Drive My Bike

Only 7 Degrees, But What A Difference!
October 10, 2008, 6:19 pm
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Today’s ride was the coldest yet. My previous record for coldest commute was 41 degrees (F) a couple of weeks ago, and today the temperature was only 7 degrees colder, at 34 (F), but wow… this morning’s ride was COLD!


Our first real winter weather of the season is rolling in, and it is supposed to be cold and snowy all weekend. I was excited about this last night because I was anxious to try out some of the changes I made to my cold weather gear based on that ride a couple of weeks ago. I decided that I would add some long thermals as a base layer on my legs, since I just had shorts and bare skin last time. In addition, I know that I said I didn’t like beanies, but I found a lightweight Novara beanie at REI that had some Thinsulate type of material around the ears, but was thin enough to comfortably wear under my helmet, so I decided to try that. My wife and kids cracked up when I put it on because it sort of gives that gangster look. I figure that just allows me to keep up my rebellious bike commuter image.

What were the results of this new outfit? I was cold for the first mile or so, but I figured that was to be expected. My core was generally warm, so that wasn’t a problem. My arms were a bit cold, and it took a while for my hands to warm up, but they did eventually. The biggest problem was my face. My head was hot, and my ears were okay, but my face got so cold that it was almost painful. I think my face finally started to acclimate just about the time I got to the office. When I got in the building and started to cool down the rush of blood to my head was so strong that it almost gave me a headache.

Boy, I think this winter riding is great! 🙂

Seriously, it is a fun adventure, and I’ll continue tweaking things until I get the right formula. Based on what I’ve read from other winter bike commuters it seems like everyone is different, and it takes a little while to get things figured out. I’ve read that others have kept a log of their winter riding, noting their outfit for the day and how well it performed. I’m going to do that as well, and will share that info with you as it develops.

Ride safe and stay warm out there.

A Bike Transit Center With Showers, Parking, Repairs, Food

Our local mass transit agency, the Utah Transit Authority, made a bold proposal last night in favor of Bicycle Commuters. They held an open house to get public opinion about building a “Bike Transit Center” with indoor parking and all kinds of amenities for use by bike commuters.


According to their website:

A bicycle transit center is more than a few bike racks. It’s a resource that reinvents the park-and-ride lot for bicycle transportation. Bicycle transit centers could feature secure indoor bike parking, bicycle repairs, bike rentals, showers, a shop for bike accessories and refreshments, and cycling information including maps, classes, registration and more. A bicycle transit center has the ability to add more cyclists to streets and to transit like no other public amenity can.

The UTA recently opened a light rail system here called FrontRunner, and they have had so many bike commuters riding light rail that they have had to remove some seats to make room for the bicycles. Ever since gas prices have gone up there has been a large increase in those commuting by bike in Salt Lake City and surrounding areas. According to a local newspaper:

The number of Utahns who use their bikes as commuting vehicles has increased. "Gas prices probably have something to do with it, but there has been a skyrocketing number of bicyclists out there," said Carrie Bohnsack-Ware, UTA spokeswoman.

"At one point, somebody in the office counted 23 bikes in one door of FrontRunner," Bohnsack-Ware said. "They were piling them on. And you know it’s not fair to riders without bicycles because they are having a hard time getting on and off. But then, we don’t want to say ‘no bicycles."’

UTA will study surveys it distributed Tuesday to determine how many people ride and what inconveniences block bicycling.

The bike transit center is "really preliminary," Bohnsack-Ware said. "There’s no money. We have no money yet to do anything."

The local Fox News affiliate did a story with some video here.

I’m encouraged that our local agencies are taking Bike Commuting so seriously. There are obviously some people there who have a vision for what kind of difference bicycles could make for public transportation. Unfortunately it looks like the budgeting and proposed timeline mean we won’t be seeing this facility anytime soon.

Local College Promotes Bike Commuting With Free Bike Rentals

I just found out that Westminster College, a local college here in Salt Lake City, offers students and faculty free bike rentals. How cool is that?


From their website:

Westminster Wheels is designed to provide alternative transportation and encourage Westminster students, faculty and staff to bike to their destinations on and around campus. Members of the Westminster community can check out a bicycle, helmet, light and lock from the campus concierge desk at no cost.  The potential uses for this program are as diverse as the Westminster student body.  People can bike to the grocery store, post office, the coffee shop or the bakery….

