Category: Guest Articles

Longtime reader and contributor Ann Rappaport sent in the following coverage and photos of her recent experience riding the Tour de Troit. Take a look — this event looks and sounds like a blast!

Saturday was the 10th annual Tour de Troit. This was my first chance riding in it and I can’t wait for the next one. It’s a leisurely paced/avg 10 mph ride with police escort and road closures. The route explores some of the city’s historic areas. Early registration gave me a great ticket price of $35 which included a nifty tee-shirt and all the other goodies a rider could want. On site the tickets were $50 but no tee-shirt included. You had to spring for an additional $10 to get one. At the end of the day you got your money’s worth and more.

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Tour De Troit was founded by Edward Potas and Mike Kiewicz. They started out with a bike trailer, a cooler, a pump and some tools. In the past 10 years, the event has raised nearly $100,000 specifically for the biking community. Profits go to the Southwest Detroit Greenlink which, when completed in 2011, will connect Corktown, Mexicantown and S.W. Detroit with 17 miles of bike lanes. Detroit is starting to look a little like Chicago as bike riding is becoming common. The city has over 400 miles of bike lanes planned in the future.

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Two rides were offered, the primary ride which included Belle Isle, a 5 mile loop, for a total of 24 miles. Actually riders could choose to omit this and take a break at the entrance; relax and recharge with drinks, fruit and power bars and then continue with the group. The second option was a metric century (62 miles) at a faster pace/avg. 15 mph.

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After the ride, there was food, drink and music at Roosevelt Park; located in front of Detroit’s old Michigan Central Station, at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and 14th Street. If you know Detroit I need only say that Slow’s Bar B Q had two selections (vegan or meat) and you know just how tasty the other 5 food choices were. Riders got 2 food and beer tickets. Beer…..yes beer was also part of your reward provided by MillKing It Productions brewery. The lines were long but you could turn in your beer tickets “en masse” as long as you could carry it away- it was yours. Top it all off with souvenir photos, live bands and it was a truly perfect fall day.

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Bookmark this site for 2012:
http://www.tour-de-troit.org/

For further information about biking in Detroit and the surrounding communities:
http://www.m-bike.org/
http://www.wheelhousedetroit.com/
http://thehubofdetroit.org/
http://corktowncycles.com/
http://www.facebook.com/groups/71297671024/
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=251386061561481

Editor’s note: We got the following product review from longtime reader/commenter Raiyn Storm. He has graciously allowed us to post his thoughts and photos here for you. As he purchased the fenders for his own use, we’re going to forgo that pesky FTC disclaimer that normally appears at the end of our reviews here on Bikecommuters.com. And, as far as we can tell, the following is the first online review of this particular fender set…so enjoy!

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I recently purchased a set of Bontrager Interchange Nebula fenders to use on my Town bike. I chose these fenders specifically because I wanted the protection that only full coverage fenders can provide with the ability to remove or re-attach them at a moment’s notice. While there are other “quick release fenders on the market I found their coverage to be insufficient for my needs. I tend to use my bike as a jack of all trades so being able to remove the fenders quickly and without tools is a plus in my book.

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Below is the description of the fenders from Bontrager’s website:

Features

* After initial installation, the Interchange system allows subsequent removal and application in seconds
without tools
* Lightweight polycarbonate fenders are weather and impact resistant
* Adjustable, oversized aluminum stays ensure a custom and secure fit
* Rear frame mounted fenders fit under racks, out of the way of trunk bags and panniers
* Includes integrated mudflaps designed for maximum water dispersion
* Can be fully disassembled for easy recycling

Basic installation is fairly straightforward and requires a 4mm Allen wrench, 8 mm open end wrench and a #2 Phillips screwdriver.

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The Interchange Nebulas are attached by means of a quick release bracket in the front and tensioned chain and seatstay bridge mounts and clips. In addition, the fender stays are attached to a corresponding bolt-on “mushroom” (bolted to the fender eyelet) by means of a snap-on socket. Installation is a little more involved than regular fenders because the socket mount is threaded to adjust in and out of the fender stay and will need to be adjusted for your setup. Once adjusted, the socket is secured by a jam nut.

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Even though the included directions seemed less helpful than something you’d get from IKEA, I have confidence that most people will be able to pull off the basic installation with minimal problems. I, on the other hand, had a few minor changes to make.
Knowing that I had a suspension corrected fork, I needed a way to get the fender close enough to the tire to function properly and still look right. I had initially planned an elaborate kludge involving P-clamps and plenty of extra hardware, but it proved to be overkill due to the relatively short axle to crown measurement of my Surly 1×1 fork. I ended up following what I feel to be a cliché by adding a (thankfully) small piece of metal to drop it to the correct height for my fork / tire combination. Another modification to the basic install was forced due to the seat stay bolt hole pointing down instead of being a horizontal hole. Because of this I decided to bolt it to my brake booster instead which still allowed it to follow the correct arc while potentially adding support due to it’s more centralized location on the fender arc.

