Friday, May 31, 2013

Via Bicycles - A review

While there are many bicycle shops in Philadelphia there are none like Via Bicycles. Curtis Anthony opened in 1982 with a $5000.00 dollar loan from his mother with an antique bed for collateral. Finding Via Bicycles is very easy just watch for the van that is piled high with bicycles from one of their buying expeditions and a sidewalk lined with bikes ready for sale.

Thirty-one years later Curtis is still going strong at 9th St. and South St. What makes Via Bicycles unique is they do not sell new bikes; they specialize in reconditioned bicycles for Philadelphia commuters. The shop is filled with fully reconditioned vintage British three speeds, Schwinn coaster brake and 3, 10, and 12 speed bicycles. As well as stocking parts for to make any needed repairs. They also have a collection of truly vintage bikes that can be repaired and ready to ride for the true collector.

Curtis understands that bicycles are meant to be ridden and not end up on display in a collection. This is exemplified by his daily ride, a vintage fixed gear bicycle; a restored 1886 Victor Penny Farthing complete with an 1872 wrench.  A bike that any other collector would never even consider riding on the streets of Philadelphia on a daily basis.

This approach carries over into his business; the bikes he sells are fully restored mechanically, rust free, and the original paint on the frame is in great shape. When Curtis tells you something about a bicycle you are considering buying, listen. Curtis is providing you with information that you never knew and is important to the process of finding the right bike for you. Similar to a chef explaining what ingredients are in your gourmet meal and why it tastes the way it does.

Curtis and his mechanics treat every customer with respect, a douche bag free zone when it comes to bicycle mechanics. They often provide maintenance tips to help you do things at home. Via Bicycles is my go to shop for repairs on all of my vintage bicycles.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Welcome to the Douche Bag Awareness Guidance System, this is not a test.  From time to time we will be activating the DBAGS system when pretentious cyclist think, “it’s all about me”.

Today’s DBAGS alert is about New York City based filmmaker Casey Neistat and his rant about bicycle parking. Sounding like someone who drives a car, Mr. Neistat in his latest YouTube video complains about how he can’t park his bike in front of the studio he rents and is often forced to park his bike down the block. Recently due to a bad job of locking his bike it was stolen.

Mr. Neistat has achieved a double DBAGS alert in the video. Due to limited bike parking he often resorts to locking his bike over another bike, the equivalent of double parking. Which makes it very difficult for you to get your bike out if your bike is under his bike.

The second alert is for his solution. Mr. Neistat is young, healthy, and physically fit and he could easily carry his bike inside his studio and keep it there. Instead his excuse is ever been to new york city? nothing simple about bringing a bike inside”.  I’ve lived and bicycled in a number of cities in the United States, including NYC and short of someone telling me I can’t bring my bicycle inside. I’ve always managed to bring my bicycle inside without to much difficulty. So what is his solution, a video is worth 1000 words.
Installing a personal bike rack on a public street will not guarantee other people are going to use it. As for his whining about having to remove it, he could have just as easily created a time-lapse video documenting how many bikes are locked in the street over 30 days and lobbied New York City to install a bike rack. But that’s too much work and effort.

Congratulations Casey Neistat for being a double DBAGS alert, please let us know where to send your award.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Its rare that anyone posts a comment on the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia's blog, even rarer is when a post disagrees with the BCGP, but the rarest of them all is when multiple posts disagree with the BCGP.  On March 21 the BCGP announced the improvements made to the Schuylkill River Trail on the section from the Montgomery County/Philadelphia border to Manayunk.  There were multiple comments made, so we went on a field trip to see if there was a cause for concern.

The Good
Finally the paved section of the SRT along the Philadelphia section was widened from less than 5 feet to 12 feet that matches the rest of the trail and will make for safer experience for all trail users. Also after many years of use and some serious flooding along the Manayunk Tow Path erosion damage and the dilapidated wooden bridges that had become structurally unsound was repaired. The new bridges now have an asphalt ramp at each end to prevent erosion around the immediate area of the bridge.

The Bad
For all of the money that was spent on this massive undertaking something could have done something about the cobblestones that connect the towpath to the Nixon St. Instead we are stuck with the same wheel-sucking, rim bending section that is going to be a problem for every cyclist trying to ride through that area.

The Ugly
In the past the Connection from the SRT to the Canal Tow Path involved exiting the SRT and riding along Nixon St. to the Canal Tow Path. Now there is a 300-yard extension that runs parallel to Nixon and down to the intersection of Shawmont and Nixon. This does make this section of the trail ADA compliant. However every cyclist will come downhill into the intersection and cross on a diagonal, against traffic. Which is compounded by joggers, cyclists, and cars coming around the corner into expected any traffic. Which is an accident waiting to happen. Fortunately you can still turn right before the extension and use Nixon St.

Note the retaining wall that blocks the view of all traffic coming around the corner on the left
One commenter summed it up best: “Not a complaint, but feedback. Everyone LOVES all that was done with the exception of the trail dumping onto Shawmont. It is a somewhat dangerous design by most accounts, and we don't want to some day tell an injured cyclist to stop complaining. “

Friday, May 17, 2013

It was an experience

If you weren't at Rittenhouse Square last Thursday at 6pm you missed on opportunity to ride with Bike Snob NYC and a unique collection bicycles and their owners. The bikes ranged from the standard array of ten speeds, fixies and mountain bikes, along with a long tail bike, a Bike Fiet, a vintage Penny Farthing, and a Schwinn Triplet. As well as Bike Snob NYC's folder, a very nice bike, but I won't reveal what it is.

