Bike Journal: Bike Across America

6 Month Countdown

My friend moved to New York City two weeks ago. She left behind her coconut flour and flax seed, and invited me to see her in the Big Apple…by bike.

Blogging the process leading up to see her, a month and a half excursion, is based mostly in accountability.

Let the planning commense! I welcome tips on how to begin and how to make it through. Here we go!

August 4. Daydreaming phase for the Pacific Northwest bike ride to New York City, New York.

Bicycle Evolution in a Minute

Evolution of the Bicycle from Visual Artwork on Vimeo.

More on Benny Goodman’s tune, Flying Home.

Bicycles & Tricycles: A Classic Treatise on Their Design and Construction “wasn’t superseded for decades, and is today considered one of the great classics of bicycle literature” (Massey 2012).

“When it was written [end of the 19th century], the bicycle was revolutionizing personal transportation, and this book was the definitive technical work covering bicycle design down to the smallest detail.” —Bicycle Designs

How cool! Pair with Bikes – An Illustrated History and how an Italian designer shaped the art and design of modern cycling – via Brainpickings Back in the day (as seen in “Bikes – An Illustrated History)

Source: United States Patent Office The earliest bicycle – 1790 from The Library of Congress

Bike Booker

Since World Book Day went into full swing, I paged through some books in my personal collection. I predict that bike books will soon take over my bookshelf. Find these at public libraries, bookshops, or Powell’s bookstore, and enjoy!

If Humans of New York had a bike angle, this book would illustrate it. My Cool Bike features cities such as London, New York, Amsterdam, and Paris, and events like Burning Man in a cinematic display of city-scape bike portraits. Each page tells the story of life on a bike, and how that vantage point is the same, but at the same time vastly different, throughout the world. This book shows what the bike brings to these places.

“I make portraits of cyclists who reside in Paris, with the aim of capturing their styles and ‘personal stories,’ people come as they are.” – Jérémy Beaulieu pg. 52

Penny farthing world tours, bike polo, moving libraries, tweed rides, these photos capture smiles, flirtations, musings and pensive thought. “Bikes really do bring out the best in people,” note the authors, who poignantly dedicated the book to their fathers “who diligently spent many hours teaching [them] to ride [their] bikes.”

What’s your cyclist type? Speed Demon? Retro Rider? Earth Mother? Fashion Victim?

Heels on Wheels: A Lady’s Guide to owning and riding a bike fits into any lady’s messenger bag, large purse, backpack, pannier, or bike basket. Found under the Christmas tree, I dove into this charmingly illustrated book where I learned Jennifer Aniston was a bike messenger before her path to stardom (which resulted in about a half hour of Googling bike messenger jobs).

Heels on Wheels is neither judgmental nor imperious. The content spans from bike types to handlebars, rules of the road to proper bike attire, tips for looking fabulous after biking in drastic weather, and we can’t forget words from the wise.

“I thought of [the Theory of Relativity] while riding my bike.” – Albert Einstein

The more I learn about bicycles and attend classes, the more I agree with Katie’s “essential kit”:

  • A pump that matches your valve. Interchangeable pumps are more expensive but are worth what you save in the hassle when switching bikes. See presta valve vs. shrader valve 
  • puncture patches (to fix a flat)
  • small piece of sandpaper
  • chalk (a rock will work) to mark the tear
  • 3 spanners
  • a spare inner tube
  • disposable plastic gloves (optional)

Have these items in arm’s reach with a small First Aid Kit and you’re ready to roll!

As a beginner cyclist and daydreamer, I dog-earred these pages and imagined the epic future that cycling could create. Holy Spokes! emphasizes cycling’s social joys and the sport’s freedom. The author’s enthusiasm sells the guarantee that the joys and knowledge behind biking will last a lifetime. “The cool thing about cycling is that it makes the perfect lifelong sport,” writes Coppolillo.

A quick read but informative, Holy Spokes! doesn’t just inform. It gets you excited about cycling.

“Cycling is one of the few sports you can enjoy with literally everybody–kids, men, women, your grandfather with a knee replacement, a first-time mountain biker, the women’s state BMX champion, folks from the farm country, inner-city messengers, bike travelers from who knows-where, and immigrants from cycling-mad countries like France, Australia, and Germany.”

I can’t agree more.

Reading Bike Snob is like your dad saying, “Buck up, you’re on a bike. Now deal with it.” Bike Snob helped me get over my shyness while riding in traffic (cue flashback to my wipeout on Market Street in San Francisco). This comprehensive, artsy illustration of the bike reminds you to, above all, have respect for the ride and keep your bicycle in good shape. The book covers nitty gritty details, but also, the writing clear, poetry in motion.

