1 Girl + 2 Wheels

Our friends Rick & Erin are bicycle advocates who organize the popular Tweed Rides here in Sacramento. Erin recently started a blog chronicling her experiences as a woman living car-free. As you’ll see when you visit her site, Erin is an excellent writer and photographer who is not afraid to tackle difficult topics. Have a look, and if you like what you see, consider adding her RSS feed. I’m looking forward to following her daily updates as the site grows over the coming months.

1 Girl + 2 Wheels

Ruminations on the Ubiquitous Transpo Bike

I do a lot of bus riding as part of my commute. To stave off boredom, I scout bicycles and keep a rough tally in my head of how many and what type of bikes I see during my trip. Around where I live, the #1 type of bike being used for transportation is the generic sub-$500, hard-tail, suspension-fork mountain bike. The Trek 820 shown above is a typical example, though I see similar bikes from all the major brands. These may not be ideal bikes for how they’re being used, and they’re certainly not glamorous, but they’re pretty tough, they’re reasonably comfortable, and the price is right. Most that I see still have knobby tires installed, and a good number seem to be ill-fitting. I suspect a simple tire swap, along with some assistance from a local bike shop to dial in the fit, would dramatically improve the ride experience for many of the people on these bikes.

While I’m always happy to see anyone on a bike, and these mountain-bikes-being-used-as-commuters seem to be working fairly well for a surprising number of people, it would sure be great if there was a more road-worthy alternative that was widely available in this price range. I’m imagining a simple TIG-welded steel bike with a rigid fork, upright geometry, roadster bars, cushy tires, single chainring up front, 7-speed cassette in back, wide saddle, metal fenders, and folding wire panniers. If they can build a 21-speed, suspended mountain bike for under $500, it seems like someone should be able to build my fantasy city bike and sell it for under $500 as well. Linus is doing something along these lines (see below), though they’ve chosen to go with a 3-speed IGH which might be a tough sell to non-bikies who have come to expect at least 21 gears. The $64 question is whether a bike like my 7-speed could go up against a 21-speed mountain bike on the sales floor of the typical neighborhood bike shop or big box store (I’m somewhat doubtful).

I’ve argued many times for adjusting our thinking regarding bike pricing, and I still feel that as a society we undervalue bicycles. I don’t know how many times I’ve talked to people who balked at the price of a $1000 bicycle while not even blinking an eye at the price of a $20,000 automobile. And while we can argue for a change in perspective on bike pricing until we’re blue in the face, that’s not going to change the fact that for the foreseeable future, an overwhelming majority of the bikes on the road will continue to be from the low end of the price range. It would be great to see more bikes in this price range designed specifically for the commuter/transport bicyclist.

A Lesson Re-Learned

Recovery is a term used in exercise parlance to describe the process of taking a break from training to allow the body to rebuild tissues torn down during exercise. From Wikipedia:

Proper rest and recovery are as important to health as exercise; otherwise the body exists in a permanently injured state and will not improve or adapt adequately to the exercise. Hence, it is important to remember to allow adequate recovery between exercise sessions. It is necessary to refill the glycogen stores in the skeletal muscles and liver.

As transportational bicyclists, it’s easy to forget that we’re also exercising, sometimes to fairly high levels, over long periods, and with little to no recovery time. Back in the summer of 2008, I made the mistake of riding nearly every day for 4 months straight, the result of which was a bad case of tendonitis in my left knee and a 3-month stint off the bike to nurse the injury. The knee eventually healed, but more importantly, I learned a lesson: when those little aches and pains from riding everyday start up, it’s important to take a rest break to let the body heal before they turn into something major.

For various reasons, all unrelated to recovery, I was off the bike most of this week. Prior to this unplanned break, I had been riding nearly every day for a fairly long stretch. Yesterday, after being off the bike for the fourth day in a row, I noticed something; I was suddenly pain free. Pretty much all of my little aches and sore spots were gone. Prior to this epiphany, I wasn’t consciously aware of being in pain, but in retrospect, I was experiencing chronic, low grade soreness and discomfort resulting from riding many days in a row without a sustained break. How quickly we forget those hard-earned lessons!

