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Bike Commute Diaries: Soggy Gloves No More

My bike clothing for rain falls into two categories: ones that repel water and ones that stay warm even when soaked. My heavy-duty raincoat and knee-high boots do a stellar job keeping things dry underneath. But I couldn’t find any comfortable water-repelling gloves, so I settled for fleece-lined gloves with a synthetic shell.

How do I avoid putting on clammy, damp gloves at the end of the day? Newspaper. Good old newspaper.

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If I cram wadded up balls of newspaper tightly into my gloves, shoes or anything else I want to dry out, within an hour the moisture is wicked away. Then my hands will be dry and warm for the ride home, at least until the rain comes down again. So when the rain starts coming down, I head for the newspaper rack.

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 December 10, 2014 in Commute Diaries

 

A Pedal-Powered Christmas Tree Delivery

Sigh. Why can’t the people who make money on car loans resist putting down bikes? A few years ago, General Motors got an earful for their college discount campaign featuring a guy so embarrassed to be seen on his bike he shields his face from a pretty girl. The slogan was “Reality Sucks. Stop pedaling…start driving.” But before long, the reality of angry public sentiment sucked for GM and they quickly backpedaled to apologize and removed the ad. Now, easyfinancial is promoting car loans with a sad guy dragging a Christmas tree by bike.

easyfinancial Services banner

After I rolled my eyes, I had to chuckle. My husband is nothing like the guy in the ad. On Saturday, when we were getting ready to hop on our bikes to buy our Christmas tree I asked if I could pull the tree this year. After all, he had done it the last two years. It was my turn. “No.” he said, “It’s my thing.” Greedy, isn’t he?

Dick Pulling Tree

I’ll admit that the first year I bike commuted, we didn’t see how we could carry a tree with our bikes so we drove. It didn’t help that the tree lot was on busy El Camino, which isn’t a comfortable place to ride. We only drove two miles to buy the tree, and probably spent more time lashing it on top of the car than we did driving.

By the next year we were better prepared. We had bought a bike trailer and had found a tree lot run by the Sea Scouts that’s further away in Palo Alto, but accessible by quieter streets. Now buying a tree is as simple as pulling up to the front of the lot, picking a tree, paying for it, and having a scout drop it in our trailer and tie it down. Super quick and easy, with no fear that the tree will fly off your car at 35 miles an hour.

I love seeing the surprise on the scout’s face when you say you have a bike, not a car, and the reactions you get on the ride home are just as predictable. From the “Wow!” from a bunch of kids walking to the library, to “Happy Christmas” from a mom pushing a stroller, to a simple smile and nod from an older gent, everyone looks happy to see you roll by. We only get to do it once a year, so no wonder my husband doesn’t want to share.

Have you tried bringing a Christmas tree home by bike? Did you take a photo of your bike in action? If so, share it with the world by emailing it to Chris at Modacity to add to his Pedal Powered Christmas collection.

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Posted by on December 8, 2014 in Around Town

 

Fashion Weekend Edition: Between the Rain Showers

A weekly forecast with a chance of rain every day doesn’t have to mean dressing in head-to-toe rain gear or putting away the bike until the sun comes back out. Between the showers is the perfect time to get a quick ride in, for errands or for fun, as long as you prepare for puddles and occasional sprinkles. A short trench coat covers the sprinkles, and tall boots and cropped pants protect from the puddles of dirty water. The sunny attitude about risking getting a little damp is completely up to you.

Between Rainstorms Portrait

My bright yellow panniers, purse and helmet remind me of the yellow rain slickers popular when I was a kid.

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 November 30, 2014 in Cycle Fashions

 

Bike Commute Diaries: How to Show You Care

It’s the little things you do that show you care about someone. Like cooking a favorite meal when your sweetie has had a rough day or texting a photo to your sister to make her smile. Or a city installing a wide ramp and wayfinding signs for a path that’s been around at least 30 years. Thank you, City of Mountain View, for showing you care about people who ride bikes (and use wheelchairs and push strollers). It made my morning.

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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 November 10, 2014 in Commute Diaries

 

A New California by Bike Adventure Begins

Sometimes, when I’m boarding Caltrain on my way to work day, I see the Amtrak train on the other side of the platform and I’m tempted to hop aboard. How far could I go? Where would it take me? Other times, especially on a Sunday afternoon, when I’m deep in the backroads on my road bike I wonder: if I didn’t turn back to go home, where could I be by sunset? Santa Cruz? San Francisco? Where could I go from there?

Yesterday I started an adventure that’s a marriage of these two escape fantasies. I hopped on Caltrain this morning as I would on any Friday morning, but today I brought my touring bike and gear for a week and today my husband joined me. In San Jose we boxed our bikes and boarded the Amtrak Coast Starlight for a slow roll to Santa Barbara where we will start a five day bike journey to San Diego.

Touring bikes at Caltrain

We aren’t doing it alone, though. We’re joining a group of people equally passionate about bicycling on the Surf ‘n Turf bike tour hosted by the California Bike Coalition. We will be not be roughing it: a van will carry all our luggage and we’ll be staying in hotels, not sleeping on the ground. We’ll even dine on the Queen Mary with local bike advocates in Long Beach. If you’re nearby, join us!

For all the fun we’ll be having, the Surf ‘n Turf also a fundraiser for the California Bike Coalition, fondly called CalBike. For those not familiar: CalBike complements and supports the work of the local bicycle coalitions that are its member organization like mine, the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition. CalBike focuses on state-wide initiatives, like working with state legistration to get key pro-bicycling bills passed like the 3 foot law, which finally passed last year on its third try, and after two vetoes from governor Jerry Brown.

This year’s wins includes allowing bike racks on buses that hold three bikes instead of two, and legislation that makes it much easier for cities to install protected bike lanes. Also known as cycle tracks, protected bike lanes have curbs, planters or flexible posts separating the bikes from car traffic. That means that the pop-up cycle tracks my friends created for an open street event in Mountain View are one step closer to becoming a reality.

Pop-up Protected Lane 2

Last November I spoke at the coalition’s California by Bike Summit in Oakland. I spoke about how I came to write this blog and the impact its had on me and my readers, which fit well into its theme of “Mainstreaming the Bike In California.” I got a clearer idea of the breadth of CalBike’s mission and partnerships in government, in industry and in the non-profit world. Friends were made, relationships were forged. And now, I’m can let you in on a secret: I’ve been asked to join the California Bike Coalition’s Board of Directors and I have accepted.

CalBike Summit Program

In addition to working toward its legislative and other initiatives, I’m also keenly interested in promoting bicycling at the state level through bike tourism. We have a beautiful state, with scenic rural routes that run along our rocky coast, through bucolic vineyards, orchards or towering redwoods, across panoramic deserts and deep into challenging mountainous terrain. Whatever you want in a scenic ride, you’ll find it here.

I also see new opportunities in urban bike tourism opened up by the great strides our cities have made to make bicycling more comfortable for a broader range of people. I know how much fun Dick and I have had on our bike getaways to San Francisco, Sacramento, Berkeley, Tiburon and Long Beach. Cities look completely different from the seat of a bike. Bikes are the perfect speed: you cover more ground than walking and the sights don’t fly by like they do in a car. I’m sure we’re not the only ones who’d appreciate this more active style of travel.

To take on these initiatives and meet this goals, CalBike needs support. As I mentioned, Surf ‘n Turf is a fundraiser. Dick and I will pay the full cost of our participation; we are not asking you to help defray the cost our trip. We have, however, set up a fundraising page for people who want to donate to show their support for the California Bicycle Coalition and its programs, and to congratulate me as its newest board member.

What’s your idea of the perfect bicycle-oriented vacation? Have you taken it yet? If not, why not?

Strawberry

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2014 in Travel

 

A Closer Look: Faraday Porteur Electric Bike

For someone who lives over 10 miles from my office, I’m pretty lucky to have alternatives as a bike commuter. If I want a workout, I can take an hour or so to ride the whole way and shower on arrival, or I can combine a train ride with a five mile bike ride that lets me wear my work clothes. If bike-friendly transit weren’t available, I’ve always assumed I’d have to give up daily bike commuting, saving it for when I had time and energy to spare.

But now I know what I’d do. I’d get an e-bike, like Jenny did for her hilly commute. But instead of her sporty Specialized Turbo, I think I’d go for the pedal-assist Faraday Porteur I test rode at the Los Altos History Museum. Pedal-assist bikes look and feel like regular bikes, except for an extra boost of power that feels like you have a great tailwind or powerful stoker behind you. I could use that to fight the stiff headwinds on the bay.

Faraday e-Bike

And with the Faraday Porteur, you get clean classy lines like none other. No oversized tubing or clunky batteries attached here, and it has a traditional city bike look that’s just my style.

For all the advantages of e-bikes for longer, hillier commutes or for carrying heavy loads of kids or cargo, in many places e-bikes fall through the legal cracks. They’re not as bulky or powerfully speedy as scooters or even mopeds, but they aren’t strictly legal to ride on most paved bike trails that specify “non-motorized vehicles only.” But with a stealth-looking e-bike like the Faraday, no one may be the wiser.

What do you think of e-bikes? The League of American Bicyclists is studying the issues and would like to know. If you have five minutes to spare, please take this short survey today.

 
15 Comments

Posted by on October 30, 2014 in Bike Gallery, Gear Talk

 

Extreme Bike Shopping: John & Jenny at Costco

Grocery shopping by bike can be as simple as a college student slipping mac ‘n cheese and instant ramen into a backpack or a retired couple picking up bike baskets full of fruits and veggies at the farmers market. Then there are the heavy-duty bike shoppers, filling grocery carts and big panniers to feed a whole family. You can find them at any grocery store, but to catch the superstars in action, head to big box stores like Costco.

Meet Jenny and John. She’s a C-level executive at a global tech company. He’s CEO of a commercial real estate company. Together they have four hungry children, from school-aged to teenagers. All six work up an appetite riding bikes to school or work every day, so weekly grocery shopping is not a lightweight job. But for John and Jenny all it takes is a trailer and overstuffed panniers to bring their SUV-sized load five miles home.

John & Jenny Portrait 2

Truth in reporting here: In June, John rode 3020 miles in 11 days, 21 hours in Race Across America (RAAM) so he’s not your average hardcore rider. He’s an animal. And Jenny? She’s riding the electric-assist Specialized Turbo that she rides every day up the hill to Stanford Research Park so she doesn’t sweat in her work clothes.

But don’t take my word for it when I say you don’t need to be superhuman to be an extreme bike shopper. Check out the bikes in the slideshow, and keep an eye on the bike rack at your local warehouse store.

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Posted by on October 28, 2014 in Around Town

 
 
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