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What does Jan Gehl ride?

Why, just like Dr. Behooving, Jan Gehl rides a Velorbis—though his staff do say he has BehoovingMoving set as the default page on all of their internet browsers.

Anyone from Velorbis, if you see this, please, get on over to Gehl's office ASAP and set the man up with your new issue stainless steel handlebars and seat pole. The dude's riding around on one of your prototype models. (Unless we're saying rust is aristocratic, in which case, pardon me.)

Gehl is pictured above outside his office, with New York DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, who, judging by the way she's all snuggled up, is quite obviously smitten. Further proof that gentlemen, who are architects, who ride Velorbi, are god's gift to women, but you knew that already, if you have read my book Get The Look.

So we know Foster and Banham ride/rode Moultons, that Ingels rides a Biomega, and now, that Jan Gehl rides a Velorbis. This is all vital information I am gathering for you here folks. A little appreciation would not go astray :) I would certainly appreciate any thoughts regarding the make of bike Jane Jacobs is seen riding, in that old picture there on the right.

The Scrap Deluxe by Velorbis [Review]

Product reviews bring readers to blogs. So, if you're lonely, and want readers, write a review, on your washing machine, long haired cat, new jeans, whatever you've got. After three months of owning a Velorbis Churchill Classic, I sat down and wrote a lengthy, detailed review, laying bare any fault I could find after 90 days of solid use, and describing the genuine pleasure this bike had brought me. Now if I type "Velorbis Review" into goggle, I find my blog about architecture and bicycles. You might call reviews a "side line" of mine.

If you have come to this review, because you are thinking of buying a Scrap Deluxe by Velorbis, you will most likely want to read related reviews also: my Velorbis Churchill Classic Review; my earlier review of the Scrap Deluxe ladies model; and my part technical, part art theoretical, review of Balloon Tires. Though I'm more of a writer than a media presenter, I've uploaded a brief clip to youtube as well.

How I came to possess this Scrap Deluxe
Some weeks ago, a comment was left below my now famous Velorbis review, asking for a review comparing the Churchill Classic and Scrap Deluxe. Brassy as ever, I put it to Velorbis that they should give me a Scrap. "How about a loan?" they replied, to which I said they would not want the bike back, once I was finished. I would not be treating this bike as an ornament, as I'm sure some buyers do.

It bides well upon Velorbis, that they have since given me a Scrap Deluxe to review. I could write the most scathing review now, and still keep the bike. You may have noticed Brooks Saddles post unfiltered criticism of their products on their website. Knowing from my earlier review of my Churchill Classic, that I would be merciless, Velorbis have shown great faith in their product, but over and above that, a genuine commitment to transparency, by giving me a bike, no strings attached. It seems manufacturers are learning customers would rather buy products with a few imperfections, than walk into deals with their eyes closed.

The full list of faults
Allow me then to dispel anyone's suspicions, that I might in any way be beholden to the generous donors of my new favourite bike, by being thorough in my criticism of the 3 Velorbi that live in my house.

Some paint on the chain-side chainstay of my 1 year old Churchill Classic has come off in flakes. Sure, the bike is kept outside, and I live by the beach, and that WD40 I have been spraying around might not have helped, and maybe they're stone chips, but doesn't anyone make a titanium bike of this kind, for anal oxidizationphobes such as myself? My wife's Scrap Deluxe ladies bike—that she purchased after reading my other review—came with a plastic head-badge, not a chromed aluminium one, as specified. Now the fake chrome finish is peeling. Also, her handlebars show rust where I accidentally scratched them with my son's scooter (if you're reading this Primrose, the situation was desperate, the poor love was crying with a graze on his ankle, very loudly, etc., and if the bars were made of stainless as specified, you would never have needed to know any of this). For the sake of my marriage, I hope Velorbis will leave a comment below, to let us know if perhaps my wife's bike was part of some dodgy batch, for which a few inferior parts might have been substituted? Okay, and to wrap up the issue of rust, so precious to precious coastal dwellers like me, I should point out that the rear racks of my Churchill Classic, that admittedly I have bashed around (isn't that what rear racks are for?), are showing signs of rust too. Rust specs keep showing through the chrome cranks, but thus far I have been able to polish them clean with aluminium foil.

A few days after posting this review, Velorbis wrote to advise that since late 2010, all their rear carriers are galvanized before painting, all handlebars are now stainless steel (no exception), and, "Pedal arms are now alloy and the crank wheel is powder coated to protect against rust".

The take home message for me, is that they are reading and taking an interest. The take home message for you, should be that I have a unique situation living here near the surf. I watch aluminium oxidize! Plus all bikes get paint chips from use. Unless you live near the beach, you should be able to just dab them with nail polish and forget all about it.    

My thoughts about how these are made
Regular Behooving Moving readers will know, how I agonize over outsourcing. Velorbis don't hide the fact that they are based in Denmark, and have their frames made in Germany. This could explain why their frames have always had a braze-on gear cable end, on the right chainstay, that was redundant back when they used SRAM7 gear hubs, and is still redundant now they have swapped to Shimano. If their office was attached to their factory, I'm sure this little matter would have been fixed in an instant. But this is just how the bike business rolls. Frames and parts can be sourced from the ends of the earth, and will most often all fit together with only minor interface problems. The alternative would be brake levers made by frame makers: very "agricultural", as CB would say.

Upon taking delivery of my FREE Scrap Deluxe, I decided to atomize my Churchill Classic. Tinkering. I'm a tinkerer. My disappointment with the paint on that chainstay, was quickly forgotten, as the joy of disassembling a well put together machine grew with each component laid on the floor. All the fixings are indeed stainless. No signs of rust on the fenders. Nothing overtightened, or loose. It struck me actually, just how much work goes into making bikes such as these. The sheer labour involved in assembly, makes such a bike worth the money. Whoever Velorbis are paying to build these things up, while they focus on marketing, knows what they are doing.

