Archive for the ‘General Cycling’ Category
First let me say, Happy New Year. I hope your 2016 is full of good health, happiness and many good rides.
When your year has been as busy as mine, all you have to do is blink and then it’s all over. Here is a quick recap of some of the highlights. As I’ve posted already, there were some big bike events for me this year, this included going to Cyclists in Suits, taking part in a trail cleanup day, my city was awarded a Bronze Bike Friendly Community Status and we hosted our annual Bike To Work Day Recharge Station. That was all before the summer.
In addition to helping out with Bike To Work Day, my son and I volunteered to help out at one of the stations at the Mesquite charity ride. It was nice to give back, after being supported on many Richardson Wild Rides.
During the summer, we took our first family vacation in 5 years – a much needed break. This time, we went to New Orleans – close enough to drive, but far enough to feel like we went somewhere.
Once we were back much of my free time was spent actually riding and bike commuting. I even managed to get some challenging grocery rides in.
All summer long, we were able to teach a few Adult Learn To Ride classes. Those are always rewarding.
This year’s Black Friday Ride got rained out. I’m still looking for a makeup date. We did have a great time at the Richardson Christmas Parade.
It looks like I rode more this year, than I have in previous years. I reached a new goal of 2,400 miles (riding and walking).
Finally, to cap off my year, my wife talked me into getting a new SUV. Let me introduce you to my Kona Ute, Melba Davis.
I started this as part of a recap for 2015, but as I started writing, I realized there was more to say about New Orleans.
During this past summer, we took our first family vacation in 5 years – a much needed break. This time, we went to New Orleans – close enough to drive, but far enough to feel like we went somewhere. We stayed in an Airbnb in the north side of town, outside of the touristy French Quarter. I discovered that the locals weren’t fans of out-of-town folks staying in their neighborhoods. I overheard one woman in a coffee shop say, “I don’t like them…They’re not invested in the neighborhood…They just park anywhere (parking was awful and extremely limited)…They’re just using it like a hotel room.” As a homeowner, I completely understand how they feel and would probably think the same way if there were some Airbnbs in my neighborhood. However, as a visitor, I highly recommend an Airbnb stay. It’s much better than a hotel room, where we felt like out-of-town guests, instead of tourists. Just try to be respectful and treat each neighborhood as if it were your own.
I brought my bike and I’ll discuss that in a bit. First, I want to give my overall view of New Orleans. Although I’ve been there a few times, it’s always been in the tourist areas, eating lots of touristy foods, drinking lots of touristy booze. Going as a family, we wanted to get a taste of how a local would experience the city – with a little bit of sightseeing in the mix. We drove a lot, and now I have a love/hate relationship with the Google GPS App. Since the streets are extremely confusing to a non-local, the GPS was helpful, until it took us 10 blocks out of our way to get to a place just down the street. Once we were more familiar with the area, we only used it for pre-trip mapping and going the last mile(s). It was funny listening to the voice prompt attempting to pronounce some of the French street names. Dupre was referred to as “Dupper.”
As expected, New Orleans is truly different than my north Texas suburb. If you’ve ever coveted the idea of living in a more dense city infrastructure, you should visit a city like New Orleans. At first, you’ll find yourself complaining about how crowded and overlapped the buildings are, as well as how narrow the streets get with limited parking. But when you settle in, you start to notice how well the people exist around each other, how well transportations syncs and how nearby destinations are actually more of a convenience—because they are actually nearby. I started to view the wide-open space of my suburban sprawled neighborhood as less of a luxury and more of a burden. There is something really nice about and old, dense neighborhood with local coffee shops, grocery stores, restaurants within walking distance. It makes you hate those drive-thru Starbucks and mega-marts even more.
Riding a bike in the city of New Orleans is much different than in my city. My first impression of a cyclist in the Big Easy was more of a shock, than a familiar comfort. As we were driving back from dinner, our first night, I saw a cyclist queue-jumping and running red lights. It was late, she didn’t have any lights or helmet and she was weaving all over the road. We saw a few cyclist who rode like this, so I started to equate all New Orleans cyclists as scofflaws. As it turns out, everybody is like this in New Orleans—cyclist, drivers AND pedestrians. Transportation was an awkward, clumsy ballet of wrong, where everybody was making up their own rules—but somehow, it all synchronized well.
I was able to sneak in a few morning rides around town. I even managed to ride down to the French Quarter. I discovered, even riding my slowest, I was still one of the fastest cyclists around. Slow and easy was the pace in New Orleans, and I was ok with that. I was also one of the few wearing a helmet. For a while, I was worried that it would give me away as a tourist, but I think having air in my tires was already doing that (see pic above). In the end I realized that nobody cared about me, my full tires or my helmet head and I was able to enjoy some really nice rides around town. There were also some nice bike lanes, with more on the way, which made the slow pace easier around the not-so-slow traffic. Riding early in the morning helped as well. Overall, if I lived in that area and with parking as bad as it was, I would definitely ride my bike much more often.
We loved visiting New Orleans. It was good to get a new perspective of an old city. Although the city is known more for it’s tourist attractions, and less about it’s strong neighborhoods communities, I can see how folks are proud to call it home.
No, I’m not talking about the class of cyclist who, for whatever the reason, HAS to ride their bikes, instead of choosing to ride bikes—those who I feel are usually under-represented by mainstream advocacy efforts. That’s a topic for another post.
Right now, I’m referencing the guy in the picture. I noticed him heading down a pretty major arterial road, while I was taking one of my early morning walks. I know it’s a bad shot, but can you tell what he might be doing poorly? He’s got lights. He’s wearing a helmet. Do you think he is riding safely?
Quite frankly, what he’s doing isn’t enough. As an League Cycling Instructor, I try to lead by example and strive to be the most visible that I can be on the road – at any time of the day. I wish others would do the same.
Let’s start with his lighting. He has head and tail lights, but they were less than substantial and other road users could barely see them. This cyclist seems to have a false sense of security, thinking his rear light is enough. I prefer lights that are much brighter – and in multiples if possible. Along with having good lights, I like to have retroreflective elements. Although retroreflective gear is only as good as their placement, and the lighting that shines on it, every little bit adds up to supplement even the worse tail lights. I have reflective material on my helmet, my ankles, my backpack and on my bike.
Let’s talk about his clothing. It’s been stated that high-vis colors aren’t as effective at night. I’ve noticed that the best time to use those colors is during the early morning or dusk hours. They are also good during inclement weather, when the color spectrum of your environment becomes a dull range of gray. High-vis clothing wouldn’t have helped him too much at this moment, but it also wouldn’t hurt.
Finally, let’s talk about his lane position. In my town, a cyclist has the right to take the full lane, as long as it’s less than 15 feet wide. I know there is a school-of-thought out there, where cyclist feel safer being closer to the curb. They feel it puts them in a better defensive position to get out of the way if danger comes from behind. The problem with taking this position, is that it forces the need to ride defensively. Riding next to the curb reduces the ability for other road users – coming from any direction – to see you from further away. Being a defensive rider, who is mindful of your surrounding is good. However, adding a better, more visible, posture on the road helps give other road users more time to react, which reduces the need for defense.
I also noticed several cars passing this guy in his lane. Being so close to the curb was an invitation for cars to share the lane while they overtook him. Taking the lane reduces this, forcing cars to leave your lane when passing.
It’s been a while since I took my 23-year old, geared bike in for a tune-up. It was a combination of bad timing, limited funding, do-it-youself pride, embarrassment for putting it off, followed by the morbid fear that it would cost more than a new bike, that kept me from taking it in.
Bad timing, because I don’t give myself much of a down season. I didn’t feel like making the time to be without my bike for too long. Limited funding, because money for my bike is low priority compared to other expenses. Do-it-yourself pride allowed me to fudge my way around basic maintenance and cleaning. This led to my bike getting to an eventual state of serious wear – leaving me too embarrassed to bring it in.
My bike was showing some serious wear in the drivetrain. The chain, gears, shifters and hubs (all original) were really worn and loose – which made the bike hard to pedal. It was a rough ride, at best. I feared the cost of replacing or repairing these things may have been more than the bike was worth.
I decided to bite the bullet and take it in to my local bike shop, Richardson Bike Mart. One of their great mechanics took a quick look and gave me an assessment that took me by surprise. The repair and tune-up was going to cost me far less than I had anticipated. It needed a new cassette and chain, both would cost me about the same as a tank of gas. They said they would look at the hubs, shifter and everything else with the tune-up. If it needed any other new parts, or a more extensive repair, they would let me know. Fortunately, it didn’t.
When I got my bike back, I was blown away with how great it looked. That was nothing compared to how great it rode. The new cassette, chain and proper tune-up turned my old clunker into a sweet ride, and I truly enjoy riding it again.
If you’ve been putting off a good bike tune-up, I strongly recommend not being like me and waiting so long. Get it tuned-up now! Life is too short to ride a poorly adjusted bike. If you can’t tool on it, yourself, take it in to your favorite local bike shop. They can take care of you, and you’ll be putting money back into your local economy.
I know that I really can’t complain. Riding my bike during the winter in north Texas is nothing compared to riding up north. It still sucks.
The cold is one thing, but when you throw in winter rain and the occasional ice and snow storm, riding becomes a real chore. I hear the phrase, “There’s no such thing as bad weather just inappropriate clothing.” all the time. I just wish it were that easy. I do follow the rules of layering and dressing for the last mile, which really helps.
I also feel, having the right bike – or the right bike setup – is also key. At least, get a good set of fenders.
I’m so glad, spring is here and riding is much more pleasant. Bring on the summer.
I love supporting my local bike community.
A couple of local, Oak Cliff advocates and BFOC board members have a start up company manufacturing cargo bicycles right here in north Texas! Please help support them by checking out their rewards, many from other local businesses like Oil and Cotton and Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters! We’d love to see them reach their funding goal so they can design and build a new, scratch built cargo bicycle frame to compliment the recycled frames they’re currently building. Go to http://oakcliffcargobicycles.com/kickstarter or launch the campaign from the link below.
Originally posted on Oak Cliff Cargo Bicycles: