May is Bike Month racking up the miles

Rider and bike at Lake Tahoe

Ride, ride, ride, and do it safely. Record your miles!

May is Bike Month is rolling right along. The California goal is 2 million miles for the month. So far, 1.1 million miles have been posted. There’s about 2 weeks left to get that other 900,000 miles ridden.

Across the nation, a few more million miles will be posted. The whole idea is to bring riding bikes right up front in the news and everyone’s though processes. Generally speaking, there are quite a few riding events throughout the month.

Depending on where you live, riding at this time of year may be wide open or still just a bit dependent on what the weather is doing. Where I live, rain and snow still are on the menu. Back east, a lot of rain and snow may still be on the menu. Ride when you can, then post your miles on the May is Bike Month site.

You don’t have to ride any set number of miles, or join a team, or doing anything other than ride. The “teams” aren’t actually teams in the sense of a competitive group. It’s just a way to associate with your friends or colleagues from work, or the folks who frequent your local bike shop.

I am on a team, but like almost every mile I ride, I ride alone. My miles, 171.5 of them for this month, are recorded under the bike shop’s team. We are over 3,000 miles so far. If it got any more simple, it would be done while we were all fast asleep.

What’s it cost, you say? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero. Bubkis and so on. Free in plain speak. If you ride a mile, record a mile. One mile is better than no miles.

Sign up, ride, record, enjoy. It’s a good deal.

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Good thing we retired

retro style bike, 2012, Sacramento, CA

Retro style at NAHBS 2012/photo: J Ferris

An article I just read online makes it clear that we should be happy that we aren’t competing with the younger set these days. Did you ever ride your bike to work? I did.

It was an old skinny tired thing, a one speed, long before they became “in”. I haven’t been “in” since in  was “out”. I rode it to work, to friends houses, and when I got out of the army, to the local community college.

I didn’t give much thought to my riding attire. Helmets weren’t available, so I simply wore a hat. I had a clip to keep my pants leg out of the chain ring. I just dressed like I normally would have, while taking care not to get wound up in the chain ring.

Well, things have changed. Apparently, there’s a need for a suit combo for the those who bike to work and who need to wear a suit.

Used to be, I guess, as I wasn’t in the suit brigade, one would carry the suit jacket nicely rolled up in a pack or at least unbuttoned for the ride to work. The pants leg still required either a clip or stuffing into the sock. Not exactly metro-wonderful.

Where there is a need, real or not, entrepreneurs will fill jump in and fill that need. Responding to cycling complaints, San Francisco’s Parker Dusseau, maker of “Tailored Active Wear” and very stylish apparel, has come up with the commuter suit. It is especially made for men who cycle to work, and who need to wear a suit.

The Commuter Suit is a bit different that an off the rack unit. The fabric is a superwool with a bit of spandex mixed in.

The pants have a gusseted crotch, which allows for more comfortable movement than traditionally tailored pants. They also have a tab and button to cinch the pant leg around the ankle, keeping it a stranger to the chain ring. The pants pocket flaps have reflective piping as does the stretch flap on the pant leg.

The suit jacket has a poly tricot mesh lining that contains 28% spandex. It is incorporated into a pleat in the back of the jacket, which allows for reach and stretch, as in gripping the handle bars while riding. 

It also has zippers in the upper arms to aid ventilation on warmer days, and some reflective, but hidden until you need it, piping on the collar and arms. Reflective is good, being seen is great.

Well, it goes on. Visit the website and read all about it. Actually sounds like a pretty cool addition to ones cycling attire, especially if one is required to sport a suit at work.

Now the big part: The pants retail at $245, the jacket, $485. For someone who a) rides their bike to work in the city, and b) must suit up at work, this is c) a very good idea.

I, however, am glad that I am retired, and may ride with any getup I want to.




Time to ride

stainless steel bike, car

Tune it up, then ride/photo J Ferris


You’ve bought your season pass for next years ski season. Now, it’s time to start riding.

Most of us who ride do so throughout the year, weather permitting. Skiers spend more time on the slopes than in the saddle. This ski season is over.

Time to mount up.  If you haven’t done much riding over the winter and early spring, you’ll find that the weather is just about perfect right now for riding.

First though, a little bike maintenance is in order. Get your ride out and check it over very carefully, especially if you haven’t spent much time on it recently.

  1. Visually inspect the entire bike, frame, wheels, tires, chain, saddle, handle bars–all of it.
  2. Carefully clean anything that is overly gunked up.
  3. Inspect your tires. Look for cracks, missing chunks, small cuts. Replace them if they show too much wear.
  4. Spin your wheels. They should spin freely. If not, adjust them so that they do.
  5. Test your brakes while the wheels are spinning. If they are mushy, tighten them up. It’s good to be able to stop.
  6. Clean, then lube, your chain. It will last longer, and won’t yak at you all the time while you’re riding.
  7. Make sure your headset and handle bars are tight. Steering is important.
  8. Change the batteries in your front and rear lights. If you don’t have front and rear light, get some. It’s a safety issue.
  9. While your bike is on the rack, run it through every gear. Oil the derailleur.
  10. Anything that you can’t do, take it to your local bike shop and have them tune it up.

