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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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Thoughts on the passing of an icon

A couple Fridays ago, I got a call from a friend in the middle of the day. I thought the timing odd given his busy work schedule, but because I was participating in a webinar, I let the call go to voice mail and sent him a text message asking what was up. The words that popped up on my cell phone screen sent a chill down my spine.

“My aunt was biking this morning and a motorist hit her and killed her,” he wrote.

It was a sad introduction to a phenomenal woman I will never have the opportunity to meet.

It turns out my friend’s aunt wasn’t just anyone out for a leisurely ride when the worst possible thing happened. Her name was Karen McKeachie, and she was an internationally-acclaimed triathlete who throughout her 63 years challenged just about every preconception related to gender, age, and the limitations of the human body.

Karen McKeachie, photo: USA Triathlon
Karen McKeachie, photo: USA Triathlon

McKeachie’s professional racing career included six world championships, nine Ironman triathlons in Kona, Hawaii (among them an 8th place finish among women), and 15 age-group national championships.

At 58, she beat out competitors half her age to win the overall title in a major triathlon, becoming what is believed to be the oldest athlete to accomplish such a feat.

Two years ago, she was inducted into the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame.

And her contributions to the sport extend beyond her personal athletic endeavors.

With her husband and fellow triathlete Lew Kidder, she founded the magazine Triathlon Today!, the precursor to Inside Triathlon. She spent decades directing marathons, triathlons, and other races. She started what may have been the very first triathlon equipment mail-order business. And she coached athletes including Olympian Sheila Taormina.

Oh yeah, she was also an inventor. Fed up by the existing options at the time, McKeachie, an engineer by trade, is credited with creating the first women’s bicycle saddle in her basement using a saw and duct tape for the prototype. Her friend, journalist, and fellow triathlete Tom Demerly calls her “one of the greatest endurance athletes in all of history,” writing in a remembrance on his blog:

“She never appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, never wore an Olympic Gold Medal around her neck – but she did collect stacks of world and national championship medals, overall race wins, age group victories and accolades and more importantly, did the heavy lifting of getting other women into the sport, and the sport into the Olympics.”

Karen McKeachie, photo: Tom Demerly
Karen McKeachie, photo: Tom Demerly

McKeachie first discovered the triathlon almost accidentally in 1982 when she took her husband’s spot in a race after he opted not to compete because he feared the water was too cold. She placed third among women in that race and was hooked.

Her athleticism was evident from a young age. In a radio interview last year, McKeachie described growing up in rural Michigan where “there weren’t any sports for girls,” so she played football with the boys in her neighborhood. This would become a running theme in her life – playing with, and often beating, boys at sports, and early on at least, frustratingly few available outlets into which to channel her athletic interest and ability.

In high school in the late 1960s, she wanted to join the track team and bested all but two of the boys in a practice race. The coach agreed to let her join if the rest of the team was ok with it, but the boys she beat out refused to let her on, her husband told the Detroit Free Press.

At the University of Michigan in the mid-1970s, McKeachie’s competitive spirit again ran up against a wall when the university athletic director said she couldn’t represent the school in a cross country event. Undeterred, she had her mother sew an M onto a yellow jersey and ran anyway, placing 8th overall. Her homemade jersey now hangs in the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame, according to Kidder.

Throughout her too-short life, McKeachie continued to train hard and compete, biking as many as 300 miles each week until the very end.

She was out on a training ride near her hometown of Ann Arbor August 26th when she was hit by a Chevrolet Avalanche driven by a 70-year-old man police said veered into McKeachie’s lane while trying to pass the car in front of him. The two women McKeachie was riding with careened into a nearby ditch and survived.

Like most people who ride bikes, hearing of someone killed while biking feels very personal in a way that many other tragedies do not. I think the collective anguish and outrage we feel over these types of incidents is fueled by the knowledge that it very well could have been us in the bike saddle or, perhaps more horrifically, on the receiving end of a phone call none of us ever wants to get.

The news of McKeachie’s death has shaken me more than most bike-related tragedies. If someone of such caliber and skill, who no doubt was doing everything right, who knew how to handle herself on a bike, was not immune from the dangers of the road, certainly none of us are.

It has left me as a new, highly-sensitized and somewhat paranoid parent questioning the responsibility of getting into the bike saddle in a country that continues to sacrifice the safety of its people to the convenience of moving them quickly in cars. It reminds me that we aren’t the only ones responsible for our own safety and that we have to do more as a society to promote defensive driving, better enforcement of the rules of the road, and a built environment that accounts for the safety of all road users.

