Tagged bikes

Rebellious Girls: An interview with Velocipede Races author Emily June Street

ejs in steampunk velo gear“A tough girl rebels against stifling gender rules in a quasi-historical steampunk world, dreaming of racing her bicycle in the cutthroat velocipede races. But can her dream survive scandal, scrutiny, and heartbreak?” That’s how Emily June Street describes her debut young adult novel, The Velocipede Races, which is also Microcosm’s first venture into the genre. It officially comes out on April 12th, but we just got them back from the printer and you can snag one directly from us right now.

 

1. Congratulations on the publication of The Velocipede Races! What is the story behind the book? Where did you come up with the idea?

I spend a lot of time on my bicycle on my fourteen-mile commute most days of the week. The idea for The Velocipede Races popped into my head during a ride. I was focusing on my breathing, on really letting my ribcage expand and contract in three dimensions while I rode hard, and the constricting notion of a corset popped into my mind. I felt so grateful that I lived in a time when I wasn’t expected to wear a corset and that I was free to ride my bike pretty much anywhere I pleased. In that moment, I made the connection between the rational dress movement, the bicycle, and the first wave of western feminism. I got home and did research—as I often do—and discovered the fascinating, tangled history of feminism and the bicycle. I’d long wanted to write a scifi story about track-bicycle racing, and these percolating ideas came together in my imagination. So I decided to mash-up the feminist history of the bicycle, some sci-fi/steampunk-style track racing, and some romance. These elements dovetailed into the story that is The Velocipede Races. I call my genre quasi-historical femmepunk.

2. You’ve been writing and self-publishing fiction for a while now. Can you talk a bit more about that? How did you learn the craft? What are you currently working on?

I’ve been writing on a regular basis since I was eleven years old, when I got my first diary. I fell for reading early and hard, and it remains a persistent and utterly incurable addiction. Writing has always been a natural progression from reading for me. They are two sides of the same coin. I read, therefore, I write. Reading has certainly taught me most of what I know about writing. I absorb so much about how to write by reading—everything from style to grammar to cadence to what could be possible in a book. I did minor in English many years ago, emphasizing writing in my coursework, and later I got a Master’s degree in Library Science, mainly to enable my reading addiction while gaining practical work skills.

velocipede races book coverBeing such a book addict, I’ve always wanted to write them, and along with that, I wanted to publish them—but I have a full-time life teaching Pilates. My husband and I own our studio, and that passion/career takes a lot of time and energy. Self-publishing originally appealed to me because I could set my own deadlines, work at my own natural and (admittedly very slow) pace without having my writing life interfere with my Pilates life. I also like to learn new things, and so I set out to learn how to make books. My friend, mentor, and writing buddy, Beth Deitchman, was my intrepid partner in this endeavor. We learned everything as we went, and we made our first books from the ground up. It’s been a lot of fun. It has been equally fun to work with Microcosm and make a book on a grander scale with you fine people.

As far as what I’m doing now—I’m in the midst of a seven-book fantasy series. I’ve put out Books One and Two, The Gantean and The Cedna, and I’m working on revisions to Books Three and Four. I have about twelve other partly-written novel manuscripts. I rotate among them, writing bits in my spare time. I’m really a turtle when it comes to writing. I work slowly but steadily. Books take me years, not months, to write.

I’m also working on a two non-fiction projects, both related to Pilates. One is sort of a memoir crossed with an instruction manual for the basic Pilates matwork, collecting my ideas about Pilates and what I’ve learned teaching it. The other is a project I call “Fix Yourself” which is about simple stretches to help alleviate common aches and pains.

3. What kind of bike do you ride, and where is your favorite place to ride?

I have two bikes right now. I do not love either of them with all my heart. I struggle finding the right fit on a bicycle because I am in the murky under-five-foot-four category. My “Big Beater” is an old Felt F65 road bike that’s a little too big. My “Little Twitcher” is a custom Merlin from the 1990s that I got secondhand from a woman who rode seventy miles on her seventieth birthday (I aspire to this, and I superstitiously think the bike will help). I love the Merlin, but it is just a little small. I know I sound like Goldilocks, but my dream is to someday get THE ONE, my own custom velo.

As far as where I like to ride, I regret to say I am very boring, since I mainly ride for transportation. I ride anywhere I need to go, but rarely for recreation. My current commute is a beautiful ride through a rural valley and up over a hill with a vista. But I’ll ride almost anywhere happily.

