Turning Over New Leaves

In a recent piece on NPR, the guest, a psychologist who has conducted studies on New Year’s resolutions, stated that approximately 46% of people who make New Year’s resolutions are successful in fulfilling their resolution. I was amazed by the numbers; I would have guessed the success rate to be in the low teens at best. She also stated that people who are considering taking on a new goal or activity, but don’t make a specific resolution (New Year’s or otherwise), are only successful in reaching their goal 4% of the time. I’ve never been one much for New Year’s resolutions, thinking that if I want to do something, I should just get on with it, but these numbers make me think New Year’s resolutions may not be such a bad idea after all.

With that in mind, here are a few things I’m going to set my sights on for 2009:

  • Maintain a regular off-bike workout routine to increase my flexibility and strengthen my core with the goal of preventing injury. This could take any number of forms, but most likely it’ll be some combination of yoga and free weights.
  • Improve my skills as a photographer. I’d like to participate in at least one or two workshops with the goal of more thoroughly understanding how to use my new equipment. I’m particularly interested in learning more about off-camera lighting techniques.
  • Reduce my dairy intake. We’re vegans at home, but we sometimes eat a little dairy when we’re out at restaurants, mostly because we don’t want the hassle. I’m going to work a little harder at it this year. (Please don’t give me a hard time about how I eat – it’s definitely off limits and I’ll delete your comment if you do — sorry.)
  • Figure out our cargo hauling solution. We’re doing most of our non-kid-hauling trips by bike, but we’ve yet to work out a way to carry oversized items that can’t be hauled on a pair of bikes with large panniers. I’m thinking it’ll likely be either a Big Dummy, or if the budget allows, a bakfiets.
  • Chill out on the bike maintenance thing. I baby my bikes too much for someone that uses them on a daily basis. I need to think of them more as tools, maintain them to the minimal level that’s reasonable, and quit sweating the nicks, scrapes, and road grime.
  • Stay focused. Most importantly, I hope to stay focused on the core mission of this site:

    This site is the public expression of our personal commitment to reduce our impact on the environment by employing bicycles as our primary mode of transport. By sharing what we learn from this endeavor, while also providing an aesthetically pleasing experience that celebrates the beauty of the bicycle and the joys of everyday bike riding, we hope to inspire others to make a similar commitment.

Please feel free to share your resolutions in the comment section below. Wishing you a prosperous, healthy, and happy 2009! —Alan


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Photo Gallery

Filmed by Bike

“TAG – bike messengers vs skater”, by Bill Prouty, from the 2007 Festival

From the FBB website:

Filmed by Bike is a festival of bike-themed independent short movies from around the world. Submissions are limited to eight minutes and must revolve around the central theme of cycling.

Hundreds of international entries are submitted but only an average of 30 make the final cut. Our jury of esteemed judges makes that tough decision.

The festival is held every April in Portland, Oregon at the Clinton Street Theater.  For more information on this year’s festival, see the Program Page.

The deadline for entries is February 15th.

Watch the trailers

[via BikePortland]

Heading Home at Twilight

Random Thoughts on Bike Maintenance

[Excuse the randomness of this post – this is what happens when I’m on vacation…LOL. —Alan]

I’m doing a little routine maintenance on the bikes today. Nothing too Earth-shattering, just wiping off the accumulated grime, scanning for damage, checking wheel alignment, lubing where needed, adjusting cables where needed, checking for loose nuts & bolts, and topping off the tires. We’re talking 15-20 minutes per bike at most, assuming I don’t discover some problem. I run through this routine every few weeks and I rarely, if ever, get caught on the road with a mechanical problem.

We were on recumbents the past few years before switching to uprights earlier this year. Even though we rode high-end recumbents, I’m finding our uprights are requiring less maintenance. I’m guessing this is because recumbents have longer cable runs and chains, with cables and chains being the two things that require the most attention on bicycles. This isn’t a dig on recumbents, just something I noticed but didn’t expect.

About checking for loose nuts and bolts… Notice that I say “checking”, not “tightening”. When I say “check”, I mean just make sure nothing is backing off or settling to the point of vibrating loose. I try to avoid incrementally tightening every nut & bolt on the bike every time I check – doing so will eventually break something.

Get yourself some good tubes; I recommend Schwalbe. With good quality tubes you may only have to top-off your tires every 3-4 weeks, whereas cheapie tubes may require re-inflation once a week or more. We’re only talking a couple of dollars difference in price to substantially reduce your hassle factor.

With their teeny-tiny chains, any good quality lube will do on an upright; recumbents require more time and attention in this area. I try to avoid over-lubing my chain; I place one drop on each link, then wipe off the excess. Leaving excess lube on a chain attracts dirt and causes far more harm than running a little dry (assuming there’s no rust). How often I have to apply the lube depends upon the particular lube I’m using, what kind of conditions I’m riding in, the length of the chain, and whether the chain is exposed. For example, I haven’t had to lube the enclosed chains on our Pashleys in over 4 months, yet on my old Tour Easy I went through a fairly elaborate chain maintenance routine on a regular schedule. Again, no dig on ‘bents, just the result of a long, exposed chain running across idlers and picking up a lot of road grime.

I tend to like bikes that are overbuilt so I don’t have to spend too much time truing wheels, babying parts, etc. A heavy-duty, well-built, city or touring bike, if used and not abused, will rarely, if ever, require any maintenance beyond the basics of lubrication and minor adjustments. My LHT, for example, has been fairly heavily ridden for over 6 months, yet I haven’t had to do anything other than one minor headset adjustment a few weeks ago. Even the factory built wheels are perfectly true after a bunch of curb-hopping and pothole encounters. Of course, parts will eventually wear out and require replacement, but that doesn’t qualify as “maintenance” in my book.

I probably spend more time than needed maintaining our bikes, but it’s something I enjoy that adds to the overall experience of cycling for me. If I didn’t enjoy it, I could probably get away with squirting a little Phil’s on the chains once a month and riding the bikes until something falls off. We did that for years when we were kids and our bikes never suffered any ill effects for it.

U.S News on Bike Commuting

U.S. News and World Report lists riding your bike to work as one of the top “50 Ways to Improve Your Life” in 2009. I couldn’t agree more.

On a freezing november morning in Chicago, Megan Mason puts on leggings, several polyester tops and a fleece, a windbreaker, four pairs of gloves, and silk sock liners. She ties a bandana over her head, dons earmuffs, snaps on a helmet, safety-pins a scarf into a cocoon around her head, and gets on her bright green Schwinn for a 61/2-mile ride to work.

Surely anyone who braves Windy City cold must be a hardcore biker. But Mason, a 27-year-old curriculum analyst at the Northwestern University School of Law, is new to the ranks of cycle commuters—one of thousands of Americans who this year have switched to pedal power. It’s too soon for national numbers, but many cities and counties are reporting a surge. In Chicago, 3,500 people rode in a spring Bike to Work day, up from 2,800 last year. Bikestation, a nonprofit that has six indoor parking facilities for cyclists on the West Coast, mainly in downtown neighborhoods, has seen a 30 percent increase in usage in the past year.

Read the full story

Today On the Bikes

We made an errand run on the bikes today. We picked up tamale fixings at the grocery store, dropped off a video, and took a detour through the Enchanted Woods. It was cold, blustery, and lovely nonetheless. It felt good to get out of the house and get the blood flowing after sitting around stuffing ourselves for the past few days.

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