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…

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.

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.


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.


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.


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.

I am pleased to announce that I am now a syndicated bike blogger: I have a guest post on Josh Zisson’s site, Bike Safe Boston. I think that makes me syndicated, anyway. Head over to check out my post entitled “One Simple Principle for Comfort on the Road”.

In other news, I used my new front (left) gigantic pannier with a bulky load for the first time. Unfortunately, because the load was pretty small, it didn’t force the bag into a solid shape, and one of the clips jumped off while I was climbing the Longfellow Bridge. That was unpleasant. I may have to retrofit with some velcro loops. On the other hand, the bag performed admirably with groceries and folded laundry. It also stayed nice and dry today (which my electronics appreciated).


Temperature: 54 degrees

Road condition: Wet

Clothing: My normal office attire with waterproof shell and hood on top, light Pearl Izumi gloves, rain pants, Rockport (I am embarrassed to say I’ve been calling them Timberland) shoes.

Comfort: Excellent! I stayed totally dry, didn’t feel hot the whole ride.

Everyone seems to have stayed off the road today: it was as empty as the middle of winter (this mild winter, that is). Plenty of car traffic and double parking, though.

I attended the Hub Bicycle Basic Maintenance/Flat Fix Clinic on Wednesday (as employee training?), and I was really surprised by the format. I guess knowing Emily, I shouldn’t be, but the clinic was rather expansive in what it covered. There was a very thorough demo on changing a flat (I learned some things!), chain lubing, basic maintenance things to look out for, bike cleaning (hint: not this) and a general discussion of bikes and bike components. As one attendee remarked, “I wish I had known this five months ago,” which was a sentiment I can relate to.

I rode my mountain bike into work so I can pack it in the car for my trip to NYC this weekend. I also wore my clipless shoes (I have touring pedals on both my mountain and my commuter/touring bike), which made me feel really fast. It’s great riding a variety of bikes: they all behave so differently, it’s a totally different experience – this one has lower pressure tires, disc brakes, and a slightly more relaxed geometry than my other bikes. I was really tempted to ride down the stairs at City Hall Plaza, but I didn’t want to start my work day with torn up clothes, dirt, and cuts. As an aside, does anyone else feel a little miffed that the city rents out the plaza for months at a time, making it very inconvenient to cross?


Temperature: 41

Road condition: A few puddles, but otherwise dry

Clothing: Light spring jacket, clipless bike shoes.

Comfort: I started off the ride cold: for no particular reason, I rode without gloves, and then also remembered that the bike shoes are super permeable to air. Those things didn’t bother me after a little riding – it also helped my morale to keep leapfrogging my fiancee, who was driving most of the same route as I.

I left my house this morning to feel a lot of squishiness in the tires; although tires don’t need a lot of inflation in the winter once a month seems to be the outer limit. Since I was already around the corner, I just rolled over to the gas station and pulled out one of these handy dandy adapters (no pump on me!) and put some free air in there. (Free as in beer, not as in speech.)

Shrader, Presta Adapter: helpful to have for using non-bike shop compressed air.

The most adventuresome three-season bikers were out today on their thoroughly rusted bikes. It was a very slow march down Hampshire Street, with many winter coats in attendance, and very satisfying (for me, anyway) passing as I flew over the Longfellow Bridge. While there was generally good behavior, namely stopping at lights and not “shoaling” to cut to the front of the line, there were a few serial offenders who kept leap-frogging. To quote some other Boston Biker blogs, “don’t cut in line,” and “I want to mount a bottle of triflow on my handlebars.”


Temperature:  45 degrees

Road condition: Dry

Clothing: Light fall jacket (with a long sleeved shirt), Pearl Izumi gloves, Timberland shoes, messenger bag.

Comfort: Lovely! I was glad for having sleeves, as the jacket I have tends to expose my wrists (the humanity!) and send air up my arms. I ditched the gloves once I was in Boston.


