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Tag Archive: bicycling

Friday Musing: The “Idaho Stop”

The other day, I stumbled across a great essay on the somewhat controversial “Idaho Stop”, where cyclists are allowed to treat stop signs as yield signs if the coast is clear. The concept tends not to be too popular with “vehicular cycling” proponents, who believe that bicycles must follow all of the rules and regs that are applied to motor vehicles. The rub is that in a number of areas, the “Idaho Stop” is a law on the books, geared specifically to cyclists’s unique road needs.

If you’ve looked around a city lately, you might’ve noticed that many cyclists don’t obey many traffic laws. They roll through stop signs, instead of coming to a complete stop, and brazenly ride through red lights if there aren’t any cars coming.

Cyclists reading this might be nodding guiltily in recognition of their own behavior. Drivers might be angrily remembering the last biker they saw flout the law, wondering when traffic police will finally crack down and assign some tickets.

But the cyclists are probably in the right here. While it’s obviously reckless for them to blow through an intersection when they don’t have the right of way, research and common sense say that slowly rolling through a stop sign on a bike shouldn’t be illegal in the first place.

Take a look at this thoughtful and comprehensive essay by visiting the Vox page here.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the Idaho Stop, and other cycling-specific laws or practices. Leave them in the comments below.

Book review: “The Bike Deconstructed” by Richard Hallett

Over the past couple months, I’ve had the pleasure to read a copy of The Bike Deconstructed: A Grand Tour of the Modern Bicycle by Richard Hallett (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2014).

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The book gives a detailed look into the inner workings of all aspects of the bicycle by showing exploded diagrams, close-up photos, and line illustrations of the frames, the components, and the hidden areas like bearings and internal gear systems. Along with the lavish and detailed artwork, Hallett explains the function and the history of the various components showcased, talking about materials, variants, and other details that will keep the jaded cycling techie reading along. There is a LOT to enjoy here. Discussion of how the parts work together, how the components developed from early prototypes, and the manufacturing methods involved with some of the parts really gives bike novices and seasoned experts alike a lot of information to delve through.

The bike is organized into the major sections of the bicycle itself: the frameset, the wheels, the drivetrain, the accessories, and so on. Each section covers the history and development of what we know as modern bicycle gear. There are a couple of points where the author mentions a piece of technology or a variation of a component that evolved along the way, but doesn’t offer a photo or illustration of it. This is a minor gripe, of course — there’s not room in the book for every possible permutation, but I would have liked to be able to picture a couple of the tech details he mentioned.

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The book, as you can see from the example above, is a visual feast — the photographs and illustrations within are crisp and richly detailed. Complex structures are broken down and labeled to facilitate understanding, and Hallett’s expertise in presenting all this information is apparent. While the subject matter is highly technical, the author doesn’t get bogged down in overly complex technical jargon, making this book very accessible to cyclists of all experience levels.

The Bike Deconstructed is another great addition to your cycling bookshelf — I was happy to have it during my recent move to the nation’s capital, where the book kept me company in a variety of anonymous hotels and empty houses until my relocation was complete. The book is available directly from the publisher, or can be purchased from a variety of online booksellers. It retails for $29.95.

Riding in unpredictable weather

Tips for Cycling in Unpredictable Weather

Although summer is well on its way, which means sunny (and sweaty!) rides, there are many places where the hottest season can be unpredictable. England for example, is well known for its constant weather variability. The typical ‘British Summer’ is characterized by unexpected showers and bursts of hot sunshine where everyone cuts back on clothing all of a sudden. If you’re one of the unfortunate ones, and this sounds like the summer time where you are, here are some important tips for cycling during an unpredictable season.

Have a Base Layer
You might associate layering with colder, winter weather but layers can also work wonders in warmer weather too. It’s worth investing in a comfortable and high-quality base layer that is both breathable and insulating, as the cutting-edge material technology that is on the market nowadays can work with your body to naturally adapt to different weather conditions. With a base layer you can also add or remove other layers on top according to your comfort level and temperature.

Arm and Leg Warmers
In the summer months, you’ll probably want to keep to cropped cycling pants or shorts and t-shirts or more sleeveless tops. These are great in hot weather but when it starts spitting or getting windy all of a sudden, you need to be able to adapt. Keep some leg and arm warmers to hand to stop off and slip on just in case it gets chilly or you need some extra coverage.

