Friday, November 15, 2013

Gear Review - Light and Motion Solite 250EX

Light & Motion Solite 250EX

From the Adventure Cycling Association
Daylight savings ends in a little over a week, and that's a sad day indeed for cyclists hoping snag a few hours in the saddle after the 9-5 grind. If you're looking for a light to extend your ride time, or perhaps keep yourself visible for those dark commutes to and from the office, the Solite 250EX from Light & Motion is a solid option worth checking out.
This light runs off a portable battery pack that is micro USB rechargeable. It takes a good eight hours to top it off, and at full charge, the Solite 250EX puts out 250 lumens for up to four hours. If you want to burn through the battery at a slower pace, there are some more economical runtime options of 8 hours at 125 lumens and 30 hours at 50 lumens. If you take this along on a camping trip, there is also a 7-lumen setting more at the Adventure Cycling site...

Carfree American is a huge fan of the Adventure Cycling Association. When we first started to bicycle for transportation...14 years ago, Adventure Cycling was, and still is,  the go to site for: gears reviews, how-to articles, types of bikes to ride, feature travel essays, and much more that promoted adventure cycling and it all translated well into transportational cycling, which, if you commute you are a adventure cycling guru!

You can also get a FREE COPY of Adventure Cycling Magazine, which is really fun and interesting!!!
Click for a free copy

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Commuting tips from Arkel

This shared from the Arkel Website, these folks make some excellent panniers!

Commuting tips

Going to work by bike? Welcome to the growing group! Some are doing it by obligation, for health, because of money, political reasons, because it feels good or to save the earth. The following are but tidbits of ideas on commuting.
My idea is to help fellow commuters to share our combined experiences. Just here at Arkel do 85% of our staff commute to work on a bike, with dedicated indoor parking!! If you don’t do it already, by all means try it—for whatever reason you want

our Quality Control specialist . . .
and author of these commuting tips

 What to wear
What to wear depends on where you live, of course. The Canadian climate is not the same as the California climate, but some basic rules can be carried over.

Work clothes are pretty much off, except maybe for some very short commutes. Two things make that unpractical: sweat and wrinkling. Most of us will sweat somewhat, which is not really appealing when wearing a shirt, but even if you don’t the pedaling motion will wrinkle well-pressed pants in no-time, like behind the knees and at the crotch. Instead wear light, comfortable clothes or breathable cycling wear to maximize your experience.

Maybe you have a place at work to hang or store your cycling clothes. Maybe you don’t. If you don’t then keep some room in your panniers for them. If you sweat a lot and have to store your riding clothes in your panniers, maybe it would be wise to carry a spare pair of shorts. Spandex are great because they're light and you can wash them in a sink, and they dry in no time.

The classic spin on work clothes is to prepare a complete set of matchable outfits for the week ahead and drive the lot to the workplace once a week and bring back the old ones for washing. If you’re like many of us here at Arkel who don’t even own a car, it’s not realistic. Commuting can still be accomplished without great pains, as we all at Arkel are good examples of that. For instance, our California guy, Daniel, has his shirts cleaned and “boxed” so there is enough space inside the individual plastic bag they are folded in, to also fit a pair of folded pants, underwear, t-shirt, socks, tie and a belt. For him the T-42's fit everything perfect and give him enough room for a laptop (laptop pannier) , business files, books and his lunch! Everything is so tight that nothing moves during the ride for a wrinkle free look. He even uses the plastic bag to put his bike clothes in.

Paul, our General Manager, commutes with our Briefcase. He uses one compartment solely for clothes. By compressing the webbing he effectively stabilizes everything for fresh garnments at work.
 Safety first
First and foremost. always wear a helmet. It's cheap brain insurance and it's only a question of time before you will use it, ask anyone!

Wear bright colors. They are not only more visible during the night, they are more eye-catching during the day too. You can’t be too visible. When riding at night not only should you have all the equipment required by law, but also make sure to adhere to the “see and be seen” mentality. Use active lights front and rear. Make sure your panniers have reflective stripes, wear reflective leg bands and don’t shy away from a reflective vest. It looks dorky, but not more than a suit in a coffin. Your loved ones will thank you.

Obey traffic laws. We can’t stress this one enough. One day it will save you life. And if it don’t save yours, it may save others by demonstrating the proper example and not antagonizing motorists. Stop at all red lights and stop signs, even when there's no traffic. It's a good habit to get into.

