Everyday Outdoors

February 4, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Commuting, DRBC, Events, Gear, How To, Lifestyle 

I live in Wisconsin. The weather changes. Duh. Nothing new, it’s everyday. We get melting heat in the hundreds with humidity that you can almost swim through. We get rain and storms that cause flooding (that you literally swim through) and we get cold. This year we seem to be getting plenty of that. Subzero temps have been the norm for weeks now. I seem to be one of a small group that has decided to simply deal with it. This group, by the way, is growing. We don extra layers, mittens, facemasks and goggles. The snow for skiing and snowshoeing is really good, the fat tire bike group has over a dozen riders each week, I see fellow bicycle commuters everyday. The city is doing their normal job on the streets and they are passable. I ride daily and haven’t had to deal with ‘too much snow to ride through’ yet. Outdoors in Wisconsin, in Winter, is still good, add a layer.
I was looking through my calendar and realized how much I do outside in the winter. I have been going out more lately as the temps dropped. Every night for almost a week I was getting home around Midnight. That’s not normal, guess there’s just too much fun stuff to do. Rode to PSB on Wednesday for a free pint, strapped the skis to the bike Thursday for ski night at the golf course, great music downtown Friday and Saturday night, Sunday, skied at the golf course early, then rode to a friends for the Superbowl, snowshoed for a couple hours with them before the game.
I find the key to everyday outdoors is stay warm and have some lighting. The skiers use strap on head lights to light the trail at night. Bikes of course have bike lights and reflective stuff. When the moon is out, snowshoeing by moon light is amazing. 
The cold is just cold, use what works. The darkness is defeated by simple cheap lighting. Friendship in the cold grows, the experience together is more intense. Enjoying a hot toddy or coffee afterwards just sounds good. Chatting about ‘the crazy headwind’ or how ‘noisy the snow is at this temperature’ becomes normal conversation. 
Don’t be afraid of the cold dark Winter, warm it with activity, friendship and fun. Before you know it, we’ll be swimming through the humidity of Summer…

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1-Winter cycling in Wisconsin

January 8, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Advocacy, Commuting, Education, Gear, How To, Outreach 

I ride, a bicycle, in Wisconsin, year round…
In my discussions with cycling friends who only ride in fair weather, here is my conclusion. I will assume they are like other normal people and are a good sampling of the population.
They don’t ride in the winter because: It’s cold, and slippery, and cold. I did have a concern or two about their steeds and the salt, but mostly, it’s cold.
My answer is usually a question. You live in the midwest, it gets cold here, you don’t seem to suffer from bouts of hypothermia, how do you stay warm? And thus, I answer their biggest problem with riding in the winter.
Second big problem is usually the snow and ice on the roads. This is the more complicated answer, one most cyclists enjoy though. Buy stuff for your bike. This is a list of possibles:
Studded tires- they just work. Carbide studs last a long time. Tires are easy to change, most cyclists should know how to fix a flat.
Fenders- there are easy to put on fenders using rubber straps, some snap on to the frame or, have permanant ones put on. I reccomend having a shop put them on. They can be a pain to line up.
A bag- any bag you can carry an extra layer of clothing, batteries for lights (I assume you have them already) and other bits of bike nessessity. I use a Messenger bag but any backpack, bike trunk or pannier bag works. If you need water proof, use ziplock bags.
The big thing that I have added to my bike for cold weather riding are:  POGIES! – these are the big handlebar mitts. Every type I have tried are warm, some are not waterproof.  Everyone I know who has them becomes a winter rider. They range from $20 for ATV mitts to $100 for the super Alaskian type. I generalize extremely, just search for ‘bicycle bar mitts’ or ‘pogies’.
You don’t have to ride in the snow. The streets clear off a couple days after a snow and are quite passable. Riding in the snow can be challenging, expecially when there is loose snow to go through. Mostly, keep yourself kind of fluid and roll with it. Momentium will get you through, always ‘be ready’ for the bike to slip when going through the loose stuff or over ice if you don’t have studs.
Simple answer to riding in the winter, in Wisconsin. Wear warm, layers work best but, any warm will do.

Look for the next article: How I ride in the winter- The gear.

