I've managed to stave off complete madness on my recent car commutes to Sacramento by using as little gas as possible. The rental I have currently is a tiny little blue thing with as much interior room as my grade-school backpack, but it does have one thing that actually kind of makes it fun to drive: a digital fuel efficiency gauge. I don't know what the technical term is for it, but it tells you in real time how many miles-per-gallon you're getting and another that tells you your average. When I got the car, the average was 25mpg. I reset it to see what I could squeeze out of it and started driving. Leaving town I was getting around 15mpg because of all the start and stop, but within moments of hitting the highway I was averaging around 30. Then I found the sweet spot at about 68mph where I was getting 40mpg. I eventually caught up with a big rig and started to switch lanes but realized that even though I was a fair distance behind it, I was benefiting from it's draft which brought my mpg to 55. I creeped up closer and let off the gas, but the car kept going. My fuel consumption was hovering between 75 and 99 mpg because the airflow from the truck was basically pulling me along. I drifted behind the truck (with my foot hovering over the brake) until we reached traffic in Sac and then backed off, but not before my average mpg was at 56. By the time I made it through a couple lights to work the average was down to 50, but still pretty good I'd say. Of course, 50mpg doesn't compare to the efficiency of riding a bike, if you must drive... Starting November first though, I get to bike from the new house. Woohoo!
The following is an excerpt from Ivan Illich's Toward a History of Needs:
A century ago, the ball-bearing was invented. It reduced the coefficient of friction by a factor of a thousand. By applying a well-calibrated ball-bearing between two Neolithic millstones, a man could now grind in a day what took his ancestors a week. The ball-bearing also made possible the bicycle, allowing the wheel -- probably the last of the great Neolithic inventions -- finally to become useful for self-powered mobility.
Man, unaided by any tool, gets around quite efficiently. He carries one gram of his weight over a kilometer in ten minutes by expending 0.75 calories. Man on his feet is thermodynamically more efficient than any motorized vehicle and most animals. For his weight, he performs more work in locomotion than rats or oxen, less than horses or sturgeon. At this rate of efficiency man settled the world and made its history. At this rate peasant societies spend less than 5 per cent and nomads less than 8 per cent of their respective social time budgets outside the home or the encampment.
Man on a bicycle can go three or four times faster than the pedestrian, but uses five times less energy in the process. He carries one gram of his weight over a kilometer of flat road at an expense of only 0.15 calories. The bicycle is the perfect transducer to match man's metabolic energy to the impedance of locomotion. Equipped with this tool, man outstrips the efficiency of not only all machines but all other animals as well.
The ball-bearing signaled a true crisis, a true political choice. It created an option between more freedom in equity and more speed. The bearing is an equally fundamental ingredient of two new types of locomotion, respectively symbolized by the bicycle and the car. The bicycle lifted man's auto-mobility into a new order, beyond which progress is theoretically not possible. In contrast, the accelerating individual capsule enabled societies to engage in a ritual of progressively paralyzing speed.
Bicycles are not only thermodynamically efficient, they are also cheap. With his much lower salary, the Chinese acquires his durable bicycle in a fraction of the working hours an American devotes to the purchase of his obsolescent car. The cost of public utilities needed to facilitate bicycle traffic versus the price of an infrastructure tailored to high speeds is proportionately even less than the price differential of the vehicles used in the two systems. In the bicycle system, engineered roads are necessary only at certain points of dense traffic, and people who live far from the surfaced path are not thereby automatically isolated as they would be if they depended on cars or trains. The bicycle has extended man's radius without shunting him onto roads he cannot walk. Where he cannot ride his bike, he can usually push it.
The bicycle also uses little space. Eighteen bikes can be parked in the place of one car, thirty of them can move along in the space devoured by a single automobile. It takes three lanes of a given size to move 40,000 people across a bridge in one hour by using automated trains, four to move them on buses, twelve to move them in their cars, and only two lanes for them to pedal across on bicycles. Of all these vehicles, only the bicycle really allows people to go from door to door without walking. The cyclist can reach new destinations of his choice without his tool creating new locations from which he is barred.
