One Earth Film Festival Action Items

To supplement our participation as partners in the 2019 One Earth Film Festival screenings of the documentary Why We Cycle, we’ve posted a public list of our action items. This is a list of actions that any individual in the Chicagoland area can take to make a positive impact in their communities regarding bicycling, bike safety, and infrastructure.

Sign up for a Divvy membership

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Become a member or donate to bike advocacy non-profit organizations

Attend community meetings such as MBAC (Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council)

Join bike-related social media groups

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Read and support Streetsblog Chicago

Familiarize yourself with a City of Chicago bike map

Volunteer at, take a class, get involved with, or donate to a local not-for-profit bike shop

Use the mobile app Transit for navigation via public transit, biking and Divvy

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Spread the word about the Dutch reach

https://www.dutchreach.org/

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Support your local bike shops

  • Investment in your community (jobs and relationships)
  • Have a dependable institution to rely on for service

And lastly…

Tell your family, friends, your book club, your religious or secular community, or your coworkers about Why We Cycle and One Earth Film Festival; in other words, start a conversation about practical bicycling! Even better: make a commitment to bike a certain amount each week (1 day per week, 2, 3, 4 days per week, one weekend day, etc) and make an accountability group to track your progress.

Now Hiring – Experienced Bike Mechanic

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Now Hiring – Experienced Bike Mechanic or 2!

We are looking to add a new member to our crew here at The Shop. You will be responsible for bicycle assembly, repair/service along with working on the sales floor.

We have been Chicago’s Dutch city and cargo bike shop for over 10 years. We are focused on growing the concept of treating bikes as utility vehicles rather than recreational toys.

2+ years of bike shop mechanic experience required. Experience with internally geared hubs is desirable. We offer a diverse range of bicycles, including cargo trikes, requiring a diverse set of knowledge and skills and the ability to come up with creative solutions.

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Part time positions available with potential to grow into full time roll. We offer competitive wages, opportunity for year round employment and paid time off. If you are interested in growing with us and being part of something different and exciting come check out this opportunity.

If you’re interested in applying, please call or text (312) 643-1670 or send us an email on our contact page.

 

On This Day in 2008…

 

Guess what?! We just turned 10 today! Yep, on January 24, 2008 I imported our first two Dutch bikes to Chicago. Flying home with them as checked luggage on a flight from Amsterdam.

When I flew to Amsterdam my plan was to formalize the business relationship with my supplier, De Fietsfabriek, and to place an order for an initial shipment of bikes. With little convincing needed they talked me into taking a few bikes home with me on my return flight.

My initial thought was yikes these bikes are big and heavy, how the heck is that going to be possible. Especially when one of the bikes was a two wheel Bakfiets cargo bike that is over 8 feet long. The idea seemed pretty crazy, but so was walking away from a steady paycheck to start selling Dutch bikes in Chicago so clearly I was up for it.

The afternoon before the flight, I visited the De Fietsfabriek assembly warehouse to check in on the bikes. I wanted to see how they were packed to get an idea of dimensions and also get a sense of how I was going to lug them around to and from the airports.

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Then that night I called United Airlines to get their two cents on the matter. I actually called United three different times that night and got three completely different replies ranging from ‘no way no how’ to ‘yes, but for a reasonable fee’ to ‘yes, and the fee is really expensive’.

So I set out for the airport the next morning prepared to accept whatever fate was dealt to me when I got there. One of the owners from De Fietsfabriek gave me a lift to the airport with their van and helped with getting the bikes into the terminal.

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I arrived three hours early for my flight. Before I could get up to the counter my phone rang and it was an automated call from United informing me that the flight was cancelled. The flight pattern at the time was Denver to Chicago to Amsterdam and the plane never left Denver due to a mechanical issue.

My reaction was surprisingly calm. It was the first time I’d ever had a flight cancelled so I didn’t know what normally happens next. In my mind I figured I’d simply have to find a way to get picked up with the bikes and then come back tomorrow to try it once again.

When I got to the counter they said not to worry, that I was being booked on another flight that will get me to Chicago connecting via Washington D.C. I knew right away that was not going to work. I didn’t even know yet if they would load the bikes onto the flight from Amsterdam. And I was pretty certain the chances of the bikes getting offloaded in DC and then loaded onto a smaller plane for the last leg to Chicago were slim and none.

