Category Archives: Beautiful and Useful

Pretty Bike Post 137

 

Nnnnnnnggghhh….. It’s so PRETTY!

 

 

 

 

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East London Bicycle Fun Times

Stopped by my favorite bar/cafe/bike workshop/event space/art & cool shit shop/bunting gone wild establishment yesterday…

Look Mum No Hands is located on Old Street back near my old hood, and it’s a truly excellent example of integrated boundary-smashing bicycle excitement. Check it out.

You can get your tires fixed while you sip a Square Mile coffee or drink a beer and eat quiche and peruse pretty bike greeting cards or read a bike book. Plus, as I may have mentioned, they have bunting.

I covet these posters by Dynamo Works, particularly the one all the way on the right: ‘It is the unknown around the corner that turns my wheels.’ 

If that wasn’t exciting enough, I’ll be heading back on Saturday to peruse and do my best to only buy one poster at ARTCRANK: a bicycle art party! I love it when people combine my favorite things.

Even better, passing by Look Mum on the way to a meeting, I spied a new bicycle shop next door! So I went by after lunch. Hello Bicycle Man!

I puttered around looking at the cycles and had a great chat with Omar, who runs the place. I think he’s the bicycle man, but perhaps there are several? Anyway, Omar sells really interesting Dutch bikes – not just ‘Dutch style’ but really innovative and well-designed bikes that hadn’t been offered in the UK yet. They’re not all to my taste, but there are some fascinating and very insightful little tweaks on a lot of the bikes.

For example….ever forgotten your lights? Or lugged around a heavy, cumbersome, and annoying lock? Well, you won’t have to anymore with these crazy VANMOOF bikes.

See that unusual top bar? It’s got FRONT AND BACK LIGHTS AND A LOCK embedded inside. Even better, the lights are solar powered, so they charge whenever the sun hits them and you can charge with a USB cord if it’s dark! That is some serious design thinking there.

The chain lock pulls out of the top of the bar and clicks back in on the side of the bar, as you might be able to tell below.

Also, I quite like their explanatory sticker about the bike weighing about as much as a small pig. I’m a fan of those small amusing human touches.

This bike is innovative in another way: what better way to deter a thief than having a massive serial number staring them in their face? It’s probably no more than a slight deterrent, but apparently one of the main problems with London bike crime is not so much recovering stolen bikes, but more the difficulty of reuniting them with their owners. Pretty hard to forget to write down and register your serial number when it’s welded in big numbers to your bike.

I liked this more typical Dutch bike – if I were going just based on looks, I’d buy one of these guys. 

Perfect for tootling around in a pretty dress and sticking a basket full of flowers and cheese and wine and a tall baguette on the back. Hmm. I see an exciting bike picnic approaching.

This next bike is the only German to intrude on the room of Dutchies – apparently it has a carbon fibre chain which doesn’t need grease or oil, doesn’t stretch, and only weighs about 200 grams.  Nimble doubts the veracity of this statement. What is certainly true is the egregiously expensive price tag. But even if it’s not to my taste or anywhere close to my budget, it’s an interesting innovation anyway.

So, Bicyle Man. I like it. Sadly, I’m not in the market for a new bike at the moment, but it’s nice to have it right next door to Look Mum for perusing pleasure. After all, just about the only thing Look Mum doesn’t do is actually sell bicycles.

Bye Look Mum and Bicycle Man! I’m dreaming of the day when I can run my own bar/cafe/everything bicycley and awesome shop. Until then…


Dressed for success

Look at this guy –

He means business. He’s a got a pen in his hand ready to take notes (on the back of his hands presumably, there’s no paper in sight), pouting lips and a clutter-free desk on which he’s sitting. It gives the meeting a more intimate vibe, and softens the blow when he tells you you’ve been made redundant. As you leave his office no longer in his employ you’ll reflect on his perfectly styled hair and shiny leather shoes and think to yourself, “I should have seen this coming when they replaced all our leather chairs with shitty plastic ones.”

What kind of monster is he? You’ve just lost your job and he’s not even shedding a tear. You’ll be homeless this time next week, your children dead in a month and you’ve already contracted the kind of disease only poor people get (scurvy, or maybe gout). He feels nothing. He’s a robot.

Or is he?

No way! When 5.30pm hits this guy transforms into Party Time Manager! Yeah!

The tie loosens (though the top button stays curiously fastened), the shoes transform into white tennis shoes and pow! From out of nowhere he unfolds his red Brompton and rides off to a train station safe in the knowledge that it’s perfectly acceptable to take this delicate folding bicycle onto any form of public transport.

Note the front flaps that button under the pockets. Note the reflective piping on the turned-back legs and sleeves. Note the extra buttons under the collar that probably do something but I can’t think what.

Shortlist tells us that this suit is currently available in Harvey Nichols for around £555. That seems stupidly cheap for a suit in Harvey Nichols, let alone a suit from the future, so that information is probably wrong.

I want this suit almost as much I want to punch this guy in the mouth. Well, not him, the douche composing the photograph. And him. Both of them. I want to punch both of them in the mouth.


Something beautiful

I’m sorry, I just can’t leave that sandal pic up there at the top of the page. Here’s something beautiful –


The Great Trouser Conundrum

Or, for our grammatically-challenged American brethren, “What pants, dude?”

I know, pants go inside your trousers. Don’t even start me on how they call every single item of clothing worn on your torso a shirt.