Bicycles let people move with greater speed without taking up significant amounts of scarce space, energy, or time. They can spend fewer hours on each mile and still travel more miles in a year. They can get the benefit of technological breakthroughs without putting undue claims on the schedules, energy, or space of others. They become masters of their own movements without blocking those of their fellows. Their new tool creates only those demands which it can also satisfy. Every increase in motorized speed creates new demands on space and time. The use of the bicycle is self-limiting. It allows people to create a new relationship between their life-space and their life-time, between their territory and the pulse of their being, without destroying their inherited balance. The advantages of modern self-powered traffic are obvious, and ignored. That better traffic runs faster is asserted, but never proved. Before they ask people to pay for it, those who propose acceleration should try to display the evidence for their claim.
I'm going on two weeks of commuting to work in a car now. We're moving into a house in a nice neighborhood close to the American River Trail and downtown Sacramento, but it's not available until the first, so I have a few more days to go. Driving wouldn't be so bad, except for a few things: 1. I have to rent a car, so it's EXPENSIVE. I'm used to paying $0 a month, now I have rental fees and $3.15/gallon gas. I don't like it. 2. It's an hour each way. That's two fewer hours I have each day to do things I don't hate. Like riding my bike. Or not driving. 3. Drivers around here suck. I suppose they suck elsewhere too, but I don't have to deal with those drivers. These ones are fond of riding your ass for miles until they pass you just so they can ride the ass of the car right in front of you. 4. I'm riding my bike less. Ironically driving a car for two hours a day wears me out! By the time I drive to Sac, work, and drive home again, I'm wiped. I just want to lay out on the couch and drool on myself. 5. I work with cool people who DO commute by bike. So now I'm the asshole that commutes by myself and smells like pine tree air-fresheners and vinyl. 6. Driving gives me baditude and I have nothing to blog about! If anyone is still reading this, rest assured I'll be back to my normal perky self in one weeks time. If you're not reading this, I'll still be back to myself, so it's a win-win.
In related news: I have a bicycle news ticker on my homepage that displays, amongst other things, frequent reports of cyclist deaths at the hands of irresponsible and inattentive drivers. This week in particular has been quite depressing with several avoidable deaths including those of a 12 year-old girl, an 18 year old Amish boy and bicycle-safety advocate Lee Anne Barry. After being seriously injured when hit by a car at age 5, Mrs. Barry had to relearn to walk and talk and ride a bike. She was on her fourth bicycle trek across the country in a ride called the B.I.G. Ride Tour when she was struck and killed by an SUV. She started the nonprofit tour in 2001 to raise awareness about helmet use and head injuries. B.I.G stands for Brain Injuries Greatest.
You already have everything you need. Those of us lucky enough to have been born in this time period in the Western world are experiencing an abundance few of our ancestors could have claimed. Food, clean water, shelter, law and order are almost guaranteed.
Why doesn’t it feel this way? Despite this amazing abundance, why are so many people dissatisfied? Are we doomed to always want more than we have, even if ithttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif won’t bring us more happiness?
You Can’t Live in a Vacuum As soon as basic needs are met, your focus immediately shifts onto creating new problems. Even if poverty, exile from the population or violence are remote threats, new problems fill their place. Our cultural obsession with consumption is a by-product of this need to seek out new problems.
The solution is to find something else to fill the vacuum. Instead of mindlessly adopting the quest for material perfection, look at it critically. You don’t need to sell all your worldly belongings and become a monk, but see what other things can fill the space consumption occupies in your mind.
Here are a few suggestions for how to escape the chains of consumerism: READ ON....
The newest episode of the bicyclist is online at thebicyclist.tv. In this episode our protagonist Conrad and his newfound "bro" Zack run into an old friend and have a run-in with a new foe while Steve and Lissa booze it up back home.
Well I'm going on one week at the new job. These past few days I've been staying in Sacramento and bike commuting from my friend Ray's apartment downtown. The trip only takes about 15 minutes each way. After work today I rode to the house that we'll be renting in the fabulous forties from work and I think the trip will be closer to a half hour, which is what it used to take me to get to work in Marysville. The job has been pretty cool so far, the people that I work with are top notch. Most of them are quite athletic and I've some tentative plans to get outside with a few of them. The company offers free rentals to employees of things like tents, stoves, bikes, ice axes and everything else you can imagine, so I'll definitely be taking advantage of that. I'm in training right now, and while it's fun learning about everything, I really need more hours because my finances are pretty tight at this point. However, I might end up renting a car for this weekend again just so I don't have to impose on friends any more than necessary. As Benjamin Franklin said, visiting friends are like fish, they start to stink after 3 days.
