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Commuter Profile and Commuting Stories: Thomas Brock

Thomas BrockMy name is Thomas and I commute about 3-5 times a week by bicycle in Jacksonville, NC. It’s home to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune (where I work) and isn’t known for it’s advanced urban or transportation planning.

My daily commute is between 10 and 11 miles (one-way) and is from the deserted urban area of Downtown Jacksonville to Camp Lejeune’s Main Side area and back. I can make the trip in about 50 minutes without too much effort. My preferred course is mostly on a paved multi-use path, but includes about two miles of on-road (sometimes with high-volumes of traffic) travel.

I ride a 2007 Trek 7.3fx that came stock with disc brakes. I’ve since switched from platform pedals to Shimano M324 combination pedals with a platform on one side and clipless on the other. I’ve also swapped out the stock handlebar/shifters/brake levers for a set of drop-bars, bar-end shifters and ergo brake levers. I use a rack with trunk and sometimes a set of cheap Schwinn panniers from Wal-Mart. I’ll get deeper into my setup in later posts, but for reference, that’s my ride.

Riding on-road in Jacksonville is…exciting at best. The majority of motorists are 18-22 year-old male Marines in sports-like cars (think Ford Mustangs) and lifted 4-wheel-drive trucks. They’re hormone-driven, multi-tasking (cell phones, iPods, shaving; I’ve seen it all) living-embodiments of death for bicyclists. The drivers that aren’t military are often older folks that don’t think bicycles are anything other than a child’s toy and definitely don’t rate to use “their roads.” I’ve had my share of run-ins with drivers and you’ll hear about those in future posts.

In addition to commuting, I work to advocate for bicycle and pedestrian access in Jacksonville. I have served on the City of Jacksonville’s Trails and Greenways Commission and the Recreation and Parks Commission. I’m currently chairman of both groups. I’m also fairly active in the local bicycle club, the Down East Cyclists, but the club does not participate in advocacy.

That’s me. In upcoming posts we’ll discuss the equipment I use, the stuff I want, how I survive in Jacksonville and how we can all make a difference through bicycle advocacy.

This guest article is by Thomas Brock. Thomas will be an on going guest writer, bringing his own commuting stories, gear reviews and other helpful tips to Commute By Bike.

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Trek Ride+ : First Impressions

The bicycle shop I manage, Cool Breeze Cyclery, and sister store, Trek Bikes of Charlotte, have brought in a fleet of the new electric assist bikes, Trek Ride+. One of these, the FX+ is a demo bike that our co-owner with an engineering background took for this past weekend. Below is his original experience. We will be trying out this bike ourselves, as well as possibly building up our own with the Bionx or E-Bike Kit.

Ride+

Trek FX+

The new Trek E Ride bikes arrived last week so I took the demo bike home for the weekend. This FX+ model is very normal looking at first glance with all the great Trek features built into the 7.5FX, including the carbon front fork. Taking a closer look, you’ll find a high torque pancake electric motor laced into the rear wheel, a battery pack slid into the rear rack and a controller / dash board mounted like a cycling computer to the handle bar. The concept is very much like the hybrid electric cars, difference being that the rider still provides the base engine, meaning that you still must pedal this bike. Just like the hybrid cars, the electric motor provides a power boost. In the case of the E Ride bike, you can choose to boost your pedaling power by 10, 20, 30 or 40%. The bike senses your pedaling effort just like the crank mounted high end power meters, but does it with sensors built into the rear axle. Again, just like the hybrid cars, the bike employs regenerative braking going downhill to recharge the batteries.

How did it ride?

I live in a really hilly neighborhood so I let my wife ride the bike while I road my high end road bike. Her personal bike is the same 7.5 FX used as a platform for the e-Ride bike and she always walks it up the first hill which is about an 8% grade. Knowing this we set the boost to 40% and she road up this same hill with very little effort and a huge smile”the result of a feeling of accomplishment for having finally conquered that hill. After waiting for me at the top of the hill”.Ummm”not sure I’m liking this feeling”.we continued for the next hour to attack every hill in the neighborhood. After an hour we had used about 15% of the battery charge. To put the bike away, I rode it up my drive way which is a 10% grade and again the feeling of the power boost is simply amazing”it is smooth and predictable and simply flattens the hills for the rider. Bottom line” this bike absolutely leveled the climbing ability between us and in the case of our neighborhood made the family ride even a possibility. Now we’re thinking about a Blue Ridge Parkway ride” By the way, the bike can also be set add up to 40% to your pedaling effort for the same feeling and effect of riding a bike in a trainer, but that’s another story.

– Steve Doolittle, Co-owner of Cool Breeze Cyclery and Trek Bikes of Charlotte.

