Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Imagine - working out while you commute!

Just when you think you've seen everything... some genius comes along and thinks of something new and revolutionary!

In this case... it's a bus that, instead of being equipped with seats for the passengers, is equipped with exercise bikes for the passengers!

This is going to be a huge hit with people who like riding exercise bikes, and riding on the bus!



Story HERE.

From the article: "Why commute to work on a bike, fighting traffic and dodging potholes, when you could ride a stationary bike mounted inside a bus while you commute?"  And, "Safety concerns could be the biggest obstacle for 1Rebel's novel commuting plan.  The bikes mounted in the buses are not currently slated to include seatbelts, and Balfour made no mention of helmets."

Stationary bikes on a bus, with seatbelts!  Hahahahaha!  Hilarious!

The wizards behind this scheme are anticipating charging $17-21 for a 45-minute "class."  It's called "Ride2Rebel."  Edgy!!  I assume the cost of the commute will be included. If they could rig the bikes up so that they provided the forward propulsion, instead of that big diesel engine, they might be on to something! (Kinda like those "bar bikes" where everybody sitting around the bar is pedaling, while the bar lumbers down the road at 4mph.)

Full disclosure:  They have a gym at my place of work.  The first winter of my employment, I signed up and rode a stationary bicycle maybe half-a-dozen times on icy winter days.  I could NOT stand it!  I sorely missed the breeze (or wind and sleet) in my face... and the potholes and traffic, too, I s'pose.  I'd rather walk to and from work... or ride a bike fighting traffic and dodging potholes... than ride an exercise bike in a moving bus!  But... different enthusiasms make the world an interesting place.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Weiser River Trail - recreational ride

On Friday and Saturday, May 13 and 14, I went with some friends on a ride down the Weiser River Trail. It's been on the bucket list for some time; last September as we completed our north Idaho riding, we casually discussed doing the Weiser in the spring. We made it happen.

86 miles over 2 days. (43 each day)
Scenery - B+ (Solid "A" for the first 25 miles or so, up in the woods)
Weather - B
Company - A
Amenities along the trail - C
Path surface - D+

Friday was sunny and it got pretty warm in the afternoon... mid-80s. Saturday was overcast most of the day, occasionally with rain in the distance. Not a drop fell on us. It probably got up to the mid-70s. Wind was a minor factor for just a few miles.

Seven people and bikes.  14 tires... one flat in the whole bunch.  Not bad.

In a VERY few places, the path was reasonably smooth.  For probably 75 of those 86 miles, it was covered with rocks 1-3 inches in diameter, abundantly enough that you were bouncing over them, squishing through them, dodging them, etc. Made for a real bone-pounder of a ride. And then there were some places that obviously become a mud-bog on wet days. Dried mud, and we were dodging gulleys and grooves. There were probably 25 livestock gates along the route... half had narrow "courtesy openings" that would allow a hiker or cyclist thru; half had to be opened and closed. (Did the engineer of the train have to open and close those gates, back in the day?)
On the second day, we saw a lot of snakes! Most were gopher snakes... a couple of garter snakes (most likely), and one antisocial rattlesnake. We were happy to part company and go our own ways.

I'm really glad we went... but because of the surface quality alone, I probably won't return, and would have second thoughts about recommending it to other riders. (Or at least I'd give them a heads-up about what to expect.) On both days, it was a HUGE relief to finally get onto relatively smooth pavement.

If it were paved, like the Coeur d'Alene Trail up north, I'd already be looking forward to my next adventure on that trail!

REALITY CHECK: They have VERY little money to work with; I believe the only funding source is a voluntary "Friends of the Weiser River Trail." And maybe a few bucks kicked in from the little towns along the path. We waited in Weiser, at the bottom, for 3 hours while our drivers went up and retrieved the cars. While we were there, a guy stopped who works for the trail. I struck up a conversation; he told me that every spring it's a fairly major effort to get it opened up. Fallen trees that have to be cut away; Landslides that fall across the path; Bridges that need surface reparations on a routine basis; Their budget barely covers those things, let alone any improvements. (Imagine how expensive it would be to just "roll" those 84 miles and lay down some fine, packed gravel, let alone put asphalt down! I guess you get what you pay for.)