One of the perks of this job is the huge discount we get on gear. I'm finding it to be a double edged sword though, as it's becoming increasingly difficult to resist the urge to buy new stuff. I do need new shoes though...
Today is blog action day. The idea is that today, 15,000 bloggers as well as companies such as Google and Reddit, and organizations like The United Nations join together to bring one thing to everyone's attention: the environment. Now I don't claim to be an expert on the environment, and I don't know if the whole world is about to be one big swimming pool due to melting glaciers, but I do know that it doesn't hurt to be conscious of the fact that our actions have consequences, and acting willfully ignorant of our impact on the Earth can't possibly be a good thing, so here are a few ideas to help you lessen your negative impact on the Earth in as painless a fashion as possible.
1. Use CFLs. Compact florescent light bulbs use about 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer. Save about $30 or more in electricity costs over each bulb's lifetime. Produce about 75 percent less heat, so they're safer to operate and can cut energy costs associated with home cooling. 2. Bring your own water. To create enough plastic to bottle the 26+ billion liters of bottled water consumed by Americans each year requires over 1.5 million barrels of oil. This is enough to fuel about 100,000 cars for a year. And this is just in the U.S. Not to mention, that bottled water that you just paid $2.25 for probably came out of the tap. I know it has a picture of a mountain on the front, but read the fine print. Aquafina comes from Detroit's municipal water source. Depending on where you live, your tap water may very well be safer for you. And in blind taste tests, New York City's tap water beat out all the major brands. Check out this review of reusable water bottles to find one that fits your lifestyle. 3. Ride a bike. Ummm... duh. You don't have to quit driving, just replace your short trips with a bike. Nobody likes smog and riding a bike is easy, healthy, FUN, good for the environment and good for pretty much everyone. Burning gasoline is stinky, toxic, deadly and really pretty boring. Being healthy is a privilege, not a right. Plus gas is $3.25 a gallon and biking is FREE. 4. Unplug unused and idle appliances. Even when your appliances are off, they drain energy quickly enough to cost the average household a few hundred bucks a year in electricity costs. Use a power strip to make it easier, just unplug the strip to "unplug" everything at once. 5. Buy low-flow shower heads. You can save a couple hundred bucks a year in unused water and water-heating costs, as well as saving your local grey water treatment plant some energy costs. It adds up. 6. Shop at the farmer's market. The average carrot travels over 1,800 miles before it lands on your plate. It uses tons of fossil fuels to ship it there and package it. Plus you'll be eating delicious fresh fruits and veggies and supporting your local farmers! Okay, six is a good number, so I'll stop here. Use your imagination, being green is easy and it can save you money too. If you need help finding any of the information or products mentioned here, leave me a comment saying so and I"ll tell you where to find it all.
Today was my first day at the outdoor sports co-op where I'm now employed. I think I'm going to enjoy the job very much. Unfortunately I wasn't able to try out the showers and lockers today because I couldn't ride. We're in the process of renting a house a few miles from the job, but it's slow going. Until we get moved in I have to drive down from Marysville so I rented a compact car for the commute. I thought I might actually be relieved to be in a car instead of a bike since the weather's been patchy but the drive is soooooo boring. I found myself switching between heavy metal and raucous Mexican music just to keep myself awake. Of course, my tiredness could also be a result of the fact that I was up until past 3AM vomiting because I got food poisoning from Amanda's restaurant. I felt okay when I awoke at 7, but by about 1PM I was getting drowsy, and even a vente cup of dark-roast crap coffee from STAR$ didn't help. Anywho, I'm off to nap.
I followed a link from Gwadzilla over to thebicyclist.tv this morning. It's a internet sitcom about the trials and tribulations of Conrad, a midwest expat living in Portland. Each show is between 2-5 minutes and usually takes place in one location. I watched the first episode and then walked away, swearing I'd never return, but like a scab you can't stop picking, I've gone back and watched every single episode to date and now I'm too far invested to stop. This show puts the CAMP in Campagnolo. It's a beautiful bike wreck. It's... well, watch it.
