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Tag Archive: bicycle commuting

Commuter Profile: Dwight McKay

This week’s commuter profile comes from Dwight McKay — we’ve had his profile in the hopper for several months…it’s fair to say that I am a little behind in publishing some of these. In any case, check out his words and photos below!

Name: Dwight McKay

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How long have you been a bike commuter?

I started commuting shortly after college in 1984, but stopped after moving out of town in 1988. I started again in 1995 when we moved closer my work, and have been working towards a nearly car-free commute. Right now I am pretty much bike-only for the work commute except for days when I have a few time critical errands or need to haul my kids around to after-school activities.

Why did you start riding your bike to work and how long is your commute?

Back in 1984, I commuted by bike because my wife and I had only one car. When we moved out of town, my wife and I rode for recreation and did a century together on a tandem. We moved back into town when my first daughter was born. The growing family responsibility ate into the time for long recreational rides, and the closeness of campus made switching back to bike commuting a natural choice.

My commute is about 4 miles one-way. The route has bike lanes the entire distance and a single moderately steep hill that’s up hill going home. It is a pleasant ride in a small college town. I grew up riding in a suburb of New York City, so this is a very easy environment to ride in.

When the weather is nice and I’m looking for more time on the bike, I make my homeward bound trip longer by heading out into the county and then looping back to the house. The beauty of a small town is that it is easy to escape onto less traveled roads. County roads here in Indiana are mostly in a north-south, east-west grid, so it’s easy to add distance in increments. My commute goes right past the Junior-Senior High School my kids go to, so I’ve been able to ride to school with them as part of my commute when they let me.

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Typical Indiana county road viewed from my Leitra.

How does Bike Commuting help you with your lifestyle (economics, health, relationships)?

Cycling is about mental, physical and spiritual health for me. Commuting embeds most of my exercise time in my commute time, so it is as if I get my exercise for “free”. I find that I’m physically more aware and awake after the ride to work and the ride home.
But I judge that the mental and spiritual side of cycling may be a greater, and more easily overlooked benefit of bike commuting. Being outside has always deeply moved me. Seeing the sunrise or sunset, seeing wild geese fly overhead, or smelling freshly mowed grass fills me with awe. I feel like I am part of something much bigger than myself when I look down a long road to a far horizon as I ride. The ride home provides the physical sensation of putting miles between myself and whatever went on at work. That creates the mental space to set that aside and be present to my family. I commute for my head and my heart.

What do you do for a living and in what city do you bike commute?

I live in West Lafayette, Indiana. I am the Director of Research Systems in the IT Systems and Operations group at Purdue University (Go Boilers!). I manage a team that deploys and operates supercomputers and grid services for researchers at Purdue. It’s a terrific combination of smart, technically savvy colleagues and a relaxed college town atmosphere.

What kind(s) of bike do you have?

I’ve been a recumbent rider for about 20 years now. I got hooked when my wife and I were living out in the county and I was looking for something more comfortable on long rides. I’ve owned a couple of different recumbents over the years and have two in my stable at the moment.

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The above is my Rans V-Rex. It’s my fair weather ride. The short wheel base makes it maneuverable and easy to park in bike racks on campus. I started off using cheap panniers off the rear rack, but got fed up with the lack of rain protection they offered and the need to take them off the bike when I parked at work. I found a black storage box at Wal-Mart that is just about the same width as the seat back. Putting a few bolts through the bottom box into the rack converted the box into a weatherproof truck.

I typically carry a change of clothes for work and my laptop in the box. I leave a pair of shoes and pair of pants at work and trade those out every so often when I have an errand to run and am driving the car to work.

You can’t be shy and ride a recumbent in a small town. I get lots of questions, most often about how much the bike costs and how tough it is to balance. Recumbents are expensive due to their custom builds and limited production runs. My short answer is that they cost as much as a custom bike frame, which seems to satisfy most folks. Balancing on a recumbent is something an experienced cyclist can “get” with a few minutes of practice. Several of my riding buddies have ridden the V-Rex with just a few minutes of practice in a parking lot.