Obey traffic laws: Keep off the sidewalks.
Obey traffic laws: Stay off narrow, one way streets.
Obey traffic laws: Act like a car which never has the right of way.

Be predictable. Hand signals were invented for cars. When cars had no directional lights hand signals became mandatory. Use them to indicate your moves to motorists. They’ll love you for it, because neither of you will be guessing what the other is doing.

Look through the back windows of parked cars to spot drivers about to exit without warning. If passing such a car with unclear intent, extend a hand forward as you come about the door in case the door opens on your side. Providing you are forceful enough you may stop the driver from opening the door in front of your least long enough for you to pass.

Don’t shout to motorists, unless absolutely necessary. Life is too short to waste your precious time and energy, and often will do nothing but distract you thus making an accident even more likely. Learn crash manoeuvers, think of possible last minute escape routes and how to ditch, and if all else fails, apply your first aid knowledge for whomever is involved. Practice over grass in your backyard or in the park. It’s a good skill to know anyways. Sometimes in life you must learn to let go.
 Day-to-day necessities
Commuting and seatbags don’t go well together unless you can park your bike inside your workspace. Leave nothing on your bike that can be removed or stolen. Try to use panniers and stuff everything inside.

There’s no denying that a backpack or a courier bag is quicker to use than a set of panniers, but consider the following. Panniers are not hard on your back, heavy on your shoulders, hot when you sweat, make you lose your balance during quick manoeuvers or risk snapping a vertebra in case of a fall. Similarly, consider that a backpack will not protect your derailleur on a side impact, will not cushion your bike on a brick wall and does not look good inside of corporate buildings. Our vote: panniers, any day. Are your surprised?

Be sure to have some money in case of an emergency. A calling card is a minimum and enough money for at least a snack and drink is preferable.

Stack basic tools inside an old sock that you can then use as a glove for roadside repairs. Basics are a spare tube, a pump or 2 CO2 cartridges (if it fits with your philosophy), tire levers, and anything else you feel comfortable with. Anyways at that point you’ll be late for work! And it will be on the most important day, so always give yourself extra time and use the "spare" minutes to enjoy the flowers along the route.

Carry I.D. where they can be found. Better to be safe than sorry! While you’re at it, put basic identification inside the seat tube of your bike. Something like "This bike belongs to Jane Smith, 34 Main Street, 555-5656" in case it gets stolen. You never know, you could get a phone call from a bike shop later!!!
 Bike rigging!
We’re talking commuting! Stay low-key and stay away from loud colors. If you lock your bike outside, think of masking most areas of the frame. Make the bike unappealing.

Fenders are a must, unless you live in Tucson. Minimal weight, maximum payoff. Hey, bonus advantage: most people think it looks . . . errr . . . un-sexy (well we kind of like them ourselves, but that’s just us), thus less appeal for the would be thief.

Tire liners, Thorn-proof tubes, Kevlar tires, Slime, whatever makes your tire less prone to flats is a blessing to your boss.

Anything else is up to you. Racing bike, mountain bike, hybrid, fixed gear, one speed, city bike. Whatever suits you, as long as you enjoy it and it's road worthy.
And the small details . . .
If a shower is available to you, by all means indulge yourself. Don’t forget the towel, and a regular hygiene kit that you can stash in a drawer. Soap, shampoo, deodorant are the basics, plus a toothbrush and toothpaste.

A hand dryer machine in the restroom also makes a good blow dryer.

If a shower is not available to you, leave a package of "disposable wet napkins" at your work place. They’re practical and will degunk all but the most intimate parts of your body, leaving a fresh scent too!

Intricate hairstyles will sometimes discourage riders from wearing a helmet or riding a bike altogether. Small tip: most mousses or hair gels will be reactivated with a little water, easying the task to rebuild a presentable, loveable look.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Road Less Traveled

The Road Less Traveled
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 
Robert Frost

Thursday, October 31, 2013

5 Myths About Traveling By Bicycle

From from Two Wheel Travel, with permission by Tyler Robertson

Bicycle travel doesn’t have to be hardcore.  You can even bring your knitting

After reading Julie Huck’s article,  “Knitting Club tackles trail of the Coeur d’Alenes”,  on the Adventure Cycling blog, Carolyn and I started talking about the all myths surrounding overnight bicycle travel that might keep people from actually trying it.  In her post Julie shares a recent experience convincing her knitting club to go on an overnight bicycle trip.  Since most of the group had never done an overnight bicycle trip, it sounded difficult and messy at first glance.  The knitters were reluctant until Julie countered their arguments with easy, simple solutions.  Proving to her friends that bicycle travel, even overnight bicycle travel, doesn’t have to be hardcore to be fun.  Anyone can do it.
bicycle touring can be easy; bike travel; two wheel travel
Carolyn pedaling on a quiet gravel road.
Czech Republic. Spring 2011

Bicycle travel is not as hard as you think

With the idea that overnight bicycle travel needn’t be hardcore to be fun we began plumbing the depths of bicycle forums, message boards, asking friends and the like to come up with the “Top 5 myths about bicycle travel and how to dispel them”.
Here’s what we found:
  1. You have to be a hardcore adventurer
  2. You need special, expensive equipment.
  3. Weather- It’s too hot / too cold.
  4. You need to be a bike mechanic
  5. It’s not safe
Remember as we go through list below, we are talking about beginning bicycle travel for the newbie or someone who might be an avid cyclist but has just yet to take the jump to overnight travel by bike.  We want to keep the distances short and the investment in equipment minimal.  This list is not meant to be the definitive bicycle tourist’s kit list nor a technical primer, but rather an introduction on how someone might try a bicycle overnight and overcome some of the myths surrounding it.

Dispelling the myths about bicycle travel

1.You have to be a hardcore adventurer (a.k.a. I can’t pedal very fast or far…)
Like the example of the Knitting Club above, bicycle overnight travel doesn’t have to be hardcore to be fun.
You don’t have to go fast.  You should see me.  I redefine slow.  I sometimes need to speed up just to stop. :)  Our experience tells us that some of the best places are often close by and some of the easiest trips.
multi-modal bike travel, bicycle touring in europe; bike on train
Bikes on a train:  Multi-modal bicycle travel
Pedal at your own pace, to a destination that is within your reach.  The idea is to get out on your bicycle and go someplace.  Even if that place is only on the other side of town.  It’s just fine as long as you enjoy it.
You don’t have to go far.  One option we use regularly for extending our trips is public transit.  We use buses and light rail to extend our range or cut down travel time.  Check with your local Public Transit agency to see if they will carry bicycles and how they must be loaded on and off the bus or train.  After that, it is as simple as picking a destination that is within your range.  Remember bicycle travel is about having fun. So have fun. Go someplace on your bike.  You can do it.
 2. You need special, expensive equipment.
Trek; Touring bike on a budget; Two Wheel Travel
You can tour on an old Mountainbike
Bicycles. While a purpose built touring bike is great, particularly for long distance trips and multi-day adventures, it’s not required.  As Carolyn pointed out in her post “Touring bike on a budget…”, it is possible to convert an old Mountain Bike to a great touring rig with a relatively minimal investment.  A City Bike / Hybrid is another good option as long as your travels don’t take you too far off-road or require you to carry extremely heavy cargo. You can ride just about any bicycle that you have.  What matters is that it is comfortable over an extended distance and your bike has some means for carrying cargo.
Panniers. While there is a certain pleasure in having nice touring panniers, it is not a stopper by any means.  If you’re sure that bicycle travel is for you, then by all means invest in a quality set of waterproof panniers, like the Ortlieb Classic Rollers.  Nothing can beat them.  If you are not yet sure, or perhaps this is your first overnight its not a problem to improvise.  A basket, milk crate or a book bag lashed to a rack can hold a remarkable amount of cargo if you pack creatively.
minimal bikepacking; bicycle travel; gypsy by trade; two wheel travel
You can lash light, compact items to your handlebar and saddle.
Photo by Nicholas Carmen at  Gypsy by trade
You can also simply lash some of your lighter, more compact cargo, like a sleeping bag or pad, to the front of your handlebar or saddle rails. Make sure your cargo doesn’t interfere with your brakes and shifters.  Nicholas at Gypsy by Trade swears by this technique and finds it superior to panniers over rough terrain as his cargo is more aligned with the center axis of the bike making it easier to handle than with panniers.
Make certain when lashing items onto your rack, handlebar or saddle that you secure these items very well.  The constant motion can entice your cargo to take a tour of its own if not secured, and no one wants that.
3. Weather- It’s too hot / too cold.
Be prepared, but not overly so.  . While we can’t offer any tips or tricks on how to change the weather while you are on your overnight bike trip we can offer some basic advice on how to be prepared for what ever Mother Nature throws at you.
Make sure you wear light, breathable clothing in hot weather and bring a hat if you’ll be out during the heat of the day.  Take lots of breaks. Drink lots of water.  Pace yourself.  Bicycle travel doesn’t need to be a race.  Relax.  Stop and swim, eat some ice cream, check out a farmer’s market…this is supposed to be fun.