Well, so much for the magic of the Slime tubes. I hadn't even put 10 miles on the new Slime Tube when I was suddenly fishtailing during a sprint and realized I had a rear flat. I leaned my bike against a fence, inspected the tire, and saw neon green goo splashing out of the bead onto the tire. I found the source of the problem too; it was a small industrial staple. Okay, I thought. I'll simply remove the staple, the goo will patch the tube, I'll pump it up, and go. So I removed it and started to pump. It leaked. Rotated the tire and tried again. Nothing. Tried it again, and the valve-stem popped off and lodged itself inside my pump head. I've probably inflated tires at least 120 times with this pump, and never had this problem. So, the lesson learned is the people at the shop were right, Slime tubes suck, the end. My next purchase is definitely going to be kevlar tires.
photo byrune I've asked this question of a million people, because I'm constantly impressed by people's reasons. I have about a million of my own. I'll list some of my reasons and some answers I've received from others in the past:
Because driving to work is dreadful and riding is not.
Good health is a terrible thing to waste.
I don't even know what gas prices are, but I know I don't want to pay them.
When I started biking to work I was quite concerned about bicycle thieves. I spent about two hours at the LBS looking at different locks, reading about their features, warranties, and all the other variables before finally deciding on one. Now I'm moving to Sacramento and I'm a little concerned about thieves again. Slate.com has an article about bike locks that saves you the guess work. They tried out a bunch of different models and chose a winner based on criteria such as security, portability and value. The winner was the Kryptonite NY Fahgettaboudit U Lockwhich boasts (among many great features) a $4,500 anti-theft warranty. The lock I've been using for months is the OnGuard Bulldog STD which only scored a 24.5 total score compared to the Fahgettaboudit's 33.4. I've also had a problem with the lock that's been mentioned by some other people in forums; sometimes the locking mechanism doesn't want to release, and you end up having to bang on it with a blunt object for up to a few minutes before it releases. When you're in a public place, people tend to look at you funny when you're huddled over a bike lock, wacking it with a hammer and sweating through your dirty work clothes. Looks like I'll be budgeting in a new lock; it's cheaper than a new bike and I might save some face.
It's goathead season and I've been suffering more than my fair share of puncture flats, so I decided to do something about it. On the front tire I've got a thorn-proof tube that's worked well for me in the past, and on the back I've installed a Slime Lite Smart tube. Apparently mechanics hate them as they sometimes gunk up your wheels and tires, but seeing as I typically work on my own wheels, it shouldn't be a big deal. I'll let you know which one works better.
photo of Tower Bridge/Sacramento skyline byYorkie I'm a tax-payer again, woohoo! I accepted a job offer today from a large outdoor-sports co-op in Sacramento. I sign the paperwork tomorrow and start mid month. I'm also in negotiations with a France-based company about a part-time writing job. I'm quite excited about the prospect of a steady income once again. Not working is exhausting. Now I just need to find a place to live in Sac... The co-op where I'll be working has showers and lockers for bike-commuters as well as other bikecentric incentives. Jealous?
Zack and I enjoyed our ride to Loma Rica so much the other day that we decided to do it again yesterday. As expected, it was a pleasant ride up there once again. We even tacked on an extra 5 miles and cruised up to Browns Valley, North of Loma Rica. But when we decided to turn around, I had a flat. No prob, I thought. I'll just throw on the spare. But wait, the flatted tire is my spare, I forgot to buy a new one. I sat on the side of the road in the gravel and pulled my tube out. Then I looked at the tire itself. Not one, not two, but five giant goat-head thorns were sticking out. I hope they didn't all puncture the tube... but of course they did. Just then a friendly soul drove up in a small truck and asked if we needed any help. He was a cyclist too and offered his pump/patch kit/whatever. We said thanks a bunch, but we had it covered. He smiled and drove away.
I patched the five holes, using all my patches and one of Zack's, and put the tube back into the tire. Pumped it up, mounted it, and then heard ssssssssssss. Crap. Took it all apart again and saw that I had missed a small rock or something that was sticking through the tire. Pulled it out, used another of Zack's patches and tried again. Ssssssssss. One of the original patches was now leaking, and we were out of patches. And 35 miles from my house. With no cell reception. Crap. We decided to ride quickly to the store a few miles away and see how far we could get between pumps. We just made it to the store before I was completely flat.
We ate fried chicken (our new Sunday ritual) and pondered the situation. Finally I threw in the towel and called Amanda to save me. She couldn't find her patch kit, and didn't have a spare. She would have to drive me home. Zack decided to finish the ride by himself and disappeared over the next hill. Amanda showed up a few minutes later and offered me Teddy Grahams while I loaded my bike into her car. We passed Zack a few miles later as he was flying down the hill we had painstakingly climbed an hour before. I threw a Teddy Graham at him.