Friday, November 26, 2010

She Rides a Bike but Also Skis - Year 2

Yes, I could have celebrated the opening day of the holiday season, Black Friday, with trip to the mall where I could spend money and "save".  I could have ridden my bike to Target and "saved 50 - 70% off department store prices!"  But we had other things in mind for the day after Thanksgiving.  Besides moving to Flagstaff for my husband's job, we came here to take advantage of the opportunity to ski.  Today was the opening day of the Flagstaff Nordic Center, announced just yesterday on their Facebook page.  Bob and I knew what we had to do.

We can shop anywhere, but not just any place has snow or places to ski.  Much in the same way that often I consider riding a bike the best part of my day and sitting in a car an experience to be endured, experience of skiing enhances my life.  The idea of camping out in order to save $100 on a flat screen TV just seems really, really sad (as well as disturbing).

That is not to say that we won't spend money on skiing.  This afternoon we purchased a couple's season pass at the Nordic Center.  My husband also bought a bottle of wine for our apres ski feast.  Two weeks ago I picked a couple of pairs of ski pants and a jacket at REI (all on sale).  They weren't hard choices to make sense we know our experience last year that skiing through the winter will bring us physical and mental health benefit that we'll enjoy together.  We'll never regret being together in the snow covered National Forest or underneath the white-capped San Francisco Peaks where we never once think about whether or not we will survive another city budget.

Money well spent equals time well spent.  Life on a bike or on skis.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

She Traveled Far for a Nutcase (Bike Helmet)

Well, actually, my Cousin Angie traveled two hours up the road from Phoenix with her family to spend Thanksgiving Day with Bob and I and the purchase of her new Nutcase bike helmet was largely a matter of convenience.

Angie and her husband Doug are interested in incorporating bicycling into their transportation options.  With a small child and a new "old" house they've recently had renovated they want good bikes at good prices and have been looking at Craig's List.  Two weeks ago, Angie sent me some texts asking for my thoughts about some bikes she had been looking at.  She soon settled on an Electra Townie equipped with fenders and a chainguard.  She's been to a local bike shop for a fitting, a lock and panniers and already pedaled to a recent dental appointment.

Angie likes the idea of looking fashionable when she arrives at her destinations by bicycle but prioritizes safety because she has the needs of a little girl to consider.  While I only wear my helmet about half the time, Phoenix is a very car-centric city and possible not the place for a novice cyclist to to unnecessary risks.  Angie had already had a chance to inspect my Nutcase helmet and decided it was a perfect balance of cranium protection and style.  With no luck finding a Nutcase in Phoenix, she contacted Rainbow's End boutique here in Flagstaff who reported that, indeed, a shipment was on its way!  Immediately after Angie arrived on Wednesday evening we rushed down to Rainbow's End where Angie purchased the Hula Lounge helmet in a S/M.

You probably won't be surprised to read that with a cute new bike and a cute new helmet, Angie also wants the perfect bike basket and a stylish pannier or saddlebag for carrying around her essentials.  I don't know if I should feel guilty for creating a monster or proud. 

Happy Thanksgiving from the SRAB family!

Friday, November 19, 2010

B-Cycling with Bob and Karen in Denver

Because I am an eternal romantic I surprised the Planner Guy last week with a trip to Denver to visit friends and family - and, of course, an adventure with Denver's B-Cycle Bike Share program!  Neither one of us have ever used a bike share program, and as an urban planner Bob, a former Denver resident, was very interested in seeing how they worked. 

Bob and I picked up our bikes in LoDo (lower downtown), a massive mixed-use redevelopment along the Platte River that was just getting underway when Bob left Denver 10 years ago.  We chose the LoDo station because of its proximity to the Denver Aquarium and the mother-ship of the Mountain West, REI.  Additionally, we wanted to pedal around the new redevelopment and enjoy the multi-use path along the river.

The first thing about using the B-Cycle bike share for the first time is not to panic when approaching the station.  Just have a credit or debit card and read the instructions on the front of the check-out kiosk.  Just like an ATM, the computerized window provides step-by-step directions for purchasing several types of memberships.  Subsequent checkouts alert the member to the remaining time.  We found that the buttons on the kiosk are more responsive to warm fingers so bringing a a cup of hot coffee or hot chocolate along with you might aid in moving the check-out process along a little faster.

Each bike is stored in a numbered dock.  Removing the bikes from the dock is effortless.  The checkout allows you to choose which bike you would like to check out and you simply enter the number of the dock from which you plan to remove the bike.  I couldn't find a way to check out two bikes at once so went through the process twice and purchased two 24-hour memberships for $5 each.

