Drive My Bike

Friendly Guy – A Hard Core Veteran Commuter
September 29, 2008, 2:54 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Inspired by folks like Tom, Kate, and Noah, I got a new pocket sized camera last week so that I could take pictures on my commutes. That made for a new adventure on my ride today, as I tried to juggle my new camera while I rode. Yeah, taking pictures while riding is probably a dumb idea, and I don’t recommend it, but here’s one from this morning’s ride…


Now, don’t judge me too harshly by the quality of this picture. I was trying to capture a picture of a guy I met this morning, and he was rapidly pulling away as I was trying to get my camera out, powered on, zoomed, and focused, while not damaging the camera or myself. This guy was hands down the friendliest cyclist I’ve met in my bike commuting experiences! Here’s how the conversation went:


Me: (hearing that familiar sound of someone on a bike coming up behind my left shoulder, I look over and begin to say “Hello”, but before I can get a word out…)

FriendlyGuy: “Good Morning!” (I’ve never had anyone else start the conversation first. FriendlyGuy looks to be a little older than me, and has a big smile on his face.)

Me: “Howdy! Nice day today!”

FriendlyGuy: “Oh yeah, beautiful day! Have a Good One!” (He smiles again, and passes me effortlessly. I notice that he’s got a nice road bike, but with fenders. He’s got a backpack on, a biking jersey, long fingered gloves, and long thermals on legs and arms. Clearly a serious commuter, not the normal road bike racer boy.)

Thinking that it would be great to commemorate this FriendlyGuy moment, I fumble to get out my camera and take a picture. This causes me to lose speed, and FriendlyGuy quickly pulls away, until I can just barely see him in the distance. I take the picture, stow the camera, and try to pick up my lost speed. After a mile or so, I’m coming up on a red light, and I notice a biker waiting at the light… and it’s FriendlyGuy!

I pull up behind him, stop, and this time he looks over his shoulder and smiles again…

FriendlyGuy: “Hey again. Looks like we’ve got the old Tortoise and Hare thing going on this morning” (This is said with a smile, and a friendly manner, so it’s not taken as any kind of competitive statement. He’s just making good conversation)

Me: “Yeah, well you’re geared a bit differently than me.”

FriendlyGuy: “Yes, I guess that’s true” (The light turns green, but instead of just pulling away, FriendlyGuy pulls out slowly and actually waits for me to come along side of him. Imagine that… a stranger that could easily leave me in the dust is waiting to have a conversation!)

FriendlyGuy: “How far you going?”

Me: “Oh, about five miles. Just into Murray by 215”

FriendlyGuy: “Oh, that’s great.”

Me: “You been doing this long?”

FriendlyGuy: “Yeah, a few years now”

Me: “How about you, how far are you going?”

FriendlyGuy: “Oh, into downtown Salt Lake” (Now, this is impressive, because we are a good ways from downtown)

Me: “Wow, so what is that, about ten miles or so?”

FriendlyGuy: “About 17. Yeah, it’s a great ride!” (Wow, 17 miles… very impressive)

Me: “WOW! That is really great! Good for you!” (I’m in complete amazement at this point, having never been face to face with someone so committed to Bike Commuting. My mind is racing as to how to respond… and the only thing I come up with is…)

Me: “Well you have a really good day!” (Wow… that was weak, but he’s really nice and the traffic is heavy, and I don’t want to cause problems with his commute today.)

FriendlyGuy: “You too!” (We are coming up to a stretch of road that can be a bit nasty due to some construction equipment in our lane, and there is lots of traffic. FriendlyGuy quickly pulls away, barely skirts a construction barrier, and then he’s off, and I’m not catching him this time.)


FriendlyGuy, I’m guessing you probably talk to a lot of people as you ride, so if you read this, I was the guy on 7th East, in the bright yellow windbreaker, on the not so fast Schwinn hybrid. Thanks for making my commute better this morning, and I hope to see you again sometime.

Make Your Bike Commuting 800% Faster!

Sam Whittingham recently set a new world speed record for a bicycle at the World Human Powered Speed Challenge, with a speed of 82.3 miles per hour!. If you haven’t seen this video, it is only 8 seconds long, so take 8 seconds and watch as Sam goes by doing 82mph on the custom built Varna Diablo III bicycle!

