Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fall Flowers - I Love My Commute

Today I stopped and took a few quick pictures on my way home. This is one of the reasons I love to commute on the greenways. These fall flowers are so much more enjoyable than a bunch of cars.

Get a local bike map, pull up Google maps and find you a good route. The fastest way is not always the best.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Witnessed a Bike Collide With a Police Car

On my ride home today I witnessed a bike collide with a police car. I looked up the location on Google maps and added some visual aides. The green line is where I cross on my commute. The blue rectangles are two police ars that were in the parking lot. The red line is where the cyclist was riding on the side walk. It is downhill had he had picked up some speed. The police car rolled forward like you would to see around the wall and bush on his right. His front bumper moved into the part of the driveway that would intersect the sidewalk path just as the cyclist arrived. He hit the corner of the front bumper and took a spill in front of the car. 
An officer got out of each car and checked on the rider right away. He seemed a little stunned but OK. He had a scrape on his shoulder and elbow. He was not wearing a shirt or a helmet. He said he was 18. If the collision had not involved a police car I suspect he would have gotten up riden away. But the police insisted he wait for the ambulance. The officer asked if I had seen what happened and when I said yes, he asked me to stay and talk to his supervisor.
Before the supervisor arrived, a fire department vehicle arrived. Three guys got out and started attending to the rider. Then an ambulance arrived and the rider received more attention. Next a fire truck arrived, I guess just to make sure enough traffic was blocked. Finally the supervisor arrived and took a statement from me.
This was the kind of incident that shows why it is dangerous to ride on the sidewalk if you are not a child. This rider was moving fast and on the sidewalk where he was moving toward traffic. The spot is a blind one. I don’t think you can see a car pulling out because of the wall and bush and the car can’t see the sidewalk for the same reason. The parking lot is also downhill from the wall which makes it even harder to see. It is not up to me to decide fault, but it is clear a rider moving quickly down the hill on the the sidewalk is taking unnecessary risks.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bike To Work Indonesian Style

I ran into this video at Taking The Lane. It shows a grassroots organization, Bike To Work, that has 50,000 members. It shows a 6 hour time slot when the main streets were closed to cars named Carfree Day. The daily traffic looks very heavy and any extra space the bicycles can use is shared with scooters and motorcycles as well. As too often happens, when a bicycle path was built it doesn’t go anywhere that people want to go and is used less than planned.
The video certainly shows a range of modern bicycles being used.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Bikes on Big Brother

It has come to my attention that this summer’s Big Brother TV show on CBS has a lot of bicycles used as decoration for the house. Actually I have to confess that it comes to my attention because I actually watch Big Brother every summer. The bikes don’t seem to have anything to do in the show. After all the people are trapped in a house and yard for weeks on end. There is not enough room to really ride them. I wonder if they will get bored enough to ride them anyway at some point. They mostly seem to be part of the decor. It does speak to bicycles being used more in popular media.
I found some pictures showing some of the bikes, but they are not the main subject of the pictures. Does anybody recognize any of the bike models? These kind of TV shows are big on product placement, but if these are all the same brand it is very subtle. They are all what are often called transportation bikes, not racing bikes or mountain bikes or even hybrids.
Just outside the door were people exit when they are voted out is the bike in these two pictures. A nice city bike with fenders. You can’t see it in this picture but it appears to have an internal gear hub.
Then off the kitchen there are two bike racks. The one in this picture has two bikes in it. The other one faces it just outside this picture has one more bike in it. These appear to be the ones that could be ridden.
In the last picture and this next one you can see some partially disassembled bikes mounted on the wall.
Here is another nice city bike hanging in the yard as decoration. This looks like it could be the same model as the one outside the door.
I have also seen a tandem hanging above the door to the Head of Household room, but I didn’t find any pictures of it. By the way, my wife just sees me noticing the bikes at all as just another sign of my obsession. I have been married over 20 years and I know enough not to disagree with her.

