Bike Rack Faves – LOCKitUP!


"Look, this rack was nice enough to grow a roof for me!"

Yello mighty Bike Commuters!  Mir.I.Am here working double duty as a green “snarchitect” and cycle lady today.  As the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system is becoming more and more prosthetic… err, prolific in the states and abroad, snarchitects and designers are incentivized to provide more bike racks and showers for cycle monsters in their buildings.  Here in Honolulu, all new construction projects that are publicly funded are required to meet a minimum requirement of LEED Silver rating.  An easy way to contribute towards achieving a LEED rating for a building is to provide secure bike rack parking close to the building entrance and showers for a percentage of the occupants!  Not all LEED rated buildings are required to provide this amenity, but it is usually included… (secret fist pump under my desk each time I get to nerd out and specify bike racks at work!)

Crowded "Bike" bike racks in Waikiki

Of course, as bike commuters, we know that the statement “If you build it, they will come (by bike and then take a shower)” is not necessarily true!  New racks and showers for buildings may not transform cities into Mini-Apples overnight, but it’s a chest-bump in the right direction.  As we all know, not all bike racks are created equal, and not all cyclists are equally enthusiastic about showering after a commute…   Sometimes I spice it up at work and arrive looking like I drank a bottle of Sriracha on the way over and don’t change into my office attire until my 4:00pm meeting, but that’s just me!  SRIRACHA FACE!!!!  Witch hazel in your swamp crotch isn’t for everyone.

Architects and builders listen up, straight from the mouth of the cycle monsters, here are some of our fave bike racks that help us commuters LOCKitUP!

Most Bikely Bike Rack: Dero Bike Bike Rack – nothing screams bike rack like a bike-shaped rack!  These are the ones installed by the city and county of Honolulu around the island.  They can hold up to four bikes unless some idiot has locked their moped to it illegally.  It works well in situations where you have lots of long skinny space, like sidewalks.  I like them because the height of the “wheels” makes it easy to tie up your steed through the rear wheel and triangle of the frame.  I have seen some bikes fallen over next to these racks that have been only loosely cabled.  My only gripe is sometimes the are positioned a little too close to the street side and you have to squeeze in between parked cars ad the rack to try to get to your bike.    http://www.dero.com/products/bike_bike_rack/bike_bike_rack.html

Easy to spot from faraway, functional for multiple locking points, AND fun for Japanese tourist photo ops!

Green is the new Black Rack: Dero Recycle Rack made from 96% Recycled steel rebar!  As you can see, the racks come in two shapes: bush or tree.  Always a plus for bush-hugging architects like myself.  (I’m over hugging trees, that’s so 2010).  Steel rebar rack holds up to two bikes. The loops onthe tree seems small to me in the photo as I’ve never used one personally.  However the steel rebar has a much smaller diameter than most racks so maybe they would work well for cycle monsters using mini U-locks for their frames.  This is a smaller rack than most and requires only one connection point to the concrete, which could be advantageous for designers with tight space planning requirements.    http://www.dero.com/products/recycle_racks/

From the Dero website… where’s the lock!?

Stealthy Designer Bike Rack: Forms+Surfaces  Olympia Bike Rack is a nice choice for a bike rack that can double as a bollard!  For designers that want something more discrete and architectural (read: no wavy racks or fence racks), Forms+Surfaces also carries a variety of options.  Maybe this one is a little too discrete, but seasoned bike commuters know how to lock it up in any situation (in a tree, top of a chainlink fence, handrails or my favorite is a fat crippled horse). I personally prefer anything with a vertical post so I can loop a cable through the front wheel, helmet, and use the vertical post to secure the frame and the back wheel in my U-lock.  http://www.forms-surfaces.com/olympia-bike-rack.  Looks like the slot in the center leaves room for pedals and keeps your ride on all two wheels.  Ooooh, rack envy:

Who taught this doofus how to lock a bike!?

