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Why I do it

Since this is my first post, I thought it would be best if I gave you a brief version of my “story? – and how I became a bike commuter.

I moved to Phoenix, AZ from Mobile, AL a little over a year ago to seek my fame and fortune. After finishing college, I was ready to see a new part of the country, and my big brother happened to live in Phoenix. I drove my car across the country, found myself a job, and began the nightmare of driving 22 miles, one way, from the suburbs to downtown Phoenix – along with the other million plus people making the same drive. This was my routine for about 6 months, until I just could not take it anymore. I decided that my sanity was worth more than the money I was saving by living with my big brother in a nice house, and found a reasonable (but still overpriced) apartment about 8.5 miles from my office. I moved in during the last week of July, and on August 1, I became a full-on bike commuter.

I rode my bke to work every day for the entire month of August. I withstood 23 work days of 110 plus degree heat – and no matter how “dry? the heat is, 110 degrees still feels like a blow dryer in your face. Everyday, at least one person would ask me why I did it. I would shrug and say, “I like riding bikes,? but there is more to it:

I do it:

* because I don’t want to be like everyone else in my office, who, when seeing someone walk in with a bike, tries to justify themselves by saying, “well I would ride my bike but…?;
* because politicians can talk about global warming and climate change all they want, but I am actually doing something about it;
* because I like showing people that, despite what they tell me, it can be done;
* because the more cyclists there are on the road, the more motorists will know how to behave around us;
* because it is guaranteed exercise every day;
* because I get to see my community on a more personal level; and
* because I, being of sound mind and body, can not imagine choosing this:


traffic in phoenix
[image courtesy of USA Today]

over this:

Finally, I do it because I really do like riding bikes. They’re fun, they let you roam free, and they’re fast – if you can make them be fast. Viva la Velorution!

Craigslist and Burning Man

here’s this event called Burning Man that happens on the last week of August in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. Bikes are the preferred method of transportation on the ‘Playa’.


Burning Man Bike, does this look like a freaking Magna???

Like clockwork, a huge amount of ‘Burning Man bikes’ surface on CraigsList LA. Most of these bikes are Discount Store bicycles that have been left out in the yard and what not. I’m all into recycling, but calling a piece of shit bike a ‘Burning Man’ Bike for the sake of selling it, it’s just plain ludicrous.

Reliable and Comfortable

Based on our poll, a reliable bike is what matters most, being comfortable is second. So, how can you make your existing bike reliable AND comfortable?

Reliable:
Maintenance is the key to a reliable bike. Check out Jack’s article on Commuter Bike Maintenance. Inspecting your bike before a ride is also really important, check the spoke tension by running your hand over them, check your tires for proper inflation and inspect them to make sure that there’s no glass or thorns stuck in them.

Maxxis Over Drive tires with reinforced Kevlar Belt

I can guarantee that everyone of us has dealt with a flat tire, and they usually happen at the most inopportune time. There’s a slew of products that help minimize flats, the most common is Slime. You can either buy a bottle of Slime at your LBS or at Wally World and simply follow the instructions, got a presta valve? Check Out RL’s article on how to slime tubes with presta valves.

Heavy Duty Tube on the left, regular on the right

Heavy duty tubes and reinforced kevlar tires work really well too, the penalty is added weight but the trade off for piece of mind is certainly worth it.

Single Speed kit from Performance Bike.

For all of you that are mechanical inclined and your commute is not that hilly, you may consider “simplifying your drivetrain?. Turn that multi-speed commuter onto a singlespeed. Not only do you eliminate the need to tune derailleurs, you also save yourself weight in components. If your commute does not feature Monster hills and you still have the need for gears, consider a 1X9 or a 1X8 setup.

The NuVinci Hub, wide range of gear ratios, totally bombproof.

Hilly commute? The NuVinci hub that we are testing was not difficult to install, with a super wide range of gear ratios and it’s enclosed hub this setup is bombproof.

Comfort:
A comfortable bike can be a matter of individual preference. For example, a saddle is a very individual choice, myself, I can’t really deal with wide saddles, they rub against my inner thighs. Some people swear by cut outs, often referred as ‘love channels?, they are supposed to eliminate the “numb nuts? syndrome on men. Other people use those gel covers and swear by them, my suggestion is just to try stuff and stick to what works for you.

Suspension post, standard on Breezer Villager Bikes

Gel Inserts absorb road vibration and are really comfortable

Your choice of seatpost and handlebars also affect your comfort level. Suspension seatposts and raised handlebars do help to eliminate fatigue on your back and on your wrists. If your ride with drop bars or bullhorns, gel inserts are the way to go. I installed them on my F20-R and my wrists are really thanking me for it.

Carbon Fiber Seapost on my Swobo Sanchez

If it fits your budget, I swear by carbon fiber seatposts, bars and forks. Carbon Fiber is supposed to absorb some of the road chatter.


Giant Cypress with a suspension fork

Suspension forks are often used in ‘comfort bikes’, yes they are plush, but they are not as efficient as a rigid fork.


SweetSkinz tires: low pressure, comfortable and super stylish.

Lastly, tires. High Pressure tires are supposed to have less rolling resistance, but they can be rather jarring on rough pavement. Switching to low pressure tires will give you a more comfortable ride.

Thanks to all that participated on our poll, polls help us write articles and pick test bikes based on your choices.

Just Ask Jack — Red Light Procedure?

Lance sent in the following question:

“I’ve been okay with traffic protocol except for this one thing. In the instance of a red light and there are several cars in front and in back of me, is it proper procedure to stop behind the car that’s in front of me as any other car would do or do cyclists have the right to pass everyone like a motorcycle and come to a stop right at the crosswalk?

I’ve been stopping behind cars so they don’t get p*ssed at me but I’m nowhere close to sure that it’s the right thing to do.?

Lance, first of all, it is NOT ok for motorcyclists to pass everyone on the right to get a favorable spot at the front of the line. This is a version of “lane splitting?, which is commonly practiced by motorcyclists (and a good number of bike commuters), but is absolutely illegal in most jurisdictions.

A technique for solving this traffic protocol riddle that I have found useful is to sneak up on the right until you are in the second or third position in line…and stop between cars rather than alongside one of the cars. Then, when the light turns green, you let the first and/or second car do their thing while you get up to speed, get clipped in to your pedals, etc. Oftentimes, that first or second car will make an unannounced right turn, so by hanging back for the first few seconds, you avoid the dreaded “right hook“. Once I’m rolling at speed, I try to hog the lane a bit (getting out into the middle of the lane and standing up) to prevent other motorists from trying to hook a right (or a left) in front of me until I am clear of the intersection.

I mention “sneaking up? on the right side of cars because I have found that doing it blatantly really pisses motorists off. If you do it slowly and steadily (being careful to avoid rearview mirrors and the like), you are less likely to step on any toes.

Regardless, there are a few considerations to keep in mind when passing on the right, particularly if there are any driveways or parking-lot entrances between you and the light. If there’s any spot where a car could conceivably turn right (into your path), be extremely cautious or forgo right-hand passing altogether. Better safe than sorry, I always say! Also, gauge the amount of room you have on the right — if you’re passing and you run out of room between the cars and the curb, you can get screwed pretty quickly. Finally, be wary of the rare but extremely painful right-hand “door zone? — someone suddenly getting out on the right-hand side and throwing their door open to step out onto the sidewalk will ruin your day in a heartbeat!

Blind adherence to motorist laws is as dangerous as being a total scofflaw. Please, use common sense and judgement for your own safety. If breaking a motorist law turns out to be safer for you, by all means DO SO!

Here are some collision avoidance tips from the folks at Bicyclesafe.com. Pay particular attention to collision types 3, 4 and 5.

And, since we here at bikecommuters.com are not lawyers, it is up to you, our readers, to check all applicable local laws for your situation. In some municipalities, passing on the right will get you a pricey ticket (or worse). Be safe, be smart and be aware!

Have a cycling-related question? Just Ask Jack! Click on the link in the right-hand column to send me your questions.

Hope for the Tampa Bay Bicycle Commuter

If you’re a bicycle commuter in the Tampa Bay area, things can feel pretty lonely at times. There’s only about 6 daily commuters in our area (just joking!), and there isn’t much in the way of moral support around these parts.

But wait, there’s hope!
Tampa BayCycle homepage

Tampa BayCycle is a joint effort between the New North Transportation Alliance (Julie Bond, the executive director, is one of our featured commuters) and the Tampa Downtown Partnership, as well as a host of other corporate sponsors. This organization has provided the Bay Area commuter a wonderful resource for advocacy, communication and information exchange, and recently wrapped up their first year’s “Commuter Challenge”, where riders were encouraged to recruit fellow bike commuters or newbies in exchange for the chance to win prizes. They even had a kickass party to celebrate their first Bike To Work Month, where activists were invited to enjoy pizza, billiards, bowling and prize raffles (my wife and I both won light sets for our bikes and I won a Cateye wireless computer — very cool).

In June, Tampa BayCycle rolled out their very own blog, which is geared towards providing the Tampa area commuter another way to communicate amongst themselves and to spotlight local news, commuter profiles and other information of interest to bicyclists. It’s a great resource, and you should check it out and add comments…let’s get some traffic headed their way (after all, they did put a permalink to www.bikecommuters.com on their blog site)!!

Tampa BayCycle Blog homepage