Monday, May 30, 2011

100 Miles of Nowhere

On Saturday, May 28, 2011 I road the 100 Miles to Nowhere. This is the first time I have ridden this event even though it is the 4th time FatCyclist.com has organized it.This event was evidently dreamed up by Fatty after a bad batch of burritos and some Utah mountain cabin fever. The good part is that you get to make up your own version. The original features rollers and I don't ride inside. Instead I spent some money on enough winter clothes to ride through the winter. Of course our NC winters feature a lot less snow than Utah.

But I didn't need any winter clothes this late in June. In fact I won my division finishing with temperatures over 90 degrees. My division was the 60 lap, multiple 20th century bikes (no carbon
fiber), 50 to 55 year old division. So if anyone else that age rode exactly 60 laps to total a 100 mile and road more than one bike made between 1900 and 2000, let me know and we can compare times.

And when I say multiple bikes, I don't mean I have 4 nice road bikes to switch between. Here are the bikes.

87 Cannondale I call Alfred. Read more about Alfred in Old Enough To Drink. Alfred does have the distinction of being ridden in a century or longer 14 months in a row and counting. Some of those definitely involved the winter clothes I mention before.

87-88 Cannondale special edition MTB setup for my wife to ride. She likes this crazy bench seat. I can't say the seat is uncomfortable but it does feel kind of strange.

90's Trek Mountain Track converted for commuting where I do about half my yearly miles. While not fast this was easy to ride since I am so used to it. It is setup for a twisty path and keeping your head somewhat up.

90's Huffy single speed beach cruiser that I restored for my daughter. It is really not my size and there were enough hills on the ride to make it a challenge. The handlebars are swept back so much you can't get much leverage when you stand up to climb. It does cruise nicely along the flats it was designed for.

The loop was 1.66 miles and winds through two neighborhoods. The start, finish, bicycle swaps and all rest stops were at my house. I have ridden lots of well done charity rides, but I will say this one had the best bathrooms.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Best Laid Plans

Scottish poet Robert Burns said the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. So was the case of my plan for a Sunday bike ride in Pune, Maharashtra, India.

I was planning to ride on little sleep but I figured it would help adjust to the 9 1/2 hour time difference. Besides I figured it wouldn't be any worse than the last 100K of the 300K I rode last month.

Fog on Friday morning in Chicago started the break down of the plan. Chicago O'Hare is the third busiest airport in the world after Atlanta and Beijing. Once they are behind it usually takes until the next day for them to catch up.

I had a business trip to Pune and had asked a co-worker from the Pune office if anyone in the office was a bicyclist. He said none of them where but he had a friend who was. He put me in contact with his friend and the planning began. He borrowed a bike from a friend, planned a route, and shared advice about what I would need. We were set for a 5:00 am start to avoid both traffic and heat. Some of our planning was about water. I packed two bottles and a Camelback with the intention of filling them with bottled water at the hotel before leaving for his house. We were going to ride 60K or maybe up to 100K depending on how the ride went.

The plane we were meant to take from NC to Chicago just flies back and forth. It was delayed leaving Chicago and we watched our departure time get later and later. In the meantime the schedule for our flight from Chicago to Delhi remained unchanged. Eventually it became clear we were not going to make the connection. They rebooked us for the next day, we went home and our extra day in India was lost.

The next day (really 2) after 33 hours of travel, 6 hours in the hotel (maybe half of it sleeping), we headed to the office Monday morning.

But the goal of riding in India was not dead. But more about that later.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Dopers Suck

While I follow bicycle racing, it is not what this blog is about. And I don't intend to go off on a rant about doping, but I am going to sum up my feelings. Dopers suck.

And I guess I am not alone, because Sock Guy sells socks saying the same thing.

And Twin Six as well.

Enough said in this forum.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Friendly Wave

There are a lot of kinds of cyclists out there. They ride different bikes, different styles and with different attitudes. I would be among the people who detest the race face when you are not even in a race. You know the face, the rider is concentrating so much that they can't even acknowledge your existence. Is the race in your mind so important that you can't give a little wave to build camaraderie with other humans? Do we really want to see this (in fairness maybe he just forgot his chamois cream)?

Rather than this?

Even this cyclist, who should probably be worried about unseen holes in the road, has time for a wave.

Wave training starts young with your very first bike.