But if you really want to get noticed, you should try riding a velomobile to work! This is my Leitra, built by Carl Rassmussen in Denmark. It is a tadpole style, recumbent tricycle with an aerodynamic fairing. I imported it three years ago to see if I could replace my car during the winter months. You can read more about them at http://www.leitra.dk/.

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The Leitra has a large cargo bin behind the seat with plenty of room for my daily haul to work. It has turn signals and windshield wiper on the front windshield. The wiper is driven by hand with a small lever inside. A triangular scoop on the nose of the fairing feeds vents that help to keep the inside of the windshield clear.

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The Leitra doesn’t fit into older bike racks. You need to find a spot on the end or between two of the bike loop style racks. On the side of the fairing, ahead of the Leitra logo you can see the adjustable side vents. These can be opened and closed while you ride to control how much air blows into the cockpit.

The nose fairing tilts forward to allow the rider to sit down. The nose fairing has a quick release that makes it easy to remove. Here’s what it looks like with the nose fairing off. The carbon fiber seat is more comfortable than it looks. I use a small inflatable pad on the bottom. Steering is via the two side sticks on either side of the seat. There’s also a small amount of interior storage below and to either side of the seat. That’s a great place to put a hat or heavy gloves when you get hot and need to pull them off.

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The Leitra has succeeded in freeing me from my car in the winter, but not without some problems. The fancy wheel covers you see in one of the pictures turned out to be impractical in the snow and had to be replaced with simpler fenders. Even though the Leitra design includes a ducted vent from the nose to blow air over the wind shield, fogging and icing of the wind shield can still occur. And while the fairing gives you a lot of control over airflow and a good deal of warmth, it’s still a challenge to keep my hands and feet warm when the temperature gets down to 0F and below.

Any funny or interesting commuting story that you may want to share?

I am a believer in riding “like a car”, so I take the lane when I need to for turns or when the bike lane is blocked. One morning, I was riding the V-Rex into work and moved over to take the lane due some debris in the bike lane, getting in front of some traffic. A county sheriff car passing by in the other direction flipped on his lights briefly right after he passed me and turned around to come up behind me. I thought to myself, “I wonder if I’m going to get an ear full about taking the lane.”

But when he rolled up along side me and rolled down his window, he greeted me by saying he rode a recumbent also! We had a brief chat about who made my bike and wished each other a good day.


What do people (coworkers, friends) say when you tell them that you are a bike commuter?

This time of year (winter), most folks are amazed I’m riding at all! “Are you crazy?”, they ask. People are concerned about the weather. How do I ride in this heat / cold / rain / dark / sun? Folks want to know about how I deal with clothing changes. They are concerned about my safety in traffic. My staff, who have seen me ride year-round for several years now (and are sure I’m crazy!), are generally more encouraging.

Most folks wonder if I do this for the cost savings, which really isn’t the motivator for me. I’m often amazed that folks have a hard time seeing the emotional and spiritual benefits as sufficient reason to ride. If you could do something that adds a little adventure, a little spark to your day, wouldn’t you do it?

How about bicycling advocacy? Are you active in any local or regional advocacy groups?

While I appreciate the work of bike advocates, I am not involved in those efforts.

Anything else that you want to share with us?

I write a blog about my rides and other random things called “Up Hill Both Ways”. You can find it at http://www.net-kitchen.com/blog/

The local magazine did a brief article on my Leitra. It might appear on their website at some point, but at the moment it’s only available in print. The site is http://www.lafmag.com/

We’d like to thank Dwight for sharing his pictures and thoughts with us. It’s refreshing to hear a fellow commuter expound on the “spiritual benefits” of using a bike as transportation — something I’ve long thought about but wasn’t able to put into eloquent words like Dwight does. For the rest of you, if you’d like your fifteen minutes of Internet stardom, we are ALWAYS on the lookout for profilees. Drop a note to ghostrider[over there at]bikecommuters[dot]com and we’ll hook you up with our questionnaire and simple instructions. Don’t be shy — share your commute with the rest of the world!

Friday Musings – Women on Bikes are Just Plain HOT.

