Archive for the ‘Henry and his family’ Category

Frozen Cable Time (Again)

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Workcycles bikes demonstrating that they’re not spring flowers. They’re built to live like this.

This is a slightly updated repost: Winter is upon us somewhat early this year and this is highly relevant info for anybody who cycles through the winter, especially if your bike is stored outdoors.

By far the most common problem that the cyclist encounters with winter cycling is the brake or gear cables freezing. This is generally the result of water condensing or dripping into the cable housing and then freezing, effectively bonding the inner cable to the housing. It only takes a tiny bit of water to do this but we fortunately have a solution. Read below for an explanation.

We arrived at work yesterday figuring that the sub-zero cold, wind and snow would keep most of the customers away, leaving us with time to work on some projects. The highest priority is reconfiguring our workshop after building a massive, floor-anchored, steel frame to hang our electric bike lifts from. It’s a great improvement but not entirely our own initiative. The lifts, you see, were bolted into the 150 or 200 year old wooden beams of our ceiling… and thus the floor of the neighbors upstairs. Though the lifts are nearly new and operate very quietly they do make some vibration. Standing on the concrete (over sand) floor we never noticed this vibration but it drove the lady upstairs crazy. Actually she’s complained very vocally and angrily about a lot of things, apparently calling and writing every possible authority on a regular basis. Most of her complaints have nothing to do with our activities (there’s another bike workshop next door and several apartments have been renovated), but the vibration was a legitimate issue according to the various city inspectors who visited to investigate.

Cargobike (almost) in the Canal

Monday, November 15th, 2010

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One morning about a week ago I walked outside with the kids on the way to their daycare to discover that our beloved bakfiets had disappeared. A number of Workcycles customer bikes have been stolen recently so theft was our first thought. Nonetheless I walked across the street for a closer look and found the bike hanging from its front wheel. The second lock, which I usually leave behind on that rail, wasn’t connected to the frame. I’m really careful about locking so this all seemed very strange.

A neighbor, headed to unlock his own bike, commented that he’d just seen some guys busy here. Probably they’d tossed the bakfiets over as a joke. He was kind enough to help me pull the 40kg bike back onto land and I continued on to the daycare and work. Aside from some scratches on the box and canopy there was no visible damage.

The bike had been sitting in the water past the rear hub so I asked our shop guys to open the hub, clean the taillamp and chain etc. They found surprisingly just a few drops of water in the hub but that’s still too much. Cleaned and re-lubricated, back in the bike, and the hub now actually feels much better than before. This hub, not uncommon for early Shimano Nexus 8 speeds, was noticeably rough in the fourth gear. Freshly lubed and adjusted, this has all but disappeared.

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Fast forward a few days to Friday morning. A storm was passing through (as it often is) and the wind was blowing like mad last night. Bikes, scooters, branches, motorcycles are all over the streets and pavements. Kyoko looks outside and yep, the bakfiets has disappeared into the canal again. From our third floor (fourth to those counting American style) dining room perspective we can just barely see the bottom of the box and a parking stand leg poking into the air. As sentient beings we put 2 + 2 + 2 together and realize that it was, in all likelihood, the wind that tossed the bakfiets off the pavement and not some local, malcontent youths.

But why, all of sudden, does the bike get knocked over by the wind twice in a week when it’s never happened before in the last two years of parking it in the very same spot? Our new habit must be to blame: About a week ago we began leaving the canopy on the bike instead of bringing it inside every evening. It seemed more convenient… and I suppose it would be
if we didn’t park the bike in such an exposed location. Thus a word of warning: Don’t leave your kids in a bakfiets with canopy up in a windstorm next to a canal.

staten island criterium 1982
Staten Island Criterium 1982, I’m the kid with orange helmet, blue jersey, red arm pieces.

Speaking of windstorms my old bike racing buddy Chris sent me this photo from our bike racing days as young teens. It was March 1982 and I’d just moved up to the Junior category (ages 15-18) as District Champion in the Intermediate category (ages 12-14). The race was a criterium on a highly exposed course along the beach in Staten Island, NY. We did thousands of such, little races but I remember this one vividly because it was freezing cold and the wind was absolutely howling. Only those with glasses wore eye protection in those days and clouds of sand kicked up from the beach got in our eyes. Lots of it. At least half the field called it quits after it was too painful to continue. The wind and resulting echelons sliced up what remained of the field and finally only a handful of us finished. Our home was just a short drive away and my dad had lived on Staten Island so my folks came along to watch. Even given the awful conditions in such a meaningless race, quitting was not an option today. Instead I won a meal at a local Italian restaurant (or something like that) and washed sand out of my eyes for days. Those were the days.

Shopping Bike and Kid Stuff

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

shopping cart bike

Well, it’s at least thought provoking… especially if you can ignore such details as the radial spoked front wheel with disk brake and the lack of several important, practical details. Most notably, where’s the little fold down seat for a toddler?

From here on Designboom

Thanks to Sjoerd of Double Dutch in Switzerland.

Apologies for the lack of blogging action here at BeM. We’re just super busy with “business as usual” at Workcycles and taking turns going on holiday after lots of busy business as usual for many months.

What’s new? Well, speaking of toddlers, lots of things though the most recent proud papa moment was 26 month old Pascal suddenly deciding that the balance bike (loopfiets) is cool after all. So he just got on and pushed off. A week later he’s tearing around like he was born on the thing. It’s quite surreal to see a two year old riding a bike. I haven’t had a chance to snap any photos yet so here are a couple just a week earlier of P1 demonstrating his mad scooter skills. He’s been riding this little Micro Mini scooter (€70 at Workcycles!) for 8 months already so the balance thing is already second nature; riding the bike was just a matter of doing the same on a different shaped vehicle. Actually he pedals a tricycle around at the daycare so, in principle, he could already put the two skills together and ride a pedal powered bike already… except that I don’t think there are any bikes small enough for such young kids. It’s doubtful he could reliably operate either a handbrake or coaster brake, so this little bike would probably have to be a fixed gear like the antique Dutch kids bikes we’ve restored. I have to admit liking the idea of building a teeny-weeny fixie, complete with mismatched wheels, top tube pad and a couple Knog lights but really, riding a balance bike until he’s three won’t exactly stunt his development.

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Sometimes he goes a bit overboard and takes a spill but thus far he’s never hurt himself. Mostly he laughs and just jumps right back on. I imagine it helps to have begun developing these skills at such a young age but anyhow, I suppose a toddler who’s trying to ride skateboards he makes from Lego blocks and wheels needs a little space.

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I first wrote about P1’s little scooter, balance bike and baby bakfiets half a year ago: Pascal has a bakfiets too.

More importantly, what’s keeping us busy and me in a steady stream of proud papa moments is that we’re now a family of four. P1 is now Pia’s (P2) big brother.

snug as bug in rugs cargobike canopy

Here they are, snug as bugs in rugs, in the family Truckster (a.k.a. Bakfiets Cargobike). Pia’s napping in the Maxi-Cosi while Pascal no longer needs (nor wants) his toddler support seat (a Bobike Mini with its mounting equipment removed). Here they demonstrate that kid(s) can sit on the bench together with baby in Maxi-Cosi, all weather protected by the canopy. As far as I’m aware Workcycles’ Maxi-Cosi carrier is the only way to do this.

E-Urobike 2010: Same stuff, new colors?

Friday, September 24th, 2010

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Richard contemplates the meaning of “tuned compliance concept” in front of a Zeppelin.

A couple weeks ago we made our annual trek to Zeppelin capitol of the world, Friedrichshafen, Germany for the Eurobike trade show. Most bike nuts would wet their pants over the idea of some 15 former zeppelin hangars full of the latest carbon fiber race wheels that weigh less than your toenail clippings, extreme downhill bikes with a meter of suspension travel, our favorite pro racers’ bikes complete with real Roubaix mud still in its nooks and crannies and more buzzwords than you can shake a stick at. I, however, am jaded by 30ish years on and off around the bicycle industry. These days I go not to ogle the latest gear but to talk to suppliers and dealers, shake some hands and meet some new people. I also like to take pictures of the dumbest stuff I see but even that’s getting difficult because it’s mostly the same dumb stuff as the past few years, maybe copied by somebody else.

Stretch Limo Bakfiets Ride

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

pascal rides in the big bakfiets
Pascal the little prince in his cool ride.

Last night I loaded our freshly refinished (in RAL 2004 “pure orange”) dinner table into one of our big, classic rental bakfietsen in order to bring it home. This morning I was then faced with the dilemma of how to both return the bakfiets to the shop AND bring Pascal to his “creche” (daycare center), both about a kilometer or two from home. Do I dare let an almost two year old sit in the 190 x 85cm box untethered, unhelmeted, unpadded, unrollcaged…? After some deliberation with Mama-en-meer we decided that it should be OK, particularly since Pascal has logged enough thousands of cycling kilometers to not have much urge to do anything stupid and terrible-twos-toddler-like. Besides, we figured, the bakfiets has a top speed of about 10km/hr and everybody (even taxis!) gives it a nice, wiiiiiiide berth.

A Trip to Limburg

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

Hoeve de Schoor in Baexem, Netherlands

This past weekend we took our first little holiday as a family of four. We loaded the kids into their safety certified car seats in a rental Renault and headed south. Despite the documented danger of driving automobiles we chose not to wear helmets. First stop was our friends’ wedding party at a tranquil old (“old” as in dating to at least the mid 1300’s) farm complex in Leudal township in Limburg, the southernmost province of the Netherlands. The farm, called Hoeve de Schoor, was very similar in format to some old farms I know in France; a continuous ring of buildings forming a sort of walled complex with an inner courtyard. One or more of the buildings are residences for the family, workers and guests and the others are for the farm: barns, storage areas, workshop and so forth. As is typical with these places the encroaching nature combined with the “patina” of curvy thatched roofs, wood- and stonework rounded and polished by hundreds of years of feet and hands is utterly charming and relaxing.