European mystique
However, we must remember, that while the English speaking world was seeing bicycles as sporting equipment, the Europeans kept on knocking out sturdy commuting bikes by the millions. America's rediscovery of utility bikes, the kind we're now seeing news of from NAHBS, has the smell of a novelty event, work bikes fussed over as though they were jewelry. The Europeans slap bikes together, more like Hill's Hoists, or wheel barrows, or hammers, than Swiss watches or whatever those crazy Americans think bikes should be. The welds are tidy enough, but would win no "Best Welding" ribbons. The problem such matter-of-fact bike makers in Europe now face, is that C-word, China, from whence most Europeans' bikes emanate now.

So can these bike makers stay afloat, by marketing their European made bikes to England's former colonies, as somehow noble or chic? Given our propensity for self-flagellation, and our authenticity fetish, it shouldn't be hard. To wit, Velorbis now issue their bikes with lush leather envelopes in which to keep "service records". It makes one wonder if Velorbis have service centers all over Europe. They do? You're pulling my leg! Please, if you do present your service record card to your local bicycle mechanic, could you film their reaction? We would all love to see it.

Mock though I might, I buy into this too. And be honest, you wouldn't be reading my blog if you weren't effete too. Just yesterday, some lovely naïveté crossed the street beaming, to ask where I had purchased such a lovely machine. "Oh, they come from Denmark," I told her. "They cost $2000—though this one was given to me, to review for my Blog. Est-ce que tu parle francais?" And she said, "Oui."  Me: "Voulez-vous avoir le sexe?"

My rigorous road test
But if you're running late, fighting traffic, carrying loads, lost, sweating, and have burning thighs, all the Euro cache in the world wont compensate for a crap bike. Like atomizing my Churchill Classic to see if it's actually well made, I decided to put my Scrap Deluxe to the ultimate bicycling challenge. Could I use this bike to visit a few shops around Newtown, Woolloomooloo and the office district of Sydney, dine at my favourite restaurant in China Town, meet a friend for an after-work drink back at Wynyard, then make it to another friend's house in Bondi before her early bed time, not really knowing my way? With my pannier loaded for an overnight trip, and my clipless pedals in place of the flats, I gave it a try.   

For my serious concrete-jungle assault, I found the Scrap Deluxe mostly up to the task. The thin retro steel framing tubes provide less lateral rigidity than would be ideal when hammering out of the saddle; the power doesn't go straight to the road. If you want that, buy a Cannondale. I worried on a few big descents that those drum brakes might not pull me up, if I went as fast as I might have—though I know disc brakes need maintenance, and drum brakes just are. In any case, not many riders, me included, would make a habit of speeding down steep roads choked with cars. Aside from the weakish type brakes, and lateral sway, no other inadequacies in the bike ever took my mind from my task. That's the real test of a bike when put through a challenging ride. The Shimano Nexus gears, that Velorbis have switched to from SRAM7, change every bit as well as Shimano's highly regarded Alfine rear hub, that I guess only costs more because it is lighter. The old style cranks weren't at all flimsy. The riding position is perfect, in my opinion, as I remarked on with my review of the Churchill. Upright enough to feel safe. Forward enough that you're able to climb and accelerate. It's an overall thumbs-up as well for Schwalbe's Fat Franks. I wrote this boffin piece about the rolling resistance of balloon tires, without making mention of how sure-footed they are. Heading down Military Road from Vaucluse to Bondi (yes, I had missed a few turnoffs), it was reassuring to know my tires weren't about to stray into any cracks in the old concrete surface. Arriving to a hero's welcome—"You rode all the way from the city on that big old bike"—made it all worth it.

Some technical details worth mentioning are: the new school cartridge style bottom bracket, showing we don't have to live in the dark ages for the sake of being cool; the silver cable outer, that just looks better than black; and the full swag of prestige components, like Bush and Muller lights and Brooks leather everything.
Scrap Deluxe or Churchill Classic?

If having to choose one over the other (the Scrap Deluxe or Churchill Classic) I would probably take The Churchill Classic, for the added puncture resistance of those Schwalbe Marathon tires. Marathons have a 5mm thick SmartGuard® strip, protecting against such things as thumb tacks or grass seeds. Fat Franks have a protective Kevlar belt, or Kevlar®Guard, that while not adding so much to rolling resistance as SmartGuard® strips (something lower pressure fat tires cannot afford), is unlikely to stop a thumb tack, large piece of glass, or wire strand from puncturing your tube.

I would choose the slightly more practical bike because the joy, for me, of a fully equipped utility bike, lies mostly in the getting around. The slightly increased risk of enduring a flat with those supple Fat Franks, weighs more heavily than the compliments and looks that I am missing out on, because the Scrap is more showy. I should say as well, that the big wheels and slender forks provide the Churchill Classic a slightly more comfortable ride than those fat tires on the Scrap could ever match, even if you were prepared to go slower and let out some air.

In a round and about way, I guess I'm recommending the Scrap Deluxe if you want a bike for making the scene, and the Churchill Classic if—like me—you rely on your bike for transport and really don't want any flats. Not that my Churchill is much use to me while it's lying in pieces! Neither have I punctured on my Scrap—aside from on the first day, but then I hadn't yet put my Dr. Sludge in.

Concoction of a Faux Modernist Masterpiece
Let us conclude though with some lyrical waxing over this bike's fabulous looks, that after all, are what most likely piqued your interest to find this review. Whatever I might say about paint—and my Primrose's silver Scrap shows little sign of troubles yet—I cannot fault Velorbis's style sense. Cream, silver and leather. No itchy hand wanting to add a splash of maroon. I want Velorbis to lie to me, say these are made in Walter Gropius's Fagus-Werke factory. Could they be? Please! And could some photos of Scraps be arranged inside the Maison de Verre? or on the ramps of the Penguin Pool in Regent's Park Zoo? They should be sold, of course, in William Crabtree's Peter Jones Store in Chelsea, London. I am referring only to pioneering Modernist works, not in America, because this is the bike I wish we could say someone designed at the Bauhaus. I want to hear Schwinn stole the idea of the balloon bike, from some famous European architect/furniture designer/minimalist composer and action writer. 

