Guest Articles

Guest Author: Cycling Merit Badge, Boy Scouts of America, By Shane Stock

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

Anatomy of a Multi-Modal Commute By Alan Barnard

Alan Barnard is back again with another Guest Article…

I recently transitioned from a mix of telecommuting and car commuting, to multi-modal commuting using bike, bus, and train. In the process we eliminated a car and we’ll cut our annual automobile mileage by approximately 75%.

I’m fortunate that my monthly transit pass is valid on city commuter buses, county commuter buses, and Amtrak commuter trains and motor coaches. These options make it possible to start my commute as early as 5 a.m. and finish as late as 7 p.m. To come and go at convenient times for my changing work schedule, I often mix it up, taking the rain in the morning and the bus back in the evening, or vice versa. It’s been a real adventure, trying out all the options, figuring out where, when, and how to fold and stow the Brompton to make the various connections required to complete my 60 mile round-trip.

Here’s one example of a typical commute day:


* Out the door at 6:40 a.m., ride 5 miles to the Amtrak station.
* Board the train at 7:05.
* Depending upon whether the bike rack is full or not, either load the bike into the rack, or fold it up and carry it upstairs and place it between a pair of seat backs.
* Arrive at the downtown station at 7:35.
* Unfold the bike, exit the train, and ride the 6 blocks to the office.
* Bikes are not allowed in the front entrance of the building, so partially fold the bike and roll it in as a “cart?.
* Take it up the elevator to my work area, finish folding it and stow it under the desk.
* Get cleaned up and start work before 8:00.


* Partially unfold the bike into “cart? mode. Exit down the elevator and out the front door by 4:00 p.m.
* Completely unfold the bike and ride 10 blocks uptown to intercept the commuter bus where it first comes into downtown. Doing so gets me on the bus ahead of the busiest stops near the capitol where it quickly turns into standing room only.
* Fold and cover the bike to put it in “stealth? mode for the bus. Get on the bus at 4:15 and take a seat near the front where there’s room to stow the bike.
* Chill for an hour.
* Arrive in the suburbs at 5:15.
* Exit the bus, unfold the bike, and ride the 5 miles to the house.
* Get cleaned up and sit down to dinner before 6:00.

“No Bikes Allowed? : Ha!

This may all sound like a lot of work, but actually I find it quite enjoyable. It’s a great way to get in an hour’s worth of low intensity exercise every day, and the downtime on the train/bus helps me to unwind from 8-9 hours of intense work on the computer. Overall I’m spending an extra 40-45 minutes on the road, but 60 minutes of my total travel time is on the bike which in my mind doesn’t count, so I’ve actually gained a net 15 minutes. Plus, my old two-hour round-trip commute by car only added to my daily stress quotient; now I look forward to my commute and arrive relaxed and refreshed, which, even without the other benefits, makes it well worth the effort.

Guest Article: Coaster Brakes, by Shane Stock of Oso Bike

Shane Stock of OSO Bike riding his Coaster Brake Bike.

If you were a kid during the seventies, you may remember the old Schwinn Stingrays–they had banana seats, and thick tires in the back for skidding. My friends and I used to ride those bikes around all summer and we were pretty hard on them. We would race them around the bumpy dirt trails of the vacant lots in the little town of Othello, Washington. We would make ramps out of boards and cinder blocks to make our bikes fly. Or we would go to the elementary school and go under the monkey bars, Then we would grab the bars and let our bikes go flying out into the lawn. The bikes were pretty much all singlespeeds with coaster brakes. I do not recall ever having a coaster brake go bad, which I think is remarkable considering the abuse they took.

Schwinn World that I fixed up from the flea market.

If you go to Asia you will see a lot more adults riding bikes, and many of them are riding singlespeeds with coaster brakes. Why do coaster brakes seem less popular in the U.S.? Some of it has to do with the fact that 10-speeds have become popular, and it is not possible to have a conventional 10-speed with coaster brakes. If a person rides around on a 10-speed with caliper brakes for 10 years, he gets so used to the caliper brakes, that it feels weird to go back to coaster brakes.

