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Posts from the ‘Bicycle Style’ Category

BikeART Party at Alice Austen House with #LetsGoSmartNYC!


It was a beautiful day at Alice Austen House on July 22. (With the Kawicki family. )

Annamay Olsen revisits Woolworth’s in Stapleton.

The Atteberry family in the present future. (Urby)

Zygmanski family with a friend in 1896 New York (photograph Alice Austen)

Salome and Sandra Barone  (Verrazano Bridge: Staten Island Advance/ Bill Lyons)

Timmy Moe and Kaleb Martin on Bay Street, looking north, Stapleton

See more pictures here

BikeART Party at the Harlem Skyscraper Criterium

Some amazingly stylish people turned up for the BikeART Party in Harlem on Sunday.

Dani Mungin, aka competitor Nº 306 in the Harlem Skyscraper Cycling Classic, takes time out on Randall’s Island.

Bernadette and Todd Murrell, relaxing on the the East River Esplanade before competing in the Brompton World Championship.

Olympic competitor James Joseph (R), taking it easy in Central Park with nephew Reginald Thomas. I’m not going to lie, we were impressed.

Dulcie Canton out and about.

John Miggins getting a head start on some bicyclists on Broadway at 64th Street in 1898–or maybe it’s the other way around.


Robert Jackson on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, as imagined by Choi Design Partners for the Design Trust for Public Space.


Spring Comes to Brooklyn

Shante using a champagne bucket to wash her bicycle. “Because I’m classy.”

50 lbs of Bike, 100 lbs of Kids, 459 Miles

It’s still summer! There’s time for one more vacation.

In case you’re wondering what would it would be like to put two children on your bicycle and ride from the Bronx to Lancaster County and back, Brad Farwell, photographer, bicyclist and DAD extraordinaire has that covered for you.


Trip Index:

Most railroad crossings in a single day: 8

Most firehouses in a single day: 10 (est.)


Max consecutive little yellow tabs on the road that they put down when they haven’t painted stripes yet: 73

Minutes the kids chanted “Grow (name of whatever is at the side of the road, e.g. ‘Corn’), Grow!!”: 5? 10? Felt like 60.




Times we had to get off the bike to push it up the last bit of a hill: 4

July 4th Edition Marshmallow Peeps given to us by strangers: 20

Plastic souvenir water cups from restaurants the kids insisted on taking home with us: 4

Swims in hotel pools by Hannah and myself: 5

Swims by Riley: 0

Days it was below 90 degrees out: 1


Water carried per day: ~4L

Flat tires: 0 (whew)

Total time spent biking in the (light) rain: 15 minutes

Total time spent waiting under a building overhang for thunderstorm to stop so we could walk back to the hotel after dinner: 35 minutes



Times I used Hannah’s cuteness to convince older couples I did not know that we were not psycho killers and they should give us a ride back to our hotel during a thunderstorm: 1





Ice cream cones consumed, per person: 5 (est.)

Bar-shaped nutrition things consumed, per person: 20 (est.)

Penn. RR Cabooses seen: 6








Photographs taken with big expensive camera I lugged around on the bike the whole way: 5

Brad Farwell’s work has been published in The New York Times Magazine, McSweeneys Quarterly, Etiqueta Negra, and Draw it with your eyes closed: the art of the art assignment. His photographs have been exhibited worldwide, including the The Noorderlicht Photo Festival in the Netherlands, the American Academy in Rome, Rick Wester Fine Art in NYC, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. 
Brad teaches at the Fashion Institute of Technology and the International Center of Photography.  He lives in the Bronx with his brilliant wife and their two small but disproportionately  mischievous children.



by Anne Foster



During the Cold War, the Soviet Union and the United States reserved titanium for military use, making it scarce, expensive and rarely used for bicycle components. After the fall of communism, Russia began exporting titanium for civilian use and it began to be used for bike components and eventually entire bikes: light, strong but relatively inexpensive. Source: Bicycle Design, Hadland and Lessing

Dave Perry, owner and mechanic at Bike Works in the Lower East Side, talked road bikes with me.

The true beauty of the road bike, Dave explained, is its malleability. “A road bike doesn’t have to have skinny tires. It can have medium width tires. So I like to think of it more as a wider range—it’s not just the road bike that you see in the Tour de France. You can have upright flat bars—sometimes that’s the best bike for commuting. Or other people like the drop bars.

“Obviously the new carbon fiber stuff can be much lighter than pretty much anything, but the rest of the bike has to have parts that are light, too. I had to get a carbon bike just to see what it was like.”

On the other hand, it’s not always about lightness and speed. Some road bikes are made with steel, which is heavier than carbon fiber.

“Steel…it’s a fine ride. I probably prefer it,” Dave said. Because of its ability to absorb shocks, steel makes for a comfy ride. And “You can trust it more…The steel bikes are just kind of there and you can repair them if necessary. Steel is real, you know…



Originally from California, Dave Perry had dreams of racing professionally until the day a young junior named Greg LeMond ” blew by me in a time trial… I realized he had a natural talent that none of us could touch. That was my last race pursuing a professional career.”

 Dave came to Brooklyn in 1979 to study at Pratt. In New York he rode everywhere. “When you get to the city when you are young–or when you grow up here–the bike is the best way to get to know the whole city. It’s good for commuting obviously because of the autonomy. But really just riding around is a good way to get to know the city and just to relax.

“It used to be that you could really enjoy really traffic. There weren’t bike lanes so you would pretty much be forced into traffic unless you rode on one side of the road. But before there were bike lanes, you would just ride in traffic and that was always fun cause traffic doesn’t move that much faster than a cyclist does.”

 Something as wonky-looking as drop handlebars seems like it must be a modern invention, but in fact the road bike as we know it evolved through the early decades of the twentieth century.

“The drop bar that we see today is a slight variation on the earlier bars that were maybe a little flatter, in other words they were like drop bars but not as drop.

lighter-than-light-dinosaur400x600Drop handlebars were invented by 187, during the high-wheeler era. Although an upright riding position is more comfortable, a stooped position reduces air resistance making it possible to go faster with less effort. Source: Bicycle Design, Hadland and Lessing

“The derailleur wasn’t perfected until the fifties or so. Now it’s an essential component of the road bike, and gives another facet to its flexibility of use.

“The other day I had to carry a 125-pound thing on a trailer. I have a hitch on my regular bike but that’s a big maximum weight to be dragging on a trailer and I needed my lowest gear to go over the bridge because it’s—what?—four or five percent grade? That’s enough to mean that with that much weight I was going walking pace in my lowest gear.

“So when you use your bike for a lot of things you need a wide ratio of gearing.

“One of my coolest feats on a bike was carrying a five-foot tall refrigerator on the handlebars of a ladies Phillips three-speed, for five kilometers with sectors of cobblestone and brick road. It was a prop for a performance by Melora Walters.”




CYCLING CITY: Urban Bicycling in the 1890s


5th Ave at 23rd St in 1909 NYPL

5th Ave at 23rd St in 1909 (NYPL)

We were thrilled to hear that Evan Friss will be talking about his book Cycling City at CUNY Graduate Center on April 6. He was kind enough to make some time to talk with us. 

BU: As I understand it, bicycling first became popular in the 1880s as an as part of the fitness craze that began in the middle of the 19th century, but in Cycling City I get the impression it evolved from the physical culture movement into a mad fad for mechanization of the city, in turn replaced by the next mad fad for mechanized mobility: cars. Is that an accurate assessment and can you talk a little about the context in which bicycling in the city first became popular?

EF: The 1890s is a wonderful decade to study.  There’s a great wave of industrialization and urbanization, there’s a deepening health consciousness, there are new patterns of recreation, and there’s this palpable sense that the century is coming to an end.  All of these themes, in one way or another, explains the sudden rise of the bicycle.

For some, the bicycle was a technological beauty, a marker of modernity, and a sign of progress.  Enthusiasts waited anxiously for each year’s new models, studied the extensive parts list, and perused the booths of elaborate bicycle exhibitions.  More than that, the bicycles of the 1890s weren’t just exciting new takes on an established platform (think Tesla).  The bicycle was totally new.  Sure there had been some predecessors, but none developed a long-term or overwhelming following.  The millions of cyclists who bought and rode bikes in the 1890s were doing so for the very first time.  And the bicycle seemed to hold so much promise: a way to escape the increasingly polluted cities, a way to exercise brain and brawn, a way to get to work faster.  As the century was about to turn, it was the bicycle that offered a vision of the future.


