Opinion: Praising Patagonia for preserving my puffy

Good gear isn’t cheap, but I believe it’s worth every penny. Forget the upfront cost. I’ll willingly plunk down my moola for a quality product that’s built to last a lifetime, figuring that I’ll win the cost-per-year game in the long run.

What’s that you say? Nothing lasts forever?

True dat. That’s where Patagonia’s “ironclad guarantee” comes into play: “We guarantee everything we make. If you are not satisfied with one of our products at the time you receive it, or if one of our products does not perform to your satisfaction, return it to the store you bought it from or to Patagonia for a repair, replacement or refund. Damage due to wear and tear will be repaired at a reasonable charge.”

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I recently tested Patagonia’s guarantee when the zipper blew out on my beloved Nano Puff Hoody. Even though I had no record of the many-years-ago purchase, I went online and printed out the convenient return form and sent off my hoody. A few weeks later, it came back home with a new zipper. Free of charge. With a nice note card thanking me for having my gear repaired.

Patagonia believes in keeping its gear in use and out of the landfill. In addition to offering hassle-free returns and repairs, the Worn Wear section of the company’s website provides tips for garment care and DIY repair guides, should you feel up to tackling a given repair job yourself.

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You can purchase gently used Patagonia gear through the Worn Wear website. The used items come from a trade-in program whereby Patagonia retailers accept used gear in good condition in exchange for credit in Patagonia retail stores, on wornwear.com and on patagonia.com.

Patagonia’s Worn Wear Mobile Tour travels throughout the USA and Europe repairing the company’s gear on the spot and living the mantra: “repair is a radical act.” How cool is that!

More than making some of my favorite gear, Patagonia lives and breathes its mission statement: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” I find that refreshing.

Check out this video about Patagonia’s Worn Wear program:

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Opinion: The case for the one-bike stable

By Jeffrey Stern

Walking into my bike shed is overwhelming at the moment. There are frames hanging from the ceiling, wheels leaning against every wall, parts and pieces all over the workbench and the bike I want to ride is always cornered by the ones that I just snapped a cable on, or even worse, are unrideable themselves.

My organization is pitiful right now. Truthfully, it always is.

I’d much rather spend time riding than tinkering and I think that’s why I have so many bikes in the first place. The novelty of a new (or used, but new to me) bike is hard to turn down. There’s always something different about my last acquired two-wheeled machine and I have trouble saying no. As they say, I’m a bike aficionado, and a collector of bike stuff at heart. Getting rid of things is hard, especially when it comes to my modes of transport.

“One day I’ll need this!” I say to myself quite often, while tucking whatever “this” may be into a drawer or corner, unlikely to ever been seen or used. But time and time again, I justify keeping all this stuff.

But what if I got rid of it all and started fresh, with just one bike. Could I do it? How would I decided which bike to keep?

Realistically, my bike shed would have to burn down or somehow disappear into thin air for that to happen, but hypothetically, the thought is very attractive. So much so that the idea of the one-bike stable crosses my mind nearly every day.

I like roads and I like dirt. I like fat tires and skinny tires, slick and big old knobby treads. I truly enjoy the differences and various nuances of them all.

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So where would I start? The type of brakes employed seems to be the big question these days and with the proliferation of disc brakes, I’d have to go that route. A frame with ample clearance for my knobs, but plenty of stopping power for high-speed tarmac descents sounds like the perfect combination for my tastes. Ok, so we’re probably talking about multiple wheelsets and only one frame, but I’m fine with that compromise.

Drop bars or flat? This is a tough one. From a pure comfort factor, I think I’d go flat. Plus, it just looks funky and cool and that’s what I’m all about. I’d have way more style riding a slick-tired road-esque cruiser with a set of flat bars. I’d like to believe all the heads would turn, the questions would never stop and I’d grin from ear-to-ear each time.

