The Definitive Bicycle Thread

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The Definitive Bicycle Thread

Chris just posted an article I wrote, entitled A Quiet Revolution in Bicycles:  Recapturing a Role as Utilitarian People-Movers (Part I).  This thread was created to provide a place for responses and ongoing discussion on this topic. 

A follow up article, Part II, will be forthcoming.  If you would like to comment on either of these articles, or on this topic in general, please do so here.  Thanks!

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The Definitive Bicycle Thread

The text of the original article can be found here:  A Quiet Revolution in Bicycles:  Recapturing a Role as Utilitarian People-Movers (Part I),

The follow-up article can be found here:  A Quiet Revolution in Bicycles:  Recapturing a Role as Utilitarian People-Movers (Part II).

I hope you will find them helpful.

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Re: The Definitive Bicycle Thread

Awesome work, Chris! I can't wait to do some more research on this topic. Great stuff. I really like your "solutions-oriented" approach to the problems at hand.

 

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Re: The Definitive Bicycle Thread

Great post, Chris. in retrospect, wonder why we didn't address it before.  I have several bikes and it is my usual mode of transport for spring/summer. Fall and winter are, IMHO, often unpleasant and somewhat unsafe times to ride in NE. Cape Cod is completing a Cape-long bike trail that will eventually let one bike the entire length. If they only had public transportation to get you here with your bike...

I would find it helpful if people would post their personal experiences with specific bikes, electric add-ons, accessories, etc., with links. I own a 14 y.o. Giant hybrid, a 14 y.o. Trek mountain, and a 2006 Dahon P6 folding bike, a great way to throw a bike in your trunk and travel around your destination if you have to drive to get there. You can also carry it in a backpack holder on public transportation. WWW.dahon.com. They don't make this model anymore but they have numerous others. They are expensive new but there is always Ebay. There are other brands though they are the premier folder and others are heavier.

My impression is that it may be worth buying a newer bike that is lighter, has shocks, etc. but that is just speculation. My bikes are old, clunky, but sturdy.

 

SG

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Re: The Definitive Bicycle Thread

Hold on - please THANK MORGAN for the great post.

I am quite pleased to have this excellent content to begin moving towards part II of this great journey which centers on the specific actions we can take.

My own bike situation is certainly in need of an upgrade.

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Re: The Definitive Bicycle Thread

Oh Yeah -Biking is a great way to get around - we did it one summer on 80mpg 2-wheel bikes and put arould 300 miles on over the summer. . . . and my butt still hurts. Yet - it was wonderful being out in all weather and feeling so free to be in control of our energy costs.

So, with the welder in 1 hand and a new design in the other - I would definately go with a 3 or 4 wheel bike for distances and use it in all weather (even winter if it had an 80 mpg motor on it) and hybrid it with electric (which charges batteries when the gas is running). So far, we've re-built 12 + bikes from bikes found at public police auctions into everything from trailors for the back of bikes to 3 and 4 wheel bikes and the two main motor bikes.

When the farm demands get slow - I think this is the year to build the best dream machine ever - a 3 wheeler, with electric wheel & gas motor with regenerative charging and a trailor. We put a video on youtube showing the first 2 wheeler built: search youtube for "80mpg bike" and we install motors for people on our MyBackAchers.com site (local usually).

That's our endgame for transportation.

Egp

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Re: The Definitive Bicycle Thread

 Hi SG,

Another great folding bike that I've used for biking all over the world with is the Downtube.  When I was looking for folding bikes, none of the local bike stores had any to try.  Since I was going to have to order over the internet, I selected one that had a great reputation at a great price, and I have not been disappointed.  Now that I co-own a bike shop, it is the main folding bike we carry.  We are also thinking about carrying the Bike Friday folding bikes in the future, at least some of which are made in the USA, but it is a more pricey (and nice) option.

Morgan

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Re: The Definitive Bicycle Thread

 Hey Egp,

The electric/motor hybrid sounds great.  I've thought of setting up something like that, though I haven't had the time.

For rear-end/backaches, there are a number of solutions.  One of the most popular are the Day 6 bikes, which are a semi-recumbent design with an incredibly comfortable seat plus back support.  There are also crank-forward designs like the Rans.

