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Showing posts from October, 2018

Bike light etiquette

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"Headlights on when it's dark enough to need them." That's all there is to it, right? Well, there are a few matters of etiquette that rarely get written down or spoken, but I'll try to lay out my version of them here.

All the points listed here revolve around not blinding people (pedestrians, other cyclists, cars, etc.) and creating an annoying or even unsafe situation for others.

Point your lights towards the ground. Not horizontal, not upwards. This make a big difference in terms of not having the light seems painfully bright for folks you meet head-on. You don't want to point your headlight straight down, but based on your speed you probably want to illuminate the ground as best you can in front of you.

Turn off the super-bright flashing headlight when it's dark, especially if there are bikes passing head-on. The super bright flashing light (e.g., the flash mode I have on my Niterider Lumina (Retail: $99, got my 1100 series for $75 on ebay) is great for…

A growing sea of blinky red lights

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Cycling (especially the serious to semi-serious road riding bunch) definitely has noticeable fashion and gear trends. Right now it's all about bright pink and orange attire, giant mono-lens mirrored glasses, and Rapha. At least here in the Bay Area. There's one trend that I hope sticks around for good: blinking red tail lights. It used to be only for dorky commuters and night rides, but I'm pleased to see an increasing use amongst a huge range of riders. Now it's common to see a flashing light on a $10k+ rig rolling out on a clear day. Yay for safety!



These things have become so bright, compact, long-lasting, and affordable that there's no reason not to have one (and use it). I bought my Portland Design Works Danger Zone Tail Light (Retail: $30, good price: $23) more than 5 years ago . When the button stopped functioning well I emailed the company and they sent me a replacement within a couple days. I just had to show a picture that it wasn't due to corrosion …

E+bike / roadie commuter near miss

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I was rolling along on the normal commute this morning and saw an almost-accident just in front of me. An e-bike (pretty serious rider - was in a full roadie kit) and a roadie commuter (also a pretty serious rider) were up ahead of me. The e-bike had just passed both of us as we got into the commercial ("downtown", ha!) part of Sausalito. All of the sudden the e-bike jammed on his brakes just short of a crosswalk. I think he noticed a police car next to him stopped in the turn lane so he decided to stop, too, out of an abundance of caution. The guy on the road bike started to brake behind him, but then the roadie realized no one was in the crosswalk so he passed on the e-bike on the left (always pass on the left! with a few exceptions I can cover another day...). At the point of deciding to pass, the roadie was now super close to the e-bike and they bumped shoulders pretty solidly and there was a solid 10+mph speed difference. No one went down, but it was close! And I can t…

Is it safe to bike commute in foggy weather?

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Fog is a fact of life in the San Francisco Bay Area, and many other parts of the world. Some days it's really just a low overcast cloud layer that mutes the landscape but does little to deter our thoughts of riding. Other times it can be thick a pea soup. How safe is it to ride in such conditions? Let's break it down into a few factors:

How thick is the fog?
Not all fog is created equal. Once forward visibility gets below 50m / 160ft it starts to really affect traffic. In the SF Bay Area, it can get scary thick, down to 10m or so, especially in places like Daly City at the Skyline / Highway 1 interchange and on the way up to Mount Tam.

Do you have lights?
The most obnoxious, bright blinking lights are your friend when the fog rolls in. I wouldn't ride in heavy fog without something (or multiple things) on the rear, and probably also on the front if I am on a bike path where head on bicycle or pedestrian traffic is likely.

Is there a protected bike lane or wide shoulder?
If y…

Are messenger bags dead?

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Up until earlier this year, I was a messenger bag die hard. I loved my Timbuk2 bags for being bomb-proof, and they would go everywhere with me on and off the bike. Way, way back in the day I would use a messenger bag to commute a hilly 18 miles to get to high school loaded with heavy textbooks (do textbooks still even exist anymore?).

But when I started up the Marin to SF commute earlier this year with regularity things were different. I started with a messenger bag, but the back sweat, pain, and general lack of comfort was too much to ignore. I finally, after all these years, switched to a backpack and I am glad I did. It certainly doesn't have the fashion (relative term here) of a messenger bag, but for longer rides it's a must. I find the asymmetric nature of the messenger bag to just be too much of a toll on my body over time.

So is the messenger bag dead? Maybe it will never fully go away, but I think it's heyday is over. Heck, even Timbuk2 had made the switch - the f…

Pedal dilemma for the commute?

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There are 3 basic options when it comes to pedals:

1) Road pedals with road shoes
2) Mountain bike pedals mountain / touring shoes
3) Flat pedals with street shoes

If your commute is short enough, you don't have the need for speed, and you aren't dying to be connected to your bike then go with flat pedals. Easy choice.
If you have to walk more than a couple steps in your shoes, then go with the mountain bike option. Don't get me wrong, I love my road shoes and pedals. They feel rock solid, allow for maximum power transfer, are comfortable, and look slick. But they aren't made for walking. For my current commute I spent a few months on road pedals. I made it work, but it didn't take long to wear down the cleats and realize that I was constantly just one misstep away from taking a spill.
What about clip-and-strap solutions that you still might occasionally see? Avoid them. There's a reason these have gone the way of the dodo bird among road cyclists. They are da…

Man vs. glass - a small victory

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I am happy to report that the system (sometimes) works! Not too long ago the city of SF added some separation barriers in a few of the intersection on my normal commute.


For the most part it is great, these poles do a good job at separating bicycle and car traffic in dangerous spots where we can get sideswiped. There's one problem, the area around the base of the poles is a figurative magnet for road debris, especially glass. Street sweeping machines can't get in between the poles, so even if the road around is clear these spots can be nasty.

So one day a few weeks back went to sf311.org, registered for a new account, and made a "new request" to report the issue. I wasn't expecting much, but this week I noticed that the spot is definitely cleaned up. I'm not sure if it's actually tied to my report, but either way I am happy. I definitely encourage people to report issues. Now that these systems are tied to a ticketing system (instead of an email black ho…

When it's time to bust out the headlight

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Well, today was the first day of "lights required" on the commute in to work. 
A few months ago I was curious about when this day would arrive, so I did some quick internet research. Using timeanddate.com I put in my location, and looked at where the "civil twilight" plus 10 minutes intersected with my start time (San Francisco link here). Here is what I came up with for when light are needed in the Bay Area:
Lights required for 6:50a start time: Oct 3 2018 to Nov 3 2018 (time change)Dec 5 2018 to Feb 7 2019Mar 11 2018 (time change) - Mar 24 2019 This isn't perfect, but should get you within a couple days. If it's dark and stormy or your commute takes you through unlit, shady streets you are for sure going to want lights at other times.
What about for the afternoon commute? In this case it's about what time you plan to be home vs what time you start the commute. I have two normal options so here they are:
Lights required if home by 5:45p: Nov 4 2018 (tim…

Reboot

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Well, it's been ages since I've posted and it's time for a reboot for GlobeCycle. I am back in Northern California and am getting lots of time on the bike. My bike commute ranges from a 1 mile jaunt to the ferry on some days and other times transforms into a 70+ mile venture with friends to take "the long way" to work.

I've been a bike commuter for nearly two decades now, with varying degrees of intensity based on the nature and location of my work. Now that I'm back into it I plan to share some of what I've learned along the way and hopefully inspire some others to give it a try.