May is Bike Month

mibm 2016 logo

Believe it or not, we’ve gone through all of April. It’s May, and that means it’s Bike Month. For the entire month of May there is an increased focus on all things bicycle. It’s a good time to ride, whether you are experienced, a novice, or just plain rusty. This is the time to gear up and start pedaling.

What is May is Bike Month? It is a month long effort and campaign throughout the U.S. that promotes bicycles as a mode of transportation. The aim is for as many people as possible to ride bikes while running errands, commuting to work, actually working, or for recreation and health. With more people riding, the number of autos on the road decreases. A direct result of that is better air quality and less traffic congestion. In theory it also focuses attention on the need for greater investment in bicycle infrastructure and facilities. Throw in that it’s fun, burns calories, and gets you moving, and it’s a winner all the way.

More bikes on the roads points out the need for more bike lanes on the roads, and more bike paths throughout the area to accommodate more cycling. Safety becomes a big part of the formula too. With a greater need for bike friendly roads the need for safe cycling increases as well. Riders always need to pay attention to the traffic and conditions around them, no matter where they are riding. We Boomers know this. We didn’t get to this mature state by being stupid. Well, maybe a little, but learning takes all forms.

The event, and it is an event, comes with the opportunity to log the miles you ride. The goal this year in my area is for a total of 2 million miles to be pedaled up over the month. How are those miles counted? First, sign up at May is Bike Month in your region. You can sign up as an individual or with a team. It’s important to note that if you sign up for a team, you don’t actually have to ride with that team. When you do ride, you’ll log you miles and you and that team will get credit for your miles. Most areas have random drawings of participants for cycling gear.

When you sign up you’ll pledge a number of miles to ride during May. You can change that number any time you want. There isn’t any minimum or maximum involved. If you’ve done this before you know about how many miles you can get in, and may want to push you mileage up a bit. If this is your first time, just pick a number of miles that seems reasonable to ride.

At the end of each ride, log in to your May is Bike Month site, and enter your miles. It’s as simple as that. You’ll be able to see your cumulative total, the total for you team, and the total number of miles ridden by everyone. There is a bar graph that keeps track of progress towards the goal in your particular area.

It doesn’t matter what kind of bike you ride. From the most weird to the most elite bikes, everything is welcomed. Your age isn’t a factor either. Your children can register with you and ride on a balance bike or a bike with training wheels still on it. It simply has to be a bike, any kind of bike will do. They can log miles right along with you. This is simply a great way to encourage everyone to ride bikes. It isn’t a race, and the only competition is between you and the miles you pledge.

Sign up now, and start riding. Ride with your friends, family, or just enjoy your own bliss while pedaling. Watch the miles pile up and enjoy this fine, month long event. Check the events calendar on your local May is Bike Month website to see if there is an event that you’d like to experience.

The entire month is filled with things to do. It’s all just a great deal of fun, for everyone. You just might find a new appreciation for bikes too.

The video below is from the fine folks at Razik Bikes, who make an amazing bike. These handmade beauties just may inspire you to sign up and start riding.

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Spring is here. New bike time?

Bamboo bike NAHBS. Photo courtesy of J Ferris.

Bamboo bike NAHBS. Photo courtesy of J Ferris.

Spring is different things in different parts of the country. Could be snowy, cold, cool, windy, sunny, warm, hot, rainy, or flooding. Depends on where you are. One constant is that it is at this time of year that the new bikes are paraded out for all of us to drool over. Bicycling, VeloNews, Dirt Rag, Mountain Bike and the others all start devoting a lot of space to the new bikes.

How new can they be, really? Frame, wheels, brakes, seat, handle bars. That about sums it up. Not even close really. The new bikes all have some sort of tweak that separates them from whatever came before. It’s not the paint job or any other cosmetic bling. The bikes have different angles, vibration dampers, frames, stems, brakes, cables. It may not seem like much when you look at it, but it does add up to a different feel for the new ones. Check out Razik Bicycles if you want to see what’s really different in a frame.  They really are different.

Adds up is a very appropriate term. Most of the manufacturers have very good bikes in the lower end of the price range, between $1,000-$2,500 or maybe a tad more. For most of us that’s the price range that’s comfortable. If you’re on the front tip of the Boomer range you’ll be 70 this year, and your retirement income has to be taken into consideration when looking at the bikes. When the price gets north of $3,000 my interest plummets. Actually, when it gets anywhere close to $3K my interest plummets.

