willing to go the extra mile to share her bikes with friends. Once we got back to the condo, she gave the go-ahead for those crucial inches to be amputated the next morning. Ten minutes and visit with the handsaw later, and the extra seat post length was history.

Dr. Greg: "The patient is recovering nicely and will be ready to ride later this morning."

Dr. Greg: "The patient is recovering nicely and will be ready to ride later this morning."

And I was able to spend the weekend on two wheels.

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Beautiful Bicycles: Sweetpea JJ Fantastic Mixte

JJ sure looks happy, with good reason! She is the proud owner of the first Sweetpea Mixte, which has taken its place in Sweetpea’s Love Line as the JJ Fantastic. What a gorgeous bicycle! And how fabulous to have a badass bike like this handmade in Portland by a woman! Natalie Ramsland, the builder, and her husband Austin operate Sweetpea Bicycles to “build bikes for women” with the idea that “Every woman is different. Every bike should be too.” By the look of their finished products, that line easily could be “Every woman is beautiful. Every bike should be too.” Check out JJ’s mixte and then check out Sweetpea Bicycles if you are considering a custom bike and have been squirreling away the cash for a long while.

JJ and Her Sweetpea!

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My Batavus Entrada Spirit

Now that I’ve had my Batavus Entrada Spirit for nearly a month, it’s time for the review.  The short and sweet version: I love it. Buying a bike I’d never ridden was a risk that paid off.

On our way to work

On our way to work

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Beautiful Bicycles: Velorbis Dannebrog – Victoria

Way back in January I started a “Beautiful Bicycles” series, wherein I discuss the beautiful bicycles that I came across during my intensive research leading up to purchasing my Azor Oma. Although the first in the series is consistently one of the most viewed posts on this blog, I had yet to do a second in the series. Until now. I present the Velorbis Dannebrog, very similar to the Velorbis Victoria Classic.

5-23 velorbis plate

Earlier this week I briefly discussed the Velorbis Dannebrog in the context of my visit to the new Chicago shop, Copenhagen Cyclery. I decided that this gorgeous bike definitely deserves its own post.

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Copenhagen Cyclery – New in Chicago!

When I began searching for a Dutch-style bicycle last summer, no shop in Chicago sold them. I used a vacation in Vancouver and Seattle for test rides and then in the fall bought my Azor on the day that Dutch Bike Chicago opened. Since then, buying lovely bikes in Chicago has become considerably easier: Dutch Bike Chicago (Azor, Retrovelo), Boulevard Bikes (Pashley, Batavus), and Tati Cycles (Batavus) are the go-to shops, especially my beloved Dutch Bike Chicago.

Copenhagen Cyclery

Copenhagen Cyclery

Now Copenhagen Cyclery joins the group. Chicago’s newest bike shop opened this weekend in Wicker Park and, of course, I had to stop by to check it out.

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