Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bike Utility Trailer

The Burley Travoy looks pretty interesting, for a cargo trailer.

I just happened across it while doing a little web crawling. It looks to be adjustable to fit any bike with a seatpost - pretty much all of 'em. It doubles as a hand truck. It folds up teeny-tiny when not in use. And with various optional bags and racks, it can carry a wide variety of oddball-shaped stuff.

Might be just the thing for my friend Tom, who was lamenting that there's no easy way for him to load his golf bag on his Bob trailer.

More photos of the Travoy in various deployments can be seen HERE.

(I don't believe it's available for retail purchase yet, but it looks like it's ready to rumble.)

Friday, March 26, 2010

What's with "toy bike" riders? (Part 2)

Several years back, when the economy was good and companies could afford newsletters and such, my employer's newsletter had a feature story about a gal in the office, who was a competitive cyclist as a hobby. She was a "roadie," riding her bicycle in races all over the western U.S., including a grueling race in the "top of the Sierras," in California.

Up until then, I just knew her as a face in the elevator.

The next time I saw that face in the elevator, I congratulated her on her prowess.

I also mentioned that I had a friend who once a year, did an informal Boise-to-Stanley ride with a group of local cyclists. (For those not familiar, it's about 130 miles between Boise and Stanley, over several high passes and with thousands of feet of elevation change.)

She "pooh-poohed" the Stanley ride, saying it was beneath her... way too easy for somebody at her level.

Then I asked her if she ever rode her bike to work.

She looked at me like I'd just gotten off a spaceship from Neptune. Apparently that, too, is way too easy for somebody at her level.

What's with the literally thousands of local riders who squeeze into their stretch lycra for an evening or weekend "team training ride" (training for what?), but who'd never even think of riding to the office? What's with the hordes of mountain bike enthusiasts who carry their bikes to the foothills in their pickup trucks and on their bike racks for playtime, but drive to work every day, or down to Albertson's for a half-gallon of milk?

Brock Yates, a legendary automotive columnist, once wrote, "I think bikes are terrific. I own several of my own, including a trendy mountain style, and ride them for pleasure and light exercise. A spin down a quiet county road (sans one of those goofball brain-buckets, of course) with no ambient sound except the wind whistling through the spokes and the muffled rustle of the tires on the pavement (and my heavy breathing) produces real pleasure. But the notion of transforming this recreation into a mode of mass transit is PC looniness of legendary proportions."

It would seem that many other quote/unquote "hardcore" bike riders agree with him.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Some fowl musings

I love this time of year. And one of the things I love about it is the increased activity of birds in the area. (And as a cyclist, I probably get more exposure than most folks.)

Are you familiar with the call of the MEADOWLARK? It is distinctive and beautiful. When I'm headed out someplace like Gowen or Pleasant Valley, I'll often skip the mobile tunes* in the hopes that I will hear a meadowlark. (When I was a little fella, we had meadowlarks in the neighborhood. My mom and dad told me the meadowlark was singing, "Ste-vie is a pretty-little-boy." Hahaha! Even back then, I was probably skeptical, but I sure learned to love that song.)

I am totally amused by the antics of RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS. They are coming back... perching on the stalks of cattails and tree branches, near the marshy areas that they prefer. They are beautiful; they, too have a distinctive call, but not nearly as melodic as their lark relatives. Once nesting time is underway... WATCH OUT! They are aggressive little rascals - if you get too close for comfort, they'll dive-bomb you like a WWII Stuka! (I've frequently appreciated the bike helmet - because it has saved me from blackbird attacks!)

The ducks and geese are particularly beautiful this time of year. My waterfowl-expert friend Tom explained, "In the early spring just as the breeding season gets underway a partial loss of feathers happens when the male ducks put on their alternate plumage. Right now, the birds look their best and are in their BREED Plumage…"

Mackie and I were feeding the (Canada) geese and (Mallard) ducks down at the park a few days back, when along came some AMERICAN WIDGEONS (thanks, Tom!). They're much
smaller than mallards, and have a distinctive sky-blue bill, and whistle instead of quacking. But then along came a WOOD DUCK, and suddenly all the other ducks seemed pretty drab by comparison. If I was an atheist, I think I'd become a believer just because of how beautiful a Wood Duck is.

