Tillie & Coco

two ladies, two bicycles, two hemispheres

Commuter Jeans

by tillieandcoco

Dear Tillie,

I’m not sure how I feel about these jeans. I’m a real believer in riding in normal clothes rather than “cycling gear”, but these seem to have some good features.

They probably don’t come in a maternity version anyway.

Love Coco xx


Quaint Quote

by tillieandcoco

Dear Tillie,

I simply have to share the following quote I came across recently:

“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.”

—Ernest Hemingway

When I started riding in Sydney I was amazed at how hilly it is. I had never noticed the hills before! The other added benefit of touring by bike is you can meander along slowly, taking it all in rather than having the sights flash by. Plus you can pick up on the more subtle characters of a place, like the smells of coffee roasting and bread baking, you can investigate the curious lane ways, and stop whenever something catches your eye or takes your fancy.

I love bikes.

Love Coco xx

Fancy flowers

by tillieandcoco

Dear Tillie,

there was a special event at the Gallery this morning and afterwards we had to get rid of all the flowers. We gave away as many as we could to the public but there were still a few bunches left when it was time for me to go home for the day. These gorgeous bright things were just sitting there waiting for me to take them home. Of course I already had a full basket so they were placed, somewhat unceremoniously, in my cup holder.

Whilst stopped at the lights I couldn’t help but admire the afternoon sunlight on the flowers so here’s an extra pic (I didn’t quite capture the beautiful light but I’m sure you get the gist!).

They survived the trip home and are now more appropriately housed in a vase on my coffee table. Though I do think there is something wonderful about bikes and flowers, whether they are decorating baskets or simply being carted home in them!

Love Coco xx

Ps. On the ride home a P-plater (provisional driver for all you folk overseas) made fun of my indication by mimicking my hand gesture as he drove past. At least he saw me, right? Apparently all those years of gymnastics have stuck and I may need to be more conscious of my girlie hands in the future!

12 Leather Treasures

by tillieandcoco

Dear Tillie,

I just came across these 12 Leather Treasures on the Bicycling websites and thought I would share (there is something so nice about bikes and  leather!): http://www.bicycling.com/bikes-gear/bikes-and-gear-features/12-leather-treasures

Love Coco




Bumpy Rides

by tillieandcoco

Dear Tillie,

My trips around Sydney are becoming more bumpy but it’s not due to the notoriously potholed roads, rather my own baby bump!

Baby belly along for the ride

It’s quite nice looking down and seeing my little passenger along for the ride. I can’t wait to meet him or her. Baby likes going for rides but not when I hit potholes, I usually get a swift kick in the guts if I’m unfortunate enough to roll into one. The photo above was taken on an unseasonably warm and sunny day last week and I jumped at the opportunity to throw on a sundress and ride to my ultrasound appointment. Disappointingly there is no bike parking at the hospital and the fence outside was already chockers with locked up bikes so I had to backtrack two blocks before I found a free pole on which to lock up my poor bike! Annoying but lovely to see bike culture is well and truly alive in the Inner West. Also while I was flipping through the magazines in the waiting room I spied this little gem. Great to see cycling getting some mainstream press that has nothing to do with cycleway or helmet debates!

Now I haven’t done much posting lately but it’s really not because I haven’t been doing anything, in fact I’ve been rather busy. I went along on the recent Sydney Cycle Chic ride in Surry Hills. We had a lovely lunch at Deus Cycleworks on Bourke Street, then rode down the fabulous separated cycleway to Mike Rubbo’s exhibition ‘Nothing but bikes’ at Tap Gallery. Mike has a great blog called Situp-cycle and is a vocal advocate of utility riding. The bikes took over the street outside the Gallery. (I think they need more bike parking in Sydney! Smart business should contact the council to install bike parking outside their front door. I know I regularly shop at certain stores and visit certain cafés because I know there is easy, safe and secure bike parking nearby.) There is a lovely video of the day by Paul Martin here.

Deus Cycleworks café full of bike loving folk

Bike art at Tap Gallery


Gallery visitors came largely by bike

It's not often you see one of these on the streets of Sydney!