So I pleaded my case with them and they obliged my request for a direct flight and got me on one with KLM. My relief was short lived as the next hurdle suddenly appeared- The KLM scheduled flight time was an hour earlier than my United flight and KLM was in a different terminal.

Determined to make it. I started the shuffle, moving my luggage plus one bike up 30 feet, then going back for the second bike to move that up 30 feet then repeat… That’s when a couple of extremely sweet good Samaritans saw the rigmarole I was doing and jumped in to help me get the bikes to the KLM terminal.

The ticketing agent at KLM was super helpful and somewhat excited to hear I was bringing two of the most quintessentially Dutch souvenirs home with me. I was then directed to bring the bikes to the odd-size baggage counter. Once I got there they told me that they needed to confer with the actual folks who would be doing the loading to see if they could make it on the plane or not. I remember standing off a few feet in the background while a handful of stocky guys stood in a circle and argued back and forth in Dutch for at least a minute or two about the bikes.

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This was the moment of truth. My mind was racing as I stood there trying to figure out what I was going to do if they said no. I’d certainly miss my flight and have to find a cargo carrier to package and transport the bikes which I figured was going to cost more than the bikes themselves. Just then, one of the guys arguing threw his hands up and then down to his side and accepted defeat and walked away and another one of them walked up to me and said they would take them.

Both confused and incredibly relieved I then went back to the odd-size baggage counter to pay the extra baggage fees. I think it was around 140 Euro per bike which felt like a bargain after everything I had been through up to that point.

The fun wasn’t over yet, I still had a flight to catch! I headed directly to my gate. I don’t recall if it’s always this way at Schiphol Airport, but I remember that day the set up was such that you get checked into your flight at the gate and then wait in a little holding area next to the door to the jetway prior to boarding the plane.

After checking in at the gate I put my headphones on and tried my best to relax while looking out the window to see if I could catch a glimpse of the bikes being loaded onto the plane. We were there for a good 30 minutes or more in this holding area and just barely over the sound of the music in my ears I hear my name being called out over the intercom with a request to come to the counter at the gate.

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I was defeated. I walked up to the counter fully expecting them to tell me that after all they would not be able to get the bikes on the plane. Not so. Apparently, for whatever reason, my boarding pass didn’t register correctly when I was checked in at the gate so they didn’t have me in their system and they were paging me thinking I was at the bar and about to miss the flight. She told me I was lucky I got to them when I did as they were 5 minutes away from offloading my luggage!

Successfully checked-in to the flight and the bikes presumably loaded as well I boarded the plane for a smooth flight home. Upon arrival at O’Hare Airport in Chicago I collected my odd-size baggage and got everything home in a cargo van that one of my friends rented to pick me up.

This is why anytime I’m asked if you can fly to Holland and bring a bike home I answer- yes you most certainly can. But, if you want someone to take out all the drama and unknowns, you can get your Dutch bike from us.

The end.

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Now Hiring – Experienced Bike Mechanic

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Now Hiring – Experienced Bike Mechanic

We are looking to add a new member to our crew here at The Shop. You will be responsible for bicycle assembly, repair/service along with sales and marketing assistance.

We are Chicago’s Dutch city and cargo bike shop specializing in promoting the European culture of treating bikes as utility vehicles rather than recreational toys. We are looking for someone who is interested in growing with us and being part of something different and exciting.

2+ years of bike shop mechanic experience required. Experience with internally geared hubs is desirable. We offer a diverse range of bicycles, including cargo trikes, requiring a diverse set of knowledge and skills and the ability to come up with creative solutions.

We are looking for someone who is available to start on a part-time basis with potential for full-time in season work. Competitive wages are offered.

If you’re interested, please contact us.

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Putting the Tour in Tour Populair

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This past Spring we sold a pair of Gazelle Tour Populair bikes to Bill and his wife Mary. I remember Bill mentioning that they intended to do some touring with their Dutch bikes. I thought the idea was rad, albeit a little unconventional since these bikes are more ideally suited for short trips in flat cities.