What Makes a Nice Rack: And because it is 1:30 am Pacific Grandma Time and I only have one brain (currently maxed out on MSG/noodle/rice overload), here is a cut and paste to an article for those of you interested in reading about how to choose a nice bike rack for your next building.  Check it out if you have the energy to click here.  If you have a lot of energy and some friends over, you can read it aloud since reading is not really a spectator sport.

Ok Bike Commuters, paste some links into the comments box if you have any opinions on your hometown racks, your fave place to LOCKitUP around your neck o the hoods, or maybe what you don’t like in a rack!  Us architects and designers would be much obliged….

No need for mitts yet… ???

I’m in denial that winter is here. We’ve had minimal snow fall in Chicago so far this fall/winter and fairly mild temps – mostly hovering in the 40s and high 30s. We’ve even asked our Facebook readers to post photos of any snow commutes since we here at Bike Commuters haven’t seen much – if any – snow yet… not that I’m complaining. Then I woke up to today’s arctic weather — to temps only in the 20s when I left my house this morning – BRR!

Yet, I refused to bust out the mittens and admit that cold weather had finally arrived. No siree!!! I left the mittens at home, put on my fleece gloves with lobster outer shell combo and set out. (And I probably would have been just fine if I hadn’t made a stop along the way that required me to take the hand coverings off entirely to lock my bike.) By the time I arrived at work, however, my fingertips were getting blue and hurting. Never a good sign.

Then I had a discussion with a fellow bike commuter who told me that her feet were really cold on her ride in to work today. We shared our stories of woe and wondered how it is that we still can’t get our clothing and gear right to stay warm – after years of Chicago riding. We also mused about how effective mittens seem to be over gloves…. and wondered “do cycling-specific mittens exist?” She claims to have seen a pair years ago, but I have never seen such a wonderment.

In my random searches for newer and better tips to keep my hands warm, I stumbled upon some tips posted on an Instructables page:

The easiest way to keep your feet warm is to wear rubber boots over your shoes. For the hands, rubber gloves over some knit gloves. Sometimes insulated rubber gloves are good enough.
(source http://www.instructables.com/id/Warm-Feet-and-Hands-for-Winter-Cycling/)

Now I don’t have insulated rubber gloves (yet!) but I can say that waterproof overshoes do help keep the feet warm and dry. Even my Bogs boots are great (though provide minimal traction on the sole to grip anything, especially wet pedals).

As I continued in my quest for hand protection, I even found the Exhale gloves that allow you to blow warm air into them to keep your digits toasty (and these newer models are tech savvy enough so you can use them with your smartphone!).

In my accessory arsenal at home I do have a pair of BarMitts for road dropbars, but my faithful commuter – Toro – is equipped with bullhorn bars and I have yet to find any such mitts/pogies that will fit the bullhorn handlebar setup. 🙁

For the ride home I decided to not be so stubborn and to try out the mittens a co-worker had gifted to me after his wife didn’t want them; I’d been keeping them in a drawer and had almost forgotten I had them. Although they seemed a bit snug (fingertips and thumbs both at the end of the mitt with no additional room), I figured the evening bike commute home would be a good test to compare them to the warmth of my glove/lobster shell combo.

The verdict? Technically it’s not a fair test — since the temperatures were about 5-degrees warmer for the ride home and wind was at my back. Overall, though, I’d say the mittens won – even this slightly snug pair.

Mittens – for me at least – pose a slight inconvenience. Though much warmer, when I wear mittens while riding my commuter, the mitt part seems to always remain draped over my brake lever, since all that material seems to be too much to easily fold my hand back in around the handlebar. Since my fingers have plenty of freedom within the mitt, I usually end up curling my fingers within the mitten to grip the bar. It’s not the most secure grip, but it seems to work on my flat bar brake set-up.

mitten draped over brake lever
mittened hand properly gripping handlebar - not an easy task in bulky mitts!

