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Mistakes commuters make

Here’s a list of ‘DUH’ moments that I’ve had over 2 years of commuting to work on a bike.

* Forgetting my water bottle. -luckily I have a park mid-route so I was able to replenish.
* Not carrying a mini-pump and carrying empty C02 cartridges and getting a flat. – I ended up walking my bike home for 1/2 mile.
* Not carrying lights -One day I had to stay at work until it got dark outside, luckily, most of my commute was lit.
* Forgetting my helmet – It happened once, I felt naked riding without it
* Daydreaming while riding – I spaced out, hit the sidewalk with my pedal almost eating it. Luckily my MTB skills saved my ass.
* Leaving my pannier attachment on another bike – I was lucky that I had a bunch of bungee cords on my truck and strapped my pannier to the rack.
* Forgetting my truck keys at work – Let’s just say that my wife was not too happy.

Feel free to share your ‘DUH’ moments, it’s OK, nobody is perfect.

A Bike Lane Runs To It

If you live in or near the city of Tampa, Florida, you will know that the car rules around here. While there are plenty of quiet streets to bicycle upon, there are not very many useful bike lanes in the area. Where bike lanes do exist, they have a tendency to start and stop at random, not linking up with other lanes or providing an unbroken route for cyclists to take advantage of.

But, things are changing — just a couple weeks ago, the city put the finishing touches on a bike lane that actually goes somewhere!

Tampa's newest bike lane

This is the new bike lane, running from just north of Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd all the way down to and INTO the heart of downtown Tampa. The lane runs down the right side of a busy one-way called Tampa Street. This street is the main surface road into downtown, and can be quite busy early in the morning as folks rush to work in the urban core. Before the lane was constructed, I had found a quiet residential street a few blocks east that served my purposes for a fairly direct commuting route. Now, though, I can take this bike lane to within a couple blocks of the library where I work!

Here’s another shot with the downtown skyline visible:
the lane with skyline in the distance

Even though my previous route was peaceful, scenic and quiet, I feel compelled to use this new bike lane, even though there are a LOT of cars out there with me. And that brings up a few questions — do you readers try to use bike lanes where available, even if there is a quieter or better route at your disposal? Should I feel compelled to use this lane (I mean, what if transportation officials are watching? Will they build more?)?

This is a step in the right direction for Tampa — let’s hope there are more lanes in the works! The new lane is smooth and fast. My only gripe is that there is not a corresponding northbound bike lane to take me back out of downtown toward home, and according to Florida DOT officials and the Mayor of Tampa, there is no plan to create one in the near future, even though there is a perfect northbound, one-way, multi-lane road only 3 blocks from this new lane. Well, I guess I shouldn’t complain too much, but I WILL step up my letters and emails to the transportation planners in the area!

A bike is an excellent piece of exercise equipment as well as a perfect means of transportation. Biking is better exercise than a home gym can provide, and you’ll feel better about yourself when you’re conserving energy. No other sport, not even golf equipment, can make you feel so good about the environment!

Commuter Profile: Elizabeth Adamczyk

Meet Elizabeth Adamczyk — Elizabeth is a circulation supervisor for Northwestern University Library’s Chicago campus branch and is also a dedicated bike commuter. Here is her profile:

Elizabeth Adamczyk

Why do you bike commute?
Living in Chicago, it’s just so much easier to hop on my bike in the morning and go. I never looked forward to the crowded bus or EL ride (or the long wait for public transit). Riding my bike is my favorite part of the day, plus it has cut my commute time almost in half.

How long have you been bike commuting?
My commute started as something of convenience on “nice” days a few years ago. I was a fair-weather cyclist for a while. But once I got the right gear and fenders, I now opt to commute year round. (Last year was my first Bike Winter.)

Chicago skyline

What kind of bikes do you have?
I have a Jamis Nova cyclocross that I now primarily ride on weekends. My commuter bike is my old Schwinn Sprint from the early 90s. It’s “the tank” or “the purple demon?.

How long is your commute?
My commute usually takes me close to 5 miles each way, around 25 minutes.

Any funny or interesting story that you may want to share.
First off, in the winter I wear a screaming yellow color jacket. The guy
driving the garbage truck in my alley waved and smiled at me as I trudged my bike past him and his truck through the unplowed alley to the street. He thought I was nuts for riding in such weather. Then he told me he wished more bikers stood out as much as I do with my lights and bright clothing. He also told me to be safe out there. I asked him to watch out for me and fellow bikers on the road. From that day on, he has always nodded at me when we pass each other. What a great way to start that day.

Last winter I struggled with keeping my fingers and toes warm. I remember being almost to work one morning and my fingers were SOOO cold that I could barely use them to apply my brakes. When I finally got indoors, my only thoughts were not that ‘it’s too cold to ride’ but rather ‘what more can I do to keep my fingers warm? I don’t want to stop riding because of my cold fingers!!!’ I was feeling desperate for a solution. Somehow I made it through — mittens and hand warmers (on the coldest of days) helped. Thank goodness… and I’m still riding.

Lincoln Ave.

What do people say when you tell them that you are a bike commuter?
Most people first ask me where I live that I commute by bike. Usually they’re more surprised when they find out I ride year-round and don’t plan to garage my bike for the winter.

Do you have an ‘advanced commuter tip’?
Stay alert. It’s not really an advanced tip, but it’s one that even I need
to remember. All it takes is a moment of daydreaming to get into a really bad situation — like running into a pothole or getting doored or carelessly crossing an intersection.

Lincoln Ave. southbound

Anything that you may want to add?
Bicycling has completely changed my life — for the better. I truly believe that the world just looks better from the saddle. To quote the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, “The more you bike, the better your world.”

Also, I advocate sharing the road. The Ride of Silence is a worldwide event that takes place in May to recognize fallen cyclists and the legal sharing of the road. Look for your local Ride of Silence or organize one in your community. Let the silence roar(http://www.rideofsilence.org).

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Thanks, Elizabeth, for sharing your profile and insights and your excellent pictures of Chicago!

If you want to be profiled on Bikecommuters.com, just send us an email!

L.A. has worst traffic; drivers lose 72 hrs a year


The Los Angeles metropolitan area led the nation in traffic jams in 2005, with rush-hour drivers spending an extra 72 hours a year on average stuck in traffic, according to a study released on Tuesday.

The metropolitan areas of San Francisco-0akland, Washington, D.C.-Virginia-Maryland, and Atlanta were tied for the second most gridlocked areas, according to the study by the Texas Transportation Institute.

Drivers in those three areas spent an extra 60 hours on average during peak periods, defined as 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., the study found.

But drivers in other regions around the country were not much luckier. The report (http://mobility.tamu.edu) found traffic gridlock worsened in all 437 large, medium and small urban centers in 2005.

“What causes congestion? In a word, ‘you.’ Most of the Mojave Desert is not congested,? wrote report authors David Schrank, associate research scientist, and Tim Lomax, research engineer.

The Texas Transportation Institute is an arm of the Texas A&M University System in College Station, Texas.

In the last 20 years, travel has increased by 105 percent in metropolitan areas but road capacity — measured by freeways and major thoroughfares — has only risen 45 percent.

Travel by public transportation in 85 urban areas climbed 30 percent in the past two decades.

The study found that drivers in the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas, area had average delays of 58 hours.

San Diego drivers faced an average delay of 57 hours, and Houston drivers had an average delay of 56 hours. Detroit was in a three-way tie with San Jose, California, and Orlando, with average delays of 54 hours, according to the report.

Traffic forced U.S. urban dwellers to travel 4.2 billion hours more and buy an extra 2.9 billion gallons of fuel in 2005, for a total cost of $78 billion, the study said.

That worked out to 220 million more hours and 140 million more gallons of fuel than in 2004, with the total cost rising $5 billion.

Solving the problem not only includes focusing on “critical? corridors and easing choke points but making work schedules more flexible and building more areas where people can walk to work, the study said.

Courtesy of Yahoo News.

Homemade Headset Installation Tools

Last year, I had the opportunity to write a how-to article for the good folks over at C.I.C.L.E. Since then, I have amassed a small collection of hardware (about $15.00 worth) that makes a truly universal homemade headset cup press and crown race installer.

The parts of my handy dandy headset press:

The parts of the basic press include a selection of large washers, a piece of 3/8″ threaded rod (sometimes referred to as “allthread�?), a pair of flange nuts and two thick nylon washers to reduce friction between nuts and press-washers.

Don’t forget the nylon washers — it makes things a whole lot smoother:

As in the previous article, I must set out this disclaimer — I didn’t invent this…the concept of a homemade cup press has been around for a long time. I’ve seen versions using only washers and versions using sections of PVC pipe as cup adapters. However, I have discovered a piece of hardware in the plumbing department of my local home-improvement store that really makes this setup a piece of cake to use — some type of copper reducing fitting. Here is the heart of my system:

These little beauties taper down from about 2″ down to about 7/8″. Since they’re made of copper, they are way softer than the typical cups you might find in a vintage or modern headset — even lightweight aluminum cups. And, they are universal — they’ll fit the tightest vintage 1 inch threaded headset…oddball 1 1/4 inch headsets from the mid 90s…modern 1 1/8 inch headsets…heavy-duty One Point Five downhill headsets…even old one-piece bottom bracket cups (Ashtabula) found on cheap beach cruisers and old BMX bikes!!

The press is set up like this: grease up and place the headset cups in the top and bottom of the frame’s headtube. Grease and insert the copper fittings and stack appropriately-sized washers on top of those copper fittings. Pass the allthread through the headtube, slip the nylon washers down onto the washer stacks and thread on the two flange nuts. Here is a picture of how the assembly should look:

Then, it is a simple matter of cranking the nuts down with an appropriate wrench (sometimes you will need two wrenches if the cups are really tight). The copper fittings help to keep the headset cups straight as they enter the headtube. Go slowly — sometimes the washer stacks will slip to one side and they should be pushed back into place with your fingers. Crank those cups in until they bottom out and you’re done!

Now, all that remains is to assemble the rest of the headset and ride away into the sunset…but wait! What do you do about those stubborn fork crown races? Well, back to the plumbing department — you’ll need a length of PVC pipe and a plastic endcap. Bring your fork with you to make sure the pipe fits over the steerer. I wound up using a piece of 1 1/4″ thinwall pipe for this fork. Wrap the bottom 2 inches of the pipe with electrical tape to keep it from splitting, slip the crown race down, slip the pipe on and pound it down with a hammer like so:

When the bottom of the pipe becomes mushroomed and beat up from pounding, simply saw off a half-inch and rewrap with tape. I’ve used this same pipe for about 10 headsets…it’s steadily getting shorter, but the whole thing only cost about a dollar. Remember also that if you have to hit the pipe more than 5 or 6 times to seat the crown race, it’s better to take the race off and “dress” the base of the fork’s steerer with a needle file to remove excess paint and weld splatter — the crown race should just pop on and should NOT require brute force.

There, you’ve saved a bunch of money by doing it yourself — no expensive tools required, no trip to the bike shop. Doesn’t that feel great?

MtnBikeRiders.com