Cruiser that I bought from Walmart for about $100, then spent another $100 modernizing it. It already had a coaster brake, but I changed the crank to a higher ratio.

I have always liked singlespeed coaster brake set ups. The places I have lived have been fairly flat, so I don’t need all the gears. If I hit a hill that is too steep I just zig-zag up it, which has the same effect as gearing up. I like coaster brakes for the following reasons:

1. They almost never require maintenance or adjustment. And, contrary to what some people believe, they can be serviced if needed (which is almost never).

2. They don’t make any sound when you are coasting (no tick-tick-tick “fishing reel” sound that you get with other setups).

3.Your foot is always on the brake. With caliper brakes you sometimes have to move your hand to a different position to grab the brake lever.

4. You don’t have the risk of braking too hard on the front wheel and flipping over, which happened to me one time and wasn’t fun.

5. They do not get wet and slide when it is raining.

Another Schwinn World from the flea market. I had to buy another bike for $20 just to get the handlebars (threw the bike away, saved the handle bars).

For more information about OSO Bikes or coaster brakes, check out

Guest Article: My $10 Bike Rack, By Derek Pearson

You may have seen Derek’s review of the Big Bag. Well he’s at it again and this one is super practical!

My bike rack. Cost <$10 Apparently my sweet sweet wife got tired of riding bikes, skating hills and just goofing off in general all the time (I have no problem with this, but she is a little more industrious than I am) and went back to work part time. Being a dental hygienist, she has pretty flexible options and it sounds like she's only going to go back one or two days a week, so I'm allowing it..... She is enjoying being productive so far, but a big drawback is that the way the office is situated, there's no real place to park her bike! This will never do, so we came up with a solution - pull out the old bike rack. xtracycle comes through again!

I ride in with her, then haul the bike home, then ride back into work in the afternoon with the bike and we ride home together. This is what we did when she worked full time before, except she had a place to park her bike at that office.

The plan in action –

The original use intended for this bike rack was to haul my mtn bike to our beautiful singletrack in Capitol Forest, but I put it together right about when rainy season(seriously muddy trails) started and haven’t had a chance to use it for that yet. Test ride way back then

I have had a chance to use it a few times(but not for it’s intended purpose) and there’s usually a few that ask how it is made.


I am not telling/advising/instructing anyone to build one of these. It could be very dangerous and expensive(if you lost a bike). I’m merely showing how I built mine. It works like a charm for me- I am a professional(slacker) and an experienced bicycle rider. This rack is not tested for safety by any safety testing commissions and is not approved by safety nannies. There is a bit of skill required in riding this setup and without it, there is a very good chance of injury, dismemberment, loss of bike parts and/or death. If you take it upon yourself to build one, you agree to take responsibility for your own actions.

Parts list(all home depot)

8 nails–a few cents
25 or so small velcro straps– $2.00 or so for a giant roll
2 62″ 2×4’s –$1.00 apiece out of the scrap bin
1 24″ yard sign stake — $1.00 or so

I could have spent more to make it look better, but for this project I just wanted something that was cheap and worked.

Set my bike on the wideloaders, about how I wanted it to sit

I set the 2×4’s on either side of the tires. I wanted the heaviest part of the bike being hauled closest to the center of the bike doing the hauling. I also needed to put it as far out on the wideloaders as it
would go to leave room for pedaling(on my other bike, not this one) Counterweights on the other side were required.

Measured the distance between the 2×4’s and also where the wideloader starts and ends on the 2×4. Marked on the 2×4’s where the front tire was going to rest(bike being hauled)

Cut the yard stake pieces to size, nailed the 2×4’s together with them on the 4 spots measured above. DONE

Put the rack back on the bike, then used the velcro strips to attach the rack to the wideloaders


Pre bike load

Crosspieces here on the rear, tied down with velcro


Crosspiece placement to hold the front wheel

I put the inside pedal on the high spot, this actually will hold the bike in place while standing still. Put a cinch strap over the top and hooked it to the wideloaders on either side. Takes about 3 seconds to load a bike on/take off.

Pedal placement

Added awesomeness factor- The cranks are a little shorter for this bike than my mtn bike, so when the pedal rests on the snapdeck, the front tire doesn’t actually touch the bottom of the rack. So it spins while I’m riding. SWEET!!

Loaded and ready to roll.

Unloads in 2.4 seconds but still looks cool just keeping the rack on there?

Guest Article: An Electrifying Commute, by Jim Tolar

Last week, I began riding my new commute bike, a GT Transeo, to work. My new bike allows me to get off the streets with their heavy traffic, and onto the local canal system, which is almost unused. My route to work is along the canal bank on the irrigation canal that runs E-W, between Elliot and Guadalupe, in Mesa, Arizona. I ride almost 4 miles on the canal before I cut South to Elliot for the final mile or so on the road. The canal portion is traffic-free, quiet, and quite pleasant except for one annoying phenomenon. As I ride to and from work I get occasional, fairly sharp electrical shocks, normally to one of my legs at the inside of the thigh, just below my shorts (sometimes the left leg, sometimes the right, sometimes one then soon after, the other). These shocks are sharp enough that the first few times it happened, I thought a bee had stung me, or that I had jabbed a bare bike cable end into my thigh. This happens at least once or twice on each ride, and has had me groping for some kind of explanation. No bees, no bare cable ends, no debris being kicked up by my tires and hitting me in the legs, no residual marks to indicate injury. A couple of times, I’ve reached down right after this has happened and felt an electrical shock to my finger or hand.

This has happened frequently enough that I am certain it’s not my imagination. After a week of this, I finally figured out what was going on. It’s a practical demonstration of the physical laws that govern many of the machines we take for granted around us.

My route on the canal banks runs parallel to, and about 50 feet directly under, the high-voltage transmission lines that share the right-of-way with the canal and distribute power throughout much of the East Valley in Phoenix. These lines produce a sizable electro-magnetic field (EMF), which is one of the reasons they’re in this right-of-way to begin with. It is well known that a conductor moving through an electric field will generate an induced electric current. This is one of the operating principles behind power transformers, motors, and generators.

My bike frame, as it moves through the EMF generated by the power lines, has an induced electric current (stored in the “loop” that the frame makes). The frame is isolated from earth ground by the tires. It is also isolated from me by the rubber-covered pedals, my running shoe soles, the rubber handlebar grips, and the insulated seat. As I move down the canal, a potential difference gradually builds up between me and the frame. The magnitude of the potential diffeence is a function of speed through the field, the strength of the EMF of the lines, and a secondary function of the humidity (high humidity allows charge to leak away more easily). As the potential builds, eventually some body part (usually the inside of one of my legs) gets close enough to some pointy part of the frame, like a nut or something on the down-tube (static field energy dissipates over long, smooth surfaces, and can concentrate at sharp points) , and ZAP! A shock jumps and equalizes the bike frame and me.

So, in order to prevent this phenomenon, I need to make sure that my body and my bike frame keep at the same potential while riding through the EMF. If I do so, no shocks should occur. I can do that by making sure some part of my body has direct contact with the frame always, or at least frequently enough to keep the potential difference less than the “jump” energy. To test this, this morning on the way in I rode with my thumb off the rubber handlebar grip and resting on the handlebar itself. Nary a shock, for the first time in 5 days.

It also turns out that if I simply ride on the side of the canal opposite the power lines, that added distance is enough to reduce the potential difference build-up to the point where the invisible bees that have been plaguing my otherwise enjoyable commute have gone in search of other victims.