Word on the street: Bill Tracy, Metro Cyclery, San Diego

Bill Tracy sells Brompton and Tern folding bikes. He commutes to work using a combination of bicycle, car and trolley.

Bill Tracy sells Brompton and Tern folding bikes. He commutes to work using a combination of bicycle, car and trolley.

Here’s how you find Bill Tracy’s two-year old bicycle shop. In the continental United States, go as far west as you can, then follow the coast south until you’re about 25 miles from the Mexican border. Look for palm trees near a tile-roofed strip mall. One of the nation’s shortest all-glass skyscrapers is probably still for lease across the street. Can’t miss it. And you shouldn’t miss talking with Bill.

So, where are we, Bill?

Cruisers and folding bikes dominate sales at Metro Cyclery.

Cruisers and folding bikes dominate sales at Metro Cyclery.

This is technically Linda Vista/Morena District, but we are near the junction of Interstate 8 and Interstate 5, which is centrally located near Mission Bay, Sea World and downtown.

And how did you get here?

Well, for most of my working life, I was in the building materials supply business, which I sold in 2000. I’ve always had a passion for bikes so I decided to go to bike mechanic school to learn how to work on my bikes. From there I ended up working at a couple of shops near Palm Springs part time and learned that I really enjoy the biking business. But then all our kids started having babies down here in San Diego and decided to move back to be near them and open my own shop.

Seems to be a strong affinity between Nutcase helmets and folding bikes.

Seems to be a strong affinity between Nutcase helmets and folding bikes.

I noticed the folders as soon as I came through the door.

Yes, we carry Brompton and Tern folding bikes. We carry Yuba cargo bikes, which we’ve been selling quite a few of lately, mostly to young families. It’s kind of a minivan replacement. The bottom one there is an electric one, the elBoda Boda, and then we also carry Electra beach cruisers and Townies.

You can pack a lot of Bromptons and Brompton bags into a small space without making it cramped.

You can pack a lot of Bromptons and Brompton bags into a small space without making it cramped.

As far as numbers of bikes, that’s the one we sell the most of for riding around the bay. Electra’s Townie is the best-selling bike in North America, so we sell a lot of them.

We also carry several more commuter-oriented bikes. The Breezer–we carry several of their commuter-type bikes. Cruiser bikes and the folding bikes are the ones we sell the most of. And the Townie.

Electra's "Flat Foot Technology" (note the forward crank location on these cruisers) gives riders decent leg extension and the ability to stop while seated with both feet flat on the ground. Perfect for nearby and ultraflat Ocean Front Walk and its eight-mile-per-hour speed limit.

Electra’s “Flat Foot Technology” (note the forward crank location on these cruisers) gives riders decent leg extension and the ability to stop while seated with both feet flat on the ground. Perfect for nearby and ultraflat Ocean Front Walk and its eight-mile-per-hour speed limit.

How did you decide on Brompton and Tern?

I think they’re the two best brands of folding bikes. I knew when I opened the shop that I wanted to carry Brompton. I also wanted to carry another brand that had a lower price point, and Tern seemed the better choice in terms of quality and value. We sell a lot of folding bikes to commuters, people who like to travel by plane, boat, or RV, and to students or people who are space conscious. We sell more Bromptons than Terns, but we sell quite a few of both.

Brompton folding bikes come in a lot more colors than red and black. Metro Cyclery carries the rainbow.

Brompton folding bikes come in a lot more colors than red and black. Metro Cyclery carries the rainbow.

The Bromptons are more portable. That’s one of the big differences between the two. They fold up smaller, so if the space thing is an important consideration, that might tip someone toward the Brompton, because it’s easier to deal with the folded bike. When the Bromptons are folded you can pull them along without carrying them. They fit into tighter spots. A guy who has a big boat bought two yesterday.

Tern has different models for different things. They have some that are like racing bikes. And they have bikes that start at about half the price of the Brompton, so that’s a consideration for some.

If you're looking at a bunch of bicycle shop pictures and you see a racy white-and-orange Tern Verge X10 suspended above a line of massive single-speed cruisers, you may have found your San Diego pictures.

If you’re looking at a bunch of bicycle shop pictures and you see a racy white-and-orange Tern Verge X10 suspended above a line of massive cruisers, you may have found your San Diego album.

