Category: Travels and Adventures

Bonjour Bike Commuters!  Have I got a tasty post-Halloween PG treat for you.  Put down your slice o’ wonder bread and pick up your baguettes, because France is killing it on the bike share scene with these two amazing programs:  Velib in Paris and Vcub (V3) in Bordeaux.  I just returned from a jaunt in Europe and was swooned by the cities after stepping off the train and encountering bike share stations at every turn.  Both Velib and V3 are sponsored by the local governments and offer budget-friendly rates with plenty of stations around town that make renting the bikes a convenient and competitive option for commuting and running errands!  The heavy bikes have three speeds, fenders, front baskets, generator-powered lights, chainguard, kickstand, and a bell.  Similar programs are offered in the U.S. of Americans, like Hawaii’s own pilot project of B-Cycle in Kailua. 

Girl on Velib in Paris, courtesy of Lezarderose on Flickr

I couldn’t believe my four eyes as we power-walked the streets of Paris in a mad hunt for signs of the Da Vinci Code, the Velib bikes were EVERYWHERE!  It was a Velib Bike Zombie attack: there were more Velib bike commuters than Parisians on their personal bikes!  This article from the Scientific American (whose author was trolling the streets the same time we visited) gives a logical explanation: 

Vélib’ is utterly inescapable, which is what makes it work so well. Paris has 20,000 shared bikes at its 1,800 stands…spaced about 300 meters apart. The system’s density is so great that a novice does not need any help in finding bikes. Even without a map or a smartphone, my friend and I rarely failed to find a stand of gray cruisers standing at the ready, just by walking a few blocks while keeping an eye out for the glowing LEDs of the bike stands. 

Clever move, la France: bombard your citizens with bikes every 300 meters and there is no excuse not to try one! 

Fire Ze Missiles! Then have a bike.

In Bordeaux the V3 program rents their bikes for free for the first 30 minutes and charges 2 euros for each hour therafter.  A monthly or annual pre-paid subscription reduces the rate to 1 euro an hour.   And – hold on to your butts for this one, loud engrish Americans – the website actually encourages riders to switch bikes every half hour should they need it longer, in order to avoid paying for usage at all.  This puts my capitalist knickers in a twist, but hey, I’m down for some PG-rated V3 bike action.  Bike availability by station can be accessed via the web, and stations are paired with the brand-new bus and transit lines, so it’s easy to switch from bike to bus or bike to tram if needed.  And now for graphic indulgence: 

A cheeky V3 on a sunny Sunday in Bordeaux. Courtesy of Oncle Tom via Flickr.

In Paris, the Velib is only 1.70 euros for the whole day.  My French girlfriends rolled up to the bar on Velibs, and took them to the train station each day for their out-of-town work meetings.  Taking the Velib for a downhill ride is always a Parisian favorite, as the trucks cart them back up the hills and refill stations on a daily basis.  After seeing the popularity of this program in Paris, I am crossing fingers that B-Cycle in Hawaii explodes and takes over like weevils in my oatmeal… With a wimpy 12 bikes and two stations available in Kailua, the one-year pilot is targeted more at B&B tourists exploring Kailua Beach.  (Boo! sad face.)  See this article from the Honolulu Magazine for more deets.  Bike share lust abounded for me in the city of tongue-kissing and croissants! 

I said BRRRR!

Back in Bordeaux, to top it all off like a glass of champagne, I came across this mysterious bike habitat, closed on a Sunday: 

The window showcases piles of bikes… must be source of French Bike Zombie outbreak.

After a bazillionth of a second Google search, I used my high-school French translation skills to decipher that this is a bike library of sorts, sponsored by the City of Bordeaux.  The Maison du Velo’s slogan is:  Ici, le velo est roi, or “Here, the bike is king.”  (Double swoon!)  With 48 bikes to check out for free, an open shop, and classes on safety and maintenance, it is the ultimate stop for new Bordelais riders interested in bike commuting.  Riders must undergo safety training prior to receiving a bike and have the option to check out accessories, helmets, and even baby carts!  So jealous.  Imagine how easy it would be to convince your friends to ride bikes to work with you if there were free bikes available!  A surefire cure for the self-proclaimed members of broke phi broke – who’ve got no extra cash in this down economy to spring for a bike.  Sign me up for socialism and foie gras! 

And for you curious and scrutinous clever BikeCommuters readers, segregated bike lanes in Paris and Bordeaux.  J’adore!  The French bike-share riders don’t seem too keen on helmets, but I suppose you could always bring your own.  

