29 April 2011

Bicycle Commuting: Challenges and Obstacles

Part II of a Three-Part Series

In Part I of our series on bicycle commuting, we introduced some real-life commuters across the country and how they got started, what inspires them to keep going, and how they make it work.

Now, it's one thing to venture out on your bike when it's a sunny 72 degrees and your route is designated bike paths and low-volume surface roads. But what about commuting when Mother Nature, poor roadway designs and the convenience of the single-occupancy motor vehicle might tempt us to do otherwise? Part II of our Bicycle Commuting Series is dedicated to addressing the challenges of bicycle commuting, and overcoming obstacles in one's path.


Paul Moore, an English high school teacher in Fresno, CA, penned a short list echoing concerns many bicycle commuters share while on the road.

What I don't love about my commute:

1). "I feel like I am VERY much a member of a minority. Although more people are riding their bikes to work, I see about 100 cars for every cyclist I see on my commute. I would be even happier if I encountered more people like me...on bikes."

2). "I get frustrated by people who demonstrate closed-mindedness when it comes to bikes. As soon as a conversation turns to cycling, people seem obliged to relate to me how dangerous they think cycling is, and as proof of the 'fact,' they share with me their nightmare story about 'this one cyclist' who did this or that. I try to find a way to let them know that cyclists don't like to be stereotyped any more than any other 'minority' does. And do they really want me to respond in kind regarding the dumbest things I've seen drivers do? Not every cyclist is a dangerous menace, and neither is every driver. I know which I prefer, though."

3). "I would like a discount on my insurance. I probably save my health plan provider thousands of dollars a year by staying fit and eating well, and I'm a lower risk to my auto insurer by driving fewer miles. If there were any real justice in this world, people with the least healthy habits would have to pay more for the damage they do to the environment, while those of us who minimize our impact on the environment deserve a tax break or some other kind of incentive."

"A little snow never hurt anyone"...But a pair of Nokia studded CX tires isn't a bad investment, either.

Bob Palkon from Joliet, IL acknowledges the challenges to bike commuting "are significant, but not insurmountable." The top three on his list:

1. "Road conditions and traffic. I heard a story recently that kind of scared me a bit. It was about a teenager texting while driving and killing a bike rider. The story was intended to illustrate how texting and driving is dangerous, but that doesn't bring the rider back. So, I have to admit I am more acutely aware of the traffic now. I think that if the whole 25 miles was on the road sharing with traffic I don't know if I could or would do it.... which, makes me sad to say. Thankfully, most of my ride is on the bike trail."

2. "Most work places, including mine, don't make any accommodations for riders. So cleaning up after the ride to work can also be a challenge. I get cleaned up in a slop/janitor room. It works fine for me. but it would be nice to have a shower at the end. I have asked management, even offered to split the cost, but to no avail. Thankfully I just wear jeans and a t-shirt at work."

3. "Cost of equipment can be difficult initially. A good headlight and tail light are essential and the clothing to ride in. In addition I have to carry water, food and clothes to change into. Really, though, with the money saved in gas I recover those costs pretty quickly."

Overcoming Car Culture: Not just an "American" Problem

Chris De Farcut, who hails from Perth, Australia, believes, "The most dangerous aspect of my cycle commute is the attitude of some car drivers that cyclists shouldn't be on roads at all. Yesterday, on a residential street I take to avoid as many cars as possible, a carload of young guys gestured abuse at me, apparently because I took up a metre of road. They were clearly on probation to becoming full blown idiots. My suggestion is educate kids in yr 11-12 before they become completely ignorant of cyclist road rules."

Residing in Ontario, Canada, Louise Langlais shares, "I commute when there is no snow, because Cambridge [ON] doesn't have bike-friendly shoulders for part of my commute. In warm weather, I use the road where it's safe and occasional pedestrian-free sidewalk to cross the freeway (it is full of snow in winter). I walk to work if possible, about 2 miles each way. Cars don't watch for bikes nor pedestrians, so I have to be very careful either way."

Overcoming Obstacles


Randy Rocheleau from Albany, NY takes the mantra "BE SAFE, BE SEEN" to a whole new level. His Kona Major cross bike dons blinkies at all times: 1 on his backpack, and one on helmet, 1 one each fork blade, and 1 on each side of handlebars for a total of 5 flashing red lights in the rear. A NightRider headlamp projects a high beam of white light in the front so he can easily chart his course as well as alert other motorists to his presence on the road. He observes, "Being a commuter is different then being a roadie. When [motorists] see you out in the elements like that, they immediately give you a different kind of respect than a spandex clad person 'taking up there space'...They see me as using the bike as a form of transportation, rather than just a form of exercise. In the early morning, it's the same idea of sharing: we [both motorists and cyclists] use the same roads to travel back and forth to work."

