BikeCommuters.com

Tag Archive: bicycle commute

!!Mamachari!! – Undeniably Cool Utility Bikes in Japan

(Let's hope this is actually in Japanese)

Kon’nichiwa (こんにちは) Bike Commuters!  All around the world, it seems there are micro-cultures and macro-cultures of bike commuters and their preferred two-wheeled breeds of choice.  Dutch city bikes, single speeds and fixies, fendered beach cruisers, ghetto-rigged MTBs, folding bikes, electric-assist, road bikes and the like…  Going along with my love for all things cute and AZN (that’s my college sorority – Alpha Zeta Nu, we luv yoooo!) I have developed an internet stalker crush after Japanese MAMACHARI bikes!  Oh Mamachari, where have you been all my life and why have I never found you until now in my Google search results?  Apparently, there are all kinds of blogs out there for the originally women-specific bike, tailored to child/dog/grocery-toting around Japan.  Let’s take a looksy:

In Treehugger’s blog post “Introducing: The Mamachari Bicycle” their author admits to owning and riding a mamachari (as if it were a guilty pleasure).  When asked for the textbook definition of a mamachari, the author defined it as:

“…a really simple bicycle that you see all over Japan. Usually mothers use them for quick trips to the grocery store or to bring the kids to kindergarden. Thus the name, a combination of “mama” and “chariot”. Nope, the mamachari is not particularly sexy, but it is easy to ride and always comes with a basket up front. Plus a baby seat. Or sometimes two babyseats: one up front and one in the back.”

Fenders, baskets, chainguards, skirtguards (what IS that!?), three-speeds, child seats, racks galore, bells, dynamo lights, and kickstands.  Sounds like a commuter bike to me, whether you’re towing Costco groceries, kids, or other bikes!  These things are the all-in-one package, with more appendages, accessories, and equipment than the actual bike.  I’m surprised there’s not a dog-walking leash attached or something.

This photo is totally internet ganked... but it is Ultimate Utility Bike COOL!

And this post from Tokyo by Bike has a nifty table summing up the benefits of riding a Mamachoo-choo (I can’t get enough of these mash-up Japinglish words) over a good ol’ mountain bike for commuting and utility cycling:

Mamachari Mountain Bike
Unlocking The frame mounted lock can be unlocked by simply pushing in the key. A wire lock has to be untangled from around the wheel, frame and whatever the bike is locked to, potentially dirtying everything in the process.
Lights They’re attached to the bike, difficult to steal and don’t require batteries. Have to remember to bring them downstairs and attach them to the bike. Also have to remember to remove them when I arrive at the supermarket lest they get stolen, reattach them after I’ve finished shopping and remove them again once arriving home. Thats a lot of work.
Chainguard Keeps everything nice and clean. Have to remember to bring a velcro strap downstairs to keep clothing from rubbing on the chain.
Bell Gets pedestrians out of your way. Saying “Excuse me”, “Coming through”, “On your right”, or “Ding! Ding!” just doesn’t work
Mudguards Dry bum Wet bum
Parking Pull in. Kick down the stand. Push a lever to lock the bike. Go shopping. Look for something to lock the bike to, not always easy. Remove the wirelock from handlebars, lock the rear wheel and frame to a solid object. Careful, you might get dirty.
Child seat I can take someone for company, or to push the supermarket trolley for me No chance.
Basket Holds any amount of groceries I’m likely to buy in one go. Squash groceries into a backpack or hang them from the handlebars which not only interferes with the bikes balance, but is also frowned upon by the law. 5kg of rice? Impossible.

And from the mama bicycle blog (written by a Japanese dad who likes his Mamachari bike and practicing his English) I delved further into the land of cheap, heavy-as-a-bloated-ox utility bikes, and found the Maruishi Cycles Frackers bike!

Mama-Frackers in every color!

Anyway, I’d like to take a jaunt around my hood with a mamachari!  The best part is, you don’t have to be a Mama to ride one either!  Anyone seen these types of bike popping up in the USA at your local bike shops?

Image taken from Hello Sandwich. This is less "mama"-specific.

To Clip or Not? Pondering your Pedal Preference

What pedals would you use to escape the Zombie Apocalypse?

