Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A bike to catch thieves

I've just found this video reccomended on a radio programme blog. It's about a Chinese man who uses his bike to stop a couple of thieves who had stolen a woman's purse.

What do you think about it?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Winter cycling

This year has been snowy and cold everywhere in Europe. I've heard news of snow in Spain and Italy, and Austria received first snow before Turku, Finland. Actually, we don't always get a good snowy and cold winter here either. A couple of years ago there was no termic winter (temperature drops permanently below zero) here at all, but that was exceptional. I have never experienced such a poor winter before, and it really sucked. However, this year has been delightfully snowy and cold, we received permanent snow cover a few weeks back, earlier than usually (I have to mention that in Turku the statistical average for that is in the Christmas Eve :D). So, considering my little winter cycling experiment, the conditions have been ideal. Apart from the raging blizzard outside as I'm writing this.

In the middle: walking on frozen Kallavesi lake, Kuopio; other images: modifications for the winter

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Got any bike related presents?

In Austria we celebrate Christmas on the evening of the 24th of December. I got many sweet presents from my family. One of my sisters, for example, handed me some bicycle cocktail stirrers:

Cocktail stirrers

Apart from that I (luckily) did not get any bike stuff. But I gave a good U-lock to my dad. You'll learn more about the story behind that gift another time :).

A lock for my dad

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Spittelberg's bicycles

Spittelberg is an old quarter of Vienna, located in the 7th district (known as Neubau) behind the MQ (Vienna's stylish museums quarter and former K.&K. stables). Till 1850 it was a town on its own. There are many nice houses in Biedermeier style and lovely narrow cobbled streets.

Spittelberg (highlighted area on the bottom) around 1830

Spittelberg is well-kown for its yearly Christmas market. So far it's the one I like best in Vienna, just because the narrow streets is so beautiful. This year I like it even more for one very particular reason: mugs.

Mugs? You must know that Christmas markets in Vienna produce their own mugs with changing imprints. This year the Spittelberg Christmas market put some snow-covered bicycles on their mugs. Absolutely lovely! Even I can't think of a better logo :).

Spittelberg Christmas market -- ...
... a place to drink Glühwein and Punsch ...
... in lovely mugs with bike imprints :)

Friday, December 18, 2009

A stroll through Schönbrunn

There are so many nice places in Vienna that I never bother mentioning them -- simply because I hardly ever go there, but also because I am so used to them, that I do not consider them so special. However, it's always nice, to take a walk around the center (it's a pedestrian zone) or other parks. Filigree has once mentioned the Augarten as her favorite park in Vienna. Now here's one rather touristy place that is also very enjoyable:

Palace and Gardens of Schönbrunn

The Schönbrunn palace (with an umlaut written as "Schoenbrunn") is the former residence of the Habsburg monarchs and the whole area very very pompous, both the palace and the surrounding gardens. If you're interested in the historical background I recommend to visit the offical website of the Schönbrunn palace or Wikipedia (and Vienna :)).

Soon after the end of the monarchy the population of Vienna discovered the park as an attractive recreational area, which it is still. In December 1996 the Schönbrunn Palace was put on the list of UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites.

Map of the palace (the yellow thing in the South) and parks at Schönbrunn

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Lingerie on bikes

Earlier we already discussed whether there is something called "bike fashion". Well, there is, in some ways. But these days also the "usual fashion" is proudly presented on bikes -- even underwear! Here's a picture of the lingerie collection "Sonia Rykiel pour H&M" presented on beautiful old-style bikes in Paris:

Sunday, December 13, 2009

COP15 and cycling

COP15, the Copenhagen climate change conference, is trying to find appropriate mitigation and adaptation goals and strategies against climate change. Cycling is a carbon-efficient means of transport that in many cases presents a true alternative to driving a car. Let's take a look at how cycling has been showing in the first week of Copenhagen climate negotiations.

