Monday, December 20, 2010

Curious Hours for this Week

A list of early closings and closures for these weeks leading up to the turn of the new year! (which kind of sucks that the new year always comes in during the dead of winter yah? Oh to be in the southern hemisphere where you can go to the beach and celebrate in the sun!)

Dec 24th: We're closing early.
Dec 25th, 26th: Closed
Resume normal hours Dec. 27th
Dec 31st: we're closing early.
Jan 1: Closed
Resume normal hours Jan. 2nd
Jan 3: Closing early for inventory

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Bike Cozy back in stock!

If you're looking for a Bike Cozy small tool roll, we now have all sorts of colorways back in stock including neutrals and binding colors beyond pink!

merry-go-rounds of locally made goods

I was surprised when Ian called me (at home) from the shop yesterday saying I needed to bring more tool rolls by. "The only ones you have here are houndstooth with pink, red with pink, purple with pink and grey with pink and green."  I tagged and packed up the rest of my stock from Crafty Wonderland, including my two medium tools rolls and biked them on down.

Also back in stock, the tool kits to go with the Bike Cozy tool rolls. And! Colors of toe cozies available only at A Better Cycle.

Super water resistant toe cage covers in lots of colors.

Also, we have A Better Cycle t-shirts for sale so you can show your love while out and about. $15. sizes s,m,l

Last minute holiday presents? We just stocked up on lots of Black Star Bags goodness including hip pouches (with reflective and applique options), bill folds and top tube protectors. And as always, A Better Cycle gift certificate makes a great present (and they're real good looking because I used all my good design sense on 'em)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Happy Anniversary to Us!

Happy 3rd Anniversary/Birthday to Us! We've always been pretty low key with celebrating our anniversary, Ben used to buy a cake and we'd all eat that happily. This year we've had a change in the guard. Ben is now driving a school bus professionally, and Spencer Callahan has joined the A Better Cycle crew. There hasn't been a cake yet, but I'm still hopeful!

It's no simple feat to keep all the gears oiled and moving, we're six worker/owners working on a consensus basis and this makes us a family. Thank you to everyone that has been supporting us, our customers (hey, without you, we wouldn't even be here!) as well as our loved ones at home that have been amazing through everything. A special thanks to those three lenders that loaned us the start-up capital allowing A Better Cycle to open its doors three years ago in 2007.

While winter may seem like a funny time to have opened a bike shop, it was a nice way to ease into the swing of things and we're going into our 4th winter this year. As more bike shops are springing open all over the city, it's really a special thank you we owe to our loyal customers who, by loving their bicycles and treating them right, are also showing us love by spending local and supporting our small business.

Thank you very, very much,
Rachel, Ian, Clinton, Spencer, Tim, and Aaron

Monday, December 6, 2010

Bike Cozy and North St Bags at Crafty Wonderland

Even if you missed BikeCraft this weekend, you still have a chance to get lots of handmade goodness for holiday presents this weekend at Crafty Wonderland.

You'll have the chance to see our Rachel showcasing all her BikeCozy Goods (including her new Medium tool roll, and lots of toe cozies and small tool rolls). Also,  Curtis of North St Bags will be there (booth #172) and he is celebrating the 1 year anniversary of North St Bags with a 15% off sale!

People kept asking about a larger tool roll and Rachel has delivered!

Some of the styles Curtis makes. photo courtesy of

There are going to be 200 handmade vendors, and you'll be able to gets presents for lots of loved ones on your lists.

PS Come see Rachel and Ian at Bike Cozy's booth (#137) and you can purchase A Better Cycle gift certificates for 85% the face value (ie $100 gift certificate will only cost you $85!) only available Saturday and Sunday at Crafty Wonderland.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Customers are great.

Sitting here drinking my morning coffee I just happened to be staring at one of the tips we were given at the shop.

A gift certificate to Tart as a tip? Okay!

The dessert tips are my favorite. I just had a delicious truffle last night that was a tip. (That's two truffles in two days because on Friday the Hawthorne Fred Meyer was sampling Lindt truffles when I was there!)

Other tips we've gotten aside from the ever welcome dollar bills:
New Seasons gift certificates
Cake (the one I'm thinking of was from Pix and so so chocolaty good)
vegan muffins

Generally food, come to think of it. I just wanted to say thank you, because it makes me feel special. Even though it's the mechanics you're tipping, they're generally pretty great guys and they share.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Reasons to close for holidays

Our recent change in hours has gone very smoothly. Number one response to the new hours "You were open at 8 in the morning?"