So give a friendly wave and maybe a smile whether you are alone

or in a big group.

By the way, I don't even want to admit how many tries it took me to spell camaraderie even close enough for the spell checker to find it.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Stayin Alive

Maybe you can't remember when Saturday Night Fever was the number one album. You could be too young or just have blocked it from your mind. But I am not going to write about the Bee Gees. I am going to write about being safe on your bicycle.

As I started thinking about this, I realized there are a lot of things that go into being safe. So instead of one really long post, I decided to start a series. So far I plan to cover safety issues related to equipment, skills and awareness. Like most things, everything I will cover is common sense but sometimes we don't see the obvious. In fact the longer you have been riding, the more chance you might have started ignoring things that you know better than to ignore. But that is human nature.

So watch for a series of safety posts around once a week.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Take A Seat

There is a new TV show coming on tonight that I feel is worth mentioning even though I haven't seen it yet.

In 2006 Dominic Gill took a fully loaded tandem and a trailer to Alaska and rode it to Chile. Notice I didn't mention another person to ride the tandem with him. Dominic invited people along the way to ride with him. Sometimes they rode for a few miles and other times a few days. This adventure is documented in the book Take A Seat.

But that is not what the TV show is about. The show is 10 episodes documenting a ride across America again on a tandem, but this was planned with a partner, Ernie Greenwald. Ernie is a 74 year old cancer patient. But the plan required changing when Ernie's condition worsened. So the extra seat was filled by a serious of people. But not just your ordinary cyclists, but people with various conditions which makes riding a different kind of challenge. Dominic's partners include blind riders, as well as people dealing with Parkinson's, MS and other conditions.

To me this is reality TV worth watching. It is on Universal Sports which in my area is shown on the second digital channel of the local NBC station. Search this out, it should be well worth it.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Looking For a New Bike

I am giving up on keeping my 15 and 24 year old bikes going. I thought about going old school but I can't really afford enough tweed outfits to really pull this off.

Then I started thinking about all the shoes around my house. I have two kids who were cross country runners, so there are plenty of old sneakers.

So then I looked at some more modern frame designs. This one was interesting but in NC I really need a water bottle in the summer.

So then I thought, why limit myself to just two wheels? But this one doesn't really have a place for panniers.

So I moved on to something that would give me an advantage on my commute. Maybe I should get up above the traffic?

This design is even better than an e-bike to give a quick boost up a hill. Plus the jet exhaust flame would keep the cars from following too close.

Or maybe it is not too late for me to train for the 2012 Olympics.

Hope you enjoy April 1st.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

May: Bike Month

The League of American Cyclists is once again promoting May as National Bike Month.

They have lots of information on events and how to promote them in your area.

Some of my favorites are:

(1) refresh stations
(2) ride with the Mayor
(3) guided rides on local routes

Where I work in Cary, NC there are various signed bike routes and a system of greenway trails. I think it would be great to have ride leaders to take small groups on the routes. This would show people some nice places to ride and let them discover some routes that could work for running errands.

What kind of Bike Month events are being considered in your area?

Friday, March 25, 2011

30 Days of Biking

Ah, surfing the web and listening to podcasts have something in common that addicts me. I discover interesting things hidden among the rest. In this case I was listening to the Bicycle Radio podcast and came across 30 Days of Biking.

Founded by @patiomensch and Zach Amon, both of Minnesota, the idea is pretty simple: ride you bike everyday for 30 days. In their own words:
The only rule for 30 Days of Biking is that you bike every day for 30 days—around the block, 20 miles to work, whatever suits you—then share your adventures online. We believe biking enriches life, builds community, and preserves the Earth. This is the second year, and third round, of 30 Days of Biking!

I really like this idea and so I am promoting it here. You don't have to be training (but you could be), you can be slow or fast, you can ride far or to the end of the driveway to get the mail. All that matters is that you ride.

The upcoming 30 day challenge is for April 2011. You can get more information on using the #30daysofbiking hashtag on Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and Vimeo. This challenge is setup to be a social media event, but don't update Twitter while riding!