Denmark is a country of utility cycling, which can be an inspiration to both the conference participants and internationally. In Copenhagen, 1/3 of commuters cycle to work or school, but the city goal is even higher. Copenhagen is aiming at becoming the cycling capital of the world and hopes to achieve the cycling commuter rate of 1/2 by 2015. That city knows how to set a positive example!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Bike messengers in Vienna

Sorry, we're quite busy these days before Christmas. However, I always have the time to take some pictures while cycling. These are a few of bike messengers in Vienna. Although I have a rather short commute (and not so much in the city center), I do see them sometimes. Do you have any/many bike messengers in your town? What do they look like?

Monday, December 7, 2009

There's nothing wrong with buying a bike in the middle of the winter

Maybe you remember my test ride on the Retrovelo Paul in November. It had a little poll in the end asking what kind of color you would choose for a Retrovelo Paula. Surprisingly enough the traffic white bike I was testing did not get any votes. On the other hand -- and that's now also the time to reveal my choice -- the pigeon blue came in first with a vast majority of 26%. I had actually already decided what kind of colors I would pick before I asked the question. However, it was really interesting to see that many people (Filigree, Carinthia, Justine, Trisha etc.) voted for the same bike and also mentioned the creamy tires and brown saddle and grips.

Well, here I proudly present my new beauty:

Pigeon-blue Retrovelo Paula (for the specs click on the picture)

I ordered the 7-speed version last week and am looking forward to receive my new bike some time in January :). In the meantime I just have to find a place to park it.

Many of my friends I told about my new steed already placed a reservation for a test ride which, of course, I will gladly offer. For the rest of you I can at least recommend Retrovelo's homepage and their catalogues (both in German and English)...

By the way, regarding benefits of cycling in the winter, I read in the news today that physical activity prevents depressions: "Bewegung beugt Depressionen vor". Psychiatrists claim that the lack of exercise leads to anergia and isolation, especially among young people. It's not only about prevention though, they also recommend physical activity, a regular day-night-rhythm etc. as part of a therapy in many such cases. The WHO tells us the following about physical (in)activity:

"Physical activity is defined as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure. Physical inactivity, (a lack of physical activity) is an independent risk factor for chronic diseases, and overall is estimated to cause 1.9 million deaths globally.

Regular physical activity – such as walking, cycling, or dancing – has significant benefits for health. For instance, it can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and osteoporosis, help control weight, and promote psychological well-being. Everyone should engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day. More activity may be required for weight control."

From my personal experience I can also tell that that cycling makes me a happier, more efficient and well-balanced human being (see "Is cycling addictive?"). I also see that many people don't care enough about their physical health which also effects their mental health in a negative way.

I'm curious if you have similar experiences to mine, especially if you only started everyday cycling recently. Did you notice a difference in your overall way of life?

Friday, December 4, 2009

These boots are made for cyclin'

Last week I received a packet from the US. It contained shoes -- a pair of Chrome Arnhem Black Suede, to be precise. Everybody wears shoes, so what's so special about them, you might wonder. Well, these shoes are made for cycling and that's why I got a pair to review them.

Chrome Arnhem Black Suede

Cycling shoes? But not clip-less? What the heck is that supposed to be? What's wrong with my usual shoes? That was basically my first confusion, but it also got me interested. I already own a Chrome messenger bag, and since I'm quite happy with that, I wanted to give their shoes a chance too. Chrome produced a series of shoes with the following intentions:
"We wanted tough shoes we could wear every day – not just on our bikes. Here they are: shoes built to work well in all kinds of situations, with quality materials, solid construction, and simple style."
So let's see what I found out and whether all of that proves true...

Yeah, the shoes simply look awesome. They are made of lovely black suede combined with a fine red line and a red sole. Very stylish and elegant at the same time. I like the design.
To be fair, they are not super-elegant and to be worn with a ball gown, but especially the Arnhem can definitely compete with other mid-height footwear.