The answer I most often give to myself before setting out for ride, be it leisurely or transportational, is almost always my Swrve jeans. Look at them here. I have the very sexual grey jeans and also some black jeans that don’t appear to be listed any more. That, or their picture of their ‘black/blue???’ jeans is way off. Taking into consideration their inability to decide whether THEIR OWN JEANS are black or blue and also their continuing employment of the worst photographer ever, let’s assume it’s those jeans I have. Here is an example of a photograph on their site –

A couple of tips, Swrve. First, do not wear black trainers with blue jeans. Secondly, do not think that putting your belt buckle to the side makes you look more ‘street’. Thirdly, DO NOT WEAR BLACK TRAINERS WITH BLUE JEANS. Also, when selecting jeans for your model, do try to get the leg length right. Your jeans look shit all bunched up at the bottom and around the knee. I will allow you to tuck a grey t-shirt into your jeans on this one occasion, because I realise that you want to show us the detailing there and we know you don’t tuck a t-shirt into your jeans without excellent justification, but you really need sort your act out.

Fortunately for Swrve, I encountered these jeans in physical form in a shop in Boston about a year ago. They are most definitely amazing, and worth every penny. I pretty much live in them, and not because the higher waist line at the back or the reflective strip (which fades in the wash quite quickly). Mostly, I wear them for the smooth crotch area. I ride on a Brooks B17 Narrow and my saddle is now almost a perfect imprint of my posterior. I can definitely feel the seams in the crotch of my jeans, and Swrve jeans have nothing there. As an added benefit, they also give the jeans enough lateral freedom to allow me to kick somebody in the face even with quite a tight fit. That’s probably of less concern for you unless you also spent most of your youth training in Tae Kwon Do, but it’s nice to know that if you suddenly gained super powers you wouldn’t need to splash out on a new wardrobe immediately. They also claim to easily fit a small D-lock into the back pocket, but that is basically a bullshit feature. You could easily fit a small D-lock in the back pocket, but a thief could also easily break through a small D-lock, so why would you bother? Unless your ride is a cheap insurance waiting game that you’re hoping to have nicked I guess. I’m not interested in any combination of locks that doesn’t weigh more than my whole bike.

I really love the jeans and am definitely going to get their shirt soon, despite their best efforts to persuade me otherwise with photography like this –

I lolled.

Which leads me nicely to this.

There are no pictures, but Bike Snob NYC was sent them and was kind enough to post a picture –

I’ll be honest, they don’t look that great in this picture, but then as Swrve has so magnificently shown us, photography can often end terribly if you give the camera to a small child and ask them to take pictures of miserable people.

I’m semi-excited about these, but what I don’t understand is, if they’re going to copy the Swrve jeans so blatantly, why did they miss out the greatest thing they do, the crotch seam changes?

If people actually read this blog I guess I could persuade Levi’s to send me them so that I could mildly ridicule them for free, but as it stands I’ll have to wait till they come out before I can try them.


Always have a matching saddle and bartape

That’s a good basic rule to follow. Please feel free to ignore it when producing something as beautiful as this –

Look at it!

I was intending to write something longer, but I’m currently unbelievably angry with Shimano for daring to sell me a Nexus 8 hub that can’t withstand being in the rain. Oh no wait! Sorry! They sold me two. Which I think makes me stupid. I am in an excellent customer service process with SJS Cycles though, and hope to resolve it amicably. Pro tip! Don’t bother with the Nexus 8 hub, but the Alfine version is great because it’s built to withstand the rain.

Why would anyone build a sealed hub gear system that dies when you cycle it in the rain, you ask? And that’s why I’m angry. Happy post to follow later, I promise.


Sexy Bike Parking Is The New Black

An important part about incorporating cycling into your life is being able to protect your beloved bicycle no matter where you go. Part of that is on you – you need a good lock (or two) – but you also need the place you’re going to do their bit. Thankfully, London is pretty good about secure bike parking; there’s almost always a city-provided rack on this street corner or the next. It’s an aspect of biking that’s easy to forget about, but it’s absolutely key to making urban spaces bike-friendly beyond just bike lanes and cycle schemes.

So we’re agreed then. Cycle racks are essential. But just as I want cycling products like my helmet and bag to be stylish as well as functional, why not take bicycle parking beyond just safekeeping to be aesthetically pleasing as well?

Good thing some people are already on it. I love this PlantLock by the Front Yard Company – so useful and so lovely to attach your bike to a pretty planter full of flowers (assuming you have somewhat of a green thumb, unlike me). Here’s Katniss locked up at the Urban Physic Garden in Southwark where we’ve set up an ambulance cafe for the Rambling Restaurant.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if street corners were decorated with rows of PlantLocks rather than austere steel bars? You need a decent amount of space, of course, but it can beautify a concrete-filled urban space with a little bit of life and greenery so easily.

If you’re pressed for space, there are still ways you can keep your bike parking compact while adding a little fun and whimsy. I saw this bike rack in my hometown of Brookline, Massachusetts last time I went home:

Congrats to Brookline Bikes for getting those installed – it would be fantastic for more cities and towns to follow your lead.

I absolutely adore this car-shaped bike rack by Cyclehoop, which was actually installed for a week here in London. Not only does it provide lots of bike parking in a standout and amusing way, but it helps remind people just how much space is taken up by cars in most cities. Imagine how much more room there would be for walking and cycling and general movement and engagement if more people cycled instead of drove. 10 bikes per parking space!

I love that businesses like the Front Yard Company and Cyclehoop are helping to fill this need for secure and safe as well as sexy bike parking. It’s all about talented designers and engineers teaming up with city services and governments to make urban spaces more useful as well as more beautiful. Style + Function, again for the win.