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You Can Go Your Own Way: The Categorical Imperative of the Bikescape

We are utility cyclists. We are pathfinders. We see more from the seat a bike. Part of the pleasure of riding in an urban environment is that the terrain, the “bikescape,” is always shifting. For a season a road, a sidewalk, or a building will be under construction, and the traffic pattern will be altered. A new bridge may be opened or an old sidewalk closed. Bike lanes, turn lanes and stop signs may be added or removed.

The new Jordan Bridge over the Elizabeth River changed the Norfolk bikescape.

After a summer working as a bike guide in Alaska, I returned to my job as a “bike driver” for Jimmy John’s in Norfolk. By my second lunchtime delivery, I had once again found the flow around the flat campus grid of Old Dominion University. But then I stumbled upon a new traffic block. The sidewalk from the central quad to the registrar building passes under the administration building. It is a remnant of the original, Brutalist collegiate architecture.

“BICYCLES DISMOUNT,” it boldly declared, “NO GOLF CARTS.”

What the cuss?

My inner rebel kicked in. I was not about to dismount and walk my bike a hundred feet at the widest point of the sidewalk. It made no sense. I was on a delivery. I wasn’t going to sprint past the central staircase or the hallway doors, but I also wasn’t going to dismount either. I compromised by slowing down to the speed of a jogging soccer player. And I kept my head up and on the swivel, making sure that I wasn’t riding too close to blind corners. In short, I rode in a safe, predictable manner.

But the sad reality is that there really isn’t a better way to to get to the north side of campus. There is a mishmash of Colonial brick paths and Modernist concrete walkways that wiggle around magnolia trees, urban arterial corridors, parking lots, permanent walls and temporary plastic fencing. It is a campus that was designed to look good from a car. But is not necessarily the most pedestrian-friendly. And while great strides have been made in adapting ODU to bicycles, there still remain chokepoints, hazards and riding prohibitions in the bikescape.

On my return to the shop, I chose to bypass the admin building. Unfortunately, the most direct detour sent me onto cobblestones and a blind curve on a six-lane, high-speed urban boulevard. I couldn’t see the oncoming, forty mph traffic because of the quaint brick walls protecting the campus. On the other side of the brick wall, the sidewalk dropped off into what had once been cobblestone car parking. I had a choice in how fast I approach Hampton Boulevard. If I kept my speed up, it would be easier for me to merge into traffic. But if there was a car whipping around the right-hand curve, I would be in danger of skidding out on the slippery cobblestones if I had to jam on the brakes. The trees, parking meters, signposts and curbs made for a cluttered crash zone if I screwed up.  If I slowed down before the cobblestones, I would just have to sprint again to get out of the way of loaded semi-trucks, buses, and minivans. Staying on the sidewalk wasn’t an ideal option because it was narrow, riddled with cracks and root-heaves, and blocked by branches. Sharing the road with intermodal semi-trailers seemed safer than getting whacked in the face by a crepe myrtle branch. I took my chances on the boulevard, and crossed over onto the slower side streets at the first traffic light.

When I got back to the shop, I asked my fellow bike drivers about the new sign. They said it had been up for a month or so, they understood what may have motivated its installation, but they, like me, were tempted to just ignore it, just like drivers every day ignore speed limit signs and pedestrians ignore DON’T WALK signs.

I majored in philosophy at Old Dominion University. As I rode home that day from JJ’s, I listened to the Drunk Ex Pastors apply Emmanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative to airline passenger behavior on their podcast:

If everybody acted the way I do, would the world be a better place?

Or as Kant put it,

Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.

The Categorical Imperative is a more nuanced approach to the bikescape than our traditional, draconian, black and white traffic laws. Instead of simply banning certain behaviors, the Categorical Imperative encourages us to use our best judgment, to be courteous and considerate.

For instance, while it might make draconian, abstract sense to ban all bicycles from sidewalk everywhere (or vice versa permit bicycles only on sidewalks), it doesn’t necessarily create a safer bikescape. We don’t want our toddler on a kick bike in the middle of a boulevard. We also don’t want 40kmh triathletes on the sidewalk. What we really want is for slower traffic to be on the outside of the street, and faster traffic to be on the inside. It’s how both our interstate freeways and complete streets are set up. We don’t need to ban bikes from using sidewalks, but rather we should expect them to do so at the speed of a walking human. We don’t need to ban cyclists from traffic lanes, but rather we should expect them to be going as fast as the slowest vehicles.

