Sunday, January 29, 2017

Mid-winter bicycling

It's nice to be seeing some dry pavement once again.  I heard on the news that Boise has had 45 consecutive days of snow on the ground!  Almost unheard of in these parts!  (If every winter were more like this, I'd probably have to give some serious consideration to becoming a more-than-one-car family.)

I've been celebrating the pavement, by taking longer rides... usually at the end of the day after work.  (In the morning it's still dark, and I'm usually trying to get to the office at the expected time.)

Friday, I did a loop that included the new Esther Simplot Park and Veterans' Memorial Park.  It's beautiful, in a stark winter way...

Bigger vehicle = superior rage

In almost every way, I consider my bicycle to be the superior form of local transportation, when all I need to move is myself and my sack lunch.  However, from time to time, I get to witness an area in which motor vehicles are superior.

The lingering snow and ice has resulted in my needing to "take the lane" more often than I would, in better circumstances.  I don't think it's a problem for most motorists... if there's more than one lane in the same direction, they can just cautiously move over to the next lane and go on by.  On a 2-lane, 2-way street, traffic is rarely so heavy that I delay them for longer than 5 or 10 seconds, if at all.  (I'm happy that I don't delay very many people - that would never be something I'd do intentionally or without good reason.)

I occasionally get a chuckle out of the response, every now and then, when an impatient motorist feels he's been delayed and wants me to know of the huge inconvenience I've caused.

A couple weeks ago, I was behind a couple cars at a red light... waiting for my turn to make a right turn (onto a less-crowded roadway).  A guy in a big pickup waited behind me.  The light turned green; I proceeded... never more than a car's length behind the car in front of me.  When I got to the intersection, I turned.  The pickup guy surged forward with a huge roar - I'm sure he floored it!  He probably sent an extra pint of gas into his carburetor, as he blasted forward to fill that car length that I'd been occupying.  So very impressive!  He showed me!  (And I was jealous!  On a bicycle, I have no equivalent way to express my impatience!)

A few days later, at a different intersection, I was waiting for clearance to go straight through.  Unfortunately, a guy behind me was waiting to turn.  (Just as he would've been, if I'd been in a car instead of on a bicycle.)  Finally - a break in the traffic.  I rolled on through.  The little rice-burner revved mightily, and I could hear his tires spinning, trying to grab the slippery pavement.  Fast AND furious!  But sadly, it sounded like an over-revving sewing machine or blender, compared with the brutal snarl of the earlier pickup truck!  Pitiful!  (But better than a bicycle, I guess.  haha!)

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Ten Year Anniversary

How time flies! I first posted here on January 18, 2007. (After much consideration.) Since then, I've deposited 1077 additional posts... some are throwaways, but I'm quite happy with many. "I stand by my words."  (An odd side-note about the timing... my first grandchild, Mackenzie, was born two weeks before my first post.  She just turned ten.)

I'll have to plow through all those posts, and pick out some favorites to re-share.

How has the world changed since January 2007?

Well... that was the same month that Steve Jobs stood on the stage in his denim britches and long-sleeve black turtleneck (just a guess on what he might've been wearing), and announced the first iPhone. (From a cyclists' viewpoint, "smart phone technology" was probably a big step backwards, at least in fostering cyclist safety.)

The basic bicycle hasn't changed nearly as much. Although there are considerably more variations - cargo bikes, electric-assist bikes, etc. - oriented toward the transportation. (The meter has probably moved somewhat in a positive direction, on the percentage of Americans using bikes for their commuting. But there's no denying that the price of gas is a major motivator, or de-motivator. When gas is $4, I see a lot more bikes on the roads than when it's $2.)

In the past 10 years, there have been considerable advances in automotive-propulsion technology. The Toyota Prius and Honda Insight were both around in '07, but the Prius (and other hybrid models) have become best-sellers. In addition, there are now "plug-in" electric cars, thanks to improved battery technology. I expect new, amazing and unexpected automotive technologies will continue to emerge. If people will buy it, they'll build it.

