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No Shower, No Problem

Think back to when you were a kid. Did you enjoy getting stuck in a car more than the riding your bike through the neighborhood? Then why do we default to cars as adults?

Maybe we shouldn’t and a lot of us are taking that to heart and commuting by bike to work.

There are many reasons people commute by bike. MANY. For the love of the environment, ease of parking, fiscal responsibility, workout opportunity are among some of the reasons.

Some bikers never commute. They ride only for fun and fitness. And that is ok too- biking is awesome for many reasons to many people and I welcome everyone to the road however they see fit.

I do commute to work by bike everyday for all the reasons mentioned but the main reason is for my children. I ride to show them you can do ‘it’ and the world is not just about getting from A to B by car. You can make a difference, you can do something both good for you and others AND you can share your love of biking with those you love most. Kids really do emulate their parents and the more active you are, the more active they will be in their lives.

As recently as 2013, transportation contributed more than half of the carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, and almost a quarter of the hydrocarbons emitted into our air (citing USCS.org). Roughly only one percent of commuting trips to work are by bike (Bike Commuting Statistics). But this is growing and YOU can make it grow further!

Commuting by bike is GROWING!
Commuting by bike is GROWING!

Imagine if every 1 in 10 of the cars you see on the road commuted to work at least twice a week. Imagine the investment in bike infrastructure you would be given due to the demand. Think about the quality of life, work achievements (#8 Tips for Unleashing Creativity at Work ), cleaner air and lower traffic you would have.

light_and_motion_sunset

Now, biking to working AND being a parent IS NOT easy. Getting them to school, getting you to work and getting back home in time before sundown seems almost insane if you add biking.

Depending on how far you live from work you could face quite a trip. BUT according to the commuting statistics most people travel 15miles or less to work. This distance is do-able in 45min and provides a nice 1h 30min+ work out daily. Even just 2 times a week.

This biking would enable you to quit your gym membership AND there is chance you could ride to school with your children (Tips for Biking to School). Your kids would get more time outdoors, benefits from the exercise (Kids and Physical Activity) and get a chance to really see their neighborhood(s) maybe for the first time.

So is it easy- NOPE. Is it possible- YES! Why should you even try if it isn’t easy? Because it matters- to you, your health and your kids.

Don’t know where to start?

There are a LOT of tips for commuting. One for example is Bike Commuting which discusses new routes, tools to take are discussed here with tools to take riding with kids and absolutely applicable for your commute into work.

Seasonal Commuting By Bike Temperature Compass
Seasonal Commuting By Bike Temperature Compass

Here are a few pointers:

1.) Leave the laptop at work if you can. Remote in to your computer if possible from your home computer and ask your company if they don’t have this option to add it (this would make it safer for the company too not having assets offsite).

2.) If you have to drive into work- do it on Monday. Get the kids to school a little earlier, pack everything you can for the week- food, clothes, soap, towels, etc in the car to take to work.

3.) Do NOT forget deodorant.

4.) Do NOT panic if you cannot shower. You can still clean up after the ride. Shower or bathe at night before and using a wash cloth and soap of your choice (nice smelling is helpful) you can bath just enough to get through the day.

5.) Consider going minimalist to none on the makeup if you are a woman- some jobs may not allow this but for those that do this may help you liberate off makeup and lighten your load on your pocket book and your skin.

6.) Do NOT panic. You don’t even have to take of these recommendations. As long as you bike – it will benefit the whole family and you will see it.

7.) Know that more people are joining you. They are riding more and some cities may see the rise in bike commuting than other BUT just maybe by see you on the bike you have inspired others to join.

8.) Tell EVERYONE you know you bike. Tell them bikers need 3ft by law and 5ft courtesy when passing. This will matter when you are on the roads. Now people can put a face with the bikers out there and that IS power. You will have influenced a vast amount of drivers to respect bikers without even realizing it.

9.) Find a co-worker or friend if possible to commute with to help for safety and motivation. Bike clubs are a good way to reach out to find contacts and your company may even reward biking so motivating co-workers may be easy than you would think.

10.) SAFETY, SAFETY, SAFETY. Lights (rear and front), mirrors and reflective clothing preferably fluorescent colored . And eye gear PLUS be aware ALWAYS. Ride defensively.

