Don’t forget that Sacramento’s Fall Tweed Ride is coming up next Sunday, November 13th. Get all of the details over at the Sacramento Tweed website. We hope to see you there!
Name: Winky in Vancouver
Location: Vancouver, BC, Canada
Started bike commuting: Over 15 years ago. 5 years in Vancouver
Commute distance (one way): 25km
Describe your commute: I roll down to Marine Drive in West Vancouver near Lighthouse park. I then head East along Marine Drive to Dundarave and Ambleside. Traffic is light this time of the morning and the rolling hills keep it interesting (and warm in the winter). Pretty views of the ocean and often a great sunrise framing the bridge, park and city. I cut around the back of the Park Royal Mall onto a short shared-use path and then up onto Lions Gate Bridge. Heading over the bridge I am able to appreciate some of the most glorious sunrises over the harbor and city with Mount Baker often spectacular in the background.
Once over the bridge I cut right into Stanley Park. I’ve never understood my fellow cyclists who choose the bumpy, noisy concrete causeway footpath that has been re-purposed as a multiple-use path. The cycle around Stanley Park with the ocean on my right is just beautiful in the early morning light. I usually have it completely to myself (save for the odd Racoon family).
Out of the park and under the main road into Coal Harbour via short section of bike path. I then follow the waterfront streets around Coal Harbour into the downtown area. A quick couple of blocks via the new segregated bike lanes to my office and I’m there!
Describe your bike and accessories: Cannondale T2000 tourer. Tons of reflective tape, a few rear flashers and a recharcheable LED front light. Full fenders for the Vancouver winter’s liquid sunshine. Gear is carried in a small backpack. I pay for laundry services downtown to avoid having to haul business shirts to-and-fro (and because we hate ironing at our place).
What bit of advice would you like to share with new bike commuters?: Don’t worry about what bike you use. Don’t wear too much; you will overheat. Have two pairs of shoes for wet weather; they don’t dry fast enough. Recognize that it is only water; it washes right off. Don’t worry about staying dry; stay warm instead. Make choices that make bike commuting a logical choice. These include, live in the right place relative to your job, don’t own a car, make the alternative to getting on your bike in the morning less convenient.
We had cold rain over the weekend, and right on cue, our first tule fog of the season showed up this morning.
Tule Fog, from Wikipedia:
Tule fog is a thick ground fog that settles in the San Joaquin Valley and Sacramento Valley areas of California’s Great Central Valley. Tule fog forms during the late fall and winter (California’s rainy season) after the first significant rainfall. The official time frame for tule fog to form is from November 1 to March 31. This phenomenon is named after the tule grass wetlands (tulares) of the Central Valley. Accidents caused by the tule fog are the leading cause of weather-related casualties in California.
For those who haven’t experienced it, tule fog is a heavy, wet fog that blankets the low lying areas of Northern California this time of year. It’s responsible for many traffic-related deaths each year, and it poses a definite hazard to bike commuters. For those who venture out into tule fog, bright lights and extreme caution are a must. Because it’s such a heavy, wet fog, rain gear’s not a bad idea either.
As much as it sounds like a negative thing, I have to admit to enjoying the quiet and solitude associated with riding through a thick blanket of tule fog.
Transpo riders may not know this, but long before they went into building fully-outfitted commuters, Breezer got its start making mountain bikes. In fact, Joe Breeze is credited with building the first-ever purpose-built mountain bike clear back in 1977. That bike, dubbed “Breezer #1″, will be on display Saturday, November 5 from 1-3 pm at the Bicycling Hall of Fame Museum in Davis, CA. The Hall of Fame’s new mountain bike exhibit will open tomorrow in conjunction with the U.S. Bicycling Hall Of Fame’s annual induction ceremonies that same evening. Joe Breeze, Gary Fisher, Jacquie Phelan, Steve Potts, Ned Overend, and other mountain bike luminaries will be on hand for the event.
From the press release:
Breezer #1 is considered the first all-new mountain bike. The lineage of today’s mountain bikes is directly linked to it. Constructed by Joe Breeze in Mill Valley, CA in 1977, it was the first mountain bike with a new frame built specifically for mountain biking, equipped with all-new components. Previous mountain bikes were an assemblage of used parts, and were called “klunkers.
After this show, Breezer #1 will become part of the collection of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Since 1986, the Breezer had been part of the Oakland Museum’s “California— A Place, A People, A Dream” exhibit, documenting sports and activities invented, created or popularized in California.
While the Hall Of Fame’s mountain bike exhibit will be showing through November, Breezer #1 will only be on view this Saturday, November 5, from 1 to 3 p.m as part of the Mountain Bike History Celebration. On the same day, many of mountain biking’s early pioneers will be on hand, including Joe Breeze, Gary Fisher, Jacquie Phelan, Steve Potts, and Ned Overend.
