Monday, February 28, 2011

Warm Weather Equals More Bikes

I saw a nice site in front of the building where I work, bikes. And not just one or two for the people who ride all year. Here is a batch leaning against the front wall, protected under an overhang.

But why weren't they in the bike rack? Besides being out in the weather, the rack was pretty full!

So maybe 20 out of a 1000 people in my building biked to work. 2% is not too many but it is a start.

Location:Research Dr,Cary,United States

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

No Matter How Far You Ride

For me last year's cycling calendar involved a good number of centuries and various other charity rides. This year I am still doing some charity rides and centuries, but I have been adding the longer randonuerring brevets. But one thing I have discovered is that no matter how much you ride, there are always people who ride more.

This week is the North American Handmade Bicycle Show. The 2011 show is in Austin, Texas. If you have a chance to go, then do it. I went last year when the show was in Richmond and really enjoyed it. I just went for the day to the expo. The bicycles, components and accessories were incredible. Even though I was not shopping for a bike, I really enjoyed seeing all the great workmanship. I remember the titanium commuter from Black Sheep Cycles with internal gear hub and a Gates belt drive. It would be perfect for me except that at $8600 I would have to win the lottery to get one and then I wouldn't need it to ride to work.

But really this post is about long rides. After driving 3 hours to Richmond for the show. I was looking around on Saturday and in the early afternoon I ran into some randonnuers I had recently met. They had left Raleigh Friday night and ridden overnight to Richmond. After a nap at a hotel they were enjoying the show. They were taking the train back to Raleigh the next day.

While I move from 100 mile century rides to the 200K (125 mile) brevet rides, I am humbled by 200K being the starting distance. The 2 days I did 200K there were people doing 300K, 400K and 600K rides. In fact I think there were more doing the 600K than the 200K. Many of these people will do a 1200K ride in the summer, either Paris-Bres-Paris or one of the US based rides.

Well I have a long way to go but it is good to have goals.

Location:Division St,Nashville,United States

Monday, February 21, 2011

You often find biking and walking advocacy tied together. One important reason for this seems to be the way government funds are allocated lumps these together.

And while biking and walking don't have exactly the same issues they are related. For example using a bicycle for errands is definitely facilitated by having your stops closer to home. That is why I find the Walk Score interesting as a cyclist.

The walk score is calculated based on distances from various amenities like groceries, shopping, restaurants, schools, coffee shops, bars, parks, entertainment, and banking. It will also give a transit score. Here is an example about halfway along my normal commute.

The web site offers ranking of cities but more interesting to me was being able to enter a specific address and see the walking score. It even gives a comparison to the rest of the city.

You can also use a free iPhone app to check the walk score in various places your travels may take you,

Give it a try. If you are really intrigued the site has lots of details on the algorithm and ongoing research.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Be vewy vewy quiet, I'm hunting wabbits

While I harbor no illusions that spring has arrived early, but I have been seeing signs of it. This week has featured mild temperatures and I have seen an increase in wild life on my commute. My favorite animal to spot is a rabbit.

No, I don't hunt Bugs Bunny like Elmer Fudd, but I have been known to judge the quality of my ride not by my average speed and heart rate but by the number of rabbits I see. It makes a nice contrast to driving were you almost never see a rabbit.

Lately I have been seeing more rabbits. Some of this is due to the warmer weather and some to my ride covering the pre-dawn light at this point. I have been seeing an average of 3 rabbits along my route. One nice fat one just sat barely off the path the other morning and watched me pass. Usually the move away as I approach and occasionally the run down the path ahead of me and then bolt into the woods.

I have also seen deer a couple of times recently on a section of the greenway which is less than a mile from a state park. That is fairly rare and this section will start getting a lot more traffic as Spring actually starts,  which is why spotting them is so rare.

