Monday, April 25, 2022

200,000 Bicycle Miles

In 1986, I was a working-class guy, six years into marriage to a wonderful bride, and with two young kids - another on the way.  We lived on the (Boise) Bench.  Up 'til '85, I worked just a couple blocks from home.  I walked to work - quite often I even walked home for lunch.  But then I changed jobs - the new destination was downtown.  With one car between us, suddenly we were competing for the wheels.  Occasionally I drove to work; more often I took the bus, or Robin dropped me off and kept the car.

Betty, a friend at the office, rode a bicycle... and she lived twice as far away as me!  Betty was always cheerful and energetic... and was an enthusiastic proponent of bicycles-as-transportation.  Her steed was a pretty red Gitane road bike; she had a choice parking spot in the back hallway.  (That was another thing about driving to work... sitting in traffic, finding a parking spot, etc., etc.)  Betty really put me to thinkin'.

I'd ridden bikes - a lot! - as a kid.  And we inherited his-n-hers Schwinn "ten speeds" from my parents, who no longer used them.  But I wasn't excited about fixing up that old rusty Schwinn; I decided I needed a new bike as incentive.  I announced my plans to Robin.  She was skeptical about my bicycling to work, and was confident I was just negotiating for some "new toy money" from our very limited budget.  But I forged ahead... ultimately deciding on something that was new-fangled in '86 - a MOUNTAIN BIKE.  Nobody was sure whether they'd catch on.

But - it caught on with me!  That's what matters.  That bicycle became my primary mode of transportation.  Riding up "Mount Protest Road" seemed like a daunting task at the time!  But I got to coast down in the morning, and the rest of my route was pretty flat.

I immediately started appreciating the benefits - no traffic headaches... no parking headaches... no pumping gas!  But as the days got longer and the weather nicer, my route started varying (at least in the afternoon, when I wasn't pressed for time).  Bicycling proved itself as recreation and exercise, besides transportation.

In 1986, I ended up riding 2195 miles.  (I spent $80 or so extra for another new-on-the-market gizmo - a Cateye bike computer.  Being a numbers geek, and being somewhat motivated by that distance, it was money well spent.)  1986 was the last year I bicycled less than 4000 miles, as the bike became my primary transportation.  (I still occasionally rode the bus, or a motorcycle, or caught a ride, but 95% of my commuting was on the bike - year 'round.)

The last day I drove a car to work was in September, 1997.  I retired in 2019 - twenty-one years later, and exactly one year before the pandemic.

On September 6, 2004, I hit 100,000 cumulative bicycle miles.

Today - April 23, 2022 - I hit 200,000 cumulative bicycle miles.  It doesn't seem as momentous.  I s'pose it's like birthdays - after enough of 'em they lose a bit of luster.  Bike miles are bike miles.

I still average about 350 bicycle days per year.  I still ride about 5000 miles per year, and have no intention of letting up.  300K seems pretty unlikely, but I'd like to shoot for 250,000 miles, 9 or 10 years from now.  (My friend David Williams mentioned that the moon is about 238,000 miles away.  Hmmm....)  Back during the employment years, probably 2/3 of my miles were transportation, 1/3 pleasure/exercise/recreation.  Those numbers are reversed now... the majority of my miles are just because I love to ride!  The best rides these days, are rides with my grandkids.  (Oh, and 2022 Steve is considerably slower than 1986 Steve, despite all that "training"!!)

The number of HOURS spent riding over 36 years?  That is a sobering thought!  But consider how many hours a lot of people are sitting in traffic over the course of a year.  Consider how many gas station fill-ups I've skipped.  And - most of that bicycle time is combined transportation/recreation/exercise!  Win-win-win!

NOTE: This is a BICYCLE - you know, the kind you pedal, not the kind that you just sit on and a motor does the work.  Most of the satisfaction of this accomplishment is the result of the physical effort that was involved!

There IS a down-side.  There's some effort involved (if you consider that a "down-side").  Cold and wet weather... really HOT weather... and slippery road conditions... wind... an unpleasant encounter with another roadway user, can take the gilt off the lily.  Probably a half-dozen times I got home from work... took my shoes off... and poured rainwater out of 'em.  I've had a few crashes - some painful! - fortunately never involving a serious injury.  But the wonderful days far outnumber the marginal days.

One thought that gives me comfort: Lots of old geezers get to a certain age, and their kids intervene and take the car keys.  For me, that won't be too painful.  (Now if they lock my bike up and hide the key... THAT might be a problem!)

If you are thinking about riding a bike to work - START TODAY!

