This is a shameless attempt to save the the most advanced civilization in
history from imminent self destruction by eliminating carbon emission,
dependence on foreign sources of fuel,obesity, hypertension and diabetes.
Cycling accomplishes all those things at once and helps us develop a better
understanding of ourselves, each other and our relationship to the cosmos.

Oh, horse puckey!
I like to ride bikes, have been doing it all my life.
The rest of that crap is just a fringe benefit,
and the blogosphere gives me a chance to share my interior
monologue with virtual rather than imaginary friends.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Onward, 2018 straight ahead.

This past year was  sedate, encouraging, adventurous and disappointing at the same time.  Oh, yeah, like life.  It began with some comments from innocents.  A class of high school freshmen asked me why I rode a bike rather than drive a car.  I asked them to explain it to me.  After providing 8 or so good reasons to choose a bike over a car they were dum founded and could offer no reason to drive a car.
I had to offer "social acceptance" as a primary reason for most people's choice. That, of course, left them with more quizzical looks on their faces.
Our mayor was awarded the "Friend of Bicycling" award by our local club.  He had been instrumental in passing the new 5 foot passing law which was instituted in the city.
The area transportation study, KATS, continued their outreach to the public attempting to develop a coherent network of non-motorized routes through the municipal area.
    I dipped my toe into the technology arena by making an hilarious attempt at going tubeless.  Despite what you might have heard, a special tire is required.  On a positive note, the Stan's Sealant works pretty damn well in tubes.  This year I had 8 known punctures and only one actual flat.  The flat that I had was catastrophic.  Whatever I hit punctured the center tread and Kevlar belt of a Schwalbe Big Ben tire, and the anti-puncture strip I was using, and then left a hole large enough that Stan's wouldn't seal it. So, you have to carry a tube and inflator anyway.  I guess the tubeless thing is only an advantage to racers, the sealant a convenience to real cyclists.
Once springtime got underway, I discovered one of the worst excuses for a rail trail.   This mess is called a bike trail and is useless.  It runs between Hartfort Mi and ends near the Lakeshore but is an unmaintained grass path barely navigable on a 29er.  I suppose it gets some snowmobile traffic in the winter but I bailed to the county roads.
Back in town the city of Portage was quick to post signs
 educating the public about the new passing laws.  Bravo!!
Scott Towner was my first Warmshowers guest for the year.  He traveled from Toronto to Southern Cal and stayed with me for a night.
The following weekend our paths crossed while I was taking a weekend trip to the Lake.   We shared a campsite for a night before I went home and he pedaled onward to Chicago.
I embraced a new twist on old technology in the form of a Blackburn trunk bag for my Hillborne.  It's a new version of the Topeak design with small panniers folding down from the sides.  The trunk itself has a light insulation and is HUGE.  It will easily fit a 6 pack of your favorite bottles and a few other things.  It's a perfect bag for an overnight at a B&B on the lake.  Unlike the Topeak design, it will fit on any rack with a couple of velcro straps.
Mary's ride, one of my favorite ad hoc charity rides, went well  again this year.
This time with beautiful weather and favorable winds.
I now have proof positive that I can wear out or break anything.  I managed to bend the pin on a Park Tool chain break.  How, I will never know, but I am proud to say "I did it my own self."
There was a huge turnout for the ride on June 7th commemorating the tragedy of 2016 when 9 cyclists were run over by a pickup truck.
Linus. a student from Germany, was my other Warmshowers guest this year.  He took some time off from his studies to travel across the US by bicycle.
He managed to break an axle just outside of town and Rick Lee from Zoo City Cycles was glad to have it repaired free of charge.
My own journey's took me by Amtrak to infamous HWY 61 in Minnesota
for trip down the Mississippi which is a route frequented by cyclists and I found campgrounds dedicated to us along the route.
For the most part the weather was magnificent,
the scenery sublime and the roads flat 
until I passed Praire Du Chien.  
There, for about 80 miles it was climb after climb
reaching some magnificent vistas before reaching
the flatlands of Illinois and the ride home.
(I took Amtrak not the penny farthing.)
The annual vintage bike show at the Tavern was blessed with a big crowd and beautiful weather.
I took a little tour of Manistee National forest, it's trails and sandy roads
where I discovered Idlewild, a hidden piece of Michigan history in the middle of the forest.  It was one of the first places in the USA where Afro-Americans were allowed to own real estate.
A little east of there is an interesting intersection in Reed City of two rail trails cutting across the state.
I settled down into a fall of commuter cycling and the local transportation study released it's plan for developing non-motorist routes through the city.
It's a very aggressive plan and backed by the fact that they hold the purse strings to the Federal funds used in the area.  It promises to be one plan that does not collect dust on the shelf.
Unfortunately that was followed by the Ying to their Yang.  The KRVT, a local trail organization, completed the most disastrous and misconceived connection through our downtown area to connect their trail sections.  It's a comical farce winding through the most heavily trafficked streets in town turning 14 times in the length of a mile.  I'm just glad the rest of the year was positive and am planning the travel for the coming year.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

One step forward two steps back.

