Category: Travels and Adventures

Our friends at Independent Publishers Group sent us a review copy of My Cool Bike: An Inspirational Guide to Bikes and Bike Culture by Chris Haddon; photography by Lyndon McNeill (London: Pavilion, an imprint of Anova Books, 2013).

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At first, I was a bit skeptical: “aw, man, ANOTHER artsy book about bikes?!?” I expressed my concerns to my contact at IPG, and she assured me that yes, this was another art/coffee table book, but from the author’s very successful (and quirky) series called “My Cool…” Based on her guidance, I gave the book a fair chance, and I’m glad I did.

My Cool Bike is a fun look at the incredibly diverse world of bike culture, where all kinds of people are represented: punks, artists, designers, scientists, tinkerers, adventurers, free-thinkers. This should come as no surprise to many of you; we’re all pretty different from one another, yet we all share a rather passionate love for two-wheeled machines. Chris Haddon traveled to a number of cities and met with a lot of people, and in the process captured a fairly broad set of bike characters who embody bike culture as we know it. Lyndon MacNeill’s photographs really seal the deal, though — the bikes and the personalities behind them are captured in rich color, and those photographs also perfectly capture the joy and enthusiasm of each bike’s owner.

No hardcore racers or superathletes here; the personalities represented in the book seem to not take themselves so seriously, but clearly enjoy the freedom and individuality the bicycle brings to their lives. I think we can ALL relate to that, yes?

My Cool Bike is an enjoyable book to page through — there are no revelations contained within its pages, but I think you’ll enjoy this look at our unique two-wheeled community. There’s really something for every bike fan here; bikes to drool over, fun personalities you would love to go on a ride with, tales of adventures you’ll want to emulate. After seeing some of the collections of bikes owned by people in this book, I don’t feel so bad about the bike jumble in my own garage. While paging through the book, I did find myself wishing for a larger storage space, though!

Take a look at My Cool Bike, available through a number of online booksellers and perhaps even in your local library (if they don’t have it, ask nicely and they might be able to get a copy for you). You’ll enjoy the ride!

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

With only 48 hours between NYC and a trip to Vermont, boyfriend and I decided to ditch the apple for the bean these last couple of days… And let me tell you, bike monsters, was it worth it!

Boston, I have a major bike crush on you and I ain’t afraid to show it!
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Everybody’s all losing their shiz over Portland and Minneapolis, but summer bike commuting is in full force here in Cambridge, MA.

From the Hubway bike share system, to bike-specific traffic signs, Cambridge will get any solid bike commuter in a full-on bikey tizzy. Check out some photos from my travels including the double decker bike storage racks at the T station in Davis Square:

But, with all these bikes abounding, make sure you Cambridge Commuters lock up your two-wheeled honey with a heavy-duty U lock… It’s also a hotspot for Bikenapping!

Bike Commuters of Boston, where you at!?

I’m sure you’re all aware of the tremendous cycling savvy of the people of Copenhagen, Denmark — one of the places that U.S. cities try to emulate when pushing for increased bicycle ridership. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 35% of Copenhagen’s residents use a bicycle to travel to and from work/school; contrast that with our own #1 bike city of Portland, Oregon, where only 6% of residents are bike commuters.

Copenhagen is discovering that they may have hit a “glass ceiling” when it comes to increasing the number of bike users, however.

Copenhageners are proud of their biking habits. “It’s like brushing your teeth — it’s something everyone does,” says Marie Brøndom Bay, a representative of the city’s bicycling division. But those numbers have been hard-won. And to Brøndom Bay and other city officials charged with minimizing car traffic and air pollution, and promoting public health, even a third of the populace on bikes is not nearly enough.

Greg Hanscom is in the midst of writing a short series on Grist about the city of Copenhagen and the bicycle highs and lows they are experiencing. The quote above comes from part 2, and part 1 is available by clicking here. Part 3 should be coming along soon.

The article series is a refreshing look at a city who seems to get everything right when it comes to transportational cycling, but the city has struggled at times to keep the spirit alive. Take a look at the articles; they are worth reading.

Editor’s note: Here’s the latest from Andrew “Doc” Li — you may remember him from his excellent DIY repair stand tutorial a couple weeks ago. Today, Andrew will give us some smart and practical advice on trek planning. Read on:

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“Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.” Confucius

“One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.” Arthur Ashe

Being successful in whatever you do relies on a certain amount of thorough preparation and foresight. On the flip side is that we can always build on our mistakes and failures. And if Confucius and Ashe, among millions of others, arrived at the same belief, then certainly we can learn and apply this concept to many, if not, all aspects of our lives.

One such aspect is making a successful trip by bicycle between 2 points. Regardless of whether these two points span the distance between 2 continents or 2 city blocks, the right preparation is always needed. Never underestimate a journey, or reason that a shorter trip deserves less preparatory attention than a longer trip. I have been burned my fair share of times thinking this way.

I recall one particular autumn afternoon in Southern California when I decided to go for a ride purely for leisure. My plan was to bike 5 miles in one direction and back, in total a short 10 mile ride. It was a gorgeous day, so I went longer than planned and ended up exploring a park nearby. My 10 mile ride turned into 30 miles. When I decided to turn around, the sun was already setting and some ominous clouds had set in. Unfortunately, I did not confirm the sunset time that day nor verify the weather forecast.

So I set forth towards home (at that point about 14 miles away), and not more than 2 minutes into my ride large droplets of rain started pelting me. I pedaled harder, but eventually felt that I was going much slower. I looked down and as luck would have it I had acquired a flat. At that point, I was about 10 miles from home. It was now pouring and quite dark outside. I was wet, had no tire pump, repair kit, rain gear, or lights. I did not have a cell phone at that time either. Moreover, my bike route was not meant for pedestrians, and I did not bring any navigation to find an alternative route. The area was new to me, so I couldn’t “improvise” a new route. I ended up walking home, at night, with no lights, in the rain, constantly watching for fast traffic, while dragging my injured steed.

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Over the years, I have learned my lessons, and I have developed a list of things that I feel are essential for a safe and successful journey. In order to remember this list, I have developed my ABCs of trek preparation. They go like this:

A: Alimentation: food, water etc.
B: Bearing: map, GPS, compass etc.
C: Climate: rain gear, fenders, sun glasses, extra layers etc.
D: Defense: Lock, lights
E: Emergency: phone, contacts who know where you are heading, basic repair gear.

Alimentation: I hydrate before the trip and bring 500cc to 1000cc of water, and for me this is enough for trips less than 20 miles. Also, I can often refill water at my destination (my work place). You may have to adjust this volume based on your own distances, climate, etc. If I do bring food, it is usually for breakfast after my morning commute. I eat plenty of carbs the night before and ride on an empty stomach in the AM (personal preference).

Bearing: Before my smart phone, I would carry a small map cutout encompassing an area with the radius of my commuting distance (e.g. a 10 mile commute from A to B would require a map of a 10 mile radius area with point B at the center). A compass has also been very handy for me.

Climate: I wear layers, and wicking fabrics are exceptionally useful in cold, hot, and rainy weather. Wear stuff that you can easily take off and put back on to achieve that happy medium between hot and cold. Temperature regulation is not just for comfort; it is vital for performance efficiency. Excessive sweating depletes the body of fluids and also contributes to excessive heat loss. For summers in Southern California and other areas with similar climate, if you plan on biking into the night, bring another layer; you will be surprised how chilly it can get with a 20+ mph wind whipping past your body on a cool evening.

Defense: Defend your bike against theft with a lock, and defend yourself against motorists, other cyclists, pedestrians, dooring by keeping VISIBLE with a set of bike lights. I ALWAYS keep bike lights with me in my pack (can be recharged with a USB port). Night time riding is a topic unto itself, and this will be addressed in a later article.

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Emergency: Bring a form of mobile communication. If this is not possible, bring change for a payphone and let people know of your trip, where you are heading, and about what time you will be back. Bring basic repair gear (I take a patch kit, pump, and leatherman). For me, this gear is for “damage control”, that is, a temporizing measure that will allow you to get back home or to a destination that will have more resources for you or a mechanic to make a definitive repair.

This is by no means a definitive list, but one that has served me well over the years. As of late, I have developed a shorter, perhaps more basic list:

Lights, lock, liquids, lost, limp. Don’t forget your lights, lock, liquids. Make sure you have a way to prevent getting lost. And if you end up limping (either yourself or your bike), have some strategy for a quick repair of the bike or getting yourself to the right care.

Take from it what you will, add to it, and improve it based on your own cycling habits. Peace out everyone. Do good and ride well.

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We’re lucky to have Andrew writing periodic articles for us…and if you’d like to submit an article for possible publishing, drop us a line at info[at]bikecommuters[dot]com.

The Tour de France kicks off in a few short days…what better time than to present a review of Graeme Fife’s stellar Tour de France: The History…The Legend…The Riders…14th ed. (London: Mainstream Publishing, 2012)!

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Originally published in 1999, this edition of Tour de France was revised to include the Tours through 2012, where Bradley Wiggins became the first Briton to win the coveted yellow jersey. This book is a thrilling and weighty look at the lore, the triumphs, the challenges and the defeats of the greatest cycling event we know. Compiled from exhaustive research, interviews with riders and anecdotes from historical accounts, Tour de France is dense and satisfying like a fine meal. The book is of two major parts: the first section divided into chapters named after the famous Alpine and Pyrenean summits that feature so prominently in the Tour. The second part is a series of chapters, starting in 1998 and finishing with 2012, that give the highlights and lowlights, the victories and the scandals that accompanied those years. Interspersed throughout the first part of the book are Fife’s own cyclotouriste efforts up the celebrated cols where so many legends were made (and broken).

The word “epic” has been used overmuch in the world of cycling, but that word suits this book just fine. Fife’s writing has an almost lyrical quality to it; his descriptions of events as they happened is breathtaking. Here’s an example, where he is describing the scene of a mountain stage:

The riders plough on through a cacophony of klaxons yodelling like a jamboree of deranged Tyroleans, exhaust pipes snorting plumes of carbon monoxide, the whole circus parade of team cars, service cars, official race cars, motorbikes with and without cameramen perched on the pillion seat, broom wagon snaking up the mountain — as fast as the leader at the front, as slow as the stragglers at the tail — through a jungle of spectators crammed so deep by the road’s edge they leave no more than a single file path down their middle and then bulge shut over the riders as they pass, like a python consuming its lunch.

The entire book is like that — and sometimes those vivid descriptions require re-reading a time or two for them to sink in. This is not “light reading” in any sense of the word, and at 518 pages, this isn’t a quick weekend read either. The book is meant to be savored, and in fact that is the only way to survive this dense tale: read, absorb…read, absorb…repeat until finished.

Fife references many photographs of the Tour as he writes, and while he thoughtfully includes a small handful for the readers, I was left wanting more. There are so many references to scenes from the past that a companion photo album would not be out of the question. Perhaps a future edition may address that one shortcoming?

If you are a fan of the Tour, a cycling historian or anyone who loves learning about professional cycling, this is a fantastic book to read. It can be an uphill slog at times to get through this massive volume…but the view from the top is worth it!

Thanks to our friends at the Independent Publishers Group for furnishing a complimentary review copy to us.