At first the shoes felt a bit stiff, but they good soft pretty soon. I wore them now for one week and they are super comfy and fit perfectly. The Arnhem go up to the ankles which makes them a good companion for this ugly gray, cold and rainy weather we have in Vienna at this time of the year. Despite of that, although I wore them all day long, I never sweat in them. Thus they are quite breathable too.

Durability and Quality
Well, I can't tell much about that as I only have them since one week. However, the high quality of their bags seems to carry of over to their shoes. They are neat workmanship with great affection to details (just look at the sewed in dragon).

Weather resistance
As already mentioned, I think the shoes are very good for this kind of rainy weather we have these days. I don't think they are completely waterproof, but certainly very water-repellent (I did actually test them in rain :)), something that I cannot claim from all my usual shoes. Some of the latter got soaked a few times during cycling and I tinkered with the idea of buying waterproof mid-height shoes, but such pairs just never met my fashion standards. So I think that the Chrome shoes can be a good fashionable alternative in light/normal rain.
Regarding temperature I think they are good for fall, spring and mild winters. Yesterday has been a rather cold day and I got the impression that I can not cycle in the Arnhem throughout the winter. Well, some thicker socks might do the trick :).

Usability for cycling
The Chrome shoes do in fact have some features that one could consider bike related. Besides weather resistance, their shoes also have a skid-resistant rubber sole, a low profile design to fit in toe cages and most remarkably reflective safety hits at the heels.
Whether one needs all of the above (and more) probably also depends on how well-equipped the bike is. For example, I already have reflectors on my pedals and don't really want my shoes to reflect. But then it's not disturbing either. Chrome obviously put in some effort to create shoes that are comfy and safe in any condition.

I experimented with the shoes in different ways, and also tried to combine them with different clothes. I think the Arnhem, my cord skirt and especially my black&red leg warmers matched up nicely :).
Sometimes the shoes make a funny sound when I walk. It's not really disturbing or loud, but my office mates occasionally notice my shamble along the corridor prior my arrival. Haven't yet figured out why they do that, and why only sometimes (maybe it's just my funny way of walking).

Finally, I hope that was of some help in case you're looking for some shoes like that. I will continue to enjoy the Chrome Arnhem as well as all my other usual shoes -- namely during cycling :).

More details about all their designs (Arnhem, Midway, Saipan, Kursk): Chrome shoes

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cycling makes you more intelligent!

Well, this isn't something I have cooked up. I read it in the news today: "Sich bewegen bringt doppelt Segen" (to take exercise is a double blessing). The article is based on a scientific study carried out in Sweden and claims that sport increases intelligence and slows down aging.

by Kevin Saunders

For more details see the article "Cardiovascular fitness is associated with cognition in young adulthood" (2009, abstract, full text). I just copied some of the results:
"During early adulthood, a phase in which the central nervous system displays considerable plasticity and in which important cognitive traits are shaped, the effects of exercise on cognition remain poorly understood. We performed a cohort study of all Swedish men born in 1950 through 1976 who were enlisted for military service at age 18 (N = 1,221,727). [...] Physical fitness and intelligence performance data were collected during conscription examinations and linked with other national databases for information on school achievement, socioeconomic status, and sibship. [...] Cardiovascular fitness, as measured by ergometer cycling, positively associated with intelligence after adjusting for relevant confounders [...] In contrast, muscle strength was not associated with cognitive performance. Cross-twin cross-trait analyses showed that the associations were primarily explained by individual specific, non-shared environmental influences (≥80%), whereas heritability explained less than 15% of covariation. Cardiovascular fitness changes between age 15 and 18 y predicted cognitive performance at 18 y. Cox proportional-hazards models showed that cardiovascular fitness at age 18 y predicted educational achievements later in life. These data substantiate that physical exercise could be an important instrument for public health initiatives to optimize educational achievements, cognitive performance, as well as disease prevention at the society level."
So let our young people cycle (to school)!