Category Archives: London

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…


The Beauty of Boris Bikes

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People have a lot to say about the Boris Bikes (London’s bike hire scheme nicknamed for the Mayor, in case you haven’t heard). They’re ugly and unwieldy, the stations are always empty or conversely too crowded, the hiring process is a nightmare, the bikes are in crap condition,  and it just goes on and on. And don’t even get the taxi drivers started on the dudes in suits who haven’t ridden a bike in years who just blindly skid off the sidewalks into traffic at inopportune moments – we did once and the diatribe lasted all the way across town.

And sure, all of those complaints are valid. But at the same time, the Boris bikes are beautiful. I love that you can have your best friends Rachel and Jessica fly into town from New York and Munich and you can all go riding in Hyde Park without arranging an expensive bike rental and they’re easy enough even if you haven’t ridden in a decade. I love how I can get a Boris bike one way to meet a friend at an Arcade Fire concert in the park, knowing that I will get really drunk on cider and will need to avoid a drunken bike trip of imminent death on the way home.  I enjoy the fact that, even though each time I get a Boris bike I have difficulties with renting or returning and end up wanting to kick the kiosk in annoyance, I end up commiserating with a stranger who offers advice or help of some kind.

And yes, even though the Boris bike feels like a lumbering granny station wagon in comparison to my agile and sprightly road bike Katniss, I kind of love it. I love that you’re forced to just cruise along and look at the scenery rather than put your head down and pedal away for speed – you have no choice but to sit straight up and enjoy all there is to offer in Hyde Park. Riding along on a Boris bike, you can see the flower gardens, the marching Queen’s cavalry, the angry geese along the Serpentine, the outdoor boot campers suffering through extreme pushup regimes, the small children on scooters, the frisbee and cricket players, the lounging drinkers and all the other people to see (and try not to run over) when navigating your way through the park.

And even though sometimes I get just as annoyed as the cabbies by that dude in the suit on a Boris bike with no helmet who pays no attention to the rules of the road, I also love him for making every car in London a little more aware of cyclists.  Bike hire programs, cycle schemes, whatever you want to call them, I think they’re brilliant for making cities more cycle-friendly. Or at least more cycle-aware.  The cabbies may not feel all that friendly, but now they know to look out for novice cyclists on unwieldy bikes. And in comparison – to the taxi drivers, I actually look like I know what I’m doing.  Way to go Boris bikes – not only do you make London look a little better, but you make me look good.


Even the Queen Likes Bikes

Bicycles at Buckingham Palace

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Cycle, Cycle, Pause.

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Every time I cycle over Waterloo Bridge, I feel lucky to live and bike in this city. Not only is the view spectacular, but I get to speed past the hordes of tourists usually flooding the sidewalks. Victory!