Friday, April 18, 2014

Do they ride bikes in Italy?

Our family in Florence chose our first stop - the indoor market. 

Many bicycles both inside and around. And hardly any mopeds this time!

We note that Florentines love an enclosed chain case (to protect those spiffy trouser cuffs?).

We liked the big cargo bikes inside and the fishmongers unlocked bike. 

Most bikes had some way of carrying groceries or work bags or children.

mom and kid on his own bike traveling up the Arno

We were very surprised by the number of families riding with their children and new bike lanes we found in Florence compared to our last visit eight years ago. Lots of double kid carrying bikes were parked everywhere, in the city center and in the outer city near the old city walls across the Arno. Outside the city center in the part of town where we were visiting our family we found functional separated bike infrastructure and people using it (even if we didn't get pictures of them).

Pee Wee Herman's bike?

hilly to ride here but bikes everywhere
December roses

al the racks in residential parts of town were full

highbrow graffiti

€1 for the most delicious morning pastry (rice and pastry cream filling) 
and €1 for a cappuccino or latte macchiato  to go with it!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Tief ( -Garagen) in Bayern

We visited in Holland, Germany, Italy and Switzerland this winter for the first time in eight very long years. We got to return to visit old friends. Babies born but never met are now in elementary school, new buildings everywhere. 

We took a pile of pictures we will be publishing in a short series this week. Thank you again to the beloved friends whose houses are in our pictures. 

Today it's all about the tief (deep) garage!

Here are pictures from two of our friends' neighborhoods. Though both friends live in small cities - one a small university city in Germany, the other a small town about 10 minutes from Zurich on the above ground street tram. Both neighborhoods are created with an underground garage for cars for each neighborhood instead of personal driveways, parking pads or garages.

Personal garages are replaced with small yards and front sheds for bicycles. Removing car parking spaces from the front of the houses created beautiful walking and play spaces for residents. Both neighborhoods had bike pathways and generous sidewalks, well separated from traffic, that gave comfortable access to the city centers and shopping on foot or bike.

These first pictures are from Northern Bavaria

Picked up at the train with the brother of our box bike. Here in
the city shopping pedestrian zone with a Christmas tree
carried from Munich catching a ride on the back.

Out of focus but shows
separated bike lane well

Here is a view of the road, curb separated lane and sidewalk in the city center. The deeper grey center path is the bikeway. The grate indicates the area of the walking way.

A hairsbreadth from the center of Zurich each townhouse has its own bike garage outside the front door protected from mountain snow and rain. Car free paths lead to a network of off street foot paths throughout the village to schools and shopping with street crossings mixed in.

Here are more views of the same front gardens and walkway. Below the houses and gardens are the buried garage- "tief garage". Residents' cars are parked down here under the small private backyard gardens adjoining the houses.

Footpaths are marked with signs noting they are for walking only. Below is the path off of the Blumenstrasse. The building just visible on the right is an elementary school. The path can be used by walkers or those on bikes and allows children to travel to school  on foot or bike well separated from car traffic.

We love the small girl and her dapper companion.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

YOU On Wheels! This Saturday

We’re keeping an eye on the weather here at Chicargobike because Women Bike Chicago’s second Day of Dialogue and Demos, for women curious about riding bikes for recreation and transportation in Chicago, is coming right up this Saturday at Dvorak Park in the heart of Pilsen.

Fear not, registration is encouraged, but you are welcome to just pop down to the park and spend the day without one.

Last year’s favorites will all make a return with lots of new exciting additions. We have some terrific guests this year.  Dvorak has an on-site Divvy station and Divvy will be on hand with demo bikes and mechanics to help teach everyone how to use the station. The CTA bus rack demo will also be there so you can learn to get your bike up on that rack under the trees in the park. The bike corral is back again with oodles of bikes coming from the many women of the Chicago bike community and even some guest shops.

Great workshops and presentations will be happening all day inside the lovely WPA-era field house. The free child care is in a fieldhouse gym this year with plenty of space to run and play. Be ready for a good old fashioned raffle and check out tips on riding and maintenance from the amazing West Town Bikes and Blue Island Bicycle Club.  The full list of activities is at the WomenBikeChicago blog.

