EcoVelo » Commuting Eco-Friendly Bicycling Fri, 24 May 2013 22:52:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Monday Evening Commute: Sunset at the Train Station Tue, 15 Nov 2011 04:05:14 +0000 Monday Evening Commute ]]> 0 Tuesday Evening Commute: Early Winter Twilight Wed, 09 Nov 2011 21:23:07 +0000 Tuesday Evening Sunset ]]> 0 Tule Fog Mon, 07 Nov 2011 16:23:44 +0000 Tule Fog

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.

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Tuesday Morning Commute: Ready for the Time Change Tue, 01 Nov 2011 15:46:39 +0000 Tuesday Morning Commute

Here in the U.S. we currently operate under Daylight Saving Time from the second Sunday of March through the first Sunday of November. You can really feel it this time of year, with the sun rising as late as 7:30 am here in California. I’m looking forward to the brighter mornings starting next week. Of course, the light we gain in the morning is only stolen from the afternoon/evening; we’ll be experiencing after-dark evening commutes soon enough.

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Another Commuter Race Wed, 26 Oct 2011 14:22:50 +0000 UWE Screenshot

The University of the West of England in Bristol has conducted their own version of the ever-popular “commuter race”, with predictable results. Four commuters—a motorist, a bus rider, a runner, and a bicyclist—all started at the same location during rush hour, approximately 3.5 miles from the school. The motorist made the trip in 53 minutes, averaging 4.68 mph; the bus rider made it in 39 minutes, averaging 6.35 mph; the runner made it in 28 minutes, averaging 6.94 mph; and (drum roll please), the bicyclist made the trip in just 17 minutes, at an average speed of 12.39 mph.

UWE Article

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Monday Morning Commute Tue, 25 Oct 2011 03:00:29 +0000 Tuesday Morning Commute ]]> 0 Night Riding Fri, 21 Oct 2011 20:57:24 +0000 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:

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Thursday Morning Commute: Just Waking Up Thu, 20 Oct 2011 16:14:33 +0000 Thursday Morning Commute ]]> 0 Bike Weight and Multi-Modal Commuting Wed, 19 Oct 2011 22:36:30 +0000 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.

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Wednesday Morning Commute: Fall (Sky) Colors Wed, 19 Oct 2011 14:58:46 +0000 Wednesday Morning Commute ]]> 0 Thursday Morning Commute: Ho-Hum Thu, 13 Oct 2011 15:35:43 +0000 Commute Sunrise

Just another awesome commute, not stuck behind the wheel of a car in a traffic jam. I hope you had a nice one too!

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Tuesday Morning Commute: After the Storm Tue, 11 Oct 2011 15:52:57 +0000 Tuesday Morning Commute ]]> 0 First Storm Rolling In Wed, 05 Oct 2011 03:32:01 +0000 First Storm Rolling In
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Rain Riding Tue, 04 Oct 2011 18:00:19 +0000

[As I sat in my office watching the storm roll in and contemplating the dousing I’m likely to receive on my ride home tonight, it dawned on me that it would be a good idea to re-post my rain riding article today. —ed.]

It’s inevitable that year-round bike commuters will have to deal with rain at some point. The good news is that riding in the rain doesn’t have to be a miserable experience, and with a little preparation and the right attitude, it can actually be quite enjoyable.

Bike Set-up
Any bike that will be ridden in the rain on a regular basis needs fenders. Long, full coverage fenders are best, but if they’re not available, mud flaps increase the effectiveness of short fenders. Unlike the rain falling from the sky, water coming off of the road is oily and dirty, so complete fender coverage is a must, particularly for commuters riding in work clothes.

Visibility is dramatically diminished in the rain, so it’s a good idea to run lights even during a daylight downpour. Fortunately, most lights today are water-resistant, if not completely waterproof, so a standard nighttime commuting set-up is usually sufficient for riding in the rain (read more about lights for commuting here).

Most commuting bikes come standard with tires that are appropriate for rain riding. Just about any touring or city tire at least 28mm in diameter with a bit of tread will work fine. It probably goes without saying that small diameter racing slicks are not ideal for commuting in the rain.

Clothing Strategies
For short commutes in light rain, it’s possible to keep dry using a cape over street clothes. Capes are nice because they allow air flow underneath and they’re easy to take on and off. The downside is that they may not keep you completely dry in a heavy downpour, and they can act like a sail in a crosswind. Chaps are sometimes used as additional protection in conjunction with a cape.

Longer commutes in heavy rain call for full rain suits made from waterproof, breathable fabrics. Cycling-specific rain suits aren’t necessary, though they provide a better fit on the the bike than standard, all-purpose rain suits. To get the most from any breathable rain suit, layer underneath with wicking garments made from wool or modern technical fabrics.

For footwear, I’ve had good luck with lightweight, waterproof hiking/walking shoes. I like the fact that they can be worn all day, eliminating the need to carry an extra pair of shoes. For those who ride in clipless cycling shoes, various neoprene and Gore-Tex booties are available.

Carrying Stuff
Most good quality, bike-specific panniers and bags are either waterproof, water-resistant, or come supplied with rain covers. In the case of simple nylon bags and panniers that provide no protection from water, delicate items can be placed inside ziplock bags before placing into your bike bag.

Riding Strategies
It’s important to reduce speeds while riding in the rain to compensate for slick roads and reduced visibility. Brake early, accelerate slowly, and corner gingerly. Keep a particular eye out for paint stripes, grates, manhole covers, and leaves, all of which are extremely slick when wet. It’s best to avoid riding through large puddles, but if you must, slow to nearly walking speed since there’s no way to know their depth or what lurks under the surface.

Bike Maintenance
There are two opposing approaches to maintaining a rain bike. One is to set-up a rain-specific “beater” bike that’s only given minimal attention, the other is to carefully maintain a nicer bike to keep the water exposure from causing damage. I’ve used both approaches and I can’t say one is necessarily better than the other.

The frequency and depth of maintenance required varies depending upon the bike and the person’s approach. At a bare minimum, the chain should be lubed well enough that it doesn’t rust and squeak. It’s also a good idea to keep an eye out for rust on other areas of the bike. If rust shows up, a little oil or grease will keep it from turning into something major.

Rain accelerates wear on brakes, and water has a way of working itself into bearings, so it’s a good idea to check a rain bike’s brakes and bearings on a regular schedule. If you don’t maintain your own bike, it’s a good idea to drop by your local bike shop mid-season for a quick once-over.

Wiping down a bike with an old bath towel after a rain ride will help stop corrosion before it starts. A quick rinse with fresh water before towel drying and lubing provides even more protection. Waxing the frame also helps repel water and road grime. This full-on approach certainly isn’t necessary, but it’ll help keep a nice bike in good condition.*

Have Some Fun
Wet, winter bike commuting isn’t necessarily for everyone, but if you like the idea of riding year-round, rain-or-shine, you should definitely give it a try. Just a few adjustments to your regular routine can turn what could be an unpleasant ordeal into a fun adventure that adds another dimension to your bike commuting experience.

*I rode an expensive, handmade bike year-round when I lived in Seattle. I had a quick routine in which I rinsed the bike and wiped it down before rolling it into my basement for storage. It took less than 5 minutes per day and helped keep the bike in excellent condition for many years.
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Streetfilms: My NYC Biking Story Tue, 04 Oct 2011 02:10:43 +0000

My NYC Biking Story: Gabri Christa from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

This one’s been around for awhile, but when Commute by Bike posted it today, it reminded us how much we enjoyed it.

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