Category: Advanced Commuter Tips

Editor’s note: Here’s the latest from Andrew “Doc” Li — you may remember him from his excellent DIY repair stand tutorial a couple weeks ago. Today, Andrew will give us some smart and practical advice on trek planning. Read on:

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“Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.” Confucius

“One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.” Arthur Ashe

Being successful in whatever you do relies on a certain amount of thorough preparation and foresight. On the flip side is that we can always build on our mistakes and failures. And if Confucius and Ashe, among millions of others, arrived at the same belief, then certainly we can learn and apply this concept to many, if not, all aspects of our lives.

One such aspect is making a successful trip by bicycle between 2 points. Regardless of whether these two points span the distance between 2 continents or 2 city blocks, the right preparation is always needed. Never underestimate a journey, or reason that a shorter trip deserves less preparatory attention than a longer trip. I have been burned my fair share of times thinking this way.

I recall one particular autumn afternoon in Southern California when I decided to go for a ride purely for leisure. My plan was to bike 5 miles in one direction and back, in total a short 10 mile ride. It was a gorgeous day, so I went longer than planned and ended up exploring a park nearby. My 10 mile ride turned into 30 miles. When I decided to turn around, the sun was already setting and some ominous clouds had set in. Unfortunately, I did not confirm the sunset time that day nor verify the weather forecast.

So I set forth towards home (at that point about 14 miles away), and not more than 2 minutes into my ride large droplets of rain started pelting me. I pedaled harder, but eventually felt that I was going much slower. I looked down and as luck would have it I had acquired a flat. At that point, I was about 10 miles from home. It was now pouring and quite dark outside. I was wet, had no tire pump, repair kit, rain gear, or lights. I did not have a cell phone at that time either. Moreover, my bike route was not meant for pedestrians, and I did not bring any navigation to find an alternative route. The area was new to me, so I couldn’t “improvise” a new route. I ended up walking home, at night, with no lights, in the rain, constantly watching for fast traffic, while dragging my injured steed.

torrey_pines

Over the years, I have learned my lessons, and I have developed a list of things that I feel are essential for a safe and successful journey. In order to remember this list, I have developed my ABCs of trek preparation. They go like this:

A: Alimentation: food, water etc.
B: Bearing: map, GPS, compass etc.
C: Climate: rain gear, fenders, sun glasses, extra layers etc.
D: Defense: Lock, lights
E: Emergency: phone, contacts who know where you are heading, basic repair gear.

Alimentation: I hydrate before the trip and bring 500cc to 1000cc of water, and for me this is enough for trips less than 20 miles. Also, I can often refill water at my destination (my work place). You may have to adjust this volume based on your own distances, climate, etc. If I do bring food, it is usually for breakfast after my morning commute. I eat plenty of carbs the night before and ride on an empty stomach in the AM (personal preference).

Bearing: Before my smart phone, I would carry a small map cutout encompassing an area with the radius of my commuting distance (e.g. a 10 mile commute from A to B would require a map of a 10 mile radius area with point B at the center). A compass has also been very handy for me.

Climate: I wear layers, and wicking fabrics are exceptionally useful in cold, hot, and rainy weather. Wear stuff that you can easily take off and put back on to achieve that happy medium between hot and cold. Temperature regulation is not just for comfort; it is vital for performance efficiency. Excessive sweating depletes the body of fluids and also contributes to excessive heat loss. For summers in Southern California and other areas with similar climate, if you plan on biking into the night, bring another layer; you will be surprised how chilly it can get with a 20+ mph wind whipping past your body on a cool evening.

Defense: Defend your bike against theft with a lock, and defend yourself against motorists, other cyclists, pedestrians, dooring by keeping VISIBLE with a set of bike lights. I ALWAYS keep bike lights with me in my pack (can be recharged with a USB port). Night time riding is a topic unto itself, and this will be addressed in a later article.

lightbike

Emergency: Bring a form of mobile communication. If this is not possible, bring change for a payphone and let people know of your trip, where you are heading, and about what time you will be back. Bring basic repair gear (I take a patch kit, pump, and leatherman). For me, this gear is for “damage control”, that is, a temporizing measure that will allow you to get back home or to a destination that will have more resources for you or a mechanic to make a definitive repair.

This is by no means a definitive list, but one that has served me well over the years. As of late, I have developed a shorter, perhaps more basic list:

Lights, lock, liquids, lost, limp. Don’t forget your lights, lock, liquids. Make sure you have a way to prevent getting lost. And if you end up limping (either yourself or your bike), have some strategy for a quick repair of the bike or getting yourself to the right care.