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How to Make Bike Buckets

This article was originally written on Flickr by a friend of mine Joey Emanuel from Charlotte, NC.

Bike Buckets from the Rear

These deep buckets are perfect for grocery getting or any utility type errands you might want to handle with your bicycle.

For a size reference, the buckets will hold two 4 1/2 gallon cartons of soy milk in each! THIS REFERENCE IS FOR VOLUME COMPARISON ONLY! *If you were to put 4 1/2 gallon cartons of soy milk in your bucket, you may exceed the strength limitations of the bucket and the rack would end up with a sad and delicious mess.

* I’ve also fit a big frozen pizza diagonally in one during a moment of weakness for cheese.
Bike Bucket Before
Bike Bucket Before

You Need One or Two Buckets

The buckets can be any size you want, pick the right one for your load and your bike rack.
These are 9 & 1/4 x 9 & 1/4 x 13 inches deep. Pretty honkin’ big. When fully loaded, just one can exceed the weight capacity for my rack, but sometimes I prefer to push the limits of bicycle carrying capacity rather than using my car. A bucket with a handle helps out a lot.

Other Tools You May Need

Tools for the Buckets
Tools for the Buckets
  • 4 Machine bolts and 4 nuts per bucket.
  • 9-10 matching flat washers per bucket.
  • An adjustable rubber strap to tension the bucket to the bottom of the rack stays.
  • 2 hooks per bucket.
  • 1 miscellaneous bolt and nut to secure the rubber strap. (I think mine were spare fender bolts.)
  • A utility knife
  • A screwdriver
  • Pliers
  • A power drill with bits that will accommodate each size of bolt.

Not pictured

  • A pencil or marking device
  • Reflective 3m Tape


Step One:

Step One
Step One
  • Being careful not to choose a side of the bucket where the wire handle is connected, pick a side to mount the hooks on.
  • Make a mark on either side of the trapezoidal bulge; a straight line where the hooks will go.

Step Two

Step Two
Step Two
  • Mark the width of the hook on both the flanges that protrude from the side of the bucket. You’re going to cut through these with a utility knife. Once these flanges are notched, you can bolt the hook to the side of the bucket and the hook will be flush. (Really, I don’t get the opportunity to say ‘flush’ enough.)

Step Three

Step Three
Step Three
  • Cut the flanges where you marked them.

Step Four

Step Four
Step Four
  • Score the flanges between each cut. Doesn’t have to be too deep, just enough to fold the notch you’ve made until it pops off.

Step Five

Step Five
Step Five
  • Now you can place your hook where you want it to go. Some people bolt their hooks so that the top of the bucket is flush with their rack. This is helpful if you have something large to attach to the wide platform of bucket and rack, like a frozen pizza, family-size 36-roll package of toilet paper, case of beer, etc. Mark where you will drill your holes in the next step.

Step Six

Step Six
Step Six
  • Drill your bolt holes!

Step Seven

Step Seven
Step Seven
  • Using washers, put those bolts through the hooks and the bucket. Make sure to put washers on the inside too, underneath the nuts!

Step Eight

Step Eight
Step Eight
  • I cut my rubber strap to six inches long, but this depends on your rack, how tight you want the strap, and the type of bucket you use. If you’re using one of these adjustable straps, try to cut between two of the holes.

Step Nine

Step Nine
Step Nine
  • Because I hang my buckets as far back on the rack as they’ll go (to avoid heel strike) I choose a spot just forward of the middle of the bucket’s side to anchor the rubber strap. If you’re making a bucket for the right of the bike, the anchor would be on the left of center, if it’s a bucket for the left, anchor on the right of center. This way, when mounted, the strap hangs just above the place
    where it hooks to the rack.
  • Drill the hole through both the trapezoidal bulge and the inside wall of the bucket.

Step Ten

Step Ten
Step Ten
  • Slide the cut end of the strap underneath the trapezoidal bulge.
  • Now grab that spare fender bolt and poke it through the trapezoidal bulge, the strap and the inner wall of the bucket. Make sure you get the bolt through the hole in the strap, sandwiching it between the layers of plastic bucket.
  • Give it a tug to make sure it’s caught.
  • Inside the bucket, screw a nut on the end of the anchor bolt. You can put a washer on first if you want, if your bolt is long enough.

Step Eleven

Step Eleven
Step Eleven
  • Crimp the “S” hook around the strap slightly so that when mounted on your rack the pointy bugger won’t poke and scratch a hole in your bucket. This helps your bucket hang upright when on the rack.

All Done!

Bike Buckets All Done
Bike Buckets All Done, now paint and add reflective tape.

Mounting the Buckets

Installing the Bike Buckets
Installing the Bike Buckets
Installing the bike buckets
Installing the bike buckets