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If you’re new to bike commuting and not ready to run out and drop $1,000 on a new bike at the local bike shop (and I don’t blame you) you will probably be looking to purchase a used bike. Even if it isn’t your first bike, a used cycle is always a good idea for the budget or retro-minded. This is definitely a good decision.
Now that you’ve decided to to buy used, follow these steps to make sure you are making the right purchasing decision:
To avoid overpaying or overextending yourself on your purchase, figure out how much money you want to spend before you even begin looking at bikes. It is easy to let the price creep higher as you decide more and more features are crucial to your cycling needs.
However, the truth is that very little is actually necessary on a bicycle. Most is just convenience. A $50 bicycle can get you around very well, so don’t think you need to spend $500. To get you started, here is a basic look at prices on different types of used bicycles:
Cheap ($50-$200): These road bikes are old frames, often from Schwinn or similar makers. They don’t have as many gears and come with friction shifters and may or may not have been well cared for.
Moderate ($201-$500): This price range can get you a pretty sweet road bike with a few thousand miles on it. They may have the fancier shifters you see on high-end bikes, but the likely have more gears and higher quality components.
Expensive ($500 and up): If you are spending more than $500 on a used commuter, you are getting into expensive territory. However, if you need something solid with the ability to attach panniers and haul big time, it may cost more as you get more specific with your needs. If you are spending this much, make sure the bike is in good shape.
Rideability and comfort depends more on fit than on the bicycle itself. Either go to a shop and pay to have yourself fitted or get a rough estimate using your measurements online or from a friend familiar with cycling. In my experience, it is best never to settle for a cycle with an incorrect frame size just to find a deal.
In some cases certain brands will offer a 58cm frame while others will offer a 57cm frame. Use common sense. If you are big on a 58cm frame then don’t go for a 57cm, try to find that maker’s 59cm frame and see if the fit works for you.
Also, leg length is not everything. Make sure you have a good fit for your arm length and shoulder width and that, in general, the bike feels comfortable under you. Remember, you don’t want to feel sore and achy after a 15 mile ride to work in the morning.
Frames come in all shapes, sizes, and materials. They have different features and can accept different accessories and components. Before you buy your bike, become familiar with the specifics of the frame and figure out how that will affect your experience in the future. Here are a few things to look out for:
Material: Steel frames are strong and durable, but they do rust and can be heavy. Typically, however, a steel frame is great for commuting. Aluminum frames aren’t as stiff as steel but are often lighter and are used in many new bicycles. Not my material of choice. Carbon fiber is light and stiff, but expensive. Great for racing but a target for theft and damage in everyday use.
In the end, material choice is a personal preference. I commute on either a lugged steel frame or an older lugger carbon fiber frame, neither of which is very expensive.
Eyelets: While some of us are content to commute with a simple should bag, others of us like to throw some saddlebags on the bicycle for all of our storage needs. However, not all bicycles are prepared to accept rear racks and saddle bags, so if you intend to go that route make sure the bike has eyelets (or better yet, already comes with a rack).
Sizing: As I said above, fit is very important. Make sure you know the size of the bike you’re buying and that it will fit you. Hopefully you’ll be able to give the bike a spin, or at least find all the measurements. But don’t forgetting, fine-tuning can always be done after purchase!
Knowing what’s on your future bike isn’t just about bragging about how shiny and expensive your bike schwag is. No matter what bicycle you buy, you will end up needing to replace certain parts on the bike when they wear our or if there is a failure. For example, when I bought my first road bike it came with 5-speed Shimano 600 gear.
Evidently this was great stuff over 20 years ago. But when I needed to do some service involving removing the cassette, not even the local bike shop had the proper tool to get it off. I ended up needing a whole new wheel because it was going to be more trouble removing the cassette than spending $40 on a new wheel.
So, when shopping, try to get components of a current name brand and model so you will be able to purchase and install replacement parts.
As with the above, try to figure out what the components are and how much they will cost. If you want a really simple, cheap set up that’s not going to break and won’t cost much if it does, find something with old-style friction shifters.
