Active Transportation Blog


Getting Started:

  • Start with a manageable distance. An errand, a friend’s home, or short trip.
  • Any gear is the right gear.  IF clothing or equipment becomes an issue, realize that at some point in the future, you can afford that extra item- pannier, basket, or clothing item. 
  • Be visible- wear visible clothing, use bright tail lights, and use bright colors.
  • Put some extra clothes, shoes, or other items in a spot at work to help you stay clean, odor free, and if you forget something, you have a back up.

Hauling“stuff”:

  • Backpacks can work. Ideally, add a basket or panniers. A “rack” is needed to carry panniers (Saddle type bags) or baskets. Racks can be attached to just about any bike. The weight you plan to carry will determine the kind of rack to buy.
  • Cargo bikes may be the ticket if you plan to carry kids and goods at the same time. 
  • Baskets designed for grocery bags work well for a variety of items. Some will fold up when not in use.
  • Front baskets come in a variety of styles. Check with a local bike store for options. Lift-off style make the basket useful to go shopping and then easily hook back on to the bike.

Gear Options:

  • Rain pants increases your options for when you can ride. Look for WATERPROOF clothing rather than water resistant.
  • Rain jackets help also. Ponchos work well if you use a backpack. A good bicycle rain jacket has a longer tail on the back for when you bend while pedaling.  
  • Footwear – good leather boots work well. Insulated boots can be used. Insulated bike boots cover over bike shoes, usually mt. bike shoes leaving the clip or cleat exposed. Waterproof booties can be used for warmer weather travel. 
  • Helmet covers work for both rain and wind. You can wear a helmet cover in cooler weather to cut down on the wind drafting through the helmet vents.
  • Gloves- full fingered waterproof gloves can be used at both warmer and cold temperatures. Look for Gore-tex for breathable materials. Lobster gloves, a type of hybrid with two fingers and a thumb, will be the warmest win the winter. 
  • 100 Polartec makes for a great second layer between coat and shirt. Wear a bike jersey underneath to your destination if you need to be less casual. Add a thermal layer under the bike shirt to keep breathable material next to your skin. Add a rain jacket or thicker out shell for more extreme cold.
  • Lights – Plenty available. A front light is a must to be legal and safe, even during the daylight rides. Brightness comes in levels of LUMENS. Power sources include USB or batteries. Batteries are not as long term sustainable, but can easily be changed if your light runs out.
  • Fenders –  Most people consider fenders only necessary for rain. They also keep road debris, dirt, stones, and particles form kicking up onto the rider. Fenders can be purchased in high quality plastic, aluminum, and steel. You can put fenders on any bike that the frame allows room. Check with your local bike shop to be sure of size and application.
  • Fat bike- Fat bikes allow for more options to ride especially in snow and rain. Fat bikes ride well, can lower tire pressure to 5 lbs. for snow and ice conditions. Fun option!
  • Locking your bike – the current standard for lockup includes both cable and U-Lock. The other option form a U-Lock that is not as cumbersome, tough, and secure is a Duty Link Plate Lock. The cable locks up the front wheel to the U-Lock which is locked to the frame and parking rack. Just as important as the lock is licensing your bike. Does not usually cost much at a local bike shop or police station.
  • Noise makers – bells, horns, and bluetooth audio speakers do the job of alerting others you come across. In some cities, bells legally must be on a bike. Some people respond better to a horn or bell rather than “Bike back!”
  • Baby wipes – for the chain problem, tire issue, or just to clean up a little when you arrive at your destination, keep a small pack of wipes in your bike pack.
  • Pump- keeping a small amount of tools helps for emergencies. A pump or CO2 cartridge applicator is necessary for airing up a new tube replacing a flat tube. You need two tire levers to take off the tire. Small hand held pumps work. A dual pump and CO2 can be the best way to go but are a bit more pricier.
  • Your best tool to have is a multi tool- a triple allen wrench and socket tool will pretty much do any job you need on the fly. If you  have bolt on wheels, keep a small crescent wrench in the kit.
  • Many commuters keep a trunk pack on the top of the rear rack for the tools, extra tube, and accessories such as a cable lock, gloves, wipes, etc.  Ortlieb makes a great lockable trunk pack that is also waterproof.

RIDING Tips:

  • Consider the route for low traffic volume, parallel roads to arterial routes.
  • Cyclists stop at stop signs about as bad as car drivers. Consider doing an Idaho stop. Treat Stop lights as stop signs and stop signs as yield.Learn to scan and signal properly.
  • Look for the eyes of a driver that might be turning in your path.
  • The more you act like you are driving a car, the more safer you will be.

“Get up off the couch,” or “Leave the keys and grab a helmet,” or “if you think you can’t, you’re right!” linger along the trail of taking the road less active. Finding a way to motivate ourselves to do something, anything, that resists the steady force against our health and well being does not come naturally. Yet, setting a goal, even a small one can make a difference.

A friend brought a ride to my attention that occurs in my home town of Pittsburgh, PA called the “Dirty Dozen.” The approximately 45 mile ride encompassing 13 of the steepest of Pittsburgh’s streets, thus the name. The ride began in 1983 with three guys, one of whom had the bodacious goal of riding a million miles in his lifetime.Since then, two of the three have dropped out. The numbers of riders has grown and now is a staple of the rides around Pittsburgh. So, the challenge began. I started a weekly ride to build up my “hill” riding in August. That gives me about 15 training rides up one of the steeper hills near my home. Not really enough. So I started looking into what might also help. Swimming laps? Strength exercises? More rides? All of these would help in one way or another. The ultimate benefit comes form getting in better shape and feeling better. The best side effects one can ask for anytime!

“Are you crazy? I could never do something like that!” I am no Lance Armstrong when it comes to bicycling. Eccentric and adventurous, yet not a powerhouse by any means. What the ride means to me, besides having fun riding around the city I grew up in, is that it gets me going each week with a focus on getting a bit healthier.

I accomplished riding the length of the Mississippi River after a friend suggested I join him. We did it in a few segments to avoid riding in the extreme heat of the summer. The segment that we did in the fall, St. Louis to New Orleans arrived only six weeks after a hernia operation. I climbed out of the patient cellar, inching my way back to health when the date arrived to start our ride. Six weeks I cajoled my body in any way that I could to willfully get back into riding shape. I know of people trying to accomplish a similar goal after heart surgery, knee operations, and other physical calamities. It never ceases to amaze me what people bounce back from when they set their minds to it.

These are lofty goals? Sure. They dramatize the fact that wherever you are starting from, be it a hip replacement, a lengthy spell of inactivity due to work, family, or life, or other life challenge, set a goal, a mark, an event, or a destination. I want to ride until I am 93. Many people ask why 93? Mostly because it is out far enough in the future that I remind myself that it is good to get out and ride. Yes, so that I can stay healthy enough to get to 93. I might be riding an adult trike at that point, and that is just fine. Something about keep moving to stay alive fuels that ambition.

People go looking for a bike at a rummage sale because somewhere in the recesses of the mind they believe that getting on a bike and getting active will do them some good. Destinations help to remind us to get going in some form or fashion. A gentleman bought a used three speed to mount on a stationary trainer so that he could ride in the winter to help trim off some weight and help his knee heal. More people find that a daily bike ride helps improve their outlook, gets them around people, and feel a bit healthier. Riding bike to school with a young person, riding towpath a friend to coffee, or riding to run an errand all make for a bit healthier outlook. I met a young man who experiencing some medical and emotional challenges, got back on his back and lost almost 60 pounds. Now he rides most days to keep it off. He inspires me. Go ahead set a goal for yourself and do something to make it happen! Post it, take a photo and Facebook it, let others know. You will inspire others! 


New generations of bicycle activities continues to add new elements to riding. Whether you look at 12, 18, 21, 27, 30, or 33 gear bicycles or fixed gear bikes ushering in new events such as bike polo, there will always be adventures to be enjoyed in bicycling. Adventure cycling, like folk music, includes a wide swath of possibilities. people tour the countryside, other countries, and find new places to ride a bike. Life really blossoms with touring by bicycle, exploring neighborhoods, towns, countrysides,  and cities. Bikepacking can be touring by road or by trail. While lots of technical gear abounds, you can start anywhere, with almost anything. I started touring with two canvas backpacks tied to the handlebars and rack on my bike.

