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Tag Archive: bike safety

Bike Your Drive – Top Commuter Basics

Hey there Bike Commuters!  It’s me, Mir.I.Am, and I’ll be the host for our show BIKE – YOUR – DRIVE! (Sponsored by “Log” from BLAMMO!)

Tonight’s guests include the Bike Commuters staff writers: Matt, Ghost Rider, RL, and Elizabeth.  Since we wanted to ride the high of May 2012’s Bike to Work Month (hehe, get it? ride the high, like ride a bike) we thought we’d put together a list of our Top Commuter Basics tips for all you who are biking your drive for the month of May… AND BEYOND.  Make sure to get clicky on the links for more bike commuter basic resources – get ready to bone up on your bike commuting skills, contestants!

“I’ll take Bike Commuting 101, for $500, Trebek!”  Take it away, Sean Connery

1.     Get a Bike – If you find yourself asking “which is the best commuter bike?“, the answer is: Any bike will do!  A hand-me-down, garage revival, or a loaner from a friend.  You don’t need carbon fiber or colorful fixies to get from your house to your work.  Okay, minimum stipulations should include: sufficient air in the tires, brakes that work, and a chain.  Head to your local bike shop to tune-up the rusting garage monster if needed – often times whatever we already have is good enough!  New bike commuters can always graduate to a new bike after they’ve gotten the hang of it.  Try before you buy.

Got questions about what bike to buy? Here’s a handy article that will get you started…sort of a simple “shopping guide” to arm you for your encounters at the local bike shop.

2.     Map it Out – Knowing your route will put your mind at ease like Ritalin on the first day of school.  Check out Google Maps Bike feature for recommended routes in your area, ask an experienced bike commuter to help you pick the most pleasant routes, or contact your local bike organization for comprehensive maps.  You can even take a test ride and bike through your route on a weekend, where you can relax and take as long as you want to figure out the best way for Monday.  We wrote an article a couple years ago about other route mapping Web utilities that may be useful for planning your excursion. For those of you in our audience today with smart phones, click on this link to check out some awesome bikey apps with maps that may also be of interest.

wet commute

Know where you're going before you ride.

3.     Clothing Choice – There are two schools of thought on clothing: those who change at work and those who don’t!  You may consider changing clothes at work if a) you are a “sweater” – any kind of physical activity can make you glisten b) weather is either rainy/snowy or extra hot -OR- c) you just don’t want to wear your work clothes on your bike.  Wear something that won’t rub in the crotch, flap around and snag in your gears or chain, or cuffed shorts/skirt that can get tangled up in your saddle.  If you are biking to work in your work clothes, take it slow and enjoy the scenery!  Liquid soap for a pirate shower in the restroom is easier to carry than a bar, and a small towel to dry off with call be helpful to freshen up.  Cycle Ladies, check out this link for looking fresh after exerting all that energy pedaling to work!  If you are bringing a change of clothes to work, carrying a lunch, or a small dog, jump to item #4!

Puppy transport inspiration!

4.     Carrying Cargo – Whether it’s a rack and panniers, messenger bag, a backpack, or cleverly-rigged purse with small dog, bike commuters need to bring things along the way!  We echo the sentiments of item #1, in that “whatever you already have will probably work just fine.”  Whatever your choice for carrying your clothes, laptop, lunch, or pretty much anything barring children, any backpack lying around the house should do the trick.  The backpack is a great go-to for a no hassle bike commuter cargo containment because a) everybody already has one b) two straps are better than one since they don’t swing around to the front of your body while pedaling -AND- c) you can pretend you are the Rocketeer on your way to work.

From Randonneur to Citaden:  Conversion of a touring bike to city kid and cargo hauler

Rack to the Max: front and back!

5.     Lights – front n’ back. Everyone at Bike Commuters has a passion for blinky lights, make sure you can at least be seen with one white and one red light.  We’ve got so many bike light reviews in our archive that it’s best to just give you the direct link to them all. Here you go…lights for the front, back, sides and everywhere in between!

6.     Invest in a good lock – and learn how to use it effectively. Our article on locking strategy will help you ensure your bike is still there after work. Don’t forget to secure your wheels…we’ve also got a handy article that addresses the various wheel-retention methods.  The best method for avoiding thieves (if your work is okay with it) is to bring your bike inside – unless you work with shady individuals of dodgy moral character.  Scope out the bike parking situation at work, covered bike parking would be best.  Co-workers that are bike commuters may have good tips on the best place to secure your steed.

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So maybe now is not the season to check the weather for SNOW, but you never know!

