BikeCommuters.com

Author Archive: Art Aguilar

The Realities of Biking to Work

There are lots of reasons to trade in your car and make the switch to biking to work every day. The most basic benefits of the switch are outlined in this post from last March. Of course, knowing why you should bike into work is a lot different than knowing how to bike into work every day. The reality is much different than most new cyclists imagine. Here are the biggest obstacles that most cyclists face with their morning (and evening) commute and how to handle them.

Traffic

The relationship you have to the drivers on the road around you is going to depend as much on where you live as much as it does on how you operate your new engine-less vehicle.

The best thing you can do (because even in cycle friendly cities like Portland, the relationship with other drivers can be tense and irritating) is to follow the rules of the road. Remember that a bicycle is considered a vehicle and, as such, you need to ride like you’re driving a car, not like you’re walking. Stay in your lane, keep up with the flow of traffic, follow your local traffic laws.

Visibility

While most drivers know to keep an eye out for cyclists, making sure you are visible is important. Don’t just pop on your helmet and head out to work expecting that you are automatically visible. The special reflective gear that is sold to cyclists is not a racket. You’ll want to make sure that your bike is equipped with the right lights and reflectors. You’ll also want to make sure that your clothing is easily visible. This could mean sewing reflectors on to your coat or buying special coats, pants and shoes that have reflective and glow in the dark capability built into them. You might feel a little goofy at first, but the last thing you need is to blend into your surroundings!

The Bodily Challenges

Riding a bike is great for your health and, yes, it can reduce your dependence on the gym. At the same time, the repetitive motion of pedaling, the posture your bike requires, etc. can lead to some new aches and pains in your muscles, especially when you are first starting out. You can also expect chafing to be a constant threat and worry.

To deal with these changes, treat each ride as the workout that it is. Warm up and stretch first. Make sure that you are outfitted correctly. Therafirm recommends wearing compression shorts to help wick moisture and prevent chafing during the ride.

Weather

Bad weather is a real problem for people who commute by bicycle. Rain and snow and extreme temperatures can all make your commute difficult.

The best way to deal with this is to wear weather appropriate gear while you are on your bicycle and pack your nicer clothing into your bag so that you can change when you get to work. This way you can stay warm (or cool) and dry on the commute and don’t have to worry about showing up for an important meeting looking bedraggled. Remember to adjust your commute for the time you’ll need to change clothes!

Storage

Most of us don’t travel to work with just our bodies. We have wallets, laptops, phones and other gear that must be accommodated. Fitting these things into a simple front bicycle basket isn’t always possible (or very good for the items you’re transporting). According to the BTA, Some things can be carried in a backpack that you wear during the commute. Another option is to fix a rear basket or fixtures that will accommodate saddle bags or panniers.

Remember to be patient! Adjusting to cycling life will take time. You won’t get everything perfect on that first ride. Take your time, do your research, talk to the pros at your local bike shop of send us your questions: info@bikecommuters.com when you need help. You’ll get there!

Car and Bike Safety Advice This Holiday Season

Those looking to commute this holiday season should take extra caution. Not only are the holiday seasons a time when more Americans are on the roads, it’s also a time of inclement weather that can cause safety concerns.

 

Cold weather biking and driving is nothing new. You may think that driving or biking during the snowy months is impossible but being a four season rider is indeed possible.

 

Proper Clothing

Having reflective clothing if you are riding as well as warm clothing is indeed important. In your car having the right warmth is important, especially gloves for those bitter cold mornings and nights. Not only can clothing keep you warm but it can also keep you safe. Ensure while out on the roads that you are protected and prepared for what you might come across.

 

Proper Gear

Having the right protection on your car such as paint protective film or car wraps which can help protect from corrosive and eroding items are important during this time of year. Having the right protection on your bike as well. Ensure you have checked for rust or areas that need additional oiling. All four or two tires should be well inflated and maintained for proper use.

