Festive attire is encouraged. BYO Bike. And parking may be tricky, so BYOL (bring your own lock).
Sacha White of Vanilla
Sacha White of Vanilla
Mike Flanagan of A.N.T.
Mike Flanagan of A.N.T.
Photo credits: Bespoke bicycle photos from Museum of Art and Design
We are declaring May “Bike Design Month” in Manhattan. Mayor Bloomberg has not signed off on this title yet, but as his office has been actively supporting progressive smart alternative transportation, he probably won’t mind our rogue designation. There are two events of note:
1) Bespoke: The Handbuilt Bicycle at the Museum of Art and Design opens on May 13th. Michael Maharam (interview below) of textile fame and master bike builder Sacha White have put together a superb exhibition of contemporary handmade bikes.
Interview with Michael Maharam
Bespoke: The Handbuilt Bicycle displays the designs of six internationally renowned bicycle builders at the Museum of Arts & Design. Organized by Michael Maharam and master bicycle builder Sacha White, the exhibit explores emerging trends and innovations in the design world. We caught up with Michael earlier this week.
Rob: It’s great to see this work made available in the museum context. Congrats. Is this the first show of its type in the US?
Michael: As far as I know, yes….and long overdue. This is a fine craft, like glassblowing or cabinetmaking, though with an element of daily functionality and cultural timeliness which is highly relevant and greatly underexposed.
How did the idea for the show evolve?
I had asked Sacha White to build me a bicycle, and we got into a discussion about the fact that he had been building for a decade and wanted to take a break for a year to focus on building a small number of carefully considered bicycles without client or commercial constraint. I was having lunch with Holly Hotchner, the director of MAD that week, and I proposed to organize and curate a show based on Sacha’s desire.
What would make the show success to you?
Ultimately, raising public awareness of the craft, consumer understanding and expectation of the quality of products they purchase and compelling manufacturers to do a better job with quotidian products is critical if we are to transcend the era of material gluttony.
The designers are all from the US except Dario Pegoretti. How did the US become such a force in bike design?
Though this is a craft which has had numerous “golden ages”, its present appeal is as a force of zeitgeist. Underlying elements include the rise of physical fitness, environmentalism and individualism as points of cultural aspiration and expression.
What’s the first thing you look for in a bike?
I’m an aesthete…appearance coupled with the imagination and finesse of the builder.
What is the first thing the untrained eye should look for in a bike?
Do you remember the first bike you ever rode?
Rudge three speed…black, with gold trim. I removed the fenders to make a hot rod of it, come what may on rainy days.
What kind of riding do you do personally? Ever been a racer?
I’m a fair weather rider these days…commuting a bit and weekend exercise. Riding in Manhattan is misery enough, but to do so in rain and cold is beyond the fray. My hat is off to those who do.
Ever ridden a fixed gear bike?
Often, but not the variety presently in vogue. Through my young years I’ve built stripped down bicycles with a minimalistic bent. Again, it’s largely about Manhattan riding…hardly serene.
Many see as you as uncompromising modernist. What is your personal interest in handmade bicycles? Aren’t they craft?
I view modernism as the most fitting backdrop for all that I collect…and sell, as we sell our collection of textiles, which facilitates personal collecting. If I were a fan of baroque architecture, I’d only collect minimalism I suppose. Modernism soothes.
I recall in one of our early conversations, maybe ten years ago, you rode a motorcycle. I did not know you were also a cyclist. This phenomenon is actually common, i.e. guys loving things with two wheels. What’s behind this love? Love of Speed?
A young man’s first taste of independence.
Is there a “Ray and Charles Eames” equivalent in the bike design world?
I like the Raleigh Three Speed, myself. I think it’s elegant and practical. Though classic, not modern. As for modern, the phosphorescent shaft driven urban bicycles produced by Biomega are pretty smart.
What’s the most unusual bike in your collection?
I like my all aluminum Colnago Duall…polished aluminum lugs, unpainted aluminum tubes…very sculptural, though not very rigid.
If I was one of your staff, would you allow me to keep my bike in your office if I rode it to work? You keep a pretty clean office.
Not yet, but we’re working on it.
Rob: Thanks, Michael. We’ll see you in New York.
Share your thoughts.
Join the conversation in the comments below.
Two ”monuments” dedicated to the public space came on my radar screen this week. The first was Coit Tower, seen here from my deck illuminated in orange to honor of the San Francisco Giants playing in the World Series. It makes us smile, and it brings focus to an important architectural icon in the city. The other monument is a massive 737-page tome that arrived on my desk called, The High Cost of Free Parking by Donald Shoup. What do they have in common?
