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.)

Boise Bicycle Project plays Santa - AGAIN!

I have nothing but admiration for the Boise Bicycle Project ... they are an organization that talks the talk, and walks the walk!  (Rides the ride?)  Once again this year, they are rejuvenating and giving away 350 bicycles to kids in the area.  It's inspirational and deeply meaningful!  Some of those kids will probably grow up and, like most adults, rationalize that bikes are too fun to be legitimate transportation, and relegate them to recreation.  But of 350 kids who get bikes... imagine if 50 of them embraced bicycles as "grown-up transportation"!  The BBP would've enriched them for life!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Emerging Patterns

This is probably nothing to get startled about... but I've noticed that for the last month or so, we seem to be experiencing Global Cooling.  At least at this latitude.  But - if memory serves, the same thing was happening about this same time last year.  (Six months from now, we'll be in the throes of Global Warming once again.)

I enjoy a bit of personal amusement in the autumn.  Being quite "weather-extreme tolerant" (largely as a result of many years of cycling in widely-varying climatic conditions), it amuses me when I'm still in shirt-sleeves, and cross paths with cyclists who are bundled up like they're headed for Antarctica!  You know - thick hooded goose-down parka, heavy mittens, scarf across face, etc.  When it's 50 degrees I always want to ask, "What are you going to do when it gets cold?!"

Also, the "bike room" parking at the office clears out, this time of year.  In the summer, there might be 30 or 35 bikes parked in there... now there are 3 or 4, and a couple look to have been abandoned.  Another fairly regular year-round cyclist observed, "Cold weather has a way of weeding out the weak and infirm."  Among the general population and among the cycling population!

Longer term, as I think about it I detect another pattern.  20 years ago I would take the most direct route, the majority of the time.  I was focused on transportation efficiency on the bike... wanting to select the fastest way from Point A to Point B.  Nowadays I'll frequently diverge more, sacrificing a minute or two for a more aesthetically-pleasing ride.

Almost every weekday, I ride down a quarter-mile stretch of 4-lane road (Americana Boulevard), where the downhill slope makes it practical to "take the lane."  At the bottom, I can peel off to a bike path through the park.  Doing so definitely adds distance and time to my ride... but it is always such a pleasant change of atmosphere, to put the motor traffic noise behind me!  The extra minute or two is a small price to pay.  (And, in all honesty, my speed is 3mph slower than it was 20 years ago, so rapid transit is less of a factor in any case.)

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Foldable cardboard bike helmet

For several years, I've seen conceptualized honeycomb-folding helmet proposals.  But this one looks like it's closer to reality... and pretty cool, in my opinion.  If they can build 'em for a selling price of $5 like they hope, I bet it will be a winner.

It has won the 2016 James Dyson Award.  I'd say it's way closer to the "function" end of the form-function scale, than those crazy-looking vacuum cleaners that are apparently the brainchild of Mr. Dyson.  (No offense intended; I've never used one of those cleaners, but they look to me like they're way more "form."  And I do know they're expensive and there's a huge market for the refurbished ones, which to me calls into question their durability.)  And those Dyson bladeless fans?  Now there's a solution looking for a problem!  But I digress...

More info on the foldable helmet HERE.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

New Park - Enhanced Greenbelt!

"Our long national nightmare is over."
- Gerald R. Ford

Way back in January, 2015, I lamented that a stretch of the Greenbelt would be closing for an extended period, during construction of a new city park on the north side of the Boise River.

Happy day!  That extended period is over, almost two years later.  Esther Simplot Park is open, along with the Greenbelt through the area.  (The "chain link fence tree" is gone forever.)

I rode the new path on Halloween... was pretty much alone.  I rode it again on 11/3 and snapped a few photos.  I took granddaughter Bonnie back yesterday, 11/5... it was jam-packed!  I can't fault my fellowcitizens for wanting to visit it on a beautiful autumn afternoon, but the quality of visits will be better when it doesn't have Disneyland-size crowds!  Visitors were enjoying the waterways... the play facilities (not traditional playgrounds, but rock mountains to climb on, etc.), the lovely variety of pathways.  Of course, some visitors were doing what they do no matter where they are... lurching about, staring at their "smart phones."

Some of these photos were taken in the new park, others were snapped along the once-again-contiguous north stretch of the Greenbelt, near the new park.  (And I see I better adjust the straps on Bonnie's brain-bucket... it's positioned too far back.)


Monday, October 24, 2016

Autumn returns

Autumn brings us the best scenery of the year.  And interesting developments for transportation and recreation cyclists in the area.