I’m still not sure how to reconcile the very real risks of riding my bike with the many benefits of doing so. But this past weekend, I strapped my infant son into a bike trailer and took him on his very first bike ride. Quite consciously, my husband and I staged this auspicious event on a protected trail in the suburbs rather than on the city streets where we would normally ride.

I thought about Karen.

Author Emilie Bahr takes her infant son on his first bike ride.
Author Emilie Bahr takes her infant son on his first bike ride.

I find myself wondering what she would have done had she been one of the women who survived last month’s crash. Based on what I’ve learned over the past couple weeks, I doubt she would retreat for very long. Some of the people closest to her agreed.

“I think she would be back on the roads, maybe dirt roads for a while, but back nevertheless,” her sis
ter-in-law told me in an email. Already, Karen’s husband Lew has returned to the saddle, she added, biking almost daily with Karen’s friends in a most-fitting tribute to his late wife.

A quilt made of t-shirts from races in which Karen McKeachie competed. Photo: Andy Jacoby
A quilt made of t-shirts from races in which Karen McKeachie competed. Photo: Andy Jacoby

Emilie Bahr is a writer, urban planner, and healthy communities advocate living in New Orleans. She is the author of the book Urban Revolutions: A woman’s guide to two-wheeled transportation.

 

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Outlier Summer Shorts : Worth $128?

Outlier is a company I have always been jealous of, their website, their clothing and their price tag. As much as I would like to, I could never justify $128 for a pair of shorts (knickers are another conversation.. Their new Summer Short has been blasted all over the internet, blogs, and news feeds. Yes, I’m sure they will sell out just as their website states. If you are one of the folks that purchase them, please give us your feedback. Following with a check to help support Commute By Bike.

The return of the infamous Summer Shorts. Last year Bike Snob went hog wild (with mayo and all) on these shorts. This year they are even better. We started with the same killer cut, and our core 4Season fabric. We added belt loops, an internal draw cord and mesh pocketing inserts to ensure they work even better both as shorts and swim trunks. Then we went to the beach…Tailor made for the slack triathlete, bike to the beach, swim a little and then get busy in the beer hall (or with a bottle of Snapple if you’re a bike snob.) All without changing your shorts. It’s summertime, time to enjoy the good life.

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Cordaround The Urban Awareness Jacket

Over a year ago Cordaround released their Bike to Work Pants which were tagged as “everyday khakis with inner brilliance..  Now they have released a new jacket The Urban Awareness Jacket.

With the style on the outside looking sleek and stylish and inside a reflective houndstooth pattern.  The cost is at $225 which if steep but maybe worth it for function and supposedly it does ward off laser beams.

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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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Video: Three prominent cycling minds discuss how to get more people on bicycles

Below is a video from September when I had a chance to have a discussion with three prominent figures in the current push to get more people using bikes as their normal mode of transportation.

Tim Parr owner of Swobo has worked together with Sky Yaeger to bring some very unique, fun and useful bike designs to the market. We’ve talked about them in several places here and it was an honor to have him as part of the group.

Brad Quartuccio is one of the founders of the Urban Velo zine that has quickly become popular across the net.

Tim “Masi Guy” Jackson is the brand manager that has brought the famous Masi road bike back from the dead and is now breathing a whole new life into it with a line of bikes designed specifically for the commuter.

It’s a rare thing to find all these guys in one place at the same time, not to mention sit them down for a full thirty minutes and pick their brains on how each of us can change our world one bike at a time.

Three Cycling Minds at Interbike 2007

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Surly Big Dummy available in February

Almost a year and a half after the Big Dummy was announced by Surly at Interbike 2006, it will finally be made available to the masses in just over a month.

I’m pretty excited about this bike as I think it fits a very large need for the utilitarian cyclist. You can make arguments over the price ($800 for frame frame/fork) or just going with the xtracycle, but the truth is that this bike will be a perfect tool for a lot of people.

If you want to read a lot more info on the Surly Big Dummy, check out this link on their site. It’s everything you ever wanted to know and more about their new platform.

