Opinion: Invest in your community, ride your bike & share your car!

By Jeffrey Stern

Our generation may be bonkers about the “van life”, but what about that bike life?

In this continually overcomplicated, technology saturated world that seems to grow by leaps and bounds with each passing day there is an urge to escape. Escape our screens, our over-connected lives and responsibilities and trade them in for the open road, adventures and explorations of the unknown.

Although the idea of trading in rocketing rent prices across the country for life lived out of the back your Subaru or foam mattress pad in the bed of your Toyota Tacoma sounds appealing, the question of sustainability is clearly evident. Although some people can, and will, it’s hard to imagine spending your whole life living that way.

Believe it or not, for vehicles driven approximately 15,000 miles a year, the average cost of ownership equal around $8,500 per year in 2017, or roughly $700 a month according to AAA. That doesn’t even take into account the initial purchase price, the rising fuel prices and the of course the fact that because everything in the world is getting more expensive that each oil change, or trip to the mechanic gets progressively more expensive (unless of course you know how to change your own oil, but we’re millennials, so that’s pretty much a lost art).

How about investing this saved money in your community? Laying down roots somewhere that feels like home, building a garden, taking pride in your home however big or small it might be. There are so many ways to travel using public transportation with your bike. Once you’ve arrived at your destination, the journey can really begin – and there’s no reason to not enjoy a route home that takes you off the beaten path.

Yes, this $700 per month is unlikely to cover the cost of mortgage to buy a house in most places in the country, but it is a stepping stone. Inevitability over time your car will try to suck the life out of you, not to mention all the cash you have.

Bikes do nothing but give back. They open your eyes to the world around you. New people, places and experiences by bike are without a doubt some of the best connections you can make. The simplest things can become so fascinating with a bike as an integral part of your life.

When have you ever met a bike touring group with road rage, in a hurry to get nowhere fast that won’t stand for anything in their way? I’ll answer that for you: never.

The van life has its perks, don’t get me wrong. Everything self-contained in a vehicle, with complete mobility to go off the grid. The thought is nice, for a time, but there is comfort in feeling settled. What sounds even nicer though, is ditching the car, embracing the beautiful things we already have around us (more is not always better) and riding our bikes more.

A happy medium may be a car share with a few friends. Imagine the money you’ll save, the relationships you’ll foster and freedom you will have; quite literally the best of both worlds. Van, bike and home, now that’s the kind of life I want to live.

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Essay: Ride more, worry less

By Jeffrey Stern

What do we know about even the most well thought out plans? Well, they more often than not don’t pan out as expected. But only if you let them derail your training, fun, life or work should they cause any concern.

We all want to ride 10, 15, 20 hours per week to be well-prepared for our long adventure weekends or races this summer. At the same time though, we know how rarely this happens. Spilled milk is inevitable in life. Sickness? Yeah, that too.

Sometimes there’s just nothing you can do.

And by nothing, we mean first and foremost don’t even bother worrying about foiled plans. It will do you absolutely no good in the short term or long run.

Work sucked this week. You stayed late every night and still can’t get ahead in the game. Zero rides, all work and no fun at all. What a drag, but you have the weekend as your salvation–there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Then you miss the early morning meet-up at the local coffee spot to head out on the Saturday training loop with your friends because the dog escaped last night, found some delicious trash that has now, 8 hours later, ended up in a steaming pile on the doormat and your 3-year-old has waddled over to it and started picking at it, inching it closer to her mouth…and now, you’re late. Well, you’re not late because no one is actually waiting anyway.

“Damn man!” You think to yourself, “I can’t catch a break even on the weekend.” After cleaning up the mess, the house and then yourself, it’s nearly 9 am and you still haven’t had your breakfast or coffee and you’re leaning to just throwing in the towel on the day’s ride.

“It’s not even worth it,” you mumble to your significant other, “I’ll just try to ride tomorrow,” you say as you sulk your way over to the couch with a box of stale cookies, contemplating a trip to the donut store for a baker’s dozen to drown your sorrow in.

But no, that’s not the answer! Even though the week may not have gone as planned and the weekend is off to a, well, less than desirable start than expected, look on the bright side: it’s spring. The days are getting longer and there’s still time to ride, albeit by yourself, but a ride nonetheless.

Time is your greatest asset and worrying about lost time is about the biggest waste of said asset as possible. On your solo ride, while not worrying about missing out, you may discover a new road or trail you’ve never been on before. You might even find another solo rider who had a similarly off week, and voila, an instant friendship is born.

The point is, you don’t know what may happen, but if you don’t give it a chance and spend all your mental power fretting about what could have been, then nothing good will ever happen. That’s a tried-and-true fact.

Throw the plans, and your attachment to the plans, right out the window so you can spend less of your mental energy worrying about what you missed, and more of it enjoying the opportunities you do have to ride, whenever or wherever and with whoever it might be.

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It’s almost 30 Days of Biking time once again!

30 Days of Biking is a pledge to ride your bike every day in April and share your adventures online with the hashtag #30daysofbiking. There’s no minimum distance and every ride counts, whether it’s around the block or a double century. Just get out there and pedal!

By taking the pledge, you are committing to yourself and your riding community that you will get out on your bike every day in April. Share your reason for riding and your experiences along the way to help inspire others to get out there too!

30 Days of Biking has partnered with World Bicycle Relief (WBR) this year as a fundraiser. WBR is an organization that provides bicycles to underprivileged students and communities in Africa to empower them and help them achieve their goals. The goal is to raise $30,000 for WBR through this fundraiser.

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Are you going to participate in 30 Days of Biking? What helps keep you motivated to get on your bike every day even if the weather is bad or there are other challenges? Share your stories and tips in the comments below, and help inspire others to get on their bikes and ride! 

 

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Building a bulletproof Bikeshare

By Adam Newman

We’ll just admit it: Bikeshare bikes aren’t exactly sexy. More of a passenger bus than a Ferrari, they are simple, utilitarian and sturdy. But it turns out there is a lot more to their design than meets the eye.

When Nick Foley joined Social Bicycles, the company that provides the bikes for Portland’s Biketown bikeshare system, it was trying to adapt existing bikes to a sharable model. Even when built on the industrial-strength Worksman Cycles that are typically used in warehouses and factories, they were coming up short. It was clear that a ground-up design was in order.

Foley, now the vice president of industrial design, started with a traditional Dutch bike design and started bulking it up with a heavy-duty frame, stronger wheels and even replaced the chain with a shaft drive that is nearly impervious to the elements.

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“Mainly [it’s] making a bicycle that’s one size fits all,” he said. “With a really comfortable handlebar position, regardless of how tall you are, a really big seat adjustment range, making it strong enough to withstand a rider that is much heavier than a consumer bicycle rider in a lot of cases. Just taking all the concepts of a traditional bicycle and making them bikeshare-grade.”

Because the bikeshare contracts typically require the bikes to meet minimum standards that are far higher than typical consumer bicycles, the frame, fork and other components needs to be designed, constructed and tested to a higher level.

“Whenever we’re designing new components and running those tests we’re very frequently running a familiar test to the bike industry, but with two or three times the loading on it, because we know we need to withstand maybe a reasonably large person riding it in a reckless manner. That’s a relatively normal user for bikeshare.”

But even while the bike got heavier and stronger, it was important to maintain the ride quality, he said. The program would never be a success if the bikes were terrible to ride.

“I think the core of it really comes down to getting a bicycle geometry that gives a ride experience that is both approachable for new riders but also somewhat nimble and responsive for experienced riders, and making that true across a wide range of heights and weights. And making that true even with a bike share bicycle that’s maybe 50 pounds.”

While the frame and fork are constructed to Social Bicycles’ specifications, the components to make it roll need to be sourced from all sorts of manufacturers, and most of them were never designed to handle the kind of use and abuse that a bikeshare bike endures. Some off-the-shelf components like the tires work great as-is, but many do not.