And what about suspension? My good friend Greg who helped me build my first mountain bike back in the day as teenager said to me once when I asked how in the world he rode down technical mountain singletrack on a fully rigid bike, “I’ve got all the suspension I need right here!” as he pointed to his long, chiseled arms. To this day, it makes me smile every time I think about that moment. He’s right, we live in world with too much support and comfort. I’m not a downhiller by any means, and realistically doing a DH course on the one bike in my hypothetical stable is unrealistic and bit beyond the realm of my idea. Full rigid it is.

Material? Steel. Or if I have the dough, titanium. Hands down. The goal is to have this thing outlive me. I want my kids (if I ever have any) and their kids (getting ahead of myself) to be able to ride this thing. They might not think it’s cool and who knows, bikes might be a thing of the past by then, but hey, that’s not the point!

I don’t know the brand of bike I’d choose, but the thought of it is nice. One day, I might just pull the trigger and make it happen. I could probably come away with some extra dough, a whole lot more space (which my girlfriend would love) and one bike that I’d be forced to take extra special care of. Now isn’t that a novel idea?

If you had to pick just one bike to own, what would it be? Tell us in the comments!

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Are mobile bike shops the future?

By Jeffrey Stern

You’ve seen them around town, at events across the country and with their own Instagram accounts complementing their nomadic lifestyle and serving as a business development tool. It’s a trend that goes hand in hand with the direction our society is heading towards. When we want things these days, we want it now. Whether it be information from the web, a phone number, the address of the nearest coffee shop during a road-trip or anything in-between. We live in a world that encourages timely dissemination of information and just getting shit done as quickly as possible.

What does that mean for bike shops? Well, they’re hitting the road. From Beeline Bikes to Velofix to the Bike Doctor, shops on wheels are becoming popular, and it makes sense.

In the world of I want it all and I want it now, who has time to put their bike in their car, or even worse, ride their bike, into their local bike shop to have something fixed or looked at? I’ll be the first to admit, sometimes I’m lazy about bike maintenance I can’t do properly or have the right tools to complete at home. I put it off like the overgrown weeds in my backyard. It’s easy to procrastinate getting my bikes fixed properly and more often than not, my list of tasks each day seems to roll over into the next day, an endless cycle of time suck I can never seem to escape. Even though I can find solutions to problems faster than ever in today’s day and age, I can never get everything done.

Now, thanks to these mobile bike shops, when I have an unresolvable issue, I can schedule a certified mechanic to show up at my place of work, home or probably even any random place I can drop a pin on Google Maps, to meet up and solve the problem right then and there.

You might be thinking, what’s the catch? Won’t it cost you an arm and a leg? Actually, and quite surprisingly, it doesn’t. I’ve found most of these mobile shops repair rates to be quite comparable, if not less, than traditional brick and mortar stores. Probably because their overhead is a little less, be it that the square footage they have to manage is substantially less and they’re trying to do one thing, and only one thing really well.

What do these mobile shops mean for your favorite shop in town? If you live anywhere but a major metropolitan area or city where most of these mobile shops are popping up, likely not much. That being said, companies like Velofix are growing fast; they are the largest fleet of mobile bike shops across North America, serving 24 states and four provinces to our friends in the north. However, for the most part, they are concentrated where a lot of people and bike customers live.

But if you live in say, the San Francisco Bay Area, where no less than a half-dozen of these mobile sprinter vans exists, it gives you options. Time savings, convenience and possibly a way to squeeze more time out of your day rather than making an extra trip to your LBS.

What these mobile shops don’t offer are the ability to carrying a wide variety of brands of parts and pieces that might be specific to your bike or even the ability to fit you into their ever-busier schedules. In the future, if demand outweighs supply of these mobile repair units, you might be forced to schedule repairs days or even a week in advance. This could potentially defeat the purpose of getting a quick fix before your post-work ride. I doubt these mobile shops have yet to experience too much work overload…yet. Ultimately, the more players in the bike maintenance market the better for you, the consumer; lower prices and fast service to keep you on the road year round, no matter how busy your life’s schedule gets.

Have you tried a mobile bike shop recently? What was your experience like? Would you use them again? Let us know in the comments.