On various commutes of the past I have also seen foxes, snakes, a raccoon, owl, and a turkey. I feel lucky to have a commute I can enjoy so much.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Local Bike Maps

One thing I have found to be quite valuable for route planning is a local bike map. Sure the Google Bike Maps announced about a year ago are handy. And there are various web sites to help plan routes:

Really there are too many to list. If I missed your favorite add a comment and let us all know about it.

But I really like to sit at the table with a large foldout copy of a map and figure out new routes to try. I have discovered that many communities have bike maps. These will show bike routes, bikes lanes, and bike trails at the very least. You can find them online (usually as PDF files), but I like having a hardcopy. The places I have been have free large hard copies at the local bike shops. If you are searching for one online bike map will tend to find it. They are often combined bike and walk/pedestrian maps. I think that is because that is the way most community budgets work - combining all non-car stuff together.

I have done this with my local Cary map, a Las Vegas map and a San Antonio map. I just pulled up a Nashville map because I am heading there for a few days soon. Which reminds me, I want to try and setup a visit with Walk/Bike Nashville while I am there. Should be at least one good blog post coming if I can set that up.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Bikes, Busses, Cars, and Trains

Mixed mode commutes might be just the ticket to get you commuting by bike. Some people are able to bike to a train, ride the train to work and return the same way. If you can manage this in all weather you might even be able to completely give up one car in your family. Getting rid of a car is hitting the jackpot. Not only do you save on gas, but the cost of the car, insurance, inspections, tires, oil changes and other maintenance. You not only save money, but you save all the time spent on keeping your car going as well.

Some people are able to combine a bike with a bus. Many places, the bus can also carry your bike allowing you to ride from home to the bus stop, and from the bus stop to your workplace on the other end. This is another scenario that has the potential to let you give up one car in your family.

The final combination is the one I still use, car and bike. For me I drive about 4 miles and park at a neighborhood club house. From there I can bike about 12 miles to work on a round about path that avoids most traffic. There are two reasons I drive the part closest to my house. One is that it would be pretty far to ride both ways every day. But the most important reason is that the roads closest to my house are narrow but heavily traveled. There is not much shoulder and gravel driveways often spill onto the shoulder. The traffic is not very patient when you drive your car the speed limit, 45 mph. In one stretch I get passed by impatient drivers who can't go the speed limit at least once a week. I worry about what these drivers would be like if I was on my bike. One good thing about driving and riding is that you can vary your distance. This makes it a good way to get started. You can pick a shopping center or other good parking that is nearer your work. Ride that for awhile until you are ready to ride farther. Of course this flexibility comes at the cost of not being able to get rid of a car.

These are just some of the ways you can find to include biking in your commute. I hope it will spark some imaginations and encourage people to give it a try.

Monday, February 14, 2011

GPS After an Accident

I ran across an interesting story I wanted to share that points out a different use for a GPS on your bike. I often use the Plus3Network iPhone application on my commute to record my ride and earn money for World Bicycle Relief. And many riders use a GPS to record their ride and improve their training. But UCI Professional Track cyclist Ryan Sabga of Black Dog Racing found another use for his Garmin Edge 500.

You can read Ryan's full story, but here is my recap. Ryan was hit by a car in Denver. When the police arrived the driver's account did not match Ryan's. The police said with no further evidence they could not issue the driver a ticket. When Ryan got home, he realized his Garmin did hold further evidence. While the police were not interested in re-opening the file, Ryan had better luck when he contacted the driver's insurance company. The driver had already started a claim to get the car hood repaired where a cyclist had "run into it". Ryan shared the Garmin data with the insurance company. The data showed him stopping properly at the stop sign and then proceeding. Then he was suddenly moving sideways and it even showed a spike in Ryan's heart rate when he was hit. The next day, the insurance company called Ryan back and said they were taking full responsibility for the damages to him and his bike. I just hope the driver was dropped by her insurance company for filing a false report.

Here is a shot of Ryan.

And this case is evidently not unique. Steve Magas on Ohio Bike Lawyer mentions two other involving cyclists and powerful GPS evidence.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Waterproof Gloves, Not Foolproof Gloves

There is a saying that it is hard to make things foolproof because fools are just so ingenious. That seems to be the case of my first day wearing my new waterproof cycling gloves.

Last Friday, I was taking a rest day from commuting in preparation for my first brevet. I decided to drop by a bike shop on my way home. Having checked the weather, I knew some waterproof gloves would be a good addition. I was also checking the sales on winter gear in general.

They had several brands and models of waterproof, winter gloves. I settled on a pair of Specialized Radiant gloves. They were 20% off. I was eyeing a jacket/heavy jersey, but it wasn't for the rain, so I decided to wait and see if I find something else or if it gets discounted further as the weather warms up.

So I started the all day ride on Saturday wearing my new gloves. I brought a lighter, but full fingered, pair in case it got warmer in the afternoon. It started raining within the first 10 minutes of the ride, so the gloves were getting a test. And so was the fool.

I had on my rain jacket with nice tight cuffs, but I had pulled the gloves over the cuffs. Now picture your self on your bike. Your arms slope down to your hands. When it is raining, the water runs down this same way. In my case slowly into the lining on the cuffs of the gloves. They gloves slowly wicked this water inside. So they got wet and heavy, but I did not notice until they were too wet to dry that day. Still I have to say they did stay warm if not dry.

To make sure there was not a problem with the gloves waterproofing, I did a little experiment after they dried out. I put them on and ran water on them under the sink. I was careful not to get water into cuffs. They performed perfectly. The outer layer is wet to the feel (from the outside), but the inside of the gloves stayed perfectly dry.

So next time I will pull my jacket cuffs over the gloves. I will have to find a different way to be the fool.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

My First Brevet

This is not about commuting but another ride I did, a 200k brevet. I will say that some of the things I learned from commuting helped on this ride which was part of a randoneuring series offered by Bicycle For Life. Plus the overall attitude of bicycle commuting and randoneuring share some things.

RUSA defines randonneuring like this:

Randonneuring is long-distance unsupported endurance cycling. This style of riding is non-competitive in nature, and self-sufficiency is paramount. When riders participate in randonneuring events, they are part of a long tradition that goes back to the beginning of the sport of cycling in France and Italy. Friendly camaraderie, not competition, is the hallmark of randonneuring.

Like any kind of cycling, people have different goals, but a common one for randonneurs is to ride Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) which happens every 4 years including 2011. To qualify to ride PBP, you have to ride a 200K, 300K, 400K, and 600K brevet. The day I rode there were 200K, 300K, and 600K riders. In fact I think there were more doing the 600K than any other distance.

So I did the longest ride I have ever done, but it was the shorest route being offered. But I did find the common attitude of being self sufficient and pushing through are certainly shared between randoneering and bicycle commuting.

In particular this ride was done in rainy and cold weather and finished after dark. So my experience with choosing clothes for daily commuting conditions gave my confidence that I was picking the right thing to wear. Finishing after dark was not a problem because I knew my lights would work. After all, I have been using them everyday, twice a day, while commuting during the short winter days.

My only real problem was with the new waterproof gloves I bought just before the ride. I will talk about them more tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Mini-Rant About Transportation Funding

I want to touch on a recent news story where US Representative Duncan Hunter of California said having bicycle funding in the transportation bill is unconstitutional. The heart of Representative Hunter's statement comes from thinking cycling is recreational rather than transportation. Without getting into Constitutional law which I don't feel qualified to discuss, I would like to comment on these ideas.

Many of us who ride for transportation would dispute that cycling is just recreational. Also a significant number of miles people drive in cars, including me, are also recreational. If I drive back and forth to work all week that is about 100 miles. If I drive to the beach of mountains for the weekend that is 200-400 miles.

I poked around a little and found some things in the documents our country is built on that I would interpret to cover the support of cycling infrastructure. The Declaration of Independence includes the words pursuit of happiness. All the cyclists I know riding for transportation would say that cycling gives them more happiness than driving. The Declaration of Independence goes on to say government should organize its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. So if the government is building transportation infrastructure it seems imperative to consider the safety of all users. After all we don't let the truckers just do what they want. There are plenty of rules to make their use of the transportation network safer. The same is true of trains and planes.

It seems like I could go on and on, but I will stop here and see if others would like to comment.

On a related note, Tom Bowden had an article on Commute By Bike discussing How to Talk About Cycling to a Conservative that is worth a read.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Bicycle Podcasts

I thought I would share a list of the bicycle podcasts I listen to*. This is just one bicycle bloggers opinion, so don't keep it from sharing yours. I try to mention the sound quality mostly because it is a pet peeve of mine, but also if you want to listen while riding it helps if the volume and clarity are consistent. I don't listen too loud when I am riding, so good quality keeps me from missing things.

VeloReviews - The podcast is an extension of the web site and offers practical advice for riding, training, and maintaining your bike. Nice style and banter. You can almost always hear what is going on.

Bicycle Radio - covers wide range of topics. I have often discovered new cycling events and causes from this show. Very casual style with lots of banter. You can hear the main people well, but some of the others are hard to hear. They struggle with their phone interviews.

Bike Show - This is an actual radio show in London. There is usually some general news, some about racing but mostly about more ordinary cycling. The interviews are very good, ranging from master frame makers to the new Olympic Velodrome. The sound is good. I want to know how he gets good recordings when interviewing a person while they are both riding bikes in London.

Two Johns - The Two Johns cover international news, local (meaning US with some weight on Ohio and North Carolina) news, and lots of email questions. They can be a little scattered but in an entertaining way. They have improved their sound recently.

The FredCast - Just having the single voice of David Bernstein, gives this podcast a different feel. David has lots of industry connections and that gives him a different perspective. There is lots of racing news but also bicycle industry in general. The shows have lots of information but not too much entertainment.The sound is nearly flawless.

The Spokesmen is a round table discussion with a rotating cast of industry insiders. They have lots of information and passion for almost all aspects of cycling. There is plenty of talk about racing but also general industry and current events related to cycling. David Bernstein of the FredCast is the host most often and the sound quality reflects that. It is almost as good as the FredCast. The multiple people via Skype makes it more challenging but it is still very good.

Velo Club Don Logan is a new podcast from Scotland. The accents are pretty heavy, but I can follow it just fine. They talk about road (mostly racing and some touring) and mountain. Their local news is certainly about Scotland and the UK, but it is still generally interesting. It can give you some good ideas of places to ride if you visit. The sound is a little uneven, but I am hoping a little experience will smooth it out.

WJCU - The Outspoken Cyclist - I just found this one. I haven't heard enough to give an opinion, but I suspect it is a keeper.

I know there are probably more Podcasts out there, so chime in with your favorites.

* I know this sentence ends in a preposition, but that is the way people talk. It does remind me of a story. Being a former student at Texas A&M I will tell it with an Aggie. You will have to supply your own accents. So am Aggie goes to graduate school at Harvard. On arriving on campus, he asks a student walking by, "Can you tell me where is the library at"? The Harvard student responds "At Harvard, we do not end out sentences with a preposition". So the Aggie corrects the query "Can you tell me where the library is at, jerk".

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Flat By Any Other Name Still Stinks

Last year on the first Saturday in February I attempted my first brevet. A 200km ride in a nice flat part of the North Carolina coastal plain hosted by Bicycle For Life. I ended up with more flats than spares. I had some new wheels but not new tires or tubes. I made it past half-way and had to abandon.

Tomorrow I will be riding the same brevet again. I have much confidence in my fitness, nutrition, bike and preparation for flats so I am confident of making the full distance this time.

Here is what I am carry for fixing flats on both my road bike and commuting bike. I carry two spare tubes and a Slime Scabs patch kit. For inflation I carry a Crank Brothers Power Pump and a Genuine Innovations Ultraflate Plus with 3 CO2 cartridges.

