Tall bikes are cool. They’re DIY, creative and usually funky personal projects where the creator has brought 2 – 3 scavenged frames and parts together to create something fun and challenging to ride. In April of 2013 for ‘cicLAvia to the sea’ Richie Trimble debuted something so monstrous it’s become it’s own phenomenon: StoopidTall.

14.5stoopidtallRichie wore a ‘GoPro’ and the video had over a million hits within days. It’s insane to watch from the safety of a computer and kind of mind blowing to realize he rode it 15+ miles through LA surrounded by moving traffic, 110,000+ other cyclists, most of which have no experience riding bikes and have never seen anything like this. StreetsblogLA captured the moment rather well.



STUPIDTALL is 14.5′ tall and barely made it under one of the freeway overpasses the cicLAvia route was on. And then they went to San Francisco to shoot a commercial and STOOPIDTALL got a fancy paint job!



Yes, but can it be STOOPID-ER?

Thursday, December 26, 2013 STOOPID TALLER was revealed:



Listening to “All Things Considered” anywhere in America yesterday, December 1, 2013 and you might have heard this one..

Nona Varnado on NPR


As a lifelong NPR fan it was pretty sweet to get this surprise over the holiday weekend, with friends from all over the country freaking out and reposting it on facebook and twitter.

Check out the full article and audio here.

Of course when you’ve spent a 40,000+ hours on a project it’s hard to hear anything that isn’t the sweet sound of praise. But writer Alex Schmidt did us all a tremendous service by bringing in two somewhat jarring voices. The first Herbie Huff, who is a friend of mine, sort of negatively pointed out that you have to be pretty invested into a bike in order to participate -ie. already have a bike. That’s ..true. It’s a short piece so there wasn’t time to counter that we also work with bike shops to offer super awesome package deals for new commuters and that the cost of biking vs. driving means you could get 17 new bikes each year for the same cost of maintaining one car. (On average according to people who count that stuff.)

Next is the really outrageous part everyone’s talking about (hello, LA Bike Trains?) when a woman, Jackie Burke, agreed to speak and be named saying,

“It’s like they enjoy taking up the lanes,” says Jackie Burke, who has lived in Los Angeles her whole life. She says bicyclists drive her crazy when she’s in a car and has to slow down for them.

“It’s very frustrating, to the point where I just want to run them off the road,” Burke says. “I’ve actually done one of those drive-really-close-to-them kind of things to kind of scare them, to try to intimidate them to get out of my way.”

At first I was a little horrified thinking that anyone listening would be put off from either looking into LA Bike Trains or participating because of such outrageous comments. But in having a national audience, we’re already seeing a silver lining: that recent yet neglected LA City anti-harassment ordinance that no one has been bold enough to use? That might be changing soon. For more commentary check out Niall’s blog post.  He does a really clever thing by pointing out that you can contact NPR and let them know how disturbing the quote was, particularly that it was thrown in there without any condemnation or pointing out that it’s super illegal and deadly.

NPR’s listener feedback form.

I would hope that with enough ‘feedback’ a new story directly dealing with this will create a powerful new national dialogue on respect and human dignity.

Here is Niall’s letter that you might consider using as a template for your own response.

To the editor:You deserve praise for covering the L.A. Bike Trains phenomenon, in which experienced bike commuters help novices learn how to travel safely by bike. It was horrifying, however, to hear the comments of Los Angeles resident Jackie Burke, who admitted to wanting “to run them [cyclists] off the road” and said “I’ve actually done one of those drive-really-close-to-them kind of things to kind of scare them, to try to intimidate them to get out of my way.”

This kind of sociopathy is seriously disturbing, and I as I ride my own bike around the streets of Los Angeles, I shudder to think how many motorists hold the view that it is ever OK to use a motor vehicle to intimidate or threaten another human being. Does Ms. Burke not realize that she is admitting to having committed menacing and assault?

