The (Work)day’s Sensations

Headin’ to Work

“When I go biking, I repeat a mantra of the day’s sensations: bright sun, blue sky, warm breeze, blue jay’s call, ice melting and so on. This helps me transcend the traffic, ignore the clamorings of work, leave all the mind theaters behind and focus on nature instead. I still must abide by the rules of the road, of biking, of gravity. But I am mentally far away from civilization. The world is breaking someone else’s heart.” —Diane Ackerman

Fluted Honjos

I admit it; I have a real soft spot for beautiful bike parts. Phil hubs, Brooks saddles, cork grips, Nitto bottle cages, Japanese brass bells, TA cranks, bamboo racks, and so on. Among them all, probably my favorite are fluted Honjo fenders. There’s just something about the lines, the polish, the precise fit and finish. These will be put to good use on our upcoming IF build.

The Enemy

We’ve been invaded. After being flat-free for nearly a year, I’ve suddenly had two in one week. The second was quite a doozy with six punctures in one tire, all from the dreaded goathead. I love my off-street bike paths, but they’re a bit like mine fields for bike tires this time of year.

A Line in the Sand

One of the main thoroughfares on my commute was repaved a couple of weeks ago, but they just got around to re-striping the bike lane the other day. It’s been interesting, observing how motorists behaved after the removal of the bike lane, and how they position themselves now that the lane is back in place.

The road is unusual in that it’s nearly wide enough for two full lanes going either direction, but it’s only ever been one extra wide traffic lane and a narrow bike lane in either direction. Traffic on this road averages 40-50 mph.

Prior to the repaving, motorists never seemed to know quite where to drive in the overly wide traffic lane. Some would hug the center line, while others drifted clear over to the right, brushing up against the bike lane. Some even treated the main traffic lane as if it was two lanes; this probably explains the centerline and bike lane huggers.

After the repaving and subsequent lack of lane striping, things got even hairier, with cars spread all over the road. Since the speeds were too high to take the lane, I often found myself hugging the road’s edge, keeping one eye on my rearview mirror in case I needed to make a quick evasive maneuver.

The new, re-striped bike lane is now double to triple wide and the main traffic lane is closer to what is normal for a 40 mph road. The difference in how motorists position themselves on the road is dramatically better. The traffic lane is now clearly a single lane, so there’s no incentive to push toward either edge as if it’s a double lane. The bike lane doesn’t need to be as wide as it is, but the decision to clearly define the main traffic lane as a single lane was a good decision.

The point of all of this is to illustrate the power of a white line on the ground to affect road users’ behavior. Obviously, a white line will not protect a bicyclist from an out of control vehicle, but it will communicate to responsible, coherent drivers where they should be on the road, and what portion of the road should be allocated strictly to bicyclists.

Selle An-Atomica

The number one complaint about bicycles in a 2005 consumer survey was uncomfortable saddles. 57% surveyed wanted better saddles, and an astonishing 79% said they would ride more often if saddles were more comfortable. Many saddles are overstuffed and designed to feel comfortable on the sales floor, which is good only in that it helps to sell bicycles, but on the road they are less than adequate and may contribute to discouraging people from riding their bikes. On the other end of the spectrum, saddles designed primarily for racing are fine for their purposes but may be too inflexible and narrow for less aggressive riders.

Selle An-Atomica is a relatively young saddle company that has garnered a lot of attention with their Titanico LD Watershed leather saddles. S-A saddles are acknowledged as being some of the most comfortable saddles available, especially among randonneurs and ultra-distance cyclists who ride very long distances and spend long hours in the saddle. S-A spent fours years researching saddle issues, building prototypes, and doing a significant amount of real-world testing before introducing their product. The result is a uniquely comfortable saddle with hammock-like qualities that conforms to a person’s physique more than any other saddle I’ve ridden.

I’ve been riding S-A saddles for about a year now, and on any bike with handlebars at or below saddle height, they’re my saddle of choice. The shape and contour are similar to the Brooks B17, but the leather is much more flexible, and the patented slot relieves pressure on the sensitive tissues between the sit bones. Unlike the Brooks, the S-A doesn’t require a break-in period and is comfortable right out of the box. Construction is excellent with long, straight rails for generous fore-aft adjustment, attractive copper rivets, and maintenance-free, waterproof leather. This last bit is especially important for year-round commuters.

The S-A website is loaded with interesting information related to saddles, from sit bone measurements, to saddle height, to anatomical issues related to poor saddle design/fit. The site also has a video showing the underside of a Titanico while being ridden.

I have to throw in the caveat that each person’s physique is unique, and no one saddle will work for every person and every bike build. But if you’ve found average to slightly wider than average saddles workable in the past, you’re likely to love the Selle An-Atomica Titanico.

Selle An-Atomica

The Transportation Prescription

A new report commissioned by the Convergence Partnership demonstrates how healthy, equitable transportation policies can improve the quality of life for everyone, and in particular for vulnerable communities. The report is co-authored by Judith Bell of PolicyLink and Larry Cohen of Prevention Institute, with a forward by James Oberstar, Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Here’s an excerpt:

Healthy, equitable, transportation policy supports the development of accessible, efficient, affordable, and safe alternatives to car travel, and especially to driving solo. These alternatives enable everyone to walk more, travel by bicycle, and use public transportation more—in other words, to get around in ways that improve health, expand access to opportunity, and reduce toxic pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions.

Healthy, equitable transportation policy is forged and implemented in concert with sustainable land use planning. Together, they encourage and support high-density, mixeduse, mixed-income metropolitan development and affordable housing with good access to transportation options. Together, they focus, particularly, on underserved and economically isolated communities.

Download the Report [PDF] →

Pedal Power: Bicycles for the Homeless

The Chattanooga Community Kitchen is teaming up with Outdoor Chattanooga to provide the homeless with bicycles:

Now Accepting Donations of Gently-Used Bicycles
Pedal Power is a charitable initiative, sponsored by the City of Chattanooga’s Art of Change program and the Chattanooga Community Kitchen, to provide new and gently used bicycles and helmets to homeless individuals working to improve their lives.  In partnership with Outdoor Chattanooga, Pedal Power will empower and educate homeless clients while promoting bicycles as a simple and economically-sustainable form of transportation.

The group is currently accepting donations of new and gently-used bicycles with plans to kick-off the program in August of this year.

Outdoor Chattanooga — Pedal Power
The Chattanooga Community Kitchen

© 2011 EcoVelo™