I especially enjoy the commentary on hipsters and their relationship to fixies.

“[O]nce the bicycle became trendy, the migratory pattern of the hipster changed. Because the bicycle is by far the simplest and fastest way to cover short distances, cycling hipsters soon explored the often fertile areas surrounding their territory…Naturally, the fixed gear bicycle soon became an indispensable part of hipster culture, and because hipsters began to rely upon them more and more in order to travel within their rapidly expanding territories, the bicycle in turn became even trendier and more coveted. The fixed-gear bicycle is as vital to the hipster as a horse is to the cowboy, or the tractor is to the farmer, or the boat is to the fisherman.”

Have books about bikes you’d like to share? Please leave titles and authors in the comments.

St. Patrick’s Day on a High Nelly

Last week, President Barack Obama received one of Ireland’s prized bikes, the first manufactured High Nelly in about forty years.

Marty Mannering of Goeco, the company that now owns High Nelly, stepped in to revitalize bike history in Ireland. As Marty mentioned in TheJournal.ie article, “nobody had ever historically documented anything to do with the bike in Ireland.” Cycling Ireland, the national governing body of Ireland’s cycling sport, has a topsy-turvy history that dates back to 1878. According to Marty, “The War of Independence was fought on bikes. You even had the Catholic Church trying to stop the use of bikes.”

In the spirit of St. Patrick’s day, I wish I was riding around the city in a classic High Nelly. The history of St. Patrick goes back about fifteen centuries. Philip Freeman, author of St. Patrick of Ireland: A Biography, asks with us, who is this Saint, and why is he remembered?

“Driving the snakes out of Ireland, entering contests to the death with pagan Druids, using the shamrock as an aid to explain the Trinity–all these are pious fictions created centuries later by well-meaning monks. The true story of Patrick is far more compelling than the medieval legends. This story is known best from two short letters written by Patrick himself, his Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus and Confession.”

What St. Patrick and Freeman remind us is of the importance of letters and their offerings of hope in uncertain and troubled times. It’s not usual to toast to “hope” at a bar on this festive day. Cheers, James Joyce, cheers St. Pat, and cheers to High Nelly’s Irish bicycle flair.

“The HighNelly bicycle in Ireland was more than a mode of transport up until the late 1950’s, it was literally a life line. My very own Grandmother rode 17 miles three times a week to the Smithfield Market in Dublin from Co. Meath.” – The Mannering Family, Limerick Ireland

Currently in Ireland and thirsty for some history and directions? See them by bike!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Move over dudes, UBI Scholarships for Female Bike Mechanics

The bicycle, said Susan B. Anthony, “has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.”

Without further adieu, I announce that SRAM, Quality Bicycle Products, and United Bicycle Institute is offering two Female Mechanic Scholarships for UBI’s bike school. The recipient’s scholarship will supplement the advanced certification seminars for experienced mechanics or the two-week Professional Shop Repair and Operations class. Whether you perpetually have grease under your fingernails, or you want an introduction to bicycle repair, the benefits will pay off, respectively.

Female mechanics are still sparse among community and corporate bike positions, especially as mechanics. Statistics show more female mechanics are making ripples in communities where the number of cyclists are increasing. The lack of female representation may also point to a condensed portion of the population that pursues technical specialities, let alone specialized bicycle skills.

Civil engineer Finnaula Quinn noted on the Washington Area Bicyclist Association blog that on the emerald isle, “Before the bicycle, the women and girls of rural Ireland had never had this freedom of travel and the options that brought with it.”

In the New York Times article “Women with Wrenches,” graduates from UBI and female bike shop owners in Brooklyn mention the scarcity of female mechanics in bike shops and the battle to have their skills taken seriously. Even when supported by male customers or coworkers, their approach to repairing the bike is described as “sensitive,” as mentioned by a male interviewee. I think knowing how to fix and handle bicycles, with their intricacy and simplicity, offers highly transferable skills, even a sleight of hand.

 “Like most bike mechanics, Ms. Dyer has always enjoyed working with her hands. Before becoming a mechanic, she worked as a landscaper, a floral arranger and a cabinetmaker. She has also built amplifiers and modified instruments, including a baritone ukulele, for her band, Buke and Gass. “It all relates to fixing bicycles,” she said.” – from “Women with Wrenches”

In a future blog post, I will expand on Fionnuala’s story in relation to why women choose to ride bikes because of safety, indicating that walking on sidewalks is dangerous option.

Scholarship applications are due March 22. To compliment this exciting announcement, I plan to read and review the following books:

and