Bike Messengers are real.
Before I ever moved to San Francisco I always read about how the bike infrastructure invites more “normal” people to bike, as opposed to the days when SF’s only bikers were the infamous bike messengers.
My perception of a bike messenger was based upon Puck from Real World Season 1. Bike messengers are crass, hardcore, pierced, tattooed and mostly made up characters in my mind. There aren’t real-life bike messengers around anymore, are there?
Since becoming a regular rider in the city, the concept of bike messengers was the last thing on my mind. I’ve been concerned with logistics, with routes, with bike upgrades, with rain.
Then yesterday I was leaving work. I had my bike rested on the sidewalk while putting on my helmet and getting ready to turn on my rear flashing light. There in front of me on the sidewalk a guy on a bike swooshed past me in a very elegant manner. He was holding a large paper-wrapped framed piece of artwork. He was holding this while biking. Biking quickly. Biking gracefully. I watched as he handed the package over to the valet attendant. That’s when I realized: this guy is a bike messenger!
As I rode away, I began to wonder how many people out on the roads of SF I ride alongside who aren’t just carrying home a big package from the store, but who are in fact bike messengers. What are the signs? Who are the guys out there hoofing it for a living, and who are the ones merely trying to make it home from work?
There is a certain charm to the idea that someone is out there getting paid to ride their bike for a living.
And then as I was almost home, exiting Golden Gate Park toward my neighborhood and I guy on a bike riding fast in traffic passed me. He was using a handheld radio to talk to someone. They’re real! I thought, and they’ve been biking around me this whole time.
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Sometimes it’s easy to internalize all the “oh my god, you rode your bike to work!” comments the wrong way. Sometimes when it’s very early and cold, and still dark out, it can be very easy to think to myself “I can’t do that terribly difficult thing this morning of riding 5 miles, mostly down hill to work. That seems like too much work at this hour.” So I don’t. I don’t ride my bike. I take the bus.
Now I’ve never been a morning person, but if there were a good reason, like rain, or bitter cold maybe I’d be more understanding of myself. But every afternoon when it’s time to go home, I find myself wishing that I could ride my bike home instead of the bus. I watch longingly at the bikers streaming past me on Market Street while I wait for my bus to show up. I see bikers pass by, riding faster than the bus can muster along. And I know I’m not out there with them because I was too tired and grumpy that morning.
As each successive morning comes and I don’t go out on my bike, it feels harder and harder to begin again. If only I could remember that all I have to do is sit on my butt and do something.
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I’ve been conducting an informal survey of local Rivendell owners.
I’ll be pedaling along, minding my own business. Then, out of the corner of my eye I’ll spot a shiny lugged steel joint.
Sometimes a shiny steel fender, or a fancy cloth saddlebag.
Then I catch a glimpse of the name as it passes me “Sam Hillborne“, “Atlantis” or sometimes maybe even “Betty Foy“. A grin flashes across my face as I peddle ever faster to keep up with this beautiful beast of a bike.
If I time it right, and my leg muscles are up for the challenge I find myself stopped at a red light next to the Rivendell owner. I usually ask some inane question like “Do you like your Rivendell?” Sure enough I’m usually greeted my a huge smile by the owner. The responses I’ve got so far include:
“It’s the best thing I ever bought.”
“I love it. It’s the best money I ever spent.”
“Do it, you won’t regret it.”
Of course, the last remark was in response to my explanation that I’d love to have one someday.
Someday I will…
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It was with great excitement the other week that I found this on my way home:
That is an almost completed parklet in front of Arizmendi Bakery
in my neighborhood. Since I moved to SF Arizmendi has been pushing to remove several parking spaces in front of their busy 9th Avenue bakery and turn them into public space
Their envision of this public space included places for people to sit, relax, and even a place to lock up your bike.
I’m used to things like this taking a VERY log time, and really never getting past the talking stage.
I hadn’t heard any updates recently until I came upon the in-progress parklet. As I stood outside the just closed bakery a gentlement came outside when he saw me taking pictures. He told me it was almost complete, they were just waiting on someone from the city to come and approve it.
Sure enough this was the scene that weekend:
I love this new space. It makes me love my neighborhood even more. I went on a bike ride to deliver my rent payment, stop at the library and the bank – then I got to end it here:
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I rode home from work today in the rain. This wasn’t the first time the rain surprised me while out on my bike, and it won’t be the last time.
