January 26, 2012

Featured Bike Ride Route: Capitol Square to Clasen’s Bakery

by Peter Herreid

Clasen’s European Bakery in Middleton is a great destination for a peaceful bike ride along the shores of Lake Mendota. The bakery has a wide assortment of torts, pastries, chocolates, and breads, including the common German Brötchen (bread roll).  I can ride fast there and back before work on my touring bike, but on a Saturday, I am not in such a hurry and can take my upright bike, such as on the beautiful Saturday, January 7th, when we had abnormally mild winter weather in Madison.  
The Capitol building is a landmark everyone in Madison recognizes, so the mapped route starts at Capitol Square and travels about nine miles to Clasen’s. The route includes UW Lakeshore Path, Lake Mendota Drive, a path that winds through Lakeview Community Park, and the beautiful Pheasant Branch Trail. All of the busy streets have adjacent paths separated from traffic.   If you want to use this route, I recommend using my personalized Google Map. You can print out the mapped route or you can access it on a smart phone, such as the iPhone via a Google Maps app.  
Free samples and coffee (every time) and a post-holidays discount (got lucky!)
On Pheasant Branch Trail

January 19, 2012

My Mittened Response to Angry Honks on Snowy Days

Often with the snow comes disparaging talk about cyclists. You can find it in the elevator at work, overhear it at the bar, and it comes in the form of blaring horns.

Driving in the snow is stressful, even without having to worry about sliding into a bicyclist. Drivers see me peddling along perched on my bicycle and they get mad. They honk, yell out the window, and rev their engines.

I'm always left wondering what they're suggesting with their honks and expletives. Do they think it would be better for me to get a car, too? How is that better? Where are the solutions? It’s hard to guess at what a honk and expletive emanating from a metal box is suggesting, other than to get bent.   

Perhaps these angry motorists are as confused by their encounters with me. As they speed away in four-wheel drive, are they wondering why I’m out there biking when the lines of the bike lane are no longer visible under the snow?

Here’s why - I've made a decision to use a bike as transportation and that means having to ride in poor weather conditions. I'm trudging though the snow to get home, not to make a statement.  I don't like unsafe conditions and I don't want to die in the name of bicycle rights, which is why I obey the rules of the road and bike defensively.

My bike isn't a toy. Yes, it is a joy to ride but when it comes down to it, it's my transportation.  I don't recreate by biking down West Broadway, that's me going to work.

The solution for motorists isn't intimidating cyclists off the road, because we aren't going away. How can we as cyclists convince motorists that better bikeways is a win-win solution? Supporting improvements to bike infrastructure doesn't require one to not drive, or even ride a bike. Both motorists and cyclists want to change existing conditions that lead to bike-car conflicts and crashes.
Expanding the network of bike paths is one answer.  It gets more people out on bikes and off busy roads. The City of Madison has already created many safe spaces for bicyclists and has more projects in the works. As the urban landscape changes, I hope attitudes follow. Though, to increase ridership, the gap between irate drivers and evangelizing cyclists needs to close.

Most encounters with angry drivers last only a moment, leaving no time for lengthy explanations like the above. If you want to make an impression, I can only think of one appropriate gesture - no, not that one - Raise a mittened hand and give a friendly wave.

January 12, 2012

Ring Your Bell

Urban bike paths aren't road bike racetracks. They are places where both cyclists and pedestrians can feel comfortable and where the pace is slow enough for conversation. Still, more times than I can count, a sport cyclist has zipped past me with no warning. I have seen them dash around pedestrians as if they were the yellow cones in an obstacle course. After a flash of Lycra, they disappear down the path.

I guess that mounting a bell on their bikes would increase wind resistance, but surely they can say, "On your left"?
Ringing a bike bell is an easy and pleasant way to let others on the bike path know where you are. It can be hard to judge what a pedestrian or cyclist in front of you is going to do - give a ding before passing.

There are enough haters on the road. Let's use good etiquette to keep Madison's bike paths a welcoming space, as well as go at speeds that allow for conversation and interaction with our community.

Blueberry Bike Crate

January 10, 2012

Madison FBC

FBC, also known as the Full Moon Bike Club when in mixed company, meets on every full moon (or a night close to it) for a casual group ride. On its Facebook page, the group's organizers describe it as "a non-exclusive group of bike-riding and beer-drinking enthusiasts who gather every full moon to partake of bike riding and beer drinking."   
Although the Facebook page mentions beer twice, the drinking is not excessive and there's no pressure to - this isn't a frat party. 
The rides are relaxed, though sometimes the pace is a bit fast for for a 3-speed upright bike. The crowd is typically younger but does not exclude older riders. The group meets up at 8:30 pm on the designated day at the corner of Main and Livingston streets. Although there is typically a critical mass of people to take a lane, impeding motor vehicle traffic is not the point of the ride. The ride occurs when traffic volumes are low and half the routes are typically on bike paths, anyway.   
Normally, there is about an equal split between riding to the next destination, whether it be a park, other public space such as a bike path bridge, or a bar (when it is colder), and having a beer and socializing, before riding off to the next destination.  If you want to tune in to the rides, join the Madison FBC Facebook page.

DIY: Pinstriping Lugwork

Freshly Pinstriped Lugs

It is easy to add the classic aesthetic of pinstriping to your bike.

January 3, 2012

How I Got My New Dutch Bike Home from Chicago

by Peter Herreid

This last month I was in the market for a Dutch bike. Since there are no bike shops that sell Dutch bikes in Madison, I went looking in Chicago. According to Ding Ding Let’s Ride, three shops in Chicago sell Dutch-style bikes. On December 10th, I took a walk on the the north side of Chicago to visit all three. First, I eyed Pashleys at Boulevard Bikes in Logan Square, then test rode “Student” Velorbis bikes at Copenhagen Cyclery on North Milwaukee Ave., and last, I test rode Dutch bikes at J. C. Lind Bike Co. in Old Town. Then I continued walking to Daley Plaza in anticipation of some warm Glühwein at the Kristkindlmarket.