We rode with friends to a local restaurant with sidewalk seating to celebrate having a warm late October day.
Friday, October 14, 2011
year-round and cross-country
is better in 2011 than in 1961
In 1961, when I bought my first bike, cycling in Minneapolis/St. Paul was a summertime recreational activity. In 2011, you can see bikes on our streets and paths at all hours, every day of the year. Biking is better than ever. Here are my choices for the top 12 changes of the past 50 years:
1. Practical bikes: my Dunelt 3-speed bike wasn't geared low enough for Minneapolis hills; it lacked a rack; panniers were unheard of. It did have fenders and a chain guard -- features that vanished from popular bikes for many years after that. Now, several manufacturers and importers offer fully-equipped bikes for all-weather cycling.
2. Luggage options: racks and panniers carry gear and groceries securely. Waterproof bags are easy to find now. Long-tail bikes and gear trailers handle loads that were impossible to deal with even just 30 years ago.
3. Effective lighting: less than ten years ago, I would stop commuting at the end of October and not resume until March or April. It was simply too dark, and the available bike lights were faint, expensive, and unreliable.
4. Safe routes: miles of bike lanes, bike trails, and bike freeways have given cyclists in Minneapolis (and many other cities) safe and fast routes to popular locations.
5. Bike parking: I remember riding downtown in the 1960's and having absolutely no place to lock up a bike. Now my employer provides a weather-protected, card-access, secure bike cage closer to the door than any of the employee automotive parking spots. Downtown Minneapolis offers a variety of whimsical, practical, sheltered, secured, and just ordinary bike parking facilities. Grocery stores put bike racks next to their front doors.
6. All-weather clothing: in 1970, I bought a cycling raincoat in Denmark; it was the last one I saw for sale for the next twenty-five years. I still use it occasionally, but the twenty-first century brought a wide range of cycling clothes for every sort of weather.
7. Weather radar on the Internet: in 1961, dangerous weather came without much warning. The advent of weather radar on television was an improvement, but the biggest change came with animated weather radar on the Internet. Suddenly, it was possible to see when that 50% chance of rain would hit. You could pick your commuting time to coincide with a big gap in a storm. With smart phones, you could even update your information from the seat of your bike.
8. Google bike routing: it's still "beta," but bike routing on mapping programs is a terrific way to find a way from A to B that doesn't require "I" for the Interstate. Just this week, Google plotted me a route across a freeway using a bike bridge that I'd never noticed before. (That freeway was new in 1961.)
9. Studded tires / three-wheelers: if you've been cycling for more than 50 years, you don't want to be falling over on the ice. Studded tires for bikes have gone from a do-it-yourself project to a whole rack in the local bike shops. For those of us who want even more security, three-wheelers now come in sporty versions like my Greenspeed Anura or the Hase Kettwiesel -- perfect for a winter commute or a little ice-bike racing.
10. Internet cyclist-to-cyclist communication: bike commuters and tourists can find each other now. Internet forums, specialty magazines and websites, and social networking sites let us share our enthusiasm, ideas, and interests in ways that we couldn't imagine fifty years ago. When Copenhagen proposes a network of bike freeways, the news travels instantly to blogs around the world, and I can click-and-brag to the Danes about the ones we have in Minneapolis. Back in 1970, when I landed in Amsterdam and encountered my first bike freeway, it came as a total surprise. Good cycling ideas can spread around the world faster than ever.
11. Cell phones, especially smart phones: you can go out for a ride, knowing that you can find your ride partner, call for help in case of a mechanical problem, or make, check, or change reservations while on the road. With a smart phone, your location can even appear on your ride partner's phone -- or on your blog, if you are doing a ride that would interest your "followers." What a concept! I was a fan of science fiction in the 1960's, but this was beyond anything I could imagine.