The hardest parts of biking to work with kids is time. It may take you a little longer during the day so you may need some flexibility to work from home or on the weekend when the kids are asleep. This may sound like a lot to give up BUT each day you commute you are not having to spend extra time without the kids driving to work or the gym or biking on the weekend while the kids hang with a babysitter.

YOU and the KIDS CAN then bike together on the weekends and hone you biking skills to go to school during the week. You CAN talk about why you ride and how much better it is than driving and you CAN inspire you kids to aspire for more and challenge what is normal.

This all just from changing your commute from drive time to bike time!

Change the world from your garage- one family at a time!

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Secure Parking for Bikes in Pittsburgh

When I think of the city Pittsburgh, I think of steel, the Steelers and Dirt Rag Magazine..  Slowly, with BikePGH‘s help, many are looking at Pittsburgh as a bike commuting city.

Pittsburgh Bike Center
Pittsburgh will soon offer a secure parking situation for commuters who cycle rather than drive into town.

The Bicycle Commuter Center has been built on the northern side of the Century Building in the Cultural District. The concept is simple: Two shipping containers have been converted into indoor bicycle storage with space for 26 bikes. The bikes in the facility will be safe from vandalism, theft, rain and snow–elements to which they may be vulnerable with on-street parking. Annual leases will begin April 1, and are available for $100, with a $10 key deposit. There are also 21 wall-racks and official BikePGH racks outside, available for free for short-term Cultural District parking.

Originally found at POPCity.com

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Final Review: SE Lager

SE Lager

After several months of riding the SE Lager for my daily commute, I’ll now give my final wrapup of my thoughts and impressions of it’s performance as a commuter bike. If you haven’t already, check out my first two posts I did as part of this review (Part one and part two). Also be sure to read the comments on those posts as several readers left their impressions of the SE Lager as well.

Comfort and simplicity are the greatest features of the Lager. The steel frame sucks up vibrations and seems to flow the road better than an aluminum equivalent. The geometry of the bike is spot on and I’ve never felt the least bit of discomfort or lower back pain (that tends to plague me) while riding.

The Lager is built from the ground up to be a simple and reliable bike. The steel frame, 1-speed (free or fixed flip-flop hub) drivetrain and overall streamlined features makes it a great choice for someone looking for a no-nonsense bike. I’ve riden this bike for over four months and have not done a single bit of maintenance other than changing the occasional flat.

I do have a few issues with the Lager that I would like to see changed on future models.

The bolt on skewers need to be swapped for quick release. A wrench is not a tool I should be forced to carry on every ride, however if I get a flat halfway home my multi-tool won’t get me very far.

I’d also like to see two sets of brake levers. The current set hangs off the end of the bullhorn handlebars, but I’d like to see a second set added to the middle. It would offer more options for hand position and not force the rider to constantly stretch out over the bars.

The last nit I’ll pick is the bottom bracket. It’s doesn’t conform to the normal standard. Here’s an excerpt from a comment Ed left on a previous post:

My biggest problem was upgrading the crank. The bottom bracket is old school bmx size, so i had to get my hands on a conversion kit which proved to be quite difficult as most people had no idea they even existed.

Even with these few issues, it’s hard to say to much bad about this bike. At a retail price of $540 (and available most places for much less) you get a great bike that is basically maintenance free. If you’re looking to get the most bike for the least amount of money, I would look hard at the SE Lager as the answer to your problems.

The Lager at www.sebikes.com

Read all the posts from this review…

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Update: SE Lager

This is the second in a series of posts that will serve as my review of this commuter offering from SE Bikes. In this post I discuss the overall feel of the bike after several months of riding. You can see my first post on the SE Lager with more pictures here.

SE Lager Commuter Bike

Riding the SE Lager makes me feel like I’m back to riding a bike without thinking through the gadgetry or latest jazzy technology. The bike rides smooth and requires minimal thought process to keep her rolling day to day.

“Steel is real” so goes the motto and I tend to agree. It’s good to see people like SE still making good use of this material. The Cromolly steel sucks up normal road vibrations much more than your typical aluminum frame and makes for a very smooth and comfortable ride. The head tube angle sits at 72 degrees and the seat tube angle at 74 degrees. This is similar to other commuter style bikes I’ve ridden and makes for a very responsive steering while maintaining comfort.