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Lower East Side in 1900 (NYPL)

BU: The fad for cars was attractive because a more expansive expression of the ideals of personal freedom and the limitless possibilities of technology that dominated so much of the thinking at the turn of the 20th century, not to mention economically far more lucrative. Still, that doesn’t entirely explain the abrupt decline of bicycling–or does it? 

EF: Yes and no.  Cars sapped a lot of the enthusiasm that late-nineteenth-century Americans had for bicycles.  Bicycles no longer seemed so progressive, so cool, and so fashionable.  At the same time, when the cycling city came to an end, hardly anyone who stopped riding bicycles began driving automobiles.  It would be another two decades before Americans purchased automobiles in significant numbers.  In fact, when people stopped riding bicycles, they didn’t turn to a new form of transportation.  They didn’t suddenly find value in the streetcars.  And subways were still few and far between. They stopped riding because it simply became unfashionable.

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Prospect Park bike path in 1896 (NYPL)

BU: The role of bicycling in female empowerment was fascinating, opening access to greater autonomy and personal freedom in all aspects of women’s lives, from social mores to clothing ( I had no idea there was an anti-corset movement). Would you say bicycling, in spite of its general decline after 1900 had a more long-lasting impact with regard to women? 

EF: The question of the long-term impact of the cycling city is a good one.  Some, but very little of the cycling infrastructure that was built in the 1890s, endured well into the twentieth century.  But in terms of social changes, the bicycle pushed the conversation in new directions and helped, at least incrementally, instill change.  In terms of women in particular, the 1890s was certainly not the first time that women began talking about the need for greater independence, freedom to dress more comfortably, etc., but since bicycling was so popular these age-old questions began to be answered in new ways.  Bikes and long flowing dresses didn’t make a good couple, so practically wheelwomen (as they were often called at the time) had to find alternative solutions.  Some particularly clever women realized that if society could come to terms with the new kinds of outfits that bicycling demanded, then perhaps people would get used to seeing women in such clothes even when they weren’t riding.  The notion of sportswear continued to evolve–as did the women’s movement more generally.  So while bicycling alone did not transform women’s lives, it did have an impact in both the short and long term.

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Ladies riding the Harlem River Speedway in 1897 (NYPL)

BU: One thing I was completely unaware of was the impact bicycling and bicycling advocates had on urban design, in particular in pushing for paved roads, not to mention the push and pull with regard to bike lanes. Infrastructure is such a big part of the conversation around biking today, those issues from 100 years ago seem very contemporary. Can you talk a little about what is the same and what is different?

EF: The debates about bicycling today are eerily similar to those of the 1890s.  Do bicycles belong on separate paths (off-road) or on the roadway itself?  How should cycling amenities be paid for?  Are cyclists the solution to create healthier and more livable cities or are they reckless traffic violators who make driving (a car or horse, depending on the era) unnecessarily more difficult?

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Over New York City Pavements 1892 (NYPL)

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Lafayette and Bond in 1897 (NYPL)

BU: The argument for keeping bikes out of parks and for bike lanes because they scared the horses, for example, that looks hilarious now. Can you talk a little more about that? 

EF: By all accounts, even at the time, the horses were fine with the bicycles. The people who didn’t like bikes were the people who were riding or driving the horses. Horses are very loud, and bicycles aren’t, so people weren’t used to it, and afraid of what kind of havoc that could create. So the horse drivers didn’t like bicycles, but their best rationale for prohibiting them was to suggest the complaints came from the horses.

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Ladies driving along 5th Ave, 1900 (NYPL)

BU: At Bicycle Utopia we look forward to a day when the arguments against bicycling because they inconvenience automobile traffic and take away parking spaces from cars will one day sound just as bizarre.  

EF: A lot of it has to do with space and control over space.  One example is streetcar operators would often demand that even if they the tracks were no longer in use that they not be ripped up, because they felt a sense of ownership of the street. Bicyclists wanted the unused tracks to be ripped up because they made it harder to ride, so that was an area of conflict.

