Thursday, December 20, 2012

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Big Bike, Tiny Tree

On a rare day off for us both we decided to catch up on some errands, including getting a tree. So we pedaled over to a local tree place. Now that I have this big cargo bike on loan, I toyed with the idea of a real, full sized pine. I imagined the fun of lugging it home. Also, in my crazy little fantasy world, I pictured everyone arriving to the tree place by bike - a procession of longtails, bakfietsen and porteurs transporting all manner of prickly greenery, the length of Somerville Avenue filled with the scent of pine. Naturally a brass band played in the background. 

Then we got to the tree place. And gosh, I don't know, it was so sad. Our lonely bikes surrounded by SUVs in the parking lot. All the cut-down trees stacked up against a rusty fence. There was no way they would all get bought in time for the holidays.  

We hung out for a bit. The place was like a small, dead miniature pine forest amidst an urban landscape. 

Xtra Holiday Errands
Finally, we did the same thing we did last year: bought a small potted pine. It doesn't look very impressive, but on the plus side it will live... maybe.

Xtra Holiday Errands
Which brings me to a dark confession: You see, last year I killed one of these little trees. I didn't mean to! My plan was to remove the decorations after the holidays and keep the tree in the house year-round, to be decorated again the following year. But the tree failed to thrive in our apartment and eventually dried up. This time I will read up on replanting, and hopefully this one will survive. A bicycle ride to the forest is in this little tree's future...


Blouse: Zara (last seen here); Skirt: H&M (similar style here); Shoes: J.Crew (similar style here); Bag: Chanel; Sunglasses: Elizabeth & James; Earrings: Forever 21

Home stretch right before the holidays hit! After this work week, I personally, can't wait to dig into this book I picked up recently, with a cup of hot chocolate by my side. 

Photos by Paulette Ference 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Rewards of a Closer Look

Ed's Refurbished Miyata
There are bicycles that strike you as unique from the first glance, and then there are those that sneak up on you. When Ed showed me the rando bike he'd put together from a refurbished Miyata frameset, it seemed like a nice enough classic build. Fenders, racks, leather, twine. But on closer inspection, all sorts of curious features emerged.

Ed's Refurbished Miyata
First I noticed the unusual front rack mount. A small DIY bracket at the front curled under and bolted onto the fender. 

Ed's Refurbished Miyata
Initially I assumed this was to add extra stability to the rack. But then I realised the real function of this bracket - in addition to another one extending from the fork crown - was to hold up the fender. Or, more accurately, the front part of the fender. 

Ed's Refurbished Miyata
I had seen split fenders before, but what struck me about these was how subtle they were, how utterly integrated into the overall design of the bike. The split was something I noticed only after my eye led me to it as it moved from one end of the rack to the other. 

Ed's Refurbished Miyata
The tires are 700Cx28mm Gran Compe ENE Ciclo (brown, with tan sidewalls) and Ed was determined to make them fit along with the fenders. The split accomplishes this despite the lack of sufficient clearances under the brake bridge and fork crown. 

Ed's Refurbished Miyata
Both the front and rear racks were recycled from older bikes, and I noticed that the rear one was stamped "Jim Blackburn." This prompted me to look into the history of Blackburn Racks, and indeed they were once called by the name of the founder. The vintage racks - now quite sought after - used a single bracket design to connect to the brake bridge, whereas the Blackburns in current production use a two bracket design to connect to seat stay braze-ons. I also found an interesting article describing Jim Blackburn's contributions to research in weight distribution for loaded touring.

Ed's Refurbished Miyata
The components seemed like a random mix, until Ed explained that he was going for a Suntour-inspired build: mostly vintage Japanese (but no Shimano), with some modern VO and Dia Compe sprinkled in. While such a thing would never have occurred to me, gathering components that made sense within this paradigm had been an important part of putting the bike together, a game he'd enjoyed playing.

Ed's Refurbished Miyata
The more we talked about the bike, the more of these things I discovered. Subtle details, hidden meanings. What looked like "just" a nice bicycle at first glance became fascinatingly personal. And that's the thing about bikes. We don't really know what they mean, or represent to the owner. We don't know what the story behind each one is, until we ask. Maybe that's why I still can't seem to walk past a bicycle without a closer look, or at least a second glance. 

Beyonce’s Miami Art Basel Emma Cook Silk de Chine Floral Printed Button Down and Shorts

Steal Her Look: Beyoncé's Art Basel Miami Beach Emma Cook Shirt and Shorts,Christian Louboutin 'Pigalle' Pumps and DVF - Diane von Furstenberg 440 Mixed Media Top Handle Bag..She looks absolutely chic.


the great gatsby

Sweater: Out of Print (been snagging copies of the vintage cover book as gifts lately); Jeans: Current/Elliot; Shoes: c/o Sigerson Morrison; Bag: Celine; Sunglasses: Karen Walker; Jewelry: Gorjana "Super Star" necklace c/o, Michael Kors watch

OK, I'll admit it -- I've been dipping into my gift ideas. One for me -- two for you, right?

