Think of me as the prototype of 21st century watered down renaisance man. I think my early tv watching days has degraded my brain into a sampling machine. That is, a couple of years of classical guitar here, invent a robotic sphere there, thrown in a bicycle ride across italy and an obsession with pre-fab modern homes and that describes me... along with everyone else in a two mile radius (I live in San Francisco)... but I guess that's why I moved here.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

New Bittercyclist Homepage


Why the hell haven't I been doing any posts? I know! I hate not adding to this blog, but I'm trying to make the bittercyclist website more interactive with anyone who wants to use it. I added a new calendar of events where anyone can post an event. You can register for the site, and this will allow you to post stories about bikes, and also be eligible to receive free stuff such as T-shirts, stickers, and anything else I can think of. You can also go to the "Bitter Discusions" forum ... although this may not be quite up yet. Also, weblinks will be in a directory and have proper categories, and a gallery with easier picture viewing capability will be added in the next couple of days. To test the site out, go to:

Thursday, September 01, 2005

A Great Selection of Cool Bike T-Shirts

Definitely go to for a great selection of Zines, and tons of cyclist related posters and T-shirts at rock bottom prices (11 bucks for my shirt!) I honestly don't know how they stay in business. I met the owner of this small publisher on Sunday at the SF Zinefest at CellSpace. He's a great guy, too.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Knowing Your Bicycle: Sites of Great Importance

Sometimes I find myself referring people along to yet more sites. This can be kind of annoying if it's just referral after referral without really adding anything of substance. STILL, I'm going to do it any way. Referrals can be like a funnel to get you where you need to go. So please forgive me for yet another referral to a resource without being a resource myself. This referral: Knowing your bike!

Sheldon Brown - If you need to know ANYTHING about your bike, then this is the place to go. Go to his "Fix It" Link to find several articles on bicycle repair. If you want to know about arcane topics such as gear ratios, it's here. If you want to know about comparative cantilever brake geometry, it's here. Dman near everything is here.

Wikipedia Bicycle - Thank the lord for Wikipedia! The contributors have created a very comprehensive entry on the bicycle with tons of opportunities to explore the bike. Do not miss this.

Bicycle Repair Wikibook - And if the wikipedia entry wasn't enough, there is also a wikibook on bicycle repair that is incredibly helpful. - For cycling advocates across the country, this is the place to start. There are, of course, dozens of local bike coalitions, but this is the grandaddy portal for the U.S. This isn't totally related to know your bike, per se, but I don't give a crap.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Bicycles on Airplanes and Trains in U.S. and Italy

This seems to be a very important topic top people interested in bike touring, so I put a very short list of what certain airlines and trainlines say about their bicycle accomodation policies. It all seems a bit depressing to me.

Bike boxing rules:

American Airlines
"Item Allowance/Requirements: Bicycles 1 non-motorized touring or racing bike. Handlebars must be fixed sideways and pedals removed. Or pedals and handlebars must be enclosed in plastic foam or similar material.
Cost: $80 Exception: If bicycle and container are less than 62 dimensional inches and under 50 lbs., the bike is free in place of one 62 inch bag in the free allowance.
Maximum Size and Weight: 70 lbs / 115 inches - Acceptance conditional on aircraft size and load conditions - Exception: If a bike is less than 62 dimensional inches and 50 lbs., the above conditions do not apply
- If this item is in excess of the number of pieces allowed in the free baggage allowance, excess baggage charges apply in addition to the $80 special items fee."

United Airlines
"Bicycle Non-motorized bicycle must be prepared for travel by the customer. United does not provide tools. Handlebars must be turned sideways and protruding pedals and accessories removed. Bicycle must be contained in a protective/durable case, bag or box. Within U.S./Canada: $80.00 USD 50 pounds
62 linear inches - Allow an extra 30 minutes at check-in.
- If travel includes United Express, please contact United for information regarding aircraft cargo hold limits."