From the Cycling is Good for You blog to you…

Anyone else tried out any bike share programs out there?

Over the years I’ve taken vacations, but never with my bike. Last weekend I attended a family wedding in Pennsylvania and all of my family told me the biking out there would be awesome. I contemplated packing up the car with my bike and driving from Chicago to Pennsylvania OR packing my bike for the plane ride. In the end, I opted for a vacation even from my own bike(s) and decided simply to take my chances renting bikes. The weather predicted for the weekend was iffy (at best) but the weekend weather turned out wonderfully — picture perfect for the wedding and a couple of bike rides on terrain that I normally wouldn’t experience if I’d been riding my own bicycle.

Typically I ride a road bike with narrower tires and a more forward position. For bike commuting and recreational riding around Chicago and the Midwest, my bikes suit me well. I do have a project bike in the works that would position me in a more upright position, but I rarely take any bike off-road.

But my weekend getaway introduced me to a few new bikes and to riding along crushed stone trails.
Meet my hybrid rental:
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New Hope Cyclery rents these Trek hybrids from their store for hourly, 1/2 day and daily rental periods and suggested riding the Delaware and Raritan Canal Trail, which is mostly crushed stone
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I took their advice and crossed over to the New Jersey side of the Delaware River, rode down to Washington Crossing State Park and crossed the Delaware River again to ride back up the tow path on the Pennsylvania side – to complete the roundtrip loop.

No bike riding across the bridge!
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Paying tribute to Washington at Washington Crossing State Park
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Having fun on the bike rentals (no- that’s not me poppin’ that wheelie!)
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The next day I ventured upstream to Frenchtown, NJ, to rent a tandem bike from Cycle Corner (advertised on the local area visitor map).
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Upon entering Frenchtown, I felt like I was in bicycle heaven. Everyone seemed to be out on bikes – whether they be visitors or locals. Bikes and bicycle riders decorated the town.

The shop guy happily showed off and adjusted the Electra Tandem Bike – cruising in smokin’ red style!
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Riding along the trail on a bicycle built for two:
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I did ride in the rear for this outing, but took a turn in the captain’s seat. Getting going was a bit wobbly at first but was fun once I got going… then I had to stop again (not the easiest especially with the rider in back).
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The end result of this vacation getaway? SMILES all the way.
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For me it’s always fun to get away and enjoy new adventures. I’m grateful for the vacation from my own bikes and even more so for the opportunity to ride different bikes! (For this bike trip I did take my own helmet and gloves so that I knew I’d be comfortable riding with my own gear; I just had to sign a waiver to turn down the shop’s helmet.) A while back Miriam visited Chicago and explored the bike rentals from Bike and Roll.

What bike travel adventures do you have to share?

Longtime reader and contributor Ann Rappaport sent in the following coverage and photos of her recent experience riding the Tour de Troit. Take a look — this event looks and sounds like a blast!

Saturday was the 10th annual Tour de Troit. This was my first chance riding in it and I can’t wait for the next one. It’s a leisurely paced/avg 10 mph ride with police escort and road closures. The route explores some of the city’s historic areas. Early registration gave me a great ticket price of $35 which included a nifty tee-shirt and all the other goodies a rider could want. On site the tickets were $50 but no tee-shirt included. You had to spring for an additional $10 to get one. At the end of the day you got your money’s worth and more.

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Tour De Troit was founded by Edward Potas and Mike Kiewicz. They started out with a bike trailer, a cooler, a pump and some tools. In the past 10 years, the event has raised nearly $100,000 specifically for the biking community. Profits go to the Southwest Detroit Greenlink which, when completed in 2011, will connect Corktown, Mexicantown and S.W. Detroit with 17 miles of bike lanes. Detroit is starting to look a little like Chicago as bike riding is becoming common. The city has over 400 miles of bike lanes planned in the future.

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Two rides were offered, the primary ride which included Belle Isle, a 5 mile loop, for a total of 24 miles. Actually riders could choose to omit this and take a break at the entrance; relax and recharge with drinks, fruit and power bars and then continue with the group. The second option was a metric century (62 miles) at a faster pace/avg. 15 mph.

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After the ride, there was food, drink and music at Roosevelt Park; located in front of Detroit’s old Michigan Central Station, at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and 14th Street. If you know Detroit I need only say that Slow’s Bar B Q had two selections (vegan or meat) and you know just how tasty the other 5 food choices were. Riders got 2 food and beer tickets. Beer…..yes beer was also part of your reward provided by MillKing It Productions brewery. The lines were long but you could turn in your beer tickets “en masse” as long as you could carry it away- it was yours. Top it all off with souvenir photos, live bands and it was a truly perfect fall day.

