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Friday, November 26th
Bicycle Fixation on Black Friday
What's Bicycle Fixation doing on Black Friday?

Well, even though we share initials with that artificial holiday, we're not sitting at the computer biting our nails while counting sales. In fact, we haven't even set up a promo. Why?

Because we believe in making our money the old-fashioned way: by offering real value all the time. Our designs are well-made, practical, elegant, and fairly priced, and that's the way we sell them 365 days of the year.

Furthermore, we suspect that an economy that depends on a vast spasm of knee-jerk purchasing conditioned by sales and ads on one weekend of the year is probably not sustainable. And we mean profit-and-loss, cashflow sustainability in this case. It means you're counting on a nearly irresistible conditioned reflex to sell enough of what is often technically called "crap" to make your nut for the year.

Good lord, what happens if people start making sense? If they decide that being driven into debt by a shallow anxiety doesn't really dovetail with their sense of a holiday tradition?

Then we also wonder why this stuff has to be pumped so hard and so desperately that the entire country conspires to make an amateur gladiatorial match out of shopping for gifts for a holiday celebrating an anti-materialistic prophet.

Black Friday may likely even cannibalize cashflow from the previous several weeks as people put off purchasing to wait for sales (or "sales events" as they seem to be rather stupidly called these days).

We "make our nut" every month of the year, except February sometimes...though the pattern faltered in the depths of the recession. We like to think that it's because we sell something that is both physically and socially useful, emotionally pleasing, and competently made.

So on Black Friday, we chased fundamental realities by heading west to the ocean, the grand and elemental Pacific, and watched the happy folks riding their bikes along the beach path far below the Palisades:

Santa Monica beach, November 2010

Not bad for November...though in reality we need the rain promised for Saturday night much more than we need yet another dry week.

First Shakedown Cruise with New TrailerIn other news: last week Gina decided that I would never get off my hands and order a bike trailer, so she did it for me...and an Aosom brand folding trailer showed up at our door.

The company's website is primitive, the orthography amusing, and the photos half-baked, but the trailers have a good reputation among buyers, to judge from Internet chatter. They claim a load capacity of 180 pounds, or about 82kg, which is enough to let me run inventory from the factory to home (where, alas, we still maintain our operations, though we hope for a small office/fulfillment center next year).

No more pleading with the bus driver to let down the wheelchair ramp so I can roll a dolly loaded with two giant boxes on board!

The photo is from the first test run; we traditionally ride new builds a few blocks to the fountain in Park La Brea, and so I loaded by heavy mechanic's tool case in and pedaled away.

A bit odd feeling--I've never pulled a trailer before--but we made it there and back.

I'll report more fully in a year or so, when I've had a chance to give it a real workout.

Richard Risemberg on Fri, 26 Nov 2010 15:23:14 -0800 [link]  

Wednesday, November 24th
Morning at Massimo's
Pal John Vu and I, and often some other bikey folk, including Gina when she can get away, have made a practice of gathering for coffee at Massimo's Mudspot for coffee and blither on Wednesday mornings.

I'm often impressed by how many bike commuters use 8th Street, and even frantically busy La Brea, to get to work on weekday mornings, and equally depressed by my tendency to forget my camera and get some pix of them.

So today I brought the camera! ...On the Wednesay before Thanksgiving when a lot of folks have taken the extra day off work.

So I took a picture of John locking up at the Mudspot's bike rack:

John Vu in the Morning

Of course, once he came inside and I put away the camera, bike commuters started flowing by outside. I managed to photograph exactly one of them, and here she is, well-wrapped against what passes for "cold" in Southern California, but quite elegantly so:

Dressy Commuter

One of these days I'm going to plant my ass outside of Massimo's right at 7:30AM and snap a whole photo-essay's worth of bike commuter pix. There's quite a variety.

But for now this is what you get!

Richard Risemberg on Wed, 24 Nov 2010 11:35:16 -0800 [link]  

Sunday, November 21st
Would a Fender Offend Her?
Really, would a fender offend her? By "her" in this context I of course mean your two-wheeled sweetie, and I ask because of an email I received from my good friend Bill this morning.

In it he mentioned that since it had rained last night, and there was standing water everywhere, he and his wife Jeannette--both lifelong cyclists--wouldn't be able to ride their bikes to church this morning.