Pascal Has a Bakfiets too

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

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This is 19 month old Pascal’s absolute favorite-est toy; a toddler-sized mini bakfiets purchased last year on Queen’s day for €5 and fixed up a little. Whenever he visits dad at work(cycles) (which is quite often since we live just five minutes bike ride away) Pascal immediately searches out his bakfietsje. He then races around the showroom and workshop, deliberately slamming head-on into chairs, doors and shins. Thankfully he avoids the bikes. Sometimes he’ll fill the box with bells, locks, Brooks handlebar grips or whatever products he can reach and “transports” them to far-flung corners of the building.

New Interviews with Yours Truly

Monday, March 29th, 2010

henry and tom
Photo “borrowed” from the Bespoke blog of Fourth Floor Distribution

Being an American who’s founded and runs a bike company in the Netherlands, bicycle capital of the world is considered newsworthy by some so I periodically get interviewed. I’m certainly happy to have the opportunity both as marketing value for WorkCycles and also just to speak my mind. I’ll admit that it’s also fun to act like a mini celebrity in my little pond.

Here on “Bespoke” of Fourth Floor Distribution in Toronto, CA the topic revolves largely around the issue of quality, something WorkCycles is widely known to be a bit obsessive about: Noshing in A’dam. The Workcycles interview

Red Kite Prayer” is a blog for the cycling enthusiasts that many amongst the ranks of transportation cycling proponents decry… entirely missing the point of course. Most of the articles there involve the professional racing scene, high-end racing bikes etc. It happens to be amongst the best reads in the business, with humor, engaging discussions and nice photography. Just to make my point for the 100th time: Transportation cycling and recreational/competitive cycling are not at odds with each other. They’re just different.

This interview was different from most in that the interviewer (Alex Armitage, coincidentally the brother of a peloton acquaintance from my racing days) approaches the topic from the perspective of a bike enthusiast accustomed to high-end road bikes. It’s an interesting read:
Builder Interview: Living Life as a WorkCycles Bike, Part I
Builder Interview: Living Life as a WorkCycles Bike, Part II

The Vogelvrije Fietser, monthly magazine of the Dutch Cyclists Union (Fietsersbond) recently talked to me about some of the industrial applications for Workcycles bikes. You can download it here. It’s in Dutch but the photos are great.

For our French speaking readers I was interviewed by Paris-based blog Je Pedale.

The September issue of German travel magazine GEO Saison has a article in which I give a little tour of some of my favorite spots around Amsterdam’s cozy Jordaan district (where WorkCycles larger shop is). Unfortunately it’s not available online.

In a couple months an interview with myself and Marc of Amsterdamize will appear in Journal de Nimes.

The First Warm Day…

Friday, March 19th, 2010

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…was luckily also “papa day”. Thursday’s are dad’s weekday to hang out with Pascal. Since a 19 month old demands pretty much full-time attention it means a (nearly) no work day. We do all kind of things on papa day: ride to the zoo, walk around Amsterdam doing errands and checking out every park and playground along the way, visit friends… If it’s decent weather we often go for a bike ride.

Today was beautiful, at least by Dutch late winter standards. After breakfast we got on the bike and then we rode until early evening. We stopped at several playgrounds to test their slides (P’s favorite). The big, curvy one near the wind turbines was the winner. We sat on the terrace of a cafe and shared a chicken saté and frites. We checked out a running windmill where they still grind grains and the nice bakkers bakfiets out front. We even climbed “Het Kopje van Bloemendaal” the biggest hill in the area (43 meters!).

Japan: A land I love but just don’t understand

Friday, November 20th, 2009

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Sorry for the lack of new material this month. I’ve been away, enjoying life in Japan rather than burning the midnight oil in my quest for world bicycle domination. Situation permitting Kyoko and I spend about a month in Japan each year to visit family and friends, see new places and do a little business. This time is P’s first trip to one of his two lands of nationality. I really enjoy my time in Japan, probably because even though it’s all quite familiar now, I still don’t understand much of it. Of course that’s largely a function of my poor grasp of the Japanese language; I follow a fair bit but speak barely enough for greetings and simple needs. But even if I were fluent in Japanese it’s unlikely I’d be able to understand this strange culture. Actually it seems the natives themselves often don’t have much insight into what makes things tick here. Below are a few examples. Have a look also through my Flickr photostream where I’ve posted hundreds of Japan photos already.

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Obsession with cleanliness:
Japan is very, very clean and that’s obviously a good thing. Sometimes it seems a bit over the top though such as when I see men polishing the fire hydrants or shop salespeople on their hands and knees scrubbing the last scuff mark off the brilliantly shining tile floor. A couple times I’ve spotted teams of schoolchildren on class cleaning trips, all wearing matching, brightly colored hats as they collect what little trash there is to be found on the sidewalks.