Stick Versus Automatic

I think of friction versus indexed shifting as being analogous to stick versus automatic. The former came first and is mechanically more simple and tactile, while the latter came later, is more complex mechanically, but demands less of the user and is now nearly ubiquitous. Certainly, there’s no right or wrong when it comes to friction versus indexed, but people do seem to have their preferences. I’ve been known to lean toward preferring friction, though my current stable is split at exactly 50/50. Here are a few pros to consider:

Friction

  • Not affected by cable stretch or housing compression
  • More forgiving in the event of a mechanical issue in the drivetrain
  • Wider cross-compatibility between various shifters and derailleurs
  • Some riders who started riding on friction prefer the more tactile lever action

Indexed

  • Quick and precise
  • Requires less input from the rider
  • Some shifters provide visual cues (i.e., gear numbers)
  • Some riders who started riding on indexed prefer the more precise lever action

I think it mostly comes down to personal preference. It’s clear the market has spoken and most people prefer indexed shifting. I cut my teeth during the era of downtube-mounted friction shifters, consequently I find finessing a clean friction shift satisfying in a way that I don’t experience with indexed shifting. I realize that’s pretty esoteric and not much of an argument for friction shifting… :-)

Which type of shifter do you prefer?

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Bike-Sharing: Yea or Nay?

Photo: Rcsmit

I have to say, I was somewhat surprised to see the negative comments under our post about the new B-Cycle bike-sharing system that debuted today in Denver. I was also surprised to see the negative comments regarding bike-sharing in general. I’d like to know if our readers view bike-sharing as a waste of money, or whether they think it can be a viable addition to public transportation systems.

Do you view bike-sharing as a viable addition to our public transportation systems?

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Counting the Miles

Yesterday’s post on multi-modal commuting triggered some interesting comments on commuting distances. There seems to be a consensus that bike commutes under a certain length are too short, while others are too long. Those that are too long can wear down a rider and may be unsustainable over time, while those that are too short don’t provide the physical exercise and enjoyment we bike commuters have come to expect. (Funny, but it’s hard to imagine a person who commutes by automobile complaining about a commute being too short!)

Obviously, what constitutes an ideal bike commute distance will vary depending upon the rider’s physical condition, time constraints, and other factors. Still, I thought it would be interesting to set-up a poll to look at what our readers consider to be an enjoyable and sustainable bike commute distance.

What do you consider to be a perfect bike commute distance (one way)?

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Mixing Modes

For bike commuters and car-free individuals who live long distances from their workplace or school, public transit can be an important part of their transportation mix. In my case, I have a 50-mile round-trip commute that I find too demanding to maintain on a regular basis on the bike alone. I managed to piece together a manageable, albiet somewhat complex, multi-modal commute that includes a bicycle ride, a train ride, a bus ride, and a hike. The total commute time door-to-door is approximately 1.5 hours each way.

My son, who is attending a local college, has a 20-mile round trip commute in the other direction. He mixes bike, ped, and bus to make his way to-and-from school. On days when the weather is nice and he feels up to it, he rides the full distance both directions. On other days, he mixes the bike with the bus, and if the weather is particularly nasty, he walks to a nearby stop and takes the bus the majority of the distance.

Even though we’re both bike commuters and believers in active transportation, we depend upon public transit to make our respective commutes sustainable over time. Also, having the option of transit built into our commutes ensures we can avoid the car even on days when we’re not feeling our best or our schedules demand a quicker trip.

What are the components that make up your commute?

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Tire Sizes

One of the simplest and most effective ways to improve the comfort of almost any bicycle is to increase its tire width. Wider tires can be run at lower pressures without exposing rims to damage, providing greater suspension and absorbing road imperfections.

On a commuter bike that will be ridden on varied terrain while carrying a light load, I like at least a 32mm tire. On a utility bike used for hauling groceries, etc., tires up over 40mm wide can be a real advantage. Anything under 30mm on either of these types of bikes is a compromise in my opinion. The heavier the total load (rider plus baggage), the greater the benefit of riding wider tires. For reference, I’m currently running 37mm tires at 60 psi on my commuter.

It’s a common misconception that wider tires are slower, but this is not necessarily the case, particularly at non-racing speeds on rough roads. Bicycle Quarterly has done extensive testing on suspension losses and their conclusions show that on rough roads, up to 50% of a bicyclist’s power output can be attributed to suspension losses, and these losses are best mitigated by wide tires run at lower pressures.¹

One of the main issues with running wide tires is frame clearance. There are simply not that many road bikes on the market that provide adequate clearance for the wide tires and fenders needed for commuting and utility riding. This is one area where the industry as a whole could really improve their current offerings.

Which tire size do you prefer for commuting and utility use?

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At what pressure do you run your tires?

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1. Heine, J., M. Vande Kamp, 2009: Minimizing Suspension Losses. Bicycle Quarterly, Vol. 8, No. 1, p.12

Our Automobile Use

According to the EPA’s online document, Emission Facts: Greenhouse Gas Emissions from a Typical Passenger Vehicle, the number of miles driven per year is assumed to be 12,000 miles for all passenger vehicles. And according to a study conducted by Experian Automotive, Americans own 2.28 vehicles per household, which puts Americans at an average of 27,360 miles driven per year, per household. We know at least some of our readers are living car-free, and even more are making efforts to live car-lite. We’re curious to know where EcoVelo readers stand as a group in comparison to the national average.

How many total cars are owned by the people in your household?

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How many miles per year is each car driven? (Multiple choices are allowed.)

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Pack Mules

At the grocery store, waiting for the big Thanksgiving Day load.

Holiday grocery shopping can be a challenge for car-lite/car-free families. We’re hosting family for Thanksgiving this year, so our grocery list was long and the load was more than the bikes could handle in one trip. Fortunately we live near a well-stocked grocery store, so it was easy enough to break up our shopping into multiple excursions. What kind of challenges do you face? Will you be able to do your holiday grocery shopping by bike?

Will you be able to do your holiday grocery shopping by bike?

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