When the price hikes up into that area the target audience isn’t ordinary riders. If you are in the top end of your club, a rated rider, or a very competitive type, those bikes up into the well over $4,000 range might make a difference in where you place at the end of the day. They are rather nice bikes. I’m not sure I’d notice the difference though.

I just ride, for the sheer fun of it and to stay healthy. That’s it. I would like to have a set of gears that make the climbs easier though. I live in the Sierra Nevada and nothing is flat. It’s a relative term up here.

Enjoy exploring the new crop of two wheeled wonders. It’s always fun, even if your wallet is bit light. No drooling on the bikes. It’s frowned on.

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Razik Bicycles stuns at North American Handmade Bike Show

Amazing technology.

Amazing technology.
Photo courtesy of Razik Bicycles

OK Boomers, sit up and pay attention. Bicycle technology sometimes seems stuck in low gear. Either that or it’s so esoteric that only the elite, the real ones, not the faux strutters, either appreciate it or have use for it. However, light weight and uber strong is something that all of us, regardless of age, easily understand. That’s especially true when you’re hauling your bones uphill.

The North American Handmade Bicycle Show that was held in Sacramento the last weekend of February brought an amazing array of handmade bicycles, bicycle gear, and cyclists to the Sacramento Convention Center. The variety of bikes easily covered just about everything anyone who has an interest in bikes could possibly imagine. Judging from the crowds over the three days of the show the success level was over the top.

While we wandered about the Convention Center we came upon a really different bike. You could see through the tubes. The guy at the booth, who turned out to be the head of Razik bikes, handed me a frame. It was like lifting air. Read on.

Razik Bicycles easily had the standout, and most interesting, bikes in the show. On any other bike the top tube, seat tube and down tube are formed tubes of steel, aluminum, titanium or carbon fiber. Razik has stepped out of that mold and into something entirely different. Those parts very different on their bikes.

Ryun Noble, who is the co-founder and president of the company, was on hand at the show, letting the curious know what Razik had done. The frames are very light. The top tube, seat tube, and down tube are an open tubular lattice. It’s known as IsoTruss technology. It looks like a woven tube. Noble said that this technology uses carbon fiber and takes advantage of the strength of reinforcing pyramids and triangles. You see this type of construction all over the place in all kinds of towers, beams, bridges and support structures.

His frames are very light. According to Noble, they are also extremely strong, and very responsive, more than “any other bike.” When asked about wind resistance, Noble said that the technology works just like the dimples on a golf ball, which is to say it helps reduce drag on the frame. Less resistance to wind is always a plus, on any kind of bike. Razik seems to have nailed it quite well.

This technology is available only on Razik bikes. Additionally, the bikes are handmade in the United States, “…Not part of it… the whole thing.” That in itself is noteworthy.

Your next chance to see these bikes out here in California will be at the Sea Otter Classic, April 14 to 17. The Sea Otter Classic is held in Monterey, and Razik Bicycles will be in the Loaded Precision booth at this iconic bike race. It’s well worth the trip. You’ll have to contact Razik to see if they will be anywhere close to where you live so you can see one of these beauties.

Do yourself a favor if you’re going to the Sea Otter, and stop by their booth. Talk to the Razik folks, pick up one of the frames, then a whole bike. They really are light, and really do look pretty amazing. This may be the next bike in your line up of bikes.

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North America Handmade Bike Show

stainless steel bike, car

Tune it up, then ride/photo J Ferris

The NAHBS will be in Sacramento this year at the end of February, from the 26th to the 28th. If you are anywhere near Sacramento, are a cyclist of any kind, make plans to see this. It is, in a word, fantastic.

The Sacramento Convention Center will be filled with all things bicycle, and all handmade. Some of the tools that make parts and frames will be on display too.  There are bike accessory makers all around, including clothing, hats, and all kinds of gear. Handmade, by the people standing there at their booth. It’s more than just a little interesting. Even if you don’t ride, the art of bikes, and the art of making bikes, is stunning.

The last time the NAHBS was in Sacramento I urged parents to take their children out of school for the day and go to the show instead. Bear in mind that I am a retired teacher. I simply saw more value at this show than could be had in a classroom for the day.

If you want to encourage your child’s interest in science, technology, engineering and math, the much spoken about STEM component of school, you have to see this collection of bikes, artists, and makers. It encompasses all of STEM, plus art, in a very real world setting.

The people at the booths, and there are a lot of booths, are there because they made what ever is displayed in the booth. These are some extremely competent builders. Bikes aren’t just bikes, even the mass produced kind. The amount of science that goes into the design is massive. The technological aspects, combined with the engineering to make it work, requires very bright minds. Along with that, the angles, the stresses, the strength of the materials, are all math based.

On top of that, the bikes are simply works of art. From fantastical to very functional, these bikes are rolling examples of how function, form, and art work together with the STEM processes to produce bikes that will make you smile. You’ll see very futuristic bikes, along with memory jogging retro designs, and everything in between.

NAHBS rotates between cities each year. The last time it was here was in 2012. You’ll want to come to this, as the wait for a return could be a few years. Bring your camera and make sure you have plenty of space on your memory card. You’ll need it.

Mt. Bike at NAHBS/photo: J Ferris

Mt. Bike at NAHBS/photo: J Ferris

Bamboo bike, NAHBS, 2012/photo J Ferris

Bamboo bike, NAHBS, 2012/photo J Ferris

The future is here: internal hubs/photo J Ferris

The future is here: internal hubs/photo J Ferris

retro style bike, 2012, Sacramento, CA

Retro style at NAHBS 2012/photo: J Ferris

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Layers count

Good gear, stay warm photo/J Ferris

Good gear, stay warm photo/J Ferris

Winter brings colder weather, at least in our part of the world. In the Sierra it means consistent cold, especially this year. In mid-America and back east, it’s really cold. Staying warm is critical if you’re to continue enjoying riding, hiking, xc skiing, snowshoeing, skiing and so on.

First rule is this: leave all your cotton gear at home. Cotton will not keep you warm, and if it gets wet, can be a big detriment to your health. Depending on where you are, it could lead to very serious consequences, like death. Hypothermia really is a killer.

Wear either wool, smart wool, or synthetics when you venture out in the cold. These fabrics not only keep you warm, they dry quickly and will wick moisture away from your skin. Layer everything. You’ll be able to shed a layer if you start to feel too warm, or add a layer if the cold starts to settle in. Gen

erally speaking, if you are too comfortable when you start out, you’ve got too many layers on. Ideally you will be just a bit on the cool side.

When you start whatever activity it is that you’ve chosen, you’ll start to generate heat. That’s good, and the reason you don’t need to be completely over layered when you start out.

If you’re headed out into a cloudy day, or into the back country, always take rain gear with you. If your top layer keeps you dry, it’s a much better day. Worst combo is cold and wet. Bad, very bad.

Knowing the weather forecast is especially important if you’re out in the mountains. or out there quite a ways on a trail. In town, you still need to know if there is rain heading your way. Stay warm, stay dry and your day will be much more enjoyable.

You’d think Boomers would know all this. We’ve had plenty of time to learn it. It bears repeating though. Mother Nature doesn’t care whether you’re dressed for the prevailing conditions. You’re on your own, so stay smart out there.

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Winter is here

Winter is here

The snows started to fall in the Sierra early this year. It hasn’t stopped, and everyone in California is grinning. The biggest grins are on the faces of anyone who enjoys snow sports of any kind.

Boomers around the Sierra in California, from 4,000 feet up, may have to park their bikes for a few days. Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows reported 4 feet of new snow over the last day and a half. Christmas Eve will bring in a robust and cold storm, with snow levels dropping to 2,500 feet.

This doesn’t mean that the more mature generation will head for the couch. Hot chocolate maybe, but the lure of keeping active simply means that we’ll head out into the snow. For hard core cyclists there are fat bikes to explore. These bikes have very wide tires, knobby for gripping the snow, and apparently are great for pedaling about in the slippery white stuff. If you are at a spot where they are available for rent, it’s probably worth it to climb on one and find out how they do. Could be fun.

There’s also Alpine and Nordic skiing. In the Sierra around Lake Tahoe there’s a boatload of places to do both. If strapping waxed boards to your feet and launching yourself down a steep hill is too much for you, snowshoes could be what you’re looking for.

Snowshoes simply allow you to hike in the snow without sinking in up to your ears. You’ll need poles along with the snow shoes. What you’ll get is a wonderful experience in the quiet winter woods. Sounds good to me.

The whole point is that winter is here, and there’s still plenty to do, where ever you are. Do it. Get outside!

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Outside with the Boomers

DSCN0838While this blog is named Boomers on Bicycles, and certainly covers the older crowd on bikes, that’s not all we do. BoomerGen, which is us, in younger people speak, is an active and diverse bunch of people. Right now, it’s cold outside in most places, and anyone within range of a mountain probably has a set of skis, a snowboard, xc skis, or snowshoes in addition to the two wheeled steed.

