Thursday, January 26, 2012

Perfectly Comfortable

I don't particularly like cars. I don't like the way they smell, on the inside or the outside. I don't like the feeling of being trapped in a sheet metal-and-vinyl box, my body slowly warping to the shape of a bucket seat. I don't enjoy the visually unexciting and inhospitable environment of highways or the boredom of spending hours gazing at asphalt markings and highway signs. I particularly dislike the insect-like behavior that cars provoke in people, reducing their behavioral repertoire to that of ants who follow each other around, their heads in close proximity to the previous insect's rear end. Nor do I enjoy having a mechanical dependent that I have to feed and house all the time, even though I rarely have need of it. I do sometimes need to use a car, and then I rent one or use one from a car-sharing service that charges by the hour. The most enjoyable parts of that exercise is when I pick it up and when I drop it off. Cars end up costing me a few hundred dollars each year, which is a few hundred dollars more than I would like to spend on them.

I do like bicycles. They are about the most ingenious form of transportation humans have been able to invent so far. I especially like mine, which I bought second-hand, from a friend, for something like $150. That was about 20 years ago. It still has a lot of the original parts: frame, fork, chainrings and cranks, bottom bracket and hubs. The spokes and rims were replaced once; the cables twice; the freewheel and chain five or six times; the tires a dozen times or more; I've lost count of the inner tubes, which don't last long thanks to all the broken glass on the road from cars smashing into each other.

Over time, I've upgraded various bits. Nice titanium break levers from a used parts bin at a local bicycle school set me back $10. One of the down-tube shift lever mechanisms fell apart (it was partly made of plastic), and I replaced it with an all-metal one from a nearby bin at the same establishment. The original rear derailleur was by Suntour, which no longer exists, and so I replaced it with a Shimano part, for $60, I recall. Ruinous expense, that! (The front derailleur is still the original Suntour.)

The frame is made of very high quality chrome-molybdenum alloy of a sort rarely encountered today. Chrome and molybdenum prices have gone up by a lot since then, and steelmakers have found new ways to cut corners. It survived a ride up and down the East Coast aboard a sailboat, exposed to the elements, without a problem. It looks like a beat-up, rusty old road bike—not something bicycle thieves normally find interesting—and that's exactly how a bicycle should be made to look even when it is new.

I ride something like 7 km just about every weekday of the year. Sometimes I ride quite a bit farther, spending half a day meandering through the countryside or along the coast. I've ridden as much as 160 km in one day; that was a bit tiring. I rarely take the shortest path, preferring meandering bike paths that go through parks and along the river. I do ride through traffic quite a bit of the time, and have developed a style for keeping safe. I pay minimal attention to traffic signals and lights (they wouldn't be needed if it weren't for cars) and mostly just pay attention to the movements of cars. (Traffic lights are sometimes useful in predicting the behavior of cars, but not reliably, and not so much in Boston.) I also tend to take up a full lane whenever a bicycle lane is not available (cars are not a prioritized form of transportation, to my mind). A person who is in a hurry, here in Boston, would get there sooner by riding a bicycle. I understand that this annoys certain drivers quite a lot, raising their blood pressure. Perhaps the elevated blood pressure will, in due course, get them off the road, along with their cars, freeing up the space for more bicycles.

In the summer, my riding attire consists of a tank-top, shorts, and flip-flops. I've tried various combinations of pedals with toeclips, clipless pedals and bicycle shoes with cleats, and eventually settled on the most basic pedals available and flip-flops. I've also experimented with padded bicycling shorts and jerseys made of Lycra, and found them too confining. Also, I just couldn't get over the feeling that I shouldn't wear such outfits, no more than I should be going around in tights and a tutu, and so I went back to wearing hiking shorts. But it can be a fine show when Balet russe comes rolling through town. When it rains, I put on a Gortex bicycle jacket that evaporates the sweat while keeping the rainwater out. The hood goes under the helmet, keeping my head dry as well.

The bicycling outfit gets more complicated in wintertime. The Gortex jacket is still there, but underneath it is a hoodie, under that a wool shirt and thermal underwear (microfiber works best). The shorts are replaced with jeans, with Gortex zip-on pants over them for messy weather. The flip-flops are replaced with insulated, waterproof half-boots, with two layers of wool socks. Add ski gloves and a ski mask, and the outfit is complete.