When you’re looking at the angles of the head tubes and seat tubes, the lower the numbers the more comfortable and stable the ride and the higher the numbers the more responsive they are with a decrease in stability and comfort. You can find other commuter bikes that come with a steeper angles and quicker responsiveness but my commute doesn’t call for a lot of quick agility and the angles of the Lager are a very comfortable middle ground.

This is the first bike I’ve ridden long term with bull horn handlebars and I wasn’t sure how I would take to them. And while I would still opt for mustache bars, I’ve found the bullhorns to be comfortable and functional.

The brake levers are hanging off the end of the bars which I find to be frustrating at times as I like to sit up straight a good bit. There’s not really a better alternative for one set of levers, but I did suggest to SE that they add the secondary set of levers that you see on a lot of cross bikes. This would allow more options on where to place your hands

Across the board, simplicity is the name of the game for the Lager. The one speed drivetrain (fixed or free with the flip-flop hub), steel frame and sleek design make this a bike you won’t have to worry about day to day. I’ve been riding the Lager for several months now and have had no other maintenance issues outside of keeping the tires inflated. The absence of flimsy material and breakable parts make this a no brainer for people that like to ride their bike worry free.

Overall, I’ve been very pleased with the SE Lager as a daily commuter rig. Look for my final update on this bike in the coming weeks.

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Commuter profile: Nina in Santa Cruz

Nina and her husband live simply and off grid in the Santa Cruz mountains in California. She bikes a few miles into Scotts Valley, where she catches a bus to her job at the San Jose Tech Museum of Innovation, where she designs exhibits.

Nina the bike commuter

Although we sometimes ride the bus together, I only knew her as “yellow vest girl.” We met later at the local Climbing Gym where we exchanged contact info and she agreed to be profiled for Commute By Bike.

CBB: How did you get started in bike commuting?

Nina: I fell into bike commuting unexpectedly. I was never a biker–recreational or otherwise. When I moved to DC in 2003, I hadn’t ridden a bike since junior high. But I moved into a coop in DC with more bikes (11) than people (8) and it seemed like time to start. I started with a random free bike that was kicking around the garage, moved on to $50 Craigslist bikes, and after a series of unpleasant accidents and thefts, have now resettled in Santa Cruz CA with a new Sirrus hybrid.

DC fully indoctrinated me as a bike commuter, despite getting slammed badly a couple times, including once when I woke up in the hospital with a “suspected” broken neck (luckily, I walked away just fine). DC is just the right size for biking, with a smattering of nice car-free paths scattered among big, wide streets. When my husband sold his first company, we celebrated by buying a tandem. And the very first purchase I made in CA when we moved was my new bike.

Tell me about your commute in DC.

When I lived in DC, I worked for the International Spy Museum downtown, biking 4-6 miles each way a few days a week, running to work the other days. I was constantly making the tradeoff between distance and volume of crazy cars. After the worst accident, I stopped biking for several months, switching to a hybrid running/rollerblading/bus commuting system. But ultimately, I wanted the flexibility of the bike, and switched to slow, old bikes with great brakes. I bought an extremely dorky, fabulous construction vest that combines yellow reflective material with embedded blinking red LEDs. What I lacked in speed I made up for in confidence, or dumb hope, that I would be seen by drivers.

DC is hot and gross in the summer, cold and windy in the winter. There’s nothing like the feeling of the breeze zooming past you on a bike headed downtown in the summer, but in the winter I preferred the warmth of a run to the icy wind on the bike.

What about your commute these days?

Now in Santa Cruz, I commute by bike plus bus three days a week, drive the other two, somewhat dependent on evening plans on either side of the hill. Biking means leaving home at 6:30am, relying on my headlamp as I plunge downhill through the redwoods of our small valley, and then onto 2 lane canyon roads that wind uphill through vineyards and rooster calls. I see about 5 cars until the last half mile when I get close to the bus stop in Scotts Valley. Then, an express bus ride to San Jose, off at the first stop, and a quick, flat mile to work. It’s a lovely ride, with killer uphills in the morning, easy coasting at night. I’ve only been doing it since November, and the darkness is the only unpleasant part. I look forward to experiencing it in the warmer, lighter months to come.