“Almost all the components on the bicycle are [derived from] taking a consumer bicycle component as a starting point and then replacing the key materials or finishes or coatings, in order to make it last as long as a bike share bike needs it to last.”

Examples include using high-grade stainless steel fasteners instead of typical zinc-coated units, choosing grips and saddles that can withstand thousands of hours of UV exposure without fading and even choosing industrial grade paint that is much more sturdy than what’s found on a typical bicycle.

“Basically any contact point on the bicycle you can’t really use a consumer grade part, because it’s just not meant to be used with the frequency that a bikeshare bike experiences,” Foley said. “That includes quick releases, seatposts, seats, grips, all of those things just go through too many interactions to withstand what a consumer bike would be able to handle.”

Foley said each bikeshare contract includes specifics about how long the bikes and their components are expected to last before needing to be replaced. Consumable parts like tires are replaced as needed, and many components have a one- to three-year expected lifespan, and unless it’s damaged, the frame can be repainted and used indefinitely. According to Foley, the frames could potentially last decades.

“On a practical level, I think these bicycles will last a very long time,” he said.

Even though the bikes are overbuilt and sturdy, they still require regular maintenance to keep them running. Hubs wear out, tires go flat and bearings need checked and lubricated. At Biketown headquarters, the mechanic’s stations are outfitted with exactly the right tools needed to work on the bikes, including special wrenches for the anti-theft bolts used throughout the bike.

“Everything that we do to make the components on the bicycles hard to steal also introduces extra complexity when you’re trying to fix a flat tire. But I will say that on a practical level, using even a high grade puncture resistant tire brings flats down into a very, very manageable level for all our operators.”

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Unlike a typical bike shop, these mechanics know exactly which bike is going to come through the door each day, and they become incredibly familiar with its design and weak points. Their feedback is used to constantly improve the bike’s design.

The Portland Biketown system isn’t even a year old, but Foley says he’s thinking ahead to the future of bikeshare programs. What is he looking forward to?

“Really streamlined, totally integrated, silent, wonderful to ride, electric bikeshare. I think that’s going to be the thing that really takes bikeshare to the next level.”

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League of American Bicyclists and 3M announce 2017 National Bike Challenge

The League of American Bicyclists and presenting sponsor 3M are excited to announce the sixth annual National Bike Challenge. The National Bike Challenge is a nationwide event uniting thousands of current bicyclists — and encouraging countless new riders. It is a free and easy way to challenge yourself, your friends and your community members to ride more while competing on a local, state and national level. The Challenge will welcome over 60,000 riders to pedal a combined 30 million miles between May 1 and September 30, 2017 for improved health, fitness and fun!

Challenge participants will use the Strava platform to record their commuting and recreational miles, and statistics and leaderboards will then appear on the new nationalbikechallenge.org site. There is no cost to participants to join, and riders are encouraged to form teams at their workplace or school to motivate their colleagues to log more miles or to start commuting for the first time. Over 70 prizes per month will be given away to participants who log their miles.

According to Bill Nesper, the League’s Deputy Director, Programs and Operations, “The Challenge brings together individuals, businesses, universities and communities to support our goal of creating a Bicycle Friendly America for everyone. We are honored to partner with 3M to grow the 2017 Challenge with a new website. We look forward to sharing the stories of how the Challenge encourages new riders and builds community.”

“On behalf of 3M and especially as a biking enthusiast, I’m pleased to be involved with a sponsorship of the 2017 National Bike Challenge,” said Paul Acito, VP and CMO, 3M Marketing-Sales. “The health and wellness of our employees as well as contributing to a more sustainable future are among the great reasons for our involvement.”

Local bicycle advocacy groups, bicycle shops, and all participating teams can use the National Bike Challenge to promote their organization, business or group, while building bicycling community.

Join now at www.nationalbikechallenge.org/login/

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