Archive for February, 2008

Barcelona’s Bike Hire Scheme

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I just read a press release about a scheme in London to introduce bike hire parks at 300m intervals around the city, hot on the heels of Paris, which recently unveiled 10,000 bikes at 750 points around the capital to unanimous success. The aim is to have one in ten trips in London made by bike, which will tie in with a Legible London signage system to encourage people to walk – apparently fifty per cent of tube journeys in London are quicker by foot.

Barcelona has started something similar, and judging from the amount of red and white stork-like bikes flitting about, it seems to have proved just as popular. In fact, it’s so successful that they need to build more bike parks in the popular spots, as finding a parking slot to return your bike can be tricky. Another teething problem is in the electronic parking slots themselves, some of which aren’t locking the bikes properly. Still, I’m sure these niggles will be sorted out, and it’s certainly encouraging to see it being used so wholeheartedly and effectively.

In France, the bikes cost about a Euro an hour. In Barcelona, the bikes are free for the first 30 minutes – ample time to get around the city. You then have a twenty minute period before being able to pick up another bike – easily taken up by shopping, or a stroll down the Ramblas. If you go over your 30 minute allocation, there’s a small fee that’s knocked off your credit card. It would be perfect for tourists, who could mix and match their forrays around the city, but for the fact that you also need to sign up to the scheme – around 20-30 Euros a year.

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Getting a bike is simple. Swipe your card, which releases one of the bikes from the pound.

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Grab your wheels and go for a spin. At the end of the ride, drop it back in its plug, which locks it in place, at any of the bike parks dotted about.

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The bikes are sturdy, funky, practical little things, with an adjustable saddle, mudguards, tough Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres and a simple three speed hub gear. There are LED lights for the night too, though they didn’t all seem to be working.

Barcelona is surprisingly bike friendly, with plenty of bikes lanes and some great routes around the harbour and along the beachfront for a sunset amble.

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North American Handbuilt Bike Show

(below) One of my personal favourites. This Jeff Jones-inspired ti 29er is the handywork of Black Sheep Bikes from Colorado, and picked up best ti bike of the show.

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The blog has fallen into a state of neglect over the last week, as I’ve been consumed with bikes, bikes and yet more bikes at the North American Handbuilt Bike Show, held in Portland, Oregon. (note that you can find all the web links to the builders below on the official site)

Now in its fourth year, it proved to be an incredible, inspiring show, host to 152 exhibitors and 7000 attendees. Perhaps it’s better to describe it as a lavish gallery of bicycle artwork. I spent the first of three days simply ricocheting round in semi-dazed confusion, eyes flitting from one fillet brazed frame to another, diverted by a fancy lug, or elaborate paintwork, or a custom rack.

The US frambuilding scene is experiencing a real renaissance. Thanks to a variety of seminars, the show’s a place where framebuilders can gather to hang out, drawing inspiration from one another, and raising the ‘fully custom’ bar yet further. Because we’re not just talking about custom tubesets and sizes here. This is taking the word custom to a completely new level, with mind boggling individuality and obsessive attention to detail. With standards so high, there’s a lot of attention grabbing antics to stand out from the ‘crowd’. Inevitably, not all bikes are to everyone’s tastes (just like art, I guess), but no denying the skill and sweat that’s gone into them.

Here’s just a few pictures of bits that caught my eye, though they’re only a snapshot of what was there.

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(above) I was at the show with one of the UK’s premier bespoke builders, Robin Mather, who’s a big fan of JR Weigle (of Framesave fame). I can see why. Exquisite bikes.

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(top left) The show was also rich with ‘Randonneur’ style machines, harking back to the golden era of the 1930s, when these bikes were built for unsupported long distance riders covering distances of up to 1200km. This one, by Ahearne, was amongst my favourites, with individual touches like stem mounted shifters and double chainstays. (top right) Custom racks were racks were aplenty, like the lovely ones on the Vanilla stand, which included stainless steel guides to protect paintwork. (top left) In the wake of the 29er’s acceptance by mainstream manufacturers, there were a dozen 650B wheeled bikes (roughly half way between a 29er and a 26in tyre), championed by Kirk Pacenti, they included this gorgeous singlespeed from Sycip. (bottom right) What do you get when you gene splice a ‘cyclocross frame with Panaracer’s 700x45c knobblies? Not a 29er, but a Monster ‘Cross, as these bikes are being called. This one was built by Black Cat with plain gauge tubes for serious abuse. Continue reading ‘North American Handbuilt Bike Show’

Portland: Fixie Fixation

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I’ve headed over to Portland, Oregon, to visit the North American Handbuilt Bike Show (NAHBS), a gathering of the finest custom framebuilders in the land. Seeing as the show starts at the weekend, I’ve been hanging out with Trystan, who I toured with in China and Tibet when I was cycling home from Sydney. Portland’s the most progressive bike city in the States, so it’s refreshing to see bike lanes, and plenty of commuters using them. There’s also a plethora of excellent indie bike shops, like Veloshop (stunning Vanilla Bicycles Speedvagen on display), River City Cycles (very nice Ahearne 29er), Veloce (Indy Fab loveliness) and Clever Cycles (butch Big Dummy prototype). Continue reading ‘Portland: Fixie Fixation’

Bike School

Tris, Hat, Katie and Jack went to bike school today. Mike from Planet X came over to give them the lowdown on all-things-bike-maintenance, from tweaking gears to greasing bottom brackets, replacing bearings and installing headsets. It was good to see the workshop filled with bikes and stands, to the sound of whirring wheels and (ever smoother) gear shifting.

Interested in learning more about bike maintenance from the comfort of your own home/shed/garage? Get in touch with Mike (mike@planet-x-bikesDOTcom), whose well versed with teaching all levels. If you recognise him, it’s probably because he’s the man who gets stranded, mud-clumped bikes back on the trail at the Merida Marathon series, as well as working for DT Swiss at the World Championships, building wheels for the Atherton clan amongst others. So yes, he knows his stuff.

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The Luxury Workshop had never looked so good. The Paduans were working hard – you could almost feel their brains heating up the cold, wintry room.

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Kate gives the Stumpjumper some TLCC – Tender Loving Cable Care. Maybe Jack will now let her look after her own bike (-;

Continue reading ‘Bike School’


Please check out our main website for details on our bike trips to the Indian Himalayas.

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