Monday, May 27, 2013

Biking Nations: Back to London (which had CitibikeNYC first)

Yes, I was in the UK once again for both work and vacation. As I knew the work part would involve an array of suits and staying in small hotel rooms, I once again reluctantly left the Bike Friday behind. 

But if you are in London without a bike and from out of town, you are in luck because of the Barclay's bike system (sometimes called 'Boris bikes' - after the mayor of London, Boris Johnson - and I suppose that nickname is to Barclays Cycle Hire what 'Obamacare' is to the less-catchy 'Affordable Care Act.'). I used the system last year and realized that at 5 pounds for seven days of access was a steal at twice the price, so I wasn't at all annoyed to discover that the fee for a week's access is now 10 pounds. But trips under 30 minutes are still free and it is almost always easy to find a London Cycle Hire dock

It also puts more bikes on the road, which is a good thing. Clearly, there are so many cars on the road in the UK there isn't enough room for all of them.

That is what it looks like: I didn't witness the accident, but noticed the person who caused it was considerate enough to leave a note (and a headlight that looked like the car had gone cross-eyed).

But back to the bike share: as some of you know, New York is joining the forward-thinking cities like London, Paris, Boston, Washington, D.C. and Stamford (just threw that last one in to see if you were paying attention) and CitiBikeNYC Annual Members Preview Week starts today. Of course if you attended Bike Expo New York earlier this month, you'd have seen the very first 'Bloomberg Bike' that is to be part of the program.

Now these bikes are made by the same company that made the ones in London. I can testify to their quality and ruggedness but it is how the system works in real-world situations that's even more important. 

Here's my first real-world situation: After I ironed my suits for my Grown-Up Conference I found myself with a few hours of time on my hands, I left the hotel and, after fueling with a good lunch at Little India, took a bike from a Barclay's rack and pedaled to an interesting-sounding flea market:, which helpfully noted that there was, in fact, a Barclay's station nearby.

So, if you are an enterprising business in New York City, you already have written where the closest Citi Bike station is on your 'directions' page on your web site.  

But back to London: I wore my own helmet (the helmet-mounted mirror placed on the opposite side to remind me to cycle to the left) and, after a few wrong turns (more on the ease of doing that in a moment) made it to the station - and the car boot sale - with decent time. 

By the time the car boot sale was over, there was one Barclay's bike left (a different one than I had ridden there with) and I was able to ride it back to the station at the hotel. It was the first practical trip I had made on a Barclay bike. But it was a short trip, so I began to wonder how it would do on a longer one. 

Two days later, at the end of a Grown-Up Conference Day, I got my answer as I decided on an ambitious plan: to ride from Earl's Court (the 10-pence coin) clear across London to the Cycle Hire dock near Angel (the 1-pound coin) where I would then walk a half-mile to meet an old friend and her partner for dinner at the Fig and Olive.

This map, published by, was a great resource. If I wasn't handed this by the friendly woman behind the desk at the Radisson, I would still be looking for the Fig and Olive. 

However, the London For Less map - just like a lot of NYC maps - does have a fatal flaw: it has edges. And once you are off the edges, you don't know where you are. 

That happened to me, and it occurred a lot sooner than I thought. Brits didn't appear to have cyclists in mind when they laid out London back in the day, and the twists, turns, and spontaneous one-way streets thrown in as an afterthought put me off the map. The street signs are also posted on the sides of buildings, which often makes them difficult to read. 

At first I didn't mind, because I stumbled across a bike shop on my way. 

With no nearby docking station, I was able to wheel the bike inside and trusted a Cycle Surgery employee to mind it while I browsed (later in the trip I noticed a Barclay bike chained to a rail, so I guess if you don't mind leaving your bike for a moment with the 'meter running' you can bring your own lock). 

So, if you are an enterprising bike shop in New York City, you'll understand that people who ride these tough little bikes may be cyclists themselves, and they may welcome the chance to shop in your store if you are willing to let them wheel your rented ride inside.

But back to London: I thanked the employee, left the shop, and continued my journey…and became quite lost.  

I knew something was up when it had been nearly five minutes since my last Barclay bike sighting. Then when I crossed the Thames River (you'll notice by looking at the map again my ride to Angel shouldn't have taken me anywhere near it) I knew I was in trouble. 

Other than the risk of being miles off course and being late for a long-awaited dinner, it wasn't too bad. Sure, I was off the map, didn't have a GPS, didn't have a phone, was in an unfamiliar area and did't even know which way I was pointed, I was in an area where I spoke the language, and thankfully there were plenty of cyclists to patiently help me find my way back to Earl's Court. 

