Life is meant to be lived on the back of a bike. At least the fun parts. This blog is an effort on my part to convert the world into bikers, starting with my friends living here in Fresh Meadows! Even if I have to do it single handedly, I will civilize the bikers of New York!
An emergency phone call was placed on Saturday afternoon by Bro Bro to E. He found the perfect bike (rides great, 3 speed, comfortable, full covered chain case, rear fender and rack) for $75 at the local flea market- you couldn't go wrong. Until you realized it had no FRONT fender. I told him to pass but he wanted that bike. I said dude - pass.
The way I see it if that bike doesn't have a front fender that bike is no better then the $25 derailleur equipped 10 speed you can find on Craigslist any day of the week. Sure Bro Bro won't get grease on his pants and sure he can carry a girl or groceries on the back rack, but let us face reality - the first time he goes over a puddle too fast he will rue the day he purchased that bike. Why you ask? Because he will be covered in stagnant city water or mud or worse, DOG POO! And why will Bro Bro be covered in dog poo? Because he choose to ride without a front mud guard.
Thankfully for my blog, this saga continues. I did find what is being advertised as a $100 dollar dutch style bike. Here is a link - http://times-up.org/index.php?page=bike-co-op#TimesUpBikeRecyclingProgram. It is a single speed with a coaster brake but for a $100 it seems perfect as a beater bike. Me and Bro Bro might head out to check this place out on Wednesday. I will try to post some pics and add some links if we actually go.
In an effort to move Bro Bro into more civilized transportation methods I have been enlisted to find him a bike. Of course, not just any bike – he wants a fully loaded and functional commuter bike for $150 or under. He wants a fully encased chain, fenders front and back, a carrying rack in the back, and a comfortable riding position.
Considering we live in the US and not in Holland or Belgium, his requests are not going to be easy to make come true. Not many bike shops will sell a commuter bike for under $600 new with most pricing these fine beasts upwards of $1000.
If he were looking for a new bike and money was no object my first recommendation would be the Mercedes of bikes, a Gazelle. Built at the same factory in Holland for over 100 years, their quality is so phenomenal that they have been given the title of "Royal" bike company by the Royals of the Netherlands.
In a close second would be a beautiful Batavus which is also assembled in Holland. If Gazelle's are Mercedes then Batavus is the BMW of Dutch bikes. Much like Americans in this country tend to gravitate around Chevy or Ford (but not both), Dutch kids often group into Gazelle followers and Batavus followers. One could only dream that in New York City people would be so passionate about their bikes that they would form rival groups in competition for "coolest" bike in town.
My third option, were money no object in acquiring Bro Bro's bike, would be a Pashley. I own a Pashley and the bike is a dream - it's fast, relatively light for a roadster, and with all the bells and whistles of the Dutch bikes. In fact, the Dutch bikes copied the English roadsters of yore and then, in typical Dutch fashion, improved upon the idea and made it their own. Unfortunately Pashley's are really, really expensive which makes one sad to ride it in the rain or snow. Well, it makes me sad to ride it in the snow and the rain. That is a sadness I don't want Bro Bro to feel.
Thus we move to our fourth option - Craigslist, eBay, and other assorted second hand bike sellers. One could go crazy jumping from eBay to various geographically local Craigslists or one could could to this great site I found. I'm almost hesitant to give the link because I know it will increase my competition in find that perfect commuter bike but since Mr. E rocks the house...
Here is the link:
This site will allow you to search for hundreds, nay thousands of bikes, in a clean interface. It searches eBay, Craigslist, and various other parts of the cloud for specific key words. You can filter by brand, or as I am doing for Bro Bro, "Three Speed" or "3 Speed" with no manufacturer listed. I'm not getting any Pashelys, Gazelles, or Batavus for $150 and under but I have found some descent deals. Now it's up to Bro Bro to get off his ass and make some phone calls.