Take from it what you will, add to it, and improve it based on your own cycling habits. Peace out everyone. Do good and ride well.

bridge

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We’re lucky to have Andrew writing periodic articles for us…and if you’d like to submit an article for possible publishing, drop us a line at info[at]bikecommuters[dot]com.

Editor’s note: the following piece was written by Jay Paul, founder of the cyclist-oriented insurance firm Balance for Cyclists. Balance for Cyclists is one of our advertising partners. Don’t let that scare you off; there’s a lot of good step-by-step instruction within in the event you or someone you know is involved in a bicycle crash.

Bicycling is usually a very safe activity. However, as cyclists we are all keenly aware that an accident can happen at almost any time. Most cycling accidents result in injuries like road rash, a bloody chin or a minor laceration. The more serious accidents require immediate medical attention and perhaps a hospital stay.

So what is a cyclist to do if they are involved in an accident or with a fellow rider who happens to become a victim of inertia and gravity?

The internet is full of law firms soliciting advice on what to do if you are involved in a collision with a motor vehicle. Most end with a polite solicitation for the injured cyclist to call them for legal advice. Now I certainly don’t fault a personal injury attorney for making a living and cyclists need to know their rights after a serious accident. However, it is estimated that less than 30% of serious cycling accidents involve a motor vehicle. The rest are either rider error, equipment failure or the result of some other road hazard.

Riders need to be aware of what to do regardless of the cause of the accident. Below are some thoughts.

1. Take all necessary steps to protect and stabilize the injured cyclist. Make certain that the injured person is not in additional harms’ way. If the accident involves a head or neck injury do not move the rider but do place barriers up the road or trail that will slow traffic.
2. Call emergency personnel. Both the Police and EMT if necessary.
3. Even if the injury is minor, consider getting medical attention. All too often immediately after an accident the injured cyclist is in shock and not aware of the extent of their injuries. Too many injured riders just want to get back on their bike and start peddling as if nothing has happened.
4. Make certain that if police are involved that they take the statement not just from the motorist but from the cyclist as well.
5. If a vehicle is involved obtain driver information from the motorist. This includes: name, address & contact information of driver, make, model & serial number of car, determine the vehicle owner, insurance information of vehicle.
6. Regardless of whether a vehicle is involved get statements from any witnesses that happened to see the accident. (More on this later)
7. Get photographs of the accident scene and preserve evidence. Many if not most of us carry cell phones with cameras while riding. Get a lot of pictures from different angles. Take note of weather and road conditions.
8. If a vehicle is involved, never negotiate with the driver.
9. Certain accidents that don’t involve a motor vehicle could still be compensable. Equipment failure, errant pedestrians or road hazards are such examples. Make certain if at all possible to get photographs of the site where the accident occurred and of the bike itself. (This is also where a witness statement could prove beneficial.)
10. Here is the plug for personal injury attorneys. Never attempt to negotiate with the “at fault parties” insurance company. Get a good attorney to represent your interests. Most major cities have at least one attorney who has created a cyclist specialty practice. They are usually cyclists themselves. Many of these same firms have apps online that you can download to your phone that outline what to do in the event of an accident.

One last bit of advice. Consider getting First Aid certified and, if a mountain biker, consider getting certified in Wilderness First Aid. Having the confidence to make a quick decision immediately after an accident could save a friend’s life. These classes can help give you that confidence.

Finally, follow the rules of the road and be aware of your surroundings. That means take out one of your earbuds!

One of our friends from the UK, Stewart Jones submitted an article that we thought would be useful to our readers.

 

With the worst of wintery weather hopefully behind us in the UK, cyclists everywhere will be looking forward to donning their cycling gear once more in anticipation of more pleasant riding conditions.

Before heading out though it’s crucial to make sure you have all the required equipment, the most important of those being a helmet, offering the rider maximum protection in the event of an unfortunate accident.

How to choose a helmet

The first step to choosing the right helmet is to determine what style of cycle helmet you need and what fits within your budget.

Cycling helmets come in 3 styles – sport, road and mountain bike helmets. Road cycling helmets for example can range anywhere between £40 – £150 ($50-$200) with the design and materials used determining how expensive the helmet is.

All cycling helmets offer protection if you crash however features including visors, special retention systems, adjustable padding, extra ventilation will cost more. The more expensive helmets also tend to have a more adjustable fit for increased comfort.

Once you have decided what helmet you need, the next thing you need to do is to pick out a selection of helmets that take into account your budget and features you’re looking for.

Road cycling helmets for example often boast maximum air flow for good ventilation and impressive aerodynamic designs – but for those features you will be paying more.

Size is crucial

Finally it’s time for the most critical step of the entire process – to find your size. A good fit is vital. If a helmet isn’t fitted correctly it won’t offer the same protection that a helmet fitted well would do.

Look for a helmet that matches your exact head measurement. Sports helmets will often only come in only standard ‘Adult’ size however more expensive helmets will typically come in a selection of sizes depending on the circumference of your head.

Choose wisely – Even if purchasing online, try on helmets from several brands and different sizes in store beforehand to find the right one.

Lastly, be sure to choose your helmet with someone else present and if you have any queries, ask staff in-store.  They will know how helmets are supposed to fit and can help you with both the sizing and fit.

Formed by a diverse group of cyclists, Cycle Stuff Direct are providers of premium quality cycling clothing, parts and accessories to make riding your bike more enjoyable!

 

We’ve hardly had much “winter riding” lately in Chicago. Just this Monday and Tuesday, temps hovered in the 50s and 60s! But the rollercoaster, topsy turvy weather ride has plunged us back down to real winter temps and now our Chicago temps only hover at or below 0-degrees with windchill… bringing back the need to properly layer for the daily bike commute.

For me – the cold, sub-zero windchills mean it’s a snow goggles and mittens kind of “BRRRR!” (BRRR as in BRRRRING IT ON!)

No skin exposed on the “BRRR”-est of days

My body is cozy – covered in layers of a wool base layer and a thick cashmere or wool turtleneck sweater. My legs also get a nice wool base layer and then just khakis (sometimes I add a wind pants layer – especially in wet/messy condition) and thick wool hiking socks under my BOGS boots. My head = no skin exposed; I use a double-layer balaclava system (one thinner one pulled up over my nose), plus goggles, plus helmet on top! Over all that is my hi-vis yellow commuter jacket to block the wind. Wool gloves covered by big primaloft mitts and I’m ready to roll.

I’m more bundled than the average pedestrian, plus I’m generating body heat – more than the mere walker.. and I’m definitely warmer than the person just standing there waiting for the bus or train.

So – when I saw a post by “He Who Knows” on local Chicago suburban social site entitled “Bicyclists are insane riding in winter’s deep freeze!” and claiming that winter riding is suicidal, I had to chuckle. Seriously? He Who Knows certainly doesn’t know much about cold weather activity outdoors. On the other hand, we who know layer appropriately and reap the benefits of year-round cycling in any weather.

Should we be surprised by such a general posting by someone who is clearly not a cyclist? Isn’t this what happens when anyone and everyone can post their opinion online? “He Who Knows” likely has no authority on the topic. Though I do find his take humorous… since it is just so ridiculous! But just to clarify and set the record straight for would-be winter bike commuters, do not take his statements seriously… Based on this guy’s opinion, I would have killed myself cycling through winter years ago.

Take it from this guy in New York who bikes (even in winter) 40 miles to work in Manhattan!

I’m alive and well to let you know that – even on the harshest of days – cycling brings me sanity.

Ride on…

One of the things I’ve started doing was commuting with a helmet cam mounted on my bicycle or helmet. You’re probably asking why? Well I actually got this tip from my friend Officer Ben. Not only does he use it when he’s commuting to the station on his motorcycle, but he uses his camera each time he deals with people. He said that if anything were to happen, he has video proof.

So I started doing this myself with both my motorcycle and my bicycle. I basically will turn it on from the time I leave my home and turn it off when I get to my destination. I have a pretty big SD card that handles the recording for the duration. If it was an uneventful ride, then I delete the video I just captured so it doesn’t take up room. Then on my way home, I record again.

Officer Ben uses a product called Veho Muvi HD10 Camcorder. This camera is actually small enough to be mounted on the lapel or pocket of your outer garment.
muvi

I’ve been using a GoPro Hero2 mounted on my handlebar.
gopro hero2

Basically having a camera will help protect you in the event that someone hits you. Protection meaning if they claim that it was not their fault, you can simply say you have it on video.

As unfortunate it is for the 2 riders getting hit, the video helped the Police find the driver and arrest that person.

Here’s another video in which a camera helped get the Police find the harassing driver.