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Opinion: Dockless bike sharing creating chaos

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My immediate response when I heard about dockless bike share was “More butts on bikes, great.“ Then I started to ask questions. “So what do you do with it when you’re done?” “I could just leave it anywhere?… that doesn’t sound like a good idea.”

Dockless bike sharing launched in the United States this year, but is it a good thing? As of August 2017, Seattle became the first city in the United States to try dockless bike share. In September, a dockless bike share launched in D.C.

This bike share program is referred to as the “Uber” of bike sharing. Here is the concept behind dockless: You download an app, it locates a bike near you, you unlock the wheel with the app, and you pay roughly $1.00 for 30 minutes of use (this can differ based on the bike share company), park it when you’re done, manually lock it. That’s it. Definitely sounds affordable and more convenient than finding a bike share docking station and hoping there is a bike available, or hoping that a station has a parking spot available for the bike you have rented and are done with.

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If you look at China there are over 40 dockless bike share companies currently, with over 350,000 bikes and growing daily. But the problems that dockless bike shares have create have been reported multiple times. Bikes are left in the middle of sidewalks so that pedestrians cannot get to their destinations, which is especially a problem for senior citizens trying to walk with grocery carts, strollers and rascals. Bikes are being left basically everywhere – in huge bike piles, in trees, dumped in rivers, garbage cans – you name it and a dockless bike has probably been parked there in China.

So, how is Seattle doing with their new program? According to a recent Seattle Times report it’s going about the same as in China – dockless bikes are being parked irresponsibly.

And how about D.C.? You guessed it! In October, the Washington Post reported the same problems.

You will always have people who abuse programs or who don’t care to be responsible adults. But there is another problem this “Uber-style” bike share is causing. Not only is it creating another level of irresponsibility in busy cities, but it is not good for the commuter cycling community. Aggression on the streets towards cyclist continues to increase and having these bikes laying everywhere is just furthering that anger towards our community, further adding to the negativity anti-cyclists have. 

Docks create a place where you have to put something away. People are lazy and I include myself in that category, I love convenience and when things are easy. If you give someone the opportunity to be lazy, the majority of the population is probably going to just leave that bike parked in the middle of a pedestrian sidewalk. It’s naive to think that people will park things appropriately. If we continue to grow this program in the United States, are we destined for the large-scale problem China is currently facing.

What do you think about dockless bike share? Does your city have a dockless bike program? Have you tried it? Have you seen the chaos of bikes in weird places? Let’s discuss below!

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Opinion: Don’t be part of the problem

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By Eric McKeegan

American cities are a wonderful place to live. Really. Regardless of perceptions, the number of violent crimes and automobile deaths have been dropping for decades. But things are suddenly getting worse, apparently. According to streetsblog.org, pedestrian and cyclist deaths in 2015 are up 10 and 13 percent, respectively. Many of us that ride the roads regularly started feeling this long before these stats were released.

We all know someone who has been hit by a car while riding. The odds are good you’ve been hit yourself if you’ve been at this long enough. Something is different now. Something different enough to scare some formerly-hardcore riders off the bike on public roads.

It is too early for anyone to determine what is causing it. Read the comment section on any news report related to bicycles and you’ll find a large part of the public thinks we bring this on ourselves. That is a hard argument to support with logic, but it certainly points out a serious problem. The public views cyclists as a crew of daredevils with little regard for our personal safety, traffic laws and automobilists’ (wow, that is a word?) incredibly important time.

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Perceptions don’t cause collisions, but they do create resentment and resistance to creating more and better transportation infrastructure. It’s hard enough convincing people that bikes belong on public thoroughfares in the first place. So maybe, in a not-so-direct way, perception can cause collisions?

It’s something to keep in mind the next time you blow a stop sign, or roll though that red. While it might be ridiculous, each of us represents all cyclists to the non-riding public, as evidenced recently in Pittsburgh. After a cyclist’s death, local riders are being scolded by law enforce- ment, told to obey the law and informed they are being watched. Imagine police doing that to you in a car? Yeah, never going to happen.

