Bike to Work trips by Gender

According to the Alliance for Bicycling & Walking’s 2010 Benchmarking report, women make up only 23% of nationwide trips to work on bike. Conclusion? We need more boobs on bikes! Rhode Island and Alaska are the only states that achieve 40% or greater. Just thought I’d throw that little tidbit out there.

How not to endo your bike

To “endo” is slang for flipping over your handlebars, very rarely is this intended or fun. I taught a brief safety & handling course at Tesseract School in Phoenix today. It’s a private high school that’s put aside regular classes this week and tasked all teachers with starting a club. A teacher that just moved here from Portland decided to start a bike club and asked local organizations to come in and talk about bike related topics. Karmaracer visited this morning to do hands on bike tuneups, and I visited on behalf of TBAG in the afternoon for a safety/handling course. By the end of the week the kids will have gone on a 40 mile ride and should be well equipped to become safe and skilled bicyclists.

After presenting the League of American Bicyclists “Need To Know” materials in the classroom, we moved out to the parking lot for some handling drills. Things went great overall, but we did have one hiccup while practicing the Quick Stop drill. The Quick Stop maneuver is not an ordinary stop, it involves bracing ones feet against slightly kicked back pedals, shifting your weight (read “ass”) over the rear tire, and making heavier use of the front brake than during a normal stop. All these steps combined allow one to stop a bicycle much faster than a normal stop would permit. One student unfortunately combined too much front brake with not enough rearward weight shift resulting in an endo. Fortunately he was not hurt, but it was a perfect “teachable moment” to get across to the students that, you MUST practice these maneuvers and make them second nature/instinct for them to be successful. If you have to think about what to do to avoid an accident, it’s already too late, you’ve t-boned (or endo’d onto the hood of) the car that just pulled into your path or whatever the situation may be.

Want to learn how to perform a Quick Stop? Attend TS101 on Feb 20th, 2010.

Big Storm!

Witnessed some serious storms here in the past 14 years, but nothing like the one we had yesterday/night. I would’ve liked to have gone for a bike ride today but I spent most of my time dealing with 60+ feet of property line fencing blown over by the wind and big patches of missing shingles on the roof. Lots of phone calls sitting at the table staring at my bike. Talked with neighbors and tenants and landlords along my shared wall. Temporary fence in place and tarps on the roof to prevent further damage from tonight’s rain thanks to a local contractor with whom I hope for a great experience.

Weather next week looks to be awesome and I’m hoping I can get up for a day of snowboarding in the near future. I miss being a snowboard instructor sometimes, this would have been an awesome time to be stranded up at Sunrise Park Resort.

Walking shoes aren’t made for biking…

Since November I’ve been working part time as a Freewheelin’ Bike Guide for Humana Healthcare. They have a bike sharing program with 18 bikes set up at their community center in northeast Mesa. I teach a required 1 hour safety session based on LAB curriculum, hand out and fit free helmets and also lead group rides four days per week. The program is going well, it’s free and open to the public and has been well received. We were accident free until today. I had a lady in my class wearing walking shoes, you know, the kind with the high curved sole on the bottom which force you to roll your feet? (Rollers!) They look like athletic shoes, but athletic they are not! During our group ride after the safety session, she attempted to put her foot down at a 4 way stop and the high sole caused her to roll her ankle and lose balance. She fell over sideways and received a few minor scrapes & cuts on her face. Unfortunate, but once again confirms the LAB curriculum point about proper footwear.

The other thing this has made me rethink is wearing glasses while riding, I may have to give contacts another try, or rather get a 2nd pair of flimsy framed glasses. The lady would have escaped with minor abrasions, but her metal framed glasses were pushed down bridge of her nose leaving a decent size piece of skin dangling. Certainly not pleasant and I can’t imagine what metal framed glasses could do during a high speed accident.

Ride safe, wear flat sole shoes.