I also attended an event for Australian Engineering Week titled ‘City Cycleways- Commuter Pain or Gain’ run by Engineers Australia. It consisted of a panel of four: Omar Khalifa from Bicycle NSW, Michael Veysey from the Roads and Traffic Authority, Fiona Campbell – delegate from the Lord Mayor’s Office and was meant to include representatives from the NRMA (car advocates) but they chickened out at the last minute and were replaced by a lovely cycling engineer who’s name I cannot remember. The talk focused on the urban transport issues with city congestion and health the focus, two areas where cycling can contribute a great benefit. It was, on the whole, a very positive forum. Proof that engineers are indeed a smart bunch!

Well that’s it for the moment Tillie. I shall write again soon!

Love Coco xx

Cycle Superhighway 7

by tillieandcoco

You know you haven't opened your garage for a while if there's a snail on the door

Hi Coco! At least you have an awesome excuse for being MIA; I have merely been not cycling. Every train journey feels like a betrayal, but every weekend lately has featured rain and more rain. Do you want some rain with your rain? But yesterday the sun came out, and I finally dusted the cobwebs off Blackie (actual cobwebs), pumped up her tyres, and cycled from Wimbledon to Clapham Common to see my cousin David and his wife Michelle, who are back in London with their puppy. I was going to get the train until my clever husband pointed out that I could take Cycle Superhighway 7 practically the whole way! Ooh, don’t mind if I do. I set off from home and took some quiet back streets which would lead me to CS7, not very far from where it starts at Colliers Wood station. Quiet back streets are enormously pleasant to cycle along. I did have to chuckle at this particular moment (and stop to take a photo):

Mixed messages much? Whatever! Cycles allowed!

The Cycle Superhighways are not really new, but I had never used one before yesterday. They’re a far cry from the Bourke Street model, but it’s still surprisingly reassuring to have an unbroken path of blue paint to follow – people still park their cars in the Cycle Superhighway, but most drivers do their best to avoid it. The lane is more of a marker than anything. I definitely wouldn’t have cycled yesterday if I couldn’t use the superhighway – even though the route is relatively straightforward, without the blue paint there were plenty of potential wrong turns. It meant I didn’t need a map. And the superhighways even have signs which tell you how far away you are from your destination – there aren’t many of them, but it’s certainly nice to know that you’re only 5 minutes from the next landmark, especially when you’re in unfamiliar territory.

I thought it would take me an hour to get from Wimbledon to Clapham Common; but I made it in 30 minutes. David and Michelle hadn’t even left yet, expecting me to be even slower than my already generous estimate. It was a really pleasant ride – not too many hills, interesting street life to enjoy on the way, and polite drivers who waited for me to cycle around parked cars. I found a second hand furniture store outside Tooting Bec Station that would be worth a second look, and some beautiful 30s-era housing estates.

Blackie, parked somewhere other than my garage

Once David and Michelle finally showed up a billion hours later (no wonder – they took a taxi) I finally met Winnie. I am by no means a dog person, but Winnie is a delight (slash footballer):

Winne and the ball

Photo by Michelle. I should really sort out my posture.

I went home the extra long way because I was enjoying myself so much, which meant that I ran out of blue paint after Colliers Wood, but I was very much in the swing of it by then and only needed to consult the map once to double-check that I hadn’t overshot the road home. My favourite rides are always those that get me to a destination. Of course I love cycling for the sake of cycling, but I love it all the more when it’s part of something else – like grocery shopping, or getting to work. I’ve finally learned the best route from Wimbledon to South Kensington from a colleague, but am yet to try it out. Maybe next weekend if the weather holds!


We’re now on WordPress!

by tillieandcoco

Welcome to our new home! You can sign up for emails, and we don’t have to grapple with the blogger bugs anymore. Sweet.

Back on the Bike

by tillieandcoco

Dear Tillie,

did you miss me? I’ve been MIA for a while now, I know. Sorry! Well the secret is out- I’m pregnant!

The past few months have been spent sleeping, eating, and vomiting. Add to that a flat rear tyre and there was not much cycling going on! Now that I’m in my forth month the morning sickness has passed and I finally had enough energy to walk my bike over a couple of suburbs to get the rear tyre fixed I’m back on the bike! Yay!

In celebration of my return to the bicycle I bring you this amazing YouTube video (also available on iTunes!):

Le Velo!