Indeed, if I told you right now that Le Corbusier himself had designed it, and that royalties from every sale went to his estate, you might just agree, that it's not worth buggering up some good stories for the sake of the facts. Let us agree, right here and now, that someone from Velorbis was conducting archival research in Paris, when they uncovered plans for this bike in Le Corbusier's archive, signed by Le Corbusier, 1932. Thus a classic of the early Modernist era was brought to light, and made commercially available, allowing us now to indulge our nostalgia for that period in history, while staying fit, and beating traffic. Nice.

5 irregular bikes

I have had the pleasure of test riding a few different bikes over the past week or two. Before memories dim, let me share my impressions:

The Vanmoof is a clever idea for a top tube, attached to gear you would otherwise have to walk down K-Mart's bike aisle to see. Don't be fooled by the Brooks saddle. In any case, this will become your pub bike when the lights break, whereupon you'll loose that saddle to thieves. Very disappointing.

Far more behooving is Electra's Ticino 20D. This flagship type model boasts a smooth welded aluminium frame, parading as fillet brazed cro-mo, that would cost more to produce, and provide a more comfortable ride. But Aluminium is light! For a full claptrap package—front and rear racks and full mudguards—this bike is as light as they come. It also has bling: leather toe straps, "Electra" embossed everywhere, coiled stainless cable outer, leather washers, and a race worthy 105 drive train. Exquisite stuff, truly. The seat could be a Brooks. The down tube friction shifters are so hard to reach you wont bother. But otherwise, wow! I could clean this bike every weekend for years, and never get bored. This bike has actually raised my expectations of all production bikes in this category. For $2999 though, I would prefer if it had lights.  

From that to the Velorbis Leikier, a bike I have admired in pictures for over a year. The pictures don't show the very rough welds. Industrial chic? No, just sloppy workmanship actually. It steers a bit like a unicycle, wants to do wheelies, accelerates like a recumbent, but just looks the bomb—from a distance. If you want to be that mysterious man, who mysterious women make notes to talk to sometime, this is your bike. The handlebars are works of art, and for your $2999, you do get lights with this one.

Now on to a box bike, the first one I've ever ridden in fact. If like me, you miss feeling misunderstood since you lost your religion, here is your chance to start proselytizing again, for a new maligned cause. Blessed are ye when you are cursed for your faith, as I was by a Falcon driver (wearing a hat!), who blared his horn as he passed me during my test ride. Wear a bright shirt! You will be taking a lane as surely as a team of draft horses while riding this bike, so completely at drivers' mercy. This first box bike experience of mine was with a Belgian made Achielle brand bike. I'm told this is an old family owned business. They were ghost makers for numerous brands that have since found cheaper frame makers in China. So now Achielle are a brand unto themselves. All those brands who took their business to China did leave something behind though: patterns for every kind of bike known to European mankind, including priest bikes, mixties, omas, and the box bike I'm pictured pretending to ride. Their Australian stockist/importer, Morgans Bicycles in Sydney, occupy an out-of the way showroom in Alexadria, set up more like an Armani factory outlet than a bicycle store. If that pot you tried in Amsterdam is still giving you flashbacks, spin yourself out and call by. You will think you are back there. Every kind of bike you saw chained up at Centraal, is there on display.

Finally, the Hon. Hamish and I had a chance, after many years dreaming of the day, to finally do a few laps on a Strida. The handling really comes into its own below 2 kilometers per hour. Yes, you can ride in circles among pedestrians while waiting for the little green man. Could you be fined? That depends on whether or not such a thing actually classifies as a bicycle. If not, it could accompany you on board trains for no extra fare, and could be ridden on footpaths without a helmet. It would not be worth buying though, without such concessions. Sure, as a talking point maybe, until you get tired of showing people how it clips together with magnets. Yes, very clever.

Thanks to Newfarm Bikes in Brisbane, and Morgans Bicycles and Clarence Street Cyclery in Sydney, for letting me test ride their bikes.
There is a tradition within British aesthetics of analysing nature and buildings from the subjective standpoint of a single person, the writer. Whenever I find myself reading and reeling from self indulgence, I have to catch myself, and remind myself, that we would still be stuck still with Aristotle and Kant were it not for privileged brats like William Gilpin, who had the audacity to describe the world as it appeared to no one other than him. 

In Gilpin's case nature was like a picture presented to the eye of an oarsman heading down a river in England, that I presume is still there. It's the River Wye anyway. Each vista unfolding as each bend is completed is described as though god were presenting it for Gilpin alone to apprehend and admire. Strange how, in hindsight, we can say a man's journal entries were about to ignite something so radical for the time as the Picturesque.

Fast forward to the 1950s, and Nicholas Pevsner describing San Vitale as an unfolding of vistas to the viewer walking along the ambulatory gazing into the nave—quite an unnatural thing to do, I discovered, when I went there last year and remembered what Pevsner had written. Fast forward again to about now, and Iain Borden's book about architecture and cities as perceived through his toes riding a skateboard. Self indulgent indeed, but as I say, there is this tradition. Thus, if I may:

Tonight I took a ride on my Promrose's Velorbis along the coastal strip where I live. A mile West of here it has been forty degree plus since 11 this morning. On the coast though, it has remained a full 10 degrees cooler. And since around 5pm, half a million from less fortunate postcodes have been in my privileged one for a swim.

How better to let them know I have not struggled with parking, than to do laps of the strip on a bike I could not have come far on. Oh, my artful avoidance of eye contact. The way I can make rolling my shirt sleeve seem so important right when I know someone is itching to engage me, by saying, "Nice bike." Half an hour later, I have been drinking, and I am writing. But while I was out there feeling self conscious about my fabricated perfection, I rounded a bend to behold a sunset straight from a cover of Awake in the Watchtower. I'm talking sunbeams like yucca leaves, buildings I know very well appearing as black stencils over the sky, and a cool ocean breeze straight from the Pocket Book of Cliches.

Now could I have had this great moment on foot, or in a car? No, because the space hopper tyres floating on sand on the path, the rapid succession of equally wonderful vistas before the one I actually stopped for, the dozens of pretty faces I had been furtively glimpsing in my heterosexual manner, and a few endorphins from putting out watts, were what made me finally stop upon seeing that sunset, and admit a state of bliss had beset me. 