(Also posted on the facebook, 4/24)

Saturday, February 26, 2022

BOXES for day trippin'

For a couple years, I've dreamed of fabricating a couple boxes that would hang on the sides of my front rack.  The only reason I never got around to it - lack of hardware to connect 'em to the rack.

The rack is a Surly "8 Pack" rack.  It's come in handy on numerous occasions - just right for a load that's too big to lug in my hands, but not so big I need to trailer it.  And - I already have a box that attaches on top of the rack.  I'll probably use these boxes more often, because I can mount 'em in 1 minute.

The boxes are "30 caliber ammo boxes" from Harbor Freight.  The regular price is $6 per, but they frequently go on sale for around $4.

I spent two years trying to find some specialty plastic hooks, that would attach to the boxes, and then hook over the 10mm tubing of the rack.  (You'd think there would be something - after all, there are various panniers, etc., designed for such racks.  But I never found something designed specifically for that size tubing.)  I finally settled on some metal "wall mounted hook fasteners for ceramic tile display."  They were just a bit too big - could've set myself up for some persistent rattling... but that was before I used some old inner tube material over them, for padding between hooks and rack.

I also found some nice little nylon hooks that I put on the outside, so I could lash something larger to the tops of the boxes and rack.  At some point, those will come in handy.

Total investment - north of $10, south of $15.  Not bad!

I expect these boxes to come in handy for "day trips."  I could stash a sammich, granola bars and a couple apples or bananas in one... a lightweight rain jacket and my camera in the other.  (Or alternatively, I could load 'em both full of 30-caliber ammo!!)

Detail of metal hooks:

Monday, January 10, 2022

Passing of another GREENBELT Pioneer

A friend, Crystal, who lives in Grand Junction, CO, brought this to my attention.

Gay Hammer was the original project coordinator for the Boise River Greenbelt.  Her obituary calls it "the adventure of her lifetime."  Her obituary can be read HERE.  I wasn't familiar with her name, but I honor and admire her for the work she did.  Surely she must've been friends with Bill Onweiller, the city councilman who was one of the visionaries.

From her obituary: "Gay fondly told the story of the Greenbelt committee's first, harrowing effort to buy land along the river. As they surveyed the area, Gay and her cohort were confronted at gunpoint by an angry landowner, who swore there would never be a greenbelt on his land. Ultimately, that stretch of land became the first part of a 25-mile long pedestrian and bike pathway along the Boise River. Gay was pleased to attend the 50th Anniversary of the Greenbelt project in 2019, and was recognized as one of the founding pioneers..."

As a lifelong resident of Boise, and a long-time cyclist, I've been around to observe the entire life history of the Greenbelt.  Before there was a Greenbelt, my buddies and I floated down the Boise River on tubes... the shoreline was pretty "dicey" in most places on account of old rusty cars, slabs of concrete and asphalt, scrap metal, 55-gallon drums, and pretty much everything else.

It's hard to imagine now, at least in the USA, but rivers and streams were once thought of as waste repositories.  (Send your detritus on downstream, where somebody else can deal with it...)  The land along the river was deemed worthless.  People lived on higher ground, and the river bottoms were the home of sawmills, junk yards, gravel pits, slaughterhouses, etc.  (Yeah... I'm talking about the Boise River.)

Thankfully, Bill Onweiller and Gay Hammer and other like-minded citizens elevated our view, and paved the way (literally!) for the "crown jewel" we now enjoy.

If you are interested, there's quite an interesting "promo video" for the Greenbelt that has somehow survived the years.  It's mostly grainy old footage - much of his shot from a helicopter above - showing the Greenbelt route, before there was a Greenbelt.  "Today, that [Boise] river meanders through a city of over seventy-five thousand!" (1970 - I was 16 at the time.)  Definitely worth watching.

1970 Boise River Greenbelt Aerial Video - YouTube

Sunday, January 2, 2022

INCREDIBLE bike tire!!!

Way back in 2011, I posted about my new favorite bicycle tire... a Vittoria Randonneur.  And with good reason!  I had logged 4016 miles on a back tire, which was way above average.  My typical mileage up until then was usually around 2000 miles.  (In addition to the good mileage, I only had two flat tires in all those miles - amazing!)

That review can be seen HERE.

Well... in the last 10 years, the Randonneur has declined in my estimation.  Particularly in total miles.  I believe they must've modified the construction/compound, because mileage has declined meaningfully.  I don't think I've gotten over 3000, maybe 3500 miles, in the past few years.  (Still way better than those 15-dollar, 2000-mile tires.)