A new study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that across the study region of 31 million people and 37,000 square miles, mortality would decline by 1,110 deaths per year and reduced health care costs could exceed $3.8 billion if 50% of “short trips” were taken by bicycle instead of automobile. From the abstract:
RESULTS: We estimate that annual average urban PM2.5 would decline by 0.1 µg/m3 and that summer O3 would increase slightly in cities but decline regionally, resulting in net health benefits of $3.5 billion/year (95% CI: $0.4–$9.8 billion), with 25% of PM2.5 and most O3 benefits to populations outside metropolitan areas. Across the study region of approximately 31.3 million people and 37,000 total square miles, mortality would decline by approximately 1,100 deaths/year (95% CI: 856 – 1,346) due to improved air quality and increased exercise. Making 50% of short trips by bicycle would yield savings of approximately $3.8 billion/year from avoided mortality and reduced health care costs (95% CI: $2.7 – $5.0 billion). We estimate that the combined benefits of improved air quality and physical fitness would exceed $7 billion/year.
CONCLUSION: Our findings suggest that significant health and economic benefits are possible if bicycling replaces short car trips. Less auto dependence in urban areas would also improve health in downwind rural settings.
Let’s list some of the characteristics that define a good touring bicycle:
- It should be comfortable
- It should be reliable and tough
- It should be able to carry heavy loads
- It should have sufficiently wide range gearing
- It should have sufficient clearance for robust tires and fenders
- It should have numerous braze-ons for mounting racks, fenders, water bottles, and lights
- It should have long chainstays to prevent pedal-to-pannier conflicts
- It should be made from a frame material that is both strong and compliant (as opposed to fragile and rigid)
Perhaps I’ve left a thing or two off of the list, but any bike that meets the above criteria would make a nice touring bike. And guess what? That’s exactly the same list I’d compile for a good commuting/utility bike.
It’s wonderful that we’re seeing more-and-more commuter-specific bikes coming to the market. It’s an indication that bicycling for transportation is growing and that the bicycle industry has taken notice. Certainly, the more and better commuter/utility bikes we have available, the more likely it is that newcomers will give bike commuting a serious look.
There is also an entire range of bicycles labeled as “touring bikes” that are extremely well-appointed for commuting and utility bicycling. These bikes are the beneficiaries of a long lineage going back to the 1980’s and beyond. In some cases, they represent the most refined cargo hauling bikes on the market.
Following are just a few touring bikes that double quite well as commuting/utility bikes:
- Surly Long Haul Trucker
- Salsa Casseroll
- Rivendell Atlantis
- Velo Orange Rando
- Soma Saga
- Raleigh Sojurn
- Co-Motion Americano
Of course, if touring bikes make good commuting/utility bikes, it follows that at least some commuting bikes function well as touring bikes. For example, I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to use my commuter for light touring.
The take away is that touring and commuting bikes are essentially cut from the same cloth. There’s a tremendous amount of crossover among these two categories and, in fact, some of the best commuting/utility bikes on the market don’t have the words “commute” or “cargo” in either their name or their description.
California vehicle code mandates that any bike operated in darkness is required to have a front headlight that emits a white beam visible from 300 feet and a red rear reflector that’s visible from 500 feet when illuminated by motor vehicle high beams. The law also mandates reflectors on both pedals or the rider’s ankles, and side reflectors or tires with reflective sidewalls. The headlight can be attached to either the bicycle or the rider. Check the vehicle code for the jurisdiction in which you ride to be sure you’re meeting at least the minimum requirements.
The simplest and least expensive lighting set-up is a white LED headlight on the front, and a red blinking LED on the back. Small, but surprisingly powerful, AA- and AAA-powered lights are available for under $50 each. Mount the headlight on your handlebar and the red blinkie on your seat post (or rack), and you’re good to go. I also highly recommend rechargeable batteries and a battery charger as part of any battery-powered lighting system. View my post on minimalist lighting systems for more on battery-powered lights.
For those who regularly ride in the dark, a dynamo lighting system provides reliable, battery-free lighting that’s always available at the flip of a switch. Power is provided by either a bottle or hub dynamo. Bottle dynamos mount on the bicycle frame and have a small roller that rotates against the tire to generate current. Hub dynamos (aka generator hubs) have the generator built right into the hub. In recent years, hub dynamos have far surpassed bottle dynamos in efficiency and popularity. Dynamo lighting systems are more expensive than small battery-powered systems, and unless they come pre-installed from the factory, they also require a more involved installation process. That said, they provide the benefit of always-available lighting, a real advantage for everyday, year-around commuting and utility use.
Easily moved from bike to bike
Always available (like automobile lights)
Bolted to bike (semi-theft proof)
Can be tricky to install
Not easily moved from bike to bike
After using mostly battery-powered lights for the past couple of years, I’ve recently returned to running a dynamo system. Despite the above mentioned drawbacks, I’m quite pleased to be battery-free again; it’s hard to overstate the convenience and confidence that comes with always-available, high-quality lighting.
My current favorite dynamo headlight is the E3 Pro from Supernova. The beam provides an excellent compromise between coverage and intensity, and the housing, emitter, and wires are exceptionally high-quality. Combined with any decent dynamo hub (I’m running a Shimano Alfine), it makes for a high performing and reliable set-up. You can read more about the E3 Pro and its matching tail light in my review from a couple of months ago.