Someday I’ll learn to watch the weather before my daily commute.
I’ve always heard all of the safety spiel regarding riding the rain:
- it takes longer to brake, so leave yourself room
- look out for the slippery stuff on the road: metal grates, wet leaves, etc.
- drivers may have a harder time seeing you, so be extra visible.
This thing is, I didn’t have an issue with any of those things. It was actually quite enjoyable. The cars gave me extra room, my bike handling skills showed their strengths and I had the bike lane all to myself as all the other bikers seemed to have stayed home.
A previous bike commute in the rain, before fenders.
I just need to figure out how to get to my destination in a presentable fashion. My fenders kept the road grime off of me, but I still ended up with sopping wet pants, rain all over my face and damp hair.
I’ve got some research ahead of me…
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The other day I took my bike out to a park I hadn’t visited yet: The Panhandle. I live nearby and had driven past it many times, yet I hadn’t taken my bike there yet.
It was beautiful outside.
I got the chance to utilize the easy and simple Hugo and Kezar bike paths.
It’s pretty nice to utilize properly implemented bike infrastructure. I can let my guard down and just enjoy my ride.
After riding through The Panhandle I rode into Golden Gate Park and stumbled upon John F. Kennedy Drive’s car-free street. Familys, friends, bikers, roller bladders and people of all walks of life were out enjoying the street and the park.
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Ah, Sea Otter Classic. Dubbed a “Celebration of Cycling”, held just a few hours drive south of my new city, I had to check it out.
Sunday, the final day of the weekend-long event, was Lady’s Day. Women, and it turns out – just about anybody, got in for free on Sunday. As long as you were with a female, or claimed to be – you got in for free as well.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect at an event like this. I’ve been to plenty of music festivals in my day, and I’ve been to plenty of trade shows, but never a bike festival/expo/race event.
There was a road race going on during the day. I could see the downhill mountain bike course up in the hills, but it didn’t seem to be being used on Sunday.
The expo area was rather exciting. Every bike brand, bike accessory brand or sort-kinda-could-be bike associated brand seemed to have a booth. And, as Sunday was the final day it became apparent rather quickly that if I showed genuine interest in something I’d be offered a discount or given something for free. No one wanted to ship back their product at the end of the day. I scored a few bike magazines, plenty of stickers, some Tri-flow, and was offered steep discounts on more items than I can remember.
Lizard Skins was offering a free on-site custom lock ring engraving option for their grips.
There was a demo area where you could bring a loaner bike to try out on some sad looking dirt jumps.
Interestingly enough there were two trends I saw repeatedly for new bike frames. Purple and neon green. Everyone seemed to be offering purple frames and neon green frames – and all the boys seemed to be riding them happily.
One of my favorite purple frames was from Deity Components.
- Absolutely Gorgeous.
A professionally groomed pump track was open to ride with the signing of a waiver form.
And, of course, there was the beer garden.
- Me, enjoying a sunny day at Sea Otter Classic
While hanging out at the beer garden this beauty caught my eye.
From a distance I couldn’t decide what bike this could be. A Civia perhaps? Once I got up to take a closer look and grab this photo I realized it was REI’s 2011 Novara Buzz! This was one of the bikes on my short list during my bike hunt. It was beyond beautiful. Then I realized that someone had upgraded almost every component and option on this bike. The saddle, the handlebars, the brakes, everything had been upgraded. I only wish I had gotten the chance to talk to the owner.
One of the most entertaining spots was the big air bag.
Kids lined up to ride up the ramp, practice their moves, and land on a giant inflated bag.
Some succeeded, and some needed a bit more practice.
All in all, the Sea Otter Classic made for a fun day surrounded by bikey people of all kinds.
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Just as I was beginning to give up hope on my bike search, I decided to do one more night of research on my laptop and visit one more bike shop.
My research consisted of skimming random “look at my bike” message board posts online or ecovelo gallery posts and then reading the comments to find one where someone would note that there was a similar bike model which was more inexpensive. Because while I love the Surlys, the Rivendells and the like, I wasn’t in the market for those this time around.
Somewhere along the line I ran into an old message board post from 2008 or so where a commuter posted about a new bike he bought. It was steel, it was rather simple looking and it was cheap. Off I went tracking down the current model year version to see if it had kept its values in tact. Sure enough, there it was, even better looking and right on the border line of my budget.
