Monday, February 22, 2016

162. Ciao Folding Bike

For a few months, my folding bike chain had been slipping (sign of an aging, stretched chain), easy but annoying to fix. One day I turned the bike upside down to fix the chain and the pin from the central hinge dropped out. Yeah, just dropped out. You know, the hinge in the frame that folds the bike.  There is another hinge that folds the steering column, but the frame hinge is the key to the folding process.

So what did I do?  I turned the bike over, replaced the pin, held in place only by gravity, and kept on riding.  Not one of my finer moments.

Sure enough, the pin fell out again, fortunately not down a hill or rounding a corner but while I was finding refuge on a side walk, the pot-holed street too rough for a ride.

Took the bike in to REI who pronounced it unfixable.  I looked at the new model folding bike and noticed that it had a different, presumably more stable/durable hinge. After some back and forth discussion I was offered a refund which I accepted, notwithstanding the moral, dilemma rooted in my failure to disclose that I had continued to ride the bike after the hinge problem presented itself.

Now I've seen REI take back 2 year old hiking boots with 2 year wear because "they're uncomfortable," so clearly REI has a liberal return policy.  And I've bought things at their garage sale (which has a strict no return policy) that should have been thrown away, not resold, and then there was a sale item from their website that I never got around to taking back, even though it was defective from the start.

So they owe me right?  Yes, but still...  

In the meantime, I'll stay with my Costco mountain bike converted to commuting bike with duct tape holding the seat together and replacement derailleurs that weren't quite the right replacement and risk being bumped--I only commute 1 or two days a week, so the risk is low.


Friday, November 27, 2015

161. Back in Business

Biking may be slower than a car in all but the most congested cities, but that gives us time to appreciate the world around. 

Like the moon setting over the Space Needle at dawn.  


Or Lake Union at dusk.












Sunday, April 27, 2014

160. Ciao

Time for a hiatus, unfortunately on low note as King County (Seattle, Bellevue and environs) just voted down a proposal to increase public transportation subsidies.  "About time," said one of the naysayers, "they need to run it like a business."  You mean, as in pay the CEO millions and millions more for lobbyists?  Just don't complain when freeway congestion increases as former bus riders return to their cars.  

But I'm okay, history's on our side.

And speaking of public transportation, from Philippines (pix 1-5) to Cuba (6-9):













Saturday, April 19, 2014

159. Penultimate

About to take a break in blogging about my daily commute.

Continue to cycle/bus to work every day; I'm 65 now, can I see myself doing this at 70? Sure.

Local transit ridership increases by 10-12% with each quarterly accounting. Fifteen years ago, early hourly runs would have just me and a couple of other passengers, traveling agains rush hour. Now the more frequent 20-30 min runs are more than half filled.

Sometimes it's nice to be different but I like being part of this trend.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

158. Good Cop, Bad Cop

You'd think that cops and cyclists would have some natural affinity. You know, sports, physical exercise, independence.  But my experience would not support that, nor would this dude's encounter with NYPD:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzE-IMaegzQ

Sunday, December 22, 2013

157. Windmills

Don Quixote waged battle against windmills--"Just then they came in sight of thirty or forty windmills ... Don Quixote... said to his squire, "Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished. Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them... this is a righteous war and the removal of so foul a brood from off the face of the earth is a service God will bless."

I had a skirmish of my own a couple of weeks ago--choosing the arms of a parking garage gate as my target.  Following close to an exiting car, the arm came down as soon as the car passed, before I could make it through.

Designed to immediately raise when encountering any resistance, the arm left no more than a scratch on the bridge of my nose, a warning as it were.  But my war is righteous, and I will continue the fight; I just need to do a better job of selecting my opponents.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

156. Fitness Age

More than just the environment; green commuting also embraces personal health.

Using DIY measurements and responses from thousands of adults across cultures, a Norwegian University of Science and Technology created a fitness calendar.  I come out 10 years younger than my calendar age.

So there you go.

Friday, December 6, 2013

155. Better Than New

Bike came back, better than purchased, having received the "basic" (as opposed to the previously recommended "silver") tune-up per the warrantee.  So ends that little adventure.  

REI is not a bad store.  It is a "non-profit cooperative" after all; margins turned into expansion and rebates. A little expensive, sometimes arrogant, but that initial mechanic wanting to do more than needed wasn't some guy working on a commission.  He just loves bikes, likes his job, and wants to see all bikes in perfect condition all the time.