We don’t need to ban the kids from the road.

We want to create rules that encourage the best in people, not punish everybody for the offenses of the least thoughtful.

Pass when it’s safe.
Yield when there is traffic in the intersection.
Stop when there is a pedestrian in the crosswalk.

 

Or as a neopagan bumper sticker put it, Do what ye will, but harm ye none. 

Author Wesley Cheney led bicycle tours down Alaska’s White Pass for Sockeye Cycle Co, and delivers freaky fast sandwiches for Jimmy John’s in Norfolk, Virginia.  He broadcasts his ukulele performances on Periscope.

 

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Pedal Cliques: Top Five Reasons to Go Clipless (not)

“All real cyclists ride clipless pedals.”
“No real cyclists use platform (“flat”) pedals.”

That’s what you’d think, anyway, from reading many biking websites and magazines. They’ll tell you, in not so many words, that you’re not “serious” about biking if you’re not walking around in clunky plastic shoes and clicking on linoleum like a castanet.

It’s utter hogwash. Wear what you want. Pedal what you will. It’s the miles you put on your bike that make you a cyclist, not the gear that you buy.

Ride in Extra Tough rubber boots. Ride in sneakers. Ride in flipflops (well, maybe not far). Ride in steel-toed paratrooper boots. Ride in carbon fiber mountain bike shoes. Ride in whatever the heck you want. Just ride.

If you’re being paid to sprint on your bike across town with freaky fast sandwiches, and you want to be clipped into your fixed-gear pedals, then do that.

If you’re riding to school with your kids, and you want to be able to hop on your bike without special gear, then do that, too.

If you like big, fat velcro straps, or shiny, aluminum toe cages, use them. But don’t put straps or cages on your pedals just because you think they look good on your hipster fixie.

If you’re lucky and skilled enough to be paid to ride, then ride with your sponsor’s pedals. If you’re racing your buddies or riding your tenth centuries, then clip in.

If you just want to ride your bike to the park and then ignore it in the garage for a few months, then do that, too. You don’t need special pedals for that.

The best bicycle to ride is the one that you’re riding. There is no perfect bike. There are no perfect pedals. You cannot buy yourself into the company of “real” cyclists.

Author Wesley Cheney takes a break from riding singletrack on Montana Mountain in the Yukon, wearing a wool jersey and a synthetic Sport Kilt over viscostatic body armor and bike cleats. He rides the Beast, a rigid mountain bike with downhill, clipless pedals. He clipped in when he “Everested” Alaska’s White Pass, but opts for Crocs when he’s leading bike tours down the Klondike Highway for Sockeye Cycle Co.

 

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The Wheels of Justice Go Round and Round

Like the wheels on a bike, the wheels of justice go round and round.

Life, like biking, is about do-overs.  It’s about learning from your mistakes. Last month a young man made the mistake of stealing my Sport Utility Bike in plain sight of  a police officer, who promptly arrested him.

When the arresting officer asked me if I wanted to press charges, I said yes. I wanted the thief of my bike to be punished. I was angry, and scared that as a bike courier, I had nearly lost my tool of employment. Yet I also know that jail and prison ensnare millions of people in a cycle of debt and unemployment. A year of college is cheaper than a year in prison. I was of two minds when I received the subpoena to testify in general district court.

Waiting with the Beast for the Elizabeth River ferry.

So I felt relieved when the when the Commonwealth’s Attorney asked me a couple days before the trial if I would object to a reduction from grand larceny to misdemeanor petty theft. Because the young thief had no prior arrests or convictions, I consented.

I wanted the young thief to be punished, but not at the expense of society. Nor did I want private corporations and shareholders to profit from his incarceration, at the taxpayers’ expense.

I stood in witness as the judge agreed to the plea deal and sentenced the young man to twelve months in jail, but suspended for twenty four months on the condition of good behavior. I thought it a fair sentence that incentivized the young man to learn from his mistake.

We all need opportunities to learn from our mistakes. There is no growth without error. We all stumble and fall. The brave amongst us get up and try again. The wise learn from their mistakes. The foolish repeat them.