That’s right!  I said it!  Women on bikes are just plain hot.

From Milwaukee Pedal Pushers via FYGB.

Now, before anyone gets on their feminist high-horse (or double-tall feminist high-bike) please note that this article is mere speculation, meant to entertain and bubble up chittah-chattah, as part of our Friday Musings series.  I was talking with my local Cycle Lady coworkers and amigas about bike dates, bike friends, or just saying “hello” to others during your commute! I remembered an article that RL once posted a while back about meeting singles while bike commuting around town… While we still weren’t too sure about the direct correlation between a girl on a bike pedaling off to work and scoring a date on the way, we all agreed that being a woman on a bike just might be the easiest form of everyday bike advocacy!  Because if you’ve ever seen a Cycle Lady on her way to work, campus, the grocery store, the county prison or the junkyard, you’ll have to admit that women on bikes are just fan-fracking-tastic.

I don't crash my tall bike accidentally

Thanks to Dingo Dizmal's flickr stream

Whether you’re a Cycle Lady donning a bright yellow safety vest or cruising in a workdress, women with pedal power are sexy and exotic like the such-n-such orchid that blooms only once every three years and smells like rotting flesh!  (Hmm, somehow that simile didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped.)

What is it about a woman on a bike that just makes cycling to work that. much. better?!  I’ve seen some Red Hot Ladies around time that are KILLING IT up Tantalus and they just make my day.  And these ladies are hitting their 60s, putting young bucks to shame on a daily basis.

At this year’s national Bike Summit in Wash D.C., the buzz was all about women as the key to growing transportation cycling.  Apparently, the hypothesis is that the number of women on bikes is a measure of success for a city’s cycling culture.

I always tell my single friends in search of a mates or new buddies a surefire way to meet some new people would be to get on a bike!  (And that goes for Cycle Ladies and Gents.)  Trading tips with the other bike commuters at your job, or starting up a convo with the homie locking up their ride at the bike racks… there’s just something about riding bikes that’s so fun it’s contagious!  At least in the cities where I’ve commuted (San Luis Obispo, CA; Seattle, WA; and Honolulu, HI) I’ve felt an automatic sense of belonging when you pass another bike commuter in town… that little nod to the cyclist heading in the opposite direction, checking out each others rides or maguyver rack set ups, and high-fiving at red lights.  You know what I’m sayin’?

Women on Bikes - exotic and beautiful like the rare "corpse flower"

And I’m not just talking about the Mary Poppins Effect – where all girls in skirts on upright dutch bikes get more respect in the road.  No matter what kind of bike you ride, what you’re wearing, or how old you are, I’d like to go on the record to say that all women on bikes are HOT.  Don’t you agree, lovely readers?  So, let’s celebrate this unique group of individuals (the minority’s minority in the world of commuting) with some spicy photos!

From Dmackintosh Flickr stream - Roadie!

From Chicks on Bikes - Summertime BMX and sandals.

Cycling Taiwan - Day 5

Mamachari style bikes are HOT in Taiwan!

Marilyn Monroe - Keepin it real on two wheels!

Too much FUN - cruiser with a surf rack

Amendment! I've received a personal request from friends to post a photo of the RED HOT LADIES of HNL

Hipster pin-up status

And for all you mntbikeRiders - making spandex look GOOD.

Whew! That’s enough hot mamas on bikes for me for one weekend.  Catch you later, cycle gators!

Product Review: Leg Shield

A couple months back, the brains behind the Leg Shield contacted us to see if we’d do a review. Never one to say no to anything, RL promptly agreed and a few days later, the Leg Shield arrived at my door.

SO… what is this thing FOR? I’m so glad you asked! The design intention is to keep grit, grime, bugs, small children, and anything else that may come in contact with your lower leg (most often by way of your chain or chainring) from getting your snazzy work clothes all dirty. With the exception of the small children (they can get anything dirty no matter what you do), it works exactly as intended – over several commutes and rides around town, my pants didn’t get a single smudge on them. So far so good!

