Active Transportation


“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.


March is National Women’s Month. Based partially on Women’s History, this came about in 1988. Reaching back to the turn of the century, women suffragettes- Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony attributed the bicycle to be the greatest influence on the emancipation of women.

Amelia Bloomer, the namesake of the 1800’s women’s pants that were often referred to as “Bloomers” made dress reform a major part of her work to move women from dresses and skirts to pants for bicycling.

Annie “Londenderry” Kopchovsky responded to a challenge by two men when they bet that no woman could encircle the globe on a bicycle while earning $5,000 along the way. She neither rode bike, nor was a advocate for women’s rights, yet she tackled this venture on a 42 lb. Columbia bicycle, taking 15 months to complete a round the globe trip starting and finishing in Boston, MA. Thus transformed, she became a spokesperson for both women’s rights and cycling. According to the New York World, she left an immeasurable impact on the attitudes about women.

Kittie Knox, a bi-racial seamstress, cyclist,  and card carrying member of the League of American Wheelmen, caused a real uproar in 1894 after the League declared a color bar. Knox responded by getting on her bike, entering the racially segregated social space, and forcing the issue to be addressed. She broke ground for both blacks and women, challenging perceptions of both blacks and women.

Maria Ward wrote the guide book, “Bicycling for Ladies” in 1896. Ward’s goal in writing the guide was to free women from reliance on men for maintaining their bicycles. The emancipation that she provided broadened the notion of the mechanical abilities of women. certainly someone who had mastered domestic mechanical skills such as sewing, could conquer the bike maintenance world, held distinctly by men at the time. Her opinion is summed up in the statement she made, ” I hold that any woman who is able to use a needle and scissors can use other tools equally well.”

In 1928, five women rode from New York to Washington, D.C. in three days! Marylou Jackson, Velma Jackson, Ethyl Miller, Leolya Nelson, and Constance White completed the 250 mile trek. While it is safe to assume that they had some time in the saddle, were physically in good shape, they confidently made their way. The first day they rode 110 miles to Philadelphia. The second they rode 40 miles to Wilmington< DE. The third day they rode 100 miles to Washington, D.C. How impressive is that!

During the first half of the 20th Century, Katherine Hepburn stood out as a dedicated cyclist. In her youth she rode around town regularly. She rode around the Warner Brothers lot, as well as pretty much everywhere she went. She rode most days after working a rigorous early portion of her day. Hepburn lived to be a healthy 96 yrs old due to her active lifestyle!

Joining the League of American Bicyclists in 1937, Phyllis Harmon as a member of the Evanston Bicycle Toruing Club. She published the league’s bulletin/newsletter. She became the first payed employee of the League in 1972 and the executive director until 1975. She has been indicted into the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame. She is considered to be the Grand Dame of Chicago Cycling.

During World War II, Ellen Fletcher escaped Germany and worked in a factory in London. She biked to her job everyday. Moving on to Palo Alto, CA she became a tireless advocate for bicycle infrastructure improvements. She worked on the first bike lanes leading a fight to establish green lanes to connect schools, parks, and neighborhoods in the city. She pioneered the first bike boulevard in the U.S.in 1973 as chairperson for the Citizen’s Technical Advisory Committee on bicycling.

Since the late 1990’s, Deb Hubsmith came into the national spotlight as the founder and director of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership. She stepped into this role after losing her car in a crash. She swore she would never buy another. She went on to build the national partnership, starting in her hometown of Marin, CA.

Many other women have exacted influence on the social and physical fabric of our world. Hoping that with insights into what these women have done for cycling in the U.S., you may be inspired in some way.

Today, approximately 45 million women ride at least one or more times throughout the year, as compared to 59 million men. Twenty-nine million women ride strictly for recreation. About three million ride fro transportation. Fourteen and a half million ride for both recreation and transportation. More women ride that also have children, 32% versus 19% of women without children. Interestingly, fewer women than men have a working bicycle available to them at home. (55% of men versus 47% of women). Boys and girls start out riding equally as often at the age of 10, but by the time they reach 55, the gap really widens, women really falling off where riding is concerned. Overall, though, women ride way more than what might be more commonly perceived as compared with men. People for Bikes, 2015) Women now have taken over as the fastest growing segment of bicycle sales in many markets.