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2-Winter cycling in Wisconsin-The Gear

January 8, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Advocacy, Commuting, Gear, How To, Lifestyle 

I have seen cyclists use about anything when riding in the winter. Mountain bikes, cross bikes, old Schwinns, even skinny tire road bikes. They all work. Some are more adept to the road conditions. I think a low center of gravity is the less ‘skiddish’ an more enjoyable ride. I have a fixed gear bike that has a high center. I leave it hanging until the streets are dry. My steed of choice for any of my daily winter commuting is an old cheap mountain bike that is 3 sizes too small for me with studded tires…and a fixed gear rear wheel. I also don’t have brakes. I do take simplicity to a bit extreme this way, but then I also love fixed gear bikes. That’s another article…

So, let me start with clothing, then the bike and bits.
I ride daily, my commutes vary in time and length so I try to be ready and versatile. My 2 mile ride to work is less layered because my work uniform is not good cycling clothing and it is a pretty short ride. I mostly use rain pants and a warm layer coat and high viz shell coat, warm hat or balaclava (facemask), winter boots. I keep street shoes at the shop. The pogies allow for thin cheap gloves (the end stand, one size fits all type found in department stores). I’m thus ready for rain, wind and cold. Non work day riding finds me wearing more like the following.
image

So, (right to left in the picture) there is an underarmor type long sleeve, a thin wool sweater, thin down coat and  hi viz rain/wind coat. Jeans, wool socks, bike cap and helmet with the holes filled with foam I had left over from the extra pads. Sorell type boots. Rode all morning (about 30 miles with stops in between for errands), kept warm and was even getting a bit sweaty at 20°F. I add a thin layer like a long sleeve t-shirt over the first layer if the temp is below 10°F and have a thicker down coat for below zero. Usually the gloves and pogies are good to about zero, then I use ski type gloves.
Probably missed something, but you get the gist.
image

My bike is a custom beater built up on a department store mountain bike frame (named ‘Wynott’ as an opposite to my Wyatt fixed gear). I built up a 26″ fixed gear rear and have stainless chainring and cog. Not needed, just had them. Any drivetrain is good if it is kept lubed up. The seat is kept so my legs are flexed too much but I am close to the ground and more stable. Tires are 160 carbide stud tires. Carbide vs steel. In mixed riding (some exposed pavement, some packed snow and ice) go for the carbides. If you are riding on ice and packed snow, steel is less expensive and will work as well. The big key is maintenance. Either leave it frozen outside or bring it in and rinse it off with a pitcher of hot water to get the salt off. I do both, the water will cause you to need to lube the drivetrain more often. As you can see, Wynott is not fancy. Use any bike you have, but maintain it and it will serve you well in the cold and snow.

The bits. Platform pedals big enough to hold your snow boots. The pogies are hunters muffs. I got two and zip tied them to the handlebars. I have ATV mitts on a different bike. The fenders, front one is bolted on and has a DIY extension, the back fender is zip tied on. Lights of course. That about covers it.
On to the ride…

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3-Winter cycling in Wisconsin- The Ride

January 8, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Advocacy, Commuting, Gear, How To, Lifestyle 

How do you write instructions on how to ride a bike? Riding is a doing thing, start, learn, smile. I can think of a tip or two.
When encountering ice without studded tires, go around or coast over it, but be ready for the slippage.
Plowing through snow. The Eskimos have all these words for snow, they don’t have one for the sandy, loose piles cars make. You know the stuff, like stepping on sand, but with a slippery component. My tip, avoid it or keep momentum up and coast through. Skinny tires slice right through that stuff. Fresh snow that has been driven through or walked over…ugg. Nearly impassable sometimes. Fresh snow with no tracks, great. Pedal right through.

The biggest thing about riding in winter, at least try. Keep an eye out for an organized ride if nessassary, but at least try it. It makes the cold season shorter and is great for relieving cabin fever.

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Good Bicycle Related Reads

May 24, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Education, Gear, How To, Lifestyle 

As some of you may know, by day I am a librarian, really I am. This means, in a very stereotypical way, I love reading as much as I love riding my bikes. When I can sit down in the evening after a nice long ride and read a book about bicycling pretty much all is right with my world. With that in mind I thought I would share a few of the titles I have read recently or my favorites, just in case you need something to read yourself.

The Lost Cyclist: The Epic Tale of an American Adventurer and His Mysterious Disappearance
By David Herihy, 2010
I really enjoyed this book. It is full of the romance of the bicycle that was at its height during the Victorian period. Frank Lenz sets out on a journey to bike around the world, this book recounts what is known of his journey and the search, although belated, to find him after he disappears in the Middle East.
Winding Rivers Library System Catalog

Read more

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