season's greetings

Maastricht is a very Catholic part of the Netherlands.

recently there have been plenty of people singing carols in the streets, and children and their parents involved in "live" nativity scenes.

while partaking in the christmas tradition of shopping, I learned that the Dutch normally don't wish people a "merry christmas" unless it is actually december 25.

however, they make exceptions, in english, on other days...


winter romance

despite all the snow

there appears to be

something cosy about these

bicycle couples


summertime searching: bicycles

I was recently introduced to Google trends. Google trends is a service/function of Google's that shows how often a particular search-term is entered relative to the total search-volume across various regions of the world, and in various languages.

Out of curiosity I tried "bicycle" and "velo".

The above image is the result for "bicycle" while the one below is for "velo".

Some observations I had about the results...

1. The not surprising overall, and gradual decline of searches for "bicycle" by volume. Presumably as access to and use of the internet increases, the chances are high that as a relative proportion, the search for "bicycle" would decrease. I am a little surprised that it hasn't decreased by more... but maybe this relates to point 3.

2. The surprisingly consistent/repetitive result for "velo" over the years since 2004.

3. I was pleased to see the increase in references to bicycles in the news... even if some of the references to bicycles in the news included such titles as: "Police link "bicycle thief" to Hollywood PR killing" and "Kuyt ruled out for four weeks after botched bicycle kick". (NB: the reference to the bicycle thief doesn't appear to relate to the film by the same name as posted here.)

4. That Singapore came in at number 3 on the list of countries searching for bicycles - ahead of Canada and the United Kingdom.


5. Summertime in both the northern and southern hemispheres is the time that most people search for bicycles on the internet... Not surprising...

Regardless of the weather and season... enjoy your ride.


weather report

I assume, rightly or wrongly, that the novelty of snow will wear off sooner or later.

Until that time though, I think it's rather beautiful and am very happy for it to keep on snowing.


Did Philip Larkin love bicycles?

An article in the Guardian alerted me to the fact that it is 25 years since the highly regarded literary figure from Hull (UK) died.

I mention this because the photograph of Mr Larkin, accompanying the article, shows him sitting in front of concrete pillar with a bicycle in the background.

The article reports that Mr Larkin had 4 significant affairs throughout his life. Was a love of bicycles number 5? Is this a case of another famous person with a secret love of the bicycle? (read a previous post about a couple of other famous people and bicycles here.) I wondered if there were other images of Mr Larkin with bicycles?

Although it would be difficult to answer the first two questions, a quick image search on Google later supplied some evidence suggesting an answer for the third question. It is clear that the image used in the Guardian was one, probably, from a photo shoot taken with many bikes in the background (see here). I was beginning to think that this then was just a one off, opportunistic photoshoot that just happened to feature bicycles... until I saw this book cover...

The image comes from a blog post by Joe Moran about the book/poem.

I know that many people have a say on what image is used for the cover of a book, so it might not be fair to use this as evidence for more than a passing interest in bicycles, but I'm going to anyway...

It's late on in the piece to confess that I've actually never read any of Mr Larkin's poems. However, as I'm just about to finish my current novel, he will jump to the top of the list. If there is any reference to bicycles, I'll let you know.


a little snow

a little snow never stopped anyone from enjoying a moving or stationary bicycle...


not a fixie in sight

this little blogger has now moved from Melbourne to Maastricht.

among the many difference that exist between the two cities and bicyle cultures, it is interesting to note the absence of the fashionable fixie.

perhaps it is because there isn't a bicycle courier company here?

or is it something else?

i suspect that people with fixies in melbourne - in part - like to distinguish themselves from the mainstream population by not only riding a bike, but riding one that is obviously personalised and expressive... these two features of the fixie help create a social distance from the "mainstream" (read: boring and conformist etc) and a fashionable, individualistic, clique (read: interesting, edgy, cool etc.)

perhaps, because bicycles are so ubiquitous in the netherlands, riding one without gears, painted "unique" colours does not generate enough distance between the subculture and mainstream?

i wonder too what the couriers and trendsetters will be making of the bicycle companies now mass producing single speeds, that in turn make it far easier for the "mainstream" to access?


Girl's bike! (sexism and stereotypes on bikes)

I ride a step through, Dutch bike (Gazelle). (If it wasn't actually a made by a Dutch company, it would probably be marketed in Australia as a "Dutch style" bicycle... I'm not sure how bicycle manufacturers from other countries that also make step-through models would feel about this, but can imagine... great work obviously by some Dutch marketing whizz.)

Every now and again, a person will yell at me to the effect of "girl's bike!"

It is intended as an insult.

Like homophobic abuse, abuse derived from sexist or misogynistic notions, isn't based on logic.

Abuse or comments to that effect did get me thinking about the perceived, gendered notions of what is a "girls/lady's bike" compared with a "boy's/men's" bike.

The simplest distinction that is usually made is whether or not the bike has a crossbar (regardless of whether the rider really needs that extra strength and stability from the frame).