7.     Check the Weather – before you head out, and be prepared for rain or heat or bitter cold. We discuss raingear, layering for winter weather (not such a big concern now, of course…but file it away for the cooler months), more winter wardrobe tips, and more crucial to the coming months — beating the heat.  Speaking of beating the heat, on a related note, you may want to check out item #8:

8.     Beverages – Depending on how long you will be commuting by bike, a beverage may be necessary! If your commute is longer than a few miles, bring a water bottle.  A cage mounted squeezy water bottle like this one would be perfect.  If you haven’t yet mastered riding with one hand and drinking with the other, you can always grab a swig of water at a stop light or in a greeny pasture.  Another option for carrying a water bottle is to stash them in side pockets on your backpack for easy access (unzipping your bag to search for water at a light could result in fumbling and angry drivers when the light turns green).

The active life...

"Water is the Essence of Beauty...!" - MerMAN.

9.      Repair Kit – any bike commuter should be prepared to tackle basic repair and maintenance issues out on the road, especially tasks like changing a flat. You don’t want to be late to work, do you? Here’s an article that shows a basic toolkit… easy to carry and damn handy when you need it.  There are some great comments in that article, too: simple additions to the toolkit like gloves, a few dollars and – of course – a working cellphone to help bail you out if a breakdown has you stranded.  Remember, it’s quicker to replace the inner tube rather than trying to patch it on the road. You can patch the tube later at home.   If you’re not into toting around 2 tubes, a pump and tire levers, hate getting your hands dirty with repairs, or would just rather opt out for the day in the event of a flat, just bring bus or metro fare and bike in parallel with your public transit system!

10.     Rules of the Road – So now that you’re ready to hit the road in style on two wheels, let’s keep you safe on the road.  Check out our Commuter Tools Page for state-by-state bicycle laws.  The League of American Bicyclists has a simple 6-point Rules of the Road list to help keep the ride safe and fun:

1. Follow the law.
2. Be predictable.
3. Be conspicuous.
4. Think ahead.
5. Ride Ready.
6. Keep your cool.

Plus more Ride Better Tips page offers specifics on riding to the right, signaling, traffic and much more!  Be aware while riding, always be scanning the road for debris, obstacles or jerks.

11.     Get a Bike Buddy – If you don’t feel safe getting out on your bike alone, consider a bike buddy! Chicago has a new program called “Chicago Bike Buddies“. In addition to helping you plan your route and help you gear up for your commute, a buddy also offers support and helps keep you safe out there. There is safety in numbers! Seek out or start a similar program in your neighborhood, or just reach out to anyone else you know who bikes to help get you started. Most of us cyclists love helping fellow cyclists…

Asian Love

Accountabili-buddy. Bike Commuters Unite!

Well contestants and viewers at home, thanks for tuning in on this week’s episode of BIKE – YOUR – DRIVE (Sponsored by “Log” from BLAMMO!)  We hope you enjoyed our show and learned some snazzy Top Commuter Basics Tips – this show is made possible by viewers like you!  For more information on how you can become a Bike Commuter, check out our final link from the League of American Bicyclists.  Make sure to bike your drive next week: same bike time, same bike channel.

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.

Late to Work: Biking in my Dreams!

Do you ever have a commute where you get to work and wonder, Is this real life!?”  I DO.  I don’t know how it happened, but I ended up uber late to work today, rolling in at an embarassing 1:10pm!  Not to say that I arrive at the dark box of drudgery and sadness (a.k.a. office with no windows) any earlier than 9:30am on a regular M-F… but today was different.  Caught between a nightmare of angry drivers and a dream of ukulele bike advocacy, I thought “Dr. Toothenstein must have gone overboard with the Novocaine yesterday.”  Either that, or now I’m biking in my dreams too.

Fruit!

Gramps keeps it real, he's my posture coach.

My dream started out like this: I groggily flopped out of bed late with no time to shower OR shop for vegetables in Chinatown!  Grandpa yelled my name from the streets below as he waited for a ride on my handlebars over to the acupuncture lady.  We’re cruising down the narrow streets of C-town, as I wait in the middle lane to make a left turn.  Gramps and I are chillin’ completely innocent and unoffensive (well, except for maybe some strong B.O. since hygiene is not my forte), and the nightmare begins.  A jerk-bomb in a truck passes by in the far right lane and yells “Get the FAWK outta tha ROAD!” The truck passes by at full 5 mph (bad traffic makes yelling at cyclists then speeding away kinda hard!)  Gramps gets pissed and starts yelling in Cantonese and chasing the truck down.  Guess I don’t need to drop him off to acupuncture after all.

I call these scones "Forget-Me-Nows" - eat one and forget all bad juju from Jerk Bomb in Pick-up Truck!

