April 11, 2014


The other morning, after dropping the kids off at school, I walked to a nearby grocery store parking lot to see a man about a bike and half an hour later, rode home on Penelope. Last weekend we made the rounds to several bike shops, not actually for me, Evie was in more desepate need of a bike since the pedals of hers kept falling off and even with the seat on it's highest position it was still a good six inches too small (she ended up with a Trek 220, the same bike Briton has, as an early birthday gift from Nana and Poppa, and can now make it up the hill to our house in a flash instead of having to walk part of the way. Gears! They are miraculous! Thanks  Nana and Poppa!) But since we were there I got a chance to try out several Dutch and Step-thru bikes. I was totally sold on the internal hub (Thanks Dee, for the info on that!) and the upright position and the low bar and the style, everything except the price tag. Turns out a $1300 bike is the norm here in BikeCity when it comes to new bikes. And like I said, I get it. A good bike is worth the money. It just wasn't in the cards at the moment for me.

And then I got stuck on hold one afternoon and started puttering on Craigslist. I'd been popping in now and then to see if I could find a Vintage Raleigh Lady Sport since they are pretty darn close to what I've been wanting, but with no luck. Until that day, when Penelope popped up on my screen.

She's not actually a Raleigh. She's an Elite which, according to the bike shop I took her to yesterday, is either a random small European company who made Raleigh/Peugeot like bikes or she was made by Raleigh for a different company. The man I bought her from is supposed to be bringing me her original Antwerp license plate from the late 1970's so somehow she started life in Europe and then emigrated to Portland. So far the only think I know for sure is that the hub is a 1979 Sturmey Archer She has almost all the bells and whistles I was looking for, right down to the bell, and rides like a dream. Now I can shoot up the hill to our house without pumping, feeling like I'm going to die or having to stop to put the chain back on (enclosed chain, btw, BRILLIANT! I love it!). I have to put new brake pads on her and at some point I will probably want to switch the steel rims for alloy ones for better stopping in the rain (ah, the things I've learned about bikes), but other than that, she's good to roll. The kids are particularly fascinated by the magic of dynamo lighting, which I have to admit is pretty cool.

So between Evie's new Trek and Penelope, we are officially a happy bike family. Who's ready for a nice long ride?

April 3, 2014

in which I have become obsessed with bikes

I don't mean to sound evangelistic, but I think biking may have changed my life. I realized last week, when the kids were on spring break and I wasn't biking to school and back again twice a day, that I wasn't sleeping well. I have (and have had for years) a terrible habit of waking up in the middle of the night, worrying about things that, in the light of day, aren't really a big deal. I've been dealing with that less lately but it wasn't until my Spring Break bike hiatus that I realized riding helped with this. I don't think it's just the exercise, although I'm sure that helps. I think it's being outside, in all sorts of weather. And that little kid freedom of having a bike to go wherever you want to. And coasting down a hill.

But I also realized that my bike really, really sucks. I thought it was just me, not really in shape, learning to ride again. And then Will had to borrow my bike for the day while his was in the shop (let's just pause for a moment to picture Will riding through the bike crowds on a purple retro ladies bike with a basket that's way too small for his long ass legs. Yeah, you're welcome for that smile.)  He could barely make it up the hill to our house. My much more in shape, much better biker husband couldn't believe that I had been riding it all over town.

I doubt, very much, that I'll ever be one of those biker who wears spandex and reflector shoes and aerodynamic helmets. I'm more of a London Tweed Run kind of girl (the Portland version is coming up!) Upright, step through bikes and leisurely pedaling rather than racing. But I still need a bike that I don't have to stop and fix every time I ride if I'm going to ride every day.

So I'm on the hunt for a new bike. A good bike. A girly-ass bike (because I like them. And also I wear skirts a lot, so it makes things easier). And I'm all kinds of bike obsessed. Reading up on hub gears vs. a derailleur (I like the sound of the hub style) and lugged frames and skirt guards and following bike blogs about family riding and city riding and riding in clothes that aren't made mostly of lycra.

If money were no object I would run, RUN out and buy this.

A Princess at the fair

Oh how I love that bike. And actually, I have no doubt that it's worth every penny of it's $1300 price tag. I know a really well made bike is worth the cost and that it would last me for years. Maybe forever. Never the less, too expensive. Most of the parents at our school seem to be riding some version of these.

Which are much more expensive and since I no longer have toddlers to haul around, not really what I need. In the grand scheme of things, for Portland, the Pashley is not an expensive bike. But still. Yeeks. Maybe one day. It is beautiful....

On a slightly more affordable scale I'm digging the Bobbin Bikes. The Birdie is awesome

But it's only a 3-speed. Granted, I can only ride my current bike in one speed, even though it's supposed to have 21, so 3 would be pretty damn awesome. But it also comes in a 7 speed, just not in the fun yellow and without a full chain guard thingie (see, I'm learning all sorts of technical biking terms) Which probably makes more sense. If I could find one locally to test ride I think I'd be sold. It's kind of an expensive purchase to make without trying it out though.

Anyone have a Bobbin? Do you like it? I've looked at Public Bikes as well, and Gazelle too, but I'm not as inspired to love either of those.