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Bowery streetcars and elevated train, date unknown (NYPL)

In parks, the idea was that these winding bridal paths were exclusive places for people who could afford horses, and where you would meet only similarly well-heeled people, and who agreed on the proper decorum. One fear was that bikes would compromise exclusivity, and that parks would become too democratized. At the beginning, even when bikes were quite expensive, another problem was that the riders were young men, sporty and interested in speed and adventure, which didn’t sit well with the people using the paths to ride out on their horses. So the initial agreement with the park was that bicyclists had to get a special tag and agree to behave themselves in a certain way.

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The Grand Drive in Central Park, 1869 (NYPL)

The underlying questions about where bicycles belong, what kinds of people bicycle, and the degree to which cities should accommodate, promote, or limit bicycling are the same.  Yet, there are some critical differences.  As much as city dwellers in the 1890s understood that they were living in unhealthy environments, the tenets of sustainability are much more widely embraced today.

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View of South Street, 1878 (NYPL)

BU: Those differences are very interesting, indeed. Cities were much unhealthier environments in the late 1800s than they are today, with a lot of noisy, smelly, filthy manufacturing and substandard, terribly overcrowded housing for working people. In addition, there was some concern that the sedentary nature of office employment was intrinsically unhealthy, at a time when the white collar working class was really beginning to encompass a large segment of the working population. You touch on this in Cycling City; can you talk a bit more about that in the context of the health and sport movements of the 19th c. inspired by the Industrial Revolution?

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City dwellers in 1868 (NYPL)

 It’s interesting because a lot of health advocates were talking about the need to get out of doors in spite of the fact that lots of people were still doing what we now think of as hard labor. But within this there was a large population of people sitting in offices, and there was a fear that this work would generate a kind of toxicity that was even worse than the boredom, and that people needed to get out and get fresh air and move around. Central Park wasn’t enough, you needed to get to the countryside, swim in the ocean, to relieve yourself of the chaos of the city. Despite all the advantages of the city, the urbanity, the opportunity, you needed to get away from time to time to be able to sustain city living. So biking became a prescription of sorts.

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Sheet music cover (NYPL)

BU: The discussion around how to formalize the status of bicycles and bicycling made me laugh out loud, such as proposal of a bicycle tax, not to mention resistance on the part of cycling clubs to the requirement that bicycles be equipped with brakes, calling them unnecessary and  “an infringement upon their personal property.”  It sounds a bit like some of the more heated controversies around biking today, for example the helmet debate. What happened to all those attempts to regulate bicycles? Do you think if urban biking becomes significantly more popular the attempt to more strictly codify the status of bicycles will be revived?

EF: Efforts at regulating bicycles have been around since they first arrived in the US.  Even the predecessors to the modern day bicycles were quickly met with restrictions on how, where, and when they could be ridden.  Nobody, including cyclists, can seem to agree on how bicycles fit into our cities.  Part of the reason stems from the unique nature of the device itself.  Is it a vehicle or a toy? Is it more like a car or a pedestrian?  How one answers these questions then frames whether or not one thinks bicycles belong on the streets, the sidewalks, or separate paths.  It’s complicated.

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Biking in Central Park, 1895 (NYPL)

Even after the bicycling boom of the 1890s, ideas about taxing bicycles, licensing bicyclists, restricting the movements of bicycle messengers, and requiring helmets have come, gone, and arrived again.  Cyclists have long resented attempts at regulation, even as certain riders argued that doing so would help legitimize cycling.  Where I live now, the college town of Harrisonburg, VA, a recent city council candidate campaigned on a promise to institute a local bicycle tax.  Even if she had won, it’s unlikely the tax would have ever been implemented, but I think it speaks to one of the ways in which the talk of regulating bicycles is used today: as a threat to cyclists.  They better behave and stop asking for so much.

BU: It sounds like you may have heard about the All Powerful Bicycle Lobby, and its hilarious twitter feed (@BicycleLobby) one of my favorite artifacts of the resistance to the implementation of bike share in New York City in 2013.

EF: Even back in the 1890s there were lots of complaints that cyclists were getting their way all the time, while the cyclists felt they were always fighting an uphill battle. In NYT editorials there were complaints that bicyclists were writing the laws. One editorial ended with “Soon they’ll want all of the Earth!” On the bicyclists’ side, there were people who thought the regulations were far too many–one group of riders talked about what regulation would look like in the future, that cyclists would be required to light fireworks to let people know they were coming, etc.

At the time, most cyclists were mostly concerned with bicycling having a place in the city, so they wanted bikes to be regulated exactly like other vehicles. If bicyclists had to have a lamp at night, so should horse carriages.

Biking politics are also much more political in the twenty-first century.  So while there was great debate in the 1890s about whether or not parks should allow bicycling, whether or not the city should pay for paving bicycle lanes, etc., the various camps did not fit neatly into existing political categories.  There were certainly elements of classism at play, but the environmental issues were not understood through the lens of party politics in the same way that they are today.  City politicians from either party in the 1890s ran on “bicycling platforms.”

In many ways, it would seem easier to encourage bicycling in today’s world.  Bicycles are, relatively, much cheaper than they were then.  We already have lots of paved, very wide roads that could easily be redesigned for bicycles.  Yet, we’ve lived in a country that has defined itself as a nation of cars.  There’s a sense that we are a car country, a car people, and that our cities should reflect that culture.  Of course, that’s been starting to change of late and we’ll have to wait and see what comes next.

BU: How did you get interested in this topic and what inspired you to write this book?

EF: I had always been interested in urban history, urban planning and transportation. I was born in New York, and I went to graduate school in NYC, so I spent about half my life in NYC. I think of myself as a New Yorker, but my formative years were spent in Columbia, Maryland.

Columbia is a completely planned town, designed right down to the streets being named for American poets. A key part of the planning was these biking and walking paths, which had a big impact on how I understood the uses of public space.

Later, when I was in graduate school, a fellow student was writing about the politics of street names in the 1890s, and a lot of the city council meetings where these were discussed were taken up with discussions about biking.

BU: Can you talk a bit about how biking is different in Harrisonburg from New York City? 

It’s very different biking in Harrisonburg, which is a small college town, than biking in New York City. People here think biking in a big city would be terrible, but in many ways I felt more comfortable biking in NYC. Even before there was so much biking infrastructure, there were always plenty of places to park; you could get anywhere you wanted to go by bike. There is always the sense that drivers at least know you’re there. But in Harrisonburg, apart from a mountain-biking scene, biking is much less popular, and the cars, like to buzz you when they pass you. I don’t know if they’re doing that purposely or not.

There’s a bike movement for more bike lanes and the issue always comes back to one thing: parking. There’s this erroneous idea that there isn’t enough parking, even though there’s tons of free parking. It’s an unhealthy obsession with parking. People don’t want to lose one parking spot, while the fact is there are too many parking spots.  There’s a perception that there is this war against cars and parking spots. The larger issue is control and people not wanting to yield to change, or people who worry that environmental issues or bicycling issues are part of a politics they don’t agree with.

There’s very little bike infrastructure, although some streets have sharrows, or bike lanes, but routes sometimes strangely disappear. Some are colored, some are not, there’s no uniformity. It’s very haphazard. Even walking, to some degree, is similar. I have two small children and am used to walking with a stroller. Sometimes there are no curb cuts, sidewalks just disappear. It’s a sad reminder of the priority of car-driven projects. Policy that proposes alternatives to cars is still very piecemeal; biking is treated as a token and it’s not really institutionalized. The idea, for example, that every time a road is repaved, let’s restripe it for a bike lane.

Evan Friss will be speaking about Cycling City at the CUNY Graduate Center on April 6 at 6:30 PM. The event is free and open to the public. 


The CUNY Graduate Center

365 Fifth Avenue (at 34th St)

Room 3110












BikeBANQUET November 7 with Recycle-A-Bicycle and special guest Randy Cohen

Thank you to everyone who came out to the BikeBANQUET to benefit Recycle-A-Bicycle November 7!