Morgan

 

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Re: The Definitive Bicycle Thread

 Excellent stuff,  Morgan!  My wife & I just recently bought bikes as part of our preparedness thang.  Our work life doesn't allow us to commute via bike, but we're taking steps (just relocated one of our 2 biz locations to our house -- so the commute is 0 miles ) to address that.  In the meantime, we're digging on recreational bicycling!

Viva -- Sager

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Re: 2 folders

Morgan,

Thanks for your great thread and posts. I ended up with an Ebay Dahon (after many bidding tries) because I ran across someone local riding one and was astounded (what can say, it's a small town), having never seen a folding bike. Yes, that is due to no local dealers stocking folders though, West Marine, a national marine parts store, carries a cheaper and, I think, heavier one they would have ordered to let me inspect. People apparently put them on their boats and then pedal ashore.

I don't find the Dahon to be as easy to ride as a non-folder and don't routinely ride it. I always ride the Giant, my son's old bike, clunky but solid. I don't ride trails, got the Trek for $10. at yard sale, couldn't resist. Pretty hard ride on cement, tho.

I have wondered how the ride is on newer models with shocks.

 

SG

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Re: The Definitive Bicycle Thread

Hau kola Morgan -

Thank you for a very informative article.

Pila maya ye lo

Cetan

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Re: The Definitive Bicycle Thread

I think that bicycles are one of the best forms of transportation, however .............

I have been an avid cyclist for many years. My caution to anyone planning to go out on the roads, is to be very aware of the hazards involved. The idea that it is safe to ride on the roads of this country is just not true. A dozen of so personal friends/acquaintances of mine have been killed on their bikes by cars, not to mention hundreds of close calls and non-fatal accidents - usually by drivers that are just not paying attention. I was at the scene of a fatality where a friend was killed in Colorado where the attending police officer stated that the cyclist shouldn't have been on the road anyway. The driver was underage with no license and no insurance and the judge fined him $45 and that was the end of that.

There is a substantial number of motorists on the road who are of the opinion that cyclists should not be on the road and have the idea that   a cyclist deserves whatever happens to him. Macho red necks abound who will happily run you off the road, throw things at you and laugh while they do it. I've ridden across the country twice and I don't see much difference from place to place - the south seems the worst, but two friends were killed on low traffic roads in Colorado and New Mexico

In 10 years of riding I have been hit by cars twice (either one could have been fatal), had dozens of near misses and crashed a dozen more times badly enough to be out of commission for a week or more - and my story is not untypical for cyclists who are on the road a lot. Several years of riding to work 35 miles per day mostly in bike lanes and longer weekend rides have given me the experience to know the dangers out there. I have friends that continue to ride, however after 4 deaths of friends in 3 years, I hung up my cleats.

Bottom line is that I will not ride on a roadway any more unless it is nearly unused by cars. Maybe over reaction, but I have seen too much bloodshed to do otherwise.

Jim

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Re: The Definitive Bicycle Thread

 Hi Jim,

Very sad stories, indeed.  Here's my take on it.

One of the reasons I rarely ride my racing bike anymore (aside from being busy) is safety.  I have noticed something very striking.  When I'm out on my big cargo bike dressed in normal clothes, and with my bright orange flag, nearly all cars give me a wide berth.  When I'm out on my little racing bike wearing lycra, I don't get the same space, and have had more close calls (though I ride that bike less).

There's definitely psychology at work here.  Many drivers seem to have issues with those on bikes wearing lycra.  I think it is definitely less so if one is wearing normal clothes and riding with an upright posture.  The upright posture also helps with seeing and being seen.  That's why I don't commute on a bike with drop bars - the posture is no good for these kind of safety issues.

 I'll also mention the tires - my everyday commuting bike has fat balloon tires that I can easily take on grass, gravel, etc (e.g. if I need to get off the road quickly).  They are a lot more stable under real-world road conditions than skinny racing tires, and I believe they contribute to enhanced safety.  Every time I get on my road bike these days, I marvel at the skinny little tires ... they are very efficient, but they are not designed for the same kind of stability in all riding conditions that fat tires are (even slick fat tires).