Bliss begets thoughts of death, naturally, thoughts about the switch one day being turned off on all of this light, or equally dreadful are simply thoughts of having to go back to work. I've now been for a 10pm swim. Did you know it's possible to back-float under constellations you know from tattoos and actually listen in to the conversations of strangers? Their voices pass through the water. I've drifted irretrievably from the topics of pushbikes and/or architecture. Blame this hot weather. And blame 4 standard drinks, and a nice ride and a swim that this post will not have so many pictures. 

Get the look: Summer Lover

The Ladies, god bless, are drawn to cliches. It's biological: the need for stability, etc. and bla bla. So here's a cliched image for keeping/winning a lady, that in terms of the clothing you will need, is Summer-time cheap.

Pseudo relaxed pose, and calf muscle flex pose (Click to view soleus).

Spanking new linen shirt: $90 (per week). Boaty type shorts: $35 on the lee side of Christmas. Dodgy panama hat from fashion store catering to the undiscerning buyer of hats: $15 (or $75 pre Christmas). Some kind of produce, could be the bread stick, but in this case I've gone with 1kg of coffee: $40. Wayfarer sunnies: $250 (but you can find cheaper).

Exaggeratedly relaxed pose, and convinced you are handsome pose.  

Whiskers and chest rug ooze nurturing masculinity, while nothing on your feet tells her you are not scared of grass seeds or anything. I've used a ladies bike here to let her know I have female friends, or perhaps some loose attachment of the kind that excites the new woman. Germain though is the deeper message conveyed by a bike with no top tube. It tells her just how deeply assured I am of my own masculinity (as though anyone would mistake that mush for a girl's anyway!) White, cream, silver, pale blue, the coast and salt air always in view over your shoulder, fresh roasted coffee beans on route to your own La Pavoni Espresso Machine... my Primrose of course could have any man in this town, but why on Earth would she even consider!

This look not for you? Perhaps you would prefer: Florentine Gigolo, Motorcycle rebel Really Suave Guys or "grown ups" from when you were a kid. All looks humbly offered in the hope future generations will descend from the cyclists of this one.

Gnome et Rhone and Velorbis

Residents of my fair beach side community, especially those of us who meet in the water to surf, all know Strat, quintessential surf bum and part time moteecycle enthusiast. Well, back when I bought my Velorbis, Strat and I stumbled upon common ground on which to converse, he telling me of the classic Danish motorcycle The Gnome Roam, my Velorbis being its counterpart, since it too was made in Denmark you see. Fool me for ever going on line to look up the Gnome Roam. It's actually called the Gnome and Rhone, and was made in France, not Denmark. I learn too that this make of motorcycle has a closer bicycle cousin than the Velorbis, the Gnome and Rhone bicycle. Yes, they made push bikes as well! Pictured is an aluminium framed one from around 1950.
With regards to classic motorcyles, alas, Strat can be a dubious witness. As to where and when the surf will be looking as it does in the clip you will find if you click on that wave, he remains my city's leading authority.

Free Stylin'

For once, I seem lost for words. I guess if you were looking for something to read, you could check my previous 140 blog entries.


Birth pains continued: The BM Quotidian

In today's episode Dr. Behooving continues to chronicle the evolution of the most considered design for an every-day bike since Raleigh released its Sports model. For readers just joining, the bike when complete will be one he will want to ride each day for the rest of his life, hense its name, The Behooving Moving Quotidian. The story continues

So I take some advice from Gus, that the chopper forks I was drawing would really add weight, then I go to meet my frame builder CB King for yet another working lunch to talk about lugs. A few breakthroughs result.
As yet neither Columbus or Reynolds are making stainless fork blades, let alone bent ones. (Although this blog post suggest that may not be right??? CB: please have a look!) Neither would I be able to source the various lugs I need for my unusual frame design via regular sources, were I to insist on those lugs being stainless. Such a shame! The detail of a stainless lugged and stainless tubed frame by Bob Brown (above left) is utterly gorgeous. However, if I were to accept that the lugs and fork blades could be CroMo, and painted, and then if I reserved my use of unpainted stainless for the actual tubes, fenders and chain guard, the whole bike could be assembled using off the shelf lugs. The central images of frames by Engin Cycles suggest the effect. I really wasn't relishing the idea of using exposed silver fillet and stainless, as per the last image above. 
I find this to be a more than satisfactory compromise, firstly because the lugs are less likely to be scratched as part of normal wear and tear than are the main tubes, and secondly because the contrasting painted lugs and raw stainless tubes lend an old-world fancy type air. If you can imagine the lugs on the pictured frame above by Dave Anderson, being painted rather than silver, you'll see how certain colours really do sing with raw stainless steel as their accompaniment. My drawn version of The Quotidian as of this evening, uses Velorbis's chain guard; I'll have to design one of my own soon, perhaps using gum-leaf motifs.
My concern coming on bed time, is it is not quite the bike I was imagining riding with an obligatory pair of hip architects' glasses. It would go better, perhaps, with a ten gallon hat. Now there's a thought! What if Bonanza were a bicycle brand?       

Seeking Manufacturing Partner

With this post I am revealing the box component to a design that I have been working on: the world's only 29er box bike. (The frame I have designed remains secret, and suffice to say bears no resemblance to the simplistic design presented here with these photos.) The timber box uses slight curves to create tension such that it holds together without screws. It will thus outlast a typical bakfiet box by many years. The tough waxed cotton cover, with vents that pop open when they're unzipped, keeps valuables out of sight, and kids cool and dry.
This is not a Dutch style Bakfiet for mum to take her kids to the zoo.
It's a 29er box bike, for dad to take his kids hunting.

If any manufacturer sees the merit in my way of rethinking the box bike, do send me an email. I'll show you the details and what bike this box goes with.

World dress-well-for-cycling day.