I urge Ms. Burke and others with a similar attitude to get some perspective. City and suburban streets are not freeways. They provide access to homes and businesses and have to be usable by everyone and by all types of vehicles, including slower-moving ones. There is no entitlement to drive as fast as one wants all the time, and drivers need to be prepared to share the street with different types of vehicles that are legally allowed to be there. Sometimes this means waiting for a few seconds until it’s safe to overtake. And it really is a matter of seconds — I drive on Los Angeles’ streets too, and I rarely spend even so much as 30 seconds waiting to pass a bicyclist. Considering that traffic signal cycles can sometimes create delays of a minute or more, the delays caused by bicyclists are trivial, and certainly not worth risking the serious injury or death of another human being over.

With gas prices rising and the cost of living in urban areas going up, bicycles are going to be a fixture on the streets of American cities for many years to come as commuters try to slash costs. We need to cultivate a more humane environment on our roadways to accommodate this new reality. A well-connected network of protected bike lanes, separate from car traffic, would do wonders to ease tensions, as would bicyclist and motorist education regarding the rules of the road for each.

Until we get these things in our cities, would-be bicycle commuters are left to their own devices, and groups like L.A. Bike Trains are going to keep using safety in numbers to bring novices into the fold. Instead of threatening these people from the inside of her vehicle, perhaps Ms. Burke should go on a ride and get a cyclist’s perspective on traffic.

note to readers: my apologies – I’ve been so busy working this year that I’ve slacked on blogging, but that means there’s an inspiring amount of awesome content coming up!

One of the amazing things about cycling in Southern California (and perhaps other places) is that the people leading by doing -creating the awesome cycling events and projects you always wanted to see – are almost all women! One of the best race directors I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing (and riding their courses!) is the inexhaustible Dorothy Wong. She’s the engine behind SoCalCX, The Team and is an LCI committed to teaching everyone how to ride even if it’s just along a bike path. Dorothy is a one woman movement, single handedly designing, building, promoting, managing racer development through the most welcoming and all inclusive cx race series in the US. She’s also brilliant, generous and adorable.


Today is CX LA part of the SoCalCX prestige series for Winter 2013. They’ve already had 1/2 dozen amazing races all over Southern California, but there’s still 6 more weekends to get out there and try a beginner’s workshop, or throw yourself into it! CX in Southern California is obviously different than most other places (what is snow? mud?) instead you’ll get dusty cornfields, the beach and other dry terrain. Today’s race might be a fun exception because it actually rained in LA, so the course just might be… wicked fun. Dot’s races are extremely beginner friendly, even alongside elite racers and have categories that include open bike category (mutant bikes! weirdos! FixieCrossie)


Even better – this weekend is conveniently in Downtown LA’s state historic park. Easy to get to and they’ve put together the Tour de Taste – a festival of gourmet food trucks, DJ’s and vendor tents to peruse making CX even more fun to experience as a spectator. Proceeds benefit the Los Angeles Bicycle Coalition. It get started today, Saturday at 1pm and again tomorrow. Check out the schedule and description on the facebook event page.


pharrell happy

A little over 24 hours ago Pharrell Williams released a music video. Hosted on it’s own interactive website, 24hoursofhappy.com it follows people blissfully jamming out to the song all over Los Angeles over the course of 24 hours. I didn’t quite get it for a little while, but it’s my favorite new media project in years.  Like Vito Acconci, but enjoyable.

The meditation like quality of watching people having their ‘happy’ moment in public streets, on bike lanes, in alleyways and unglamorous everyday places is irresistible. If the individual or location at any moment seems kinda uninteresting, just forward to the trio of boys rocking out near skid row, or the lady happily bouncing around in her electric wheelchair. It’s an interesting to try to figure who the paid actors are, the regular people, the celebrity cameos and of course Pharrell himself. He appears every hour or so in different locations and consecutively more awesome outfits. Like this:


It’s basically impossible not to fall in love with the song (I wasn’t into it at first, but after several plays watching people do their thing.. I loved it) and at the same time, Los Angeles. In the way that Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” was a soundtrack and inspiration to New Yorkers from the worst projects to the fanciest luxury rooftops and millions of others imagining what New York is  – “Happy” perfectly captures what it is that makes LA so ..magical. The art direction is beautiful and seamless but most of the locations are on public streets that locals will recognize as being gross or dangerous, just in front of a freeway entrance, a McDonalds or a Home Depot. LA is a place that invites you to discover beauty and happiness beyond the surface of things like say, strip malls. And unlike NYC where the main vision of happiness is too often extreme wealth – LA is a great place to be a weirdo or just be yourself and enjoy the moment. “Happy” does something that music rarely does; instead of telling people to aspire to wealth, power or fame – it celebrates the joy of here and now.