Shoup’s book and the Orange Coit Tower help us look at our public spaces from a fresh perspective and to consider their value and potential in our daily lives. How do we assess the real value of public spaces in our cities anyway? What is Golden Gate or Central Park worth to us? What about the value of the common everyday sidewalk or street corner where people congregate? How about a public bench, beach, train station, bike path or dog park? These are heady issues without easy answers. Social economics is tricky like that, and usually gets left to academics. I guess that’s why it takes 737 pages to give the subject of free parking its fair due. An advertising person might simply reduce it down to “Think Differently,” like Apple does.
Shoup’s persuasive premise is that free parking is the great blind spot of American local politics. We agree. We have remarked on this in our own modest way in the past, for example our That Blind Spot post. Rarely do we share quotes, but take a minute to absorb these poignant reviews.
“Free parking is like a fertility drug for cars. Many people don’t realize how much of the high price of housing is due to requirements by local governments that a certain number of parking spaces must be provided. These costs are paid by everyone, including those who don’t own a car.”
“In this revelatory, revolutionary book, UCLA professor Donald Shoup persuasively explains why almost everything we are told about parking either by professional planning experts or by ‘common sense’ is wrong, and argues that current parking policies constitute the greatest planning disaster in human history.”
“Shoup points out that if we decided that gasoline should be free, the result we would expect would be obvious: people would drive too much, shortages of gasoline would develop, fights would break out over scarce gas, and governments would go broke trying to pay for it all. Parking is no different. Providing free parking leads to overuse, shortages, and conflicts over parking. Cash-strapped local governments and neighborhoods lose out too.”
“I was stunned to find out that in some neighborhoods up to 90% of the traffic has been found to be people cruising around looking for a place to park. Charging the right price for parking according to local demand can get rid of this problem.”
How many of us have the patience to read a 737-page book? How can we bridge the gap between academic work and public awareness? Should we paint parking spots orange, pile up a bunch of Shoup’s books in a parking space? Events like Park(ing) Day help raise awareness. An easier route might be to join “The Shoupistas” on Facebook. We need more creative minds think progressively about public space, like the city planner who dreamt of celebratory Orange Towers.
One action we can take today is to Vote Tomorrow for legislation to improve the quality of our public space. If you live in California, a “No” vote on big oil-funded Prop. 23 is a “No” brainer. If you live in San Francisco’s western and northern neighborhoods, vote “Yes” for Bert Hill on the BART Board. We don’t usually endorse individuals, but transit advocate Bert Hill has unimpeachable professional credentials and a demeanor such that he teaches bicycle safety as avocation. His David vs. Goliath battle against the incumbent can be viewed here.
We are giving away two bikes as part of our PUBLIC J7 and PUBLIC A7 launch, and there is a special program for college students. Please forward this page with details about our contest to your friends and family.
All blue PUBLIC Ds at 20% off
We’ve got more Blue diamond-frame bikes (D1, D3, and D8) than we have room for in our warehouse, and we need to make space for new bikes coming in mid-November. For a limited time, we’re offering a special on our blue diamond bikes in single, 3, and 8 speeds, in all sizes. See our Fall Blues page for details.
I have always been intrigued by the Dutch concept of sharing, equality, pairs, and twosomes. I even did a photo essay about them a while back called Curious Couples. But the concept of ‘Going Dutch’ took on an expanded meaning for me while listening to Bikes Belong spokesperson Zach Vanderkooy. Zach and I were panelists at a symposium for Dutch Design Week in San Francisco called Seeing Orange. Biking is wildly popular with all age groups in Holland. Zach explained why and how this came to be.
It turns out that biking in Holland is designed to be as much about fun as it is about efficiency. The sharing and social part of riding is actually built into the urban infrastructure. For example, whenever possible, bike lanes are made wide enough for people to ride two abreast, rather than in single file. This way people can talk and share the ride together – another expansion of the meaning of ‘going Dutch’.
It makes perfect sense. Imagine if we were forced to use single file sidewalks – a line of alienated human units proceeding along. Boring, awkward, even a little nightmarish. Walking can often be as much about conversation as mobility. And walking deserves wider sidewalks that make interaction possible. And the same should be true of biking. We all prefer to ride with friends and for social reasons (unless we’re just hustling to get someplace or out purely for exercise). But we tend to value bikes more for the independence they give us, and less for their potential to connect us socially.
So now we’re really dreaming: building bike lanes in the US wide enough for two people? This may seem farfetched when many cities have trouble getting approval for any type of bike lane. But in reality, some strides are being made. In fact you can already see examples of doublewide lanes in Manhattan and in other cities in the US. We can learn from the Dutch – they ask us to look at the world a little different. It may be easier for them to think outside the box: they have cities built around canals and clogs made of wood.