A Lightweight Mac
For any outdoor activity or exercise, it’s imperative to have a lightweight, manageable and comfortable waterproof jacket that you love. Especially when riding to and from work, you need to keep protected just in case the clouds start rolling in. Look for the right material and be sure that is has tight, taped seams to stop water getting in. Mesh lining is an important feature as it allows sweat to escape but look out for too much mesh, as this can make the jacket bulky. One of the best features of waterproof cycling jackets is the dropped tail that covers your lower back and derriere from those dastardly mud splashes, so be sure to look out for that too!

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A Protective Bag

Don’t let your important documents, clothes and snacks get soggy on the way to work! To protect you from the wind, mud and rain, be sure to grab yourself a good waterproof bag cover that fits securely over your rucksack. There are plenty of different covers on the market and you can even buy a separate waterproof bag for all of your belongings to save fiddling with the bag cover.

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Preparation is key if you don’t want to end up arriving at your destination looking like you’ve been dunked in the nearest pond. Make sure you have all the precautions in place and check-up on the weather conditions regularly for enjoyable cycling this summer.

Cycle touring in Mexico

Editor’s note: Between trips to work and school, many of us often dream of hopping on our bikes and taking a lengthy tour of someplace exotic. Read on for some tips on cycle touring in Mexico.

The Mexican landscape is large and diverse; there are mountains that soar into the sky, beaches that stretch for miles and ancient ruins that will take your breath away. From the bustling cities you’ll visit on Cancun holidays to hidden villages full of charm and Latin flare, a Mexican adventure can mean many different things.

Cycling in Mexico is an amazing way to navigate the country. For cyclists who are wary of the trials and tribulations of a trip deep into South America, Mexico presents the perfect option; exotic but not too exotic, a comfortable range between first world amenities and new world adventure.

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Routes
One of the most popular cycling routes in the country is for cyclists to venture down the Baja Peninsula and then hop onto a ferry headed for mainland Mexico. There are alternative routes down the Pacific coast but none rival the stunning scenery (if well-worn trail) of the Baja journey.

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Roads
Roads in Mexico include toll roads whose profits go to maintaining wide-shoulders and perfectly smooth road surfaces which are ideal for cycling on. The toll roads are also quite safe for cyclists, as there isn’t very much traffic on the toll roads and they also bypass almost all of the towns along each route.

Camping
Camping is often the preferred method of accommodation for cyclists and this is easily done in Mexico. Locals are incredibly friendly and happy to share camping site recommendations or even to help pitch a tent.
Small towns and villages are quite safe and a good bet for a setting up a night’s camp, just be careful not to wander off in search of ‘hidden spots’ in the larger landscape, campsites should be easily accessible and close to a town or village.

Visiting
Couch surfing has become incredibly popular in Mexico, thanks in large part to Mexican mothers who genuinely love to spoil visitors with delicious food and generous hospitality. While couch surfing is most popular with younger travelers, it is a great option for cyclists looking for a home cooked meal and a friendly (and local) face to help sort out the next day’s route. Local hosts are also known for providing authentic and interesting information about the towns they call home.

Safety
Visitors to Mexico are likely to see police officers with rifles in the street at some point during a visit. This is because the Mexican government has been cracking down on drug gangs and violence in recent years which has meant more armed men in the streets and checkpoints on roads (which apply to cyclists as well) but rest assured these officers are there to keep everyone safe. However, visitors are well-advised to avoid city-centres at night and exercise general caution to ensure that a Mexican cycling adventure is the trip of a lifetime.

Cycling in Mexico can be great fun, so why not take a chance this summer and do something a little different?

Highs and lows for NOLA

Here’s an article that caught our attention the other day. Having spent many a weekend bicycling in the city of New Orleans (N’awlins, or NOLA if you prefer) long before it was really safe to do so, I’ve been watching the city’s development of infrastructure with a keen eye. They’ve got some highlights to share, but also some real bummers going on:

New Orleans is a top 10 city for bike commuting, but also ranks in the top 5 for bicycle fatalities, according to a new report. The Alliance for Biking and Walking’s recently released Benchmark Report compiled data for 52 U.S. cities. The Crescent City jumped from 10th to 8th in the number of people who biked to work. According to a repackaging of the data by Vox.com, New Orleans ranked 5th in the number of bicycle fatalities over a two year period.

According to the report, 2.3 percent of cyclists in New Orleans commute to work.

Read the full article by visiting the NOLA Defender page.

Any NOLA commuters out there who might care to comment? Let’s hear it.