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Wednesday, January 31st
Knicker Price Drop
Now that I have more of my production costs in hand, I've realized that I can in fact rescind a good bit of January's price increase on the Classic Wool Knickers. So I'm dropping my knickers!

They are now just $99.00, only four bucks more than the original price. And the new pocket lining is superior to the originals, which was plenty nice itself.

A little lower down, now, for news of socks: while I had thought my prospective sock supplier had been ignoring my calls, I found when I reached him today that in fact he had been having samples made, which I should see within a couple of weeks. So be ready for mid-weight, over-the-knee, wool-blend knicker socks soon! (And if you don't like them over the knee, you can just fold the cuff over and still look sharp.)

And I do believe I've solved a stubborn design problem on my self-cinching long pants--full-length dress pants for bicycling! I'll have to hie myself over to the sewing contractor and see whether she can make my prototypes any time soon.

As you can see, there's a lot going on here. So keep in touch--when you're not out on your bike, that is!

Richard Risemberg on Wed, 31 Jan 2007 20:57:31 -0800 [link]  

Monday, January 29th
Bicycles, Fat, & Efficiency
Worldwatch Institute, a superb source of environmental statistics, has published a chart correlating bicycle ownership (and use) and a variety of health and environmental indicators. Here's a sample:

Bicycles per 1,000 people in the United States (mid-1990s): 385
In Germany: 588
In the Netherlands: 1,000

Percent of adults that are obese in the United States (2003): 30.6
Percent in Germany: 12.9
Percent in the Netherlands: 10.0

Energy used per passenger-mile (calories):
  Auto: 1,860
  Bus: 920
  Rail: 885
  Foot: 100
  Bicycle: 35

To see the entire chart, or to browse their resources, go to:

Richard Risemberg on Mon, 29 Jan 2007 20:22:17 -0800 [link]  

Thursday, January 25th
Knicker Factory Humming
And that's the the best kind of Hummer, a sewing machine stitching together more Classic Wool Knickers!

I expect to have them in hand within the first week in February, and will begin filling all those backorders for you wonderfully patient buyers.

Meanwhile, the search continues for more wool, for hemp, for socks, and for a hat manufacturer who isn't 8,000 fossil-fueled miles away. I think I'm close on the socks....

Also have a very tiny secret project going involving a bit of bicycle hardware, always with the goal of making utility cycling easier, more pleasurable, and even more efficient than it already is. Stay tuned!

Richard Risemberg on Thu, 25 Jan 2007 06:59:57 -0800 [link]  

Thursday, January 18th
Sock it to 'em
Maybe a little premature, but I may have a line on knicker socks to go with the Classic Wool Knickers. They'll be semi-custom middleweight wool, made to our specifications. Awaiting samples now. Probably a dark gray, to provide an elegant contrast with both the black and the gray knickers. Over-the-knee length gives you a dressier look for office or restaurant, and keeps yer knees warm too--and you can fold it down if it's hot or it feels funny to you.

Doing what we can to keep you on your bike, every day!

Keep your eye on us for further developments, including:

Lots going's hard to be patient, but we'll move ahead as we can afford to.

Cheers! And keep on pedaling!

Richard Risemberg on Thu, 18 Jan 2007 07:37:34 -0800 [link]  

Monday, January 15th
Getting Loaded
There's been a long-running discussion on the iBOB list over on regarding the various merits of high-trail versus low-trail front forks, with the consensus being that high-trail forks (such as you find on most road bikes) are better suited for carrying loads on the rear, while low-trail forks (those that bend farther forward) carry loads better on the front of the bike.

I recently had the chance, though inadvertently, to test this hypothesis, when I bought a Tubus Fly rack that I intened to put on my Bottecchia, which I did.

The Bot, however, has a lower-trail fork, being from the late '70s, when that was the convention. And, oh, she handled horribly with a load on that rack!

So this weekend I put it on my Fuji high-trail bike instead, threw several pounds of vegetables from the Farmers Market and a couple of U-locks in it, and--voila! Smooth as can be!

I'll try a front rack on the Bot as soon as finances allow.