 

Safety Concerns

There are many safety concerns when it comes to driving in inclement weather. These include visibility concerns such as other drivers or riders seeing you. To avoid collisions there are many things you can do to keep yourself safe:

  • Keep your line of sight visible, including buying new wiper blades

  • Utilize your mirrors or purchase them if you don’t have them

  • Wear reflective clothing and/or use lights when riding at night

  • Remember to take caution making turns and blind corners

  • Avoid the immediate curb area, as that is where snow accumulates

  • Consider taking up a lane during winter travel instead of trying to stick with bike paths as they will offer more stability for your vehicle

Becoming a Winter Rider

Experts suggest starting slowly with your integration to a winter riding or driving cycle. Use public transportation and combine your activities with a bike ride. Drive half way to your destination with your bike in your vehicle just to ensure you are slowly testing out this process. Bike every other day or alternate every three days to try it out. Once you find your rhythm you very well could be on your way to being a regular four season rider.

 

Areas of melted snow should be watched out for. These are often patches of ice and can cause an accident if you’re not careful. Look for black ice conditions and just ride slowly, don’t freak out or overcorrect yourself. Not only are they troublesome for a vehicle but also for bikers.

 

There are many ways you too can participate in bike riding and car driving in the winter months, no matter what vehicle or bike you have. Stay safe on the roads and remember these safety tips to get you through the snowy months.

Hiking socks for biking?

We we’re all about multi-purpose and re-purposing things here at BikeCommuters.com. So when it comes to apparel, we wanted to make sure that things we wear while riding can double as apparel for other activities such as hiking, camping and etc. With that in mind we reached out to one of our favorite backpacker-world traveler Chasie D. She’s sharing with us some information about socks.

Are you planning on taking an outdoor excursion with a few friends? If so, biking/hiking socks are essential apparel to your adventure; especially if it’s going to be a long one. While there are numerous travel sites that offer great advice in terms of clothing and safety tips, very few actually address these foot-warming wonders. So what are some of the top tips that will enable you to choose the best pair for your next trip?

Thickness

What climate are you planning to be in? Will it be a temperate environment or are you planning a trek across the Scottish Highlands? In either scenario, temperature plays an important role. Thicker socks are obviously better for colder climates and they will provide an extra level of comfort for your feet while they are pressed against your shoes. Thinner models are essential to avoid excessive sweating in tropical locations. Excess sweat can easily lead to the development of fungus.
socks
Aeration

How easily can your feet breathe within the sock? This is critical for two reasons. First, the aforementioned sweating concern needs to be taken into account. Secondly, feet that are sweaty within a cold environment risk developing hypothermia. In cold areas, this can even lead to frostbite! On a final note, socks which are aerated also tend to dry quicker. This is the reason that cotton has always been a preferable material over wool or polyester.

Layering

Professional hikers will often layer their socks. This keeps the feet warmer and the outer pair helps to provide a dry barrier against elements such as snow and water. Also, materials which are layered will contain tiny pockets of air. Air is actually one of the best insulators against the cold. So, it only stands to reason that layering your socks is a great tip when it is frigid or wet.

Good socks are one of the most important concerns while planning an outdoor journey. Thankfully, there are countless manufacturers of quality materials and with these tips, you can be certain that you are completely prepared for your upcoming adventure!

Some basic commuter tips

Bike commuting is a great way to stay active, save money, and help the environment at the same time. With your route planned out, and the proper mindset, you can set yourself up for a great experience. But without a little thought and the wrong setup, you could be setting yourself up for disaster.

Pick the right bike for the job

A lot of riders ride simple bikes to work every morning, and some ride the Ferraris of the bike industry to work. An expensive bike is fine but you don’t need it. The idea of commuting to work is to save you money. If your morning commute is mostly flat, there is no reason for a carbon fiber road bike with 30 gears. A simple bike that fits you comfortably, meets your budget, and has around 5 to 10 gears will suffice.

If you plan to commute at night or early enough in the morning that lights on a car would be required, you may want to also look into front and rear bike lights, as many states are now requiring them.

Protective gear
Not every state requires an adult to wear a helmet. Any seasoned rider can tell you there is no shame in wearing a bike helmet. In 2009, 91% of all bike fatalities were due to not wearing a helmet. These can and most likely will save your life. Although your commute might not be long, you will still be surrounded by other bikers and cars. Anything can happen, but know this. There are all kinds of helmets in all kinds of styles and shapes. Some of them are pretty amazing and comfortable.

