Thursday, May 31, 2007

Baby Steps: the birth of a cycling non-profit

Alert readers of this blog may have noticed a new link that quietly found it's way onto this page about a month ago. For the last few months Liza, my buddies Ben and Jon, and I have started to realize a dream I've had for a couple years. We're starting up a non-profit cycling thing in Spokane called "Pedals 2 People." The idea is to end up with a community cycling center. In the last month or so, we've added a couple more friends, Beth and Katleen. This is what we're calling our "steering committee."

We are in early days. We've got a heady mission statement that you can read on our site, but really, we're finding our way.

Our goal this summer is to do as many different events as we can to see what we're good at, what folks need, and what we actually want to do. At the end of the summer, we'll get serious about honing our mission and hopefully pursuing federal tax-exempt status.

It's clear Spokane is ready for such an organization. In the short time we've been an entity, we've had a lot of interest -- all by word of mouth.
The month of June begins our coming out. Here's what's planned:

  • June 17th: Free Kid's Bike Repair at West Central Community Center (11am-1pm). We need help on this. Contact me if you are available and know how to do any of the following: pump up a tire; change a tire; adjust brakes/derailleurs; hang out and help.

  • Mid-Late June (tentative): Official "wrenches" for the KHQ annual bike drive and give away.
  • Ongoing: Thursday night slow summer rides on the Centennial Trail. (That's tonight). 6:30PM at the Carousel.

  • We're also collecting bike donations.

Our site is slowly coming together and soon we'll be blogging regularly. If you want to help/volunteer/do anything, we'd like to meet you.

Part of this whole deal, perhaps the most important part, is building community around all types of cycling. Join us.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Cleverchimp -- Good Stuff.

This is one of many super cool bikes on the Cleverchimp Flikr site from a trip to Holland. I am such a sucker for curvy cantilevered frames.

As I click through these wonderful load-hauling bikes I am inspired to think there is a society in the world today that spends so much money and thought on designing and manufacturing bikes that are optimized for load hauling and people carrying.

Aside from the obvious load-carrying capacity, there are lots of reasons these bikes rule. These bikes really can replace a car. They have integrated lights, fenders, simple lock. Many have covered passenger areas where kids can sit, strapped into the front where the view is the best.

Aside from well-baked-into-the-culture bike infrastructure of Holland, the flatness makes riding these big ass bikes accessible to most who live there.

However, even with a low-geared internal 8 speed hub or a super-fly Rohloff, pushing such a bike loaded with a couple kids and groceries up the south hill of Spokane would be a chore.
The folks at Cleverchimp, have developed a rechargeable pedal-assist motor specifically for load-hauling bikes. It's called the Stokemonkey and could be the answer to getting rid of at least one of your cars. In addition, Cleverchimp has started importing these wonderful load haulers, called bakfiets.

There's no doubt that these will be expensive packages. They are well-designed products from a country where likely all of the folks involved in the production of the bike are making a living wage and full benefits provided in large part by the payroll taxes they generate. So, you're paying much closer to the true cost, which is rare in the bike world. My guess, with a Stokemonkey and a decked-out Holland load-carrying beauty, you'll be in the $4-5k range.

But that's money well-spent in my book.

Here's a great photo and ride if you're in Seattle tomorrow and happen to have your cargo bike.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Follow the Rules

That is a picture of 4 cars: a cop car, a subaru, a white car, and a white minivan.

In the cop car, the cop is writing a ticket for the guy driving the subaru. The guy driving the subaru slammed into the woman in the white car. The woman in the white car decided -- like so many Spokanites do on a daily basis -- to make up her own rules for the road. Unfortunately for the subaru driver, the law that says: "don't follow too close" pretty much trumps all others. So even though the white car lady was making up her own rules and in my mind is the real perp here, the subaru guy gets the ticket.
The white minivan doesn't have a role in the story.