Incidentally, New Yorkers: brace for people on Citibikes stopping you, pointing to the water and asking 'What river is this?" It may be rare but I can see it happening. Still, be glad Manhattan is relatively easy to get around in. 

But back to London: I made my way across the river and managed to find Kensington Gardens. Now I originally planned to see if I could do this ride in 30 minute bursts between docking stations to keep the ride free.


Yes, the Barclay's bike people thought quasi-cunning folks like myself would try such a thing. But it's alright: the rates are very low and I want to keep the system working so it will continue and more cities create bike shares (Hello again, Stamford. How's that traffic congestion working out for you?)

It was a long five minutes (I was genuinely worried at this point I'd be late for dinner and, with no cell phone, had no way to tell my friend I'd be late). But it gave me a chance to catch my breath and I pulled out another bike. I made it to the top of the park and pedaled ferociously along Bayswater Road, which turned into Oxford Street which turned into Park Place and then into Baltic Avenue - or something like that. Double-decker buses and cabs were all around me - but I was faster than most of them. 

I can't recall all of the street names, but I do recall saying things along the lines of 'why is this now a one way street?' and, after looking at the map and again at a street sign, asking 'how did I get all the way up here?'

Once again, New York City: you've got a lot going for you when Citibike deploys completely: Numbered streets that are often straight. Whomever planned London's streets may have had a pint too many. 

But back to London: With only a slight sense of direction, I pressed on. The horrid automobile traffic told me it would have been futile to give up and take a cab. And a cyclist I met at a red light near King's Cross station (the very station known by millions of Harry Potter fans as the location of Platform 9 and 3/4) assured me the Angel station was just a little ways up the hill.

I pushed the cranks - wishing I had thought to at least remove my tie before the start of my journey since London was uncharacteristically warm and non-rainy for an April afternoon - and eventually found a docking station near Angel just a few minutes shy of seven o'clock. I gave an appreciative parting glance at the station as I sprinted toward Upper Street.

It was further away than I realized - and I did, in fact, pass the docking station I had intended to use closer to the Angel station. And even though I was almost ten minutes later to dinner, I still made it before my friend's partner arrived a few moments later. I drank three glasses of water before the waitress at Fig & Olive offered to leave a pitcher. Flying thousands of miles and seeing someone you originally met in Keene, New Hampshire ten years earlier was absolutely priceless and made this a ride I wouldn't soon forget. 

The experience also made me realize once again that the Barclay bikes are the best way to get anywhere in London at anytime. And I have to tell you that sooner or later, the Citibike system in New York City, if properly managed, will eventually reach the point where no one will be able to imagine the city without it. And whether you ride or drive, that's a good thing. 

Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Hard Questions for Today's Mayoral Candidates

I've been writing this blog for a couple of years now and have saved most of my serious, after-school-special-ish topics for my column in the Stamford Patch. But readers: please don't let the picture above fool you: we need to have a serious discussion.

Now I got to meet some amazing people at the Bike to Work Day event in Stamford; I got to see some folks from Danny's Cycles, Bike Walk CT, Domus' Future Five, and people who were stopping by to learn more about bike commuting - one of whom was a rather impressive woman who commutes more than 16 miles each way to get to work on a single speed 29er. 

Yeah, the list of excuses for not riding the two miles to your office has gotten shorter, but that's another topic. 

When I talked with these people, the places where we had ridden had always come up. Specific city names from all over the world were mentioned, and you could see someone's face light up at the talk of some and fall a little when speaking of others. 

It all falls back to how cities treat cyclists. We want paths set up to link cities and towns together, for sure, but a lot of bike-friendly infrastructure starts at the city and town level. And that means the leaders, or would-be leaders of a city need a willingness to commit to bike infrastructure. Right now, most Stamford bike lanes look like this:

This morning, I woke to some amazing news in the Hartford Courant: according to Census data, Stamford officially overtook Hartford in terms of population: Apparently, my city has 216 more people than Hartford.

Say it with me with Stephen Colbert intonation: "IN YOUR FACE, INSURANCE CAPITAL!"

But now let's look around Bull's Head, Ridgeway and a dozen other places in and around downtown Stamford where finding a parking spot is next to impossible. Let's look at the South End development - home of great places like Exhale Spa Stamford -  and wonder how cars will manage the bottlenecks under the railroad bridges. And, let's look at the barely-standing, often-full parking garage at the train station. Take all of this in and you'll realize we have to elect someone this fall who understand the problem and knows that making the city better for recreational and practical cyclists is part of the solution.