Guests enjoying the banquet part of the BikeBANQUET. In the foreground, (L-R) Hilda Cohen, Randy Cohen, Janet Liff and Josh Bisker

Randy Cohen

Karen Overton (L), Executive Director of Recycle-A-Bicycle, in conversation with  Melissa Garcia

Arriving at the BikeBANQUET

Sarah Haga in conversation

Sarah Haga in conversation

Nomad Cycle owner Damon Strub

Nomad Cycle owner and host Damon Strub

Randy Cohen and janet Liff in conversation , Hilda Cohen and Josh Bisker in foreground

During dinner, Randy Cohen Janet Liff, Hilda Cohen and Josh Bisker in conversation

Randy Cohen listening during dinner

Randy Cohen listening

BikeBANQUET Nov 7 2015

Dan Solow, of Southern Queens Greenway, and Marc Van der Aart, of Rolling Orange, in conversation during dinner

Angela Stach, Transportation Alternatives Queens Committee in conversation during dinner

Angela Stach, Transportation Alternatives Queens Committee, in conversation with other guests during dinner

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Randy Cohen spoke about biking in the city

Lesley McTague and Daniel Solow visioning their Bicycle Utopia

Instead of cognac, a visioning activity and BikeART Party followed dinner and Randy Cohen’s talk. Lesley McTague and Dan Solow collaborate to make their Bicycle Utopia

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Lesley McTague going for a spin in Bicycle Utopia

Stella Bronwasser of Rolling Orange creating her Bicycle Utopia

Stella Bronwasser of Rolling Orange making her Bicycle Utopia

Esmé Brauer (L) and Hilda Cohen taking their Bicycle Utopia visioning rather seriously

Esmé Brauer and Hilda Cohen's bike portrait

Esmé and Hilda in their Bicycle Utopia

Nathan and Lion Brauer getting their bike portrait taken

Nathan and Lion Brauer getting ready for their BikeART portraitLion + NathanFL

Nathan and Lion in Bicycle Utopia

Luzmina Sindi Hernandez gets her bike portrait with completely unnecessary encouragement from appreciative onlookers

Luzmina Sindi Hernandez gets completely unnecessary encouragement from other guests as she gets her BikeART portrait taken

Luzmina Sindi Hernandez's bike portrait

A passerby asks “Why does life have to be so terrible?” when no bikes are ALLOWED in Luzmina’s Bicycle Utopia

Will Knoesel from Recycle-A-Bicycle making a very special Bicycle Utopia...

Recycle-A-Bicycle’s Will Knoesel works on making a very special Bicycle Utopia…

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Will’s Bicycle Utopia

Raffle prizes donated by Nutcase Helmets, Vanmoof, Thule, Levi's, Bloomsbury Publishing and ABUS

Raffle prizes donated by Nutcase Helmets, Vanmoof, Thule, Levi’s, Bloomsbury, Johanna Kindvall and ABUS

Avril Greenberg raffle winner of Culinary Cyclist at BikeBANQUET to benefit Recycle-A-Bicycle, with special guest Randy Cohen at Nomad Cycle, November 7, 2015

Avril Greenberg, raffle winner of a copy of the Culinary Cyclist, by Anna Brones and illustrated by Johanna Kindvall

Nathan Brauer, raffle winner of an ABUS lock and Hilda Cohen, winner of Infographic Guide to Cycling at BikeBANQUET with Lion and Esmé Brauer

Nathan Brauer, Hilda Cohen, Lion and Esmé Brauer, winners of an ABUS Bordo lock and a copy of the Infographic Guide to Cycling

Angela Stach's bike portrait

Angela Stach in Bicycle Utopia

Reed Rubey and a Vanmoof bike are all that survive in his Bicycle Utopia

Reed Rubey goes for a spin on a Vanmoof bike in Bicycle Utopia

BikeBANQUET would not be possible without the generous support of Bicycle Utopia’s sponsors.ami nyc sp mailchimp sponsors logos-01






I was riding through the park on one of the first summer evenings when I first noticed it: a looseness in my pedals.

It was a mild looseness—I couldn’t see it, I could only feel it. With every half rotation of the pedals, when it came time for one foot or the other to press down and urge the bike forward—that’s when I felt it. Instead of my foot meeting the resistance of the pedal, there was nothing. And then, a millisecond later, there was the resistance of the pedal.

It happened on every rotation for each foot. As with many bike troubles, the annoyance lay not only in the trouble itself, but in the fact that I anticipated it every time my foot pushed down. As the red sun set on me, I sang songs along to the rhythm of my hiccuping pedals.

The next day I woke up to ride my bike again, hoping that the issue had resolved itself overnight. But as soon as I pushed off again there it was. Bikes are not people, I reminded myself, they do not heal themselves.

I stopped at a bike shop run by one lone mechanic overworked to exasperation. “It’s biking season and we are up to here”—he made a line with his hand in the air over his head—“in work.” But I convinced him to take a look and give me a diagnosis. He gave my pedals a little tug and confirmed what I already knew: yep, they were definitely loose. He pulled out a tool, tightened them up, and off I was, singing his praises.

But it turned out to be just a temporary fix. A few days later the strange looseness returned, haunting my every pedal stroke. So back to the mechanic I went, but a different bike shop this time. Even though the shop was swarming with customers, a young guy took the time to put my bike into a stand, pop open the bottom bracket and check out the bearings.


His suspicions were confirmed, he said, the bearings–the things that allowed my pedals to turn–were dry. Parched, in fact. Normally the bearings are packed with grease to equalize pressure and make things run smoothly. But mine had no grease.

“It’s good you stopped here,” he said, “your bearings look okay.” They were shiny and still perfectly round. If I had gone much longer without grease, they would have started to wear. The parts in a loose bearing system wear together; if one part of the bottom bracket (the bearings, the cup, or the cone) is damaged, it won’t be long before other pieces start to wear as well. Bearings with dents or holes need to be replaced immediately.

Bearings are what allow the bike to move. There is a bearing system in each of the wheel hubs, the bottom bracket, and in the headset, which allows the handlebars to turn.

Most older bikes, and some new bikes, have a “loose bearing” system: you can open up the shell—made up of a cup on one side and a cone on the other—and theoretically dump the small shiny balls onto the floor, if they aren’t packed in there with grease.


Some new bikes have a cartridge—a bearing system that is sealed shut. If it stops working, the entire cartridge usually needs to be replaced. This isn’t necessarily the case with loose bearings, where you may just need to replace a set of bum bearings.

If your pedals feel gritty or wobbly, or if you can hear them grinding, it’s a sign you should check on your bottom bracket. Elsewhere on the bike, if your wheel is tightened to the frame, but it still feels loose, your hub bearings may need some attention.


But dry bearings can be a silent killer–you may not notice if your bearings need grease. The best way to prevent your bearing system from getting thirsty is to take your bike to a mechanic for a yearly tune-up. Although a bearing check is not included in the basic tune-up, and the bottom bracket may go several years without needing to be re-greased, when the mechanic takes a look over the bike, he or she will know whether or not it is worth cleaning out your bearing system.

I rode away from the shop that day, my pedals spinning without a glitch, and a greater appreciation for the dark depths of my bicycle that allow its two wheels to keep on turning every day.



AM I INVISIBLE? NYC | SP : the Exhibition

Scenes from the exhibition and public art installation Am I Invisible? NYC | SP, in New York City and São Paulo, on view from September 15 – November 8, 2015.

Panel discussion at Centro Cultural São Paulo, September 15. Speaking is Nabil Bonduki, Chief of Cultural Affairs, SP

A projection of images submitted to the Am I Invisible? NYC | SP Open Call at the opening party at Delancey Plaza, September 15, 2015.

Panel discussion at Centro Cultural São Paulo, September 15. From left to right: (L-R) Nabil Bonduki (Chief of Cultural Affairs in São Paulo), Ignacio Aronovich (LostArt), Ronaldo Tonobohn (Department of Transportation), Anderson Augusto (6eMeia), Leonardo Delafuente (6eMeia) and Baixo Ribeiro (Instituto Choque Cultural). Speaking, Anderson Augusto of 6meia.

A visitor to the installation at Delancey Plaza, NYC, September 15, 2015. Works visible (L – R) Gustavo Gomes, Jessica Findley, David Horvitz, Bijari.

Wide view of Invisìvel? SP | NYC at Centro Cultural São Paulo. Works visible by (L – R) William Lamson, Jessica Findley

Visitors to Am I Invisible? NYC | SP October 10, 2015 look at works by Jessica Findley, Gustavo Gomes. Partially visible at extreme left, 6meia.

A visitor to Am I Invisible? NYC | SP takes a picture at Lomography Gallery, NYC, October 10. L-R: works by William Lamson, Hai Zhang.

Public art installation of Invisìvel? SP | NYC with work by William Lamson

Visitors to Am I Invisible? NYC | SP at Lomography Gallery, NYC, October 10, 2015

Public art installation of Invisìvel? SP | NYC with work by Jessica Findley