Being open 7 days a week, it's pretty rare that we get a chance to close. Sometimes we'll use a holiday like MayDay to close and have our peer review (spokes council. spokes like bike wheels, get it, we're so clever), and other times like Labor Day, we close because it makes sense and we could all use a day off.
Partially just as a reminder to ourselves, here is a list of days we know we will be closed in the upcoming holiday season. They have been historically quiet days and we feel pretty confident you'll be off doing other stuff.

thursday November 25 Thanksgiving Day
friday November 26 Buy Nothing Day

saturday December 25 Christmas Day

saturday Jan 1 New Years Day

Friday, September 24, 2010

Baskets and bungees

The other day a customer was in the shop trying to decide whether to get a rear rack, or a front basket.

It made me think of how much I love my front basket (I think of it as the middle size basket, but Ian tells me that most people would think of it as a big basket). I have been able to carry everything I have needed (within reason) with my front basket and trusty bungee net. The bungee net is key.

Me and my bike set up a couple of years ago. . . before we found my awesome mixte frame. The basket is carrying: a toaster oven, metal kitchen drawer set and a foot stool.
Ian also has some fancy language about the center of gravity axis of the bicycle and where is best to carry the weight for the best handling/ride, and it all makes sense. I just know I love my basket.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A primer on Irony.

Before we left for our morning ride up Mt. Tabor I had started a post all about how my road bike has a new lower lowest gear. It involved lots of numbers, wikipedia and gear inch calculators. The ride went a little differently than expected, so I deleted that post and here is the replacement.

Waiting for Clinton to meet us on our way to the park.

We left for the ride, met up with Clinton and Spencer on the way. Everything was normal until we'd finished our laps at the top of Mt. Tabor and I sent everyone down ahead of me because I wanted some "Rachel action shots." Like the ones of Clinton and Ian in my first Tabor post.

The plan was to give them enough of a lead to get to the bottom and then Ian would ride partway back up to take my picture as I came down.

So I started another lap around the top as they rode down to the reservoir.

Clinton speedy down the hill while Ian waited for my descent.

Up top, I was halfway through my stalling lap when I felt a "wibblewobbleblurbleblurble," looked down and indeed, my rear tire was flat.

I pondered my sixth grade literature lesson about "irony," which I learned about by reading O. Henry's Gift of the Magi.

The wikipedia article on Irony is really good. Having just read it, I realize now that all of my subsequent usage of "irony," is "situational" or "cosmic" irony and though it "appears to be gaining ground. It is still considered a minor usage." (according to the wikipedia article)

I had no cell phone to tell the three mechanics riding with me what had happened. I hoisted my bicycle on my shoulder and started walking.

After 30 seconds I wished I had one of these, because my clamp-on cable guide was digging into my shoulder.

Portage Strap by Walnut Studios. Photo copyright

While walking I wondered if it was ironic that:

I got a flat just after sending everyone ahead of me.

Between the four of us we had one multi-tool and that was it.

(shifting shoulders again because of the clamp-ons digging in)

I make these yet didn't have one with me.

Bike tool kit roll from my Bike Cozy line of accessories. 

Although I'd ridden up Tabor a handful of times, I did not know the fastest way to walk to the rendezvous reservoir.

(Now carrying bicycle on back of both shoulders)

I determined none of these things were ironic, and was in-between thoughts when a cyclist on his way UP the hill asked if I needed a tube.

How lucky that an everyday hero happened by. "Yes, I could use some help," I said. 

The nice gent named Bill (I would have asked for a picture, but the camera was at the bottom of the hill with Ian) pulled off the path, and changed my flat, giving me his spare tube and everything. I was so embarrassed (owning a bike shop and all) that it wasn't until about half-way through I mentioned that, "The ironic thing is that the other three riders I'm with are bike mechanics, and we're four of the six owners of A Better Cycle, and amongst us, we're carrying one multi-tool." It gave us both a good chuckle.

Just as my wheel was ready to go back on my bike, Ian rode up and said "There she is! We wondered what had happened to you."

We thanked Bill, who shrugged off our offer of replacing his tube if he stopped by the shop. "No, worries, I've been on your side of this situation before."

Ian and I set off down the hill. He took a few pictures on the way down. When he asked if any turned out well, I said there was one I liked, but it didn't look like I was moving. He didn't believe it, saying that my spokes had to at least be blurry.

Not a blurry spoke among them.

In summary, the ride was a bit anti-climactic. Helpful strangers still exist. Some people don't clean up after their dogs (Ian had to wash off dog poop from his cleated shoe-- from standing in the grass for the pictures of Clinton.) The lower gear is nicer.