Unfortunately, however, the Leg Shield doesn’t do so well in other categories, like comfort and (personal opinion here) not looking like you’ve been recently injured and are riding a bike against doctor’s orders. The photos will make my case (or not) on the style, so I’ll talk about comfort.

The Inner View

First thing you need to know: this is made of neoprene – the same stuff used for wetsuits, laptop sleeves, and those fancy bags to carry wine around in. One of the properties of neoprene is that it is insulating: it keeps hot things hot and cold things cold. In the case of someone riding a bike, this means that on cold days the lower half of your right leg will LOVE the Leg Shield – it’s nice and toasty (your left leg may be jealous, but that’s not the right leg’s problem!). On warm days (which I’ve through trial and error determined to mean “over 60 degrees”) it will cause your leg to sweat, which in turn means your pants leg will get damp, which will make it wrinkled… which kinda defeats the purpose of protecting your pants, since instead of looking grimy they now look like you forgot to wash them. Depending on your pants material, this could happen even without sweating, since of necessity you have to bundle the pants leg under the Leg Shield.

So… in the end, I can’t really recommend the Leg Shield for everyday use – particularly in warmer climates. Does it keep grease off? Absolutely. However, I kept finding myself thinking wistfully of either a simple velcro strap (like this) or a chaincase. Failing that, I’d at least like a material option of something vaguely breathable.

May 2012 – Hawaii Bike Month Happenings

Aloha readers on Oahu (okay, and you other readers too)… There are several awesome updates to announce as part of the glorious Bike Month known as “May” in this year, 2012.  Here’s a wrap up for anyone interested:

Oh yes, more ukuleles for Safer Streets in Hawaii!

  • Farmer’s Insurance sponsors May as Bike Safety Month – Take the PLEDGE! Click this link and sign the pledge for safer roads in Hawaii.  For each signature, Farmer’s Hawaii will donate $1 to Hawaii Bicycling League.
  • Ride of Silence May 19, 2012 at 4pm –  Informally hosted by Nick Blank, former HBL Volunteer of the year, this will be Honolulu’s first Ride of Silence.  Here is a note from Nick on the ride:

Yes we can. On Saturday the 19th, at 4 PM, meet at the Hawaii State Capitol Building.

It will be a short one, about 6 miles, and on a different day than the rest of the planet, but hey, this is Hawaii.

ROS Honolulu Map May 2012 - click to enlarge

We plan to ride Beretania to Bishop, turn left, down to King, turn left and take it to University. There we will have a moment to honor the location of a fatal cycling crash on University, just below King Street. (If more locations of fatalities come forth, we will honor those as well.) We will then return to the Capitol on Beretania.

WE WILL follow the rules of the ride, wear helmets, obey traffic laws, and have a discussion of bicycling safety before departing.

If this is beyond your personal boundaries, please respectfully decline to ride with us and reconsider your choices.

There will be release forms to sign to participate.

This is to be a slow, silent, funeral ride. Please wear a black armband to carry the thoughts of one who was killed and a red one for one who was injured.

( An old sock is good for this, if you make one for your self, please make extras for sockless others. ) Feel free to attach a photo or name to yourself, or your bike, of the person(s) you are honoring.

Be Safe.   It is a funeral ride, but please wear bright clothing to be seen. Blinky lights are always encouraged.

Be Respectful.  Of yourselves, the fallen, the public, and the rules of the road.

Be Silent.   This is a ride for reflection of those who have fallen, and thoughts of how we can make Hawaii safer to ride in.

Much Aloha to those who can make it, and those who cannot yet would like to.

More about the ride here, please take a few moments to review it.

http://www.rideofsilence.org/main.php

  • Bike To Work Week May 14th-18th, 2012 – contact Chad Taniguchi at chad(at)hbl.org  or 808-255-8271 if you want to help make this year the best ever for bike commuting on Oahu.  Get your workplace involved by encouraging more commuter mentors and by publicizing this week.
  • Bike to School Challenge Tuesday May 15th!  – The Green Machines are hosting an event in honor of Bike To School Day.  Here’s the scoop:

Please come join Green Machines in a celebration of healthy alternatives to petroleum-dependent vehicles for getting around. We attract lots of bicycles of all types, but also want to showcase walking, Electric Vehicles, and more. If you can come, please email Jonathan Lott at lottj001@hawaii.rr.com or call at 561-9020:

This poster is hilarious.... anyway, grab the teens and hit up Farrington High if you're into it!