Somehow I feel as if I dodged a bullet here. My aches, pains, and general fatigue could have very easily turned into a more serious injury if not for this week’s serendipitous break. The lesson re-learned is that our bodies don’t know the difference between riding a bike for training or riding a bike for transportation. Either way, we need to occasionally take a break to heal up and fully recharge our batteries.

Still Life

An estimated 3 million people (1 million on bikes!) attended a 37-mile closure of Germany’s high-speed autobahn network this past weekend. The event, appropriately titled “Still Life”, was a celebration of the Ruhr region being chosen as a “European Capital of Culture” by the European Union. Approximately 22,000 tables were set up, which has to qualify the event as the world’s largest picnic. It must have been quite a sight, seeing such a long stretch of high-speed roadway filled with pedestrians and bicyclists.

Spokes: Are Flats Related to Heat?

In yesterday’s New York Times “Spokes”, J. David Goodman asked if heat is the culprit behind the higher number of flats bike shops see during the summer. The theory is that higher temperatures raise the air pressure within bike tires, increasing the likelihood of flats.

Personally, I think heat is definitely not the culprit. If anything, higher pressure would lead to fewer flats by reducing the chances for pinch flats (of course, the probability of having a blowout increases with high pressure, but we’re talking flats, not catastrophic blowouts). I think it’s explained by the fact that more people are on their bikes during the summer, and that there is more debris on the road during the dry season (rain and wind help clear away debris fall through spring).

What’s your take?

Spokes on Flats

A Bar Fight

As I mentioned in a prior post, Civia recently sent me a box of handlebars to play around with and evaluate. They sent 5 total in various shapes and sizes.

Upon opening the box, the 50 degree Aldrich immediately caught my eye. You can’t see it very well in the above photo, but it has a backward sweep and zero rise that reminds me somewhat of the handlebars you see on old French city bikes (but with a little less sweep).

Getting set up for this bit of experimentation required ditching my cork grips and replacing them with clamp-on ODIs for easy installation and removal. None of the Civia bars take bar-end shifters, so I also had to order up a set of Paul Thumbies which are currently making the long trip from Chico in a brown truck (hence the drooping shifters in the photo). And finally, since most of these bars have less rise than the North Roads I’ve been running the past two years, I swapped the Brooks B67 saddle for a narrower Selle An-Atomica Titanico.

I plan on trying each of the bars for at least a few weeks. It’ll be interesting to see if any of them displace my old favorite North Roads (I’ll let you know how it turns out).

Gallery: Sheilia & Terry’s Yuba Mundo V2 Deluxe

The Yuba Mundo V2 Deluxe was a build-up by Joe Bike of Portland. The only original parts are the frame and rack. The V2 comes with a bolt on rack while the current V3 is welded to the frame. The components were selected by Joe Bike and the only things I’ve added are pedals (Welgo B-18s) and a rear cushion I made from fabric purchased locally. My wife, Sheilia, rode over once to a friend’s house which prompted me to make the cushion. This is a very versatile bike besides just being fun to ride. I’ve bungie corded plastic bins to the rack and hauled old rusted bike frames to the recycler. Brought home a filing cabinet from a garage sale and realized I need to get a two legged kickstand. I found the Fat Franks at 30-psi makes it a excellent beach crusier, but even at their maxium 60-psi they still provide a comfortable ride.

Mundo Deluxe component list:

  • frame and rack: Yuba Mundo
  • headset: Cane Creek
  • fork: Surly Big Dummy
  • front brake: Avid BB7 Mt with 203mm rotor
  • rear brake: Avid Single Digit 5
  • front derailleur: SR
  • rear derailleur: SRAM X3
  • shifters: SRAM X5 8-spd twist shift
  • seatpost: Thompson Elite
  • saddle: Brooks Champion Flyer
  • crankset: Shimano M442 square-tapered 175mm
  • rings: 44-32-22
  • pedals: Welgo B-18
  • hubs: Shimano Deore
  • rims: Sun Rims Rhyno Lite
  • tires: Schwalbe Fat Franks 26 X 2.25
  • fenders: Planet Bike Cascadia

Sheilia & Terry

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