The white-car-lady's crime? Stopping in the middle of an arterial for a cyclist, who does not have (or want) the right of way to cross the arterial. Anyone who rides a bike for transportation knows this scenario and it drives them crazy. I've written about it here before. It happens to me daily. If I'm with Maddie on the tandem, I can guarantee it will happen.

Traffic rules in America are actually pretty simple and are certainly well-understood by most. When people make ad hoc, spontaneous changes to those rules, bad things happen.

On a brighter note. Can the Fuji Turd get any better?
Now that's a basket.
I rode the Turd up Monroe street last night from down town. I didn't know I could go that slow and still stay up. What a slog. Now I'm holding out for a 3-speed fixed hub for this sucker. That's a long shot unless the rumors about Sunrace doing another production run of the ultra-rare Sturmey-Archer ACS 3-spd fixed model are true.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Drunkards on Bikes

Not that I condone such behavior, but I've tried to convince friends, bartenders, family and others that riding a bike drunk in Washington does not carry a penalty and that the police can offer you a ride, but you can refuse it.

People typically don't believe me.

Someone did the work on another bike list and found the RCW:

RCW 46.61.790
Intoxicated bicyclists.
(1) A law enforcement officer may offer to transport a bicycle rider who appears to be under the influence of alcohol or any drug and who is walking or moving along or within the right of way of a public roadway, unless the bicycle rider is to be taken into protective custody under RCW
70.96A.120. The law enforcement officer offering to transport an intoxicated bicycle rider under this section shall:
(a) Transport the intoxicated bicycle rider to a safe place; or
(b) Release the intoxicated bicycle rider to a competent person.
(2) The law enforcement officer shall not provide the assistance offered if the bicycle rider refuses to accept it. No suit or action may be commenced or prosecuted against the law enforcement officer, law enforcement agency, the state of Washington, or any political subdivision of the state for any act resulting from the refusal of the bicycle rider to accept this assistance.
(3) The law enforcement officer may impound the bicycle operated by an intoxicated bicycle rider if the officer determines that impoundment is necessary to reduce a threat to public safety, and there are no reasonable alternatives to impoundment. The bicyclist will be given a written notice of when and where the impounded bicycle may be reclaimed. The bicycle may be reclaimed by the bicycle rider when the bicycle rider no longer appears to be intoxicated, or by an individual who can establish ownership of the bicycle. The bicycle must be returned without payment of a fee. If the bicycle is not reclaimed within thirty days, it will be subject to sale or disposal consistent with agency procedures.

So there's that. I guess the logic is that you're not such a treat to public safety. You may kill yourself, but a guy on a bike is not likely going to kill a bunch of people by plowing through a crowded market or something.

I'm no lawyer, but once again, if you're looking for yet another reason to travel by bike on Friday night, perhaps this is it.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

395 Again

First things first. My buddy that got hit is OK. He was very lucky. His story is here.
I rode to Colville on Friday. I went on 395. I've done this ride many times now. After the first time, I said I'd never ride it again. It's loud. It's dirty. It's busy. It's generally not a nice ride. But one set of Maddie's grandparents live up on the Kettle River, so I find my self riding 395 a few times a year. I've gone on about this on my website before.

Anyway. The ride up to Colville on Friday was wonderful. There wasn't nearly as much traffic as usual.

If you look at the pictures here, there are two things to notice.
One is obvious: both are down hill shots. In fact, the majority of the ride to Colville is down hill. There a few little rollers, but generally, it's down hill. So if you're looking to do a nice day ride and feel really good about yourself and your time, check out the Spokane to Colville run on 395.

The second bit is not as obvious unless you ride this route a bit. The shoulders are spotless. You could eat off them. They were just cleaned.
So that made a big difference. They are usually filled with gobs of crap and crud.
Maybe I'll ride it again next time we visit up there. 395 is also a good arterial to a lot of great potential S24O areas. I'm going to stop saying that I'll never ride it again.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Freaky Stuff

I came in from play this evening with an IM flashing on my screen from a good friend of mine in Seattle:

"just got hit by a car"

That's it.