I sincerely hope that the next two years will be an opportunity for the young man who stole my bike to learn from his mistakes and choose a more constructive career in bikes. Because I’ve got to believe that a life spent on a bike pays more than a life of stealing bikes.

 

The Beast on the Elizabeth River.

Author Wesley Cheney leaves  Jimmy John’s  in Norfolk, Virginia for Skagway Alaska for a summer of leading bicycle tours down Alaska’s White Pass for Sockeye Cycle Co. He broadcasts his ukulele performances on Periscope.

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Dude, Where’s My Bike?

kryptonite-new-york-fahgettaboudit-chain-1415-disc-lock-5

My bike was just there. And now it’s gone.

I’d been leaning “The Beast” up against the window at Jimmy John’s for a year. For the first few months that I worked there, I was really paranoid about locking it up every time I got back from a delivery. But I noticed that the other delivery riders didn’t bother. So why should I? No one ever had their bike stolen. No problem, right? Wrong.

Without my bike, I was without not only my transportation but also my job. I deliver at least a dozen sandwiches a day for Jimmy John’s. I bike to live, and live to bike.

“The Beast,” my Sport Utility Bike.

So one morning not too long ago I’m in the middle of individually wrapping a batch of fifty-four sample sandwiches at JJ’s, and the phone rings. It’s just me and my boss in the shop, and she’s in the back. “I’ll get it,” I call out to her, and head for the phones,

“Jimmy John’s ODU, how may I help you?”

“This is the ODU police. Could you send the owner of the stolen bicycle out to meet our officer in the parking lot?”

“Wait, what? There’s only one rider here right now- me.”

I turned away from the phone bank to look at the window to see that my bike, “The Beast,” was indeed gone. In phenomenological terms, it was present in its absence.

I whipped off my gloves and apron and walked outside where a squad car was waiting for me in the parking lot. A brawny man in blue stepped out of an Old Dominion University Police cruiser, and said, “I’m Officer Beard. Are you the owner of the bike?”

“Yes.”

“I just watched a person jump on your bike and ride away. I apprehended him on the other side of the parking lot. Would you like to press charges?”

I was caught off-guard by the question. I had become so used to leaving my bike at the ready in front of Jimmy John’s, and so trusting of our neighbors and customers that I didn’t really think anything of just leaving my bike out. It took me only a couple of seconds to make up my mind, “Yes, I do want to press charges.”

Officer Beard smiled and said one of the oddest things I’ve ever heard, “I need to have you identify the bicycle. Get in the car, and I’ll give you a ride over.”

And that’s how I came to be standing over my bike as it lay on the asphalt as a police officer took pictures of it, and asked me, “How much is it worth?”

“At least two thousand dollars.”

“Do you have receipts?”

“Not with me. But I can get them.”

“Can you get them by the end of the day?”
“Yes, I think so.”

I knew better. I knew I should have been locking my bike when it was at the shop. But I’d gotten lazy about it. I only locked it on deliveries to bike racks on campus. At the shop my bike was safe. Or so I thought.

After my six-year-old son’s unlocked bike was stolen from school bike rack, I had drilled into his head that he needed to lock it up. I kept on him to put his bike away, and not leave it laying on the lawn or across the sidewalk. At home, I kept my bikes indoors, away from prying eyes.

I had seen my friends’ and coworkers’ bikes get stolen even when they were locked up. I had to explain to one kid that a twenty-dollar pair of bolt cutters trump a twenty-dollar cable lock. I had the nicks on my Kryptonite U lock to prove that bolt cutters couldn’t cut it. I had preached the Gospel of the U Lock more than once. “U Lock it, or you lose it.”

Just as the time to wear a bike helmet is before you crash, the time to lock your bike is before it’s stolen.

The easiest way to keep your bike in one place is to put a lock on it. And different situations require different locks. The lock that you need in Manhattan will be much heavier than the lock you need while bikepacking the Yukon. In a low-risk environment, you may be able to get by just fine with a combo cable lock. But  U locks are always more secure than cable locks. The heaviest option by far is a New York-grade chain lock, like the Kryptonite Fahgettaboudit.

The Gold Standard: The Kryptonite Fahgetaboudit.

If you’ve invested in a top-notch bike, you’ll also want to invest in a locking seat bolt clamp for your Brooks saddle and locking quick-release skewers for your wheels. While those make it harder for high-end components to be swiped off of your otherwise secure bike, you also need to pay attention to what you’re locking your bike to.

 

And your bike is only as secure as what you lock it to. A two hundred dollar unobtanium bike lock isn’t worth two cents if you lock it to a rickety wooden fence post. It’s not just the size of your lock that matters. It’s what you do with it.

You can also decrease your odds of having your bike stolen by locking it up next to bikes that aren’t locked as well. Most bike thieves are opportunistic and will grab the first bike that they can get away with. Locking your bike up next to bikes that aren’t locked up at all will make it more likely that the thief will take the unlocked, or just poorly locked, bikes first. No, it’s not fair, but it works.

So lock that bike up. If your bike is your life, if you rely on your bike for your job and health, than treat it with respect. Don’t be a fool like I was.

My day in court is coming up. Any day now I’ll be receiving a subpoena in the mail, summoning me to testify in court. For what it’s worth, I’m going to ask the judge for leniency. If the thief of my bike is addicted to drugs, I want the judge to divert them into a treatment program. I don’t want to be paying profits to a private corporation to house another convict.

But I also don’t want to see any more stolen bikes.

In the winter author Wesley Cheney delivers freaky fast sandwiches in Norfolk, Virginia for Jimmy John’s. In the summer he leads bicycle tours down Alaska’s White Pass for Sockeye Cycle Co. He also broadcasts his ukulele performances on Periscope, warts and all.

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We Ride at Night: Bicycle Therapy

We ride at night.

We ride with our lights and helmets on.

We ride tight together. One wheel paces the next.

We call the bumps, the potholes, the traffic lights.

We ride together, trusting each other half an arm’s length away. We move as a single, sinuous snake, gliding around turns and over bridges. We dart past dog walkers. The faster riders set the pace and break the wind up front. The slower riders hold onto their wheels, praying that our legs and lungs don’t max out before the next hill.

We are a tribe. We are an intentional community on wheels. We choose to ride each week, creating the thrill of the bike pack together.

The faces in our tribe have changed over the years. Old friends have transferred to new duty stations, and on occasion returned. Other friends have passed away. Some died of cancer, some from alcohol. Several died by their own hands. And more than a few died from bullets, and guns. Those of us surviving bear scars on our bodies and our souls.

Marriage vows are spoken and divorces are decreed and still, we ride. Babies are born and dogs die and still, we ride. Friendships are forged and enmities are forgotten and still, we ride. Bones are broken and knees are bloodied and still, we ride.

We ride to forget the pain for an hour or two. We ride to lose ourselves in the peloton. We ride because it hurts too much not to. We ride because we are weak, and life is short, and because we should cherish what we have in the moment we are in.

We ride to live.

Trae Duty is remembered by friends and family on his Strava page.

Author Wesley Cheney dedicates this post to the memory of Trae Duty, who rode faster than the wind, taught Wesley to mountain bike, and was murdered in his own home.

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A Bike for All Seasons. The Birth of a Sport Utility Bike

I want a bike that will do it all.

I want a Sport Utility Bike.

I want a bike that’s comfortable enough to ride all day, sturdy enough to haul an overnight sack, big enough to fit a guy over six foot tall, and reliable enough to go months between tune-ups.

I’ve ridden full-suspension mountain bikes that are plush enough to handle the biggest drops. I’ve ridden minimalist track bikes that will tear cartilage and blow flats all day long. I’ve ridden beach cruisers that can be beaten daily without complaint. I’ve ridden road bikes that were fast on the hills but hard on the back and hands. I’ve ridden cargo bikes that can haul a toddler, a dog and a keg of beer. I’ve captained tandems and piloted pedicabs. I’ve been around the block more than once.

While all of those bikes were good in their own way, I need a Sport Utility Bike, a bike that I can ride on road and off, on both sunny summer days and drizzly winter nights, with gear and without. I need a bike that I can use for both delivering sandwiches around a flat, gridded college campus and for exploring backcountry Alaskan trails. I need a bike that is both sporty and practical.

Trailer-cycle
BikeShopHub author Kristen Bonkoski tags along with a Sport Utility Bike.

Like many of the writers here at Bikeshophub.com, I ended up with a hardtail mountain bike,  the SUVs of the bicycle world. Hardtail mountain bikes are incredibly rigid and reliable without the rear suspension of more expensive and complicated bikes. And, they are also adaptable to a multitude of purposes.

BikeShopHub author Matt Maynard adventuring on a Sport Utility Bike.

While many riders opt for a suspension fork up front, a rigid fork paired with a fat front tire can provide just as much comfort, with the added bonus of better traction from a wider footprint. Fat tires are less prone to puncture. They dampen the shock load for not only the rider, but for the bike as well. Less stress on welds, threads, and bearings means that components aren’t as likely to break and will last longer.

“This is not quite the bike you want.”  The standard issue Trek Procaliber mountain bike was not what the author wanted, with its flat handlebars, suspension fork, robot-built wheels and plastic saddle.

After breaking yet another frame with a lifetime warranty, I had an XXL  Trek Procaliber aluminum frame to build my dream bike around.  I installed my old favorites from a decade of Sport Utility Biking, with the help of my Local Bike Shop. Being a big guy who can fold mass-produced wheelsets with only a glance, I commissioned a custom set of wheels, hand-built by a grey-haired bike mechanic.

The King of the Hill. “The Beast” stands proudly atop the tallest snowbank in Tidewater Virginia. 

I dubbed my creation, “The Beast.” It’s the biggest, beefiest bike I’ve ever owned. A Surly Karate Monkey fork up front offers the simplicity of a rigid fork, the vibration dampening of steel, and the ability to mount fenders and racks around a tire twenty-nine inches tall and three inches wide. The Mavic 821 rims are nigh-invulnerable, and offer the flexibility of riding with tires from thirty five to seventy five millimeters wide (1.5″ to 3″). The Brooks Conquest saddle combines the suppleness of leather and the cushioning of steel springs. The Jones H Bar handlebars offer plenty of ergonomic positions for my big paws.  The Ergon GP3 grips offer a stable platform that buffers my wrists from both chatter and hits. The Shimano Deore XT M8000 shifters  pair with the Shimano XT M8000 brake levers into a reliable, tunable, minimal control station. The Shimano Deore XT 2×11 drivetrain offers enough gears to get up most any mountain and zip across any valley. Down the line, I’ll be installing detachable polycarbonate  fenders and carry-all front racks. HYPERLINK THIS TO CATALOG.

 

The Beast shall rise from the depths of the Green Room. I assembled my Sport Utility Bike at 757 Makerspace.

I have a history of breaking frames.  I bought my first 21″ aluminum Gary Fisher Rig circa 2005. A year later, I cracked the frame at the weld between the seat tube and the bottom bracket. But Gary Fisher frames are sold with a lifetime warranty, so I got it replaced with the same size frame. A year later, I broke that frame at the top of the seat tube. So I returned my second frame for the updated, “G2” design. While the new design was beefier, I still managed to crack the frame at the bottom bracket within a couple of years. I repaired my bike with a composite lug, using the skills I had learned to build bamboo bicycles at the Brooklyn Bamboo Bike Studio. And sure enough, I cracked the frame again, just below the seatpost collar, which I repaired and rode again. While competing in the Tidewater Mountain Bike Challenge, a fellow racer suggested that I return my frame for a new, unbroken one, and then upgrade it with a composite lug beforeit breaks. Sometimes the simplest solutions are never seen. I took his advice to heart, and before I ever pedaled The Beast, I wrapped the bottom bracket in synthetic paracord, polyurethane foam and epoxy. Combined with the latest design advances, I’m confident that I’ll be able to ride The Beast for at least five years without breaking it.

The Beast stands taller than your average five-year-old.

One bike to rule them all,

One cause to bind them,

One man to find them all,

And in the darkness bind them.

Living the dream. Author Wesley Cheney delivers freaky fast sandwiches in the treacherous unplowed bike lanes of tidewater Norfolk, Virginia.
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Gratitude for the Bicycle

This Thanksgiving, I gave thanks for the bicycle.

And this gratitude was all the more prominent in my mind since I don’t own a car anymore.

It’s not an easy path to pedal. I sold my car before relocating to the other coast for a seasonal job as a bicycle tour guide. Sure, it was hard to let go of the very epitome of the American Dream, but I don’t regret it.