New York City has made some great strides with bike infrastructure under Mayor Bloomberg. Some of it is controversial and some of it doesn't work (often, unfortunately, because a few cyclists themselves don't obey the rules) but it's making the city easier to get around. The CitiBikeNYC bike share program is being rolled out to early adopters next week (that's a then-under construction docking station above…and if you look closely you'll see a pigmented section of the road where bicycle commuters can stand when waiting for a red light to change) and the city can go even further than it has - provided it elects a mayor who supports bike and pedestrian infrastructure.

In case you're wondering, I don't believe the candidate who sent a picture of his gentleman's area to a woman who is not his wife is that person. But we should ask him to clarify his position on bike infrastructure. In fact, we need to ask everyone running for office.

Stamford will pick a new mayor soon, and I plan to ask each candidate to bare all about how they feel about bicycle infrastructure. But a maturity-impaired guy who takes a picture of a toy bike stuffed in a pair of Jockey's stretched over a seat cushion at five in the morning can't do it alone. Ask with me. It's not about keeping Hartford out of the medals, but about keeping Stamford and other cities attractive places to work and live.  More than ever, thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Project in the Rearview Mirror!

The most miserable, aggravating and preposterous home improvement project I have ever embarked on - the kitchen - is over. 

People ask to see the 'before' and 'after' pictures of the kitchen. This is my favorite 'during' picture: When demolishing the old kitchen in January I found this under a cabinet that was probably installed twenty years ago - and I've lived in my house for eight.

You don't understand middle class disempowerment until you have used four rooms to make one cup of coffee. You don't understand how home improvement gets in your head until you get in bed at night (after doing a task perfectly) and you have a vision that you got something terribly wrong that jerks you awake before you even fall asleep. 

You also don't understand anger until you want to beat the living daylights out of the person who owned your house in the 1970s because he did not say the following: "No! Don't use staples to attach the subfloor! If a future homeowner wants to redo the kitchen he'll have to pull up hundreds of staples one by one."

So as the months slouched on, I had no workshop to speak about. That meant no working on bikes or anything for fun. My Saturdays didn't belong to me. I posted infrequently and was reduced to building a bike time capsule in a dead corner just so I'd have something to write about. 

But one day, for one project, I got to have the last (and only) laugh.

Here's what happened: I wanted a small TV for the kitchen but as I quickly learned, not everybody has the same definition of small. I wanted something smaller than an iPad that I could watch the news while making dinner. But Best Circuit, City Buy, and similar retail establishments only told me a 19" TV was all they could sell me. 

But finally, after weeks of searching, I found a 7" RCA at the Bull's Head Radio Shack that would fit in the tiny space underneath one of the upper cabinets. 

Unfortunately, I didn't have a good way to get it to stay there. Wall mount TV units are too big and too heavy, and even if they weren't the TV wasn't made to be mounted under a cabinet. 

Until I stepped over the trim pieces and toekicks littering my shop one day and came across this.

This is a bike rearview mirror; I think it is from Bell but there are a few companies that make similar models. I've always been a fan of the Third Eye helmet mounted rearview mirrors and never had a use for the handlebar ones. I must have taken this one off a bike and never gotten rid of it. 

I figured out what to do: I broke the unused mirror (being pack-rattish and non-superstitious is a good combination) and carefully centered it on the back of the TV, where I drilled two holes in the weedy plastic desk stand so I could insert a couple of small bolts.

I put the now mirrorless mirror on the two bolts and used two pairs of pliers to tighten the bolts. It couldn't hold much more than the weight of the little TV, I know, but all they needed to do was hold the weight of the little TV.

Then I brought it upstairs and carefully drilled a small hole in the underside of the little shelf I made under one of the cabinets that would hold the cable box. I inserted the end of the rearview mirror that usually attaches to the handlebars and awkwardly inserted and tightened the bolt. 

I took my hand away and the TV didn't fall. But it did swivel back and forth, which is what you want when you are mounting a TV in this kind of space.

If a person sits alone in the mini breakfast nook (the exact spot where mouse skeleton 1 of 2 was found) it doesn't matter what stool they are sitting in since they can move the TV to the left or the right. And I can point it straight back so I can see it while I'm standing at the stove. 