As my readers know, back in March Ray LaHood (Transportation Secretary of the United States) put out a policy statement that changes forever the way federal transportation funds are distributed. No longer will pedestrians and cyclists be considered second class citizens in the distribution of funds. From now on all appropriations will be distributed equally between motor vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians. Furthermore the federal government's goal is to complete an interstate bicycle highway similar to the one in this video taken just east of Leiden, Netherlands.
This could be the future of bicycle riding in the United States. Sweet!
2. Portland, OR
3. Boulder, CO
5. Eugene, OR
6. San Francisco
7. Madison, WI
8. New York City
9. Tucson, AZ
11. Austin, TX
12. Denver, CO
13. Washington, DC
14. Ann Arbor, MI
15. Phoenix/Tempe, AZ
16. Gainesville, FL
17. Albuquerque, NM
18. Colorado Springs, CO
19. Salem, OR
20. Scottsdale, AZ
21. Louisville, KY
22. Chattanooga, TN
23. Long Beach, CA
24. Cary, NC
29. Charleston, SC
30. Arlington, VA
31. Sioux Falls, SD
32. Boise, ID
33. Kansas City, MO
34. Columbus, OH
35. Tulsa, OK
36. Grand Rapids, MI
37. Billings, MT
38. St. Louis
40. Greensboro, NC
41. Lexington-Fayette, KY
42. Omaha, NE
43. Salt Lake City
46. Fargo, ND
47. Anchorage, AK
49. Little Rock, AR
50. Rochester, NY
To prepare this list, we referenced the Bicycling and Walking in the United States 2010 Benchmarking Report, prepared by the Alliance for Biking and Walking; the League of American Bicyclists Bicycle Friendly America project; data from Mediamark Research, Inc., Dun & Bradstreet and The Nielsen Company; and advice from national and local bike advocates.
For weeks now it has been assumed by everyone I know that May 16th I would attempt to bicycle 100 miles from Babylon to Montauk. I wasn't so sure it was going to happen. I mean, I told everyone I would do it but it seemed rather ridiculous to bicycle 100 miles. All I kept thinking was how much my butt would hurt after an ordeal like that.
Me and Dr. K debated what bike I should take. I argued with the good folks at Belitte Bicycles and I argued with Simon at Kissena Bicycles (who has a special relationship with my Trek) that I should take my roadster for comfort. Everyone argued with me that I would take FOREVER on the roadster and should take my road bike. In the end I acquiesced to peer pressure only cause Dr. K tells me the following -
"Uh dude, if you take the roadster me and the Branks man (Dr. K's cousin and an old friend) will not wait for you. We'll meet you at the finish line."
For me the whole reason for engaging in this lunacy was to chill with Dr. K and B so I took the Trek to the Century. I drove to Branko's and hitched in a ride in his truck.
Upon arriving we met up with Dr. K and he goes through a checklist of all the things I need to have -
Biking shorts - I say no.
Biking shoes - I say no.
High visibility bright neon yellow wind breaker - I say no.
Tight spandex or Lycra for less wind resistance - I say no.
Extra tube and pump - I say no BUT I have a patch kit and I know how to use it!
He asks if I ate lots of carbs - I say no cause I had no breakfast.
Ok, so it pretty much sounds like I am going to be in trouble. I don't want to do this. It's cold and my back hurts and I'm hungry from not eating breakfast and I'm tired from getting less then 3 hours of sleep, and I want my PASHLEY! Still, I keep a brave face knowing I have no problem quitting the tour as soon as I want to, pride be damned!
There was no fan fare, there was no starting gun. We got there late anyway so we took off alone and quickly caught up to a pack of 20 or 30 riders. Already my left elbow hurt from having to lean forward in the aggressive riding position required of my Trek. Dr. K. is flying past everyone in the race and I'm falling further and further behind. His cousin is right behind him. We didn't take maps - we just headed east following the pink markings on the floor. This was going to suck. I was less then 10 miles in and already I was regretting this decision. Why did I let K talk me into this!