Yvonne Nelson, Sarkodie, Juliet Ibrahim, Sandra Ankobiah, Majid Michel, Jackie Appiah & Yvonne Okoro spotted at D-Black’s “The Revelation” Album Launch in Accra

The stars were all spotted at the launch of Ghanaian music act, D-Black‘s new album, The Revelation at the Movenpick Hotel, Accra, Ghana.
Jackie Appiah

Yvonne Nelson


Sandra Ankobiah & Yvonne Okoro

Monday, December 17, 2012

Frameset or Complete Bike?

In the comments of the previous post, a reader pointed out that the comparatively low MSRP of the frameset I described was not such a bargain, considering the likely cost of the complete build. Depending on the context, I both agree and disagree. So I'll take this opportunity to discuss the benefits, as I see them, of buying a frameset and building it up yourself vs buying a complete bicycle.

Purchasing a complete bike

When a manufacturer releases a bicycle model as a complete build, the price of the bike bundles together a number of things: the frame and fork, the components and accessories, and the labor involved in assembly. The price of the bike will be significantly lower than if you were to pay for all of these things individually. Assuming that you are happy with the components included in the stock build, this makes the bike a great deal compared to buying a frameset only and starting from scratch. You save money on components, you save money on labor, and on top of that you get the immediate gratification of having a ready to ride bicycle straight away.

But keep in mind that the more changes you make, the less of a great deal it will be - especially if you cannot do the work yourself and will need to pay extra for labor. Give particular consideration to whether you are happy with the stock drivetrain and shifting system. Changing this on a stock build can be costly. If the stock bike comes with 700C wheels and you want 650B, a conversion could be pricey. If you want dynamo lighting and the bike does not already have it, you will need to rebuild the front wheel with a dynamo hub, or replace it. If the stem length and handlebar width are wrong for you, you will need new ones. At some point, it might be more cost-effective to start from scratch.

Purchasing a frameset

When a bicycle model is available as a frameset only, it is an opportunity to assemble the bike according to your needs from the start. You can choose the exact gearing you want, your preferred model of levers and brakes, the correct stem length and handlebar width, and a comfortable saddle. You can integrate dynamo lighting into the build from the get-go. In the event the frame is compatible with more than one wheel size, you can choose the wheel size that suits you, instead of executing an aftermarket conversion. Going the frameset-only route is an especially great deal for those who are DIY tinkerers (or live with one) and can do the work without the help of a bike shop, and for those who already have a bunch of components lying around waiting for a frame.

But before buying a frameset, it is a good idea to make sure the bike you want really is different from an available stock build. Oftentimes novice buyers cannot distinguish between what's a big deal to change and what isn't. For example, if a bike is missing fenders and racks, you can add them without making changes to the existing build, thereby still enjoying the savings of starting with a complete bike. Also, if it's a matter of stem length and seat post setback, some bike shops are willing to swap those at no extra cost. Finally, the stock models are usually set up generically - with plain handlebar tape, plastic pedals and unsightly reflectors. While this does not look as nice as a custom build, you can easily and inexpensively personalise the bike without needing to start from scratch.

One thing to add, is that a direct cost comparison between framesets and complete builds is not always possible. While some manufacturers offer both options, others offer only one or the other. The make and model you choose in the first place might depend on which you prefer. For heavy-duty city bikes, there are now plenty of complete stock models available that require few if any aftermarket alterations. Ditto for standard roadbikes. As for 650B mixtes, and other non-mainstream specimens, not so much.

off duty

Sweater: Zara (old); Pants: Club Monaco (similar style here); Shoes: Isabel Marant (Cyber Monday find!); Bag: Celine; Sunglasses: Karen Walker; Fur Snood: Gap (similar style here)

Wore this out for some quick Sunday errands. My company holiday party may or may not have been the night before and these sunglasses may or may not be hiding some pretty dark under eye bags. Worth it though? Definitely!

Yvonne Nwosu Instagram Photos

Coming to her fashion sense, love or hate it, but you will notice her edgy and crazy style for sure. You’ll mostly spot her with bold color dresses, (mostly) full hair styles,red lipstick with a lot of accessories.
 Wow take a look at the long slit of this black gown..Sexy.Yvonne Nwosu, a designer and also  a fashionista look  easy and comfortable in these photos.I love her boldness and the fact that she is never scared to take risk.Tell us what you think..
Black Gown- Styled by Jeremiah Ogbod of Swanky Signature Styling

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Soma Buena Vista Redux

Soma Buena Vista 650B
Over a year ago, I wrote about a 650B Soma Buena Vista mixte that a friend built up for his wife. It was a large (58cm) frame that I was able to ride after lowering the saddle. This time I tried another 650B Buena Vista, and the smaller (50cm) frame was built up very differently. The difference between these two bikes makes me appreciate the role that sizing, fit and component selection play in the "personality" of a complete bicycle. 

