Velodi, Dijon's free public bike system

When I was off in france a couple of weeks ago, I utterly and completely failed to ride Paris' vaunted Velib system. It is not particularly user friendly for americans. The short story is that you need a eurostyle credit card with a chip or an American Express Card (AMEX not verified by me, but a trustworthy source deems it possible) to use the system in Paris. However, Dijon has a similar system and all you need is a access to the internet and a credit card and you can get a access number and a pin for 1 euro. So I did it and I rode it. Here are the details:

The bikes were not quite as space age as the Velib bike, but they were well appointed. Shimano three speed nexus hub with roller brake on the rear, shimano roller braked generator hub up front. Shaft drive. Fenders. Skirt guard. Front basket. Front LED light with standlight. Rear red LED generator driven light with standlight. Upright bars. QR seatpost for quick adjustment, but with a positive stop so you could not steal the seatpost. Special locked hubnuts. cable lock integral to the basket, with a key. Most uncomfortable seats known to man. Stations pretty much EVERYWHERE you would ever want to go in dijon, 33 stations in a city of less than 200,000.

They have a good website in french at Velodi.net that has all the info you need. If you are french impared you need to get to the main page and click "Formule Liberté" to sign up for a pass with your credit card. It costs you 1 euro (about $1.60 when I was there) for a year of access ( I think, I thought I was signing up for a week, but it was unclear as I am moderately french impared). Using a bike is free for the first half hour, 0.30 euro for each additional half hour, up to 4 hours or so and then 4 euro an hour afterwards. If you do not return a bike, they can charge you 150 euros to the card you used.

Skirt guard is riveted to the SKS type fenders, shaft drive

They were pretty fun to ride. The shaft drive was reasonable for town riding, there was a bit of odd slop, but the three speed hubs were somewhat dodgily adjusted so it was hard to tell what was a hub effect and what was from the shaft drive. The bars seemed to be reasonable for people in the 5' to 6' range, the seat certainly went higher, many taller people were riding them, but the bars might be a bit low. The fenders were pretty much sks type and often were in poor alignment. The lights were stock shimano dynohub type wiring and frequently the lights were not functioning.

Velodi Kiosk. With map of surrounding stations. Both English and French supported.

The kiosks were pretty easy to use. They operated in both english and french. You type in your access code and pin and the kiosk tells you what bike to use. The bike is unlocked for a period of time and you go and remove it from the rack.

If you had a cell phone, you could send a text message and, with your credit card, get a code in a few minutes after some texting. It is not obvious from the kiosk that you can get a code on the web, but the nice lady at the visitors center clued me in.

Riveted skirt guard, the logo is an owl, the a symbol of Dijon, note the excellent theft proof hub nuts, note the nice "coaster brake tab", note the out the back dropouts, note all the braze ons on the dropouts. Nice aero rims plus fat Schwalbe Marathon 26" (559) tires.

It was not entirely clear what would happen if the kiosk directed you to a bike that was disabled. There were hints of procedures to follow and numbers to call, but I could not quite figure it out. That said, the Velodi bikes, ignoring the frequently disabled lights, were in pretty good repair. the Velib bikes in Paris seemed to have a lot of bikes with flats, not obviously a problem in Dijon.

excellent baskets with protected lights. The knobs hanging down slot into the velodi racks and lock in when you return the bike. The lock is the cable under the light, you can make out the key, there is an integral bungee cord to hold down things in the basket.

However there were a couple of rules that were not obvious. When you return a bike, you can not pick up another one for 10 minutes. This is to prevent you from "hogging" bikes for free by returning and then picking them up in the half hour time limit. The downside is that you can not trade a bike with a mechanical with one that works in a timely manner. Not a big problem if you are near a cafe, but once this caused me and a pal to walk to the next station to find bikes with functioning lights at night. Along these lines, I once returned a bike to a station that was out of service. It accepted the bike but I was unable to rent one from that station again so I had to walk to another station. Not a big deal as the stations are pretty dense.

Super low step through frames with burly welded junctions

Dijon was a pleasure to ride around. There was a fair amount of traffic on fairly narrow streets, but there were bike lanes everywhere, although not particularly well thought out ones. The cars in the center of Dijon were pretty cognizant of huge numbers of cyclists riding poorly on the velodi bikes. It was pretty fun. Lots of cobblestone streets and signs that permitted riding the wrong way on one way streets and up streets that cars were normally prohibited from:

That said, not all streets allowed this. Specifically outside the touristy center of the town. My pal Shannon and I had a run in with the local constabulary over just this issue. I will write about this more later, but I learned that small town bored cops are pretty much the same everywhere. If you are riding in Dijon, it probably would behoove you to become familiar with the extremely subtle traffic lights and street markings in town. There is no double yellow line on streets and there are some streets that to me, even after a week in Dijon, were not obviously one or two way based on street signs and lines.

pal Shannon demonstrating skirt ridability and extreme reflecty sidewalls on the bikes

All in all the velodi bikes were pretty cool. I meant to go on an extended ride out along a canal townpath outside of town, but the combination of very uncomfortable seats and numerous thunderstorms blowing through led me to just sit around and drink espressos. They were ideal for cruising around town. I never had problems finding one when I needed it, and in a week of riding, all but one rack I encountered had return spaces available. When I was in Paris there was clear evidence of people jockying around looking for open places to return their bikes. A few racks near transit centers were either completely empty, or nearly so, in the morning and near full after work, indicative of locals from outside of town using the bikes to connect from the bus or train in, to their jobs in the morning.