Does a woman riding a bike with a crossbar own/ride a "man's" bike?
Is a man riding a step through bike riding/owning a "lady's" bike?

What about a man riding a man's bike, but with traditionally "feminine" colours (e.g. pink)?

Perhaps I'm biased, but I don't really think it matters...

However, there's no doubting which kind of bikes these police ride...

I can understand why they might want a "man's"/mountain bike for the job they're doing, but wouldn't they be better off using some slightly thinner tyres? Perhaps even do without the suspension? Both minor changes would help them go faster (another stereotypically masculine trait) and hence catch "bad guys" whoever they might be...

So much more could be written about stereotypes... but now is not the time or place...

Ride on.



to state the obvious....

bicycles and legs go so well together...

but pink will help you stand out from the crowd


a lot in a little

i think this guest photo from copenhagen says quite a lot...

if nothing else it shows a scene that would be highly unlikely in melbourne


take away

last night while riding home, as i slowed to a stop at a red light i was photographed.

and while i waited at the light, the woman who'd taken the photograph crossed the road in front of me, checking/examining the image(s) she'd obtained. 

i don't know what she thought of them as she walked off into the night.

the experience of being photographed by a "stranger" prompted all sorts of ideas related privacy, copyright and the like... 

what was or is she going to do with the image(s)?

on the other side of the lens, in japan, i was just as conscious of these questions and issues when i took (i didn't ask...) these photos of the guy waiting for a friend.


whatever is easiest

A couple of days ago my wife and I were discussing two advertisements for respective causes - the first was "jeans for genes day" and the second was "ride to work day". Although we occasionally disagree, we did agree that jeans for genes day, is amongst other things, so easy to do... most Australians seem to love the chance to be informal, and wearing jeans to work under the guise of fund raising for a worthy cause, fits the bill. even the most conservative of employers doesn't want to look mean spirited by denying staff the right to wear jeans for one day to help raise money for genetic research. (we did also wonder if genetic research isn't already well funded enough... but that's a different issue, on a different blog, from a different blogger)

October 13 is "ride to work" day in Melbourne.

More often than not I ride to work. Not because it's a special day, but because it's the quickest and easiest way to get from home to work. and back again.

However, sometimes it's not the easiest or most convenient, and so, despite loving my bicycle, I choose to walk instead.

What's my point??

Ultimately, while I think that there is some value in ride to work day, I don't think that it is going to be the event, policy or exercise that gets more people loving (riding) their bicycles on a daily basis. People like the ease and convenience of the car... and why not? (obviously there are many answers to that question) The urban sprawl makes driving to work - as opposed to riding to work - in Melbourne, for most people, the easiest thing to do. 

Once a year novelty value is great.

But how about local governments, planners, bicycle victoria and others, focus on making cycling the easiest thing to do, for more people more of the time...


to do list

I haven't read these books:

1. David Byrne's - bicycle diaries; or,

2. Robert Penn's - It's all about the bike

I have known about them for quite a while but still haven't read them.

However, plenty of others have read and reviewed them as you can see here, here, here, here and here

I'm not quite sure why would I procrastinate or delay reading a book on a topic(s) that I am likely to enjoy?

(image: detail from bicycle diaries cover from the barnes and noble review)


if i were a bicycle thief

there are many differences, and similarities between/with japanese and australian bicyle laws, culture and habits.

one such difference is in how most japanese bicycle owners don't tend to lock their bicycle to an immovable object. instead, one or two locks are used to immobilise the wheels. i could only guess that it might be reflective of a generally law abiding culture with low chance of bicycles being stolen, and/or that bicycles are so common and such an everyday part of life, that people might think, "why on earth would you want to steal a bicycle?"


post from japan

my brother has been there

my wife is nearly there

and i'm going there on saturday...


freedom of choice

single speeds are so often about one's own choice... an obvious statement of one's "own" style and preferences...

the desire to avoid production line/generic bicycles leading to services such as the one referred to by unrelenting tedium's comment here. jelly bean bicycles also offer a customised online service...

the urban outfitters bike shop proudly boasts "We offer more than 100,000 component and color combinations for the Aristotle single speed and Plato Dutch bikes."

with so many choices, you'll surely never have the same bike as anyone else...

however, individuality always seems to lose its edge a little when fashions hit the mainstream...



moving forward

these bikes are not moving - well, not til the riders have had their coffee...

julia gillard would say that these members of the voting australian public are "moving forward"... just in different directions.


keeping dry

on rainy bicycling days having a wet or dry arse can make all the difference to your ride...

the plastic bag over the saddle look (above) has long been a sure and popular way to keep the saddle, and you, dry.

the fitted number, complete with message (below), seems to be appearing more frequently on bikes around town. dutch company zadel hoesje gives an idea of some of the environmentally friendly options, and you can go here to order an australian, sheepskin version if you just want to keep yourself warm. and if it's your thing to be crafty, you can go one step further and make your own.

enjoy the ride.


netto guest cargo

a guest photo from two recently well traveled friends - with many thanks to E and M.