The 2011 Jamis Coda quickly moved to the top of my short list. After reading this blog post at Isolate Cyclist about the newest model I was pretty much sold.
I picked up the phone the next day and called each of the area Jamis dealers to see what was available in stock. I wanted to seal this deal and move on to riding my bike in my new city. No one had anything in stock until I got to the last dealer on the list, Sports Basement. They told me they had one in stock that would be built up within the week, but that I could come test ride the other Jamis bikes to confirm I wanted it until then.
So off I went, taking two buses and one train to get there. They had a few of each Coda model in stock, though no Coda Sports in my size. Of all the color combos, I think the Coda Sport is the best looking. The blue and white just pop. It’s a borderline girly color, but I love it. The branding of Jamis is rather obvious, but in the same vain of the Bianchi and Masi bikes that pull it off oh so well.
I looked at the Jamis Codas vs the Jamis Coda Sports, and I also confirmed the pricing. I could pick up a Coda Sport for less than the list price of the Coda. The main difference between the models is a carbon fiber fork. While, I’m not into the whole racing inspired-ness of the carbon fiber, I was into the lighter weight and potentially higher resale value down the road. I test rode the female version of the coda in my size, and then test rode a Coda in a size too small. Check out this post on Isolate Cyclist to see a friendly discussion regarding the merits of carbon fiber forks.
I put my name down to reserve the Jamis Coda Sport, and was told the wait would be about a week. On the way home I happened upon an old Jamis Coda locked up out on the sidewalk. I took it as a sign that I was getting the right bike.
Luckily, two days later I got the phone call telling me I could come pick up the bike! Off I went on those two buses and one train to make my way there. I test rode to confirm everything, they “finalized” the bike while I shopped for a helmet and then I was good to go!
Later that day I rode through Golden Gate Park, out to Ocean Beach, and up to the Sutro Baths. And I got to remember why I love riding all over again.
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Today I read Christian’s post over at Spoke Fiend regarding the new CB2 bicycles.
While Christian doesn’t beat around the bush as to his impression of the bikes, it does make me wonder. I think it comes back to that “toy quality” I kept finding during my bike hunt. Much like the Public bikes and the Daily City bikes, just because a bike has the correct features, the fenders, the racks, it doesn’t mean it’s the right bike.
I also have to wonder about the people who will buy these bikes. Will they learn to love the joy of a bicycle? Or, will they find the bike ill-fitting, too heavy and something to sell at the next yard sale?
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After my Public bike fallout I continued to search both online and around the city for the bike that would be mine. Public Bikes The one opinion I heard wasn’t enough to sway me from a Public Bike, but it was enough to make me question it all over again. I realized that there was something about the Public that felt more like a toy to me – a very nice toy – but a toy nonetheless. In the back of my mind I’d like to know that I could take my new bike on some S24O or the like and something about the Public bike made me question whether it would fit that bill. So I put the Public bike on hold, and continued my search. The Daily City I visited one local bike store that had me test ride a few bikes after I told them what I was looking for. They had me start with the Specialized Daily City bike. It was nice enough – but again, had that toy feeling to it. Plus it was super heavy. Raleigh Alysa Next they put me on a Raleigh Alysa bike. This bike was MUCH lighter, and it was nice to feel the difference between riding a heavy bike and riding a lighter bike. I liked the feel of the Alysa, but I liked the looks of the Daily. I left noting the pros and cons of each model, but still undecided. REI’s Buzz After some online research I headed out to my local REI to see if they had a 2011 Buzz in stock. This bike is part of the new REI Novara line that includes steel bikes. No luck there, though I did end up test riding a Novara Express XX bike. I really hated the look of this bike. It reminded me of when I was a kid and the girl’s version of a boy’s toy would be painted pink. Even back then I hated the concept and would choose the boy’s version. Aside from the looks, riding this bike was a different story. It felt great, it was light, it was fun. But I just couldn’t get over the look of the thing. For the price range of this bike I decided that I wasn’t going to pay that much to compromise. Though I would walk away knowing I liked a lighter, not overtly girly bike. Either I was closer to a decision or I was closer to giving up…
This is part two of a three part series. Subscribe to email updates or the RSS feed to make sure you don’t miss the next post.
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