In cool or cold weather, bring light layers, mostly wool.  Cotton is out.  It absorbs moisture (sweat, rain etc…) and is heavy.  A light wool sweater is perhaps the best piece of clothing I could ever think of having on a bicycle trip.  In fact we almost always have wool clothing with us even in the summer, it can get cool at night.  Wool is naturally water repellent and stays warm even if it’s wet and doesn’t smell after repeated use.  Pack light. Remember you don’t have to prepare for arctic weather (unless you’re cycling in the arctic, and if you are, why are you reading this…?), you’ll be moving and staying warm.  Bring a rain jacket with pit zips.  Again, we bring this item summer and winter.   You never know when it will rain.
So what do we mean about not being overly prepared? Pack light.  For a bicycle overnight trip you will rarely need 2 of any piece of clothing, except socks or underwear.  You won’t need as much clothing as you think.
We always use one simple rule for packing clothing: One set of clothes on the bike and one set of clothes off the bike plus a rain jacket.
clothing for an overnight bicycle trip for two people; two wheel travel; bicycle touring
Clothing and sleeping bags for 2 people for a 2 night bicycle trip.
Sometimes these clothes can overlap further reducing the need for extra clothes.  My basic packing list for a 2-night bicycle trip is: bike shorts, underwear, 2x socks, wool t-shirt, wool sweater, rain jacket, swim trunks or shorts, hat, flip-flops.  This entire load will fit in a stuff sack while riding, since I’ll always be wearing half of it at any time.
4. You need to be a bike mechanic
I can’t change a flat tire. Like the last point, we can’t offer any secret tricks to avoiding basic bicycle mechanics, but we can tell you this: There is no substitue for a well maintained bicycle, BUT you don’t need to know much to get started.
The basic skill needed for short bicycle overnight trips is flat tire repair. You should always know how to change a flat at the very least. The basic tool kit is cheap and easy to carry:  A spare tube, tire levers and a small pump.
basic repair kit for a flat tire bicycle; bike touring; two wheel travel
The basic flat repair kit: inner tube, tire levers and a small pump
If you don’t know how to repair a flat ask a cyclist friend or check out the multitude of instructional videos on youtube.  It’s really not hard.
Now it could be said that a well maintained bicycle is less likely to break down.  No doubt.  That is absolutely true.  However the likelihood of a catastrophic breakdown on a short trip is less if your bike has been serviced recently.  If you’re planning an overnight bicycle trip and your bike hasn’t been serviced lately it is a good idea to take it to your bike shop for a check over.  After that you should be OK for short, lightly loaded touring even with a minimum of mechanical know-how.
If you plan on doing longer and more heavily loaded tours nothing beats a basic knowledge of bicycle mechanics and some crucial tools.  Check out Sheldon Brown’s encyclopedia of bicycling for almost everything you ever needed to know and more.
5. It’s not safe
Isn’t it dangerous? Everyone has a limit of risk vs. reward.  No need to be uncomfortable or feel unsafe, but the facts are that bicycle travel is safe as long as you use common sense and follow the basic rules of the road.  If you’re still unsure it doesn’t hurt to get some help, whether that is instruction and/or guided support.
bicycling on the elberadweg; cycling on an off road path; two wheel travel
Bicycling an off-road path.
There are also off-street paths that can help you get to your destination safely and comfortably.  Some long, Some short.  Check your local Parks and Recreation offices and Bicycle Advocacy groups to find out what is near you.
In Portland we have the Springwater Corridor, a well-used trail leading from the city center to the suburb of Boring, OR(MAP).  It’s also common to combine MAX, our local light rail, with biking to get out to Stub Stewart State Park for a bicycle overnight, even with the kids.  In Missouri is the famous Katy Trial, runs 237 miles across most of the state.  Over half of this trail follows Lewis and Clark’s route along the Missouri River and is dotted with history and accommodations.  In the East there is the C&O canal trail, which is now linked to the Great Allegheny Passage trail for a combined total distance of 330 traffic free miles from Washington DC to Pittsburg, PA.  Of course none of these trails require that you ride the full distance.
Now all that’s left is to pick a destination no matter how short or long and get out there and travel by bicycle.

