A Tribute to Amy D.

By: Brandon Oct 3

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A year ago the world of cycling lost a young and talented rider. Fortunately, a Foundation was created in her name so her legacy can live on. The Amy D Foundation exists in her honor to "encourage and support young women through cycling, inspiring the celebration of healthy challenge and empowering the confident pursuit of lofty dreams."

A bit more about Amy:

Amy Alison Dombroski passed tragically at age 26 while training abroad in Belgium. She was a versatile cyclist with U23 National Championship titles in road, mountain, and cyclocross. Still early in her career, she was considered by many in the sport to be a rising talent and serious contender at world-class cycling events.

In her short but full life, Amy touched the hearts of communities in the United States and Europe. Amy had a passion for life that transcended the sport of cycling; she loved to share this passion with the friends and family that surrounded her. She also had an uncanny ability to transform challenges she faced in her own life into intense positive focus. The tattoo of a lighting bolt that Amy bore on her wrist served as a remembrance of her mother’s tragic death, and provided her a daily source of motivation.

In support of the Amy D. Foundation, we've created a new sock design. $4 from every pair of socks sold in the month of October will be donated to The Foundation to support their cause. Keep an eye on the site for those socks to land soon!

The Amy D. Foundation has also created a race program supporting Erica Zaveta for the 2014/15 season. You can also find Erica's blog here.

photos by Gavin Gould, words by Brandon Elliott


Ladies & Gentlemen: A Case Study of Small Cycling Economy

By: Andrew Gardner Jul 10

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If you know the environmentalist and climate activist, Bill McKibben, then you know that he possesses a bike racer’s nervous system. Thin and fit, McKibben mostly rides the gravel roads around his home in Vermont, which is good for his health and the well-being of Vermont motorists. (I was once on a ride with Bill when he, driving hard on the pedals, blew through a stop sign - nearly ending his life and with it the world’s chances to solve the issues of climate change.) Road safety aside, Bill’s drive has given him access to a world that needs his vision and when he speaks, its like the final laps of a criterium- one just does their best to stay near the front of it all, to keep up with the urgency.

“We are all going to have to slow down.” Bill has implored consumers around the world. “We’re going to need to need our neighbors, to focus on the durable economies closer to us.” His written work continues in this pressing notion, highlighting the economy close to home and the benefits beyond mere money, “To wit, the farmer's market: energy-efficient local food, and the average shopper has ten times as many conversations as a supermarket shopper. No wonder they're the fastest-growing part of our food economy. Now we need to get going on other sectors too.”

Bill McKibben in the non-cycling season. (Print by JDK design.)

Other sectors like cycling. The regional loyalties that pervade cycling have catalyzed local fabrication, collaboration and creative economies. Sure there is large scale globalization, beautiful products from around the world, but one need only look at the rise of the regional frame builder to know that cyclists, in particular, long for authenticity in what we own. This takes a village. The people of Gaulzetti Cicli, the handmade, local offerings of this very website describe it thus, “It's a costly business, building bicycles in the US by hand. Skilled workers who have devoted their lives to their craft demand outrageous things like health insurance and a living wage. We're only too happy to be able to provide for those who provide for us, so we gladly accept the price of local, handmade fabrication.”

Not far from my home, the Burlington, Vermont-based frame builder, Hubert d’Autremont has a title for the needs and interconnectedness of his business with a larger creative economy, he calls it “Ladies and Gentlemen.” Working out of a studio in Burlington’s south end, Hubert has slowly and quietly built himself a following by mastering his craft and tapping into a collaborative approach to bike building- the deep economy of the industry.

“Ladies and Gentlemen is for me, a showcase of the people who have gotten me as far as I have. It represents the lifestyle I get to live and the ones I live it with. Ladies and Gentlemen is everyone from industry people like my painter, to suppliers and inspirational souls. It’s about people who have gone against the grain to pursue their dreams because they just don’t see living any other way.”

You can feel a McKibben-type of commitment in Hubert, the same urgent drive. Disposable life would be easier but crafted, durable work calls Hubert. His bikes are beautiful, lugged affairs- tasteful in the way you’d expect from a guy with no marketing, no website and no ads. In his entry for the highly regarded Oregon Manifest last year, Hubert built a Vermont-style porter bike capable of withstanding rides in miserable weather. The bike itself highlighted the craft of frame building while pushing a stout bike commuting agenda. In the process of building his manifest bike, Hubert researched the options for a daily porter bag capable of elegance and tough rides. Finding those options wanting Hubert launched a sister-brand, 27th Letter, a collaboration with Queen City Dry Goods maker, Matt Renna and another foray into creative hand-made materials. In addition to waxed canvas and leather porter bags, 27th Letter boasts cycling caps, flat kits and still more bits and pieces of cycling culture built with Hubert’s keen eye towards the details and the durable. 27th Letter stitches are tight and interconnected.

In a deeply thoughtful and bike-committed way, Hubert’s collaborations mean fuller living, more sustained living. He’s wildly grateful to the people around him and he’s a model for a small interconnected approach to business. He explains it the ease of a builder, putting together the pieces.

“Its about a balance of all of the enjoyments of the world while having big goals. It’s about being conscientious of the decisions we make.”


Pushing Back

By: Andrew Gardner Jul 1

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In the July 16th print issue of Time, Brian Walsh wrote a piece for the magazine’s culture section entitled, “Pedal Push: Biking is on the rise, but is there room enough for everyone?”

In the short piece, Mr. Walsh highlights the increasing popularity of urban cycling and with it a cultural friction between those who pedal and those who do not, between “cyclists” and “drivers.” Like Mr. Walsh, I agree there exists a cultural bias between driver and cyclist. I’ve written about that divide here for Embro. (Who hasn’t worn their kit into the grocery store at some point to the consternation of fellow shoppers.) So in reading his piece, I understand the conflict that Mr. Walsh is highlighting is very real. In serious and satirical polls, the largest reason people do not ride, for utility or pleasure, is a fear of traffic danger.

Jeff Frings, featured in the Pedal Push article’s introduction and conclusion serves as a symbol of that danger for Mr. Walsh. Frings’ website is a compendium of narrow misses and angry motorists, complete with Frings' often irate commentary. Looking at his website, there seems to be no shortage of cars where Frings rides, no real bike infrastructure near his Milwaukee home and no incentive for a person intent on avoiding time in the car.

Here’s where the hiccup exists in how the Time article frames the cyclists - driver conflict. For all of the positive cycling news highlighted, the “290 miles of bike paths added to New York City,” the “new Citi Bike system, witih 600 stations...the Velib in Paris...,” there remains an assumption in the article’s asking, “Is there room on the road for everyone?” That assumption is that cars aren’t going away or whether they even belong on those roads in the first place. Only how many cars belong is briefly touched on in a paragraph assuming that New York’s congestion is the country’s worst and that this a bad thing in light of the economic costs to the city.

The answer to the question of “Is there room on the road for everyone?”, even prior to the growth of cycling in the US, has long been no. Even with bikes out of the equation, the number of cars continues to rise world wide and America leads the way with 240 million automobiles, almost 2 cars per household. Faced with the prospect of gridlock and endless windshield time, car manufacturers have started to spin creative solutions to help manage the “saturation” of roads throughout the world.

Bill Ford Jr., the executive chairman of Ford Motor Company and great grandson of Henry Ford sees this in a more careful organization of the increasing cars on the road, “The cooperation needed between the automotive and telecommunications industries will be greater than ever as we prepare for and manage the future. We will need to develop new technologies, as well as new ways of looking at the world.”

Fortunately, packing cars in tighter spaces on existing roads using telecommunications isn’t where the physical struggle is heading in the hearts and minds of real people. In his conclusion, Mr. Walsh writes, “The brains of the U.S’s more than 200 million licensed drivers can’t be rewired.” That is true. Yet, the brains of future drivers aren’t wired the same way as current motorists. Witness the endless news of fewer young people of driving age getting licensed. Witness also, the increase in urban population by carless youth: more people are choosing to live where public transportation is wide-spread. Finally, witness the congestion taxes levied on urban dwellers in European cities and the push for that type of fee closer to home. While the US leads the way in car ownership, the registration numbers have stalled out. It is possible, we’ve hit a peak.

Physically, motorists will continue to ignore cyclists, presuming to have the right-of-way, as highlighted in Mr. Walsh’s piece. But anyone assuming that the car will have perpetual reign over all roads in all places is short-sighted. Smaller towns and rural areas pushing for parking spaces over bike racks are doomed to repeat the history of their larger city brethren fighting congestion. The bike is coming. The readers of Embrocation already understand the pleasure of riding over driving. In greater cultural circles, the cycling converted are gaining credibility and press. To that end, the question isn’t whether cyclists “could become the in group.” They will. The question isn’t: “Is there room on the road for everyone?” Rather, the question for those pedaling and those finding the bike is simple: “What can be done to get all the cars get out of the way?”


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