In my very first post, I declared that bicycles are "the most efficient form of human transportation ever devised." (And I referred to the people-powered bike. FORGET about electric assist, etc.)

Has that changed? You know - with all the new hybrid and electric cars, etc.? I emphatically declare NO! But I'd welcome any evidence that might prove me wrong!

Will this blog endure for another 10 years? Will your friendly neighborhood Bike Nazi continue to spout? Hard to say. I don't seem to spout as prolifically as I once did... much of what I had to say on the topic, has already been said. I sure hope to still be riding in 10 years! Maybe more, because I expect to have 40 more discretionary hours each week, than I've had for the past 10 years.

I'm very grateful to my ten or so readers (grin)... particularly I'm grateful for the 2200+ comments (Wow! About 2 per post!) you have posted over those ten years! I particularly appreciate MY FRIEND Clancy. I didn't even know him 10 years ago - but he first posted when I was about two weeks (!) into this project. His astute observations about cycling, and his good-natured devotion to it, have been educational and inspirational to me.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

One-hour distance cycling record broken!

Just in case you didn't see this - pretty cool!

A Frenchman just broke a record for the most bicycle-miles in an hour.  He rode 22.5 kilometers in one hour!  That's about 14 miles.

"Hey!  Wait a minute!" you might be saying.  "I can ride 14 miles in an hour!" (Heck!  Even I might be able to ride 14 miles in an hour!)

Yeah... but I'm not 105 years old!  Robert Marchand is, and he set the record for the "105-plus age category."  Score one for the OLD GUYS!!

Almost 100 years ago, a cycling coach told him to give it up - he didn't have the size or physique to be a competitive cyclist.  I wish the coach could see him now!  Those close to him say he could've done even better, but he quit eating meat awhile back, which may have compromised his training.  But - how many 105-year-olds are trying to build muscle mass?!!

The story says he rides an indoor trainer every day, and rides outside when the weather is nice.  And "at 105, [he's] not making plans for the future."  Just the same, I hope in five years he can set a record for the 110-plus category!  You go Robert!

Tough sleddin'!!

January has been more "bike-unfriendly" than usual.  It snowed mid-December, and we've had several significant snowstorms since, keeping a beautiful-but-slippery covering on our fair community.  Just now (January 11), the snowpack is starting to scale back a bit.  According to those who keep track of such things, the on-the-ground snow peaked at 15 inches... and it's been more than 30 years since we had that much.

I'm aware of some intrepid cyclists (like Clancy!) who soldiered on... I've definitely scaled back, at least for the past couple weeks.  (I have less than 20 miles total on the bicycle, so far in 2017.  I've been taking the bus to work... a couple times, I stuck my bike on the front and rode home in the afternoon... but the conditions have been marginal, with the super-saturation.  I've been wearing my heavy leather Gore-Tex hiking boots - ankle-high - but when you have to walk in knee-deep slush, the ankle-high boots don't git 'er dun!)

This afternoon - the first day in several weeks where the sun actually peeked out (and temperatures in the high 30s) - we started seeing a bit of dry pavement here and there.  I took a reconnoitering ride, covering part of the route to work, and it's about time to get started again - if the creek don't rise!  (The forecast is for another week or so of cold, but clear, days.  Any farther out than that, I don't pay much attention to the forecast anyway.  I do know this - we've gotten more than the average amount of snow in town for an entire winter, and we still have a couple months to go.)

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 is in the history books

2016 has been a meaningful year for Boise-area cyclists.

We have some sweeet new stretches of Greenbelt - on the south side of the river from Ann Morrison Park to the Riverside Hotel.  And through the new Esther Simplot Park.  I'm happy to see that one in particular - having the construction zone has meant detours for 2 years.

ACHD - the road-building division of government - continues to be generally pretty bike-friendly, adding bike lanes to rebuilt roads wherever feasible.  They decided NOT to add bike lanes on Main and Idaho Streets through Downtown.  Personally, I believe they did the right thing.  There is already pretty good east-west traveling... those roads are one-way which always makes it easier for cyclists to take a lane.  And Bannock has good bike lanes for most of the distance.

