Hawkes Bay NZ Water trail

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Being a fashionable urban biker

New York Fashion Week just ended, and the traveling road show of fashionistas is now in Milan. I've been reading several fashion blogs this week, where after a while you feel like you've entered an alternative universe. I'm pleased to report that, according to those in the know, riding bikes is "hot" again.

Last weekend saw something called the First Annual Upright Bicycle Ride. Lots of people without helmets and dressed in street clothes tooling around town on their cruisers. Some pundits dubbed it the "anti-Critical Mass" ride. Critical Mass is a completely different topic, to be explored, perhaps, in a subsequent blog post. Let's go back to this ride. The ride seems to have had something to do with Bicycle for a Day, which, in turn, seems to have something to do with actor Matthew Modine. On this site you can watch a movie of Matthew ride nonchalantly around a remarkably traffic-free mid-town Manhattan, demonstrating just how cool it is to be a cyclist.

During my time this summer dodging killer traffic in London, I learned that the British call their upright bikes "Sit-Up-And-Begs," which, given how "doggy" the Brits are, is a way catchier title. But, if you spend any time in London, you soon get used to seeing men in bespoke suits whipping around the City on their foldup bicycles, some with a leather briefcase attached to the front handlebar.

OK, OK I succumbed to this charming sight. I am now the proud owner of a third bike, which would qualify as a "SUAB." While I was away I bought an extremely cute and technically curious Brompton bike, which I named William. Why? I spent so much time in Normandy during the summer being surrounded by "Wm. the Conqueror" stuff, the name just made sense. I brought it back on the plane and avoided the usurious Delta bike transport fees, because, well, it's a fold-up bike, so is hidden in plain sight. Plane/plain, get it? Argh. I have future plans for William that may involve international travel, but for now I am experimenting with dressing myself in a skirt and heels, and riding around Seattle to see how practical this can be. Plus I'm making even more friends as people smile and point at me on my "little" bike and want to know more.

Now, according to one fashion blogger to be a totally totally cool urban biker, you need to take a look at some fashionable new offerings from PUMA. According to the website, PUMA is "known for paring a bike down to its bare essentials" as well as being "designed to find solutions to everyday annoyances that come with maneuvering bikes through the urban jungle." If you buy one of these pretty machines, you get a sticker book of bike names which will allow you to customize a unique name for your bike.

Although they think they have, I don't think PUMA has cornered the market on fashionable bikes. Hmm, I wonder what happened to those beautiful customizable Klein bikes I used to see everywhere a few years ago?

As for putting a name sticker on my bike, oh please. I recently had a chat with my trusty tourer Sir Gulliver. My stickerless Sir G. just faithfully carried me on my trip in Northern Arizona and then came home with me on Alaska Airlines, for the somewhat reasonable fee of $50, snug in a cardboard box I got from friendly Flat Tire bike store in Cave Creek, AZ.

Sir Gulliver would likely be insulted by a sticker, and is perfectly capable of finding his own way of avoiding the annoyances of urban riding.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Riding Rim to Rim

Top: L/R North Rim Grand Canyon Lodge/Ash Fork, AZ Get your kicks on Route 66
Center: L/R Grand Canyon from NR/NPS is trying to build Greenways [bike paths] on the South Rim. Yeah!
Bottom: L/R The moment before a screaming descent into House Rock Valley on the Arizona Strip/My souvenir of riding the highways of Arizona

Monday, September 20, 2010

Riding Rim to Rim

A popular hiking trip, called going "Rim to Rim" involves going down the South Kaibab Trail or the Bright Angel Trail from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park, passing through Phantom Ranch, and climbing to the North Rim via the North Kaibab Trail.
Less known is the fact that you can ride your bike from Rim to Rim as well. I'm not talking about doing so via the Kaibab trail. That would involve mountain bikes and super human endurance. Also, the NPS doesn't allow any bikes below the Rim, so that's out.

But riding it is possible, and you can even skip the part of the Arizona Strip [from Marble Canyon to the eastern entrance of the park] by taking a shuttle.

I've just done it. Plus, once you're on the South Rim, you can ride to Phoenix. I'll post some photos to the blog once I return to Seattle. Today I'm shading up in Phoenix, as it's been a bit hot to be on the bike out there, and it's triple digit weather here.

One of the tools I used for this ride was Adventure Cycling's Grand Canyon Connector map. I also used the bike option in Google Maps to map out the last bit from Wickenburg to Cave Creek. Google only fails within the last mile of the map, pointing to non-existent streets.

The high desert is in bloom, as there's been a lot of rain during the monsoons of August. The flowers are pretty impressive. And I found Arizona motorists to be very considerate all-in-all, despite some long stretches on hot, straight, rumble stripped desert highways. Looks like "share-the-road" is taking route here, which is great.