Thursday, May 19, 2011

Making an Impact

Ever thought about how your biking habits affect others? Can you make an impact on local, regional and national efforts? Maybe you don't think about those things when you ride - but you do make a difference!

There has been an increase in cyclists over the last decade. In my web surfing, I found some great stats to back that fact up (but I can't remember where, so I don't have any links). As the number of bike riders rises, public health is positively affected, auto traffic is reduced and people are building community! All great things.

There are other reasons to ride. This summer, the "Bike to Fight Climate Change" challenge is being hosted by Clif Bar. Clif bar will donate $100,000 in grant money to one of three non-profit organizations:  Alliance for Biking & Walking, Safe Routes to Schools, or Signing up is free, easy and you don't have to do any fund-raising! Just create an account, join a team which represents the organization you're supporting and log your miles. From May through October, as you ride, log your miles. The team with the most amount of miles at the end of the challenge wins the grant money. (I joined the Red Team.)

Another interesting group that's doing their own fund-raising is the U.S. Bicycle Route System. This is a system that spans across local and regional areas of interest across the country. Folks are currently working on linking and numbering pieces to bring the system together. It's meant to actually be a transportation system - not just a bunch of trails and paths loosely knit together. (Could you imagine the USBRS being taken seriously as the US Interstate System someday?) During May there is an organized fund-raising campaign. There are some fun challenges and ways to double your donation. If you're interested, check it out. Transportation Secretary LaHood supports this effort. And the Palmetto Cycling Coalition recently joined ranks of supporting bike groups. Could there be others in the Upstate?

A few cool links to help make your cycling count and to help improve cycling across the country - and in your own backyard.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bicycle Safety 101: Fixin' Flats

I had the worst luck with my bike tires last week. My back tire had gone flat, and I finally got the nerve to fix it. (About a month ago, I tried to fix my back tire, but things did not go so well. So this would be bike flat is #2 in a month.) After fixing it on Sunday, I rode on Monday. By Tuesday morning, it had gone flat. (Flat #3) After only a 6 mile bike ride. I decided I needed some expert advice, so I sought out Derrick at Clemson Cyclery.

Since this was my second flat with a new tube in short period of time, I was extremely frustrated. Derrick runs the bike shop, and had offered to give me a few tips and pointers about flats, enabling me to fix 'em and get back on my bike asap.

After talking with him, he reassured me that this happens from time to time - having many flats in a short period of time. And to take it in stride. It happens to all bike riders. Keeping that in mind, I learned some really great things from him.

When it comes to flats, a cyclist can do some detective work and have a good idea why the tube popped. (Of course, make sure that you also have the right bike tools to take apart your machine. Park Tools is one of the best, and they have how-to guides available.):
  • If the tube has a puncture on the top, debris has penetrated through the actual bike tire into the tube. Run your finger carefully along the inside of the tire, feeling for any rough spots. The tire should be smooth, so if you feel anything, no matter how small, that is probably the cause of the puncture. If you can carefully remove the debris, your tire will still be ridable.  (This is what actually happened to me. It was fixed, and the tire was still safe to use).
  • If the tube has a puncture on the bottom, exam the rim for any issues or rough spots. The rim should be covered in "tape." If the tape is old or you see anything suspicious, purchasing new rim tape and installing it will fix most problems.
  • Exam the sidewalls and tire tread. Tires can last a while, however, they still need to be replaced from time to time. If the sidewalls or the tire tread looks worn, this could be the cause of your flat. If you can see through the tire, it's time for a new one.
Once you have figured out what caused the puncture, make sure the patch job is top notch or buy a new tube. Just follow the instructions that came with your patch kit and cover extra space around the puncture to ensure a good patching job. There's not a rule of thumb about how many times a bike tube can be patched before it's not good any more. It's all about how old (as in miles or years) the tube is, your comfort level, your flat fixin' skills, etc. So, I went home that evening, and fixed bike flat #3.

Thursday morning, getting ready to ride to work, I came out to another flat (#4). I grumbled, but also chuckled. At least I felt better about the situation now having a little bit more information on fixing a flat tire (tube). I finally got a chance to fix #4 on Sunday. Comes to find out, my original patch job was now leaking. Since I didn't feel comfortable patching a patch or repatching it, I just scrapped it and put a new tube on all together.

I am happy to report that my bike tire this morning was full, and I got to ride to work. I hope this whole fixing a flat is behind me - at least for a while. Happy Bike to Work Week!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

May: Bike Month

May is National Bike Month. National Bike to Work Week is next, May 16 - May 20, and National Bike to Work Day is Friday, May 20. That means you have a few days to gear up and psyche up to do a little extra riding. Talk to co-workers about biking in this week. Accountability partners are a good way to try something new and share your experience. Have an in-office or neighborhood fun challenge to see who rides the most often or the most miles or for the longest time or who is the most improved. Whatever way you participate is a great way to get some exercise, try something new or save a few pennies at the pump.

The Governor wrote a proclamation. In the Upstate, there are a few communities participating in the Bike to Work week: 

City of Anderson. City of Greenville. City of Spartanburg. If there are others, post them here in the comments section.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Clemson University Students + Community Development

Recently, a class of Clemson University student's presented their final community development projects at the renovated Central Roller Mill located in downtown Central, SC. (I just love the Mill.) They presented the work they did in communities from Clemson to Greenville. The public was invited to attend. (Photo credit here.)

Photo of the renovated Central Roller Mill

All of the projects were great. The students put a lot of time and effort into their work. A few of the projects touched on biking in the Upstate.

For one project, a group of students ventured on their bike and mapped out some of the better known mountain bike trails of Clemson's North Forest  for their final project. What they hope to do, in working with the staff at Clemson University, is to provide a better map and updated trail conditions in the North Forest. They started this blog,, to get the ball rolling. On the site, different trails are mapped out (each path is highlighted in dark pink). The students did a lot of great work, finding trails and mapping them, but they hope that future students pick up where they left off, and continue to improve the forest's trail system along with university staff.

 Map of the North Forest

Another group of students worked on installing a very cool sculpture near the Swamp Rabbit Trail in the Nicholtown Pocket Park. They had some great photos on the final product and community input during the process. Look for it if you venture to the southern portion of the trail. There are some great things going on in Nicholtown with biking and active lifestyles. See these links: LiveWell Greenville and City of Greenville.

A third group of students talked about the transportation and recreation plan called "The Green Crescent Project." Using the existing Amtrak and CAT Bus systems, they talked about how folks from Atlanta could take the a short train ride to Clemson to enjoy a weekend of recreation in the Upstate. (For those unaware, Clemson's Amtrak Station is on highway 123, just a few blocks from downtown.) Kudos to them trying to bridge the gaps in geography by using existing infrastructure and systems, all while providing a jolt to the local economy!

Another group of civil engineering students were recently awarded a grant to implement their business plan for a bike sharing program on campus. At the presentation, they talked about their on-campus bike sharing program. Ideas include renovating the Sheep Barn to house the campus bike and repair shop, renting bikes by the week and encouraging students to use bikes more often as a means of getting around and to campus. Many in the community are very excited about the plan and the money awarded to make it a reality!

Clemson Sheep Barn

If you have any interest in knowing more about these projects, please contact Prof. Dan Harding. His energy, interests and professional skills have hand in many of the projects. (He also taught the class of students.) He can be reached at hardin4 at clemson dot edu. Congrats to the students for their hard work, completing the semester and doing projects that benefit and inspire communities across the Upstate!