Archive for December, 2010

Glove and Cup Holder Review

Well I got a couple bike gifts for Christmas and I’ve been trying them out.  My wife got me a pair of Seirus Hyperlite All-Weather gloves for riding in cold, wet weather.  I also found a cup holder by Portland Design Works in my stocking.  I’ve been trying out the gloves lately as we’ve been getting into the 20’s in the early mornings along the Gulf Coast.  I have to say that these gloves work great.  They are windproof and waterproof.  Note that the seams aren’t sealed so your hand would get wet if you dunked it in the ocean but it keeps out the rain.  These gloves are very thin and offer a lot of dexterity (I shot the photos while wearing them).  I’d say they are good for keeping hands perfectly comfortable for short rides (<3mi) down to about 35 degrees.  Any colder, or if your ride is longer, you might want to use them as a liner.  But for short utility trips like I do these keep my hands comfortable and they are small enough that they are easy to stuff into a pocket when I get to my destination.

The cup holder is by Portland Design Works and I like its inconspicuous look.  The cup holder feels very sturdy and it holds small to medium sized cups or mugs.  Not much to say about cup holders, it’s more of a style and / or color thing as far as deciding which one to get.  One thing to note is that the cup or mug must definitely be sealed because your drink will be doing a lot of sloshing.  I think it is going to come in very handy.

Bike commuting to the office

 

Bike commuting in office clothes

So I have been commuting into the office for the past 5 months now on my bike.  I have to say that it has been great, my commute is one of the best parts of the day now and I look forward to the ride in and out of work.  I work in an office environment that requires business casual dress.  The picture above shows what I would typically wear in to work (this picture was taken this morning).  On the Gulf Coast, winter bike commuting is great because you don’t have to worry about sweating and the weather is mild.  Note I have on a dress shirt and slacks and I’m cycling in my usual office shoes.  No special clothing is necessary!  I’ve got a  Timbuk2 bag on for hauling my lunch, wallet, cellphone, etc.  The upright positioning of the Dutch style bike is super comfortable for short trips at a casual pace.  Wonderful!

 

Kona’s Africabike Three: What’s Not to Love?

2011 aluminum Kona Africabike Three. Image from konaworld.com

Do you like Dutch bikes, but not the price? Do you need a budget option for daily transportation? Would you like a “beater” bike that you can leave outside without worrying? Would you like any or all of the above and the fabulous feeling that comes from giving as well? Take a look at Kona’s Africabike Three.

The bicycle has an integrated rear rack capable of holding a passenger. A three-speed internally geared hub will get most people around in all but the hilliest areas. The big front basket will carry a bag of groceries. The front wheel stabilizing spring helps keep the bicycle from tipping over. Coaster brake and front hand brake stop you safely. There is even a partial chain guard and fenders! An aluminum unisex step-through frame (new for the 2011 model) allows you to ride in any clothing. This bicycle even has an integrated rear wheel lock. The Africabike Three has many features of more expensive Dutch bicycles. The price is just $449! My local dealer says that the 2010 steel model is also still available for $399.

2010 steel Kona Africabike Three. Image from konaworld.com

Here’s the icing on the cake: for every three bikes that Kona sells, two are donated to their basic needs program to provide transport, food, water and shelter to those who have difficulty obtaining them.

I love this bike, and one will join my stable one day. Read more about the bicycle and the basic needs program:

Kona Africabike Three

Kona Basic Needs

Kryptonite NYC Chain. Holy Cow.

Paula is very safe now. I knew this chain would be substantial but holy cow. It’s HUGE. Overkill for this area, but overkill is better than underkill. I was much more relaxed at the grocery store last night. I know that this lock, like any other, is not absolute protection. But the tools required to defeat it would attract attention.

Paula securely locked with Kryptonite NYC chain.

This thing is huge and heavy. In retrospect, a lesser chain would have been a better choice. But this is the one I have and this is an expensive bicycle worth protecting from theft. I carry it in my Wald basket, which is now attached to the rear rack. I really don’t notice anything while I’m riding, but the bicycle is harder to lift up stairs. I just tell myself “Just pick the bicycle up and quit whining.”

The handlebar bag is a Minnehaha small saddle bag. Sadly, it does not play nicely with sprung saddles and I only have sprung saddles. But it’s not half bad as a handlebar bag. It holds my tiny purse & repair kit nicely. I won’t try carrying that lock in it, though.

Paula at Winn Dixie

Here she is, patiently waiting for me to finish the shopping.

