Thursday, July 24, 2008

Long time, no blog...

Wow... it's July already, and the middle of it no less... Long time, no blog.

I've been doing a whole lot more riding than writing this summer. Looking back here, I was still nursing a sore attitude from getting lost out the Wine Tour ride. Since then, there's been the annual May "Bike to Work" campaign, with a couple of commuting workshops over at Chainwheel, as well as BACA's annual "Bike to Work Day" event. For me, the BTW Day has always been a little odd, since I always wind up taking annual leave to go ride it, and the ride route runs exactly opposite to the way I go when I do bike to work. I do it anyway, because it's a fun (and important) event to the local cycling community.

Another thing that happened in May was the sudden surge in motor fuel prices that sent regular gas to $4.00 per gallon, and diesel fuel to just a little less than $5 a gallon. Locally, it seemed that $3.65 for gas was the tripping point where people started to drastically change their driving habits. One of those folks was me.

I had started biking in to work a lot more often around Earth Day, when the river flooding subsided for the most part, and especially when our neighbors over at the Arkansas Surgical Hospital finally opened their cafeteria, the "River Trail Grill," for business the third week in May. Up until that point, if I biked in to work, that usually meant I didn't eat lunch that day, since there's no real choices within a couple of miles from here. After the first couple of days' shakedown, the quality and service over there has been consistently high, and it's actually one of the better deals as far as food choice and quality on this side of town.

So, I broke out the 29er mountain bike and started riding in regularly from a commuter lot in downtown NLR. The problem with a full-suspension mountain bike is that since it's primarily a cross-country race bike, there's no real provision to carry stuff back and forth to work with you like you often need to do. I had gotten a green backpack from Bike Nashbar that I used over the winter, and that served to carry a change of clothes, my notebook, and other small stuff, and this worked well.

The last week of May I plunked down the plastic for a regular commuting bike… A Specialized Globe “City 7” commuter or city bike, that came with a rear rack and hub generator-powered lights. A visit to the Community Bicyclist added a rack trunk and handlebar bag to the collection, and we were ready to go….


Here she is, fitted out with a set of Jandd panniers, and a backup set of battery-powered running lights, since my shakedown rides thru Riverfest quickly showed me that when you stop at a traffic light or stop sign and the wheels stop rolling, the lights go out…

So, this has been the backup bike for the past couple of months, and I’ve had a great deal of fun with it. I set the fit up like my 29er, and the Globe’s 700C wheels and wide tires give me as good a ride on that nasty stretch of gravel that connects the River Trail to the Industrial park. It’s geared well, too, so I can roll along considerably faster than I did on the knobby tires.

Results? Over the past two months, commuting from 2 to 4 times a week by bike, I’ve saved about 2/3rds of the gas that I was burning on the usual route, mostly since the bike route keeps me off the freeways and out of most congestion. And it’s a fun way to start the day, pedaling west along the river, and I’ve started to note quite a few regulars who’ve taken the same plunge.

This week, I’m at an environmental engineering conference out and San Francisco, CA, and aside from the initial shock of a 50 degree drop in temperatures between here and Little Rock, it’s wonderful to se how the city here is accommodating both cyclists and pedestrians. There are bike racks on almost every corner, with most of them occupied… SF has 43 hills though, so most folks are running mountain bikes or hybrids, with flat handlebars, derailleurs, and slick tires.

This Saturday is the Bike Commuting Workshop at the Community Bicyclist, sort of a shakedown and rehearsal for a BACA campaign to better promote bike commuting, and using bikes for short trips around the community. It promises to be a lot of hands-on work, as well as a short night ride to familiarize folks with the fun of biking in the dark… Hope to see ya there…