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Bikes

The Uncommon Life

Uncommon Impact: Making Green Commuting Easy with the Bike Share Bag

January 12, 2018

Maria Boustead hitches a ride with CitiBike on a snowy Brooklyn day; photos by Rachel Orlow

In a city like New York, biking can be quite intimidating. Big streets. Bigger puddles. Drivers with no regard for human life. We’ve got it all! But some—many of whom are braver than I—have long sung the praises of our bike share system, which isn’t the only environmentally friendly transportation scheme of its kind. With bike shares cropping up in cities around the country, like Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC, biking’s barrier to entry has lowered further than ever before, allowing commuters nationwide to leave their cars in the garage at last. This rings especially true in smaller cities, where the luxuries of good public transport, like subways and express buses, often don’t exist at all.

That’s all well and good, but industrial designer and longtime bike rider Maria Boustead noticed one teensy problem when she first hitched a ride using Divvy, the bike share system in her native Chicago: The front basket just. Didn’t. Work. As a designer of fun, yet functional accessories for cyclists, however—especially women—Maria was uniquely equipped to design a solution. The result? A bag designed especially for bike share bikes, equipped with more bells and whistles than you can shake a stick at. (OK, OK, no literal bells.)

We stopped by Maria’s workspace on the border of Bushwick and Bed-Stuy here in Brooklyn, NY, and spoke with her about the story behind the Bike Share Bag and what sustainability means to her. Read on for more. (As for us, we’re off to snag our first Citibike membership. Be back in five.)

Continue Reading…

The Uncommon Life

Top 5 Bike Haikus

June 20, 2014

Bike Haikus | UncommonGoods This Spring we hosted a contest advertised in our catalog for our most talented customers. The contest was a call for a haiku about a bike in celebration of our new Bike Tote.

To announce the winner, and since it was so hard to decide on one, we wanted to share our favorite entries with you!

5. Click, hum. Roll quiet / across town and back again. / Pollution-­‐free ride.
– David, Tennessee

4. O the dreaded hill, / you seemed so small from afar. / I have conquered you.
– Renee, California

3. Suspended in the rafters, / my bike hangs like a bat. / Lately I grow fat.
– Scott, New Jersey

2. When I tell you, “Ride,” / I mean let the wheels take you / where you least expect.
– Maya, New Jersey

1. Two-wheeled beloved, / time machine on which I am / always young, flying.
– Erica, New York Our winner!!

Thanks to everyone who participated by crafting a 5-7-5 masterpiece. To find out about our future contest, check out our catalog or follow us on Facebook.

Design

How the Bike Tote was Born

April 30, 2014

When developing a product from scratch, we need to think through all of the details. We think about functionality and ask ourselves basic questions. When we created our Bike Tote those questions were: How will the bag hold objects? How much will it hold? How will it be secured? How will it be carried? What materials do we use to make sure the job gets done?

Here’s how we answered some of those questions.

Bike Tote | UncommonGoods

The tricky thing about this project was making sure the bag would fit the needs of a bike rider. Safety is integral. First, the bag needed to be well-secured to a bike’s handlebars without interfering with the front wheel.

How we made it happen: Sourcing the right buckles.

Bike Tote Buckles

This was our greatest sourcing challenge. We recognize that depending on the style of the bike or gears you have, strapping the bag on or off could be a challenge, so we made sure to source components that would work for as many bike styles as possible.

The buckles needed to open up so that we could completely detach the straps and fasten to any bike. They also needed to firmly and securely support the weight of the bag, without breaking, loosening, or slipping on the bike. After evaluating several different buckle and strap options, we chose these cam buckles.

In addition to securing the bag to the bike, we had to refine the cotton shoulder strap, making sure it made sense for a bike rider. We wanted to develop a true tote bag with a longer shoulder strap, but we didn’t want the strap to fly around in the wind or interfere with the bike in any way.

How we made it happen: A floating zipper.

Bike Tote Zippers

The zipper is isolated from the rest of the bag, which means the bag can be opened fully. It allows a bike rider to place the entire shoulder strap into the bag, with the zipper closed on top of it. The strap is securely tucked inside the bag, instead of hanging loose.

We know that when you’re on the road, dirt and gravel fly up, and things get pretty dirty pretty fast. We wanted to make sure the bike tote would stay as nice as possible, despite being an active bag.

How we made it happen: Black bottom panel.

