“I’m new to Seattle. What kind of bike should I get?”

map_bicycles_1
A pretty and practical hand-built steed from M.A.P. bikes (mapbicycles.com)

This is one of many recurring questions we hear at the shop. It’s a great question because for our terrain and weather, I do think some bike features make more sense than others. Below are my top 3 picks for what to look for.*

1. Eyelets. What are eyelets? Is that a technical term?? What I call eyelets are those little holes near a bike’s dropouts. What’s a dropout? Dropouts are the slots that your wheel hubs fit into at the base of the front fork and rear seat stays. What’s a seat stay? Okay, this could go on for awhile. Maybe a picture would help:

rear dropout arrows
Rear dropout eyelets. Click for larger image.

The arrows point to the eyelets, which are threaded so that you can screw on a rack and fenders. And that’s why I think eyelets are so great: they let you add those two very helpful accessories to your bike.

rack transforms your bike from a toy to a tool by allowing you to carry stuff in panniers, baskets, or, like me, a wooden crate. Without a rack, you have to schlep all your belongings on your back. Fine for some, but I’d rather let the bike do the work.

Fenders are kind of a no-brainer for our rainy city. Without them, any ride results in a stripe of water (not to mention oil from the road) up your back as it all splashes from your tires. With fenders, puddles become the fun splash targets you remember from your childhood.

2. Wide(r) tires. Many bikes in our athletic town cater to the road bike enthusiast. These bikes are made to go fast, and often for long distances. If that’s the kind of riding you’re looking to do, then great! But if you’ll mostly be doing short trips around town, then chances are you’ll be happier and more comfortable with a bike with tires that are wider than skinny road bike tires.

fat tires
Hm. Maybe not that wide.

Why? Plump tires require less air pressure, making them more cushiony on bumpy streets and less prone to flats. By contrast, a skinny tire has to be inflated to higher pressures, which means you’ll feel all those bumps more acutely. (More in-depth comparisons here and here from Seattle blog Off the Beaten Path).

The general consensus is that skinny tires are essential for road racing due to weight savings, but if you’re not racing, why not go with more comfort?

3. Flat or upright handlebars. This one might cause some debate. What you typically see on road bikes are drop bars, like these:

drop barsThese handlebars have multiple places where you can put your hands: just behind the brake hoods for most of the time; in the middle near the stem for more relaxed riding; or down on the bottom, in the “drops,” for when you need more torque, like when you’re climbing a hill or aggressively overtaking the leader of the peloton. Like skinny tires, these bars make great sense for road riding or racing, but for around town, well… I think they’re a little superfluous.

I swapped out my drop bars several years ago for ones like these:

north-road-bars
Photo credit: Eco Velo (ecovelo.info)

The higher position of the handles allows me to sit a little more upright, which is more comfortable for me than the forward leaning posture often demanded by drop bars. But I’m not so upright that I can’t get leverage for climbing Seattle’s hills. Really! So rather than several options for where to put my hands, I have one hand position that is generally comfortable for all my urban biking. It’s nice having one less thing to think about.

The experts reading this will point out that stem height, stem angle, seatpost height, and many other factors will affect how upright one’s posture will be when riding, and that it’s totally possible to achieve a more comfortable posture with drop bars. But your friendly bike shop will help you with all of that. I’m just making the case that upright bars can be all you need for short trips around the city.

Photo credit: Eco Velo (ecovelo.info)
Here are some bikes with all the features I mentioned. Pretty! Photo credit: Eco Velo (ecovelo.info)

So if you’re thinking about buying a bike for commuting through Seattle, I hope this gives you some ideas for what features to look for, or at least helps you think about what’s practical for your ride through our hilly, sometimes drizzly, but wonderful city.

What do you think makes for a great Seattle bike? Feel free to comment below.

*Disclaimer: We are not bike experts. We love bikes and know what works for us personally, but we don’t know about optimal frame geometry or tube tensile strength or other technical whiz-bangery (not a real term). For that level of expertise, you’ll want to ask any of the stellar bike shops we’re fortunate to have in this city. These are simply my anecdotal thoughts on what makes a great Seattle bike. 

