BikeCommuters.com

Travels and Adventures

Honolulu Century Ride Approaches: Heat stroke anyone?

Aloha two-wheeled commuters… Just a reminder to all those reading from the mainland, Japan, and Hawaii that the annual Honolulu Century Ride is on our tails!  The ride is coming up at butt-crack of dawn next Sunday, September 25, 2011 (butt-crack = 5:45am for open ceremonies).  With over 2000 riders each year, 30 HBL friendship ride leaders, and a buttload of volunteers (that’s right, I said it. Buttload.) the HBL century ride is equivalent to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for cyclists on Oahu.  Okay, maybe a really really long parade and without balloons.

Apparently it's the 30th anniversary of 100 miles of iron okoles.

The route stretches from Kapiolani Park all the way to Chinaman’s Hat on the windward side and back.  Turn around points are at 20, 25, 50, 75, and 100-mile markers; it’s really a ride for everyone!  I’ll be volunteering putting up and taking down signage for the ride in my BikeCommuters.com tee shirt, so come say “hi” if your in HI for the ride.

HILLS! yes, we have them!

I might add that this is a COMICAL parade of bicycling awesomeness ranging from insane riders from Japan – about half of the riders fly in from Japan just for this course – which results in some crazy cycling outfits.  Last year I saw dude dressed up as the jolly green giant and a woman wearing a jersey and a skort printed to look like denim. Kids and families come out for the ride too since it is a very safe and fun day to ride for everyone.  I saw a family on a five person tandem (what the heck is that called anyway, a five-dem?) bike.  The smallest kid was such a peanut that it looked like there were only four on the bike with an empty seat!  There were teams from Texas, Nebraska, Idaho – you name it.  My comical event last year included throwing up HEED out of my nose and mouth… Heat stroke took me down YET AGAIN since – apparently – I am incapable of riding any significant distance past 11:30am in Honolulu.  AND it was overcast…sigh.  I made it to 90-mile turnaround point (we made this one up since I wasn’t about to make it to 100) and considered that enough puking for the day.

It was a bike like this, but blue, with uhh, three fetuses and two full grown humans on it. In MATCHING outfits!! WHAT!?

Also, to note: the Zach Manago Ride in Paradise resulted in tons of camaraderie with first names written on the back of all rider bib number thingies… you could shout out to people and chat on the ride, or let people know if you were passing.  (During the Honolulu Century Ride, listen up for the Japanese riders “on your Reft” …so cute!)  HBL has recruited 30 volunteer riders to act as friendship leaders, to encourage groups to ride together and regroup at each rest stop.    The idea is to promote “bike-friendly Hawaii” as Zach Manago’s dream.   Maybe everyone will swap emails at the end – you could meet your future ex-spouse or next best friend on the ride.  I have made friends commuting before, but that’s more of a regular sightings than one-off event.

Click on the image to watch a sweet vid from our friends in Japan - Century Ride 2010!

I’ve never done one of these anywhere else, but I can say that despite the cluster-eff at the beginning of the race (still dark outside with 2000 peeps and 4000 wheels, that’s a lot of wheels) – the ride is funtastic with awesome views.  Even if I’m just proving to myself that I don’t need a car to make it to the other side of the island: as long as I have my bike, a lot of water, and commiserating friends!  I know several cities offer some type of century ride, any other BikeCommuters readers hit the saddle for that long?  Thumbs-up or Thumbs-down to riding with 2000+people?  Hit us up in the COMMENTS.  Catch you later, cycle gators!

A Visit to the Bicycle Museum of America

Ladies and gentlemen, I have found the holy land…and it exists in the quaint Germanic-heritage town of New Bremen, Ohio. A few weeks ago, my family and I made the trek to New Bremen to visit the Bicycle Museum of America, and I wanted to share some of the sights with you.

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The Museum got its start in 1997, when Jim Dicke III, president of Crown Equipment Corporation, purchased the Schwinn family’s personal collection of bicycles and bike memorabilia in Chicago during the family’s bankruptcy proceedings. Dicke moved the collection to New Bremen and established this incredible facility not long after. The Museum covers the entire range of bicycle history, from draisiennes all the way to modern road racing machines and everything in between. The museum’s collection is somewhere around 300 bicycles on display at any one time, with a rotating stable of over 1000 to choose from. The building is packed to the gills with bikes, tools, memorabilia, historical artifacts and so much more — it almost defies the imagination.