They have completed a repaving project on the Greenbelt below Warm Springs Mesa... it's nice!  After a long time waiting, the Esther Simplot Park is slated to open on November 2.  They are converting Jefferson Street, which traverses downtown east/west, to a two-way road with bike lanes.

On a more personal level... the family stable of bikes is increasing.

My bride had a knee replacement surgery in April, and recently graduated from stationary bicycle to road-going bicycle.  We found her a nice used Townie 21-speed on the craigslist.  (She's getting the other knee done on November 1.)

My daughter used a generic "mountain" style bike out of the stable to go riding with Mom... so I found her a Townie on the craigslist.  (They like the "classic" styling with curved tubes, etc.  I like the aluminum frame and slightly-narrower tires.)

Since those acquisitions we've been on several rides together, including a Greenbelt tour downstream to Eagle Road and back, from Ann Morrison Park.

And... granddaughter Mackenzie has outgrown her 24-inch bike, so just this evening I found her a used Peugeot first-generation mountain bike.  It needs some work - new cables and such - but the price was right and I expect she won't be wanting to do a lot of riding before next spring anyway.

Yup - life is good.  Bicycle transportation makes it that much better.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Cyclist - less $ for health and life insurance?

At my place of work, we have a "healthy measures" incentive program.  It's pretty simple... you go to your doctor annually, (s)he checks your blood pressure, cholesterol, height/weight ratio, whether you are a smoker... and if you fall into the acceptable ranges, or agree to try, you qualify for a significant discount on health insurance.

I've argued - always without apparent result - that another "healthy measure" is level of activity.  If you get that ticker ticking on a regular basis, I believe you are healthier than if your biggest exertion is pushing buttons on remote-controls, phones, etc.  And the only time you break a sweat is if you lose some facebook friends.

Now, I see there's a life insurance broker that makes these bold claims:
- "Cyclists deserve a lower rate because cycling reduces the risk of heart disease by 18% while lowering blood pressure and improving sleep."
- Cyclists who ride an hour a day, have 18% lower risk of all-cause mortality than non-cyclists.
- For those who ride an hour and a half or more, the benefit increases to 28%.
- Cyclists have a 45% reduction in all cancer incidence as compared to non-cyclists.
- Cyclists have a 18% lower incidence of cardiovascular disease as compared to non-cyclists.

Wow!  If indeed those are actual numbers (and the website linked above has links to the various research), that's pretty meaningful. Of course, if you get squashed while riding, by somebody in a bigger vehicle, it won't matter how healthy you are!

(Maybe it's rigged... because the average lifespan is in the 80s these days, and not many 80-plus year-olds are still riding bikes.  Haha.  I might have to fill out the form and see what happens.  I have a term-life policy but if I could get the same coverage for cheaper, I'd not turn that down.)

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Bike Rodeo!

We had a "Bike Rodeo" last night!

It started out as an activity for my Cub Scouts (I'm a cubmaster these days). But then, good fortune befell me! I contacted bike advocate extraordinaire Lisa Brady, and the wheels started turning. Besides being an enthusiastic transportation cyclist, Lisa is the head honcho of local advocacy group Treasure Valley Cycling Alliance. But even more significantly, she's in charge of the YMCA Safe Routes to School program. Lisa and her Safe Routes colleagues were happy to jump in and help.

With some encouragement from Lisa, we expanded the scope, and invited all the school-age kids, and their parents, of our church congregation. We did our best to publicize and encourage. (We were a bit concerned because yesterday was also the first day of school for most of our kids... would that be a distraction? Would people forget?)

Our concerns turned out to be unfounded. We roped off a big section of a huge asphalt parking lot. Lisa and her team laid out the course, and explained how the adult volunteers could help. The first kids started showing up about 5 minutes early; in keeping with a longstanding church tradition, most people didn't show up 'til 5 minutes late.

What a fantastic group we got! I bet we had 30-35 kids there, ranging in age from 3 up to 16. Most were on bikes... a few had scooters or skateboards. Our "pros" started out with a 10-minute discussion about safety and surviving on the streets. (It was aimed as much at the parents as the kids.) They told 'em, "If you don't remember anything else from tonight, LIGHTS AT NIGHT and RIDE ON THE RIGHT!" Visible... predictable... legal.

Most of the kids rode the "skill course" - and most rode it 4 or 5 times. And then it was just sheer delight to see 30 or so kids on their bikes, happily "free riding" around in the parking lot. There were 1 or 2 minor mishaps... but the victims hopped right back up and the first aid kit stayed latched.

Then it was time for a short road ride. Lisa asked if I would be ride leader - sure! (Granddaughter Bonnie, on the Tag-Along, was stoked. She hollered, "Ready, set, go!" and we were off!)

I was pretty ambitious... my selected route was probably a mile. (I deviated a bit from the envisioned route, because there were a lot of cars parallel-parked along the first road.) The group completed the loop in probably 15 minutes. Lisa said it was all good, because the neighborhood got a good dose of kids-on-bikes-on-the-road... and everybody survived!

Popsicles afterwards!

I've done a few bike rodeos over the years, but this was the most successful, thanks to passionate and expert helpers. My sincere thanks to Lisa Brady and the Safe Routes to School people. If we saved one child from being injured or killed, it was time and effort well spent! (My only regret? I took my small camera, which accompanies me 'most everywhere, but in all the excitement it remained in my pocket! D'oh! You'll have to take my word for it - no photos.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Good 12 months for the Bike Nazi

I just realized... in the twelve months beginning on August 1, 2015 and ending on July 31, 2016, I rode my bicycle on 364 of those days!  That may be the best I ever do in a year, measured by number of days riding.  I missed a day in December when we made a trip to Utah... and I missed a day in June when I was on a motorcycle adventure... Boise to Lolo, MT, to Lewiston, and back to Boise.  And - it's Leap Year, so I rode on February 29.

Friday, August 12, 2016

New Greenbelt stretch is open!

I've been eagerly watching this for several years... the development of a key section of Boise Greenbelt, on the south side of the Boise River between Ann Morrison Park and Garden City (Joe's Crab Shack / Riverside Hotel area).  Because of my eagerness, it seemed to take particularly long, but except for some enhancement of vegetation along the way, it appears to be 100%... and very nice!

It is a key piece of the puzzle in our "String of Jewels" - now a person can ride a bicycle, on the south side of the river, nonstop from the Parkcenter area at the east end of town, all the way to Eagle Road on the west end.  Fantastic!  (You can go even father east, if you're on foot.)  It also adds a spur that extends to the Garden Street Greenbelt - the stretch that goes over the red trestle bridge.  I'll use that extensively going forward, I'm sure.

One other note... I snapped another photo just a day or two before it opened.  It's nice to see that they've finally quit discriminating against non-spellers.  For ever so long, you needed to know spelling to paint the signs on the pathway surface.  (It's good I took the photo when I did... they also obviously have a spelling-correction budget... "YEILD" has been painted over, and changed to "YIELD."  There were at least three occurrences that have been fixed.)

Correction! This piece does NOT complete a continuous "greenbelt" from east Boise to Eagle Road... in my enthusiasm, I forgot that there's a detour between 52nd and Remington in Garden City - just east of the Fairgrounds and abandoned Les Bois Park. It's maybe a quarter mile.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Ridin' with my grandbabies!

August 9th was a fantastic day for me.  For the first time ever, I went on a bike ride with all three of my granddaughters.  Mackenzie, 9, was riding her own bicycle.  Bonnie, 3, was aboard the tag-a-long.  And Maren, 1, who is here visiting from Providence, R.I., rode in the baby seat.

It was Maren's first-ever bike ride.  She fussed a bit when we were strapping her in - who can blame her?  Getting attached to a big, strange machine with an even bigger, stranger person that she doesn't know well!  But once we got rolling, she didn't make a peep.  (Her mom and dad were along for the ride, too.  Photos courtesy of daughter Kellyn.  The second one is a screen-grab from a video she took with her phone.)

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Tag-along Bonnie

My granddaughter Bonnie turned 3 in February... and has outgrown the front-mounted baby seat that she's ridden in since early on.  So - we have graduated her to the Tag-A-Long bike.  (Or "choo choo bike" as she sometimes calls it.)

It was stored for a couple years where it was exposed to the weather, so I had a couple of rusted-up pedals to replace.  I lubed the chain, set the seat height as low as it will go, rotated the handlebars backward a bit... and we're good. Oh! I also added a handlebar basket, because she loves to collect stuff to bring home.

On our first ride, Bonnie was pretty excited.  "I can pedal!  I can pedal!"

The view probably isn't as good as it was before... but she can pedal.  (You know what they say about the sled-dog view: "Unless you're the lead dog, the view never changes."  I imagine her old grandpa partially blocks the forward view.)

We've probably ridden 30 or 40 miles using the Tag-A-Long at this point.  I'm still frequently admonishing her to "Hold on!" - much more important, now that she's no longer surrounded by bucket-seat and grandpa arms.  But so far she's done fine, including 20-mph rides down the hill.

The "I can pedal!" dynamic introduced a minor problem on our most recent ride.

Her bike has a freewheel - she contributes to forward motion when she pedals forward, but spins freely when she pedals backwards.  And she's discovered that pedaling backwards is less effort, so that's what she does most of the time.  So... we were riding along, me pedaling forward and her backwards, and I heard a "klunk" as something fell and hit the ground.  It was a pedal.  Her constant backwards-pedaling had gradually unscrewed it, and it fell off the crank.  (I obviously didn't tighten it up adequately when I installed it.)  I screwed it back in by hand, and finger-tightened it.  I tried to explain to her... "Pedal the other way, Bonnie!"  She tried to somehow cross up her feet, so her left foot turned the right pedal and vice versa.  (Dang!  I love young kids!  They are learning everything from scratch, and it's joyful to be part of that!)  I obviously didn't explain adequately... and before we got home, the pedal had hit the ground one more time... and was about halfway unscrewed a third time, when we rolled up the driveway.  I tightened it - hopefully it won't be a problem on future rides.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Stupid phones!

The motto of many, many "smart phone" owner/operators could be, "My phone is smart, so I don't have to be!"

30 years ago, mobile phones were a very rare novelty. The cell phones of the day were the size of a brick, were useful in very limited areas, and cost $2000. They did one thing rather poorly - make and receive telephone calls. And... most people did just fine without a mobile phone.

In 2016, it's rare to see anybody over 12 or so who doesn't have a "smart phone." And a meaningful percentage of those people seem to be totally focused on that tiny screen, all the live long day!

I challenge you to do your own informal inventory. Look at the people where you are... walking, standing, driving, bicycling, skateboarding, sitting... whatever. It's really quite startling how many will have one elbow cocked at 90 degrees to look at that phone... or in some cases, cradling it lovingly in two hands, like a precious infant or an adorable kitty. (As a mostly-outsider looking on, I can't help but wonder... WHAT could possibly be so interesting on that four-inch screen, that's far more enthralling than the real life all around them?!?)

Has the IQ of our society gone up, as "smart phones" have become ubiquitous? There's precious little evidence of that... and there are disturbing signs that the opposite might be true, in this observer's viewpoint.

FIRST: You don't need to know anything, if you can look everything up on your "smart phone."

SECOND: Observe some of the stuff that "smart phone" operators do, on account of their staring at their phones! They walk into manholes and fountains, and step off curbs. Worse... they get behind the wheel of their car, and maim/kill themselves and innocent bystanders. 30 years ago, I'm confident that collisions involving distracted driving were less common than they are today. (There have always been distractions... but the "smart phone" has taken distracted driving to a whole new disturbing level, and apparently our society deems the collateral damage acceptable.)

A couple weekends ago, I was bicycling through a nearby city park. It seemed there were considerably more smart-phone zombies than usual, standing or lurching about, staring at their phones. Turns out it was almost certainly related to the latest smart-phone craze - Pokemon Go. Oh, joy! Proponents are defending it: "Well, at least it gets the kids out of the house and doing something." Seriously? Is that where we are, as an enlighened society? We need some sort of smart-phone game to get people outside (where they stare at their phones some more)? (If you're interested, HERE is a video taken on a Baltimore cop body-cam. A driver sideswipes a cop car, and his declared reason is because he was playing Pokemon on his "smart phone.") Beam me up, Scotty!

[NOTE: The main reason I have strong feelings about "smart phones" is the tendency of their users to do really REALLY stupid stuff that endangers other people. I witness it up close and personal, almost every day. If they were only putting themselves at risk with their entertainment/lifestyle choices, I'd say let nature take its course! The smart will survive... the dumb, not so much. But "smart phone" users kill and damage both smart and not-so-smart indiscriminately. I sincerely hope we eventually attach some negative stigma to driving around killing people while phone-distracted... that would be a step in the right direction.]

Friday, July 8, 2016

Tour de France!!!!!!!

So, are you paying attention to this year's Tour de France?  Yeah, me neither.  There are probably Americans riding in it, and maybe even competitively.  Does Radio Shack still sponsor a team?  How about the U.S. Postal Service?  (That was a favorite irony... an organization with a reputation for being slow and uncompetitive, sponsoring a team in possibly the most competitive of all team sports.)

I'm probably like lots of my fellow Americans.  Lance, and Greg LeMond before him, provided an additional point of interest in something that had always been quite foreign.  We wanted to rah-rah for the home team.  And our golden boys - in their yellow jerseys - filled us with patriotic sentiment and probably sold a lot of road bikes.  (Huffys and such.  haha!)

Then Lance burst our bubble.  Turns out we were all cheering for a cheater.

However, more and more it seems that Lance's big peccadillo was "getting caught."  Everybody cheats... right?  It seems to be part of competitive cycling... at least on the professional level, where lots and lots of money is on the line.  You'd almost think the major players have "cover-up experts" who know how the tests go, and can advise the team on how to game the system.

This year, for the first time, I've been reading about a new kind of test... infrared scanning of the bicycles, to make sure they don't have an electric "helper motor" hidden inside the frame.  What the?!!?  (Of course, if they were secret, it would've been hard for Shimano to sell their Dura-Ace Helper Motor, as used by the Team!)

Friday, June 10, 2016

Cowboy catches bike-rustler

Here's a feel-good story for anybody who's had a bike stolen.

Over in Eagle Point, OR (out of Medford), a thief was making off with a bike from the rack out front of Walmart.  Heroics ensued.

The first heroes were bystanders in the parking lot who noticed, and "began shouting and calling attention to the theft."  Makes me want to live in Eagle Point!!

But then the story turned almost larger-than-life.  A guy just happened to have his horse in a trailer... he chased the thief down on the horse and lassoed him, and held him for the cops.  (Too bad there wasn't a hangin' tree nearby, like in the olden days!)

Story HERE.

That cowboy's work might be done in Eagle Point... and he may have ridden off into the sunset.  But wherever there are low-life bushwackin' bike rustlers, hopefully he can be around!

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


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'.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Parade participant!

I was a reluctant participant in a parade this morning...

Due to external circumstances, it was my job to drive the granddaughter to school today.  It happens every school day... but most often it's her grandma behind the wheel of the float.

The granddaughter is 9 years old, responsible enough for her age, and has an uncanny sense of direction - better than most adults!  If the need arose, she could probably find her way to school blindfolded.

The school is about 3/4 mile away.  One somewhat-busy road to cross, but there's a nice crosswalk with warning lights that can be pedestrian-activated.  Totally-flat terrain - there's probably not 2 feet of elevation change from Point A to Point B... or anywhere in between.

It was indeed a parade.  There were a couple school buses - they get preferred parking near the front door.  The cars - most carrying one child and his/her book bag - queued up for a block-and-a-half.  For a guy who rarely runs a motorcar at all, it's pretty stressful to sit there, foot on the brake, engine idling, staring at the back end of another parade participant.

I've argued unsuccessfully that Mackie would benefit if she were allowed to walk, or bike, to school every now and then - at least on nice days.  (The neighbor girl goes with her - and the neighbor girl's dad picks them up and brings them home in the afternoon.  At least they've got a low-key car pool.)

Times have sure changed.  When I was an elementary-school child, the norm was to walk to school, or ride your bike, unless you lived a long distance.  But 50-odd years later, it's pretty much understood that kids will get smashed by inattentive or impaired motorists.  And the ones who don't get smashed will be abducted by predators in big black sedans.

I'm grateful for the people who are involved in the Safe Routes to School program.  Maybe at some point, Mackie will be trusted to make that perilous jaunt.  (There's another little girl down the street who's in first grade - she rides her bike on nice days, and so far she's somehow been able to survive the many perils.  I'm sure some folks regard her parents as being totally irresponsible!)

Monday, January 25, 2016

More info about the Greenbelt (history and maintenance) in west Boise

I'm privileged to have a friendship with Gary Segers.  He is a cyclist and an advocate for our "crown jewel," the Greenbelt.  (He founded the group Citizens for an Open Greenbelt... and it was through his efforts in that group, trying to get the forbidden "Riverside Village Nature Path" reopened to cyclists, that I got acquainted with him.)

Gary saw my previous post, giving a thumbs-up to Boise City and ACHD for their efforts to do winter maintenance on the Greenbelt, and a thumbs-down to Garden City for their lack of effort.  He gave me some good info, including clarifying a misunderstanding I've always had about the island the Greenbelt crosses, near the Fairgrounds horse track.  I hope you find this interesting; I did.