He's not answering his cell phone. But he's not a big cell phone answerer. I'm sure he's fine, but I wish I knew for sure.

My neighbor apparently busted his nose on a bicycle fall tonight too. He was noodling around the trails down on the bluff. Sounds like he went over his bars, was knocked cold for a bit and woke up with a busted nose. Egad.

Some 7 year old kid in Spokane is in "serious but stable condition" today after he got hit by an SUV yesterday as he rode his bike. All we know is that "he rode his bike between two parked cars and an SUV hit him." Yeah. kids will do that. Kinda hard to see those little dudes when your way up there in your 2-ton SUV, but whatever. Damn kids.

What's going on here?

Here's some mundane, non-freaky stuff:

The stop lights downtown are totally screwed from the freeway work. The usually wonderful glide into downtown via Bernard/Grove/Washington is totally broken up and lame now. The lights on 3rd, 2nd, and Sprague are optimized for east/west traffic. Bring a book if you are going to attempt to cross those arterials. The lights take a long long time to change.

If you were able to make it through this epic post, then it may interest you to know that that chunky sound I heard in Ryan's hub was his broken axle. Liza discovered that one. We started to salvage and build up another rear wheel out of an old 6 speed wheel from an ancient mountain bike. We were in the process of waiting for some bolts when I spied an old 24"-wheeled Specialized Rockhopper at a garage sale. I got it for $12. Problem solved. I feel sort of vindicated.

There was an article in the Spokesman Review (no link -- they make you sign up) about the BAB Commuter Route Project. I picked up three more commuters today. I'll follow them in the next couple weeks.

I hope my buddy is ok.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Front Rack

Home jobber front rack. Looks to be made partly from a lawn chair. I think those are mountain bars. It was pretty sturdy looking in person. It's better to push a load than pull it they say.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

1st S24O o' '07

I took my fist S24O of the year last night. It was a resounding success in so many ways. Not much time to go on and on, so here's a list of the essentials:
  • Hennessy Hammocks rule. My buddy Alex let me borrow his and I'm pretty much sold. There's some fuss factor in setting it up, but I think it's the kind of thing that becomes easier the more you do it. Why do they rule? A) Comfort comfort. Man alive. I slept the whole night, which never happens when I camp. That alone is the seller for me. B) Do not require flat, smooth spot, just a couple of trees. Trees are a dime a dozen around here, so are rocky, hard basalt surfaces. This makes stealth camping much easier. You don't need a "spot." You need a couple trees. C) Small and light. Fits in the bottom of my small pannier easily.

  • RB-T was actually sold as a touring bike? Oh my god. I put a tiny load on the back of this thing and the front-end wobbled all over the road. No way for no hands on this. And don't think it's good for front loads. It's got the "dead zone" trail of about 55mm. I've tried it. As a tough go-fast, get around town, hit the occasional trial and maybe carry a small saddlebag bike: I've not ridden a better bike --but for even lightly loaded touring. Forget it.

  • Once again, I have to say, Spokane is a flipping righteous place to ride. I rode through farm land, cool rock formations, many miles of dirt road through the reservation, up and down the zillion hills along the river, saw 3 dams, lots of deer... camped all alone in a perfect perfect amazing wonderful spot on the river. I love it.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Trail Riding at Riverside State Park