The 3-speed B-Cycles are proportioned to fit any rider so you don't need to worry about finding a the right size.  The frames are all step through and the saddles easily move up and down to accommodate a right of any height.  Each bike is equipped with headlights and rear red blinker lights, a generously proportioned wire front basket that is permanent attached, a skirt guard, and a two pronged kickstand.  A cable lock is attached to the inside of the basket and locks below the basket.  Unlike my bikes at home, the B-Cycle does not have a  rear view mirror attached to the end of the handlebar grip and that is one feature that I would have appreciated, especially in an unfamiliar city.  However, riding without a mirror forced me to get back into the very good habit of checking over my shoulder, something I occasionally lazy about.

The bike share program is integrated with Denver's public transportation.  The informational sign at the end of the portals detailed the location of other stations, as well a transit stops downtown.  We were impressed that during our ride in LoDo and the rest of downtown Denver we saw numerous B-Cycle stations and had no trouble finding functional bike racks around the city.  I was particularly impressed with the racks located at REI, which allow for many bikes to be easily parked and removed.  Not surprisingly, a B-Cycle station is located at rear of REI near the multi-use path.  Had we ended our journey there we could have checked our bikes into any of the available docks.  That is all that is necessary to return to bike.  Each bike has GPS and radio frequency IDs that track location and use.

As mentioned earlier we plans for the day included a visit to the Denver Aquarium just down the street from REI.  Absolutely nothing bikey occurred at the aquarium, although it is right off the multi-use path.  I only mention the aquarium so that I have an excuse to post the "art" photography Bob and I created during our visit.

Of more bikey relevance is that afterward we enjoyed lunch at a Mexican restaurant across the street and because we were on bikes were able to indulge in a large margarita and a guilt free lunch.  One thing a person should never have to worry about while on a birthday vacation is dieting and when your riding a bike to get around (we also used the city buses) rather than driving a car, you can actually enjoy your meal rather than worrying about weight gain.

After lunch we were up and down the multi-use path that ran along the Platte.  Most of it was paved and nice and wide, although we did ride along some dirt and gravel sections that might have been cut by bike riders and runners (we saw many of both groups) rather than intentionally placed by the planners.  We liked the view of downtown from the Platte and appreciated the informational signage located just off the path.  I would have liked to have spent more time on exploring the multi-use path but we were meeting up with friends for dinner and needed to head up town to catch a bus home.

Here, is Bob consulting Google maps attempting to location a stop for the #6 bus.  As you can see, the basket came in handy, securely carrying a large REI containing two pairs of ski pants, a ski jacket and two running jackets.

All-in-all, I found the B-Cycle bike share program well worth the membership.  We'll definitely use it again when we Denver or any of the other cities that have the program (as does Chicago, and soon, Louisville).  I can't think of a better way to see a new city from the street level.  Being on a bike is so easy in terms of being able to make spontaneous stops to explore interesting landmarks and that quirky boutique that's unlike anything in your hometown.

For residents, the program is a great way to check out and became comfortable with bike commuting, especially if you are thinking about or already using public transportation.  I've seen a lot of people not take that first step to bike commuting because they don't have a bicycle and don't want to make the investment when they aren't sure they will use it.   A bike share program seems like a great way to help those who are on the fence about bike commuting transition to a less car dependent lifestyle.  As a regular bike commuter, I prefer to have my own bike rather than have to worry about availability or using up my "minutes" but if a downtown resident who might lack a secure storage space or a resident commuting into the city by bus or car pool, the bike share program could be a perfect solution to getting around without having to worry about finding parking, paying for meters or filling a gas tank.

So do any of you have any experience with a bike share program?  Do you think it has much potential in your community to raise interest in a less car dependent culture?

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Secret of Happiness?

Just thought I'd share insights derived from a recent fortune cookie:

Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.

Happy biking . . . . .

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Winter's Approach

We had a first light snow last week, but nothing that could keep me off my bicycle, even without studded tires.  The National Weather Service predicts that the anticipated La Nina weather pattern this year will result in a warmer and dryer winter than last.  I am assured we will not go without snow but advised not to count on as much as we enjoyed last year - at least I enjoyed it, as my husband taught me how to cross country ski.

Initially the bad snow news caused me to pout quite a bit but the up-side has been more time to enjoy fall bicycling and  delaying the expense of purchasing studded tires.  I've been wearing more skirt lately paired with tights and tall boots to keep me warm but so far heavy coats have been all but unnecessary except after the sun goes down.  Either my Merino wool JCrew sweater jacket or my chocolate brown Columbia soft shell jacket have all but become part of my regular work uniform and protect me quite well from the cold on my ride too and from work.  Dottie from Let's Go Ride a Bike created a nice video blog last year on dressing for cold weather and stressed not bundling up more than you  have to on a bike commute into work as the ride in warms you up in no time.  Keeping that in mind, I've really found she's quite right.  I'm sure the temperatures will drop enough this winter that I'll need one of my heavier coats but as yet I've almost been a bit taken aback when coworkers seem surprised that I'm biking to work in cold weather.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

SRAB Visits the Dahon Dispatch Blog!

My morning ride on the urban trail on the Dahon Eco 3.
Eric at Dahon contacted me not long ago and asked me if I'd be interested in sharing the story of my beginnings as a bike commuter with a guest post on their blog, the Dahon Dispatch Blog.  Eric was particularly interested in how I overcame my initial reservation about giving up my car.  Of course, I readily agreed and sent along several photos of my morning ride on the little red Eco 3, a really fun little folder that I've got big plans for.

Come this May, Bob and I will be flying to San Jose to accompany our nieces for their second race with Girls on the Run.  My Eco 3 will be going with us since we plan on taking the girls on a biking adventure that no doubt will include a stop for lunch somewhere.  We'll also do some pedaling up and down the hill of San Francisco on one side of that trip.  There's a bike rack in front of Giant's Stadium, isn't there?

Casual Friday
So check out my post at the Dahon Dispatch Blog, as well as Eric's recent posts about Interbike and Eurobike 2010.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Art and Bicycles at the First Friday Art Walk

Welcome to the Flagstaff Bicycle Revolution!
Bob and I pedaled around downtown Flagstaff last night for the November First Friday Art Walk.  Our fall has been unseasonably warm and while I worry about the prospects for skiing in December I am enjoying being able to comfortably ride my bike well into the night, especially for weekend date nights.

At Aspen and Leroux
Plenty of parking!
As usual, downtown parking is a breeze when you leave the car at home and ride a bike instead.  You could never get this many cars in in this amount of space on the curb.  Biking to and from the art walk also allows for an extra guilt-free appetizer at Criollo, too.

City lights and bike reflectors aglow on San Fran.
The Monte Vista's neon sign all lit up atop their roof.  It's one of downtown Flagstaff's most charming features.  And hotel is fun place to stay the night if you want to hang out in the city all night.

I could not get this dog to look in the camera.  Is it me?
These street musicians were really good.  I have no idea who they are.  I wonder if they look familiar to anyone.

Flagstaff Bicycle Revolution on Mike's Pike on the southside of the railroad tracks was hosting a hopping First Friday party. Lots of original work from a local artists Stu Henderson and Brian Walker.

Bicycle Revolution speicializes used and refurbished bicycles and new bike frames and parts.  Owner CJ Constantopoulos also holds periodic bike repair classes, which I really need to take advantage of someday soon.  We chatted last night about him working with me next summer to put together the touring bike of my dreams (because 3 bikes just isn't enough).  He's selling the above (elegant!) frame on consignment for a man whose moving out of state for a pretty sweet price.

VooDoo Cycles has a cool logo.  They are a really popular bike in Flagstaff.  Strangely, I only recently learned they are a local mountain bike company.

3 S. Mike's Pike, Flagstaff, 86001
The storefront.  Very eye-catching logo on the side of the building that nicely captures of "revolution" theme.

Bob and I as we depart for dinner at Beaver Street Brewery.  Chili and corn bread, here we come!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Plenty of Bikes in Ireland

My sister Alison visited Ireland last month with her husband.  While she was there she was good enough to snap a few photos for me. 

Lots of bikes at Trinity College, as you can see.

But you can't ride them on campus.  Anyone happen to know why?  No judgement implied; just curious.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Random Bike Sighting Here and There and Further Out

Sometimes I just have to stop and take a quick shot of a bike that catches my eye.

This sleek and sophisticated road bike I spotted in front of Collins Irish Pub here in downtown Flagstaff.

While visiting my cousin in Phoenix, I came up a few bikes parked out in front of the establishments we visited.  No riders though.  It was very hot outside and I rarely see a bike in Phoenix with an actual human being attached to it.  This particular bike with a broken chain is simply used as a large flower basket.  I guess the proprietor is going in the right direction.

On the same trip, we did see signs of human life parked in front of Paris Envy. . . . .

This sandwich enclosed in a plastic container and resting in a wire bike basked appeared freshly made.  I admit to being tempted to snatch the sandwich but decided the owner was doubtless nearby - and of course stealing would be wrong.

During our recent trip to Greenville, SC we came upon this old military issued bike at an army-navy store on North Main.  Very cool.  Easy to imagine some young private on this bike carrying a critical message from President Roosevelt to General Patton.  There's a very cinematic quality to my imagination and I can't walk by an interesting bike without wondering about the person who pedals it and where it's been.

And also in Greenville, a old tandem bike as signage for TTR Bikes.