Friday, 30 April 2010

That's How We Roll

As Laura has established what we don't ride, lets talk about what we do:
  • Jess rides a single speed blue and white Raleigh, although she's going to flip that hub and ride fixed gear soon.
  • Laura rides a majestic Dutch bike, a Gazelle Toer Populaire to be precise.
  • Una rides a Peugeot racer and also has a blue Condor on which she has toured the world.
  • Lauren has recently started riding a 7 speed blue racer which has sailboat and sun set decals...jealous!
  • I (Nancy) ride a fixed yellow Peugeot racer and I have a green Raleigh Caprice shopper which is also fixed at the moment but I'm going to swap it over to single speed when I get round to it.

Quite a diverse list, defying even our own by-line since Una has a diamond frame. One trend though is age; only Laura has a recently constructed bike and she has ambitions of creating a single speed number which is not too heavy to take on the train. I'll take bets on the age of her new baby, my bid: at least 10 when it pops out.

This is no coincidence. Part of what the Bike Foundry wants to do is make affordable, good quality bikes available in Birmingham. The bikes that Jess, Lauren, Una and I ride all come from a bike workshop in Coventry which accepts donated bikes which are not being used, has volunteers come fix them up, and then sells them for a reasonable price. The idea is that more bikes are available locally and less quality frames rust away in sheds, back gardens or landfills. Now, by rights, since I don't live locally, I shouldn't have bought this beauty, which Amy, who volunteers in Coventry, found in a back garden, but I'm very glad I was allowed to. And I feel sort of vindicated by being involved in starting something similar here.

Anyway, meet Monte Carlo! Pretty cool, right Originally a 6-speed racer with a rear derailleur, I converted to fixed gear (no gears, or more accurately, only one - a fixed ratio between the small back sprocket and the larger chain ring) and yes, I heart my bike.

I make concessions to speed and the classic 'fixie' look with full mudguards and a luggage rack but they don't add a lot of weight and are very practical. The Brooks saddle and moustache handlebars (see below) were gifts. I especially appreciate the saddle which, if any ladies are riding synthetic and suffering, I'm convinced protects from cystitis.

Old frames are good for fixed gear and single speed conversions as they're more likely, I think, to have horizontal drop outs on the back forks, which you need to create the right chain tension - they make your back wheel position adjustable. It also means you can ride a good looking vintage bike but make it light, faster and easier to maintain. You can get lots of useful tips about converting on Sheldon Brown. It doesn't suit everyone (especially if you live somewhere with many hills!) and I'm not evangelist, but for me it's been a good way to take control of my bike - I can do pretty much everything that needs doing to keep it running, any problems are easy to identify, which is not always the case in more hi-tech hybrids or mountain bikes.

What do you ride& why? Want help with a conversion? Femme Pédale wants to know! You can now email us: femmepedale at googlemail dot com (hope you get our spam defender).

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Los Coňos Interview!

Jess Duffy, Fin Skillen (Birmingham Bike Foundry) 

L-R: Sarah, Jo, Ali

~ As promised, the interview with the lovely ladies is all done but I thought seeing as the Birmingham Polo teams were playing against them on Sunday at the UK Championships in Manchester, I would wait to get the gossip! As it happens they drew 2-2, those girls are gooood. Unfortunately I couldn't make it but I'm not sure who I would have been cheering on anyway! The full write-up of the interview is on it's way ~

Friday, 16 April 2010

Bicycle ride around Canon Hill Park for mac sings:

All credit must go to Lauren for pointing me in the direction of this post on birmingham cyclist; despite working at mac it had seemed to escape my attention that they wanted cyclists to take part in their opening events! But never fear, I got in touch with the people who know people and they are very happy for the Birmingham Bike Foundry and Femme Pedale and all our lovely members/readers to take part! So if on Monday 3rd May you find yourself at a loose end, please join us at various locations around the park for some bicycle rides, chats and maybe even a few demos! Approximately 2pm - 4pm. Although do send us a message for confirmation. Lovely stuff.


Bikes bikes bikes bikes bikes....

Just been linked to Chris Gilmour's website and his beautiful life-size sculptures made entirely from cardboard and glue. Obviously the bikes caught my eye, they are ridiculously detailed....I wonder if they actually work! Not very practical but lovely to look at. 

In more detail:


Reclaiming the night...with a bike?

The danger of walking alone at night is something that most women are forced to consider now and again, if not on a weekly basis. Unfortunately these concerns are not simply generated by media hype of a ‘broken Britain’ populated by muggers hiding behind every street corner waiting to jump the vulnerable or unwary. That it is not safe for a woman to walk alone after a certain time is a fact that we all have to incorporate into our lives. This isn’t just an issue of getting home from nights out, if you’re working late, or just needing to pop out to the shop or meet a friend, personal safety is something that all too often needs to be considered.

So, what are we to do? Well there’s always the public transport, but aside from the fact that buses and trains do eventually stop running, not everybody feels safe sat alone late at night. Personally I do generally feel okay on Birmingham’s public transport, but I can see why you might not. Waiting alone at stations or stops, worrying friendly strangers who insist on sitting next to you and asking for your number, and the eventual half dash from your stop to the front door.

Then there are taxis, but to be frank, who can afford to fork out every time they need to travel late at night? Of course sharing taxis back can work out great price wise but there’s not always someone going in your direction. Although it’s not an issue I’ve particularly heard discussed in Birmingham, there have been well publicized cases of attacks on women by taxis drivers. Companies with exclusively female drivers are a great idea, but this is a choice I’ve never seen advertised or have been offered. 