P.S. Dear Bill, my offer stands if you want to upgrade your pump, come by and we'll give you a great deal. Also, you are more than welcome to stop by and we'll give you a replacement tube. You saved my ride. Rachel

Take that Tabor!

You may not be able to tell from the picture, but my ride up Tabor is about to be a whole lot nicer. Lowest gear just went from a 42/21 to a 39/24 . Full update after the ride.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

sold! Just this once sale: Black Star Hip Pouch

Well, someone's dirty greasy fingerprint has besmudged our last in stock Black Star hip pouch (we are due to get more soon!)

Just this once, we're putting it on sale because no one wants a brand new hip pouch to have a giant grease mark on it. . . but a brand new hip pouch with a giant grease mark that you got for a deal!? Normally $40, this one is marked down to $30.

If you'd like your own Black Star hip pouch (green with yellow interior) it can be yours for $30.

And if you want to cover up the grease stain, you could get one of the Microcosm patches we just got back in stock!

But don't get any dirty ideas. Rachel gets really sad when we don't make any money on stuff. So keep your greasy fingerprints to yourself!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Why the heck are they riding on: Powell

by: Rachel.db

Occasionally I'm a passenger in a car and I get to see all the streets I avoid as a cyclist.

At least once every car ride there is a person riding a bicycle on a busy car thoroughfare. I shake my head and think "WHY!!!" but in a strictly rhetorical fashion. The idea of knowing someone's "reason" for riding on a street like Powell makes me think of that Lewis Black sketch with the woman who says "If it weren't for my horse I wouldn't have spent that year in college."

I pretend it's just because they don't have a bike map of the city, or someone hasn't told them that: as a general rule, streets that are good for cars, are not good for bikes and vice versa. So in my little world, I imagine giving each of these persons one of the Portland bike specific maps, (many of them free, others amazingly detailed ), and they say "thanks bike map fairy!" and it's one less person riding on Powell.

With that in mind, we're going to shout out the occasional "Why the heck are they riding on..." post.  Just like the "WHY!?" in my head, it's a rhetorical question. With the idea that maybe it's just because they don't know any better, the post will offer a practical alternative.

So to fanfare and trumpets and cellos and the bicycling harper may I present:

Why the heck are you riding on: Powell ... when  
Woodward and Clinton are just a few blocks away. 

This comes from my FAVORITE bike map, the Portland folding pocket map, they are free and we have some at the shop.

A close up of an inner SE portion of Powell.

What do all those colors mean? Here is the bike map legend. Notice the white marking says "Major Street" add "FOR CARS" to the end of that and you know not to ride on those!

Portland has amazing bike maps that will help you navigate the city in the bike friendliest way.

Coming up on the "Why the heck..." list: bike salmon.

Presents from Rachel

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mt. Tabor is not as big as I remember. by Rachel

"I'm coming too!"
"Then you need more breakfast."

One banana, two waffles with maple syrup later, Ian and I meet Clinton at 8:30am on his way to Mt. Tabor. Ian's riding his single-speed cross bike, Clinton is on his super-awesome Ahearne road bike and I'm on my Raleigh Super Course road bike for the first time this summer. (I don't count yesterday when I rode it home from the bike shop.)

I can think of two other times that I have ridden up Mt. Tabor. Once was when I lived in North Portland... on Atlas, my sturdy, heavy heavy Motobecane road bike, and once with Ian on our tandem. As you may guess Tabor, in my memory, is this really big hard super long ride that takes an entire day.

We live closer to Tabor now, so it's a pretty short ride over, though before we even get to the park gates I'm saying "Maybe I'll just go to the entrance and then home," because I am huffing and puffing and sweating and my legs are tired and I want to quit and we haven't even gotten to the park yet.

Ian says "No, this is just the warm up, you've got to get everything going, in a couple of minutes it'll pass and you'll be fine!" And Clinton says he's content to go as slow as we need to. And that's when I think about how I almost didn't even come because I didn't want to be the slow one holding everyone back (perhaps some latent childhood stresses in there) but how would I get any faster if I am just sitting on my butt at home? Next thing I know we're at the gates and I'm not ready to go home anymore.   

We do some stretches, nibble on our nutrition bars, sip a little water, mount up and head through the gate. I haven't quite figured out how to manage my blood sugar on strenuous rides (since I had my gall bladder out last November, my blood sugar has been a little wonky). So far, and please forgive me if this is common sense to everyone but me, little nibbles all along the way has really helped.

Ian and Clinton appeasing Rachel's "I want a picture!" outside the gates of Mt. Tabor

So we start climbing, I'm in my third lowest gear because, from what I remember, I'm going to want lower gears later on. Ian and Clinton are ahead of me a ways, and I'm huffing, trying to breathe steady, enjoying the sweat, and thankful it's a perfect temperature.