I’m not a teetotalling bike snob. I still have a driver’s license. I call Uber from time to time, and I even rented a car to drive my kids to my brother’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. But instead of focusing on the challenges of a car-free life, I’d like to cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

I’m supremely grateful that I live in a flat, subtropical city with decent streets and kind people.

I’m grateful that I live in a neighborhood that’s dense enough to allow for easy cycling. I’ve cycled through positively hellish suburbs that were no place for a utility cyclist. In most American suburbs, bicycles are viewed as toys, not tools.

I’m grateful that my city is investing in bicycle lanes.

I can now use bike lanes on most of my daily commute. While my city’s bike network isn’t perfect or complete, it’s growing every year.

I’m grateful that my city now requires bike racks for new building projects.

(I’m even more grateful when the bike racks are actually installed so that they can be fully utilized.)

I’m grateful for the beauty of the natural world that I get to witness from the seat of my bike.

Even in the midst of the East Coast Megalopolis, I can smell the earthy tang of the tidal marshes, feel the cool autumn wind chill my fingers, and revel in the warmth of the sun on my cheeks when I’m on my bike.

I’m grateful for the mental health I gain on my bike.

The simple act of pushing the pedals round and round focuses me on a simple, repetitive motion and thereby banishes my anxieties. No matter how bad my day, riding a bike will make it better.

I’m grateful for the financial freedom I gain from cycling.

Without the costs of a car payment, insurance premiums, gas, and maintenance, I can focus my time and energy on things that really matter. I can choose to work at a job that feeds my soul, as opposed to a job that just pays for my car.

I’m grateful for the compliments I receive on my bike.

I ride a recumbent for my job as a sandwich courier, and it attracts more than its fair share of attention. If I was just riding a “normal” bike, I wouldn’t get nearly as many stares and wows. People laugh and smile and wonder, and are occasionally inspired to leave their car at home and get on a bike, too.

I’m grateful for the physical health I gain on my bike.

Instead of arriving at work lethargic and frustrated, I’m awake and invigorated. Every day I ride a little bit. I’ve built exertion into my life. There’s no “spinning” a stationary bike for me. I only spin bikes in motion. My spin gets me somewhere.

I’m grateful for the friendships that I forge on a bicycle.

Riding around town, I meet new friends and rekindle old acquaintances. Every bike, no matter how cheap or battered, is worthy of praise. When I pass another cyclist, I always smile, wave, or make eye contact. It’s a subversive act of karmic gratitude.

I’m grateful for the community of cycling.

My daughter asks me, “Daddy, why do you think you should know everyone on a bike?” I counter, “Why shouldn’t I?” Why shouldn’t I assume a bond of friendship and camaraderie with every person I meet on a bike?

We’ve all chosen to get there the harder way.

Let’s make the most of it together.

Author Wesley Cheney leads bicycle tours in Alaska and Virginia, blogs at The Kilted Writer, and delivers freaky fast sandwiches in the off-season.

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Whimsical Pedicabs and Oppressed Delivery Guys – Oct.2017 Utility Cycling Roundup

A dazzling display of pedicabs, bedazzled the Philadelphia streets in an amazing display by Cai Guo_QianqDeriq Carr tells the story of how he launched Los Angelos Pedicab Company.  Austin pedicab riders make their big paydays when the big events come to town.  And an entrepreneurial teen is discovering opportunity in pedaling people at the Cedar City Shakespeare Festival.

UPS is testing out their electric cargo delivery trikes in Toronto.  Bike messengers in Berlin are captured on videoLatinas in Queens are hitting the streets on bicycles to deliver news and information for immigrant services.  Foodora delivery cyclists prepare for winter conditions in Edmonton and Calgary.  James Tait tells his story of delivering hot vegan meals in Glasgow.  And NYC food delivery cyclists face a crackdown by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Cai Guo-Qiang’s Whimsical Pedicabs Light Up Philly by Dominic Deluque on September 22, 2017


Meet Deriq Carr of The Los Angeles Pedicab Company by Voyagela Staff on September 17,2017


These veteran pedicab drivers stake their fortunes on festivals like Austin City Limits by Ada Merritt on October 09, 2017


This Cedar City teen’s pedicab company is transforming ride services to and from the Utah Shakespeare Festival by Bree Burkitt on September 24, 2017


UPS to test cargo bikes for deliveries in Toronto by Ben Spurr on October 23, 2017


BERLIN BIKE MESSENGERS! by Francis Cade on September 9, 2017


Connecting immigrants with NYC services through CycleNews by Madeline Bair on August 21, 2017


Food delivery company gears up for Alberta’s tough winters — on bikes by CBC News on October 20, 2017


Meals on wheels: Delivery cyclist on new vegan journey by Victoria Pease on October 8, 2017


Bill de Blasio, Populist, Unleashes Police Power on Take-Out Delivery Guys by Henry Grabar on October 20, 2017

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Confessions of a Downhill Junkie

That’s me in the Lycra,

That’s me on the descent,

Losing my abandon.

