Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Femme Pédale’s Spring Fling

Ladies, get out of the city for an afternoon and join us for our next women's bike ride.

May 7th - 1pm - outside Midlands Arts Centre (Cannon Hill Park).

Expect an easy pace with experienced ride leaders offering lots of support to less confident riders. Enjoy around 15 miles of cycling out into the lovely countryside around Birmingham, with plenty of stops along the way. We will give your bike a full safety check before setting off, leaving from and returning to MAC (please note, this is an on-road ride).

Bring water and snacks, your bike, and some friends!

We are really excited about this ride and want it to be as open and accessible as possible. Any questions, any reassurances, anything at all...let us know!

See you on May 7th!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

An ode to the petite reine

After the juddering wooden, Dandy Horse,
And the rattling Boneshaker – even worse –
Otherwise called the French velocipede,
In a Coventry workshop there came a new breed,
An invention of which we’d never seen the like:
JK Starley’s incredible Safety Bike.

The basic principles of the sewing machine,
A chain drive powered by feet, not steam,
Caused all other two-wheeled models to abort
And cleared the way for revolutionary transport.
Workshops mushroomed in Coventry town
And through the midlands, till all around
Frames were welded, steel tubes grafted,
Wheels carefully built, components crafted.
And soon all sorts of people found a way
To buy a bike, saving up a few months’ pay.

Men and women, rich and poor
Threw all distinctions to the floor
In adopting the new two-wheeled contraption
They opened the door to freer social interaction.
Women, for the first time, claimed the right
To cast off their skirts, heavy and tight,
And wear trousers, or rational dress,
To be free and mobile, like all the rest.

By the beginning of the twentieth century,
The bike had gained its place in society.
Although some rich families had a motor car,
The bicycle was more popular by far.
Cycling around was only sensible
In a world where the bike was indispensible.

At this moment when cycling could rise no higher,
A journalist, hoping to start a media empire,
Dreamed up a race of mythical proportion
A trial demanding superhuman strength
And thus threw a simple object into wild distortion
By pushing men to pedal all of France’s length.

The race that Desgranges inaugurated
Had nothing in common with the Tour today
These men signed up to be flagellated
By stages of up to 450 k.

They were on fixed gears, like all bikes at the time,
With a low ratio on one side, so when they had to climb
They’d hop off, switch their wheel around
And ascend, then switch it back to go down.

If a spoke snapped or they got a flat
No team car arrived with an identikit
The rule was, they had to fix it by the road side
One racer even re-welded his frame mid-ride.

The Tour grew more and more epic every year
Even after the derailleur, it stayed fixed gear.
They battled the Alps and the Pyrenees,
For 30 days brought France to its knees
In admiration of the men who took up the fight
To battle the mountains, long into the night.

To quote Roland Barthes, a myth was created
Cycling stopped being normal and became heroic
And all around the world the word was propagated:
Cyclists were strong and brave and stoic.

And within a generation the damage was done
Desgranges and his men had carefully spun
A scared image of the simple vélo
And made heroes of these men in yellow.

All this was timed nicely with the rise of the car
Ford pumped them out, they travelled wide and far
Everyday cycling was pushed to the margins
The tick of the freewheel drowned out by engines.

Perhaps it takes more than a media stunt
To explain why cycling is now defunct
To justify the aggression, the sarcastic wave
The car-drivers’ heckles of “wow, you’re brave!”

But today, when you jump on your bike
Let the others choke and splutter all that they like
Remember the bike’s the real transport solution
And each turn of the pedals is a revolution.

Thursday, 24 March 2011


This is utterly relevant to our cause, cos Carrie Brownstein from Sleater Kinney is involved, and I bet she kills on two wheels.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Wheels of Change - Sue Macy

I was selling some books on amazon and ended up buying this instead (still not sure how that happened).

Looks good eh! The history of women and bicycles.

This will soon be finding its way to the Birmingham Bike Foundry library, so give us a shout if you'd like to borrow it.

Susan B. Anthony: "(the bicycle) has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world."

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Repairing a puncture? Why, what an obviously sexual experience!