ACCOMMODATIONS: We stayed at a place called Mundo Hot Springs, just out of Cambridge, ID. All 7 of us rented the "hostel" facility - which sleeps 7... cost us $12.50 each! Cheap! It was spartan, but clean and comfortable enough. As one would expect, it had a hot-spring-sourced swimming/soaking pool. When I talked to the people on the phone, I told them we'd probably be arriving fairly late in the afternoon, and we'd want to get some dinner... and could they stretch their 8pm pool closing time a little? They assured me they could work with us. But I obviously interpreted that wrong - we got back from dinner (in the next town over) at 8:30. She told me, "Sorry - you're too late.  If you'd been here an hour earlier..." Bummer! Well, at least the showers were warm and abundant. (There was also a bathtub in the "hostel" - just sitting there in the middle of the room! I guess we could've taken turns in the tub! hahahaha!) Next time - assuming there is a next time - we won't expect to use the pool any time but the published hours. (8pm closing on Friday night, when it's still light at 9pm, seems pretty early. But I know those little towns tend to fold up early. Not very "touristy.")











Friday, May 6, 2016

MAY - Amateur Bicycle Month?

This should be, in every way, one of the premiere months to ride a bicycle in Boise. But I always have mixed emotions.

While the weather has turned for the better, and the fragrance of springtime blossoms hangs in the air... it is also the month when the casual cyclists show up en masse.

Some are probably just out of practice. Some are incompetent. Some seem to be willfully ignorant of the rules, and/or oblivious to their surroundings. They ride as though they have an invisible force field, that will protect them from encounters with other road-goers.

They seem to be causing an inordinate amount of carnage this year. In the past 36 hours, there have been at least three motor vehicle vs. bicycle injury accidents.

In the first, a cyclist collided with a cement truck at 2:30 in the morning, sustaining "serious lower-body injuries." Dude! I feel sorry for the guy... BUT! Seriously! If you can't identify the possible threat from a cement truck at 2:30 in the morning and take evasive action, maybe stay off the bike! (Details are still emerging, but I'm willing to lay down money that the cement truck driver's story is, "I didn't see him.")

In another incident, half-a-day later, a guy sustained life threatening injuries when according to witnesses, he rode onto a busy street, directly into the path of a car that had a green light. It's a bit risky to ride into the path of a car when your light is green and his is red. When your light is red? Nigh unto suicidal!

And then this afternoon (the very next day), I was witness to the aftermath of a car-bike crash I haven't seen reported yet. I rode up onto the scene. A young fella, maybe 11 or 12, was sitting (at least he wasn't lying!) in the road, surrounded by helpful citizens. A pickup was blocking one lane. Another young fella about the same age was looking on with a helpless expression from the side of the road; he was holding up a bicycle with a twisted front wheel. I could hear the first responders converging - I cleared out. Based on just that, it's pretty hard to assign responsibility.

Does "who's responsible" matter? The people who are responsible are the most likely to say it doesn't matter. I believe it's very important, to determine where more attention might be warranted, in both enforcement and education.

A half-hour before I rode thru the accident scene, I had my own close encounter with a couple incompetents on bikes. They both looked to be in their early 20s. I first encountered them as I arrived at a busy intersection just as rush hour was beginning. They were running a red light; I had to brake to avoid colliding with the second guy. I turned and followed... because that was the direction of my travel. I was happy when they took the sidewalk, leaving a clear bike lane for me to go by. But - lo and behold! - at the next curb cut, the front guy came off the sidewalk and back into the bike lane without warning, right into the space I was occupying. He was riding like he was alone on his private highway. I hollered "hey"! (The equivalent of a horn.) He took great umbrage at my shout, and of course his response was the universal/Neanderthal/all-purpose "Be fruitful and multiply!" Only not in those words. (Did he feel embarrassed? Or was he so totally clueless that he didn't realize the near-miss he was responsible for? I'll never know.) Sigh...

Well... they say that May is "Bike Month." Nice to see people out enjoying it, I s'pose. And Boise Bike Week is coming up, May 14-21! Look over the schedule and join an event or three! I always enjoy the Pedal Power Parade (Saturday 5/21, 5pm); I plan on being there with the granddaughters.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Happy Bicycle Day!

