MonkeyLectric Blog

*****Our Brick and Mortar Signal Boost series is meant to promote bike shops and face to face interaction in the cycling community. If you have a favorite local shop you want to help promote, let us know and we’ll reach out to them.*****


Recently we got in touch with Staci May at Earl’s Bike Shop in Bellingham Washington. She and Craig Earl have been serving the cycling community there, “Doing Whatever It Takes” to keep people rolling, since 2010. Staci was kind enough to take some time to answer our interview questions while reorganizing the entire shop for better flow and a better customer experience (pictures below).

 

Q: Your shop opened in 2010. What were you doing before that and why did you make the leap into opening a bike shop?
A: Craig was unemployed from another bike shop and wanted to stay in the area with me. I was working for the local newspaper in online advertising sales. Really, Craig’s been in bike shops forever. He found the space and I helped put together the business plan.

 

Q: Your website asks people to pick your brains for bike commuting, touring, and trail riding. What are some of your favorite rides in the area?
A: Bellingham is a great area for bike commuting.  We give all sorts of route suggestions to get around car free. Trail riding is easy, we all ride mtb and there are over 60 miles of single track right here in town. We usually ask people what kind of riding they are looking for and point them in a direction.

 

Q: What’s the cycling culture like in Bellingham? What kinds of cycling do the folks in your shop enjoy?
A: Right now in Bellingham the only type of cycling NOT happening is trials! We have an outdoor BMX track, mountain biking in town, expanding miles of bike lanes (which some are actually protected!) a great cyclocross series, some bike polo, and commuting. As far as our shop is concerned, the staff are all mountain bikers who commute as well. The customers do a little of everything. I guess we are kind of known around town as the commuter shop and we are totally stoked about that designation.

 

Q: We really like the idea of the Trade Up program you have for kids bikes. How has that been going so far? Can you give us the simple rundown for it?
A: I wish I could take total credit for that program, but I actually borrowed it from the ski industry. Over the last few years it has worked pretty well. The basic gist is that a parent can buy their child a bike that fits right now and not worry about them growing out of it and spending extra dollars for another in 6 months. Then there is a used bike for another child that is about what a “mart” bike costs but is WAY better.  It’s pretty simple. If the child outgrows the bike in 1 year they get 50% of the purchase price toward the next wheel size. If it takes 2 years it is 30% and 3 years is 20%.

 

Q: As far as cycling infrastructure in your city goes, how bike-friendly would you say the roads are currently? Is there a strong cycling advocacy culture in Bellingham?
A: We are lucky that our city is really into bike/ped infrastructure and working to make it easier to ride/walk than drive a car.  The city had a campaign not too long ago with the slogan “Ride like you drive, drive like you ride” which is how it should be. Our city council and city planners are commuters so I think that helps quite a bit.

 

Q: Your site describes your shop as a full service repair facility, and then mentions an Odd Golf Cart. What’s the story there?
A: Plenty of  retirees here in Bellingham. We have fixed golf carts and walkers!

 

Q: Washington can be pretty rainy much of the year. For the not so fair weather cyclists, do you have any favorite or essential rain gear?
A: We always suggest fenders. I have a love affair with Bar Mitts too, especially this time of year! Oh, it gets dark early here too so lights, lights, lightsMonkeylights!

 

Q: Is there is anything else you would like people to know about your shop or cycling organizations/events in or around Bellingham?
A: We do try to ride the ride. We do actually Do Whatever It Takes to keep people on bikes.  As far as the community and city, we support Whatcom Smart Trips and the Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition.  Recreation is a big part of Bellingham and we support any recreation

 

We want to thank Staci for taking time to connect and talk to us about bike life in Bellingham, which seems like a great town for cycling. If you’re in the area and looking for friendly cycling advice or service, make sure to check out Earl’s Bike Shop.


Here’s their contact information:

Earl’s Bike Shop
2827 Meridian St.
Bellingham, WA 98225
Phone 360.746.2401

Website: EarlsBicycle.com

We recently had an issue where one of our U-locks stopped working.  We asked for feedback on our Facebook page.

Here's what other cyclists recommended:

Abus Granit Plus 640

Jason and Andrew recommended the Abus U-locks. The Granit Plus 640 was specifically recommended.

Abus Bordo Granit Folding Lock

Lauryn from Asante Cycles recommended her Abus folding lock, and Dominik seconded her opinion.

TiGr Mini

The TiGr Mini is super-lightweight and made of titanium and comes recommended by Scott.