"Item Conditions of Acceptance
Bicycles Non-motorized touring or racing bicycles with single seats for carriage are accepted as checked baggage, with certain limitations.
Any bicycle presented in a box with overall dimensions not exceeding 62" or 157.5cm (length + height + width) and checked in lieu of one bag is accepted. Bicycles exceeding 62" are subject to charge. A $100 fee applies for each checked bicycle.
Your bike must be packaged in a cardboard or canvas container in one of the following ways:
1. Handlebars fixed sideways and pedals removed, or
2. Handlebars and pedals encased in plastic, Styrofoam, or other similar material
Some connection carriers and aircraft may not accept bicycles as checked baggage, and may have different limitations. "

Northwest / KLM
"Northwest accepts non-motorized touring, racing or tandem bicycles as checked luggage only. A bicycle is not included in a customer's free luggage allowance. Northwest only accepts bicycles weighing 100 pounds or less. Bicycles over 100 pounds must be sent air freight.
The following charges apply for transportation (each way) per bike between the US, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean:
1st Bicycle: $80.00 USD
Additional Bicycles: $180.00 USD

Northwest accepts bicycles only if the handlebars are fixed sideways and the pedals removed or if the handlebars and pedals are wrapped with protective packing material. Northwest recommends bicycles be placed in a bike box.
Northwest only accepts tandem bicycles for travel between the US/Canada/Puerto Rico/Virgin Islands. Tandem bikes are only accepted on 747/D10/757 type aircraft.
Northwest does not accept liability for loss, damage, or delay of bicycles. Excess valuation insurance may not be purchased for transport of bicycles."

Air France
"Bicycles can be checked into the baggage compartment. You may purchase special boxes for them at the check-in counter." That’s it!!!

"You may certainly check in more than your free baggage allowance. Please understand that we charge a fee for this extra service.
On international routes
• to and from the USA/Canada
• via USA on sectors to and from USA
• between Europe and Mexico
• with a fare origin in West Africa to and from West Africa
• with a fare origin in Brazil between Brazil and Europe/the Middle East
• with Star Alliance Round the World fare
a fixed charge will be made for each additional, larger or heavier piece of baggage. For example, approx. 110 EUR / 127 USD between Germany and San Francisco."


