Sunday, April 28, 2013

National Bike Month 2013

National Bike to Work Month is just around the corner. Celebrating 55 years of bike riding fun, there are events taking place across the country, region and upstate to mark May 2013 as National Bike to Work month.

May 2013 dates of significance.
Wednesday May 8 is National Bike to School Day. The week of May 13 - 17 is National Bike to Work week. Friday, May 17 is National Bike to Work Day. Invite co-workers to ride to work or go for a ride during the lunch hour. Ask school leaders to encourage bike riding and rewarding students for their choice to participate. Talk to a local leader to host an event for National Bike Month. Consider committing to participating in one of these events this year.

Learn or refresh on how to commute by bike. To help potential or novice bike commuters, I've been writing a series called "How to Commute by Bike." This is a min-series of posts about the process of preparing for bike commuting It's meant to be a 'how-to' guide for beginners and a refresher for veteran riders. If you're considering adding a bike commute to your routine, I would encourage you to check it out. The series will continue throughout May.

Join the National Bike Challenge. If you aren't able to bike to work during the week of May 13 - 17 or on National Bike to Work Day May 17, you can still participate. The League of American Bicyclists is encouraging folks to track their bike rides in May and over the course of the summer by joining the National Bike Challenge. Last year over 30,000 folks rode over 12,000,000 miles! That's a lot of time - and fun - on two wheels.

You can ride "solo" or join a team. Consider challenging friends, neighbors, family or co-workers to join in the fun and log miles. Stats and stories can be tracked at the national and state level. It was kind of fun to watch the number of miles I commuted (and CO2 I saved) during the challenged. If you're looking for a team to join and you're a part of the Clemson University community, consider joining the team called "Clemson University."

Local events. The City of Greenville has information on local events listed on the city website. Stay tuned and search other community websites to see what other events will be happening in the upstate.

National Bike to Work Month is a fun way to get out and get moving in the spring before the summer heat hits. Make a commitment to tuning up that bike and getting out on one (or a few) bike rides. Invite others and explore familiar places in a new way. Get outside and have fun!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Bicycles & Comics

A fun, recent internet distraction of mine has been and it's corresponding flickr account. is a kind of comic strip about bike riding. Bike riding in the city, in traffic, interactions with pedestrians, motorists, racing, riding, etc. It's a fun, yet powerful comic. A picture, or illustration in this instance, is worth a thousand words in a blog post.

Ideas shared via illustrations. Credit:
I like the women's perspective in the comic, too. Sometimes it's more apparent than others. Even as assertive and outspoken as I am, I can still relate. (There's  nothing more intimidating than going into a bike shop where the guy mechanics start talking in a foreign language of parts and lingo! Brother, slow it down and back it up for a second!)

This is another way that the thoughts, ideas, infrastructure, community, issues, challenges, rewards and culture related to bicycles can be shared. The illustrator has brought to light interesting topics and perspectives to light over the course of developing this character and her adventures. How many of us like to share a link, photo or though via social media? How fast can one image or video go viral? How many of us can relate to an idea, an event and a perspective when information is conveyed like this? Information like this is quickly shared because it's powerful, simple and interesting.

Keep Calm and Commute On. Illustration:

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

HTCBB: Preparations a Few Days before the Commute

Continuing the "How to Commute by Bike" series, let's 'brake' down preparations a few days before the commute. It's just a few days before the ride to work, school or around town! Excited? Nervous? Good! With anticipation in the air, a little bit of nerves is alright and to be expected.
Soon, this will be you!
You're trying something new or doing something you maybe haven't done in a while. Preparations to ride started about a week earlier. You should have started to consider a route, your attire, how to transport your stuff and get your bike in working condition. With these things behind you, it's time to get a little bit more serious about the preparations. Read on for some suggestions about what to do a few days before the commute.

  1. Gather your gear. It's best not to wait until the night before to make sure you have everything you need and that it will fit in whatever thing you choose to use. If you travel light, packing might not take long. If you need to bring a change of clothes, are transporting groceries or maybe are traveling with kids in tow, take some time to plan the space you'll need to transport stuff by bike.

    My experience:  Since I've used anything from backpacks to milks crates to panniers to transport my stuff, I recommend taking your time with this one. Try a few backpacks out or make sure that the milk crate is secure to the bike. I've taken off a few times and left my milk carton in the dust. I've also overpacked a bag and busted a zipper. Having enough space to pack your stuff is important.
  2. Choose your route. Know how to get where you need to go. After taking some time to consider a couple of different routes over the last week, decide on one. In choosing a route, consider the safety, distance, speed of traffic (bike or automobile) and time requirements and constraints. Going by bike may take more or less time than your typical mode of transit. Consider this in your planning! To help with the trips, consider bringing a paper map, memorizing the route or use gps applications a smart phone or other device.
    Bags? Check! Basket? Check! Ready to ride!
    My experience:  The travel time between the workplace and home has varied for me. When I was a student, I could get to campus in 10 minutes by bike or, if finding parking was included, 45 minutes by car or 30 minutes by bus. My current situation provides me with a 25 minutes bike commute or a 10 car ride or an hour bus ride. Planning a route and considering alternatives helped me figure out what was best for me. The more I rode the more I learned how to adjust my schedule.

  3. Go for a (short) test ride. Combine1. and 2., and the experience is likely to be more enjoyable. Pack it all up and go for a (short) test ride around the neighborhood or maybe the first bit of the route you choose. This will help you become a little bit more familiar with how it feels to ride with your pack, crate or pannier; how it might feel to manuever in traffic; what riding in a neighborhood street versus a commercial corridor or on a path feels like. Becoming familiar with a route can increase your comfort.