Start by planning something manageable. Keep in mind that learning how really can be the ultimate goal, not the destination. Start with a one day excursion, then add an overnight or two. This makes weekend adventuring manageable also. Look around your area for wildlife destinations, campgrounds, parks, or good hiking trails. Consider 15-30 miles as the zone to find a destination. Remembering that you will go out and back in the allotted time. Check out mapping apps such as Google maps, Ride With GPS, or Map My Ride. You can also search Ride With GPS for routes others have contributed. You might want to explore gravel roads as extra fun.  Your destination might include a short hike, nature walk, interpretive walk, or scenic overlook, so provide enough time for stopping.

Keep water with you or make sure it is accessible. Consider filter straws as part of your things to pack. Hydration packs can help carry considerably more water. Convenience stores, churches, or grocery stores along the route can help. All surface water should be treated as it is all contaminated to some degree.

Frame, bar, or rack bags carry the goods. The more gear, the more bags you will need. Use frame and handlebar bags if you do not have a rear rack. Frame and bar bags will still be useful when you finally do get a rack. Start with an affordable bag and then move to 100% waterproof when you can. Waterproofing really helps to make bike packing an option much more often than not. Tents suited for bike packing come very compact. I started carrying a 4.8 lb. tent. Kept mosquitoes out but really weighed my bike down. Bamboo utensils really help to keep the weight down as opposed to metal utensils.

Sleeping really makes for a great or challenging experience. Go for waterproofed goose down sleeping bags. Lightweight and better suited for warmer weather bike packing.  A good multitool, tire levers, a tube, travel pump, chain breaker, quick links, and an emergency derailleur hanger. On a ride in the Illinois country near the Mississippi River, a buddy broke his derailleur from cranking. We stopped and another bike rider happened to have an emergency derailleur hanger. This came as we tried to figure where we could get  a hanger, miles from any town. In about 20 minutes we were back on our way. What a different story that made instead of the craziness of trying to get to a town and find something else to work!!

Consider training for your ride. You can just about any bike for the experience. Be sure to get help making sure it is fitted properly. Flat handlebars may be the best choice if you plan to get on mountain biking trails. Otherwise, ergonomic or drop bars can provide alternate hand positions for avoiding  fatigue. Tires should fit your terrain. Gravel roads and crushed limestone trails require a 32mm or wider tire. Be sure your drivetrain starts out clean, lubricated, and adjusted. Many issues can be avoided by starting out with equipment in good working condition. Full suspension bikes’ best use is off-road riding. While the full suspension might offer you some bounce, it makes carrying gear challenging due to frame design. Get some bags packed and attached. Now go ride! Get a few or several miles under the belt.

Getting bags packed with all of that gear you set out to take. First step, root out as many items that do not seem totally necessary. Toiletry essentials only. Use Dr. Bronners soap as a one soap does all for washing body parts as well as utensils and bike parts.  Water first-bladder or bottles. No more than two items of clothing. Two pairs of socks, two shorts, and two shirts will be good for two days or a week. Small backpacking stove, cup, and cookware .Lightweight polar fleece and a waterproof rain jacket can keep you warm down in the 30’s quite nicely.  Backpacking towels are small and lightweight. Always pack some sunscreen. Sunscreen makes a great barrier in really hot weather to help your body regulate its temperature.

One adventure will lead to another. Along the way you will find new ideas for where to go, what to bring, what not to bring, and how to pack better.


“Considering the constant fatalities, rampant pollution, and exorbitant costs of ownership, there is no better word to characterize the car’s dominance than insane.” Edward Humes

America’s infatuation with driving may be a lust for speed, or we just developed and continue to maintain a dependency born out of convenience!  Europe and the US differ greatly in their approach to transportation. For awhile, from the 20’s to the 50’s, Europe tried out some of the infrastructure changes the US invested widely. That changed in the 60’s. Europe went a different direction and now we are seeking to emulate the European models.

Americans drive over 1.2 TRILLION trips per year. Over 690 BILLION of those trips are two miles or less. 28% of those are one mile or less. Americans drive over 85% of their trips by car (versus transit , walking, or bicycling). Europeans do about 50-65%.

America’s infatuation with the car started with both the desire for speed and the mechanization of the assembly line. In the late 1800’s the League of American Wheelmen lobbied for the first roads. Cyclists were at odds with horses, wagons, and pedestrians as roads were mud baths, and out in the country they often encountered farm vehicles. As the assembly pumped out cars, America started building roads. Our current transportation principals primarily still follow many tenets that were developed as the need for roads increased after WWII. The VA provided loans for vets to build, but the caveat was they had to be outside of city limits.

Transit, with streetcars and trolleys helped provide much of the transportation in early 20th century America. That fell away by the 1950s. Then came government subsidies for both transit and roads. Taxes on autos for both licensing and road use is much higher in Europe. The price of gas has curbed the European diet for driving. While in America we rely on much lower vehicle use requirements when it comes to taxes. Gas taxes are half of what they might be in places in Europe.  Transportation funds get almost no competition from other government entities. In other words, the budget has been separated from the general fund. These dollars should compete with general fund budgets. We would see a different tune to road construction. According to an article by Ralph Bueler,  “Over the last 40 years, gas taxes, tolls, and registration fees have covered only about 60 or 70 percent of roadway expenditures across all levels of U.S. government. The remainder has been paid using property, income, and other taxes not related to transportation. These subsidies for driving reduce its cost and increase driving demand in the United States. In European countries, meanwhile, drivers typically pay more in taxes and fees than governments spend on roadways.

Convenience provides people with the reason to love their cars. The car gives immediate gratification for wants. With a bus, train, or even a taxi, the delay is real.

Another reason for car-centricity stems from unbridled resources available. The USA maintains a wealth of resources, some of which are finite. If our resource base differed we might be riding transit more such as Europeans do. Layton Hill made this statement- “…..some blame individual metropolis’ large size for auto-orientation. This is also wrong because it gets the initial causal chain backward. Cities are able to be larger, land-wise, in the US precisely because of the automobile. The other answers summed up by, “I live 6 miles from the nearest grocery store” would simply not be the case if cars were less convenient or affordable- grocery stores would be smaller and closer to people.” Three out of four jobs are located more than three miles from downtown. One in four homes are in an urban setting.

While the results of our car centric society keep mounting, telling us its killing us in so many ways, we still put huge investments into sedentary practices that keep us sitting and inactive.  The real story will be how we get on a car-diet! If you’d like to learn more about ditching the car for more economical travel, read https://www.cheatsheet.com/money-career/5-ways-to-ditch-your-car-and-save-money.html/?a=viewall

 

 

 

 

 

 


Buying a bike can be as big a deal as a new car, or TV, or a new cell phone. Lots to consider! Doing some homework will pay off when buying a bike. The benefit will be  a bike that fits properly and comfortably, whether the purpose is to learn to ride, mountain biking, commuting,  or just purchasing a new adult bike for health and recreation. Here are some tips that can ensure you have chosen the right bike.

First, to get the right bike, consider what type of riding you plan to do, not just for today, but what about next year or the year after? Have plans to do a bit more at some point? Hybrids will probably be the most common type of purchase for many. Commuter, hybrid, road, gravel, mountain, recumbent, cruiser, or fat bike are some of the types of bike to consider. What fits you the best is key. The optimum experience that will pay off is to go to a bike store and try out a few machines once you have an idea of what TYPE of bike would fit your aspirations.

Here are a few other tips for size. The rule of thumb is age determines wheel size.

-A three to four year old, with an inseam about 15 inches, needs a 10-inch-12-inch wheel size. The child should be able to put their feet flat on the ground while seated, and can reach the handlebars without bending forward very far, if at all.