With a bag of groceries:

I’ve had this bicycle since Monday. It makes me feel like a kid in a 50s bicycle ad, zipping around the corner. She went on her first group ride last night and turned quite a few heads. The Abus rear wheel lock that I added stopped one of my friends from taking off with it!

I’m really not sold on the binder straps. They just don’t seem nearly as useful as a basket and cargo net.

I have a Minnehaha trunk bag on the way that I will try (although I think it is destined for my 70s Raleigh Sports).

Attitudes and Perceptions

I actually never would have guessed even seven months ago that I would ride a bicycle every day. I had a mountain bike that I purchased to actually ride on trails. I rode it on trails. But riding on the road — especially around here — was far too dangerous. Bicycles were sporting equipment.

One day, though, I rode my bicycle to work. It was just so that I could get to a lunch a mile away. I was not going to have time to walk. I was absolutely hooked and have not driven or walked to work since. Well, I walked once — the day Paula arrived.

At first, I rode on the “safer” sidewalk. At least I did not salmon. I resigned myself to change my wardrobe to bike-friendly clothes. No more skirts. No Fluevog shoes. One cycling-friendly change that I made — getting my hair cut very short — I do not regret at all. But I’m having a bad hair life anyway. I slowly learned more about bicycle safety and learned that I could actually ride in most “normal” clothes. I have not tried heels yet. I don’t wear them often anyway.

But this post is about a serious impediment to riding: attitudes and perceptions. It has been discussed at length. The discussion will continue for a very long time. Cycling is far too dangerous. It is inconvenient. You need special clothes. You get too sweaty. It’s hard. You get wet. Snow is impossible to ride a bike in. Being in a car is more comfortable when it is cold.

People see my choice  to ride a bicycle as a threat. This shocks me. It’s as though I am one of those smug hybrid driving South Park characters smelling my own farts and inhaling deeply. One of my relatives was so offended by my choice to all but stop driving that he harassed me to the point that I had to cut off all communication. WTF? The insistence that I relent and concede that cars were better became an obsession. I’m not sure how I was hurting him by riding a bicycle.

I consider the threat that I will be hit by a car to be nothing but a way to bully me into participating in the car culture. I must spend a large portion of my income on a large gasoline powered machine lest I be killed by one. It will be my own fault if this happens. The car that hit me will not be what killed me — it will be the fact that I had chosen NOT to be in a car at the same time. The car is the safer machine, you see. Interesting logic.

I must wear a helmet at all times. Actually, I do this. I’ve become more aware of the actual helmet debate. In many places where bicycles are primary transportation no one wears a helmet. I can’t quite conquer the psychology of this one yet. I feel naked and vulnerable without a helmet. I dream of riding in a woolly hand crocheted beret. Yet, I have lighting on my helmet, so it serves an important safety and convenience role in that respect, too. With more than one bicycle, you can just get on one and ride, knowing that if you need lights (and I definitely say that you NEED LIGHTS), you will have them.

People tell me that they admire my dedication or my commitment to fitness. I only ride a mile each way to work and I ride quite slowly. It’s a flat ride. An asthmatic 70 year old with arthritis could probably handle it. It really is not a difficult commute. I ride an entire TWO miles each way to the grocery store. Again, it’s flat and I ride slowly. It takes about 5 minutes longer than it does to get there by automobile. I used to have folding grocery baskets on my bicycle, but now I make do with one bag at a time. I can always go back tomorrow evening.

Those who choose bicycles as transportation are often seen as having no other choice or possibly even being dangerous criminals. You are riding because you are a public menace whose driving license is suspended due driving while intoxicated. Perhaps you are simply too poor to own an automobile. The stigma of poverty really hits home for me. I grew up poor. Automobile society contributes greatly to financial struggles. There is real discrimination toward anyone who rides a bicycle to work. Many employers don’t consider a bicycle “reliable transportation” and won’t hire a person without a car — even for minimum wage jobs. Yet a bicycle is far less expensive to buy and maintain, and seldom needs an urgent $1200 repair. How on earth do you look down on a person using a bicycle to get to a minimum wage job? Is that person not being self-reliant?

My choices work for me. It is a little painful that they paint me as a weirdo but I have lived with that label most of my life. I’ve never been able to do anything just because everyone else did. It had to make some sort of logical sense to me. Cycling does make logical sense to me. I can afford a car but I can afford a really nice imported bicycle. I’d rather be on the bike. I am not forcing my choice on you.