    My experience:  Every time I ride it's different, and anything I can do to make my experience more comfortable helps me stay safer and have more fun. A test ride is a good idea to embark on when planning a new route or ride. It can give you a feel what to expect. And, if it's a short ride, it's a great way to go for a short ride with a friend! Invite someone who hasn't been on a bike for a while.

  4. Check the forecast.  I would be remiss to leave this out! No matter how much excitement is building for the inaugural ride, consider rescheduling if there is a good chance of poor weather. Riding in the rain may start the day or experience off on the wrong foot (or pedal). Forecasts for strong storms or extreme weather may not be the best way to start something new. There's no shame in postponing your ride until a better day.

    Prepared for the weather.
    My experience:  When I was starting out using my bike to get around, one time I got caught in a downpour without any rain gear. The rain was initially light, so I took a few moments to tuck my electronics and school papers deep into my backpack. However, by the time I was half way between where I started and my destination, the drizzle turned into a downpour! I hadn't watched the forecast and I didn't have anything with me to keep me or my stuff dry. By the time I got home I was drenched. I made a promise to myself that, if I could help it, I would never let that happen again! Now part of my weekly routine is to keep an eye on forecasts to help me plan ahead in adjusting how I might get to and from work.
With just a few days to go, you should be feeling pretty prepared. Get some rest, talk about your new plans with friends and get ready for fun! Your commute is just a few days away.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

HTCBB: Preparations a Week before the Commute (How to Commute by Bike series)

The decision has been made:  you are going ride your bike to work, school or to run daily errands for the first time ever, this season or in months. Before you hop on that bike, consider that a few preparations many be necessary. A week before you ride, consider the following things when getting ready for your ride at this stage of the process.
  1. Check the condition of your bike.  This would be a good time to check the air in the tires, the condition of the bike chain, the response of the brakes, the cables and gear shifters, etc. Take a spin around the neighborhood to get a feel for the condition of your bike and how much work might be needed to get it into riding condition. If more than a little air and oil is needed, schedule a tune up at a local bike shop. Treat your bike with care. Like a car, a little bit of work and periodic maintenance will increase the life and make your ride smoother.

    My experience:  I get a tune up twice a year and follow my mechanic's recommendations. The need for a bike tune up depends on the kind of riding you do and the miles put on the bike. Since I commute anywhere from 20 - 50 miles a week, that's a lot of miles on my bike over the course of a year. Keeping it finely tuned by a professional is a good investment for me. (Some folks go a step further and learn how to tune up their bike. I know a few basics, and for where I'm at now, that's good enough for me.)

  2. Consider a route.  Some communities have a network of bike lanes, roads and paths that bicyclists are encouraged to use. Check out a local bike shop for a city, county or regional map of these routes. Other places are still working on developing a network. If you're not sure where to ride, neighborhood roads with low speeds and traffic are typically good places. Another ideas is to look for bicycles over the next couple of days when you're out driving around town. Notice where they are, and where they aren't. Looking for others on two wheels is a good indication of where some possible routes might be.

    City of Madison Bike Map

    My experience:  Some places are easier (and safer!) to ride than others. In Madison, Wisconsin, there were usually several different safe routes to get around town. My route to work now admittedly not the safest. However, I have tried a few different alternative routes before settling on my current one. I also venture to new places on the weekends or during recreational rides. Take your time and be patient. Finding a route that fits you can take a bit of trial and error.

  3. Think about transporting your stuff. How are you going to bring what you need with you on a bike? You may travel light - a phone and wallet might be all you need. Others might need to think about carrying a lunch, a computer or tablet or even a full change of clothes. (Sometimes I even include a hair dryer!) There are about as many different kinds of options are there are people! Some can use a backpack, other saddlebags (or panniers) still others a basket. Consider that you still will want to look presentable when you arrive and over the course of the day. This may actually take some time to figure out what's best for you and your lifestyle.
    Banjo Brother's Market Pannier

    My experience:  I started out commuting in graduate school when I lived about a mile from campus. I could commute in my clothes and use a backpack to bring everything else. With my first few jobs after graduation, I would bring a change of clothes. A few years later, I use a pannier. (I use a Banjo Brothers "Market Pannier.") My needs evolved over time, but one thing that has remained the same is not "looking" like I ride my bike to work. How do I know that it works? Not so long ago my supervisor commented on my ability to bike to work yet still dress to impress.
  4. Consider what you might wear when you ride.  This kind of goes along with #3. How comfortable are you riding? Are you able to ride in what you need to wear at your destination? How sweaty might you get? Do you have room in your bag to bring a change of clothes or a place to change at your workplace? All of these are questions to ask when thinking about what you might ride in. Also consider wearing brightly colored clothing if you'll be riding alongside automobile traffic. Bright colors increase visibility.

    My experience:  I commute in both (not at the same time, though!). In the summer when it's hot, I'll don my biking shorts. Just about every other time of the year I'll wear an older pair of khaki's and layer on top. I'm not interested in looking like I'm a part of the Tour de France when I ride to work every day. I'd rather look like I'm a member of the community on my bike wearing everyday clothes. Plus, when arriving to my destination, khaki's are a little more PC than spandex.
The week or so before the first ride, consider these few things. Preparing before the ride will help alleviate some anxieties and give you a boost of confidence. What do you do to prepare? What do you use to transport your stuff? I'd love to hear what you do and share your ideas with others! Next up in the series:  Preparations a few days before the ride.