PLUS – even with the mittens, I suffer from cold thumbs! Tucking the thumbs behind the handlebar for warmth does help to block them from the wind but they still get cold.

I better figure out if there is a better solution to my cold hand woes, because the worst of winter may still come in 2012, if this Chicago weather forecast holds any truth! At least I know my trusty oversized REI mittens will keep me warm… I had just been hoping for a solution that allows me greater dexterity and protects my thumbs too.

For more about cycling in mittens, see Noah’s post about mittens from last December.

Review: O2 Rainwear’s Calhoun Jacket

We showed you the O2 Rainwear “Calhoun” jacket in a teaser a few months ago…and at the time, it was dry and hot here in Ohio. Well, as many of my neighbors told me it would, the rainy season set in around mid-October and hasn’t let up. Being cold is tough for a longtime Florida resident. And, as a Florida resident, I’ve gotten caught in many a rainstorm, but our rainy season there was during the heat of summer, negating the need for stifling raingear. Being cold AND wet is about my least-favorite sensation, and since it seems to rain about every other day here, the Calhoun received a thorough test before I put my thoughts together for the review.

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Let’s recap a bit with a list of the details of the jacket, straight from O2’s website:

Product Details
100% 2.5Layer Rip-Stop Nylon
Waterproof, fully taped internal seam
Waterproof, Breathable, Lightweight, Compact
Supreme Wind & Water Protection
Waterproof, full length front zipper with garage
Reflective elements for low light visibility
Welded waterproof front Napoleon pocket
Form Fit
Pit Zips for additional ventilation
Breathability: W/R; MVP: 10,000g/m2/D
Waterproof: W/P: 10,000mmH2O;
Weight: Avg. 13 ounces depending on size

Normally, I wear a size small in cycling wear…as I mentioned in our sneak peek, Adam Ziskin, the owner of O2, sent me a medium based on my dimensions. As it turns out, the medium is just right — roomy enough to fit over an insulating layer on truly cold days. Thermal cycling jerseys/baselayers or even a fleece jacket fit under the Calhoun with no problems. Of course, like any self-respecting cycling jacket, the Calhoun has an extended tail to keep your butt dry in the rain. Off the bike, the jacket feels boxy…not particularly form-fitting and with gorilla-length arms. Once I got onto my bike, the genius of this jacket’s “cut” was immediately apparent: the jacket’s arms are long so that your arms are still covered when in the drops of a road bike, and there is no bunching or restriction as you stretch out into riding position. It’s still not a body-hugging fit and there is some flapping of the jacket’s material in the wind, but nothing I couldn’t live with.

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The fit can be tailored somewhat using the hidden drawcords at the waist and neck:

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The sleeve cuffs have simple hook-and-loop fasteners with enough adjustability to fit over heavy gloves or mittens…and help seal in the warmth.

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Because extra visibilty is key when the weather turns nasty, the Calhoun comes in neon yellow, and it has effective reflective accents on front, back, and sides. For those of you who don’t want that screamingly bright color, the Calhoun also comes in blue. Seriously, though, being seen by motorists when the rain is blowing sideways trumps fashion any day…yet it’s nice that O2 offers a choice.

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One thing that surprised me is that the Calhoun jacket doesn’t feel clammy when I put it on. I’ve worn some inexpensive rainwear over the years — you know, the stuff with the thick polyurethane lining or the rubberized fabric ponchos popular with campers. The Calhoun simply feels like a quality jacket. The interior of the jacket has a slick look to it, but it feels good against the skin, for what that’s worth. I can’t tell you how breathable the 3Flow Performance fabric is with any concrete quantifiers, but I never felt like sweat was bottling up inside the jacket. Granted, my rides have been in the teens to the low 40s and I just don’t sweat at those temps. When I did feel like I was starting to get a bit too warm, the pit zips did the trick to cool me down a bit. Simply unzip them, pull the main zipper down a bit and flush out the excess warmth before zipping it all back up. Worked like a charm!