Tour De Troit 6420

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Bookmark this site for 2012:
http://www.tour-de-troit.org/

For further information about biking in Detroit and the surrounding communities:
http://www.m-bike.org/
http://www.wheelhousedetroit.com/
http://thehubofdetroit.org/
http://corktowncycles.com/
http://www.facebook.com/groups/71297671024/
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=251386061561481

Aloha two-wheeled commuters… Just a reminder to all those reading from the mainland, Japan, and Hawaii that the annual Honolulu Century Ride is on our tails!  The ride is coming up at butt-crack of dawn next Sunday, September 25, 2011 (butt-crack = 5:45am for open ceremonies).  With over 2000 riders each year, 30 HBL friendship ride leaders, and a buttload of volunteers (that’s right, I said it. Buttload.) the HBL century ride is equivalent to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for cyclists on Oahu.  Okay, maybe a really really long parade and without balloons.

Apparently it's the 30th anniversary of 100 miles of iron okoles.

The route stretches from Kapiolani Park all the way to Chinaman’s Hat on the windward side and back.  Turn around points are at 20, 25, 50, 75, and 100-mile markers; it’s really a ride for everyone!  I’ll be volunteering putting up and taking down signage for the ride in my BikeCommuters.com tee shirt, so come say “hi” if your in HI for the ride.

HILLS! yes, we have them!

I might add that this is a COMICAL parade of bicycling awesomeness ranging from insane riders from Japan – about half of the riders fly in from Japan just for this course – which results in some crazy cycling outfits.  Last year I saw dude dressed up as the jolly green giant and a woman wearing a jersey and a skort printed to look like denim. Kids and families come out for the ride too since it is a very safe and fun day to ride for everyone.  I saw a family on a five person tandem (what the heck is that called anyway, a five-dem?) bike.  The smallest kid was such a peanut that it looked like there were only four on the bike with an empty seat!  There were teams from Texas, Nebraska, Idaho – you name it.  My comical event last year included throwing up HEED out of my nose and mouth… Heat stroke took me down YET AGAIN since – apparently – I am incapable of riding any significant distance past 11:30am in Honolulu.  AND it was overcast…sigh.  I made it to 90-mile turnaround point (we made this one up since I wasn’t about to make it to 100) and considered that enough puking for the day.

It was a bike like this, but blue, with uhh, three fetuses and two full grown humans on it. In MATCHING outfits!! WHAT!?

Also, to note: the Zach Manago Ride in Paradise resulted in tons of camaraderie with first names written on the back of all rider bib number thingies… you could shout out to people and chat on the ride, or let people know if you were passing.  (During the Honolulu Century Ride, listen up for the Japanese riders “on your Reft” …so cute!)  HBL has recruited 30 volunteer riders to act as friendship leaders, to encourage groups to ride together and regroup at each rest stop.    The idea is to promote “bike-friendly Hawaii” as Zach Manago’s dream.   Maybe everyone will swap emails at the end – you could meet your future ex-spouse or next best friend on the ride.  I have made friends commuting before, but that’s more of a regular sightings than one-off event.

Click on the image to watch a sweet vid from our friends in Japan – Century Ride 2010!

I’ve never done one of these anywhere else, but I can say that despite the cluster-eff at the beginning of the race (still dark outside with 2000 peeps and 4000 wheels, that’s a lot of wheels) – the ride is funtastic with awesome views.  Even if I’m just proving to myself that I don’t need a car to make it to the other side of the island: as long as I have my bike, a lot of water, and commiserating friends!  I know several cities offer some type of century ride, any other BikeCommuters readers hit the saddle for that long?  Thumbs-up or Thumbs-down to riding with 2000+people?  Hit us up in the COMMENTS.  Catch you later, cycle gators!

Ladies and gentlemen, I have found the holy land…and it exists in the quaint Germanic-heritage town of New Bremen, Ohio. A few weeks ago, my family and I made the trek to New Bremen to visit the Bicycle Museum of America, and I wanted to share some of the sights with you.

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The Museum got its start in 1997, when Jim Dicke III, president of Crown Equipment Corporation, purchased the Schwinn family’s personal collection of bicycles and bike memorabilia in Chicago during the family’s bankruptcy proceedings. Dicke moved the collection to New Bremen and established this incredible facility not long after. The Museum covers the entire range of bicycle history, from draisiennes all the way to modern road racing machines and everything in between. The museum’s collection is somewhere around 300 bicycles on display at any one time, with a rotating stable of over 1000 to choose from. The building is packed to the gills with bikes, tools, memorabilia, historical artifacts and so much more — it almost defies the imagination.