"I believe one of the sections you are referring to is what is called 'Plantation Island.'  Most people don't know that the island is owned by the​ ​Idaho Foundation for Parks and Lands (IFPL). ​ They were one of the early advocacy groups for Greenbelt development in Boise.  Years ago the Foundation (a forerunner the Boise River Trail Foundation and now the Foundation for Ada Canyon Trails System (FACTS)) recognized that there was no way to travel west on the Greenbelt from Boise city limits on the north side of the river because of the Plantation golf course and housing development.

"During the COG efforts several years ago I found out that the Plantation Golf Course and development managed to get approval from Garden City that blocked any pathway along that section on the north side of the river to Glenwood. So the IFPL figured the only way to make sure that future development of the Greenbelt going west had to be on the south side of the river.  And the only way to make that happen was to buy the island from the State and construct  a pathway and two bridges so that the pathway would continue on the south side of the river along the Ada County Fairgrounds.

"One of the board members of IFPL advised me by email awhile back that ​the IFPL facilitated 'the building and setting of the two bridges and the pathway by the Boise River Trail Foundation, forerunner of F.A.C.T.S.​' She went to say the 'bridges have been repaired with the assistance of Troop No. 94 on various Eagle Scout projects.  Much volunteer labor has been involved and the Foundation has paid for the materials.  Both Ada County and Garden City have helped with a generator and other equipment at times.​' The Foundation does not have the money or resources to improve the pathway in that section or keep it maintained.  They have been trying to negotiate an agreement with Ada County to do the maintenance but the discussions have not resulted in any agreement to date. 

"And just for reference,  the section beginning once you come off the island and head west (along the fairgrounds and stables), is owned and maintained by Ada County (not ACHD).  Garden City's section of the greenbelt begins west of Glenwood and goes on for a couple of miles to the Ada County section. 

"And here is a another bit of useful info.  The Greenbelt west of the Garden City limits (south side of river) to the Eagle City limits is owned by the Foundation for Ada/Canyon Trail Systems (FACTS) of which I am a board member.  Since FACTS has no money to maintain that  roughly 3 mile section we are in the process of deeding that land to Ada County.  It has been a very difficult project but well worth the effort since this creates lots of opportunities for continuing the Boise River Greenbelt west to Eagle and beyond."

It's easy to ride nonchalantly along the Greenbelt, oblivious to the effort required to keep it in prime operating condition... except to gripe when that effort falls short.  IT IS NOT BY ACCIDENT THAT WE HAVE OUR GREENBELT!  I'm grateful for people like Gary, who make the effort, often in a purely volunteer capacity, to provide cycling/walking residents and visitors with a world-class facility.

I dream of the day when it continues on to Eagle Island State Park, Star, Middleton... maybe even Caldwell.

(I stand by my original contention that Boise goes out of its way to accommodate cyclists, while Garden City has no problem with discouraging cyclists, which are seen as a nuisance.)

Monday, January 4, 2016

Greenbelt maintenance

We had a global warming event today - the temperature in Boise got above freezing, for the first time in a couple weeks.  (It's amazing how nice 37 degrees feels, after 10 days of teen-and-lower temperatures!)  Because it felt pretty nice, I decided I'd take a scenic loop on the way home.  (The days are getting longer, too!)

I'm happy to report that - as is usually the case - the stretches of Greenbelt maintained by Boise or the ACHD were in excellent shape, even dry in most places.  There are spots in the shade, over bridges, etc., where it's a little dicey, so it pays to be vigilant.  But I made it downstream on the Boise (north) side with essentially no anxiety.

Lo and behold - I got to the bridge where you cross the river into Garden City, and it was the end of the line, at least for my brittle old bones and skinny tires.

These photos were taken maybe 50 feet and 1 minute apart...

Boise Greenbelt:

Garden City Greenbelt:

Besides being to Boise what Shelbyville is to Springfield, Garden City has a colorful history of opposing bicycles at every opportunity.  They just don't get it.  They probably spend more money on "No Bicycles" signs, than they do on Greenbelt maintenance.  I s'pose it was understandable when their commerce consisted mostly of RV lots, used car lots, porno stores and tattoo parlors.  But nowadays they are quite proud of their new craft beer outlets and such... I'm thinking the clientele of some of those newer businesses probably ride bicycles now and then.  They might choose Boise beer outlets and tattoo parlors if they perceive bike-unfriendliness in Garden City.

My hat is off to the good folks at the Boise Parks Department (who I assume do most of the Boise pathway maintenance).  Not so much to our Garden City "neighbors."  I expect that Boise and Garden City residents alike are appreciating the dry Boise pathways.  It's nice not to have to share space with cars, when the space is also compromised by snowbanks, icy patches, frozen slush, etc.