What’s up busy Bike Commuters… I woke up groggy with a chance of grumpy this morning, hoping a shot of caffeine and a leisurely bike commute would snap me out of it.  I stumbled around the darkness in my apartment looking for my bike shoes like a zombie looking for a 20-pack of McBrains Nuggets.  When I finally retrieved my shoes, I shoved them on, only to realize that someone else had also taken a liking to my shoes over the weekend.  Zombie ANTS!  A mini-ant-party was going down in the toe of my right shoe.  Nasty!

Two years later, and I never regretted the $30 purchase... is it time for a change?

One can of Raid later and a change of socks left me riding to work in a pair of ballet flats on my little Shimano M520 pedals.  Lucky for me, the commute is flat and only lasts around 10 minutes.  I still enjoyed myself and the ants did snap me out of it!  BUT, it lead me to think about a possible pedal conversion – platform on one side and spd on the other?  I’ve always liked my M520’s, easy to clip in because it’s double sided, CHEAP, and reliable!  Perfect for a beginner clippie-shoe rider like myself.

RL's foot prefers the leather strap commute... nice kicks!

My “back home for the Holidays” bike had leather straps that I removed because I kept dragging them on the ground face down.  My Kona Dew bike had metal stock platform pedals that suited me just fine.  And  I’ve never come around to the one side only fancy road bike pedals, since I prefer the recessed SPD cleat in my Specialized Riata Shoe.  Anyway Bike Commuters,  what’s your preference for pedals?  What’s your pedal history and  your related footwear?  Dress shoes, casual shoes, MTB shoes, road shoes, incognito Chrome Kursk kicks?  When it comes down to the Zombie Apocalypse, I’ll want those SPDs to help me crank up the hill to escape my fate as a Zombie buffet.  I’m not ready to give up the SPD, but sometimes it would be nice to ride in a dress shoe without the feeling of a steel-dipped Chicken Nugget pressing into the ball of my foot… What’s your perfect pedal set up?

Possibly my new best friends? I had pedal envy when I saw Elizabeth's SPD/platform combo in Chicago and my co-worker has some too!

Eva! Review: booq Mamba Laptop backpack

True love, Wall-E and Eva say happy V-day!

Hi everybody!  Anyone out there considering a commuter backpack?  Long time no review…  The PR peeps reppin booq hooked it up back in October of 2011 with this Eva look-alike, the Mamba Shift L.  Although it isn’t a bike commuter-specific backpack, my Trek one-strap messenger bag was in tatters and hardly capable of holding anything expensive like a laptop.  I decided to give it a shot, considering the Mamba Shift’s sleek and seemingly sturdy exterior.  Here are some fat stats about this futuristic laptop backpack:

booq: Mamba shift L

Lightweight, extremely functional backpack uses a clean and compact exterior design to conceal a plush and roomy interior

  • 1680 denier ballistic nylon exterior with water-repellant coating and interior water repellent ripstop lining
  • Diagonally overlapping interior accessory pockets, provide easy access to all your gear
  • Separate accessory zipper pouch to carry cables, external hard drive, etc.
  • Elastic pop-out iPhone pockets integrated into shoulder straps
  • Airmesh back padding increases comfort and allows heat to escape
  • Equipped with Terralinq service, helps reunite you with your lost bag (author note: I never registered my bag, but consider it a lost and found registration service!)

Available at: BooqBags.com and various retailers Stores.Booq.com

Price: $149.95 (13″-17″ Mac or PC)

Website: www.booqbags.com

The booq website actually has some detailed photo spreads showcasing the intricately designed layers of pockets, flaps, hook-and-loops, and zippers in this space-inspired design.  Eva came with me on our jaunt around Europe and is a great transitional bag from bike to plane to bike.  Let’s do a photo-battle throughout this review: mine vs. my Dad vs. theirs!

Mir.I.Am fotog skillllls:

401549_10100322509714805_1494835556_n

Typical contents of Eva the Mamba Shift on a commute to work. Lock and cable are left at work M-F.