12. GPS (and waterproof maps): if you've ever had a map dissolve in the rain at just the wrong time, you know the value of the waterproof map -- and better yet, the GPS device. Cycling in Copenhagen in 1970 with a paper tourist map offered none of the carefree enjoyment of riding around the city in 2009 with a Garmin. You can ride confidently far from your own turf, and you can always find your way back.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
ROAM's riders and velomobiles are home. Organizing my photos is taking longer than I had expected, but many of them are up on Picasa now, along with captions. Like many of the riders, I didn't have nearly enough time during the ride to talk, take pictures, or upload information to photo-sharing sites and this blog -- or to look at everyone else's postings and photos. Much of that will wait for the long winter nights. For now, there is this set of photos on Picasa.
Monday, September 12, 2011
I first caught sight of the velomobiles along Highway 12 near the Missouri River, where they had camped (Mobridge on Lake Oahe). Singly or in groups of two to six, the brightly-colored vehicles cruised past fields of sunflowers and wheat. I caught up with them at a gas station where they pulled in for snacks and to get directions around a detour.
The first day, as the riders followed Highway 12 from Mobridge to Aberdeen, there wasn't much for a SAG driver to do. The official detour around a construction site would have taken them far to the south. The smaller roads that bypassed the highway to the north included a section of gravel. I waited by the beginning of that segment, but most of the riders went through under their own power. Three of them decided that their machines were unsuited to the conditions, and I ferried that group across. I camped with the group in Aberdeen. In the morning, one North American rider with an electric-assist system needed a ride to a bike shop in Willmar, Minnesota, so I drove the long stretch on Highway 12 to drop him off, then back to Benson, where the group was camping.
Some recumbent cycling friends from western Minnesota had shown up there, but I barely had time to talk with them when the sheriff stopped by, looking for someone to direct the riders away from a dangerous intersection in town onto a safer and shorter detour. I spent a while parked on the side of Highway 12, with an improvised sign pointing the way to the shortcut. The City Manager stopped and talked for a while. He had spent several years in Germany and had biked across the country while he was there.
The night in Benson looked as if it might be a wet one. Weather radar showed a storm approaching, and lightning announced that it had nearly arrived, but as it drew close to the campground, it split and went to the north and south. The campground offered a quiet circle road. On a weekday evening, ROAM riders had it to themselves. I took a quick test ride in a Go-One EVO velomobile, finding that it felt amazingly smooth and light. Mark Lynch, who was driving along in his Mazda Miata, coordinating direction-finding, passing out water, and generally helping with organizational issues, as he gathered information about velomobiles, took the opportunity to try out some additional ones. People from town drove through and stared, or stopped to talk.
The next morning, I had a couple of velomobiles to transport to the Twin Cities. One German rider was suffering from tendonitis, and North American rider Merrill Gay needed a rest day, so we loaded up a red Quest and Merrill's Alleweder for the trip to Minneapolis. Merrill rode with me int he truck. We dropped off the velomobiles at the campground in Baker Park Reserve, stopped at my house to pick up four trikes and three crockpots full of casserole that my husband Dale had set to cook that morningl We stopped to pick up some cold local beer and went back to Baker Park.
We hooked the trikes together into a train, and riders enjoyed taking it around the park on the beautiful paved trails. Everything was going well. Recumbent riders and velomobilists from the area were picnicking with the ROAM riders. Dale arrived and brought coffee.
Then the disaster. Dale was riding on the front of the four-trike train, with our friend Liesl in the second position, and two strong local riders on the back. We hadn't thought to warn the two strangers about the need to slow down in curves. As the trike train wound its way through the woods, they accelerated just as Dale started to put on the brakes. The sudden power from behind was more than he could overcome, and the trike train left the path and smashed into a tree. A pedal on the front trike sheared off and made a hole in his thigh, while a wheel on the other side of the lead trike "potato-chipped" from the force. Liesl, who had been braking, came out okay, but the trike behind her snapped its fork. The two riders on the back were uninjured. Cell-phone connections in the park were poor, and Dale couldn't reach me, so Liesl ran back to the picnic area. I picked up Dale with the truck, loaded the trikes in, and drove home. Our plans to ride through Minneapolis and St. Paul with the velomobiles -- with Dale borrowing Merrill's Alleweder while I would take some of the ROAM riders on the trike train -- were ruined.