“Why Ohio?”, you may ask, and that’s a good question…one I posed to the staffpeople I met there. The more I thought and heard about it, the more it made sense…after all, two very famous bicycle builders/sellers made their home about 40 miles to the southeast. Also, a number of legendary bicycle companies were based in the general area, including the Davis Sewing Machine Company, which is better known to bike historians as the company that produced Huffy bicycles. In addition, the Cleveland Welding Company produced bikes we all know and love by the brand name of “Roadmaster”. You may also know that online bike retail giant Bike Nashbar is based in Ohio. And, the state is crisscrossed with bike paths, trails and quiet country roads and is a surprising hotbed of bicycle action…who knew?

Well, onto the collection. As I mentioned earlier, there is every flavor of two-wheeled contraption on offer here at the Museum…something to tickle the fancy of every bike lover. For example, wooden bikes have become all the rage in the past few years, with a number of high-end manufacturers making stunning machines. The wooden bike isn’t a new idea, though, and the museum has a number of them on display:

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Notice the stunning chromed bracing on the bike in the foreground, and the brass bracing on the hickory-framed bike in back. Both of these vintage machines sandwich a gorgeous Renovo made just a couple of years ago…what’s old is new again in the bike world!

You like highwheelers? The Bicycle Museum of America has you covered, with dozens of models to gaze upon. Here’s one from 1882:

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The Museum even has a highwheeler mounted to a roller system so that we could try one out. Here’s Mrs. Ghost Rider enjoying her time aboard this giant pennyfarthing:

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Over the past years, a number of bike-friendly websites have extolled the virtues of studded tires for winter riding…and that’s nothing new either. Check out this amazing icebike from 1901, with a sled front end and massive spikes on the back wheel to dig in to the cold stuff:

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The Schwinn family had a giant personal collection of bikes…seemingly an example of every model they produced. The Museum has many of them on display, including this group:

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Ignaz Schwinn’s family tandem is on display here as well…with a little “baby basket” for a wee Schwinn:

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Schwinn made track bikes way back when, with their chromed Paramounts being coveted both then and now by serious collectors. Here’s one from 1937…and just above it is Frank Schwinn’s personal track bike (another Paramount, of course):

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Perhaps the most popular Schwinn of all time was the Black Phantom, dreamed about by kids from the 50s as the ultimate cruiser. Of course the Museum has a pristine copy on display, and I can completely understand why these were so popular:

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There were a couple bikes for the bike commuters amongst us, too…imagine gliding through morning traffic on this badboy, rifle at the ready to fend off wayward pedestrians and angry motorists. Actually, this is a military bike (with a Swiss Army bicyle in the background):

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Here’s something unusual in one of display cases in the Museum — another accessory that may come in handy on the daily commute. You think Planet Bike should resurrect a thing like this?

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Bicycle headbadges are a popular collector’s item, and the Museum has several cases full of them. Here’s a shot of part of one of the cases, with badges old and new on display:

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Recognize THIS bike?

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The Pee Wee bike was a special treat for me, as one of my Tampa neighbors and I watched the Ebay auction for this very bike a few years ago…we’re both big Pee Wee Herman fans, and we were blown away by how high the price went ($20K+, as I recall). It was wonderful to see this bike in person years later.

Perhaps one of my favorite bikes of all time is the Bowden Spacelander…a monocoque fiberglass beauty that captures every design aesthetic in the Streamline Age. Of course, the Museum has two of them on display, and they were both gorgeous:

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There’s no shame in owning a car…especially if it is a pedal-powered dream machine like this one. The Museum let my son and I take this four-wheeler for a spin around the third floor, and it was a blast:

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Got big thighs and a hankering for speed? The Museum has you covered…252 gear inches worth. This is a replica of the bike Alf Letourner sped to a world record 108.92 MPH in 1941:

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There is so much more to share — I took nearly 150 photographs, and I could have spent a week inside the building, gazing into cases and trying out some of the displays. The Museum staff was incredibly knowledgeable and friendly, even offering us restaurant recommendations at the end of our tour. I wholeheartedly recommend a trip here if you’re in the area — there is truly something for every bikey fan out there contained within this facility. For the rest of my photos of the Museum, please swing on over to my Flickr stream to take a look. We will return to the Museum soon…the rotating display means that there will be something new for us to enjoy on our next visit!

A Visit to the Wright Cycle Company

The Dayton, Ohio area is rich in aviation history…you may have heard of two brothers named Orville and Wilbur who were credited with inventing and flying the first successful airplane back in 1903. Those brothers, the Wrights, did all their design work and much of their testing right here in Dayton. And do you know where they did their inventing and brainstorming, fabrication and planning? That’s right, their bicycle shop…in addition to a number of other businesses, the Wright Brothers built their own line of bicycles and were able to fund their aviation experiments using the proceeds from their bike shops. Also, they recruited their shop employee/mechanic, Charlie Taylor, to help fabricate parts and the first motors used in their flying endeavors. So, it’s fair to say that bicycles were partially responsible for aviation as we know it!

The Wright Cycle Company occupied five different storefronts, most roughly within a block or two of each other, and only one remains in its original location at 22 South Williams Street in downtown Dayton. That location is part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Park, and I took a trip there a few weeks ago to take photos to share with you. Let’s take a look at the shop, shall we?

The Wright Cycle Company is part of the Dayton Aviation Park complex, which also contains an interpretive center, a replica of the Wright Brothers’ printing shop and a memorial to noted African-American poet and essayist Paul Laurence Dunbar. Dunbar was a childhood friend and neighbor of the Wrights, and he wrote and edited a newspaper printed by the Wrights in their printshop.

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The Wright Cycle Company as it appears today:
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The inside of the shop serves both as a replica of how the shop would have been set up back in the late 1890s as well as providing interpretive displays covering early bicycle history. Here, the sales counter has been recreated to appear as it might have when the shop was open for bicycle sales:

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As with any decent bike shop, the mechanic’s area is prominent. Here, in addition to building and repairing bikes, mechanic Charlie Taylor also spent some time fabricating parts for the first airplanes. The shop’s repair area has been faithfully recreated with period tools and machines:

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Here’s a case full of tools and accessories…the types of items a savvy bike-shop owner would encourage his customers to buy as part of the bike deal:

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This is a price list of the top-of-the-line model the Wright Cycle Company produced, the “Van Cleve” (named after a family friend). The “St. Clair” was a less-expensive model, and from what I recall, there was one other model produced by the brothers:

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For more detail of the price list, please visit the Wright Brothers Aviation virtual museum page here.

Here’s a reproduction of one of the advertisements for the Van Cleve. Van Cleves came in black or red, but custom colors were available for an extra fee:

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You’ll be pleased to know that if you choose to ride your bike to the shop, the National Park Service has provided whimsical bike racks for visitors:

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Now, here’s a bit of history on the bikes themselves: when I first moved to Dayton, I was told by a bike-collecting friend that there were no known existing Wright Bros. bikes. I found that a bit surprising, so I asked the park ranger who led my tour about that. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there are FIVE known bikes out there…one at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, two at Carillon Park here in Dayton, one at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan…and one other in a location I cannot recall. I’ve seen the one at the Air Force Museum with my own eyes, and it’s a beauty. I found it a bit disappointing that this Wright Cycle Co. shop only has replicas of the bikes, not the “real thing”. But, I have to say that the replicas are stunning as well.

I heartily recommend a visit to the Wright Cycle Company if you’re in the area…as well as the associated interpretive centers at the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Park complex. Visiting here reminds me of how bicycles have the power to change the world for the better.

Task Force Chicago: Vacation Commuting with Bike and Roll!

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Info Recon - Chicago Bike Map!

Gone are the days of last week, when two adventuring bike-bloggers cycled the city of Chicago, in search of architectural wonders, pizza pot pies, and separated bike lanes.  Armed with bike maps of the city, our trusty steeds “Toro” and “Chicago Roll”, Elizabeth (Agent EA) and Mir.I.Am (Agent M) explore bike commuting options away from home (or as – in Elizabeth’s case – as a tourist in her own city!)  Hard working Americans by day, and secret bike agents by night, Task Force Chicago double teams it up for some Vacation Commuting!

Dr. Ronald McEvil’s Contribution to the park: McDonald’s Cycle Center… So you can pedal off the calories from their delicious dollar menu!