Wow, that is fast! You can read more about this record setting project on

So, I was thinking that if I could do that I could cut my commute time from 18 minutes down to less than 4 minutes. Shazam!

But I see a few problems with that:

  • I didn’t see a rack anywhere on that bike, so I’m not sure where I would put my panniers
  • It would be a bit difficult to obey posted speed limits, and would probably lead to some speeding tickets.
  • It would be hard not to fall over while stopping for red lights, and motorists would probably be so offended at my passing them that none of them would be willing to help right me.
  • Where do you park a bike like that? How do you lock it up?

Bummer, because it sure would be fun!

Thanks to my friend Matthias for sharing this story with me.

Into The Cold
September 23, 2008, 10:12 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

I checked the weather report last night, and they predicted that it would be in the low 40’s this morning. Normally I don’t think of temperatures in the 40s as being very cold, but I have to admit that I was very intimidated by the thought of riding in that kind of weather!


I did some looking around yesterday, and I found this great post about dressing for cold weather bike commuting. I love how they show pictures next to the temperatures so that you have  a frame of reference depending on what kind of weather you’re going to be riding in as you bike commute. I also really liked how practical the author is, recommending simple solutions with a no-nonsense approach. There’s also some very useful information in the great comments on that post.

I’ve been wearing fingerless gloves, and I noticed that even in the low 50s my fingers were starting to go a bit numb, so based on the ideas in that article I went to REI last night and took a look at the cold weather biking gloves they had in stock. I have come to really like a lot of the things in REI’s Novara line of bicycling gear, but the Novara cold weather gloves didn’t seem to get very good reviews on, so I figured I’d just try on lots of gloves and see what worked for me. I settled on the Pearl Izumi Cyclone gloves. They seemed to fit the best, had some padding for comfort, and claimed to be water and wind resistant.

I have a good pullover windbreaker that I’ve been wearing when it gets cold, and it’s been great to keep out the wind and occasional rain, so the only other change I made this morning was wearing a long-sleeved shirt under my windbreaker instead of a biking jersey.

So how was the ride today…? Well, I looked at the thermometer before I left, and it was 41 degrees (F) while I was pumping up my tires. I was certainly cold for the first mile or so, in fact I was so cold that I actually was second guessing myself and wondering if this was a bad idea. But, after the first five to ten minutes of riding I started to warm up, and by the third mile I started getting warm enough that I actually unzipped the windbreaker a bit to get some more air circulation going. My new gloves seemed to work okay, although I can tell that when it gets colder I’ll probably need to bring out my big snow gloves, but that is probably to be expected. I got to the office in good time, and it was actually quite a refreshing ride.

Some things I’m going to change…

– I need something on my ears, because by the time I got to work they were actually sore. This surprised me, because I don’t think of 40 degrees as being that cold, but I guess the wind chill I was generating at 15-20mph was significant. I really don’t like earmuffs or beanies. Even when I snowboard I prefer just my helmet, without any kind of balaclava or earmuffs. I’m not sure what my solution will be, but I need something on my ears.

– I think I’ll wear some kind of thermals on my legs. I just had normal shorts on today, so it was bare skin from the knee to the ankle, and it wasn’t too uncomfortable, but I’m thinking that it might be better for my knees to keep them a bit warmer. I also might take a look at some of the biking “knickers” I’ve seen out there.

All in all, my first cold day was a good experience, and I’m excited to continue on this next phase in my bike commuting adventure. Based on today’s ride I’m confident I can keep going until the snow files and the roads start to get icy. At that point I intend to try to keep bike commuting, but I’ll have to make some more adjustments to my equipment.

As Buzz Lightyear would say… “To Infinity and Beyond!”

UPDATE: Read about my 50 degree commuting here and my 30 degree commuting here

When Good Cars Go Bad (Another Reason For Bike Commuting)
September 18, 2008, 2:50 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , ,

Today I was making my lunch and I heard a strange noise outside. It wasn’t a noise that I recognized… in fact it was one of those noises where you don’t know what it is but it makes you think that something isn’t quite right. So, I looked in front of my house and this is what I saw…

Car In Fence

It seems that my neighbor had forgotten to set the parking brake on her car, so when she went inside the car decided to take matters into its own hands, and with the help of gravity, it rolled across the street, jumped the curb, and stopped at my fence!

Well, vinyl fencing is flexible, and as you can see in the picture, it was flexing. At the end of it all no harm was done, and we had a good laugh out of it.

Now… if she did her commuting by bike, instead of by car… none of this would have ever happened. Yet another reason that bike commuting makes the world a better, safer place.

Have a good day, and watch out for those evil cars! 🙂

Bike Commuter Camaraderie
September 17, 2008, 2:14 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , ,

I had lunch with a good friend yesterday. He took up bike commuting about the same time that I did, but we didn’t find out about this until last month.


It was great to sit over lunch and talk about bikes, our commuting adventures, and life in general. His bike is a few years old, and he hadn’t really ridden it much before he started commuting. He’s already noticed extra wear and tear on his bike, and has had to do some drivetrain maintenance recently. He’s got a good local bike shop that he goes to, and it sounds like they are taking good care of him as he tries to keep his bike commuter ready.

One of the neatest things was how much healthier he looked since the last time I saw him. It looked like he has lost a whole bunch of weight, and his whole demeanor was so much better. One more benefit of bike commuting… accidental fitness.

I rode my bike the 3 miles from work to the restaurant, and it was a nice way to spend my lunch break! It only took an extra 15 minutes or so, and I really appreciated the mental break of having a ride in the middle of the day.

I had my usual Tuesday night ride home last night, and it was tough! I’m not sure why, but I was really tired, and it was one of those rides where I had to keep pushing myself mentally. In spite of that, it was great to have my NiteRider light, and it certainly did the job. I can’t believe how much nicer it is than my old light. It’s also nice that the mount doesn’t rattle like the old one did… the ride is much more peaceful now.

I made it home, and even though I was really tired when I got there, it was a good day!

Top 10 Reasons to Be A Bike Commuter
September 11, 2008, 7:52 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , ,


  1. You feel pretty green, and green is good.
  2. Passing cars that are stuck in rush hour traffic is awesome.
  3. It’s fun watching the people around you come up with excuses why they can’t bike commute.
  4. Getting back at all of those people that said you were crazy when you told them you were going to start riding your bike to work.
  5. Riding around on a bike makes you remember how fun it was when you did that as a kid, only now you look a lot cooler.
  6. Seeing the look of amazement on the grocery store clerk’s face when you ask her to put your groceries in your panniers, and she says "You rode your bike here?"
  7. Realizing that you can ride a lot farther than you think you can.
  8. Spandex is optional.
  9. Doing something fun and getting exercise at the same time – "Accidental Fitness".
  10. Getting to your destination with less stress than you started with.

I’ve had this list brewing for a while. It’s not perfect, but I finally tweaked it enough that I figured I’d go ahead and post it.

What do you think? What would you put on your top 10 list of reasons for bike commuting?

Bike Commuting In Cooler Weather

The backyard thermometer indicated it was 52 degrees (F) this morning when I was checking my tires and getting ready to leave, which makes this the coldest morning I’ve experienced so far in my bike commuting adventure.


I have a lightweight, breathable windbreaker that I’ve been carrying around in my pannier, and today was the first day that I actually chose to wear it. Even though I chose to unzip it after I got warmed up, I was glad that I had it on for the first couple of miles. I wear fingerless biking gloves, and with this morning’s cold I also noticed that my fingers were starting to go a bit numb. All of this got me thinking… what am I going to wear when it starts to get REALLY cold? We get lots of snow here in Utah, and it’s great for snowboarding and skiing, but the idea of riding my bike in that kind of weather is something that is completely new to me. I’ve read some other blogs out there, and folks like Warren T make it sound like they actually enjoy winter riding. I’m looking forward to the adventure, but I want to make sure that I’m warm and safe. Just like when I snowboard, I know that the right outerwear makes the difference between a great experience and a miserable experience.

So… I ask you, my readers… do you ride in the winter weather? If so, what do you wear?

UPDATE: I just found a great article with some very practical winter riding tips… The Gear Junkie: Winter Bike Commuting, 10 Tips to Ride Safe… thanks Gear Junkie!

UPDATE: Read about my 40 degree commuting here and my 30 degree commuting here

Ready For The Dark Side Of Bike Commuting
September 5, 2008, 1:28 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

I had a good 21 mile round trip ride last night when I met a friend for dinner. The first half of the ride was before sundown, but the ride home was around 9:30, and it was really dark. Previously this darkness might have intimidated me, but no more… because I recently got a serious headlight for my night time riding!

Electric Tunnel

I’ve written about my night riding before… bad experience here, but good experience here, and you can see that my attitude towards riding at night has changed. Early on in my bike commuting I purchased a very cheap (around $5?) bike light “just in case” I ended up having to ride at night. Well, now that my biking rhythms have somewhat stabilized I realized that I actually end up riding at night 2-3 times each week. That cheap little bike light did it’s job as best it could, but it just wasn’t intended for serious night time riding. It wasn’t very bright, and it had a very focused beam, so that you only ended up with a circle of light about 3 feet across, about 20-30 feet in front of you. That is not a lot of light when you are moving 15mph down a dark stretch of road. The other frustration with that cheap light was that it went through four AA batteries every 3-4 rides, and it was only good and bright for the first ride. I grew quite tired of buying batteries and then adding them to landfills within a few days.

With all of that in mind, I started looking around at “serious” bike headlights. I checked some things out online, and found out that REI was having a Labor Day sale, and had 20% off all of their NiteRider headlights. I went down to my local REI and was able to look at a couple of the NiteRider models and talk to a sales guy who owned one. I finally settled on the NiteRider MiNewt Mini-USB Plus LED Light. The “MiNewt Mini” part comes from the fact that this whole setup is extremely lightweight, around 175 grams. The “USB” part is a cool feature which lets you charge the battery either from the included AC charger, or by plugging it into the USB port on your computer with a standard USB cable (included). The “Plus” part is because this package includes a helmet mount kit so that you can easily mount the battery and light on your helmet, if desired. With the 20% off this package went for $99, which is a substantial investment, but I felt like it was a worthwhile expenditure given the amount of time I’m spending riding at night.

NiteRider MiNewt Mini-USB Front View

Other than a quick trip around the block when I first got it, last night’s big commute was the first time I was really able to test out the light on a good dark night. I have to say that is was great! The difference really is… wait for it… night and day. (groan) Seriously, I can’t believe the difference from my old light. The MiNewt not only has a focus point of brighter light in the middle, but it also creates an extremely useful bigger circle of softer light, probably 50 feet in diameter, which subtly illuminates peripheral elements. The effect is much more like a car headlight versus a simple flashlight. It is certainly not as bright as a car headlight, but the MiNewt still puts out over 110 lumens. Even with all of that brightness, the light should run about 3 hours on a single charge. I’m also very excited about the rechargeable part, so that I don’t have to keep buying batteries, and the fact that I can charge it at work from my USB port is a nice convenience.

NiteRider MiNews Mini-USB Side View

The MiNewt is super easy to mount, in fact I take the whole thing on and off as needed. The battery pack has a velcro strap and I just put it on the gooseneck, and the light itself has a fancy rubber band (NiteRider calls it an “O Ring”, and that is what it is like) that you use to quickly strap it to your handlebars. One of the side benefits of this mounting hardware is that it is quiet. Huh? My old light had a mounting bracket that clamped onto the handlebars, and then the light itself clipped onto that, so that you could remove the light if needed. Well I never realized how much that old light rattled around in the mounting bracket until it was gone. There is no rattling with the MiNewt, and I never realized how nice and quiet a bike ride can be. I’m sure that sounds silly, but seriously, I hadn’t heard just the hum of my tires on the road until I took my old light off. Ahhh… how peaceful.

I realize that spending $100 on a headlight might not be an option for everyone, but if you find yourself doing a lot of night time riding I would encourage you to look at some of the more serious lighting options that are available out there. For me it has made all the difference in the world, and now I feel prepared to really enjoy “the dark side” of bike commuting.