Kryptonite New York

The Kryptonite is a beefy, high-security solution that was recommended by Warren.

Litelok gold

Litelok Gold

Another lock that we're considering is the Litelok Gold.  Lightweight and easy to use.

Jerry Tremblay balancing on a bike

Jerry Tremblay during a performance. Photo by Stephan Hoyer, used with permission.

Maxime Poulin aka Jerry Tremblay is a Montreal-based performer who specializes in performing comedy and acrobatic feats on his bicycles.  Our connection to him: He rides with a Monkey Light on his custom-made bike during his shows!  He has been performing professionally as a trick-cycler for the last 7 years.  He often performs with $hantalle Taylor as Jerry Tremblay for a funny show that involves bikes, juggling, a tattoo of “Tattoo”, hula hoops, and a fluffy dog.  He was recently featured on the German show, Das Supertalent.

We asked him a few questions about his performances.  Read on to learn more.


MonkeyLectric: You’ve been performing with a bike since you were fairly young. How old were you?
Max: I’ve started trick cycling at the age of 19 during my circus formation at the National Circus School of Montréal. But, since a very young age, I’ve always been on a bike or doing other extreme sports. Because of all that background, when I started riding a bike, I’ve improved very quickly.


MonkeyLectric: Why such a unique type of performance?
Max: I would describe my performance as a piece. During my number, the idea is not to only show tricks, but to put meaning behind every one of them. The most important thing for me is that the tricks support the narrative line of the number and character.
The good thing is everybody has a bicycle, has ridden a bicycle or has seen people riding a bicycle. The bicycle has a lot of established meanings in the mind of the audience. On stage, I intend to play with those meanings and turn them into an entertaining mixture of impressive skills, theater and comedy.


MonkeyLectric: What were some of the first tricks that you learned?
Max: I’m quite a daredevil, when I started riding a bicycle, my very first goal was to stand on the bike handlebar and the seat. My coach refused to teach it to me because he said I wasn’t yet ready to learn that trick. My corky answer was: ”well, look at me, I’m gonna learn it alone then”. So I did.  Shortly after, after many falls, I was standing on the bike.


MonkeyLectric: Tell us about Jerry Tremblay!
Max: I’ve created this character 7 years ago. This character is inspired from all the “wannabes” that I saw, from all the absurdity that people can do to impress others and to prove themselves. With this character I’m aiming to be awkward and tacky. Also, an artistic guideline that is very important to me is subtlety. I intend to stay on a line where the audience is wondering: ”Is he real? is it an actor playing a character? Can I laugh?”


MonkeyLectric: Some of us have trouble doing a wheelie or a track stand. I’d love to be able to be able to easily track stand at a traffic intersection. Do you have any general tips for doing so?

Max:

Well, by writing is it a bit hard to explain. Give me a session with you and you’ll be able to do it.

Here’s anyway some general guidelines for those with a fixed-gear bike:
– Your front wheel has to be at a 45 degree angle, left or right doesn’t matter.
– Then with your pedals, by going backward and forward, you’ll be able to search for your left and right balance.
– Only search your balance with the pedal, not with your upper body.
– Now, do that for many hours! hehe! No secret, practice is the answer.


MonkeyLectric: What do your audiences find most surprising about your performances?
Max: The mixture in between high tricks on the bike and theater.
Funny fact, I have a special made bike to do acrobatics, every parts of the bike are quite special… but one of the questions that I receive the most is always “what that thing in your back wheel?”


Thanks for chatting, Max!

To learn more about Max visit his website: http://www.maxpoulin.com/

visit @jerry_tremblay on Instagram, check out his Facebook page, and watch more videos on his YouTube channel!

Bikes in Portland

Portland, Oregon has a rich bicycle history.  After a long regression in bicycle usage in the middle of the 20th century, common across all cities in the USA, the city of Portland adopted a bike plan in 1973, laying the groundwork for 190 miles of bicycle infrastructure.  These investments and local advocacy have paid off as about 6.3% of Portlanders commute to work by bike, the largest percentage for a city with more than 300,000 residents.  Portland has a well-earned bicycle-friendly reputation, which Tom Martin is happily a part of.

Tom Martin: Q&A

TallBike at Tomcat Bikes PDX

Photo used with permission: @tomcatbikespdx on Instagram

We reached out to Tom Martin, longtime Monkey Light dealer and industry veteran, to ask a few questions about his relatively new bike shop in Southeast Portland in the Brooklyn neighborhood, called TomCat Bikes.  Tom focuses on somewhat quirky used bikes, commuter bikes, playa bikes for Burning Man, and custom builds.

MonkeyLectric: You’ve been in the bike world for quite some time, what are some interesting things that you’ve witnessed or been a part of?

Tom: I suppose that’s a long long story. The arc of my career has seen the death and rebirth of so many trends. Vintage everything, BMX, lugged steel, mountain bikes, fixed gear, cruisers, all have had ascendance and low points, only to be given attention once again. I am very happy to see the bike industry embrace commuting and every day riding, rather than racing as the only reason to invest in research and development. It’s a fun and functional way to get around.


MonkeyLectric: You took over a shop named WTF bikes, are you doing pretty much the same as what the previous shop did, or have you changed directions a bit?

Tom: In November of 2018, I purchased WTF Bikes and renamed it TomCat Bikes (my name is Tom, and I like cats). It made sense, since the Keep Portland Weird era of PDX has kinda sunset. As a commuter shop, I want to sell to family, friends, as well as the freaks that make Portland, Portland. I continue the amazing work that WTF has done; repair and sales of used bikes with quality new bikes that are under $500. If there is a new direction, it will be embracing bikes that no other shop will work on: freakbikes, older Schwinns, vintage mountain bikes and dads old ten speed from college. I also fully embrace playa bikes, those craptastic conveyances that go to Burning Man for a week at a time. The dust and grease and PB blaster evoke memories of Point 3 at sunrise. Bring em! Bring them to me!

Playa Bike at TomCat Bikes PDX

Playa Bike at TomCat Bikes PDX: Image courtesy of @tomcatbikespdx on Instagram

 


MonkeyLectric: Pedalpalooza, which includes the Portland World Naked Bike Ride, is one of Portland’s signature bike festivals.  For the non-Portlanders out there, can you tell us a bit about it?

Tom: Pedalpalooza is a month long celebration of the bicycle. Community members organize rides with themes, costumes, routes, destinations and more bikefun. They are as unique as the community members who put them on. Some examples: the Bike Shop ride, where Armando went to 15 shops and interviewed the owners; Loud and Lit, the brightest loudest bike party in Portland, that ends at an undisclosed location for a dance party until dawn; World Naked Bike Ride, that ends in a party at an undisclosed location. The annual Pedalpalooza banner is now something Portland Bike Funnists collect each year. More info and a calendar is here: https://www.shift2bikes.org/pages/pedalpalooza/


Monkeylectric: Bike infrastructure is what makes Portland relatively bike friendly.  Many other cities in the States are starting to catch up with the rest of the world. Are you seeing some changes in Portland?

Tom: Portland has been on the leading edge for active transportation infrastructure development for almost 20 years. I see a lot of good incremental changes in Portland with Neighborhood Greenways, the Tillicum bridge transit and bike/ped crossing, protected bike paths with bollards, etc, There is so much more we can do for traffic calming and to prioritize safe passage for people who bike, walk, scoot and use mobility devices such as wheelchairs. There are plans for a Green Loop to go through the heart of downtown Portland. This will feature protected bike lanes and a new crossing over i-84.


Thanks for chatting, Tom!  Tom runs a full-service bike shop and specializes in commuter and freak bikes: used bikes, custom builds, and new Civia bikes.  And of course, TomCat carries Monkey Lights.

Visit TomCat Bikes in SE Portland:

TomCat Bikes
3117 SE Milwaukie Ave
Portland, OR 97202
503-232-4983
@tomcatbikespdx

 

Other interesting links:

  • What is your city’s bicycle mode share?  The League of American Bicyclists knows.
  • Jonathan Maus from Bike Portland dives deep into Portland’s bicycling history.
  • The Initiative for Bicycle and Pedestrian Innovation has a neat overview of the history of bicycling in Portland

Do you run a shop, have a favorite shop, or a story to tell?  Contact us and we’d be happy to run a feature!

Win a new limited edition M232R!

MonkeyLectric custom M232R light: Playing Cards Four suits
The Four Suits playing card pattern is our newest design in the limited edition shop!  Complete the entries below for a chance to win.

This light comes with the Four Suits pattern as well as 41 of the other patterns that normally come with an M232R, including the ones below:

Can't wait? You can buy one now:

RideTHISbike New Orleans

RideThisbike is the only full-service bike shop in the French Quarter of New Orleans.  They have been carrying Monkey Lights for a number of years, and after a recent Automatic A15 order, we were inspired to ask Larry some questions about his shop.

