Wednesday, September 19, 2007

San Francisco trip

Rachel and I spent last week in San Francisco. Neither of us had spent more than an afternoon there before, and we really enjoyed the city. Our first impression was: "Wow, this place is tiny!" It turns out SF has a population similar to Portland's--only in about one-third of the space. Walking and transit are approximately, um, way better because of the density.

On the bicycling front, the riding looks a little tougher to me, but we didn't actually ride in the city. We saw a fair number of bicycle riders, but I'd say bicycling is not nearly as evident as in Portland. The hills are really steep but pretty short, and it seems like a smart rider could avoid most of them without missing much. Bicycles were much better locked on the streets than in Portland, generally with two good locks. Maybe the neatest bike scenes were the clever ways that surfers get their boards to Ocean Beach. Unfortunately, I only had a cell phone camera, and most of the neoprened pedalers were too quick for me. I saw a couple of different "surfboard-as-wheeled-trailer" setups. For minimizing length, though, this one's tough to beat:

The surfboard sits in the two hooks, obviously, sort of like a sidecar...a sideboard?

Also had fun chatting with my cousin Chris, who was a messenger in SF starting in 1990. It was interesting to get his take on how messenger bikes have changed. Messengers he knew mostly rode mountain bikes, partly because of rough streets after the earthquake. They also took pride in retrofitting their bikes with ultra-low gears, so they could shortcut over hills. That's quite a contrast with today's fixed gear/track frame messengers.

A couple of workbikes caught my eye:
A Danish-looking cargo trike seen on Market Street.

A longbike holds up the pile on the west side of Telegraph Hill.

We also had a chance to ride BART out to Rivendell Bicycle Works in Walnut Creek. When we arrived, head honcho Mr. Grant Petersen was earning his next executive bonus the hard way: hand painting what looked to be 50 or more touch up paint samples. He insisted on loaning us bikes, and then spent a good half hour setting them up for us and riding with us down to the bike trail. He then pointed us toward some pretty impressive-sounding gelatto joint (three different coconuts!) and sent us on our way.

Rachel was set up on a Glorius. She liked the ride of the 650B tires immediately, finding them as quick as the 559x32's on her "fast" bike and cushier feeling than the 622x37's on her commuter. Mixtes are great. I need to find a really big one for my Dad.

Glorius with Big Loafer Bag and Rachel

I rode a 66cm Quickbeam--a lot of bike, but I fit just fine. Grant swapped on one of the newfangled slotted leather saddles. I think I like it just a hair better than my Brooks B-17s.

I signed the helmet waiver

The gelatto was good, and when we came back, Grant pulled out a 52cm Glorius for Rachel to ride (she usually rides a 46cm bike). After riding it barefoot, she confirmed it was a nice fit. We both loved the clear powdercoat finish on the bike (sorry, no pictures). It really looked like a suit of armor with the grey tubes and brass visible around the lugs.

The Riv crew were all super nice. Grant, in particular, really went out of his way, and the visit capped off a great trip to the Bay Area. We look forward to going back and maybe riding more next time!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Two-wheeled variety

Probably it has something to do with the fact that my body and that ingenious contraption the bicycle just don't seem to combine for much speed. Although my mileage has increased every year for the last few years, my speed on two wheels remains about the same: pretty slow. Now, that's not altogether a bad thing. One of the perks of being a natural slowpoke is that messing around with things that would slow fast riders way down barely registers on my speed-o-meter. Riding road bikes off-road up mountains? Sure! With two gears I shift by hand? Now you're talking! Covering 50 miles on a Dutch bike (more soon) over hill and dale? Hey, why not? The truth is, such apparent foolishness tends to knock a mile or two per hour off my average racing-bike-on-the-flats pace. Might as well have fun and see some stuff, right?

[A dapper guy in traffic on a kickbike, courtesy of this site]

Enter kickbikes. I guess they're technically scooters and not bikes, but they look more like bikes than those noisy little kid movers that prowl the sidewalks. They sound like a lot of fun, mostly, and they are two-wheeled, human-powered machines. People have actually ridden them all over the place--like across the US. Apparently, these things can be propelled to pretty much bicycling speeds by kicking off the ground with one leg--no drivetrain or saddle. I also found out that Portland has a dealer, which means it's only a matter of time before I test ride one! Then I can start my new blog Kicker's Life. If anyone beats me to the test ride, let me know what you think.

So many fun ways to move around, so little time.