4. What are you planning to do to celebrate your new book?

I’ll definitely drink some malt whisk or at least some prosecco. I may indulge in a trip to a velodrome if I can find anyone brave enough to go with me.

ejs signing books

Urban Revolutionary: An interview with Emilie Bahr

Urban Revolutions from Micheal Boedigheimer on Vimeo.

urban revolutions book coverEmilie Bahr’s new book Urban Revolutions: A Woman’s Guide to Two-Wheeled Transportation just turned up from the printer, to the delight of everyone at the office. So much hard work and love went into this book. Emilie fully deployed her chops as a journalist and urban planner, her hard-won knowledge of urban transportation bicycling, and her love and knowledge of her home city of New Orleans (we’re pretty sure this is the only book out there with advice about biking during Mardi Gras!). Pretty much everyone at Microcosm worked hard on this book, and our graphic designer Meggyn actually started biking while laying it out. She’d been wanting to ride for a while and reports that this book “answered a lot of my questions… that I didn’t want to ask!” With a pre-publication track record like that, we have high hopes for the rest of this book’s life!

In honor of the book’s existence (it officially comes out on April 12th, and is available directly via Microcosm until then), we sent the author some questions about how and why the book came to be, New Orleans’s surprising rise to bicycling prominence, as well as (feeding a longstanding fascination of mine) the role of bicycles during and after Katrina. Read through to the end for an extra surprise!

1. Congrats on your new book, Urban Revolutions! What’s the origin story of the book—what gave you the idea to write it?

Although I haven’t always known how to define it, as a longtime fan and observer of cities, I’ve always been interested in how the shape of our environments affects opportunity: everything from transportation options to health to access to jobs (all of which, in the end, are fundamentally related). At a very basic level, the book was inspired by forging connections over the years between these ideas. It’s also inspired by my own experience as a pretty typical, car-dependent American who was woken up to another way of getting around not all that long ago and who suddenly felt (at the risk of sounding melodramatic) as though a veil had been lifted from my eyes. As I started using my bike more and more to get around, I realized that there were lots of other people out there like me – and yet also many more people, including many of my friends, for whom the idea of using the bike as a means of transport was as foreign a concept as it had once been for me. I was especially interested in this latter group and what it was exactly that kept them out of the saddle, and that became the basis for my graduate school research. I also noticed that among my friends who didn’t bike or who didn’t bike regularly (most of them women), many were intrigued by the idea of biking, but were held back by various obstacles, and a number of them really had no idea where to begin. I wanted to create a tool to help them overcome those barriers by really honing in on their specific concerns.

emilie in paris2. The book’s subtitle is “A Woman’s Guide to Two-Wheeled Transportation.” Why that subtitle? Is the book only for women?

It turns out the resistance to bicycling among women isn’t unique to my friend circle. Nationally, only about a quarter of transportation bicyclists are female, a phenomenon that is not universal in the developed world and likely relates to a whole variety of factors, from social policies and norms that place more of the burden for household and childcare duties on women to very valid concerns in our car-centric environments about vulnerability to traffic crashes and crime to the fact that women are simply not as exposed to the practice, which means many of us don’t even consider it as a possibility. This book started out as a how-to guide designed to address concerns that are specific to women, though many of these concerns are also shared by men too. And I would say it turned out to be much more than a how-to guide. In the end, it’s really an exploration of the state of the American transportation landscape, how it’s changing, and what this means for everyone. I think this book should appeal to anyone who is interested in urban environments, how people get around, and who might want to brush up on how to ride and maintain a bike.

3. Two chapters of the book are devoted to your home city of New Orleans, which is one of the best unsung bike cities in the US. What makes cycling work there? What makes it different?

I said earlier that my own experience helped inspire this book, and that experience is inextricably tied to New Orleans. I write in the introduction to Urban Revolutions about hearing about what then sounded to me like a crazy plan to begin installing bike infrastructure in New Orleans. I was working as a reporter and decided to write a story about this, in part because I wanted to find out what insane people would dare ride a bike in my city. What I didn’t realize at the time was that New Orleans already had a strong bicycling culture – it had just been sailing under my radar.