You can get into a nice folding bike for less money than the Brompton with the Tern. Tern’s best-selling bike is this one here, the Link D8, and it sells for about half what the Brompton sells for.

Least terns are endangered birds in California, but when it comes to bicycle sales, the Tern Link D8 is among best of breed.

Least terns are endangered birds in California, but when it comes to bicycle sales, the Tern Link D8 is among best of breed.

What do you ride to work?

I live in the east part of San Diego County, a town called Alpine, so I drive down the hill from Alpine to El Cajon and then ride the bike in from there. My commute into work is 20 miles one way, and there are a couple-three decent hills in there.

For five months I was riding a two-speed Brompton, one of our demo bikes, and it was doable on the trip in, but I had to work pretty hard on a couple of the hills. So when I decided to get my own Brompton, I got a six speed. It’s got a wide-enough gear range to go pretty much anywhere, and so I ride it in two or three days a week.

Cruisers are great near Mission Beach, but it was a lot easier climbing the hill behind Metro Cyclery on a six-speed Brompton. This is Bill Tracy's personal commuter, complete with front generator hub and lights.

Cruisers are great near Mission Beach, but it was a lot easier climbing the hill behind Metro Cyclery on a six-speed Brompton. This is Bill Tracy’s personal commuter, complete with front generator hub and lights.

If my wife is working that day, she’ll swing by with the car after work, pick me up and take me home. Otherwise, I just ride a half mile up to the trolley station here, fold up my bike and hop on the trolley, and take it back out to my car.

There's no better way to sell parts and accessories by talking about your own experience with them. I bought the Sella Royal Mano Grips after riding Bill Tracy's very own Brompton.

There’s no better way to sell parts and accessories than by sharing your own experience with them. I bought the Sella Royal Mano Grips after riding Bill Tracy’s Brompton.

One of the options on a Brompton is a Brooks B17 saddle, so I have that on a couple of my bikes. I really like that saddle. Brompton also offers a whole bunch of bags that clip on the front of the bike. Mine is a bag called the S-Bag, but they make an open basket that’s really popular and a high-end bag called the Game Bag that’s new as of a few months ago. Lots of options to carry things on the bike.

Where do your customers come from?

They come from all over San Diego County. Many come down from Orange County and Riverside County, and we do a lot of business with people who live in Mexico, that live in Mexico City. We’ve sold a lot of folding bikes to those folks.

Business has been good and it’s been a busy summer. It’s only our second year, so we’re still getting our feet on the ground.

You’ll find Metro Cyclery at 1211 Morena Boulevard in San Diego. Look for the colorful Nutcase helmets just inside the door. Bill also sells Arkel bags, including three models I use: the Bug, the large Handlebar Bag and the TailRider Trunk Bag. If the shop were any closer to me, my budget would be in real trouble. But I limited the visit’s monetary damage to a pair of moderate-style Sella Royal Mano Grips that I want to compare to the Ergon grips on my Bike Friday tikit.

Note to Co-Motion’s Dwan Shephard: Might want to send a tandem brochure down to San Diego. Bill’s making noise about getting a new tandem with a Rohloff hub and belt drive.

Bill puts in quite a few miles each year on his S&S-coupled Santana tandem with Shimano Sweet-16 wheels. (Yep, 16 spokes a wheel: pretty wild.)

Bill puts in quite a few miles each year on his S&S-coupled Santana tandem with Shimano Sweet-16 wheels.

Posted in Brompton, Business, Other bicycles, Tern Bicycles | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Bicycles on purpose in the Netherlands. Plus, car free in San Francisco

dfsdfsToday, city centers in the Netherlands attract great numbers of people on bicycles. But it wasn’t always this way. In the 1960s and 1970s, cars dominated the narrow streets. “What happened in Assen and across the Netherlands was that planning on a large scale gave streets a defined purpose rather than all of them operating in a chaotic manner as through routes by car,” writes David Hembrow. “Motor vehicles were not prioritized above all other transport but careful considerations were made of where they should go and where they should not.” Check out the before and after street scenes. (A view from the cycle path)

Brief round-up of architecture for bikes, including a Danish apartment building that allows its bicycle-riding occupants to reach ground level from their front doors even when those doors are several floors off the ground. (Guardian US)

This couple got rid of a car and picked up an electric cargo bicycle. Lower transportation expenses made it easier for the pair to buy a condominium in San Francisco. Here’s a look at the bicycle that carried the load, the BionX Bullitt. (Hum of the city)