Well... I'm here to declare a new champion!  Undisputed!  After several people recommended it, I finally broke down and laid down some significant cabbage for a Schwalbe Marathon Plus tire.  (It replaced a Randonneur that rolled only 2324 miles.  Yeah, I keep track of this stuff.)

I made the switch on April 9th... of last year!  Since then I've ridden that Marathon Plus... (drum roll...) 7,497 miles!  (Rear wheel... my front tires typically last much longer than rear.)  And - I haven't patched a flat rear tire since before 4/9/21 - ZERO flats using the Schwalbe.  (If you are skeptical, I understand - I would be skeptical if I hadn't experienced it and measured it myself!)

One clarification... I don't replace a tire after the tread is worn down.  Unless I'm embarking on a major adventure, I wait 'til I'm just starting to see little glimpses of the layer underneath the tread.  (See that link above, for a photo of what I'm talkin' about.)  I'm not seeing any of the Schwalbe "Smart Guard" layer yet... I might have another 10 miles still to go - or 1000.

(It might be a challenge to replace, when the time comes.  After awhile the rubber of the tire seems to "fuse" a little bit, with the rubber of the tube, and you kinda have to peel them apart.  But - if I end up replacing a $5 tube at the same time, I can deal with that.)

I've purchased 3 or 4 more of those tires, when they've gone on sale.  I might not have to buy another tire for ten years!

Friday, December 31, 2021

End-of-year observations

Wow!  Can 2021 already be in the rearview?  Well, GOOD RIDDANCE!

I'm happy to report that I hit the 5000-mile mark for the year, just days ago.  (I was motivated by the odometer... put the fat, treaded tires on the mountain bike to get some miles in, on the snowy/icy roads I was dealt for the past week or so.)  Also significantly, I did it over 319 "riding days."  (Went on several out-of-town adventures over the course of the year.  Including being away for most of November in New Jersey, attending to the birth of my twin granddaughters, Betsy and Bria.)

Since I retired (March 2019), I've gravitated to more riding on our "Crown Jewel," the Boise River Greenbelt.  Ironically, it's often not pleasant on beautiful summer days, when it's jammed with "amateurs"... but since I enjoy the luxury of daytime riding, I can go when conditions are ideal.  (And I'm blessed to think of a wide range of conditions as acceptable... if it's above 40 degrees and below 100 degrees, and not precipitating or gale-force winds, I'm generally comfortable enough.  Those "amateurs" seek shelter when it gets below 65 or above 80... or so it seems.)

A major trend I've observed... a proliferation of ELECTRIC MOTORCYCLES on the Greenbelt!  If it were only old geezers like me, or people who are lugging kids and groceries, I'd say more power to 'em!  But there are lots of people who are seemingly young and able-bodied, who are abandoning the benefit of EXERCISE that pedaling a traditional bicycle provides.  (A major incentive for me to ride my bicycle is the physical exertion, and the resultant health and emotional benefit.)  PEDALING IS HARD!  /sarcasm

I'm happy with the recovery I've experienced, from my 2020 Achilles' tendon injury.  My right leg strength isn't back to pre-injury level, but I believe I'm still having incremental improvement... and functionally I'm back to full operation.  Heck!  I bicycled 5000 miles... motorcycled 5000 miles... climbed lots of hills and ladders and stairs... hiked a few miles.  Unassisted!

May 2022 be a better year.  If we can put the little blue paper masks behind us, THAT will be better!

Sometime in the first 4 or 5 months of 2022, I'll hit the 200,000 mile mark (since I started keeping track, in 1986).  If I ride 4800 miles, that's 400 per month.  5200 - 100 miles per week.  And of course the numbers with lots of zeros are good milestones.  (I don't intend to cut back, but I've slowed down considerably from 30 years ago, and I have the luxury of leaving town on a whim... when I go, often the bike has to stay home.)  Que serĂ¡.

Be healthy and safe, and KEEP THE SHINY SIDE UP!

Monday, November 1, 2021

 Satisfaction ... and Frustration

Ten months into 2021.  I'm a survivor - you're a survivor!  I'm also about 30 months into retirement... and I can confidently say it's underrated!

Of course, more than half of those months have been with the Covid-19 shadow looming.  But even that is only a minor quibble for me, since as my T-shirt says, "I WAS SOCIALLY-DISTANT BEFORE IT WAS COOL!"  Some family and friends have been impacted much more than me... but none in a serious or permanent way.