We stop outside another gate and the boys check in "How are you feeling?" "A little quesy.. meh... mumble..." Clinton says "Here's as good a place to start to descend as any, that's basically the top"

"But I want to go to the top! I want a picture... for the blog!"


So we go on. And the top is approximately 45 seconds later. And I think "We're at the top already!? I should have been in my lowest gear sooner, that was shorter than I remember!"

At the top of Tabor a cyclist gent was kind enough to take our picture. He was right, the cityscape is all washed out.
Clinton managed to get the city in there, though Ian and I look like little dark blobs.

And then comes the fun part. You get to go down! That's my favorite kind of exertion, when the payoff is at the end. All this climbing and sweating and swearing and then you get to fly down a hill. It has been so long since I was mountain biking with the guys that I'd forgotten how much I like going down hill.

I love the way some cycling clothing makes you look like super-heroes.

Also, I was happy to have my brass bell on my road bike. . .  a couple of cyclists zipped past a row of pedestrians and I slowed down and rang the bell "Oooh! That's loud" I said because it surprised me how loud it was. The peds said "Yes! Nice and loud! Thank you!" I love it when I ring a bell and the pedestrian says thanks, it's like a perfect little interaction.

My present to you is a bell to let you know I am coming. And their present to me is a very nice "thank you! (for letting me know you are coming and not scaring the daylights out of me by passing without warning and so quietly because your nice bike is so very quiet and I did not hear you coming, and you may know you have plenty of room and will not hit me, but it is still an unpleasant shock to me because I did not hear you.)"

No Ian, the 2 second self timer is not long enough for you to get from there to here.

At this point it's only 9 am, we're less than halfway down the hill, at a nice stopping point near one of the reservoirs and the guys have a half hour before they need to be toward the shop, preparing to open at 10am. Clinton says "Want to go again?" I say "I think I'll just hang out here. I'm feeling pretty good for my first time out." And they head back up the hill.

Then I think "Oh! I could get action shots!" So I ride up the opposite direction to try to catch them on their descent. 

I find a sunny spot to shoot. It takes less time for them to circle around than I thought so I am scrambling to get the camera out of my pocket when Clinton rounds the corner. Can you see him?

Ooh! Too fast for my little fingers!

Now it's Ian, I just saw him up the hill. . .

I need to work on my camera skills. Next time it'll be the auto three click.

Then it's down some more hill, and through a bit of the city to get back to our neighborhood. I think we're planning on doing it again because, as we parted ways Clinton was naming off days. . . I'm not sure which ones he meant though because he named off most of them.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Why Rachel loves her bike trailer.

Rachel and Clinton, two of the six worker/owners at ABC.
Rachel here, I'm mostly behind the scenes at A Better Cycle, working in my super secret office perch. So if you've never seen me at the shop, it's because I'm hiding.

For the car-less crowd, being the friend with a trailer is like being the friend with the pick-up truck. For the last year or so that's been Clintron. I've been borrowing his Burley trailer to transport all my craft display and product to Bike Craft events around town. I make all the Bike Cozy accessories, and love the craft fairs when I get to come out from hiding and meet all the local cyclists who love Bike Craft. ASIDE: If you're a local bike crafter too, read Tuesday's post because ABC wants to work with you!

Home from MCBF 2010. The burley flat bed with my entire Bike Cozy booth; tent, table and all!

After MCBF this year, Clinton called Ian up and said he wanted to give me the trailer! Just like that! I said "yes please!" and now it's mine, forever. And that establishes that I love it, but why?

It's just so easy to carry a bunch of stuff. I mean look at that photo, that's an entire booth set up.

All this and a 10x10 tent can be packed onto my bike trailer.

Beyond fitting my whole Bike Cozy craft set up, it's also been an amazing improvement for grocery shopping. We've been making due with panniers on my rear rack, loading my basket and Ian carrying a backpack. On these beautiful summer days it's nice to not have to wear that backpack. After getting used to the little bit of lag when you go over a bump or get started, and the slightly increased stopping distance, you barely know the trailer is there.

The hitch is easy to install, just take off the bolt of your axle (or take out your quick release skewer), slip the hitch onto your through-axle and replace the bolt. You don't even have to move your wheel.

Then attach the trailer with its pin and safety cord.

Today was Ian's turn to pull the trailer.

We use a giant rubbermaid for grocery shopping because it's easy to load and secure with the trailer's straps. 