Describing a potentially hostile situation when a car pulled up abruptly next to him on his way into work and rolled down the window, Rocheleau noticed the "uh oh, here we go" feeling beginning to form in the pit of his stomach, only to be replaced with pleasant surprise when the driver leaned out and said, "Nice to see you so well lit up. Thank you!"

"I think the biggest beef most motorists have is that we surprise them," says Rocheleau. Ensuring visibility on his bike from up to half-mile away, he somberly remarks, "I never want it to be said, 'Oh my God, I'm sorry I never saw them.'"


"My commute has gotten kind of hectic," Adrian Ortiz observes with a note of detachment. "San Diego recently chose my bike route to start fixing the roads. I have pavers, potholes, cones, gravel and transit buses culminating in a symphony of my destruction. With that being said, I have to keep my eyes open and head on a swivel...I try to control my space. I also try to make sure that everyone can see me with lights and reflectors. I don’t want to get hit because I was too cool for a real light. Dead isn’t cool. The main thing that I do is make eye contact and give a lot of hand signals. I see you and I’m turning, Yes, you see me taking this lane, fist in the air because, 'Your mirror almost clipped my shoulder!' "


Aussie Chris De Farcut says his home town of Perth lays claims to being one of the most isolated and windiest cities in the world. He writes, "With long, hot, dry summers, the 1 million ‘sand gropers’ extend their urban sprawl over 60 miles of coastline...Mornings feel like Mother Nature forgot to turn the oven off. Out of necessity, commutes are made at daybreak, and an otherwise unknown society of riders are found on the road, commuting or training. There’s a common bond between cyclists; a brief nod of the head in acknowledgment, and a willingness to help out when punctures occur. I regularly have the company of otherwise strangers, and many, once they find out the mileage I’m doing, take the lead and draft me for the time we share."

"Cycle paths are shared with pedestrians, and only the foolhardy would use them at speed, as dogs, kids and some adults have trouble discerning left from right. On the road there are what I call the ‘less than 1 percenters’ (in every sense), who want to make a point that cyclists are not welcome on the road. The car culture is engrained in Australian attitude and infrastructure. I change attitudes one car at a time by heartily acknowledging those that are courteous."

Making it Safe, Accessible and Convenient

According to the League of American Bicyclists, 50% of all household trips are 3 miles or less, yet nearly 90% of those are made by car. The key to getting more everyday individuals and families on bikes is to make cycling safe, accessible and convenient. Utilizing a bike for short trips (be it to work, school, the library or supermarket for a carton of milk) equates to improved health, reduction in congestion and heavy traffic volumes, and a noticeable savings in your wallet. Stay tuned for the final installation of our three-part series on Bicycle Commuting: Benefits and Ways to Get Rolling.

27 April 2011

Bicycle Commuting; or, 101 Reasons to Go by Bike

Part I in a Three-Part Series

How did you get to work today? If it was by bike, foot, or a combination of one or both with public transit), chances are you arrived at your destination a little more alert, a little more energized, and a bit less harried from sitting in rush-hour gridlock. The best part? You can carry this sense of freedom with you whenever you choose.
Photo, left: with his voluminous Black Star Cycling Bag, BicyclingHub.com employee and dedicated bicycle commuter Adrian Richardson can haul just about anything...including 10 lbs. of packages to the post office for prompt delivery!)

"You don't have to bike daily to be a commuter cyclist. If you use a bike every time it makes sense to use a bike, then you're a commuter cyclist," says Sandra Looft of Simply Bike.

"I never feel like I'm going to work in the morning; that's why I ride. I just feel like I'm going out for a bike ride," notes Randy Rocheleau, a commuter and recreational cyclist who resides in Albany, NY. An 18 mile trip each way, he leaves the house at 6AM and enjoys the peaceful and serene moments on the sections of the Mohawk-Hudson bike path he utilizes during his daily commute. "One of the things I notice [bike commuting] is being at one with nature so early in the morning, and seeing the deer, fox, and skullers out on the river."

Morning sunrise on the Hudson River, January 10, 2011. Photo by Randy Rocheleau. Entitled: "This is why I ride my bicycle to work." (Side note: Susy, a friend a his, commented: "Beautiful. You know, you can see it from the car too! " Rocheleau ‎responded: "Not the same... I can't stop every ten feet in a car, well I could, but the others might not like it.")

Patti Randolph, who lives in Houston, Texas, takes the team approach to multi-modal transit. "My husband and I work less than a mile apart. On pretty days, he will take me to my school with my bike in the back of his truck. He drops me and my bike off at my school and I ride my trail bike home - about 5 miles. I try and do this about 3 days a week, if not more. I ride on all city streets, mostly major streets. I love it, and my students enjoy seeing me leave on my bike!"

Fellow educator Paul Moore in Fresno, California teaches at a high school 25 miles from his home in a small town about 15 miles west of the outer edge of the city. Logging 50 miles per day, two or three days per week in winter, and three or four in the warmer months, Moore observes, "The 100-200 miles I commute each week are excellent preparation for my weekend rides, which typically involve climbs in the foothills and mountains to the east."

Photo, left: Paul Moore on the fixed gear he uses mostly for commuting: "cheap, reliable, simple to maintain."

How it started: "I had been getting an occasional ride to work in a colleague's truck--with my bike in the back so I could ride it home later in the day--for several years, when one day, a student asked: 'Mr. Moore? Do you ride your bike all the way from Fresno...BOTH ways?' I replied that, no, I only rode home, because to ride both ways would involve getting up--when? I paused. I was forced to confront the truth: it was only a matter of getting up an hour earlier. Suddenly, I felt inspired. The Chinese say that the longest journey begins with a single step. I set my alarm. I headed out the door in the darkness (with lights, of course) for the first time a few years ago, a feeling of uncertainty threatening to send me back to the comfort of my warm bed. As soon as I turned the corner of my street, however, I knew I was onto something good. More than 100 commutes later, I am positively HOOKED!"

Bob Palkon started bicycle commuting to work in Joliet, IL primarily as "a reaction to when gas prices reached $4.00 a gallon. I have been riding for most of my life. Both for recreation and exercise, and thought it would be a great idea to add the benefit of saving money too. On average, I use about 15 gallons of fuel per week, so that's about $45-50 dollars saved if I ride every day, maybe even more soon. More important than that though is the intangible cost savings. I am diabetic. Exercise is HUGE in fighting this disease! I am able to save of the cost of some medicine that I don't have to take. Health insurance companies don't have to pay for as much treatment either. This might be a stretch, but since riding is environmentally responsible, I am doing my part to save the cost of recovering our planet."

Want company on your two-wheeled travels about town? Adrian Ortiz prefers the four-legged variety. "I attached a milk crate on the back of my On-Way Raleigh fixed gear so I can bring my 20-pound dog named Ferris to work. I have the ability to bring Ferris to work and thought, 'I hope you’re cool in traffic.' He didn’t respond so I figured he was fine with it.

"I am in sales so I have to have my car during the day. To solve this, I commute about 2-3 times a week. I drive to work, bike home and back to work then step and repeat. I used to be really worried about odor and sweat using wipes, cologne and pollyana’ing in the bathroom at work. It all just felt like I was swirling everything on my body. Then I just told myself that commuting is cool and if someone asked why I smelled, it’s something to talk about. So now I just get to work, cool off and change. Since then I’ve only been asked how I lost so much weight."

It's one thing to venture out on your bike when it's a sunny 72 degrees and your route is designated bike paths and low-volume surface roads. But what about commuting when Mother Nature, poor roadway designs and the convenience of the single-occupancy motor vehicle might tempt us to do otherwise? Stay tuned for Part II of our Bicycle Commuting Series on challenges and overcoming obstacles.

22 April 2011

Photo Caption Contest: We Have a Winner!

We may be serious about riding, but we're just as serious about having fun while doing it. So when photographer Dave Roth captured BicyclingHub.com staff member Adrian Richardson climbing College St., an infamous hill ranging between 18-21% grade during the brutal non-organized annual event known as Ronde PDX this past Sunday, we knew it was too good to keep to ourselves.

We posted the photo to our Facebook community and held a photo caption contest, with the most clever caption slated to win a FREE Park Tool Multi-Tool (a $23.99 value) to get them out of future jams. CONGRATULATIONS to Bruce Corman for his cleverly-phrased winning caption of Dave Roth's Ronde PDX photo: "This cool jersey with the wings really does make me go faster!" With Adrian currently racing in Cat 2 with plans to upgrade, it may very well be true.

Other entries that deserve honorable mention:

Paul A. Landry: "Must ... keep ... breathing...."

Katie Bartel: "Sure glad this isn't the Amstel Gold Race and I'm not Ryder Hesjedal pulling a Tom 'Poo'nen!"

Steve Shoell: "Hey look something shiny!"

Mary Himlin: "Who was that masked woman?"

Doug Glondeniz: "Hey. Wait for me!"

Eric Hunter: Having rode the Ronde on Sunday, I can honestly say that there's nothing PG that would come out of my mouth.

Brian Lucas: "You're not getting away this time Lance!"

Karolyn Ellis: ‎"I'm gonna win...I'm gonna win!"

Mike Kiefer: ‎"Are you kidding me! I have been lapped by a 15 year old!"

Kevin Milligan: "SQUIRREL!"

Joanne Jaretsky Norris: "Hey, that girl up ahead of me has a nice tush. Maybe I can catch up."

Kevin Ross: "I gonna look good in the Polka Dot jersey."

Chris De Farcut: "By day, Mr Average. On Bike, I AM LEGENNDDD!"

Steve Gumz-Manome: "I think I can...I think I can...I think I can!"

Matthew Bloom: "Can you hear me now?

Bryan Gibbon: "Ha! Just 500 meters to the descent!!!"

David Kirk: "I have played follow the leader before, but this is ridiculus, I think they are now stalking me!!"

Peter Koonce: "so this is what 23 percent grade looks like!"

Patty Brun: "Anyone have any spare gears to share?"

Dave Campbell: "DAMN, my legs are white! Spring in the Northwest, baby!"

Al Cassel: "Do these gloves make me look fat?"

Susen Marie: "If he was in Montana...the caption would be....wonder if i can sprint past that bear???

If you haven't "liked" us yet on our Facebook, be sure to give us the thumbs-up and stay in the loop regarding future sales, special promotions, fun contests and cycling-related news!

Special thanks to photographer Dave Roth for his permission to use the above photo. He captured well over 300 images on that beautiful spring day, which you can view here.

20 April 2011

What do the experts have to say?

Passionate about cycling, all of BicyclingHub.com's staff rides in and vigorously tests our products so that we may continue to offer professional advice and excellent customer service. But don't just take our word for it: we also publish product reviews from experts in the field and everyday cyclists who can testify to hours of saddle-time logged in pursuit of finding the best gear that keeps you riding in comfort AND style.

Scott Mars from Crossbikereview.com has generously shared his thoughts and opinions on several go-to pieces of cycling rain gear, below.

. .
Castelli Goccia Jacket
Product review by Scott Mares, Crossbikereview.com. Published August 30th, 2010.
"The Castelli Goccia rain jacket is the best pure cycling rain jacket that we have tested so far...Both commuters and racers will love this jacket and it's one that you will have for years to come."

We Liked

Once you pick up the Goccia rain jacket you can tell immediately what it is made for. The fabric will inspire confidence even when the dark clouds appear in the sky and threaten to open up. For those mystery-weather days when you never know what Mother Nature is going to throw your way, you still have that same feeling of protection just by putting this Castelli jacket in your jersey pocket. With the Goccia, the wearer will feel like they have a suit of armor protecting them from the elements. The vents on the Goccia jacket are very big with zipper pulls that are easy to grasp offering a wide variety of venting options ranging from just above the elbow to mid-chest. The vents and zipper pulls are cleverly designed and functional to boot.

When compared to most rain jackets, the Goccia zipper pull tabs for the vents are very large, which is a really cool thing. This translates to easily reaching and grabbing the zipper pulls during a ride while wearing gloves. Gone are the days of blindly searching for the zipper pull while trying to hold your line! Dislike having to stop your ride to open vents? Well that is no longer an issue with this jacket! Don't have fenders? No worries as the Castelli Goccia rain jacket has a long extended tail flap that will keep your back side nice and dry form the biggest wheel spray you can imagine. Castelli's designers added velcro cuffs on the sleeves to quickly pull and tighten to keep the water out. The cuffs also have elastic in them which keeps a nice seal on your wrists. This velcro/elastic combination works very well against combating the elements.

...With the additional reflective stripes on the Goccia you can indeed get black and still be visible in traffic. We see a lot of rain jackets and its all comes down to two things: staying dry and being seen. In addition to the fluorescent fabric, the Goccia jacket has more reflective marking on it than any other rain jacket we have tested or seen on the market. The arms have large reflective racing stripes that start at the shoulders and wrap around the length of the arms to the wrist. I would estimate that 20% of the surface on the back is reflective. Castelli even included a loop at the back vent flap for a blinky light for extra visibility. The fit of the Goccia jacket is spot on. This was a real bonus as most jackets are cut while the model is standing up and walking around. This jacket is actually cut a little different and fits much better than any pure cycling rain jacket so far. The Goccia is priced at $100, which is an excellent deal for a double laminate jacket with a ton of features that was locally designed in Portland, OR! Cant beat it!