Come on down with a friend or four hankering to learn about how to get up on two wheels with a friendly crowd of Chicago women on hand to help!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Another Odd Raleigh Folding Bike for Kids 9-90

Our 9 year old's NEW 1966 Raleigh RSW16 Compact folding bicycle, seat in lowest position

The Raleigh RSW16 (Raleigh Small Wheel), made 1965 - 1974, preceded the better-known Raleigh Twenty (our post about it) by half a decade. It was an attempt to get in on the popularity of the original 1962 Moulton small wheel bike. There is a long interesting story about the end of Raleigh by Tony Hadland in books and on his blog, and on the Retro Raleighs section of Sheldon Brown's site. After a year of building the RSW16 as a fixed frame, a folding version, the Compact, was developed so that cyclists could carry their bikes in the back of their little British 1960s car. There was also a 14 inch version, the RSW14. Both of these little bikes will work for any rider from about 9 years or 4½ feet / 135cm tall, up to perhaps 6 feet / 180 cm.

Our RSW16 Compact is from 1966 and was sold in Washington DC according to the dealer's sticker.  They originally came with cream colored Dunlop 16 x 2 inch tires which had very supple sidewalls, in an attempt to make up for the lack of the Moulton's full suspension system. You can see these on Sheldon Brown's bike. Dunlop is long out of the bike tire business but 16 inch BMX tires still fit. We found some Maxxis Hookworms. They ride more stiffly and a little less fashionably than the originals, most likely, but they are available.

It also originally came with a white vinyl Brooks mattress seat, famous for ripping apart at the seam, and that's probably what happened to the one on this bike.  Even the (ugly) seat it has now is probably at least as good.

Is it really smaller folded

 than it is unfolded?

The folding system, described by Raleigh as being 'like a shotgun', involves pushing that flap just above the bottom bracket against the seat tube and lifting the seat while pushing the handlebars down. It clicks closed.  There's a photo of the warning decal below.

The handlebars also need to be folded down and the seat lowered as much as possible. The cream colored reflectorless pedals don't fold and the whole package flops around when carried, but I guess it fits in the car better.

The handlebars can be folded (utterly uselessly) into an intermediate straight bar position that looks wonderful for smaller riders until you actually try it.

Another step downward and the handlebars look like this. Undo the quick release seat tube lever and you're ready to fold the frame and pop it into the boot of your Morris Minor.

These are actually not terrible little bikes. There is a Sturmey-Archer AW 3 speed hub without a coaster brake, shifted with a then-newly developed handle grip twist shift (before the Shimano 333 grip that's on the left side?) and the brakes are surprisingly good for a Raleigh.

The front brake is pretty standard Raleigh. But despite the steel rims and the plain rubber pads, the rear brake really works well. It has a design that looks like a 1980s mountain bike brake, behind the bottom bracket, and the crossed levers amplify the braking.

The knob at the top of the stem is used to loosen the
handlebars so they can be folded

That huge oddly shaped rear rack was intended for a bag made of plaid or white vinyl around a lightweight plywood frame. The bag clamped between one of the wires at the front of the rack and a spring-loaded wire in the back. The sprung section still pulls out on ours (often this is rusted shut on others) but without the special bag it's not a very useful rack. We will probably try to fit angled steel brackets onto a milk crate or similar to take advantage of the connection system. The rack doesn't hold panniers very well at all.

To be safe for riding nowadays this bike still needs better visibility. There are neither pedal, wheel nor front reflectors and there is no lighting. A bell has been added and the rest will have to follow. We'll likely swap out the ugly new seat for an ugly old one, too.

I enjoyed riding my son's RSW16 Compact with its zippy small wheel maneuverability, though it is rather heavy and unwieldy to carry. It's got a real 1960s design feeling that may be the best part of the whole bike. Though it's fun enough for an adult, our 9 year old spent the morning zipping around on  the RSW and says "it's great!" What more do I need to tell you?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

No Trumpets, No Drums

Our nine year old decided to sit in the cargo box reading a book (for a change instead of pedaling his own bike) on the Critical Mass ride on Friday. The route took us through lots of industrial landscapes down to the Greater Chicago Food Depository on about 41st and Pulaski ( and back. Beautiful weather and several families with cargo bikes, nearly no traffic on most of the chosen streets. 

He remarked on all the goofy things people say to him when he rides in the box. He’s been riding there since he was three so he has pretty much heard it all — he hopes to hear some new jokes,so get working. 

