Directed by Brent Pantell and co-executive produced by UCLA Transportation and UCLA Sustainable Resource Center.
I have a suspicion that many people would enjoy their bikes more if they went to slightly larger cross-section tires and ran them at lower pressures than what they’re accustomed to. I typically ride at least 32mm tires for commuting and general utility riding, and I’ll often go up to over 40mm. Of course, the clearance around the fork and chainstays, as well as rim width, place limits on tire size. But still, I often see relatively small diameter tires mounted on bikes that would accept wider rubber. And there’s nothing that says you have to pump your tires to the max pressure listed on the sidewall. I’ll often run my tires at 10-20% under the recommended max pressure to soften the ride; you’d be amazed how much this improves the comfort of any bike. If you’re running small cross-section, high pressure tires, you might be pleasantly surprised by the improvement in ride quality you’ll get from a larger tire run at lower pressure.
Here are a few photos of my bike. I use it as a commuter, errand-runner, bar-hopper, roller racer, and general around-town bike. I built this bike out of odds and ends I had lying around in my shop, so it has a kind of a thrown together/recycled feel to it. It’s a mid-80’s Panasonic track frame with a Schwinn straight-blade aluminum fork, 70’s Campy head set, Ultegra bottom bracket and crankset, 53T chainring and 18T cog. I built the wheels with Mavic hoops laced an old XT MB hub in the front and a Shimano 3-speed coaster brake rear hub salvaged from a thrift store 60’s mixte. The shifter is a 60’s 3-speed grip shift and the bars are VO Porteurs from Velo Orange. I stripped the frame, painted the lugs and bottom bracket shell shiny black, and then covered all the tubing in wood-grained shelf liner paper. It’s a real head-turner and most other cyclists don’t know what to make of it until they get up close and give it a good once-over. Is it a fixie? A one speed with a coaster brake? The lack of brake calipers, brake lines, and hand levers gives it a clean look, but the cable running from the shifter throws folks off. People are constantly asking me if I made it myself and pinging their fingers against the tubing to see if it’s really wood!
[You had me there for a minute with the shelf paper. —ed.]
Transportation planners talk about something they call “the last mile problem”; the challenge of bridging the gap between a public transit stop and a person’s final destination. Typical solutions include walking, bicycling, and so-called Park-n-Ride lots. Walking is an option for able-bodied individuals, though time and distance can be major drawbacks. For obvious reasons, the Park-n-Ride solution is popular, though it presents a number of issues including neighborhood traffic congestion and limited flexibility. Bicycling combines efficiency with flexibility while solving the congestion problem; arguably, this makes it the best “last mile” solution.
Folding bikes are the perfect solution for a different, less-common type of last mile problem. Let’s say a car-lite or car-free person needs to travel to an area that’s not served by transit and is left to drive there. And let’s imagine they have to stay in that location for a few days but they were unable to bring a full-sized bike due to storage issues or lack of a bike rack on a rental car. Typically, a person would have no choice but to use the car more than they’d like. But, with the addition of a tiny folding bike, they can park the car once they’ve made their long trip, and then use the folding bike for getting around the area during their stay. This often overlooked use for a folding bike saves gas, cuts down on emissions, and provides some exercise while on a road trip.
In the Health section of the New York Times, columnist Lesley Alderman makes the case for bicycle helmets. From the article:
Whether you ride on hectic city streets or bucolic back roads, helmets are essential armor. Bicycle helmets have been shown to reduce the risk of head injuries by up to 88 percent and facial injuries by 65 percent, according to a Cochrane Database Systemic Review published in 2000. Bike riders who play against those odds do not fare well in accidents. More than 90 percent of the 714 bicyclists killed in 2008 were not wearing helmets, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
This is bound to be controversial. I still feel this is a subject that’s worth discussing; let’s see if we can keep it rational and amicable.