The road bike dilemma and Tempe’s Western Canal

Every now and then I get the idea that I might like a road bike. My problem however, is that I love the “ride anywhere” possibilities of a mountain bike. I mainly ride my ’06 Marin Northside Trail which rolls on 2.4″ fatty Maxxis Holy Rollers, but after putting 31.x miles in pulling the pedicab for the PF Chang’s Marathon on Sunday, I was pretty much done with the mtn bike for the day. I have a 1970′s Azuki 10 speed womens cruiser that I had originally purchased for my girlfriend but turned out to be too big for her. It’s in amazing condition and I paid a pittance for it, so I couldn’t bring myself to re-sell it. Talk about a completely different ride, the gearing is awesome, huge double rings up front with friction shifters on the stem. The 27″ 100 psi tires also make a big difference, when I mash the pedals on this bike, it moves. It’s experiences like this that make me think to pick up a road bike, but I have a feeling I wouldn’t ride it very much. Most of the routes I ride usually involve some sort of curb jumping, trailblazing or other activity that wouldn’t be well suited to a road bike. I’ve thought perhaps a well built cyclocross bike which I could still ride on multiple terrains, but I don’t have that sort of money right now.

I put in about 16.8 miles on the Azuki on Sunday night, about half of that on the Western Canal alongside which Tempe has recently added concrete paths. The Western Canal is a great place to ride if you’re looking to get away from cars, and after dark it’s deserted. I only came across two folks walking last night, and one bike ninja*. It’s easily accessible from the west side of Kiwanis Park and after heading south of Guadalupe Road turns eastbound and continues for many miles. I haven’t explored it past Hardy on the west, or past Arizona Ave on the east, but I do know the concrete paths continue in both directions. At Tempe Municipal Golf Course you can also pick up an unnamed canal path that runs southwest and is paved until it exits onto Kyrene Road south of Warner. Additionally there is a paved path that heads west 1/2 mile south of Elliot that turns into Carver Road from which you can access the Tempe Sports Complex. Check it out if you’re looking for a change of scenery.

Watering the dead…

I like roundabout routes that get me seeing things other than stop lights, cars and the all too familiar cookie cutter strip malls in Arizona. I’ll go a few miles out of the way to hit canals or crosstown bike routes to avoid major streets. I also like cutting through parks and other interesting places where possible. Crossing Interstate 10 heading westbound on Broadway Road is a challenge (I-10 at Broadway Road). It’s a pretty high speed crossing and complicated by several things including intersecting with the 143 and a terrain change. It’s one of the few places where I don’t trust drivers to see me. The north side of Broadway has no sidewalk to move onto, and I have to make a left before 48th Street, so I salmon* the south sidewalk for about a 1/4 mile. I then cut through the Tempe Cemetery to access Westcourt Way which runs through the Cotton Center Corporate Park eventually winding my way over to Esteban Park after about 10.5 miles for my weekly Friday ritual, Kickball.

Tempe Cemetery closes to cars around dusk, but the pedestrian gate is always open. As I was biking through last night around 6:30 I found it very odd to witness the landscape sprinkler system spraying water over all the graves and headstones and I immediately thought “they’re watering the dead…”, it felt very Monty Python-ish.

Also, as I was biking through the fairly elaborate yet deserted Cotton Center I imagined that it’s what Las Vegas might look like if it went deserted, obviously nowhere as large or lavish, but it’s a bit strange to see such a well manicured area all lit up but completely deserted with the fountains running.

This reminds me, I need to check in with City of Phoenix or Tempe to find out what the status is of the once discussed pedestrian bridge that would connect Alameda to Roeser over the I-10, would be nice but I have to say I’d miss the cemetery.

*To salmon on a bike is slang for riding the wrong way, aka against traffic. This practice is actually illegal in Tempe (on sidewalks) and it’s one of the most unsafe places to ride, statistically speaking. However I feel it’s the safest option at this intersection. I certainly don’t advocate wrong way sidewalk riding, but I trust my judgment in this specific case.

Bike Education in Tempe

Since I’ve become an LCI back in March 2009, I’ve been attempting to get bike education off the ground in Tempe. It’s been almost a year in the making but I’ve finally scheduled a class. Feb 20th, 2010, 10am-3pm at The Bicycle Cellar. You can find more details here.

You may be asking yourself, I already know how to ride a bike, why do I need to take a bike education class? Good question. Until I became involved in the League of American Bicyclists education program, I too thought I knew pretty much everything I needed to know about riding, I was wrong.

I learned the cyclists’ mantra:

“Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles.” -John Forester

The concept of vehicular cycling is one that I firmly believe in, if you behave as a vehicle on the roadway, most other road users will know what to expect from you as you’re riding, regardless of the vehicle you’re in or on. You’ll also be better prepared to predict, discourage and avoid unsafe behavior by motorists and even other bicyclists.