The other day, I was out motorcycling in the flatlands. (It's still pretty stark and barren out there... we need another month for everything to turn vibrant and green.) BUT... out in an otherwise-empty pasture, there must've been five thousand birds - most likely STARLINGS - 100 feet or so from the pavement. As I rode alongside them, their totally-amazing performance began. The leading edge took to the air, with the rest following, leaving the ground in perfect synchronized harmony with my ride-by. After they were airborne, they dipped and fluttered - thousands of birds performing in unison as if they were taking radio commands from a master choreographer. (How do they do that?!??) As far as I know, I was the only witness... and how grateful I am to be witness to such things!

* Note about mobile tunes: I'm VERY cautious about compromising my sense of hearing while cycling. It's a dangerous thing to do, when you need every advantage to survive. But every now and then when I'm riding on a nice, straight stretch of road with light traffic, I'll pay extra attention to the rearview mirror, and indulge in some favorite music.

The images were harvested off the Web. Hopefully the originators won't be offended that I used 'em for my non-commercial blog. As always, click on (some of) 'em for a larger view. (Wouldn't Mr. Audubon be amazed at digital cameras with long telephoto lenses!)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Earth Hour '10

I've commented previously - in 2008 and again in 2009 - about Earth Hour, "the environmental celebration for people who are committed to the environment... but not quite committed enough to do the whole Earth Day thing."

Earth Day is hard! Earth Hour is easy!

C'mon, people! Pick an hour this Saturday when you can turn off a few lights. Do it for the planet, and for Al Gore!

Okay... I'm probably unjustly scornful of events like Earth Hour, and even Earth Day. If they are raising year-round awareness of the merits of living a small-footprint lifestyle, they can't be bad. If, on the other hand, Earth Hour participants say, "All-right! I've done my part again this year," the event and those participants deserve all the scorn that can be heaped. If they see immersion in Earth Hour as their recompense for driving that 11mpg Sport Utility Vehicle all year, kinda like Lent is recompense for Mardi Gras... yeah, I'm scornful of that attitude.

(To reiterate my own stance on human involvement in climate change... the climate has always been changing. Human activity probably has some impact; how much is impossible to say for sure. It's certainly worth researching, but until we know more it seems premature to go back to living in caves and eating our meat raw. HOWEVER... there's no reason not to make an effort to minimize personal impact. "Leave no trace" - that's what the Boy Scouts call it. And only doing that for one hour out of every 8760 is stupid.)

[On a personal note: My father was born 90 years ago today. He passed on over to the other side 12 years ago, and I've missed him. I honor him today, and try to honor his memory every day, in the life that I live.]

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Extreme Stop-and-Go!

I'm teaching my granddaughter Mackie about traffic signals. When we're out and about on bike/trailer, I ask her what color the light is, and what it means. Red means stop! Green means go! She watches, and tells me when I should stop and go.

Or at least that's the way I learnt it.

Nowadays I kinda wonder. It seems to have changed.

Based on a lot of motor-vehicle behavior, you'd think green means PUNCH IT! It's like Don "The Snake" Prudhomme watching the Christmas tree, at every intersection! Green light... a bellowing roar and a cloud of dust and burnt rubber! Of course, it's for a block, and then...

Red means stop! Jam on those brakes - punish 'em!

(It's pretty amusing for this cyclist to observe as that pattern repeats, light after light, as I ride alongside.)

How about yellow? Nowadays it seems, if the light turns yellow and you can make it through the intersection within 3 seconds after it turns red... PUNCH IT!

I've sure learned by scary near-misses that green doesn't necessarily mean "go"! It means, check and see if some idiot is blasting through the intersection against a red light... then proceed carefully.

Of course, the cellphone/text-message people sometimes don't react one way or t'other. Green light or red light... they just coast blissfully along in their alternate universe, while the rest of the world adjusts and/or reacts. (They probably get pretty decent gas mileage.)

Frankly, it's a miracle that there aren't a lot more intersection accidents.

I've never ridden in a Prius, but I understand they have a "real-time" MPG indicator. It tells you how many miles-per-gallon you're getting RIGHT NOW. As you accelerate, down goes the MPG. As you coast, foot ever-so-light on the gas pedal, it comes right back up.

All cars should have that gauge. Maybe it would enlighten John-Force-wannabe driving his Diesel Ram to work.

(Regular cyclists don't need that gauge. They are intimately familiar with the amount of energy required to accelerate, compared with the amount to maintain a steady speed. It's hard for me to ride passenger in a car, because I feel almost a compulsion to "back seat drive"... especially when I paid for the gas in the tank. I cringe when we're accelerating-and-braking, when alternatively we could coast along at a steady speed and watch the lights turn green.)

My youth coincided with the opening of Firebird Raceway, off Highway 16. And my buddies and I were "regulars" up there. Forget about the bleachers! We'd sit at the edge of the vibrating asphalt in the staging area. Top Fuel Clorox burnout - 20 feet away! You could feel the air pressure change! That was some heady stuff! (I doubt they let teenage punks do that any more... things were different 40 years ago. Thankfully we had the common sense to plug our ears at blastoff time, and I retain a bit of hearing, all these years later.) But flooring-it in your Saturn just ain't the same thing, buddy!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Share the (bike) Love!

What is a bicycle?

For many, at least in these parts, it is a toy. A weekend pastime, either in the foothills, or on the Greenbelt, or on that Sunday morning "club ride."

But from a worldwide view, it is transportation. Globally, I imagine more people will get where they need to go today on foot than by any other means. But I bet bicycle runs a close second.

Bikes also provide transportation for a growing number of local folks. Kids not old enough or rich enough to drive everywhere. Adults who can't afford to own and operate a car... or who choose a bicycle rather than a motor vehicle. (It boggles the mind, doesn't it? That people would voluntarily ride a bike instead of driving a car? Weirdos!)

Although bikes are way less expensive than cars, a decent new bike will still set you back $300 or more. And that can be daunting to a person who's struggling to keep roof over head, or food in belly. Which is where the Boise Bicycle Project comes into the picture.

The BBP is an amazingly-well-devised concept.

VOLUNTEER mechanics go over donated bicycles, giving them the neccesary attention to make them functional and safe. If a bike can't be renovated, the parts are pirated for use on other bikes. The renovated bikes are given away to folks who need one, but can't afford one. Bikes and bike parts are also available for sale to the public. Any proceeds go back into the "project."

What reward do the volunteers get?

They get the spiritual/emotional reward that always comes with giving to a good cause. But in addition, they get training / mentoring to become better bike mechanics. And they get shop space and use of tools for their own projects.

I know that my friend Clancy is involved in the BBP, and I hope he will provide his 2 cents' worth.

Visit the BBP Website for info on how to get involved. (Volunteers are always needed and welcomed. And of course donated bikes and foldin' money also keep those wheels greased.)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Portland: Sewers or Bike Boulevards?

Last month I commented on the proposal over in Portland, to spend $600 million in the next 10 years to make (or keep) it the most bike-friendly place in the universe.

They approved the plan... all that remained was to find the $600 million. (You'd think the Feds could pony up such a measly amount!)

Well... there's been a development.

In an effort to jump-start the program, Mayor Sam Adams has proposed diverting $20 million of sewer money.

The Sewer people argue that the money would be better used to reduce sewer rates, and to keep overflow from spilling into the Willamette River. Ya gotta love this quote from the story: "... Building so-called Bike Boulevards is 'not a core component of sewer service and should not be funded by rate payers.'"

Story HERE.

The City Council votes on the plan March 17; the Sewer Board votes on March 18.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Weirdness redux

Last year, I commented that I'd completed 1000 miles for the year on March 13... and it was weird because despite the unpredictability of the first 6 weeks or so of the year, "almost every year I hit the 1000-mile mark in a 3- or 4-day window (2nd week of March)."

This year - March 14th.

This despite the fact that I took an involuntary hiatus that went 12 days into 2010. It's not like I'm planning it!

As Homer Simpson famously said, "There's so much I don't know about astrophysics... I wish I'd read that book by that wheelchair guy."

Ridin' the Wind-Wave

In honor of approaching St. Patrick's Day:

May the roads rise to meet you.
May the wind be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face; The rain fall soft upon your fields.
And, until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Cyclists probably appreciate that "wind at your back" sentiment as much as anybody.

I found myself riding into a brutal wind on Saturday. (For the first half of the ride... sustained only by the anticipation that once I turned the sails about and headed for home, I'd get my payback.)

Out near the Fairgrounds, I bet I was riding into a steady 25-30mph blast. I saw three young whippersnappers on the sidewalk beside the road. They all had the long-deck skateboards... carrying them and walking, bent into the wind.

One kid put his board down on the sidewalk and pushed off... his ride was brief before he was stopped abruptly by the headwind.

Yep... we were like surfers, who paddle tediously out into the tide. A worthwhile price to pay, obviously, for those moments of glory when you find yourself being pushed by a strong wave or a sweeeet tailwind.

The skateboard kids were almost certainly headed for the Roadster Show, held at the Fairgrounds over the weekend. I wish I could've crossed paths with 'em again on the home stretch, to see if they were coasting effortlessly, both feet up, clickety-click, along the sidewalk.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

It Takes a Village

... to create a bottleneck

In this case, it's Riverside Village and their intrepid mayor (formerly their developer), who have bottlenecked the Boise Greenbelt, by declaring the stretch in their neighborhood a "nature trail," not to be ravaged by the unwashed bike-riding dregs of society. Having Garden City declare it off-limits to cyclists is akin to Glenns Ferry declaring that I-84 is off-limits to White Freightliners.

(For 2+ years I've been commenting on the issue - HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.)

So, what's new?

The Citizens for an Open Greenbelt group has announced a new campaign to pursue the unblocking of the contested stretch of pathway through legal channels.

From an emailed announcement:

Three experienced and qualified Boise attorneys devoted to our cause have come forward to help us. They have generously offered to contribute their time pro bono and believe a civil action is both sensible and winnable.

Even with our attorneys' generous donation of their time, we will need $4,000 to begin this action. This fund will cover hard expenses such as the cost of depositions, expert witnesses, filing fees, court costs, etc. This means we will need donations to support this cause. Whatever funds are not used will be donated to a local non-profit bicycle organization.

If you are interested and able, please visit the COG's website - HERE - to get more information and to donate to the cause. "Many backs make the burden light."

Full disclosure: I am personally unfamiliar with the bike path in question, other than by reputation. I'm not a member of the COG group, but I'm totally supportive of the concept of an uninterrupted bike path, from one end to the other. (If the problem is careless or aggressive cyclists, I would support measures to remove them. But you don't close the roads to all cars, to prevent DUI incidents.)

Urban Bambis

Yesterday on the ride home, I caught a glimpse of a doe out of the corner of my eye. I pulled up on the reins, and lo and behold, there were a half-dozen or so alongside the Greenbelt.



(In the photo above, it's obvious how well-concealed they are. One is directly above the vertical post my bike is leaning against; another is just to the left. As always, a bigger version of the photo can be had by clicking on it.)

While I was standing there, a lady came by with two dogs in tow... that really put Bambi on high-alert status!


They seemed pretty oblivious to the rush of motor traffic, about the same distance away as I was, but on the other side. And needless to say, the folks in those cars were totally oblivious to Bambi, too! (The only time motorists see deer is just before they smash into 'em!)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

What's with "toy bike" riders? (Part 1)

On Sunday, I was riding north on Roosevelt Street. (For those not familiar, it's a 2-lane "collector" type street with nice wide shoulders in most places, and "fog stripes" at the edges of the motor lanes. I ride on it almost every day, year-round.)

I came up behind a group of four "toy bike" riders ... or at least that's the way most of the world sees 'em. They were on road bikes. They were no doubt headed home from their Sunday morning "club" ride. They had matching jerseys on, that said B O C in big letters. I'm assuming that's Boise Orthopedic Clinic. But I may be wrong.

They got my attention - and that of everyone coming up behind them - because they were riding two abreast, one pair behind the other. Two were to the right of the fog stripe, and two were next to them in the traffic lane. I watched in dismay as maybe 4 or 5 cars queued up behind them, waiting for an opportunity to safely pass. (They weren't going very fast - I was in my "Sunday go-to-meetin' clothes," incidentally headed for my Sunday meetin's... and I wasn't going very fast either, but I came up behind them.)

I am totally confident they were inspiring a lot of muttering among the motorists, about those %$&#@& bike riders.

Were they legal? Idaho law says it's legal to ride two abreast; however it also says they "shall not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic." So I'd say they could've been issued a ticket.

Was their "small talk" more important than being good ambassadors for the cycling community, and for Boise Orthopedic Clinic? Apparently they felt it was at the time.