I also use a helmet mirror, and I always closely monitor traffic behind me.  If I ever suspect that a driver coming up on me is not going to give me space, I bail out onto the side.  I've never had to do that on the cargo bike, but I have had to do that twice on my racing bike.  I also use a flash flag on my bike, which for $10 is one of the best bike safety devices I think someone can own.  It has the very important psychological effect of making cars give wider space when passing, and just improving overall visibility.  That, plus my cargo bike is just so big and unusual, cars give me more space.

Country roads can be a problem.  Most bike crashes in the city are at slower speeds, and everyone has more time to react.  I am in a situation where I do ride on a stretch of country roads every day, but one stretch has a wide shoulder (though busy), and the other has no shoulder, but minimal traffic.  In fact, there is a shorter route I could take, but it is on a busy road with no shoulder.  So I add about 6 miles to my ride every day just to reduce traffic (which is fine, since I have the electric assist).  Route planning is key to this.  Often the way you would get somewhere in a car is not the best way to get there by bike, and vice versa.  I make extensive use of tools like Bikely.com whenever I'm planning routes in an unfamiliar place.

While country road incidents are in the minority (statistically), when they do occur, they tend to be more often fatal than wrecks in the city.  For someone who has no other option but a narrow and busy country road to commute on, I wouldn't currently recommend it. (I'm not really addressing recreational cycling, that is a different ball of wax).  However, when gas prices really spike again, the traffic on country roads must change.  How will everyone be able to afford to drive their cars all over the countryside, day in and day out?  While I'm not looking forward to TSHTF scenarios, I can say that less fast-moving motor traffic is one consolation prize.

Anyway, I know of a few cyclists that have been killed over the years, though none personally (and I've known a lot of cyclists).  The most recent incident I know of was a guy who was killed while racing, he lost control on a steep downhill where he was traveling 50mph plus.  While this was sobering, at least it wasn't due to a car wantonly hitting him.  

I also know a number of people who've been killed in auto accidents, and I've come close myself (as a passenger in a car that rolled over at highway speeds).  No form of transport is totally safe.  For several years I rode a motor-scooter.  I had no accidents, but once I read the statistics, I realized that if anything happened when I was traveling at 50 mph on that, I would be toast.  That's when I got back into biking and sold the motor scooter.

Again, I am very sympathetic to your concerns.  I think the road planning in this country is just foolish to not consider other users with space for them, be they walkers, cyclists, horesback, or whatever.  I wish we had gotten our act together on this when the money was flowing freely, and not waited until the oil and money are both starting to dry up.  But, again, such change is going to sooner or later be forced upon us, whether we planned for it or not.

Morgan

 

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Re: The Definitive Bicycle Thread

I second Jim's story...numerous local deaths, some of people I knew, one a bike shop owner (!) who "did  everything right".

Not only do I bike paranoid,  I bike in town on the sidewalk, like many locals in my tourist-ridden town. I've yet to hear of a biker hitting a walker here, bad form as sidewalk riding may be.

And on isolated bike trails, I take the same precautions I would in any isolated area where predatory types are drawn.

See Definitive Firearms Thread.

 

SG

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Re: The Definitive Bicycle Thread

 I have to say, I am not (yet) concerned enough to have to refer to the Definitive Firearms Thread for riding my bike on paths.

I've ridden my bike in many places around the world, including sketchy areas in Boston, New York, and LA.  I suppose if I was just dawdling around I might be more worried, but when in such situations I take an aggressive, fast moving posture like I know where I am going, and have not been bothered.  

For my regular bike routes, I also happen to know of a number of alternative bailout routes (where a car couldn't follow) in case someone is ever attempting to hassle me.  Fortunately I have not had to put those to use, except for practice.

There is more than one way to approach being aware of and defensive in one's environment.  If I'm in my car and see someone who looks like they are following me, I never drive straight home - I turn in a different direction to see if they follow (and have various tactics in case they do).  Same thing as on a bike.  I've heard of CarJackings, but not bike jackings.

Morgan

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Re: The Definitive Bicycle Thread

Ahoy, bad link to "Pedaling Health".  You probably want http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/ped_bike/docs/cyhealth.pdf

The one thing I would add (or that perhaps I missed) to Morgan's article, is that longtail-style cargo bicycle, also work well offroad.  This is not surprising, given that the Xtracycle guys were inspired by 3rd-world problems, but it helps for "making do" when good space for bikes is missing.  It's generally not a good idea to ride on the sidewalk, but they'll usually fit.  Consider the Riding the Spine guys -- one XtraCycle, one Big Dummy, and one custom longtail, for thousands of bad-road and off-road miles.

