Spoke Scopes

See the world from two wheels

Bike Booker — March 19, 2014

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 — March 17, 2014

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.

High Nelly Irish Rover Source: http://www.thejournal.ie/obama-first-high-nelly-1355664-Mar2014/
High Nelly Irish Rover Source: http://www.thejournal.ie/obama-first-high-nelly-1355664-Mar2014/

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 —

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:




What We’re Listening To: Bombay Bicycle Club — February 23, 2014
Falling in Love in a Bike Shop — February 18, 2014

Falling in Love in a Bike Shop

Gateway to Pedals2People. Bike Part Art
Shop on Sprague

“I think that possibly, maybe I’m falling for you…”

If love is blind then I was a cyclist riding with a blindfold. I was blind to the tools and services behind Pedals2People back in the summer of 2010. I stepped into your shop with empty hands, only to leave with a fine-tuned bike and oil under my fingernails.

Almost four years later my hands are filled with the tools that flex with muscle memory to care to bikes like a surgeon to a patient. I knew nothing back then. I was blind to the love of bikes. I was blind to the love, sweat, and tears to pedal over harsh and tame terrain, to dodge around traffic, and to park into the heart of my partner. Pedals2People, cleaned up the dirt, swept up the mess, tightened the cables and lubricated the chains. You buckled my helmet, and let me go free, knowing I would return.

This is my Valentine to Pedals2People. Without a doubt, you deserve more love.

Please share more love by voting in STCU’s “Who Do You Love?” and nominate Pedals2People.

Norman Rockwell biked — January 9, 2014

Norman Rockwell biked

Norman Rockwell circ. 1920

Scenes. They’re in movies. On canvases. Captured on film. I imagine scenes when forming a square with my hands. Norman Rockwell, although he wasn’t primarily a landscape artist, created scenes, iconized caricatures, of Americana. In The New York Times, Garrison Keillor narrated Norman Rockwell’s story, which explains the “fragile” and wonder behind Rockwell’s life’s work, an iconic remembrance of the “old days” that the Baby Boom generation finds all too familiar. Thanks to the Internet, the Millennial generation also recognizes Rockwell’s style, long after Rockwell’s 323 covers that colored the Saturday Evening Post from 1916-1962.

Rockwell turned heads with his style, “art as storytelling.” And just like while biking, “he learned to accommodate.”

“He was a New Yorker who made himself over into a New Englander, a workaholic who exhausted himself painting images of a leisurely way of life. What matters is the work.” –Garrison Keillor

Rockwell moved to Stockbridge in 1953 with his third wife where he frequently rode his bicycle. Perhaps some inspiration came from the scenes he biked by and then channeled to the scenes he painted.

Norman Rockwell’s bicycle at the Norman Rockwell Museum

In “Scenes: Social Context in an age of Contingency”, Daniel Silver, Terry Nichols Clark, and Clemente Jesus Navarro Yanez point to Richard Florida, the author of The Rise of the Creative Class (2002) and Who’s Your City (2008), and his classifications of space and types of people. Florida “suggests that street life and bicycling, rather than opera and bowling, attract creative people who favor multi-tasking and autonomy.” It is difficult to not think of Rockwell’s painted scenes as reflections of days in the lives of Americans.

“Scenes,” writes Silver, Clark and Yanez, “provide ways of social belonging attuned to the demands of a culture in which individuals increasingly define themselves less by primordial attachments to home or family background or class or party or confession and more contingently and expressively, in terms of lifestyle and sensibility.”

When life gives you paintbrushes, ride a bike!

Enrique Peñalosa: Why buses represent democracy in action — December 9, 2013
City Cycling, the illustrated travel companion — November 18, 2013

City Cycling, the illustrated travel companion

Thames & Hudson

Maria Popova’s Brainpickings once again steered me toward a delightful read. City Cycling: Europe, an illustrated field guide to biking in eight major cities, is a complete collection of 400 color illustrations that feature London, Paris, Berlin, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Milan, and Antwerp/ Ghent. Actualized by Thames & Hudson, the publisher’s mission is to create books that “reveal the world of art to the general public, to create a ‘museum without walls’.” The illustrations remind me of the charming Madeleine story books. Couple City Cycling with Brainpicking’s 1969 bicycle safety manual. Do remember your “sounding device” then peruse through bicycling capitals of the world and Southern Asia’s publishing landscapes.

Thames & Hudson via Coolthings
Thames & Hudson via Brainpickings

The red chain. The bike world’s Nike swoosh? — November 13, 2013

The red chain. The bike world’s Nike swoosh?

Image, Martone Cycling Co.; iainclaridge.co.uk

Delta airline’s September Sky Magazine spotlighted luxury cycling. Martone Cycling Company, a new line with a “high design” bike from New York City, has fashion oozing from its bike frames. The $899 bikes available at Saks Fifth Avenue spurred a fall collection of bike-inspired accessories such as locks, helmets, lights, key rings, and bracelets. With the pedal powered SRAM dumatic gear system and a basket that can hold twenty pounds of cargo, the bike is creating buzz and catching the eye using a unique branding tool. No matter if you purchase the bike in black, white, silver, red or gold, Martone’s red chain pops like a Nike swoosh or the CC Coco Chanel logo, and makes the brand undeniably distinguishable.

Founder Lorenzo Martone bikes and has the eye to make his mode of transportation be an aesthetic center piece in his West Village living room. His vision is also backed by the courage it takes to bike in New York.  “It’s a transportation for the brave,” Martone told Refinery 29.

“I strongly believe that choosing a bike should be a reflection of your personal style.”–Lorenzo Martone

Photo: Mireya Acierto/Getty Images North America

Martone bikes are featured in Maison Jules, a new womenswear brand inspired by Parisian street style. The partnership exudes the blend between bikes and high culture.

Photo: Garance Doré

Martone Cycling Company also wants to give back. They partner with Recycle-A-Bicycle, (RAB) is a community-based bike shop and 501©3 non-profit organization that facilitates job training, environmental education, and everyday bicycling for people of all ages in NewYork City.

The bicycle, a simple, human powered machine has always been stylish. What’s clever about Martone’s marketing is that bicycles go with any outfit. Now the bow tie or string of pearls isn’t necessary. Now there’s a red chain. An accessory on the go.

Congratulations, Washington State — October 24, 2013

Congratulations, Washington State

Bicycle Alliance of Washington’s Facebook banner

It’s a sunny day for bikers in Washington.

Published today in Outside, Washington is named the nation’s bike friendliest state. Washington is one of four western region states proudly representing the League of American Bicyclist’s top 10 bike havens. Oregon and Colorado are among the predictable rankings, but underdog rankings such as Delaware and Illinois among the top ten shows progress in development. According to Outside, between 2000 and 2011, the number of bike commuters in the U.S. has grown 47 percent. Special recognition goes to active advocacy groups, such as the Bicycle Alliance of Washington, and to formidable strongholds in legislation and enforcement, education and encouragement and policies of programs.

Referring to the League’s top 10 signs of success, how does your state compare?