Some things cut across all cold weather outside sports. Staying warm and dry is critical not only to your comfort, it’s critical to your continued existence. The first caveat is that all the cool cotton clothing that you trot about town in needs to stay home when you head out to the forest, the trails, or the bike paths, in cold weather.

The layers that you wear need should be either wool, smart wool, or synthetics of some kind. These fabrics have the ability to wick moisture away from your skin. When wet they retain some ability to trap whatever heat you are generating, and they dry quickly while doing so.

Layers are important because you can easily take off one if you are too warm, or add something when you start to get chilly. Most of them are lightweight but have the ability to keep you comfortable. If they have a wind blocking fabric built in, so much the better.

If you are too comfortable when you first start out on your trek you’ve probably got one too many layers on. As soon as you start hiking, skiing, snowshoeing and so on, your body will heat up. If you’re overdressed to begin with, you’ll have to stop and shed a layer. Starting out with the right mix simply means you get to hoof for a longer and more comfortable period of time before shedding that layer.

While this is a bit of repeat of the last post, it bears repeating. There are stories every year about back country travelers who, while wearing cotton clothing, got caught in the wet and cold and died. It really is critical.

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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!

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Time to ride

The autumn ride at Blue Lakes/photo Placerville Bike Shop

The autumn ride at Blue Lakes/photo Placerville Bike Shop

We have about two weeks of summer left. The Autumnal Equinox is on September 22, at about 1:44 p.m. PDT. The dog days of August are over. Nothing to do with dogs by the way. It’s simply when Sirius, the dog star, launches onto the night stage in the sky.

Schools are in session. The weekends are devoted to football and homework, plays, music to be learned and so on. What that leaves is fewer people out on the trails. For those of us of a certain age, this is good. We aren’t as likely to be passed up by a young person in the single digits of their life. Really, when a 9 year old blows past, and you are already working hard, it just isn’t fair.

Bike shops will soon be looking to draw down their 2013 inventory further than they already have. The 2014 uber wonderful bikes are on the way, and there has to be room for them. It’s time to look for sales, and to bargain when you’re buying.

It’s also time to realize that the daylight hours are very subtly shortening. Beginning on September 23, the subtle aspects will start to disappear. Long late afternoon rides are still possible for a while. What we will all face though is fading light earlier in the afternoon. Bike commuters especially will have to deal with this.

It’s time to make certain the batteries in the lights on your bike are fresh. Riding about at dusk without good lights isn’t very smart. It’s a good thing when cars are able to see you.

It’s a wonderful time of year to ride, no matter where you are. All you have to do is saddle up and start pushing the pedals. Ride on!

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Pay attention!

Rider and bike at Lake Tahoe

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

Recently, I wrote about a pedestrian who was hit by a drunk bicyclist in Truckee, on July 4. On July 9, the gentleman who was hit died from his head injuries.

About 3 days ago, there was an article in the Sacramento Bee about another cycling accident. Seems a cyclist ran a stop sign, and was hit and seriously injured by a car which had the right of way. Both of these accidents were completely preventable. I don’t know if the stop sign running cyclist has survived or not.

It is distressing to be in the Sacramento area, Folsom to Mid-Town, Downtown, Roseville, Granite Bay, Citrus Heights, and so on, and observe so many cyclists simply ignoring the rules of the road. I ride, a lot. I stop at stop signs. I actually signal my turns. I don’t think it takes any more brains or energy to ride safely.

Now, I may not look like a Tour de France rider, or a club rider, or a model for spandex, but I do know that, gray beard and all, the rules of the road apply to me and every other bike rider out there.

I stink at math, but simple physics tells me that since my bike and I weigh less than the average set of tires on a car, I will be the clear loser in any crash with an auto of any kind.

A very long time ago, while in my teens, an older driver, stopped at a stop sign, decided that it was OK to pull out into the main road, where I was riding, and had the right of way. He looked right, then left, right at me, then forward, and, gripping the huge steering wheel with both hands, pulled right on out.

I had no chance, although I vaguely remember slamming on the brakes and attempting to swerve out of his way. It didn’t work. I was T-boned, meeting the great chrome bumper on his great big tank of a car, and subsequently greeting the pavement, where, fortunately, no other cars were travelling. I didn’t enjoy the experience very much, nor did my bike. Physics and experience are at work here.

There is no excuse for any rider to ignore stop signs, stop lights, pedestrians, or any common sense rules. Those who do endanger all of us. There are already too many car drivers who’d rather we didn’t ride. Pay attention. Being an idiot on a bike is a losing proposition. Wise up.

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