Last year, a group of students noticed the increased number of cars on campus, lack of carpooling, parking lot congestion, and winter smog. These students wanted to improve the city’s air quality, minimize campus traffic and maximize campus efficiency, so they designed a free bike program, modeled on similar campus and community programs around the country.

I think it is great to see organizations like this encouraging Bicycle Commuting, and then going the extra mile by helping people get past barriers that would keep them from getting started. If more programs like this were available it could change the face of transportation in this country.

3 Challenges With 100% Bike Commuting
August 2, 2008, 10:49 am
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I’ve been reading lots of bicycling blogs lately. Yeah, pretty much every bicycling blog I can find… probably too much. I’ve been inspired as I read about people that have managed to live their lives 100% by bicycle. Some of them don’t even own cars anymore. The thought of no car payment, no car insurance, and no worry about gas prices is certainly a compelling idea. Right now I don’t think it’s realistic for me to not own a car, but I have been trying to move as close to 100% bike commuting as I can. In the last month I have come up against three challenges, so I thought I’d mention them here to see what ideas readers have.j0402711

1) Last Minute Trips (with close deadlines)

Several times last month I had to make short to medium length trips that would be great for a bike ride, but they came up at the last minute and I had to be there as soon as possible. I was going to be late, or almost late, if I drove my car, so I would have been quite a bit later had I ridden my bike. The problem is not just that the actual ride takes longer, but that it takes a bit longer for me to get ready to ride than to just grab my car keys and hit the road. One morning last week I was planning to work from home, but when I sat down at my laptop I realized that my DSL was down and I had no Internet access, which is essential for work. I needed to be online within 45 minutes for a team meeting. I knew I could drive to the office in 15 minutes, or I could try to hurry and get ready and ride my bike to the office.  I decided to ride my bike, and it all worked out ok, so I was glad I made that choice. I left almost an hour later than I normally do, and the heat of the day was already present, so I was quite a bit soggier than normal when I got to the office, which leads into…

2) Showing Up Hot & Sweaty at Social Engagements

Like most people who ride their bikes to work, I have a strategy to deal with my sweaty, stinky self once I get to the office. My commute is just over 5 miles, and takes a little under 20 minutes. If I leave early enough the air is still cool from the morning, and the temperature is reasonably pleasant, so I don’t perspire that badly. When I get to the office I usually take about 15-20 minutes to cool down, during which time I’ll get my work area setup, check my email, catch up with my co-workers, etc. Once I’ve cooled down then I will towel off with a moist towel, spray on some good smelling stuff, change my shirt, and deal with my “helmet hair”. No big deal.

But… what about riding to other social engagements? Last month I decided to get more serious about bike commuting, so twice I rode my bike to have dinner with a friend. The first place we went was just fast food, so I didn’t feel too bad showing up red faced and drenched in perspiration. The second place we met was a decent restaurant. It was in the early evening, and the ride was HOT (upper 90s) so I was thoroughly drenched when I got there. I was about 5 minutes early, and felt a bit self conscious as I walked in the door all hot and sweaty with my helmet, gloves, water bottle, and panniers. (I had to stop at the store on the way home, so I brought along my Novara grocery panniers, but brought them inside with me so they wouldn’t get stolen). I told the host that I was waiting for a friend, and he had a puzzled look on his face as he asked if I wanted to be seated right away. I told him that I’d just wait a few minutes, and I sat down in the waiting area, trying to cool down.  Once my friend arrived and we were seated I went to the restroom and splashed some water on my face and tried to towel off with paper towels as best i could. It worked out fine, and I don’t think I offended any of the other guests, but it was a bit awkward.

Another incident happened just last week when I got a late night phone call to go visit a friend who was in the hospital. The hospital is very close by, but that is not the kind of social call where I wanted to have to worry about my bike, my gear, and my sweaty self, so I drove my car.

3) Hauling Big Stuff Around

I play guitar in a band at my church, and we practice one night a week. I just go straight to practice after work, so on that day I am hauling my music stuff around with me. It can be anything from a backpack of music and an acoustic guitar, to several guitars and a bag of electronic equipment. Needless to say, it is not the kind of thing that is easily carried on a bicycle. Notice I use the words “easily carried”. I have seen some amazing pictures of the way some bicyclists use an XtraCycle or a trailer to haul things around. Someday that might be an option for me, but for now I don’t own that kind of hauling equipment, so I’m limited to what I can fit on my back and in my panniers. I have tried to be creative, and just leave my music stuff at church. That almost works, but it means I can’t practice at home, which isn’t an option. I have had my wife drop off my music stuff at the church if she is out running errands in the neighborhood, and that works out very well, but she can’t do that every week. So, for now, this is probably my biggest challenge to always riding my bike for my daily commutes. I am riding my bike for most things, but getting to 100% is still something I haven’t been able to accomplish yet.

One of the things I have admired about passionate bike commuters is the creativity they have shown to solve these kinds of challenges. Where there is a bike commuting will there certainly seems to be a bike commuting way.  So what about you? Do you have any creative solutions for me? Do you have any challenges that you would add to my list?

A New Measurement: BPM = "Bicyclists Per Mile”

Wow… it was almost crowded on my ride in to work this morning! I saw eleven other bicyclists on the road, over the five miles that I ride from home to work. I have never really kept track of how many I see, but I’m sure that is a new record!Measurement

I have been bike commuting for almost two months now, and I’m sure the number of bicyclists on my route has at least doubled, if not tripled.  I remember the first couple of days it seemed like I was lucky if I saw two or three other cyclists on the road.

All this got me thinking that it might be fun to actually start tracking that number to see if I can put some data behind the trend. So… I propose a new unit of measurement: BPM or “Bicyclists Per Mile”. Coming up with that figure is relatively simple… Count the bicyclists you see on your commute, add one for yourself, then divide that total by the number of miles in your commute.

So for today I would have 11 + 1 = 12, 12 divided by 5 = 2.4 Bicyclists Per Mile (BPM)

So, I would ask all of you who read this blog to start tracking BPM when you ride. I’m going to do this, and see how things change over the next few weeks.  Is this scientific?… Are you kidding? We’re having fun here, remember?

Now go figure out the BPM for your next ride! 🙂

Permission To Slow Down, Captain?
July 25, 2008, 5:58 pm
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When I started bike commuting I had no idea that it would put me on such interesting psychological journeys. Allow me to explain… I’m a pretty driven individual, and I push myself a lot. I push myself to grow. I push myself to succeed. I push myself to learn. I guess that is not all bad, except that I am learning that there is a dark side to all of that. I have discovered that when I am not pushing myself I begin to feel like a slacker. In fact, I think I actually have a fear of not pushing myself. The result of this is that I don’t think I ever really relax and enjoy the now. I’m so busy worrying about “the next thing” that the present goes right by and I miss it. The cool part of this is that my bike riding has helped me see this about myself.Stopwatch

Several times recently I have felt kind of burned out with my riding, and I have really had to force myself to go for that next ride. I have also started to notice some mild discomfort in my knees after some of my rides, usually when I have pushed myself harder up a hill, or tried to better my route times. In response to these problems I decided that I was probably pushing myself too hard, and I needed to slow down and let my body catch up a bit. I also began to realize that even though I had ridden my daily route quite a few times now, I had barely noticed the surroundings on the way. I was always so focused on getting to my destination, and pushing harder and faster, that I didn’t really enjoy the ride.

So… I have officially given myself permission to slow down, and I have really been working on focusing on enjoying the ride, rather than how fast I was getting there. I have to say that it has been difficult! I have started out a ride at a slower pace… but then… within a mile or so I convinced myself that I was fine… and was back to pushing myself as usual, often ending with the “burned out, sore knee” feeling from before. It also seems like every time I commit to slowing down I encounter another biker on the road, usually on a speedy road bike, and I am compelled to try to keep up with that person, even though their bike is geared faster and weighs less than a third of what I am riding! But, all is not lost, as I have had several rides recently where I was able to really let go and just enjoy the ride, and it was great. Ironically, most of them have been my night rides, which is kind of funny because my first night ride was probably one of the most difficult rides I’ve had since I started bike commuting. But my last couple of night rides have been a bit cooler, and yes, I was tired when I got finished, but it was a good kind of tired, and my knees were stressed, but not really painful. Best of all, I actually took the time on the ride to notice things around me. I remember now, I really like riding my bike!