I struggled to keep up with the pace my friends were taking. How was I going to keep this up for 100 miles if I couldn't for 10 or 20. I quickly realized doing this stupid thing was an epic fail and I was going to hate myself for wasting the money and time on this lunacy. This was just like the time Dr. K dared me to drive my Audi into a giant puddle. My car only made it out with the help of firemen and never lived again. But I digress - an hour and twenty minutes later we arrived at the first rest stop. About 25 miles at an average of 19mph gave me hope I might be able to finish this bad boy.
The next 25 miles were pretty uneventful except for the constant pain. By the time we reached the middle mark I was not a happy camper. The rest stop was very pretty but as you can see on our faces, we were tired.
Of course I ate up as much grub as my belly would fit (and probably more). Thankfully they had plenty of yummy PB and J, Nutella, chips, and weird electrolyte waters.
After filling our bellies with food and drink, we were ready to start the 2nd half of our ordeal. Although this last quarter was tough the allure of an ice cream truck beckoned us to the 75 milesh mark. At least that's what Dr. K told us awaited us at the 75 mile mark.
What ensued was pure hell! At one point I hit a sand patch and fell off my bike. I was turning back looking for Branko when over I went. Nothing was hurt except my pride. I came up and took a pick for the Diva with my camera, pedaled for about 5 minutes, and then realized that when I fell my phone must have fallen out. I had to back track and swing back and for looking for my little blackberry.
Dune Road went on forever and ever culminating in a left up the very long and steep Lighthouse Road Bridge.
This picture above was pretty much the end of photographic documentation save one pathetic cell phone pic somewhere around mile "I don't know". In the last pic I had energy to take Dr. K is clearly visible in the bright neon windbreaker. He came prepared and would surely never get hit by a car.
Around mile 66, or so I thought, I stumbled unto an Indian reservation where I was offered water, tobacco, a blessing, and directions. I was starting to get headaches from dehydration so I guzzled down about 1 litre of ice cold water the American Indians gave me. I ended up having to lay down for a significant period of time due to what Dr. K said was a cramp of my esophagus (or something like that). Little did I know that my friends were waiting around the corner and little did I know the next rest stop at 75 miles was less then 1 mile away. I limped to that last rest stop and decided to give up because the ice cream truck had already left by the time we got there.
I called my Diva and told her it was over. I couldn't go much farther and the end was near. I don't remember what she said because I was in a dehydrated haze but I recall B wanted to end the hell and I remember him saying he would not wait while me and Dr. K napped. He took off alone ahead of us but at this point I had lost all track of time. K timed our quarters so I knew that the first 25 miles were completed in 1 hour 20 minutes, the second in 2 hours 20 minutes, and the 3rd quarter was 3 hours and 30 minutes or something like that.
As I am about to leave I find out these bastards have decided to make this tour 109 miles in honour of I don't know what! I was actually at a rest stop at the 79.5 mile mark and needed another 29.5 miles to complete. NO WAY! I would go until I could and then I would call over the paddy wagon that lifts dejected cyclists from the end of the line. To add insult to injury my trusted friend, who is a much stronger cyclist then me, asks if he can go and finish as fast as he can. I of course say yes because I don't need him there when the paddy wagon comes to get me.
Off we went unto route 27 and quickly Dr. K's bright neon wind breaker faded into the distance. I just putted along with no track of time while running numbers in my head as to how long it would take me if I actually attempted to finish this thing. I figured there was no way in hell I was going 10 miles an hour so this would take me no less then 3 hours. I really was unable to track time.
This part of the ride though was the most peaceful perhaps because I sensed death was near. As old ladies, children, and tandems passed me, I was able to reflect on the beauty of the countryside and the tranquility of some areas in Suffolk. I was at peace and I was enjoying my ride until the hills hit. I kept on seeing the paddy wagon pulled over helping some sorry soul that had been unable to finish and every time I trudged on. As I climbed one particularly long hill I saw the support services truck in the distance. This time I was beckoned towards the truck. I was told this was the last truck heading to Montauk so this was my last chance to hitch a ride. I asked him how much farther to go since I had no map and had little clue where I was. He said I had about 7 miles left! Holy crap, I had biked over 100 miles! I declined his ride and decided to finish. What was the point of giving up now? The only thing that could stop me was a flat.
