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Commuter Profile: Bruce Wright

 

Note: We’re pleased to offer an intro to Bruce Wright, one of the leading advocates for better bicycling facilities, policies, and education in the greater Washington, D.C. area (and specifically Fairfax County, VA). Bruce’s advocacy work on the board of WABA and as chairman of FABB is very nearly a full-time job at this point, so we appreciate him taking the time to answer some questions for us!

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Bruce Wright. Photo by Shannon Ayres, www.shannonayres.com

How long have you been a bike commuter?
I started commuting by bike on a regular basis in 1979 and have been doing so almost daily since then (34 years).

Why did you start riding your bike to work and how long is/was your commute?
There were several reasons why I started to bike to work. I understood the health, economic, and environmental benefits of biking and since I had a short, 3 mile commute, I decided to bike instead of buying a second car and driving. I could commute by bus when necessary, which was very rare, maybe 3 or 4 times a year.

How does Bike Commuting help you with your lifestyle (economics, health, relationships)?
Since I retired from working full time my bike commuting to work has transformed to using a bike for almost all other local trips. I’m 64 years old and have been able to maintain the same weight as when I was in high school. I take no prescription drugs other than for minor medical procedures and usually only visit the doctor once a year for a physical. I think I’m a happier, more well-adjusted person because I get regular exercise by riding. My wife and I enjoy riding together as well. One caveat; I now use sunscreen whenever I go outside. Bike commuters are exposed to the sun more than others and we need to protect ourselves from the harmful effects of UV rays.

What do you do for a living and in what city/town do you bike commute?
When I worked full time I was a geographer with the U.S. Geological Survey in Reston, VA. Since I left the Survey in 1999 I’ve worked part time in several different jobs: as a legislative aide to a local politician, as a bike shop employee (at bikes@vienna), as a bicycle skills teacher, and now as the head of a local bicycle advocacy non-profit (volunteer). I’ve made a conscious decision to work in places where I can easily bike.

Bruce (3rd from left) with other FABB members at Bike to Work Day 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What kind(s) of bike do you have?

Lately I’ve been mostly using a Brompton folding bike. It has six gears, fenders and a rack and a front carrier block that holds a large bag. The bike is great for taking on Metrorail and bus and is a fun way to get around. For longer commutes or trips where I need to haul more stuff I use a Bruce Gordon touring bike outfitted with fenders, front (occasionally) and rear rack, and large panniers. I used that bike to travel cross country in 1999. I also own a recumbent tandem that I ride with my wife, a beater bike for parking at Metro, and a short wheelbase recumbent that doesn’t get much use these days.

Any funny or interesting commuting story that you may want to share?
I’ve helped many motorists who have car problems. When traveling on a bike it’s harder to pass by someone in need.

Bruce at the 2012 Fairfax Bike Summit

What do people (coworkers, friends) say when you tell them that you are a bike commuter?
Most people have never tried riding a bike to work so the concept is foreign to them. I tell them that it’s easier than they think and that they should try it one day. It takes a little planning but most people can easily ride farther than they think. Bike to Work Day is a great time to encourage co-workers to try biking. I know many people who rode for the first time on Bike to Work Day and have continued to bike commute at least some of the time since then.

How about bicycling advocacy? Are you active in any local or regional advocacy groups?
I’m on the Board of Directors of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association and chair of their advocacy committee. I’m also one of the founders and now chairman of Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling (FABB), a local volunteer non-profit advocating for better bike conditions and policies in Fairfax County, VA. I’m also a member of the League of American Bicyclists and a League Cycling Instructor.

Anything else that you want to share with us?
The world would be a healthier, happier place if more people took short trips by bike.

 

Sidecar Update

If you’ve been following this site over the last few years, I’ve mentioned sidecars more than a few times. You see, I grew up in the Philippines and for the most part, families that didn’t have a car usually would have a sidecar. It basically acted as a form of transportation. In addition, you can hire a sidecar for a few pesos to get you from point A to point B.

Now that I’ve been in America for a few decades, I’ve been daydreaming about a sidecar to add to my collection of bicycles. So, when my mom decided to visit the Philippines over the summer, I asked her if she could see about bringing back or at least shipping a sidecar back to the U.S. During her trip I received messages from my uncle who was overseeing the project. He sent a message with just a photo:
sidecar
The next message I received was from my aunt who stated that when my mom arrived back in the U.S., someone will need a van or a truck to pick her up because of the sidecar. At first I thought they were just pulling my leg, but sure enough my mom had come through!

