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Commute

Resources for the New Bicycle Commuter

Know anyone who has expressed an interest in giving bicycle commuting a try? Many of us have talked to someone who wants to do it but doesn’t really know where to begin. Well, here are a couple Internet resources (besides OUR fine site!) you can point them to. The following sites are generally designed for and aimed at beginners, although a couple of them offer information that will be useful for even the most seasoned, long-time commuter.

Paul Dorn’s Bike Commute Tips

Paul Dorn's Bike Commute Tips website

I’ll start with my favorite — the excellent site put together by Paul Dorn. This site has something for everyone, novices and pros alike. It is clearly divided into major categories and is well-written.

Paul also writes an excellent blog that highlights bicycle commuting news from around the U.S. and beyond.

Bike Safety Institute

Bike Safety Institute website

This site, despite its lofty title, primarily serves as an online ride calendar (that isn’t updated very often). Still, there are quite a few tidbits hidden around the site for the beginning commuter. One tidbit I discovered during a recent visit is the table of bicycle fatalities by state, compiled in 2004 by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration‘s Center for Statistics and Analysis. The top ten most fatal states (per one million population) are Florida at number one (boo!!!), Nevada, Hawaii, Washington D.C., South Carolina, Arizona, Puerto Rico, Delaware, North Dakota and California finishing out at number 10.

Bicycle Fatalities By State

Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center

Bicycling Info's website

This website is chock-full of statistical information, image libraries, engineering considerations and many other resources. This site is also very popular with transportation planners who are hoping to include pedestrians and bicycles into their urban plans…our local bicycle/pedestrian planners are actually the ones who turned me onto this site!! Plenty of information is geared at beginners, and even more is available to the advanced commuter or active commuting advocate.

Check these sites out — you may learn something new, and you will certainly be able to point someone in the right direction if you’re ever asked “how do I get started commuting by bicycle?”

As always, if there are other sites you could recommend to beginners, please let us know about them and we may include them in future articles.

Why a fixed gear is better than a mountain bike for commuting

My main commuter bike is my Redline 925, its a fixed. But I also have my Ibex/Xtracycle when I need to carry a big load.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I would rather commute on my fixed gear than my Xtracycle which in its core is a mountain bike.

Here’s why I’d rather ride a fixed gear bike than a 26″ mountain bike:

1. Mountain bikes are heavier.
The Ibex/Xtracycle is about 40lbs all together.

2. Mountain bikes are slower
The gear ratio on it isn’t mean for me to get some fast speeds. Smaller wheels, 26″ vs 700c…26 would lose. 700c wheels roll faster and smoother.

3. Less clutter. My fixed gear has one cable coming out of the bar, thats for my front brake. My mountain bike has 4 cables, 2 shifters and 2 brake levers. Fixed gear bikes have less hassle to deal with when riding.

So for me, I’m sticking to my fixed gear as my main commuter.

Liquor Run Part II

One problem with doing any run…especially a liquor run is bringing the stuff back home. Rather than getting my Xtracycle out, I opted for the Banjo Brothers Commuter Back Pack.

Here’s how the back pack looked after we stuffed it with all the goodies. This was pretty heavy!

Here’s all the stuff that was in side it.

3-2 liter bottles of soda
2 large cans of pineapple juice
1 bottle of coconut rum
1 bottle of Captain Morgan Private Stock
and 1 bag of ice

Yup, all that was in the back pack. I also mentioned that this thing was super heavy. If I wasn’t careful, I could have tipped easily over.

So cheers to the Banjo Brothers Back Pack for carrying all the goods!

Liquor Run, Bike Commuter Style

On Saturday after my kids’ birthday party. My brother Randy, My brother in-law Dave and Moe decided to ride our bikes to do a liquor run.

I busted out the KHS Tandemania and demonstrated my smooth skillz by riding it solo, from the back.

Here’s Moe doing his skid stops with the Swobo Sanchez.

Randy and I challenged Moe to a race. Moe was to our right. We let Moe win because we knew it would make him feel really good about himself. 🙂

In the next posting I’ll be doing I’ll show you all the great stuff we came back with. If hadn’t noticed, I’m wearing the Banjo Brothers Commuter Back Pack. I’ll demonstrate how versatile this back pack really is! Stick around.

Route Mapping and Logging for Bicycle Commuters

A great way to visualize a new or different bicycling route is to pull out a map and try to find the best way from point “A” to point “B”. With the release of Google Map’s underlying source code, however, this process has become even easier! In this article I will present four route-mapping websites that allow a user to create, save and share favorite bicycle routes all with a few clicks of the mouse. All four use the Google Map source code, so from a functional perspective, they all work very similar to each other. Finally, I will show you a great place to log your miles and favorite routes on an easy-to-use Web interface.

Gmaps Pedometer
(no registration required)
Gmap-pedometer.com screenshot
This is one of the first of the public sites to use the Google Map source code “hack”, and is the one I use most frequently for planning rides and sharing routes with fellow commuters. The interface is easy to use, but not terribly glamorous. Since the underlying code is the ever-familiar Google Map, the routes can be viewed in four different ways: map, satellite, hybrid and topographical. Once a route is created, it can be saved and shared (a URL is generated “on the fly” by the Gmap interface). In addition, a user can turn on a “calorie counter” to determine just how much fat is being burned out there on the ride. All the while, a mileage counter keeps track of individual leg and total distance, and milemarkers are created on the route.

Mapmyride
(no registration required)
Mapmyride.com screenshot
Mapmyride uses the same Google Map “hack”, but adds a couple features to the route-generating toolbox. A user can add aid stations, water sources, parking spots and a bunch of other “markers” to the route. Also, route maps can be exported to GPS devices…a great feature!

Bikely
(free registration is required to use)
Bikely.com screenshot
While I have never used this route-mapper, I know that Bikely’s interface is very popular and is often the first one of these tools to be recommended by bicyclists. One of the things I like best about Bikely is that it knows your starting area without you telling it…kinda creepy but cool. The moment you log in, even though registration doesn’t require inputting a city, Bikely will take you directly to a map of where you live! This trick eliminates a few clicks to get started — you can start mapping instantly upon login. One of the other prominent features is a method to add descriptive tags to the routes created, which facilitates sharing (mmm…metadata…it must be the librarian in me!).

Routeslip
(free registration is required to use)
Routeslip.com screenshot
Routeslip is perhaps the sexiest of these route-mapping sites — the interface is cool and the site’s design is sleek and stylish. Despite the design, getting started on Routeslip can be kind of clunky, especially if you are used to one of the other sites mentioned. Some of the tools are hidden behind drop-down panels, and it requires some extra clicks to open and close these panels. However, once you locate and master the available tools, you will churn out well-labeled, shareable routes that are also downloadable to GPS units.

Bikejournal
(free registration required to use, paid subscription required for advanced features)
Bikejournal.com screenshot
While this site doesn’t let you create visual, shareable maps, it DOES allow descriptive routes to be created and shared. This site is really geared for something else altogether, though: logging bicycling data. With a free registration, a user can create a spreadsheet-style ride log that can contain up to 28 different data points to track (mileage, weather conditions, heart rate, watts, etc.). In addition, a user can create a detailed profile showing goals for the year, the bikes in a rider’s “quiver” and a lot of other fun tools. Bikejournal.com also offers a free user forum and collects and shares members’ stats for viewing. I am a dedicated user of this site…once I set a yearly mileage goal, I find that I am riding further and more often than I might if I didn’t have some way of tracking my progress. My favorite feature is the ranking — whenever you add a ride, your ranking among users updates in real time (as of this writing I am ranked 2783 out of 22,377 total members….whoo hoo!).

These are all great tools — you should try them! One of the things I like best about any of these tools is that it allows someone to create a safe, calm route for someone who is new to bicycle commuting…what better way to turn someone on to the joys of bike commuting than presenting them with a customized, full-color map that shows the best route for their needs?

Alright, then…get out there and RIDE! If anyone has another favorite route-mapping site, please let us know about them.