  A $36 tweed suit from the op-shop                                                                      A $650 water repelling all wool cycling jacket by Rapha

Dressing for ones daily commute lays claim to cycling as a prestigious mode of transport, in rather the same way as dressing for dinner at eight makes "dining" of eating. You may let your children eat from their laps while watching TV; I at least have the family sit at a table. What you may find surprising is that when I ask the children to actually set the table, they fight for honours: lighting candles, arranging cutlery, bringing out sauces etc.. They delight in the sense of occasion. Next time I might suggest we dress up as well, and shall report back as to the idea's reception.
What a wonderful statement we cyclists could make, by overdressing for our commutes on one agreed day every year! "What's with all the overdressed cyclists?" drivers would ask. The Friday nearest each equinox maybe? If we here can agree on a compelling date, we can then take the idea to those types of people who like to organise things of this kind.
All that would remain would be to coin some new term, equivalent to "dining", that describes cycling when done in nice clothes.

Velorbis Scrap Deluxe [Review]

A few weeks ago I wrote a technical review of the Velorbis Churchill Classic, and learned how to boost hits to my blog: write reviews on new bikes! No wonder bloggers' reviews are so cynical. I hope you will find that mine aren't. For information on Velorbis bikes generally, and in particular some of the pitfalls associated with their conversion to SRAM S7 gear, I refer you to my earlier review. The present review focuses on issues specific to the Scrap Deluxe ladies model.

an earlier scrappier model, with a simple clear coat finish over raw metal

As an architect raised on Ruskin, Loos and Le Corbusier's late "Brutalist" works, I will say I find it somewhat a pity how the Scrap Deluxe is no longer so scrappy. The ubercool clear-coat finish, exposing brazing filler dribbling from lugs, has given way to a conventional grey metal paint job. I suppose one might lay blame at a conservative market for the maker's conservative decision to hide those noble scars, that gave earlier models their designerly cred.
However, comparing these photos with the one above of an original model, I am inclined to agree with market forces. The sell-out version is a more eye catching bike. The industrial, minimalist, mock-Modernist air may even be more pronounced, while the cream balloon tires look white chocolate flavoured on their clean silver plate. The contradistinction established by setting leather accessories against silver, polished stainless and chrome, make the former look so organic, a faint mooing sound can almost be heard.

Three things strike you when you hop on for a ride: the spring of the frame; the upright position and; speed.

There is a reason cro-mo bikes were used in the Tour of France long after aluminium provided a lighter and stiffer alternative. Cro-mo is spring-like. On a women's frame with no top tube, a good inch of travel is afforded, though without the energy sapping effect of actual suspension. Throw in an additional half inch of travel through the balloon tires (inflated to about 25lb) and you are riding a bike that literally bounces over the kinds of surface irregularities one encounters in cities.

The upright ride, though, does come at a cost. Stand to pedal and you find the handlebars touching your waist. Put some power down, and the frame starts flexing from one one side to the other. Where does this lead? Hmm, well, it could lead to driving! If your bike is no fun riding up hills, you might think twice about riding to places you can't reach on the flat. I'll go out on a limb here, and say those bikes you see girls riding on Copenhagen cycle chic, could be doing to those girls' cycling, what their stilettos do their walking, which is to slow them down and thus make them more attractive to men. (Feminist remarks are not taken well when coming from men, but I've said it now, ha!) At least Velorbis do not use townie bars, that bring a woman's hands to her side when she is climbing and that hit her thighs when she is negotiating tight circles. At least too the bars on the Velorbis can be lowered and pushed forward enough to make short climbs not an absolute pain. The bike remains feminine, though not cripplingly so, in the way that high heels are.

On the flat, down hill, or with the wind at your back, these bikes seem to utterly fly! It's the bounce that gives this impression. You find yourself seeking out ruts in the road, wanting to barge through, ride over lawns, and generally pretend this is a hovercraft. In modern youthful parlance, it fricking rips.

On the strength of evidence presented thus far, you might think this review is heading toward the Dr. Behooving tick of approval. But gentlemen, consider this, how since owning one of these bikes my lovely Primrose has provided every man in this town with the conversation starter he hitherto lacked. Now though, on any given day, my lovely Primrose receives more compliments for her cute bike, than a hot blind chick would get in her lifetime for her cute lab. Thus my thumbs-up comes with a caveat, that the Scrap Deluxe ladies model, only be bought as a gift for unmarried women—women who I would like to say hi to.

Next my Primrose will be riding in heels!!!!

Primrose's Birthday

neeeeigh, woo there

Yes, it is her birthday, and as my sweetheart enters her late twenties it is beholden upon me to whip out the plastic, as any good sugar daddy would do. The first big parcel has already arrived, her new Scrap Delux from Velorbis.

              yes, these are actually helmets!

The other order, from Bobbins Bicycles, (the most beautiful bicycle shop in Great Britain), I am hoping you all will help me complete, by clicking on this link and sending me your suggestions using the comments section below. Thank you so much! 
         straw pannier                  bicycle rain coat      more rain protection

Velorbis Churchill Classic [Review]

After three and a half months, and over one thousand kilometers of riding, I hereby tender the most useful and impartial review I think you will find anywhere, of the Churchill Classic, made by Velorbis. 20 years of commuting on racing bikes is over for me. The Velorbis is now the only bike I would consider riding to work on. Starting with the main reasons, here's why:

I do not have to wash it. The all-around mud guards catch all the dirt, that is cleaned away from under those guards the next time I ride in the wet. A little grit has accumulated around the stand, that's all (see picture below). I've wiped the frame over a few times, to make it shine, but you would barely notice the difference. It looks good regardless. The internal hub everything means brake dust isn't dirtying the rims or hubs either. I haven't cleaned the hubs or chain at all, and after 1000+ kilometers they look cleaner than my road bike's would after one ride.

though I don't bother cleaning it...                              it looks pretty clean!

As well as not having to wash it, I do not have to wash me! Wearing jeans and a wet weather coat, I can ride in light rain without that old familiar water torture being aimed at my butt crack, then wear those same jeans around when I arrive. (In heavy rain, of course, you do need wet weather pants). Even on cold wet rainy nights, I would choose riding over being trapped in a car, trapped in traffic, trapped with fool DJs. In fact, I've come to relish bad weather.