March 2nd, 2012

Last night was some good old fashioned winter riding: cold (28 degrees) and snow. Unfortunately, my bike was already set up for spring, as I removed my studded tires two weeks ago, and I had some pretty plain vanilla road tires on it. The road conditions had a quarter inch of snow, enough that you need to have a treaded tire to maintain control. The ride from downtown to Cambridge was slow and dicey. However, I made it much worse by loading up on groceries at the super market and riding them, home (as I did on Saturday) on my lopsided single front pannier. It was probably about 45 minutes of riding for what normally takes me 20.

When I got home, I discovered (through no fault of my own, I maintain) that the milk I had bought was dripping out of the carton. So I went back to the store, except this time I rode my mountain bike, a Surly Ogre (yes, I own three different Surly bikes). It has disc brakes and 2.3″ tires. It was every bit the snow tank it looked like: when I picked it up from the bike shop, another customer remarked, “I’m looking for a bike that will get me across town in a snowstorm. That looks like it would do the job.” Yes, fellow Hub Bicycle Company customer, that bike will get you across town in a snowstorm. It stopped quite nicely when a Whole Foods customer, berserk for his natural foods, cut me off on Prospect Street (despite my bright light). The only downside was its lack of fenders, even though I own a set that would fit fine.


I didn’t ride today, but it was in the 20s, with wet pavement. A few folks were out riding: it looked like the roads were generally clear, but the bike lanes were not, so you’d have to have some treaded tires or ride in the traffic lane today.

Maps; Cold, Windy, and Wet

March 1st, 2012

A few days ago while driving with my fiancee on Putnam Ave in Cambridge, she remarked on the epiphanies one has when first discovering a new place. “This Putnam Ave (at the intersection of Mass Ave and Mount Auburn) is the same as that Putnam Ave (in Cambridgeport).” Having those Aha! moments is so much fun; I imagine what fun it would be to sit down and draw your “world map” every week after moving to a new place. I recall in my first months living in Harvard Square running to Inman Square (exotic!) or biking over the Somerville line on Beacon Street and feeling as though was on the verge of falling off the end of the world. (My bike broke right in front of Johnny’s Foodmaster and I had to walk home.) Now, of course, I have to bike 30 minutes in some direction to find a map connection not yet made.

The other map discovery is by route following. I’m old fashioned and own a couple of atlases of Massachusetts that I have used to plan (but rarely ride) bike tours in Central Massachusetts. It is very challenging to put together a coherent route between two points which is suitable for biking and also direct enough, especially because one never knows the road conditions in a foreign place. The challenge is similar for using a mapping tool such as Google’s: while they suggest bike routes, I generally find them painfully indirect (go over the Longfellow Bridge to get to Back Bay Station?) or overly emphasizing “bike routes” which are usually just, um, streets. Over time, of course, you gather others’ route suggestions and combine them with your preferences to develop unique directional habits. As much as I’d love to collate that information, somehow I think it’s too idiosyncratic to bother.


Last night was an unremarkable ride in the rain/snow mix: the snow didn’t stick, and falling snow is as pleasant or more so than freezing rain… which brings me to this morning’s ride. I would say it was one of the most extreme bike commutes I’ve had. Freezing rain and temperatures, driving rain, and heavy wind. I took it slow and covered myself head-to-toe and it was mostly just a little inconvenient. On the other hand, I do like riding in the rain for the solitude and smugness; I hope the look on my face communicates that to the drivers sitting in traffic.

Temperature: 35 degrees

Road conditions: Wet, clean; they didn’t put down much or any sand for the storm yesterday

Clothing: Rain shell, sweater, rain pants, timberland shoes.

Comfort: Warm! I had the odd experience about five minutes from my house when my thighs felt noticeably cold – I think it was the cold rain sitting on the rain pants before I had worked up any heat from riding. I wore the hood up under my helmet and pulled it as far over my eyes as possible to avoid getting too much water on my glasses. The rain wasn’t falling too heavily, so it wasn’t as much of a factor as the wind.