In terms of what makes New Orleans different, this city has a number of inherent advantages over many other American cities, and particularly many other southern cities, when it comes to bicycling. We developed before the rise of the car, and we’ve retained a lot of the street connectivity, intermixing of land uses, and pedestrian-scale development patterns that come with that that really facilitate bicycling. It also helps that we’re flat. Moreover, we’ve seen pretty substantial infrastructure investments here in recent years that I would say have helped to advertise the bicycling possibilities that have long existed and helped make many more people feel comfortable bicycling here.

emilie and trailerWhat’s also important to note about New Orleans is that we’re a poor city. Our poverty rate is significantly higher than the national average and a large proportion of people don’t have access to cars, so there are a number of people who get around by bike and have for many years before the infrastructure was installed because they have no other option. I would say that our bicycling community is very racially and economically diverse, which is increasingly true across the country, but New Orleans bicyclists really defy the stereotype of bicyclist as wealthy, white male. More and more, I notice a whole lot of women biking here too.

Another thing that I think really helps to set New Orleans apart from much of the rest of the world is that we have these massive street celebrations here several times a year, the most famous and massive of them, of course, being Mardi Gras. At Mardi Gras, our streets are essentially shut down to automobile traffic for days at a time, and residents are forced to reconsider our relationship with the streets, even if for a finite period. I would say that Mardi Gras and some of our other major festivals are what introduce a lot of people to the possibility of biking and help us to think about the streets as being something other than channels for moving cars as quickly as possible.

4. There’s been a lot of focus in the news lately around the 10 year anniversary of Katrina. Were you in the city during Katrina? Did bikes play a role in disaster relief or recovery? Or did the hurricane pave the way for bike infrastructure and culture in some sense?

In August 2005, I was splitting my time between New Orleans, where my boyfriend at the time lived, and Thibodaux, a small town about an hour’s drive from the city where I was working for the local newspaper. Before the storm, I evacuated from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, where my dad lives, and spent a long night until the power went out desperately trying to figure out what was going on in the city, the extent of which wouldn’t become clear to us for some time after the rest of the world knew.

So much can be and has been said about Katrina and its aftermath, but one of the things the storm revealed was just how cut off a modern society becomes when electricity and gasoline lines are severed. I sneaked back into the city about a week after the storm, and even in places that didn’t flood, it resembled something out of a post-apocalyptic novel: there was no power, no gas, military people marched in the streets. And the people who refused to leave had to rethink how they got around. You might say they resorted to old-fashioned means, using canoes, bikes, their own two feet. For many people, getting in to see their homes, especially in flooded areas, required using a bike, and some of the most powerful early footage of the damage from the storm was shot by people riding around on bike.

In the recovery from the storm, one of the silver linings has been that it’s allowed us to reconsider how we do things here. I wouldn’t say we’ve fully taken advantage of these opportunities, but one area in which it’s really caused a shifting in the public consciousness is transportation, and this is in part because the city suddenly got a lot of federal rebuilding money to redo its streets after the storm. Starting in 2008, thanks to the advocacy and creativity of a number of folks here, many of the streets that were being resurfaced were striped with bikeways for the first time. A few years later, a local city councilwoman who cares a lot about transportation beyond just moving people in cars successfully won passage of citywide policy requiring that all users – pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, people with physical disabilities, and drivers – be considered in rebuilding our streets. At the same time that this new infrastructure continues to take shape, we’ve experienced a surge in new people moving to New Orleans post-Katrina. Many of them come from cities with strong bicycling traditions and they have continued to spread the gospel in their adopted home, even if it’s just by example. There was a time not all that long ago when a bike commuter would have seemed like an exotic species here. Today that is definitely no longer the case.

5. Anything else I ought to ask you about?

Well, I guess I could mention that I’m six months pregnant. I write in the book about parenthood as one of the obstacles many women face in getting on the bike, and I’m interested to see how pregnancy and motherhood affect my own bicycling patterns. I’m determined to continue biking but this will definitely require tweaking my routines. Already, I’ve found myself opting for my upright, Dutch-style bike over the speedier model I typically ride because it more readily accommodates my rapidly-changing figure. That said, I’m excited about the challenges and the new perspective parenthood will provide. And I’m looking forward to having a reason to invest in some of those adorable contraptions for toting around kids on bike.

This interview with Urban Revolutions author Emilie Bahr is part of a series. The last interview was with Alexander Barrett. The next one is with Kaycee Eckhardt, author of Katrina’s Sandcastles.

Now Kickstarting: Feminist steampunk bike racing action!