And here’s all our pasts posts where we’ve mentioned the Big Dummy.
Surly Big Dummy

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Bicycle Fenders

Fenders are good


Fenders
or mudguards protect your bike and your clothing from grit and grime when the roads are wet from rain and melted snow. Although they won’t keep you completely dry when it’s actually raining, fenders help tremendously to keep your backside and bottom side dry and clean. Good
Fenders
also protect your bike by helping to keep dirt and road grit away from your frame and out of your moving parts.

Riding in the rain

Full Fenders allow me to ride in the heavy mist that Californians like to call “rain” with only minimal wetness. I wear a rain jacket and sometimes wear rain pants, but with full fenders and a mudguard my shoes get only a little damp and my socks stay completely dry. My raingear only needs to be water resistant rather than water proof and seam sealed, which saves me money and gives me more options on riding wear.

I’ve cycled through thunderstorms in the U.S. Midwest and Texas and even a typhoon or two in Tokyo. For the Californians on the list, fill a bucket with water, toss in a tray of ice cubes (for the hail) and have a friend throw the contents on you — that approximates about half a second of a typical Midwestern spring storm. In downpours like this you’ll get wet even with fenders, of course, but fenders are still useful to protect driving spray from penetrating your bottom bracket and headset. (I comment a little more about California rain in my personal blog).

Even in these areas, fenders keep you dry when you venture out after the storms, when your tires throw grit, sand and salt up into toward your clothing, frame and moving parts.

Full fenders

In my opinion, if you can’t install full length fenders, you probably shouldn’t even bother installing them. Full length fenders curve all the way around both wheels. The rear fender should extend from the bottom of the seat tube all the way around the top of the tire and back almost to the level of the axle. The front fender doesn’t have a tube to protect in front, but it should wrap from in front of the fork to about the level of your feet when the pedals are horizontal. A mud flap at the bottom of the front fender keeps your feet dry.

Planet Bike SpeedEZ Road Fenders

Fenders for road racing bikes

Many Americans have road racing bikes with absolutely no provision for fenders — there are no fender mounts, and even if you have the mounts there’s no clearance between the tires and brakes to fit a fender. A good compromise solution is Planet Bike’s SpeedEZ Road Fenders. They’re only half fenders so the rear fenders won’t protect your seat tube, but they will prevent the stripe up the back, keep your shoes dry, and protect your downtube and bottom bracket.

Shorties

Short fenders fads come and go; recently, we mentioned Ezra’s short Fast Boy Fenders. They look beautiful, and though I’ve never tried them I’m dubious about their actual utility. If somebody uses shorty fenders like this let me know if they actually work.

Clip ons

I have used clip on fenders. They’re a useless waste of money as far as I’m concerned. I’m talking about the kind that attach to your seatpost with some sort of quick release mechanism. Even when they don’t swing out to the side, they provide zero protection for your bicycle and almost no protection for your backside.

Stay dry on your commute by bike with
Fenders
aka mudguards!

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Commuting 101: Know the dangers of cycling at night

In a recent article at www.seattlepi.com the question is raised:

Night Cycling: Is it Safe?

This time of year many commuters will find themselves commuting in the dark both to and from the office, so the questions is raised… are you in more danger?

The article cites a study that is, unfortunately, almost 15 years old. However it clearly shows that more accidents happen at twilight and dark hours than other times of the day.

bike collisions at night

Also cited is this bit from the Edgewater, FL Bicycle Safety page of their website:

Nearly 60 per cent of all adult fatal bicycle accidents in Florida occur during twilight and night hours although less than three percent of bicycle use takes place at that time.
Many factors compound the danger of riding at night, such as:
-Motorists driving under the influence of drugs/alcohol.
-Motorist’s ability to see what is ahead is limited to the area illuminated by headlights. Visibility is further reduced by the glare from lights of oncoming vehicles.

The major problem occurs when the sun is already low in the sky when you head home at 5pm and the roads are at their highest peak of congestion.

Here’s a few ideas to stay safe:

  • Leave early or stay late – See if you can get permission to change up your work hours by thirty minutes to an hour. This will allow you to commute when the roads are less congested.
  • Use plenty of lights and reflective material – Buy some blinky lights. Get reflective tape. Do whatever you can to stay visible to drivers.
  • Take alternate routes – Use our guide to finding the perfect route on Google Maps and find yourself a safer route to and from the office that keeps you offer major roads.
  • Know when to say ‘no’ – There are conditions that I just won’t ride my bike in. If the traffic is congested, the weather is wet and the sun is down you may want to opt for your car or public transportation. It’s not worth your life.

What other things do you do to stay safe this time of year?