For me personally, I will have 2 very challenging days to ride in April. I have a business trip to India and that involves a whole day in travel. I leave on a Friday and arrive near midnight Saturday night. I can do a ride Friday morning but Saturday is going to be tricky to have any chance to ride. I am planning to ride the Sunday in India and hopefully during the week as well. The return trip has a similar problem, but the time difference helps cooing back so it is less challenging. Still I am going to sign up and do my best to find a way to ride.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Cruiser Restored

Last year I fixed up a simple cruiser for my daughter to ride.

It is a Huffy of indeterminate age. Mostly I cleaned a lot of rust although the chrome fenders were in good shape. I did replace the fender stays and the handlebars, both of which had no chrome under the rust. I repacked the wheel and headset bearings.

The seat and grips were new along with the white wall tires. I added the Wald Grocery basket on the front and it makes a nice ride.

I did a lot of cleaning. The decals were pretty messed up but the blue metallic paint was in good shape. So I used a heat gun to get the decals off and a Black & Decker rotary tool to remove rust and plush the finish. My other favorite trick (found on the internet of course) to remove rust is to put some diet soda on the area and rub it with aluminum foil. You can use regular soda but it makes a sticky mess because of the sugar.

My daughter seems to like this bike pretty much. She rode with me to a local farm to get some vegetables. It is 15 miles round trip and there are some pretty decent hills. She tackled them pretty well on this single speed. On one particularly steep section she walked, but she got back on before the top when the slope eased off a little. I think she would have made even the steep section but the swept back handlebars don't give the best leverage for standing up and climbing.

If you are thinking of tackling a project like this for a commuter or errand bike, I would encourage you to go for it. I didn't spend much money and got a lot of satisfaction from the finished bike.

Friday, March 18, 2011

My Moment As a Bike Messenger

Yesterday, I had a brief moment as a bike messenger. Well, there was no traffic and my bike had both gears and brakes, but I was carrying a large envelope and I was racing the clock.

Where I work is a several hundred acre campus. Riding my bike to work means that might bike is in front of my building and is available if I need to go to another building. The most common trip is to and from the gym having either showered after my morning ride or changing clothes for the ride home. But yesterday I needed to deliver some paperwork for a visa I need for an upcoming trip.

I had a meeting until 2:00 pm and that is just before the mail pickup to overnight my documents. So I needed to get to our travel department as quick as possible. I had all my documents in a manilla envelope but for transporting on the bike I skipped that in a large envelope that closes better.

So downstairs I went, on the bike, large envelope in hand, helmet on head, I was off to the building for travel. Even without a Chrome messenger bag, I made the 1 1/2 mile round trip in plenty of time to make the overnight drop.

On the ride back, it came to me that even though there was no traffic, I had just made a delivery not entirely unlike a bicycle messenger. And the pay was even similar. I am get to be on planes for 19 hours plus 8 hours of layovers each way next month. But I may get to ride in another country. I am working on the details now.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Just Because You Can Take It Doesn't Mean You Should Dish It Out

While reading BikeCommuters.com I came across this essay about the mean streets and road rage involving drivers, cyclists and walkers. This got me to thinking about a couple of things.

First, I am grateful for where I live. Partially because of the greenways and partially because the drivers seem better than those described in the essay, I don't experience the hostile conditions many seem to deal with.

The second thought is about riding on mixed use trails. How many cyclists become the equivalent of the drivers they hate once they are the fastest vehicle? Are they terrorizing the runners, joggers, dog walkers, baby stroller pushers and other slow users of the paths? Are the bikes passing at a distance they feel is safe without regard to how the person on foot feels about that margin of safety? Do they get upset that joggers are running in the bike lane on the slightly softer asphalt rather than the hard concrete sidewalk just a few feet away? Are riders more concerned with turning the pedals to keep a good average time or a target heart rate to slow down enough when passing to make everyone enjoy their day?

Well, it is pretty easy to draw parallels between the way drivers sometimes interact with cyclists on the road and the way cyclists sometimes interact with pedestrians on a path. My thought for the day is just because a driver has treated you badly, you should not do the same to a pedestrian. In fact, I would state it even stronger. Because a driver treats you badly, you should know better than to do the same to slower travelers.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Quotes from the National Bike Summit

Some day I would like to go to the National Bike Summit, but today I will settle for sharing a couple of quotes.

