Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Season of Surprises

Who would have guessed that three days after Christmas we would be riding our bikes in a record-breaking 66°F? A surprise gift for all to enjoy, so we left our coats, hats and gloves behind and took a quick trip around town with the warm winds from the south that are passing through. What a treat after weeks of rainy weather, below-freezing weather, and feeling under-the-weather. The best gifts don't need batteries.

A summer-like sunset in December

Starry Night

Christmas Corral

And who would have guessed that the Philadelphia Eagles would beat the Dallas Cowboys by a score of 44-6 to make it to the playoffs on the same day? A season of surprises, indeed!

BIKELites from BIKE Lite on Vimeo.
Happy New Year to all! See you next year!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Supermarket Park It


Okay, more than likely the riders of those six bikes were visiting the REI store to the right of the supermarket (as I was). Nearly every time I’m there, I see a bike or two parked outside, which is not surprising since the Schuylkill River Trail is nearby, but there isn’t a bike rack anywhere. This small shopping center got a makeover last year, but I guess nobody thought of adding a bike rack. Maybe I’ll ask someone at REI about it after the holidays when they have time to chat. Or maybe I’ll send an email since that worked wonders in my town. In the meantime, maybe Santa will leave that Playmobil bike rack in my stocking. It’s so small!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Everybody's Gone Smurfin'

“Bigger is better” has never been my motto. I’ve always been drawn to the smaller things in life, from toys to animals to cars to houses. So I guess it was only natural that the Smurfs captured my imagination when I first saw the figurines in a novelty shop in a beach resort town. A bunch of tiny blue people living in toadstool houses was right up my alley. I was a young teenager then, but couldn’t resist buying a few to keep on my dresser or bookshelf.

During one of our last trips to our favorite beach resort town this past summer, my daughter and I discovered a small (of course) boutique-style toy shop. It appeared to be a lovely little shop, but I never made it past the Smurf display just inside the door. There was a huge selection of Smurfs, and no one was surprised at the one I chose:

My daughter chose Smurfette and Baby Smurf.

As we left the shop, I commented on their lovely blue color and realized it was the same shade as our bikes. So I decided to name my bike Smurfy, and my daughter named hers Smurfette. My husband’s bike is black, so we christened it Gargamel, although he refuses to call it anything but “my bike”. Sadly, it was too late to go back and buy a little Gargamel for him.

I hope I never get too old to enjoy the little things. And I certainly hope I never get bigger.

Just a little more:
Here's a West Coast Smurfette (who inspired me to blog about mine).
Here's a Smurf saddle cover on Etsy to protect your saddle from the sun.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Rubber Stamp Redux

In my neverending search for all things bicycle, I found this lovely rubber stamp in my local A.C. Moore crafts store - a Dutch Gazelle bike complete with tulips in the basket and luggage on the rack. It's made by Inkadinkado, and they call it "Amsterdam Errands". I've used it to make a few birthday and thank you cards, sometimes with colored pencils to bring out the details.

Here's another bike design I found on the Inkadinkado website, with the simple name of "Bicycle":
Not nearly as charming as the Amsterdam model, but hey, those Dutch are a hard act to follow, aren't they?

(Don't forget to use your bicycle return address stamp on the envelope.)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Fashion forward / rewind

It seems The Gap hatched the idea of using bicycles to sell fashion long before this year's crop of bike-themed ads.

Of course, it's really the hip, young Hollywooders (Ashton Kutcher, Scarlett Johansson, Zooey Deschanel and Jay Hernandez) that are selling the fashion, but they sure make it look fun to ride a bike in normal clothes.
I'm not sure what year this commercial was made (possibly 2002, according to the YouTube comments), but this might be a good time for The Gap to dig it out of their archives and run it again. Reduce, reuse and recycle, especially in this economy.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Coming soon to a city near me - Jan Gehl

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Danish architect Jan Gehl will be in Philadelphia this Friday, December 5, with his presentation, "Public Spaces, Public Life". To see some of the improvements he has helped to make in the streets of New York City, watch this new interview with him from Streetfilms:

I especially like his "if you build it, they will come" theory on bicycle lanes. I wish the City of Philadelphia could hire his firm to work their magic here. But since the city is having a major budget crisis, I guess I can only hope that they send a few department heads (or maybe even the Mayor) to listen and pick up ideas for the future.
More clips from Streetfilms featuring Jan Gehl can be found here.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Start of a new season

