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Author Archive: Big McLargehuge

My name is Big, Big McLargehuge. I'm the Ultra Commuter of BikeCommuters.com. All these other pansies on this site don't commute nearly as much as I do. In fact some of them even own cars! I don't have a car, it's probably because the Law says I'm not allowed to drive on the road...but whatever.

Five reasons why you should go mountain biking in Tenerife

When it comes to mountain biking, Tenerife has a strong claim to the title, ‘King of the Canary Islands.’ The island’s relatively compact geographical area works only to its advantage, as you don’t have to travel far between areas to find all kinds of biking routes. From winding mountain roads to forest trails to coastal tracks, there is plenty of exciting terrain to choose from.

So, whether you’re looking for a fun way to spend a day on your holidays in Tenerife, or you plan to spend the entire trip exploring on two wheels, you won’t be disappointed. Here are five reasons why the biggest Canary Island is a fantastic place to go mountain biking:

1.The weather won’t let you down

With little variation between summer and winter, Tenerife is warm all year round, so you don’t have to worry about encountering foul weather. Even in the winter months, rain is minimal. The south and the west are the warmest regions, but of course, on Mount Teide, you can expect colder weather and even snow in winter. After all, it is 3,555 metres high!

2.Good views are guaranteed

No matter where you go mountain biking on Tenerife, you’ll encounter incredible views. The north, however, is where you will find some of the most breath-taking, rugged mountain scenery.

The Esperanza forest area is one of the most popular amongst mountain bikers. The trails will take you through gorgeous pine forests, and any uphill climb will end in a worthwhile view over the surrounding area.

3.You don’t need to be a pro to enjoy the best routes

For the more recreational cyclist, the forests in the Vilaflor area in the south of the island are a great place to start out. The trails are wide, the terrain good, and there are few steep inclines. Vilaflor is the perfect place to take the family if you want to go biking with the kids.

Less experienced riders can also take advantage of the island’s bike tour operators, if you’d rather travel with a guide. Lavatrax and Bike Point are two of the most popular operators, offering days out on a range of routes, with bike hire included.

4.If you’re seeking a challenge, you’ll find it

You shouldn’t mistake Tenerife for a tourist-only cycling destination. If you’re an experienced mountain biker and you want to challenge yourself, you could take the winding road to La Masca. This tiny village is nestled high on a mountainside, and it is one of the most picturesque locations on the whole island.

You’ll start the route in Santiago del Teide, in the west of the island. The steep, narrow road to the top is not for the feint hearted, but Masca is worth the ascent.

5.You can cycle to the top of Spain’s highest peak

Most levels of cyclist can manage the route to the summit of El Teide. Despite being the highest mountain in Spain, the trail is not too steep. Cycling is a fun alternative to climbing the mountain on foot. If summiting the peak isn’t enough, you can explore the surrounding Teide National Park by bike as well.

Where are your favourite mountain biking holiday destinations? Let us know in the comments below!

Image by cédric used under Creative Commons licence.

 

Cycling the South East of Spain

Spain is a destination endlessly popular with cyclists. Its excellent climate, beautiful natural landscapes, and bike-friendly cities make it the perfect holiday location for travel hungry cycling nuts all around the world. For a truly special two-wheeled tour, though, head to the south east of Spain and the hip, hot and happening coastal regions of Valencia, Murcia and Andalusia.

And don’t worry: with some careful planning, you won’t have to go through the rigmarole of hiring once you’re there. Pack smart and you can take your own bike with you on your epic Spanish odyssey.

Picture by Martin Cox on Flickr, some rights reserved

Packing your Bike for a Flight

First things first: read the small print. Even if an airline is offering cheap flights, they may charge you a high fee to check your bike, so it’s worth shopping around for the best deals. Though it can be tempting to box up your bike and claim it’s just a regular old piece of luggage, this will prevent you from claiming any insurance if the bike is damaged during transit.

As for the actual packaging, it comes down to three options. Firstly, you could choose a soft bike case or plastic bag. Bags are cheap and flexible but don’t offer much protection from overenthusiastic baggage handlers.

Secondly, you could invest in a sturdy rigid case. This will definitely keep your bike safe, but is also the most expensive option and difficult to transport once you’re off the plane.

Your third option is a cardboard box, which strikes a happy medium between the other two, giving adequate protection to your bike without being too expensive. Best of all, you can maintain your green credentials by recycling it once you get to your destination!