So, I’m still pushing myself, only now I’m pushing myself to not push myself.

Permission to slow down, Captain? Aye, that’s an order!

Do any of you relate to this? If so, leave a comment and let me know.

Consumer Revolt: Homebrew Electric Bike Conversion

A friend of mine recently met a consumer who had enough of the rising gas prices and decided to take matters into his own hands. This guy bought a cheap bicycle and did his own conversion to electric drive. Apparently this unorthodox bicycle drew quite a crowd at the local grocery store, and my friend  was able to chat with him and get some pictures.Homebrew Electric Bike

If necessity really is the mother of invention, then as gas prices continue to rise I’m sure this is just the tip of the iceberg! If you would like to know more, there are more details in this wiki article. Homebrew Electric Drive

Have you seen other examples of consumers getting fed up and coming up with creative solutions to their transportation needs? If you are still commuting completely by car do you have a “tipping point” in mind where you will have to find an alternative? What will you do?

More Crowded Today
June 24, 2008, 8:52 am
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I left about 10 minutes later than usual today, and I noticed about twice as many people out riding.  I don’t know if it was the time difference, or what, but there were a whole lot more bikers on the road today, and most of them looked like commuters.  It’s encouraging to see more people bike commuting on “my route”, which is a fairly main road.  I waved at a couple of the riders that I could make eye contact with, and almost had a few seconds at a light to chat with a guy coming up behind me on a mountain bike, but before we could stop the light was green and I turned to make a quick stop at McDonald’s for a couple breakfast burritos to eat at the office, so we both sped away.

I don’t think it is just that I am more aware since I am riding now, because other people tell me they see more bikers as well.  The gas prices just keep going up, so I would think that more and more people will start bike commuting.  Have you noticed more bike commuters lately?

A Couple Good Rides
June 16, 2008, 9:40 am
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If you’ve read my last couple of posts you probably realized that I felt like I really blew myself out on my ride home last Tuesday night.  It was the first time I’ve ridden that late at night (midnight) and I was also really tired from the events of the day.  What suprised me most was how much that challenging ride negatively affected my desire to ride.  I was going to ride to work on Friday, but I bailed out at the last minute and went back to bed for a little more sleep.  I was in a slump and had to figure a way out…

So, yesterday (Father’s Day) I realized I needed to make a run to Home Depot and the grocery store, and I decided to ride my bike.  This was a pretty major challenge mentally, because the start of that route is a pretty steep uphill climb, and then the rest of the route is a mild uphill.  I decided to go for it, as much to prove that I could do it as to just get a good ride in.  The beginning of the ride was tough, but not as tough as I expected it to be.  I got my shopping done, and then enjoyed the benefits of a downhill ride all the way home.  Awesome!  I was out of my slump!

This morning’s ride into work carried on the good vibes that I had stirred up yesterday, and I even shaved a few minutes off my standard ride time.  Woo hoo!  I’ve got another evening meeting tonight, which means another nighttime ride home.  Hopefully I can keep the good vibes flowing for that ride tonight.

Is this slump thing normal?  Have you experienced a kind of ebb and flow in your joy of riding?

A Bit Of A Slump
June 13, 2008, 2:13 pm
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Well, today is the first day that I backed out of bicycling to work after I had planned and prepared to ride.  I packed and had everything ready to go last night, but I was really tired when I woke up this morning, and I made the mistake of not getting up right away when the alarm went off.  Instead, I stayed in bed and pondered how tired I was and how tired I had been on my last ride. For me, once I start thinking about getting up, instead of just doing it, I’m pretty much not going to do it.  So, I rolled over and took advantage of an extra hour of sleep since I wasn’t riding.  I will say that the extra sleep was nice, but I think I woke up feeling more tired than when my alarm went off, so I don’t think that extra hour helped much.

I really do want to go riding though, so I will try to get a ride in this weekend.  I was really, really tired after my late night ride on Tuesday, and I think I kind of blew myself out.  It has been good to take a few days off from riding to work, but I need to get back at it.

I assume that most people go through times like this when they struggle with getting back to bike commuting.  Have you had times like this?  How do you deal with them and crawl out of your “slump”?