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A women’s “PEDALING REVOLUTION” and Summer Elegance

In a recent review by David Byrnes of Jeff Mapes’ new book “Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists Are Changing American Citiesâ€? in the NY Times, I found this comment of particular interest:

As Mapes points out, when more women begin riding, that will signal a big change in attitude, which will prompt further changes in the direction of safety and elegance. I can ride till my legs are sore and it won’t make riding any cooler, but when attractive women are seen sitting upright going about their city business on bikes day and night, the crowds will surely follow. A recent article in a British newspaper showed the pop singer Duffy on a pink bike. The model Agyness Deyn claims never to be without hers, and Courteney Cox reportedly presented Jennifer Aniston with a Chanel bike last year. Tabloid fodder does not a revolution make, but it’s a start.

His comment already has me anxious to get my hands on a copy of this book and read it for myself.

In the meantime, I had the pleasure of joining our friends Dottie and Trisha of Let’s Go Ride a Bike on the inaugural Summer Babes and Elegant Bachelors Ride. We had a wonderful night on the town in Chicago, proving that bikes can be both an attractive and feasible mode of transportation even on a rainy Chicago summer evening in cocktail attire.

Here’s an Unusual Commuter “Perk”

We’ve heard about tax credits, employee perks and other benefits of commuting here in the U.S., but in Berlin, one business has come up with a novel discount for bike commuters and public-transportation users:

A Berlin brothel has come up with a novel way to negate the impact of the global economic crisis and target a new group of customers at the same time — offering a discount to patrons who arrive on bicycles…Customers who arrive on bicycle or who can prove they took public transportation get a 5-euro ($7) discount from the usual 70-euro ($100) fee for 45 minute sessions, [business owner Thomas] Goetz told Reuters. He said the environmentally friendly offer was working.

Read the full article on Reuters by clicking here.

Just Ask Jack: Dealing With Dogs?

Bob sent in the following question:

I’m looking for some type of user friendly object to carry while riding my road bike to defend against possible dog or other varmint attacks. I ride my bike in neighborhoods and also some rural road stretches. Really would like something user friendly to sling on my back and hands free for managing the bike. Any ideas?

It just so happens that I have a LOT of experience dealing with dogs — just not so much on a bike…in a previous career, I was a health inspector in the hinterlands of rural north Florida, and I encountered frisky and dangerous dogs on a weekly basis. These encounters didn’t always end in a pretty manner, but I learned quite a bit about reading their behavior and getting them to leave me alone as I did my work. Most of the same tactics work when you’re on a bike, too.

Dogs tend to chase cyclists for a couple of reasons. The first is territory protection; you’re invading their perceived space and they want you out of it. The second is natural playfulness…what’s more fun to a dog than chasing a brightly-colored moving object? It’s hard to fault a dog for either of these reasons…they don’t have the reasoning powers that humans do, and some of their behavior can be attributed to lax training on the part of their owners.

So, how does a cyclist deal with a chasing dog? Let’s start with some evasive tactics and escalate the response as we go…

Firstly, being chased by a dog is a great way to work on your sprint! Putting the hammer down and racing away from a dog is a fantastic way to raise your heart rate and get a bit of extra workout. Many dogs will break off a chase when they realize they’re being outclassed by a speedy cyclist. The second tactic is to ride quickly away but in a zig-zag pattern…not always possible on roads where you’re sharing space with motorists. Dogs excel in straight-line speed, but aren’t so good at taking turns, so the zig-zagging can discourage them from continuing a chase.

What else? Your voice can be a powerful deterrent, too. Try talking to the dog in a pleasant tone…”hey, that’s a good dog! You’re pretty fast, aren’t you?” Sometimes this works because the dog no longer thinks you’re a threat; rather, you’re a new friend. Gentle talking isn’t doing the trick? Try shouting “GO HOME!” at the top of your lungs. I’ve seen this work many times — it sends the message that playtime is over.

If, for some reason, the dog manages to stop you, keep your bike between you and the dog and walk away. Don’t turn your back and use your bike as a shield until you’re out of the dog’s perceived territory. If push comes to shove, your bike makes a decent weapon to repel an attack, too.

There are a variety of devices that cyclists have used to repel dogs. When my grandfather hung up his bike for the last time, he gave me his trusted Dazer, an electronic device that emits an ultrasonic tone which drives dogs away. I used mine successfully many times…this thing works!

dazer

The Dazer has a handy belt clip that easily attaches to a bag strap or your clothing…one simple press of the button and the dog goes nuts trying to get away from that sound.

Or, you could try the stuff that the U.S. Postal Service issues to its mail carriers…a product called Halt:

halt

Halt is a mild pepper spray that shoots out of the can in a controlled stream. One good dose of this in a dog’s face and they get pretty discouraged. Just be careful that the wind isn’t blowing back toward you…back-spray from CNS and pepper sprays is always a potential side effect from these types of products, and you do NOT want to inhale any of this stuff. It’s incredibly irritating (don’t ask me how I know this!).

Ok, you’ve run out of options and it’s just you and the dog…what else is there? Some folks have been known to carry a collapsible police baton:

baton

I’m not a huge fan of this option, because I really don’t like the thought of whacking a dog with a hard steel instrument. Also, I’d be more tempted to track down the dog’s owner — anyone who lets their dog run wild like this could use a crack upside the head! Besides, if you’re close enough to use a baton, you’re already too close to the dog and are in the “danger zone”. That being said, if the chips are down, one of these might be good to have on hand. Check with your local law enforcement agencies — carrying one of these devices may not be legal in all areas and may even be considered a concealed weapon in some municipalities.

I’m not going to cover the ultimate last-ditch tactic for dealing with aggressive and dangerous dogs: the firearm. That’s way beyond the scope of our site and opens a whole host of potential and actual concerns about legality and the use of deadly force. If you really want to explore this option, please visit Xavier over at Nurse With a Gun. Xavier has forgotten more about gun safety and carry considerations than I’ve ever known, and he’s a dedicated bike commuter on top of that. Some pretty well-reasoned arguments over there that he’s much better equipped to talk about than we are…

So, let’s pray you never have to use ANY of the above techniques and that your rides are blessedly dog-free. But, it pays to familiarize yourself with some of these tactics on the off chance you’re confronted by a dog on the way to work. Ride safe!

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

July 4th Ride a Success!

Bikecommuters.com and the Seminole Heights Bicycle Club co-hosted a bike ride the night of July 4th to go catch the fireworks in downtown Tampa. We only got about ten riders…LOTS of regulars were out of town for the weekend…but we had a blast and couldn’t ask for a better viewing area for the fireworks display.

Here’s our crew heading out from the Seminole Heights Garden Center:

bunch

It’s a pretty effortless spin downtown…not a lot of traffic heading down that way, and once we got into the downtown zone, being on bikes made a huge difference in navigating the narrow streets. We were able to zip right down to Tampa’s Riverwalk and scored a great spot to view the fireworks at Cotanchobee Park. Being able to “park” mere feet from our viewing spot was nice, too:

parking

Lots of folks took their boats downtown, too — here’s a shot of the water traffic in Garrison Channel, with Tampa’s exclusive Harbour Island in the background:

boats

And, of course, the main event…a pretty spectacular fireworks display with a stunning finale that left the crowd cheering. I ran out of both still- and video-camera memory just before the finale, but got some of the display recorded for posterity. Enjoy!

fireworks

fireworks 2

The ride home was a piece of cake, too. While thousands of “temporary” pedestrians headed for their cars, we simply got on our bikes and headed out. We were able to zip past dozens of cars caught in post-finale gridlock and made it home in only a few short minutes. No one even tried shooting bottle rockets at us!

Coming Soon: Jango 7.1 Bike Review

Way back at Interbike 2007, Moe spotted an intriguing line of bicycles new to the market…check out his photos from back then by clicking here. Jango, a subsidiary of bicycle accessories juggernaut Topeak, has a pretty neat concept going on, and we were eager to get our hands on their products.

Well, after much speculation and hand-wringing, we were finally able to score a test model just less than two years after Jango introduced the bikes at Interbike! Sometimes things move with strange timing in the bike world…

What we got was a Jango 7.1 in 700c configuration:

jango 7.1

The concept is very cool: what if buying a bike was like going to a car dealer? What if you could walk into a shop, select a bike from a range of models and then select pre-configured “trim packages” or choose dedicated accessories from an extensive menu, all based on your needs? Jango offers seven bike models, nine preconfigured “trim packages” and a list of over 30 unique accessories. That’s a lot to digest!

Our test bike is the 7.1. Here’s a little bit about it from Jango’s website:

Bell: Jango integrated courtesy bell, black
Lights: Jango integrated front and rear LED lights
Pedals: Ergonomic Jango Dual Fit safety pedals
Saddle: Pressure free Allay Racing Sport saddle with AirSpan technology
Sizes: XS (430) / S (475) / M (500) / L (550) / XL (600)
Tyres: Jango light weight 700c x 38c
Wheels: Jango light weight wheel system
Grips: Ergonomic grip
Gears: Shimano Alivio 3 x 8 24 speed
Brake: Levers Jango with integrated bell mount
Fork: Jango suspension fork with magnesium lowers. Oil / Nitrogen hydraulic damping with elastomer spring. Variable compression with lock-out function. 50mm travel
Frame: Jango design with patented modular Plug in Play ports and personalized head badge theft deterrent system. Comfort geometry, high strength 7005 alu, double butted
Kickstand: Jango integrated kickstand
Seat Post: Jango with quick mount socket
Bar/Stem combination: Ergonomic Jango Vario Stem with adjustable angle and height. Forged Alu
Brakes: Jango disc brakes with integrated front disc lock
Colour: Jango Silver

With the bike, we also got a large case of assorted accessories, from cargo-carrying bits to lights, security gear, fenders and a computer. We’re going to have a lot to share, so I’ll try to break things down into a series of articles covering the bike itself, the accessories and the overall experience.

In the meantime, check out Jango’s website for a good overview of their concept and their wide range of models, trim packages and accessories. And stay tuned…the test riding has already begun!