Many Options for Our Bike-Riding Passengers
We offer several options for transporting your bicycle with you on your Amtrak journey. Options include:
Bicycles stored onboard in bike racks.
Bicycles checked as baggage in a box or other secure container.
Bicycles checked as baggage secured by tie-down equipment, not in a box.
Folding bicycles brought onboard as carry-on baggage.
Bicycles Stored Onboard in Bicycle Racks
On some Amtrak trains you can roll your bike up to the train and secure it in a bike rack, unboxed.
Availability: Availability of this service varies widely from train to train, and station to station. Please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800- 872-7245) to determine whether bicycle rack space is available on a particular train and route.
Please reserve space early: You can reserve space for bicycles when you make a ticket reservation. We charge a fee (generally ranging from $5 to $10 depending on route and distance traveled) for reserving a space in the bike rack. If space is available, you will be issued a ticket for bike rack space. Please be prepared to give this ticket to the conductor when boarding with your bicycle.
If a space on the bicycle rack is unavailable, you may be able to check your bike as carry-on baggage. See below.
Secure your bike: On some trains, bungee cords and locking mechanisms are incorporated into the bicycle rack. You may find it useful to bring your own bungee cords to further secure your bike to the rack.
No unusual bikes allowed: Please note that bicycle racks will not accommodate tandem, recumbent, or other unusual bikes. Such bikes must be transported as checked baggage, in a box. Please see below.
Specially designated spaces only: Bikes may not be transported in the vestibule of any car, except in spaces specially designated on certain limited trains.
Liability: Amtrak disclaims liability for loss of or damage to bicycles carried onboard and stored in bike racks.
Bikes as Checked Baggage
You can bring your bicycle on Amtrak as checked baggage between all cities where checked baggage services are offered. Keep in mind that not all stations or trains have checked baggage service, and that baggage service may not be available every day. For more information, please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245) or your agent.
Tips for successfully packing your bicycle:
Check your bicycle at the station at least an hour before departure.
Bicycles usually must be partially disassembled: Loosen and turn the handlebars sideways, and remove the pedals. Both wheels must remain in the forks. Nothing may protrude from the box or make the box bulge. Nothing except the bicycle may be placed in the box.
Please bring your own tools. It may be helpful to disassemble and reassemble your bike before your trip to avoid any surprises. Some parts, especially pedals, may be especially difficult to remove.
You may bring your own box or purchase one at the station. Bicycle boxes (new or used) are also usually available for purchase at staffed stations that accept checked baggage. The cost of each box is $10. Call ahead for details and to make sure that boxes are available. Local bicycle shops also may be able to provide you with boxes. After your trip, you may keep your box and use it again if it is in good condition.
You may also use a container especially designed for transporting bicycles. Such containers must have handles and must be fully closed and latched, with no portion of the bike exposed.
Attach your name and address to the box.
Tandem bicycles may be checked and require two boxes, telescoped together.
The fee for checking a bike as baggage is $5. This is subject to change without notice.
Bikes as Checked Baggage on Trains with Tie-Down Equipment
Some trains have tie-down equipment in the baggage car or other areas designated for checked baggage. Where such equipment is available, you can check your bike without a box or other container.
This space is limited, and you must reserve it. Typically, there is a reservation charge.
You must accompany your unboxed bike on its journey on the same train. We will not accept unaccompanied bikes.
Bicycles not in containers are more likely to be damaged in transit. Accordingly, we disclaim liability for bikes shipped unboxed.
For assistance, please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).
Folding Bikes Brought Aboard as Carry-On Baggage
Folding bicycles may be brought aboard certain passenger cars as carry-on baggage. Only true folding bicycles (bicycles specifically designed to fold up into a compact assembly) are acceptable. Generally, these bikes have frame latches allowing the frame to be collapsed, and small wheels. Regular bikes of any size, with or without wheels, are not considered folding bikes, and may not be stored as folding bikes aboard trains.
You must fold up your folding bicycle before boarding the train. You may store the bike only in luggage storage areas at the end of the car (or, in Superliners, on the lower level). You may not store bikes in overhead racks.
Bicycles on Auto Train
We cannot carry automobiles with bicycles loaded on the roof. Please see our Auto Train Vehicle Requirements for details.
Bicycles on Amtrak Express
Regular bicycles, tandem bicycles, and unicycles may be shipped on Amtrak Express. Bikes must be securely packed in a box. Bicycles are generally exempt from Amtrak Express size requirements. More information is available on our Amtrak Express page."

Given the availability of places, bicycles may be brought on Surburban, Regional, Direct and Interregional trains, marked in the Timetable by the appropriate pictogram. A supplement of Euro 3.50 must be paid or, alternatively to the supplement ticket, a second class full price ticket having the same characteristics of the ticket in the passenger's possession.

On some Intercity, Eurocity and Euronight trains, also marked in the Timetable with an appropriate pictogram, a supplement of Euro 5.00 and Euro 12.30 (for international trains) is to be paid for such transport. The supplement is not refundable

Furthermore, on all trains free transport of bicycles are admitted in appropriate sacks, with the following limitations: in the SL (sleeping cars) and carriages with bunks they are allowed only in specifically allocated compartments; they are admitted on board of Eurostar Italia trains provided they are placed in the areas situated in halls of the carriages. If there is no further space, they may be placed elsewhere, provided they do not cause hindrance or inconvenience for other clients or personnel on board.

In any case the sacks are transported at the risk of the client. The insurance policy, foreseen for luggage situated in hallways and in bunk and sleeping car compartments, covers, in case of theft, a maximum of Euro 260.00

It is also possible to deposit, for free, the empty sack in all stations predisposed for such service, for a period of 24 hours following the validating of your ticket."

Cycling Italy 2004: Milan, Siena, and Beyond Part II

One of the side trips that Stacey and I did was to visit Florence for a day. I took these pictures at the Boboli Gardens. I couldn't get the range I wanted, so I took a dozen shots and kind of stitched them together to get the overall view I wanted.

A great little flea market in the center of Florence.

Florence also has a great produce market that goes on pretty late in the afternoon.

Another produce market pic.

And another produce market pic.

This is funny. We did a lot of shopping at this supermarket in Poggibonsi. It's not unlike a Safeway. All of the Italian products seem perfectly normal, but something is weird about the concept of Uncle Ben's Nacho Chips. Wasn't Uncle Ben a freed black slave who learned to cultivate and make the best rice product available? Was Uncle Ben part Mexican?

Speaking of food These were the most delicious home made ravioli I've ever had. I believe they were stuffed with porcicni mushrooms and spinach with truffle oil.

You might be thinking, " Who is this starving gypsy you've invited to your table?". In fact, this is Stacey Lewis, My wife. She real cute!

One of the most exciting days for me in Siena. It's the naming of the contrade for the July edition of the Palio horse race. I swear to you there were about 50 people in the piazza just 5 minutes before this picture was taken.

The procession of drummers leads the overseers of the Palio lottery to town hall.

Siena in the rain. I really like these crazy little trucks. They're called APEs and they buzz around like bees.

A church in Cortona. I'll try to get some more pics of Cortona. This was the first destination of an epic bike ride that I had that day. The ride went from Siena, up the endless switchbacks of Cortona, along the shores of Lago Tresimeno to Montepulciano.

This had to be one of my favorite days in Siena (again starting in the Piazza del Campo). Siena has a respectable contemporary art museum that sponsored an installation artist to create this huge array of hundred foot tall baloon arches along the perimeter of the piazza. The weather was not cooperating, though. Later that evening, the museum had an opening party featuring DJs and a whole pig cooked in the ground Hawaiian Style and featured on a huge table at the enty of the museum.

Another image of the baloons.

Final baloon image.

Cycling Italy 2004: Milan, Siena, and Beyond

I took a month off in May of 2004 to bicycle throughout the region of Province of Siena with excursions over to Cortona and Montepulciano. I also spent a week in a house my wife and I rented near the town of San Gimignano. I've pretty much put these in chronological order, but these pictures do no scratch the surface of what I saw and did. I always seem to caught up in the moment to take pictures!

I flew in to Milan, so my journey begins here, in the Milan train station.

My friends, Joe and Allison, made me take this picture! If you look closely in the center of the pic, there is a little clown with blue hair. Apparently, this thing travels extensively. I took it in my pannier for good luck.

Silhouette of the Milan Train Station. I took the train from here all the way down to Siena. This is an all day affair because I had to take iR trains which don't go directly to Florence. The reason I took these trains is that bikes cannot be brought on the Eurostar trains unless they are in a bag. Keep this in mind for anyone interested in taking the same journey.

My arrival in Siena! I stayed just a block from here in a cheap, clean, but extremely sparse hotel called the Tre Donzelle. They are so damn sweet there!

My first meal out on the town (I was by myself, unfortunately). The food was fantastic, the atmosphere was simple and beautiful, and the waiter smelled funny.

Baskets of fruit in front of a small produce market in Siena.

Another picture. I snapped these pics before I noticed the sign that said don't take pictures of the fruit. I guess it's bad luck for the fruit to be photographed? Hell no! We all know the truth. Tourists would rather photograph fruit than eat it. So, the owners just kill all pleasure of the snap happy tourists, like myself. Or should I say, they try to redirect pleasure.

View from my room in Siena. You can just catch the top of the Torre di Mangia. BTW, it was 25 Euros per night for this place. If you're not spending much time in the hotel, then why pay more?

I took a ton of pictures of the countryside I biked through. Here are just a few of the pics. This view is south of Siena looking back to the town.

Aview south of Siena look towards the road ahead. Not too far from here is the start of the Crete where the landscape gets totally barren and chalky. In May, it's totally green, like it is in this picture, but in September it's grey and wheat colored.

You'll find cypress lined dirt roads throughout the countryside. Love Em!

Here's a view just south of San Gimignano looking towards the town. I rode from Siena to San Gimignano on this ride which crosses one fairly steep and windy ascent. At the very top of the ascent was a bar and a huge barbecue place that opened in the evening. Surrounding this area is a dese protected forrest that is used for truffle gathering.

More of San Gimignano from a vineyard south of town.

Yet more of San Gimignano from a vineyard south of town.

The view from the place we rented. It was right outside of San Gimignano. It had a pool and was surrounded by scruffy vinyards. I liked it.

A field of wildflowers between San Gimignano and Poggibonsi.

More flowers. I can't get enough of them!

Monday, August 22, 2005

San Francisco Vertigo Bike Tour

This weekend Aaron Leventhal, author of "Footsteps in the Fog", and I lead a bike tour that highlighted location shots from scenes of Hitchcock's movie Vertigo. I unfortunately took only a couple of shots as we rode down Lombard street which, consequently, is one block away from the "Scottie's" apartment. Scottie, as you may know, is the protagonist in Vertigo. I can't thank Aaron enough for making this ride a fantastic journey for all the participants. We had somewhere between 30 and 40 riders, and everyone survived the hills.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Touring Tuscany: Internet Resources You Should Know

I have managed to go to Italy three out of the last five years spending roughly 1 month cycling around. My favorite area, as is many people's, is Tuscany! So, I've put together sites to explore, and why you should explore them.

WayTuscany- A great place to start with this site is the "tradition and folklore" page. Check out the tons of great events going on including food and wine festivals.

The Siena Tourist Board's website is great. I personally have used the bike routes they have suggested on a dozen occasions. In fact, I had hopes of writing a book on the subject of cycling Tuscany, but have found this resource so useful that I've reconsidered. The map's leave something to be desired, but hey! It's free!

I like slowtrav because it has quirky little bits of information you just don't get anywhere. Also, it kind of emphasizes food which I really like. For instance, this month there is a neat little article about wild mushroom hunting in Umbria that I liked.

I've been writing in Lonely Planet's Thorntree Forum for the past few months, and I've found that you can get even the most obscure questions answered... although not always quickly. It's even a place to make a hookup if you're looking to make friends in a particular place.

I love the food and wine of Tuscany! I also ride my bike all day, and sometimes wonder if I just passed a great winery or famous osteria and didn't know it. One place to plan your Tuscan wine roadtrip (by car or bike) is La Strada Del Vino. You will find a few tours there, but I suggest googling "la strada del vino" simply because every region has their own wine roads website and they don't coordinate (future post! All the wine road websites!).

Omnimaps offers what I believe to be the only credible online resource for extremely detailed maps of central tuscany. These maps are made by a German company called Kompass. They show all the same stuff Michelin maps show, but in greater detail. The best feature about these maps is they also show trails, dirt roads, and preferred bicycle routes making them essential.

For those less interested in biking the countryside, check out for the most user friendly site on Florence.

Hitchcock's Vertigo Bike Tour

San Francisco Vertigo Bike Tour
Sun., Aug. 21 | 10:30am; Meet at Mission Dolores at the corner of 16th and Dolores Street (4 blocks from 16th Street BART)

Join Brandon Baunach and special guest Aaron Leventhal, author of “Footsteps in the Fog: Alfred Hitchcock’s San Francisco” as we ride our way through many scenes of what is arguably the most important San Francisco film ever made: Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. We will stop at such scenic locations as Claude Lane, Mission Dolores, and the old Argosy Bookshop where Aaron will discuss the movie and the importance and history behind it’s location. The ride will last approximately 3 hours and cover approximately 8–10 miles. Some of the climbs may be moderately difficult. Ride is FREE for SFBC Members. Non-members will be asked for a $5 donation.

Monday, August 15, 2005

San Francisco Amusement Park History Bike Tour: Google KMZ

I have made yet another great bike tour in Google earth format for San Francisco complete with tour stop images and descriptions. I hope you enjoy! To be honest, when I saved the file, it seemed too small. Let me know if it actually works and email me at
Click on links below for your preferred format: