Thursday, December 04, 2008

Heed those creaking noises

Arriving at the Sacramento Valley Station the other morning to catch my Capitol Corridor train, I saw my friend and fellow multimodal bike commuter Daniel sitting near his crankless bicycle. Upon closer inspection, I noticed this: the spindle on his bottom bracket (where the crank arms attach) had broken on the non drive side. Wow. And I thought I'd seen everything: broken spokes, broken frames, broken derailleur, broken rims, a broken stem (!)...but never a broken bottom bracket.

Luckily, Daniel was uninjured. Equipment failure is a big cause of bicycle crashes. Most equipment failure can be avoided by frequent maintenance of your bicycle. Daniel confirmed that his bike had been creaking for some time. So he was fortunate. If you hear unusual noises, inspect your bike thoroughly. Remove your cranks and inspect the bottom bracket. Look a the frame, especially the chainstay on the drive side. Examine your chain, fork, brakes.

Many cyclists always do the ABC Quick Check before every ride. Check that your tires are properly inflated (A="air"). Check that your brake cables and levers (B="brakes") are fully engaged. Check that your crankset, chain, and cassette are in good working order (C="crankset"). And make sure the quick release on your wheels and seatpost (if applicable) are closed and tight. Doing the "ABC Quick Check" before every ride is a good way to detect possible injurious mechanical failure before it happens.

If you bicycle commute every day, then you will also want to have regular service on your bike. Many routine fixes (replacing chains, tightening spokes) you can do yourself, with the help of online resources or a comprehensive bicycle maintenance book. My new book, The Bike to Work Guide: What You Need to Know to Save Gas, Go Green, Get Fit, also features a substantial chapter on repairs and maintenance.

If you think you will do most of your own wrenching, my advice is to buy a complete bicycle tool kit. It's much cheaper to acquire a complete kit than to do a one-at-a-time piecemeal acquisition of necessary tools (which is how I built my tool kit.) For major overhauls, don't be too proud to take your bicycle into a shop. I've done everything mechanical on a bike from building wheels to overhauling a bottom bracket (old kind, pre-cartridge), and I'm not ashamed to leave my bike with a skilled mechanic. So take your bike to a shop if necessary. That's why they exist, to provide professional service to keep your bicycle running well.

The reality is that things will eventually wear out on your bike, just as parts wear out on an automobile or a dishwasher. It's not a big deal, as long as you pay attention to your bicycle's condition, and make necessary repairs.

Image: Paul Dorn.
Visit: Broken derailleur messes up New Year's Eve, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Repairs/Maintenance, Bike Commuting Tips
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Bike commuters laugh at the cold

Image of parked bicycle on snowy street
From the Iowa City Press Citizen, 12.03.08:

Biking is a great way to get around in the summer, but come winter a warm car sounds a lot better than a frosty saddle and bitter winds to many people.

But not everyone.

This year it appears more people are forging ahead on their bikes as temperatures dwindle. "I love it," said Ray Haas, 53, who works at University Hospitals. "I really think it's great that more people are being persistent about it."

That's what Haas has been seeing so far, and he would know. The Coralville man has been biking through the winter for the past nine years and says the bike racks are looking full these days. Area bike shops agree that more people seem to be braving the cold this season. Many people picked up the bike commuting habit as gas prices surged earlier this year and are persevering as it turns cold.

Haas bikes to his job year-round. It's an 8.5-mile round-trip commute from home, about 20 minutes. Last winter, he skipped 14 days, he said. "Temperature isn't usually a factor," he said. "On occasion, I am wondering, do I really want to do this today. But once I get going, I feel pretty invigorated, and I don't have regrets. It kick-starts my day. (Read more.)
Another timely article providing inspiration and information for cold weather bike commuting. Most important lesson offered here: Layer, don't overdress. Missing lesson: Wind protection. Make sure your jacket and pants have some windblock feature. I love fleece, but it doesn't keep you warm on a breezy ride.