Well. There they are. Joe's super fancy nice Karate Monkey and my mountain-afied Rivendell Atlantis. We met up this morning and rode out to Riverside State Park to do the initial shakedown ride on our newly built-up bikes. A few thoughts on some of the stuff that plodded its way through my brain on the ride:
  • RSP is a wonderful place. We met downtown at 6AM and were on the trails by 6:40 or so-- we would've been earlier if we didn't noodle around on some trails around People's Park. The point: we're lucky to have such an amazing network of trials so close to town.
  • Riding rocky single track is a whole different ballgame with 2.1" knobbies when compared to 35mm semi-slicks. It's just more fun.
  • Riding 2.1" knobbies on smooth fire trail and pavement (the combination of both likely made up about 85% of our mileage this morning) is tiring and hard to get used to. Now I understand why so many folks drive their bikes to the trials. It's still cheesy. But I understand the temptation now.
  • A quick ride on the Karate Monkey confirmed something that I wasn't ready to concede: 29ers do appear to roll better for these conditions. In general Joe's bike is just bigger and feels right for the kind of riding we were doing. I'll need to spend more time on the KM before I am completely sold on the 29er idea. There are many differences between the bikes we rode this morning to attribute just to tire size. Plus, I know it's silly on the face of it, but really, 650b (584mm) does make a bunch of sense to me as a good mountain bike size. The Rivendell folks are building a 650b mountain bike. And Pancenti was showing a 650b mountain bike at NAHBS.
  • Mountain/Trail riding is all about the bursts of energy. I forgot about how in tune you need to be around shifting. You really need to anticipate your shifting if you want to stay on the bike over a series of steep descents and climbs. Aerobically, I was quickly peaking, then resting, then pushing. It will be fun to figure out the aerobic plan around trail riding.
  • Trail 25 at RSP is a great route. It's a giant circle that feeds a bunch of smaller trails. There is a newbie section there that Joe and I found. If you've gone to RSP and have ridden 25 all the way and without a person in the know, then you know what I'm talking about. A bit of sand. We'll leave it at that for the next set of rookies.
  • A guy could spend many many hours learning the trail system at RSP. This is an exciting prospect for me as I have tired of many of the local road routes I do.
  • Trail 204 -- going downhill is about the most fun I've had in a long while. Just a long straight descent with no obstacles.

If you are interested in joining us, Joe and I will be meeting Monday mornings throughout the summer to explore RSP. We'll meet at 5:30 AM on Monday mornings -- at Rocket Market in Carnegie Square. The idea will be to be back down town by 8:30.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Bloomsday Weekend

I went down to the new convention center this morning and set up the Bicycle Advisory Board table for the Bloomsday convention. Dang me and my habit of forgetting my camera. I hauled our stuff down on the Xtracycle and was able to ride it right onto the convention floor. After setting up and handing the table off to another BAB'er, I set off to pick up Maddie from school.

The traffic downtown was insane. Crazy insane. I think Bloomsday is now up to about 50,000 runners. All runners must go to the convention center on Friday or Saturday to pick up their race packets. The majority of the people, of course, drive their cars to pick up their packets. Parking is basically non-existent, unless you want to pay a $5 event fee to run in and pick up your packet. Therefore, most folks drive down with a partner and drop the partner off. The driver then (theoretically) circles the block and then comes back and picks up the partner. Well, it looks like approximately 2 or 3 thousand people decided to try this when the convention opened. Traffic was pretty much solid on all down town streets. Division was stacked all the way up to 5th Ave!

On the day of the actual race, the Spokane Bike Club will watch your bike in a secured location; the buses run special routes to get folks from outlying areas into the core; and the entire downtown area is blocked off. It's wonderful.

How about we do that for 3 days next year? Make the entire weekend a no-car event.
This would give folks a temporary alternative vision of what our city core could look like: walkable and human-scale -- a place you want to be. A place that encourages people to walk and cycle and enjoy.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

OTM May: A Look at a 2 Year Old Department Store Bike

There’s a neighbor kid named Ryan who rides around on a beat up department store bike. Ryan came over the other day looking for some help to fix a couple issues with his bike. His visit was timely. My Out There Monthly column this month discusses why you should buy your bike at a local bike shop (LBS). In the article, I try to make the case against buying a department store bike. Of course, I'm too long-winded to provide a proper and full argument in the column, so Ryan's visit provides a perfect excuse to spill a gob of virtual ink on the subject here.