Mission 1: Get some Wheels:  Only six blocks from the hotel in the loop, Agent M hoofed it over to Millenium Park to the McDonald’s Cycle Center: a set up complete with secure indoor bike spaces for rent, pay showers and lockers, and home to the Chicago Bike and Roll… where vacationers can choose between a variety of options for bikes to rent by hour or by day.  All come with complimentary U-lock, map, travel bag, and helmet! (and valid til the end of 8/9/11 — deal on Bike and Roll Rental!)

Bike Menu: Hybrid, Mountain, Comfort 3-speed, Fitness, Road, and Tandems! The Chicago Bike and Roll also has 9 locations for drop off in the city. They also serve Washington D.C., New York City, San Francisco, and Miami!

Agent M and cohort codenamed “Freddie” have slim pickings in sizes and bikes available, as it’s late on a Saturday afternoon.  The price is right for the whole day: $39 in store, or $35 if you reserve online – and less for half a day.  They settle for two ill-fitting mountain bikes: 2012 Trek 3500, one in size “hurts my crotch when you stop” and one in size “seat post all the way up”.  Agent M and Freddie 3500 mount their fully-equipped Chicago Roll steeds and jump on to the lakefront path for nice views of famous square buildings and bee-line it to the rendezvous point!

Crotch-slammer on the left, and Seatpost Yanked on the right, with Hancock Building in the background. (Note: Bike and Roll equipped with water bottle cage!)

Fully Racked: the Chicago Roll equipped with rack and attached bungees!

Mission 2: Rendezvous with Agent E.A. in Lincoln Park: After their first meet and greet just a couple night’s before, Agent EA and Agent M are now bonded in mutual bike love and ready to set out for some bike commuter fun throughout Chicago. With Agent bootcamp training (a.k.a. “work”) behind them and looking to get out on two wheels, Agent EA and Agent M decide to meet in Lincoln Park – just off the very crowded lakefront path.  A direct path for directionally challenged vacation commuters, the path proves perfect for agent M and cohort Freddie, and is also just off seasoned local commuter Agent EA’s typical route to “work”.

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So. Much. Cheese!

Pizza pot pies — mmmm!!!! — fortify the Bike Commuters for the weekend’s evening adventures ahead.

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Ping Pong in the Park and Training Wheels

Mission 3: Butterflies at Large: Satisfied, task force BikeCommuters.com heads back to the Lakefront Path in search of butterflies. Up near Montrose, the Agents find park goers enjoying an evening outdoors and discover the next generation of bike commuters talent.

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Butterflies at Large!

So caught up in the search, the Agents pedal right through the butterfly sanctuary nearly missing their mark. Unfortunately, barely a butterfly in sight – but we know they’re out there!  Butterfly threat level, neutralized.

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Kinzie Bike Lane: Striped on one side and green paint at intersections.

Mission 4: Greet the Streets – Separated Bike Lane Maiden Voyage:  Last stop on Task Force Chicago’s List is christening the city’s first separated bike lane along Kinzie Street.  As sunset approaches, the beach-going vacationers start to disperse to take cover from nightfall, and the lakefront path becomes an open bike highway!  Agent EA leads the way with cohorts Freddie, Dean, and Agent M trailing close behind.  Descending on the city, the BikeCommuters Task Force Chicago ride single file down the 1/2-mile long “magical yellow-brick road” of Kinzie with blinky lights engaged.

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Reflective bollards keep cars away from the bike lane!

They pull a U-turn and double back on the other side for the full experience.  FINAL MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

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Bike Drop! 9pm closing at Millenium Park.

With the all clear for landing, Agent M and Freddie make the drop at Bike and Roll Chicago, only minutes before closing.  A whopping $42 after tax, a small price to pay for life as a secret bike adventurer away from home.  Agent M reported that “experiencing the city on two-wheels is a must for a daily commuter away from home and Bike and Roll was the perfect convenient choice (and they have locations in 4 other major U.S. cities).  Tips: come early for more sizes and selections, order online to jump the queue and get rolling early to take advantage of the whole day.  Sure beats a rental car!”  Cohort Freddie reported, “Ouch. I’ll get there early for a smaller frame next time! Still worth it!”

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Water Bottle Cheers: Agent M and EA with Dean's raleigh and the Toro!

Til next time Chicago!