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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.

mexico_tour

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.

mexico_tour_2

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.

Bicycle Friendly Businesses

The League of American Bicyclists announced their Bicycle Friendly Businesses for 2014:

Top business innovators, ranging from retail to tech, have invested in bicycling as a way to boost morale, increase energy efficiency and encourage healthy living — and they’re reaping the benefits of being a Bicycle Friendly Business.

Today, the League of American Bicyclists announced 80 new and renewing Bicycle Friendly Businesses (BFB) in 29 states and Washington, D.C. These new awardees join a trendsetting group of almost 700 local businesses, government agencies and Fortune 100 companies in 46 states and D.C. that are transforming the American workplace.

Visit the LAB page to view the full list and to read the rest of the article. Congratulations to all the businesses on the list for encouraging cycling and for making a difference!

Book review: “Rebour” by Rob Van Der Plas & Frank Berto

The French artist Daniel Rebour is perhaps the best-known and certainly the most prolific bicycle artist/illustrator of all time. His works appeared in advertisements, magazines, product catalogs, and wherever else one could find detailed component and bicycle drawings. If you’re a fan of vintage bicycles and components, it is almost certain that you’ve seen the masterful technical illustrations of Daniel Rebour.

In Rebour: The Bicycle Illustrations of Daniel Rebour (San Francisco: Cycle Publishing/Van Der Plas Publications, 2013), authors Rob Van Der Plas and Frank Berto, both mechanical engineers, expose the life and work of Rebour. You may remember Frank Berto from our original book review “Books for Bicyclists”, as he was the author of The Dancing Chain: History and Development of the Derailleur Bicycle. Many of Rebour’s illustrations were used in the publication of The Dancing Chain.

rebour

Daniel Rebour got his start when he was hired as a test rider and illustrator for the motorcycle publication Moto-Revue. He went on to do technical writing for them as well. His detailed technical drawings next appeared in Le Cycle, which expanded its scope to cover mopeds, motorcycles, and scooters as well as bicycles. As I mentioned earlier, Rebour’s illustrations were used in the print catalogs and advertisements for some of the biggest French cycling brands, such as TA, Lyotard, Simplex, and Maxi-Car. Rebour’s artwork is exquisite — detailed pen-and-ink drawings of the most subtle details of bicycles and their components. Perhaps my personal favorites are of the cutaway drawings, showing the inner workings of such complex assemblies as bottom brackets and headsets.

rebour_illus

Authors Van Der Plas and Berto provide a brief introduction of Rebour’s work and life, and then the rest of the book is devoted to the illustrations themselves. Brief commentary appears with some the reproduced illustrations. The book is divided into the major components, from derailleurs, to lighting, to suspension systems and tools. It’s pretty clear that Rebour was incredibly prolific with illustrating all aspects of the bicycles and other machines he studied. There’s a lot to enjoy here; the illustrations are wonderfully reproduced, and the glimpses into the artist’s techniques are a joy to behold.

This book is ideal for anyone who appreciates vintage bicycles and components, or those who study illustration and technical drawings. The book retails for around $30 from a variety of online book sellers, and makes a fine gift for the vintage enthusiast in your life.

News from the National Women’s Cycling Forum

The National Bike Summit is in full swing up in Washington, D.C. We’ve got Mir on the case and are hoping for some detailed “insider reporting”. In the meantime, lots of good stuff is going on as part of the National Women’s Cycling Forum, including this discussion on building bike advocacy with some new angles:

The National Women’s Cycling Forum is like a day-long master class in how to infect women and communities with the bicycling bug. For the hundreds of professional advocates and rising-star activists in attendance, there is a ton of great advice and inspiration being offered up. In one session this morning, Cultivating the All Powerful Bike Lobby, we were introduced to several women on the front lines of community-based bike advocacy.

The session was moderated by Leah Shahum, the 13 year veteran leader of the 12,000 member San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. She knows a lot about the bike lobby and the power that can come with putting it to use.

Read the full article by visiting the Bike Portland page.

We’d love to hear from our readers — what are bike advocates doing right? What are we doing wrong? What sorts of techniques do you think we should focus on to take transportational cycling out of the “niche” and make it more acceptable to the mainstream? Please leave your comments below.