Everyone knows that cyclists don’t kill people. Even minor accidents caused by cyclists are exceedingly rare. But it still seems like we are getting away with murder on the streets as we seemingly breeze through traffic with little worry about the rule of law. In reality, the only get-out-of- jail-free card that works with amazing consistency, and only for drivers, is the phrase “I didn’t see him”.

Maybe this is all a nationwide “bikelash” similar to what happened in New York City in the past decade. During her time as commissioner of the city’s department of transportation, Janette Sadik-Khan made sweeping changes to public spaces and the streets. During her tenure in the Bloomberg administration, the city installed almost 400 miles of bike lanes, launched the wildly successful Citi Bike program, and installed more than 60 pedestrian plazas throughout the city, including one that eliminated car traffic on Broadway at Times Square.

These types of success stories give me hope, but they won’t stop people from getting killed tomorrow. Why? I think we all know why. I bet you have one in your pocket or within arms reach as you read this. That little screen that promises to deliver one more social media hit, one more text message, one more dating app match. The siren song of notification. An email from work that needs attention. The latest political news on Twitter. The text from your ex wondering when you are going to pick up the kids. A message on Facebook from a high school classmate you haven’t seen since 2001.

These things aren’t unimportant, but trying to deal with them while piloting a 3,000 pound vehicle on roadways is a recipe for disaster. The allure of the app is strong. They are designed to get our attention and keep us occupied. And they are effective. Probably too effective.

Photo: Leslie Kehmeier

Photo: Leslie Kehmeier

What do we do? I really don’t know. We can install more blinky lights, and put on reflective vests and try to control the lane and do all the right things. But if someone is looking in at a cell phone rather than the road, it won’t really matter.

We can put our cell phones down while we are driving. We can teach our kids not to text and drive. We can talk to our friends and family about putting the phone down. We can work to get laws passed that make distracted driving a very unattractive thing to do.

And maybe next time you roll up to that intersection on your bike, try harder to not be so blatant about just rolling though. Everyone is watching. At least those people not watching their cell phones.

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Two Wheeled Musings

Words by Paul De Valera

My bicycle is my best friend, my only true ally in this world. My bicycle will never betray me. Though it may break and throw me off into a bush or get a flat and make me push it now and again, it won’t ever work toward my undoing — not intentionally, that is.

My bicycle is always there when I need it, and as long as I take care of it, the bike will take care of me. By using my bicycle, I get to go places, see things and travel under my own power. Powering myself makes me empowered. My mind becomes sharper and my body stronger. By using a bicycle I become a better person, a stronger person. The bicycle is a stalwart companion when all of my human interactions have failed me again for the umpteenth time; when tears race down my face as I pedal to the top of a mountain, each pedal stroke has a leveling effect, bringing me back to balance. All the sense of loss, hurt and anger created in this world are pedaled out. My bike is propping me up when, if left alone to my own strength, I would be in a fetal position.

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When I’m troubled, the bicycle unravels mental and emotional knots, helps to solve problems and keep me even-keeled. There could be times when you can’t articulate what is wrong, but your bicycle won’t care; it will just be a good friend to you and take you on your way for as long as you need. It has eternal patience. When my father died and I was sobbing out of my head with grief, I shunned the comfort of my family and got on my bike. I rode and rode and even pushed up a few peaks. As I kept pedaling, I processed my whole life experience, and before I knew it, I felt better because I had my best friend ever to lean on: my bicycle.

Every other morning, I try to get up and to the top of the mountain as the light of day is just glancing over the horizon. There is nothing like getting to the summit of a lonely peak and being greeted by a sunrise; it never fails to put a smile upon my face. While you can try to sum up life in trite little pithy sayings that can be slapped on a bumper sticker, these little things here on my bike are really what, to me, build up a good life worth living. And while I can’t remember every sunrise, I can remember the place it takes me, and that is what always brings me back.