“Happy” was directed by We Are From LA and produced by Iconoclast – which is awesome because they’ve also collaborated on other projects. Can’t wait to see what they do next!




DATE: Friday, October 24, 2013
TIME: 7 -11pm LOCATION: 4357 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, California 90029
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/events/380536758715300

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – Opening Friday, October 24, 2013 The international art movement begun in 2003 celebrates ten years of art, advocacy and community with the first ever gallery show. Family members, Ghost Bike and transportation advocates, artists and friends will be in attendance. Ghost Bikes are memorials honoring cyclists who are fatally – or sometimes critically – injured due to unnecessary collisions on streets not designed for shared traffic.They are a unique and positive response to a terrible event. By using art communities around the globe have begun making individual memorials a powerful public awareness tool. Ghost Bikes are not put together by family or friends, but by local bike advocates to pay respect while making it publicly known that a death has occurred and making it obvious that a street or intersection is dangerous. Ghost Bikes of LA is an informative and inspiring look at how art and awareness are bringing people closer together and changing our cities for the better.

Additional Dates:

  • Sunday, Oct. 27: 12 – 4pm family members speak + How to make a Ghost Bike
  • Saturday, Nov. 2: Ride to Hollywood Forever’s Day of the Dead
  • Thursday, Nov. 14: 7pm LA Memorial Ride on Andy’s Candle Light Vigil
  • Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013: 4-8pm Closing Reception

Red#5 Yellow#7 is a gallery dedicated to advancing the mainstream dialogue on contemporary cycling issues.

#r5y7 – www.r5y7.cc – @red5yellow7 – facebook.com/red5yellow7


A New York Times article, published in 2011 captured my imagination: was it true that bike saddle design was damaging the delicate parts of dedicated riders? Was there some secret to weight distribution and anatomy that I was missing out on? I kicked the idea around to some friends, who largely dismissed it was a nerdy old man fad, made obsolete by modern bike saddles that have a cut out center. But by then, it was already known that I was interested in the subject and I’d gotten a few other articles, including a recent scientific paper claiming that women (!) who spent a lot of time riding were losing sensation in their lady parts over time. This additionally perplexed me as my general advice to women beginning to ride seriously is to spend a solid 2 weeks in moderate pain while your body ‘adjusts.’ While the science remains foggy, I thought I’d reach out to noseless saddle companies and figure it out through actually installing them on bikes and riding them around in the real world. I also knew I was going to be laughed at by the 20-30 year old bike messengers, long time commuters and other riders that I encountered everyday living in Brooklyn. So I enlisted help; Lance Mercado, professional bike builder and well respected tough guy. I knew he’d be kind enough to humor me in my adventures and has a basement full of tools, bikes and a first aid kit. Nose less saddle products It was tough to track these things down: I largely followed the NYT article and found a few ‘directory/blog’ sites. When they had all arrived we started installing them on bikes.

Nose less saddles

First up:

NexRide pivoting noseless saddle.

Next saddle

It might not have been a good idea to start off the the strangest of the bunch, but the designer seemed to understand our trepidation: package the saddle shipped in included a note that said we should ride it a dozen times before making the decision of liking it or not. Ok, fair enough. 12 though? Installing the seat was the most fun we had. It was stapled together and looked very DIY in construction. I worried the nice man I talked to was making these in his garage or something. Worse (or better) we saw where the hardware design had gone through a few iterations to avoid certain genital doom and had a good laugh over the neoprene sleeve that covers up the two rails that attach it to the seat post. But how does it ride? First: most of the reviews I’ve seen are by (let’s be honest) middle aged or older men on relaxed commuter or recumbent bikes. We set ours up on a fixed gear street bike and did errands around Brooklyn. As much as we tried, it seemed like a distraction and was never comfortable – or an improvement over one of our regular saddles. It kinda bummed me out because I didn’t want to say anything bad about the product, but on the other hand, we couldn’t find anything good about it either. Next:


Spider flex

Spider flex detail

Spiderflex had us in stitches over the “spider” on the back and the web printed on the seat. Spiderman jokes aside, we began riding around on it. The construction quality of the saddle is high and we had no problems setting it up or getting going. Pretty soon it was clear what this seat is: a pretty good alternative for people who would usually ride cruiser saddles. We joked our little butts weren’t big enough for the SpiderFlex, which seems funny when you look at it for the first time and wonder how it’s going to work. I’d describe the ride as “cushy.” Out of all the ones we tested it seemed the most stable and easiest to acclimate to. In part because getting used to many of these saddles calls a lot of things into question: how to sit on them so you don’t fall off – or at least feel like you might.


German sport option

From Italy (so you know it’s good) the un-saddle was our favorite for testing because 1) it looks like a heart. 2) the construction of it looks like a regular saddle, just sculpted into a heart shape that happens to exclude the offensive “nose” section of the saddle. Why isn’t the detail color pink or red? Anyway, this one was comfortable, but completely changed the position that I was used to cycling in and made sprinting and other urban riding maneuvers basically impossible. If you have a reason for seeking out something that will avoid touching your undercarriage and you’re looking for something to go on long rides along a bike path at a comfortable pace, it makes sense. Their customer service was extremely responsive, but kept contacting me with other products and the rep wasn’t completely fluent in English.


Hobson’s is clearly onto something… In the middle of our experiments I noticed a few bikes in the wilds of Manhattan, that had the look of refined everyday usage: older steel frame, quality parts stripped to the essentials of urban riding. In other words, by just looking at the bike it’s clear that their owners ride a lot and know a lot about putting a bike together. The first one I came across was an ‘adamo‘ (not tested here) with some girly detailing. I scratched my head and thought it unusual. The next one I came across in Chelsea and looked up to see a very large (man’s) bike that was clearly an everyday workhorse… with the Hobson’s saddle on it.

Hobson's Easy Seat II

Hobson’s Easy Seat II

Then, while working at Hudson Urban Bicycles in the West Village, I discovered that Marilyn (a dedicated Times Up! cyclist and volunteer) was desperately looking to replace her old Hobson’s saddle in time to go on an epic bike tour of Ireland. After being unable to find one anywhere and discovering that I had … this …project… that I was doing, she came to the shop and asked me if there was anyway she could buy it in time for her trip. And I was curious to talk to someone (a woman no less!) who rides (a lot!) and has good things to say about these saddles in general and the Hobson’s ‘easy seat’ saddle in particular.

 Hobson Marilyn

She mostly echoed what everyone says: that pressure on delicates is bad – for men and women – and that she simply found it more comfortable and didn’t care if anyone thought it strange or funny looking. What she did bring up that I hadn’t heard before are the myriad number of medical issues that can suddenly make our delicate parts excruciatingly sensitive; anything from hemorroids to childbirth, surgery, etc. Then it’s less preference and more necessity. Hobson’s sent us two noseless saddles: the regular one that Marilyn loves and another “sport” version (The Pro-HubX2) that has something that begins to look like a nose and somewhat resembles the adamo design, but wider. With the sport version, I felt like it was similar enough to a regular saddle that I felt comfortable riding it, but it appeared to be of a low quality construction judging by the rails and simplicity of the saddles geometry. I was beginning to be less confused by the myriad ways that all these saddles approached the same problem: don’t touch the goods! But still not personally excited to ride a particular one.