I’m a bit stunned from the nightmare, but decide to just crank it out.  There’s only one way to repair the damages from a street-fire jerk bomb: Forget-Me-Now blueberry cream cheese scones from Diamonhead Market!  With nothing but scone on the brain, I zone out for the rest of my ride.  On the way there, I detour through Kapiolani Park.  It’s a beautiful day to take the scenic route to scones, and I  hear the voice of the executive director at HBL calling out my name!  I stop and pull over.

A royal shower tree

Kapiolani Park - a dreamy royal shower tree.

I’ve apparently entered into the Bike Advocacy dream sequence with this kinda hot n’ famous ukulele guy, Chad from HBL and a lady cop.  So much for scones, I guess it’s time to film a dreamy PSA with Jake Shimabukuro on how cyclists have the right to take the whole lane in Hawaii!

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After a couple of video takes, some sweet harmonious tunes, and awkward posing in my HBL tee… I start to think: maybe this isn’t a dream, this is REALITY!  And if it is, am I frackin’ sweaty and smelly.

P1020385

Well, whatever is happening here, I just can’t help but throw up a shaka for the camera!  Deputy lady cop so-n-so says “It’s the law!”

P1020387

How appropriate that my nightmare and dream revolve around the same theme:  cyclists have the right to take the whole lane if it’s too narrow to share with the car!  Seems Mr. Jerk-bomb is the perfect audience for this Public Service Announcement.  Let’s hope jerk-bomb and other drivers out there will listen up and share the road!  Until this PSA is published on the telly, I gotta go back to Chinatown and find Gramps…  Any of you riders out there have bike commuting nightmares to share?  How do you guys get over those nasty comments from drivers on your commutes?

(For the more literal readers out there, Mir.I.Am was intentionally late to work today to film a Public Service Announcement with Hawaii Bicycling League.  Coincidentally, she did get yelled at by a guy in a pick up truck, but no Grandpas were harmed in the writing of this post.  Blueberry cream cheese scones are baked pure deliciousness itself.  Oh god, they’re so good!)

Look What the Postman Brought in! Preview: LED by LITE System 36 Plus

LEDbyLITE

System 36 Plus Bike Light & Turnsignal Kit - Ultimate Blinky O-face.

WOOOOHOOOOOO!  Look out night riders, we have been ogling the LED by LITE Bike Light Kits since RL spotted them at Interbike last year! And we all know that a great set of blinky lights is a must-have for all ye Cycle Monsters out there bike commuting in the darkness.  The good people from LED by LITE (pronounced “lead by light” in case you were confused like me) have sent us a System 36 Plus demo kit to test out!  Let’s check out the obligatory cut and paste specs from their website, since I know I would be too lazy to browse the site for data if I were reading this post! (wink face):

System 36 Plus

Price:
$150.00
Weight:
2.00 LBS

This shows how the system works. The 48 System Plus is pictured, which has longer LED strips than the 36 System Plus we'll be testing.


Product Description

System 36 Plus

The LED By LITE bike light Systems include up to 36 state of the art, High Intensity LEDs to provide a cyclist with the most radiant 360 degree “to be seen” visibility. The LEDbike lights are encased in  flexible polyurethane/silicone straps making them waterproof and extremely durable.

The LED bike lights are powered by our BlackBox, a 12 Volt single cell Lithium Ion Battery Pack, which produces intense lighting without sacrificing run time. The technology of the microchip circuitry includes “dimming pulsating” modes, not blinking on and off. The BlackBox can be recharged with the wall adapter or from a computer using a micro USB cord.

The Plus of this system is our innovative LBL Wireless Dashboard.TM A wireless controller mounted on the handler bar controls both pulsation mode and directional turn indicator system. Your bicycle becomes a more relevant vehicle for the road. The LBL System 36 Plus improves your safety as a cyclist by illuminating your turning intentions and helping you to see and be seen.

  • Total of 36 LEDs front and rear
  • Weighs in at 250 grams
  • 12 Volt single cell Lithium rechargeable batterypack

Full Mode 3 hrs, Front on Rear Pulsating 4.5 hrs, Front and Rear Pulsating 6 hrs

  • Easy to detach cables, for quick system setup and break down
  • Wireless Dashboard: Turn on and off Pulsation and turn indicators

*Price subject to change after pre-sale ends

*Using your arm is still considered a universal turning signal

Blinky Light Lust!! I - I - I Lufff Eeet! <3

Thanks LED by Lite – shout outs to Salt Lake, UT! I love blinky lights more than robots that do chores for me! I think I might buy the postman a 6-pack of beer.  Until the review…!

Review: Monkeylectric’s M210 “Mini Monkey Light”

As many of you may know, we here at Bikecommuters.com are huge fans of the creative geniuses behind Monkeylectric. We’ve been lucky enough to test out their original M132/133 wheel lights, and we’ve visited with the Monkeylectric crew at Interbike over the past few years.