I’ve never done any bike touring myself, although I love hearing from people about their bike travels and reading about them online (like this one, which I discovered from a recent TwoTone Amsterdam newsletter). So my lack of experience with bike touring has nothing to do with a lack of interest, quite the opposite. I would just chalk it up on the long list of things I’d do if I wasn’t busy running The Shop during the nice weather months.

So I was pretty excited when I received an email the other day from Bill with pictures from their recently completed bike tour on their Tour Populair bikes. I was intrigued to learn more about their trip and asked Bill a few questions and he was kind enough to oblige and let me share their story here on our blog. So here goes…

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Jon: We normally sell the Tour Populair as an in town city transport bike. What
made you decide to actually tour on a Tour Populair?

Bill: Always wanted to do a multi-day tour and with the comfort and easy riding of the Tour Populair I thought it would be doable as long as we did a bike trail and not normal traffic roads. We also chose the bikes because my wife has had some back and shoulder issues and this is really the first bike she has ridden that was comfortable. She wanted a recumbent bike but I didn’t like the idea of transporting that type of bike and the longer profile on the road to me seemed like a safety issue with car traffic. Also the recumbent bikes are a lot more expensive and really aren’t any better quality.

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Jon: How did the bikes perform based on what you were expecting going into the
trip?

Bill: The bikes preformed great as long as you understand that you are not riding a fast bike, just a very comfortable bike. With bike trails made from old railroad routes we have the benefit of normally not having much in the way of hills. Obviously Holland is very flat and the bikes perform best staying away from the hills. Being on a multi-day tour is not a training ride and accepting that we wanted to enjoy the trip and not cover a lot of miles each day is really important. Another advantage to this type of bike was that adding weight for items you need to take is not as much of an issue as with a lighter bike. Many normal bikes loaded with gear become un-stable and difficult to stop and handle, with the Tour Populair we did not experience any of this, the difference in riding the bike with 25 additional pounds on it is really not that noticeable. 

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Jon: What trail or trails did you ride on?

Bill: We rode the GAP Trail, (Greater Allegheny Passage) from Pittsburgh, PA to Cumberland, MD The trail length is 150 miles which we did over a five day, four night period. We took our bikes from South Bend, IN to Pittsburgh on Amtrak and then returned from Cumberland to South Bend on Amtrak. It was a great way to go and bikes were $20 each / each way. Our longest day was 35 miles, shortest was 26 miles. Riding South from Pittsburgh the trail is up-hill until the Eastern Continental Divide, making the last 24 miles down-hill. The up-hill was a bit taxing but it is gradual, not more than a 2% grade but it is continual so we took lots of stops and there is a lot to stop and look at on the route. Most days we started between 9:00 and 10:00 and arrived at our B&B or Hotel by 3:00 to 4:00. Lots of miles of 6-8 mph. You could ride the route the other direction but then the first day is all up-hill at a much steeper incline that what we rode. Our last day was very little up-hill and 24 miles of coasting!

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Jon: How much gear did you have with you and how did you carry it?

Bill: We carried clothes, snacks, personal items and some tools for the bikes which we never had to use. We both had Ortlieb Ultimate6 S Classic front bags. We used one pair of Ortlieb Sport-Packer Plus panniers that are normally a small front bag, these went on my wife’s bike. I used a pair of Ortlieb Bike-Packer Plus panniers on my bike. We had plenty of room for everything we needed and the bags were great both on the bike and as luggage on the train ride. Although we didn’t see any bikes like ours being used on the trail we did see plenty of Ortlieb bags in use, by far it was the most popular brand we saw.

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Interested in doing a similar trip? Here is a website (http://www.bikecando.com/) that Bill found to be extremely useful when they were planning theirs. It has a lot of information on both the GAP Trail (Greater Allegheny Passage) as well as the C&O Canal Towpath trail which heads east all the way to Washington D.C.

Many thanks to Bill and Mary for sharing their adventure. You’ve certainly gotten me to look at the Gazelle Tour Populair in a whole new light.

Happy trails!

-Jon

Photo Credits: Bill (all photos except map which is from gaptrail.org)

Amsterdam Diaries Part 10- TwoTone Amsterdam Visit

Friday December 16, 2016 Continued

One of the first appointments I locked down for this trip was to meet up with Jon Woodroof. Jon is the founder of TwoTone Amsterdam, a consulting/PR agency that does work with innovative start ups including many companies in the cycling industry. They also happen to have a really entertaining newsletter that I always find to be a worthy read. For a quick intro to Jon, check out this recent interview of him from Amsterdam based startup Headroom.

