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Friday Musings – Tiny awesome things about Bike Commuting

Happy Aloha Friday everybody!  Sometimes I make tiny mental lists of the tiny awesome things about bike commuting that I love including tips, hidden moments on the commute, commuter-specific nuances, and ultimate randomness.  Let’s get all loosey-goosey and see what we can come up with.  P.S. – some of these things are shared from others, so be sure to comment and fill in yours too.  Let’s roll out the red carpet for the little things we love about Bike Commuting:

It's Friday, and it's time to NERD OUT over Bike Commuting!

  • Front light/Front flip: One out of three of my commuter stallions has had the problem of anorexic handlebars!  What this means is that in ideal spot to mount my front light, the tube diameter is too small for thesmallest grippy-diameter of my Planet Bike Blaze front mount (even with piling up those rubber fillers).  The front light would tip forward after every big bump in the road, resulting in half my commute flashing a front-light strobe party pointing straight down on the ground!  So much for being seen!… Instinctively, each time Bumblebee and I rode over a lumpy-hump, I would reach for the front light and prop it back up.  It wasn’t until this past year that my co-worker spotted a neat trick on someone else’s ride: flip the light upside down so gravity is on your side!  Now my front light hangs underneath the bars, and I never have to readjust after humps and bumps!  Yay! No more front light push-up like pointdexter adjusting my glasses.

    The Front Light Front Flip!

  • Smell factor: This can be something good or something bad depending on where you are in your commute!  Two awesome smells I’ve been recording on my brain are ripe mangoes at Hotel and Maunakea St. and cinnamon rolls baking at the enormous warehouse-style bakery a block from my office!  I love the smell of my bike commute, better than the smell of the inside of the bus on a rainy day, or that weird Crayola smell in Volkswagen Jettas.  I’ll take “fresh” bike air any day…
  • Helmet Basket:  No shame in this, a quick trip to the grocery store to grab the makings for a FlufferNutter – why grab a plastic shopping basket when you can use your helmet upside down! I do this all the time at the grocery!  I also use this trick while locking up: I clip the helmet so it hangs from my top tube, and toss the flat bar with key of my U-lock into the helmet as I thread the cable through my wheels and line everything up for the final lock down.  I love dual purpose of helmets: stores my brains and knowledge, or Fluff and U-locks!  Elizabeth has her own trick for carrying groceries home.

Ok, I don't think it works well the other way around, buckethead!

  • Nightride Karaoke Solo: Whenever I work late and am riding alone on the streets, I love to sing really embarrassing pop songs like Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” out loud for no one to hear!  The streets are mine, and no one is around to give me the stink eye, so I enjoy it!

I want one that says Cycle Ladies like Bike Nerds.

  • Left-Turn Signal Habit: I know I’ve posted this before to the BikeCommuters.com facebook, but to any new readers who didn’t catch it; you know you are a bike commuter when you left turn signal while walking back from lunch to your office.  NERD ALERT!  Another good one I heard from a reader is when you try to do a mirror check while walking in the hallway at the office.

Anyway guys, enjoy your Aloha Friday, Bike Commuters! Don’t be ashamed of nerding out, enjoy those tiny moments on your ride home this weekend.  What other awesome randomness do you enjoy on your commute!? Share it in the comments box puh-leeze!

Panties in a Twist… Just Not Comfortable Biking!

Have you ever been in a situation that was so ENTIRELY awkward, uncomfortable, and near puke-inducing that the only way to get out of there fast enough would be to go back in time and put yourself in a sleeper-hold!?  I have.  As my train of thought is more like a train wreck on an acid trip than a linear thought process, I ask that the lovely and becoming Bike Commuters readers bear with me… I promise journey will end with bikes abounding!

This photo is a carrot to keep you reading on...

Ultimate Fail: The other day I decided to try to be a supportive co-worker by joining my colleague (let’s call him “Bloop” for the sake of anonymity) after work in his sport of choice: ULTIMATE. FRISBEE.  Bloop is a new co-worker at the office who bikes to work (he has single-handedly dismantled our 100% female bike commuters record) and is as enthusiastic about playing some Disc as I am about riding some Bike.  Bloop teaches a beginner workshop on how to play Ultimate at the Ala Moana Beach park only 5 minutes away from the office by bike.  Let’s all recap that I am anti-sports involving balls, equipment, and coordination of handling said balls or equipment.  I generally abstain from flying discs and balls but decided to make an exception.

