Commuter Profile: Frederick Lippens

Coming to us all the way from the port city of Antwerp, Belgium…meet Frederick Lippens:

Frederick

How long have you been a bike commuter?

I have been commuting on and off for most of my life (it all started when I was 5 and I got a Raleigh Chopper), but consider it to be more important now than ever.

Why did you start riding your bike to work and how long is your commute?

Bicycle commuting has become my new ‘faith’ and I try to reduce my energy consumption in every way I can (it’s quite radical because I have been a convinced gearhead for years!).

My ride to work is just 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) so most of the time it’s an easy ride. The climate here is comparable to Britain (so it gets windy and wet), but you learn to live with it.

path

I ride my bike to work every day of the week except on Fridays when I have to pick up my kids from boarding school (can’t put three kids on my bike and the distance is too big).

What do you do for a living and in what city do you bike commute?

I am 40 years old and just like a lot of people that visit the site I work in (surprise!) IT — I work for a Belgian hardware distributor and handle all of their communication (mailing, website, print, etc.). I commute in and around Antwerp, Belgium.

path2

How does Bike Commuting help you with your lifestyle (economics, health, relationships)?

Every week on my bike is 50 Euro (about $47.00) in my pocket, which is already a big incentive but I also want to make the effort to reduce my carbon footprint. Another advantage is the fact that my wife and kids really appreciate a healthy dad.

It’s also a great way to relax, to get rid of the daily stress, despite the adrenaline rushes caused by near-accidents with cagers (speed limits for cars are higher here).

I often get home from work with quite a few miles more than the actual commute, just checking out the region. My itineraries can vary a lot because our roads were not planned in a grid but have evolved naturally for centuries, so you get these meandering (often illogical) roads.

What kind(s) of bike do you have?

Well at the moment I have two bikes; one is an archetypal Dutch men’s bike (black), which is very dependable but quite heavy.

opafiets

The other (which I use most) is an old workhorse, a Schwinn Series 90 PDG MOS (mountain oversized).
These are the specs:
– chromoly frame – Michelin 26″ knobby tires – 21-Speed Suntour XC Pro – Dia Compe 986 pad brakes fore and aft – front suspension fork (RST Capa TL)
– Safety: rechargeable Cateye light front & Leader Red Alert magnetic back light (flashes every time a magnet attached to one of the spokes passes)
– Comfort: Brooks Champion Narrow B17 saddle & adjustable Satori EZ handlebar
– Security: Kryptonite U-Bar lock

schwinn

What do people (coworkers, friends) say when you tell them that you are a bike commuter?

My co-workers find it quite weird, but a few of them are considering to do the same (in summer).

How about bicycling advocacy? Are you active in any local or regional advocacy groups?

It is organised nationwide (Fietsersbond), with local and regional chapters. You pay a yearly fee and with your membership you receive legal insurance, discounts in bicycle shops and and the monthy newsletter.
These are a few of their achievements:
– 2004: made special mirrors on trucks obligatory to prevent ‘dead angle’ accidents – 30 km per hour speed limit in school areas to protect young commuters.
– 2006: regulation of the safety of bicycle products – etc.

I personally don’t have much to say in these matters, but I do realize the more members they have, the more pressure they can exercise on politicians.

Anything else that you want to share with us?

Some local facts:
– the weather changes sometimes so rapidly you are wet to the bone before you can brake, open your backpack and get your raincoat on.
– bicycle theft is a huge problem, but every municipality in Belgium has a service where you can get your bike registered and engraved for a small fee and often for free.
-Thieves are interested in complete bikes, seldom parts (eg. in NYC you also have to lock your front wheel and saddle)
– until about thirty years ago every bike on Belgian roads had to have a license plate attached to its fork, not for identification purpose but jus to make sure you paid your road tax
– three languages are spoken in Belgium: French, Dutch (Flemish) and German

multimode
(a true multi-modal transportation sign…this reads “Warning: Altered Traffic Situation”)

We’d like to thank Frederick for sharing his experiences with us and for giving us a glimpse into cycling life in Belgium. Frederick has volunteered to write a couple of guest articles as well — and that is a welcome asset; it will be very interesting to compare European and American bike commuting styles and concerns! Stay tuned for those.

Donuts, Baseball and a Long Bike Ride

What do donuts:

mmm, donuts

and baseball:

Tampa Bay Rays

have to do with bicycling? Good question…but our friend Alan Snel has figured out a way to blend them into one happy (and stomach-filling) event.

A little background: Tampa Bay area Dunkin’ Donuts stores have a promotion going that every time the Tampa Bay Rays win a game, anyone can walk into a Dunkin’ Donuts and receive a free donut of their choice the next day. Yummy! Well, the Rays have been winning so much this year that Alan even came up with his “batting order” for donuts:

Leadoff—Blueberry cake
Batting Second — Bavarian Creme
In The Third “Holeâ€? — Double Chocolate
Cleanup—Chocolate Glazed
Batting Fifth—Peanut
Sixth Hole—Chocolate coconut
Seventh—Jelly filled
Eighth—black raspberry
And batting ninth — old fashion plain cake

Dunkin’ Donuts marketing and PR folks caught wind of this “batting order”, and they were very intrigued, indeed. So, Alan’s next pledge is that if the Rays clinch a playoff spot in September, he will personally lead a 100-mile “Tour de Dunkin'”, hitting 13 donut shops along the way to collect his free donuts. Read all about it at Alan’s new writing gig for the Miami Examiner.

My question to him was, “do you think you can eat 13 donuts in one bike ride?” Time will tell…in the meantime, we wish luck to the Tampa Bay Rays (and to Alan’s poor stomach!).

Flip that Bike! Fila Torino Hybrid

On this segment of Flip that Bike, I worked on this late 80s and early 90’s hybrid bike. The branding says Fila and its good old steel. I received this bike form the LBS I used to work at. A customer didn’t want this bike any more and decided to give it to the shop. I happen to be there the right day and I asked about it, the manager said I could take it, schweet!

I wish I had taken before pics, but basically the tires were rotted out, cables were rusty, cranks were loose on the riveted chain rings, bottom bracket was completely dried out and the seat post was stuck.

After about a few hours of work, I had replaced all the cables, filed down the pads to a new layer. Replaced the gawd awful Shimano Exage Shifters and Levers with an old but newer Shimano Alivo Shifter/Brake combo. I had also replaced the saddle and installed some Ritchey CX tires. Since my garage is a mini shop, I have parts laying around. So I reused some parts from other bikes. For example, the Biopace crankset were riveted, and the rivets were coming loose. I went ahead and swapped out the set with an SR Suntour crank sent from my old Gary Fisher.

I was able to extract the seat post by using my buff arms. After I got it out, I sanded down the post, cleaned out the seat tube and applied grease to prevent it from happening again. I also upgraded the bike with an aluminum flat bar and new grips.

After tunning it and test riding the bike, I give it my final approval-This bike is ready to be sold! I currently have it listed on CL in Orange County Ca. for $175, not bad if you ask me.

Total investment: $5.00 for cable\housing set.
All other parts came from my surplus bin O’ goodies from my garage.
Total man hours: 3.
Profit: (if sold at asking price) $170

Another Kick in the Pants for Tampa Bicycle Infrastructure

Good friend (and champion of cyclists throughout the region) Alan Snel reported today that another “promised” bike lane to serve the residents of the Hyde Park/downtown core area was killed off.

Alan writes:

“In February, Mayor Pam Iorio joined the Seminole Heights Bicycle Club on its maiden bike ride and during a break along the ride promised (we have it on video) to put in a bike lane along Platt Street to lead cyclists from South Tampa into downtown. Platt Street is wide and a one-way main road that leads into downtown.

But check out the response I got today from a city public works official about that bike lane that was promised by the mayor for Platt Street:”

To read the rest of his article and to see the response from the City of Tampa, click here for the lowdown.

Whenever this city shows initiative about developing alternative transportation forms, and local cyclists get their hopes up, someone in the administration comes and throws a bucket of cold water onto their dreams. Ugh.

Cup Holder For My Bike

Today I have a day off, so after doing some house work, I got thirsty and needed a refreshing drink. I rode my Xtracycle down to the local 7/11 to get me an ice cold beverage. One of the problems that most bicyclist have in carrying drinks is the lack of a cup holder. Waterbottle cages suck because if you try to put in a cup from your favorite fast food joint, the lid comes off.

So awhile ago I bought this cup holder that Electra Bicycles makes. This retails for about $20, but since I worked at the shop, my price was about $9.Anyhow this thing has seen many drinks in its life time, I’m talking about the holder. Between Priscilla’s lattes and my Big Gulps, this sucker has held up well.

I think this is an accessory that every bike commuter should have!