Tuesday, September 28, 2010

be aggressive but talented too

Biking is never going to become an acceptable means of travel and recreation until folks doing it learn to think about the other folks on the roads and become talented and skilled riders. I see large groups of fast cyclists riding together and basically taking up the entire lane. Often times, they are 4 abreast and unaware of any cars behind them or even the scare of death they give to a slower cyclist that they might pass on the road.

This just happened to me last weekend. I got passed by a large group of cyclists and they wizzed by very close and not one person in the group announced "passing on the left." It was unnerving to say the least and very poor form. I saw others speeding over large gravel piles and taking no precautions for safety. I see cyclists make sudden turns or stops. I had a female cyclist miss hitting me by inches going downhill. She did not think about the rain and her brakes.

Biking is a fabulous activity and lots of fun. I have discovered the joys of solo cycling this year and find it the most relaxing activity. But I have also learned how to be a better cyclist. I spent a lot of time riding with my 26 year old son. He is now commuting 60 miles a day to center city Philadelphia so he is doing some serious riding. Getting into the city from an outlying suburb takes some serious skills on the bike and tons of experience biking on highways and busy streets.

But what I have learned from my son is how to bike and be in charge on the road. He stays way over on the side, never dominates the car lane and follows all the rules of the road. But he also is in charge of himself in relationship to the cars. At intersections he gets right out in front of a car if he needs to take a lane to make a left turn. He is dominant on the road but not to the point of being stupid. This is a fine line and I have learned from watching him bike that he can be aggressive but at the same time show talent and confidence on his bike. The cars KNOW exactly what he is going to do next.

His model of cycling has helped me immensely on the roads. I feel more confident and more skilled on the road. But like my son, I never take this for granted. I constantly think about what I am doing on the road. I constantly use my rear view mirror. I constantly look for gravel or pot holes. Cycling is fun but it also demands vigilance on the road.

So be aggressive but be skilled at the same time. Take care and you will not find yourself hitting gravel and flying over your handlebars.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Bike Communting with $450 worth of lights

I know a fella who is bike commuting to Philadelphia from the outlying suburbs. The round trip runs around 60 miles. So this is a substantial commute. On the advice of his trusty friend, the Internet, he decided to invest in some high powered lights. The lights require that the cyclist attach the battery packs to the bike frame.

So armed with a huge backpack and his huge body (he is 6'6") and the fabulously powered lights, he said biking became a whole new adventure. On his way in, during daylight, he turned the lights on as he approached the city limits. He said all of a sudden, he noticed that cars and buses started giving him a wide berth. Coming home it had become dark and he had both the front and back lights blaring, he said the wide berth experience was even more pronounced. Buses hung back and passed him slowly as the drivers gave him the OK sign. On four lane roads, cars moved over to the passing lane.

People stared at him. He passed a high school soccer game and he said they all turned to look. So the investment in the high powered lights was worth every penny. No one buzzed him. No one gave him the finger and swore. Apparently the motorists had no idea who or want he was. Being a large male certainly helps but he has been hassled and buzzed on his bike. The big difference seems to be the lights. They create an impression that he is either a police officer or someone important. No matter what, the lights seem to keep him safe.

Here is the link to the company he used to buy lights: DiNotte Lighting. My son bought a tail light with 240 lumens. So spend some serious cash. It's cheaper than an ER visit.

If you are a commuter and plan on doing it regularly, go get some good bike lights. I want them now. Although an old lady on a bike with high powered lights might not elicit the same response as a huge 20 something male on a bike.