I roll up to this beyotch (Macedonian pronunciation of “beach”) and see 30-40 people in cut-off tanks running, chasing, discing, throwing, and yelling simultaneously.  No noodley-floppy, dorktastic, non-disculated newbies eating shit and listfully prancing in the sunset like I had envisioned.  I frantically scan for Bloop who is sitting on the sidelines waiting to “sub in”.  Well shoot me in the faccia (Italian for “face”)!  I had shown up on Hardcore Pick-Up Ultimate Frisbee Day instead of Newbie What’s a Frisbee? Day.  Before me, the spartan kings of all unconventional, hippie, drunken-athlete sports were tearing it up on the beyotch.  Bloop insisted that this was “really no big deal, and nobody cares if you suck! It’s all just for fun!”  RIIIIIGHT.  I attempted to throw and catch some disc with Bloop for a solid minute (backhand, forehand, WTF??!!!) and then almost vomited on myself right before I grabbed the Xootie, hurriedly shouted goodbye and rode home.  Panties in full twist, I had to stand on the pedals the whole way back…  In a panic, I then plunged head first into the jacuzzi for an Ultimate cleansing, figuring the high temps would kill off the awkward germs.

Faccia is Italian for Face.

Back to Bikes: There are some individuals I know who will again remain nameless (for the sake of this article, let’s call them “Lumps”) who must feel the same way about cycling!  One of my aunties is a self-proclaimed Lump: she attended UC Davis in the 70s and wanted to fit in with all the bikey college students.  Auntie Lump was so uncomfortable with the act of cycling that she bought a bike just to walk around campus with it everyday!  Other Lumps tell me all the time, “No way in HELL I’d get on a bike… I haven’t been on one of those contraptions since my abacus broke!”  Some people have no desire to try, claiming phobia of two-wheeled objects, that pedaling gives them carpul tunnel, or taintal allergies keep them from perching their sensitive bums on bicycle saddles for longer than 5 seconds.

To me, and many bike commuters, riding a bike may have been a bit uncomfortable at first… the first time I used hand brakes instead of coaster brakes, road drops instead of flat bars, or clippie shoes have all put my bike shorts in a temporary twist at one point in time.  But eventually we come around.  I honestly have ZERO desire to ever come around to Ultimate Frisbee, or doing something weird with a “disc” that they call a Land Shark.  Are there Lumps out there with equivalent sentiments towards bike commuting?  You guys must know a few…  In the Lands of Nether, biking is an everyday means of transportation.  If that’s the case then maybe Tron is the the land where Disc is an everyday means of beating the living crap out of your enemies.

Anyway, thanks for sticking with it, Bike Commuters.  For those of you who made it to the end of this crack party ride, I leave you with some images from my Bike P0Rn presentation last summer.  Thanks to the readers who contributed their photos!

Me likey your Bikey!

Bike Share in Fwance – “But I am Le Tired!”

Bonjour Bike Commuters!  Have I got a tasty post-Halloween PG treat for you.  Put down your slice o’ wonder bread and pick up your baguettes, because France is killing it on the bike share scene with these two amazing programs:  Velib in Paris and Vcub (V3) in Bordeaux.  I just returned from a jaunt in Europe and was swooned by the cities after stepping off the train and encountering bike share stations at every turn.  Both Velib and V3 are sponsored by the local governments and offer budget-friendly rates with plenty of stations around town that make renting the bikes a convenient and competitive option for commuting and running errands!  The heavy bikes have three speeds, fenders, front baskets, generator-powered lights, chainguard, kickstand, and a bell.  Similar programs are offered in the U.S. of Americans, like Hawaii’s own pilot project of B-Cycle in Kailua. 

Girl on Velib in Paris, courtesy of Lezarderose on Flickr

I couldn’t believe my four eyes as we power-walked the streets of Paris in a mad hunt for signs of the Da Vinci Code, the Velib bikes were EVERYWHERE!  It was a Velib Bike Zombie attack: there were more Velib bike commuters than Parisians on their personal bikes!  This article from the Scientific American (whose author was trolling the streets the same time we visited) gives a logical explanation: 

Vélib’ is utterly inescapable, which is what makes it work so well. Paris has 20,000 shared bikes at its 1,800 stands…spaced about 300 meters apart. The system’s density is so great that a novice does not need any help in finding bikes. Even without a map or a smartphone, my friend and I rarely failed to find a stand of gray cruisers standing at the ready, just by walking a few blocks while keeping an eye out for the glowing LEDs of the bike stands. 

