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!