IMG_0513I promise: I’ll catch up on product reviews soon. In the meantime, I’ll simply say I agree with this review of the versatile Fix It Sticks T-Way Wrench. “Shipping with a 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, and 6-millimeter hex bit, along with a T25 star bit, the T-Way is almost three tools in one. After a quick trip to my closest hardware store for a 1.5, an 8, and even a 10-millimeter bit, I had just about every hex and star wrench needed for my bike, all in one tool and for less than forty bucks.” (Pictured: Using the original Fix It Sticks multi tool to refold the frame of a Dahon Bullhead.) (Art’s Cyclery Blog)

 

 

Posted in Equipment, Infrastructure, Other bicycles, Weekly Linker | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Word on the street: Katy Shackelford

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Katy Shackelford works for the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, a group that covers Peoria, Tazewell and Woodford counties. According to its website, the commission “was established in 1958 to promote intergovernmental cooperation, regional planning, and a vision for the future.”

She’s also a board member of Bike Peoria and proud owner of the first bicycle she’s ridden since she was 10 years old. Before coming to the area, she was a graduate student at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia.

I talked to her just after her Schwinn got a quick tune-up, including a pair of badly needed tires, at the Bike Peoria Co-op.

What do you do for the Tri-County folks?

I’m a regional planner. Right now, I’m working on the long-range transportation plan for the tri-county. It’s multimodal, so it involves all forms of transportation.

That involves bicycles?

That involves bicycles. The bicycle end is going great. We’ve got a lot of feedback from the community. We’ve got an active public engagement site up right now. It’s envisionHOI.mindmixer.com. People are putting in their input on where they think improvements in transportation need to be made throughout the region. I have to say most of the improvements have been along the lines of improved bicycle-pedestrian access and increased access to transit. A lot of people are talking about using transit and bicycles to get to work.

So why are you a board member of Bike Peoria?

I’m a board member of Bike Peoria because I moved here and found a great group of people who were really passionate about making Peoria a better place, and we thought we could do something with bicycles. I wanted to be a biker, and I thought, I knew the government side and I wanted to know the bikers’ side. So I’m trying to be the link between the professional and the activist, I guess.

Tell me about your bicycle.

This is the first bike I’ve had since I was a kid, and we moved around a lot as children, so I didn’t even have a bike once I turned 10 years old. I had friends who would try to give me bikes in college, but they were always too tall for me. So I found this one on Craigslist, $35. Happened to be a woman in Pekin who said “great condition.” She just left it in her garage 25-odd years.

And what kind of riding are you doing?

I ride with the Women on Wheels. They meet at Bushwhacker on Thursdays at 5:30. And it’s a great group of beginners. You don’t have to be a professional to do it. Especially me, since [I just finished] my first real 10-mile ride. So it’s for fun. I like to use it to get around and do bar crawls.

What do you see happening in 2015?

For me, I just want to be more comfortable riding. I want to feel safer on my bike and know more about it and feel more comfortable on the road. I think as a member of Bike Peoria and as a member of the board, I was the least experienced biker, and I really want to improve my credibility.

Posted in Advocacy, Infrastructure, Report from the road | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Advertising to Rock Island Greenway trail users

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By promoting “FREE Water and Restrooms Available During Open Hours,” Superior Water Services, a retailer of water softener and drinking water systems, bids to become part of the infrastructure serving the active transportation community in Peoria.

This is the company’s sign as it appears from the railing of the Rock Island Greenway bridge just west of Knoxville Avenue, a five-lane north-south arterial. It may be one of the first private-sector advertising efforts aimed specifically at trail users–and makes use of what had been a less prominent side of the building.

Junction City shopping center, in the background, is on the other side of Knoxville. A side path connects the center to the trail just east of the bridge.