We Didn't Like

Initially Castelli gave us a black Goccia jacket for evaluation. We thought it was cool looking until we got out on the road and realized that we were the same color as the pavement. Even with the additional reflective striping, we would also like to see the Goccia offered in fluorescent pink or a light blue which are both easier to see in overcast and rainy conditions.

The Final Say

The Castelli Goccia rain jacket is the best pure cycling rain jacket that we have tested so far. This jacket has a ton of things that were done right, including lots of reflective material, big zipper pull tabs, great fit and breathability. You should definitely get one and keep it in your race bag. Both commuters and racers will love this jacket and it's one that you will have for years to come.

. .

Showers Pass Soft Shell Trainer

. .
Castelli Sottile Jacket
Scott Mares from Crossbikereview.com says

"The Castelli Sottile is the perfect 'go to' jacket when the skies are overcast...Get your hands on a Sottile, and you may be arm wrestling to see who gets to wear it that day.."

We Liked

The stretchy T-Core LX fabric is very unique. I have only seen a handful of companies that are offering rain jackets with this type of material. In the Portland rain, this fabric performed very well offering plenty of breathability and wind protection. While there are no zipper vents on the Sottile, the jacket is vented with mesh fabric in the armpits. Most cyclists are used to having big zipper vents to undo during a ride and this jacket does not have that. However, when caught in a downpour, this jacket will definitely protect you. The high tech Sottile offers a very lightweight and packable rain jacket for a mere $80. While there is no reflective piping on the Sottile, tthere are 2 reflective tabs on the back of the jacket located near the seams which gives added visibility. According to an online Italian-English dictionary, "Sottile" means "thin, delicate, slender, slim, small, sharp, fine, subtle, and slight." Weighing in at 3.3 oz, those words sum up Castelli's smart new cycling rain jacket in more than one way.

We Didn't Like

The fabric is so lightweight that it can easily get caught in the zipper. The tiny side pocket zipper tab is also hard to find and grab with gloves on.

The Final Say

The Castelli Sottile is the perfect "go to" jacket when the skies are overcast. When space and weight are a premium on race day, this jacket packs small enough that it doesn't occupy an entire jersey pocket. Castelli's designers did an excellent job creating a membrane material that truly breathes, even in post-rain humid conditions. Get your hands on a Sottile, and you may be arm wrestling to see who gets to wear it that day.


BicyclingHub.com recently added a new feature on our website enabling customers to quickly and easily tell us what you REALLY think of the items we sell. Product reviews from cyclists like you are now readily available on BicyclingHub's section pages to better advise shoppers what the top cycling apparel is for riding, racing, and training. Here's your chance to post a quick online review of the product(s) you recently purchased and help fellow riders make informed decisions based on your input. Just click on bicyclinghub.com, select the item(s) we carry in your personal cycling arsenal, and share your knowledge.

14 April 2011

Death Valley Century

A photo essay from guest Blogger Helen Steussy of The Flight Continues













we were




...a bit

of the

















of my



50 days...







































And it

was the








9 months


we are


to taste





the road.

It's not

just us.


from that

50 day







to join together

this spring

to ride

the Natchez Trace


will meet

in Colorado

for a

shared ride.




his tattoo



one, too!

(He just


by Indy

to see me for





a sabbatical

from his



he can



across a


(he won't say

which one)


and I


so much...

...to live


in that




all that



the wind...


the rain.



for her



meet Al


Death Valley...

...to bike

100 miles


Adventure Corps.

Our warm-up





Bright blue skies.

Gentle breeze.




Saturday -

the day

of the

century -





head wind!


and grit


into our



do we

do this?!




the gale.

I huddle


my daughter.


my face

into the


My pedal


is stiff






My Cat-eye

must be








the first stop -

Badwater -

"I'm done!"

I announce.

Time for

this Mom




to hotel...






Death Valley


"No thanks!"

Not today.


I'm slowing

Al down.

Her only


to make it

is to leave me


My journey


is not easy.

Blue skies



But there's



Is it rain?




It's dust!

That damned wind

has circled


to blast me

on the way


I creep,















a Dutch angel

picks me up

and whisks

me back

to safety!

I leap in

the car

and rush out


rescue Al!

I find her

- ready

to bonk -

at mile 45.

- Go for it, Al!

- I'll pick you up

when you're


to drop!

What a trooper!

So while

she faces




extreme fatigue...

I take

Death Valley





When I find

Al again

she has


new friends...

and Marc
help her battle
the winds
of Death Valley.

(They only
had a tailwind
for 7 miles).

I watch



to the











I say

- Yes!

This is it!

This is

the magic...

...of biking!

This is

the magic...

...of life!

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