However, if you want something finicky that costs a lot to fix, go for the newer shifters that are integrated into the brake levers. All of my gear bikes currently have them, and while they are great as long as they work, they are equally frustrating when the don’t, and can cost upwards of $100 to fix or replace.
You won’t be shopping around for other models of the same bike, most likely, but when you’re looking at used bikes, there are always more fish in the sea (or wheels on the road, as the case may be). Don’t jump at the first deal you find unless it costs less than a tank of gas, because you don’t want to end up regretting your purchase.
Others may disagree with me, but an old Schwinn Le Tour is not worth $100 bucks unless it has some really fancy stuff on it. Similarly, an 8-speed Specialized Allez Epic isn’t worth $600. They might tempt you at first, but always shop around. Check prices on craigslist, ebay, and wherever you can find bikes for sale to get more perspective.
Craigslist is often a great place for deal on normal goods, but can become quite over-priced when road bikes are concerned because comparison shopping is so difficult.
Bikes are like anything else you buy second-hand: negotiable. Sometimes ever more so. So, negotiate! My first road bike was only $40 bucks after negotiating down from $60, so if a bike is a little above what you want to pay, don’t fret, because that’s a perfect bargaining chip!
Keep your chain oiled, your nuts tight, and your brakes on and you’ll be fine in the long run. In the end, treating what you have well will always save you money over beating it up and having to buy another bike!
We don’t really think about how that twenty five dollar flip flop might hurt the environment. Just to think about it most main brand shoes ranging from Jordan’s to Clark’s use mainly rubber to create their shoes. To make these shoes that we have come to know and love releases bad chemicals into the air and throwing them away is not the most eco-friendly either. The only shoes easily found without rubber is the wooden clogs that would send your social and fashion identity plummeting.
So what can you do if everywhere you can buy shoes only provides only shoes that are bad for the environment. You can make sure that you sell the shoes to a thrift store or give them away as a donation once your finished, or you can pay double for shoes using recycled rubber. Those are options but there is one more. Online eco-shoes have been popping up all over the place. They make anything from running shoes to sandals. For what has to be in rubber they only use natural crepe rubber. Which is rubber that comes from tree harvested like maple syrup. They even make shoes directly for those of us who are vegan.
I suggest Simpleshoes not only do they style and sizes ranging from kid’s to the largest feet but also have a list of all their materials and how they are used in their shoes. Compared to most name brand shoe stores they are relatively inexpensive, not including payless, walmart, and target. Who knew that shoe could help make this world a better place.
This reminded me of another article in the UK. The 11 year old lost his battle to ride his bike to school in Portsmouth. This time, the CTC (http://www.ctc.org.uk/) tried working with the school to establish that bike riding on roads is safe for kids. See full story here: link
Both schools said that the roads outside were unsafe for bicycling. A professional risk assessment done by the CTC in Portsmouth found that the road was in fact safe.
There is more discussion on these news articles on Bike Commuters: link
I am of the opinion that the type of safety in question is skewed. People consider operating a car safe where the fatality rate is almost twice in cars (0.47 per million hours) as it is for bicycles (0.26 per million hours) per Planet Green.
According to David Hembrow http://hembrow.blogspot.com/2008/09/three-types-of-safety.html
There are three measures of safety, all of which have their place in Dutch bicycle provision:
- Actual safety – How many km you can expect to travel before you’re injured on your bike.
- Subjective safety – Are you near fast moving traffic? Is it easy to make a turn across traffic? Do you have to cycle “fast” in order to keep up?
- Social safety – Is there a mugger around that blind corner? Will I be attacked in the street if I cycle?
The Subjective Safety with riding bicycles on roads is quite low, making overall safety appear unacceptable. The Subjective Safety in driving a car surrounded by metal and airbags, ABS, ESC etc is relatively high.
I am inclined to think this is what the school official are spooked by. What the professional risk assessors have probably assessed is the ‘Actual Safety’. Subjective safety is one of the reasons why parents do not let their kids ride to school alone. Some accompany their kids to school on bikes. Others just drive.
What are we doing to improve Subjective Safety? Should it be considered important when designing roads? How does one measure it?