The fat tires are also very important, and if you get good ones (slicks, or nearly so, with thin tread and casing) you get comfort, durability, safety, and relatively low rolling resistance.

I don't really know what to make of the (US) cycling industry -- the bulk of their sales seems to be either energy sipping delicate racing bikes, or energy-sucking mountain bikes with shocks and thick clunky knobby tires -- neither set up to be useful for everyday commuting.

 

 

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Re: The Definitive Bicycle Thread

A most excellent thread! 

   I got my Xtracycle in 2006.  I live in a college town with a fair number of people using bicycles for transportation so there's a slightly lower percentage of hostile and/or ignorant motorists; we're also close to enough farmland that people are accustomed to having to getaround tractors and we're easier than that ;)   That, and one of the guys at the Local Bike SHop knew what Xtracycles were and loved to Learn New Things, so when I was looking for a solution to "I have to take my car because I have to bring stuff" he said he'd be glad to install it.  It took some consulting with Laughter Medicine from Xtracycle, and I was afraid of buyer's remorse since it *was* pricier than the pannier options I'd looked at... but it's a delightfully elegant masterpiece of engineering.  More than paid for itself when I sold the car.

    Just this morning a co-worker asked me how many miles I rode and bemoaned the dangers of drivers, which had inspired him to give up motorcycling.  I forgot about the hazards of turning into a couch potato and talked about choosing safe routes and that we choose our risks. We can also work hard to get our planners to include us in the planning... but it's still a pretty fierce challenge.   Complete Streets are considered a COmplete Frill by too many... I did mention that considering how much more alert I am, all the time, that I may end up being safer because of that. 

 

Oh!  And I've beenlooking for a good link to get a Flash Flag for *years.*  Google has not been my friend in that regard. Okay, I cringed at the site that wants $16 for one... but I'll be passing that link on...

  

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Re: The Definitive Bicycle Thread
SagerXX wrote:

 Excellent stuff,  Morgan!  My wife & I just recently bought bikes as part of our preparedness thang.  Our work life doesn't allow us to commute via bike, but we're taking steps (just relocated one of our 2 biz locations to our house -- so the commute is 0 miles ) to address that.  In the meantime, we're digging on recreational bicycling!

Viva -- Sager

When I had a freelance writing gig, I commuted to work every morning and commuted back every night.  Getting out and riding a 9-mile loop woke me up and separated "work" from "the day."  (That's prob'ly more important when it's a task like writing than running a biz...) Health benefits are wonderful.

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Re: The Definitive Bicycle Thread: Foldables

I recommend a foldable bicycle to use with mass transit commuting.  Advantages include:
Can store under your desk -- don't need a lock
Much easier to carry up and down stairs
Much easier to take on a bus or train
Fits in a small car trunk

 

I have a Dahon Mu SL Here's a a photo:

There are a lot of foldable bicycle companies besides Dahon ::

Brompton (UK)
Bike Friday
etc.

Foldable bicycles have a long history and are manufactured today with high tech designs and light weight materials. There are even electric foldable bicycles.

World car free network:
http://www.worldcarfree.net/

Eco Geek: Folding bicycles
http://www.ecogeek.org/content/view/397/

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Biking Hazards

Interesting comments, esp about the hazards of bicycling. In the US we do have a problem, in that motorists are not used to sharing the road with bicycles and many bicyclists don't realize (or choose to ignore) that they must conform to the same traffic laws as cars. But this will only change if more people bicycle and both sides obey laws. I lived in Tunisia for a year many years ago and the small roads had EVERYTHING on them, pedestrians, animals, bikes, mopeds, cars, trucks, etc. Accidents were reasonably rare since people were used to it and knew to look out for slower/faster bigger/smaller vehicles. It took some getting used to for me, but it worked well. I am a fair weather biker - I try to bike often to work in the summer, on country roads, suburban streets, and in town. I haven't had a run in yet (knock on wood), but I try hard to stay to the side, communicate my intentions (turns , stopping, etc), and be visible.

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Re: The Definitive Bicycle Thread

 Hi Geonz,

Thanks for the note.  I had the same experience with my first Xtracycle, and never had a moment of buyer's remorse.

I posted it earlier, but here is a Flash Flag link from our store that is only $10 plus a few dollars for USPS shipping.

Morgan

 

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Safety Tip from the Invisible Man

Great thread. I've been riding so long I think my afterbirth was a tricycle. Cycling has been and always will be my preferred mode of transportation. I just love it and I even ride in the Canadian winter.

winter cycling

I've never been in an accident with a motor vehicle yet and I give credit to my # 1 rule: Always ride as if you are invisible.

My advice is to ride with confidence, take the road and commit to your decisions (like turns and crossing roads). I only take the sidewalk through certain neighborhoods and only past 9pm because I don't trust drunk and stoned drivers.

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Re: The Definitive Bicycle Thread

I love seeing this thread.  I don't consider myself a bicyclist - I am a commuter that rides a bicycle when I can.  I have a recumbent with a big wide seat and a backrest.  I travel about 6 miles to work, weather permitting.  I have had cars swerve at me while I was riding but I have never been hit.  I hope people will get more comfortable with bicycles on the road since I see this as our future.  Good luck to everyone that rides a bike.

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winter biking

Ruhh,

That is true grit! What kind of bike do you ride in the winter? A few slips in the snow cured me of winter riding, not to mention freezing various nameless body parts.

SG

 

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Re: The Definitive Bicycle Thread

Morgan

Good comments - I've not experienced the safety of riding in "street clothes" sitting upright, but now that you mention it, I see the sense in it. Perhaps drivers can relate more closely to ordinary looking people riding than the Lycra set.

I think the mirror is a must and have always ridden with one. Takes a bit of getting used to, but gets to the point that riding without one feels naked and makes me VERY nervous about what is going on behind me.

I have ridden a bit in Western Canada and have found the driver's attitudes there are much different what I have encountered in the US, so I think that as much as anything our challenge is to get the message across to the driving public that bikes are good and deserve respect on the road.

Big opportunity to save a lot of fuel -- and knock off a few pounds while we are at it

 

Jim

 

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Bicycle Repair and Maintenance

If you ride as often as I do you will want to learn how to do as much of your own repairs and maintenance as possible.

Here's a great website to get anyone started
http://www.utahmountainbiking.com/fix/

If you're into mountain bikes like I am be sure to check out the MTBR Forums and Cycling Forums for further advice and product reviews.

You should always carry a multi-tool, mini-pump and patch kit for any commutes over half a mile (walking a bike sucks). If you don't need it someone else will and you can earn some Karma points. Check your local bike shop. My favorite line is Topeak.

For lube I prefer the wax types such as White Lightning or the Pedros line. You have to apply it more often but it's worth it because it doesn't get that horrible greasy buildup that collects dirt and sand that will wear out your components and ruin your pants.

Ride baby ride
r.

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Re: The Definitive Bicycle Thread

Thanks Invisible Man for the extremely important tip! I ride a bit and expect to eventually sell my car (within year) and just bike or walk everywhere.

Last evening as I came to a stop sign (while driving), a bike turned left off the cross street closely in  front of me and very very sharply. If I had been rolling thru the stop in this residential neighborhood I would have hit him. I did not see him until he was almost directly in front of me even though he was wearing the recommended gear. I think he must have turned from the wrong lane. I took note of this and wondered how I should adjust my bike riding. 

Now I know. I'll pretend I am invisible but NOT invincible!

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Re: The Definitive Bicycle Thread

 

Last evening as I came to a stop sign (while driving), a bike turned left off the cross street closely in  front of me and very very sharply. If I had been rolling thru the stop in this residential neighborhood I would have hit him. I did not see him until he was almost directly in front of me even though he was wearing the recommended gear. I think he must have turned from the wrong lane. I took note of this and wondered how I should adjust my bike riding. 

 

I agree completely with taking the attitude that you are invisible when riding a bike.  I always watch all cars around me very carefully, and while only a few percent of drivers seem to have the blinders on at any given time, that is enough to do harm to the "invisible" cyclist, and worth being defensive about.  So I just assume all cars will pull out in front of me or try to run me over until proven otherwise, and it has worked well so far... (knock on wood).

