Dave Sohigian

14Apr/080

Google Transit Widget on Netvibes

I made a Google Transit widget a while back on iGoogle. This weekend I ported it to Netvibes:

The nice thing about this widget is that you set it up for your town (if Google Transit is supported there) and then it defaults to that city for searches. You can also set the default start or end addresses to give faster results. And it includes "by bike" directions for both Portland, OR and Milwaukee, WI (that is why I made the thing to begin with).

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3Jul/070

Uncool: My Bike

There are lots of cool bikes here in Portland. For example, this one that I saw locked up in town:

What is so cool about this bike? First off it is very sleek and simple: no gears, fixed wheel, leather saddle, and no brakes (it is a track bike that you slow down by slowing your pace on the pedals). The only real safety feature on the thing is the pad around the top tube that would supposedly save your nuts if you had to dismount quickly. Even the U-lock is cool: it is super strong and small enough to fit in your back pocket. The cool factor here is speed and simplicity and the folks this appeals to is the bike messenger crowd.
Another cool bike is this high end recreational bike:

It's got all the cool gadgets: carbon fiber frame, clips, bike computer and top-end components. It is cool mainly because it is expensive and high performance. It appeals to the spandex-wearing week-end biker type.
And finally there is the tall-bike, which is cool because it is home-made and totally funky:

This is not so much a form of transportation as a statement about alternative living. The crowd this appeals to is the bike clown and DIY biker.
I honestly find all three of these categories of bikes to be very cool. I also like the classic European "Dutch bikes" that are so beautiful. But although I admire and appreciate these cool bikes, my bike misses cool on pretty much every front. For example, it is an old Raleigh ten-speed, but it can't really be considered a "classic" because, well, it's not.

Next, note the brakes, which are the old style caliper brakes, definitely not in the cool class (since fixed gear bikes don't need brakes and high-end bikes have disc brakes):

Then there is the pedals which plain old metal pedals (no toe-clips or clip-ins) and the kickstand, both of which are definitely NOT hip. The kickstand in particular will get stares that convey "what, you don't know how to lean your bike against something?" from the bike messenger crowd:

Next are the gears: 10 of them, and the five on back are rather grimy. Fixed gear aficionados will tell you that only one is needed:

The seat is a comfy gel saddle, and below it is adapter for the kid-friendly Adams Trail-a-bike. Both make my life easier, but definitely don't evoke any comments about my "nice ride":

I should put my U-lock hanging through my bike rack, but I took the route of using the holder that came with the lock. Convenient, but not very creative:

The one thing that comes a little closer to cool is the bell on the handle-bars. Most folks from all backgrounds consider a bike bell to be not only charming but a valuable safety feature that helps keep pedestrians and cyclists on speaking terms. But, of course, I had to ruin the effect by putting some duct-tape on the thing to keep the screws from biting into my fingers. The crumbling old rubber on the hand brake also detracts from the overall "look and feel":

There are a few things I put together myself for my bike, and you might think that they would impress the DIY crowd, but unfortunately I fear that is not the case. The first is a little laminated map that shows downtown Portland's bike safe streets and attaches with velcro to my handle-bars. Useful for me, but pretty dorky overall:

I do have a rear bike rack, which could be considered cool, depending on what I use it for (the style of rack I got won't hold my U-lock). I could have some fancy waterproof panniers or one of those milk crates strapped to the top with a bungie cord: both of those options would definitely be considered cool by someone. I opted to convert a kitty litter bucket into a side-pannier. Waterproof and cheap, but absolutely no style points (I did not even bother removing the kitty litter labels).

So there you have it: my uncool bike. Don't get me wrong, I really do respect the bike messenger types and their style, it's just I realize I am too practical for that at this point in my life. And I can't fathom the idea of spending $4000 on a bike that could just get stolen whenever I park it downtown. So I live with being the practical cyclist. It could be worse: I could be driving a car instead (WAY Uncool.).
BTW, I do plan on cleaning my bike up a bit soon; I mean, I may not wear the most stylish clothes but at least I wash them from time to time.