As a parent, what would make you think it is safe to let your kids to ride their bikes to school?
“Light rail was meant to be fed by people taking the bus, walking or biking,” said Rick Sheridan, spokesman for the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). “It was not meant to be fed by cars.”
Light rail starting in Seattle this Saturday is generating some bad PR for not having car parking at the stations. Restricted parking zones are set up around the stations. The light rail corridor is envisioned as future residential and commercial growth, making it a prime candidate for car-free living. Moreover, the City of Seattle has had a policy of discouraging park-and-rides, per the news article on Seattle Times (link).
One of the sources of complaint arises from a resident living one mile away from a light rail station. Due to restricted parking, it makes it difficult for that resident to drive to the station and take the train. This is a good example of complementing your commute with a bike (I agree with Car Free Days). An unattractive beater bike bought for under $50 from Craigslist is plenty for the one mile commute to the station. Its cheap parts will keep thieves away while it lies locked all day. I dont know if they allow bicycles on the trains but a folding bike would be appropriate to carry along.
The only hurdle in this method of advocating is the people normally live twelve to fifteen miles away from work, sometimes without an efficient mass-transit connectivity. The distance, to some extent, dissuades people from leaping into a bicycle-rich lifestyle. Riding on the roads as vehicles, debating space with fellow vehicles one hundred times heavier is another factor that turns beginners off from commuting to work. Then, there is the sweatiness factor.
Bicycles generally improve the quality of life. Living a bicycling-rich life may more effectively begin if not leapt into it but trodded onto softly.
Andrew Cline has put together a One-Mile Solution (link). He proposes to draw out a circle of one mile radius around your home and visit businesses in that area on a bike that you would normally visit in a car. An easy way is to visit www.walkscore.com and plug in your home address.
There is a larger impact when people accepting the ease and popularity of bicycles by celebrating’ a ‘Bike to the Grocery Store Day’, ‘Bike to the Diner Morning”, or ‘Bike to Movies Night’.
And what equipment/gear would you need to do it? A pair of shorts, sandles, a simple bike with a front basket. The front basket is a handy piece of equipment. Mine (Wald 137) is the perfect size to fit a grocery store bag for that mid-week grocery store run or a doggy bag from the Thai place down the road.
Then a thought accord to me. If they changed it from “famous” kids to not-so-skinny kids waddling to the fridge for some ice cream maybe that would inspire them. Then of course the government would have to use more money in lawsuits and discriminatory litigations so I scratched the idea. Then a new one came up. Advertise on ABC, NBC, ESPN, all the big adult channels, even Discovery and Food Network. Tell the parents to unplug and take away the cables of the computers, game systems, and televisions for an hour a day. Force the kids outside, or to read, or to do something more productive then letting their behinds grow larger and larger.
Yes I know this will take some collaboration from the parents but isn’t it worth it? I’m tired of seeing five year olds rolling through the mall because their legs can’t carry their body mass. I’m tired of people my age being illiterate because they were always too lazy to even pick up the simplest book. I’m not asking you to overdo it but we need to get back to spending all our summer days with friends outside, at the neighborhood pool, playing hide-and-go-seek for hours at a time and it never getting old, rereading the whole harry potter series before the next movie comes out. Everything that made us into such determined, smart, go getters is being drained out of the next generation and substituted with complacency and laziness. How will their future play out if they are too lazy to reach for the stars? Where will our musicians, writers, artists, and actors be if imagination has been bred out of the masses? This needs to change and it needs to change now. Turn off the TV and get outdoors.
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The extreme sports of skateboarding and BMX have now branched out into running as well. Running is no longer for men in short shorts and spiked shoes. Free running has been born. Basically, free running is getting from point A to point B in the fastest, most flamboyant way possible. Free runners, participants of this new found sport, try to outdo their opponents by performing better or more daring tricks. They do everything from flipping from landing to landing, jumping from building to building, all to perform acrobatics that amaze and astound all who are watching. Unlike other extreme sports, which need bikes or boards and protective padding and helmets, all you need for free running are some tennis shoes and a dare devil personality. You can find free runners anywhere from malls to parks. They have recently shown up in movies, such as Paul Blart: Mall Cop, and video games, such as Core Design.