Each year it seems more difficult to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday without the commercial side of Christmas pushing ahead in line. The “after Thanksgiving” sales turned into “before Thanksgiving” sales this year, which meant the advertising started even earlier. On November 1, the Halloween merchandise had been replaced by Christmas merchandise. We even received our first Christmas card in the mail on the day before Thanksgiving. I guess it’s the one ounce of rebellious nature in me that refuses to do any Christmas shopping until December 1. There is only one exception to this rule: charity shopping. Each year my two sisters and I participate in a program run by a local charity that matches us up with an underprivileged child in the Philadelphia area. We never meet the child but receive information such as their age, clothing size, favorite color/character/theme, and any particular needs and wants (a winter coat and a baby doll for our 3 year old girl). The idea is to make Christmas wishes come true for one child instead of just donating money and hoping it will help someone, somewhere. The assignments are given out in early November, and the gifts are due back to the charity during the first week of December. Each year, my daughter and I set aside a day to do the shopping for our “Christmas kid”, and each year she seems to enjoy and understand the concept more. She told me she will definitely participate in the program when she is old enough to have her own “Christmas kid”. But she also felt slightly guilty about impersonating Santa, though she felt he would understand. After all, these children wouldn’t be getting all those extra presents from their parents and relatives, so we have to make it look like Santa is giving them even more.
As I pulled up to the drop-off location on Monday afternoon, my eyes lit up as I saw three people rolling bikes up to the door. Inside was an even better sight:

I think there are 9 bikes here.

As I left the building, two more bikes passed me. This was only halfway into the day, and I know one of my sisters had two more bikes to deliver from other participants. I would love to know the final bike count. What a great way to start the Christmas season.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Little Detour

The weather gave us a break today – a mere two degrees below freezing for this morning’s roll in to school and a nearly normal 45F for the afternoon trip home. We decided to visit our duck friends in the park along the way home.

The Bridge on the River Quack

Cold Duck Time

Take it to the bridge

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The road ahead

The road ahead is looking smoother for bicycles in Philadelphia and the surrounding area, according to recent posts by the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. Here are a few highlights: (read more details on the BCGP blog)

  • Bicycling has increased by 104% since 2005 in Center City and West Philadelphia (location of the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University, among others), much faster than in previous years. The Coalition conducted bicycle counts at a number of major intersections and bridges and has released a report showing the results.

  • A whopping $31 million in funding has been committed to the Chester Valley Trail in the suburbs west of Philadelphia. This trail will eventually extend from Exton to Norristown, where it will connect with the wonderful Schuylkill River Trail leading to Philadelphia. More trails mean more bike commuting possibilities, in addition to recreation.

  • The esteemed Danish architect Jan Gehl will be giving his presentation, “Public Spaces, Public Life” in Philadelphia on December 5, 2008. He is an Urban Design Consultant and Professor of Urban Design at the School of Architecture in Copenhagen. I hope all the right ears will be in the room taking notes on how to “Copenhagenize” the Philadelphia area.

Thanks to the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia for keeping us informed and working hard for better bike facilities in the area.

Friday, November 21, 2008

It's a beautiful morning for a bike ride!

Don't you agree? My daughter didn't, unfortunately. I need to be more firm. Another chance of snow predicted for next week...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Good things come to those who bike

This is National Education Week, and our school has planned many activities involving the parents. There are opportunities to observe a lesson in your child’s classroom, or join them for a special event, such as today’s Thanksgiving Lunch in the cafeteria. With parents coming and going to school throughout the week, parking is scarce at all times of the day, not just the usual drop-off and pick-up times. Naturally, I chose to ride my bike to today’s lunch date. When you have a terrible habit of always running late, it doesn’t make sense to waste time looking for a parking spot and walking blocks to school when there is an empty bike rack waiting for you just outside the door. The ride to lunch was a special treat itself because a snow shower kicked up just as I got on my bike. The unseasonably cold weather has been hovering just above and below freezing all week, with winds adding an extra bite, but today was calm and the pedaling kept me warm. It was exhilarating to be on my bike, riding amidst the snowflakes, instead of sitting in my car watching them die on the windshield.

Dead snowflakes

The kids were disappointed that the snow had stopped during lunch, but as they went out for recess, the snowflakes magically reappeared. My daughter and her friends held their breath while trying to get a close look at the beautiful crystals on their coats and gloves.

Live snowflakes

They waved as I rode away from the playground, and I could tell my daughter regretted taking the bus today after arguing that it was “too cold to ride our bikes”. I think we’ll both be hoping for more snow tomorrow.