When I joined Microcosm at the beginning of this year, I brought along a lot of contracts for books that nobody quite knew what to make of. Several of them have come out since, including the feminist bicycle science fiction volume Pedal Zombies, which was met with quite a bit of skepticism—Microcosm has never published a straight up work of fiction before, much less science fiction. Would we be able to pull it off? Well, one successful Kickstarter campaign and a steady stream of kick-ass reviews later, it looks like it’s working for us. 

And not a moment too soon. Today we launched a Kickstarter project for our second science fiction book: The Velocipede Races is Emily June Street’s steampunky YA tale of a young woman’s liberation, a comedy of manners combined with edge-of-your seat racing scenes.

It’s an exciting, page-turning read. Cherie Priest, New York Times Bestselling author of Boneshaker, says that it’s “Tense, thoughtful, and truly thrilling; The Velocipede Races is a marvelous fantasy of manners and machinery.” We hope you like it as much as we do: To learn more, check out the video below, and please consider backing the project before it ends on November 28th.

 

 

Call for Submissions: Journal of Bicycle Feminism on Money and Class

 How does bicycling fit into your personal economy? Your social standing? How do your choices when it comes to bicycling relate to your income, and how do they relate to your attitudes towards money? Did your bike cost a lot or a little, and how do you feel about that? Have you done economic research or reporting on bicycle issues? What are your observations about the costs and benefits of cycling? 

The first volume of the Journal of Bicycle Feminism, Cycletherapy, was about feelings: joy, grief, and healing. The second volume is about money, status, and wealth, whatever those topics mean to you. 

A wide variety of submissions are sought, particularly from underrepresented perspectives. Personal narratives, essays, and reporting will be the bulk of the volume—lengths between 1,000 and 3,000 words are ideal, but if a piece needs more words we can talk. Illustrations and photographs are sought as well. I’d like to include one piece of fiction, and one very short (around 500 words) and funny piece for the end of the book. 

The submission deadline is February 1, 2016. Email questions, queries, or submissions to elly at microcosmpublishing dot com.

 

America’s #1 Bike Cartoonist: An interview with Bikeyface

cartoon of bikeyface on a bikeOf the fifty-plus contributors to our brand-new book Our Bodies, Our Bikes, few are as renowned as the artist known as Bikeyface. From her secret bunker in the Boston area, she’s been alternately delighting and enraging anyone who types a bicycle-related question into google for years now with her series of ongoing web comics that provide wry commentary on everything from safety to sweat to driver behavior to that giant, unladylike smile that gets plastered to your face when you spend a lot of time on your bike. 

I’ve long been curious about Bikeyface’s bike comics career, and she kindly agreed to answer a few questions over email.

1. Tell us a story… how did you become America’s #1 Bikey Cartoonist?

I didn’t plan to be a bike cartoonist, it was something that happened when a lot of things in my life intersected. I was an artist who had just moved to Boston, started a new job, and started biking everywhere. I didn’t know many people in Boston and making art can often be solitary. But I wondered if getting involved with the local bike community would be a better way to meet people. I didn’t know much about the bike community and I was a real newbie. But I muddled through volunteering at a couple events, went to some workshops, and tried joining an organized ride—but it was harder than I expected to find my niche. (Note to new bicyclists: do not pick the Ride of Silence as your first “organized ride.”) 

In the midst of this trial and error of finding community I also decided to start a blog on a community bike site, bostonbiker.org. It was the middle of the night, and a half-baked idea I assumed I would abandon very quickly. I did it anonymously at first—I had read the comments section before. In the beginning it was quick anecdotes, photos, thoughts, even recipes. But because I’m an artist by nature I started throwing cartoons in there too. After a few compliments I started doing more cartoons. Suddenly I found myself getting web traffic from around the country. So I went all in and that’s when I started Bikeyface. And eventually I did meet some other people who bike in Boston too.

2. Many of your comics have included a feminist critique of parts of bicycle culture. Your comic in Our Bodies, Our Bikes depicts a woman going into a bike shop and not having the greatest experience. Have you seen changes for the better/worse/neutral in bike culture in the time that you’ve been riding? What would you like to see happen next?