Besides fixing flats I also like avoiding them. Besides doing my best to avoid road hazards I run 28mm Schwalbe Marathon tires inflated to about 80 PSI.

Tomorrow will tell, but again I am confident that my tires will not foil my ride.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

When Does a Rain Jacket Make You Wet?

Currently i just have one cycling jacket, a Pearl Izumi Slice. But this morning I found myself kind of wet and kind of chilled wearing it. This is for two reasons. The first is while the jacket is breathable, you can still generate enough heat inside of it to sweat. Then the base layer shirt I wore this morning is too loose. It gets sweat on it but does not stay right against my skin. That lets it get cold and then contact the skin again making me cold.

All this on a day with no rain, so I really didn't need the rain jacket, but I don't have anything else to block the wind that was anymore breathable. I am keeping an eye out for a wind block jacket. The pants I wear in the cold weather have wind block on the front and much more breathable fabric on the back. This seems to work very well and the range of temperatures wearing just these (well I wear padded bike underwear with them) is great. They are warm enough if the temperature starts in the high 20s and still comfortable if it goes up into the 60s. I have worn them as low as 15 degrees with long underwear under them.

I don't expect a jacket to give that wide of temperature range, but if you know of a good jacket that works from around 30 to 45 degrees deepening on what you wear under it, I would love to hear about it. In the meantime I will check the end of season sales at the local shops.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Winter? Weekend Ride

While much of the country is dealing with cold, snow and ice, this last weekend in North Carolina was very nice. On Sunday afternoon I went for a ride in clear weather with little wind and temperatures around 60 degrees.

I think it was the first ride in shorts since sometime in November. I rode with my church group, the Spiritual Spinners. For this time of year, we are hosting Sunday afternoon rides. We had an A (18+ mph) group of 4 or 5 riders, a B (16-18 mph) group of about 8 riders, a C (14-16 mph) group of 5 riders and 2 people doing an in town route. It was a good turnout for Fuquay-Varina (population around 9,000), I rode 10 miles to the ride, then co-led the C group and rode 10 miles home. My total was just a hair over 45 miles.

It was nice to ride with a group. We did a little chatting and a little pace lining. It was a very nice ride.

Being a religious group, the ride always starts with a prayer. I wanted to share some words that are almost always part of our pre-ride prayer and extend the prayer to all the riders out there.

God, let us loom large in the eyes of the drivers and help them and us make good decisions.

Spiritual Spinners jersey, from the NC Bike MS 2010 rides

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

How to Share the Road

We should all be aware of the phrase share the road. In North Carolina, you can even get a Share the Road license plate.

But I think the problem is that people don't know what that means. I think it would improve cyclist safety on the road if there was better education on the rights and responsibilities of cyclists.

For drivers, I would like to see the following.

  • Make sure there is a section in the driver's handbook about cyclists
  • Make sure each test for getting your driver license includes at least one random question about cyclists

Since cyclists don't get a license (and I am not advocating that they should), it is harder to enforce the same education. The best I can think of is giving a pamphlet with every new bike. Of course picking up a bike on Craig's list or dusting off a stored bike would by-pass this, at least it is a start

All this made me wonder what a person could find online if they were looking for information on safe cycling. I poked around a little and found some resources I want to share. The League of American Bicyclists has various resources for cyclists. They also train instructors. You can search for a Smart Cycling class or instructor in your area. The League of American Bicyclists has also worked with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to create a video available on YouTube.

I was also aware of the Peloton Project which has guidance to riders and drivers. It also talks about rules for group rides.If you host group rides definitely check it out.

But the best site I found was Bicycle Safe. It goes beyond general advice and gives concrete examples, complete with diagrams, of 10 ways cyclists have trouble with cars and gives tips on how to avoid them.

Does your state include cycling sections in the driver's manual or questions on the test?

Do you know of other good cycling safety sites?