I heard the guy on the radio this morning, announcing that today is Bicycle Day. First time I'd heard of it. Cool! To celebrate, I rode my bike to work. (For the record, I've ridden my bike to work, every work day for several years. But I did ride today, as well.)

I had to research this Bicycle Day. And, it's rather interesting.

On April 19, 1943, Swiss chemist Albert Hoffmann self-"medicated" himself with the first-ever dose of LSD. "So, what does that have to do with a bicycle?" you ask. Turns out that on that date, WWII was raging and there were restrictions on motor vehicle use. As Hoffmann rode home on his bicycle, the drug started taking effect. More info HERE. (NOTE: It's not a good idea to ride a bike under the influence. If you make that choice, exercise caution and stay out of traffic!)

Bicycle Day is beautiful in Boise this year! (On a day like this, I believe Boise never is more beautiful than in the springtime. But then autumn rolls around, and my perception changes.) The water is high this year. Routes along the river bottoms are compromised in several places. (Imagine the outcry if motor-traffic roads went underwater for a few weeks!)

My bicycling has generally been very positive lately. (I've been bicycling more than blogging... maybe I'm runnin' out of stuff to say.) I just put some new Vittoria Randonneurs on the bike, both front and back. On a less-positive note... I'm obviously too fat to ride a bike; I just broke my Brooks Imperial saddle. Fortunately it has a 2-year warranty, and an exchange was arranged and implemented. But it's disappointing. (I've enjoyed the Brooks for about 16 months... but after extensively sampling both, the Selle Anatomica is indeed more comfortable. It, too, has proven vulnerable to my massive gluteus maximus, however.)

While on the topic of important dates... don't forget! Earth Day is coming up this Friday! Be part of the solution... not part of the problem!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Screwed!

No - I'm not talking about presidential politics.

Here's something an experienced bike rider like me doesn't like to see...


Actually I felt it and heard it before I saw it... klunk-klunk-klunk ... obviously from the back tire. Usually it's followed by the "whoosh" as air escapes the tube. After I saw it... I was doubly-mystified at no leaking air. I had to take a photo.

I took out my little keychain screwdriver and unscrewed it... and rode home. Two days later, still riding. (I topped off the tire with air this morning, but NOT because it was getting low. Only because I add a few pounds every 10 days or so.)

I ordered another year's worth of Vittoria Randonneur tires a month or so ago. I've got 3 or 4 older tires - other brands - that I really ought to put in rotation, before they crumble into dust, instead of wearing out. But I can't get excited about the notion of fixing flats; that's a rarity any more.

Dear Vittoria - do you want a spokes-model? I might be your man! I could use a sponsor. I'm a true believer... and I'm DANG good-lookin', too! (Okay, I'm lying. I'm an old fat guy. But I ride a lot of miles on a bike, and almost exclusively on Vittoria tires.)

Monday, March 7, 2016

Americans spend 3.4 million years commuting

It was a startling headline at the Deseret News (SLC Utah) website.  But I checked the math - it's correct.

In 2014, the average American spent 26 minutes commuting each way, to and from work.  (And there are around 139 million workers.)

That compares with an average commute time of 21.7 minutes, back in 1980, and is trending upward.

Approximately 1/4 of American workers commute less than 14 minutes one way.  But the number of Americans with "really, really long commutes" (defined as 45 minutes or more, each way) has gone up significantly since records started being kept (1980).

Observer Christopher Ingram: "Imagine spending the entire month of August — 24 hours of every day — stuck in your car or riding the bus. That's what it's like for 3.6 million American workers."  (Wow!!)

The experts say the morning commute is the worst, psychology-wise.  It can mess you up.  (It's slightly more pleasant if you're commuting with somebody else.  Maybe company helps.  Maybe if you're sharing misery, it doesn't seem quite so bad.  Maybe you're less likely to slowly slip into insanity, if you're not alone.)

For me, after 30 years of bicycle transportation, my in-town behind-the-wheel time is just about my least-favorite time!!  I get totally stressed, sitting in traffic with the motor running!  I can't imagine spending an hour or more doing that, five days a week, fifty weeks a year!

This statement seems odd to me:

"Less time commuting might be put to work in other ways, though no one seems quite sure how to make commutes shorter."