I dropped the trikes off for inspection and repair. Two were okay, but two needed extensive work.
Dale didn't have any broken bones, but his thigh was twice its normal size, his shin was scraped and swollen, and he had a nasty wound. He couldn't get out of bed to visit the campground at St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park the next evening, but I had made the reservations there and had to stop by to help with check-in. Leaving Dale with his leg up and bandaged at home, I had one last visit with the riders before they left for Wisconsin, then I returned the truck to the rental center.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Saturday, August 20, 2011
The ROAM cross-country cycling tour's large size and tight time-table forced an unusual -- but very lucky -- route choice. Adventure Cycling's Northern Tier and classic routes were too indirect and didn't offer enough camping space in some regions for 50 or more velomobilists trying to pedal across the whole country in less than a month. After much online discussion of pros and cons, Josef Janning chose Highway 12 for most of the route west of the Mississippi.
In a summer plagued by road closures for flooding in North Dakota and heavy truck traffic for oil-drilling, Highway 12 may have been the only viable route for a herd of velomobiles. It lacks shoulders in many areas, and some of the shoulders have rumble strips down their centers or at intervals all the way across the shoulder, but there was only one detour for a washout; the velomobiles were able to go north of Hwy 12 on very small roads while the truck traffic was sent 50 miles to the south.
Downloadable GPS tracks for the Highway 12 route can be found under "The Journey" on the Roll Over America (ROAM) website, or by going to Bikemap.net and looking through tracks under Livewombat.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Oregon HPV Association members supplemented the ride's own SAG capacity into Montana. When they left for home, they wrote that ROAM's own support vehicles would be overtaxed by any additional route, equipment or physical problems. The South Dakota Department of Transportation website showed Highway 12 closed down and detoured. We had rented a Penske truck to take ourselves and some friends to the Midwest Recumbent Rally and had kept it for some extra days to support ROAM in Minneapolis, so it was easy to throw in a tent, some First Aid equipment, and a folding bike and set off along Highway 12 toward Mobridge.
ROAM's routing along Highway 12 through Montana, North and South Dakota, and Minnesota has puzzled observers. It looks good on the map, but cyclists normally avoid it because of its narrow or non-existent shoulders, poor surface, and often heavy traffic. We had checked it in June and found areas that were in very bad condition, but fortunately the potholes had been patched since then. I posted the road conditions on Bentrideronline after pulling into a motel in Aberdeen on Tuesday night, August 9. (For cyclists considering a bike tour via Highway 12, here are the postings: Aberdeen to Minnesota state line, Ortonville to Benson, Benson to Willmar, then a gap where I never finished posting, and Delano to Lake Independence. ROAM's schedule allowed no time for the much nicer northern route, where cyclists can enjoy 104 miles on the paved Central Lakes and Lake Wobegon trails parallel to Interstate 94. More than 50 riders originally planned to ride ROAM; large numbers of riders are hard to accommodate away from major automotive routes.)
I met up with ROAM near the Missouri River on Wednesday, August 10 after scouting the available detours. Flooding has closed roads all over North Dakota (what luck that ROAM didn't choose a more northern route!), and water laps the edges of low-lying roads in South Dakota and Minnesota as well. One promising gravel road ended in a lake, but a somewhat longer detour turned out to be mostly asphalt, with only three or four miles of gravel. The official detour would have added too many miles and too much heavy traffic. Further toward Mobridge, I started seeing velomobiles, so many that I decided not to proceed to the campground. I turned around and passed several of the riders, then stopped for a pair who had pulled off the road, along with a support vehicle. It turned out that the riders had been hailed by a curious local driver and weren't in any trouble. In the pick-up truck that was accompanying them was Texas velomobile builder David Eggleston of VelomobileUSA , and rider Machiel Spruit's father, who came on the tour to support his son.
