Bike Commuter Journal – the Commuter Bike a Year Later

Tuesday, February 10 by JerryFoster

Commuter Bike After 1 YearMade a few changes to the commuter bike in the year it’s been flogged every day 2 miles to the office and back – for reference, see last year’s post Accessorizing the Commuter Bike. You may notice a little extra reflective tape on the trunk box, for example.

There were two main issues – pain in the shoulder, caused by the straight handlebar, and pain in the neck, caused by dealing with the hydraulic disc brakes (mental pain, not physical).

Swapping the straight handlebar for a mustache bar provided the hand position that prevented shoulder pain (yep, even on a ten minute ride). Tried new grips, which didn’t help, then swapped the grips from my mountain bike to this bike – when that didn’t help it had to be the bar, because those grips are very comfortable on the mountain bike’s straight handlebar.

The next, more obviously self-inflicted issue, was that some idiot overloaded the light duty rack on grocery runs. The rack uses the fender as support, and the rivet-nut holding it to the frame pulled out (not just once, either), so the guys at the shop drilled and through bolted it to the frame – problem solved. (Also, bought a cargo bike so don’t need to overload the commuter bike anymore – an expensive fix, you might say, and my spouse would certainly agree – more in another post.)

The less obviously self-inflicted issue was dealing with the hydraulic disc brakes. One time, some idiot took off the wheel to put on the winter tires and closed the brake lever. You probably know that if you don’t have something for the brake to grab (disc, credit card, cardboard, etc.) it will not open back up, and the wheel will not go back on. Anyway, back to the shop to have the brake lines bled, and not for the 1st time.

The first time back to the shop was after a few months of winter riding and the lever went all the way to the handle without stopping much. Another time was to get the brakes to stop screeching, and to put some silicone around the fender rivets so they stopped rattling. The last straw was when some road gook got into the front brake on a ride to Hopewell, and I fought and listened to the tick from the brake all the way back to West Windsor, because there’s no way to loosen the calipers on hydraulic brakes in the field. I’d had enough – they were simply not idiot-proof enough for this idiot. The new mechanical disc brakes not only have ways to loosen them, they have dials for making adjustments and a fancy way to automatically align the calipers.? It sure sounds good.

On the sound advice from the good folks at the shop, let’s talk about bike maintenance and keeping your bike clean. If (like a certain someone) you just ride it and occasionally lube the chain (sometimes after wiping the main gook off), you will have a much harder time pedaling by the end of the year – maybe because the derailleur pulleys rust into place. Really, it’s a wonder I could pedal at all.? You might think this would encourage better bike cleaning, but instead it has me thinking about belt drives – anyone have experience to share?

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Bike Commuter Journal ? Blinking Winter Bicyclist

Friday, May 9 by JerryFoster

Our guest commuter this week is Mike McCormick – if you?d like to share your commuter experiences, please contact wwbikeped@gmail.com.

Since July, 2007 I’ve commuted just about 25,000 miles by bicycle from my home in Allentown (NJ) into Trenton – about a 25 mile round trip each day. ?I’ve found it to be a great way to begin and end each day, with a few notable exceptions due to bad weather, and/or worse drivers. ?For the most part, I’ve remained unscathed, thanks to some brightly colored clothing and a lot of lights.

During the winter months, it’s been said that I’m a cross between a Christmas tree and a Las Vegas casino, blinking and flashing my way down the street. ? I do draw the line at ice or snow covered pavement, of which there has been plenty this past winter. ?I’ve been reminded of how much I dislike traffic, interstate highways and parking lots that seem to be a mile away from my office door.

There are many instances when my bicycle is the fastest vehicle on the streets of Trenton, and to date, no one has taken my indoor parking spot: ?a sewage pipe in the basement of the Hughes Justice Complex, to which I chain my bike each day. ?After almost seven years, it is hard to imagine how – or why – others insist on driving to work each day!

A version of this post appeared in On the Move, the blog for the Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association.

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Bike Commuter Journal – To the Train Station, All Winter Long

Friday, April 11 by JerryFoster

Melinda bikePlease welcome another guest commuter, Melinda Posipanko, this week ? if you?d like to share your commuter experiences, contact us at wwbikeped@gmail.com.

I seem to have had this conversation with someone almost every day this winter:? Question: “Did you ride in today?”? My answer: “Yeah.? It wasn’t too bad out.” Reply: Either 1)”Wow”, 2)”You’re insane”, 3) “Impressive”, or 4) a sad shake of the head.

Now to be completely transparent, “riding in” for me means a 1.5 mile ride from my house to the Princeton Junction train station.? Not exactly a grueling bike commute.? And I’m nobody’s idea of a “cyclist”; more tortoise than hare and riding an el-cheapo bike I bought at Kmart 5 years ago.

Let me be clear.? I HATE COLD.? So why have I gotten layered-up every morning to bike commute?? It’s not a simple answer.? I’m not crazy (at least not completely), but I really love using my body to move itself from one place to another.? I ride my bike, I take the stairs when practical, and I usually take the easy-to-find far out parking space at the mall.? Moving my body feels good.? And even a short bike ride in the morning can make a huge difference in my overall energy level for the day.

It makes some practical sense, too.? It used to take me just about the same amount of time at the end of the day to walk to my permit parking space as it now takes for me to ride home.? I don’t have to clean off my car when it snows.? Now, I pay $22.50 /quarter to rent a bike locker instead of $120/quarter for a parking space.

But really, I think it’s mostly the sense of accomplishment I have when I make it to the train under my own power no matter what Mother Nature throws at me.? Me against the world…that sort of thing.?? I’m proud of the fact that I’ve driven into the station fewer than 10 times since October – and only then on days when the roads were clearly not safe.

And I’m obviously not alone.? I’ve seen bike riders and empty CitiBike stalls all over NYC even on the coldest days.

So I’ll continue to suit up and head out every day that I can.? And keep looking forward to spring!

A version of this post appeared in On the Move, the blog for the 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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