I'm still bicycling every day that I'm in town.  Seriously!  For probably the last then years, the only days I've missed have been the out-of-town days when a bicycle wasn't available.  (Of course, some of those days it's only a quick ride around the park across the street, or some other "stat ride," to keep the streak going.)

For a few months I entertained the notion of trying to reach 200,000 cumulative miles on February 22 next year - you know, 2/22/22.  (Cool, huh?)  It's not going to happen; I'm still a little over 2000 miles away.  If we were coming into summer... and if I was going to be in town the whole time... it would be realistic.  But over the winter, 200 or 300 miles in a month is pretty good.  And... I'm going to be out of town for perhaps two weeks, this month.  I s'pose I could do the "Snowbird" thing - head to Arizona and bicycle 25 miles a day for a couple months.  Nah... not worth it.


I've grown accustomed to the Facebook.  With a slight degree of guilt.  I've really enjoyed connecting with old friends and acquaintances from across my entire life!  (The main draw was to see if there was information about the Boise High Class of '71 reunion.  There was!  Unfortunately, the honchos decided to postpone it due to the Pandemic.  Ironically, the Class of '70 delayed theirs for a year, as well... they went ahead and did it a month or so ago.)  I am (or was) a participating member of the "Boise Bike Lanes" local bicycle advocacy group.

I feel guilty about Facebook because: 1) it has become increasingly obvious that they are filtering and promoting "information" to slant things to their progressive/liberal viewpoint, and I resent that, and 2) I often waste time just reading the stuff that's presented to me.  But I've enjoyed sharing my viewpoint and seeing the viewpoint of others.  You don't learn anything if you're just "preaching to the choir," right?

I'm frustrated because a month or so ago, Facebook "forgot" me!  I cleared my browser history, and when I logged back on, I was told that Facebook didn't recognize my device... and that I'd chosen two-factor authentication.  (Okay... I'm getting a little technical here... sorry.)  The second "factor," after the password, is a random number... that apparently they "text" to me.  But my Facebook account doesn't have a "smart phone" (quote/unquote) associated with it... so I have a "Catch-22" situation.  The only work-around is to submit a photo ID, which they say they'll confirm, and fix it within 48 hours.  Well... I've probably submitted the photo ID a dozen times, and no response so far.  My paranoid conclusion is that they don't want me back, because I'm not "woke" to the Party Line.  But in any case, I've missed the whole social media experience since mid-September... on the bright side, I've not been spending an hour or so every day "Facebooking."  I s'pose I'll keep submitting the ID... maybe someday somebody will get back to me.  (There's no email or telephone, to get Facebook support.  It seems unfathomable  that of their billion-plus users, I'm the only one having trouble getting connected!  If you read this and can help me... PLEASE!  My email address is  I just delete spam.)

Well... enough psychobabble and self-pity.  I'm 4500 bicycle miles into the year... expect it to be another 5000-plus mile year, when all is said and done.  RIDE ON, friends!

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Another rare "Bike Nazi" post.  (Apparently I'm content to not blather on quite so much.  I said it and I stand by it... no point in re-wording and re-posting.  I would like to do some better organizing by topic, etc.)

Today - May 23, 2021 - is a good day to post, because I hit 2000 miles for the year.  Yeah, big deal.  There are probably 100 other guys and gals IN BOISE who have done the same and more.  2021 is the 36th consecutive year I've ridden at least 2000 miles; that might put me in more rarefied company.

It's conceivable that I could hit 200,000 miles on February 22, 2022.  That might be worth a little extra effort...?  200K on 2/22/22.  Has a nice ring to it.

One other thing that's worth reporting on - my Schwalbe Marathon Plus rear tire - size 700/32.  It recently occurred to me - hey!  I haven't put a new tire on the back, in quite some time.  I checked... I installed that tire on April 9th OF LAST YEAR!  It now has 4600+ miles on it... looks like it could go for another 1000... and I have not had a single flat tire!  Amazing and remarkable!  They're spendy - currently going for 50 bucks! - but that might be a price worth paying, for such a trouble-free tire.  My previous favorite was the Vittoria Randonneur, at half the price.  But each one seemed to go fewer miles than the one before it.  $25 for a 2000-mile tire, or $50 for a 5000-mile, zero-flat tire.  No brainer!  I've got one more on the hook... hopefully it will serve just as well, and in the meantime I can watch for a sale.

Ride safe, my friends.  And take some comfort in the knowledge that you are on what is STILL the most efficient people-mover ever built.  (The HUMAN-powered bicycle - that's what I'm talkin' about.)