    Despite the optimistic development I noted in my last post, Our local trail system, the KRVT, has been struggling with a dilemma the  past couple of years.  Part of the system was finished on both the west and east end with no route to connect the two parts in the middle of the city.  Obviously there is a lot of real estate to consider and a bit of controversy.  There is a side street which intersects with the west leg and seems a perfect candidate.  Most of it could be made a bike boulevard with a side path added at the west end where there is more auto traffic.   A sign could be installed to direct cyclists to another safe route to the shops and restaurants downtown. That would have provided a straight one mile connection that avoided all the congestion and traffic downtown. 
Whoever is in charge thought it better to take a route they believed would bring cyclists into the retail area.    They made a grand announcement and had a ribbon cutting to celebrate it's completion so I thought I should take an honest look at the accomplishment.  

The new connection begins by crossing Westnedge Ave,  
to access an off street, expanded sidewalk/trail 
where I immediately waited to cross Business Loop I-94 to continue  the "sidewalk/trail"
which winds around between some parking lots and 
crosses the southbound leg of Westnedge called Park St.
After crossing Park St. the "trail" winds again
 around some parking lots and between two office buildings.
before reaching a "crossing" in the middle of the block at Rose St
where we can wait in a median between streams of traffic.
From there it winds between the Museum and Community College campuses 
into the attractively landscaped sidewalk behind
before going back to the street  which leads the trail 
through the middle of the local festival site, 
which makes the trail unusable during an event.
From there we wait to ride back across Business Loop I-94
to reach another protected lane 
adjacent to Business Loop I-94,
across a rail crossing and past Bell's Brewery 
to turn further south on another protected bike lane
and leading to a route 
which squeezes between several parking lots
across another rail siding
between ware houses before
finally reaching the other east ward trail head.
Of course you notice all the retail exposure this accomplished.  There were two bars.
As a somewhat experienced cycle tourist, I have learned to depend upon marked routes and trails to help navigate strange communities safely.  This trail system is part of a network advertised and promoted to guide cyclists safely across the state from Lake Michigan to Lake Huron.  After riding the new connection exposing the "better" part of Kalamazoo authorities wanted to showcase, I wonder how this made sense to anybody.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

It's like the bureaucratic seas parting!

      One of the dubious benefits of being a legendary eccentric bicycling around a Midwestern town, is the opportunity to shape the future, or at least attend and witness other people do real things of substance.   Sometimes I wonder why anybody even shares these events with me, but they do.  One of the privileges for which I was volunteered is the Citizen's Advisory Committee to the Kalamazoo Area Transportation Study (KATS).  (The longer the title the less meaningful the position)  The committee doesn't do a whole lot except comment on the work and proposals of KATS.
      This time around they have hit a home run or scored a bike polo goal or something.  They have finished several years of study and developed a non-motorized solution to our problems.  Found on their website,is an extensive document which outlines a detailed revision of the city streets including their best choices for non-motorized accommodations.  There are pages and pages of details but the most impressive part is the executive summary which explains the methodology and process by which they reached their conclusions.
The city map they produced demonstrates the pervasive extent of their research and designs.   Notable is the network of cycling facilities they propose.   What I find encouraging is the number of "bike boulevards"  compared to the limited number of "protected bike lanes" proposed.  I feel that "protected bike lanes" produce more problems than protection, at least the ones I have seen and used.
    It would be very simple to dismiss this whole project as a bureaucratic pie-in-the-sky meant to patronize the cycling community.  I have developed a truly cynical attitude towards most proposals I have seen, but this dog has real financial teeth.  KATS, the producer of the plan, is the gatekeeper for all the Federal funds which are siphoned into the community.  The State has adopted a "Complete Streets" policy which requires any jurisdiction to consider non-motorized needs when developing and funding any roadway project. With this document, the cities, county or townships will have an easy reference to improve non-motorized facilities and the need to follow those recommendations before applying for Federal funding which makes up 1/3 of the financing for transportation projects.
    I haven't seen or heard of a project like this in any other area and it certainly deserves a serious review by anybody interested in developing transportation.

Friday, November 10, 2017

What to do on rainy days.

      A recent post on Facebook asked for advice when riding in the rain.  It was quite a thread and elicited a lot of suggestions that are downright foreign to most American cyclists.   Throughout were warnings to shower and change clothes, get wet, carry a backpack and all sorts of variations on equipping yourself  while riding a bike.  Suggesting fenders came across as a big surprise and there was no response at all when I told them I'd never felt the need to change clothes or shower at work during 45 years of commuting in 7 different municipalities spread throughout the Midwest and south (So much for experience qualifying advice). One participant in the thread suggested a rack and panniers rather than a back pack! What? Use the machine to carry things!?!  
     One very experienced racer expressed surprise that there was special equipment for commuting and transportation.   So fenders and racks are "specialized" equipment, but Strava subscriptions and electronic shifters are standard when people don't race. 
    At the core of all this is a less specialized bike.  I think everybody should have a versatile useful bike.  After all they would ride more often, for more reasons, and enjoy it more, wouldn't they? They might have to compromise their Strava scores but who cares?  Happy is a nice goal.  I could be contorted atop a dangerously light bike for hours, if somebody paid me millions of Lire.  Hell, I'd take drugs for that, or stick somebody's poop up  my butt.
    It would be revolutionary to purchase a bike that is not only practical and durable, but one that is reasonably fast as well.
You might go over the top and expect it to be comfortable,
ditch the obligatory "drop bars" to discover a greater variety of positions,
find a bike that's nice to look at
and carries your stuff to work too.
That would totally confound the spandex hamsters.  
Oh, and when it rains, wear a jacket or poncho.  Whatever suits you.
Photos by Zolton Cohen