Sunday, August 30, 2015

Helping hand for maintenance/repair

I'm cautiously optimistic about an accessory I just invested in.  It's called the BikeHand - a wall-mount bike work clamp.  59 bucks on the

Yeah, it would be nice to have one of those super-sweet Park stands... but at $150 up, they're a bit rich for my blood.  And - I'd never use one frequently enough to justify the expense.  The BikeHand seems like it will be an acceptable substitute for the shade-tree mechanic.

It was designed to mount on the wall, but I had other plans.  I attached it to an 8-by-10-inch piece of scrap plywood with two 5/16 x 1.5 inch bolts, and clamp it into my Jawhorse (another nice piece of equipment, by the way).  When it's not in use, it and the board don't take up nearly as much space as a floor-standing model.

I used it yesterday while fine-adjusting my rear derailleur, and while I was at it I put some new brake pads on the front.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Another Tour de Fat in the books

My two local granddaughters, Mackenzie and Bonnie, joined me once again to ride in the Tour de Fat Parade on Saturday, August 15th.  We crossed paths with friends, and a good time seemed to be had by all.  (How not?  A lovely day - a delightful activity - and boisterous but not TOO crazy participants.  The "official estimate" put the rider count at about 11,000 this year.  Fantastic!  That's a LOT of bikes and bike riders!  If I'm not mistaken, people are still leaving the staging area as the first-out riders are getting back, making it a full circle.)

Besides the fun, the event raised right around $450,000 (!!) for the local bike-oriented nonprofits.  Way to go everybody - especially the army of dedicated volunteers who work behind the scenes to make it happen.  (Yeah, not everybody just magically shows up on Saturday morning, nor does the event magically transpire.)

CLARIFICATION: The $450K figure (which I got off the Boise Bicycle Project website) is the grand total for all the Boise Tours over the years... approximately $45K was raised this time around.  (Thanks, Clancy, for your diligence in keeping things straight.)

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Extreme pavement makeover

We are deep into chip-seal season again, here in Ada County.  And it's official - they've put gravel down on every road that I ride.  (Well, not really, but it sure seems like it.)

The chip-seal is a surface coating for area roads, that's more economical than other options.  First they prep the road by sealing cracks, etc., and sweeping it.  Then they lay down a thick coating of sticky, gooey stuff, and drop gravel on it.  Then they turn traffic loose on it for a week or two.  The gooey stuff hardens with the gravel - "chips" - glued into place.  It's kinda like peanut brittle for pavement.  Once it's set up, they sweep off the excess gravel, and put another surface coating of the gooey stuff on.  Generally, that keeps the road in pretty good shape for seven years or so, when they repeat the process.

Obviously, us skinny-tire cyclists would prefer glass-smooth asphalt.  But us taxpayers appreciate the notion of going the least-expensive route.  And once the process is completed, the finished product is tolerable.  In fact, it's pretty good on the roads that are designated as "bike routes," because they use small-caliper 1/4" gravel, which makes for a smooth surface.

I may have discovered an experimental treatment.  In between the gravel and the final coating, lay down a squirrel here and there, for an even smoother final product!  (Noticed and snapped right at the end of my street.)  But based on early wear, I don't think the squirrel will prove to be durable.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Fewer dead bike kids, more dead bike guys

A study of bicycling fatalities from 1975-2012 illustrates some non-surprising trends.

Kid (under 15) fatalities decreased 92 percent! Fatalities among cyclists aged 35-54 nearly tripled, and 87 percent of those fatalities were men. Fatality rates for women remained steady.

The decline in child fatalities might be "attributable to fewer child bicycle trips." Do you s'pose? When I was a kid (too early to be included in this study), there were probably 150 bikes parked out front of Roosevelt Elementary. Nowadays there are maybe a dozen bikes out front of Monroe Elementary, where my kids attended and my granddaughter now attends. (She can't ride her bike - her grandma is absolutely certain she'd be either run over or abducted somewhere along the 3/4 mile ride.)

How about those grownup guys that are getting kilt? Well... the study says from 2000-2012 "the number of U.S. workers who traveled to work on a bike increased 61 percent," and mostly among men 25-64.

Fatalities varied from state to state, with Florida having the most (I assume by percentage), and Vermont the least. Overall, the fatality rate dropped from 955 in '75 to 717 in '12.

What else has changed in the past 40 years? As a casual observer, I'd say a primary change is... there were zero cellphone/"smart"phone users in '75, and nowadays pretty much everybody has one, and many are yammerin' or pokin' as they drive along. And obviously if they kill a few bike riders, society considers that acceptable "collateral damage."