An early season check like this will up the odds that your riding season will get off to a great start. It’s a long season. You’ll be riding till the snow falls late next autumn. Might as well make sure it’s going to be a good time in the saddle.

Especially for those of us who are on the mature side of the age scale, hitting the bricks after a winters layoff should be done with some care.

Your first rides, if you haven’t ridden much over the winter, should be fairly simple, which is to say, relatively flat, with a few rollers mixed in. Heading up your area’s version of heartbreak hill is likely to put a dent in your psyche, not to mention pain in your legs, back, and brain.

Take it easy. There’s plenty of time to hit the steeps, if you want to, just a bit later on. What’s the rush? Just ride.    

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New technology builds bike frames

Welding jig, NAHBS 2012/photo J Ferris

Welding jig, NAHBS 2012/photo J Ferris

Bicycle builders generally use quite a bit of sophisticated tools to make their bicycles. Most of those tools have been around for quite a long time.

The builders use jigs for the frames. They can bend and shape the materials, if they are a metal of some kind, perhaps titanium, steel, or aluminum. The jigs are complex and very cool. I saw several at the National Handmade Bike Show a couple of years ago, when it came to Sacramento, California.

For other materials, the jig provides a template for other, non-metal materials. Bamboo and carbon frames have to start somewhere, and a good model to work from is necessary.

A lot of and welding, some of it pretty specialized, comes into play, along with brazing, to get metal pieces to hold together. This is welding and brazing that has to look very good when it’s finished. You can’t cover up a bad weld or braze.

All of this is known and old technology. It works. It’s worked for what seems like forever. That may be about to change.

3D printers have hit the news in the last few years. The technology has been around since the 1980’s. The first working 3D printer was made by Chuck Hull in 1984. He worked for an outfit called 3D Systems, Inc.

In 2010, these machines became commercially available. Their value is obvious, as the 3D printer and services market in 2012 was estimated be $2.2 billion worldwide.

It’s a pretty interesting process. The short version is that the printer lays down layers, which build up to produce the 3D product.

The technology has come to bicycles. Bicycles made with a 3D printer. Fascinating.

Renishaw, a UK metal-based additive maker teamed with the British design firm Empire Cycles and brought out their 3D printed mountain bike frame this week. It’s the MX-6 all mountain bike.

The frame was printed in sections, using titanium alloy that was then sleeved and bonded together, which, the company says, “…offers several advantages in design freedom, construction and performance.”

Starting with a basic design, they remove material from areas of low stress. This ends up with a new design that is both lightweight and strong.

Bicycle manufacturers  typically will go through a few designs before settling on one that will be built for riders. It can be a somewhat long and expensive process.

With the 3D process, these design changes are much faster and more flexible, allowing a finished design to come to market more quickly.

They used a Renishaw AM250 laser melting system to “print” the frame. Using titanium alloy, the frame is strong, durable and lightweight. According to Renishaw, “…additively manufacturing the frame using titanium makes the parts denser–and thus stronger–than if they were cast.”

It’s what cyclists all around the globe look for. A strong, lightweight bike that will stand up to whatever riding they do. With a 3D printer, using a titainium alloy that is laser melted, the frame pieces can simply be whatever they need to be, and that is, always in cycling, strong, durable, and lightweight.

How extensive this technology will be in bicycle manufacturing is anyone’s guess. It could be a tool for very custom bikes. It could just as easily be a tool for less custom bikes too.

There will always be a place in the custom bicycle world for frames that are first designed on a scrap of paper, transferred to a CAD program, and then laid up on a jig and expertly brazed and welded together, or put together with layered carbon or expertly cut bamboo.

Everything changes over time, including how bike frames are made. Amazing.


End of autumn

Find time to ride

Keep your lights on, it’s dark out there.

This Saturday, December 21, at about 9:11 a.m., autumn bows out for the year. Winter officially makes its debut. Despite all the weather guessers touting “winter weather” and “ooh, it’s wintery cold outside”, the facts are that winter starts in December, every year, not November.

The Winter Solstice marks the shortest day of the year. This is a big day for all of us outdoor types. The need to keep lit, as in bike lights and so on, continues. The day and night hours won’t be equal till the Vernal Equinox in March.

The way the light filters through everything at this time of year makes for some pretty muted scenes. The earth is tilted 23.5 degrees away from the sun, so the light has to shine through more things than in summer. Those things are trees, bushes, and buildings.

It doesn’t matter how you chose to make yourself more visible, it only matters that you do. There are far too many riders who pedal in low light and plain dark conditions wearing dark clothing, no lights on their bikes, and riding against the traffic on a street. There’s no polite spin on this. It’s just plain stupid.

That type of riding puts everyone in a bad spot. Drivers can’t see the riders well, if at all, until they are right on top of them. Car vs. bike  crashes don’t work out well for the bikes. Riders simply put themselves in the Grim Reapers crosshairs.

Keep the lights lit. Wear gear with reflective tapes and logo’s. Ride with traffic. If you able, stay off the streets at night. We didn’t live this long by ignoring too much of reality. Some maybe, but not the really obvious stuff.

Enjoy these last really wonderful days of autumn. On Saturday, you may start enjoying the early winter days. Ride on!


It’s cold outside!


Fritz Rice on his zip tied snow bike

Fritz Rice on his zip tied snow bike

Winter won’t roll in for another two weeks. December 21 is the Solstice this year, with the first full day of winter on the 22d. That hasn’t stopped the cold weather from racing in though.

Much of the U.S. is dealing with a pretty good deep freeze right now. What now? Put the shorts away would be the first thing.

Riding in the cold can be a bit more a challenge, especially if it is really, really, cold, say, less than 20 degrees. What’s a rider to do, especially a rider of a certain age?

Bundle up. That’s the long and short of it. People who live in the colder states don’t just quit riding when the weather goes far beyond chilly.

You do have to take a bit more time getting ready. Putting on the layers that will keep you warm on your ride takes a bit of thought and time, more so than in the warmer months.

First, you need a base layer, which translates to long johns. These aren’t the Bronco Nagurski lj’s that Click and Clack talk about. Synthetic or wool, wool blend, lj tops and bottoms, along with wool blend or synthetic socks kick off the layers. Leg warmers are good for some. Wool, wool blend or synthetic, please. Your cushie tushies are already synthetic, no worries there.

Next comes the windstopper gear. Some kind of riding tights or pants that have the ability to block wind. Again, synthetic or wool blend is what’s called for. Another top, topped by a windproof but light weight jacket comes next., depending on the cold. The layers are building, and for good reason.

Taking care of your hands is a pretty good idea. Thermal gloves work. A pair of wool blend/synthetic glove liners, topped by ski gloves works pretty well.

Your head needs some protection, other than your helmet. A beanie of some kind, preferably windproof, is good. One that covers your ears is great if you don’t have those cool synchilla type ear muffs. Cold ears, ones that hurt because of the cold, can ruin your ride.

Get a cover for you helmet too. Shoe covers may be necessary.

Notice that everything you have on should be wool, a wool blend, or a synthetic material. Cotton just doesn’t cut it for the outdoors. Combine cold with wet, and any cotton clothing, from your underroos to your beanie, are going to quickly become a liability, a very uncomfortable, and potentially, dangerous liability.

For Boomers, or anyone else, in the really cold spots around the country, you know you’ll have to gear up even more.

Why layers? Simple. If you get too warm, shed a layer. Put it back on when the cold starts to bite again. Rule of thumb: if you are too warm when you start, you’ve got too much on. Riding will quickly build up some body heat.

This doesn’t entail a bank emptying trip to the gear shop. You may already have most of what you need. Anyone who plays in the snow is ahead of the game.

The most important thing: a great big dose of common sense. Freezing to death because you didn’t check the weather report kind of ruins the whole thing. Too cold? Stay in, ride the trainer, or just wait for a better day.

Winter riding is pretty wonderful, as long as you’re ready for it. Ride on!


Written by in: bicycles,cycling,education |

The light fades

Rider and bike at Lake Tahoe

Ride, ride, ride, and do it safely. Pay attention!

Daylight savings time is over, for now. I’ve never understood the reason for it, and if it ever was a valid reason, I can’t imagine that it is now.

What comes along with autumn is diminishing daylight hours. Throw standard time in, and the time we have to ride about in adequate light drops just a bit every day. This will continue till the winter solstice, around Dec. 21.

Keeping in mind that most of us in the geezer and geezerette range no longer have the 20/20 vision we used to have, it’s obvious that we need to pay attention to the light later in the day.

Not only does it get darker earlier, the angle of the light changes too. Things are just a bit more muted out there as the day progresses. What’s important is staying safe out on the roads and trails.

First thing to do is change the batteries in the front and rear lights on your bike. If you don’t have lights, get some. The only people I know who would hurl at this suggestion are the elite racer types. We all know that I, and most of us, don’t have a toe in that pool, so get lit.

You can pick up lights at your local bike shop, or REI, at reasonable prices. The red one goes in back, in case you are confused. Those lights, with good batteries, especially in the flashing mode, can be see by motorists very easily, even in good daylight hours. I turn on the lights on my bike before I get on.

Mountain bikes need to be lit too. If you are an avid mountain bikeist, you just might find that the light can come in handy if you find yourself out on the trails with the sun starting to dip below the tree line.

The whole point, always, is to be as visible as possible, at all times. If the people driving cars are able to see you, your chances of staying safe go way up. Light your bike. Ride on!

Written by in: bicycles |

Turn on the lights

Early autumn ride, Lake Tahoe photo/J Ferris

Early autumn ride, Lake Tahoe photo/J Ferris

Ah, the joys of autumn. The trees putting on the their annual color parade, riding through fallen leaves, eating more warm pastries than we should–it’s great.

It’s also getting darker earlier. Slowly but surely, the light fades out just a bit earlier every day. Soon, taking off for a ride at around 4 p.m. will be a bit sketchy.

Since those of us in the more mature group, or so we think anyway, may already have some vision issues, riding in fading light can be a bit of challenge.

Considering that Boomers are also driving in fading light, it seems important to shout out my yearly blast about lighting up your bike. It doesn’t take much brain power to understand the results of a car hitting a bicycle. Bikes lose, it’s that simple.

I don’t race, and am unconcerned about whether I am in the super cool crowd who wouldn’t ever put lights on their bikes. They weigh too much, they produce drag, and other very elite arguments, just don’t have anything to do with me.

My bikes have lights, road and mountain, front and back.  Before I saddle up, the lights go on, every time. I don’t ride in fading light or in the dark. I do have to say that, once, on what was supposed to be a “group” ride, I ended up riding half of it in very poor light, by myself. I didn’t appreciate either the dark or the alone part. I was quite happy I had lights on my bike though.

The reason most of us wear brightly colored jerseys and so on is so that we will be seen by the motoring public. It’s good to be seen. I wear the colorful jerseys, and I have bright flashing lights too. I got hit once. Didn’t like it.

Not only do I have the lights, I actually change the batteries twice a year. As I said, being seen while on the road is good.

As we ride into the wonderful light of autumn, remember to light up. No excuses. Our older bones don’t need any auto hits.

Suit up, turn the lights on, and ride on!




Autumn rides

It's just a lot of fun to ride photo credit: J Ferris

It’s just a lot of fun to ride photo credit: J Ferris

Autumn blew in with gusto last Sunday. Wind, rain, snow in the mountains. Perfect. I hope wherever you are that the start of this fine season was as good as what we got in the Sierra.

Things do change with the arrival of autumn. The days grow shorter, cooler. The angle of the light changes. The smells of autumn are different. It is really nice.

One of the joys of autumn riding where I live is being able to ride through the leaves that fall. The crunch, the snap, the pure joy of it is hard to  beat.

Once or twice, more if I am lucky, the wind will kick up just enough to let loose a shower of leaves as I am pedaling along a forested road. I ride along through the falling leaves, and come out the other side, wanting more of the same. It’s too much. I just laugh.

Down in Sacramento, the city of trees, I imagine the same thing happens. I have to imagine that the reaction is just about the same too. The pure joy of riding goes up when riding through leaves.

For all of us of a certain age, these kinds of things reach deep into our past and touches a part of our childhood from long ago. Maybe, even if it’s just for a few seconds, we are privileged to experience pure joy, no strings attached.

It’s wonderful. Ride on!

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Interbike over, autumn begins

Rider and bike at Lake Tahoe

Ride, ride, ride. Autumn calls!

Interbike, a massive and wonderful gathering of retailers and vendors of all things bicycle, is held in Las Vegas every year. It’s mostly in the middle of September, and the general public doesn’t get to go. You do, however, get to see the blog, and it is worth seeing, so take a look at Interbike 2013.

Now on to Autumn! This wonderful season arrived in our area at 1:44pm on September 22. The days are slowly growing shorter, the nights longer. The temperatures, are, for the most part, cooling down. This is especially true in the mountains. It snowed down to 6,500 feet on the equinox. Love it.

What a great time to ride. The trees are getting ready to put on their “…dresses of red and gold…”. Where I live, in the mountains, one of the best things about autumn, on a road or mountain bike, is riding through the leaves that will steadily coat the roads, paths, and trails around here. It’s just magical. Boomers need a bit of magical now and again. A bit of childhood wings its way into our lives with the winds of autumn.

Wonderful. Just wonderful. No matter your age, this is perfect bike riding weather. Put your helmet on, throw your leg over the bar, and start pedaling your way to a very big smile. Ride on!


picture of car with bike, and a vendor tent at Interbike 2013

Interbike 2013 photo: Colin Meagher

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