We’re going Dutch this Season: 10% off Pairs
Buy any two bikes on one order for us this season, and we’ll give you 10% discount on both bikes. Our new Ready to Ride home delivery option makes this gift option feasible for anyone. Bikes arrive 99% assembled. This offer is valid through Dec 15th. Visualize a pair of bikes for the holidays. (You may want to take this possibility into account when deciding on the size of this year’s tree). Just make the order online and we’ll take 10% off on both bikes after your order – or call us to make your order if you prefer.
Yakkay Cambridge Complete Helmet – $175
Yes – you can actually look stylish in a helmet. Yakkay helmets, designed in Denmark, have taken Europe by storm in the past two years, and we are pleased to introduce them to the US market this season. They are the first helmets to meet our strict safety standards and our needs for a helmet with the fashionable appearance of a good-looking cap.
Formidable looks. Efficient Function. Just like a PUBLIC Bike.
Why is a bike company selling an espresso machine? Caffeine, for better or worse, has a history of fueling bicyclists. So no surprise that many bicyclists are just as fussy about coffee as they are about bikes. We found a machine that will please many of you. Actually, the Andreja Espresso Machine and our bikes share quite a bit in common. They both combine form and function elegantly. They are both hard-working pieces of equipment, easy on the eyes, and uncomplicated to use.
I know about espresso machines. My first one was a Faema and dates back to the 70s. Since then I have owned a wide range of machines, all in pursuit of the home espresso machine that makes espresso as good as a cafe. There are many home espresso machines, but few have the power of a commercial machine with the safety and practicality for home use.
I came across the Andreja in the kitchen of Scot Nichol two years ago. Scot, the founder of IBIS bicycle, is a bit of a legend in the hard-core mountain biking world. He has built a lot of great bikes, and he knows a lot about good mechanics. He told me that the Andreja was the best machine he had ever used. This coming from a guy who does not use the word “best” lightly quickly convinced me to buy one. Scot, to no surprise, was right. The Andreja qualifies as the best home machine I have ever used. I’ve had mine for two years and swear by it. This is the reason we are featuring the Andreja Espresso Machine this season.
The Andreja is not for people who prefer to push buttons and have an automated coffee making experience. It is for people who like the satisfying feel of manual operations executed at a high level of efficiency and quality. Super easy to use, fast, quiet, and safe. You get the enjoyable ritual of filing up the holder, tamping it down to your preferred espresso strength, and steaming the milk to your preferred foam density. The Andreja is a pleasure to use and rewards you with coffee as good as it gets. While it is designed for home usage, it also serves large groups of people. We set up the espresso machine at our Warehouse Sale last Saturday and kept our customers standing in line caffeinated.
The specifications comprise an impressive list, and we have them listed on our website. Like our bikes, you can come by our South Park office and test the Andreja yourself, or purchase one from us online knowing that we guarantee that all of our products meet your satisfaction or we’ll cheerfully take a return.
We had a tough time choosing the winners of our PUBLIC Contest for a new PUBLIC J7 or PUBLIC A7 among so many impressive, thoughtful, and creative entries. We received entries from all over the country from Muscle Shoals, AL to Sarasota, FL to Flat Rock, MI.
We had both a contest for university students and a general contest for everyone else. And we even decided to give away a third PUBLIC bike to a student from UC Berkeley where we received the most university entries. Our Grand Prize winners all received new PUBLIC bikes and the second prize winners received PUBLIC accessories and gear.
Here are our PUBLIC Contest winners (read the winning submissions below):
Grand Prize PUBLIC Contest Winner
Grand Prize University Contest Winners
Marieke Van Damme
Second Prize Contest Winners
New York, New York
San Luis Obispo, Calfornia
Ann Arbor, Michigan
State College, Pennsylvania
Grand Prize Winning Submissions
Please view the illustrated version of my entry.
A 90-Minute Bicycle Trip in Knoxville, Tennessee
–Starring PUBLIC and Me–
We would begin our ride west of town at my house, traveling on roads and PUBLIC greenways towards Downtown.
Home of the Tennessee Vols. It is here that you would discover why you should open a bike shop in Knoxville selling only your orange bikes!
No, it’s not actually a wig shop as shown on the Simpsons, but it’s the define mark of the Knoxville skyline and features a great view of the city!
A bit random, but this cool monument memorializes the great pianist’s last PUBLIC concert! (it was in Knoxville)
Perhaps Knoxville’s best PUBLIC space, this is where our bike ride would end with an energizing meal from the farmers’ market or a great local eatery like the Tomato Head. Over lunch, we’d discuss…
MY QUESTIONS ABOUT BIKES & BIKING
How do you encourage bike riding when things where you live are pretty far apart?
To transform my commute, is my only option to sell my house, move, and get a new job?
What would you suggest to improve biking in Knoxville?
I would then say, “Thank you” for taking a bike ride in my city.
Marieke Van Damme
(Note! From “A” to “Z”):
Ahoy! Boston’s a great town to explore by PUBLIC bicycle. Climb on with me at Boston University. Down we go. Esplanade first. Fenway coming up. Great place to grab a bite, this place called Lower Depths. Hot dogs for a dollar. I like mine with mac and cheese. Just in time to beat the campus rush.
Kenmore’s the name of this area. Lansdowne Street is our way out of here, where all the home run balls fall. Mothers Rest marks the start of a lovely string of parks with a pleasant bike path. Now we head uphill, so change gears. On past the Museum of Fine Arts. Pedal! Quixotic this trip is not.
Round the Riverway, where our tires send acorns somersaulting. Soon we plateau at a pond where boats wobble in the breeze. The path around is nice, but no biking allowed. Used to be able to swim here, too. Veer with me instead onto the street where my apartment is.
Xerxes once halted his army for a week to admire a sycamore. You and I can’t do that, we’ve got studying to do. Zoom back downhill when you’re done; I’ll bike in tomorrow.
left, left, straight. stop. look under your left shoe. right, straight. right, hang right, stop. look straight ahead. left, left, straight. stop. right, veer left, straight, stop. look to your left. straight, 2nd right, straight, stop. look over your right shoulder. straight, right, right, third left, stop. snacks. straight (riding more slowly) third right, stop. nap.
PUBLIC Pop-Up Shop at Gap for the Holidays
It’s no secret that the way we shop for stuff has radically changed. Credit (or blame) the web for most of the changes, but the fact is we can now shop for almost anything, anytime, anywhere in the world. Digital colossi like Amazon, Craigslist, and Groupon are a part of everyday life now. Etsy allows us to buy hand made one-of-a-kind goods with a click. Even as virtual shopping has become mainstream, there has been a bit of a renaissance in the other direction. Farmers’ Markets are everywhere. Local crafts fairs and street vendors are back in fashion. Every week there’s another lunch wagon pulling in our neighborhood offering some seriously non-digital street food. The last few years have brought wholesale changes to retail.
So it is fitting – as well as flattering – that the Gap approached us last month about putting a PUBLIC pop-up shop in their flagship store on Market Street in San Francisco. Voila. It is up and running as of last Saturday. If you are in the Bay Area, please come down and visit. As you would expect from a leading apparel retailer, the Gap has created beautiful visual displays of our bikes and gear. Even adding some special touches like iPads imbedded in the desks for ordering our products online. They have faithfully recreated our South Park vibe on the busiest street corner in San Francisco, all the way down to our low-tech sandwich boards on the sidewalk. From the second floor bay windows you can watch the flow of bicyclists riding down Market Street. It feels good, and we love being there. You can visit everyday until 9PM. Please drop by the Gap store on 890 Market near Powell St. next to the cable car turnaround.
Building partnerships and bending the rules are not new to the Gap. In 2008 they created a Colette concept store in New York. So partnering with a local company like ours is consistent with the Gap’s roots. In 1969, they began as a single store in San Francisco selling a range of local products – primarily Vinyl LPs and Levi’s. They were quirky, gutsy, and very locally minded. High quality, casual, and affordable clothing, just the kind of stuff that goes with our everyday bikes, has always been their focus. We greatly appreciate the opportunity to get our bikes – and our mission – out in front of the broader public. So thanks to Gap. We would love our steel bikes to be as popular and ubiquitous as the Gap has made denim jeans and cotton tees.
Our first shipments of our PUBLIC A7 and PUBLIC J7 bikes are arriving this week. These models were designed specifically to make a quality steel frame bikes as affordable as possible. They look great and like all of our bikes, ride like butter. And now we have a special home delivery option. They can be shipped anywhere in the US. They’re kind of a perfect holiday gift, no? Who wouldn’t want to feel like a kid again and get a bike for the holidays?
With Ready to Ride, the bicycle is shipped directly by FedEx to your home or office and arrives within 7-10 business days, depending on where you live. We build the bike for you 99% assembled with the wheels in place. All you need to do is unwrap the bike, complete a few simple assembly steps, and be riding in 20 minutes.
