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Month: July 2013

Give it Away: Inspiring Others to Ride

The Human Powered Summer Part 4:

_DSC6848The cycling as transportation process, and the whole point of this exercise is not only to get myself in shape, reduce my impact on at least my local environment, save a few bucks, and write some interesting articles, but to at the same time inspire others to do the same thing.

As a kid, a bike was my transportation. I didn’t have a driver’s license (too young) and my mom worked as a Christian school teacher for nine months out of the year, and odd jobs all summer. My brother and I were often left on our own.

_DSC6844The zoo, the park, Longfellow Elementary school (which had a good basketball court), and King’s (a variety store with a huge toy department in the basement) were all miles away. Not walking distance, but biking distance for sure. So we threw a leg over the saddle, got our pedal on, and rode.

This week I went to an annual bike giveaway sponsored in part by Boise Bike Project. Over 100 kids signed up through Boys and Girls Clubs and community centers all over the Treasure Valley to come down and get a free bike. The looks on some of the faces were priceless. These were families that for whatever reason, whether a parental job loss or economic hardship couldn’t afford bikes on their own. Bikes were donated, and Boise Bike Project did what repairs were necessary to get the bikes ready for the kids. It’s an even  that I hope teaches the kids and us at least a few things:

Compassion and Charity are alive and well. A down economy means a drop in charitable donations. People just have other priorities. However this event showed that even for something as simple as a bike for a kid, people are willing to donate time and treasure. It sets an example for the kids, the parents, and frankly all of us that cycle.

Thankfulness for what we have. I undertook this summer project on a relatively new Jamis Exile bike. Comfortable, new, with some of the latest gadgets: a cyclometer, headlights, tail lights, personal hydration systems: I have a lot of gear these kids will never see. Yet they are thankful just to be able to ride any bike. Every day we have more than what we really
need” we should be grateful.

_DSC6870Sharing Passion. Many of us have passions: maybe yours is not cycling and skiing. Maybe it’s golf, swimming, basketball, or knitting. There are those around you every day who could share your passion given the chance to try. There could be many reasons they haven’t, including just not being exposed to the enjoyment that comes out of certain activities. You could be the one to expose them to that passion and ignite that spark.

Kids’ eyes light up over the simplest things. Small toys, bikes, even someone just spending a little bit of time with them. Not everyone shares our advantages and our wealth. I’m trying a human powered season, just to see the difference it makes in me. It’s good to realize that it can make a difference to others too.

Click here to see an album on my Facebook author page containing more photos of the event.

Click the links below to read the first three articles in the series:

Part 1: Anywhere is in Walking (biking) Distance if you have the Time.

Part 2: One Jelly Doughnut. . .

Part 3: Dogs, Physics, and Helicopters

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Dogs, Physics, and Helicopters

The Human Powered Summer  Part 3:

I quickly discovered at the beginning of this season that there are issues biking for transportation. One of them is my wife declaring (over and over) how inconvenient it is to ‘make do’ with only one motorized vehicle. Guess my minimalist bent isn’t rubbing off. Don’t get me wrong. It is inconvenient at times, but only because we have made it too inconvenient to have transportation readily available whenever we please.

Despite this discouragement, I moved on, and discovered (or rediscovered if you will) some things about biking as transportation.


The issue of the week: Dogs There are areas where it is posted that you should keep your dog on a leash. This is especially true when bike riders are known to be present.  Take the small section of green belt in Kuna on an admittedly early morning.

I came around a corner, and a dog started chasing me. The owner called after it, to no avail. The dog seemed friendly. I doubt it wished me any harm, but up ahead I saw something else. A panicky owner struggled to hold three dogs by their collars at the side of the trail ahead. The park was a cacophony of barking now. Of course, one of the three slipped free, and ran, not at me, but at the dog chasing me.

“She won’t bite him,” declared the owner of the second set of dogs loudly.

“It’s not my dog,” I reply, riding on, and leaving the two sets of dog owners to sort it out. A humorous scene, it turned out, but one that could have ended quite differently.  Keep your dogs on leashes, not to be mean (I love dogs) but to prevent the unpredictable. It helps those of us cycling too. I don’t have to wonder if your dog is friend or foe if you are in control of it.

DCI PosterThe fun of the week: Physics? Adult night at the Discovery Center of Idaho focused on one thing: cycling and the physics (science) behind it all. Fascinating? Yes. An entertaining lesson about helmets, unicycles, and balance. To top it off, the guys from the Boise Bike Project were there, giving classes about bike tuning, changing a flat on the trail, and bike fit.  These guys are transportation cyclists: fine examples of what I am trying to do myself. I’ll be interviewing them later in the series.

I learned a ton, had a good time, and saw an entire array of bikers from the Lactic Acid crew to weekend warriors to guys like me who want to learn and do more on a bike.

Finally this week you may have heard that a human powered helicopter flew for the first time. (watch the video here) It lifted off, flew for a mere 68 seconds, and landed safely. It may not be the next thing you park in your garage, but that fact that people are trying and succeeding at these things makes us wonder: what is the next Human Powered Season?