First from Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Democrat from Oregon pointed out "Every body on a bike is some body who is not in front of you in a car, competing for a parking space.”

Later Sadik-Khan, the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation was talking about the measurable safety improvements where the new bike lanes have been added. “When we put down a painted bike lane, there’s a 50-percent reduction in fatalities for all users of that street: cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists,” she pointed out. “So when you put these bike lanes down, you are improving the safety of every one that uses that street.”

You can read more about the National Bike Summit at the Alliance For Biking and Walking or Bike Portland.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Sense of Accomplishment

On this morning's bike commute I figured out what is wrong with the world. Well maybe it seemed more profound when my brain was oxygen deprived climbing a hill, but still it is a thought worth sharing.

We need to emphasize personal accomplishment over winning. Attitudes like second place is just the first loser lead to several problems. One is a do anything to win and the other is shutting down and not even trying because you feel you can not win.

Loser T-Shirt

On the other hand a personal accomplishment like riding your bike to work for the first time, are just as worthy of recognition. Now that is not to say that you can expect to visit the Whitehouse like the NCAA Basketball Champions because you rode your bike to work two days in a row.

NCAA Women Basketball Champions at Whitehouse

Still when times get tough and you are tempted to do something you know is wrong to get back on track, it helps to have a grounding in appreciating not the public recognition but the personal sense of accomplishment. Is it so important to win that you are willing to sacrifice your personal feelings of accomplishment just to win

Isn't it better to do the best you can with pride that it is the best you can do, than forego your sense of what is right to win? People need a strong grounding of emphasizing personal accomplishment, starting with the parents, teachers, and coaches and continuing with their friends. And the most important person is yourself. In reality, you are the main one that will be impressed when you ride your bike to work every day for a month.

I will end with another well known quote which I find much healthier. It is not whether you win or lose but how you play the game. And I would include how you live your life.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Old Enough to Drink

I call my road bike Alfred for multiple reasons I will point out as I go. It is a glossy black 1987 Trek touring bike with red decals. Since it is 24 years old, I like to say my bike is old enough to drink. When this bike was new it was one of those crazy Cannondales with the large tubes. And since it was aluminum (Al on the periodic table, hmmm Alfred starts with Al too), people expected it to fold under me anytime. In fact it seems that the public was so leery of aluminum that the fork is steel. But 24 years later it is still rolling along. And the tubes don't seem large at all these days.

Of course, I have upgraded a few things. Back when it was new I added a Blackburn rear rack. Besides the usual things that wear out regularily (tires, handle bar tape, brake pads, and chain), I built a new set of wheels at the beginning of 2010. One big change from this was moving from 27" wheels to 700C. Fortunely the bike had plenty of clearance and the brakes plenty of reach, so that this tranistion was very easy. I was going to need custom built wheels because these bikes have 126mm spacing in the rear and being aluminum it is not a good idea to try and bend them enough to fit the 130mm hubs generally used on bikes these days. So I found some NOS* Shimano 105 hubs with 126mm spacing on the rear. I bought those and took them to my local bike mechanic Matt the Cary Cycle Surgeon. Matt ordered me the Velocity Dyad rims I wanted and caluclated the correct spoke lengths. I built them slowly and carefully, added some Schwalbe Marathon 28mm tires and they have been great.

The old hub had a 6 speed Suntour freewheel. The new hub takes a Shimano UG cassette. The Uni-Glide cassettes were replaced with the HG (hyper-glide) cassettes still in use today. So I had to find a NOS* cassette as well and I got a 7 speed one. This should make you wonder about the shifters. I am still using the original Suntour downtube shifters. The rear shifter is indexed but can  easily be switched into friction shifting which is what I did. Front shifters were not generally indexed when this bike was new.

The Dia-Compe brakes and levers along with the Nitto stem and handle bars are all original. So is the Sugino crank set. In fact I wanted to switch to a triple crank set, but on closer inspection I discovered that the existing set was a triple. It just didn't have a small chain ring bolted on. I had the bottom bracket replaced with a slightly wider one and added the granny gear. I don't use it too often, but when needed it is great. I am pushing the front derailer to its limits to cover all 3 gears, but it is working.

Chatting with the guys at the various LBSs I frequent paid off when I was offered a set of SKS fenders that a customer had returned at a steep discount. They are silver plastic with black stripes. The fenders go great with the black bike kind of like the Batmobile (another Alfred reference). I have been working on getting the arc of the fenders to better match the bike, but as long as they do their job without rubbing I am content.

As the miles started to add up my rear demanded a better seat. I went with a Brooks B17, black of course. It was ok at first and I did experience numbness where no guy wants to be numb on some long rides, but now I have either broken in the seat or it has broken me in. I rarely notice even slight discomfort even when it takes me all day to ride a century.

The last time I changed the handle bar tape, I used a red and black mottled pattern. I also ordered some bright red Planet Bike bottle cages to match the logos. Being a touring frame it has mounts for 3 bottle cages.

I have been using some low end Crank Brother Egg-beater pedals. They are about 15 years old and I noticed recently that the cleats barely had any tab left. As I looked for some new cleats, I found they were about $22. Instead I picked up some Crank Brothers Smarty pedals with cleats for $20. I have been warned that the quality of these can be pretty spotty, but looks like I was lucky. I used them on a recent century and  two 200K brevets. The small platform makes them more comfortable than the plain egg-beaters.

Alfred takes care of me like his namesake took care of Bruce Wayne.

* NOS - new old stock - means unused product that has never been sold at retail

Monday, March 7, 2011

Zero Fatalities

Last week I introduced Complete Streets. Today I want to mention Zero Fatalities. Zero Fatalities simply comes from answering the question How many deaths should we accept on our roads? It is hard to justify any answer that is not zero.

Now I have said for a long time that this could be done by armoring cars and slowing them down so that collisions were not a big deal. Of course going slower, using more gas, and taking 5 minutes to get in and out of the safety harness in your car would only be acceptable to a very few people. But it turns out that taking a Zero Fatality position does not have to be so radical.

Utah first did something about the Zero Fatality idea. They have been followed by others including the American Road & Transportation Builders AssociationAmerican Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and  Volvo.


Some of the ideas attack the most common causes of fatalities on the road: eliminate distractions or make cars that won't start if a driver is drunk. Others tackle the safety features of cars. Some are changing the way we build roads, like using roundabouts instead of standard intersections.
In fact a roundabout (especially to drivers not used to them) makes a tradeoff between more non-fatal accidents while greatly reducing fatal accidents. Now I see this working well for cars. After all, if you hit another car it is at an oblique angle instead of a t-bone accident common at a standard intersection. But based on the roundabouts they have added in Raleigh on Hillsborough Street, near NC State University, I worry about the effect on cyclists and pedestrians. The pedestrian issue seems at least partially addressed in the picture above with cross walks outside the actual roundabout. But for cyclists that try to ride through the roundabout, the drivers are busy looking for cars and their chance to get in and out of the roundabout. I fear they may have little attention left to notice a cyclist. 

In another local case of roundabouts, there is a neighborhood that has some to allow the traffic to flow. This presumably saves gas by not having to stop at a spot that has very little traffic. The light traffic makes this pretty easy to cycle through in my opinion. Does anyone have experience riding through roundabouts they would like to share?

My favorite ideas related to Zero Fatalities involve the basic ideas touted by Nicholas Negroponte of MIT Media Lab fame: Move bits not atoms. Now transportation is all about moving atoms, but by moving bits it means doing it smarter. I think smarter cars, roads and even bikes are a big part of achieving zero fatalities on our roads. Cars are starting to have systems (radar or whatever) to detect things they might collide with. If these systems could respond to transponders to help them recognize a car, then a bike could also have one. Wouldn't it be great if a friendly voice was telling that driver there is a bicycle ahead or there is a bicycle on your right or even do not open you door, a bicycle is approaching on your left.

Keep riding for health, ride safely for a long life and we may live to see the day with zero fatalities.