Home > Representing, Videos > Going from a sport to just something basic

Going from a sport to just something basic

As many cities make biking more convenient, safe and comfortable (I’m in New York, seeing it first hand), a new responsibility is emerging for the bike industry and shops to start catering to one of the growing demands of the market: European style bikesand other simple, sit-up styles. These bikes are built for comfortable commuting and running errands, like getting groceries, carrying pets and taking children to school. You know, the stuff many people do everyday, typically by women. These bikes are also meant to be stylish. Some people think pulling up to a show in an Escalade is cool; the new cool is pulling up on a cruiser or Dutch bike.

What kind of bikes do women want? And whose’s selling them those bikes?

These are things MyWHaT has mentioned before, but until yesterday had I had never met someone so passionate about making it happen. George Bliss, owner of Hudson Urban Bicycles, is such a person. Bill Palladino and I visited The HUB to check out some cargo bikes & window shop. Bliss was in the entrance way, working on a bike. After we introduced ourselves, it didn’t take long for Bliss to begin to tell us what he thought about getting more people to choose to bike in our cities, particularly New York City. He also had plenty to say on what’s making the industry so one dimensional & holding us back.

Here is a just a short clip of the visit. When he said,”bicycle advocates ruined bicycling” we knew we had someone in front of us who had something to say. We started filming as he began talking about the Dutch bike culture.

It didn’t take much to get Bliss going and a quick search shows that he is gaining attention for the keeping it simple and stylish message. Last year, there was an article titled “The wheels are turning in bike pioneer’s head” published in the Villager Press that captured much of what he voiced when the camera was turned off.

This quote from the article shows some of his frustration with the focus on mountain bikes as bikes of choice. He said, “Only in America will you see businessmen in suits all hunched over a mountain bike(a position he described to us like being held in the stockade in a public display of humiliation)It’s ridiculous. There needs to be a market of practical bikes for the average consumer.”

He’s doing his part at 136 Charles St.

What do you think? Is there something to be said for taking the “sport” out of bicycling?

NOTE: Posted from the road, mostly on a cell phone, so my apologies for any typos. Also, be sure to check out tomorrow’s post by Bill Palladino, as he describes the economics of being car-free for the past year.

  1. Sharon Flesher
    July 14, 2010 at 10:37 am

    I agree that the perception of cycling as something that can only be done in lycra can be discouraging, but I’m puzzled at his comments that the supply non-sporty bikes is insufficient. We may not have the Dutch abundance of choices, but “mom bikes” aren’t that hard to find. Even “grandma bikes” have been around for a long time. I remember in the 1970s in rural eastern North Carolina (definitely not a Dutch bike market), my grandma’s next-door neighbor bought an adult tricycle which she used for tooling around in their little town.

    I think the biggest impediment to the spread of utilitarian cycling, for women anyway, is that they don’t feel safe. And the Catch-22 of that, of course, is that the best way to improve that situation is to get more cyclists on the streets.

  2. July 14, 2010 at 11:03 am

    Traverse City certainly has an advantage, as we do have bike shops that supply different kinds of wheels, as well as plenty of old models floating around. There isn’t a huge variety though. As a store owner, George was speaking from his experience of sourcing a variety of quality bikes from companies that are still in business.

    A video grab of a rant that is a bit out of context, but it still provides something to think about the next time you go into a bike store. The reality is as you say though, whatever it takes to get more people riding, the more likely a car-less reality will be for our community.

  3. Bill Palladino
    July 14, 2010 at 11:20 am

    I found George’s comments insightful. As an innovator for decades he’s been able to watch trends in cycling right on the streets of New York. The notion that American bicycle-chic has been driven mainly by a need for speed, and a desire to look more aggressive, hit home with me. These are the things he suggests have been driven by a male design ethos. While he has no love lost for the hipster fixed gear crowd, I for one think they are largely responsible for bringing non-lycra fashion back to two wheels. And the best part is other parts of the cycling community are taking up the charge. See Momentum Magazine for a treatise on cycle-chic. http://momentumplanet.com/

    Thanks for the great discussion.

  4. Sharon Flesher
    July 14, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    Yes, I see what he’s saying, and I completely agree about the necessity of shifting the perception of cycling from sport to transportation, and it’s encouraging that more people are purchasing bikes for that purpose. But I suspect we could give every woman in Traverse City a beautiful Dutch bike and we would still see fewer than 5% of them anywhere other than the TART trail.

    Comfortable streets > comfortable bikes. I’ve lost count of the number of moms who have told me they don’t ride because they don’t feel safe. And many of those who do ride choose the sidewalks, even on my street, which is a bike route, 25mph and not at all heavily trafficked. When my kids were small and I pulled them in the Burley, I was asked on several occasions how I could justify endangering them like that. Well, I could rant on like this all day and I’m preaching to the choir, of course!

  5. July 15, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    I think we should give every woman in TC a beautiful Dutch bike and see what happens! Great idea and it would instantly beautify the city.

    I agree though, comfortable, convenient and safe streets go hand-in-hand with comfortable bikes. As well as getting away from the perception that ‘biking is dangerous‘. Biking is one of the safest activities in the world. Ah, this is the on going discussion…

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