-A four to seven year old, with an inseam around 20 inches needs a 16-inch wheel size. The child should be able to put her feet on the ground while straddling the top tube, with a few inches of clearance and turn the bike easily without stretching out uncomfortably.

-The six to nine year old is up to a 20-inch wheel size. A child shouldn’t look too cramped or stretched out, can turn the bike easily at slow speeds, and can stop and put her feet on the ground without toppling.

-The nine to thirteen years old, with an inseam around 26 inches or more, is ready for a 24-inch wheel size.

-Thirteen and above are ready for an adult bike, wheel size is 26-inch or 700 c. Adult sized bikes still need the same approach. BE SURE THE RIDER CAN STRADDLE THE BIKE WITH BOTH FEET ON THE GROUND AT ANY POINT ON THE TOP CROSS BAR! This general guide can be of help:

Your height / Bike SizeHybrid Bike Size Chart

  • 4’11” – 5’3″ = 13 – 15 inches
  • 5’3″ – 5’7″  = 15 – 17 inches
  • 5’7″ – 5’11” = 17 – 19 inches
  • 6’0″ – 6’2″ = 19 – 21 inches
  • 6’2″ – 6’4″  = 21 – 23 inches
  • 6’4″ and taller  = 23+ inches

Find a reputable bike shop. You might feel you saved a boatload of money buying at a rummage sale or discount store, but you walk away with no guarantees, unsure of a fit, and perhaps a bill for maintenance on an unsafe or poorly built bike. Bike shops offer trained sales people who back up bike reliability, help adjust your bike properly, help you purchase the best bike for your loved one or yourself, and support it by offering expert mechanics for maintenance. The biggest option bike shops offer is peace of mind. Keeping mind that spending a bit more for a quality bike, especially for youth, keeps the bike a sellable item when they grow out of the size. There are plenty of families looking for quality used options for their youthful riders.

While a guide was offered an the aforementioned paragraph, you or your child are unique. Consider your personality or that of the person you are purchasing a bicycle for in terms of coordination, size, timidness, and aggressiveness. These all change the make up/type of the bike you buy. Your bike shop expert can help you make the right adjustments.

Next, for youth, avoid the notion that your child will grow into their bike. While adjustable handlebars and seats can work within reason, there are problems. Too-big bikes are hard to control, making it more likely the rider will crash. Always remember the keys to a small child fit: being able to safely put both feet on the ground as they stand over the top bar, and being able to turn without reaching uncomfortably far. Youth bikes should be as low weight as possible so that developing skills comes more readily.

For older youth and adults, consider wheel size and width. Tire size does not make a bicycle more stable. That is the riders job. A tire size can help with comfort and roll. The wider the tire the more vibration it absorbs. The smoother and narrower the tire, the more ROLL you get with each pedal stroke. Find the balance that works for you.

Last, while Internet purchases may seem enticing, you will find that when all is said and done, buying locally has lots of benefits. Make sure you add in the cost of building the bike out of the box. NO BICYCLE comes ready to ride in the mail. The average cost to build a bike out of the box is $75-90.00. Be sure to add this to the cost. Keep in mind that everybody’s body composition is different.  You may end up with a bicycle that has fit issues. The relationship you develop with a local bike dealer/shop goes along way to helping you with many questions, maintenance, and improvements over time. You often receive discounts on ancillary equipment- lights, fenders, racks, water bottles/cages, and helmets. Having a GREAT riding experience can be best developed from working with a local bike shop.

Keep in mind that the real money savings or cost avoidance comes when you actually get out and ride. Take for instance the fact that a person saves $1.00-$3.00 for every mile they ride their bike for transportation. That means that for every 100 miles, you can avoid spending $100-300 dollars. How long would it take  you to ride 100 miles? An average, decent hybrid bike costs about $399-449.00. A person can recoup that price in the first year with a reasonable effort. How many years would you have a bike like that? The savings will just add up. So, it is not just the initial cost to think about. Think about the cost avoidance and the benefits in health, outlook, and weight control that you can enjoy! Purchase a better bike, just beyond your first inclination in price. You won’t regret it.