 

 

 


The Northern climates dictate more of a schedule of down time for our bicycles. Many of the tips for putting your bike up for an extended period of time still fit. Bicycles resting requires some other logic to help keep it ready for the next ride as well as preserving it for the long haul. Preparing the bicycle in order to avoid deterioration is the goal. Where you store the bicycle makes a difference. Avoid keeping it out doors, even covered if at all possible. While you may not want to rent space, search out indoor options in your local- a friend’s garage, smaller “pay-by-the-item” places do exist in some larger cities.

First, store your bicycle with fully inflated tires. While this may not be as important if you hang your bicycle, it keeps the shape of the tire and tube. This is most critical if you park the bicycle on the floor.  The air pressure will keep the weight of the bicycle off of the rubber-tires and tubes, and avoid extra cracking or other break down of the rubber in one spot.

Clean it up! Clean your bicycle. Many tools exist to help with this job. I recommend stopping by your local bike shop and picking up some brush, chain cleaner, and related cleaning items. Clean the chain with a brush and/or chain cleaning tool such as the Park Tool-cg-2.2. Pedro’s makes one called the Chain Pig II, which is similar but does not have the handle on the CG-2.2. You can also use  a GRUNGE Brush made by Finish Line. Essentially, anything you do to get rid of the dust, dirt, and debris from your drive train makes a difference. Even though you may not be riding, minerals found in dirt and debris still interact with the metals.

Cleaning the frame helps to give you pause to check it over for any other wear and tear, such as rust spots, cracks, or other parts starting to fail in some fashion. Cleaners such as Windex, Simple Green, and Pledge are adequate for the task. Whatever you use, avoid any pressurized water. Water itself should never be left on the bike. Dry your bicycle off after any kind of water experiences. I like to use an air wand connected to my small air compressor to dry off water spots. The only warning about Pledge is to avoid using it on rims where the brakes rub. Pledge is useful as it has a small amount of silicone in it to help act as a type of light wax to retard water and dirt from sticking to the parts of the bicycle.

The next part might be necessary to take to your local bike shop/wrench. Lubing the cables, both brake and shifting cables.  This helps to avoid corrosion, rusting, or poor performance. You may have stainless steel cables, which eliminates some rusting, but not other issues that can decrease the performance of the cables.

Wipe down the saddle, handlebars, grips, tape, and tires. Tires experience dry rot over time and dirt and other chemicals or debris on the rubber does not help. There are some tire brushes available just for the job. White lightning makes one that is adjustable. Spray on some Simple Green and brush off the dirt and rinse with a water bottle or very low pressure water source. ( Pressurized water can find its way into bearings which is bad news for performance and durability). Of course Pedro’s has their own Pro Brush kit. Park Tools has theirs.  Oumers makes a 6 piece set that has a handy tire brush to it. While cleaning the saddle, handlebars, etc. makes the bike shine a bit more, there is nothing scientific about its cleaning, except to keep stuff from wearing on it unnecessarily.

Inspect your tires after cleaning them. Check for cracking. The cracking can lead to flats and poor performance. Doing it now can also give you time to figure out what tires you might want to replace the current set with so they are ready for the next ride.

Now is also a good time to have your local bike shop check your chain for wear and tear. They have tools that will show if the pins and other parts show wear. Often people will call this chain stretch, but the chain does not really stretch. The pins get sloppy along with the other dozen parts of the chain link. This will give you a heads up if you need it replaced or if the rear freewheel or cassette needs attention.

Last, check out your brakes. First, do they work. Second, do they have enough pad (if they are rim brakes this is easy to tell). If you have disc brakes you may need to ask for help, as the rotor might also need truing. The pads should have at least an 1/8″ clearance with the grooves. They also might need to be adjusted to keep them in good stopping order.

Now might be the best time to get your bicycle into the local bike shop as it is typically slow and you won’t have wait time. Chances are better that your bike will get a little more attention also.

Last, store your bicycle hung by its frame. Many folks hang bikes from the wheels using hooks. While this is better than on the floor, ideally, the frame is supporting the bike in at least two spots. so, hang by the frame, hang by two wheels, hang by one wheel, or have it on the ground is the order of recommendations.

Whether it is for the winter, snow and ice season or just a prolonged hiatus, put your bicycle up clean and tuned.

 


If you live, breathe, and ride a bicycle you have thought about keeping your bicycle and gear secure. Not enough can be said concerning this costly and intrusive problem.  Differing pockets of thievery exist, yet the overall statistic nationally shows bike theft dropping, at least according to the FBI.  The change that has the biggest impact on this problem comes with the price tag of the bikes being heisted. Yup, the average price tag over the past 10 years or so has risen from $499 to $714 in 2014. No matter the statistics, a bike theft always stinks!   What can be done? Lots!