Pro hub x2 front view

Pro hub x2

In the piles of sample saddles that we got, Hobson’s included the SQ-Lab 611 ‘Active’ (there’s also a ‘race’ version) Saddle. It came with just as many 3D renderings of sit bones and lots of illustrations of anatomy that reminded me of 8th grade science class. Worse it had all the ‘gimicks’ that I didn’t like about other noseless saddles. Though the 611 ‘Active’ is a traditional saddle, it was designed by “Dr. Stefan Staudte, Urologist & Extrembiker.” It pivots. It included a bag of what looked like multi-colored marshmallows for comfort/performance variations in flex. I ignored it for a year until in a crisis, I needed a saddle to go on a last minute bike camping trip. While I was hoping to be surprised by the noseless saddles, this one knocked my socks off. I love it. Seriously, I can’t live without it. It subtly reinforces good positioning, is incredibly light, comfortable and feels like it was crafted to MY anatomy. I also don’t worry about it looking too expensive/nice to ride it on my everyday bike (that gets a lot of miles) and appreciate that it looks like an everyday saddle, while riding like a super comfortable performance saddle.

I love a happy ending!



An update: The big boys get into the game.

Since all this time has past, it appears that larger manufacturers have gotten into the noseless saddle game. Namely fizik, with the 2014 Tritone.


Is it possible that this means that the market has become established enough for the big players to get involved? The difference in the new fizik and the adamo saddles is that they still seem designed for (potentially) aggressive or long duration rides, and with a specific market focus on Triathalon, whereas many of the saddles we tested are designed for recreational riders.




Specialized is not so quietly prototyping noseless saddles at a Tour De France time trial and a high profile triathalon during 2013.


These are the noseless saddles that I’m interested in riding. There’s also the variation in manufacturing sophistication and quality, which is pretty evident. In the end the conversation that I kept getting back to is understanding the needs of the non-competitive older recreational rider. And as much as that’s a worthwhile group of people to get happy about riding bikes, it’s not me or my direct peers. My apologies if I have been unable to properly evaluate these saddles for their intended benefit. My goal was to be an “average” enthusiastic cyclist and to debunk some of the mystery surrounding these products.

Win free tix (worth $40+ each!) & even a free ride out to the velodrome w/ Orange 20!
Hit us up on twitter @orange20bikes or facebook to win!
For the first time in four decades, international professional 6-day cyclists will again thrill American arena crowds when they take to the boards at the inaugural Hollywood Championship Cycling (HCC) event October 11 – 13, 2013 at the AEG Facilities owned and operated Velo Sports Center located at the StubHub Center in Carson, CA. The event marks the US return of one of cycling’s oldest and most exciting styles of racing and features 15 two-man corporate sponsored teams, representing countries and cities, competing in a variety of spectator oriented races over three days. High speeds, thrills, and one hell of party not to be missed.

Get your camping gear & picnic baskets! Hang out like it’s the 1800’s with speed suits!

facebook event details

18400 Avalon Boulevard,
Carson, California 90746
tickets here
& the old school 6 day races. A packed house.












+originally published at Orange20Bikes.com


A few weeks ago I was in Las Vegas for Interbike, focused on the mass commercialization of bicycling (meh) and spent last week in New Orleans ( <3 NOLA!) for bike!bike! the indie non-conference mainly focused on bike co-ops. Next month I’ll be in the bay area for the CalBike summit. I’ve just finished giving 7 (!!) talks on things from working with non-profits, city agencies and community outreach to branding, bike trains, illegal activist art and getting more women on bikes. In other words, it’s been exhausting, rewarding and revolutionary.

And I want to share it with you!

So please be patient (and encouraging!) while I bring all these things together, collect images and links. If you’ve got a few dollars, donate me some coffee (or better yet – New Orleans DAIQUIRI) dollars.

Here’s what’s coming up:


  • Guerrilla Bike Art: History & Techniques
  • Supporting Cities to Support Cycling
  • Bike Trains & Bike Caravans in “Car Orientated Cities”
  • The Real Secret to Getting Women on Bikes



September 30, 2013


by Carolyn Szczepanski

As part of our Women on a Roll series last week, we showcased the importance of confidence in getting more women on bikes. In our live webcast, we delved into the impact and influence of educational outreach — providing relevant and welcoming classes and programs that provide women the skills and self-assurance to ride (and wrench!).

But confidence extends beyond the classroom, co-op or the bike shop.

