Covet: 2011 Via Line From Giant

After countless years producing quality road, mountain and hybrid bicycles, Giant has entered into the upright city bike market for 2011. A unique steel diamond frame with twin top tubes that curve at the seat tube to form seat stays on the “men’s” version work to create a very distinct look (see below). On the higher-end models, the Via 1 and Via 1 W pictured here, you’ll get 3 speed Shimano Nexus internal gear hubs as well as fenders and either a rear or front rack.

The Giant web site suggests that the low end of the Via line will retail for $399 and the high end tops off at just $599 making these both functional and affordable.

Learn more about the Giant Via line of bicycles at the Giant web site or contact your local Giant dealer.

Giant Via 1 silver photo via Bikes For The Rest Of Us other photos via the Giant web site.

Recent Upgrade to Nexus Redline 8-Speed Hub

By the spring of 2009 I had given up my car and believed that it was simply going to take me 2 hours, each way, to get to work and back by transit. To me, there was no other way.

When I purchased a Marin Hamilton 29er I thought I’d found a simple, sturdy bike that would take me to and from my girlfriend’s apartment on the other side of town. After spending 4 hours of my day on transit, taking another trip by subway and streetcar was of no interest to me, so why not bike I said. Turns out the answer to that question would open up a much larger world for me. I found an escape from the restricting timetable of transit and I found a new obsession.

After many thousand kilometres the easy-going singlespeed setup of my Marin took me to work and back and recently, on 100+ km rides to my hometown. Now that I work from home my commute needs have changed. My Marin is now my one and only piece of exercise equipment (but you’re more than a ThighMaster to me, bike). My commute is as long as I want it to be as I search for new mobile offices around Toronto, hopefully spending part of my day in a warm space with tasty espresso and wifi. You see, I simply couldn’t give up commuting, that’s how much I loved my morning and evening rides to and from the office.

As I started to venture further and further from the city on my weekend rides I began to feel limited by a singlespeed. Just one more gear option could come in handy on longer climbs or descents. So I began searching for options and with 70+ bicycle shops in Toronto, well the options were plenty.

I test rode touring bikes, road bikes, cyclocrossers and everything in between. I tried out every frame material I could and started to enjoy the feel of drop bars. There are hundreds of beautiful, functional and simply awesome bicycles to be found here in town. Of course, many of the bikes that offered a better frame and components than my existing bicycle cost $1,000+, which when you’re looking for quality is certainly reasonable, but when you’re working on a budget like mine, well, they quickly become out of reach.

Knowing that I really enjoy the ride and position of the Marin Hamilton 29er I started looking at conversion options. With horizontal, rear-facing dropouts the Marin frame would make adding a derailleur challenging (though not impossible) so I began reading about internally geared hubs and the leading manufacturers; Sturmey Archer, Rohloff and Shimano.

With horizontal dropouts, accommodating one of these hubs on the Marin would be relatively simple. So I decided upon the Shimano Nexus Redline 8-speed hub due to the positive reviews online and middle of the road pricing. I paired the hub with a Mavic A 319 rim and chose a Shimano twist shifter.

After one week and a couple hundred kilometres I’m really enjoying the gearing options of the 8-speed hub. Being so used to a singlespeed I find myself sticking to just a few of the gearings, often forgetting that I can switch to higher or lower gears. However, when I do remember the options make the few hills on my daily rides far more enjoyable, both riding up and down.

I took the Marin out for a 35 km rain ride recently and the hub performed flawlessly. Once dry there was no change in performance as well. The hub does add around 3 lbs of weight to the rear of the bike. It is noticeable but doesn’t affect the ride.

I offer many thanks to Martin at Hoopdriver who helped me decide on what parts I’d get and for doing a great job on the installation.

You can learn more about Shimano Nexus parts here.

Be sure to visit the Hoopdriver web site or stop by the shop on College just east of Dufferin.

Don’t Call it a Girl’s Bike

Just because your bicycle has a sloping top tube doesn’t mean you have to call it a “girl’s bike.” That slope can make it easier to cycle modestly while wearing a dress, sure, but it also comes in handy once you start carrying any sort of cargo on your bicycle.

Adding cargo adds weight to your bicycle and the “step-through” frame design makes it easier for you to balance your packages or children while mounting and dismounting your bike.