Also, we've learned our lesson about skipping lunch before having to navigate the grocery store. We stopped at the little Po'Boy shop on Hawthorne and 44th. I balked at the $3 lemonade until I saw that it was giant!
Ian with the giant lemonade.
Rachel thankful for the umbrella.
Snapper Po'Boy with delicious cayenne molasses hot sauce.

The bikes parked while we eat lunch within view.

Ian and I shop mostly at the Fred Meyer on Hawthorne, where the bike parking is often full, or difficult to navigate to an open spot. (Hint: there is additional bike parking around the corner. It's a logical choice for cargo bikes, when we rolled up there was an extracycle with a soft cooler parked)

We locked up the trailer and the cooler with the bikes; an extra long cable lock with a sturdy u-lock does the trick for a grocery trip.

The big cart was the perfect size to set our rubbermaid in while we shopped. In checkout just unload it onto the conveyor and pack it all back into the plastic bin after it's been rung up.  I carried the fruit, extra veg and delicate loaf of bread in my basket.

A week's worth of groceries for two (and we love our salty snacks) fits into the bin, add a cooler for dairy and frozen food, and mesquite for grilling, it's a week worth of delicious.


Up the hill, how'd he get so far ahead of me?
Home again, Home again, now to get it all upstairs.

If this looks like your style, we can order them at the shop. They take about a week to come in. The flat bed trailer like mine is $299. The covered version is a cool $349.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Calling (most) BikeCrafters

locally made bicycling accessories. we want more!

A Better Cycle wants to support more locally made Bike Craft goodness. We are particularly interested in well designed utility goods and we are on the hunt!

We love local bike Crafters (Rachel especially wants the local Bike Crafters to succeed, since she is one. She would love to expand the shop to include all sorts of local bike craft awesome, but space is currently a constraint.) We also love to support our local economy, artisans and makers and when we can connect a customer with a cherished personal object whether it's a new bike or a new bag, we get all aflutter.

Do you know Bike Crafters that would fit in well with the mix below? Or are you a BikeCrafter yourself that makes excellent craftsmanship utility goods that you would like to consign or wholesale to us? (Our shop is too small to successfully showcase most jewelry, posters, t-shirts or other clothing at this time) Then the Bike Crafter should contact Rachel via subject line: Rachel! Bike Craft Goodness Here.

Um, just as an aside, Rachel's been trying to get more Bike Craft into the shop and some of the local makers, while exuberant in personality, have been a little lackluster in follow through. Things that will be useful in the email are: a link to a website, or images demonstrating quality of product and selection, a pricelist with item, description and MSRP and potential wholesale/consignment rates.

Rachel is also meeting with BikeCrafters (who may or may not have that info collected all in one spot ) during the week of August 5th-12th. Email for an appointment (totally informal meeting at a coffee shop or park or something, bring sample items and any other pertinent info) and let's get your Bike Craft Goodness into our shop and in front of so many more admirers. Let's have Bike Craft all year long!

Currently we stock locally made bike craft goodness from:

Bike Cozy (one of our worker/owners Rachel Dominguez-Benner)
--Bicycling accessories for the everyday hero, including yet not limited to: tool kit rolls, toe cozies, cycling caps, shoelace wranglers and stationery.

Black Star Bags
-- Waterproof messenger bags, hip pouches and top tube protectors

NorthSt Bags
--convertible pannier backpacks

Ciclismo Designs
(once George brings back his display)
--jewelry for cyclists

A note for potential BikeCraft partners:

Larger items like messenger bags and panniers we consign which means when an awesome Portlander (or visitor) buys one, we take a split and send most of the money straight on to you! Then you bring us replacement and we repeat.

Smaller items like top tube pads, hip pouches and toe cozies may start as consignment and once a market has been determined, we'll buy them wholesale several at a time, money straight into your bike crafting pocket.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Closed Saturday May First to celebrate the rights of workers!

A Better Cycle will be closed on Saturday May First to celebrate May Day. We will resume normal business hours on Sunday May Second at 10am.

The internals of a 1973 Sturmey Archer S3C three speed coaster brake hub.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Bike Cozy in stock! Hand made goods!

A Better Cycle is proud to carry Bike Cozy's awesome hand made goods in our shop. Bike Cozy is a project of A Better Cycle Worker/Owner Rachel. From her etsy:

"Bike Cozy makes tool rolls, cycling caps, bike hats, toe cage covers, stationery and more-- sewn and constructed by me, Rachel db. with care and giggles in a small corner of a shared studio in Portland, Oregon. Handmade bicycling accessories for the fashionably practical rider."

Tool Rolls:

Toe Covers:

Cycling caps:

We carry a large selection of most Bike Cozy products, but Rachel also does custom work. Check out her etsy page for more information: