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Monthly Archives: July 2014

Bike Spotting: Fat Free and Electric by NTS Works

My buddy Richard and I often bump into each other commuting on the Guadalupe River Trail, but this encounter was planned. Richard was test riding the NTS Works Fat Free electric-assist bike and I wanted a closer look. I happened to be riding my road bike that day, so I wasn’t wheezing to keep up with him on his beefed-up bike.

As more and more people are turning to bicycles for their daily transportation needs, electric bikes (also known as e-bikes) are getting more and more attention. E-bikes give a boost of power that can take the bite out of steep hills, make carrying kids or cargo less of a grind, and take the sweat out of going faster or further. For some, it means changing a sufferface into a happy face. But not Richard, he smiles all the time regardless.

NTS e-bike portrait

Unlike some e-bikes that operate by throttle, the Fat Free is a pedal-assist e-bike. That means that when you pedal, the motor automatically kicks in, and when you stop pedaling the motor stops too. How big a boost you get is based on which of the 5 levels of assist you choose from the handlebar control. Richard says he can comfortably maintain 18-20 mph, but he kept it at 15-16 mph while riding the trail with me. Lucky me.

I rode alongside Richard for four miles and forgot to ask to test it for myself, but did get a quick ride at an e-bike event at the Los Altos History Museum. It felt powerful, like having an instant tailwind adding to my efforts. Richard gave it the full run down with a ride from his home in Scotts Valley 30+ miles up and over the Santa Cruz Mountains to his job in San Jose. Check out his video review on the NTS Works web site.

What do you think of e-bikes? Would you consider owning one? Why or why not?

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2014 in Gear Talk

 

Bike Commute Diaries: Midsummer Morning Rain

Take off the cardigan or leave it on? If you don’t live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you may not realize that we don’t get measurable rain for months every summer. So when a freak July rain blew in this morning and I was wearing super-absorbent cotton, I had to decide. Pull over to stow the sweater and be cold on the ride, or wear it and risk sitting for hours in a wet sweater over a wet dress in an air-conditioned office?

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I tucked the cardigan in my pannier and rode off, shivering just a bit as the rain speckles darkened my dress. This being California, though, the rain stopped in five minutes. By the time I pulled up to my office building the breeze had blown my dress dry, and left this Louisiana girl warmly nostalgic for a warm summer rain.

About the Bike Commute Diaries: Launched in May 2012 for National Bike Month, this series explores the unexpected and surprising things I’ve seen and learned while bicycling for transportation.

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2014 in Commute Diaries

 

Fashion Weekend Edition: Long-Lost Cargo Shorts

Dig deep in your closet and you’ll probably find a hidden gem or two, shoved to the back when the seasons changed or when you gained or lost a pound or ten. A long-overdue closet cleaning unearthed a favorite pair of cargo shorts and collared t-shirt. Both fit again due to some long-overdue weight loss.

Portrait 1

These shorts, shoes and shirt are all at least five years old, but they made the cut because they’re classics that still work for me. Other items were not so lucky. Four big bags of clothing and two small bags of shoes took a ride in my trailer to a donation station across town. And I have still more closet culling yet to do.

P.S. Can you tell we’re having a severe drought in California? Brown is the new green when it comes to lawns.

Cargo Trailer

About Fashion Friday: Inspired by a 2011 Bike to Work Day challenge sponsored by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, this series highlights the broad range of “dress for the destination” bicycling fashions.

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2014 in Cycle Fashions

 

Bike Commute Diaries: Getting the Creeps

In almost four years of daily bike commuting I’ve had my share of men try to chat me up on my ride. When you’re a solo female it’s bound to happen, especially when your choice in footwear is eye-catching. But when the “Nice shoes!” is preceded by a sense of being followed strong enough to make you look back; and it’s followed by a “Do you ride here every day?,” a simple compliment takes on a whole new creepy meaning.

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About the Bike Commute Diaries: Launched in May 2012 for National Bike Month, this series explores the unexpected and surprising things I’ve seen and learned while bicycling for transportation.

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2014 in Commute Diaries

 

Fashion Friday: A Fresh Summer Green to Envy

Pink may be pretty, red may be powerful, and blue may be trustworthy, but there’s nothing fresher than the soft greens: mint, lime, chartreuse, seafoam, celadon, jade. My wrap-top print dress with a flowy skirt in jade green never fails to garner compliments from friends, co-workers, people on the street and most importantly, from me. Its standout color and flattering cut put a smile on my face every time I put it on.

Portrait

About Fashion Friday: Inspired by a 2011 Bike to Work Day challenge sponsored by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, this series highlights the broad range of “dress for the destination” bicycling fashions.

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2014 in Cycle Fashions

 

Bicycle Travel: Last Minute Escape to San Francisco

Oh, the lazy days of summer. After a fast-paced spring, I spent most of June cocooned at home, riding only for easy trips, and barely writing at all. When relaxation turned to boredom that was headed for depression, I knew I needed to break out of my dull rhythm with a weekend getaway. In a few clicks of the mouse and a quick chat with my husband, my Friday afternoon hair appointment in Burlingame became the start of a micro-vacation in San Francisco. I was halfway up the Peninsula anyway, why not meet Dick on Caltrain and head for the city?

