Memorial Day Weekend at Bike the Drive

Our fellow commuter Noah recently asked what we would do for fun during the long Memorial Day weekend. In Chicago nearly 20,000 cyclists took to the car-free Lake Shore Drive to Bike the Drive on a warm and sunny Sunday of Memorial Day weekend.

This Sunday – while waking up before dawn was a challenge – the reward of warm weather, thousands of cycling buddies, and a gorgeous sunrise made it all worthwhile.
sun-clouds-btd

Bike the Drive is the Active Transporation Alliance‘s largest fundraiser and the event attracts cyclists from beyond Chicago to take part in this unique event. I spoke with several riders in town from Wisconsin.

Once again this year all registered riders get rider numbers that they are asked to wear so that they can then register their unique rider number and get notified as soon as photos taken during the event are posted – and that number makes finding photos of you much easier.

I rode down to the event with my friends Dottie (of LGRAB) and Mr. Dottie
lgrab-dottie and mr dottie

…and then I just rode and took it all in (and enjoyed another year of all the bikes)

And I love seeing the families make the event a family affair.
btd-family

But pedaling 15-30 miles can be quite tiring…

The post-ride festival included live entertainment, food, merchandise and advocacy groups, including People for Bikes –

Simply put, we believe that life is far more enjoyable when it’s experienced on two wheels. We believe that by coming together, we can make our world a better place to ride.

Have you signed the pledge “in support of a better future for bicycling—one that is safe and fun for everyone.”

What a great way to kick off the summer – let’s all go ride bikes! HELLO SUMMER!

It’s Memorial Day Weekend! What do you do for fun?

During the week, I ride serious. To and from work, errands, and around town as needed. I’m generally hauling some kind of cargo, and in the case of my work-bound commutes, I leave a bit early and take it easy so I’m not a mess when I show up for my shift. When the weekend hits, though, it’s time for some fun rides. I link to my personal blog a lot here, but you’ll get to see lots of photos and get a feel for what I like to do with my days off.

Very few things are as fun for me as heading out on an S24O Bicycle camping trip, either alone, or in a large group.

A few years ago, I gave Randonneuring a shot. Imagine a cross between a century ride and a self-supported bicycle tour, but with a clock ticking while you make your way to various checkpoints.  It’s actually pretty fun, but can make for a long day (or days) on the bicycle. My first experience was a 13 hour day where I covered 137 miles on a mountain bike with slicks. These rides start at 200km (125 miles or so) and can go to 1200 kilometers (about 750 miles) or even longer.

Another thing that seems to be popular among a few bicycle commuting bloggers I know: Night rides. When the weather’s nice (and sometimes even when it’s not), some of my Kansas City area friends participate in what we call the Dark-Side Rides: 30-50 mile suburban and rural road rides that start after sundown.

I have one of these Dark-Side Rides coming up this weekend. What are you doing for fun? Does it involve bikes?

Review: OverBoard waterproof backpack

OverBoard specializes in waterproof stuff. I happened across their waterproof backpacks at Costco a few months ago, and eventually caved in and bought one to combat the rainy season in Kansas City. May has been exceptionally rainy, and I have put this pack through many miles in torrential downpours. First, let’s take a look at it:

The design is much like a roll-top dry bag, with some reflective trim on the back…

… except it has shoulder and waist straps, also with some reflective trim on the front.

It also features an internal zipper pouch that’s designed to keep your small stash-ables such as your wallet and phone from falling to the bottom of the bag, and an outer mesh pocket on each side, neither of which is quite big enough for a bike bottle. Good for stashing things you might want quick access to that aren’t going to get damaged by water: your bike lock and office keys, for example.

To seal it up, you simply roll the top 3 or more times, then clip the straps together at the top like you would a traditional dry bag. The velcro strap can help hold the rolled top in place.

Optionally, you can attach the roll-top clips down to the side straps. I’ve found that both ways are sufficiently waterproof. Aesthetically, I think it looks better clipped down and to the side like this, and as shown in the first photo above.

This pack is pretty big for a backpack, and looks absolutely cavernous when opened before you roll the top down to close it up.

So, how did it do? Quite well, actually! Last week was the rainiest yet. I was out in heavy rain for 90 minutes on Wednesday. Thursday, it was like riding home under a pressure washer for half an hour. Both days, my gear arrived home nice and dry:

The shoulder straps are actually quite comfortable and adjustable in many ways. The part that rests on your back is padded with foam channels. It’s certainly not the most comfortable backpack I’ve worn, but if you’re trying to get to work with your goods safe and dry, your options are somewhat limited. My usual commute is a bit more than 6 miles each way. A backpack isn’t too bad for a trip like that. I wore it for a rainy 20-mile ride while running after-work errands last week, and it was completely tolerable, but I didn’t have it loaded too heavy.

I may have preferred a set of waterproof panniers, but they’re relatively expensive compared to the $30 price tag at Costco. Online, prices vary from $40-$80. Available in solid black, or black with yellow, blue, red or gray trim.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

Review: Pcych Commuter Bag

Editorial-RL Policar: Jeremy Yang is a Correspondent on our Sister Site, MtnBikeRiders.com. I had asked him to test/review the Pcych Commuter Bag for BikeCommuters.com.

I’m a mountain biker at heart, but I have enjoyed commuting to work over the last couple of years. My single-speed commuter has a permanent rack mounted to the rear for my hand-me-down panniers. I have a love/hate relationship with my panniers: I love that they hold my stuff but I get a little frustrated when I can’t access something I need mid-ride. Also, my panniers have been known on occasion to fly off the rear of my bike into the middle of the street during my commute to work. Argh.


Pcych Commuter Bag

So, I was pretty psyched to have the opportunity to test out a new bag, the Pcych Commuter bag. The Pcych bag is different than front frame bags as they don’t fit into the front triangle. They actually hang over the top tube and are secured via a ratchet system to the headtube and seat tube along with a velcro strap the keeps the bottom connected.


Would my knees rub? Yes and No.

When I first saw the Pcych Commuter bag, my first concern was for my knees: would my knees rub the bag? The answer, yes and no. Yes, if I filled the Pcych bag to max capacity and release the gussets my knees rub and the bag quickly gets in the way of comfortable pedaling. No, if I was careful in packing the Pcych and did not expand the gussets the bag would only occasionally grace my knee. About the only time I had a lot of difficulty with knee rub was during the standing portions of my ride home. Being on a single-speed, whenever I hit the hills I had to stand and thats when the knees and bag met often.


I say keep the gussets zipped

My other concern with the Pcych Commuter bag was: would it damage my frame? The contact points being the headtube, top tube and seat tube were my main concern, but over the testing period, I realized no discernible rubbing. My paint was not scuffed because the parts of the Pcych bag that actually touched the frame were not abrasive. Over long periods of time, I could potentially see the finish being marred but I could see that with the use of any bag over time.


The contact points are not abrasive

I found the Pcych Commuter bag to be extremely easy to install and detach. The ratchet systems works quickly to tighten the bag to the frame and removing, after figuring out how its done, was quick as well. When I arrived at work, it took me a quick 10 seconds to remove the Pcych bag from the frame and the convenient handle allowed me to comfortably bring the bag into the office. With the panniers, there was never a good place to hold it and I was always holding them awkwardly as I entered and left the office.


Great handle for carrying the bag into and out of the office

Although I was already at this stage when using panniers, having the Pcych bag meant that I was not carrying any weight on my shoulders and back. This is always a plus as I am a sweat-er. The Pcych bag had another benefit in comparison to panniers: I could get rid of the “permanent” rack. The rack has always been the downside to the usefulness of panniers. They also kept me from keeping a rear brakes on the bike. Using the Pcych bag meant that I could remove the rear rack, which also happened to be quite ugly… I mean utilitarian.


Using the Pcych bag meant I could get rid of the rear rack

Putting the weight on the bike, even from the back of the back via panniers and moving it to the middle of the bike via the Pcych Commuter bag, does change the handling of the bike to a degree. For the most part, I was commuting with my 15″ laptop, a change of clothing, lunch and my wallet/keys/phone in the Pcych bag and although not much it did change the center of gravity. Not in a bad way, just a notice-able way.


Lots of pockets and it fit my 15″ laptop with ease. I would do away with a couple of the pen holders though (4 on this side, two more on the other).

I was very impressed by a couple of nice touches that I have not mentioned including the myriad of pockets within the bag and the two stretchy pockets on the outside. The pockets were very handy and the thoughtful water resistant pocket was a nice touch as it easily fit my oversized Palm Treo (about the size of a Blackberry but much girth-ier). One thing I didn’t need were 6 pen holders though. Two or three would be fine.


The shiny pocket on the right can be zipped up. The combination of being zipped up and the material make for a water resistant area in the bag.

The piping was reflective which is great for night time riding and the zippers were large and easy to access but did clang lightly during my ride. The straps that came vertically from the top of the inside of the bag did a great job securing my cargo within and the little vents found on the top left and top right of the bag are a nice touch aesthetically but I am concerned that when it rains during my commute my goodies inside will get wet as well.


With the Pcych Commuter bag, I enjoy the weight off my back and the back of the bike.