And in wet weather, the upright position is so much safer as well. Hit the brakes, and you don't feel as though you're about to fly off the font. In the past, riding road bikes at night in the rain, I have hit potholes that have threatened my bike and my life. Give me a sturdy relaxed bike any night, in preference to something designed for maximum speed during a race.

I should note though, that the Velorbis does not allow you to sit completely upright. It is not a true "Dutch grandpa" bike in that regard. However, if you have ever tried standing out of the saddle to take on a hill on a Dutch bike, or tried to turn a tight circle and copped the end of a townie handlebar in your thigh, you will appreciate the reasoning behind the semi upright position. It is the slightly forward leaning position Raleigh gave millions with their legendary Sports model.    

While leaning you forward, it does not lean you over. Let's not think this is for time trialling! The Velorbis is undeniably slower, and harder to pedal than a road racing bike, being more than double the weight, having tires twice as fat, and having no concessions to aerodynamics in its design. The tubes are not butted and are joined with pressed lugs, not the lighter cast lugs used by performance frame makers—though with the non racing accessories alone outweighing the frame, one can hardly quibble over the weight of a lug. More to the point, extra weight and rolling resistance, I feel, is a huge plus. A motivation for me to commute, is to be race fit for Saturday. I would estimate I exert an extra one third effort getting to work now, turning my 30km round trip per day, effectively into a 40km trip (I could confirm that figure with a heart rate monitor, I guess, but that isn't my style). Where, on my road bike, I would use fewer cycle paths and footpaths, because pedestrians on those paths would make me slow down, the Velorbis itself limits my speed, such that I no longer find meandering pedestrians to be such a nuisance; in any case, most step aside with a smile when they hear my bike's old fashioned bell.

medicine ball training                awesome from light                       reflective side walls (those cables had to be trimmed)                 Just in from a serious storm

I do not need to think about recharging lights with this bike. The lights are hard wired to the frictionless internal hub generator, and come on automatically when it is dark. One slight complaint, is I can't figure out a way of making them come on in the half light before dusk, when I would prefer cars see me than not. That gripe aside, you can't imagine the freedom of being able to take illumination for granted. And how many lives would be saved, if those reflective side walls on the tires came standard on all bikes!

Other conveniences are the spring that keeps the wheel pointing forward, the two-point stand, and the immobilizer lock. We heirs to that age when bikes were seen only as sporting equipment, don't know what we're missing, not having these features on bikes we don't actually race on.  

Strangely, the 1940s styling that first attracted me to the bike, is something that only occurs to me when I bump into someone who hasn't seen me on it before, and they pass comment. A glutton for attention though, I still love these moments. I have my Brooks leather trouser strap and tool case, and a leather brief case from Florence that fits securely into the specially designed clasp on the rear rack. I even lashed out on the Velorbis leather coat guards! Add the sartorial splendor of my work suits and bow ties, and one would think I was handing out leaflets. The look is too perfect!  
OTT leather accessories       rust in quill stem bolt              the saddle was comfortable from day 1, as pictured

With my satirical "get the look" blog entries  (Florentine Gigolo, Motorcycle rebel Really Suave Guys, grown ups) I've been underlining the importance of image for cyclists. As far as drivers are concerned, our minority status and assumptions that we are all greenies, would seem to deny us the right to fantasize, a right that drivers can indulge without raising an eyebrow. It is only right, I would contend, that cyclists get to pretend they are sporty, outdoorsy, classy, hip, or whatever they like, just as drivers imagine they're in Sweden if driving a SAAB, or in the wilderness if driving a Landcruiser, when in fact most of their driving is just done in the burbs. Velorbis have gone out of their way to make this bike stylish, and give cycling cache. The serial number pressed in the seat tube, the lugged and braised German made frame, the all-class head-badge, the true old-school frame construction: wherever you look, you see love. Like mobile phones in Cambodia, or smoking in the 1920s, cycling will catch on as it offers people who currently drive, the opportunity to increase their prestige with this more behooving approach to their moving.  

And what prestige bicycle does not have a Brooks saddle! And quite aside from their symbolic value, these seats truly are comfortable, and come into their own when riding in regular clothes, rather than nicks. Where other saddles take jean seams and lacerate groins, a gentleman's callosities rest in the hammock of a Brooks saddle's rear portion, while presenting the old Bishop's Bridge with a narrow rung of smooth leather on which his thighs may smoothly glide.
When it comes to corrosion resistance, Velorbis haven't really cut many corners. My house is beside breaking surf, meaning any insufficiently protected iron has already announced itself, by turning brown. Thus far though, the only offending item to which I might point, is the Allen bolt in the quill stem. The rest is holding up well. The Chrome cranks: so far so good. The handlebars and seat pole I do believe to be stainless, as per Velorbis's claim. The rims are polished stainless and gorgeous, something I don't believe Pashley provide on most of their range. I trust Germans when it comes to pickling cro-mo steel prior to painting, and am confident the galvanised mud guards have been made with due care as well. Most major fixings seem to be 316 stainless. I'm not sure if I need to, but I spray fish oil onto springs and under the mud guards, just to be safe.

It was my pre purchase scrutiny of bits that might rust that led me to choose the Velorbis over comparable bikes, all of which I have listed in an earlier entry. Neither do Velorbis cut corners the way other manufacturers so often tend to, hoping buyers won't notice. It's the things like the center stand, leather grips, stainless bolts, hub generator, stainless bars, stainless seat pole, and stainless rims that add up to a much nicer bike, to ride and to keep looking like new.   

Most of the design oversights on my bike relate to the SRAM 7 speed rear hub, that seems to have been added without the necessary changes being made to the frame.