This entry seems to be going down a pretty depressing path (sorry!), but hope can be a two wheeled format! Since I first became comfortable with cycling on roads I’ve felt safe biking home at pretty much any time of night. Firstly, a person on foot is going to have a pretty hard time catching you. Second, when on the road you become part of the traffic. Although many drivers may not see cyclists as proper road users, I imagine most pedestrians do. When you’re on your bike you’re not a lone women who can be stopped and harassed, you’re only moderately more approachable than a motorized vehicle. Also very important, cycling is free!

Personally, I’ve found cycling at night very liberating; being able to travel without being reliant on other people or the depth of your wallet can feel great. But this isn’t to say that cycling is the solution to all transport related problems. For example, I don’t think drunk cycling can be reasonably advocated, no matter how tempting it can be. In addition, I know some women who, justifiably, will not cycle through certain areas after dark, parks being the prime example. Of course there are also still incompetent car drivers to look out for. Finally, cycling at night is great, but we should never give up the fight to be able to travel in safety in any manner we want, and at any time we want. Campaigns like Reclaim the Night are as important now as they ever were.

Next entry: how to use your bike as an offensive weapon against potential attackers!

Friday, 9 April 2010

More bike sales!

There is a cycle jumble being held in Kidderminster on April 24th! You can get some really good bits and pieces for your bike from these events so its worth a look. Hopefully there should be a group of us going so if you're worried about getting lost, send us a message!

Forest Glades Leisure Centre

Bromsgrove Street
DY10 1PP

Sellers: 08.30am table £8.50, NO COMPLETE BIKES inside, might get 'elf & safety visit
Buyers: 10.00am

Contact: Doug Pinkerton 07778 429313

All the details I could find. See you there!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

I don't mean to be sexist but...

I was struggling over a burst inner tube in the car park at my work; I only had one tyre lever, and was making do with some teaspoons to get the tyre off the wheel. A senior manager, resplendent in lycra ambled over from his very nice custom road bike and volunteered a hand. I was mildly annoyed; not at his community-spirited overture, but because he opened the offer "I don't mean to be sexist, but you look like you could really use some help". I asked to borrow some tyre levers, and instead he took the job off me, lavishly complimenting my attempt; "You don't see many women trying this". Patching an inner tube is hardly an exotic achievement, and I have seen several people of a distinctly feminine persuasion carry it off with aplomb. I am sure this guy genuinely didn't want to come across as sexist, but by tainting an entire gender-way with my (non-girly based) clumsiness, he kind of did. Now I feel self-conscious doing repairs in public, in case I accidently shame my sex, like a Victorian matron accidentally flashing a few inches of calf.

This reflected a more general issue I've experienced as a female cyclist. Unpleasant as the heckles and shouted abuse can be, open aggro is easily identified and acted against. The errors of the well-meaning can also be off-putting; these mistakes can be made both by over-focusing on sometimes narrow ideas of feminine needs and by totally ignoring the existence of clued-up lady cyclists.

One off-the cuff example of this I found today was this bike: the Giant Chixie. It pretty much the only off the peg fixed gear/ single speed bike designed specifically for women on the UK market. The best I can say for it is that it isn't pink; otherwise, it is a messy abortion of a bike. I'm not a huge fan of chunky aluminium frames, huge riser bars or brightly coloured deep profile rims at the best of times- together they look like a toy belonging to a myopic and offensively twee child. The advertising guff witters on about running it as a "true fixed", which according to Giant means sans brakes. This is both illegal on public roads, and positively dangerous without foot retention on the pedals (not supplied with the Chixie, naturally). The name is an obvious fucking disgrace. Giant doesn't make the best looking rides, but you would expect the market to come up with at least one other fixed-gear bike for women; perhaps one that expects them to have adult tastes in both aesthetics and performance.

Another stupid example is this bike rack (heh- rack/rack!). It's meant to be a mudflap girl. The image of a bicycle chained to female objectification in metal form is fairly depressing. Adding to the miserable effect is the fact the designer was David Byrne, who is generally quite awesome, and has done a lot of bike advocacy. The project of fun bike parking was a good idea- positive, public and attention grabbing. However, this one of a dozen-odd designs just seems lazy and juvenile; almost as misguided as the New York authorities, who didn't comment on this, but vetoed another bike stand in the shape of a bottle of fortified wine, on the grounds of "poor taste". Giant porn silhouettes are installed by the NY Department of Transport; real women fade into the background. Byrne's design would have to be a hell of a lot wittier for me to let that slide.

There's sort of a point to all this- basically the points that Nan, Jess, and Una have already put across well- we need to be acknowledged as a positive and normal part of bike culture. It seems that there is as much work to be done on those who share our enthusiasm for two wheels as anyone else.

Shameless Plug

The word on the street is that Bobbin Bicycles will be holding a sample sale on Friday- they do gorgeous old-fashioned bicycles and nice accessories, which are usually too far into the Islington price range for my distinctly bedsit budget. Anyway, it's definitely worth a look if you're in the area- sale bikes start at £120 and panniers at a fiver.

In the same viciously acquisitive vein, I have just got hold of a massive roll of scotchlight-esque reflective fabric tape, which I hope to sew into safety-boosting rosettes and sashes. Ideas for fun, high-visibility craft projects would be most welcome.