Did you miss any of the series? Find Part 1: “Anywhere is in biking distance if you have the time” here. Find Part 2: “One Jelly Doughnut. . .” here.  Keep following along!

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“One Jelly Doughnut. . .”

The Human Powered Season: Week 2

Camp before Borah
Camp before Borah

I’m 43. There, I said it. I’m not 21. Those of you who follow me on Facebook and Twitter (if you don’t, just click the links, because you should) know that since November I lost about 60 pounds. It changed my skiing game, my running game, and even how I handled the heat for a month in the desert. With moving and the rest though, my diet suffered recently. I took a week off the exercise regime, and then embraced the idea of a more human powered approach to transportation.

I started riding again, and thought “Hey this isn’t so bad.” Then I took some uphill rides. Okay, maybe I’m not in quite as good of shape as I thought. Then this week I hiked Borah Peak, and discovered some more truths:

Diet is Fuel: Food is your fuel, and just like your car, it’s important the type of fuel you run on. Those sweets you grab really quick? The corn dog and fatty burger? That ice cream? It all comes into play later. If you are going to add more human power to your life, you need better fuel. One goal? To get my diet back on track. Remember the line from “Full Metal Jacket?” The one where private pile gets caught with the jelly doughnut in his footlocker? Yeah. I’m paying for it alright.

“Like climbing a 5000′ staircase.”

Pacing: Don’t bite off more than you can chew, and don’t start too fast. Keep a nice, even, I can do this all day pace. It will save you. Otherwise, your muscles have no time to recover. If they don’t recover, you just can’t go on. Borah was a quick lesson in this for me, and the last two mornings, I have applied it to my rides as well. It works: slow is smooth and smooth is fast. It pays to remember that.

Distance: Last week? Anywhere is within biking distance if you have the time. (Read that post here) It’s true. Scheduling time is important, as is choosing a route and increasing endurance. I watched a documentary this week about people who ride in L.A. and put in 50 and 60 mile days in traffic. It is doable.

So today when I needed five pounds of sugar and a few things for dinner? I hopped on the bike, lock in the backpack, and rode into the wind. It felt good. Really good. Now, start my engine has a different meaning.

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“Anywhere is in walking (biking) distance if you have the time.”

The Human Powered Season Week 1:

A poor, but serviceable bike rack at the local grocery.
A poor, but serviceable bike rack at the local grocery.

Remember the formula from school? Distance equals rate times time. So if a bicycle leaving Chicago travels at … Wait. Don’t go. Just kidding. No word problems, just some observations from week one of this experiment.

Why it should work: I’m working mostly at home, freelance. So I really don’t need to go that far, right? Sure, we live out in Kuna, Idaho far from the bustle (and bike friendly trails, sidewalks, and streets) of Boise. Most of the time, I don’t need to go there, right? I may want to, but those things can wait.

For some reason, not this week. When I am determined to drive less and bike more, urgent errands come to the fore that are time sensitive. No, I can’t bike 30 miles in an hour, then bike back, pick up my wife, etc. The Durango I want to park carried my bike farther than I rode it this week.

Disclaimer: I am more of a conservationist than an environmentalist. But less driving means less emissions, even if just locally. It also means less money on gas, and better health for the person doing the riding. I’m not going to go deep into the issues here, another blog on that later, but suffice it to say this is a personal goal and decision. I’m not trying to save the planet here. That seems too noble, and too hard.

Issues so Far:

Security: Bikes are worth money, and they are relatively easy to steal. You can’t roll up the windows and set the alarm. Some businesses (there will be ratings provided later) don’t even have bike racks, let alone modern and security conscious ones. The bike rack is often out of the way, not even visible from the main door. We want to give the thieves some privacy to do their work, I suppose. Even the best locks can be defeated. One immediate decision: when riding, I’ll only frequent businesses who are actively bike friendly. More on this later as well.

Weather: I’m not a fair weather cyclist. I have cycled in all kinds of weather, both on motorized and pedal bikes. However, the week I begin this experiment starts a heat wave in the west. The 12 mile ride doable at 5 a.m. becomes quickly untenable at 3 in the afternoon in 100+ temperatures. Especially for an Idaho boy more used to winter and the cold.

Services: Public transport? There are no routes out here (yet). Some stores are just not within reasonable riding distance when you are trying to catch up on freelance work after a month of intense full-time day job stuff. I’d pay twice as much for office supplies if I could find them anywhere close. The distance is doable, but not in the time frame I have.

Change needed: Clearly there are changes I will have to make in my lifestyle to make this work. I never expected it to be easy, but I’ve got some good ideas. I’ll report back on those next week, and let you know how it is going, but for now I need to ride downtown and get some things for a BBQ tonight.

Backpack, lock, and water bottles ready. Independence from the car on independence day? Priceless! Happy Fourth!

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