Bike Commuter Journal – Wake Up and Smell the Bakery

Friday, March 28 by JerryFoster

Don Pillsbury bikePlease welcome another guest commuter this week, Don Pillsbury – if you’d like to share your commuter experiences, contact us at wwbikeped@gmail.com

How far is your commute? For me it is almost a trick question. The first half of my commute is 35 miles – snaking through Trenton, Bordentown, Mt. Holly and eventually to my office in Mt Laurel. For the trip home I “cheat” and use the RiverLine train for half the journey. The ride from my office to Riverside Station is 8 miles and then there is another 8 miles home from the Trenton Transit Station. The round trip is 50 miles.

Except for this winter, I typically do this twice a week. I’ve come to cherish each piece of the route for what it is. The early morning ride on car-free roads that I would not normally be brave enough to travel. The smell of the Guatemalan bakery preparing the day’s treats. Watching the sun rise over Burlington County farmland. The trip home is the antithesis. Passing schools and playgrounds bustling with activity. Pausing for 40 minutes to read on the train and enjoy the camaraderie of regulars. And finally, riding through the City of Trenton with all of its urban vitality.

It was Ernest Hemingway that said: “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and can coast down them.” Perhaps my route is too flat to fully appreciate Mr. Hemingway’s point. But then I think his observation misses the nuances of life that can be witnessed and appreciated by riding a bike.

This post also appeared in On the Move, the blog for Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association.

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Bike Commuter Journal – My Moment of Commuter Zen

Friday, March 21 by JerryFoster

whit at workPlease welcome Whit Anderson, our guest commuter this week – if you’d like to share your commuter experiences, contact us at wwbikeped@gmail.com.

I love my commute. Rarely a weekday goes by when I am not appreciative of how lucky I am to have it. I bike commute from Hopewell Borough to Princeton University’s Forrestal campus, four or five times a week, all the year round. For the most part, my route is quite idyllic – lovely bike lanes on most of CR518 (I am working on Mercer County to address the parts lacking), scenic bike path on the Kingston Branch Loop Trail and a quick turn up to Mapleton where I give the bald eagles a nod if they happen to be nesting.  When I get to my lab, a suite of bike lockers and racks are waiting for me, and inside we have showers and changing facilities.  Yep, it is a pretty sweet deal.

Even after describing my commute to people I still get the “you are crazy” comments. Most of the time I laugh and shrug it off – too bad for them, they will never know what they are missing. “Me crazy? They are crazy” – that’s what I would always say to myself.

Then this winter happened. A few times this winter I caught myself agreeing with them – even with the multiple layers of wool and synthetics, the studded winter tires and a large thermos of steaming coffee I found myself thinking, “I am crazy”.  But the thought never lasts long. As soon as I get to my destination the feeling of accomplishment washes away any lingering negativity. That, and the hope that spring is just around the corner. Come on spring.

This post also appeared in On the Move, the blog for Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association.

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Bike Commuter Journal – Accessorizing the Commuter Bike

Friday, March 14 by JerryFoster

Commuter Bike AccessoriesLet’s talk commuter accessories – those extra bits that let you enjoy your work life on the bike. At only two miles, it’s easy for me to bike in work clothes without overheating, especially in winter. Pictured hanging from the handlebar is helmet, safety glasses with rearview mirror, plus a reflective velcro leg band.

A handlebar bag is held with a quick release system, and is large enough for planner and personal effects, along with a small first aid kit and snacks – it has a shoulder strap and functions as a briefcase. We won’t talk about all the extra “stuff” that ends up rattling around in there. The same quick release system is on all my bikes, with several compatible bags and backpacks that can be attached.

Permanently attached to the back rack is a lockable plastic trunk box – both the handlebar bag and trunk box are dry in a rainstorm, and the box is large enough to hold dress shoes and the helmet. Inside the trunk box is a saddle bag (off my road bike), with spare tube, foldable tire and multi-tool, which lives in the box along with a tire pump and bike lock. The pump can move to the handlebar bag if it’s rattling around too much in back.

The platform pedals don’t require special bike shoes, and this very cold and snowy winter I’ve enjoyed nice warm dry feet, thanks to rubber-covered neoprene shoes. If it’s dry and not too cold the dress shoes are OK to bike in.

Layers are key to commuting comfort – single digit temperatures or wet conditions bring out the rain pants, while a weather-proof shell parka and fleece mid-layer keeps the cold at bay. You can fine tune your comfort by having a variety of knit caps of different thicknesses (for under the helmet), as well as a waterproof helmet cover for rain. For your hands, the running companies make fleece liners and stretchy shell fabric mittens, which can then be used inside a larger waterproof mitten shell for very cold conditions. Bright colors and reflective trim add visibility on the road, a plus for outer layers.

This post also appeared in On the Move, the blog for Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association.

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Bike Commuter Journal – The Commuter Bike

Friday, March 7 by JerryFoster

bike-at-work-3This post marks the debut of a new series for our blog, based on bicycle commuting. As a longtime cyclist but a newbie bike commuter, I’ll look at the issues faced by those who want to explore bike commuting as a fun, healthy and sustainable lifestyle choice.

Let’s assume for the moment that you know why you want to bike commute, but want to know what bike is right for commuting? The great news is that any bike will do, especially for short distances over relatively flat terrain.

Some vital components necessary for commuting safety and comfort may be missing though on typical recreational bikes; such as a kickstand, fenders, bell and lights. Fortunately, reasonably priced after-market choices are readily available from your local bike shop or online.

Since I’ve enjoyed my various bikes for many years, however, I bought a new, full-featured commuter bike (pictured). The bike features a relatively light and stiff aluminum frame, fixed fenders, a light capacity rear rack, disc brakes and gearing for hills, and includes a sturdy kickstand and a bell. Most of all, I wanted the electricity-generating front hub that powers permanently mounted front and rear LED lights.

The lights are key to enhancing visibility on the road, since most motorists don’t expect cyclists, and as a commuter I don’t have the advantage of riding in a group, as on a club ride. The front light is powerful enough to see the road at night, and I won’t need to worry about battery life.

And don’t underestimate the utility of fenders…just one ride in the rain or snow and you will understand their benefit!

In the next post I’ll address some additions to the bike, but in the meantime please feel free to comment!

This post also appeared in On the Move, the blog for Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association.

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