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Panties in a Twist… Just Not Comfortable Biking!

Have you ever been in a situation that was so ENTIRELY awkward, uncomfortable, and near puke-inducing that the only way to get out of there fast enough would be to go back in time and put yourself in a sleeper-hold!?  I have.  As my train of thought is more like a train wreck on an acid trip than a linear thought process, I ask that the lovely and becoming Bike Commuters readers bear with me… I promise journey will end with bikes abounding!

This photo is a carrot to keep you reading on...

Ultimate Fail: The other day I decided to try to be a supportive co-worker by joining my colleague (let’s call him “Bloop” for the sake of anonymity) after work in his sport of choice: ULTIMATE. FRISBEE.  Bloop is a new co-worker at the office who bikes to work (he has single-handedly dismantled our 100% female bike commuters record) and is as enthusiastic about playing some Disc as I am about riding some Bike.  Bloop teaches a beginner workshop on how to play Ultimate at the Ala Moana Beach park only 5 minutes away from the office by bike.  Let’s all recap that I am anti-sports involving balls, equipment, and coordination of handling said balls or equipment.  I generally abstain from flying discs and balls but decided to make an exception.

I roll up to this beyotch (Macedonian pronunciation of “beach”) and see 30-40 people in cut-off tanks running, chasing, discing, throwing, and yelling simultaneously.  No noodley-floppy, dorktastic, non-disculated newbies eating shit and listfully prancing in the sunset like I had envisioned.  I frantically scan for Bloop who is sitting on the sidelines waiting to “sub in”.  Well shoot me in the faccia (Italian for “face”)!  I had shown up on Hardcore Pick-Up Ultimate Frisbee Day instead of Newbie What’s a Frisbee? Day.  Before me, the spartan kings of all unconventional, hippie, drunken-athlete sports were tearing it up on the beyotch.  Bloop insisted that this was “really no big deal, and nobody cares if you suck! It’s all just for fun!”  RIIIIIGHT.  I attempted to throw and catch some disc with Bloop for a solid minute (backhand, forehand, WTF??!!!) and then almost vomited on myself right before I grabbed the Xootie, hurriedly shouted goodbye and rode home.  Panties in full twist, I had to stand on the pedals the whole way back…  In a panic, I then plunged head first into the jacuzzi for an Ultimate cleansing, figuring the high temps would kill off the awkward germs.

Faccia is Italian for Face.

Back to Bikes: There are some individuals I know who will again remain nameless (for the sake of this article, let’s call them “Lumps”) who must feel the same way about cycling!  One of my aunties is a self-proclaimed Lump: she attended UC Davis in the 70s and wanted to fit in with all the bikey college students.  Auntie Lump was so uncomfortable with the act of cycling that she bought a bike just to walk around campus with it everyday!  Other Lumps tell me all the time, “No way in HELL I’d get on a bike… I haven’t been on one of those contraptions since my abacus broke!”  Some people have no desire to try, claiming phobia of two-wheeled objects, that pedaling gives them carpul tunnel, or taintal allergies keep them from perching their sensitive bums on bicycle saddles for longer than 5 seconds.

To me, and many bike commuters, riding a bike may have been a bit uncomfortable at first… the first time I used hand brakes instead of coaster brakes, road drops instead of flat bars, or clippie shoes have all put my bike shorts in a temporary twist at one point in time.  But eventually we come around.  I honestly have ZERO desire to ever come around to Ultimate Frisbee, or doing something weird with a “disc” that they call a Land Shark.  Are there Lumps out there with equivalent sentiments towards bike commuting?  You guys must know a few…  In the Lands of Nether, biking is an everyday means of transportation.  If that’s the case then maybe Tron is the the land where Disc is an everyday means of beating the living crap out of your enemies.

Anyway, thanks for sticking with it, Bike Commuters.  For those of you who made it to the end of this crack party ride, I leave you with some images from my Bike P0Rn presentation last summer.  Thanks to the readers who contributed their photos!

Me likey your Bikey!

Review: My Xootr and Me! Xootr Swift

Ooh, the Xootie is lookin muy caliente with this Glamour Shots photo filter!