As you will also be commuting near roads and highways, you may want to invest in some protective glasses or goggles to protect your eyes. Like helmets, these come in all forms of shapes and sizes and can even be made to prescription as needed. You’ll want to be sure these protect you from the sun’s UV radiation and are sturdy enough with polycarbonate lenses, as regular lenses offer less protection from small rocks and other debris flung from cars passing by.

Keep it simple
Take the time to get on your bike and ride to work on your days off. Take different routes and time yourself to see which one will save you more time. Also keep in mind the type of traffic and obstacles you may encounter during the morning work rush. You may also want to keep a backup route in mind in the case that there is an accident or road construction.

Carry only what you need
If your daily commute is only a few blocks, there is no reason to pack for a huge journey. Carry what you need for your day in a back pack or a messenger bag. If you normally carry a brief case, find a bike rack that will best accommodate it.
Make sure that in your pack to carry an emergency kit, emergency contact info, and possibly a rain kit just in case. The emergency kit should consist of at least an extra tube, tire levers, and a tire pump. Tire pumps come in many forms and sizes, so be sure to find one that fits your tube style and will not weigh you down too much. For rain gear, a simple poncho and rain pant will suffice, and usually only weigh a small amount.

If you are worried about carrying your dress clothes with you, or wearing them on your commute, you may want to stash a couple shirts, jacket, and a pair of shoes for work , in you cubicle or office. It might also be a good idea to keep a towel and clean up kit in your office just in case.

Bike security
Unless your office allows you to bring your bike inside, you may have to store it in a bike rack, or attach it to a sign post, or some other immovable object near your work. In most cases a u-lock will do the job by simply running it through your rear tire and frame. If you are worried this will not work, you may want to invest in a longer cable style lock. With a cable lock you can run it through you rear tire, frame, front tire, and then around the object you would like to attach your bike to. If you bike seat is attached to a quick release, you may want to take that and any other item that would be easily stolen with you.

Bike riding in Dublin, Ireland.

So the Mrs. and I are planning a trip to Dublin this November to what all the hoopla is all about with the Irish. While preparing for our trip, I checked out information on the weather. For starters it rains there quite a bit and their summers would be considered their rainy season. In addition, the hottest it ever gets there is about 74 degrees…sounds like my kind of place! Anyhow, being a resident of Southern California where it’s always warm and sunny, I’m afraid I would be in for a shock on how cold the weather will be when we’re there.

I do plan on taking a bicycle around Dublin to see the sights as well as to get a feel for the local community. But before I do that, I figured I’d get some cold weather gear I saw a jacket that might keep me dry and somewhat warm and have the options to allow me to cool down if I get to hot under it.

It’s called the Dare 2b Mens Scampered Windshell Jacket offered by High Octane Sport.

The Dare 2b Men’s Scampered Windshell Jacket (£24.95) can be converted from a jacket to a gilet, with zip off sleeves, for maximum adaptability to temperature rises

Features:

Ilus Windshell lightweight Polyester fabric
Wind resistant fabric
Water repellent fabric
2-in-1 design
Zip off sleeves convert jacket to gilet
Stretch bound cuff and hem
Mesh ventilated back panels for maximum breathability
Zipped rear pocket
Reflective detail for enhanced visibility
LED compatible
Weighs less than 300g
The Dare 2b Men’s Scampered Windshell Jacket offers the ideal solution to mixed weather conditions- perfect for the British weather!

So why would I bother ordering a jacket from a UK website like High Octane? Well the way I see it, if this Dare 2b Jacket is good enough for UK folks, then I’m sure it’s going to work well for me. I guess it’s the way I see things when it comes to products. For example, you wouldn’t buy a Mexican Food in Ohio because Mexican Food in Los Angeles…or better yet, in Mexico would be better right? It’s the same with this jacket, make sense? I figured I’ll order the jacket before we venture out to Dublin, that way I’ll be good and ready for the weather once we arrive.

Ever heard of an Audax?