Like the surgeon's "a chance to cut is a chance to cure," the bike shop's motto is "I never saw a cable that didn't need replacement."

Saturday, November 30, 2013

154. "Warrantee Tune-up"

My folding bike, now credited with three saves during the first 5 months of use, was about due for its six month "warrantee tune-up," so I took it in the to dealer.  The mechanic put it up on a stand and with some disdain asked me how many miles. "I don't know" (later I decided about 200 miles, with many hills and some rain, both suggesting more wear and tear that one might expect in six months). 

"You're beyond your warrantee."

"But it says six months, nothing said about mileage."

"You need a 'silver' tune-up; can't let you leave without it; bike's unsafe."

"Silver?"  Why not platinum or titanium"  Or molybdenite?  

Well I did leave, rode my bike home without incident, put in new brakes, then a few days later returned. The mechanic this time accepted without question my request that I receive the promised tune-up with no work replacement of parts not covered by said warrantee. We'll see.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

153. Drip Dry

Parking garage bike cage at one of my work sites. Not only anti-theft but also a place to hang out wet clothes during the rainy season.  I'm lucky, I have a warmer, drier area for my wet gear.

Didn't see any underwear hanging up to dry, which is more than I can say for one of my co-worker's office a few years ago when I walked by the open door and saw a pair of jockey briefs hanging from a book case (after a few months, he brought in a small Ikea closet).

As back-up, I keep an extra set of everything stuffed in a desk drawer.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

152. Anti-Bike Mayor

New Mayor: anti-bike, pro-car, and unenthusiastic about rapid transit.  But of course he wouldn't describe himself that way, so we should give him the benefit of the doubt for a few months.  There are more car votes than bike votes, so he did what he had to do to get elected. What's important is not what he said before being elected, but what he does after.

Note: both outgoing and incoming NYC mayors agree on the need for more bike lanes.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

151. Hometown Pride


I'm so proud of my hometown, having just finished its first dedicated bike lane.  Barriers separate the two bike lanes from cars; they even have their own traffic lights.

But next week's mayoral election threatens progress.  The anti-bike challenger makes misleading or simply false claims that bike lanes take away parking and slow down traffic.  He also enjoys a substantial lead.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

150. Spreading the Message

I have two colleagues who struggle with the same commute and now use the same bike-bus strategy that I do.  Not every day, but often.  When Emily first started working in the same department, we had talked about the commute, but I had no idea she was considering biking.  She has small children at home, so the extra time of bike-bus vs car would be an issue.  Mike, also relatively new to the company just heard about me and emailed, asking about how I did it.  He works in the same building, but in a different department on a different floor, and I've never actually met him. The other day Mike emailed me saying he had converted to at least part-time bike-bussing and has liked it, and asking about my folding bike.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

149. Gloves?

Suddenly aware that I have an appointment in ten minutes one mile away, I grab my bike (just as fast as a car in city traffic) and head off.  Immediately realize that I left my helmet and lock at home but no time to go back.  About half-way there, another cyclist pulls out from a side street.  Just a quick glance, but it's clear that his cycling gear cost more than my bike.  He passes me and says something along the lines, "You should be ashamed, no helmet or gloves." Gloves?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

148. Three Months of Folding

When my hometown built a new bb stadium, partly with tax revenue, team owners insisted on a moveable cover.  Fiscally wary critics noted that during the bb season only rare games would have to be cancelled on account of rain.  That's not the point, they answered; the city's notoriety for off-season rain discourages season ticket purchases or any long-term planning ("let's plan for taking in a game next weekend... nah, it will probably rain, let's visit my sister instead").

So goes my folding bike.  In the past three months I've only had to fold it twice when busses rolled up with already full bike racks and once I've taken it off the rack and brought it onboard to make room for another cycler.  Is that enough to justify purchase?  Sure, for the same reason: don't have to worry about  being bumped/rained on.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

147. Just a Warning

On the way home last night a cop pulled along side me and told me to stop. It appears that he had been following me for several blocks (note to self: buy handlebar mirror) and proceeded to recount the handful of traffic violations that I had committed (a tactic I can only assume is covered early in Traffic Cop 101). 

"I'm not going to give you a citation," he reassured me, "this is just for your safety.  Not long ago a little old lady ran into a pothole, cracked her helmet and now she's a vegetable."  