Soma Buena Vista 650B
When velo-celebrity Bekka (aka bikeyface) began pining for a mixte, I suggested the Soma Buena Vista because of its reputation for versatility. B wanted a "non-girly" mixte that was aggressive yet comfortable, upright yet not too upright, classic yet modern, and to top it off, easy on the budget. I believed the Buena Vista could deliver these properties and volunteered to help "curate" the build, which was undertaken by Jim at Harris Cyclery

Soma Buena Vista 650B
The charcoal frame is the same as on the bike I reviewed previously. It is a nice looking gunmetal silver. The decision to go with 650B wheels was made in order to fit wide tires. 

Soma Buena Vista 650B
The gumwall tires are Panaracer Col de la Vie 650B x 38mm. 

Soma Buena Vista 650B
The wheels were built up with a dynamo hub in the front, the cables for the lighting routed using this method

Soma Buena Vista 650B
The rear wheel was built around a Sturmey Archer 3-speed hub. The Buena Vista's horizontal dropouts allow it to be set up either with a derailleur, internally geared hub, or single speed drivetrain. B shares my dislike of many-geared hubs, but did not want a derailleur on a mostly-urban bike that would spend much of its life outdoors. She considered single speed initially, but eventually settled on 3 speeds. I think this was a good choice, considering how she intends to use the bike. In my experience, 3-speed hubs are efficient and keep the weight down, while still offering some gearing versatility.

Soma Buena Vista 650B
The Sturmey Archer pulley is hidden above the bottom bracket and adds a touch of the archaic to the bike.

Soma Buena Vista 650B
B wanted to try the trigger shifter, and I am curious what her verdict will be (I love them, but they are not for everyone). The Rivendell cork grips and the classic lines of the Tektro FL750 levers complete the old-school charm.

Soma Buena Vista 650B
But charming need not mean docile. We set up the North Road handlebars aggressively, upside down and with a 10cm stem. 

Soma Buena Vista 650B
The Nitto North Roads have a dramatic drop, so flipping them over makes the bike très vroom-vroom. Not sure what the owner would think of this position, we left enough steerer to move the bars either up or down. 

Soma Buena Vista 650B
For fenders, B specifically did not want fancy-looking hammered things. As a more modern and less costly solution, we went with SKS. The ones designed for 700C work fine with 650B wheels. We chose the Longboard version, with mudflaps. 

Soma Buena Vista 650B
If I don't say so myself, I think the complete bike came together nicely. It suits the owner's preferences, both functionally and aesthetically. In the near future, she plans to install a rear rack and a small chainguard, but otherwise this is the finished state. Being now in posession of the bike, B really likes it so far. But I will wait some time before reporting her impressions. 

As far as my impressions, the ride exceeded my expectations. Basically: vroom. Super-responsive, quick to accelerate, fast rolling. On flat terrain, the bike moved with me, almost effortlessly. And I'd almost forgotten how much I love upside down North Roads. Mount them low enough and with a long stem, and you can attain a forward lean similar to that of drop bars, but with the gripping style of upright bars. I love this position for riding in the city. 

Soma Buena Vista 650B
With the Buena Vista's sporty setup, the 3-speed drivetrain might really be enough for the owner's needs, especially considering that she is great at climbing out of the saddle. The gearing we chose worked well for me, with a significant hill easy to tackle in first gear seated. But it was really educated guesswork on our part, and if B wants to change the rear cog or chainring in future, this can easily be done. 

As far as toe overlap with the 50cm Vista frame, this will depend on your shoe size and on whether you have fenders. I experienced a bit of it, but not much. If you build up the frame as a roadbike, fenderless, and ride in clipless pedals, there is a good chance of no TCO. In any event, the owner is not bothered by it. 

Soma Buena Vista 650B
Depending on whose fit philosophy she follows, a woman of my height could end up on either the 50cm, 54cm, or 58cm Soma Buena Vista. Having tried the extremes of this spectrum, I believe that either size can work, depending on what qualities you are looking for in the bike. When I tried the 58cm Buena Vista last year, its long virtual top tube and high, wide, swept-back handlebars made it feel like a lightweight, faster version of a Dutch bike. By contrast, the 50cm Vista with its low, narrow, upside down North Roads felt like the lovechild or a modern roadbike and a pathracer. Go large for more tame, upright. Go small for more aggressive, roadish. In each case, the bike felt stable and the ride quality was pleasant. At $499 MSRP for the frameset, this fun and versatile machine is a good value.