Love Coco xx

Riga Bicycle Tours

by tillieandcoco

Hi Coco,

I have just come back from a week in my home city-in-law, Riga, which is currently showing all signs of high summer: three shades of lilac, high grass and mosquitoes-of-death. To my surprise, since my last visit Riga has become a burgeoning city of cyclists. Sweeping bicycle lanes have been built, and there is even a Baltic Bike share scheme (though it doesn’t appear to be very popular). On a self-devised tour of the Art Nouveau district, I came across this rather nice flyer for Riga Bicycle Tours, which promises “the most honest impression, not just the city the guidebook shows. The good the bad and the ugly!” Awesome. I was already missing cycling, especially seeing everyone sailing about on their two wheels, and I also wanted to learn more about Riga.

I caught a very pristine new tram into the old town in time for the 3pm tour on Saturday. The flyer says to join the tour from the Town Hall Square, and to look for the sign. I couldn’t find an office anywhere, so waited by the Tourist Office, who reassured me that I was in the right place. Shortly after 3pm a guide and a bike showed up, and waited next to the statue of Roland (“That’s the guy holding the sword!”, confirms the website) with the promised sign. The tour guide, hilariously, was an Australian called Marcus – originally from Geelong – who has been in Riga for four years. The tour consisted of myself, Marcus, and a gentleman from San Francisco. The tours are divided between Marcus and a local colleague, and each costs 10 LVL (about £13) for two hours. It is a very clever little operation run under an umbrella company called EAT Riga, which offers all sorts of interesting tours including “Retro Riga” and “Beer and Balsam”. The bikes are kept in a cafe a short walk away from the square; and whilst they’re not the cherry red cruisers shown in the website image, they’re sturdy Dutch-style bikes and easy to adjust.

Marcus took us out of the cobbled old town into the Moscow District, via the markets constructed in Art Deco style with the recycled roofs of zeppelin hangars. The Moscow District was constructed along the Moscow Road, and was the first suburb of Riga outside the Old Town, which was reserved for the elite German merchants. It’s still one of the poorer areas of the city, with a particularly tragic history in the form of the Jewish Ghetto. Today, this area is quiet and ramshackle, belying its violent past, and the cemetery has been converted to a shady green park.

From there, I’m not actually sure where we went, but we somehow circled back into the city proper, towards the Art Nouveau district. Even though I’d already been a few days previously, this time I learned that there are more Eisenstein buildings than I first thought (Sergei’s dad was an architect!); and that if the gates are open, these buildings are in fact publicly accessible – even though there’s not a great deal to see, I found this new fact quite charming. I also learned that if you take the time to press your forehead to the glass and look inside the foyers, you will be delighted to see the original Art Nouveau tiling adorning the stairwells.

In Riga, you are allowed to cycle on the pavement as long as you don’t disturb any pedestrians. Unlike in London this isn’t a problem because the pavements are so capacious. In the old town cycling is difficult due to cobbles, but you’re better off walking those streets anyway, just to take it all in. I really love this slight sense of lawlessness, mainly because it absolutely works, and to me pedestrians and cyclists are more alike than cyclists and cars. (I still find it absurd that cyclists are not supposed to use the pavement over Chelsea Bridge, because it’s perfectly wide enough, and the road has no proper shoulder anyway.) Moreover, no one bothers with helmets. I was amazed by how accommodating pedestrians were of cyclists sharing their space in Riga. As we were cycling across an intersection, our SF friend lost his bag, and a kindly man chased after him to return it. The only confrontation I observed in a whole week was a car beeping at a cyclist as she was (legally) crossing the road – on a pedestrian crossing at that! It seems that the attitude of drivers still needs some work.

The cycle tour was easily the highlight of my trip. It was such a pleasure to be introduced to a side of Riga I didn’t know about, and of course to see it by bicycle! Cycling on wide-enough pavements was a particular treat.

Love Tillie

Psychic Bike

by tillieandcoco

Dear Tillie,

So I was wandering the streets of Newtown today, on foot as I still haven’t fixed my flat, and I came across this lovely bike:

It belongs to Psychic Sarah, a tarot reader who works at Pure Botanicals in Newtown. I’ve seen the bike many times and have even had a couple of readings by Psychic Sarah (she’s awesome if you’re into that kind of thing btw) but I’d never thought to snap a pic of her bike before. Unfortunately the lighting was all wrong so I couldn’t get a good photo without running onto the road. Luckily she has some much better pictures on her website and even goes on to describe all the different decorations adorning her lovely bike. One thing I love is the frame covered in chunky silver glitter! And I always love flowers on baskets. The tarot cards in the spokes are a very appropriate touch considering the bike also doubles as advertising!

Love Coco xx