Bike Overnight

May 2nd, 2012

I sent in a write-up from my New Years bike ride to Bike Overnights. This week, it was published!

Sadly, the pictures were hampered by my neglecting to bring a camera. Might just have to go back…

Long Absence

April 16th, 2012

I haven’t posted in here in a good three weeks, but as I noted then, the original plan for this blog has somewhat disintegrated. Since last week, I’m no longer working at Hub Bicycle (and after all that promotion here!).

I haven’t mentioned it in a while, but I finally got some inspiration to close up the case on my bike light, and I plan on actually testing it out soon. Here’s to hoping my “off the shelf” lighting works, and is quite bright!

Another bike related project I’m looking at is making the TB Designs panniers. While my own design is functional, it has a small problem with keeping its shape. I suppose I could retrofit it with some aluminum bracing, but I really like the idea of the TB Designs: have a separate bag and rack-mount. I think the benefit he touts is that you can make the bag of very light material to cut a little weight off. I like the idea of being able to transport cargo of many sizes and shapes and then be able to easily take it offer the bike at your destination. After many readings and re-readings of his page, I understand what’s going on, and I’ll try to post my own instructions once I make it.

My other project was to turn my (and the fiancee’s) Surly Crosschecks from double chainrings to triples. This went off pretty smoothly, with the exception that going off the current Surly parts list is very confusing: in the last year they switched derailleurs from having a double (i.e. the front derailleur is only compatible with two chainrings) on the stock bike to a triple (to make this conversion easier, presumably). After a few hours scratching my head, I looked up the parts on the 2010 model to confirm that in fact, it had a double derailleur. A few trips to the semi-local bike shop got the parts I needed and put me back in business.

Flat Fixing; Cool and Wet

March 29th, 2012

Today I had the now unusual occasion to ride my bike into Boston. At the foot of the Longfellow Bridge, I met another commuter who was walking her bike. I stopped, noticing the flat tire on her bike. I offered assistance, in fact giving a step-by-step explanation of the flat fix process. She was grateful, and we both went on with our days. I’m going to start carrying a patch kit to expedite (?) the process – I wonder how many people get flat tires on the popular routes into Boston on a given day. It might be fun to ride back and forth over the Longfellow for an hour in the morning and in the evening to find out. I noticed the debris and sand was noticeably swept into the shoulder (bike lane) today, so that might have spiked the number of flats.

If you’re concerned about flats, you should pack a flat fix kit, or a good lock and a T pass. For the former, you’ll want a tire levers and a pump, as well as either a spare tube (that fits your wheel!) and the tools to remove your wheel, or a patch kit. For a pump, I’ve been using the Road Morph, which is awesome.

Weather

This week the weather has been more like it was in the winter: lows in the 20s, highs in the 40s and sometimes 50s. A spring jacket is definitely too little: one needs gloves and at least a few layers. There’s been sporadic rain and water on the road. There’s also more than enough sand and dirt to go around. If you understand the benefits of fenders, now is the time for it.

A Hitch in the Plan

March 23rd, 2012

So my plan after leaving my office job was to be able to maintain my “weather and clothing” posts. The flaw in that logic is twofold: I’m riding for transportation less, and I’m able to wear casual clothing while doing it. The concept that started this blog (two months ago, so long ago!) was to help novice commuters with less generic advice than is normally offered. So, I will continue to offer advice based on the weather conditions, but chances are I won’t be exercising that exact advice.

Weather

The last few days have seen some downright summertime weather, with morning temperatures in the 60s and highs up to 80. As I’ve mentioned before, in those situations, I recommend one of two approaches. If you have a gym membership or don’t mind braving the filth of a Planet Fitness locker room, ride in whatever you feel like and shower or change when you arrive at your destination. I did this when I first started working downtown, and while I tried it in both summer (hot!) and winter (dirty), I found that it made riding to work downright cumbersome.

My preferred strategy is to ride more slowly, and maximize airflow over the body to keep the skin cool. Since I used to work in a “business casual” office, that meant riding in a T-shirt and then putting my collared shirt on when I got to my destination. Wearing lighter shoes, such as sneakers or loafers without socks, made a huge difference versus the waterproof walking shoes I wore all winter. I just wore my regular office pants, rolled up to avoid grease. As always, I recommend using a bag that attaches to the bike as this is both cooler for you and also neater for your clothes.

I always found it difficult to avoid sweating when the temperature exceeded 70 degrees on my ride in. For that, it’s all about mitigation, namely, ride slower.

I’m not usually a list person, or if I am, I prefer prose. Today, I’ll make an exception and try to summarize the top things someone new to transportation biking should be aware of.

  1. Learn how to ride safely on the road. My mantra is be visible.
  2. Get a bike that fits, and keep it in working condition. There are lots of factors for a good bike fit, but for commuting and getting around, generally you want a bike that keeps you sitting more upright so you can see and be seen (how fashion-conscious!) on the road. If you hear squeaks of agony (from the bike) or the brakes aren’t snappy, get that taken care of by a shop.
  3. Figure out routes that work for you. You’re going to be taking different roads than if you were walking or driving. While Google Maps has biking directions, I find them to be generally pretty bad because of their slavish devotion to marked bike routes (a nearly meaningless distinction, usually). Find what works for you be trial and error and talk to other bikers.
  4. Decide how you’re going to carry things. Don’t put things on your back if you want to arrive presentable. Don’t put things on your handlebars if you want to survive. Instead, get a rack with panniers or a basket.
  5. Figure out dress that works for you. I know this is particularly an issue for ladies, but you’ll have to prepare by wearing much cooler outfits (when you’re rocking and rolling along) and much warmer outfits (when it’s windy or cold and you’re not generating as much heat).

That about sums it up. Now I can stop blogging, forever. :)

In other news, I posted my instructions for the Large Panniers for CETMA rack. Whether you make these bags or a different roll-top type pannier, I hope these instructions are helpful.

Weather (from 3/20)

Temperature: 81

Road condition: Dry

Clothing: Long sleeve T-shirt, jeans, loafers (w/o socks)

Comfort: Awful. As you might imagine, the best way to deal with this temperature is light fabrics and short sleeves. I was in a black T-shirt and jeans. Don’t do that.

If I were commuting to an office at a morning temperature above 70, I would neatly store my button-up shirt, and untuck the undershirt, and take it slowly. Or, if you’re going far enough, plan on changing clothes.

Warm and Dry

March 20th, 2012

Today is the first day of spring! (I’ll put a “winter” tag on this post because it pertains to yesterday, though). Fair weather bikers, rejoice!

Weather

Yesterday was truly spring-like: it felt like 70 during the day, but by 7 pm it was already quite cool. That meant that you really needed to layer or expect to be very uncomfortable at some point.

Temperature: 70 / 50

Road condition: Dry

Clothing: Long sleeve T-shirt, Jeans, loafers (w/o socks)

Comfort: I was very much on the warm side during the day, and borderline on the cold side by the evening. I’d say, I need to take my own advice.

Warm and Dry

March 19th, 2012

So as you may recall, the blog is in transition right now. My last day at the old job (downtown Boston) was Friday, and I start working at Hub Bicycle Company on Wednesday. That means no commuting, although I’ll get out today for some errand-running. I’ll update this post a little later with the weather/comfort. It’s much warmer, so there will be no jacket, but the question is whether long sleeves and jeans are too much.

BUI; Cool and Dry

March 16th, 2012

Yesterday, I went for farewell drinks with my coworkers. Some were very concerned about my transportation home after a few drinks. In the end, I had fewer than one drink per hour (beer is so heavy!), and I had an uneventful ride home. However, it made me think about biking under the influence.

Now and again, I see references to how dangerous this is as an activity, but anecdotally, it’s not really taken as seriously as DUI. In fact, the parallels between the two are numerous, mostly because biking for transportation is so similar to driving for transportation. What one loses in the dangers of high speed in a car, one also loses in the protection of an enclosed vehicle. The exception is that a drunk biker is a much smaller threat than a drunk driver.

The police unsurprisingly don’t take BUI seriously. I have a friend who tells of riding his bike while visibly intoxicated: an officer pulled up behind him and announced “Sir, walk your bike or I will take it away.” While humorous, can you imagine a policeman treating drunk driving so cavalierly? (Perhaps you can, I don’t know of any DUI perpetrators personally.)

What are your thoughts on BUI? How do you prepare for an evening with drinks? I know I’d always be the designated biker if I could transport people home from the bar in a bakfiets.

Bakfiets passengers

I'd always want to be the designated biker if I had a bakfiets to carry people home in.

Weather

Temperature: 38

Road condition: Dry

Clothing: Same as the rest of the week: light spring jacket, EVO Drone Gloves, loafers

Comfort: Decidedly underdressed. Some spirited riding kept me from shivering, however it seems willpower alone may not make mid-March into the spring season. I’ll have to wait until next week for that. It is very interesting, though, how ensuring you’re warm before going outside can make such a difference in comfort. My ride last night felt much warmer, even though the conditions were similar and my outfit was the same.

Cool and Dry

March 15th, 2012

Sorry for the lack of substance here. I’m actually pretty swamped here at work as my last day is Friday. I will, however, be starting my job at Hub starting Wednesday, so you can find me there most weekdays after that (and Sundays once the shop opens 7-days-a-week).

I’d like to write a “tale of two commutes” comparing my bike ride in (Inman Square to Government Center by way of the Longfellow Bridge and Cambridge Street) to my fiancee’s by car (same starting point, also the Longfellow Bridge, but then Charles Street, Boylston and ultimately to Chinatown). We often leave the house a few minutes apart and leapfrog one another until we part ways at Charles Circle.

Weather

Temperature: 40 degrees

Road condition: Dry

Clothing: Light spring jacket, EVO Drone gloves, loafers

Comfort: Again, on the cold side starting out, but comfortable within a few minutes. Yesterday evening, I was downright cold until much later in the ride.

The warm weather gave me the opportunity to ride with my fiancee for the first time in a while. Yesterday, we rode Somerville Ave, Elm Street, and Mass. Ave to around Alewife Station and back again. The traffic on Mass Ave going out (around 6:45) was  generally light, however it tends to pile up at lights, followed by long stretches without any traffic. On the way back (around 8:15), the traffic was so light that we were comfortable riding side-by-side for most of the route. This brings me back to my (safety-ignorant) days of riding on Hampshire Street in Cambridge side-by-side, both of us completely in the door zone. Yesterday, needless to say, we took the lane, and there were few cars to object.

Weather

Temperature: 47

Road condition: Dry

Clothing: Light spring jacket, Rockport shoes.

Comfort: Excellent. I didn’t wear gloves, and started out a little chilly, but, as usual, warmed up.