There is a tree that I like to ride to; it’s a lonely tree on a fire road that has become my quiet place. When I get there I just take a moment to soak in the quiet. I don’t need to stay long — just a taste is all. The sounds of traffic, phones, endless talking and noise to no end will always be, but for now, right now, it’s just me, my bicycle and my quiet place.

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One day it will be gone. Even though I’m strong now, one day I won’t be. I burn, yet one day I will be burnt. I intend to ride long hours into my long years, but I will not be blowing past carbon fiber wonder bikes uphill on a 44-pound cruiser forever. The day will come when I can’t ride like I used to, and the day will come when the trail is just a memory and no longer a daily plan. So I ride.

Ultimately, it comes down to love. Riding a bike, for me, is love, and I can never love enough. One day I will be old and wrinkled; I will have lots of white hair and many, many well-used, well-loved bicycles with scratches, rust and bald tires. But I will know that I did what I did out of love. I will look back at all of those rides without regret. So never make an excuse to not ride; make an excuse to go. You’ll never regret the choice.

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Essay: Finding home by bicycle

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I realize it seems odd to live near some of the country’s greatest mountains—mountains that enticed me to move here to begin with—and to spend my summer weekends running away from their cool-air majesty. In the sweltering heat of the lower, rolling corners of Colorado that don’t appear on tourist websites or Strava segments, I am finding a little taste of Texas.

I am not interested in moving back to the Lone Star State, but lately I find myself searching for small tastes of the place I still reflexively call “home.” Things like good Mexican food from colorful hole-in-the-wall restaurants that don’t have English translations on the menu but do have tributes to the late singer Selena on the wall. Things like endless rolling hills crossed by low-trafficked roads that wind up, over and around farm and ranch country, all drenched in a hazy blue sky that affords sunburns, 50-mile views and plenty of space to think big and feel small.

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The former is somewhat hard to find, so I learned to make my own homemade flour tortillas and annually import special meat seasonings (via my mom when she comes to visit). The latter is what I have lately been after on my bike, which means eschewing Colorado’s famed mountain routes and driving sometimes two hours in search of the unloved barrenness of plains and plateaus. And I’ve been wondering why I’m doing it.

Those tastes are not inconsequential and, though I did not really intend to seek such experiences, the search seems well underway. The Hill Country north of San Antonio is where I cut my teeth as a bicycle lover. I jumped straight from learning to ride late in life (age 10) to placing third in the elementary school bike rodeo to 30-, 40-, 50-mile road rides far from home as a teenaged cyclist. For some reason, I have missed those long, rambling, head-clearing days on the bike.

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Last weekend, I found one of those rides an hour from home: 50 miles of dirt roads that drift straight and narrow through the low hills southeast of Denver. Gradual climbs and descents punctuated by occasional short steeps are well familiar, as are the strong smells of cow manure, the summer sounds of frogs and crunching gravel, the need to hold your breath as a truck pulling a horse trailer barrels by (don’t want to breathe in too much dust) and the sanity-questioning intensity of riding through the middle of the day sans shade. The only things unfamiliar were the clusters of pine trees and, on the return trip, the stunning view of Pike’s Peak shrouded in thunderstorms.

On roads straight and brown and sweet-smelling as a raw two-by-four, you can do quite a lot of thinking. Or not. I believe that’s the point. The time in my life when I was disappearing on long road rides in central Texas coincided with upheaval, growth, questioning (my teenaged years, remember). At 30, I don’t share the same life angst felt by my high school self, but I am again at a point in life requiring persistent deep thought.

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I am certain that is what has triggered the intense desire for these types of bike rides. Physically, I have no need to go home. Mentally, I have every need to go home to the types of places where I remember doing my best thinking, and that means riding through my memories on roads like the ones I explored in my youth. No other activity grants me such access to both the past, present and future all at once, while giving me time to think about it all in cadence with my physical self. Pedal strokes align with breaths align with miles align with thoughts.

It’s a big part of why I love to ride.

 

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