Partly as a result of a tragic car/bike crash which seriously injured young Max Wyatt, cyclist safety was thrust into the spotlight.  Jimmy Hallyburton of the Boise Bicycle Project springboarded the incident into a meeting with Governor Otter, who was instrumental in making sure some bicycle safety questions are on every driver's license test in the state.  (And happily, a resilient Max has returned to good functional health.)

On a personal level... December was my worst month, mileage-wise, since January 1994 - almost 23 years!  I only rode 210 miles.  But I rode all 31 days, despite the fact that snow covered the ground, and the roads and bike paths, for the last half of the month.  (And no relief in sight!)  But... I finished the year with 5273 miles... making 2016 the 30th consecutive year I've ridden more than 4000 miles.  (25 of those years I've ridden more than 5000 miles, and 11 have been more than 6000 miles.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Transportation cycling is thrifty!

Way back almost ten years ago, near the beginning of this blogging adventure, I laid out the Top Ten reasons for bike transportation.  Looking at the overall list, those reasons all still resonate with me!

#2 was - and is - "Economy."  I observed that the AAA (the auto people) say the average American spends $8410 per year (back in '04) to own and operate a car.  It's satisfying to consider that I've probably saved $80,000 or more since then, by riding a bike.

A year ago, I shared an article I'd read in the Costco member magazine... "Mr. Money Mustache" He's a personal-finance blogger and enthusiastic proponent of bicycle transportation.  His observations about the "tragic clowns" getting around in their personal cars and trucks struck a note with me.  The guy gets it!

Well, lo and behold... Mr. Mustache surfaced again!  This time on the Bicycling Magazine website, in a story titled, "How to Ride Your Way to a Badass Life of Leisure."  Somebody from the magazine interviews him about his bike-riding thriftiness.  And, it's obviously directed at bicycle riders, rather than the general public.

Some sections resonated in particular...

"How many bikes do you own?"  He owns an 8-year-old Trek road bike, and a 12-year-old mountain bike... and a "city bike" for short errands.  Oh - and an electric bike for snow riding and pulling a trailer.  Surely the Bicycling people are somewhat disappointed that he says "no one besides Tour de France riders needs a bike that costs more than $1000."  (After all, Bicycling depends on advertising revenue from bike companies... primarily "expensive bike companies.")  He questions the need to "prioritize moving further up the toy ladder."  (He must really have disdain for people who spend $50,000 for a giant shiny pickup truck, or $80,000 for a luxury car.)  When the interviewer says the "nexus of price/performance" is a $3200 mountain bike, Mustache says "To me, the difference between [my Trek road bike] and the $10,000 all-carbon road bike a friend of mine has is vanishingly small."

He talks about "tiny details exaggeration syndrome" ... imagining the ride-difference between aluminum and carbon and steel frames to be huge.  "The difference is miniscule compared with, say, differences in tire size and pressure, or the presence of suspension... we need to zoom back out and think, 'What makes a difference in my lifetime of happiness?'"

He talks about paying the bills and staying afloat... and then the surplus can be used for "spending on treats" and "fancier stuff"... or it can instead be used to becoming flush enough to "buy freedom."  "While a fancy bike is kinda fun, getting to ride bikes whenever you like is really, really fun.  It's a kind of fun that never gets old and never needs upgrading."  He feels the same way about buying a $400 bicycling jacket... you can do that, or you can stick to the stuff you "also wear in real life."

How about getting cold and wet?  "Of course you will experience mild discomfort every single day unless you only dare venture out when the temperature is between 68 and 74 degrees. ... But it's the minor... discomfort that reminds you you are alive.  People who use cars just because they are afraid of the weather are completely missing the point of being alive."

The guy gets it... and can explain it!  (Oh - and my target retirement is age 65.  I've not been disciplined enough about hanging onto all those dollars I've saved over my 30+ years of bike riding.  Too many treats and fancy stuff, I guess.)