Hola Bike Commuters!  The Xootr Swift and me, (or as I refer to him as the “Xootie” because it rhymes with “cootie”) and I go way back: to August of 2011!  Xootie arrived at my sister’s place in L.A. by ground shipping in a shorter than average cardboard companion.  Just in time to liberate me from the four-wheeled nonsense of my vehicluar-obsessed family in L.A.  Digression: Last year, they insisted that they drive me seven blocks from Grandma’s house in Santa Monica to Auntie’s house in Santa Monica. I took my jugular hostage with a plastic Taco Bell spork in order to escape a 3-minute trip in an oversized SUV driven by my crazy half blind aunt and took off on the Xootie.

Okay, back to the REVIEW: So what does Xootr have to say about the Swift?  For a company that usually makes scooters, I was impressed!  For $749, you get a good commuter bang for your buck.   Here is the obligatory spec list with bullet-points, because they do it better than I can on the website:

Xootr Swift Fold Bicycle Features

  • A folder that rides just like a regular bike
  • Nearly all parts are industry standard…no weird and incompatible stuff.
  • One of the lightest folders out there (25lbs.)
  • Ready to go out of the box. We’ve made the hard choices for you.
  • Super stable, rigid TrusFold frame system
  • Available as either an 8 speed or single speed (black only)Note:Single speed version is sold out.

Some things I’d like to +1 include extra-sturdy frame, solid as a rock!  As the seat post is the pin that locks the rigid frame, it’s a larger diameter than normal.  So, I often locked it with a cable knowing that if some lolo decided to steal it, I’d be SOL.  Another +1 for the fact that it has similar geometry to a “regular” bike with full-size wheels.  Even though it has 20″ wheels, it doesn’t feel crunchy or cramped up like you’d think.  In fact, here’s a craptastic photo of the Xootr next to my Bumblebee Scott road-monster at home:

Due to lack of photo-taking skills, I had to edit in pink. Handlebars and seat height real close to the road bike set up.

Also, in as well as, in addition to, the Xootr Swift folding bike proved a worthy travel companion, as I have stuffed him into everything except the overhead compartment for carry-ons: the back of a Toyota Corolla trunk, large rolly wheeled suitcases, under the tables at a booth in a craft fair, the back of an eight-passenger State vehicle, tiny apartment elevators, and a dingo.  The trick with this folder is that the seat post acts as the locking mechanism for the bike, making it as easy to collapse as fainting baby goats.  The handle bars also have a quick release pin making the bike even midgier for the back of my co-worker’s Subaru.

No need to fold down the seats with this spectacular Xootie nugget!

The Xootie Swift has been tons of fun around town!  I’ve used it for every commute day and even lent it to a visiting friend (who complainted of taintal discomfort, but I blame that more on a weak sack than the engineering of the bike).  With it’s BMX-sized “bulletproof” wheels, it is a whippy mo-fo.  I’ve casually bunny hopped some spam musubis and quickly detoured from road to sidewalk to bike path in order to avoid traffic congestion during rush hour.  With the 8-speeds it’s golden for cruising on errands or commutes up to 12 miles and taking Diamondhead uphill! Hook me up with an easy gear ratio any day: I’ve got nothing to prove!

Curbs or Spam musubis, nothing stands in the way of Xootie Swift's BMX wheels.

I have had all kinds of comments shouted to me in downtown while waiting at lights or turning corners, “Nice blue on your bike” or “Cute, your bike!” or “Fancy bike, where’d you get dat?”  Confessional Digression: I have grown fond of the Xootie, but due to it’s small size  I felt like a clown on the way to a kid’s brthday party at Chuck-E-Cheese the first couple of weeks. I have always wanted to commute on a folding bike but never had a small enough apartment that it didn’t make sense to get the big kid wheels for the same price.  I’d been eyeballing origami cheap $200 single speed or 3-speed suckers since the original purchase of the Kona Dew back in 2007.  Claiming no technical expertise on the subject of bikes but lightyears of experience in good old-fashioned bikey fun, I was won over by the Xootie as it’s a mini-wheels are nostalgic of childhood, and it’s a very practical commuter choice.  Oh, the SHAME.  It’s like hanging out with my dorky little brother who is actually a lot of fun and more like me than I’d like to admit.

Spark Notes: The Xootr Swift comes in S,M,L and XL sizes, and looks more like a scooter than a bike.  Surprisingly, it’s a quick commuter considering the size of the wheels.  Eight speeds makes tackling hills a no brainer! Three months of commuting through Chinatown, with it’s streets shimmering with crushed glass vials, and no flats is a good sign for the stock tires!  I give it five thumbs up for portability, easy to fold, assemble, and carry, flashy blue color, and whippy maneuverability like Willow Smith.  I give it one big toe down for initial dork factor of riding a bike that looks like a scooter, and grip-shifters (yucky to fix when they get stuck!).  If you like rooting for the underdog, go for the Xootr Swift!  For a more tech-savvy review, check out this one from Velo Bike Parts in October 2011.

Xootie in the sky with diamonds.

Us V. Them – More Aloha, Please!

APEC protesters and HPD Bike Officers side by side, by Matt Ursua

With all the animosity between Bike Commuters, Rollerbladers, Mopeds, Pedestrians, Car, Trucks, Buses, and Trolleys encountered on my daily commutes, I’m surprised that others haven’t realized how far a little Aloha can go!  In past weeks, presidents galore have been abounding in Honolulu, clogging up the streets, protesting, making front-page headlines, and creating extensive roadblocks in Waikiki and Ko’Olina thanks to APEC (Asian Pacific Economic Craziness).  Here are some tips for the world citizens to help keep their sanity in traffic: Ride Aloha, Live Aloha! 

Thanks for the photo, Kate B! I had the same one on my BMX, but it cracked and died.

1.  Bike V. Pedestrian –  Cyclists, a bell or a shout out is helpful here.  If you start getting bike path rage along Ala Moana beach park, consider RL’s advice and take it slow…  If auditory warnings are being blocked by impenetrable headphones and Lady Gaga earwaves, wait for a large enough opening and zip past without giving them the finger!  Pedestrians, “on your left” does not mean jump direcly in front of the bike.  Just one-two step to the right to allow the cyclist to pass you on the path!  Courtesy shaka as you pass for good measure! 

2.  Bike V. Car – I’m going to share my all-time favorite bike commuter Aloha move  that seems to put traffic-angsty drivers at ease.  It’s like a Bike Side-Step.  So you’re riding in the right lane (I like to ride aligned with the back right tire of cars, a tip I LGRAB’ed from Dottie) and you come to a stop at a red light.  You are first on the line with cars behind you.  I turn around, do some attmpeted sign language to determine if the driver wants to turn right (blinker, what’s a blinker in Honolulu?) and then move over to the left side of the lane to allow the car to pass.  Wave and smile to encourage the driver to pass through…  Even if they cannot make the right turn before the light turns green, this move is like when your grandma gives you candy in church – an unexpected surprise that makes church tolerable and makes you adore your grandma!  Strangely enough, my grandma was diabetic and I had ADHD, so I’m not sure if it was a good idea for everyone else, but I thought it was awesome.

Who drew these cheesey cartoons!!? Will they draw one for me of the Bike Side-Step?!

3.  Bike V. Bus:  Some people tell me horror stories of drivers of TheBus in Honolulu, how they intentionally persecute cyclists up hills, or honk and scare the living sh*t out of you when they zoom past.    Some people tell me stories about a-hole cyclists who almost ran them over on the sidewalk as they stepped off the bus.  Well, Some People, have I got news for you: some cyclists are a-holes, and some bus drivers are a-holes.    Major Digression/Minor Rant:  I don’t think I am an a-hole cyclist, so don’t tell me this story expecting apologies.  Similarly, I would not tell stories about terror-children on 8-hour international flights to my friends with kids expecting airline vouchers.  So, lovely Bike Commuters, consider several options to deal with the Bike V. Bus scenario.  I often avoid streets laden with bus thoroughfares and opt for the back roads.  Or, you can just slow down a bit to avoid bus-frogging all the way to your destination.  As for the honking, this can’t be avoided!  Apparently it is a local rule that buses honk twice to alert cyclists that they are passing.  Hold on to your spandex for that one, Honolulu commuters, HBL already asked the Dept. of Transit to delete that rule from the training book when we met with the cartoon mayor… TO NO AVAIL!

Or we could just make a bike bus....

I had a great ride in today, where I stopped (yes I stopped, and put down my goofy foot) at the last 4-way stop intersection before my office.  There was one car and one truck, and they both gave me extra Aloha and let me cruise through first, waving me on by.  Thanks lady in the big silver pick-up, I will remember you the next time I feel like flipping the bird at some a-hole driver.  A little goes a long way!  No reason for road rage when we only have first-world traffic jams!  I don’t think I could ever go back to the motherland:

Beijing 2010: longest traffic jam ever on the way to grand opening of City Wok!

Bike Share in Fwance – “But I am Le Tired!”

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?

Honolulu Century Ride Approaches: Heat stroke anyone?

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!