Category: Articles

So I decided to do a little experiment, I walked into a couple of my local bike shops and pretended to be someone who was interested in riding a bike to work. As you may know, most bike shops cater to recreational road and mountain bike riders, so I wanted to find out if bike employees were knowledgeable about the necessities of a bike commuter.

My first question was ‘What kind of bike should I buy if I want to ride 20 miles roundtrip?’. The first shop directed me to hybrid bikes. The employee pointed out how comfortable those bikes are due to their suspension systems and upright positions. The other shop directed me to an entry-level road bike with flat bars and told me how this was a Mountain bike disguised as a road bike (huh?).

Playing devil’s advocate, I inquired about fixed geared bikes. Both shops steered me away from them since they were meant for more ‘advanced’ riders.

When it came to accessories, both shops recommended a light set, locks and backpacks. Both shops had a very limited selection of panniers.

None of the shops asked me about my fitness level or if I even rode recreationally; they also didn’t offer any advice on bike commuting — they were more interested in selling stuff rather than helping the cause.

How about your LBS – are they Bike commuter friendly?

We met Doug at the Urban Commuter Expo. Super cool guy and we told him about Guest Articles. The fella is quick, he sent me his article on Monday morning. Enjoy!

We all should know that fitness needs to be a daily part of life. Did you know that low intensity high frequency exercise benefits our bodies the most? Cycling to work, school or any daily errands can accomplish this.

Regular physical activity and/or exercise decreases mortality, improves cardiovascular and respiratory function, reduces coronary heart disease risk factors, lowers the risk of colon cancer, improves immune function, and enhances a sense of well-being. After giving up smoking, becoming more physically active may be the best thing you can do for your health.

Although many people enthusiastically begin exercise programs at one time or another, only 50% sustain their participation for more than six months. We ALL need to commute. Cycling could sustain your continuous participation in exercise.

In 1992, the American Heart Association (AHA) officially named physical inactivity — not lack of exercise — as a major independent risk factor for heart disease. In many ways cycling could be considered your best defense against physical inactivity.

The Surgeon General has recommended that all Americans over the age of two years accumulate at least 30 minutes of physical activity, of at least moderate intensity, on most, preferably all, days of the week. Three 10-minute or two 15-minute bouts of exercise yield cardio-respiratory fitness gains comparable to those from one continuous 30-minute session of equal intensity.

Consider the benefits of using bike commuting as your basic means of transportation and you will realize it’s a health issue. You are NOT leasing your body, nor will you be trading it in for the latest model. You CAN upgrade, and modify the engine to keep you on the road longer and in the fast lane. This can be done systematically and automatically in your daily life, as you keep riding your bicycle and for everyday occurrences. Choosing to expand or enhance your commute is matter of preference and/or your goals and needs. But in the long run bike commuting will ultimately improve you LIFE!

Live Strong,
Doug Sullivan,RN,AFAA

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Shante sent in the following question:

“How do you share the road when the speed limit is 55 mph, there is a low shoulder and cars are going about 70 mph? I live off of a two lane highway.”

I had a quick answer for Shante…in short, there’s not a good answer for that question….while most of us know that bikes are entitled an equal share of the road, some roads are just too unsafe (speed,
narrowness) to exercise that right.

No shoulder
Photo by Robert Raburn of the East Bay Bicycle Coalition

My suggestion was to look for an alternate route — even if it takes you out of your way.
That’s probably not what Shante wanted to hear, but in my experience, roads like she described are just too sketchy for reasonably safe bicycle travel.

I feel that this is an incomplete answer, at best. I’d sure like to hear from other readers what their tactics are for such roads. The gut feeling is that most of us avoid such roads, but I’d particularly like to hear from anyone who is a League Cycling Instructor (Dominic, are you out there?) or anyone else who deals with such poorly-designed and bicycle-unfriendly roadways. Just leave your comments below.

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

Sunny and really hot Southern California

The temperature in Southern California has soared over 90 degrees. Needless to say, it kind of sucks to be commuting in this heat. Here are a few articles on how to deal with it:

Dealing with the heat by Ghost Rider

Arriving Sweat Free by Ghost Rider

Why I do it by The Veloteer

How to avoid being smelly when you get to your destination by RL

With almost 1,000 posts under our belt, we’ve covered a lot of topics. Don’t be afraid to use the search function on our site, you’ll most likely find what you are looking for. In case you can’t find what you need, you can always ‘Just ask Jack‘.

Boy Scouts are required to get either the Cycling, Swimming or Hiking merit badge as part of the requirements on their path to Eagle Scout Rank, which is the highest rank a Scout can achieve. To get merit badges they work through adult counselors. To sign up as a counselor you need to locate the council nearest you and fill out an application. To get an application go to and click on the “local councils” tab and plug in your zip code. If you like working with youth and have some time to go on a few bike rides with some Scouts and to go over some cycling basics, this can be a fun and fulfilling experience. Below are the requirements for the cycling merit badge. The main requirements are numbers 7 and 8. In requirement 8 they have to do a 50 mile bike trip. Here are a few photos of when I was working with some Scouts from Laredo.

1. Show that you know first aid for injuries or illnesses that could occur while cycling, including hypothermia, heat reactions, frostbite, dehydration, insect stings, tick bites, snakebites, blisters and hyperventilation.

2. Clean and adjust a bicycle. Prepare it for inspection using a bicycle safety checklist. Be sure the bicycle meets local laws.

3. Show your bicycle to your counselor for inspection. Point out the adjustments or repairs you have made. Do the following:

a. Show all points that need oiling regularly.
b. Show points that should be checked regularly to make sure the bicycle is safe to ride.
c. Show how to adjust brakes, seat level and height, and steering tube.

4. Describe how to brake safely with foot brakes and with hand brakes.

5. Show how to repair a flat. Use an old bicycle tire.

6. Take a road test with your counselor and demonstrate the following:

a. Properly mount, pedal, and brake including emergency stops.
b. On an urban street with light traffic, properly execute a left turn from the center of the street; also demonstrate an alternate left turn technique used during periods of heavy traffic.
c. Properly execute a right turn.
d. Demonstrate appropriate actions at a right-turn-only lane when you are continuing straight.
e. Show proper curbside and road-edge riding. Show how to safely ride along a row of parked cars.
f. Cross railroad tracks properly.

7. Describe your state’s traffic laws for bicycles. Compare them with motor-vehicle laws. Know the bicycle-safety guidelines.

8. Avoiding main highways, take two rides of 10 miles each, two rides of 15 miles each, and two rides of 25 miles each. You must make a report of the rides taken. List dates, routes traveled, and interesting things seen.

9. After fulfilling requirement 8, lay out on a road map a 50-mile trip. Stay away from main highways. Using your map, make this ride in eight hours.

Source: 2007 Boy Scout Requirements (33215)

Shane Stock