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‘Bicycles & Bike Life’ Category

  1. Trek roadbikes stole my heart

    March 31, 2014 by lolkitty: Kaela

    I haven’t posted in a while and I have had some requests for more info so here we go. Previously while living in orange county I bought a 7-speed beach cruiser and thought that it would be built similarly to the Amsterdam style bikes that are practical for every day riding but because it was aluminum it was very bulky. I didn’t have much experience except with mountain bikes and I didn’t realize how riding position and a little bit of weight can make such a difference. I loved it for how pretty it was but it’s best suited for grabbing groceries, a farmer’s market, or even a nice bike for cruising with a trailer.

    I’ll add that I’ve ridden many bikes that were of the beggars-can’t-be-choosers variety. Everybody always has a spare beach cruiser or mountain bike. I didn’t think it mattered very much what kind of bike I rode until I inherited a rickety old junker Trek 400 road bike.
    I saved up for what parts I could and bought them or was given them by friends. Here’s the first photo of it as mostly together with some assistance from the hackerspace 23b.

    I was instantly in love with bikes and riding in a new way. The cro-moly frame was so supple and nimble it was easy to feel like it was an extension of myself. It just hopped and grazed over bumps in the road. I felt like I could ride much longer without feeling the impact or being bogged down by overkill suspension.

    Notice I use past tense about this bike as it was unfortunately stolen out of my yard not long after I had finished building it. The paint was bad but I made it worse with a black glossy paint job and some gold trim that matched my vintage Singer sewing machine. I thought it was cool- though I doubt the new owner shared my sentiment.

    I grieved yet foolishly didn’t make a police report (you should always do that if you can, there are a lot of bike thieves out there). Craigslist and my savings account to the rescue…

    This time it was a shiny red one in great condition. I almost felt too bad to take the derailleur and cool shifters off – but I had bigger plans and I saved the parts for a rainy day. I got a Sturmey Archer 3-speed fixed gear hub and had a wheel built. I also started building a lockable case out of a mini-keg of Newport so that I could hide a security system inside of it. I had all intentions to make it Pee-Wee Herman style with possibly a airhorn and/or smoke screen but while in the process of this project my bike, 3-speed fixed wheel, bike parts, and keg were all stolen. Orange county can be an unfriendly place. But one day soon we will rebuild! Funding all of my other mad-scientist projects (indoor solar hydroponics most recently) is taking priority these days since I obsessively bring my bike with me indoors wherever possible or with enough u-locks to lock the wheels as well.

    Here it is the day it was stolen, you can see the hub but I didn’t have the gears attached yet.

    3-speed fixed gear road bike

    3-speed fixed gear road bike

    A pic of the keg project that never was..

    After having my second bike stolen, even when it was locked up, I accepted my fate and began looking for another Trek 400. It had to be a vintage Trek, no other would do. I don’t know why but they fit my size and riding style really well.

    It became apparent it wasn’t common enough to just stumble upon anywhere and I figured I wouldn’t find another for some time. I very much needed a new bike because I went car-less in 2011 and if it isn’t a bike – it’s the bus – and nobody wants to ride the bus in OC/LA. I started out commuting by riding the bus and it generally took me the same amount of time to get around my usual trips as it did to ride my bike (up to 15 miles or so). In LA I calculated bikes to be about the same time as even cars (in some cases faster depending on where and the distance).

    I ended up getting a Takara from HB Bike shop which I liked but because the steel wasn’t as good quality it just didn’t ride the same. It felt really sluggish and heavy in comparison. To be fair the bike was much older but with vintage bike frames it pays to buy what’s made out of the best metal and always lugged. Plus, lugged frames are beautiful.

    Here it is right after I got it..

    After riding around streets that are mostly flat I lost my taste for extra gears. There’s something really satisfying about slowing yourself down with your pedaling pace and controlling your speed dynamically rather than just stop-and-go.

    I traded some bike parts to build this fixed gear conversion and was given tires and wheels by friends who donated toward the bike kitchen. As bad as it was to have so much stolen, I had a lot of people help me out with parts and how to put it together.

    Here’s a pic of it after conversion.

    Commuting by train and bike is the best of both!

    Commuting by train and bike is the best of both!

    A custom rack I made (with welding help from 23b). The rack was shaped to fit the keg.
    Custom bike rack

    I had to make it complete with a touch of Kaela-ness with the Singer Sewing machine medallion.

    My first fixie was painted to look like my Singer Sewing machine, so I continued the tradition with this 1947 Singer Sewing machine medallion. Here I have a slackline in a bag tied to the rack up front.

    My first fixie was painted to look like my Singer Sewing machine, so I continued the tradition with this 1947 Singer Sewing machine medallion. Here I have a slackline in a bag tied to the rack up front.

    I put some good miles on this Takara but it just never felt right because of the frame. I figured since I had everything else I’d rebuild again so I found another Trek 400 roadbike frame on eBay.

    Trek 400 Frame

    In the end, I had to update a lot more than I expected to get the bike where I want it but I love it.

    All assembled for the first time with new bar tape and headstem

    All assembled for the first time with new bar tape and headstem

    Since this photo I got many more parts: a Velo Orange headset, new handle bars and tape (don’t go cheap on bar tape!), and pedals. I had power grip pedals for a while and liked them for getting around and not being clipped in but I have since moved up to Shimano clipless (Chrome makes awesome shoes for clipless).

    Bikes are fun; you should ride them! =^-^=

    What happens when you have a lot of bike-riding friends… good times!
    Bike party

  2. The Quest for Skirt Guards and a Stylish Bike Commute

    March 20, 2011 by lolkitty: Kaela

    Since I have moved to Orange County, my bike has become my favorite means of transportation. Except for one thing, my bike has no sense of style. For me, this is a sin.