-Think security and consider preventative medicine – three things:

  • Take a digital photo of your bicycle,
  • get it licensed-either locally or with the National Bike Registry. It usually costs next to zip to register your bike.
  • Lock, lock,lock it up! The rule of thumb here- add the cost of a bike locking system to the overall price tag of the bicycle. The price of security should be commensurate with the price tag of the bicycle. The standard security system now includes both a cable and U-Lock or Link Plate Lock.
  • Optional might be to add a GPS tracker to your bike. The SPOT and Helios Bar are two types out on the market today.

Two types of theft occur- opportunistic and professional. Deterring the snatching of your bike is the goal of your security system . When it comes to opportunistic theft, a person might be prowling or walking by a bike left in front of a store or home with the idea that the rider/owner might be running in for something. Bikes disappear in seconds, literally! I hear about thefts and it really happens quick.  One person just bought a new -to- them bicycle, parked it in front of their apartment, ran in to get a lock and came out to an empty space. Never saw the bicycle again. Professional thieves know how to prowl carefully. Keep this in mind- if you post your rides on social media, pros can watch where you end up a ride and go to that spot in search of a target bike. They scan neighborhoods for garage doors that are open to see where bikes might lurk for the taking. Avoid leaving your garage open when not in use. Lock your bicycle up in your garage.

Locks– remember they deter thefts, not necessarily prevent them.

  • A cable can work as a deterrent for the opportunistic theft, but will not do anything for a professional effort.
  • Double or triple locking methods prove to be most effective.
  • Keep in mind that you want to park bicycles near other bikes. Trees prove to be much less secure (and you can end up killing them) than metal racks.
  • How you lock up your bike makes a difference also. Maneuver the bike lock so as to give as little possible room for a bar to get in and snap a u-lock.
  • Use a u-lock for the rear wheel and frame and a cable to lock up the wheel to the u-lock.

Around the city of La Crosse, WI, Dr. James Longhurst advocates for better locking by using social media and photos to”grade” locking jobs. “I really want the people who rely on their bikes to get around to avoid getting their freedom and mobility taken from them. That means getting lots of good racks installed in places of work, setting good examples of locking, and more.”  Check out “Hal’s Grading on Locking Bikes” for further tips on locking your bike.

What types of locks to buy/use:  The On-Guard or Kryptonite U-lock is usually regarded as the more secure. Each lock should have a security rating on the package. The folding link plate lock is a bit  more compact and easier to carry and it  also comes with a slightly higher security rating than a u-lock. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-The U-lock also comes in narrower sizes, so pick one that will allow you to park a bike in a safe location. If your lock is too short and can not reach the parking rack, then leaving a bike out in the open with just a lock on it is close to not locking it at all.

-Another lock option is the NYC chain link lock. A pic is shown on the page. The lock and links are heavy duty and not too easy to cut. Heavy to lug around though. These do make for more accessible parking options as the chain can stretch a bit further.  So, be comprehensive when buying and using a bike security system.

The last item to consider might be a tracking device. Spot is a GPS tracking device that can be mounted on your bicycle. Alerts are generated if the bike moves at all. The other option might be a Helios Bar.  Bike NYC posted a pic of the Helios Bar. They include a GPS tracker also.

Bike theft takes ALL users to be more diligent.

  • Having licensing rallies,
  • getting the word out more,
  • getting thefts reported regardless if the victim considers it a waste of time are all actions we can take.
  • Remember that a license can be a deterrent, especially if parked next to a bike that is NOT licensed or locked.
  • When you walk or ride somewhere and find an unlocked or poorly locked bike, step up and admonish the owner to lock their bike.
  • Start a bike lock library at a local school. Make it a bit easier for students to secure their bikes, no matter the age.
  • Offer little education sessions at public events.
  • Advocate for better parking accommodations in your local jurisdiction.
  • Use social media to post stolen bikes.
  • Get a neighborhood watch going for bike thefts. Post signs as such.
  • Have local schools write PSA announcements and get the local radio stations to air them as a public service. The more publicity on this topic, the better we can start to stem the tide of thefts.

Let us all do our part to fight bike theft by doing our part – license, lock, and photograph each bike we own is a great start.