Trying to break my Strava record.

And I don’t know if I can do it.

Oh no, I’ve said too much.

I haven’t said enough.

My humble Strava brag.

I’ve been chasing descents since I was a kid in the Green Mountains of Vermont. By the age of thirteen I was riding up the hills and then riding back down with a grin plastered on my face. Biking home from Riverside Junior High School and up Elm Hill, I had the choice of a really steep, short switchbacked road, a moderately steep but straight street, or a long, gentle ride up a holler. If I was feeling really grumpy and needed a longer therapy session in the saddle, I’d take an extra hour to ride to the far side of Elm Hill, then back up to the summit and down to my house on the other side. Riding up ten or fourteen percent grades on my Schwinn twelve-speed taught me physics and tenacity. I wasn’t the fastest or the fattest kid on the block, but I was the most stubborn. I wouldn’t quit on my bike.

I was an awkward and often angry teenager. My bike became my outlet. When I was fed up with the world, I’d go ride my bike. I’d ride ten, fifteen, twenty-five-mile circuits around the Connecticut River Valley. I loved visiting my grandmother because then I could ride the Middlebury and Brandon Gaps, two mountain passes with viciously steep sections that demanded all out, anaerobic effort, but then rewarded with intense, thrilling descents.

Rapha said I was a Pedal Dancer.

Climbing a hill on a bike is as much mental as physical. It demands both self-knowledge and physical endurance. It requires a willingness to suffer. In the best moments of climbing, I find a zen-like, meditative intensity. In the worst moments, it can be tortuous.

New hills are like a box of chocolates: sometimes they’re likable, sometimes they’re surprising, and sometimes they don’t agree with you. Sometimes, rarely, they become best friends.

I feel connected to a hill when I climb. The feel of the road is transmitted through the pedals, bars, and saddle into my muscles and bones and nerves. I can feel the difference in the texture of concrete, asphalt, gravel and dirt roads. Potholes, cracks, painted lines and cat-eye reflectors all have a different feel under my tires. Tires, handlebars, and saddles all change the feel of the bike as well as the feel of the road. Water and sand and leaves can all change the road feel even more.

I learned the latter descending a curvy hill as a teenager one autumn. I had ridden up and down that road a dozen times before, and was cocky as I took a little too much speed into a corner. The road was damp, but the wind had blown away the clouds, and leaves were blowing across the road. Banking into a right turn, and taking the center of the road to avoid a pothole, my rear wheel slipped out for a second on a wet leaf, and my front wheel shuddered as I jerked on my bike, trying to regain equilibrium in the face of an oncoming truck. I pulled my bike back into line, passed by the truck with just a foot to spare, slowed down to the speed limit, and pedaled through the butterflies in my belly. I learned that day that I needed to respect the limits of my bike and adjust my riding to the conditions of the road.

Confident,

Cocky,

Lazy,

Dead.

That was the mantra of a science fiction serial killer created by Tad Williams. For the better part of a decade it’s been my adopted mantra when I go on an endorphin bender. It’s good to be confident. But hollow, unearned confidence is just cockiness. The cocky get lazy, and the lazy get hurt.

I learned to listen to my intuition, check my equipment twice and trust no one on a descent. I ended up descending solo. While it was good to see the lines that other people chose to follow down a hill, I also knew that I was competitive enough to follow somebody into a line that I couldn’t hold. I learned to trust my gut. When I was nearing my limits I’d get nervous. More often than not, when I rode past my limits, I’d end up scaring or hurting myself. I learned that descending too fast in the rain or twilight wasn’t a good idea. I learned that cold, clear days were the best for unbridled descents. I looked forward to those first rainy days of spring that washed the sand and salt off the roads, leaving clean asphalt for me to tear down.