There's a cycling purchase I made a few months ago which I keep meaning to write about (and it’s not in praise of). Knog porno patches.

So, I ran out of patches after an unfortunate affair involving tire levers that seemed to have mysteriously sharpened themselves (in case you're wondering, there is a limit to how many times you can patch an inner tube before it becomes unusable). A fellow Birmingham Bike Foundry-er said something along the lines of 'Hey, we're doing an order, why not get a Knog puncture repair kit? Everything they make is awesome' – I believe meaning lights. Little did I know...

Porno, as you might expect, means pictures of naked ladies. On patches. My first impression was that this was slightly odd, but maybe there was some kind of message here, something along the lines of women should be happy with their bodies whatever shape and size, we shouldn't be ashamed of being sexually liberated, go women cyclists-you rock...second impression, yeah, it's really not about that.

A quick google reveals that most of the marketing around the patches focuses on them being a bit sexy and a bit naughty.

A few choice quotes:

"It's proven that these saucy patches are lurking between the tube and tyre of over 90% of parish ministers' pushies. Oh heavens, another puncture!"

"A lab test revealed that if you give these kinky self-adhesive patches to girls they’ll fix their bike puncture quick smart and ride away with a bike as sexy on the inside as the outside, and that if you give them to boys they’ll stick them on their nipples. Nuff said."

Feel free to say I'm being uptight (it wouldn't be the first time), but I'm not really onboard for images of naked women being used to sell puncture repair kits, regardless of how clever the marketing is. It seems to me that images of naked women should be used to sell products relating to being a woman and being naked (do you think the Knog designers repair punctures naked? Personally I’d feel a little exposed). There is no empowering undercurrent here, this is just women’s bodies used to make money.

Even if you don’t see the design as problematic from a female perspective, is it really necessary to sex up puncture repair? I’m failing to see the point.

It should be noted, the patches feature naked cartoons, not actual photographs, but I don't think this really changes the issue. The cartoon women all seem to have skinny, shapeless bodies with tiny breasts…further weirdness. I believe there is also a male version, but I'm yet to properly see the images as they seem to feature less on internet marketing.

Looking at the rest of the kit the contents are less sexualised, but definitely not so useful in a puncture situation. The patches are pre-glued, so vulcanising solution and chalk are not necessary. There is a bit of sandpaper, but a crayon for marking punctures is absent. The tire levers are frankly crap. I’ve found that they just aren’t rigid enough to use on racing tire beading, and they do not have the useful little hooks that clip onto spokes. Unless you’re one of those people with steel hands who need a lever once in a blue moon, you’re not going to find these make for an easy time.

So - sexist, a bit tasteless but harmless, silly and impractical...or a great product? Any ideas?

Monday, 21 March 2011

Canal Ride next Sunday

Hi everybody, a word from Pushbikes, Sparkbrook Neighbourhood Forum and Saheli on a canal ride taking place next weekend…

“A 12 mile ride starting and ending at Farm Park in Sparkbrook.

Traffic free for most of the way on the Birmingham and Fazeley & Bham and Worcester canal.

The aim is to encourage more people to use their bicycles: as well as being fun, its healthy and cheap!

It's free to join the ride and there are 18 bikes to borrow at no cost- but these must be booked by 22nd. The towpaths are in good condition but can be uncomfortable on fast road bikes with narrow high pressure tyres: commuting, hybrid, touring & mtb bikes are fine.

As most folk will not be regular cyclists we're planning to ride in two groups: - one riding slowly and carefully and walking the trickier bits - a faster group of experienced cyclists. Each group will have a leader & two 'sweepers' to ensure no one gets left behind.

We recommend you bring tools and have insurance - it's usually included in household policies - though this may not be possible for many. The experienced riders will provide any reasonable help on the day with punctures etc.

You'll also need to bring something to drink and your lunch as the route doesn't pass shops or cafes.”

Please check out this link for more info:

Also…it’s Spring! Well, I’m not sure if it technically is but it’s definitely warm and sunny. Time to do some more rides. Keep reading for details of the next Femme Pédale event – any suggestions for where to go? I’m thinking countryside.