Finish I did and it only took me about 11 hours. The feeling as you come around the last turn and see the mass of people at the finish line was nothing short of exhilarating. I am doing this next year and I hope all of you join me. It's a lot easier then you think so long as you can deal with a little bit of discomfort plus you can tell people you bicycled 109 miles!
I finally popped my organic cherry! I just got my first organic click and it did not even hurt. Apparently someone in Willoughby Ohio was on Yahoo doing a search for NYC BIKE and DANGEROUS. They found my site and were on it for 2 minutes and 57 seconds. That's almost 3 minutes! My friends don't average 3 minutes a visit on my blog so you can imagine why I'm so stoked.
Oh and somehow, according to the analytic reports, they read 5 pages. I didn't know I had five pages! I think I can fairly say I have my first "satisfied" customer. I hope he or she comes back and I hope he or she rides a bike. Even better Willoughby Ohio would start a blog trying to civilize bikers in Willoughby Ohio so the wheel of life continues forward. A quick look at the place on Google Maps shows there are no bike trails - that's so sad. Thankfully, as per my previous posting, the Federal Government is making it a point to place cars, pedestrians, and bicyclists on equal footing when it comes to funds distribution. This means that bike trails are coming to town near you real soon.
The realist in me thinks otherwise. Odds are some dude was looking for something to write for some college paper on the dangers of bike riding in urban environments, or something like that.
Regardless of your motivation, thank you for coming Willoughby Ohio!
The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) is providing this Policy Statement to reflect the Department’s support for the development of fully integrated active transportation networks. The establishment of well-connected walking and bicycling networks is an important component for livable communities, and their design should be a part of Federal-aid project developments. Walking and bicycling foster safer, more livable, family-friendly communities; promote physical activity and health; and reduce vehicle emissions and fuel use. Legislation and regulations exist that require inclusion of bicycle and pedestrian policies and projects into transportation plans and project development. Accordingly, transportation agencies should plan, fund, and implement improvements to their walking and bicycling networks, including linkages to transit. In addition, DOT encourages transportation agencies to go beyond the minimum requirements, and proactively provide convenient, safe, and context-sensitive facilities that foster increased use by bicyclists and pedestrians of all ages and abilities, and utilize universal design characteristics when appropriate. Transportation programs and facilities should accommodate people of all ages and abilities, including people too young to drive, people who cannot drive, and people who choose not to drive.
The DOT policy is to incorporate safe and convenient walking and bicycling facilities into transportation projects. Every transportation agency, including DOT, has the responsibility to improve conditions and opportunities for walking and bicycling and to integrate walking and bicycling into their transportation systems. Because of the numerous individual and community benefits that walking and bicycling provide — including health, safety, environmental, transportation, and quality of life — transportation agencies are encouraged to go beyond minimum standards to provide safe and convenient facilities for these modes.
This policy is based on various sections in the United States Code (U.S.C.) and the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) in Title 23—Highways, Title 49—Transportation, and Title 42—The Public Health and Welfare. These sections, provided in the Appendix, describe how bicyclists and pedestrians of all abilities should be involved throughout the planning process, should not be adversely affected by other transportation projects, and should be able to track annual obligations and expenditures on nonmotorized transportation facilities.
The DOT encourages States, local governments, professional associations, community organizations, public transportation agencies, and other government agencies, to adopt similar policy statements on bicycle and pedestrian accommodation as an indication of their commitment to accommodating bicyclists and pedestrians as an integral element of the transportation system. In support of this commitment, transportation agencies and local communities should go beyond minimum design standards and requirements to create safe, attractive, sustainable, accessible, and convenient bicycling and walking networks. Such actions should include:
Considering walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes: The primary goal of a transportation system is to safely and efficiently move people and goods. Walking and bicycling are efficient transportation modes for most short trips and, where convenient intermodal systems exist, these nonmotorized trips can easily be linked with transit to significantly increase trip distance. Because of the benefits they provide, transportation agencies should give the same priority to walking and bicycling as is given to other transportation modes. Walking and bicycling should not be an afterthought in roadway design.
