Saturday, May 26, 2007

commuter bike modifications

This month I added a few items to make my bicycle a more practical commuter bicycle.

The basic bicycle is a Schwinn High Plains from the early 1990s. Not shown in this photo are lights, a "tank bag" and a mini tire pump. You'll notice the rear rack and milk crate (something I had laying around the garage I zip tied to the bike rack for carrying bulky items not easily stowed in my backpack or other bike bags. There is also a mountain bike style rear fender under the rack to keep down spray and mud. I'd also a while back put on some comfortable grips.

The knobby mountain bike offroad knobby tires were causing a lot of vibration on the roads and sidewalks I was riding on. I found these tires, with new tubes, for about $50. They feature a kevlar lining to reduce chances for flats by a significant amount -- I've heard 65-90% less blown tires. This tire is a bit narrower than the off-road tires that were on the bike previously. This also helps make the bike roll better with less resistence.

I am experimenting with a homemade splash guard I made from a smoothie drink plastic bottle and a couple zip ties. I think I need a 2 liter size plastic bottle to get the coverage I need to block water kicked up by the front tire. Mainly this will keep ankles and shoes and socks drier.

I am also adding bar ends to provide another riding position for placing my hands.

I just bought a special seat designed to relieve pressure on an artery between the legs. Normally this retails for $89, I got it online for $30.

Monday, May 21, 2007

rain, rain, go away

It rained all-day today, at least when I would have been riding a bike. Plus, I had a meeting where I had to look nice.

So, I decided it was better to keep the bike at home today. Plus, I saw gas prices at a local station slipped 4 cents per gallon since last week. Big oil is hurting for business. Demand has dropped. All because I rode my bike 4 times to work this month so far. [insert heavy sarcasm here]

It's better than what happened last week. On the way to work, gas was $3.39/gallon and I remarked to myself "hey -- it's been that price for at least a week". When I went by later that day it was $3.41/gallon.

different kind of bike

I wanted to mention that one of the bikes to come by the bike commuter station on Friday morning was a semi-recumbent style TANDEM(!) bike. It looked like the one I found online for sale. The people I spoke to said these can go for up to $6,000 but the one I found in these photos is only $1,000 OBO.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Renton Bike to Work Day 5/18/2007

We had 175 bicycle commuters come by the bike station between 6-9 a.m. today.

I'm the one in the long sleeve white t-shirt and orange hat.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

today's brown bag

I rode my bike to work today and participated with three others in our first ever bicycling brown bag lunch (which included a mini tech session and ride). Despite a small turn out (only 4 of us) I think we all had fun. The weather was overcast, but not too warm or cold and it didn't rain!

Our group included the leader, Mike, an experienced bike mechanic and bicycle commuter (he rides 42 miles one-way!) Fred is just getting back onto a bike since he was a teenager (he's in his 50s now.) Fred already routinely logs in 20+ miles a day and he only got back into riding within the last month. James brought his "hybrid" pedal + electric assist bicycle. I rode my bike and it was the first long period of riding I've done with the smoother street type tires.

Advice I/we learned was about lane positioning, hand signals, and basic tool kit suggestions. I learned one of my shifters is a bit out of whack and my seat should be moved a bit forward and needs to be adjusted flatter... it currently tilts downward a bit.

As far as our teams go (sorry if I am being a bit repetitive) after the first two weeks of this month's contest, we collectively (15 riders) racked up over 546 miles of bicycle commutes. Using the AAA's 56 cents a mile operating expense estimate for automobile ownership, we've collectively saved $300 in commuting expenditures. As a bonus, we burnt over 18,000 calories!

Reminder: Bike to Work Day is Friday, May 18th!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

bike to work #2

Have you ever noticed that when you're out of breath, any pair of dogs looks like killer attack dobermans?

I did bike commute (including some walking on the steep uphill portions) on Friday the 11th. Towards the last steep leg, while I was walking with the bike, two Weimaraners and their owner came walking up behind me about 10 yards away.

As I was walking pretty slowly by that point, they were closing the distance pretty quickly. I was watching cautiously over my shoulder and I saw them streak off into the bushes -- so I thought I was in the clear. As I turned to face forward, I startled them (as they did me) as they actually popped out of the bushes ahead of me, with me between the dogs and their owner. I paused, positioned my bike between myself and the dogs as they approached to sniff me out. I said "hey, pups" with a neutral reaction from the dogs. As the owner got closer he said "they're good girls" or something to that effect and "they look similar to an aggressive breed, but they're sweethearts who'd lick you to death". Sure enough, they were nice and benign, but I'm always cautious with dogs I don't know.

The other things I noticed during my commute: gloves would be helpful, as would a better front splash guard; riding into a light wind is still riding into the wind; car fumes really stink when you're starved for oxygen, diesel is even worse! I also experienced how irritating it is when a property owner doesn't maintain the vegetation nearest the street and it grows into the shoulder of the street where you'd like to walk or ride.

This next week features the Bike to Work Day on Friday, May 18th and I intend to bike several times this week, including Wednesday and Friday.

The teams are racking up miles and I am very happy to hear from several who are new to bicycle commuting who are already racking up 20 or more miles per day!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

week of May 7th in review

Good news! As of today, we have two teams registered for the Commuter Challenge month with 14 riders! Many are first time bicycle commuters and some are putting on lots of daily miles. The teams are called rotelle di velocita I and II. I've also still hear rumors there's a team of firefighters out there too.

I'm going to ride to work tomorrow, unfortunately I've only logged one other so far. I expected this, as I had more opportunities to ride in later in the month.

Next week I've scheduled a brown bag lunch ride with a tech session (Weds, May 16th) and of course, Friday, May 18th is Bike to Work Day. On BTW Day, I am going to head to the bike commuter station to see what's going on and also distribute snacks, energy bars, etc.

During the last week of this month, there's a public open house planned (I believe for the evening of May 30th from 6-8 p.m.) to discuss our city's trail and bicycle facility plans. More on that later.

I'm just glad that despite a slow first week, we're really beginning to take off. Now I've just got to get it in gear too.

This is my friend and former co-worker at the UW, Lisa...

She was (and still is) an avid cyclist but now lives in SLO, CA. She still does the same kind of work that I do, trying to educate commuter of their non-drive-alone options. She really leads by example and here she was pictured in a past Bike to Work Day.

Monday, May 7, 2007

week of May 7th

I'm eager to ride this week. I have two days I believe it would be feasible (weather permitting) to ride this week: Tuesday and Friday.

I am trying to get our team (we now have 10 team members!) registered ASAP. The difficulty has been myself and a few others signed up as individuals and I guess we need to have those cancelled before I can otherwise process our team registration. Hopefully this gets cleared up soon.

Over the weekend, I visited Bike Works in Columbia City. Bike Works is a non-profit bike shop in Seattle that does a variety of pro-bicycle charity programs, including teaching kids bike repair (kids can earn a bike this way) and also they send bikes to Africa. I bought a used wheel and new tire for my daughter Rachel's "recycled" 12-inch bike I built from donor bikes. If you need parts or supplies for BTW month, check out Bike Works. Their hours are generally 12-6 most days except Monday and Sunday is 12-4, so call ahead to make sure they're open 206-725-9408.

Friday, May 4, 2007

il pleut beaucoup

On what would've been my second day of bike commuting, I was faced with rather nasty and prolonged rain, so I opted to drive in.

Yesterday was challenging enough for someone who hasn't been on a bike in a while. Rain would only add to my problems. Also, I don't have a good set of rain gear or fenders and lights. I guess it'd also be good to get the bike safety checked :)

The good news is we've got a team of 9 employees who are interested in participating for some of the month's activities. We're arranging for a group ride and tech session later this month. I am also pulling together treats and prizes for participants.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Personal Goal

I wanted to join the bike to work contest for this month. It is a region-wide contest trying to encourage people to consider less-impacting commute alternatives. With gas going up to $3.33 a gallon and beynd, this was appealing to me, as was having the opportunity to force myself to get some exercise.

I am also a employee transportation coordinator for our workplace. I am the one who issues bus passes, forms carpools or vanpools, distributes incentives for bicycling to work, etc. I feel somewhat I should lead by example. We live about two miles one-way from my workplace, but we are on top of a long hill with a lot of traffic.

I took a look at my work schedule and determined that out of the number of weeks the contest is going, I can likely participate 14 days. To qualify for some prizes, one must bicycle to work at least five days during the month. I am trying to go for the full 14 days. To do this, I marked off the calendar for the days I needed to remember to bring in clothes to work for the following day. I also brought in soap, shampoo, etc. so I can get cleaned up at work after the ride in. I should note our workplace also has a changing area with showers and lockers.

We'll see how this works out.

Bike to Work Day 2007 and Commuter Challenge May 2007

This is a blog started for the purposes of documenting one particpant's experiences during the May 2007 Bike to Work Day and Commuter Challenge (more or less Bike to Work Month).

Hopefully, through comments, more participants and experienced commuter cyclists throughout the planet will leave their stories, recommendations, and support.

The team name rotelle di velocità is "speed wheels" in Italian.