Thursday, June 28, 2012

Cow Canyon Cross Ride

Cow Canyon is something of a staple in the mountain bike world around Reno.  Today's ride included the Steamboat Ditch as a warmup, some single-track behind Patagonia, climbing up behind Mogul into Somerset, and a ride down Cow Canyon.  All on the Gunnar Crosshairs which just keeps continuing to impress with it's handling offroad and on the road for that matter.   It makes me wonder if I even want to have a mountain bike.

I also managed to see two snakes.  No rattlers...yet.

Bikes and Brews Tonight!

I'm not sure why bikes, beer, and bicycle culture, go so well together (I've never seen a bicycle/scotch event but I'm hoping)?  It must be all the carboloading...

Regardless, the place to be tonight is the Reno Bike Project's Bikes and Brews event.  The bike social starts tonight at 8 pm at the Lincoln Lounge bar on Fourth street. It will feature a Goldsprints competition open to any patrons eager to prove that they’ve got the fastest legs in the west. The Goldsprints competition sets up two riders on stationary bikes connected to a computer that tracks how fast and how long they have pedaled. RBP will be also raffling prizes from local businesses like Granite Street Eatery, Craft Wine and Beer, White Industries, and Bootleg Courier. Drink specials courtesy of New Belgium Brewery will be keeping thirsty attendees happy. The region’s only bike social is a great opportunity to mingle with like minded people who love bikes, brews and having a good time. The event is 21 and over and will continue June - September on the last Thursday of each month.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Pedal Power Rules the Air!

Speaking of setting records, this group of engineering students from the University of Maryland apparently just set the human-powered helicopter flight record.  The results are unofficial at this point but the video tells the story.  I would recommend maximizing the screen to see better.

More here on the development of the helicopter.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Graeme Obree Part II - The Human-Powered Land Speed Record

When I first that Obree was planning to attempt the human powered land speed record in Battle Mountain I was pretty intrigued. But this video on his thought process as he "reinvents" the bicycle for his own purposes makes me even more convinced that it would be great to take a trip this September to see him.  Clearly Obree is what you might call a "divergent thinker."
Obree, like he did in the early 1990s, is currently designing his own bicycle on which he will make his record attempt.

In the countdown to the Flying Scotsman's latest challenge Humans Invent, an online magazine dedicated to innovation, craftsmanship and design, has been following Obree as he reinvents the wheel.

Here, Humans Invent travels to Obree’s flat to see what progress he had made after finishing the main frame of the bike just weeks before he officially unveils the complete design of the bike.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Bike Share Criticisms

Some criticisms are being leveled at Bike Share programs, and Washington D.C.'s program in particular.   It's typical libertarian "the gov't shouldn't fund anything," criticism.  It's fair to ask who the bike share is serving, but unfair to not look at the overwhelming positives that public transportation provides to an urban environment.  If bike share is used by educated white people...fine.  If busses are used more frequently by minorities...that's fine too.  As long as people are using public transportation options, options that reduce congestion, pollution, and promote exercise, that's all for the betterment of our cities.  As this article says:
And if it’s public transportation, it gets subsidized, whether libertarians like it or not. We’ve always subsidized public transportation for a boatload of good reasons: It reduces congestion, it raises property values, and most cities function much better with it than without it. If the Reason reporter disagrees with public-transportation funding in general (and I suspect that she does) then that’s the argument she should make, rather than pretend this is about the fairly small amount of funding for this bikeshare. 
But if you’re going to make a self-consciously provocative video that gets lots of attention, then bikes — and the alleged limousine liberals who ride them — are a much better target. “The government subsidy for bikeshare is basically a rounding error in the grand transportation budget,” wrote Reuters’ analyst Felix Salmon, “and I’m sure that the amount of government funds spent on maintaining roads in affluent suburban communities is orders of magnitude greater than the amount spent on bikes.” 
Not that the inequality issue doesn’t matter. It’s a serious problem, and this is a perfect opportunity to figure out how to broaden the system’s appeal. Are there enough bikeshare stations in low-income neighborhoods? Are more low-income commuters shuttling children or packages to work? Is the credit-card hurdle too high, and if so, how can we make it easier to use the system? Maybe outreach is too confined to social media. Or maybe bikeshare needs a bigger government subsidy to bring prices into reach for those who can’t afford them.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


I was reminded of this great article from years ago after a "multi-surface" ride on trails in the southwest Reno area and Verdi yesterday.  I was riding my Gunnar cross bike and enjoying most all of the trails except for the steeper downhills.  No knobbies equals less sure footing, which in the foothills around Reno, means walking a few stretches because otherwise you might end up careening down a rather steep rocky drop off.  Of course, the 33mm Jack Browns, rolled better on the pavement heading out to Verdi.