The Triplet was a rather unique bike, a steel framed Schwinn with drum bikes, and when you make a turn, its like make a turn in a truck. All of your turns are long and wide. I talked with the owner had he has several tandems in addition to the triplet. But what makes the triplet owner a rare individual is that he lives in a town house and he stores it inside. Which means carrying it up a flight of stairs, which is no easy feat.

Bike Snob NYC is one of the most low key and self-deprecating individuals I have ever met. Having him visit your town is like Weird Al Yankovic does a parody of your song. It’s an honor to be selected and you know that everyone will enjoy hearing it.

As for the ride itself you'll have to have to read about it here. But I will say this; Curtis of Via Bicycle made several emergency repair assists that kept everyone on the road and Bilenky Cycle Works for organizing this event.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Cycling ≠ Golf

We've all experienced work environments where the only way to socialize with your boss, upper management, and vendors is on the golf course. Deals and careers are made and broken on the golf course and if you don't golf you're not one of the boys. Worry no more according to a recent article “Cycling is the new golf. A non-completive environment where it’s all about camaraderie. BULL!

On the golf course you spend most of your time walking or driving along the course giving you plenty of time to socialize. Since the actual golf part takes very little time,  your biggest concern is making sure your boss wins and by how much. In “Cycling is the new golf” there is a claim that “Many believe cycling is better than golf for building lasting working relationships, or landing a new job, because it is less competitive.” On the other hand a contradictory statement is made that counters this; “. “A younger rider can be cycling along with a chief executive and take their wind or help them in some way and you get a reversal of the relationship.” So just like letting your boss win in golf will help your career, letting your boss draft off of you so he doesn't have to pedal as hard may benefit your career. Gee, sounds just like letting your boss win at golf.

I'm glad that there are some executives who have found a way to combine their love of cycling and turn it into a networking opportunity. But the author is using some isolated cases of a few cyclists who are interconnected through an existing business relationship and a high profile charity ride. One commenter summed it up very succinctly; “I would love nothing more than for cycling to be the new "it" sport among executives. However, unlike golf, cycling requires a person to be relatively fit just to be able to have conversations during a typical training ride. That is, you have to work really hard just to be mediocre. Additionally, as most executives are highly competitive, most "group rides" among executives ultimately devolve into a testosterone-fueled hammer-fest.”

If cycling is the new golf, then I'm taking up Chess Boxing.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Spring has sprung for Stu Bykofsky

You can always tell when the first day of spring has arrived when Stu Bykofsky professional opinion writer and grumpy old man writes his first bicycle column of the spring. Here at the offices of the Philadelphia Bicycle Journal we have found a way to show Mr. Bykofsky's thought process.

What Stu thinks is going on inside his brain when he writes a bicycle column:
What’s really going on inside of Stu’s brain when he writes a bicycle column:

As usual Mr. Bykofsky likes to vilify his targets, instead of treating them as people he lumps them into a single category by name-calling. He uses words like; pedalphiles and bikehead.  By dehumanizing people it always makes it easier to write columns like this since they are no longer people, just a target. Much in the same way that bullies at school use this to threaten and intimidate their targets.

Stu loves to down play actual facts, in this column he claims there aren’t enough people riding bicycles in Philadelphia because only 1.8% of city workers ride their bicycles to work three days a week or more. This sounds pretty bad until you do the math; the 2012 estimated population of Philadelphia is 1,547,607 and 1.8% of that is 27,856. All of sudden that number isn’t so small.

Mr. Bykofsky loves to make claims that cyclists are engaging in massive red light running, with no evidence to back up his claims. By Stu’s logic more cyclists should be getting tickets for running red lights because of their increased numbers. But his proof backfires on him: he cites the increased numbers of tickets given to car drivers and pedestrians. But when it comes to cyclists they received 80 tickets in 2012 and 88 this year. He never entertains the possibility that cyclist are not running red lights like they do based on his anecdotal evidence.

To that end the Philadelphia Bicycle Journal offers proof as to how severe this problem is. In 2009 this video was shot at an intersection off of Rittenhouse Square, which has three stop signs and a flashing red light.

Mr. Bykosky’s columns are getting stale. Every year we have come to expect a standard collection of recycled columns; bicycles, stories of his vacation, sidewalk cafes blocking the sidewalk, and his annual Christmas conversation with God. Instead of writing about the same non-issues repeatedly we can only hope that Stu will get out from behind his desk. He could go out and explore Philadelphia and find a new world of topics. Or he could take the lazy man’s approach and keep yelling at clouds.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Friday Funnies - A salute to bicycling hero's.

With warm weather back everyone is getting their bicycles out and going for rides. This is a salute to those brave bicycle mechanics who make this possible.

Thursday, May 2, 2013


Thanks to the efforts of the Bilenky Cycle Works, on Thursday May 9 Philadelphia will be graced with the presence the internationally renowned bicycle blogger Bike Snob NYC. Blogging since 2007 the BSNYC blog is summed up in his own words; “While I love cycling and embrace it in all its forms, I'm also extremely critical. So I present to you my venting for your amusement and betterment. No offense meant to the critiqued. Always keep riding!”

But this is more than a mere visit; he will be in Philadelphia to promote the final book in his trilogy, Bike Snob Abroad. In this book Bike Snob NYC travels the United States and Europe with his young son to find out what it really means to be a bike friendly country. “Bike Snob NYC takes us on his most personal narrative journey yet, and ultimately shines a light on the growing pains that exist in any culture that asks smart phone-obsessed text-happy pedestrians, the two-wheeled, and the four-wheeled to share the road.”

Bilenky Cycle Works has organized a 6pm bicycle ride with Bike Snob NYC through Philadelphia to be followed by a book signing and merry making. For more information and to sign up use this link to go to the Facebook page.