“Can I get in?”
“Hey kid, can I have a ride?”
“When does (s)he start pedaling?”
“Whatchu reading?”or “What’s he reading?”
“Hey kid, let the old man have a rest!” or, “Hey kid, let the old woman have a rest!”
“Hey kid, did you build that yourself?’
“How is it in there?”

He says, “People don’t usually talk to me because I am
usually hidden beneath a big pile of stuff”

Don’t forget to come out for the Halloween critical mass ride at 5:30 at Daley Plaza (leaving at 6) preferably with a bike and a costume...

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Back To School On Two Wheels

We're actually cheating a little here. Our picture is from a spring dress-up
day. Note that's a terrific flamenco skirt under the vest.

Hello there again.
Looking for useful advice about about bike commuting to school? Check here. How Not to Bike To School".... is a long post about everything you might be curious about when getting ready to bike to school with your children.  A second helpful post, "Keeping Kids Comfortable Riding In Fall, about dressing kids well for fall riding is here.  It should clear up any questions you might have about dressing children from babies to big riders,  both as passengers on your bike and on their own rides from early fall to early winter weather transitions.

The essentials of a great children's bike commute? Blossoming biking skills, a good tested route, clothing that fits the weather, safely packed school bags (especially straps) so nothing falls in the wheel, and timing — start early and take it easy.

Wishing you all of these at this autumn turn. Happy late September! 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Divy Tour with Women Bike Chicago Tonight Thursday July 25th at 6 p.m.

It's been awhile since we have been posting.  We're hoping to be getting some writing done soon but before we get another post along there is a late bulletin about the Divy Tour Women Bike Chicago is hosting tonight starting at Randolph between Clark and LaSalle .
Response to the invitation has been great and this should be a really fun evening ride. Join us if you can! As copied straight from the Women Bike Chicago blog:

 Tour de Divvy

Women Bike Chicago is conducting a Tour de Divvy on Thursday, July 25, 2013 starting at 6:00 p.m. at the Divvy Station on Randolph between Clark and LaSalle.  Connect with other women cyclists on a casual ride to learn about Chicago's new bike share program.  Divvy is providing free passes and an ambassador to help us all figure it out.

We will check out a few stations, and end at the always wonderful Simone's at 18th and Morgan.  Even Divvy knows how wonderful Simone's is--there is a station right there

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Women Bike Chicago at Women and Children First Bookshop Thursday NIght! Then on to Chinatown.

Women Bike Chicago is swinging into the summer season with two great not to be missed programs this month. 

First, this Thursday, June 13th at 7:30p.m, Women and Children First Bookshop will be hosting a talk about getting back on your bike after a crash. Susan Levin and Leah Jones will share their inspiring stories of returning to ride. Rumor has it there will be very delicious refreshments on hand and good cycling books to peruse after the talk. Susan and Leah will share not only their stories but answer questions as well. A great evening at this venerable Andersonville bookshop!

Later this month, on Saturday the 23rd of June Jane Healy will lead a delicious ride from 31St. Beach to Chinatown. 4 to 7 pm. Kids welcome.

We'll be along for both events. Who did you think was bringing the refreshments anyway? Stay tuned for a Women Bike Chicago summer workshop on packing your bike with your food shopping (with kids too).

  Details from the posts from Women Bike Chicago are here: 

By  popular demand (really - you said so in the survey from our March 23 event), we're presenting an expanded version of the "Getting Back On a Bike" session, where Susan told of her experience getting back on her bike after a serious crash.  She'll be joined by Leah Jones, who also suffered a crash - coincidentally at the same intersection - about a year later.

Susan and Leah will share their stories - what happened on their respective fateful days and how they got riding again.  Remember, every story is different:  everyone heals at her own pace.   Learn how they did it.

Please come to Women and Children First,  5233 N. Clark St. in Andersonville on June 13, 7.30 PM

Refreshments will be served, and you'll have a chance to talk to the presenters as well.
The event is Free!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Biking Lakeshore Drive Again

Early in the morning last week, through the city...
one in the cargo bike, one in front

And they're off!

The bridge over the Chicago River is always our favorite part even if the
Active Trans people keep shouting at people not to stop

Rest area featuring water, welcome green bananas,  cookies and energy bars.
Uptown Bikes had a firepit going near their rickshaw.

There weren't many people with lights and fenders

A well deserved hot chocolate and
pastry for the pedalers