Removing the rear wheel on this style of bike takes some getting used to, and is exacerbated on my bike by the fact that the internally routed light cable, where it pops out of the chainstay, almost touches the SRAM brake housing. If I don't one day damage this wire while removing the wheel, I worry that someday a twig will get jammed in there and damage the wire. Or perhaps I'm just paranoid :)

The frame hasn't been built with fixing points for the SRAM rear brake cable, that is held to the chainstay with a black cable tie. Meanwhile, on the drive train side of the bike, a fixing point has been welded to the chainstay to suit Sturmey Archer; it is completely redundant on a SRAM equipped bike.

brake cable crudely tied onto chainstay                  Light wire too close to brake      redundant fixing point            alligator clips

Like the Sturmey Archer, the SRAM 7 speed hub won't change up or down while you are pedaling. You have to back off for a moment for the new gear to engage. Having owned an old Raleigh Sports there for a while, I personally like this little quirk—it's charming and retro—but I do know the Shimano Alfine hub changes much better. The advantage of SRAM over Shimano Alfine and Nexus, is SRAM allows an easier wheel change. I would say the Velorbis might be worthy of a Rohloff Speedhub, but I know that would have greatly increased the price of the bike. I paid about 2K Australian for mine—good value, I think.       

Anyone who upgrades to the leather coat guards, will find these weight too much for the clips that are meant to keep them attached. After every few bumps, they fall off. I frigged around for two days before finally using alligator clips, purloined from lanyards I had kept from various conferences, to secure my new leather coat guards to the fenders. I'm not at all happy with the time I spent, or the compromised solution I finally arrived at, and really think Velorbis should do something to address this design fault. The coat guards should be able to screw tighten to the fenders securely. 

I originally purchased my bike with Velorbis's front rack and artfully aged wooden crate, but decided not to even take these from the dealer when the bike arrived and I looked at how they attached. My head-tube would surely have creases in it now, had I tightened the U-bolts of the clamp sufficiently to handle the weight of the rack and the box, never mind the weight of whatever I might have wanted to carry. I would also have needed to remove the head badge.

Velorbis claims you will not find any plastic being used on their bicycles. Given the high strains of their sales rhetoric, it would not be overly pedantic of me to mention the chrome-look plastic headlight. It's an awesome headlight, don't get me wrong. I've even had an oncoming cyclist complain I was blinding him. It is plastic though. The SRAM grip shifter is plastic too. 

My understanding is these bikes reach their dealers having been almost fully built in a factory in Denmark—or maybe it's Germany? Either way, the factory is where I presume the following oversights occurred in the building of my bike. 1. The stirrup on the Brooks saddle was on the wrong way, and had to be disassembled and put back the right way. 2. For some reason, perhaps to accommodate a front rack if desired, the brake cables were excessively long, and required trimming. 3. The bolt fixing the stand was loose and had to be tightened. In their defense, there are far more parts to a commuting bike than a racing bike—fenders, stands, racks, lights, etc.—and these bikes hit the shops for a third of the price of a high performance racing bike. It is commendable that only 3 things weren't assembled perfectly.    

My Basil pannier does not clip very neatly to the Velorbis rear rack—a fault with the bag not the bike. Marrying the bike to just the right pannier is something I really should get around to. Perhaps Velorbis could make one? (Postscript: I have since bought a Brooks Devon Pannier. Brilliant!)

Despite the Swalbe Marathon tire's reputation, I have had two flats—one front and one back—which is just my bad luck. One of those flats I could almost have fixed without removing the wheel, using just a patch kit and schrader valve pump, since the tires are loose enough on the rims to get them off and on with one's thumbs, and my actual puncture (from a grass seed) was easily found. Really though, you do need to carry a spare 700c tube, a shifter and levers, as well as the pump and some patches and glue. The frame does not come with holders for pumps, a traditional touch I would have preferred.

The first thing I did, and haven't regretted, was to add SPD pedals, with flat plates on one side and cleats on the other. Since the bike doubles as my medicine ball training device, to keep me race fit for the weekend, it is vital that I can ride with the same circular pedaling action I will use in a race. I'm not about to throw away twenty years of training my legs to make circles! I wear a pair of those Shimano suede SPD shoes that pass for regular ones when you stop at the shops.

the SPD pedals I added

Given we spend most of our lives doing ordinary things, it makes sense that we do them extraordinarily well. I spend an hour and a half every day getting to and from work. That time is mine to daydream, exercise, feel the elements, and feel like a kid or a dude or a wild animal or whatever I care to imagine. I need the right bike. I need a bike made to a recipe, not to a price point. I need a bike that is willfully stylish. I am as close as I will be, for at least the next decade, to owning such a bike with my Velorbis. This bike takes the quotidian chore of getting work, and elevates it into something ennobling.   

If so, please share the link. Either way, feel free to comment or shoot me a question.

The unplanned career plan

My career is turning out like scrambled eggs that looked for 10 years more like an omelet, that I'm now slicing up for fried rice. Along the way I've been throwing in turmeric, apples, and all sorts of things that don't go.
So here's a confession: I was meant to have been researching cyclespace for the past 15 years. The Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) I won in 1996, was based on such a proposal. It was my supervisor who steered me into reading abstruse art theory. The government was funding me to examine the integration of cycling infrastructure into high density residential developments, like the ones I'd been designing in Singapore.
If it were the case that I had just 6 months to live, then perhaps I'd feel bitter. But based on how I've been riding, I feel as though I've got another century left in this body, and in any case, an art theoretical take on cyclespace architecture is so much more interesting than the raw data collection work I would now be doing had I not learned to think through the Humanities. (I've been reading that tedious journal Australian Planner this week, and am thinking: no wonder our cities have all gone to shit! Papers by Tods about TODs. All the authors wear loose pleated trousers.)
So anyway, as I was saying, careers can take circuitous courses. Mindless courses of least resistance, most often. Though in my case I find myself heading in a direction I originally set out on, yet for 15 years was forgetting. Do I feel a dire need to make up for lost time? On the contrary! I feel the past 15 years have equipped me to add something new to the discussion.

The poststructuralist/postmodern thinking that runs in my veins now, means I will take a qualitative approach to the subject. I won't see commuters as cogs in cities like clocks, going about their instrumentalist lives, the way planners think we all do. Teaching architectural history, and now leading study tours around Europe, I think gives me an historical perspective on current developments. Plus, once in a while, I find I'm able to apply what I know from philosophy to the world around me right now. I'm not so smart that I can have immediate intellectual insights, but if I bear down on a topic, original thoughts do come in time. My weakest points are recall and spelling, but isn't that why god gave us google?