It seems in recent years there has been an increased emphasis on bike riding, or roadish bikes, that are better suited to riding on a multitude of surfaces by accommodating larger tires.  I suppose this was just 'cross riding in the old world european sense, then "underbiking" in the new world.  Now, perhaps, it is just riding.  All I know is that some of the most fun riding I do is on my cross bike on singletrack.  It has also done wonders for my bike handling skills.

The illusive Gunnar and Independent Fabrication caught at rest out in the wild...

Finishing the 37 mile ride on the Reno "Bicycle Boulevard"...

Nevada City Bicycle Classic 2012

Just a few shots from a very hot Sunday of racing up at Nevada City.  It seems like most years the women's field produces a crushing breakaway from a lone rider but this year's event ended in a sprint finish.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Bike Naked

Probably the most concise reason I've ever seen given for the Naked Bike Ride movement comes from the Brooks Saddle folks.
The World Naked Bike Ride movement is a loose alliance of various interest groups, along with a smattering of people just there for the sake of riding around town in the buff. 
The rides are intended to draw attention to the perceived senselessness of dependence upon non renewable fuels, as well as to promote improved safety measures for cyclists in the various cities in which the rides take place.
I'm not quite convinced that they draw attention to exactly what they think they are drawing attention to...

Monday, June 18, 2012

An Idea Whose Time Has Come? - "Retro Rides"

It wouldn't take much for me to convince myself that a trip to Europe would be a good thing.  Now all I need is a couple of grand to do it.  These retro style rides are becoming more common in the world of cycling perhaps out of a sense of nostalgia and perhaps out of some misplaced sentimentality for "cycling heroes of old."  Still, there is something a bit more practical about the equipment (frames usually made by master builders in little shops) wool jerseys, larger tires, and riders with romanticized nicknames like "the cannibal" and "the badger."  It helps that you can easily tell the riders apart from one another as opposed to the alien/insect/cyborg look you might see at a modern race such as NV City Cycling Classic.  Not that it's not fun to watch a modern race.  Here is a bit of info on this retro ride:
The Tour of Flanders as we remember it from our childhood days is back! The 6th RetroRonde of Flanders is a bicycle trip of 40 or 70 km (for the diehards): all racers will be wearing an outfit of heroic bikers of the past and all of them will ride an authentic race bike of this bygone era. Examples? Goggles, woollen race shirts of legendary sponsors, genuine rider’s caps, the good old sausage-shaped helmets... Want more? Bikes with strapped foot hooks, gears on the frame and flask attached to the handle bars. And yes, the environment will be historic too: Old Timers, ancient motorbikes...
Here is a little video from the 2009 event to get a better sense of what they are going for:

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Violent, Savage, and Unruly - Tristen

I was thrilled to see new music from Tristen emerge on the web recently not only because she created my favorite album from last year but because even this one song confirmed that her pop song craftsmanship on Charlatans at the Garden Gate was no fluke.  This song, titled Bourgeois Bouquet, has a melody that twists and turns and hooks the listener very quickly.  There is a nice write up here on the new material from Tristen.

In other great news, she is touring in the west and beside hitting the usual spots along the west coast appears to be stopping over in Davis.  That's about as close as she will get to Reno but it's close enough to make a trip.  Besides, I've never been to the Bicycling Hall of Fame there.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Buzz Bomb Bicycles Annual Sale

Long a staple of the bicycle calendar in Reno, the annual Buzz Bomb sale is this weekend.  I went a few years ago and kicked myself for not getting there a little earlier.  I won't make that mistake this year.  Below is the info on this weekend's event.  Paired with the Nevada City Bicycle Classic it's going to be a fun weekend!  Make sure to check out the website and blog especially for some nice eye candy.
Saturday, June 16th, 8:00 am to 3:00 pm
Buzz Bomb Bicycles 19th Annual Bicycle Sale
726 Marsh Avenue, Reno
If you're looking for a great bicycle, here's the perfect opportunity. We are longtime bicycle collectors who one day each year sell 20-30 of the best we've run across. There is always a wide variety: vintage road bikes, city bikes, English three-speeds and antique bicycles. Unlike most used bikes, each bike has been adjusted, detailed and is ready to ride. We also will put out a few fixer-uppers at really low prices ($50).

As always, Fluff will be serving her two-time State Fair winning cookies, the Callahans boys will be selling fresh-squeezed lemonade and every bike purchaser will get a free Buzz Bomb Bicycle perpetual calendar.

All bikes will be rolled out promptly at 8:00 am and it's best to arrive close to then to see everything. You don't even have to in the market for a bike; everyone is welcome to simply come and look at all the neat/strange/unique stuff!