    After investigating the idea of putting an electric motor on my current bike, I realized that my problem with my bike is that it is overly sporty (mountain bike) for what I do and I don’t have the freedom to wear what I want when riding it (I get dirty). American attitudes toward bike riding are very different than in Europe. In America, cyclists tend to be very athletic and wear skin-tight neon lycra outfits topped with ridiculous aerodynamic helmets, presumably with a shower waiting for them at their destination. Then there’s super elitist hipster biking, where people tend to be just as stereotyped in their own class as a bunch of hipster kitties. In America, we’re cliquey, trendy, and snobbish about a sport that should be for everyone. I only noticed this huge difference in attitudes when I learned that everything I was looking for in a bike was standard issue in European bikes and their bike culture. A catchy phrase I saw in an ad for ‘antbikemike‘ was “Not sport… Transport!” and his shop features some jaw-droppingly gorgeous bikes.

    I needed something with some style. I decided to buy a new bike, one that fits my riding lifestyle and sense of aesthetic. I considered vintage Schwinn’s with 3 speed hubs that I could use with an electric bike. Just like with my vintage dresses, I don’t have it in my heart to modify a vintage piece in any way.  I decided to go with something modern that I could swap out parts to my heart’s content without feeling like I was dismantling a piece of history, or wear out it’s parts in the many commuting miles I would put on it. (Though if my finances would allow I would love a vintage bike for casual riding).

    I went with the Diamondback Della Cruz 2, the 7-speed version.

    It has that cute beach cruiser style but is more medium weight, like a vintage bicycle.  Plus, I think I’ll need all 7 speeds until I make it electric, and the extra gears will be nice to have even when it is electric too, because I can do more peddling myself and save battery.  Since it’s a Diamondback it’s of good quality considering I only spent $330 on it.  Another reason I opted for this model is because it has front and back brakes, unlike  most vintage-looking bikes which have a coaster brake.  I’ll need these brakes when I make it electric, and I might even upgrade one to disc brakes.

    I still have yet to receive my new toy in the mail and assemble it though, so I’ll post again on how it feels to actually ride the thing. I’m mostly looking forward to having a bike with an upright-sitting position so I can ride long distances comfortably, with a lady-like posture, and a nice ensemble of a skirt and dress shoe flats.

    I wanted this exact Skirt Guard (standard issue, Electra Amsterdam series)

    I started looking for some luggage racks and baskets because that will also be one of the advantages of this bike, I can use it for going to grab groceries, instead of taking the bus. And I can throw my purse, coffee cup, etc. in the front basket and not be bothered by annoying backpacks or messenger bags.

    I stumbled across various bike blogs and saw one post about a “skirt guard” or “coat guard” that goes over the back wheel to protect the rider’s clothing from getting caught in the wheel.  It’s such a practical and useful accessory, I decided to hunt it down as my first accessory for my bike. This blog has a few great posts on the practical use of skirt guards, in fact it’s a really great blog about biking in a commuter sense without letting your fashion go.

    Electra makes really amazing bikes, and the skirt guard that comes on the bikes in their “Amsterdam” collection are exactly the style I had in mind. (They sell the guards separately but only in black, and claim they don’t work with any other kind of bike.) So I kept looking for skirt guards to see what other kinds I could find. Also note, after looking at many varieties of skirt guards, I noticed the Electra one doesn’t seem to cover as much of the wheel as others.

    Crochet Bike Guard

    I found this lovely crocheted bicycle skirt guard:

    You can see the skirt guard pattern is in Dutch but I imagine someone skilled enough with crochet could figure it out with google translate (my glance at the translated version told me I didn’t know enough about crochet to get past the translation barrier).

    I was so enamored with the idea of this crocheted bike dress guard that I looked all over the internet to find something similar. It has that great ‘vintage’ style that I always crave, and is practical too. There are commercial versions, but I just didn’t think they were quite my style.

    An Etsy shop, JustDo, has these pre-made crocheted skirt guards and this pattern if you have the skills to make it yourself. There are also a lot of very unattractive skirt guard solutions that I have seen (wire or mesh), but since they’re not pretty there’s no sense in detailing them here.

    In any event, all this was pretty difficult to find, and I didn’t feel like shelling out $65 for pre-made one, or attempting to do it myself anytime soon. (I have a bad habit of over estimating my skills as a do-it-yourselfer and I don’t want to take on some extra random talent for a one-time need).  I started googling ‘beginner’ crochet patterns that were round, like baby afghans, to see if I could get away with an easier pattern and a similar effect. Then I had a ‘eureka’ moment and remembered the fabulous material: oil cloth!

    Oil cloth is water resistant polyester with a plastic-like glaze on it.  It always comes in adorable patterns and bright colors, and it is inexpensive, $6/yard or so depending on where you go. 

    I happened to be on to look up crocheted patterns and I am always trying to think of a good excuse to use oilcloth, so I browsed through their large selection and found some cute ‘Dutch’ looking floral prints that I think will match my bike perfectly.

    Now all I have to do is measure and make a pattern for this and I’ll have a waterproof, and stylish skirt guard for about $6 worth of materials and maybe an hour of work. I’ll also make a liner for my basket, either in the same oilcloth as the skirt guards or I got some cherry-print oil cloth as well that I might use for that (but I bought it for a re-usable lunch bag that won’t leak, and I will definitely be making that!)

    In a few days I’ll have my bike and my oilcloth skirt guards, so I’ll take some photos to post soon! I’m so excited to see it put together!! I gathered a lot of information on the subject (at least what’s relevant to America and the difficulties of finding such a useful item!) so I hope this was useful to someone out there!