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A peek inside the Twotone Amsterdam space

Flashback to September 2010…

I first met Jon back in 2010 when he was visiting Chicago from Atlanta with his wife and their son and they rented a Bakfiets from us (disclaimer- we no longer offer rentals at The Shop). It was really great meeting them and Jon was super into what we were doing importing Dutch bikes to the U.S. as he had previously ran a bike shop of his own in Atlanta.

Chicago Trip, write up coming soon

photo credit – Jon Woodroof

Chicago Trip, write up coming soon

photo credit – Jon Woodroof

For more sweet pics of their time in Chicago including some early days shots of The Shop, check out Jon’s flickr photo album.

We stayed in contact for a while through social media and I remember seeing pictures online of his wife’s bike; a first generation Civia Loring (a bike we used to sell and one that deserves it’s own post on our blog as it was such a beautifully crafted city bike).

Fast forward to September 2015…

While on another one of my trips visiting Amsterdam and what do I see in the service shop at Workcycles… a Civia Loring.

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The Civia Loring all Dutchified with Clarijs panniers, child back rest and a Bobike mini child seat mount.

Seeing a U.S. bike brand like Civia in Holland certainly got my attention but that alone wasn’t enough to make the connection it was Jon’s wife’s bike. Then later that same day while getting a quick demo of Workcycles’ point of sale software, I noticed the name Woodroof in their work order queue and quickly put two and two together.

I was excited to learn that Jon and his family had made the move from the US to Amsterdam. I then joined Jon’s TwoTone Amsterdam newsletter and made a mental note to try and connect with him on a future trip. Which brings me to my visit today with Jon.

Fast forward to now (December 2016)… 

After spending some of my afternoon with Henry Cutler at Workcycles, I made the hop skip and a jump bike ride over to TwoTone’s work space.

I booked my meet up with Jon for Friday afternoon with the intention we could have a beer together heading into the weekend. But we were both completely zapped from a long week so the happy hour idea never got off the ground.

It was a really nice time catching up and hearing how he is pulling off the dream of settling down in Amsterdam with his wife and raising their kids. As someone who loves bikes as much as Jon does, he sure has found himself in no better place on earth to live out his cycling passions on a daily basis both professionally and personally. I often think about pulling up stakes and making Amsterdam home again someday and it’s super encouraging to hear from people who make it happen.

It was also cool sharing with Jon what The Shop has been up to lately and what I have in mind for the years ahead. If I could draw one parallel between us, aside from both being no ‘h’er Jon’s, I would say it’s the passion we put into what we do and how much of that is derived from the partners (in his case clients, in our case suppliers) we choose to support and represent.

Speaking of, we will be representing TwoTone Amsterdam here at The Shop with a nice supply of their sweet TwoTone Amsterdam x VERA bike caps.

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We have a small shipment of these fresh lids on order. Stay tuned to the blog for updates on their imminent arrival.

Thank you Jon for taking the time to meet up. We will leave that beer for next time!

Well that’s all folks! I appreciate you taking the time to join me on this ride. This was undoubtedly my most productive trip back to Holland. It was fantastic to learn more about this little corner of the bike industry that we are a part of and see for my own eyes how many of our suppliers do what they do. I am heading home to Chicago with my passion for everything Dutch bikes fully stoked and more excited than ever for the future of The Shop.

Until next time Amsterdam.

-Jon

Amsterdam Diaries Part 9- Coffee With Pete Jordan

Friday December 16, 2016   

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Back when I was making out the schedule for this trip, my strategy was to get the supplier visits locked down first and then leave some open room for meeting other relevant, interesting people. High on my list of people I wanted to meet was Pete Jordan.

Pete Jordan is an American who has lived in Amsterdam since 2002. He is also the author of the book ‘In The City Of Bikes: The Story Of The Amsterdam Cyclist’. This book first came to my attention from a customer’s recommendation a few years ago. It is hands down the most entertaining and informative book I’ve ever read about Dutch bikes and the history of biking in Amsterdam. If you are into Dutch bikes, this is must read stuff here.