Urban Streets - What Went Wrong

I'm resurrecting a post from a few years ago in part because I think it informs the recent discussion over 4th street in Reno/Sparks and the fact that we are sitting at a critical point in our city's history as we attempt to redefine what transportation and quality of life looks and feels like in 2012 in the biggest little city.  Compare what the photos below look like and think about what 4th street currently looks like and what it could be if we adopt a plan that embraces safe space for all users.

Park Ave, pre 1922
Park Ave, post 1922 "improvements"

Park Ave., modern (and still not improved)
[Which Street Would You Rather Live On? Hint: It's the same street...Park Ave.]

New York City recently launched this experiment called "Summer Streets." In a sense Reno already does this with the massive amount of events that come to the city that force the closure of small sections of Virginia Street downtown. But this experiment in NYC is different because it includes an almost 7 miles stretch of road. People far smarter than myself have been suggesting similar things over the years for Reno. Ultimately these ideas are usually shot down by naysayers who think it will hurt businesses (in the long term this has been shown to not be true) and people who can't get their heads around the idea that it isn't their god-given right to drive solo encased in 2 tons of metal and park in front of any destination they happen to choose. Fortunately it appears the NYC model has some serious "legs" behind it, or underneath it.

For me the best argument for Bike Boulevards has almost nothing to do with being green. It's all about establishing a better quality of life for residents of cities. Obviously environmentalism, health, and transportation are all intertwined. But if you compare the three pictures of the same street above I think it illustrates my point. [courtesy of No Impact Man] Below is an excerpt from the article on the New York City experiment:

For six hours Saturday in New York, it was called Summer Streets: Nearly seven miles of Manhattan that were stripped of traffic, creating a weekend playground for bikers, walkers and loungers.

"Bellissimo!" declared Antonio de Lucia, a tourist from Caserta, Italy, who read about the event and decided to walk about three miles from his Chinatown hotel to a friend's Times Square restaurant — with more than 90 pounds of luggage. An hour into his hike, he was smiling as he sauntered up a stretch of Park Avenue awash in cyclists, pedestrians and in-line skaters. One man on a bicycle swooped down a sloped section of the avenue yelling "whee!" at full voice.

"It's a moment of truth for this city. People are participating — New Yorkers are united with their city," said de Lucia, a 29-year-old business consultant.

Bike-loving celebrities Lance Armstrong and David Byrne are helping Mayor Michael Bloomberg launch the experiment. It emulates similar initiatives in cities around the world in aiming to create a livable, ecologically gentle urban environment.

The 6.9-mile, car-free route started at the Brooklyn Bridge and ended to the north at East 72nd Street, with links to Central Park and other open spaces. It included stretches of Park and Lexington avenues and is set to be repeated for the next two Saturdays, starting at 7 a.m.

The idea is simple, in the words of the city's official Web site: "Play. Run. Walk. Bike. Breathe."

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

When is a Complete Street Not a Complete Street - 4th Street Angst

The measure of a healthy bicycle community is in how comfortable all people feel riding in it.  This means that it is not only youngish, fit, economically advantaged, white men, who ride on city streets.  Let's face it, the vast majority of people who consider themselves bicyclists and who the industry caters to, fall into this category.  No, the measure of a healthy bicycling community is one that creates spaces where a grandma and her grand kids can safely navigate the roads.  Diversity of ridership is critical to a healthy cycling community.

I've been thinking about this notion a lot in the last few weeks as Reno was named one of the country's best bike cities by Bicycling Magazine, on the heels of earning our Bicycle Friendly Community status, and the adopting of our Bicycle Pedestrian Master Plan in the Truckee Meadows.  I've especially been mulling our community's commitment to complete streets as we have been facing some resistance over certain aspects of our developing bicycling infrastructure.

I've recently written about the lack of vision seen in some who are resistant to the revamping of a section of Plumas Street that has long been unfriendly for all users, whether on foot, auto, or bicycling.  More pressing is the current 4th street/Prater plan which adds bicycle lanes on what could be the most important east/west corridor between Reno and Sparks.  This 7ish mile stretch links our two cities, and perhaps more importantly, intersects a notoriously under served part of our community.

Unfortunately, the Regional Transportation Commission's current plan is opting for a "complete streets" approach...except where it doesn't.  A critical stretch through the heart of downtown Reno eliminates the bike lanes from the plan.  Precisely where it is most critical to have infrastructure that helps cyclists feel safe in the urban core.  More pointedly, the resistance that seems to be rearing its ugly head seems to be emerging from within the RTC itself, by people who should know better what world class modern and forward thinking cities are doing around the country and throughout the world.  That is, creating infrastructure that creates a safe space for alternative transportation.   Not just when it is easy, but when it requires a bit of creative and visionary thinking.

In order to get the RTC to reconsider it's current 4th street plan various things are happening and I would encourage all residents to voice their concerns.  You can go here to sign an online petition.  A more direct approach would be to engage the RTC board in a direct conversation by attending tomorrow's board meeting.  Thursday (tomorrow) at 12:30 at the Reno City Hall is where to be to have your voice heard.

The current recommendation from the planners includes a shared bike/auto lane with signage, sharrows, and green asphalt, to indicate to drivers that cyclists will be present.  This is not a bad option, but it undermines the above mentioned measure of a healthy bicycle community.   As an experienced, fit, and reasonably youngish, bicyclist I don't feel uncomfortable with that recommendation.  But complete streets really means "complete users" and that proposed model does not create a space that a diverse group of riders would feel comfortable riding in.  Particularly the population that this 4th street corridor population should be catering to.

The Politics of Bicycling

Just a few quick notes, both local and national, regarding our rights to the roads.  On the national level, I received this note from people for bikes:

During recent negotiations on a new transportation bill, the House of Representatives proposed drastic cuts that would hurt bicycling. Their plan would allow states to take federal transportation funds that make roads safer for bicycling and divert them to other uses, without any input from communities like yours.
This means local communities could miss out on the important benefits of bicycling, like reduced road congestion, increased safety, and lower health care costs. It could hurt your bike riding experience, too.
This House initiative threatens to scrap 20 years of steady Congressional support for modest, cost-effective investments that make bicycling a safe transportation choice for Americans. It is a bad idea that must be stopped.
Please contact your two U.S. Senators and one U.S. Representative today. (You can find your representatives, review basic suggested text for your email, and send your note directly from this link above.) Urge them to back the Senate’s sensible proposal (learn more here) to assure the participation of local government leaders in key transportation decisions about bicycling.
 On the local level, yesterday's primary identified the top two candidates for each Ward of the Reno City Council with an open slot.  Considering that the impetus for some of the most important bicycling infrastructure that has been added to our local area came in part from the support of outgoing city council members Aiazzi and Gustin, it is critical that the new city council members be at the very least open to the "complete streets" philosophy, and hopefully supportive of cycling as a viable part of our transportation system in the Truckee Meadows.  I've asked one of the candidates about their support of bicyclists and hope to ask others before the November election.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Distracted Riding?

While this might seem like a good idea at first it sure seems like it could be disconcerting against the backdrop of your wheels rolling over the pavement.  Maybe no more strange than a rear view mirror which seems like vital equipment on a bicycle tour.  More here on yet another bike gadget that seems pretty unnecessary:
Look out behind you! Cyclists know that hazards can come from any direction but, unfortunately, do not have eyes in the back of their head. Hammacher Schlemmer hopes to remedy this problem with its bicycle rear-view camera that provides a real-time, clear view of what is approaching from behind. The weather- and vibration-resistant device includes a pocket-sized camera that mounts on the seat post and a colour monitor that attaches to the handlebars. It also features a set of red LEDs that flash when the camera’s sensor detects low light, alerting drivers to the bike’s presence. It’s a clever, useful product.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Books are Burning

I was in a bit of the dreaded end of the school year funk the last few days.  There is always that rush of energy and sadness as a teacher when you are finishing grades, saying goodbye to kids you've built relationships with over a few years, and looking ahead to much less structure in your daily existence for the next 2 months.  But if I'm being honest, another thing that took a bit of he wind out of my sails was the loss of Ray Bradbury which I found out about on the final day of seeing students this past week.  There was some weird symmetry going on because I started the year with a Bradbury scifi unit for my 8th graders and here it was the last day of the year and his passing felt like an exclamation point book end.  The man was a giant of literary influence over the last 60 years.  More an idea writer than a stylist it was those ideas that rocked my world.  The best of his short stories were subtle at first reading but revealed a great depth of reflection on, and criticism of, our culture if you cared to put the thought into them.

One of his most famous quotes is, “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”  But I also immediately thought of a line from the song by XTC, Books are Burning..."and you know where they burn books, people are next."   Overly alarmist?  Not if you know history.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Bicycle Highway...for a day anyway!

I'd really like to do one of these types of events but I'm likely going to be in San Francisco that weekend.  A real bummer because that's also when the 20th anniversary running of the Tour de Nez will be going on as well.  

Monday, June 04, 2012

Parking in the Bike Lane Solutions

I thought I'd pass along several of the "solutions" suggested by followers regarding my previous post about people who park in bike lanes illegally.  These options aren't bad but verging on vandalism and might get you beat up or worse so I'd veer away from them.  Of course a variation on the "parking douche" app (see video above) might be a much better solution if anyone was so motivated.  I like the use of social media in this context.  I'd suggest a different name for it though.  Perhaps "parking asshole" would work.

Of course, the zen like acceptance and ride on approach might be best in the end.  There will always be another jerk down the road at some point so why let it ruin your ride.