I was talking to a friend of mine from the UK who works for an online bicycle shop called Fat Birds. We got to talking about “commuter bikes” and what that all means to someone in the UK. Well he brought up the word “AUDAX.” Truthfully, I’ve never heard of such a term. Apparently Audax is basically a word that best describes a commuter bike. Here’s a definition on their website:

A Sportive or Audax bike is a bicycle that allows for mudguards and in most cases a rear rack it is lighter than a touring bike and the geometry is more racey (yet slightly more relaxed than a road racer). A Touring bike is a frame designed to handle bicycle touring, with mudguards and front and rear pannier racks (not all come with front racks as this is dependent on the fork).
Special features of a touring bike may include a long wheelbase (for ride comfort and to avoid pedal-to-luggage conflicts), frame materials that favor flexibility over rigidity (for ride comfort), heavy duty wheels (for load capacity), and multiple mounting points (for luggage racks, fenders, and bottle cages).

Oh yeah, did you notice the other word in there? “SPORTIVE.” In the US market, or at least in a few bike shops that I’ve been to, they have dubbed what our UK friends call a Sportive as a “fitness bike.” Basically it’s a bike that isn’t quite a sporty road bike, not as burly as a touring bike, but a bike you could use to commute with or take for a 15-20 mile bike rides and still be comfortable.

So are you wondering what a Sportive/Audax bike looks like? Well check out this beauty…”Kinesis Racelight 4S Audax Road Bike Silver; The versatile Racelight TK3 frameset gets a makeover and has a new name Racelight 4S (meaning Four Seasons).”
audax

Not bad right? I’m almost positive that the US Market will start to use those terms in the near future to introduce new commuter bikes to make them sound fancier.

Bike Commuting When Vacationing In Spain


Taking a vacation abroad is not always cheap although there are ways to cut the cost and make it more affordable. Package holidays to Spain are just excellent travel options for holidaymakers who want to enjoy a grandiose vacation at discounted rates. Renting a bike or arranging a cycling tour is also an option for budget conscious travelers and there are plenty of benefits to doing this.

Savour the Landscape

There are some majestic landscapes around Spain and the slower pace of bicycle riding provides the opportunity to enjoy these to the fullest. It is still fast enough to easily get between destinations, with the added advantage that stopping off at points of interest is simple to do. A day can be started by checking a route to see where the attractions are although the pace of travel makes it possible to see and stop off at others along the way.

Environmentally Friendly

Traveling under your own power is an environmentally friendly option when it comes to getting around on a vacation. This makes cycling an ideal choice for anyone with green credentials. They can take in the sights without having to use fuel-consuming transportation and this is obviously good for the environment. There are also benefits for the rider, with the fresh air and exercise being good for them.

Different Options

Cycling holidays come in all shapes and sizes in Spain. Serious bikers have the option of following some of the routes of the Vuelta a España professional road cycling race, while others can take advantage of one of the many leisure and family cycling tours that are on offer. It is also possible to simply rent a bike as a way of commuting on a vacation.

The warm, dry Spanish climate makes traveling by bicycle a pleasant experience and it is an enjoyable and affordable way to see the sights. As shown above, there are plenty of benefits to this mode of transport and it is something that anyone can do. So rent a bike on a trip to Spain and have a vacation that will leave you wanting more.

Munich By Bike

 

Munich is one of the most beautiful, bike-friendly cities in Germany! Famous for its Oktoberfest where beer and girdles overflow, the place doesn’t get nearly enough the credit it deserves for its cycling routes and infrastructure. If you like getting on your bike and exploring, weekend breaks to Munich are a necessary and thoroughly enjoyable pastime. Here are a few ideas which will help you discover a side of Bavaria’s capital besides pale ale and leather shorts.
munich
If you don’t mind biking in urban environments, the downtown area is a great place to start your explorations. Try a “Tour of the Tors”! “Tor” is the German word for “gate” (oh, and for “goal” in soccer”!), and Munich’s old town had a good number of those. They’re all within a kilometer of each other, sometimes less, and if you go through them in succession, you’ll circumscribe the area behind the old fortification walls.

Keep in mind that some of the old gates no longer exist, but Sendlinger Tor, Karlstor, Türkentor, Siegestor, and Isartor still keep you running along the historically correct perimeter. In May 2014, an art project was launched to remind locals and visitors of the “lost gates” — the ones which wars and old age took down. You might come across curious art installations where you can stop by for a minute and read up on the missing pieces in Munich’s gate puzzle.

After a good time downtown, there are few things better than resting your eyes with some nature gazing. As industrial and rich as it is, Munich offers parks with sprawling fields and meandering bike and walking paths. The most famous destination is the English Garden, a green symphony of nature with 78 kilometers (yup, Europe is metric!) of biking routes. You can enjoy the sun or slip into the forested paths. Make your way to the Chinese Tower, one of Munich’s most legendary beer gardens, and have a well-earned break.

Another terrific biking destination is the Olympia Park not too far from the city center. A beautiful bridge with glass railings brings you to the start of your tour, and you can put your stamina to the test with several gentle slopes on your way to the park’s heart: the Olympic Stadium and the BMW Arena and Museum nearby. This route offers mostly sunny tracks and open spaces, with some culture and fun on the side for when you want to rest. A classic Munich bike tour, through and through!

olympia park

Munich is something of a cyclist’s paradise. You can get in some serious cycling while still cramming in the chance to experience culture.

 

Cycling, Las Vegas-style

(Editor’s note: as many of you know, the BC crew LOVES Las Vegas…especially when we get to go to Interbike. Read on for some tips to make your bike trip to Las Vegas a rousing success.)

Cycle Vegas!

It’s around this time of year that many of us (particularly those in the Frozen North) start to dream of some kind of adventure. The beauty of a bike trip is you can easily transport your favorite ride to somewhere exciting and fun, or just rent one at your destination, and neither option is going to break the bank. Some destinations, in fact, might leave you better off financially than when you arrived…

Vegas!

Las Vegas, Nevada, is one of those cities that everyone has an opinion about, even people who’ve never actually been there. If you think it’s just smoky poker rooms, mind-bendingly noisy slots and cheesy entertainment, you should know that – as well as all that – there’s pretty much everything anyone could possibly want on offer here. There are good cycle routes around the city itself, as well as trips out of town. There are a couple of things to be aware of if you’re planning a trip, however.


Points to Consider

Firstly, check the temperatures for the time of year you want to go. There’s a reason all the casinos are air-conditioned, and from May to October, average highs tend to be between the high 80’s and the low 100’s – not most peoples’ idea of perfect cycling weather. Spring is ideal. Secondly, unless you’re fanatically anti-gambling (in which case, why are you going to Vegas?!) you’ll probably end up in one of those casinos at some point.

Routes

Some of the best riding in the area is to be found on the edges of the city, with wonderful desert roads winding past the other-wordly rock formations and mountains, but there’s also good news for town riders; 100 miles of dedicated bike routes in Las Vegas itself.

One of the best routes out of town is the Red Rock Scenic Ride, a 13 mile loop taking in some astonishing scenery. Mountain bike types will love the Cottonwood 11 mile route, while there’s a 35 mile paved track around Lake Mead that’s a must for the energetic cyclist.

bike_redrock

North Las Vegas is a good spot for city riders who want to get the feel of the place before belting up and down the Strip. There are miles of cycle routes (wide outside lanes and signs instructing drivers to “share the road”); cycle lanes (signed/striped sections of the road for cyclists only) and shared-use paths (separate from vehicles, also used by pedestrians and skaters etc).

Routes around North Las Vegas Airport are highly popular as a result, and many local riders post details on bikinglasvegas.com; one example is the Training 25 route added by member Cabinetguy433, starting in Myrtle Creek Court and circumnavigating the airport for just over 25 miles. This route has the advantage of taking you to Downtown Vegas and Fremont Street on the way, a whole different experience form the mega-casinos of the Strip, and a window into what Vegas was like in days gone by. You might want to stop here and practice your new-found gaming skills!

bike_strip

Interbike 2014

Finally, when you’re planning your Vegas bike trip, don’t forget that September brings Interbike 2014, held again this year at the Mandalay Bay Hotel. For the first time, the public is invited to attend Interbike on the final day of the show. Registration is open now.

bike_elvis