I’m not really sure how much has changed for women in bicycling industry—or if I’ve changed more? I struggled a lot in the beginning and had many awkward interactions in bike shops. I couldn’t tell if it was lack of knowledge about bikes, having limited bike experience, or being a woman. I was definitely aware I didn’t know anything about bikes but I also didn’t know much about gender issues in cycling aside from the “girl” bikes always having flowers on them (yuck.) I wouldn’t have called myself a feminist then, either. But somewhere along the way as I got more experience with biking it brought me to feminism. I notice much more of the nonsense than I did before so in some ways it seems worse. I think there is a heightened awareness overall and desire to call the industry out on it. I’ve also seen two women-owned bike shops open in my neighborhood, so that is a measure of progress (and luxury).  I’d like to see more women-friendly bike shops around the country as well as more robust product lines that appeal to women. 

cartoon of bikeyface and her two bikes and gear3. What’s your favorite comic that you’ve drawn? What (if it’s different) has been the most popular one? 

My favorite cartoons are ones that make me crack up so much while I’m drawing them that I have difficulty drawing a straight line—like So Ladies. The most popular was Not Asking For It which was a surprise to me—it definitely made the rounds more than I anticipated.

4. Do you get to make art for a living? Any advice for other comics artists who want to do something similar?

I don’t make art for a living. Sometimes I wish I did—but most of the time I’m really glad I do not. If I were paid for making art everyday it would become another job and I wouldn’t be drawing the things I personally enjoy (like Bikeyface.) I occasionally take freelance jobs that are interesting to me but full time freelance can be a roller coaster—I learned early on that I’m too much of an anxious person to go on that ride. I have an office job because I’m more creative when I have stability (and regular food). So I work during the day and draw in the limited evenings and weekend hours. This means I go to very few social events but that’s okay for an introvert. The only downside to this system is that I often run out of time and can’t do everything I would like to. 

I recommend other comic artists think about their own style and personality and find an art/life/money balance that works for them. The internet is a great way to find an audience and build it. However, it’s not a great way to make money. So that means you have to have a day job or a willingness to embrace the struggle to build the business side of your art.

This is one of a series of interviews with Microcosm contributors. The previous interview was with vegan chef Joshua Ploeg. The next interview is with Alexander Barrett, who writes illustrated love letters to cities in book form.

Bike stuff for bike shops!

Hello, bike shops!  evolution shirt

The bicycle transportation revolution is happening, bigtime! More people than ever are getting on bikes for fun, community, and transportation—and we’ve got stuff that they are really, really stoked about. Here’s the scoop:

T-shirts

New bike converts and old hands alike love to declare their Evolution or tell the world where to Put the Fun. Our wide range of (mostly bike-related) t-shirts include timeless standbys like our Chainring Heart, newer classics like the Bikenomics tee and Every Car a Murder, Every Bike a Love Affair (a vengeful rental car once destroyed a bunch of these while on tour, but we bounced back). All our shirts are manufactured and printed in the USA.

Small gift items

We have a huge variety of bike stickers (plus one for cars, to be fair). Bike-themed patches and buttons. Magnets. Greeting cards! Even a coloring book. All this stuff is also made in the USA.

Books  bike-shop-display

Want to give your customers access not just to a bicycle but to a whole way of life? You can pick up a selection of some of our bestselling bike books in this nice-looking counter-top display box (email us if you’d like other price options with the display).

Here are some highlights (all printed by union workers in the US! yes!):

Bikenomics by Elly Blue (the economic case for bicycling) 

Chainbreaker is the best bike repair manual out there (written for bike projects so you know it’s rad; also includes all the back issues of a New Orleans bike project zine from before Katrina). (We also have the super basic $3 zine version.)

Aftermass (this is a DVD – Joe Biel’s documentary about the history of bicycling in Portland)

Everyday Bicycling (also by Elly—great for people who are just getting started riding and need to learn skills) 

Pedal, Stretch, Breathe (Kelli Refer’s charming illustrated guide to the yoga of feeling awesome on and off the bike)

The Culinary Cyclist (Anna Brones’s gluten free, vegetarian cookbook for people who live the two wheeled lifestyle)

Why We Drive (Andy Singer’s scandalous history of the automobile’s troubled rise to popularity in the US, told largely in cartoons)

Bikes in Space (feminist bicycle science fiction!)

We’re always happy to pick out a selection that’ll suit your and your customers’ style. Just ask! 

Wholesale ordering is straightforward. The best way to do it is to set up an account, select the wholesale option, and go ahead and order what you want on our website. If you run into trouble, give us a call at 503 232 3666 any time from 11-7 Pacific time.