Ballona Creek Bike Path After the Rain
Ballona Creek bike path after last night's rain
This struck me as odd, since a simple cape makes it easy to ride in rain, and besides the storm was rapidly clearing, so you wouldn't need rainwear at all. Then I remembered....

They both grew up in the roadie days, of course. They ride race bikes without fenders...without even fittings for fenders.

Well, I ride a race bike too, but it's a race bike from the '60s, when pretty much all bikes came with fender braze-ons.

So, as the clouds rolled away and a pure and golden light flooded across the gleaming and still very wet roadways, I was riding...and they were stuck in a car in Venice Boulevard traffic. (I was headed to my own "church": the Bridge at Playa del Rey.)

Really, fenders...they aren't that bad. Mine even weigh less than a pound in total, bolts, struts, and all.

And they grant me freedom...freedom to ride all the time.

I took my rain cape along in a pannier, too, just in case. But (I am wary of our autumn weather's carpiciousness), I'd put on sunblock as well. The sunblock got a good workout. As did the fenders.

As did I, on a beautiful freshly-washed Sunday in LA!

Richard Risemberg on Sun, 21 Nov 2010 12:36:12 -0800 [link]  

Sunday, November 14th
Eyeball Stats
Just yesterday, on the way home from visiting the Fish Master (sakana no sensei) at Kyoto Aquarium, I turned onto 4th Street, a block or two out of my way, so I could ride in quiet instead of the usual traffic frenzy.

Fourth is of course the street LACBC hopes to make our city's first bicycle boulevard, a project I am helping with by constantly interrupting at the committee meetings (though they still let me come back).

It's quiet, pretty, and connects a good number of "destination facilities" as well as other bike routes, and I've been using it for decades as part of my various commutes. Still on it nearly every day.

And I almost always see numerous other cyclists on it. Yesterday was no exception: in just one two-mile stretch on either side of the Rossmore crossing, I counted six fellow cyclists on 4th...and only two motor vehicles, one of them a roach coach headed towards a remodeling site. (The houses there are big enough that remodels require a construction crew.)

This is pretty much the way it is on Fourth. Why LA is taking so long, first, just to decide to make it a bicycle boulevard, and second, actually to fix its abominable road surface, is beyond me. One glance at the Bicycle Fixation Twitter feed will show you news snippets I pick up every day about the progress other cities--large, medium, small, or minuscule, rich or poor--are making in facilitating practical cycling.

LA lags, and we nag. Well, it looks as though the nagging is slowly getting ahead of the lagging, but gets frustrating sometimes.

Until I see all those good folks riding, on Fourth and elsewhere, without waiting for bike paths to appear.

Think how it'll be when we actually do get some attention from the city!

I can't wait!

But I will....

Richard Risemberg on Sun, 14 Nov 2010 07:30:35 -0800 [link]  

Thursday, November 11th
A Night of Momentum
Though I'm usually more of a morning person, last night I rode over to Highland Park just after sunset to Josef Bray-Ali's Flying Pigeon LA shop for a short but sweet night ride with local bike folks, an impromptu rolling party in honor of Mia Kohout and Tania Lo of Canada's Momentum Magazine.

Momentum, as you may recall, published the original version of my article on LA's bike culture about a year ago.

Jamming through East Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard and then through Chinatown on Broadway was both exhilarating and absurd, the bike, its bottle dyno humming for illumination, threading through endless herds of bloated metal cattle like a nimble cow pony. Once past the Broadway bridge over the river channel, we were free of traffic, and arrived at Flying Pigeon just as the night drew on its deepest cloak.

Everyone was there but the guests of honor, who had called saying they were stuck on the freeway--yes, they had inexplicably chosen to drive from Santa Monica when there was a one-transfer transit option using the Venice express bus to the Union Station Gold Line stop. So it was an hour or so late that we did get on the road, having enjoyed a little wine and much good talk and laughter with Josef and a number of friends and acquaintances old and new, as well as colleagues from LACBC projects.

The night was intense and comforting, rich and dark, the back streets graced with glimmers of lamplight and windowglow, quiet and just a little cold. A crescent sliver of moon hung over the black mass of hills to the west, toward which Josef, riding his bakfiets, led us. Silent backroads, warehouses and railroad tracks, a battered pedestrian bridge over the sudden roar of a freeway, then a dark slope downards towards the concrete bed of the Los Angeles River, where we gathered at the water's edge and watched oscillations of light from streetlamps on the Broadway bridge ripple on the shallows. A Metrolink train passed silently, windows bright, along the opposite bank, while dark heights of concrete over our heads murmured of silent lives and faded passions lived out in their hidden corners...for this was one of the places that I came to, twenty-five years ago, to photograph railroad tramps for my photo essay, "Pillow of Steel."

After that, Josef led us back along Figueroa to Marmion Way, a frontage road of sorts that hugs the dark flank of Mt. Washington on the quiet side of the Gold Line tracks. The murmur of drive chains and a dozen quiet conversations among the thirty or so cyclists, the waver of headlights on the road...a gentle passage of really a good number of people, using the gentlest and most effective of all machines. No scars of harsh noise or bright glare to to disfigure the night; just people, bikes, and constant quiet fellowship. It was sweet.

We soon arrived at the Good Girl Dinette, where a large reserved table and a delightful menu awaited us. Great food, more talk, and a quiet, lively ambience that encouraged rather than crushed conversation. Myself had a roast oyster mushroom banh mi, my first taste of that vaunted hybrid of French and Vietnamese cuisine--and it was damned good! I hope to be back there soon, with Gina along.

The rest of the party went back to Flying Pigeon, where I peeled off for home. It's about ten miles back, and the traffic, late at night, was inconsequential. The group ride was very slow, so at first I shot down Figueroa at top speed, but soon I let myself back off and enjoyed a relaxing amble through the half-deserted streets of Chinatown, East Hollywood, and Hancock Park to home.

Thanks to Josef and Momentum for a wonderful time!

Richard Risemberg on Thu, 11 Nov 2010 08:10:30 -0800 [link]  

Wednesday, November 10th
Streetriders Gallery Revamp
We have just revamped out Streetriders Gallery! We took out the thumbnails, which sped up loading enough that we can henceforth show all images on one page!

Much better browsing, indeed.

If you have links to any of the old pages, worry not; they will redirect automatically.

These are pictures of bicycles with their riders, not just hardware shots. After all, a bike by itself does nothing for our a way, it doesn't really become a bicycle until you ride it somewhere.

So take a look at the new and simpler Streetrider Gallery today...then send in your own pictures.

And remember, bike and rider only!

Richard Risemberg on Wed, 10 Nov 2010 14:59:14 -0800 [link]  

Tuesday, November 9th
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood....
Here's a photo of our block early Sunday morning, while I was waiting for my friend James Black (designer of the original hat from which our James Black Hat derived. It being the first sunday of the month, we were riding to Pasadena to join the Velo-Retro Rose Bowl ride.

As you can see, it was a morning of golden light and gentle clouds, an inspiring morning for a bicycle ride.

Burnside_morning_110710_small (128k image)

What really made it inspiring was that beach cruiser locked up in the lower right corner of the shot. That's just one of four bikes that now reside in front of various apartments on our block--along with a good number that live inside. Besides our own, there are at least three more regularly ridden velos that disappear into neighboring buildings several times a day.

No, it's not Amsterdam, but it's pretty damn good for LA.

The ever-full bike racks at the mostly-creatives office complex down Wilshire from our street is also heartening. These are all bikes that are being used for commuting, shopping, visiting--not beachpath rambles.

The pattern is repeated on other blocks around us, and it marks a change from the days only a few years ago when I rarely saw another cyclist, or even another bike, as I rode to and fro.

Anyway, James arrived, we rode on to Pasadena, and had a wonderful time with the Velo Retro folks--which I wrote up on Orange 20s blog, so go read it there.

Bikes, friends, and a sweet autumn day--made the weekend worthwhile!

Richard Risemberg on Tue, 09 Nov 2010 20:03:46 -0800 [link]  

Friday, November 5th
Demon in the Asphalt
It's always lurking there, deep under the asphalt, waiting to gnaw its way back into the light and devour the unwary.... "It" is, of course, the massive pothole at the "Hudson River," the intersection of 4th and Hudson, in Hancock Park in Los Angeles, in the eastbound lane of a heavily-used bike route that we hope to remake as LA's first bicycle boulevard.

Hudson River's Latest Patch JobI've written about the bike boulevard plan before, often, and sometimes at great length, and it's a major focus of the Los Angeles County bicycle Coalition.

It must be on the verge of becoming a hot issue, as, like the plain fellow or girl who has suddenly inherited a fortune, it is now drawing the interest of suitors who steadfastly ignored the issue before.

It suffers the embarrassment of drainal leakage--that is, there's a house up the hill a bit that pumps its basement 24/7 into the Hudson, whence it puddles at the intersection undermining the pavement and nurturing slick algae during the warmer months. (The Sanitation Department has told that they cannot stop the homeowner from pumping into the street. The basement floods because of a high water table there, the house having been built over a creek that was "undergrounded" to facilitate development.)

I myself initiated the call for a french drain there, to channel the water across 4th without letting it pool--and the chorus of voices requesting that treatment has grown, in almost perfect proportion to the diminution of the city budget that would have to pay for it.

So while we wait, I (and others) keep dropping a dime on it, calling 311 or using the Bureau of Street Services' service request page, and BSS keeps slapping cold patch on the hole. Which job, because of the water and the speed of the car traffic at that intersection, lasts two to four months.

This time, more people complained louder, I guess, because BSS built a little asphalt berm to channel the water around the asphalt while it cured overnight. The berm was gone this morning, so I assume that BSS considers the job "done."

You take a look at the picture and decide--I shot it from the point of view of an approaching cyclist.

This is the sixth cold patch in two years. I think that in "saving" money by doing the cheapest possible job, BSS has by now spent more than a french drain might have cost.

And we still have an intersection that is an active danger to any cyclist not intimately familiar with it.

Time to step up our nagging. We'll banish that demon yet--working together!

Richard Risemberg on Fri, 05 Nov 2010 15:44:26 -0800 [link]  

Thursday, November 4th
Bicycle Nights
The 2nd was my son Jack's birthday, but we couldn't get together with him till last night. We were going to have him over for dinner, but it was just too darn global warming hot to cook at home, so we changed the venue to AOC, a small-plates wine bar almost fancy enough to make up for missing Gina's cuisine (which is good enough that friends, including friends who are professional chefs, ask if they might invite themselves over to eat).

The same heat that made the kitchen untenable made for a delightful night ride the couple of miles to the restaurant. Gina dressed in a flirty skirt and her favorite black stiletto heeled pumps, I donned a pair of my fine gabardine Classics and a not-too-bad print shirt, and off we went!

The old skool rubber block pedals on her city mixte, the Milk Runner, handled the pumps just fine, and I took Trevor Wong, since a dynamo means never having to say you're out of battery power. We cut through Park La Brea, a very old and elegant gated community of expensive highrise towers separated by garden blocks of townhouses and featuring roundabouts centered on sculpted fountains--a very quiet place, full of lamplight and shadows among the roadside trees.

Technically we're not allowed in there, but the guards take one look at my white beard and assume we belong....

The kid, poor wretch, drove to the restaurant, thus missing out on a sweet warm clear night just made for a ride or a stroll, but we had a good (though painfully expensive) dinner, gave him a thick book of graffiti art as a gift, and went our separate ways into the maternal softness of the night.

Today has been another hot day--the last for a while, it is claimed--and fortunately I have another reason to ride into the night: a meeting on the 4th Street bicycle Boulevard, which I mentioned a couple of posts back. (Everyone's invited, by the way.) Though I generally prefer colder weather these days, I'm looking forward to it.

Richard Risemberg on Thu, 04 Nov 2010 14:02:50 -0800 [link]  

Monday, November 1st
Pleasant Surprise
After a long loop through Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, and then West LA to clear the cobwebs and visit my friend Bill, who couldn't make it to the bridge yesterday, I stopped by the Better Bike Beverly Hills meeting I mentioned a couple of blog posts back.

When I arrived about ten minutes early, I saw five bike parked in front the the Peet's Coffee where we were to meet--all locked to parking meters since there were of course no racks. I figured, Great, we'll get an early start.

But none of the Better Bike BH folks was there when I went in!

They showed up shortly after two o' clock. Which means that the bikes all belonged to folks who had just traveled there for coffee or to shop in the neighborhood.

And that, folks, small as it may be, is a very good sign!

Beverly Hills, of all places...well, well....

Richard Risemberg on Mon, 01 Nov 2010 13:56:06 -0800 [link]  

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