Almost always, when non-bicycling citizens get together and complain about the behavior of cyclists, the topic of two-or-more abreast riding comes up. These arrogant (or maybe just ignorant) wankers are no friends to the transportation cycling community, that's for sure!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Most & least expensive to own

The annual Consumer Reports Auto Issue (April 2010) lists the most and least expensive passenger cars to own.

Including "depreciation, fuel, interest, insurance, sales tax, and repairs/maintenance," here are the winners and losers. These are the costs over 5 years:

Least expensive:
Honda Fit (base) - $25,500
Smart ForTwo - $26,250
Toyota Yaris - $26,500
Scion xD - $27,000
Toyota Corolla LE - $27,250

Most expensive:
Porsche 911 Carrera S - $91,750
Jaguar XK - $94,750
Mercedes-Benz S550 - $102,000
Mercedes-Benz SL550 - $110,750
Dodge Viper - $113,000

So the least expensive car on the list costs $5100/year, or about 14 bucks a day. (Heck! You could almost pay for your healthcare with that kind of cash!) The Viper Guy is paying $22,600 per year for his Viper Ownership Experience... of course, money is no object for him.

You transportation cyclists - how do those numbers compare with your bike-riding expenses?

If I tossed my bike in the dumpster every 5 years and started with a brand-new one, and threw my old TV in the dumpster and bought a new 52-inch bigscreen, just for fun... my 5-year cost would still be well below what it costs to run that Honda Fit for one year! "Smart for Two" indeed!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Gear Review Follow-ups

Last October, I gave some first impressions of my new Nashbar Premium Rain Jacket and Lightman Strobe.

And in December, I posted a Cyclist Christmas List with some suggestions, including rearview mirrors, gear bags, and a flashlight/headlight.

Here's an update on what I've really liked, and what I'm a little disappointed with.

Thumbs-UP to:

"Take a Look" helmet-mounted mirror. It is a REALLY nice little mirror. The construction quality is superb, and it is infinitely adjustable so you can dial it in just perfect. And - it holds the position! (Obviously if it gets bumped, you may need to readjust, but it doesn't vibrate out of adjustment.) Early on, I had some problems with it getting bumped loose off my helmet visor. But I drilled a tiny hole in the visor and attached it permanently with a tiny zip-tie. Since then it's been totally problem free... the best mirror I've ever had. (And once you use a mirror for a few days, riding in traffic, you'll NEVER want to ride without one!)

Planet Bike SuperFlash taillight. I'm still on my first set of batteries, using it in "blinky" mode. (Blinky uses up the batteries a lot slower than steady mode... and is much more visible, IMO.) It's small and light. It's sturdy. And it's incredibly bright.

Mixed Reviews to:

Nashbar Rain Jacket - in the first review, I said, "the zipper seems like the cheap/flimsy model." Yesterday the zipper broke. I'll send the jacket back for exchange, but I'm not expecting that the replacement zipper will be any better. Eventually I'll probably get a replacement jacket from J&G Cyclewear, out of Oregon. (Blog readers have recommended them. Their jackets are in "normal" bright yellow; I wish they made a hi-viz model, and I've emailed that request to them.)

Lightman Strobe - these are rather hard to find, but I s'pose I wouldn't bother, for use as a taillight. It's probably as bright as the "SuperFlash," but it's bigger and heavier, and it burns right through the batteries. (I'd guess my first set was used up after maybe 8 15-minute commute rides.)

Akoray Flashlight - this one is particularly disappointing, unfortunately. It's an amazingly-bright flashlight, and I'd recommend it wholeheartedly for regular flashlight-type use. But... the little clicky-switch, or something in the circuitry, is way too sensitive to being jostled. As I'm riding down the street, it will sometimes just go off if I go over a speed bump, or even a crack in the pavement. Or it will switch from one mode to another - strobe to bright, or bright to dim. Oddly, loosening the end cap by about 1 turn makes it behave a little better, but not reliably enough to count on it to keep you safe and alive. I bought two of those flashlights, and it's not just a problem with one of them - they both behave the same. (They make many models of flashlights, and it very well might be that this one is a little finicky. Clancy showed me his light from the same folks, a couple months back, and I think Stevie Wonder would be able to see Clancy comin' down the street!)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

So... why do dogs

... hang their head out the car window?

Cyclists understand that.