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Bicycles from Turbo Bob. Bridges from the 18th century

 

Tern head tube, badge

Tern head tube, badge

Couldn’t make it to Interbike? Check out YouTube. Turbo Bob has video of the Tern booth, the Dahon booth (where he was told to stop shooting) and the Montague booth. Trends moving through the non-folding world are also evident in the folding bicycle space, including disc brakes, belt drives and electric-assist motors. (YouTube)

Local rider Mike Honnold is pretty happy with the Fly6 tail light, which incorporates a camera to record everything that happens behind the bicycle. A lot of his YouTube videos feature his son in a trailer, but the most memorable footage may just be “Tim’s Epic Crash on the Rock Island Greenway.” At Interbike 2014, Outside magazine named the Fly6 as one of its Gear of the Show winners. (Outside)

bicycle-parkingHow do you park your bicycle at home? Leaning against a wall? Kickstand? From a hook? How about flat against the ceiling? Check out that last option in a video from an Italian manufacturer (flat-bike-lift)

Oregon Manifest is “a nonprofit organization that values the process of making, the spirit of ingenuity, and the passion of brave undertakings.” One of the group’s recent activities was The Bike Design Project, in which Oregon Manifest “partnered high-level design firms with American bicycle craftsmen to collaboratively develop the next-wave urban bike.”

-With all the votes in, Teague x Sizemore Bicycle won with the Denny, a bicycle with handlebars that double as a lock and fenders that are less like Honjos and more like the old tire wipers that flick debris off before it punctures the casing.

-Even if you’re skeptical of bicycle design contests, this one and this bike are worth paying attention to for one reason: Fuji says it’s going to take the Denny into production. Thanks for the link, Marlon. (Oregon Manifest)

Interested in recreational multimodal travel? “For $3, Bike Aboard! allows cyclists to bike one way on the Ohio & Erie Canal towpath and take the train in the other direction.” (Washington Post, via The Columbus Dispatch)

Here’s a view of Portland, Oregon, from a St. Louis cargo bike enthusiast. Short version? Pick up a Portland Citywide Bike Map, enjoy the bike boulevards and don’t be surprised by some poor infrastructure design choices along the way. (Her Green Life)

In the United States, the 2013 National Bridge Inventory includes just two functional bridges from the 18th century. They’re both in New Jersey. (WNYC)

Posted in Dahon, History, Infrastructure, Montague bicycle, Other bicycles, Tern Bicycles | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Word on the street: Brad Nauman

Brad Nauman

Brad Nauman is the store manager for Bushwhacker, which promotes itself as Peoria’s original outdoor store, and the secretary for local advocacy group Bike Peoria, which is newly incorporated as a non-profit organization.

What does a store manager do for Bushwhacker?

I buy all the bikes. I buy all the product on the bikes. I manage the bike staff in terms of staffing hours, hiring, that type of thing. As far as the whole store, I am responsible in the winter for all of our snowboards, snowboard accessories and portions of overall control of the store in terms of who’s staffing what and when. But as far as the whole store, I’m not the general manager. Our owner takes that title.

What’s the best thing about working at Bushwhacker?

Everything that we sell we do, so if you want time off, you go for a bike ride, you usually get time off. You want time off to go to a play, you probably don’t get the time off. So we encourage people to be active.

Why are you interested in Bike Peoria?

I think that cycling is important for everybody to do, and Bike Peoria seems to have the best grip on the city in terms of getting things done. Since I’ve seen them created, we’ve seen more things happen than in the past 20 years it seems.

I don’t know if it’s a matter of coincidence or that what we’re doing actually is making a difference, but the big thing that Bike Peoria is doing that seems different than what I was a part of with PAMBA [Peoria Area Mountain Bike Association] or IVW [Illinois Valley Wheelm'n] is that we have relationships with city officials, and they are seeking us out for input and opinion.

Posted in Advocacy, Business | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

The bicycle at the train station. Celebrating Eddy Merckx

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There is a metro station in Brussels seemingly dedicated to the fact that you are not Eddy Merckx.

Well, maybe not just you. I’m sure thousands of people pass through the station every day, and the vast majority are also not Eddy Merckx.

An orange bike sits in a glass case at this station, reminding everyone who is not Eddy Merckx that someone who still is Eddy Merckx traveled to Mexico City in 1972 to ride a bicycle as far as it could be ridden in one hour.

He rode 49.43195 kilometers (30.7156 miles).

After the event, he said, “I don’t think I could ever improve on this record. Yet I am convinced that one day my record will be beaten. That is the law of the sport.”

It is not the law of the sport that someone who breaks the hour record will have a metro station named after him. But this someone does.

Because he is Eddy Merckx. And this is Belgium.

Thanks for the photograph, Melanie Martin. And thanks for the link to the 1991 Owen Mulholland article, Jim Langley. You’ll find other pictures at The Vicious Cycle.

 

 

Posted in History, Other bicycles | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment