reflections of an urban cyclista, part 3

It’s spring, and maybe you’ve noticed that the cyclists are out?

In Reflections of an Urban Cyclista Part 2, I wrote an open letter to Mayor Menino asking him to make Boston a friendlier place for women and children to ride bikes.

DBC City Bike Design‘s Dan Sorger is doing his part to make it easier for women (and guys) to ride with his thoughtfully designed bicycles.

For seven blissful days last week, Dan let me ride one of his prototype bikes, designed and built in DBC’s basement shop on Pearl Street, on the edge of Boston’s innovation district. Check it out!

built to last and to have a blast: DBC City Bike's new prototype bike, aka Blackie

built to last and to have a blast: DBC City Bike’s new prototype bike, aka Blackie

Dan is a true design master. His focus on how subtle differences in geometry change how a bike feels to ride is how DBC nails that perfect balance of responsiveness and stability. The result? Beautiful, functional urban cycling machines.

I don’t care what any of the ignorant, jealous trolls had to say about Terrence O’Brien’s Engadget piece on DBC: Get laid, trolls. You can feel the difference in handling, smoothness and stability when you take one of DBC’s beauties for a spin compared to a factory-built bike, just like you can feel the difference between wearing a bespoke suit from Savile Row and one that’s off the rack.

Dan designs his bikes for American city streets. I can tell the difference because I ride a Dutch bike, which is built for a world with no hills, abundant, wide bike lanes and superb cycling infrastructure, where women can ride around in the pouring rain in get-ups like this:

Amsterdam, 2009

biking in the rain with a ‘brolly (and big fat chain) in Amsterdam

Do you think people in Europe (or in Portland, Oregon for that matter) have to deal with bullshit like this?

Now what? Washington Street, Brookline, Mass.

Now what? Washington Street, Brookline, Mass.

But I digress. I was psyched to get on and ride Dan’s bike every time I took it out and didn’t want to give it back at the end of the week.

Here’s another awesome built-in-Boston DBC City Bike I got to ride for a day, their super comfy and blazingly fast Swift model, which is like a chic high heel sneaker—the Isabel Marant of bicycles, if you will:

snazzy Swift (dbccitybikedesign.com)

snazzy Swift (dbccitybikedesign.com)

I’d love either one of these DBC bikes, only with a slightly lower top tube. I prefer a true step-through bike that I can hop on and off of easily and safely in a skirt and heels.

The bike I have now is a 3-year old Gazelle Medeo, a 48-lb (22 kg) Dutch bike that’s wonderfully built but feels like a giant slow beast next to Dan’s 23-lb (10.5 kg) prototype.

My Gazelle is the SUV of bikes. I can’t lift it up onto a bike rack by myself. On the other hand, I’m quite visible, and tower over most cars. From my perch, I can see pretty much everything, which is a plus on busy city streets and at intersections. But, the Gazelle’s height and weight (and probably geometry) mean that it’s much tougher for me to negotiate turns, and I’m often stuck going much slower than I’d like.

The Gazelle is a true step-through bike though, which makes it perfect for sailing around town in biz attire, or in a skirt and hooker heels, like this…(let me show you how it’s done, people):

off to a party

On the DBC bike, I was on the same level as my fellow pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. While I get plenty of smiles when I ride around, I felt much more love on Blackie than my Gazelle. Maybe it was because I wasn’t as high up and seemed easier to relate to—or I was just in an awesome mood riding it, and people picked up on my vibe.

I’m guessing Blackie’s superior geometry make it easier for me to handle, especially in turns and in narrow spots. Best of all, when I stopped on the DBC bike, I could stay seated. I just put my foot down and waited for the light to change. On my Dutch bike (which may be a bit too big for me), I have to hop down or prop my foot up on a curb.

Bottom line: hand-made bikes built with materials designed for your local environment really do make a difference. The bike is comfortable to ride and is fast, even though it’s only a 3-speed. I wouldn’t mind having an extra speed or two, especially on some of the Boston area’s steeper hills (like the one up to New England Baptist Hospital), but I found that I got used to it as the week progressed.

DBC’s beautiful bikes aren’t cheap; most will set you back nearly three grand. Still, if the prototype and the Swift I rode are any indication, there’s nothing like riding a bike that’s built just for you. When I lived in the suburbs and drove everywhere, I’d have thought you were nuts if you told me that I’d even consider buying a $2,700 bike. Now that I use a bicycle to get around every day, that price tag doesn’t seem so outlandish anymore, especially after considering the expenses and stresses of owning a car: insurance, tolls, gas, parking, repairs, loan payments, time lost in traffic, etc.

Of course, having a really wonderful bike won’t solve the problems you’ll face riding in Boston: hateful attitudes, potholes, lack of space for bikes on our roads—but it might make it easier for you face them.

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