“Why Ohio?”, you may ask, and that’s a good question…one I posed to the staffpeople I met there. The more I thought and heard about it, the more it made sense…after all, two very famous bicycle builders/sellers made their home about 40 miles to the southeast. Also, a number of legendary bicycle companies were based in the general area, including the Davis Sewing Machine Company, which is better known to bike historians as the company that produced Huffy bicycles. In addition, the Cleveland Welding Company produced bikes we all know and love by the brand name of “Roadmaster”. You may also know that online bike retail giant Bike Nashbar is based in Ohio. And, the state is crisscrossed with bike paths, trails and quiet country roads and is a surprising hotbed of bicycle action…who knew?

Well, onto the collection. As I mentioned earlier, there is every flavor of two-wheeled contraption on offer here at the Museum…something to tickle the fancy of every bike lover. For example, wooden bikes have become all the rage in the past few years, with a number of high-end manufacturers making stunning machines. The wooden bike isn’t a new idea, though, and the museum has a number of them on display:

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Notice the stunning chromed bracing on the bike in the foreground, and the brass bracing on the hickory-framed bike in back. Both of these vintage machines sandwich a gorgeous Renovo made just a couple of years ago…what’s old is new again in the bike world!

You like highwheelers? The Bicycle Museum of America has you covered, with dozens of models to gaze upon. Here’s one from 1882:

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The Museum even has a highwheeler mounted to a roller system so that we could try one out. Here’s Mrs. Ghost Rider enjoying her time aboard this giant pennyfarthing:

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Over the past years, a number of bike-friendly websites have extolled the virtues of studded tires for winter riding…and that’s nothing new either. Check out this amazing icebike from 1901, with a sled front end and massive spikes on the back wheel to dig in to the cold stuff:

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The Schwinn family had a giant personal collection of bikes…seemingly an example of every model they produced. The Museum has many of them on display, including this group:

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Ignaz Schwinn’s family tandem is on display here as well…with a little “baby basket” for a wee Schwinn:

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Schwinn made track bikes way back when, with their chromed Paramounts being coveted both then and now by serious collectors. Here’s one from 1937…and just above it is Frank Schwinn’s personal track bike (another Paramount, of course):

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Perhaps the most popular Schwinn of all time was the Black Phantom, dreamed about by kids from the 50s as the ultimate cruiser. Of course the Museum has a pristine copy on display, and I can completely understand why these were so popular:

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There were a couple bikes for the bike commuters amongst us, too…imagine gliding through morning traffic on this badboy, rifle at the ready to fend off wayward pedestrians and angry motorists. Actually, this is a military bike (with a Swiss Army bicyle in the background):

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Here’s something unusual in one of display cases in the Museum — another accessory that may come in handy on the daily commute. You think Planet Bike should resurrect a thing like this?

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Bicycle headbadges are a popular collector’s item, and the Museum has several cases full of them. Here’s a shot of part of one of the cases, with badges old and new on display:

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Recognize THIS bike?

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The Pee Wee bike was a special treat for me, as one of my Tampa neighbors and I watched the Ebay auction for this very bike a few years ago…we’re both big Pee Wee Herman fans, and we were blown away by how high the price went ($20K+, as I recall). It was wonderful to see this bike in person years later.

Perhaps one of my favorite bikes of all time is the Bowden Spacelander…a monocoque fiberglass beauty that captures every design aesthetic in the Streamline Age. Of course, the Museum has two of them on display, and they were both gorgeous:

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There’s no shame in owning a car…especially if it is a pedal-powered dream machine like this one. The Museum let my son and I take this four-wheeler for a spin around the third floor, and it was a blast:

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Got big thighs and a hankering for speed? The Museum has you covered…252 gear inches worth. This is a replica of the bike Alf Letourner sped to a world record 108.92 MPH in 1941:

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There is so much more to share — I took nearly 150 photographs, and I could have spent a week inside the building, gazing into cases and trying out some of the displays. The Museum staff was incredibly knowledgeable and friendly, even offering us restaurant recommendations at the end of our tour. I wholeheartedly recommend a trip here if you’re in the area — there is truly something for every bikey fan out there contained within this facility. For the rest of my photos of the Museum, please swing on over to my Flickr stream to take a look. We will return to the Museum soon…the rotating display means that there will be something new for us to enjoy on our next visit!