(note, all photos are used with permission courtesy of @ridethisbike on Instagram!)


 


MonkeyLectric: You started your bike shop after Katrina hit as a way to provide alternate transportation especially if a disaster hits after working in IT. How hard was it to get started, and did you ever wonder if you were doing the right thing?  Were there moments where you were thinking, "Wow, this is a crazy idea, what am I doing???"

Larry from RideTHISBike: The key to a happy life is doing what you love and doing it with all your heart. I love riding a bicycle. Imagine how blessed and appreciative I feel earning my living by sharing what brings me joy. It's awesome!

Was it hard? Ha. Is the sun bright?
Starting the business at a time when New Orleans was still depopulated, people DID say I was crazy. Bike industry experts were extolling on the demise of the local bike shop. Family and friends begged me to do anything else. Getting a loan to start was out of the question.

What saved me was my IT knowledge combined with a "can-do" attitude and lots of hard work. I went on a limb and opened a tiny, quirky, neighborhood bike shop that people love. I have loyal customers from around the world. Vacations are trips I'm paid to lead to bicycle on the world's best bike trails! My only regret is that it took a hurricane to chase my dream.



MonkeyLectric: As someone who's never been, what's it like biking around New Orleans compared to other places?

Larry from RideTHISBike: New Orleans is a compact city surrounded by water. All the land here formed eons ago through silt deposited by the mighty Mississippi River and by pumping the water out of the former swamps and marsh. As a result, the land is flat and most local ride destinations are within easy riding distance.


https://www.instagram.com/p/B06J9k3lX_H/

 


MonkeyLectric: When customers rent bikes from you, where do you recommend they ride? Or what are some highlights on your tours? 

Larry from RideTHISBike: Each New Orleans neighborhood has unique qualities due to when it was settled and which immigrants settled there. In fact, within the city limits, there are antebellum plantations, multiple parks with bike paths, places that look Spanish, Caribbean, French. In fact, New Orleans has the largest number of Greek Revival style buildings in the US. Still, my favorite rides are on trails along the river or out to City Park. There's something different on the river every day and riding in City Park is so tranquil.


https://www.instagram.com/p/BxlfQNlh4fX/


MonkeyLectric: I've often wondered this: many bike shops are closed 1 day a week, that makes sense, but how do you pick which day to take off? Why'd you pick Tuesday?

This is a common question but it has to do with our location. The French Quarter is a popular destination year 'round, but particularly on the weekends. Since the slowest days of the week in the Quarter are Tuesday and Wednesday, we flipped a coin and picked Tuesday as our day off.



MonkeyLectric: You guys have a lot of pictures with that chopper-style ebike. What's it like riding it around?

Larry from RideTHISBike: Remember Fonzie from Happy Days? Riding the chopper makes me feel like his character. Strangers give you the thumbs up, nod approvingly, smile, wave and shout out things like "Nice Bike!" More importantly, though, it tells me that I'm visible to motorists and pedestrians and that's a big part of bike safety.

 

Thanks for answering our questions, Larry!

If you're in New Orleans, visit RideTHISbike:

231 Dauphine St.
New Orleans, LA. 70112
Open 10am to 5pm (except Tuesdays!)

Email: [email protected]
Phone: +1 (504) 324 2492

They offer sales, service, rentals and repair and carry a nice assortment of bikes from Brompton, Brooklyn Bicycles, Montague, Strida, EVO, REID, and 3G.  And of course, Monkey Lights.

And check out many more of their photos on Instagram: @ridethisbike

Bike rider by Immortal Shots

We asked a bunch of people, "What was it like buying your first bike?" and the responses, while wide-ranging, were pretty touching.

Hardship.. and freedom

Some wrote tales of hardship and achieving freedom by bike.  There's nothing quite like pedaling through breeze on two wheels while powered by your your own motion.  Historically, they also played a huge role in mobility for women.  So much so that Susan B. Anthony called the bike a Freedom Machine.

Here are some of the touching stories shared by those who chose to tell us about the time when they bought their first bike.

caret-down caret-up caret-left caret-right

It was a bike co-op in Chicago when I was in college. I was tired of walking and taking the train. The employees didn't really help, but I didn't need them. I found my new friend right away. I took her for a test ride to be absolutely sure, and after paying $68 I pedaled to class. I loved the smell of the city on a bike, the feeling of freedom, the air rushing past me. I gave that bike to my sister when she moved in with me to start college.

Ian Los Angeles

I was 16 and had worked all summer to buy myself a bike. Before that I had always walked everywhere I went and when you live in MS, it can be pretty draining. I would be tired before I even got to work. I bought my bike and was so proud of it. I remember feeling so free as I rode my bike to school and work. I had it for 10 years and when I left home to get married I passed it on to my sister who loved it just as much as I did.

Laurie Biloxi

i remember as a kid i got a job stuffing envelopes for the winter so i can save up for my haro shredder. i still have it, first thing i ever earned on my own.

Michael Commack

My first time buying a bike as an adult happened eleven years ago. My brother had recently passed away and I needed a reason to go outside and live again. I found a vintage Schwinn road bike on Craigslist that captured my heart and then found a local ladies cycling group. It was amazing - being out on a bike again, feeling like a kid, and making so many new friends. The cycling group disbanded years ago, but many of us still get together. And the bike? I've added a few more to the corral, but that one is, and will always be, a favorite. It always brings me joy when we go on adventures.

Nic Tempe

I must have been in 8th grade. My school was on the other side of town, and I wanted a way to commute other than by bus. I scraped together some $100, and bought a yellow BMX bike. It had a candescent front light powered by a dynamo that rolled along the rim of the wheel. We've come along way since 1992!

Eitan Columbia

I had a lot of bikes that were hand me downs or garage sales finds and swaps. Buying a bike new was my reward to self for getting a real job out of college. Turned out I hated working in the city and moving from meeting to meeting but I loved that bike to death. It took a year to qualify for vacation but as soon as I could claim it, I took that bike for two weeks across europe and had the time of my life. When I got back, I ditched the job (but kept the bike). Good thing, too, as I met my soon to be wife while riding that bike around canada.

Greg Boulder Creek

My first bike, a fuchsia Electra Townie 3 speed cruiser, changed my life. I was really depressed after a bad breakup. Riding it increased my serotonin, made me more social, increased my ability to get around SF, decreased my time getting around SF and using it to commute set a positive tone for my work day and a welcome way to relax at the end of the day. Riding my bike changed my life in so many ways. It maybe even saved my life.

Jill San Francisco

I bought my first bike when I was 12 years old. I was working my ass off at my father's cafeteria and earn enough money to buy something bigger. So I decided to buy a new bike. I was very proud of my self. This was one the best purchase I made at my teenager ages. 🙂

Peteris Riga

I don't remember my first bike; I was a mere 5 year old. But I remember my first bike I purchased as an adult. I was living on the beach, and I'd gotten into a bit of trouble and lost my license. I bought a beautiful sky blue cruiser with a white leather seat. I still have it, and I call it "The Cadillac"

Brittany Brevard

My first 'fitted' steed was to start an amazing journey, a nearly 13 year effort to raise awareness and fight ALS, riding the Tri State Trek for years, founding the Iron Horse Challenge in Ohio, and leading to 'rolling' for the Blazeman Foundation on Triathlons. Then in 2014 a sudden cardiac event left me dead on a charity event...when I recovered I didn't miss a beat and I'm still riding as a daily commuter all year around, Spring to Winter, and dragging my 4 kids around as well. I've had a early prototype of your MonkeyLectic light and its rides with me everyday, rain or shine, snow or heat. Always secretly wanted a program-able one so I could continue to share the End ALS message even in the dark. A fitting metaphor. Blaze on!

Shawn Columbus

Win a new Automatic A15 Bicycle Wheel Light!

A15 Automatic GIF
We're happy to announce our new Automatic A15 bicycle wheel light!

Just ride your bike and they work.

We are celebrating by giving some away to lucky winners.  Complete the entries below for a chance to win.

Can't wait? Buy one now:

Note: Amazon.com can ship internationally to some destinations.  Our new Automatic A15 light is also available in select bicycle shops.  Contact us if you want to learn more!

Our most dedicated bike-commuting friend, K. Alice Fox, recently celebrated her 10-year anniversary of being a winter cyclist in snowy Syracuse, NY.

Syracuse averages 123.8 inches of snow per year.

 

She sent us some photos of her ride, (complete with our waterproof, snowproof, and iceproof M232 Monkey Lights that help keep her visible during dark mornings and nights) and even made a video to celebrate.

 

Alice’s Surly fat bike, named “Goliath”

We interviewed Alice in the past, and she told us her amazing story about how cycling changed her life.

 

Alien Rides Scooter

AlienRides decks out a Burley trailer connected to an e-scooter with our bike lights and then cruses around San Francisco. Nice project!