The Velodi bikes, and systems like this, are a great boon to a city. It is important that the bikes are bombproof, available and easy to obtain. The key to success seems to be enough bikes and stations to support short jaunts and easy returns. Come hell or high water, I will be holding a credit card that allows me to use the Velib bikes in paris next time I return. Near as I can tell at least three or four cities in the US (Albuquerque, DC, Chicago and possibly San Francisco) are on the verge of launching a system like this. I sez, bring it on, make sure there are twice as many bikes and stations as you think you need. Yeaaaaaaaah Bicycles!


Tag, stop it, crap, sorry, here goes

I have steadfastly ignored about 10 people blog tagging me in the last couple of years. I am sorry. I am so overwhelmed with internal ideas for my blog that I don't have the blogenergy to respond to most of these requests, I barely have the time to do justice to the shitstorm of blog gold that occurs in my mind on a daily basis. Infact, I occasionally drink heavily so that the words "blog gold" stop appearing in my mind. Most of the people who tag me I like alot and I enjoy their blogs thoroughly and even enjoy their answers to their "tagged" stuff. But I never play along. But this time I will. kent tagged me for some sort of bike related questionnaire.

I will respond this time only as:
1. it is Kent who was at one point personally responsible for 20% of my blog traffic
2. Kent should wear rock star sunglasses as he is bicycle flavored rock star and one must respect that.
3. Kent actually tagged me with something that is related to my mission statement (bikes and cats in the high desert)
4. This finally gets me to address the whole tagging phenomena and say, please. stop. tagging. me. Tag someone who never updates their blog. Watch me how I do it at the end.

Ok, here goes:
If you could have any one — and only one — bike in the world, what would it be?
Easy. Single speed cyclocross bike with flip flop 36-18 on freewheel and a 36-16 on fixie and clearance for 700x45mm tires. Infact I have had this bike since august 1996 and other than some youthful steertube cutting exuberance, it is still perfect. It has done time as my messenger bike, mountain bike, cross bike, commuter bike, race mountain bike, loaner bike, broken bike, fixed bike, etc:

Do you already have that coveted dream bike? If so, is it everything you hoped it would be? If not, are you working toward getting it? If you’re not working toward getting it, why not?
I already have it and ride it 100 miles a year or less, mostly in cross races. It needs a longer fork. I am not 24 any more. With a longer fork and some luck it will make it another 10 years. It probably will break as soon as I start riding it more though, so it is dicey.

What kind of sick person would force another person to ride one and only one bike ride to to do for the rest of her / his life?
The logistics of getting rid of enough bikes so that I would only have one to ride are so improbable that no evil sickness or villany is capable.

Do you ride both road and mountain bikes? If both, which do you prefer and why? If only one or the other, why are you so narrowminded?
Yes. this is a dumb question. I prefer the bike I am riding.

Have you ever ridden a recumbent? If so, why? If not, describe the circumstances under which you would ride a recumbent.
I have ridden, raced and built high speed faired recumbents. I have no problem with recumbents but find them exceptionally poor solutions for my current cycling needs.
Me and three others built this thing as a prototype:

Have you ever raced a triathlon? If so, have you also ever tried strangling yourself with dental floss?
Yep, lots of triathlons. The second part of this question makes me vow never to participate in a tagging exercise again.

Suppose you were forced to either give up ice cream or bicycles for the rest of your life. Which would you give up, and why?
Plain old mean. I would give up ice cream and seek vengeance on those who made me choose.

If you had to choose one — and only one — bike route to do every day for the rest of your life, what would it be, and why?M
Oakland, Royal coffee to claremont to tunnel to skyline, long cut on the fire road in Redwood park, back to skyline, hang a left at the intersection with Joaquin miller hook up with Redwood to pinehurst, twist about and then climb back up to skyline and then, hmm, probably back on skyline over grizzily peaks down the back side on that lomas encantadas road through the closed to cars (still?) bridge up wildcat and then down to berkeley for dinner at the pizza collective.

You’re riding your bike in the wilderness (if you’re a roadie, you’re on a road, but otherwise the surroundings are quite wilderness-like) and you see a bear. The bear sees you. What do you do?
Somehow this has not happened to me yet. This happens to everyone else around here though. I am pretty sure I would try to document it for the blog. "hot damn, Blog gold" I would think.