Clever move, la France: bombard your citizens with bikes every 300 meters and there is no excuse not to try one! 

Fire Ze Missiles! Then have a bike.

In Bordeaux the V3 program rents their bikes for free for the first 30 minutes and charges 2 euros for each hour therafter.  A monthly or annual pre-paid subscription reduces the rate to 1 euro an hour.   And – hold on to your butts for this one, loud engrish Americans – the website actually encourages riders to switch bikes every half hour should they need it longer, in order to avoid paying for usage at all.  This puts my capitalist knickers in a twist, but hey, I’m down for some PG-rated V3 bike action.  Bike availability by station can be accessed via the web, and stations are paired with the brand-new bus and transit lines, so it’s easy to switch from bike to bus or bike to tram if needed.  And now for graphic indulgence: 

A cheeky V3 on a sunny Sunday in Bordeaux. Courtesy of Oncle Tom via Flickr.

In Paris, the Velib is only 1.70 euros for the whole day.  My French girlfriends rolled up to the bar on Velibs, and took them to the train station each day for their out-of-town work meetings.  Taking the Velib for a downhill ride is always a Parisian favorite, as the trucks cart them back up the hills and refill stations on a daily basis.  After seeing the popularity of this program in Paris, I am crossing fingers that B-Cycle in Hawaii explodes and takes over like weevils in my oatmeal… With a wimpy 12 bikes and two stations available in Kailua, the one-year pilot is targeted more at B&B tourists exploring Kailua Beach.  (Boo! sad face.)  See this article from the Honolulu Magazine for more deets.  Bike share lust abounded for me in the city of tongue-kissing and croissants! 

I said BRRRR!

Back in Bordeaux, to top it all off like a glass of champagne, I came across this mysterious bike habitat, closed on a Sunday: 

The window showcases piles of bikes... must be source of French Bike Zombie outbreak.

After a bazillionth of a second Google search, I used my high-school French translation skills to decipher that this is a bike library of sorts, sponsored by the City of Bordeaux.  The Maison du Velo’s slogan is:  Ici, le velo est roi, or “Here, the bike is king.”  (Double swoon!)  With 48 bikes to check out for free, an open shop, and classes on safety and maintenance, it is the ultimate stop for new Bordelais riders interested in bike commuting.  Riders must undergo safety training prior to receiving a bike and have the option to check out accessories, helmets, and even baby carts!  So jealous.  Imagine how easy it would be to convince your friends to ride bikes to work with you if there were free bikes available!  A surefire cure for the self-proclaimed members of broke phi broke – who’ve got no extra cash in this down economy to spring for a bike.  Sign me up for socialism and foie gras! 

And for you curious and scrutinous clever BikeCommuters readers, segregated bike lanes in Paris and Bordeaux.  J’adore!  The French bike-share riders don’t seem too keen on helmets, but I suppose you could always bring your own.  

From the Cycling is Good for You blog to you...

Anyone else tried out any bike share programs out there?

Honolulu Century Ride Approaches: Heat stroke anyone?

Aloha two-wheeled commuters… Just a reminder to all those reading from the mainland, Japan, and Hawaii that the annual Honolulu Century Ride is on our tails!  The ride is coming up at butt-crack of dawn next Sunday, September 25, 2011 (butt-crack = 5:45am for open ceremonies).  With over 2000 riders each year, 30 HBL friendship ride leaders, and a buttload of volunteers (that’s right, I said it. Buttload.) the HBL century ride is equivalent to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for cyclists on Oahu.  Okay, maybe a really really long parade and without balloons.

Apparently it's the 30th anniversary of 100 miles of iron okoles.

The route stretches from Kapiolani Park all the way to Chinaman’s Hat on the windward side and back.  Turn around points are at 20, 25, 50, 75, and 100-mile markers; it’s really a ride for everyone!  I’ll be volunteering putting up and taking down signage for the ride in my BikeCommuters.com tee shirt, so come say “hi” if your in HI for the ride.

HILLS! yes, we have them!

I might add that this is a COMICAL parade of bicycling awesomeness ranging from insane riders from Japan – about half of the riders fly in from Japan just for this course – which results in some crazy cycling outfits.  Last year I saw dude dressed up as the jolly green giant and a woman wearing a jersey and a skort printed to look like denim. Kids and families come out for the ride too since it is a very safe and fun day to ride for everyone.  I saw a family on a five person tandem (what the heck is that called anyway, a five-dem?) bike.  The smallest kid was such a peanut that it looked like there were only four on the bike with an empty seat!  There were teams from Texas, Nebraska, Idaho – you name it.  My comical event last year included throwing up HEED out of my nose and mouth… Heat stroke took me down YET AGAIN since – apparently – I am incapable of riding any significant distance past 11:30am in Honolulu.  AND it was overcast…sigh.  I made it to 90-mile turnaround point (we made this one up since I wasn’t about to make it to 100) and considered that enough puking for the day.

It was a bike like this, but blue, with uhh, three fetuses and two full grown humans on it. In MATCHING outfits!! WHAT!?

Also, to note: the Zach Manago Ride in Paradise resulted in tons of camaraderie with first names written on the back of all rider bib number thingies… you could shout out to people and chat on the ride, or let people know if you were passing.  (During the Honolulu Century Ride, listen up for the Japanese riders “on your Reft” …so cute!)  HBL has recruited 30 volunteer riders to act as friendship leaders, to encourage groups to ride together and regroup at each rest stop.    The idea is to promote “bike-friendly Hawaii” as Zach Manago’s dream.   Maybe everyone will swap emails at the end – you could meet your future ex-spouse or next best friend on the ride.  I have made friends commuting before, but that’s more of a regular sightings than one-off event.

Click on the image to watch a sweet vid from our friends in Japan - Century Ride 2010!

I’ve never done one of these anywhere else, but I can say that despite the cluster-eff at the beginning of the race (still dark outside with 2000 peeps and 4000 wheels, that’s a lot of wheels) – the ride is funtastic with awesome views.  Even if I’m just proving to myself that I don’t need a car to make it to the other side of the island: as long as I have my bike, a lot of water, and commiserating friends!  I know several cities offer some type of century ride, any other BikeCommuters readers hit the saddle for that long?  Thumbs-up or Thumbs-down to riding with 2000+people?  Hit us up in the COMMENTS.  Catch you later, cycle gators!

New E-Bike Share Program to Start

While having my morning coffee, I came across this blurb about a new Bike Share program starting up in Knoxville, Tennessee at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

Read on..

KNOXVILLE, TN (BRAIN)—The first e-bike sharing system in the U.S. could be unveiled as early as this fall at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

The small-scale pilot program will consist of 15 of Currie’s pedal-assist trekking-style bikes and five hybrid, traditional Marin bikes with no batteries. Chris Cherry, assistant professor at the university’s civil and environmental engineering department, came up with the idea a year ago as a course project for one of his classes.

“It started as a concept I was interested in studying and I was able to find money to buy the equipment and have my students to do the initial design and analysis for a transportation planning course project,” Cherry said.

But the project soon ran into funding and liability issues, which have delayed its implementation. However, Cherry said the system is just about ready to go live with most of the details, including the unique docking stations, tailored e-bikes and battery vending machines, ironed out.

Cherry emphasized that the impetus behind the program is to develop research findings about bike usage, safety-related issues with bikes and e-bikes and physical activity. The e-bikes and bikes will be equipped with GPS and pedal sensors to track usage.

Cherry said he opted for e-bikes instead of a full fleet of traditional human-powered bikes because of the campus terrain. “Our campus is pretty spread out and very hilly so riding a bike requires a bit of devotion,” he said. “This is a way to hopefully get people to ride more bikes. A lot of students will drive across campus. It’s really auto-oriented.”

Larry Pizzi, president of Currie Technologies, said that aside from providing the fleet at a deep discount, Currie worked closely with Cherry on modifying the e-bikes to make them viable for the program, specifically the battery configuration. Pizzi doesn’t think public e-bike sharing systems will proliferate due to the higher price tag of an e-bike and the large scale of citywide systems. “But with private programs, like a university program, it definitely becomes more viable,” Pizzi said.

—Lynette Carpiet
lcarpiet@bicycleretailer.com

This might be a nice precedent for other university campuses to give their civil engineering & urban transportation planning students a jump start in their chosen career paths… Hmmmmm…..