Green Machines is holding this on the same day as the “Bike to School Challenge.” Friday of the same week is National Bike to Work Day (BTW). On Thursday evening, the Eve of BTW, there will be a big gathering for the Thursday Nite Cruise Ride to Waikiki, so please join us for that too (details still being worked out). We will have a sound system, live music and prizes, and informational booths at the show in the center of Farrington’s campus. Visitors will need to check in at the front office for an ID badge.

  • Need A Bike, On a Budget, Check out KVIBE!

If you’re all spirit and smiles but still lacking a working set of two wheels to help you enjoy the lovely Bike to Work Month festivities in Honolulu, check out KVIBE –  “Kalihi Valley Instructional Bicycle Exchange is a nonprofit bicycle education program/shop that promotes bicycle-related activities for the youth of Kalihi Valley. KVIBE provides the community’s children with positive pursuits, mentoring, and role models. Ride a Bicycle.”  Their shop is open the following days and times: Wednesday, 12 – 5pm; Friday, 12pm – 5pm; Saturday, 10am – 3pm.  KVIBE is located at 1638 Kamehameha IV Road Honolulu Hawaii 96819.  You can make a suggested donation for a used bike or, if you have a lot of time on your hands, work to complete your own bicycling with the help of the KVIBE instructors and volunteers.  Check out their website to learn more.

Get out there on your steeds and enjoy Hawaii’s Bike to Work Week/Month/Year activities!! Questions? More events? Post ’em in the comments, Cycle Peoples.

Bike To Work Week: Rookie Commuter Resources

I love my Bike in all the months.

Hello enthusiastic readers – year-round cyclists, beginner cyclists, or future bike commuters!  Like the title above says, next week is Bike to Work Week! May is also the only month where you can cycle to work and get loads of freebies – safety tuneups, swag, blinkie lights, bike maps, and bike buddies.  Check out Jack’s article for handy links. For the bike-commuters-to-be and fledgling velodactyls, the staff writers at Bike Commuters wanted to share some tips, inspiration, and motivation to make May’s Bike to Work Week the best. week. ever. Everyone remembers the first time they rode a bike, and our readers have told us how they got started pedaling to work, and it turns out Bike to Work Week is a great starting point!

Here’s a list of some great articles I call the Rookie Commuter Resources. Hand selected and gleaned by yours truly… and don’t forget to read the comments, sometimes you guys are the ones with the best tips for bike commuting!  Enjoy:

  1. Let’s Bike – This year, Elizabeth presented the basics on bike commuting at her job.  She asked our readers to give their advice to newbie commuters.  As Ghost Rider says, “the comments are GOLD” in this one.
  2. 10 Bike Commuting Myths Dispelled Jack’s buddy Alan Snel shines truth on all myths related to bike commuting.
  3. My Conversation with a Cop about Bikes, Traffic, and Safety TipsRL hashes it out with his friend “Officer Ben” to discuss the legal stuff and how to bike commute safely within the law!
  4. Out of My Way, Boys!This article is by Dottie from Let’s Go Ride a Bike.  A funny read for Cycle Ladies getting pumped to tear up the streets!
  5. Commuting in Style (Pint-Sized Edition) Matt gives some tips on how to bike commute with tiny humans (a.k.a. children).
  6. Friday Musings – Top 3 Must-Have Bike Commuting AccessoriesReaders share their thoughts on their favorite commuter accessories.

We know there are more out there, on our site and others, so please share more links in the comments box for any Rookie Commuter Readers out there getting pumped for Bike to Work Week: May 14th through 18th!  Pedal Forward, Cycle Ladies and Gents!

Lookin' fly, Priscilla! Bike to Work Week with your DOG!