Bicycle Space (photo essay)

Jane Jacobs would have said it's contrived, has only one use, and is too vast for pedestrians. However, these greenways that are being made out of disused industrial land, along old train lines and docks, are wonderful places for cycling. If Vegas is designed to be taken in at the speed of a car, and Venice at walking pace, then these somewhat contrived, somewhat twee strips of green, with their just-add-water artworks, obligatory marinas and just-so signage and benches, are perfect for taking in at the speed of a bike. Not a road racing bike (those are too fast), but a heavy old town bike.

These photos capture the main stages of my daily commute. The first 5 represent land once belonging to train lines, factories and wharfs. Then comes the creek edge, 2 black spots that just require patience, then a ride through my bushland university campus, right to my office.

The places cities are investing in, as places one might like to be, just so happen to be places best taken in on a bike. This will be truer still when the job of reclaimed waterfronts is complete, and cyclists can go all the way from Tighes Hill to Newcastle say, or The Upper West Side to Battery Park in New York.  

mud guards and clean bikes

Did you all know mud guards save you from cleaning your bike after every ride in the rain? I didn't! I had my first rainy ride home from work on the new bike last Friday night, and was dreading having to wheel the Velorbis out onto the grass the next day with soap bucket and brushes etc.. But when I looked and saw it had not a blemish, beneath the down tube, bottom bracket, or anywhere, I laughed.

I said goodbye to my dragster's rattly mudguards just before I got my BMX bike in 1980. The nearest I have edged toward the extraneous gentility I thought they existed to symbolize, were the detachable plastic rear fenders I bought for my road bikes. Even they were a revelation. I had no idea the water up my arse had been coming from my rear tire all of those years. Full fenders raise the bar yet again, saving not only your bottom, but your whole bike, from needing a wipe.

On reflection, my attachment to some image of myself racing, at times when I was actually riding, was locking me into a narrow, repetitive, ritualistic cycling experience, that came at the cost of much bike cleaning and laundry. That said, I still have an axe to grind with Velorbis, about the way they're attaching their coat guards. We'll save that for a future post though, when I provide my critical review of the Velorbis, the only critical review of this sacred cow you will find on the web!      

Artful trails found in Glenrock Reserve

On the weekend Quinby and I packed a picnic, a thermos of tea, and a rug, and set out to find evidence of cultivation in Glenrock Reserve. I can confirm there is not a manicured lawn, tholos to Apollo, mirror pool or good British tree anywhere in that godforsaken wilderness area. 

There is however, evidence of Picturesque Planning. Many trails, I noticed to my delight, do not follow contours or ridge lines, but rather have been drawn, by the hand of Man on the ground, in a willful, neigh serpentine manner. They are the work of true land artists, as aware I suspect as Christo of the intelectual traditions standing behind them. I am thinking for example of Heidegger and the concept of Genius Loci, and of course William Gilpin who gave us The Picturesque and a new appreciation for The Sublime. May I commend Newcastle's mountain biking fraternity, for keeping our artistic heritage alive with their work.
Now, if you would please build some nice Roman style follies, next time Quinby and I will pack our Winsor & Newton watercolour sets, and capture some impressions as we had planned.

End of Day One With the Velorbis

I went to Amsterdam in 1999, I think it was, and remember the rush hour parade of big long high black bikes with straight backed riders. I didn't quite know what I was seeing, and theorized the Dutch were overly attached to some national tradition. My own life in cycling started with a Kuwohara mountain bike bought second hand in 1991—that's not counting the bikes I had as a kid. As my only means of transport, the Kuwohara got slicker and thinner tires, until finally I traded it for a second hand 531 racing bike that set me on the path to club racing. I trained and raced myself up through the grades, fantasized of, then thought better of, training yet harder to go pro, before settling into a pattern of commuting and racing while pursuing a career more behooving for someone with my awesome IQ.  
Now something that started as a consequence of having no money when I was a student, I find at age 42, has endowed me with a strength and resilience to be unconcerned by hills, headwinds, the elements or the rolling speed of my bike. It dawned on me when commuting on the Raleigh a few weeks back, that for most of the journey I don't care that it is much slower than a road bike. I actually enjoyed the fact that my 30K round trip commute was draining me as much as a 40K training ride. What I most liked was that at knock-off time, I wasn't facing an abrupt transition from a physically relaxed state sitting there in my office clothes, to a hunched over lycra clad state competing with cars, but was rather sitting up pedaling along footpaths.
The beauty of these upright bikes that are about to get more hip than fixies I know it, is they do not take you away from your daydreams. The steel frame and relaxed forks really do dispense with the bumps. The lights just light up, with no batteries. You sit up, as I'm sitting up now. I've put clipless pedals on the Velorbis, so I can get up a smooth cadence on the long stretches between here and the office. 
I've done maybe 40 or 50k today—a commute plus a ride with the Hon Hamish to take these photos tonight. I'm not sure if that equates to an average day training, but the familiar tightness in my legs as I walk upstairs to my bedroom suggests it's been as good as most.

Get the Look: Really Suave Guys

This week's look, I'm afraid, costs a little more to achieve than the last one I covered for Get The Look. But what price to look truly suave! Right? So here's how: 
Bespoke woolen 3-piece suit (jacket not shown) $1300; Salamander shoes and belt from Austria 150Euro; Geoffrey Beene slim fit cotton shirt $120; second hand opal cufflinks $12; Hugo Boss socks $36; Ray Ban Wayfarer sunglasses $240; Churchill Classic 7-speed bike from Velorbis, with Brooks leather saddle, grips and mud flap to match shoes and belt $1950.
Ah, but I got more looks, smiles and comments in one ride for a coffee, than some fatso BMW driver would get in a lifetime! And this morning's commute was ever so s-m-o-o-o-o-t-h!

Ladies, click for hi res handsomeness


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