Okaaaay, I'll be on the lookout for potholes, I thought, wondering if I were 30 or 40 years younger he'd be telling me a story about a hot chick falling into a pothole.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

146. Cycling Camaraderie

Not wanting to be the center of attention or to delay anyone's commute, I was uncertain how I would react to a totally predictable event: first my folding bike on the rack, then a few stops later another bike, then at another stop a cyclist unhappy when he sees the approaching bus with a full rack.  What else can I do?  I tell first the driver and then the cyclist that I’m going to bring my bike on board.


I exit, take my bike off, fold it (~30 seconds), and re-enter, taking no more time than it takes the other cyclist to put his bike on the rack and board the bus. Quick and smooth, I suspect commuters at the back of the bus hardly noticed.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

145. PDX Rules

If you've travelled in developing nations, you've seen motorcycles used for transport of just about everything, from families of 5 to furniture to farm animals headed for slaughter.

Now Portland has taken up not motorcycle but tricycle transport. Though not yet cost-competitive, the "B-Line" still attracts customers for reasons that transcend the bottom line.

 "It feels good psychologically knowing that our ... fresh bread is in that cargo box,” says the manager of Grand Central Bakery. “It killed us that all of our deliveries were in a van,” she adds. “We’re all avid bikers.”

Friday, June 28, 2013

144. Merge?

Merge?  Yeah, right.

When I see this sign, I head for the sidewalk.

Because you know, whether the pitcher hits the stone or the stone hits the pitcher, it's the pitcher that ends up as a pile of broken glass on the ground.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

143. Folding Bike in Action

Been riding my folding bike most days (but not with rain, it's too new to get wet).  Sometimes I bring  it on the bus, sometimes I leave it on the bike rack, which would be a mean thing to do if the rack filled and then down the line some other cyclist couldn't get on.  Well, maybe not mean but certainly contrary to cycling camaraderie
notice how my bike matches my backpack


If I saw that coming, I like to think I'd get off and do a quick fold, bringing it on the bus to open up a space on the rack.  

A noble act you think? We'll see.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

142. New Yorker

Celebrating NYC's new bike share system

Thursday, May 30, 2013

141. Great Price

Just an ordinary street fair; bought a couple of bowls and while talking to the potter and his wife (or the potter and her husband), somehow the subject of bicycles came up (but of course, some would say that I bring up bikes in every conversation, which I categorically deny).

I just bought a new bike, she said, a really nice bike for a great price. You don't think it was stolen? There were so many.

Yes, I do think it was stolen; why do you think it was so cheap?  And too many bikes? Traveling gangs hit campuses and parking lots.  From there to Craigs list or that corner where you got yours. I don't want to know. Go back to your clay.  Bikes wouldn't be stolen if dupes like you wouldn't buy them.  And don't tell me about the great price on that Ebay iPhone you're holding.




Friday, May 24, 2013

140. Done Deal

The skies are March but the calendar says May, and sure enough, more cyclists are hitting the road.  In yesterday's rain, I was the first bike on the bus rack, three stops later, a second bike filled it, then a few more stops and a third cyclist was waiting--but no room.  A few minutes later a fourth cyclist also left waiting.  In the afternoon, again the rack filled after I got on and down the road another cyclist left.

Time to get that folding bike.  The morning ride is okay, I pick up the bus at its first stop; it's been a couple of years since I had competition for the rack.  But the afternoon it's another story; I pick up the bus far from its start.

So I bought it. It was even on a 15% sale. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

139. Folding Bikes, Part II

Three months ago, I became serious about folding bikes with some google searches and a couple of test rides, then put the decision aside.

Now with better weather increasing the odds of being bumped--a bus arriving with the bus rack already full--so I started looking again.

First the Brompton, gold standard for folding bikes.  Folds the smallest, weighs the least, best rep for reliability.  But also $1200, or so my earlier research told me.

My test ride was disappointing: the smaller (than other foldables) wheels decrease stability, especially when standing during climbs.  And the model I'd need would come to $2000. Scratch the Brompton.

Next, a couple of $600 models; not as compact, but that's because of large wheels which means greater stability. I think I'll go with REI's version, given the discount as an REI member, the easy return if necessary, and the convenient maintenance (on my way home from work).

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

138. Bike to Work Month

Yesterday at the doctor's office my blood pressure was 152/83, higher than I can remember it being. I blamed it on stress, almost late, rushing to the office then immediately ushered into an exam room with BP taken right away.  Wasn't quite out of breath but almost.  No acute illness, but I did have a request that I wasn't sure would be addressed the way I wanted.

