Saturday, November 28, 2009

Campaigns against drink-driving

In Austria a lot of alcohol-related accidents happen especially at this time of the year. We have a Christmas market- and hence also a Glühwein and Punsch-drinking tradition (in English this is called mulled wine and glogg as far as I know). So recently we also have a new campaign against drink-driving (in German):

"Alkohol am Steuer: Könnten Sie damit leben?" / "Drink-driving: Could you live with it?"

It's all about first times (walking, car ownership, being promoted etc.) of Stefan and Tobias -- and about the first time drink-driving and it's consequences... I think the question "Could you live with the consequences?" at the end is of course dramatic, but still very realistic. There is a similar spot from Ireland (in English):

"Could you live with the shame?"

In 2002 we had this, well, rather funny spot about drink-driving in Austria which is more directed towards young people who, on the countryside, often heavily depend on cars when they want to go out. It shows three zombies coming out of their graves and talk about their last disco visit: how drunk they were, that one said he could still drive, that the others joined and wanted to drive to another bar etc. It ends with "Und was ist dann eigentlich passiert?" / "And what happened then?" before you can hear cars crashing in the background:

"Drink + Drive = Death"

Do you have campaigns against drink-driving in your country? Do you think such TV spots can make a difference? If so, which ones do you consider most effective? Do you think they have to be shocking in order to show any effect?

By the way, what blood alcohol limits do you have in your country? In Austria we have a 0.5‰ drink-drive-limit for car drivers (and basically 0 for beginners). However, this regulation is only written down in the Kfz-Gesetz (law for motorists). Generally, and hence also for cyclists, we have 0.8‰ limit which previously used to be the overall limit (before they lowered it in 1998). If you know German and are interested in details you can continue reading in the "Handbuch Alkohol - Österreich" and the newspaper article "Angetrankelt mit dem Fahrrad unterwegs" (about drink-biking).

Do you ever drink-bike? I really try to avoid that. When I plan to go out I either leave my bike at home or just don't drink at all. I think that a slow reaction can be pretty dangerous if one has to ride between cars. Thus in that sense it also matters where I'm cycling. I don't mind having a beer and cycling back home on a lonesome cycle path in the countryside. Good lighting at night, however, is always essential!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Animals on bikes

Cycling doesn't have to be serious. Have some fun too!

What about decorating your bike with a duck?
Or a zebra... ehm giraffe? (see also meligrosa's pic of the very same thing)
Butterflies are a quite common too:
In Budapest I even came across a ladybird and a hedgehog...

Well, I've also seen lions, snakes and other exotic animals on bikes. There seems to be no limit to creativity :).

Friday, November 20, 2009

Enjoying a ride on a Retrovelo bike

Last Saturday I went to test ride some bikes with Filigree from the Lovely Bicycle! blog. I tried a Retrovelo Paul (the male version of the classy Paula) and Filigree a Specialized Globe Haul (a Mixte for heavy loads), both of which were gladly lent to use by the Citybiker bike shop on Lerchenfelderstraße.

The Retrovelo Paul in the Schmerling Park in Vienna (more pictures on flickr)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A scenic bike ride through the center of Vienna

For another time Filigree from the Lovely Bicycle! blog is in town. She's a real expert when it comes to, well, lovely bicycles. And as I'm keen on getting such a bike I asked her for advice. Of course I know many bike brands but am kind of lost in the big field and only very few of them are actually available in bike shops in Vienna. Her immediate answer was that I should check out Retrovelo bikes.

Filigree found out that the Citybiker in Vienna is a dealer for Retrovelo, so we asked them for a test ride which they gladly offered. However, as they only had the male models in stock, I was the only one who ended up on a white 7-speed Retrovelo Paul (more about it next time). Filigree test rode the Globe Haul instead (a Mixte made of Specialized components, have a look at it here) whose rear rack can carry up to 50kg! But more about the bikes another time, this post is devoted to our scenic ride through the center of Vienna:

Our first destination was the Schmerling square beside the Parliament where we had an extensive look at the bikes. When we shot some pictures at the Parliament, we were suddenly surrounded by a bunch of Chinese tourists. Well, they weren't really interested in us, but certainly in the Retrovelo bike. A girl asked for the brand and the price, the guys surrounded the bike (and hence us) to take some pictures and videos. Amazing how much attention one gets with such a bike! Filigree wrote a whole post about this funny encounter, see "Cycling the Parliament".