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I’ve read Pete’s book cover to cover twice now and I often go back to reference specific sections like Chapter 6 where he highlights the key factors that have lead to the Dutch obsession with bikes and how it contrasts with the United States’ obsession with cars. I dwell on this section of the book a lot as someone who dreams of cities like Chicago someday resembling Amsterdam with a constant stream of bikes up and down every street. This chapter is a bit of a double edged sword; it’s inspiring for me to read about the Dutch biking culture but equally depressing reading about how historically ingrained the car culture is in the US.

When I first finished his book, I was inspired to meet Pete someday. I really wanted to meet this fellow American expat who moved to Amsterdam and was as nuts about Dutch bikes as I was. Our lives followed similar trajectories up until a point; that point being when I decided to move back and sell Dutch bikes. Pete on the other hand decided to stay and make Amsterdam his permanent home.

I reached out to Pete a few months before my trip to try and arrange a meet up. I was really excited when I heard back that he was available and up for it. After I got to Holland we settled on a place and time and met for a coffee at de Wasserette (Dutch for The Laundry) in De Pijp neighborhood of Amsterdam.

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This cafe provided the backdrop of our conversation

We hung out for about an hour and had some great conversation. It was really cool and kind of strange, having read his book I felt like I knew him already and was catching up with an old friend. Pete is an easygoing and friendly guy, it certainly helped that we have such a strong commonality in our passion for all things Dutch bikes.

In addition to being an accomplished author, Pete also happens to be a talented photographer. I picked Pete’s brain about how to capture and share the experience of Dutch biking. When I come to Amsterdam on these trips this is something that I always try to do but can be really difficult. I want to make this experience available in the virtual sense to the J.C. Lind family, where they feel like they are a part of the action. I mentioned to Pete how it can be frustrating when you either can’t get your camera ready fast enough to capture a Mom biking by with 5 kids on her bike, or, right after you put your camera down the action you’ve been patiently waiting for rolls right past you. Pete made a good suggestion which is to narrow the focus of what you want to capture. So you tune your radar, turn it into a fun challenging game and only pull your camera out for that preordained theme you’ve chosen to capture; ie. people transporting their Christmas trees on their bike. For a prime example of his strategy in action, check out this post from the Workcycles blog (Beldoppen: Why Only Some People Can Be Artists) about a really cool photography project of Pete’s.

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De Lairessestraat – a highly trafficked street in the Oud-Zuid (Old South) neighborhood of Amsterdam

I took the above photo the day after I met with Pete as this particular street came up during our chat. This is De Lairessestraat, a long straight street that runs the entire length of the linear Vondelpark (Amsterdam’s iconic city park). It is an arterial street, highly trafficked by many modes of transport as you can see. It also happens to be a street that has what in Dutch terms is inferior bicycle infrastructure. Cyclists have no protections from motorized traffic and have to share a narrow space with parked cars to their right and trams/cars/buses to their left. Pete mentioned that Amsterdam’s city hall is currently discussing potential improvements to make this street safer for cyclists. Just like here in the states, they have the same NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) folks who object because they don’t want to lose their parking spots. However, Pete pointed out very casually that this being Amsterdam the city council ultimately will side with the cyclists.

It was encouraging and refreshing to hear such places exist where the local government prioritizes cycling. It hasn’t always been this way in Holland. One of the key takeaways from Pete’s book for me was that the Dutch biking culture is not something that just came naturally or without any resistance or effort, the Dutch have had to fight long and hard for it.

I recommend checking out the above YouTube of Pete’s appearance on David Letterman while he was promoting his first book ‘Dishwasher: One Man’s Quest to Wash Dishes in All 50 States’. Not only is the video hilarious but it will also give you a great introduction to Pete. I haven’t read ‘Dishwasher’ yet but I just ordered a copy and it is next up in my reading list.

We have ‘In The City Of Bikes’ in stock at The Shop and I gotta say, I get almost as much joy from selling a copy of Pete’s book as I do from selling a bike. Thank you kindly Pete for taking the time to meet with me, I hope to see you again the next time around.

The sun is starting to set on this trip, stay tuned for my final entry where I’ll wrap things up.

-Jon