Ensuring that there are transportation choices for people of all ages and abilities, especially children: Pedestrian and bicycle facilities should meet accessibility requirements and provide safe, convenient, and interconnected transportation networks. For example, children should have safe and convenient options for walking or bicycling to school and parks. People who cannot or prefer not to drive should have safe and efficient transportation choices.
Going beyond minimum design standards: Transportation agencies are encouraged, when possible, to avoid designing walking and bicycling facilities to the minimum standards. For example, shared-use paths that have been designed to minimum width requirements will need retrofits as more people use them. It is more effective to plan for increased usage than to retrofit an older facility. Planning projects for the long-term should anticipate likely future demand for bicycling and walking facilities and not preclude the provision of future improvements.
Integrating bicycle and pedestrian accommodation on new, rehabilitated, and limited-access bridges: DOT encourages bicycle and pedestrian accommodation on bridge projects including facilities on limited-access bridges with connections to streets or paths.
Collecting data on walking and biking trips: The best way to improve transportation networks for any mode is to collect and analyze trip data to optimize investments. Walking and bicycling trip data for many communities are lacking. This data gap can be overcome by establishing routine collection of nonmotorized trip information. Communities that routinely collect walking and bicycling data are able to track trends and prioritize investments to ensure the success of new facilities. These data are also valuable in linking walking and bicycling with transit.
Setting mode share targets for walking and bicycling and tracking them over time: A byproduct of improved data collection is that communities can establish targets for increasing the percentage of trips made by walking and bicycling.
Removing snow from sidewalks and shared-use paths: Current maintenance provisions require pedestrian facilities built with Federal funds to be maintained in the same manner as other roadway assets. State Agencies have generally established levels of service on various routes especially as related to snow and ice events.
Improving nonmotorized facilities during maintenance projects: Many transportation agencies spend most of their transportation funding on maintenance rather than on constructing new facilities. Transportation agencies should find ways to make facility improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists during resurfacing and other maintenance projects.
Increased commitment to and investment in bicycle facilities and walking networks can help meet goals for cleaner, healthier air; less congested roadways; and more livable, safe, cost-efficient communities. Walking and bicycling provide low-cost mobility options that place fewer demands on local roads and highways. DOT recognizes that safe and convenient walking and bicycling facilities may look different depending on the context — appropriate facilities in a rural community may be different from a dense, urban area. However, regardless of regional, climate, and population density differences, it is important that pedestrian and bicycle facilities be integrated into transportation systems. While DOT leads the effort to provide safe and convenient accommodations for pedestrians and bicyclists, success will ultimately depend on transportation agencies across the country embracing and implementing this policy. Ray LaHood, United States Secretary of Transportation
Bike shops frustrate me. They frustrate me because you walk in there looking for a nice utility bike (aka commuter) and they want to sell you some fancy road bike or some monster mountain bike. Some of them may actually try to pass off some mountain bike with skinny wheels as a utility bike but it's not. It's a mountain bike with skinny tires.
I tell them their bikes are nice but I want to ride my bike to work and I don't want to get grease on my leg. They say, no worries my brother, just roll up your pant legs. Then I say, what do I do when it's cold out or when I want to dress nice. They laughed. Nice response - laugh at me. :(
Am I asking for too much when I ask for a full covered chaincase, front and back fenders, and at least one carrying rack! I can always add the lights and bell later, but come on - don't laugh at me because America is caught in some weird time warp where bikers have to wear Lycra and count their cadence to be "bikers".
Some of us don't mind going slow, only need 3 speeds, and can thank their lucky stars they own NOTHING made of Lycra. I bike in jeans and flip flops (which my girlfriend detests and bemoans as extremely dangerous). I carry a jug of water on my back rack, and ring my bell liberally. Apparently, in the US few bike shops care to cater to my needs.
So what is my alternative? To scour the Craigslist or eBay ads looking for some sorry soul in the process of losing his most prized possession - a European commuter bike.