Since load-carrying is an important part of transportational bicycling, these differences are significant--a miserable ride will make it less likely that you use your bike for transport. So here's a rule of thumb:
If the front fork of your bike bends or angles forward only slightly from the crown, you probably have a high-trail geometry, and will be happier with a rear rack for carrying loads. A front rack will make the bike feel sluggish and heavy.

If the fork curves farther forward, you probably have a low-trail geometry, and will be happier with a front rack for carrying heavyish loads; a rear rack will make the bike feel wobbly.
Saddlebags (which hang from the back of the saddle) work well on any bike. These require a saddle with little loops for attaching the bag, though there are various devices one can buy for attaching themn to a saddle without loops.

Lowrider front racks, which carry a pair of panniers centered on the front axle, also seem to work well on any bike, though they look a bit ungainly.

Either way, you can carry remarkable loads on a bike with the right rack and bag setup before having to resort to a trailer.

We'll have more on this subject in a full-fledged article later this year.

Richard Risemberg on Mon, 15 Jan 2007 07:38:10 -0800 [link]  

Wednesday, January 10th
Gabardine, Everest, and Bicycles
Encountered a wonderful article on BBC this morning about the use of gabardine in extreme sporting activity, focussing on Mallory and Irvine's 1924 climb on everest, during which they may possibly have reached the summit before encountering some as-yet undetermined disaster.

Climber Graham Hoyland had exact replicas of Mallory's clothing made and tested them on the mountain itself to see whether they might have had a hand in in the disaster. He discovered that in fact the gabardine was better suited to the task than modern climbing textiles.

Wearing the replica clothing for two days on Everest, Hoyland tested the suit alongside the expedition leader who was wearing a typical modern down suit.

"I immediately found the underclothes warm to put on, whereas the modern polypropylene underwear feels cold and clammy," said Hoyland.

"When exposed to a cutting wind blowing off the main Rongbuk glacier, I found the true value of the Gabardine outer layers. These resisted the wind and allowed the eight layers beneath to trap warmed air between them and my skin."


"Like most mountaineers, I am used to synthetic outdoor clothing: polypropylene underclothes and outer fleeces which are bought pre-sized, off the shelf and never quite fit properly.

"They are unforgiving in stretch, and begin to smell unpleasant if worn for more than a couple of days. There is a harsh synthetic sensation next to your skin."
Naturally, it's heartening for a fan of sheep hair such as myself to hear this. I'd like to add further that wool has environmental as well as functional advantages over "modern" synthetics:Indeed, if you're looking for the true miracle fabric, look no further than the humble sheep--especially if you're a bicyclist!

Richard Risemberg on Wed, 10 Jan 2007 19:59:30 -0800 [link]  

Knicker Prices Going Up
Sorry, folks, but the price of the Classic Wool Knickers will be going up next week--not sure how much yet, but at least $12. So if you want them at the old price, now's the time to order.

They'll still be less expensive than almost any other knicker out there, and those aren't wool gabardine.

Go to the knicker page, scroll down, and click the "testimonials" link to read how early adopters have just loved 'em.

Maybe I'll get to keep a pair for myself from the next batch (which is due in early February).

Richard Risemberg on Wed, 10 Jan 2007 10:59:04 -0800 [link]  

Monday, January 8th
Massively Beautiful
It's been a busy weekend, so I haven't hit the blog lately, but I'm still glowing from the Santa Monica Critical Mass ride Friday. It was an evening not just of representing and conviviality, but sheer beauty of the bike and the night and velorutionary love....

The ride down there from my office in east Hollywood was not much part of the blessing, though: squeezing through LA rush hour traffic, the fetid congeal of immaturity, anger, impatience, and fumes that constitutes the planet of the auto-addled here. West Hollywood, our gay ghetto, provided a brief respite, a mile-and-a-half island of civility, then it was back into the corporate compounds by Beverly Hills and Century City, and more pretentious shitheads in oversized tin cans....

Finally I arrived at the pipe-sculpture arch that demarcates the Santa Monica city line, and damn if I didn't see the twinkle of bicycle taillights a few blocks ahead! Still pumped up from the struggle, I blew past a group of fixies, cruisers, and commuters heading to CM themselves; managed to slow myself down by the time I got to the Palisades over the beach.

Mass meets on the bluff above the pier, and the amusement park over the water was in full swing, with the ferris wheel and roller coaster all lighted up, the crowds ambling slowly, the waves breaking in ghostly froth among the pilings. A good crowd was there, considering that close to gale-force winds had been blowing for two days; I checked out bikes, met friends, made a new friend or two. Then came the call to saddle up.

Someone had suggested a route that included the Marina and the Ballona Wetlands, we voted on it pretty much unanimously, and off we went.

We noodled about on city streets as usual, especially the restaurant districts, where folks on the sidewalk and even in their cars seemed happy to see us: smiling, waving, giving the thumbs-up or the friendly toot-toot, and found our way to the big traffic circle by Venice Beach to ride round and round it till the stragglers caught up--a giddy velcipedal merry-go-round that had all shouting with glee.

Soon after the ride veered from the usual route and rolled onto the shuttered and deserted Boardwalk; we rolled silently between ghostly storefronts and the parking lots, tennis courts, and outdoor gyms that separated us from sand and ocean, then into the quiet west end of the Marina, where we massed up at a little strip park overlooking the marina channel.

To the east were the light of the city; directly across were the hills that hid the airport; a party boat, festooned with tiny lamps, drifted slowly before us; and the moon rose full above the waters. A little boy who had been pedaling along with his parents offered a tray of orange slices; a German student sold used book from his bike basket; a few lit up their aromatic cigarettes; an old couple cuddled up in a pedicab ridden by my friend Reno Tondelli. It was a moment that defined a certain kind of happiness....

We saddled up again and wound through many more narrow crannies of the marina, around channels, by hidden beaches, on footpaths and walkways, through parking lots, by quiet back doors.

Eventually we crossed over Ballona Creek itself to the wetlands, dark and deserted, fragrant, silent, to tiny Playa del Rey and thence to the bicycle bridge that headed back over the creek...the same bridge where I end up almost every Sunday.

Only bicycle headlamps for light, and that big moon beaming in the east. The stars were out; distant lamps reflected in the creek; far off in the water were the lights of ships. Our shadows huddled round the bike lamps.... The night was fragrant and almost warm.

On the way home, I battled forty mile per hour headwinds much of the way, which gave me a good excuse to stop at an Indian restaurant I hadn't tried yet though I'd passed it dozens and dozens of times. Got home around ten. Happy. Happy.

Richard Risemberg on Mon, 08 Jan 2007 07:38:05 -0800 [link]  

Wednesday, January 3rd
Another Carfree Story....
This time from Richmond-Wayne County in Indiana, wehre Mark Stosberg discovered, almost accidentally, that he could not only live without his car, but live better without it. In his words:
I can pinpoint the first time my car failed to start and I got along fine without it. I can't recall the moment I knew I was comfortable with my decision. It's like trying to recall the moment relaxation begins. Sometimes there is an instant release, but more often then is only an awakening, with the realization that you've drifted to somewhere pleasant and have been there a while. That's what my transition was like.

When I awoke, a surprising transformation had happened. I found that my greatest fear, that of losing my freedom, was unfounded. Not only was it unfounded, it was completely wrong.

Getting around under my own power provided a sense of freedom and control far greater than driving my car ever did. I felt alive and connected. When the weather changed, I noticed.
To read the complete article, go to Why I Traded In my Car for a Bike.

Richard Risemberg on Wed, 03 Jan 2007 21:25:55 -0800 [link]  

Monday, January 1st
Westsiders, Rejoice!
I was heading back from the beach this morning (yes, I live in Los Angeles), and I noticed that the rebuilt stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard between Sepulveda and Century City, now has emphatically painted bike lanes.

Now, if you've been reading much of this 'zine, you know I don't generally favor bike lanes, paths, whatever, but this road, which was once a normal road, has been reconfigured into what is essentially a surface freeway with occasional traffic lights: four lanes in each direction, and heavily trafficked most days by some of the worst arrogant asshole automobilists LA has to offer. It's also an excellent bike route from the Westside to Cuntury City and Beverly Hills (and, just past BH, my 'hood).

Should make it easier and less frightening for the newbie bike commuters that are popping up all over town.

All for it, in this case!

Richard Risemberg on Mon, 01 Jan 2007 13:26:36 -0800 [link]  

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