Out in Los Angeles, Nona Varnado is “conducting” a different kind of outreach to encourage hesitant riders to give biking a try.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to catch up with Varnado at Interbike — but she’s certainly not new to the scene. She’s been focused on increasing the number of women on bikes through her fashion line, mentorship, and advocacy for years. Immediately, two of her (new) projects stood out to me as particularly innovative and promising when it comes to increasing confidence and community among women: LA Bike Trains and an art gallery focused on cycling.

In this Women Bike Q&A, Varnado shares some insight on how she’s helping to drive the exciting bike scene in the City of Angeles.

1) You fairly recently moved across the country from New York City to Los Angeles — what was that transition like and how would you describe the bike community in LA? 

Even before I set foot in Los Angeles, I was given a call by a fantastic community organizer named Patrick Miller who spent two hours on the phone with a stranger telling me how supportive the local political scene is (coming from the NYC cycling advocacy world I was immediately jealous); that biking in LA was all about big, non-competitive rides based around creative themes; that there are bike co-ops all over the city and the most interesting groups and personalities are headed by women. He then took me on my first Passage Ride, re-introduced me to TJ Flexer at Orange 20 Bikes and several leaders of the LA bike community.

It’s only in the past few years that women have started to equalize or exceed men in advocacy or planning. But in LA you see the Ovarian Psychos, The Bodacious Bike Babes (BBB!) in the community, Ma Bell holding it down at the Bike Kitchen and an overwhelmingly female staff at the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. It creates a different kind of atmosphere that’s more social, welcoming and complex. We all have our place and there’s plenty of space for everyone. Which is not to say there isn’t the usual bike drama. That totally happens. But more relaxed.

2) One really exciting project you’ve launched is LA Bike Trains. Tell us a little bit more about that. What is it and how did it get started?

When I moved to LA I discovered a whole new social bike ride culture. Giant or small groups that would meet up around a theme, usually at night, and ride as a moving party. I had heard of Midnight Ridazz, but it seemed very strange to me that people, even within the city, would drive their bikes to a mellow ride and then drive home. In New York City, and other places I’ve lived in, riding a bike in a city is pure transportation (or sport), so I recognized that as a key cultural difference. At the same time, I almost became a car person because riding around LA seemed so terrifying. I realized that there’s a complicated series of things that a potential bike commuter/city cyclist has to learn in order to ride safely (or at least confidently) and the only way to do that is to ride and learn from other people who have that knowledge and experience. Google maps might help, but only if you’re already there in terms of experience.

From my friendship with Kim Burgas who runs bike trains in NYC, I realized the combination of social rides for transportation could be a serious game changer for a place like Los Angeles. I saw what has traditionally been small friend/co-worker groups as a scalable transportation model that can be flexible enough even for the complexity of a megalopolis. I’m usually opposed to phrases that have become popular business jargon, but in this case it’s completely appropriate: empowering a huge number of people too afraid or uncomfortable to bike, even occasionally, is something that can show the world that sprawl is not something that we as a society have to turn our backs on. And if Los Angeles can do it – anyone – at any time can do it. So far the response has been fantastic. People were waiting for something like this. We’re currently 10+ routes and looking to find a way to raise money in order to expand.

3) You’ve gotten a lot of press and interest even in the first few months of the Bike Trains — what have been been some of the challenges and successes?The biggest challenge has been being turned down for fiscal sponsorship. I’ve put in a year of work and it’s emotionally hard to pack it in and keep going without support or a financial path forward. Everything costs money. The success and reward comes constantly from working with a team of volunteers who are the best and brightest in the cycling advocacy community, continually impressing me with their creativity and generosity.

We’ve become a team that several organizations look to in order to advance policy, outreach and community development in just a few months. When one of our conductors got harassed by an uninformed highway patrol officer, it became such a viral issue that we could bring the LAPD into conversation. That’s amazing. On an individual level the conductors all agree that it’s the direct impact we have on specific individuals. For example: When you see someone go from barely able to ride through an intersection without freaking out, to showing up with a brand new bike and telling you about how they ride to work even when there isn’t a bike train. We’ve had conductors fix up bikes, help riders get into better shape, get people educated about bikes and local resources and begin to develop a whole new demographic of confident, happy bike commuters.