Oddly enough, bicycling on a frosty but dry winter day is even more enjoyable than on a balmy summer day. Firstly, in the winter cooling is not an issue, so I can ride as fast as I want without breaking a sweat. If I start feeling too warm, I can unzip the jacket partway and get all the cooling I want. Secondly, there is the realization that bicycling in wintertime is more comfortable than walking, since I can generate as much heat as I need to keep warm simply by going faster. The one somewhat unpleasant part of winter riding is the wind: cold winter air is a lot denser than warm summer air: a 20 km/h headwind is hard to pedal against in the summer, but much harder in the winter. (I recently rode across town in a gale, and it was not unlike a mountain climb, grinding away in the lowest gear. The ride back was all downwind, and I was flying, riding the brakes the entire way.)

Snow and ice present an interesting set of challenges to a two-wheeled vehicle. I've experimented with studded tires, fat cyclocross tires with deep treads and regular road tires. Road tires won. Studded tires on both front and back are a huge performance killer, making a fast road bike into more of a stationary exercise bike. Putting the studded tire just on the front (which is where it is really needed the most, since the rear can fishtail all it wants without compromising stability) helps quite a lot. But overall, studded tires create a false sense of security; it is better, I have found, to keep the regular road tires on and simply learn to recognize and adjust to the conditions.

High-pressure road bicycle tires have tiny contact patches, and apply tremendous pressure to the road surface—enough to indent packed snow, creating side-to-side traction. It's still not possible to bank steeply, but it is quite possible to keep balance by slowing down. Fore-and-aft traction is not quite as good, making rapid acceleration and braking unlikely. On a slippery surface, the game becomes to avoid breaking friction between the road and the tire. Tires with a deep tread seem to work well on mud, but do not seem to help at all on snow, because the tread becomes packed with compacted snow, causing a lot of rolling resistance but not much traction. With regular road tires, the only truly frictionless surfaces I have found so far are smooth ice covered by water and oiled steel plates. When I encounter either of these, I get off and walk, having once wiped out quite badly on an oiled steel plate, in the middle of summer, in fine weather.

If any of this seems strange to you, then there may be something funny going on inside your head and you should get it checked out. Around the world, for over a century, people everywhere have used the bicycle to get around in every kind of climate and weather. There are year-round bicyclists in the Sahara, as well as in Edmonton, Alberta. Bicycling year-round is very much a solved problem everywhere. Here in Boston I know dozens of people who commute by bicycle year-round, and I see hundreds of people out on bicycles, every day, at all times of the year.

And yet with just about any random group of people I encounter the idea of bicycling through winter is regarded as very strange: somewhere between suicidal and heroic. (The fact that driving a car is far more dangerous, and suicidal on multiple levels, does not seem to register with most people.) What can I say? To each his own. As for me, I am perfectly comfortable riding a bicycle year-round.


40 comments:

Steve From Virginia said...

Spreading like wildfire: John Michael Greer now D. Orlov, killing the cars, the idea of cars, the car 'mystique' the car spam.

The cars are on their last legs, good riddance.

(I prefer walking to biking, btw. What's the rush?)

Allie said...

Nice post Dmitry. I use the Deco Bike rental program down here in South Beach to get around if I'd rather not walk. I really enjoy only having to drive a car once or twice at most in a week and sometimes only every other week (if I'm lucky!).

I used to live in Boston and your description of people's blood pressure rising because of some *expletive* biker taking up the whole lane reminded me of a buddy of mine. While your love of bike riding reminded me of another buddy living up there. And we used to all live under the same roof! To each his own indeed.

Hope your 2012 has started off productive and enjoyable. Looking forward to your posts this year.

Candice said...

Thanks for this post. I agree with you whole-heartedly. There are more pros than cons to bike riding and it is certainly a lot safer than driving.

steck said...

Do you ever ride your bike on the T?

When I lived in Boston, I found that some T personnel and some riders were not so friendly to cyclists.

Sixbears said...

My only question isn't about the bicycle. I get it. What I don't understand is why a person who lives on a sailboat wouldn't sail to warmer climates in the winter?

kollapsnik said...

I am still in Boston because of a job—a pretty good one. Yes, warmer waters would make a huge difference right around now.

I have plenty of experience riding the T with a bicycle, having spent a couple of summers in East Boston. The only way out (other than a rutted-out circuitous truck route) is via highway tunnels or the Blue Line. A major breakthrough occurred last summer, when bicycles were allowed on the Blue Line from 9AM and then from 6PM. I don't remember how many public transit officials I had to convince to look up the damned policy and let me onto the platform or the train; quite a few.

The city is putting in more public docks, so running a bicycle ferry between East and West Boston (yeah, that's who you are!) will be viable in a few years.

casperhooey said...

Thanks for this. The picture looks just like me, except I had heavier pants and a sock over the right leg to keep it off the chain. The ski mask is definitely the way to go. Of course, in just one winter of commuting and rather enjoying it this way, I killed half the parts on the bike, whereas the ladies who merely commuted just put on their winter clothing, changed nothing about their bikes or their relaxed pedaling, and always got there just as much on time as I did and probably more safely too. I'll put in a good word for the studded tires though. When you brake, good ones tend to grip the ice again even if they slip a little. They've saved my life a few times, ironically at low speeds and when I've been very attentive and careful.

BillSeitz said...

When I moved from NYC out to the burbs, I thought I'd finally get into bicycling. Instead I found that you can't get anywhere without going on a road with cars going 45mph+ but having no shoulder.

Unknown said...

I was a bicycle courier for ~3 years in Vancouver, and I completely agree with the statement - "I pay minimal attention to traffic signals and lights...", much better to watch the cars.

I don't mind the added resistance from studded tires (quite useful in the Canadian prairies), the problem with winter biking are the cars that inevitably are slipping and sliding around.

The best wipeout I had was when I tried to get through a snow drift by going as fast as possible before I got to it. That method worked for the previous drift, not so much for this one. My front tire stopped instantly, and over the handlebars I went. The landing was soft though.

Unknown said...

I donated my last car to one of those charities in 2006, when gas first started costing more than I was willing to pay. I bought a nice Kona 24 speed "hybrid" city bike and rode the 4.5 miles each way to work each day. It doesn't get too cold here in N California but it can get down to 24 or so degrees. Overall it's more fun and I feel better at work.

SilentOtto said...

a bicycle/human power economy is positive in so many ways and would help us attain a zero ghg output in short order!


boston needs a few of these on the water:

http://www.granvilleislandferries.bc.ca/

hapibeli said...

Having had a very serious accident on my bike @ 60 years old this past summer, I'm reluctant to return to it, but hope to do so this Spring. But with aging comes real worry about bodily damage. I've had a few bad accidents bicycling when I was younger and the healing was pretty quick, but now...I'm thinking of 3 or even quadracycling as a future means of transportation. We'll see.

Bob Spencer said...

04040

I especially like passing big SUV's with their favorite progressive political bumper stickers. Personally, I really like my cyclo cross bike because it is so versitile. I can cut across unpaved places and go down gravel roads, etc. You bike sounds especially cool.

Rhisiart Gwilym said...

Dmitry! Brother!

Only difference that I find here in Britain is that we don't get proper winters any more, to make the snow and ice riding more interesting. Just go from a long, dawdling autumn to a long cold spring, with the odd spot of frost, and half an hour of sleet now and then.

I too, like you and John Michael G, have no dealings with cars, beyond avoiding them on the road.

And like Jim Kunstler, I marvel at the obsessive way that even environmentalists seem to think that a top priority in our time is to find ways to keep the cars running. Ridiculous!

BTW, even without a bike trailer, a heavy-duty home-welded rack, on a heavy-duty ATB, is a remarkable freight carrier; up to the weight of an adult passenger. With a trailer I can move boat diesels. Done it.

Just working right now on some re-tweaks of my home-built, all-weather recumbent velo bike (not trike; two-wheeled velos CAN work, even in cross-winds, if you profile them right). On such a bike, shirtsleeves riding in any weather, winter or summer, is realistic. Karl Georg Rasmussen's veteran Leitra trike velo led the way, from years back. All-year, all-weather riding with no special clothing, even in Dansker winters. KG has clocked up several million kms. on his Leitras; as have many other users. Who needs cars!

Robin Datta said...

Products similar to Slime (inside the tubes) and Mr. Tuffy (between the tubes and the tires) to reduce the incidence of flats are probably known to you: a comment on them from one with your level of experience would be helpful.

Jason Heppenstall said...

Great post Dmitry.

Bikes are pretty much a central part of my life over here in Copenhagen. Whenever I am without one I find myself immobilised.

Pretty much anything goes here, bikewise. Cargo bikes are getting more and more popular and I even saw someone transporting a grandfather clock on one recently.

I wrote a bit about bike culture in Denmark in relation to peak oil here on the offchance that anyone is interested in it.

Mister Roboto said...

I've lost count of the inner tubes, which don't last long thanks to all the broken glass on the road from cars smashing into each other.

If you live in a working-class or underclass area, there are also the drunks who are fond of smashing their empty bottles on the ground here and there.

Karl Franz Ochstradt said...

Robin,

The best protection against flat tires is to do these things:

1) always run enough air pressure to avoid tire "bottom-outs" -- which cause pinch flats

2) use tires with thick enough casings to avoid sidewall tears

3) use rider skill and awareness to not run over or into anything that will puncture your tire & tube, or cause a tire bottom-out/pinch flat.

In my experience "Slime" and other gooey injectables for tires are useful only for off-road riding in areas where there are lots of "goat-head" puncture vectors everywhere. These are mostly desert regions, or arid sub-alpine regions. You're not going to find goat-heads riding in Manhattan, or in Chicago.

A bicycle is a very simple machine and there's no need to think that the solution to something as minor as a flat tire would involve technological devices. Rider awareness and bike preparation will take you much further.

CitizenOfTheClouds said...

This is the second time this week I find myself in the awkward spot of defending cars! Weird. I'm usually in the role of the walking/biking crank telling my friends/family that they shouldn't drive so much while they are rolling their eyes.

Anyway, the car is a tool. The bike is a tool. They are not interchangeable. If I need to get to work and have 30 minutes to do it, I walk/bike. If it's -15 degrees outside and I have to transport my children to daycare, you better believe I'm driving, and am thankful that I have that privilege.

The problem with cars is not that they exist, it's that they are improperly used for any and every transportation situation. We, as a culture, have made our infrastructure such that owning a car has become an expectation and a right rather than an option and a privilege.

weeone said...

I read stuff like this and I think why bother? I live in north central Vermont. In the summer when it isn't raining I gladly commute to work (6 miles) on my bicycle. But am a going to bundle up and risk injury and death bicycling on busy roads in the winter? For what?

The oil is going to get used up. And a good case can be made for using it up as quickly and inefficiently as possible since the population is growing and already way over carrying capacity.

Next weekend I'm going to Maryland to visit family and take in a basketball game. Yes, I'm driving. Might as well enjoy ourselves before WW3 gets started.

kleymo said...

The theme today is transportation. Well, just back from Snow Days at Navy Peir here in Chicago, I can inform everyone as to how goods are going to be hauled around in town medium term.

All of us, from grandmother to wee tyke, had the opportunity to pet those wonderful huskies Mr, Orlov had the opportunity to read about before leaving the USSR. Lots of hobbyists here in the burbs keep huskies as pets, and bring them together on weekends to haul sleds, etc.

Turns out those dogs love to pull wagons, don't mind the heat at all, and eat like those donkeys Mr. Orlov's grandfather had during the war. One dog can pull 300 pds. a considerable distance, then eat a pound and a half of food. Seems like an answer to our coming horse deficit.

Seems like a bit of good news to me.

Fry10cK said...

Winter cycling in New Hampshire is tremendous fun if not always reliable transportation. It's more of a sport than a dependable conveyance. Wear goggles and be prepared to fall down.

But fatbikes are looking mighty tempting. Google the term if you're unfamiliar.

Nathan said...