About Tyler Robertson

Passionate about bicycling, photography and great tacos, Tyler is always happiest when in the saddle. Now living in and exploring Eastern Europe by bicycle, he often spends time analyzing how bicycles can change the face of travel and the economic landscape while planning his schedule around bicycle trips (instead of the other way around). If you would like an opinion or contribution on any of the above, please contact Tyler.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Letter from a Carfree woman for life!

"Hi Mr Poindexter:                                                                                      

I was reading the blog called car-free American and saw your wonderful article from December 2012. I have never owned a car in my entire life, mainly due to economics.

 I am a single black woman living in Columbus, Ohio. I work as a home based data entry operator and telephone customer service agent. I have had various office jobs over the past 20 years and have always used mass transit. I have been lucky to get jobs that were close to the bus lines. I never liked driving and did not really take any driving lessons until I was in my late thirties. I took some driving lessons at one of those driving schools and hated every minute of it. I was in a student driver car and the other drivers were so nasty and rude. If you drive at the proper speed limit, they get really mean and nasty. They will blow their horn at you and give you dirty looks. I took these lessons for about a few months back in 2002, but never did get my driver’s license because I could not pass the parking part of the road test. I decided to give up driving altogether and stick with walking and using mass transit. 

The bus system in Columbus, Ohio is called COTA, which stands for Central Ohio Transit Authority. I have been riding COTA for over 20 years.

 I do not regret being car free, especially in the last 5 years as gasoline prices have gone way up. Back in the 1990’s and early 2000’s,

 I used to get teased mercilessly at work and looked down upon because I did not own a car. Some times I would ignore these people and other days I would get depressed.  In the last few years, since gasoline is well over $3 a gallon, I don’t get teased as much as I used to. I think that the last recession brought many people to reality as far as over consumption is concerned. Now, I see many more people ride the COTA buses to work, school, grocery shopping, etc. COTA has recently expanded the bus routes and added newer, more efficient buses that run on biodiesel, natural gas and hybrids. In the downtown of Columbus, new bike racks have been installed. 

Many people of all income levels are either biking or using mass transit.

It was refreshing to read about someone like you who seems well-off, affluent and successful, ditch the car and go car-free. Now I see more people who are way better off than I am go car free or car lite.

 I am a single woman who makes less than $30,000 per year and a car would put me into bankruptcy. I only pay $62 per month for a local bus pass that allows me to travel all over Columbus. My condo is only a 5 to 10 minute walk to the bus stop. I also can walk to the post office and to the nearest shopping mall. I can take one bus to a really nice mall called Easton Town Center, which has everything.  Sorry for the long email, but I just needed someone to talk/write to that can relate to my situation. I also plan to get a bike sometime in 2014. I still will use the bus for most of my transportation needs, but want a bike for the exercise. 
Take care,
Sharon Lewis

What a great note Sharon! Thanks so much for sharing! You an inspiration.

Bill Poindexter aka Mr. Carfree American 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

yoga, touring, and roads less traveled

yoga, touring, and roads less traveled...

Kristina, Yoga Instructor at Yoga Patch in Kansas City
I have always and will take the road less traveled in life. That path makes sense to me.

 I am working hard to live my live in the moment, rather than in the past or future. Three thing currently helping me live a fuller life are: Yoga, bicycling touring, and an awareness of the road I have taken in life.

 I found a Yoga studio, only five blocks from my home, the Yoga Patch, and as I was arriving for my class, Kristina, one of our gurus, rolled in on her bicycle. She is a superb teacher, and the fact she rides her bicycle for transportation made the class more special. 

Bill doing Tree pose while four birds are watching from a branch
at Middle Creek lake outside of Louisburg, Kansas
As I come into my fifth year of living carfree, I realize, this is a lifestyle that I will embrace for the remainder of my life.

I recently took a S24O (sub 24 hour overnight bike tour) with my good friend Randy Rasa of the website Kansas Cyclist fame. Even on that trip I was able to interject the tour with some high quality yoga moments. Randy did a nice write up with great pictures of the tour on his site.

A clarity of thought, breath deep in my belly, finding roads less traveled. 

What road are you going to take?

Peace and Love, 

The poet Robert Frost says it best...

The Road Not Taken
Riding with Randy always promises
taking roads less traveled...
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.