That said, there are also a few things that can be done for being more visible.  A biggie is to not hug the side of the road as you approach any kind of turnout, driveway, or intersection.  When you hug the right side, it makes it far harder for drivers to see and notice you.  Drivers naturally look to the center of the road (where the traffic is coming from) before pulling out.  But they are much less likely to notice someone coming along the curb or sidewalk (that's why sidewalk riding is statistically so dangerous).  So, as long as I am not holding up traffic, I ride in the middle of the lane, and doing so has drastically reduced the number of times drivers have pulled out in front of me from driveways or intersections.

One other side effect I've noticed with doing this: cars coming from the rear seem to respond better.  Because when they approach and I see them in the mirror, I pull over a bit to make room.  This has the dual effect of making me more visible to them as they approach (since I started in the center lane), and making them realize I am offering them a courtesy by moving to the side, which most seem to appreciate.   Using this method is much easier on my electrified bicycles, because I can take the center and not be as likely to hold up traffic or constantly be moving to the right.

But, one thing I didn't address is cyclists who simply do stupid things.  There are a lot of them about.  Since cycling requires no license or no training to speak of, some people take it as a free for all.  I don't have the link handy, but people riding at night without lighting and cyclists who do blatantly stupid things account for a major fraction of all accidents.  Since I've never seen police enforce any kind of law related to cycling (unless it is a large event impeding traffic flow), I don't think this behavior will stop anytime soon.  But it is self limiting if the reckless cyclists take themselves out of the gene pool.

 

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Re: winter biking
capesurvivor wrote:

Ruhh,

That is true grit! What kind of bike do you ride in the winter? A few slips in the snow cured me of winter riding, not to mention freezing various nameless body parts.

SG

In the winter I ride my 10+ year old Giant Sedona which I have a studded tire mounted in the front and nothing special in the rear. The studs are more important in the front as they'll save your skull on those icy corners. If your rear slips out it's easy to just kick your leg out and let the bike go but if your front slips out you're toast.

I also try to just avoid using my smallest 2-3 rear gears because they'll sometimes fill with snow and skip and the salt will wear them out even quicker than usual. Keep your cable lines and chain lubed and try to give them a squirt when you put the bike away or it will seize up with rust. Road salt and sand is ruthless.

For warmth I always wear a necktube and wear goggles when it dips under -5°C otherwise your eyes will water too much. When it's that cold I wear my deerskin mits my granmother made me as pictured but otherwise I prefer proper cold weather cycling mits so you can safely reach your brake levers while keeping a tight grip on your handlebars. The worst part about winter cycling is that it's hard to flip someone off that just cut you off.

You might notice in my photo that I have a mini light on the top of my helmet (and a red one in the rear). I like to mount these up higher because your standard cycle mounted lights will be blocked if you're driving in traffic or near parked cars (even though you should still follow my Rule #1: Cycle as though You Are Invisible). Also on my helmet I have a mirror mounted which I've grown so accustomed to it that I nearly get spooked without it. It's nice because it eliminates that swerving motion when you turn your head.

If you dress proper and once you get used the the slipping and sliding enough adjust your riding style winter cycling can be a blast!

Juvysen's picture
Juvysen
Status: Martenson Brigade Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 30 2008
Posts: 121
Re: The Definitive Bicycle Thread

DH and I just (finally) bought a tandem bicycle.  His brother builds custom bicycles in Cleveland (for 10 years now or more...) and we've been meaning to get a tandem for... well, just about since then.  We finally took the plunge last fall when one of the beautiful bikes my BIL built came up for resale (the going rate for the others were out of our price range). It's just awesome.  We've hooked on a trailer for our kids to ride in and it's a beautiful thing.  It's as long as my car, though!

yoshhash's picture
yoshhash
Status: Martenson Brigade Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 20 2008
Posts: 271
Re: The Definitive Bicycle Thread- milestone: bikes outsold cars

awesome thread- thank you Megan.

Just wanted to take a moment to mark a special moment....for the first time since cars and bikes shared the road, bikes outsold cars.  I think this is a wonderful, wonderful thing, and gives me hope for humanity.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dennis-markatos/us-bike-sales-higher-than_...

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