Now, tag three biking bloggers. List them below.
Ok, I tag anyone reading this who has not updated their blog in more than two weeks. Everyone else, ignore this. Finally:
Please. Stop. Tagging. Me.




In prelude I will avow that I certainly hope that the dope testers have their act together, but this really makes me smile:
from ap feed on yahoo sports

...Roche Pharmaceuticals placed a molecule in its product CERA— Continuous Erythropietin Receptor Activator—when developing the drug to help anti-doping authorities detect illegal use.

Yeah science! While a small tiny victory in keeping cycling clean, this is the kind of thing that should be expected if you are going after doping the right way. Go to the producers and get their help in making a test for their drug. Do it before it is easily available. Use scientists.

kudos to all involved. I would like to think that the tight top 10 in the tour this year after some truly outrageous mountain stage is due to some excellent doping controls leading to a pretty level playing field among the freakishly gifted.

But I am psyched for the science. Really, scientists are good at what they do and it probably helps to ask the right questions. And perhaps, the involvement of the science types got ricco kicked out on stage 12 wearing the polkadots instead of on stage 21 wearing yellow...

Please please please let whoever the hell is doing the doping controls this year have their ducks in a row.

Also, are you watching? It is a good good tour. Again. Oh the Drama, the suffering, the nearly naked people falling asunder at 70 kph. Must sleep so I can awake mighty early and then play some flex time enhanced hooky to watch the tiny little men go over two huge passes and only then tackle l'alpe. I told my boss that tomorrow is a national holiday for my people. He looked so confused that I had to explain that it was not some sort of crypto-jersey religious ritual, but was in fact the queen stage.


All the france photos

OK, I finally got all the photos from the france trip up online, some 250 photos mostly of bikes and the like. So if you want to see the hordes surf on over to:
Paris Bikes
Dijon Bikes
and then, if you are hungry or thirsty, you might like:
French Eats
all the photos under the umbrella:
France trip

Anyhoo, here are some appetizers of my somewhat obsessive streetside bike photography:

Lots of good 650b stuff seen all over.


Hey Ricco

Hey Ricardo Ricco,

What the fuck?




I went and returned and utterly failed to rent the Velib bikes.

but I figured out the similar system in Dijon. woo. Much more to follow


Blog Naptime

Off and about for a bit, Back blogging with the force on 7/15.


What I did with the stupid tax refund

I figured after ranting about the tax refund, I should probably explain what I ended up doing with it:

That is two water barrels, a plum tree and a peach tree. There were also a flat of ground cover (ice plants, thyme), a few other plants for eating (three rosemarys to see if I can find a place where they will survive the winter) and a planting shovel and some other plant like stuff that sort of brings me into the neighborhood of my 600 dollar refund.

Take that, you vote buying herd of sock puppets.

Uh, anyway, I am not sure how well the trees will do, but they should do OK. There are surprising amounts of fruit trees that can handle 7200 feet cold winters here on the cusp of Zone 4. Apparently peaches are a bit high altitude sun sensitive, but clever pruning and painting apparently does them well. I like having fruit on the property and the local bees, birds, racoons, skunks, deer and possibly bear all seem to enjoy visiting the yard. The rain barrels are filled and half filled after two short thunderstorms this week, maybe I need a couple more? We have a big roof. I probably should get some gutters for the back side of the house too...

The rest of my working the land around the house goes well:
Last years grapes are doing a-ok after a late start to the season, not sure if we will get any grapes, but probably next year.

The cherries are actually outproducing the birds ability to eat them, so we have eaten cherries galore this week:

Our giant apricot tree seems completely devoid of fruit this year, early flowers+late freezes are not great for it. Our old apple tree might have a few apples this year, we had lots last year, but could not reach most of them, this year the few we get seem to be on new growth lower down. Our compost heap pumpkin volunteers are thriving along with tomato seedlings we started indoors. The peppers are not doing great yet, but we have a couple more months for them to make it. I think I should have mixed some compost in with the soil this year. Next year. Really...

Due to the late winds this year we have an absolutely astonishing number of chinese elm seedlings coming up. I think I hate that tree more than populist tax refunds. Garg. Even the super hippy dippy stoned out of their gourds nursery in Santa Fe recommends poisoning the crap out of them.

The bees got a third deck last week, so they seem pretty happy.

PalJill informed me last week that "bees are the new chickens". I for one am just glad to be ahead of those damn portlanders in something.

Finally, the catnip protectorator seems to be working just fine

Good times on the fraction acre indeed.

Along these lines I am really enjoying reading ramshackle solid and homegrown evolution for DIY family scale farming efforts. They cheat by living where it does not freeze, but I forgive them as their blogs are so entertaining. I just ordered Homegrown evolutions book, the urban homestead (available on their webpage or through amazon depending on whether you want to support them directly, or trickle a few dimes my way) and should post a review one day.