The study suggests better bike infrastructure, enforcement, helmet use, and better education on safe bike/motorist behaviors as keys to reduce fatality rates. I agree, particularly on the enforcement and education.

Story HERE.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Fat guy's transcontinental bicycle journey

You probably thought this story was about me!  And I kinda wish it was; I would love to ride my bike from sea to shining sea... given the proper amount of time.  But it's actually about another fat guy.

According to the Newport (RI) Daily News, 40-year-old Eric Hites is riding from the east coast to the west coast, with the intention of shedding a few of his 560 pounds.  (!!)  He wears pants with a 70-inch waist, and size 10x t-shirts.  (That's a big boy!)

He started his quest in Falmouth, Mass, in June.

The good news?  He's already lost 60 pounds!

The bad news?  So far, he's only made it to Tiverton, Rhode Island... 90 miles from the starting point.  If he continues to average about 1.5 miles per day, it'll be awhile before he's feeling that Pacific breeze coming off the ocean.  (He had intended to complete the ride in 4 months.)

More good news... part of his delay can be attributed to hardware problems.  Bent rims and such.  Understandable - most tandem bicycles probably aren't designed with a 560-pound payload in mind.  But things will get better - the good people at Newport Bicycle are outfitting a heavy-duty bicycle for him to continue his journey on.  (He's also pulling his gear in a trailer.)

Inspirational story!  I sure hope he's able to stay safe... he didn't get to 560 pounds while becoming an experienced on-road bicycle rider!

He's got a website - - where he's posting updates.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Bicycle transportation - more savings today than yesterday

As of July 1, in Idaho, the gas tax went up 7 cents per gallon, and it costs $21 more per year to register your car.

There was no comparable bump in the cost of operating a bicycle.

That's a dangerous thing to bring up among the general public, because it invariably results in some motorists whining about the free ride that bike riders get, and how they should be paying a registration fee, road tax, etc.  It's an argument they wouldn't be able to win if facts are injected... because a significant percentage of the road budget comes from property taxes which "ding" us all... and most adult cyclists also own and operate - and register - one or many motor vehicles.  I ride a bike, and last week I paid $157 for a years' registration on 2 motorcycles and my wife's car.  You can't convince me I'm not paying a fair share.  (I re-registered 'em last week to save $50 by getting the pre-July rates.  Next time I'll pay more.)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


June is my first "600 mile month" this year. Woo-hoo! And perhaps more notable... as of June 30th, I've ridden every day for 11+ consecutive months, the last day I missed being in July '14. (When I was off ridin' motorsickle in Colorado for a few days.)

I fancy myself a "tireless advocate" for bicycle transportation. But I get tired sometimes. Particularly on 100+ degree days... on Sunday when it got up to 110, that fateful day last November when I crashed on the icy road seemed like a lifetime ago! There are also days, particularly during "peak riding season," when it seems like I don't have much to pontificate about on this blog, without just stirring up an old topic and serving it reheated. Thank goodness this is a voluntary thing, and I'm not under pressure to produce something meaningful every day, or every week.

I consider my "riding the ride" to be significantly more important, as an advocate, than "talking the talk." In fact, if I drove a car to work most days, and to most of my other destinations, I'd feel pretty silly trying to advocate about transportation cycling.

(The inconsistency between message and personal practice doesn't seem to bother some folks... and I'm thinking in particular about celebrities and politicians who like to scold us all about "climate change" while practicing a Size-18 Carbon-Footprint Lifestyle. Their message may be significant, or even critical, but how can they be taken seriously? Robert Redford just testified before the United Nations about how it might be too late to save our planet if action isn't taken before December. How do you s'pose he arrived at UN Headquarters? Not likely on foot, or a bike, or even public transportation. But I digress.)

Obviously, if my cycling practices are fostering hostility and resentment from other road-going citizens, I'm probably doing more harm than good. I shake my head in dismay at other cyclists who are out there NOT being good ambassadors! On a recent day, I had to take evasive action three different times, to avoid hitting illegal against-traffic cyclists. All three looked old enough and smart enough to know better - but looks can be deceiving.

I hope you and others see me out there, fat boy chugging along on a bike... riding legally, predictably, visibly, and defensively. If somebody in a car thinks, "I could do that!" from time to time, my advocacy-by-example has been a success!

(I'll be missing a few bicycle days in July - will be hopping on the other 2-wheeler for a carbon-burning ride up to Montana, and the Dakotas. When I'm riding the powered 2-wheeler, I also try to do so legally, predictably, visibly, and defensively. The stakes are high!)