Dinner was a multi-bike share experience that started in North Beach...

Our agenda included bicycling every day: our traditional bike date on Friday night, a ride across town to the Legion of Honor for a Matisse exhibit on Saturday, and ride in the SF Pride Parade with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. So like usual, we loaded our panniers and brought our touring bikes with us on the train.

But unlike most cities we’ve visited, San Francisco has Bay Area Bike Share bikes available and we’re annual members. We had bike options. Which bike we chose for which trip and why answered a question asked frequently when the system launched: “Why would people who have their own bikes use bike share?”

Bike Share on Embarcadero

Security. We were staying at the W Hotel downtown on the same block where our saddles were stolen last year. Even though we knew we’d be going out for dinner soon, we checked our touring bikes in at the bell desk and checked out bike share for our Bike Date Friday at Palamino Restaurant near the Bay Bridge. In fact, we avoided parking our bikes anywhere downtown all weekend by taking bike share instead of our own bikes.

Convenience. There was a bike share station across the street from the W hotel, and one in front of Palomino. There was one by the market where I picked up snacks and breakfast for us, and one within two blocks of 3 course, 3 restaurant meal we had on Saturday. (I admit I chose restaurants closer to bike share for those) The one time the bike station by our hotel was empty, we walked a couple of blocks to another one.

Speed. Stay with me on this one. The bikes may be upright, heavy, lumbering beasts, but docking and undocking them from the station is far speedier than locking and unlocking our own bikes. Especially in the big city where you have to secure not only the frame, but both wheels and the saddle. For the short trips we made around downtown we definitely came out ahead time-wise, even discounting the time searching for a bike rack.

Bike Share at Night

So why did we even bring our own bikes? Why not just ride bike share?

Location, Location, Location! The bike share is limited to the city’s downtown core on the city’s east edge and we wanted to ride out to the Legion of Honor in the city’s northwest corner.

Long-Distance Travel The ride to the Legion of Honor was close to twenty miles round trip which not only would mean a long time on a slow bike, it would mean frequent dock-surfing or high overage charges. Add to that a few long or steep climbs that wouldn’t have been fun on a 50-pound bike, even with its low low gears.

At the end of the weekend our mileage stats were: 10 miles on bike share in nine trips (aqua routes on map), 25 miles on our touring bikes in four trips (brown routes) and 64 miles in two trips by train (blue route). Zoom the map and click icons for details, or click here for a larger view.

What struck me about the way we used bikes was how it paralleled what many people might do with cars: drive to the city in their own car, park it at the hotel ($55 a day!), take taxi around downtown for drinks and dinner where parking is inconvenient or expensive, and only driving themselves to further out destinations like the Legion of Honor. Our touring bike rides were like a personal car trips, the bike share rides were like taxi rides.

It all worked so well we’re already plotting our next weekend escape. Will we bring our own bikes, or will we just walk, take transit and use bike share? It all depends on what city we’re visiting and our agenda.

If you’ve ridden a bike share bike before: why did you choose to ride them instead of riding your own bike? What worked, what didn’t? Did you wish you were riding your own bike instead?

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Posted by on July 10, 2014 in Issues & Infrastructure, Travel

 

Roll Up Bike Repairs at the Mountain View Library

Libraries are lending more than books, music and DVDs these days. In Oakland and Berkeley, the libraries lend home and garden tools. In Ann Arbor you can borrow artwork and yard games. And in Rhode Island you can check out fishing poles, complete with tackle boxes. Here in Mountain View, our public library is now offering a bike repair station loaded with tools. Not for loan, but available on a roll up basis 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Bike Stand Wide

While many of us have garages or spare rooms equipped with bike stands, floor pumps, and tools of every sort, the streets are filled with bikes that could use a little tender loving care. For them, this bike fix-it station made by Dero is a great resource. It’s well-stocked, sturdily built and ready for budding bike mechanics.

The Mountain View Public Library’s Bike Stop Fix-It Station is just one in its series of bike programs. On Saturday, July 12, 2014, they’re hosting Bike Fest on-site in their outdoor areas. Volunteers from Safe Mountain View will set up a demonstration protected bike lane like this one. If you’re local, stop in and check it out.

Location: 585 Franklin Street, Mountain View, California, USA.

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2014 in Gear Talk

 

Fashion Holiday Edition: Stripes & Stripes Forever

If you’re headed out for a BBQ, picnic or parade on July the 4th, a sundress or shorts will do just fine. But if you’re heading out to watch fireworks in the Bay Area, you’ll need protection from the chill, not the sun. Slap a cardigan over your T-shirt and swap your shorts for jeans and you’ll be oohing and aahing in comfort and style.

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Destination: the San Francisco Symphony concert and fireworks at Shoreline Amphitheater on the bay. Unless you like sitting in traffic for hours, biking the Stevens Creek Trail or walking is the way to go. Bring lights!

About Fashion Friday: Inspired by a 2011 Bike to Work Day challenge sponsored by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, this series highlights the broad range of “dress for the destination” bicycling fashions.

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2014 in Cycle Fashions

 
 
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