Good Sweat

Monday, April 12, 2010

Cyclist in the city: Julie Hirschfeld brings a Carrie Bradshaw sensibility to biking

Walk into Adeline Adeline, an inviting new Tribeca boutique, and bicycles with creamy paint colors and sleek lines look every bit as appealing as designer footwear. Unlike Louboutins, however, these retro European bikes are actually designed for New York City streets. The whole fleet is eminently practical (if not exactly affordable), and owner Julie Hirschfeld is already selling bikes at a brisk clip, as well as fashionable helmets, adorable wicker bike baskets, slip-on shoes, and soon, her own collection of bike bags.

Hirschfeld isn’t a hard-core cyclist or an MBA in search of an idea; she’s a Brooklyn mother of three-year-old twins who went shopping for a bike last August and couldn’t believe how shoddily she was treated.  “I went into several bike shops looking for a low-tech city bike and I was basically ignored. I also couldn’t find a bike I liked,” she remembers.

The Linus ($390-$550) is Hirschfield's best seller

“Someone should really open a bike store for women,” she said casually to her husband. “You should do it,” he replied, and a few weeks later the two took off to Interbike, the huge annual Las Vegas bike show, leaving the twins overnight with grandma. Three months later Hirschfeld signed a lease for a space on Reade Street, a quiet tree-lined block with a bike lane where customers can enjoy a peaceful test drive. And today, just eight months after her epiphany, Hirschfeld’s new commute is a 30-minute pedal, on her 1-speed Abici Gran Turismo Donna, from Fort Greene over the Brooklyn Bridge to her store for stylish cyclists.

The Biomega ($2000) is a chainless bike, from the cycling savants in Holland

The bikes you see in Adeline Adeline (named after her two grandmothers who shared the name) are not ones you’ve ever seen on NYC streets, or even in this country. In fact, they’re straight out of Brideshead Revisited. At the high-end there’s the $1800 Retrovelo, which is handmade in Germany, and has extra wide “balloon tires” for a bouncy ride on cobblestone streets. Batavus’s Fryslan model, an especially upright bike that allows for great visibility and provides a bump-free ride, hasn’t changed much since it first went into production in the 1950s. Via Italy, there’s the cheerful, zippy, and lightweight Abici for $950. The cheapest of the lot ($390-$550 depending on features) is the only American bike—the Linus, a inspired by French bikes from the 1940s and designed in Venice, CA. So far it’s the top-seller. For a museum-worthy bike, there’s the Biomega ($2,000), a chain-free model invented by a Danish designer, where they know a thing or two about biking. Every single bike is a head-turner and a conversation piece. Adeline Adeline solves the problem of where to buy a fashionable, practical bike in this city. But it introduces another problem. Parking. No way would your sparkly new Biomega last the night on a city street.

Adeline Adeline, 147 Reade Street, NY, NY, 212-227-1150, www.adelineadeline.com

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