There are two types of free running a style called Parkour, the art of training your body to overcome obstacles with movement, and free running. There is only one distinct difference between the two. Free running is more of an art form using series of moves spun together at the artist’s will, while Parkour is a martial art and is more uniform. Parkour came first and has been developing as a subculture for a while now. Free running, getting its name from the movie Jump London, is much more recent but is growing fast.
Both have spawned there large communities around them, American Parkour, and have gained the reputation of supporting our national parks and are getting kids up and moving around again. So this poses the question ‘Why drive when you can run with style?’
Anyway, carectomy is a great site, and I would like to keep it that way and add some new, good content to it. Is anyone interesting? If so shoot me an email at benjamin.f.t.jones AT gmail DOT com and let me know your interests / writings skills.
Thanks a bunch!
Mamachari is Japanese for the “mother chariot,” and these bicycles often can been seen with child baskets on the front and back. More commonly, however, they are the bicycles of young students, old men, and everyone in between.
They are usually cheap, single-speed bicycles that come outfitted with the full compliment of rain and dirt avoiding gear, as well as baskets and racks for hauling things like bags and groceries.
Currently, in addition to my road bike, I own the cheapest mamachari money could buy from a local shop. The bike gets me around the city, but I would not take it further than 5km each way as it can be quite tiresome to ride.
The mamachari is almost never ridden in the street, but usually on Japan’s wide and bicycle-friendly sidewalks. Almost exclusively without a helmet. If it is raining you can generally stay dry by riding with an umbrella in your right hand.
If you are looking to go further than just around town, or just don’t like the setup of the mamachari, your next option would likely be some sort of mountain bike. Aside from mamachari, they are the most commonly seen bicycle on the roads here.
Once you get out of the city you will often see people riding this cycles in the streets or on the sidewalk (where there still is one). They often don’t include the same basket space as the mamachari so you will have to carry a backpack if you want to haul things.
Also options are the mini-velo and road racer, which are even more efficient than the mamachari or mountain bike. However, these are less common because of their price.
If you are planning to do anything more than 20 mile round trips, I would suggest you pick up a decently geared road bike. Many hills you will encounter in Japan are severe enough that you will want a solid bike to help you get up them so that you don’t end up walking all the time.
If purchasing a bicycle in Japan, you can get decent road bikes for commuting or touring at many larger bike shops. While I often use specialty shops because I have been commuting on my racing bicycle, this isn’t really necessary for the average commuter.
Road bikes can be purchased as cheaply as 800-900 bucks for the lower end of the Bianchi line, which seems to be popular all across Japan. You will also find other American and European makers for sale up from that price.
If commuting with a road bike, I suggest getting yourself a comfortable and roomy messenger bag to carry your things since it is likely your bike won’t be doing the work for you.
I am not living in a place with any of those things. Two years ago when I spent time outside of Tokyo, I was. It was a 5 minute walk to the nearest train station, with two more within 20 minutes of that. From there I could get practically anywhere. No need for a car. I never even had to use the bus save for one or two special trips.
Well, rural Japan is a bit different. Google Maps Japan defaults to route instructions for public transit, but most of the places I am going give a warning “no public transit to this location.” There is a train station about 10 minutes from here, as well as a tram station.
The tram will get you anywhere in town, but doesn’t go much outside of that. The train station, which is currently under construction for the forthcoming high-speed rail line, will take you to destinations 20 to 50 miles away.
Kind of a pain. That’s why more people have cars around here than other places in Japan. So what have I done to avoid renting a car to get around to all the places I’ve been going?
Lots of cycling. At 90-130 kilometers per day (when I’m travelling), this is quite a lot of cycling indeed. It may be a pain, but it has made the area a lot more accessible than it otherwise would have been, even without a car.
Coming soon: A cyclist’s guide to commuting in rural Japan.
There is one surefire sign that bicycles are hot at the moment. It’s not the coverage urban cycling is getting on tv networks or in mainstream newspapers and fashion magazines.