When they announced the new M210 “Mini Monkey”, we clamored for a chance to get a review sample. Lo and behold, about a month after Interbike 2011, one appeared on my doorstep. I’ve been running this thing ever since and am ready to share my thoughts and photos with you.

First off, a bit about the new M210:

– 10 Ultra-bright color LEDs
– Hub-mounted battery pack
– Stainless steel anti-theft strap
– Waterproof!
– Up to 40 hours runtime

DSC06296

The M210 comes in simple packaging — a bag for the light head and battery canister, a smaller bag for the hardware and a simple header card that unfolds to reveal complete instructions in a variety of languages. While the light head is smaller than the original M132/M133 (10 LEDs — 5 on each side — down from the 32 LEDs on the original model), it still packs a nighttime punch. This new model addresses most of the concerns some of us had over the original model — particularly waterproofing, balance, and theft prevention.

Here’s the light head — covered in a thick, rubbery waterproofing material that seals all those chips and circuits from the elements. The switches are beefy and easy to manipulate:

DSC06293

Here’s the battery pack — a canister that straps to the hub with zipties and a soft rubber cradle. The battery canister holds a cartridge of 3 AA batteries (alkaline or rechargeable) and seals up tight:

DSC06301

One cord travels from the light head to the dongle on the battery canister, and the connection between the two is waterproof. And this connection is TIGHT — it is quite difficult to separate the two parts once they’ve been connected.

Splitting the light head and battery compartment into two components over the original’s “all on one” approach has greatly helped with the overall balance of the light. With the original M133 installed, I was able to discern some faint high-speed wobble on lightweight wheels (that wobble was mitigated when I installed the unit on some heavy disc wheels on my Xtracycle. With the new unit, I didn’t notice any wobble, even at relatively high speeds. Score a win for the folks at Monkeylectric!

Another plus of the split configuration is this: back in Florida, I was forced to traverse some DEEP rain puddles from time to time. Old streets, heavy rains and a substandard drainage system meant that some of the roads on my commuting route were flooded. Some of those flooded areas were nearly hub-deep, and my old unit would get submerged. I had to be diligent about cleaning the battery contacts to keep them from rusting. I don’t have to worry about that anymore — the truly sensitive parts are encased in waterproof materials and the contacts are inside the sealed canister at the hub.

The light can be programmed to display up to 15 different 8-bit patterns (skulls, hearts, and many more) in a choice of colors, or you can do as I did and skip the button-pressing and let the light cycle itself through all the choices. As with the original M132/M133, the M210 has two intensity modes — regular and “turbo”. The “turbo” setting blows through batteries much more quickly and is eye-searing in brightness, but the regular setting is bright enough on its own to spill out a pool of light to either side of the wheel. I took some still shots so you can see just how intense and colorful the M210 is when spinning:

DSC06285

And, as is my style, here is an unedited and rather crappy video of the Monkeylectric light in action — believe me, the “real life” effect is vastly more stunning. It doesn’t help that my neighborhood is lit up like an airstrip (streetlights every 50 feet or so):

Mounting the light head is a breeze — it sits between spokes and is held in place by rubber pads and zipties. Getting the battery canister mounted on the hub is somewhat more difficult…the more spokes one has, the more difficult it can be. Even with my long fingers, getting everything set and cinched up took a few tense moments. Once the canister is mounted, you will only have to worry about changing the batteries from time to time, and that isn’t as difficult…screw off the cap and replace the cells. Here’s the canister mounted to my front hub:

DSC06291

I was happy to see the addition of the stainless steel “anti-theft” strap — basically a metal ziptie — in the package. While I’ve never had a Monkeylectric light stolen, I am sure others in more urban areas might have to worry about such things. The steel strap is surprisingly difficult to cut with wire cutters (I sacrificed mine in the name of science), so it really does provide a measure of theft deterrence.

As I mentioned earlier, the instruction sheet foldout is detailed and easy to follow. And, it comes in several languages:

DSC06299

As we’ve discussed over and over again here, there are not enough products on the market to help with that crucial “side visibility” — while many front and rear lights spill to the sides, additional safety for nighttime commuters is always a good thing. And this is where Monkeylectric’s products really shine (pun intended). The M210 provides an incredibly effective means to get you noticed out on the darkened streets where you live, all the while having fun with patterns and colors! The Monkeylectric M210 retails for around $50.00, and is worth the price of admission. Another hit from a great bunch of creative folks!

Now, if we can only get the crew to let us borrow one of their “PRO Series” models….

Visit Monkeylectric for more details, images and video of their lights in action.

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