Today, a bike ride to the bus stop, deep into "The Violinist's Thumb," then the bike ride up the hill to my office, stopping off at an DIY BP machine (well-calibrated, I was assured). Not quite out of breath but almost.

BP = 114/77.

Yes, the advantages of commuting by bus and bike.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

137. Veloman

The deal was sealed on line; I was to meet him on the corner of Post and Marion, me with the cash, him with the goods.  I had to be there by 5 before the hour, turns out he had a bus to catch ("to pick up my kid"--I'm sure that was code for something but hesitated to ask lest my naivety jeopardize the transaction).

My timing was dependent on my own bus, but I thought I had reached the specified corner in time. I called him only to be told that he was heading for the bus stop "near the library."  I climbed back on my bike for the 4 steep blocks up to the library.  Out of breath and barely able to speak, I called him again: "Look for the orange bike helmet." He caught my eye but just as I reached him his bus arrived and off he ran.

No problem: as he entered the bus, I put my bike on the rack and climbed on behind him.  The transaction completed, I exited at the next stop.  The other passengers may have thought they were just looking at some dude with a beard buying a copy of Turbotax from an asian guy.  But do they really know the contents of that disc? Can they be sure he's not North Korean? I think not.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

136. Door'd

Almost door'd last week.  The timing was perfect, the driver's door opening just as I passed, but I was a few inches away.

A local pediatrician was not so lucky.  In his words:

I and the guy sitting in his parked car made simultaneous errors: riding too close (me) and opening the door without checking for a bicycle (him).  Injury [fracture] to the back of my right hand: [orthopedist] took care of me and I was out of the OR by 2 am and ready for nursery rounds the next morning: turns out I can examine newborns with one hand tied behind my back!  Lots of help from the dads, they were definitely not allowed to snore thru it that morning.

Full recovery expected in six weeks; his helmet cracked in several places.

Damned if you do (ride too close to parked cars); damned if you don't, risking the moving traffic that doesn't always appreciate a cyclist's right to a traffic lane.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

135. Taxes

Breaking News: Washington State Legislature proposes Bike Tax:

http://streetsblog.net/2013/02/21/washington-state-considering-a-symbolic-tax-on-bicycles/

So, a symbolic tax to assuage the feelings of motorists angry at red light-running cyclists?  Sorry, these aggressive motorists will hardly change attitudes based on a $25 tax.

Then a symbolic tax so that all users pay for road maintenance?  Then why not an excise tax on shoes for all those pedestrians whose habits require lights and paint and traffic cops?


yes, this is my route and could be my bike--if it were black
We pay sales taxes on bikes and equipment repairs.  Most of us own cars and may gas taxes.

I don't go along with the worst case scenario which would have fewer people buying bikes because of this tax.

And since yearly auto excise taxes (0.3%, or $6.00 for my back-up Volvo 740) support local transit, I can't complain about cyclists also supporting public transit. So a one-time $25 tax on new bikes?  Sure, why not.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

134. The next bike

Always thinking of my next bike, like some people think about their next car, pair of shoes, or night out.

This bamboo bike from Phnom Penh would make some kind of statement, I guess but relatively pricey at $450.

So I went to Costco, cheap and reliable, but it would be the usual routine: switch tires, add fenders, etc.  Not so cheap anymore, and a copy of what I already have.

That folding bike looking more and more interesting.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

133. What? No Busses?


Phnom Penh skyline
Phnom Penh: a city with 2.2 million residents and no public transportation. Many cars but mainly tuk-tuks, motorcycles and mopeds. Rare taxis.  Not as many bikes as I thought for a flat terrain. Tuk-tuks aren't cheap, tourist price 3-5 dollars to get downtown from my hotel about 15-20 minutes away.
View from back of a cycle


Tuk-Tuk
Walking around, I was offered a motorcycle ride every couple of blocks, until of course I really wanted one. And why not, an easy way for the owner to pay for the cycle. Two bucks got me the same destination as the $4 tuk-tuk.


I'm guessing the low number of bikes reflects the hazards of competing with cars and motorcycles.  And in a large city, it may be that jobs are too far away from homes. "Downtown" seems to consist of government buildings and tourist spots with job-heavy commercial high rises scattered throughout the city, making it easier to live close to where you work.  
Shave head: need umbrella

As for pedestrians?  Just me and some Buddhist monks.  With sidewalks on commercial streets taken up by parked cars, walking means sharing the street with cars, cycles, and tuk-tuks, not very appealing.