So when I received the sidecar (thanks mom!), it looked liked this:
sidecar
I then mated it with my daughter’s old Manhattan Hotrod:
sidecar bikecommuters.com
There’s one problem with the sidecar setup; if you’re the driver, it’s wicked tough to pedal. It’s doable, but it’s hard. The small cranks on the hotrod didn’t help either. In fact, when Jack was in town for Interbike, we rode it around the neighborhood and he too felt the weight of the beast. So then I thought, “wouldn’t it be great if this was electrified?!?” So I contacted Bike Mike at Leed Bicycle Solutions. He provided the project with a custom made 8Fun electric motor mounted a 20″ wheel combined with a 10.4 Ah Li-Ion Battery powered by Samsung.
samsung electric bike
Then I equipped the sidecar with a set of matching LED spoke lights by PBLights
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The modifications didn’t stop there. In fact, I was far from over. One thing I wanted to do was make sure that the sidecar/bike had matching colors. Since the Hotrod had a great orange color to it already, I decided to go with that same scheme. So I took it to Specialized Powder Coating in Huntington Beach. I chose “Safety Orange.” About 10 days later, this is what I got back. Not bad eh? The color came out so nice, I couldn’t believe my eyes!
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When I got home that morning, I started reassembling the machine. Pressing cups, tightening bolts, etc. In about 2 hours, the bike was complete! Oh but before I show you the final product, I have to mention that our very own Jack Sweeney sent me a large roll of vinyl as my Christmas present. So I went ahead and redid the upholstery on the the bike seat, seat pad and back rest on the sidecar.
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Ok so here’s the fully assembled sidecar/bike, sans the battery pack:
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We’ve done a number of projects on BikeCommuters and MtnBikeRiders.com over the years, but I have to say that this has to be one of my favorites that we’ve done. Anyone who rides the sidecar immediately falls in love with it. Not only was it fun to work on it, but my own daughter and I have had countless hours riding this thing around. In fact, she loves taking her friends on it and cruising the neighborhood. Heck, just this afternoon, we rode up to the local school and I asked the kids who were there if they’d like to have a drag race.
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These kids didn’t have a chance! Ya I know that I’m a grown man and I was riding a sidecar with an electric motor, but still, I won!
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For now the sidecar project is done…well not really. Now I’m focusing more on accessories. I want to get cup holders and possibly building some sort of canopy for it or even a wood floor.
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Going to Europe? Rent a bicycle!

Since Mir.I.am did such a great job on the bike share by the bay article, I wanted to provide our readers this infopgraphic that was provided to us by momondo.com to help those who are planning on traveling to Europe, to take full advantage of the bike sharing programs in several European cities. What’s even more interesting, the bike share program in Paris has about 18,000 bicycles available for rent and 1200 bicycle stations. Wow, that’s pretty impressive!
bike share

On Test: 2014 Jamis Hudson with Slidepad Brakes

So during Interbike (remember Interbike?) RL and Jack got to see some Torker bikes equipped with Slidepad technology. Most of you were drooling over the Torkers… but we also were intrigued by the Slidepad stuff, and now we’ve got our hands (well, my hands) on a new-for-2014 Jamis Hudson equipped with Slidepad brakes.

The slide pad for Slidepad.

So how does Slidepad work? Basically, when you engage the rear brake, one of the pads slides forward (pad sliding… Slidepad… get it?) and puts tension on a cable from the rear brakes to the front. So – your rear brake always engages first (and with more power), then your front brake engages with slightly less power. You can check out Slidepad’s video for some in-action views.

Since I’ve received this bike, I’ve been hit with a nasty 3-week cold (residing primarily in my lungs, of course!) and then subjected to snow and ice… so I haven’t had as many chances to ride it as I’d have liked. However, I’ve gotten out on the bike a few times and can offer some preliminary comments on both the bike and the brakes. I’ll be riding it over the coming weeks, and will let you all know whether my initial impressions hold up and what else I notice!

First… the bike! The Jamis Hudson is a comfort/cruiser-style bike with a MSRP of $480 – so about what you’d expect for a decent entry-level bike. This is NOT a bike that’s marketed to most of you with your serious-commuter cred… it’s aimed at getting your mom/brother/grandma/friend who hasn’t ridden a bike in 10-50 years back onto one. So, it’s got a basic 7-speed grip shift, 26″ wheels, the Slidepad brakes, a cushy seat, and laid-back pedaling position. It’s easy and comfortable to ride, as long as your ride isn’t going to be too fast or too far. Perfect for jaunts into (a nearby) town or around the neighborhood with the kids.