City Biking

Some of the best cycling to be found in this part of the world is in Murcia. This university city boasts numerous cycling trails and fascinating sights in the centre of town, including an ornate cathedral, a large botanical garden and park, and a spectacular world-famous casino in the Sociedad Casino of Murcia.

Further south from Murcia, the coastal cities of Almeria and Cartagena provide ample opportunities for cycling. The notoriously dry Almeria is particularly pleasant for tranquil bike rides during the cooler autumn months. Meanwhile, Cartagena is the place to be if you’re into your historic architecture. The city is home to an ancient Roman theatre, the ruins of a cathedral destroyed in the Spanish Civil War, and a number of striking Art Nouveau buildings.

Cycling Disused Railway Tracks

Around the south east of Spain, there are numerous disused railway tracks, which have been converted into cycling paths. Known as “greenways” or via verdes to the locals, these paths are a secluded and truly unique way of travelling through Spain’s natural landscapes.

If you’re headed for Valencia, take a train down to Gandia and hop on the Safor Greenway, a long straight cycling path that takes you past orange groves, canals and rural villages. From Murcia, you can head west inland on the Greenway of the Northwest, a 78 km line that links Murcia with Caravaca de la Cruz, one of the Holy Cities of the Catholic Church and a place famous for its spectacular 15th century castle.

Coastal Bicycle Paths

For cyclists who want to make the most of Spain’s sandy beaches and warm waters, there are plenty of coastal routes to choose from. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, fly into Valencia and then make your way down the coast to Malaga. You’ll pass through the beach resort towns of Benidorm and Alicante (where you can get your sunbathing and clubbing fix) before reaching the Murcian towns of San Javier, Cartagena and Aguilas.

Once in Andalusia, head south along the coast to spots such as Carboneras, home of the famous Playa de los Muertos beach. Move on through the fishing village of San Jose, before finishing up in Almeria. Trust us – the journey will be tough on the legs but easy on the eyes!

The real beauty of taking a cycling tour of south east Spain is that it’s very easy to get budget flight deals, particularly if you travel off-peak. If you take your bike as well, your travel costs once you arrive will be dramatically reduced, which means more money for sightseeing, tapas and lots of cold Spanish beers.

Muy bueno!

Becoming a Bike Messenger in NYC: Abstract Tips from a Former Courier

messenger1

The fast-paced hustle of New York City is alluring to outsiders, but oftentimes hectic for those already living in the city that never seems to sleep. The miles and miles of sidewalks brimming with people, the tide of yellow taxi cabs merging into a sea of endless traffic, and the stoplights appearing every twenty yards can make commuting even the shortest of distances into a time-consuming affair. However, there are some who thrive in this environment, weaving in and out of traffic with speed and precision. Who are these people you ask? They’re your friendly neighborhood bike messengers!

You probably already knew that though since you’re reading this post. While some experienced cyclists make it look effortless, being a bike messenger in one of the busiest cities in the country isn’t as easy as you may think. These guys likely grew up pedaling back and forth through parks and back alleys learning every shortcut along the way. With that being said, if you’re still interested in establishing your own career as a bike courier, then hopefully my advice will help.

I’m not going to waste your time with the basic stuff; you obviously already know that you need a decent bike, as well as a helmet to even consider being a bike messenger. Instead, I’m going to pass along some knowledge I have picked up in my own experience as a bike courier.

No Couch Potatoes

messnger2In other words, you can’t expect to be a successful courier if you don’t live an active lifestyle. Most bike messengers train quite regularly to keep their physique in top shape. A good bike messenger is defined in terms of speed, precision, agility, and stamina. The ability to deliver packages quickly is what weeds out the less efficient messengers. NYC is filled with people, cars, and obstacles, all of which can cause serious damage to your bike, the item being delivered, and most importantly, you!

 

The Hunt

Being a bike messenger makes you quite versatile. In fact, most NYC bike messengers are always on the move, working for more than one delivery service on any given day. For instance, a messenger may deliver flowers for an online florist every other morning, and then transition into ferrying food for a small corner café at lunch time. For the most part, working for one delivery service usually won’t yield a large income. However, I have met several couriers who were pulling in upwards of $50,000 by holding three or more jobs.