Bike Totes| UncommonGoods

We lined the bottom of the bag with black fabric to hide any smudges. Remember – because of the buckles, the bike tote can’t be machine washed or dried, so hand-washing and line-drying are your best bets for keeping it in top shape.

As a final design touch, we wanted to help bike riders increase their visibility both from a distance and in the dark.

How we made it happen: Reflective tape around the bag. The strip of reflective tape allows for more visibility of riders as they cruise along and show off their very cool bike tote.

Safety first--reflective tape!

Testing the Bike Tote

Once the product met all of the criteria we outlined, we we needed to make sure it was truly road ready. To test it, one of our team members gave it a try on her road bike to make sure our claims were holding up. “I’m basically going to try and break it,” she informed us.

Weighs

In her words:

“I filled it with as much heavy stuff as I could. I started with books and when that didn’t break the bag, I tried weights (two 5 lb. weights) and large bottles (3 wine-sized bottles). The bag was a bit too big for the bike handlebars on the bike I was testing it on, so for the actual weight test I attached it to the bike cross bar and left it hanging overnight.”

The tote successfully held the weight, and we were pleased to find out that it is capable of transporting a lot of wine. (You never know when you might need to to perform just that function!)

Overall, creating the Bike Tote was fun, we got to work with awesome artists Jason Snyder and Briana Feola (who created the art featured on the tote’s fabric), and we can be proud that we developed a product that’s stylish, high-quality, and super functional.

Gift Guides

Uncommon Gifts for the Cyclist

November 20, 2012

Some cyclists consider themselves two-wheel commuters. They’d rather hop on a bike to get to work than worry about getting stuck in traffic or dealing with packed public transportation. Others do it for sport, because a ride is great exercise and a race is a thrill. Of course there’s also the hobbyist; the velophile who gets a kick out of building, maintaining, and spending time with their prized bicycle. Some well-rounded tandem travelers are all of the above. Whether the bike lover in your life is a weekend rider or a full-time pedal aficionado, they’ll love the chance to give one of these uncommon gifts for cyclists a spin.

Personalized Couple Tandem Bike Art / Bike Chain Star Ornament / Triple Cruiser Tie / Recycled Desk Pendulum Clock / I Tricycle Babysuit / Bike Glow Safety Lights / Bicycle Tumblers / Bicycle Handlebar Bells / Cycle Care Kit / Bike Door Mat

Maker Stories

Meet Laura White, Bike Lovers Design Challenge Winner

October 15, 2012

The entries to our Bike Lovers Design Challenge ranged from the beautiful (stunning and evocative art about bikes) to the practical (sturdy and useful bike accessories). We were delighted by all of them. Perhaps because winter is coming, the entry that tickled our fancy the most was a suncatcher.

Laura White’s Bicycle Cog Suncatchers are lovely pieces of everyday art. They creatively combine upcycled metal bike parts with colorful, translucent inlays to harness the sun’s light and create a stained glass effect.

We asked Laura about her crafty, bike-y life.

What’s the weather like where you live? Is there a lot of sun?

For the last four years I’ve lived in Southwestern Virginia, prior to that I had spent my entire life in Michigan. The biggest draw to this area was the mountain biking. It is an outdoor lover’s heaven. We have some of the best mountain biking in the world. The Blue Ridge Parkway runs along the edge of town, so there is also great road cycling.
The weather is very mild, at least compared to Michigan. Lots of sun and blue skies.

How did you first get into making things and being crafty? What kinds of things did you make back then?
I think I’ve always been into crafting. As a kid my favorite part of school and day camps was the arts and crafts. I was also heavily influenced by my grandmother, who did a lot of crafting. She taught me to knit, and one summer we sewed a doll. She was also good at saving household items that would normally be discarded, and using them in craft projects.

How did you get into biking, and when did it turn into a major passion?
I rode my bike a lot as a kid, both for recreation and as a way to get around before I could drive. I left it behind once I got a car. But then in my 30s I attended a bike race with a friend and decided that I had to do that. So I bought a bike and began training and racing. My love of cycling has grown from there. I don’t race much anymore, but cycling as a lifestyle and as transportation has become something that I am passionate about.

What was the inspiration for your Bicycle Cog Sun Catcher?
I had been making items out of recycled bike parts for several years. Several years ago, I had a daydream. Fast forward almost three years, I now I have a beautiful daughter (and a piano). I still have to work a regular job, but supplement with crafting.