(to be continued)
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Riding home after dropping off the rental truck that I drove to the Midwest Recumbent Rally and the ROAM velomobile tour, I was passed by four cyclists on the Minnehaha Creek bike path as I started up. Riding just behind them, I overheard one ask, "did you see that woman on a kid's bike with flowers on the basket?" There was only one thing I could say to defend the honor of my serious little folding commuter bike: "on your left."
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Wednesday, August 03, 2011
Velomobile riders from 6 or 7 countries got a huge send-off from Portland on July 28, 2011 as they began their coast-to-coast cycle tour of North America. The video above was recorded in Portland by Brent Logan.
The ROAM tour highlights bike-friendly places -- Portland, OR (#2), Missoula, MT (home of Adventure Cycling, too small to be counted in the 2010 Bicycling Magazine survey that's the source of these rankings), Billings,MT (#37), Minneapolis, MN (#1), Madison, WI (#7), Chicago, IL (#10), and Washington, DC (#13).
There are 9 Germans, 9 Dutch guys, one Dane, one Austrian, 3 Brits, a Canadian who is coming only as far as Minneapolis, and two dozen or more from the US. The gender ratio is a little unbalanced, with just one woman. Other North American bike, trike, and velomobile riders are welcome to tag along for as long as they can keep up!
The velomobiles themselves are a mix of home-built and commercial models from around the world -- Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Australia, Canada, and US. The majority were built by Velomobiel in Dronten, Netherlands.
Where there is cell-phone access, a little blue Dutch velomobile avatar rolls across a Google "Kaart". (The first few days of the ride, in the sparsely-populated West, cut the riders off from their usual internet and phone access to the world, but they were expecting better connections east of the Mississippi.)
Cyclists in our area are looking forward to the Minneapolis/St. Paul "rest" day -- a Saturday, August 13 cruise from Baker Park Reserve west of Minneapolis to St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park, east of St. Paul. The relaxed ride along scenic bike trails and low-traffic streets is only about 55 miles, rather than the ROAM average of 125 miles a day.
Then it's on to Wisconsin, through the tunnels on the Elroy-Sparta trail, with a stop in Madison, followed by another "rest" day riding through Chicago. Much of the eastern section of the ride follows rural routes to avoid dangerous traffic.
The tour ends in Washington, DC with rides through the capital on August 24 and 25.
Sunday, June 12, 2011
For four hours on a Sunday, Minneapolis closed down twenty blocks of a major street to cars, and opened it to cyclists, skaters, walkers, street musicians, people doing yoga, friendly dogs, and kids on skateboards.
We rode a train of six trikes back and forth, giving people rides.
Thursday, June 09, 2011
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Sunday, May 01, 2011
|From Drop Box|
Saturday, April 30, 2011
|From Thirty Days of Biking|
The RANS Screamer tandem carried us from Salzburg to Hungary in May of 2001. Since we got the linking delta trikes, the Screamer spends more time in the garage, but the Ironman is just the sort of ride it's good for -- not many starts and stops, generally good road surfaces, and no need to carry a lot of gear.
Friday, April 29, 2011
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
|From Thirty Days of Biking|
Monday, April 25, 2011
Sunday, April 24, 2011
Saturday, April 23, 2011
Friday, April 22, 2011
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Monday, April 18, 2011
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Friday, April 15, 2011
|From Thirty Days of Biking|
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
As it turned out, not a drop of rain fell during my morning and afternoon commutes. The big gap in the rainstorm was over me in the morning, and in the afternoon a large storm was visible to the south, but the weather radar showed that it wasn't moving in my direction.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Riding the scenic (and longer) route home from work, I met Tim Springer and his old dog, Romeo, on the Midtown Greenway. Tim is just finishing up a very productive term as director of the Greenway Coalition, during which this wonderful bike freeway went from a vision to a major route for pedestrians, skaters, and cyclists crossing the city. The trike is the "Sensible Utility Vehicle" from Organic Engines, set up for carrying passengers.