Sell Yourself

While you may be one of the best riders in NYC, nobody is going to know that unless you tell them. Sure you could pick up the yellow pages and call around about possible employment, but that can be extremely tedious and time-consuming. When I first started out, I had one job that was barely paying the bills, so I decided to put myself out there a little more. For starters, I had a few black t-shirts and a couple baseball hats made that promoted my services. Because the information was printed on the back of the shirt, I was advertising every time I got on my bike.

The Commute

messenger3One of the first things I learned as a bike messenger was to stop as little as possible. Yes, blowing through stop signs and red lights can be dangerous and I’m not saying you shouldn’t slow down, but a lot of research lately has shown that excessive stopping can actually be more dangerous. Aside from that, you should also go against your instincts to ride towards traffic, riding with the flow of traffic instead. The last little tidbit of commuting knowledge I’m going to give you pertains to the subway. While the subway can shorten a commute significantly, you’re going to want to avoid it whenever possible (especially during rush hour). However, the one exception to this would be if the weather is just downright terrible and/or creates hazardous riding conditions.

Thieves Are Everywhere

That may not be “breaking news” for you, but you would be amazed how lightly some messengers take theft. When you think about it, a bike is an easy target that can be used to escape on once stolen. I have had one bike stolen because I was naive enough to think my simple U-Lock was indestructible. That experience led me to purchase a heavy duty cable lock that could be looped through the entire bike (front wheel, frame, back wheel). You can also couple your cable lock with a standard U-Lock for added security.

Cycling: A Fun Way To Stay Fit, Even for Celebrities

Not everyone is a great competitor, which means that not everyone wants to be the best when it comes to fun practices such as getting some exercise as they cycle. They simply want to enjoy it or they want to stay fit and in shape. Sure, the true competitors – often professional athletes – want to come out on top and therefore take part for different reasons.

Cycling is a relatively uncomplicated activity. Most of us were introduced to a tricycle as toddlers and to bicycles as soon as we started school. Maybe that is why so many people enjoy it simply to relax and to have fun – individually or in groups.

Some people plan vacations around cycling; some great cycling routes all over the world make for memorable holidays. Who said every break has to be a city trip, or days at the beach, or hours on deck chairs around swimming pools? 

FOR SHEER FUN

Some celebrities are often spotted around town cycling away for the fun of it – nothing serious, just relaxing, it seems, as they either cycle by themselves or treat their little ones to a fun ride. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the world’s most famous “twerker” Miley Cyrus, Jennifer Aniston and David Byrne of Talking Heads can be seen as they pedal on in a relaxed fashion. Byrne is actually a great advocate for cycling and wrote a book called Bicycle Diaries on the subject. His preferred means of transport to get around the cities he visits is to jump on a bicycle and get moving!

Brad and Angelina (Mr and Mrs Pitt, of course) love taking the kids on a bike stroll when time allows. Naomi Watts also likes to get out, and what better way than to get her hubby and kids to join her on a bike ride, even in a city as busy as New York. Recreation at its best!

Even the President Obama has been spotted out with his family from time to time, and in 2009 his administration doubled spending on walking and cycling initiatives, resulting in more than double the number of cycling trips in America.

Well-known British politician Boris Johnson (Mayor of London, Member of Parliament) has been in the news for his efforts to encourage Londoners to cycle more, by announcing that 2 new cycle routes would be built soon. It forms part of a huge £900m project to see London natives get on their bicycles and start pedaling. Some may be sceptic about these plans initially, but support may grow if it proves to be successful.

While cycling is a fun activity and it a great way to get outdoors, it also helps keep the legs looking good, the butt firm and the cheeks rosy and healthy.

CELEBRITIES WHO TAKE CYCLING SERIOUSLY

Not all celebrities cycle for fun; no, some take this activity quite seriously. Not all of them may have aspirations of becoming top cyclists, but quite a number of them see cycling as a way to stay fit and strong.

It is a well recorded fact that F1 driver Jenson Button stays fit and sharp by cycling often as part of his fitness regime. Because Formula 1 racing demands of the drivers to carry as little weight as possible, cardiovascular exercise is very important, and that is why cycling is a wonderful way of staying lean and strong. To test his fitness, Button uses the 12km Madonna Climb on the Italian border, which is the same climb that someone like Lance Armstrong does to test his own form. Says Button, “It hurts like hell…I love cycling in the mountains…the views are fantastic and it is doing you good.”

Another F1 driver, Mark Webber, loves cycling and enjoys both road and mountain biking to stay in great shape. He enjoys cycling both as a leisurely activity and a way to stay fit.

Marcin Horecki, former member of the Polish National Alpine Skiing team whose career was cut short because of injury, found a new passion in playing poker. Very competitive by nature, Horecki makes no secret of his fondness for testing himself against others. More recently he added taking part in cycling races to his impressive resume. In his first ever cycling race he finished 900th out of 1,500 competitors – not bad for a maiden effort.

The late Robin Williams who reportedly was a friend of Lance Armstrong and had, at one stage, 60 bikes in his garage! Another actor known for his love of cycling on a more serious level than spinning on his porch, is Matt Damon, who has completed Cape Town’s famous Cape Argus Cycle Tour, the world’s largest timed cycle race. Other celebrities who have completed this race include Sir Richard Branson and Armstrong himself.

Jake Gyllenhaal of Brokeback Mountain fame is another Hollywood heavyweight who professes to being addicted to fitness, which includes time on a bicycle in both California and New York. Other Hollywood celebrities who love cycling include Patrick Dempsey (Grey’s Anatomy) and Mark-Paul Gosselaar (NYPD Blue, Raising the Bar). The latter is certainly no novice when it comes to the sport. Gosselaar started racing in 2005 and went from category 5 to category 2 in only 2 seasons which is not bad going for an amateur. Dempsey is even more involved; an avid cyclist himself he is on record as cycling more than 100 miles a week.

It seems that cycling is gaining ground everywhere as more and more people are out on the roads – not only those who take it seriously, but also housewives and the Average Joe. They’re out there, cycling the streets of their cities and villages, and also the back roads of the countryside. It simply suits so many people and personalities. Whether you want to cycle individually, as a member of a social club, as a family to just get out, or because your competitive nature forces you to do so, it is easy. Just do it!

 

Combine Cycling and Sightseeing for a Spectactular Spanish Experience

So your annual holiday is approaching and you’re wondering where to go. You usually lie in the sun, eat and drink too much on an all inclusive — then feel lazy or guilty returning home. You hop on your bike for some activity and wonder: why didn’t you book a cycling holiday in the first place? On a bike, you can enjoy unparalleled freedom, take in spectacular scenery, discover hidden gems, and face challenging ascents with exhilarating descents. Sold? Great. Now, where to go?

Tough choice — but Spain is one of most awe-inspiring countries, and it also offers cyclists a truly varied experience. Think: stunning mountainous road routes, flat-cycling through idyllic countryside, delicious authentic cuisine, and the option of luxury hotels or basic camping accommodation. The beauty is: on a cycling holiday, you choose the experience you want. And if you’re going to spend money on all the necessary cycling gear, you could invest in these Spanish cycling holiday routes:

Northern Spain – cycle like a pro

The north of Spain is known for its awesome cycling routes — it’s the setting of the famous La Vuelta a Espana race. Here you’ll find genuinely breath-taking scenery as you make your way through the Basque country, past the Cantabria mountains, towards the renowned Alto de L’Angliru — also known as one of the toughest climbs in Europe, and not for the faint-hearted! However, with over 8000m ascent available, this area of Spain also has thrilling descents!

Coast along coastal routes

malaga2

For a more laid-back cycle, the south of Spain and the Costa del Sol provides excellent stretches of road paths, which are adjacent to stunning beaches and can lead you to bustling villages like Torremolinos. There there is no shortage of restaurants and bars in which to re-fuel, whet your whistle or unwind. A popular route begins at Malaga’s beach promenade towards Torremolinos, taking in the local bird sanctuary, sandy beaches and bars. On arrival at Benalmádena town, you can opt to return via Metro train to Malaga. Spanning a largely flat route of 40km, you won’t be judged for taking a train back!

Urban cyclists welcome

If you enjoy the buzz of a city, you could cycle the Bilbao to Barcelona route. This is a fantastic path from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean coast. If you want to see panoramic Spain in all its glory — and in one journey — then this route is for you. Expect a dramatic Pyrenees backdrop, historical villages, family-run rural restaurants, natural canyons and a climactic, stunning view of Monserrat. Alternatively, the city of Seville recently enjoyed new cycle path upgrades. With 75 miles of (largely flat) segregated lanes, novice and seasoned cyclists can enjoy the city on their own terms. It’s worth investigating the Via Verdes — also known as Greenways.

So whether you’re racing up the Angliru, or coasting along the Costa del Sol, cycling in Spain is really one of the best ways to see a country filled with highs and lows — cycle paths, that is!