Filigree cycling at the Schmerling squareThe two of us surrounded by Chinese tourists at the Parliament

We changed the side of the Ring road and started cycling along the Ring bike path and passed by many lovely buildings in the 1st district (the natural and art history museum, the opera etc.). I quite like the Ring bike path in fall, cause the alley is all yellow at this time of the year. The bike path itself is on the sidewalk which often leads to confusions among tourists but also residents. Some of the bits are rather small, especially beside subway stations and tram stops where cautious cycling is necessary. In other places the path is very wide and clear, and it's possible to overtake or even cycle beside each other. Generally, the Ring bike path is great for recreational rides in the historical center, but not so well-designed for “normal” everyday cycling when safe fast connections are preferable.

Cycling along the Ring bike path in the city center

We hit the Danube canal at the Urania and continued cycling on the combined foot and bike path along the canal. That's a very relaxing, however not fast, stretch. There are some night clubs (especially in the summer) and many people go jogging or for a walk there. If you're interested in urban art you should definitely have a look at the graffitis near Schwedenplatz – there are many huge ones which keep changing regularly.

Later on Filigree had the idea to ride to the Augarten. Unfortunately I missed the right street (shame on me) and we ended up on a long cobbled street. Nothing I particularly fancy riding on, but on the other hand it was a good for testing the bikes. After some time in the 20th district, we started our way back through the 9th district along Alserbachstraße und Liechtensteinstraße (both have bike lanes in the door zone), until we hit the Ring bike path again and then changed to the so-called “2er Linie”.

All in all we have been on a long and lovely ride through the center of Vienna which took us about 2 hours (including a lot of photo shooting, of course). Thanks for all the fun on a gray Saturday morning, Filigree :).

If you still haven't seen enough pictures, have a look at our flickr sites (Filigree's and mine). Of course I really enjoyed riding the Retrovelo, but I shall tell you more about the bike itself in the next post. So stay tuned for more stories – here and on Filigree's bike blog.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Bicycle spirits

An unusual bicycle in Vienna, seen in a bottle shop in Neubaugasse. Handmade, of course. Who wouldn't like to drink from such a marvelous bottle :).

A bike ride a day keeps the doctor away.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Some confusion with my new tires

As already mentioned before my old steed was rewarded with some new tires. So far I only had typical cross country tires (Stollenreifen, in German) on my mountain bike. These days, however, I'm mostly only cycling on the road and a flatter profile is preferable. On the other hand, with the winter in sight (and that also means snow in Vienna) I did not completely want to turn studs down.

A compromise was found and I settled for the Schwalbe Land Cruiser. That's a tough, puncture-resistant and versatile mixed surface tire. The tires have a central pattern for tarmac but also serrated side knobs for dirt roads (and hence also snow). With 15€ per tire they are quite cheap too. For more information have a look at the Schwalbe homepage.

To explain the title of this post I must admit that at first I had some trouble when mounting the tires. Well, usually the direction of wheel travel is pretty obvious from the tire pattern itself but this time I was really confused because there were two direction arrows written on the tire sidewalls, pointing in opposite directions: <-FRONT-| |-REAR->

What was that supposed to mean? Should the <-FRONT-| arrow point to the front of bicycle and the |-REAR-> arrow point to the back of it? Or do these arrows indicate that the front and rear tires should be mounted differently? Would that make any sense?

This is how my front tire (left) and rear tire (right) are mounted now

Well, according to the explanation on the Schwalbe homepage the front and rear wheel should really be treated differently for mountain bikes. Curious as I am, I tried to find out why that makes sense. Apparently, directing the tires this way leads to better braking characteristics on muddy surfaces. I don't know if it actually makes a difference, but I'm ready to give it a go.

What kind of tires do you ride? Does anybody out there know more about the sense of differently directed front and rear tires?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Do it yourself!

A piece of art on the wall of the bike flea market in Aurinkotehdas

I don't know much about mechanics. Actually I'm quite hopeless when it comes to fixing anything, especially anything as complex as bikes. That is why bike kitchens are awesome!

There is a multipurpose center called Aurinkotehdas ("Sun Factory") in Turku. The headquarters of the Uusi tuuli ry non-governmental organization is located there, and that's also where some of its activities take place. Its probably most famous project was to build the ship Estelle that nowadays sails around the world buying fair trade products and bringing them back to Finland. They also have a bicycle flea market that has a do-it-yourself day every Thursday. They teach people how to fix their bikes free of charge.


In the past, when my bike needed to be fixed, I took her into a bike shop. (You know, fathers don't usually teach these things to their daughters...) Well, not anymore. I've been to the bike kitchen a few times this fall bugging the mechanicians with stupid questions and they have tought me loads of new things: I barely even knew how to change a tire until they told me how it is properly done. Among other things, they tought me how to fix and adjust a handbrake and straighten wheels. Last week a mechanician showed me how to make a makeshift spare part to fix the broken seat. A few weeks back an exchange intern fixed the brakes of my bike and thought me new things about bike anatomy. The next time winter tires need to be changed because black ice is beginning to appear on the roads.

A mechanician working on a bike after the rush hour on the do-it-yourself day

Here's a link to the Vienna bike kitchen and a video about Hobart bike kitchen (BTW: I love her shirt!). Care to share your experiences about similar projects?

Friday, November 6, 2009

You still here with your car?

Lately, more and more Spanish cities are promoting cycling with bike-sharing initiatives or by building cycling lanes.

Not far away from my hometown, there is a lovely city, Girona, which has also taken up to promote cycling as a fast (and healthy) way of moving around. Last Sunday I went for a stroll with my family there and I saw what is for me a pretty good ad to promote cycling. The ad is created by "Mou-te en bici" ("Move around on a bike"), an organization which advocates sustainable mobility.

The translation from Catalan into English would be: Do you still drive a car? If you rode a bike you would already be there!


...this is where the ad was placed: in a place where all car drivers can see it!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Oops!... I did it again

Yes, again. Or better: not. Again I didn't buy a new bicycle although I claimed in spring that I will (and this summer for sure).

Should I? I already have one bicycle. My dear old friend, my red Kästle mountain bike (read more if you like). It has accompanied me for many many years now, and guess what -- it still works perfectly fine for me. No, it wasn't particularly expensive. But I looked after it.

Speaking of maintenance: That's why I'm bike-free this week. My bike is, as every beginning of the winter, with a real bike mechanic that checks all the bits and pieces. As for now, we have already agreed to replace the chain and the tires as both are almost worn-out. Of course, small repairs I do myself but I treat my bike with a proper service every year (for all-year cyclists it is recommended to get that at the beginning of the winter). So far that has paid off and I can highly recommend checking the bike or getting it checked, even when nothing is broken or causes trouble. Scroll down on this page to read about the "art of cycle maintenance" daily/weekly/monthly/yearly.

Me and my beloved bike

Of course, I would love to have many bikes starting with a retro kind of girlie bike, a folding bike, a tandem, a fixie, a cargo bike, a road bike and so on. I'm sure I could even find use for all of them. But actually it doesn't matter so much. It doesn't matter what kind of bike I ride as long as I ride -- any bike will do just fine :).

By using just one bike I can at least claim that I safe natural resources. Having learned much about mining lately, I can tell you that already iron is an important resource (probably even the most important one) and that it's by no means easy to get all that stuff out of the earth's crust. You shouldn't believe that it's all about oil -- rising prices and shortage on iron (and hence coal etc.) can mess us up even more! If you're interested in the topic you may read the recent world mining report. For example, did you know each year we produce about 1 billion tons of iron worldwide, and that more than 70% of the ore come from politically instable countries? Do you know how difficult and energy/time consuming it is to detect, mine, smelt and process raw materials to finally obtain something that we just take for granted and buy in a supermarket? Well, I don't want to be preachy, but I think everybody should be aware of such simple facts. It's already too hard to imagine what stuff went into my notebook and how it got there. Such things always leave me astonished and wondering...

Well, after that short side note, back to bikes. I will eventually buy a new bike (or a nice second-hand bike?) cause I want to be fancy and have a bike with better lighting, more transport capacity, proper rain and clothes protection and so on. Maybe not this year, maybe not even next year. But one day for sure :).

How many bikes do you have? What kinds? Got one all-time favorite?

Somehow I have the impression that Americans tend to have more bikes (if they have any) whereas Europeans mostly only own one (but there are more bike owners). Would be interesting to see whether this assertion holds in general :).

Monday, November 2, 2009

Leg warmers are ladies' best friends in the winter

You like to ride in skirts and dresses? Ever wondered how to survive a cold winter's day with just (thin) tights? Well, let me tell you that suffering is not necessary. There is a simple and elegant solutions called leg warmers.

Leg warmers will obviously warm your legs. But they don't just keep you warm, they are also fashionable. They come in different lengths, colors and fabrics. Currently I own three woolen pairs, one of which is over knees. That is particularly useful if I want to wear rather thin tights underneath, or short skirts.

The good thing about all of them: once you get inside they are easy to take off or can simply be pushed down to the ankles. Besides you can wear them with all kinds of clothes (may it be skirts, dresses or trousers) and footwear (even boots).

And you can easily knit them yourself! It's almost as easy as kniting a scarf :). Find a few how-tos here: How to knit leg warmers, How to knit your own leg warmers, Knitting Pattern Central etc.

Ready for the winter now?