We’re holding a Warehouse Sale on November 20th, from 11 – 4, to make room for our new PUBLIC bikes. The Warehouse Sale at 2125 Harrison Street (at Mariposa) will include, but is not limited to, discounted seasonal inventory, over a dozen PUBLIC bikes with slight blemishes, and vintage bikes from our personal collections. We will have all our bikes available for test riding and purchase at our Warehouse Sale.
“Creative Growth is an extraordinary place, the gold standard of institutions of its kind.”
– Raw Vision Magazine
We are pleased to offer a selection of artwork this season from Creative Growth based in Oakland, CA. What is the connection of biking company to a local art gallery? Easy. Creative Growth’s inspiring environment provides a place for urban adults with developmental, mental, and physical disabilities to express themselves creatively. This aligns with PUBLIC’s mission to serve as an all-inclusive hub for discovering ways to think a little more imaginatively about community, transportation, and everyday design. Bikes are all about facilitating our connection and engagement with our neighborhoods and communities. And with enough support all of these things can positively impact our daily lives. We like to support as many local groups whenever possible, and Creative Growth is our choice this season.
I was introduced to Creative Growth almost ten years ago by some New York fashionistas. That may seem odd given that New York has its own share of cool gallery and community centers. But Creative Growth is unique in its longevity, reach, and in the quality of its artwork. Its international reputation stands in direct contrast to its humble location and modest demeanor. Its frequent exhibitions gain support from musicians like David Byrne, food gurus like Alice Waters, designers like Yves Behar, and everyone in between. They all pitch in to help this community of artists who come to Creative Growth for support, esteem, and a connection to the larger world.
You can read more about Creative Growth on their website, become a member online, follow them on Facebook, or visit our San Francisco headquarters to view the rotating exhibition. But the best option is to buy a piece of artwork for yourself or a friend for the holidays. All proceeds from the sale of this artwork will be given to the gallery.
The special collection of 16 original works on paper are mounted and framed with a basic white frame.
Artists included: Andrea Kildare, Charles Esseltine, Dan Miller, Dinah Shapiro, Donald Mitchell, Erin Punzel, John Hiltunen, Kerry Daminakes, Maria Bustillos, Paulino Martin, Ray Vickers, Varlier Tribble
We are offering some exceptional footwear this fall from local shoe designer, Martha Davis. Normally Martha Davis’s shoes are found in upscale shoe stores, like Gimme Shoes in San Francisco, and other chic boutiques around the world, not bike stores. But we think her shoes and our bikes go especially well together – structured yet sexy, functional but fun.
They have a lace up back seam detail, leather sole, and 2″ wood heel. Bench made in Italy. You can actually wear heels, pumps, boots, or any type of shoes on our bikes. If you’re going to a dressy event in the city for example, it often means you do not want to walk down into a subway or to scuff your heels walking.
Boulder Love Note
One of our customers in Boulder made a custom wood crate for his rear rack and swapped in a custom wood fender. Be careful when you do this or you may end up getting special attention. In this case, an admiring passerby left him this note in his crate. The story gets better. We located the woman who left the love note – Amee Hinkley – and learned that she is a local Boulder artist and part of a special White Space event occurring at DWR in Boulder on November 5th featuring local artists. Check out her work online. And if you live in Boulder, stop by the show at DWR. Help Amee buy a new bike.
New to PUBLIC: J7 and A7. $495.
The most frequent request we have received since launching in May has been ” We love your bikes but can you make one that is more affordable.” Our design team took this challenge to heart, and we have two new bikes – PUBLIC J7 and PUBLIC A7 – arriving mid-November. They are made from the same high quality chromoly steel frames for the same light smooth ride of our classic bikes. And they come with the same lightweight aluminum chain guards and fenders and other details. But we swapped in a standard derailleur instead of an internal hub gearing and made some other modifications to arrive at a more affordable all-purpose bike. We also plan to have a special home delivery option in place for the holidays. Getting a bike as a gift would make someone feel like a kid again in more ways than one.
We are giving away two bikes as part of our PUBLIC J7 and PUBLIC A7 launch, and there is a special program for college students. Please forward this along.
All blue PUBLIC Ds at 20% off.
We’ve got more Blue diamond-frame bikes (D1, D3, and D8) than we have room for at our warehouse, and we need to make space for new bikes coming in mid-November. For a limited time, we’re offering a special on our blue diamond bikes in single, 3, and 8 speeds in all sizes. You can’t get this deal by ordering online. You need to call us during weekday PST working hours at 888-450-0123 to place your “Fall Blues” order.
Our recommendation for Election Day: Buy a bike this week to take advantage of free bike shipping and vote. Especially vote “No” on big oil-funded Prop. 23 if you live in California. Prop. 23 is a huge step backward.