For an informative and humorous site on cold weather cycling, don't miss Icebike.org.

Image: Web capture.
Visit: Making the most of biking in the cold, Examiner.com
Visit: Bicyclists Try To Stay Safe In Winter Conditions, WCCO.com
Visit: Bundle up for winter riding, Argus Leader (Sioux Falls, SD)
Visit: Winter bike commuting, Minnesota Public Radio
Visit: Decider's guide to winter biking, Decider Milwaukee
Visit: Winter cyclists can enjoy roads less traveled, The Steamboat Pilot (CO)
Visit: Growing number of cyclists commuting in winter, Leader-Telegram (Eau Clair, WI)
Visit: Biking in winter requires forethought, The Coloradan
Visit: Cycling Through the Snow, Detroit News
Visit: Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow, Lawrence Journal World (KS)
Visit: Cold weather no barrier to bicycle commuting, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Brr: Tips for cold weather cycling, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Stay flexible during winter cycling, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Bicycles with belt drives excite commuters


From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 11.23.08:

Bikes are breaking the chain
Ease of use could help industry's popularity surge

If you've ever been riding down the street and had your pants cuff ripped asunder, there may be a revolution at hand. Trek Bicycle is part of a movement to bury the finger-pinching, pants-munching, rust-prone sprocket and chain, and usher in an era of belt-driven bikes that might have the inventors of the self-propelled transportation Schwinning in their graves.

Wisconsin-based Trek is introducing two models this holiday season that are chainless, instead using technology most often found in things like motorcycles and snowmobiles. While some smaller custom bike makers have used them before, Trek is the first to use the technology for mass-produced bicycles.

"People are really finding bicycles to be a very simple solution to some very complex problems that they face every day," said Eric Bjorling, Trek's lifestyle brand manager. "Anything we can do in our design to really help them and help them live that lifestyle is probably better for both the consumers and us."

Bjorling said the new belts are a low-maintenance solution to a chain, which has roughly 3,000 parts including all the links and connectors. Aside from the whisper-quiet ride, the lighter and longer-lasting carbon-fiber composite belts won't rust, can't be cut, won't stretch or slip and won't leave grease marks around your ankles. A guard over the belt-drive and the construction of the system makes getting your pants stuck unlikely, Bjorling said.(Read more.)
The appeal of bicycle commuting should continue to attract new riders in 2009, regardless of the fluctuating trends of gas prices. Among other things--such as new bicycle commuting books--there will likely be a flurry of technical tweaks as the bicycle industry appeals to the novice bicyclist. One very exciting possibility is the belt drive.

Trek Bicycles is the first major bicycle brand to introduce a chainless, belt driven bike. The chain has been a proven feature of bicycle propulsion for more than 130 years, with some modest issues with lubrication and replacement. Chains aren't going away anytime soon. But the new belt drive is an appealing upgrade. Trek's carbon fiber composite belt is reinforced to prevent stretch, and is supposedly lighter, quieter, and require no lubrication and minimal maintenance.

This belt drive development is another exciting indication that the bicycle industry is starting to wake up to the profit potential of the commuting market. For the past two decades, bicycle makers' R&D efforts targeted the competitive cyclist market, leading to such marvels as 10 speed cassettes and carbon fiber cranksets. Technological advances that offered absolutely nothing to the commuting bicyclist. Maybe the industry is finally starting to come around.

Image: Trek Bicycles.
Visit: TrekDistrict.com Blog
Visit: Say Goodbye To Greasy Chains, Ride A Belt Drive, cbs4denver.com
Visit: Trek belt drive bicycle on CNN, Cyclelicious
Visit: Trek Introducing Belt Drive in January, Bicycle Retailer & Industry News
Visit: Building a better bike, WKOW-TV
Visit: Are Carbon Belt Drives the Future?, BikeRadar.com
Visit: An alternative to the bike chain: The carbon belt, Examiner.com
Visit: Bike retailers warm to the commuting market, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Bikes made for commuting are hot!, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site