Neither SPY nor The Tech provide any particular facilities for bike commuters. Fortunately, SPY had a shower. Unfortunately, I had a bike stolen once locked right in front of that museum. At The Tech, I’m blessed with a big enough office on a ground floor that I can easily store my bike inside.

I think it’s fascinating how you live.

We live in a cabin at the top of a small road in the Happy Valley area. It’s high tech/low tech living: my husband runs a virtual worlds firm (The Electric Sheep Company), I lead a virtual exhibit design program for a large museum, and yet we live in a home that runs on 12V batteries powered by solar panels. We are completely off the grid, using solar for electric lights, propane for the hot water heater and stove, and a wood stove for heat. We have composting toilets (buckets, really) and a gray water system for disposal of sink and shower water. It’s more rustic than high-tech green, and we look forward to making several improvements over the next few years to upgrade the solar, eliminate our reliance on propane and headlamps. We started 2008 with a big step in that direction–digging the trenches needed for cable internet. But in general, we love living 4 miles from downtown Santa Cruz in a place that feels like its own little world.

When we first moved to Santa Cruz, I expected to work from home along with my husband. I run the blog Museum 2.0 , which focuses on ways that museums can evolve into more user-centered, flexible, open institutions, and I’d planned to spend my time consulting for several museums and experience design firms. That made for a great summer, but when the job at The Tech came up I couldn’t say no. Solving the commuting problem (i.e. not wanting to drive over the hill every day) was a necessary challenge. While I can’t say I enjoy the fact that the bike and bus commute takes 1.5 hours each way, I sincerely love the opportunity to bike through the woods largely uninterrupted by cars. It’s a far cry from the shorter but much higher stress biking I did while living in Washington DC.

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Out of the Box: SE Lager

This post will be the first in a series of posts that will serve to give my review of this commuter offering from SE Bikes. In this post I will provide you with the overall specs of the bike and my thoughts on the bike straight out of the box.

SE Bikes is known primarily for their BMX offerings, however I was pleasantly surprise to find that they also have three models available for street use and a 29 inch mountain bike (currently being reviewed at our sister site, twentynineinches.com).

The three street models (with prices) they offer are:

  • Draft – $275
  • Lager – $520
  • Premium Brew – $1050

For this review I opted for the midrange priced Lager.

SE’s BMX background gives them considerable experience in making strong, tough bikes and that is obviously what they went for in the Lager. The frame and fork is made of Chromoly steel which is known for it’s strength and durability. It also gives a much more comfortable ride than a comparable aluminum frame.

SE Lager

The bars on the bike are of the bullhorn variety and this will be my first time riding this type. The wheels on the bike are made up of Alex R500 double-walled rims and 14 gauge spokes. As with most of these commuter bikes, the rear wheel comes with the flip-flop option of riding single speed or fixed. However, the bike does not come stock with a cog on the fixed gear side of the hub.

SE Lager
SE Lager

Out of the box, the bike looks nice with it’s darker brown paint and silver highlights. And the weight of 21.5 pounds isn’t the lightest you’ll find, but isn’t over the top considering the steel frame/fork.

SE Lager

The things I find lacking on the Lager are the “options” often looked for in a commuter bike. It will accept fenders, but does not come stock with them. There are no braze-ons to make a front or rear rack an option. And the tires are your basic Kenda 700 X 28c, but have no reflective attributes or claim any puncture resistance. With more and more commuter bikes hitting the market, I’d like to see SE step it up with more commuter specific options on the Lager.

I made a couple customizations to this box for my riding. First, I pulled off the toe-clips that come stock. I’m not a fan of clips so I’m just riding with the flats. Secondly, I added a set of Reelight lights, so if the black strips you see on the spokes and the front and rear lights do not come with the bike, I added them myself.

Below are the full specs for the SE Lager and stay tuned for my First Impressions post.

SE Lager
SE Lager
SE Lager
Frame
Fork
Headset
Handlebars
Stem
Grips
Brake Lever
Brake(s)
Seat
Seat Post
Seat Clamp
Crankset
Chain
Pedal
Rim
Front Hub
Rear Hub
Tires
Extras
Colors
Weight