Here are just a few “step-through” bicycles for women and men that can help you carry your cargo and avoid the delicate dance of getting on and off your bike:

The above Linus Mixte comes with a rear rack ready for you to strap a basket to, available at Bikes on Wheels.

The Globe Live 1 Mixte will stand out in the crowd, if not for the bright red colour but also because it comes stock with a huge front rack, available at Urbane Cyclist.

While the Dutch may call this design by Electra an “omafiets” (literally, grandma’s bike) both men and women have benefited for years from this easy to step through design. Available at The Cycle Shoppe.

When it comes to really maximizing your cargo carrying capacity, the Kona Ute certainly stretches the limits. Available at Sweet Pete’s.

And that’s not all… you’ll find even more sloping step-throughs at Curbside Cycle who carry models from Batavus, Pashley and Abici.

Mark Ronson’s The Bike Song (featuring Kyle Falconer and Spankrock)

This video has the same feel as those 1980s Sesame Street shorts that explored how stuff is made. Fun song and a fun “cycle chic” video.

Via Creativity-online

John McEnroe, Rage Against the Machine and Hans Rey: Wheels4Life

About Wheels4Life:

Wheels4Life is a non-profit charity (501c(3)), that provides free bicycles for people in need of transportation in Third World countries. We partner with local individuals, organizations and other groups to help us identify persons who sincerely need a bike to be able to go to school or to work. Often these people live in very primitive and remote areas with no access or means to public transportation. The closest school, doctor or work-place might be 10 or 20 miles away. Having a bike can make all the difference in somebody’s life and can give them a chance to break out of the vicious poverty cycle. The gift of mobility, in form of a bicycles, can do miracles.

More information about Wheels4Life at http://www.wheels4life.org/

Hidden in Plain Sight – Toronto’s Cycling Culture

My fascination with Toronto started in the late 1980s on early trips to the city with my family.

The small town we lived in held nothing that could compare to the entire floor of toys in the former Eaton’s store. The massive parking structure, at the corner of Bay and Dundas, was one seemingly always full except for the roof, and became for me a visual that meant we had arrived. Since I’d usually sleep my way into the city, missing the sight of the CN Tower from the Gardiner, the concrete curves of that parking lot were as distinctive to me as any of Toronto’s more photographed landmarks.

Years later I began visiting the city without my family and with bigger plans than just shopping. As a skateboarder, I would explore the darker corners of office buildings and parks and parking lots. Our group was searching for marble ledges and stair sets and we found that some of the best skate spots were the ones just out of view of the street. Hidden, but in plain sight.

I learned early on that down almost any alley in Toronto there is life and action that remains almost completely out of the spotlight. To this day, Toronto’s alleys still hold nearly secret lives and these lives make up some of Toronto’s most interesting aspects of our bicycle culture.

On Tuesday, June 15, 2010 I met with a small group organized by Byron of BikeHugger.com and lead around Toronto by Janet Bike Girl.

Our first stop was the former coach house that has held everything from horses to fine furs and is now the home to CineCycle a bicycle repair shop and event space.

CineCycle Micro Cinema

Inside we met Martin Heath hard at work fixing a bicycle using the late day light from two large skylights, a tandem frame near his feet, behind him a large projection screen that adds the “cine” to CineCycle.

This location is only the most recent home to CineCycle, as explained on the 410 Richmond web site:

In the early 1990’s Cinecycle’s space on Spadina was becoming too expensive and Martin was in search of another building to house the venue. At the time Christina Zeidler, then a student at the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD), was a regular attendee and contributor to performances at Cinecycle. Her sister, Margie, had just bought a building, 401 Richmond St. W., and Martin Heath’s Cinecycle came up as a possible tenant. Originally there were grand plans for Cinecycle’s residence at 401. Martin had been granted $30,000 from the Toronto Arts Council with the additional promise of another $300,000 to build and operate a 200 seat theatre in the basement of the building. As Martin explains “while this was all going on the NDP government got kicked out and we got the Tories and the program that the $30,000 was coming out of evaporated. So, the Coach House was Plan B. “

Lovingly referred to as Plan B, the coach house is a small building behind 401 Richmond accessed by the back laneway. It has no address, a detail that apparently confounds many visitors, including a young woman coming to see a punk band play on the weekend who called during our interview. This is one of Cinecycle’s latest, “punk bands love the place. They’re always very polite and they’re always gone by 1:00.” Cinecycle will also host the next installment of Trampoline Hall, the monthly lecture series, previously held at the Cameron House and Gladstone Hotel.

