Night Riding

Winter Riding

The dark has really been coming on lately. I know people who essentially park their bikes over the winter, even in the relatively mild climate we have here in Northern California. Around here, I think it’s a general unease with riding in the dark, more than the cold and wet, that causes some people to put their bikes on a hook until spring. The thing is, riding in the dark can be exhilarating (it’s one of my favorites, second only to cruising on a cool spring morning), and with a good set of lights, it’s at least as safe as riding during the day where we blend in more with our surroundings and share the road with many more motorists. I’d highly encourage anyone who hasn’t tried night riding to pick up some lights and give it a try; it truly is a blast.

Here are a few of our articles on bike lights:

Bicycle Commuter Profile: Vicki

Bicycle Commuter Profile

Name: Vicki
Location: Newcastle, NSW, Australia
Started bike commuting: Since 1996 (on and off)
Commute distance (one way): 5km at the moment, has been up to 12 km

Describe your commute: Gradual downhill through quiet suburban streets. then onto a busy main street which has very slow traffic due to the amount of pedestrians crossing and traffic lights, so I just keep up with the traffic which is not hard to do, and it keeps me out of the car door death lanes. Then I ride along the footpath for a short distance where it is quite dangerous to be on the road but the paths are nice and wide and empty. Through a park, along a bike track beside a scenic river and I am there. I get to check out the other riders as well as the pelicans on the river on my way, it only takes about 20 minutes and I don’t travel far enough to need a shower. A great start to the day.

Describe your bike and accessories: My old Speedwell is my preferred mode of travel, it is a single speed with back pedal brakes and an old style wire basket on the front, which I simply throw my bag into. I have had it since I was a child and I love the classic loop frame. I also have a Giant hybrid bike with 24 gears and much better brakes than the Speedwell but I prefer the Speedwell if the weather is good. The Giant also has a bag-carrying-rack on the back which is useful. My lights are a variety of blinkies which I can attach to the bikes, bags and my helmet.

What bit of advice would you like to share with new bike commuters?: Work out which way to ride before you do it the first time. Look at maps and do a weekend trial ride as you will probably find shortcuts you did not know were there for bike riders. Try not to use a back pack as they are hot and uncomfortable, use a pasket or panniers. Work out your clothes and whether you can just ride in work clothes or whether you need to carry an extra set of clothes with you. If there are no showers at work, you can probably do a wash and change in the rest rooms at work. Make sure you have a good lock or can store your bike safely at your workplace. Your co workers will be in awe at your athletic prowess in riding to work, even if you just pedalled a few blocks to get there!

[Visit our Bicycle Commuter Profiles page to add your profile to the collection. —ed.]

Thursday Morning Commute: Just Waking Up

Thursday Morning Commute

Bike Weight and Multi-Modal Commuting

Lifting a Bike

With the popularity of European-style commuting bikes on the rise here in the U.S., the average weight of a typical transpo bike is also on the rise. U.S.-style hybrids, mountain bikes, and touring bikes, all commonly used for commuting here, averagely weigh in the 30-35 lb. range (for example, my fully outfitted Surly Long Haul Trucker weighs 32 lbs. with front and rear racks, kickstand, fenders, and lights). On the other hand, many traditional Euro-style city bikes tip the scales at 40-50 lbs. or more. This extra 10-15 lbs. is largely inconsequential for those who have point-to-point commutes over relatively flat terrain, but it can be a real problem for those who take their bike on transit as part of their commute.

Commuters and utility bicyclists are rarely accused of being “weight-weenies”; afterall, a 30+ lb. bike is anything but “light” by today’s standards.

Here’s a case in point. A friend purchased a Dutch city bike to use as her primary commuter. She liked the upright seating position, internal gears and brakes, full chain case, integrated lighting, and overall style of this type of bike. It’s a lovely bike that appeared to be perfect for her intended use. It was a little difficult to hoist onto the train, but she parked the bike in the aisle and all was good—for a while. Eventually, the conductors tired of too many bikes in the aisles (it’s a safety hazard) and they started making everyone place their bikes in the vertical wall racks. As it turns out, the bike is too heavy for her to hoist onto the racks, so now she’s looking at lighter weight alternatives.

Commuters and utility bicyclists are rarely accused of being “weight-weenies”; afterall, a 30+ lb. bike is anything but “light” by today’s standards. But, there are some circumstances where excess weight can be a real hindrance, even to the point that an otherwise perfectly matched bike becomes a mis-match for its intended use. So while we aren’t ready to start counting grams any time soon, it does behoove multi-modal bike commuters to keep an eye on overall weight when outfitting a bike that will be taken on trains and buses.

None of this is a dig at Euro/Dutch-style bikes. They’re wonderfully appointed and make perfect commuter/utility bikes for many people. They’ve been refined over many decades in some of the most bike-friendly countries in the world, and their functionality transfers well to many U.S. cities. They do tend to be heavy though, and since there’s a trend in commuting and transpo circles to show little-to-no regard to weight, it’s not a bad idea to remember that a bike can be so heavy as to severely hinder its functionality in a least some circumstances.

Wednesday Morning Commute: Fall (Sky) Colors

Wednesday Morning Commute

Bicycle Commuter Profile: Ken

Bicycle Commuter Profile

Name: Ken
Location: Portland, OR
Started bike commuting: Four years ago
Commute distance (one way): A little over 4 miles

Describe your commute: The first third of my commute is on one of Portland’s “bicycle boulevards” that is designed to be low traffic with limited stops for cyclists. The next third is on a cycle/pedestrian path that runs along the Willamette River and the last third is medium density stop and go traffic close to the city center.

Describe your bike and accessories: My daily ride is a Salsa Vaya with disc brakes, brooks B17 saddle, Planet Bike Cascadia fenders, and four planet bike lights (two superflashes in back, a beamer and a blaze up front). A planet bike rear rack and Axiom panniers completes my setup.

Bicycle Commuter Profile

When I need to carry lots of stuff, I use my new CETMA cargo bike. I just recently built it with a NuVinci N360, BB7 disc brakes and Schwalbe big apple tires. By the end of the month, I’ll add a box and rain canopy up front to carry the kids.

What bit of advice would you like to share with new bike commuters?: Commit to making bicycling as comfortable and easy as possible. If your bike is comfortable, working well, easy to access and you have the right clothes for the weather, you will enjoy it much more and do it much more often.

For me, that meant buying a bike, panniers and rain gear that kept me comfortable and dry. Making this choice meant that I had to decide to make a financial investment, but the cost of my bike and gear is 1/20th the cost of a inexpensive (relatively speaking) new car and far less on an ongoing basis knowing that I no longer pay for insurance, gas or maintenance for a second automobile.

[Visit our Bicycle Commuter Profiles page to add your profile to the collection. —ed.]

Yehuda Moon, R.I.P.

Yehuda Moon

Rick Smith has pulled the plug on Yehuda Moon & the Kickstand Cyclery, every cyclist’s favorite comic strip. Citing burnout and conflicting priorities as reasons for his decision, Rick has closed shop indefinitely. We’ll miss reading the comic every morning, but we can certainly understand the difficulties of balancing work, family, and time consuming side projects. We wish him all the best.

Yehuda Moon

© 2011 EcoVelo™