A lot of our riders are people that the rest of the bike industry doesn’t want to address: adults who don’t race, don’t understand anything about bikes, don’t identify themselves as cyclists and don’t yet understand why a bike should cost more than $150. By the time they’ve participated even just two times most people start to get it. Our biggest supporter is Orange 20 Bikes, an independent shop in East Hollywood that’s very mission aligned with LA Bike Trains. They’ve supported us financially, provided logistical support as well as being the first shop to offer a package deal for LA Bike Trains. The goal with that is to help get people on a quality geared road bike with a helmet, lock and all the support of a local bike shop for an affordable price. We’d like to work through as many barriers to participation as we possibly can.

4) Your not just a conductor, but also a curator too. Why did you create R5Y7?

I have been producing a line of women’s urban cycling apparel since 2008 and struggled with connecting to potential customers. I saw that two things were necessary: We need more women riding everyday and I need to be able to interact with the public in an open environment where conversations can happen organically. No woman is going to buy pants on the internet unless the return policy is as free, easy and well known as Zappos. A small brand can’t afford to do that, so you’ve got to be in a spot where people can find their way to you, touch things, try them on and give feedback.

In working on problem #1 (not enough women riding bikes everyday), I saw that the ‘retail’ solution would also be an excellent advocacy tool. No one really knows how to effectively bring in non-cyclist to talk about bikes. But what if we had a really awesome gallery that just happened to revolve around bikes, able to frame the conversation to the art/design community or education and entertainment demographics? R5Y7 is an experimental lab: We can see what works — and what doesn’t. We’ve found new ways to engage a sleepy and disparate local network with informative lifestyle workshops. The gallery installations appeal to other media outlets and visitors. The ability to do fancy product launches for a fraction of the expected cost means more sexy bike brands can access the LA market – and that LA will respond by showing up and doing what other cities have:make cycling desirable.

I love being able to go back to my roots as an artist through curating shows. The workshops are immediately gratifying and much easier, but there’s a transformative power that objects have. It gets boring talking all the time. Visual experiences are key.There’s also the constant sense that it’s impossible and just when I’m afraid that I may have gone too far people respond to artist calls, journalists show up to parties and people some times even buy things. It’s wild.

5) How do you think the Bike Trains and R5Y7 tie into your overarching goal with The Bird Wheel — to create a more welcoming bike culture for women?

I think the most important part of reaching out to women is to do so from an authentic and creative voice that acknowledges that things aren’t perfect. But that imperfection, exploration, trying things out is inherently interesting and rewarding. LA Bike Trains is partially a tool for someone to have a non judgemental guide help become knowledgeable without embarrassment (a process many women feel more comfortable with) as much as it is a breakfast club. R5Y7 is similar: We try to provide interesting or beautiful experiences without requiring anything more than showing up – but if it resonates than it can become a lifelong interest or passion.

The Bird Wheel was always intended to bring a female perspective to a wide range of timely subjects. At the same time I try to be transparent that I’m not unbiased. The most rewarding experience that I remember having from writing The Bird Wheel is when the amazing Laura Solis biked from the Bronx to an event I held in Brooklyn (and on a workday!) to thank me for introducing her to all the amazing advocacy and culture groups she’s at the forefront of… through reading the blog. I never knew!

Bookmark The Bird Wheel to stay up-to-date with all of Varnado’s efforts.

There’s been a few neat women’s bike shoes, but in general they’ve been men’s shoes in a smaller size/unisex and …very casual. So you can imagine how my little heart skipped a beat when I saw that London shoe designer Tracy Neuls (known for her delightful heels – shoes that are at once whimsical, practical, comfortable and gorgeous) had done a collaboration with TokyoBike.


1240558_570909972944220_499807769_n dezeen_tracey-neuls_tokyobike_GEEK_black dezeen_tracey-neuls_tokyobike_GEEK_camel dezeen_tracey-neuls_tokyo-bike_ss_1

And you know what’s real: you’ll need a black pair, a light neutral pair, maybe gray and if you like to stand out, the obvious accent color is red. No stupid patterns, trendy one season colors or cheap materials. Oh, and the reflective aspect is thoughtful. Gush.


+Spotted at de zeen