Read the full 410 Richmond tenant description here.

With our bicycles locked in the alley behind 401 Richmond we were nest taken inside by Janet Bike Girl who gave us a quick tour of her studio.

Janet Bike Girl Studio, 401 Richmond St W, Studio S-26, Toronto, Canada

Janet’s bicycle-themed stencil work is easily recognizable from any cycling event. Bicycle couriers and Toronto Cyclist Union members all seem to have one of Janet’s patches sewn on bags, t-shirts and other prints.

From here we made out way to Kensington Market, home to Function 13, part of a unique building combining retail, gallery and workshop space for Toronto’s art and technology community.

Further north along Augusta we pedaled down another laneway leading us to Parts Unknown. Out front of another coach house a shop tech was inflating a bicycle tire, and once we stepped inside we discovered the “Parts” of Parts Unknown. A skylight above shined down upon an endless pile of bicycle parts. Wheel sets and frames and tires and tubes everywhere you looked. Could there possibly be method to this madness? Owner George, who has been in Kensington for 18 years, told us that he had been given his walking papers and the shop could soon be relocating to The Junction. We imagined a team of friends loading the bits and pieces of bicycles onto pick up trucks and cargo bikes, what a sight this will be.

Parts Unknown Bicycle Shop, Toronto, Canada

Exiting Kensington Market we pedaled past the “in your face” architecture of the recently renovated Art Gallery of Ontario. A full bike rack to the side of the building revealed to us a connection between art and bicycles, one seemingly inseparable from the other in Toronto.

Our final destination was to be 52 McCaul and the Life Cycles Photography & Custom Vintage Bicycle Exhibit. A Bike Month event, Life Cycles features photographs taken by local artists and showcases the custom bicycles within each photo.

Bicycles are made for the outdoors, yet when they are taken inside we can see just how important they are to the lives of their owners. In a shop, a technician works on a vintage bicycle whose aging parts are bent and reshaped into working order. In another shop, a pile of used rims awaits a new bicycle frame to set them back in motion on the city streets. And in an art gallery, a bicycle hanging from the ceiling or one featured in a photograph takes on a life of its own, showcasing how a relatively simple tool has the power to shape the life of its owner.

Toronto’s bicycle culture cannot be defined by a single group or revealed in a simple image. Bicycles are a part of our daily lives here, sometimes right in front of your face and at other times right around the corner and down a back alley.

CineCycle is located behind both 129 Spadina Avenue and 401 Richmond, bicycle repairs by appointment only, events hosted on a semi-regular basis.

Janet Bike Girl‘s studio is located in 401 Richmond and her work can be viewed by appointment only.

Function 13 is located at 156 Augusta Ave in Kensington Market.

Parts Unknown is currently located behind 218 Augusta Ave and has no regular hours while accepting bicycle repairs by appointment or drop in.

Life Cycles is currently running at 52 McCaul Gallery until June 19, 2010.

Photos via Flickr accounts CineCycle and JanetBikeGirl

What We Wear When Cycling in Toronto

Bike and Business Suit

Sitting in a car, no one can see what you’ve got on. For better or for worse, on a bicycle you’ve got nowhere to hide. Here’s how we dress when on our bicycles in Toronto.

We wear solids on our small bikes:

Strida at speed

Sometimes we wear all black (to not be seen “salmoning”):

Looking back

Or we wear all blue:

3RENSHO

And then we also wear some other primary colours:

urban biking

To be seen we wear our safety vests:

Kids are out on CM

And we sometimes wear clothes that are meant not to be seen:

P1030925

And sometimes we wear no shirts at all:

townie

And when it’s warm, we wear shirts to show off our pregnant bellies:

And we wear skirts and motorcycle helmets:

Cyclist - IMGP0181 ep

Or we wear silly animal helmets:

P1030879

Or we wear boxes:

Blockhead

Or we wear no helmet at all because we have cool hair:

bike #1

And we wear halter tops when taking our other bike out for a walk:

Bikes get lonely too if you leave them home alone.