Jamis Hudson Sport


At nearly 30 lbs it’s not a lightweight beast (even though it’s got an aluminum frame!), but that doesn’t matter because it’s not supposed to be. It comes in one basic size, and that size is quite adjustable thanks to the quick release seatpost and the quill stem that has a few inches of adjustability in it. It seems like it could work for anyone in the 5′ – 6′ range pretty easily (possibly more, but I haven’t had any of those folks available to try it out!). It also comes with one of the nicer stock kickstands I’ve seen.

Now… the brakes! So I’ve got to say up front – I have to look at these from the perspective of the aforementioned non-riders rather than my own. I’m not going to be swapping out my disc brakes for these things, but again I don’t think Slidepad expects me to.

The good:
– The brakes work. The bike stops as advertised, and the front wheel does not lock up at all. Yes it’s only one bullet point… but it’s a pretty darn important one!

The neither-good-nor-bad:
– I have to say I don’t know quite where the “efficiency” claims come from. Certainly the bike stops in a reasonable distance, but I’m quite confident I can stop faster on my other bikes than on this one.
– If you’re not going fast, the front brake doesn’t engage at all, because there’s not enough force on the back brake to move the slide.

The bad:
– As a consequence of rear-wheel-first braking, it’s actually pretty easy to lock the rear wheel up – so I would definitely not want this system if I was going to ride in wet/icy/snowy conditions, where a rear-wheel slide could potentially be worse than a locked front wheel.
– The basic Tektro brake lever is one of my least favorite ones out there. Swap this out for an Avid Speed Dial lever and I’d be a much happier camper!
– The brake system is so interdependent that it makes what is usually an easy job – setting up a pair of V brakes – kind of a pain in the butt. To get everything the way I wanted it, I had to set both front and rear brakes VERY close to the rim – and I still don’t get full braking power until the lever nearly hits the handlebars (though I suspect part of that is the fault of the lever, see above). To most riders of this bike this won’t matter… but I’m betting their mechanics (probably their bikey friends, aka our readers) won’t appreciate it that much!

One of my test riders takes the Hudson for a spin


Despite my complaints on the brakes, this is an overall decent setup for a new rider (and that rider probably won’t have any issues with complaints 2 or 3). I had a couple of not-new riders (but riders unaccustomed to cruiser style bikes) check it out, and they both thought the bike was comfortable and the brakes didn’t give them a problem. I suspect most prospective buyers for the bike and brake system will feel somewhat the same way.

 

 

Product Review: Continental Super Sport Plus Tires


SONY DSCSo a lot of us commuter types end up riding road (ish) bikes with road (ish) tires. Unfortunately, this often means we end up using road tires meant for racer folks, not commuting folks! While they’re not the only players in the game, Continental definitely brings a good solution to market with the Super Sport Plus tires we’ve had on long-term test. They’re equipped with an anti-puncture belt, which according to Continental is “Nearly impenetrable.” The Super Sport Plusses (henceforward referred to by me as SSPs) have just enough tread to lend a bit more confidence on the slightly-sketchy stuff (for super-sketchy stuff you’d be better off with something like this, or possibly this!). The SSPs also come with extra-thick tread – something us commuters can appreciate (because hey, tires can get expensive!). My set was 700×25; they also come in 700×23 and even some 27 inch sizes for those of you riding what I’ll call… “classic”… bikes.



So how do they ride? Well, I mounted them up to my old Bridgestone single speed to test them out, and the verdict was… Smooooth. Also pretty fast for a tire that isn’t that lightweight (no I didn’t weigh them, who do you think I am?). Riding unloaded, I was able to maintain pretty respectable speeds over the course of an hour or two. Recommended inflation on the 700×25 size was 95-120 PSI, but I found 90-95 was the sweet spot for me.
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In terms of wet – they work well there too. No real sense of lost grip (though I’ll warn that might change with the narrower sizes – it’s hard to tell what was because of the tire and what was because of the tire size). I would recommend against snow though (sorry E, they’re not gonna be your Chicago winter tires!).

The verdict on flat protection? Well, it’s always hard to prove a negative… I didn’t get any flats on these! I’m not usually riding any glass or tack-studded roads though, so it’s hard to say. I did hit one sharp-edged bump at about 20mph… so I CAN say at a minimum that they don’t pinch flat easily!SONY DSC

Street price for these babies seems to average around $30/tire, though there are a few deals out there depending on which version you’re after. My verdict? Worth the money. You won’t find a heck of a lot that’s much cheaper, and knowing that you’ve got quality tires under you is worth quite a bit.
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