It’s pornography. Increasing numbers of bicycle related porn films are being spotted on adult websites. You read it here first [but you probably noticed yourself, didn't you?] Once again, the adult film industry is a deciding factor in cultural and technological issues.
The adult film industry almost single-handedly killed of Beta in favour of VHS when they decided to back the latter format for the distribution of their films. Every time you view internet streaming and watch clips in the most popular formats, you can thank the porn industry for choosing them and therefore standardising how we view online content. The industry was a major factor in the rapid development of streaming technology and their choices of format killed off all the other competitors to mpeg and avi.
Our goal is to get convention attendees to ride bikes during both conventions. We know that bikes will be perfect for short trips between hotels, convention centers, restaurants, and the convention arenas. We want delegates, officials, the media—10,000+ per convention—volunteers, and the presidential candidates themselves to develop a greater appreciation and respect for the role of bicycling in big cities … and beyond.
The upright city bikes will come with practical cargo-carrying baskets, helmets, and a lock. Each convention will have between 8 and 10 staffed bike stations to check in and check out the rigs as needed.
“This effort, like everything Bikes Belong does, is bike-partisan.”
Photo via flickr by mooniker
The World Bank completed the study, which has been leaked by the Guardian, at the end of April but has yet to publish it, presumably in deference to Bush’s gung-ho corn ethanol campaign. Another damning study by the British government, due out soon, states that biofuels have “played a significant part in pushing up food prices.”
"Political leaders seem intent on suppressing and ignoring the strong evidence that biofuels are a major factor in recent food price rises," said Robert Bailey, policy adviser at Oxfam. "It is imperative that we have the full picture. While politicians concentrate on keeping industry lobbies happy, people in poor countries cannot afford enough to eat."
Rising food prices have pushed 100m people worldwide below the poverty line, estimates the World Bank, and have sparked riots from Bangladesh to Egypt. Government ministers here have described higher food and fuel prices as "the first real economic crisis of globalisation".
President Bush has linked higher food prices to higher demand from India and China, but the leaked World Bank study disputes that: "Rapid income growth in developing countries has not led to large increases in global grain consumption and was not a major factor responsible for the large price increases."
Even successive droughts in Australia, calculates the report, have had a marginal impact. Instead, it argues that the EU and US drive for biofuels has had by far the biggest impact on food supply and prices.
Say you were able to cultivate every acre of Illinois for corn-based ethanol. This is purely hypothetical as it would involve bulldozing Chicago and other cities and towns in the Prairie State. As an Illinois resident surrounded by cornfields, fleeing demolition is not my relocation fantasy.
One of the potentially most productive corn-growing states on the planet would yield about 5.7 billion bushels of corn and 16 billion gallons of ethanol, according to Charles Washburn, professor emeritus at California State University. He has researched the subject over the past 45 years.
The Illinois mega-crop would provide only 0.8 percent of annual U.S. gasoline and diesel-fuel use, Washburn estimates, subtracting the energy it takes to create ethanol.
Of course, U.S. energy consumption isn’t a static beast. Washburn further projects that “a new corn field the size of Illinois would be required to meet our transportation energy growth every seven months.”
Just as S.F. was on the brink of implementing a comprehensive pro-bike plan citywide in 2005, Anderson sued to have a thorough environmental-impact review conducted. The report is due about a year from now and, according to the Wall Street Journal, Anderson already plans to oppose its findings.
Cars always will vastly outnumber bikes, he reasons, so allotting more street space to cyclists could cause more traffic jams, more idling and more pollution. Mr. Anderson says the city has been blinded by political correctness. It’s an "attempt by the anti-car fanatics to screw up our traffic on behalf of the bicycle fantasy," he wrote in his blog this month…
He continues to blog from his apartment in an old Victorian home. "Regardless of the obvious dangers, some people will ride bikes in San Francisco for the same reason Islamic fanatics will engage in suicide bombings — because they are politically motivated to do so," he wrote in a May 21 post.
Thanks to carectomy patient James for the info.
Many consumers complain that ethanol, which constitutes as much as 10 percent of the fuel they buy in most states, hurts gas mileage and chokes the engines of their boats and motorcycles.
In Oklahoma, some vendors are refusing to sell ethanol-spiked gasoline. And they’re winning customers with signs like "No Corn in Our Gas" and "Why Do You Put Alcohol in Your Tank?" the Times claims. In Oregon, new rules requiring the state’s fuel supply be E10 — a mix of 90 percent gasoline and 10 percent ethanol — are being associated with sputtering boat engines and failing weed whackers.
Meanwhile, taxpayers are shelling out billions for the troubles they perceive at the pump. Consider that in one of many, many government handouts to ethanol makers, tax payers surrender 51 cents in revenue for every gallon of ethanol that gets mixed into the fuel supply. This year, government mandates dictate that we mix in 9 billion gallons, a level that will climb to 15 billion gallons by 2015.
It’s U.S. business and politics as usual. The efficiency of the country’s corn-based ethanol production, in terms of energy put in and energy yielded, is laughable. Yet it’s politically popular as it continues to support agribusiness and, indirectly, the oil industry. As wealth is further redistributed to the rich few we pay not just in money but with our soil, climate, planet, and health.
Photo via flickr by sroemerm
At a press conference yesterday, Mr. Bloomberg said bringing the big-box warehouse chain to the city would help New Yorkers weather a difficult economic downturn. "Costco has a reputation of selling in bulk at very low prices, and given the economy today and the public’s desire to buy things in bulk and buy them cheaper, it seems to me we should welcome any store that wants to come here," he said.
But on the morning July 25th, Cooley fell victim to a malicious act of road rage while pedaling to work. After the driver of a Volkswagen almost ran him over, the car pulled to the side, and the passenger jumped out and began to beat Cooley before speeding away. Cooley was left with a concussion and torn ligament.
Cooley’s incident isn’t unique. In fact, as the NY Times reports, car-on-bike violence is on the rise nationwide. What isn’t clear is whether the spike is in proportion to the dramatic increase in cyclists. Previous studies have actually shown that cycling becomes significantly safer when there are more riders on the road.
The event, slated for Northampton Arts Night Out on Friday, September 12h, will feature a parade-style march/roll through NoHo with participants decked out in “outrageous black funeral costumes” all accompanied by the Ode to Global Warming. Certified bike safety instructor Ralph Sturgen will be on hand to offer urban riding lessons for efficiently navigating city streets. Expect dancers, hoola-hooping, martial artists, yogis, and various two-wheeled contraptions!
If you’re interested in participating, contact Jill Turner directly for more info.
Photo via flickr by Ben Cooper
Sometimes you want to share your cycling experience with a friend or loved one – not always an easy task. Different levels of fitness or comfort with speed can quickly turn a for-fun excursion into a bickering hell – especially when married partners are involved.
Jennifer Schwartz recently wrote about her parents’ experience for the Boston Globe magazine. After failed attempts at riding together, they found a solution to this age-old problem: The tandem bicycle. The bicycle-built-for-two ensures that the two riders remain together, for better or worse.
I joined them on my bike for one of their first tandem rides. At stoplights, they were horrendous: He’d lean to one side, she to the other. He’d stand up to stretch without warning; she’d buckle her knees. They’d clip out opposite feet and knock themselves off balance. Yelling and frustration (and eye rolling on my part) ensued. But soon, sharing a cadence, communicating the next move, and working as a single entity turned them into a machine that could beat me in any sprint. They assigned tasks (she’d signal, he’d steer), learned bike jargon ("Car back!"), and developed a method, however boilerplate, to take off when a light turned green ("One, two, three, go!").
It is no exaggeration that in the four years since the purchase of that bike, my parents’ life has changed. They finally share an equally enjoyed hobby. My mom is in better shape, and my dad is less competitive. They have a whole new set of "tandem friends" with whom they ride and go out to dinner. In September, they’ll take the tandem to Italy. I rarely see my parents happier than when they’re on that bike. The jabs and jokes are still around, but now the effect is far more endearing.