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One of my favorite features is that the Calhoun packs up small…about the size of a big burrito (but perhaps a bit lighter). When the weather is iffy, the jacket can be rolled up and carried along in a jersey pocket, pannier or bag. A more practiced hand could probably roll this thing up even smaller!

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After all this, you’re probably wondering, “well, how does it work in the rain?” Rest assured, this jacket is waterproof to a fault. I still hate riding in the cold rain, but the Calhoun makes it substantially less miserable. And, the jacket’s fantastic windproof ability also makes it my go-to choice when it is clear and chilly. Take a look at the picture below — the coldest bike ride I’ve been on in 25 years or more, with starting temps in the low teens and highs in the low 20s. I was rocking a thermal jersey and baselayer, fleece-lined bibtights, wool balaclava, shoe covers and lobster gloves. I was afraid I looked like Randy from the classic “A Christmas Story”. What can I say? I ain’t designed for cold weather. Anyhow, the jacket accommodated all those layers and kept the heat in where I needed it. Thumbs up all the way!

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Perhaps my only gripe with the Calhoun is that the one chest pocket is nice, but I prefer to carry things in a pocket on my back. Perhaps I am just used to having jersey pockets for long rides, but a heavy smartphone just felt weird in that chest pocket. After a short time, I transferred the phone to my saddlebag. Luckily, O2 has other jackets to choose from that have other features you may desire. Also, I must say that at first, I was thinking, “gee, I really wish there was a hood on this jacket”, but I understand that hoods can be more trouble than they’re worth. I DO need to figure out a decent technique for keeping the rain out of my helmet, though.

The Calhoun jacket has an MSRP of $119.00. That’s pricey, but I feel you get what you pay for — this is a quality jacket that performs admirably when the weather turns sour. It looks nice, it has good features and visibility, and it is packable enough that there’s really no excuse not to bring it with you when you ride. Check out O2’s full product line by clicking here.

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

Happy Holidays from all of us at Bikecommuters.com!

As this year draws to a close, we wanted to be sure and wish all of you a happy holiday season from the whole gang: RL, Elizabeth, Vince, Miriam, Noah, and myself. Stay tuned for a year-end wrapup…I can’t remember who volunteered for it among our staff, but it should be packed with memories from 2011.

And, as my old Christmas wreath didn’t survive my move to the frigid midwest, I elected to make a new one for our place here in Ohio:

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Have a safe and wonderful holiday season…perhaps you’ll get some bike goodies in your stockings! And, as always: thanks for reading along.

Give the Gift of a New Beginning via World Bicycle Relief

Tis the season of giving and receiving.

My local bike shop is busy this season building up bikes for kids – acting as Santa’s helpers when it comes to the gift of new bike! Since even Santa loves bikes, he’s asking for your help to give the gift of a new bicycle, too, via a contribution to World Bicycle Relief.

My colleague’s passion for WBR (which also happens to be a SRAM organization headquartered in Chicago) has inspired me to expand my concept of “giving a bicycle” to include “empowering someone with a bicycle.” I wouldn’t be better able to express the reasons for giving to this cause any better than my colleague, so I’ll share his words.

Raul Nino has expressed to me that “as a committed bike rider, and someone who wants to do good by others, I think that WBR is a very good way to do so. I know personally how much better my life is because of my physical, economic and psychological commitment to bike riding, it’s heartening to know that by donating a bike through WBR I can help improve the lives of my fellow human beings. The bicycle is a noble machine, and we are ennobled by it through our right actions, and right thoughts. Helping others is always the right thing to do.”

This holiday season I hope we all can experience the joy of giving (or receiving) the gift of the noble bicycle. Whether you donate to WBR, your local bike advocacy group or give a bicycle as a gift to someone in your own life, I wish everyone the richness of a bicycle.

As noted on the WBR donation page, all donations received through December 31st are matched $1 for $1, so your contribution goes twice as far this season!