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I was able to try the fenders out recently in some mildly rainy conditions in the area and I’d say that the coverage provided by the front fender is better than one would expect from a typical set of detachable fenders, rivaling that of some of the best names in the business. Perhaps aesthetically I wasn’t as happy with the projection ahead of the front fork as I could have been but the coverage from the business end of the front fender and mudflap drops well below the bottom bracket making up for what I feel is a fairly stubby front projection when compared to more traditional fenders. I felt that the rear behaved as a normal bolt-on fender would in that you wouldn’t notice any real difference between it and the easily removed Nebula.

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The Interchange Nebula’s are priced around $50 – $55 depending on the shop. The price is fairly in line with the better bolt-on fenders on the planet but offers the versatility of super quick removal for sunny days or for just putting your bike in the trunk after a late night at work.

This article was submitted by Miriam Gee, our homie over in Hawaii. You remember Miriam, don’t you? Well, she’s brought her brand of humor to bear on a topic of great interest to many of us: encouraging more women to join us as we ride our bikes to work. Take a look at Miriam’s irreverent, yet eminently useful, advice:

All my Cycle Ladies, all my Cycle Ladies! Why is it that members of the better half of humanity are less likely to make commuter trips by bikes than those possessing Y chromosomes? Perhaps it is our aversion to tight-fitting clothing, getting a tan, and the hot pink bike jersey. (Whoops! Wrong kind of Jersey…) By politely barraging the inboxes of my female co-workers, family, and friends, I uncovered the three top reasons why (some) women (I know) in America might PUNK OUT of bike commuting! From Seattle, Honolulu, Sacramento, New York City, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Columbus, Vancouver B.C., and San Clemente: meet me at the mall… it’s going DOWN.

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Armed with science, nonsense, and bribery, this post is inspired by Alan Snel’s original Top Ten Bike Commuting Myths – BUSTED posted last year. Let’s bust some mythical creatures.

1. Nasty Girl – stringy hair, red in the face, swampy crotch, changing clothes, pit stains, and all around fear of unlady-like stank. Seems that males and females alike both fear the ultimate sweaty walk of shame in the morning in front of your coworkers. Take this response from Emily S. in Columbus, OH: “My office mates are too immature and the male officemates are too gross for me to ever consider allowing them to see me in sweaty riding apparel. Seriously, I don’t even wear skinny jeans around these sickos.” But the bike commuter “Nasty Girl” walk of shame can actually better your career and attract a mate! Consider this wonky logic: sweaty face, glowing skin, and pit stains are signs of a good work out and a healthy lifestyle! Why else would human anatomy continue to spray pheromones out of your armpits!? You will be considered the most fit, the most progressive, and the most fearless Cycle Lady commuter at your workplace when you arrive with a fanfare of glistening sweat and pheromone fireworks each morning!

Still unconvinced?

Solution: Witch Hazel. Mad shout out to Chad Taniguchi from HBL who hooked it up with this tip! Not everyone needs to shower after their bike commuter, just bring a change of clothes, some toiletries or baby wipes and you are ready to talk to corporate! eat a bagel! remember birthdays! promote synergy! Erase that swamp crotch like sham-WOW!

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2. Scaredy Cat – low confidence on two wheels, intimidated by spandex warriors, don’t know local bike safety rules or are afraid of riding in traffic. Take Cecile R. from San Luis Obispo, CA who may cop out of a ride cause sometimes she doesn’t like “competing with boy bikers and their man legs.” Ladies, bike commuters are not terrorists. If I can do it, anyone can ride a bike with confidence! I assure you, as I am the female equivalent of Greg from Diary of a Wimpy Kid or more accurately: Daria. After a couple of months on a beater commuter franken-bike, I became as confident as any fourth grader on a bmx… Cycle Ladies can definitely hang with boy bikers, like this story from LGRAB. Don’t be scurred, ride it and own the road like Shy Ronnie owns the mic.

Still need more?

Solution: Look online for “Smart Cycling” classes offered by instructors approved by the League of American Bicyclists that teach how to ride your bike with skill and confidence. Ride with an experienced friend. Be predictable and be bold! You don’t need testosterone or liquid confidence to ride…. bike commuting is fun, and so easy, any human being can do it!

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3. Da Broke Phi Broke – no cash to buy a sweet bike, no cash for a tune up, and no cash for bike commuting essentials. Cash flow DOWN like the economy? Caela B. and Trixie C. are self-proclaimed members of Broke Phi Broke in Seattle, WA, don’t own bikes and think they are too expensive. Wellwz, Cycle Ladies: things can’t be that bad if you have money for a gym membership, gas, car registration, car payments, parking pass, bus pass, running shoes, or a commuter llama. Look, I’m no math expert; math and writing are my weaknesses, but somewhere in my Chinese genetics, I know that bike commuting is saving me loads of cash money vs. driving a car or taking a bus. While saving money on your bills, invest in that first bike and roll up feeling independent! With the bike, no more waiting for the bus, or waiting for parking, or waiting in traffic! Bike commuter freedom for less cash than a car. If we asked Ms. Beyonce, she’d tell em “The bike I’m riding, I BOUGHT IT, cause I depend on me!”

Still super-broke beyond all reason?

Solution: Like Alan Snel says, borrow a bike. When I first showed up in town, I contacted the Hawaii Bicycling League and borrowed the director’s beater mountain bike for free! Check on Craigslist for families moving out of town who need to clean out the garage, or ask friends for one to borrow. Last but not least, if you’re uber broke and unemployed, with free time on your hands you can volunteer at local Bicycle Collective non-profits, where you can usually build a franken-bike out of donated parts and used bicycles. Voila, custom ride for zero dinero.

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So, if this post and Alan Snel still doesn’t convince you that bike commuting is too easy for all humans, perhaps you share opinions with some of my friends. Here are some of the most hilarious reasons not to bike from the survey:

1. Maybe I want to pick up a mocha latte on the way to work (don’t judge me)
2. I don’t prefer to shower and get ready at work…cuz you know Shorty’s going to be sweating after an hour bike ride
3. Shitty tube-changing skills, backed up by no public transportation along the route I take to work = too many opportunities for my ass to get stranded in the boonies.
4. Bikes are banned from drive-thrus, and the only way I could really convince myself to ride into work would be the promise of a daily McGriddles fix. Too lazy to lock up the bike and walk into McD’s. Need to roll and eat.
5. That is a big ass hill I’d have to climb (in my opinion) and I’m afraid of having a heart attack.
6. The only people that ride bikes are crackheads, and I don’t want people to think I am a crackhead.

It’s always baffled me why more men are willing to throw on some spandies and fancy footwear than women in the world of cycling and bike commuting. Hopefully this post will make you laugh, and realize that biking is easy and fun for women… Cycle Ladies represent!

Editor’s note: We were happy to meet Joe Breeze on the show floor at Interbike 2010. We had already spoken with him via email about doing an “e-interview” for Bikecommuters.com, and he was very receptive to the idea. Despite a very crowded and active display booth at Interbike, Joe was gracious enough to spend about 45 minutes chatting with us…he is extremely passionate and knowledgeable about the bicycles he develops and rides and was a pleasure to spend time with. Special thanks go to Paul Tolmé, public relations guru at TRUE Communications for help introducing us to Joe and helping us prepare some worthwhile interview questions. Let’s kick this baby off:

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It is no overstatement to say that Joe Breeze is one of the most influential bicyclists of the modern era. In the 1970s he and a group of buddies including Gary Fisher, Tom Ritchie and other icons of the sport took to the hills of Marin County, California, and began racing so-called clunkers—heavy Schwinn paperboy bikes that they beefed up and retrofitted with motorcycle parts and junk shop finds. In 1977, Breeze built what is recognized to be the first brand new mountain bike. Others soon followed, and a new sport was born that has spread to all corners of the globe. While modern mountain bikes look nothing like modern transportation bikes, the early mountain bikes gained popularity partly because they were far more practical and comfortable to ride than the ubiquitous 10-speed racers of the era. And those early mountain bikes introduced a new generation to the joys of bike riding. A decade ago, after 20 years of building mountain bikes, Breeze stunned his industry colleagues by deciding to focus his attention on building the best American commuter bikes. This seems an obvious choice today due to the recent explosion in popularity of transportation bikes, but a decade ago it was a bold and forward-thinking move that cemented Breeze’s reputation as one of the fathers of the American commuter bike movement.

Today, Breezers are recognized as among the best American commuter bikes, having won Bicycling Magazine’s Editor’s Choice award for best commuter bike three years running. Breeze still lives in the Bay Area’s Marin County, near his boyhood home in Mill Valley. He now lives in neighboring Fairfax, where he works from a shop in his home and still gets out to ride the trails around Mt Tamalpais where he and a rowdy bunch of bicycle enthusiasts forever changed the sport of cycling.

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(Joe “killin’ it” at Repack back in the dawn of mountain biking)

1. Please give us a little background on your history, particularly your involvement with transportation-oriented bicycle development.

I’ve been an intercity bike traveler since 1965 when as a fifth grader I rode with neighborhood friends to the local bowling alley, 14 miles round trip. It was with a great sense of accomplishment that we crested the 300-foot hill along the way and made it home under our own power. By 14 and 15 years old I was going on rides of over a hundred miles, to get to places like Lake Tahoe and the southern Sierra Nevada. In 1971 I took a ride through Europe with a dozen friends. Before leaving I perused my library’s phonebooks for my European cycling heroes so I could seek them out. I was fortunate enough to meet Cino Cinelli at his factory in Milan. In the Netherlands I had my eyes opened wide by the practical bicycle infrastructure. Seeing cycling there, how intrinsic it was to everyday life for people of all ages, was a lifelong inspiration. Short of hope for immediate success of the same in America, I buried myself in road racing, which I saw as a first step in getting out the secret of cycling: that right here in America bikes can provide joy and travel in our everyday living. I also started building custom-built road-racing frames in 1974. The foray my friends and I took into what became known as mountain biking was at first just an off-season diversion from road racing. In 1977 I built what is recognized as the first successful all-new mountain bike. For the next twenty years I focused on my Breezer mountain bikes.
Mountain biking got a lot more Americans onto bikes, and many of these new cyclists realized that bikes could be used for more than just fun in the woods. In the latter part of the 1990s and early 2000s I worked with our local bike coalition to make Marin County a model for bicycle transportation for adults and school children. I knew that good infrastructure was key to transforming transportation choices here, but at the same time I saw that the US was sorely lacking in bikes equipped for everyday life. In 2002, I re-formed Breezer as a company focused entirely on transportation bikes. I designed a line of fully equipped bikes and went out to convince the industry that transportation bikes were the future. At first, many people thought I was crazy to turn away from a successful career designing recreational bikes, but I felt that transportation bikes were vital to this country’s health.

2. Our readers are well familiar with the benefits of transportation bicycling for healthier communities, healthier lives and affordable, sustainable transportation. Tell us how you incorporate transportation cycling into your life in Marin, California.

I do not have my own car, so I use a bike to get most places I go locally. Actually I did that for most of my life even when I did own a car. (I didn’t get a driver’s license until I was 25.) It wasn’t until the 1990s that I had a bike that was fully equipped with rack, fenders, lights, etc. and I realized how easy that made it to ride still more and drive still less. My wife has a car and I do drive it sometimes. My own car eventually started mulching in the front yard; a few years back we realized we might as well get rid of it.

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3. In 2008 you sold Breezer Bicycles to Advanced Sports International, which also owns Fuji and several other brands. How has your role changed now that Breezer Bicycles is under the ASI banner, and do you still have a free hand in design, specification and development?

I am still with Breezer as designer. The association with ASI has freed me from all of the details of running a company and allowed me to concentrate on design and product development. I don’t have the same level of control over all details of every finished product, but I’m able to do many more projects and create many more bikes, than when I had my own company. I am continuing with transportation bikes, for Europe as well as the US, and I’m also doing mountain and road bikes again.

4. What emerging technologies do you see playing a larger role in transportational cycling’s future? I’m thinking of belt drives and other alternative drivetrain systems, in particular. What else looks promising?

As the secret of everyday biking is getting out in America I see a lot of growth for cycling in the coming years. New cyclists tend to appreciate things that make cycling easier, so internally-geared hubs like Shimano’s Nexus series of low-maintenance, easy-to-shift transmissions are becoming quite popular. New technology is inspiring. I myself was certainly inspired by the Nexus hub; I saw it as an opening to introduce a Netherlands-type cycling lifestyle to the US. I first spec’ed a bike with the Nexus 7 hub in 1996 (the Breezer Ignaz X); then I designed my Breezer Town bikes around Nexus hubs in the early 2000s. The 2011 Breezer Uptown Infinity (∞) has the NuVinci transmission hub with infinitely variable ratios. NuVinci is even easier to shift. People have asked for a fully automatic bicycle transmission forever, and this NuVinci hub will develop into a game changer. Though bicycles have remained fairly constant for a century or so, the bicycle of tomorrow could be quite different.

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(Joe presenting a bicycle to San Francisco’s Mayor Gavin Newsom)

5. Breezer now has several electric bikes. What’s your take on electric and pedal-assist e-bikes? Any plans to add more electric systems to the Breezer commuter line?

Electric bikes will see much broader appeal too. Of course we hope to offer more here as well.

6. The U.S. seems to be lagging far behind other countries in our adoption of cycling as a valid form of transportation. What are the top policy changes that our government and nation can make to get more people on bikes?

Level the playing field: Reduce car-driving subsidies, most of which the public is unaware of. Make motorists pay more of the full cost of driving. Current gasoline taxation does not come close to paying these costs. This gap ends up robbing funding for better things like education. When there are healthier, more enjoyable ways to get around, why give a false sense of the cost of driving?

7. Do you have any tips or insights for beginning commuters or those looking to reduce their reliance on automobiles?

1) Get a fully equipped bike. At minimum it should have a kickstand, rack, full fenders, chainguard and generator lights. Without the full bill, it’s too easy to find an excuse not to ride: It might get dark. The roads might get wet. I might need to carry something, etc.; 2) Get clothes that make riding more comfortable in a broader range of weather. 3) At first, just getting past your front door may be the biggest obstacle. Once beyond though, you may wonder why it seemed so difficult.

8. We are currently in a recession and the nation faces high unemployment. Do you see a future for more Made in the USA bicycles, and can a more vibrant bike culture in the United States create jobs and help our desire for a more sustainable economy?

Certainly. Bicycling is a growth market with a huge future around the globe. The US is a leader in new technologies, some of which will be applied to bikes.

9. Have you signed the People for Bikes petition, and do you feel it is an important statement for bicyclists to join?

Yes. Make your voice heard. Doing so is a tenet of a functioning democracy.

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(Joe riding with his son’s mountain bike team from Drake High School)

We’d like to thank Joe Breeze for sharing his thoughts with us…it’s not every day that we get to rub shoulders with someone SO influential in the bike commuting world, and we’re happy we made his acquaintance. To learn more about the Breezer Bikes lineup, swing on over to their website — you’ll be glad you did!

Our friend Andreas of the excellent site London Cyclist submitted the following article — we’re all very eager to hear your thoughts on this issue:

They say any publicity is good publicity. However, for cycling there are three frequently heard news pieces that frustrate those of us who are already cyclists and discourage those of us who want to become cyclists. You’ve probably seen these in some newspapers before but feel free to add any in the comments.

Cyclists are a menace
In the UK there was recently a debate around the subject: “cyclists are a menace?. The opposition discussed how cyclists speed through red lights, cause danger to pedestrians and slow down traffic.

Of course the statistics show that cyclists only cause a tiny number of injuries to pedestrians compared to the injuries caused by cars. For example of the 204 people killed on London’s roads last year none were caused by a cyclist.

Based on personal experiences of cycling I would say the amount of anti-social cyclists is small. I would think there were far greater problems to tackle than a cyclist bumping up and down a pavement on a rare occasion.

Cycling is unsafe
This is another highly favoured angle in news articles. Of course with newspapers doing their best to constantly remind us about the dangers of cycling people start to believe it. The truth is there is a lot a cyclist can do to make it safer for themselves such as keeping a prominent position on the road. Training can help make cycling even safer. If you couple this with good cycling infrastructure then the dangers are slim to none.

The chances are more likely that by cycling you will prolong your life rather than end it short. Of course this angle is not quite as thrilling for many newspapers.

A bike was involved in an accident with a car
Generally this sentence should read a car hit a cyclist. Recent research has shown that in the vast majority of cases (93%) the cyclist is not to blame for the accident. Yet, in newspapers it is a rarity for the article to hint towards blaming the motorist. Often instead it is reported a mutual role had to be played by the motorist and cyclist in the accident.

In some cycle friendly countries such as the Netherlands in an accident involving a car and a cyclist the blame is automatically placed on the car unless proved otherwise. This doesn’t mean cyclists end up cycling around like crazy it means cars are extra careful because they know they don’t have the law on their side.

Could 2010 be the end of it?
I know that cyclists are not angels floating around with haloes circling their heads — which I realise is how I may have come across in this article. We too are guilty of bad cycling, not showing enough courtesy to other road users and skipping red lights. The major difference is that when cyclists do it the negative effects on those around us are far smaller than those caused when motorists are irresponsible.

With that in mind I’m hoping the bad press cyclists get decreases because it is discouraging new cyclists from getting involved. Maybe it can be a new years resolution for newspapers?

I would really like to hear what everyone else thinks. Do you agree / disagree? Is there any other negative publicity you wouldn’t mind seeing the back of?

Thanks, Andreas…now let’s hear what YOU think about this undeserved negative publicity.