Category Archives: Biking

Bike economics series on Grist

If you haven’t seen it already you should check out this series on Grist about biking and the economics a bike economy can have on a city versus focusing on cars.

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My rig, and simpleness

I thought it would be interesting to post up a picture of my bicycle here.  Most of the time a bike is posted on a blog it’s to talk about how fancy it is and all the features and what they cost.  Blah blah blog

A picture of the road bike.

I’m much more into simple and functional.  And cheap.  Now that’s not for everyone.  If I was older and not able to handle discomfort perhaps I would care that my bike is just a little bit small for me.  Or that it only has one gear.  If I was riding across the country, instead of across town, I would certainly care about the gear part.

Missing derailleur

But as it is, I usually ride 5-10 miles and this works just fine for me.

What you are seeing here is a $50 investment in an old frame and adding about $175 in components (and bike shop labor) making the bike a fixed gear bike. I’m a fan of simplicity and fixed gear bikes are that.  And cheap. If I were to buy a new fixed gear frame it would cost around $400 just for the frame.

I think a bike like this is a good metaphor for America in a lot of ways. We, as Americans, always feel like technology will be the answer for us. Whatever is next and newer and better is always better. I’m not so sure. James Howard Kunstler talks a lot in the Kunstlercast about the diminishing returns of technology.  I think we are squarely in the middle of this.  No one needs a bike with 30 different speeds, or carbon fiber or special low resistance wheels.  What we need are bikes that are simple, reliable and efficient.

Some technologies do make your life better. As I’m writing this I’m sitting on the back porch using a WIFI connection to “work” while I listen to birds (and not bite my kids’ ears off because they are so loud) and enjoy some peace (not withstanding all the lawn mowers chugging away).  The WIFI connection has enabled me to make any room of the house an office instead of one central spot.  It has done amazing things for the way I work while in the office as well, and for others.  To me, this is a good example of a technology that has an increasing return on my life.

Think about the technology in your life and figure out which ones make your life better, and which ones actual create a drag on your life’s momentum.  Do you still need them?  Can you jettison them?  To me, asking questions like these are the basis of living simply.

Biking Today

I rode my bike to work today towing a 4 yr old on a tag along bike trailer. It’s the first time we’ve gone to that great a distance hooked up like this. I was a little concerned that getting up at 5:45 would be hard on him, but he handled that OK. In fact, if he got up that easily every day I could let him sleep until 6 if we rode our bikes, or 6:30 if we drove. We’ll see if the excitement stays.

It was an interesting experience. We’ve used the tag along thing on short rides to the park but this was a 4.5 mile ride along two roads and one section of bike trail. He handled it fine. There isn’t a lot of traffic at that time, which is nice. I thought we were almost doomed before we started as he dragged out his helmet, but it was disassembled, with no straps. Apparently they were playing with it as it was under his bed (???) and looked like they had used it to protect their heads when they were doing something I don’t really want to think about right now.

I quickly put the straps on hoping I did them right and we rolled off, feeling like an overburdened semi truck. I was riding my mountain bike with road tires (it’s not light), all 260 pounds of me (Ok, Ok, really 258 as of this morning), a messenger bag loaded and strapped over my shoulder with my lunch bag attached and hanging further down. Then there was the all steel trail a bike with a strapping 45 pound 4 year old, who only occasionally likes to pedal and likes to talk while he coasts and Dad struggles up the hills. I wasn’t so sure it would work out well.

So we’re running late from dealing with the helmet and I am pumping hard to make up time, assuming I could actually get the bike above you know, 5 miles an hour. After the first hill I was remembering that the way TO work is mostly uphill (actually up and down 4 hills and then one final mile long uphill to work) while the way home was mostly downhill. (Now I’m really rethinking this idea.) We finally got to a fairly flat area on the bike trail next to a creek (or ‘crick’ as they say in Missouri (or Missourah if you are my mother in law)) and one of his pedals falls off. (Obviously the Chinaman who put this bike together for Target was not well paid.) I was able to get the pedal back on to finger tightness and we were off again. (Are you sick of my parenthesis yet? I don’t think I’ll have a book deal anytime soon.)

We got to work 10 minutes later than I expected but I was able to get upstairs to work only 1 minute late. I’m really lucky that my workplace has gyms with showers. I really needed one this morning, even though it was quite cool.

The ride home was less exciting. Even though I hate these people, I rode on the sidewalk a little because the traffic was heavier, but eventually decided it was stupid and moved over to the street. The cars will just have to deal with me. If someone runs us over and we both die hopefully they will get some serious treatment since they killed a kid. I know no one cares about a biker who gets hit by a car, but maybe the kid aspect will help.

After all this is said and done I’m trying to decide if I want to do it more. For the summer I drop off one child at Summer Care (which is on the road we ride up in the morning) and the other is at preschool at my work. In theory I can ride with both, although the little one would be demoted to the trailer, but getting them both up that early, when they are up late with the late sunsets, and having them in the care of others for between 9 & 10 hours is tough to stomach, even if it is only 30 minutes more than usual. I get off early on Fridays, so I have the option of doing it that day and we could possibly achieve all these things. Less guilt for me as Fridays would be less time in care (although I usually pick the little one up during nap which would be strange for a bike ride when he usually is mostly asleep in the car), more time afterwards that we could go explore if we want, and we would still be able to ride one day a week. When school starts up this Fall I think I’ll be able to ride fairly regularly with the little one as my work schedule will be 30 minutes less each day and it will just be the two of us. Tough to know what to do. Even though the ride to work is short saving money on gas is something to think about. The way oil is going it may make the decision for us.

A couple of pedal powered vehicles

Check these out!

A pedal powered bus!

And a speed boat.

FGLB

Bicycling story

It’s been a while since I posted anything bike related, but Green Options has a bicycle related story up today about biking to work. Enjoy.

Story

FGLB

It quenches your thirst

sta70565.jpg This is my wife’s preferred beverage of choice when she’s out riding the bike.

FGLB

It’s not a bike, it’s a surrey!

1-13-07-024.jpg

Here is a picture of the three pretty people sitting in a surrey.

I don’t know if your familiar with a surrey or not so I’ll explain it. A surrey is basically a 4 wheeled bicycle with 2 (or 4) seats for pedalers and two smaller seats up front for kids. They have one gear and are mostly used to cruise the beachfront. I also think they are made of solid lead as they are incredibly heavy.

We rented one on vacation and decided to use it to see a little of the city and pedaled it around the neighborhoods by the beach. We also took it through a yard so we did a little off-roading. I don’t recommend that you take these things off the beachfront as any small hill, rut or pebble makes them extremely hard to move at all. They also have the turning radius of a mack truck.

When we got done riding it I was cooked. But the kids loved it and I got in a little pedal time.

FGLB