August 2011

We had a tough customer stop in the other day wanting to test ride a Cortina.

Sadly we had to explain that while it was fine to crawl around on one, we did not have the right size to offer a test ride.

For those of you that don’t know, we put on a gravel ride in late September.  Well, we did last year, and we are doing it again this year, September 25th, and you can get all the details HERE.  You should sign up!

We are changing the start location this year to be right here at our shop, so we had to figure out how to get to the route, so Cody and I went out to ride the first half on Sunday morning.

It was a nice day for it, sunny and warm, and mild (if any) wind.  We both rode MASI cyclocross bikes, Cody on her Speciale CX and Steve on his Speciale CXSS.

The roads were fairly bumpy and really dusty.  We did not see many cars, which is always a plus as they kick up so much dust, but we were still well coated.  An inexpensive sunblock option.

On the way into town we stopped at the Taqueria truck for veggie burritos, a great ride!

We went for an overnight bike camping trip Saturday night to Lake MacBride.

We rode a bit of gravel along the way.

Steve rode his touring townie, Cody rode her Big Dummy (with handmade at Home Ec. Workshop waterproof saddle cover).

We slept in one of the Mountainsmith tents we sell.  Did you know we can sell you a tent?

We saw deer and toads and geese and frogs and turkeys and a raccoon investigated our bikes to see if we had anything good to eat stashed in there.

Steve had a flat.  It was a good trip!

Saturday, August 27th is the annual Courage Ride, a fun ride for a great cause.  Choose your distance on a course southwest of Iowa City.  Registration is open now!

Lots of activities surround this event, including a silent auction.  Our contribution to this year’s silent auction is the Xtracycle Classic FreeRadical (bike nor groceries included, yo).  In dollars, the value is $500, and as we see it, the real value emerges when wresting free from dependence on motor vehicles.  Installation is included in the auction — we’ll help you get your long-tail bike rolling.


One of the many fringe benefits of living working in a bike shop is that you get to see what your co-workers ride.  For example, let us behold the freshly assembled bicycle of ace mechanic, James.

Hmm, it kinda looks like a Long Haul Trucker in a color offered several years ago.  Indeed, ’tis.  Built up with a slobber-worthy mix of new and old.

The attention to detail present on this ride makes me (Cody) nearly stagger.

Wipe the dribble from your chin, that drivetrain don’t care none about your fancy.  That’s a SACHS chain, fer crying out loud!

Ratcheting Suntour… better than index?  Some would say no doubt about it.

A new SON generator hub is an instant classic.  Hey, remember when I said we can order for your pleasure any lighting system via Peter White Cycles?

The Schmidt Edelux headlight, which we also offer via Peter White.

The Spanninga Pixeo is a sweet little bargain at $16.50.  Battery operated versions are slightly cheaper.

Here is some of that aforementioned detail attention.  The rear light cable is routed elegantly along the ridge of the stainless steel fender.

And, ya gotta love rack mounted fenders!  This is the stuff that makes me feel like we’ll make it through the impending apocalypse.  Or, James will anyway.


Another opinion piece on quality of life, city planning, and bicycles, in the NY Times.

Robin Utrecht/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

By RUSSELL SHORTO Published: July 30, 2011

AS an American who has been living here for several years, I am struck, every time I go home, by the way American cities remain manacled to the car. While Europe is dealing with congestion and greenhouse gas buildup by turning urban centers into pedestrian zones and finding innovative ways to combine driving with public transportation, many American cities are carving out more parking spaces. It’s all the more bewildering because America’s collapsing infrastructure would seem to cry out for new solutions.

Geography partly explains the difference: America is spread out, while European cities predate the car. But Boston and Philadelphia have old centers too, while the peripheral sprawl in London and Barcelona mirrors that of American cities.

More important, I think, is mind-set. Take bicycles. The advent of bike lanes in some American cities may seem like a big step, but merely marking a strip of the road for recreational cycling spectacularly misses the point. In Amsterdam, nearly everyone cycles, and cars, bikes and trams coexist in a complex flow, with dedicated bicycle lanes, traffic lights and parking garages. But this is thanks to a different way of thinking about transportation.

To give a small but telling example, pointed out to me by my friend Ruth Oldenziel, an expert on the history of technology at Eindhoven University, Dutch drivers are taught that when you are about to get out of the car, you reach for the door handle with your right hand — bringing your arm across your body to the door. This forces a driver to swivel shoulders and head, so that before opening the door you can see if there is a bike coming from behind. Likewise, every Dutch child has to pass a bicycle safety exam at school. The coexistence of different modes of travel is hard-wired into the culture.

This in turn relates to lots of other things — such as bread. How? Cyclists can’t carry six bags of groceries; bulk buying is almost nonexistent. Instead of shopping for a week, people stop at the market daily. So the need for processed loaves that will last for days is gone. A result: good bread.

There are also in the United States certain perceptions associated with both cycling and public transportation that are not the case here. In Holland, public buses aren’t considered last-resort forms of transportation. And cycling isn’t seen as eco-friendly exercise; it’s a way to get around. C.E.O.’s cycle to work, and kids cycle to school.

It’s true that public policy reinforces the egalitarianism. With mandatory lessons and other fees, getting a driver’s license costs more than $1,000. And taxi fares are kept deliberately high: a trip from the airport may cost $80, while a 20-minute bus ride sets you back about $3.50. But the egalitarianism — or maybe better said a preference for simplicity — is also rooted in the culture. A 17th-century French naval commander was shocked to see a Dutch captain sweeping out his own quarters. Likewise, I used to run into the mayor of Amsterdam at the supermarket, and he wasn’t engaged in a populist stunt (mayors aren’t elected here but are government appointees); he was shopping.

For American cities to think outside the car would seem to require a mental sea change. Then again, Americans, too, are practical, no-nonsense people. And Zef Hemel, the chief planner for the city of Amsterdam, reminded me that sea changes do happen. “Back in the 1960s, we were doing the same thing as America, making cities car-friendly,” he said. Funnily enough, it was an American, Jane Jacobs, who changed the minds of European urban designers. Her book “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” got European planners to shift their focus from car-friendliness to overall livability.

When I noted that Manhattan’s bike lanes seem to be used more for recreation than transport — cyclists in Amsterdam are dressed in everything from jeans to cocktail dresses, while those in Manhattan often look like spandex cyborgs — Mr. Hemel told me to give it time. “Those are the pioneers,” he said. “You have to start somewhere.”

What he meant was, “You start with bike lanes” — that is, with the conviction that urban planning can bring about beneficial cultural changes. But that points up another mental difference: the willingness of Europeans to follow top-down social planning. America’s famed individualism breeds an often healthy distrust of the elite. I’m as quick as any other red-blooded American to bristle at European technocrats telling me how to live. (Try buying a light bulb or a magazine after 6 p.m. in Amsterdam, where the political elite have decreed that workers’ well-being requires that shops be open only during standard office hours, precisely when most people can’t shop.)

But while many Americans see their cars as an extension of their individual freedom, to some of us owning a car is a burden, and in a city a double burden. I find the recrafting of the city in order to lessen — or eliminate — the need for cars to be not just grudgingly acceptable, but, yes, an expansion of my individual freedom. So I say (in this case, at least): Go, social-planning technocrats! If only America’s cities could be so free.