Well, Duh!!  If you live closer to where you work... your commute will be shorter.

People choose to live farther from work for various reasons.

Perhaps the neighborhoods near the workplace are unsavory, or too expensive.  Or maybe they have such a charming residential situation, they can't bear the thought of living someplace else, no matter the downside.

Now and then, we will go for a drive in the country and see a lovely charming rural house for sale.  You know, surrounded by big weeping willows and a creek or pond.  Acres for playing.  I can totally understand the appeal.  But... will I want to get up an hour earlier 5 days a week, and spend 45 minutes sitting in traffic, to get to work?  And get home an hour after quitting time?  The prospect isn't pleasant!  But it MUST be considered!

Here's an example of some flawed logic.

A good friend's brother was moving to the area - he had gotten a job in Boise.  He looked around at rental properties in Boise, and ended up renting a house in Nampa.  His explanation: "It's so expensive in Boise!  I was able to get a place in Nampa for $40 per month less!"  So - he was going to spend an hour or more extra per day commuting... and buy probably 2 extra gallons of gas... in order to save $40 per month on rent.  Sheesh!

But I digress.

I usually leave home on the bicycle at 7:40am, in order to be sitting at my desk at 8am.  If I drove the car, it might take 5 minutes less if I could find a parking spot immediately.  But 5 minutes of parking-spot search would even things out.  (And... I'm as far from work right now as I've ever been.  For a couple glorious years I lived across the parking lot from my job... I was renting a house that belonged to my employer.)

Monday, February 29, 2016

Checkin' in - late winter

I feel small pangs of guilt about my feeble advocacy of bike transportation, as of late.  I may not be writing about it, but I'm riding every day.  I hope you are, too!  I rode just over 400 miles in January, and am 400+ miles for February, as well.  I've cleaned the drivetrain once this year.  I've fixed one flat tire (created by a tiny piece of stiff wire).

Since my darkness-and-weather-related crashes in mid-December, I've been crash-free, and I'm back to 105%.  Ah, who am I kiddin'?!!?  It takes me as much effort to go 15mph nowadays, as it did to go 20mph, 25 years ago.  I'll never be 100% again... at least on this side of mortality.  But despite the incremental slowdown, bicycling remains as satisfying as it was back in the beginning.  (Perhaps even more satisfying, in the sense that I'm extending the boundaries.)

The downside of the cold/wet months is the cold, and the wet.  And the gunk that accumulates on the roadway and therefore on the drivetrain.

On very rare occasions, I feel a bit of jealousy toward the motor-vehicle masses.  When it's 32 and raining, a warm dry cockpit looks pretty attractive.  But when I borrow the wife's car... and find myself in traffic, or sitting at a red light with the motor doing nothing but burning fuel... I long for that 2-wheeler.

There's an upside, too... the winter cyclist has the bike infrastructure mostly to her- or himself!  I don't think I've ridden the Greenbelt one time this winter, when there weren't already bike tracks.  But other than that evidence, sometimes days go by between cyclist sightings.  (Not as much as 25 or 30 years ago, however... ridership is up year-round.)

The days are getting warmer... and the paths more crowded.  Particularly the Greenbelt, on a sunny weekend day.  People have spring fever... and a lot of those people seem to have forgotten how to share the pathway.  Or they don't notice that they're sharing.  (Another upside of year-round cycling... you don't forget the little details over the winter lay-up.)

Granddaughter Bonnie turned 3 on Saturday... and she's almost too big for the bike seat we've used for 2+ years.  Particularly when she starts rocking back and forth while her feeble old grandpa is trying to ride a straight line.  We'll have to explore our options... she's too big for the baby seat, and she's probably still too small for the "tag-a-long."  We'll have to figure something out, because she sure loves to go bike riding!  (Imagine being a 3-year-old in a car seat that's too low to see out, except maybe the sky... and how much more enjoyable it would be to see the sights... feel the breeze... smell the smells!)

My north-Idaho bike-riding friends have stated some interest in riding the Weiser River Trail when the weather starts getting nicer.  Clancy shared some tips with me... he's a veteran of pretty much every recreational trail in our beautiful state.  Perhaps in May, if we have a zero-precipitation weekend...

Keep on bikin'.