LIKES:  I love the pockets in this backpack!  Orange interiors make it easy to find things (no blending into the black hole material like standard bags) and different sized layers make it easy to separate and store pens, computer stuff, takeout lunch, clothes, and baby pandas.  The key clip is detachable and near the top of the bag so you can easily find your bike lock key or key fob to your apartment (I heart this feature, hard).  I clipped my flat-pack water pouch onto it, antibacterial goop, USB keys, etc.  Also, the Mamba Shift backpack is slim at the bottom and carries most of the weight at the top, relieving some strain off your lower back while on the bike.  The profile is streamlined enough that is doesn’t interfere with looking over your shoulder while changing lanes for us mirrorless bike commuters.  The booq Mamba Shift has sturdy construction and can hold a half-size drawing set, a big plus for snarchitects like myself.  The laptop compartment is velvety smooth like the finest bathrobes you’d steal from a Singapore hotel!  You can store a full-size U-lock and cable for proper lockups in either the laptop compartment (without the laptop, duh) or in the main compartment, easily.  Lastly, the Eva-esque shape and color make it stand out from typical laptop bags and backpacks; the herringbone/tweed pattern of the material received several compliments from architects, bike commuters at stop lights, friends, and family.

Retired Asian Dad “skills”:

406407_10100322530722705_1035913201_n

Sand over black sweater: better than nothing for night riders. (identity of bike commuter has been obscured out of embarassment of Dad’s butt shots)

COULD BE BETTER:  Granted, the Mamba Shift is not a commuter-specific bag; this bag is NOT waterproof!  Water-resistant, maybe.  Waterproof enough for me, sure!  Reserve this bag for clear-weather commutes or days with puddles but no downpours.  The thick material did keep interiors dry on all but two days of extreme rain-pain on my commute (you can read about one of those days here).  Although a great protector of your laptop with ample padding all around the back, it can also get a bit warm like most backpacks do during a high-intensity bike ride!  My only major/minor gripe about this bag, was that if you like to carry bike water bottles on the side of your bag, or have more accessible pockets during your ride, no luck with the Mamba Shift: as the side pockets fit only flat objects.  (I did manage to shove a baguette in each side once, when the main compartment was rather empty – take note, Frenchies.)  And to wrap it up, this backpack takes a little breaking in, as it can be stiff like a TMNT half shell when you first get it, turtle power.

The pros at booq:

419348_10100322493567165_410570479_n

Not a bad fotog, of the awesome layers of orange pockets with Mac obsessed gear to boot!

WRAP IT UP!  Ok, to be nice to my Dad (wink) let’s call the photography contest a three-way tie.  My overall sentiments of the Mamba Shift after a four-month review: a compact bag with max protection for your laptop, an almost all-weather commuter companion, with space-age style, and a neatly organized space-age interiors.  If you’ve got a 150 bones to spare for maximum protection of your techie-gear and fair weathered commutes, the Mamba Shift a.k.a. Eva is right up your alley!

P.S. – booq, Vanya, Xootr Apparently I’ve been relegated to weird-named cyclicious product reviews!

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

Wimpy “Winter” Commute

Ok, so I didn't take this pic, but I'm not exaggerating, it was like this on Saturday.

Aloha from the downpour in Honolulu, my Bikey Commuters… Of course it is I, Mir.I.Am, with Diary of a Wimpy “Winter” Commuter hailing from my desk at work!  Today’s commute was an ill-prepared twist of fate for yours truly, as the sunny “winter” weekend kept everyone in bikinis and barbeques during the day, and under covers and blanket during the breezy eves.  All of those lunchtime ocean dips from yesterweek disappeared like the last Taco Bell Baja Chalupa at 2:56am on a Friday night.  Sneak-attack rainstorm hit me from all directions signaling the official end of the weekend on my morning commute today.  However, optimistic rainbow ponies had me convinced that a tank top, cardigan, and Vanya Chrome pants was all I needed for my commute AND my office attire for the day.  “Come along, pretty princess, rainbows and magic pony power will keep you dry on your way to work!”

The worst of Winter Woes in Honolulu - Pony Attack!

YOU’RE NOT MADE OF SUGAR – WHAT’S A LITTLE RAIN?  Since moving to Chinatown, my commute has been shortened from 25 miles RT down to 3 miles RT (don’t judge, peeps) keeping most rainy winter commutes to a short fifteen minute ride on my fenderless Bumblebee bike.  So, one can imagine my shrugging shoulders when I exited my apartment building stairwell in a tank top despite the light drizzle underway.  Nothing more than a Mr. Mister, so I grabbed my booq “Mamba” backpack (review in near future!) and clipped in… Two blocks later, I was caught in puddles and soggy socks!  What’s the rush? I thought, as I pulled over to clip on some front and rear lights and fully embraced the cyclist-in-a-wet-cardigan look and decided that the more drenched I arrived at work, the better!  And, to no one’s surprise, I arrived with everything drenched except for the spot on my back protected by my backpack… great way to start the week, boss.

BIKE COMMUTE OFFICE STASH:  Luckily for me, I keep a stock of clean (ish) and dry work clothes stashed at my desk at the offizle.  A quick dry towel usually reserved for aforementioned lunch time swims was helpful in toweling off my hair and wrapping my shoes and socks for a (fingers crossed) drier commute on the way home.  My Vanya pants  + no fender = Bikini change-O to solve our soggy bottom issues before throwing on a work dress.  A comb, a pair of heels, and some Witch Hazel for good measure made my wimpy winter commute nothing more than a pony’s daydream…  Tonight I’ll make sure to pack my reliable pink rain jacket for good measure!  Time to restock the office clothes pile to save me on some other day when I leave the apartment decaffeinated and less-than-prepared.  My wardrobe change and Cycle Lady bathroom arsenal debunks the myths that cycling to work is unprofessional.

Stay Dry, Bike Commuters, and enjoy your winter however warm, cold, wet, or windy it may be!  Take it slow, enjoy the ride, and ride on, my little ponies.  For some really BAMF articles on real, non-wimpy winter commutes, check out this snowy article by Elizabeth!

Last Chalupa Standing - Here's to you, all-weather Bike Commuters!

HBL Commuter 101 Class: Free-Dolla-I-Make-You-Holla!

Well Herro there, Bike Commuters!  Just a quick bloggy-blog announcement on an awesome free class this year put on by  Hawaii Bicycling League:  Commuter Cycling 101!   Know anyone who’s had their panties in a bunch, trying to get psyched up to ride your bike to work, school, or the grocery store, but low confidence on the streets is holding them back?  Hold on to your spandex, Oahu cyclists, because HBL is sponsoring free 2-hour courses that cover all the basics of cycling in traffic!  You could even win door prizes like a gift certificate to local bike shops – HOLLA!   What more could you ask for?  You could be getting PAID in bikey giftness while brushing up on commuter tips and rules of the road.  Also, all UH Manoa students will receive front and rear lights due to a generous sponsorship from the University (Thanks for the tip, Cycle Manoa).  Come on guys, (from previous comment I know there’s at least three Oahu readers out there) – the weather is nice all the time, so drag your roommates, kids, and better halves out for a weekend course!  For more information, dates, and sign ups, check out www.hbl.org/commutercycling101.  Or, read this:

Good 'Ol Frank teaching the Safe Cycling Course at IT&B

Do you like riding your bicycle? Want to bike commute to work or school, but scared to ride in traffic? Want someone to teach you how? Then join us for Commuter Cycling 101!

This free 2-hour bicycling course begins with coverage of safe cycling practices in a classroom setting, then moves onto a secured parking lot to practice riding drills, and finishes with a group ride through the UH area combining classroom knowledge and road skills traversing an urban environment. The course will cover topics including: your rights as a cyclist, rules of the road, equipment safety checks, lane positioning, and more. Classes are taught by League Certified Instructors of the League of American Bicyclists. Over 175 prizes totaling an excess of $2750 will be given away throughout the duration that the course*. All UH Manoa students will also receive free bicycle light sets. Giveaway sponsored by Island Triathlon and Bike, McCully Bicycle, Bikefactory, The Bike Shop, Boca Hawaii, and Eki Cyclery. Lights provided by UH Student Athletic Fee Committee. Funding provided by the Hawaii Bicycling League through a grant with the Hawaii Department of Transportation.

Cost: FREE!!!
Eligibility: Must be 18 years of age or older, class size limited to 12 students/class
Requirements: Must have a functional bicycle with front and rear brakes and a properly fitting helmet.
Time: 1PM – 3PM
Location: UH Manoa campus, Moore Hall room 119
Contactcommutercycling101@gmail.com
Download the Flyer

Ok, not really related, but I'm throwin' in the link to this article anyway.

Commuter Cycling 101 course Dates for 2012 the year of the dragon kick off this weekend and are hosted on weekends through April, check the website for details.

January

SAT Jan 21 SUN Jan 22
SAT Jan 28 SUN Jan 29