Last year I walked into a bike retailer here in Adelaide South Australia and asked if they had any basic single speed backpedal brake steel frame bikes. They did, but they started from $380. I said my budget was half that. Then the owner said he had his grandfather's bike in the shed and would I be interested in that for $150. It was a 1940 Super Elliot with 28" wheels, completely original apart from a saddle from the 1960s. Even the dynamo lights work. I bought it on the spot, pumped up the tyres and have been riding it around to customer meetings and for errands ever since. People in the office used to laugh at me on my old bike, but now a few other people have copied the idea and we're loving it. Adelaide is pretty flat topographically and has a dry mediterranean climate, so there aren't really any excuses for not biking everywhere.
Keep up the excellent example Dmitry! I'd also love to hear more detail about how to build a square boat like yours, and even love to see some schematics and pics of your boat. Every thought of writing a book specifically about what you've done and are still doing to achieve your collapse proof living arrangement? I'd buy a copy!

flipjack said...

BORING!!! More sailing / economic posts please!

Bakhirun said...

When I came to Jakarta in 1988 the city was struggling to rid itself of pesky pedicabs, which slowed traffic and was for many nationalist Indonesians an unpleasant reminder of the equality that lingers from a colonial past. The becak riders (Google-Image it) were the lowest of the low, usually slept in their pedicabs and were often dead before their fiftieth birthday, from pneumonia.

Stern city authorities (latter-day Suharto era) ordered the police to peform sweeps where becaks were impounded and dumped into Jakarta Bay... where some enterprising soul (probably a Chinese) fished them out and sold them again.

Eventually the city ridded itself of them (although you can still find millions around the country, performing a vital infrastructure function).

Instead you have horrendous traffic jams, exacerbated by anarchic behavior on the part of motorcyclists (I'm one too) and cheap credit - which has led to floods of cars and bikes.

I take my low-end Giant mountain bike from home in Condet, East Jakarta, to the 'Golden Triangle;' CBD, using main arteries (including sidewalks). I've timed the difference between being choked up on a hot motorcycle in a traffic jam and zipping through any nook and cranny, portaging the bicycle over pedestrian bridges, slipping the wrong way down a one-way street: sports motorcycle = 40min. sports bicycle = 55 min.

The only condition of course is that one has to have a place to shit shine shave and shower, and get into fresh office attire. That's often not easy.

I'd surmise that once the oil runs out Jakarta is going to get its pedicabs back - including transport ones. Ditto for all other monster third-world megapolises.

Justin Kase said...

Here in "rural" New Hampshire I haven't seen a bicycle on the road for about three months. The roads, including most state "highways", are about wide enough to allow two logging trucks to pass, so that is not surprising. Shoulders (if existant at all) are usually soft sand and seldom properly cleared. Not many think themselves lucky or skilled enough to deal with these conditions. The demise of cars could change things for a short while, but, unless it gets a lot warmer, or the plow trucks (appearing less frequently already) keep running somehow without the cars for support, I don't see winter biking happening here.

Janne said...

Really nothing more to add. Nice!

Hey, over here in Sweden I usually shift to winter tires around this time of the year. You know those with steel spikes in the rubber - but this year there's not much snow yet - so I'm waiting with this. Although we have minus 12 Celcius the roads are still dry. I too ride the bike I bought when I was at university - that's 17 years ago now. Still doing its job riding to work and beeing parked outside every day.
But when ice and snow are coming these spike tire surley do an excellent job.
Kepp on biking!

William McCracken said...

To avoid the road ice issue, I ride a recumbent trike. To avoid winter windchill, I wear a rain suit, gloves and a visor for my face. No gas, no insurance and no need to pay for parking! I haven't blogged about it recently since there's not much to say. It just works. IMHO bikes and trikes are the town runabouts of the future.

http://wintertrike.blogspot.com

Dithers said...

Cars arent for transport; they are used as a place to go where you can be alone. Driving a car and listening to music has become a way of relaxing and escaping for a lot of people, maybe most people.
To ride a bike is to be alert, to be 'on', and it places you in the world, just where most people don't want to be.

Dont underestimate the desperation that people feel in this world, and don't imagine that a bike (or a car) can fix that.
Sometimes bike riders portray themselves as saviours of the planet - thats wrong and also irritating.
Single-issue thinking is foolish and full of unthinking narcissism. Don't do it.

Also, the roads you bike on are there because of cars.
There is no silver bullet solution for anything except vampires...

Bill Totten said...

Delightful post, Dmitry. I agree that cycling is the second best way of getting around, second
only to walking. I have two mountain bikes and a heavy old steel bike for hauling things and
pulling a rather large cart for hauling more things or bigger or heavier things. But I haven't used them for several years because I find they don't give me enough exercise. I'm now in my sixth year of walking at least ten kilometers, at a little over six kilometers per hour, every day of the year. I don't actually walk every day but always have a surplus built up so my cumulative average never drops below ten kilometers per day. An achilles injury kept me from walking for six weeks last year but I had already stocked up nearly seventy days surplus in advance, so I easily was able to maintain my daily quota. I switched to MBT shoes to prevent a recurrence. In the winter, when days are short and cold, I can walk fast in my business suit without breaking up a sweat. In the summer, when days are long, hot, and muggy I walk early before showering for work or late after returning home. Haven't owned a car in the 43 years I've lived in Japan and only rented cars a few times for g
etting around in very remote areas. But, as you say, to each his own. Happy cycling. Bill Totten

aka: said...

Good to see some writing on this topic. A bike has to be the perfect compliment to boat living.

Long time cyclist here, but alas an aging one, so power assisted bicycles have been a boon to my creaky body. I still pedal a lot, just not all the time.

http://alttransbikes.blogspot.com

Adrian Skilling said...

Good article. I too am a year round cyclist here in the UK. The previous 2 winters have been tough. In the UK its often cold+wet and I've needed to use cycling overshoes to stop me getting chillblains.

I've really enjoyed getting the kids to nursery in a bike trailer through the snow! (able to stay on v. quiet roads) when going in the car was probably more dangerous. I found the mountain bike a necessity then though otherwise I'm on a touring bike.

I've found not having the option of using a car makes you mentally prepared for biking in bad conditions.

People here think it odd that I might cycle to the swimming pool in rain. But the whole point of the trip is to get wet and exercised isn't it!

matt picio said...

Regarding tubes and tires: if you're not in a tremendous hurry, and willing to spend a little extra, get kevlar-lined tires like the Bontrager Hardcase, Specialized Armadillo, Schwalbe Marathon or similar, and line them with a puncture-resistant tube. (PR tubes are about 3x the thickness of a regular tube, and correspondingly heavier) The PR tubes are about $10-$15 a tube, and the tires about $45-$60 per tire, but the combination is nearly bulletproof. I rode 4,800 miles across the USA with that combination with a total of 3 flats - and one of those flats was after I'd ridden one of the tire treads completely bald.

Alex said...

I live in a California town, in the rural outskirts actually, a heavily Hispanic area, no bike lanes, no road shoulder to speak of, and yet, the drivers are really nice about going around cyclists, who tend, if they're wise, to ride on the painted "fog line" on the edge of the road because if you venture off the road at all, you're going to collect many goat heads! Slime is a way of life out here.

I changed out a tube that was hopelessly punctured by goat heads, despite the Slime I'd installed, and of course saved the old tube, bicycle inner tube rubber has a million uses. But, I noticed the stock tires on my Electra 7D cruiser are very soft, and so easy to put on and take off I hardly needed tire levers. Bikes tend to come with fairly low-budget tires and this is fine, but I see a pair of Schwalbe Marathons in my future.

Where I live, if I want to get to the nearest metropolis, "Silicon Valley", a term that's quickly being forgotten, all I have to do is ride a bike to the train station and then take the train. The bike car is congenial and there are often some very good conversations.

Just pretend petrol is $20 a gallon. (In actual fact, it will probably be $4 a gallon but the average person will make $40 a week.)

Robert Gladwell said...

Interesting coincidence that Dmitry Orlov brought up cycling.

Last year, 2011, after a months of stress and phone calls, I finally ordered a tricycle with electric-assist. I did this because I became (still am) terrified of global peak oil, which is now 7 years in the past. I worry that every bit of oil burned to push me around in a car will raise my food prices. That, and of course Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) which will also raise my food prices.

Of course, since 1980, I have lobbied governments to outlaw meat and outlaw reproduction by mandating vasectomies for men. Going vegan and not having kids are the most important practical immediate things anyone can do for anyone else on this planet. But I digress.

The last time I cycled anywhere regularly was 2 years in graduate school 1988-1990, before I bought my first car. Due to disabilities I have developed since then (2 total knee replacements, 1 write replacement, due to rheumatoid arthritis), I no longer have the balance for a bicycle. Plus, I am not interested in pleasure riding. I bought the electric tricycle as my workhorse, as my replacement for a car. Hence, I needed a basket.

My e-trike arrived in August 2011, and after cycling with it, I finally gained the courage to give up the auto insurance on my car in November and use only the e-trike.

While I have experienced SOME thrills riding, and while I do this partly to see if I CAN do this, to see if I can overcome the challenge, I would NOT recommend others give up their cars for cycles.

The biggest problem is - one is not allowed to ride on the road itself, but must ride on the edge. It is a constant nightmare of unswept broken class, rocks, and trash on the edges of roads in New Jersey. And being exposed to wind, cold, and rain does not help the experience either.

Yes, I am glad *I* have tried it.

But, for the population at large, and in particular for truckers, electric vehicles, powered by as many solar and wind farms as possible, is an absolute necessity for the world to survive the end of oil and minimize AGW.

Lukiftian said...

Yes, it was fun riding bike in Edmonton, although I usually didn't in colder than about -15c. And although it's illegal to ride on the sidewalks there, the cops are fairly tolerant of it especially in the wintertime, because there's more paperwork in scraping a cyclist off the street than there is giving them a ticket.

signalfire said...

Ivan Illich wrote a neat little treatise in the 70s where he established that you never really go faster than a bicycle. Once you factor in the hours spent working to pay for a car, a plane ticket, a space shuttle or anything else, the bike the way to go.

I'm not sure if he thought about sailing, though. :)

Matti said...

I drive year around. I live in eastern Finland near Joensuu city. I drive 22km every day. All roads are covered with ice and snow. When temperature drops below -30C(-22F) cycling is not pleasurable anymore. Snow becomes hard as grains of sand. Every drop of grease in your bicycle becomes thick as toffee. Oil becomes thick as grease. Every part of your body should be covered. Big part of your pedaling power will be used to winning friction of snow and frozen parts of your bike. When you move you will sweat. If you stop, you will freeze pretty quickly.

-20C is not fun either. Pleasurable winter conditions for cycling are warmer than -15C in my opinion.

When temperature moves near 0C studded tires becomes really good to have. Roads becomes really slippery and bumby. You can move lot faster with studded tires than without studs. Without studs you had to drive too careful and slow. Otherwise you will slip and fall.

I have tested some kevlar tires (without studs). On normal winter situation (temperature about -10C, ice covered road and snow on it) those kevlar tires becomes dangerously hard and slippery. Kevlar tires are only for summer use. In winter there is no use for kevlar anyhow. Most glass shards and pointy objects are covered with thick ice and snow.

Theodore said...

Interesting-- I was reading Reinventing Collapse the other day and got interested in the comment about how an old 3-speed bike would be much more valuable. I can see how modern derailleur gears will break down. So I tried to find a good old Pashley or Raleigh or Columbia, but everywhere I look, I see imitations. The Sturmley-Archer 3-speed hubs went through a period of poor quality workmanship and the new Taiwanese company that bought the brand is making it with some plastic parts inside. The new Pashley Roadsters have plastic chain guards, which I doubt will last many years, and they're all pretty expensive. I'll be hitting the used bike stores next, hoping to find a really old model to fix up.

Bakhirun said...

I wonder whether the Russians are not making this type of primitive, heavy but unbreakable bicycle - along the lines of the Ural or the Planet motorcycles: crude but sturdy and long-lasting.

The Japanese used to, with brands like Meguro (favoured by farmers) but they've gone to hell like everyone else, with flimsy plastic bits and electronics on just about every modern machine.

No one seems to expect to have to keep a machine ten or twenty years any longer (goes the reasoning), so why build them to last? They'd have to be heavy as well, which in this era is a major strike against them. Everything is designed sleek, fuel-efficient, with minimal durability. Alas.