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Hipster Bike Lesson 2: Your Bike is Too Big!

Dear San Francisco,

You lured me in with your painted ladies, your suspended bridges and steep hills. You wowed me with the wiggle, pleased me with the Panhandle and made me giddy with Golden Gate Park. Your streets are teeming with cyclists; your festivals abounding with bikes. But the closer I looked, the more baffled I became: not only were your cyclists pushing single speeds with single brakes, but 1 in 3 bikes I saw was TOO big!

It’s easy to look cool with a bike- bikes are sexy, bikes are hot, bikes look good with anything outfit. And of all the bikes out there, it is the vintage steel frame that is the most pure and sexy. But there’s a problem…. Your bike is TOO big! And that, my two-wheeled vixens, is not hot.

Questions to ask yourself:

1. Is your seat perched right on top of the frame?

2. Do you have to tip your bike horizontally to touch the ground?

3. Do you stretch out like Superman to reach your handlebars?

4. Are you 5’4″ and riding a 56cm?

4. Do you find yourself walking your bike more than riding it?

If you answered yes to any of the above, I have news for you…


So trade it in. Put it on Craigslist with the other 61cm frames and find one that fits. If you’re riding a fixie, know that it should be smaller than your road bike. I am 5’11” and my fixie is a 56cm- it’s compact, it’s agile, and best of all, I don’t hit my lady parts on the top-tube.

An easy way to measure: Take your height minus 5 and get your bike. I’m 5’11” and I ride a 56. My partner is 5’9″ and rides a 54. It’s not an exact method, but it’s a rough rule of thumb.

Go get ’em tigers–weave that compact frame through the tourists’ Blazing Saddles. And when you get to a light, relish in firmly planting your feet on the ground with plenty of clearance between the cold steel of your top tube and your family jewels.


September 2, 2008 at 9:05 am Leave a comment

San Francisco meet Sunday Streets

For those of you complaining that there isn’t enough open space to ride or enough car-free turf to explore, I would like to introduce you to Sunday Streets–an organization that opens urban roads for play time.

This Sunday, August 31st, San Francisco joins the ranks of other great cities like New York and Portland by holding a Sunday Streets play session. The route follows the waterfront from Bayview to Chinatown, areas of the city that sorely lack open space.

So grab your bike, hula hoop, rollerblades, sneakers or any number of car-alternatives and enjoy the roads. There’s plenty of activities planned and best of all, it’s free. The city play session happens from 9:00am to 1:00pm.

August 28, 2008 at 6:38 pm 1 comment

Hipster Bike Lesson 1: The Fixie vs. The Single Speed

Harry Campbell, NYT

Image by Harry Campbell, NYT

I love that biking has become cool. This month’s Paper Magazine features a spread of some of Brooklyn’shottest hipster cyclists. And to be one of those lanky, scraggly two-wheeled riders, you have to have the token hipster bike…the fixie. Only problem is that many of the citie’s “fixies” are actually single speeds disguised in fixie clothing.

There’s no shame in riding a single-speed. Your legs have to be extra tough to summit SF’s hills without the power of the ever-revolving cranks of a fixie and the bikes are still pure and beautiful looking. But there is danger. Serious danger.

So many of the single speeds dresssed as fixies have only ONE BRAKE. The single brake is helpful on the fixed gear, but DEADLY on the single-speed. Hipsters, don’t allow your ego to put you at risk of sailing over the handlebars.

Either flip that hub around and ride it like a fixed gear, using the front brake as a rescue or aid in the steep grade, or apply another brake. In a city where cyclists are killed annually, don’t put yourself at excess risk.

Don’t worry, you’ll still look just as hot with two brakes. Better yet, the messengers won’t make fun of you for posing with a single brake and limp cranks when you wheel it into Zeitgeist.

August 23, 2008 at 12:44 pm 1 comment

Talking (Helmet) Heads

While San Francisco is embattled in the outrageous Environmental Impact Study on bike pollution, New York is proving itself to be the coolest bike city in the country (sorry, Portland)

Talking Heads front man, David Byrne, has created a series of art bike racks designed to match the m.o. of the neighborhood–Williamsburg gets the guitar-shaped “Hipster” rack, while Wall Street gets the dollar sign.

The racks are only up for one year before being auctioned off, so sister city cyclists, lock up those fixies to the “Hipster” while you can.

August 21, 2008 at 8:19 am Leave a comment

Could Bike Lanes Cause Pollution?

Photo from the Wall Street Journal

This is the title of a Wall Street Journal article that focuses on San Francisco gadfly and anti-cyclist Rob Anderson.

Anderson, 65, has halted the city’s huge pro-bike plan, designed to provide more bike lanes, better bike parking and safer routes through the car-clogged city. Anderson’s claim is that more bike lanes mean more traffic jams, which translates into higher pollution.

With no apparent motive for hating cyclists (Anderson doesn’t even own a car), he has made it his full-time job to impede the bike plan. Anderson requested an environmental impact study to prove that more bikes don’t mean more pollution. When the city denied his request, he sued. Now San Francisco citizens must foot the bill for a study that proves that bicycles, zero emissions vehicles, aren’t harmful to our air.

When he isn’t busy filing briefs and sending excessive paperwork to City Hall, Anderson spends his days blogging about his hatred of cyclists. In one post, he compares cyclists who take to the street to suicide bombing Islamic Terrorists. Anderson is undeniably off his rocker, but unfortunately his instability comes at the risk of our safety.

Next time you find yourself trapped between trolly tracks and a speeding taxi on Market, you can blame Anderson for putting you at risk. And next time you have to lock your bike to a parking meter with seven other bikes piled up, you can blame Anderson for the lack of parking.

August 21, 2008 at 7:51 am Leave a comment

Copy Your Key Number

Last week I lost my keys at the beach. Actually, my friend lost them. Not a big deal, except that my only bike lock key was on it. And my bike was locked! Luckily it was in a place where I could keep an eye on it: in front of my house. But it got me thinking about how important it is to write that Kryptonite key number down somewhere.

My suggestion: email it to yourself. Each Kryptonite key comes with its own serial number. All you have to do is go on to order a new one. But if you don’t have that serial number, then you have to find some big tough person with serious bolt cutters to come and stomp on it–not the best for that pretty little frame and likely to break the bolt cutters.

So, back it up! And to be extra safe, order that spare key BEFORE you lose your keys at a tequila-drenched bbq.

July 14, 2008 at 11:22 am Leave a comment

Smoke in the air; a fire in the sky

I’m in Monterey for the summer and planned to bike many of the exquisite coastal roads of the Peninsula, but day after day, the wild fires have made it nearly impossible to ride, even though I’m nearly 30 miles from the fire.

When I do attempt to bike, my breath is shallow and my spit black, which seems to be enough of an indicator that it’s not the best day for a bike ride. The CA air quality board urges everyone to stay inside with the air conditioner on (ugh), but for those of us who use our bikes as transportation, not riding is really not an option.

So, my fellow cyclists, I urge you to take out the cruisers this week and save the road bikes for a cleaner day. Your lungs will thank you for the slower pedal and the less soot that you ingest.

If your burning lungs and the ash on your stem aren’t giving you a clear read on the air quality, you can visit for more information about air quality near you.

July 13, 2008 at 2:14 pm 2 comments

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