Thirty years later, I found myself at the summit of the White Pass, on the Alaskan-Yukon border. The wind was still. The road was dry. There was no traffic. My bike and body were ready. With a rebel yell, I sprinted past the summit sign, chasing the endorphin rush of another epic descent.

Let’s Roll.

The view from the top of the White Pass, Skagway, Alaska.

Wesley Cheney leads bicycle tours in Skagway, Alaska and Norfolk, Virginia for Sockeye Cycle Company and Phillips Destination Management Services at more humane speeds. He also delivers sandwiches freakishly fast for Jimmy John’s.

 

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Custom Cargo and Delivering Hops – A Utility Cycling Roundup

This is the kickoff off roundup post that I’m experimenting with. The plan is that each week I’ll gather interesting stories from the last month or so within one of the 5 cycling niches we cover, Commute by Bike, Family Cycling, Bikepacking, Road Touring or Utility Cycling.

I’ll be keeping notes of interesting stories that I come across. And then I’ll be diving in deep looking under the rocks for less glamorous, but still juicy tidbits. And then I’ll stir it up, saute in some high heat and serve it on a platter for you to enjoy.

So without further ado, I’m kicking this off with a look back at recent utility cycling news.


To kick things off, there was actually quite an moment in the world of utility cycling. The great, wise and infinitely sarcastic BikeSnob did a definitive piece on Utility Cycling, both mocking it and propping it up in the pantheon of cycling niches.

The story was published by Outside Magazine on July 13, 2017, The Importance of Utility Cycling: FAQ

Because why are you even riding if you can’t haul your family, your dog, your friend’s dog, and groceries for the next year on a bike?

Now that I’ve mentioned Bike Snob, I’ve got to follow with this coverage on a new Italian artisanal cargo bicycle manufacturer, REcycle.

This story was published by Design Boom on Aug 22, 2017,  italian workshop REcycle transforms old bike frames into custom cargo bicycles

REcycle is an italian artisanal workshop that since september 2016 is producing cargo bicycles recycling old mountain bike frames. each bicycle is unique, bringing together the story of the recycled bike frame and a new CNC-machined front loading, designed with only three bent tubes to reduce welding and improve robustness.

With an artisinal, Italian, custom cargo bicycle, what would could possibly be the most epicly hipsteriffic thing to do with it?  If the answer wasn’t clear to you already, this story will make it blazingly clear, delivering hops.

This story was published by Bicycle Times on August 19, 2017, Feeling Fresh: Delivering hops by bike

About 15 riders, including nine or 10 aboard Metrofiets cargo bikes, departed Portland under looming rain clouds. By the time we broke free from the urban gridlock to traverse the rolling hills of the Willamette Valley, the skies had cleared like the head on a pilsner.

Staying focused on our cargo bike theme here, its a good time to mention this interesting new category defining bicycle by Tern, the GSD.  What is this new category that they are defining?  None other than compact, utility, electric. aka short-ute-watt.

Bike Rumor published this story on August 24, 2017,  New Tern GSD compact utility e-bike handles fully loaded, compact lifestyles

But enough with the cargo bike already and lets get onto this less glamorous, more contemplative piece on the life of a bicycle courier.

This was published by inews.co.uk on August 25, 2017, What it’s like to be a bicycle courier

It’s a really lonely job, “it’s isolated,” says Aaron Wilkins who has worked as a courier for four years. “There are times when you’re in a dark corner of London and you’re cold, hungry, thirsty you name it. You could’ve fallen off your bike earlier in the day, it can be scary.”

Finally to wrap things up and bring it all back home, here is a story about bicycle police being utilized in response to gas shortages following Hurricane Harvey.

This story was published by KXAN on Septemeber 3, 2017, Short-term gas shortage shows need for bicycle cops in small towns

Helm says the bicycles are particularly helpful in situations the city has seen lately with gas stations running out of fuel.  “I always thought just in case a situation of fuel issues and a fast response time to some of the hard to get spots in downtown. Some said it was not needed. Well the last few days it has been a blessing.”


Do you know of any noteworthy, interesting utility cycling stories that we missed from the last month or so?  Please do share them in the comments below.

Or if you have any recent personal utility cycling adventures to share we’d love to hear about those as well.