The Pcych Commuter bag is a well thought out small commuter bag. As such, I would recommend the Pcych because you do not have to purchase any other attachments to install the bag to your bike and you get to keep the weight off your shoulders thereby avoiding the dreaded sweaty back. The well thought out pockets and handle make for easy transport of your valuables both on and off the bike.

Traget Price: Around $100…give or take a few bucks.

If you’re interested in the PCYCH, you can email Lee Gomez at customerservice@pcych.com for more information.

Review Disclaimer

New to Commuting? Come As You Are!

You may have noticed over the past year or so that there’s been a push in the U.S. towards a more practical approach to transportational cycling — sites that espouse this approach have grown by leaps and bounds, especially in the run-up to Bike To Work Month.

This practical approach is the one that suggests that no special clothing or equipment is required to participate — all that is needed is simply a bike and the interest in using it to take place of car trips. And you know what? This approach is dead on! Any bike will do, and the only “real” equipment besides a reliable bicycle is the stuff that keeps you legal in the eyes of the law. Usually, this means front and rear lights and perhaps some reflectors or a signaling device like a bell. Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it?

A couple weeks ago, we talked about reasons why more people weren’t trying bicycles as transportation, and many of the comments were quite thought-provoking. Generally, people on the fence about trying a bike commute are stymied by the logistical considerations — carrying things, safety aspects, time and route issues, appropriate clothing choices, etc. Certainly, these considerations shouldn’t be discounted, but I fear that people overthink this kind of stuff…as those of us who have commuted by bicycle know, it’s way easier than folks think.

So, what should a potential new commuter do to give this thing a try? Here it is in a nutshell: find a reliable bike (it doesn’t need to be anything special), take a look at some maps to find an enjoyable route and GO FOR IT.

From there, it’s pretty straightforward to build up to other considerations. If you need to carry things for work, try something simple like a backpack before you spring for expensive panniers or other carrying options. If you ride at night, look into some visibility devices such as lights and reflectors (check your local laws by clicking here and selecting your state…this may not be an option but a requirement where you live). Plan on riding year-round in all weather conditions? Fenders and raingear make a lot of sense in that case…and it’s easy to find cheap solutions to try before investing a fortune in such equipment. We’ve written about raingear in the past. Have to lock your bike outside once you get to work, school or shopping? Bring a lock. Here’s some basic information about bike security.

Most importantly, don’t fall for the elitist approach. When I first started commuting in 1989, I figured that the commuting “community” would be an egalitarian catch-all for people who didn’t fit any other niche in bicycle culture — we’re not specifically racers or long-haul tourists, we’re not aggro offroaders or freestylists, although we may participate in such activities when we’re not commuting. So, over the past few years, I’ve become quite surprised (and more than a little dismayed) by the attitude: folks who think any bike without fenders, chainguard, a rack, internal hubs and dyno-powered lights is somehow not a “real” commuter bike. Hogwash — any bike that gets you from point A to point B qualifies…whether it’s a fully-loaded Dutch citybike or a stripped-down carbon racer. Same with gear — there are plenty of people who insist that the only “right way” of doing things is to wear performance-oriented clothing (lycra race gear, special shoes and funny foam hats). This works for some of us, but is not at all required; plenty of people all over the world do just fine in their work clothes.

A further bit about those “funny foam hats” — helmets: I don’t want to get into a big helmet debate; after all, it’s your choice whether to wear one or not. I choose to wear one; I rather value the collected experiences, memories and facts I’ve gathered over the past 41 years and I’ll do what I can to help protect them from loss. But remember, a helmet doesn’t protect you from stupidity, either yours or the motorists you may encounter on the road. And a helmet is not some magic bullet that keeps you safe in all circumstances. They’re hot, they’re goofy-looking and people all over the world seem to get along just fine without them, and I’m cool with that. But I’m still wearing mine. Think about it, in any case.

Sites like Bikecommuters.com and other bike-advocacy outlets are in a tough position at times. On the one hand, we love to encourage people to take up transportational cycling and present information on how simple and practical it can be. On the other hand, many of us are hardcore bike geeks at heart; we love getting our hands on different bikes and other gear to test, knowing full well that absolutely NONE of it is necessary in order to be a bike commuter. Our approach is to present a wide variety of options, giving a good overview of what’s on the market for folks to think about as they’re gearing up for something beyond the most bare-bones use of a bike rather than a car.

I’m sure many of you have experienced a coworker or friend who buttonhooks you in the hallway and has a bunch of questions about getting started commuting by bicycle. It happens to me all the time. Perhaps the best thing we can all do as ambassadors of this method of transportation is to demystify the process and stress just how simple it can be. Don’t bog people down with myriad details unless they specifically ask for insight; rather, encourage them to just give it a try one day using whatever bike they’ve got. Bike commuting really CAN be that simple!