I had made bike chain stars for several years and was growing tired of making the same thing and wanted to make something more “fun.” Something that would be colorful and cheerful instead of just metallic and hard. I had a sun catcher hanging above my daughters changing table that she loved. I liked the way the sun hit it. One of those fun craft projects I did as a kid was to make suncatchers in the oven. I decided to try to use the cogs as a medium for the suncatchers.

What other things do you like to make? What are you best at? Worst?
I really like anything that’s art or crafty. I love to knit, that is probably one of the things I am best at. Painting is probably the thing I am “worst” at. I love to paint but find that I am too much of a perfectionist when it comes to painting and tend to ruin the pictures by trying to making them look real and perfect. If I could embrace the abstract a little better I would probably be better at painting.

Is there any common theme, style, approach, or thought process to most or all of your craftwork?
Biking tends to be a common theme in my craftwork. I think I just love biking so much that I try to incorporate it into my life. Even my knitted items tend to have a bike theme or little bikes knitted into them. I also try to make things that are practical and I can use. That’s typically how a project starts. I’ll see something that I need and my first thought will be “can I make that?”

Do you enjoy making things out of things that would otherwise be discarded?
I do. I try very hard to live a sustainable lifestyle, which is part of the reason why I love cycling as opposed to driving. I try to limit the amount of waste I create by reusing and recycling items. I often find myself saving things that would typically be discarding, thinking, “I bet I can make something with that.”

What’s your favorite thing that someone has said about something you made?
When someone responds to something I’ve made by first being impressed that it was crafted for them and then saying “You should sell these.”
I recently received a picture from a mom that purchased a couple of suncatchers. It was of her daughter admiring them. I like when other people find joy and beauty in the things I’ve made.

The Uncommon Life

Meet Pasqualina Azzarello of Recycle-A-Bicycle

September 19, 2012

Meet Pasqualina, Executive Director of Recycle-A-Bicycle and one of our judges the Bike Lovers Design Challenge.

What is one uncommon fact about yourself?
I’ve traveled to 47 of the USA’s 50 states

What is Recycle-A-Bicycle? Recycle-A-Bicycle is a community based bike shop and grassroots non-profit organization that utilizes the bicycle as a resource to foster youth development, environmental education, community engagement, and healthy living. Through retail storefronts, social entrepreneurship, innovative programs, and an annual Youth Bike Summit, Recycle-A-Bicycle empowers the youth of New York City and beyond.

What kind of bike do you ride?
I ride a Fuji touring bike that fits like a glove. From the mountains in California to the city streets of NYC, this bike is both speedy and solid, good for distance riding and strolls.

Where is your favorite place to ride?
The Rockaways!

How do you define good design?
When every part informs the whole.

Cast a vote for your favorite Bike Lovers Design Challenge design and leave a comment to help Pasqualina and Emily decide the winner.

Design

Bike Lovers Design Challenge Call for Entries

September 12, 2012


We are hosting a call for entries for our newest and most exciting design challenge, the Bike Lovers Design Challenge, until September 15th at midnight. Send us your jewelry, accessories, gadgets, doo-dads and gizmos that could make their way into the hearts of any cycling enthusiast or weekend cruiser.

If you have a product that is geared towards our latest challenge, check out the full contest rules and submit your designs here!

The Uncommon Life

Meet Gaby!

December 14, 2011

Hello there! My name is Gaby and I am the newest addition to the Uncommon Goods team. You are going to see a lot of me as I will be writing on this blog pretty often. Here are some other things you should know about me.

I have my own lifestyle blog, Paperplanes & Maryjanes where I talk about food, clothes and décor. I have also recently opened Paperplanes & Maryjanes Handmade where I currently sell a collection of knit and crochet bows.

I recently moved back to Brooklyn from San Francisco where I was living for 6 months. I competed in a Facebook contest and won the opportunity to work as a blogger for Levi’s as The Levi’s Girl!

One of my most beloved possessions is a 65 Schwinn cruiser named Ursula. I am most likely to be found riding around the park blasting Mama Cass from my iPhone in my front basket and singing along.

I eat an embarrassing amount of tacos and Tootsie Rolls- but never at the same time.

When not on my bike, I sing along to songs on my ukulele which I taught myself how to play this summer. (I also just chopped off all my hair and miss it dearly.)

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