Some other things you may have never heard of:
Rock (obstacle) Dodge
Quick Stop
Quick Turn
Speed dependent road positioning
Non-sharable lanes
Diverge, merge, separation & union roadways
In what case is it actually better to stop when being chased by a dog?
etc, etc.

I would encourage anyone riding in and around Tempe to consider attending the class, I guarantee you’ll learn something.

32 mile bike commute I’ve yet to attempt

8:30am: Up early on what looks to be a lovely partly cloudy day in Phoenix. Any day that the sun isn’t constantly blaring down in this town makes my day a little better. I’ve never been one to wear sunglasses, and now that my eyesight is a little worse than it used to be the prospect of sunglasses is exponentially more expensive than buying a $10 pair on clearance at any chain clothing retailer. Since November I’ve been working part time for Humana Healthcare (via a 1099 contract through GamePlan Inc) as a bike guide for their recently launched Freewheelin’ Bike Sharing program. Their community center is in Northeast Mesa and unfortunately I live in the SW most point of Mesa.

I planned a bike commute route using Google Maps back in late November and I’m somewhat disappointed in myself that I haven’t taken the time to pre-ride the route and make sure it will work. It’s just under 16 miles each way, significantly longer than the 6.7 mile commute I used to have. Part of my problem is I’m not so much of a morning person. For the most part, it’s been a challenge for me to get up before 9:30am for the past 10 years. I really enjoy sleeping, or rather the act of snoozing in the morning where it’s nice and warm under the down comforter as I don’t use heat in the winter here.

However, given that I’ll have some free time this weekend, and that Wednesdays I don’t work until 12pm, I am going to make a commitment to pre-ride it this weekend and begin bike commuting on Wednesdays.

The problem with using Google Maps in Satellite view to plan a route is that it’s not easy to see what the actual “at grade” (on the ground) view looks like to spot problem areas such as gates or fences. My planned route takes me north on the 101 access road starting from Baseline Road then jumping onto the Tempe Canal just north of Broadway. This canal travels northeast until Alma School Road at which point I have to do a little jog through a neighborhood for 1/4 mile due to the canal path dead ending at the Mesa Country Club. The canal continues directly east from the other end of Mesa Country Club until it intersects with Horne & Brown roads where it turns southeast. 1/2 mile southeast it intersects with 8th Street / Adobe Road which is a very nice road for biking, 25 – 35mph speed limits, wide, and designated as a bike route with bike lanes in some areas. Adobe Street runs east all the way to Red Mountain Park past Power Road, however I turn north onto Alta Vista just before Recker Road. Alta Vista runs directly into the plaza where the Humana Community Center is located. Here’s a photo of the route plotted on (alt). I figure this should take me about 1 hour each way.

On the 802-BIKEGUY moniker…

As I was taking the aforementioned Bike Saviours 8 week maintenance class, I was quite lucky to happen upon an ad on Craigslist for a bike work stand and toolset listed at less than 1/2 of retail price. I jumped at the opportunity to buy it and have been offering basic repair services ever since. I’ve mostly tuned friends bikes, and done some occasional bartering.

I’m fairly hesitant about giving out my cellphone number, especially on Craigslist, so the receipt of a Google Voice invite was timed pretty well with this decision to begin offering repairs and advice. After searching on various bike related terms I hit upon the monkier “bikeguy” and found an available Google Voice number in the Vermont 802 area code. Hence the name of this blog. I’ve been using this Google Voice number for any bike related activities I’m involved with.

While on the topic of Google Voice, I’ve also hooked up TBAG with a vanity number as well, 214-444-TBAG. Google Voice is an incredible service and I hope Google takes its time in deciding whether or not to begin charging for the service.

Bike Saviours Bicycle Maintenance Course

If you’re into bikes and you’re not familiar with Bike Saviours, you should be. They’re a non profit bike co-op in Tempe doing great work for the community. Going on a year now they’ve been holding 8 week bicycle maintenance courses that are free and open to the public. The course is pretty comprehensive and full of valuable bike maintenance knowledge.

Bike Maintenance, when you get down to it, is actually fairly simple in most cases. With a small bike specific toolset and knowledge it’s quite easy to maintain and repair your own bicycle. There are certainly some things better left to a bike shop mechanic, but with a little time and effort you can start doing those $40 tune-ups on your own. Check out Bike Saviours’ website for information or get in touch with me and I can provide more details.