Or we put on our summery Canadian Tuxedo:

Speedy Cyclist

And we carry sparklers in summer dresses:

Cycling with a sparkler

And play the horn in our sharp vests:

P1030894

When it rains we put on our bright rain jackets:

riding in the rain

And when it snows we simply cover up more:

Day 343: On the move

Or cover up completely:

Polar Bear Bike

All photos from the BikingToronto Flickr Pool

What do you wear to bike in Toronto? Share your style in the Biking Toronto Forum

Bikes at the Live Green Toronto Festival

On Sunday, August 30, 2009, I hopped on the subway and ended up at Yonge and Dundas Square.

I took a quick walk around at the Live Green Toronto Festival, saw some reps from the Toronto Cyclists Union and couldn’t help but notice a few interesting bikes like this one:

Vert Catering Pashley
Vert catering had their Pickle Cycle on hand as they were cooking up vegetarian poutine and organic burgers. The bicycle is a Pashley Baker’s Bicycle and they will deliver catered lunches to you office, if you ask kindly.

You could win this bike if you signed up for a mailing list I believe:

Win this bikeAnd Courier Co-op Toronto had a cargo bike chained to the ring on this lamp post. No one was around, so I never found out what was in the giant bag.

Courier Co-op Toronto

How We Carry Stuff on Our Bikes in Toronto

trip #1

Before I gave up my car I can remember thinking to myself, “Without a car, how will I carry things?”

How would I carry a 24 case of water home?
How would I carry all of my groceries home?
How would I carry my latest IKEA purchases home?

I soon discovered the answers…

Don’t buy water in bottles, you’ve got a tap.
Don’t buy all of your groceries at once, and stop buying heavy frozen junk.
Don’t buy more stuff from IKEA, unless you’re with a friend with a car.

Just because a bicycle doesn’t come with trunk space it doesn’t mean that we, as Torontonians, are left unable to take anything with us when we ride. Here then are some of the ways we carry stuff by bicycle in Toronto.

Sometimes we like to keep an eye on our stuff and use a basket mounted up front:

Basket Bike

Sometimes we want to see the potholes ahead of us and mount a basket on the back:

Basket Mobile

Sometimes we like to carry more stuff, and have baskets both front and rear:

Petal power

There are times where we like to improvise the type of baskets we use:

Yellow Bike Basket

And then sometimes we fill our baskets with keytars in Accordion City:

The Scorpion King!

To keep our stuff dry we sometimes use panniers that match our helmets:

Newbikebags3_110606

Sometimes we rent trailers to carry even more stuff:

bike trailer

Sometimes we carry other people on our bikes:

EcoCab

Sometimes we improvise how we carry people on our bikes:

Improvised Tricycle Pedicab

And then we sometimes like to carry our children on our bicycles:

Group Commute

Or we take the whole family on a four-wheeled bike while visiting Toronto Island:

Bicycle Built for Four

And then sometimes we have a really big family, but we still travel by bike (click for larger version):

Awesome 7 person bike I spotted.#bikeTO on Twitpic

How do you carry your stuff on a bicycle in Toronto?

Photos via the Biking Toronto Flickr Pool and photographers in Toronto on Flickr

Freakonomics on Bicycle Prices

Bicycle Inflation in Paradise?

Portland, Oregon, the current darling of America’s food and environmental writers, is arguably the county’s most bicycle-obsessed city. Bike use was up 28 percent in Portland between 2007 and 2008, and on the Hawthorne Bridge, a main thoroughfare, bikes now make up 20 percent of all vehicles. The New York Times estimated in 2007 that there were 125 bike-related businesses in Portland employing 600 to 800 people. There’s even a store in the city that sells only tricycles.

Still, what’s up with this bike micro-inflation? Why does there seem to be no market in Portland for used bikes that are actually cheap? Portland is otherwise a pretty cheap city. Beer is cheap. Used clothing is cheap. By major urban standards, housing is cheap too, unless you compare it to the strip-mall-type cities. And certainly there are plenty of people in town who can’t afford to spend $475 — never mind $1,000 — on a bike.

In Toronto, when I was first looking at used bikes on Craigslist in 2007, the price was around $100 for a 20+ year old beater bike 10-speed. In 2008 I didn’t notice much of a price jump. This year, prices have certainly jumped. However, the quality of bikes for sale has also increased as Craigslist Toronto has transformed from an online yard sale to a trusted way of selling high-end used (or new) items.

Have you noticed inflation in bike prices with the growing popularity of cycling in Toronto? Share your thoughts in the Biking Toronto Forum.

Quote from the Freakonomics Blog