First off, in most cases, you can spend the same amount of money or less on a used bike that is many times better than a department store bike that will perform much better, but folks just don’t know this. If you do the math and look at the cost of most used bikes (even when you spend some money to fix it up) and compare that to the cost of buying and maintaining a cheap department store bike, most good used bikes provide a much better value over the long run.

Second, there’s the whole buy locally thing – the money staying in the local economy thing. That’s an easy one that most folks agree with.

Third, even if you don’t visit bike shops often, they provide a necessary component to both the small business and bicycle culture ecosystems. Personally, I detest the mall experience. Any store that is fronted by a football-field-sized parking lot is not likely to get my business.

Small businesses that sit on a street in a neighborhood or in part of a business district appeal to me. They make cities and neighborhoods interesting and diverse. They encourage walking. Bike shops are one of the last standing small businesses that typically go into store fronts. Support them. Most cyclists are pretty cool folks – especially the ones that ride to work daily. Or to the store or to school. You may bump into one of these folks at a bike shop. There is a small and fledgling bike culture in Spokane. Be a part of it. It starts by riding when you would normally drive and it’s enhanced by going to the LBS and giving them your business.

Ryan's department store bike will be 2 years old at the end of this summer. Obviously, the bike has not been maintained. But I don't know of many 12 year olds that maintain their bike beyond dealing with the inevitable flat tire. Any bike built or bought for a 12 year old should be expected to perform pretty well for 2 years with minimal maintenance. Ryan is not heavy. He's into "jumps," but certainly not the extreme type; he's more of a curb jumper than a roof or cliff jumper.

Some kids stow their bikes away in the shed and get them out for a run up and down the block occasionally. When they’re done, they put the bike away and go on to the next toy. That’s the extent of the abuse a department store bike is built to withstand.

Ryan, on the other hand, is a lot like I was when I was a kid; he’s always on this bike and uses it to get around the neighborhood, hitting the driveway jumps along the way.
Here's a list of what's wrong with his bike:

  • The right grip-shifter is smashed and inoperable

  • The rear derailleur pulleys are broken and worn to nubs. Both pulleys are missing more than half the teeth. Therefore the chain jumps around on the rear cog when he pedals, further destroying the chain, pulleys, and rear cog. This also puts a ton of friction on the drive line, which doesn’t exactly inspire longer rides.

  • The front derailleur is nearly frozen. Shifting from the smallest chain ring to the middle chain ring is just barely possible, though according to Ryan, he stopped shifting all together a short while ago when shifting became too much of a hassle.

  • Both wheels are out of true so badly that the brakes cannot be adjusted to stop properly without rubbing drastically on the rims. Therefore, the brakes are barely functional, and certainly not safe for a quick stop.

  • There is too much play in the rear hub. Are those bearings I hear in there? Something is crunching and clumping as I turn the rear wheel on the stand.

  • There is too much play in the bottom bracket.

Liza spent an hour or so with Ryan triaging and fixing the worse bits on this bike. She trued out his wheels enough to take some of the slop out of his brakes, but it was still pretty mushy. At least the brakes will now stop the bike quickly if he needs to.

Once we realized how busted up the shifting was and the cost to replace and repair the broken bits, it just makes sense to remove all gearing. I suggested just removing the derailluers and running the middle chain ring and a lower gear. Ryan said he would think about it.

As I look at this bike and I think about all of the department store bikes out in the world today, I think a great program would be to find a big glob of money to fix them so they are ridable. Basically: if you get rid of all the brakes and gearing bits, you have a ridable bike.

Find a cheap source for 26" coaster brake rear wheels. Most of these bikes have horizontal or semi-horizontal dropouts. When the Ryan-bikes of the world hit that 2 year mark and become nearly unridable, rip off the gears and the brakes and replace the rear wheel with a coaster brake version. If you found an extra glob of money, make it a 3 or 5 speed hub with a coaster brake.