Telaio beautifully featured on photo blog

 

Katharine.Telaio-113If you’ve ever been to the shop on Mondays, you’ve probably met Katharine, founder and owner of Telaio Clothing in Ballard. Katharine has been making beautiful wool cycling trousers, dresses, and other apparel by hand for Hub and Bespoke customers since 2010.

Katharine and Telaio were recently the subject of a beautiful feature on Drift Journal,  a photography driven blog that highlights thoughtfully crafted goods and the talented people behind them. We were thrilled that Katharine received this well-deserved spotlight!

You can see the feature here. I think the photos, taken by Seattle’s Sparkfly Photography, are terrific. Here’s a sample:

 

Bike and Pike Open House Feb 22nd

Rodriguez Phinney Ridge
One of several prizes to be raffled at the Bike and Pike Open House.

This sounds like fun! The event page on R+E’s website invites you to join this open house for “pizza, coffee, beer, [and] bicycles.” Add to that list a benefit raffle with nice prizes (including the commuter frame pictured above), local bike’y vendors, and the inimitable Willie Weir, and you’ve got a recipe for a great event. Admission is free!

This coming Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at R+E Cycles. More info here.

Chinese photographer captures everyday riders on invisible bikes

zhaohua-sen-1
Click the photo to see the others in the series.

You may have seen this photo series already since it first bounced around the blogosphere a couple years ago. But it’s new to us and we thought it was cool so we’re sharing in case you missed it, too.

Zhou HuaSen is a Chinese photographer who created this series of people floating on “invisible,” i.e. digitally removed, bicycles. The effect is neat for the everyday commuters he captured, but we wondered if it would also be interesting to show other types of riders without their wheels. Like racers–would they look cool? silly? Maybe that depends on the lens through which you view bicycle riding. (Sorry.)

Interesting note on crediting sources: We originally saw the photo series on one of the many blogs that posted about it, but it took some digging to find the original blogger, especially since somewhere along the way people started misspelling the photographer’s name (as Zhaohua Sen). Our best guess for the originator is this post by My Modern Met where you can see the rest of the images, but if we’re wrong, feel free to correct us. Also, here’s the closest thing to a bio page we found for the photographer himself.

 

Top 10 “Hey, did you see this?” bike innovations people sent us this year

People often send us links to bike-related products, companies, or Kickstarter campaigns that catch their eye. Sometimes we’ll get the same referral from many people, creating a natural filter for the most noteworthy innovations.

Below are the creations that were forwarded to us most often this year. Some hit the scene earlier than 2013 (like this one), but it seemed like this year was when they really landed in people’s consciousness. Or at least their inboxes.

Click any photo below to learn more.

Holiday boat parade. Not in Seattle, but kinda looks like Fremont, right?

Bike ride to Ballard locks to watch parade of holiday boats

Save the date: On December 17th, we’re taking a holiday bike ride! We’ll meet at the shop and then ride to the Ballard Locks to watch the Argosy Christmas Ship Festival, a parade of light-bedecked ships and sailboats. Some of the vessels will feature carolers aided by sound systems, so you won’t miss a note of Jingle Bells.

The Plan:
- Meet at the shop at 7 p.m.
- Leave at 7:30 by bike caravan parade(?!) via the Burke-Gilman Trail
- Arrive at 7:50 at Ballard Locks
- Carolers perform at 8:10 p.m.

Bring a mug. We’ll make a batch of hot cider at the shop. Fill up your mug to keep you warm during the show.

Festivize your ride! Wouldn’t it be cool for the people on holiday boats to look out and see a bunch of holiday bikes?? The answer is yes.

Feel free to invite your friends. See you then!

Holiday boat parade. Not in Seattle, but kinda looks like Fremont, right?
Holiday boat parade. Not in Seattle, but kinda looks like Fremont, right?

Bike Your Style

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