12 August 2011

Bicycles And Cycling In Prague

Seeing the photos in my previous two posts, I think you can understand why I haven't been posting much.  I'm taking in as much of this city as I can.  And, now that I've been navigating it on bike, I'm coming home really tired.  It seems that in order to get anywhere in this city, you have to climb a hill.  Of course, that's one of the things that makes it so beautiful.  

I've entertained thoughts of moving here.  Talking to Spencer at City Cycles has made me think even more about it.  I've also talked to three other Americans who live here, and all are happy,  In fact, there's something about people generally that seems happier, or at least less stressed-out, than people in any American city I've seen.  The Czechs themselves are reserved, but invariably helpful and polite.  Plus, they almost seem to expect that you don't speak Czech, and if they know any English, they want to use it.  Of course, if I were to move here, I would learn Czech, and possibly German.  (I knew some of the latter at one time, but have lost it through non-use.)

What I'd have to do, of course, is get my bikes and cats over here.  From what I've heard, the former would be easier than the latter.  Then again, I guess that would be true if I moved to almost any other country.  (When I lived in Paris, I didn't have cats, or any other pets.)  But if people here could live under Hapsburgs (I've heard that people have been denied PhDs in European history because they and their professors couldn't agree on whether it should be spelled "Hapsburg," "Habsburg" or "Habsbourg.") and Nazis and Communists, I could do those things.

As far as work goes:  I hope to do more writing for pay.  And, of course, I could teach English: It seems that there's an almost insatiable demand for it here.  Also, I'm told that people--particularly business people and students--want to learn other languages as well.  

And, to top everything off, although the cycling community is still small compared to, say, German cities or New York, it's growing. 

And how can you not love a city where you see bikes like these?

This one belongs to a young male concession-stand worker near the Lapidarium.  He told me that the bike belonged to his grandmother, and he painted the fenders, brake rods and bottom bracket cups.  

This Dutch Batavus tandem was parked near the Astronomical Clock.  I don't know whether it belonged to a local resident, to some Dutch couple on vacation, or someone else.  It looked interesting:  It was lugged, and the rich brown paint looked new, as did the Sturmey Archer internally-geared hub in the rear and dynamo hub on the front.

I saw this one in a shop in Vinohrady, one of the city's loveliest residential neighborhoods.  In the same shop, I saw a bike that confirms something I've long suspected:

Tell me it isn't a Dahon for the Czech market, whatever the label says.  Down to the smallest details I could see, it sure looks like the Dahon I had.  This confirms my suspicion that there are about a half-dozen, maybe ten, factories in Taiwan and China that are making about 99 percent of the bikes in this world.  They just get sold under different names in different countries.  As an example, I could see little difference between bikes from "Author", a common brand here, and ones sold in the US and other countries under Giant's name.  

And then there was this gem in a fashion display in Stare Mesto:

It's a Czech-made Favorit.  I think it's been repainted, as I don't recall any Favorits from back in the day in that color or paint scheme.  Also,the brown Brooks saddle and bar tape are give-aways:  Favorit bicycles came with their own brand of tensioned leather saddle (which was actually quite good) and all saddles--save for "banana" seats on "Sting-Ray"-type bikes--in those days were black.

Also from Favorit is this bike:

Yes, it's the one that's taken me over cobbletones, pebbles, dirt and pavement, and beside tram tracks as well as the Vlata River!


  1. Nice bikes, nice place to go on vacation, I suppose. I dream of going to Paris some day.
    Have fun!
    Peace :)

  2. Cycle manufacturing has truly become a mix of global giants and many tiny dwarves.

    Somehow, I don't really think of tandems too often as city utility bikes.