Monday, November 17, 2008

One more reason to ride

Studies have shown that riding a bicycle improves your mood. It can also improve a bad hair day. That has been my experience since rediscovering the bike this year, so I made it my little motto when I started this blog (see right side). Apparently Farrah Fawcett knew that 30 years ago (1978):

*Individual results may vary. Mine sure did.
*Be sure to check with your life insurance agent before starting any new hair treatment.
*Side effects may include, but are not limited to, frizz, flyaways, and a reduction in the use of hairdryers.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Fend For Yourself

It amazes me how few bikes are sold in the US with fenders (mudguards) included. Bikes with fenders used to be thought of as “nerdy” in this country where bikes are considered sports equipment. However, this attitude appears to be changing, most likely due to the vintage bicycle trend and the increase in commuting by bike. Have a look at these two beauties now offered by Fuji Bikes:

Men's Cambridge

Ladies' Cambridge

Notice the fenders – perhaps influenced by the Danish bike designer Sögreni? After riding a fenderless mountain bike for a few years, I was determined that my new bike would have fenders, yet the bike I ultimately chose did not come with fenders. By all accounts, SKS fenders are the best quality and easy to install, so I chose a pair in black and added them to my bike with no trouble. (Well, except for the fact that the stays extended past the wheels by about three inches, which meant I had to buy bolt cutters to chop off the excess.) I love the subtle stripes below the finish.

My daughter chose her bike, the Jamis Capri 24, for its curvy, retro style and its fenders.

What girl wants to arrive at school with a spatter stripe up her back? Not mine. She couldn’t wait to ride through her first puddle. Straight through it and – oh dear, back spatter! Seems the rear fender comes up short. Didn’t they test it?? She quickly learned to avoid puddles, although the fender did protect her from lightly wet roads. Even that protection didn’t last long, however. One day last month the rear fender fell off during our ride home from school. It had broken off like a soda can pull-tab through the hole where it was bolted to the frame.

Not too impressive after only 8 months of regular but careful use. I wrote to the customer service department on the manufacturer’s website, but so far haven’t had a reply after almost a month. Even less impressive. Moral of this story: If you want the job done right, do it yourself. I’m glad I did.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Rainy Day Remedy

Cloudy with a chance of showers? Don’t forget your shower cap! Even if you forget to put it on your seat before it rains, you can always put it on afterwards. No one likes a soggy bottom. And what a bargain they are – we bought a package of three different colors for about $3 at the pharmacy.

You can even wear one as a lovely rain beret!

If you are a “serious cyclist” (what are you doing here?!), feel free to buy a real seat cover in serious black (Sirius Black!) from REI for about $15.
Dry Ride Seat Cover

But if you prefer not to take life so seriously, spend your $15 on these three shower caps instead (only $5 each at

Raspberry Beret

Little Devil


And don't forget to wear your swim goggles!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Pride goes before a fall; the lawsuit follows it.

I arrived at my daughter’s school yard this afternoon to find her little circle of friends taking turns riding her bike around the basketball court. This wasn’t the first time for most of them – it had become almost routine back in the spring before school ended. But her bike is the next size larger than the bikes her friends own, so the demand still exists. My daughter was obviously proud that they were so anxious to take her beloved bike for a spin before she left. I was happy to see the girls smiling as they circled the court, gaining speed at each corner, hair streaming behind them… which reminded me that they weren’t wearing helmets (we stopped sharing the helmet after head lice enrolled in our school last year). Then it occurred to me that they were riding a bike slightly too large for them, without helmets. As the last girl hopped on and rode away, she informed us that she had never ridden a bike with only hand brakes. Visions of lawyers danced before my eyes, as I yelled after her to squeeze the brakes slowly to stop. She didn’t need my advice, however; after not quite turning the next corner, she side-swiped the chain link fence which brought her to a complete stop, laughing and unscathed. As we rode home, I lamented the loss of innocence of a simple childhood pleasure, trying out a friend’s new bike. Oh well, at least everyone had a turn, and no one got hurt, and we get to keep our house. Until next time, if there is one.
(You may notice there are no photos or names to accompany this post, since not all of the children involved were mine, and I can't risk being sued by another parent for putting their child on the internet. In fact, all characters in this post are fictitious; any resemblance to persons real or otherwise is entirely coincidental, etc., etc.)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Phil O'Lantern is all smiles this year.

Beware of the Headless Shadow!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008



Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Kick Start

Cold mornings call for hot coffee. I’m so happy that my favorite travel mug fits perfectly into my bottle cage.
The first bell I bought for my new bike was this coffee cup bell. It was tough deciding between coffee and tea. Maybe I should have picked the teapot, though; the coffee cup gave such a weak, decaf-like ding that I switched to the Mirrycle Incredibell, a real espresso-style bell – small but strong!
If you seriously want to mix drinking and driving (coffee and bikes, that is), check out this truly hyper-link: (Link courtesy of Trophy Bikes)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

"Roll" Models

After reading this post on Bikes and The City about a 72-year-old man riding his bike from Colorado to Texas, I remembered a magazine I had saved because of this inspirational photo:

From Liberty Sports Magazine, April 2008. Photo by Mark Gavin.

(City To Shore Bike MS is an annual charity ride from Philadelphia to Ocean City, New Jersey.)

And she did it in a dress.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Stretching the Summer

Another gorgeous weekend, another quick escape to our favorite beach town to cycle in the sun while it lasts. One reason we enjoy Ocean City so much is the newly created bike route that runs down the center of the long, narrow island in place of old railroad tracks. The bike route is a mix of shared road, segregated space between the road and sidewalk, and a separated bike/pedestrian path that runs alongside a bird sanctuary. The route begins at 9th Street and is marked by a sculpture of a racing cyclist, also the symbol of the bike route. (Strange choice, considering the route is mostly populated by families on beach cruisers and old beaters.) It ends at 34th Street, but you can continue your ride in the bike lane painted on the next street over and go all the way to 55th Street with very little interaction with cars. Ocean City was recently awarded an Honorable Mention in the Bicycle Friendly Communities competition by the League of American Bicyclists. Well deserved, I think.

Cruising the OC-1 from BIKE Lite on Vimeo.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Rubber Stamp Approval

For those of us who still keep one finger in the paper world, check out this custom return address rubber stamp, available from thepaperprincess at Etsy. On second thought, I guess even those who have completely left the postal system behind in favor of online bill paying, email greeting cards and such could still have a use for it – have it customized with your email address or blog! (I haven't ordered mine yet.)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Stealing Beauty

Sad but true, the sight of anyone riding a bike in this little suburb is relatively rare. So rare that my daughter and I play a kind of spotting game and shout, "Bike!" when we see one. A little less enthusiasm upon sighting riders wearing bike shorts, and much more when a briefcase or groceries are included (extremely rare). Usually, it's a teenage boy on a tiny bike that he never actually sits on, just does the one-legged-lean (note to self: get a photo).

So you can imagine the sensory overload I would experience if I ever had the good fortune to find myself in Amsterdam or Copenhagen amidst scenes like these:

The Green Wave in Copenhagen from Colville Andersen on Vimeo.

Oh, if only I could Amsterdamize or Copenhagenize my hometown...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sunday Satisfaction

Colder weather is headed our way for the next few days, so I made the most of this sunny Sunday by taking a rare solo ride to a historic section of town. The road that winds through this green valley is closed to traffic on Sundays from April to November so that pedestrians and cyclists can enjoy the smoothly paved hills and curves, explore the creek that runs alongside it, and visit the two old houses on the hill overlooking the creek.
Nitre Hall was built here around 1800.

Lawrence Log Cabin was built in 1710 on a site across town, but was moved here in 1961 in order to save it from demolition.

The sounds of nature drown out any nearby traffic noise.

This little paradise is only about a mile long, but is best enjoyed at a slow pace (except going downhill).

Riding Through Velvet Green from BIKE Lite on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

It's a shore thing

My family has owned a vacation home at the New Jersey shore for more than 30 years, so I've been fortunate to have spent every summer in a beach resort town since I was a child. Soon after my father bought the house, he bought each of his three daughters a new three-speed bike. In this small town, it was as good as handing us the keys to a brand new car – what freedom we suddenly had! We could ride our bikes to the beach, the boardwalk, the shops “downtown”, or just go for a ride to cool off by creating a breeze when there wasn’t any. A few years later, we used our bikes to go to our summer jobs at the amusement pier and movie theaters on the boardwalk. Fast forward through drivers license, real jobs, marriage, child – the bike was sold somewhere along the way in “the great garage cleanout”. It wasn’t until this summer that I once again enjoyed the freedom that a bike gives you at a crowded beach resort – no need to drive around looking for a parking space; no returning to a ticket on your windshield because your meter ran out of time; no sweltering car interior after sitting in the sun. I traded all that for quiet rides on the bike path beside the bird sanctuary, morning rides on the boardwalk with views of the sparkling ocean, and family rides to breakfast at the tiny airport diner.
Riding to the airport (click to see planes upper left)

Last weekend we decided to take advantage of the beautiful fall weather and drive to the New Jersey shore one last time (until next spring). Since it was only a day trip, we didn’t bring our bikes, but we made the most of our time by taking the scenic route along the coast from Atlantic City down to Cape May Point. Most of the resort towns were rather sleepy now that the tourists have left, but Cape May was full of bird-watchers since it is prime migration season, and Cape May is the biggest migration rest-stop for birds on the East Coast. The beautiful weather brought many people out on their bikes, and the racks along the beach were full.

I wonder if the owner of this pink bike stood out on the beach as much as her bike did in the rack.

I miss the shore already. Especially my flip flops.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Cover Models

Bicycles seem to pop up everywhere these days in all types of media. Copenhagenize is doing a great job keeping us updated on all of the international TV commercials featuring bikes. I was quite happy to see these three catalogs drop through our mail slot over the past few months. What caught my eye was that the bike props weren't being used to sell sports clothing or gear, just normal fashions and even handbags (Vera Bradley). Looks like even the catalog industry has been Copenhagenized!