For months, I had wanted to put the kitchen project in the rearview mirror, but instead I put a rearview mirror in the kitchen. And the best part is nobody will even notice it unless I tell them it's there. Now I can weld, saw up the few old bike frames I collected over the winter, and fix bikes (the Peugeot I'm using for the National Bike Month Challenge hasn't been back to the shop since I fixed it, but there is 34.7 miles of 112.0 on it so far - and since the Metro North train collision promises to put more cars on the road I'll probably use it even more this week than I thought. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Bike to Work Month Challenge: How Far Can You Go With $20?

So I was driving around Shippan Point tag sales the day before the Five Boro Bike Tour, searching for bikes to load into the back of my Honda Element, when I came across this.

I apologize for forgetting to take a 'before' picture, but I assure you that save for the bike box and a rear rack torn off a trashed bike, it didn't look much different from the moment I picked it up. Though it was covered in dust when I first saw it.

This is a red Peugeot bicycle. Possibly dating back to the George H.W. Bush years, this bike had flat-as-pancake tires and was made out of my favorite material: steel, which meant I could cut it up and have a fine time welding. Careful study indicated it was purchased at Joe Fix It's, a bike shop in Monroe, New York. I wonder if they remember selling this.

I asked how much, and a woman at the tag sale told me the bike was $75. But a gruff-looking man a few feet away from her snapped at me:

"It's $20!"

The woman glared at him, but said nothing.  

Not wanting to be forced to pick a side in what I sensed was a source of marital friction, I agreed to the gruff man's price and paid the woman for the bike. I pushed it away pleasantly as the two  bickered quietly amongst themselves, with the phrase 'are we trying to get rid of stuff, or what?' being used by one of them. I'll leave you to guess which.

I got the bike and a few others I had acquired that day and brought them home. This Peugeot was the best of the lot: the tires held air. There was very little rust. The chain, once cleaned, was in good shape. And when I outfitted it with an old rear rack from a trashed bike and the bike box, it truly looked the part of a decent bike.

Now I know my original goal was to cut it up to make something (like the homage to Cyclepedia I made last year) but I got sidetracked: I was watching an episode of The Wire on DVD and only wanted to see if the tires could hold air, but by the time the credits rolled on 'Moral Midgetry' I realized I had been pleasantly distracted/mesmerized to the point I made a functioning bike without knowing what I was going to do with it. 

The following week, when I spent more than $500 in order to eliminate an unpleasant noise coming from the rear brakes, I decided what to do: I was going to get my $20 back.

I estimate that at today's gas prices, my 2006 Honda Element costs me about $0.18 per mile. Divide $0.18 into $20…carry the '1'…you get, almost, 112 miles. 

That's how many miles I need to ride the Peugeot in order for it to pay for itself. That's something that just can't be done with a car, and it seems like a suitable challenge. 

I've established a few rules: It couldn't be used on my Friday and Sunday pleasure rides: it would be used for practical trips only; or, rather, trips for which I would have otherwise used the car. And I couldn't use any spare parts or buy anything new for the $20 Peugeot. My goal is to  have the odometer on the Garmin Edge reach 112 by the time National Bike Month is over. 

And I'm pleased to report I am already about a quarter of the way through my goal. Round trips to and from work pack on the most miles, but I've also done a trip to Fairway and another to Dinosaur BBQ (under the reasoning riding there would allow me some guilt-free consumption of their highly addictive garlic chipotle wings I crave fortnightly).

I also used it yesterday for the two-mile round trip to the Ferguson Library to attend a Reinventing Stamford meeting. One of the initiatives is a discussion of ways to make the city more bike friendly. I was the only one in the crowded room who had a bike helmet sitting before him. I was embarrassed for everybody else. 

I'll keep you posted as to how the challenge goes. In the meantime, I hope you are giving your motorized transport a rest this week (and particularly Friday, which is National Bike to Work Day). Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Five Boro Bike Tour 2013 Recap (and Thoughts on Safety)

I did Bike New York's Five Boro Bike Tour yesterday; my ninth in a row with my heavily modified 1981 Turner recumbent. Say it with me with Ed Rooney (the dean of students from Ferris Bueller's Day Off) intonation: nine times.

The hours I spent tuning and adjusting the bike paid off: the brakes were more responsive and more comfortable to use, and the rear wheel that I had cannibalized from a junked Fuji Espree more than two years ago lived long enough (and was true enough) to power me through a third tour.

Now I got my cookie from Zaro's (but nearly had a Rain Man-unable-to-watch-The-People's-Court moment when the first one didn't have the cookies; but luckily the second GCT location did, and it fit easily into my new, slimmed-down bike box).

I pedaled down to the start around 6:30 in the morning, and I have to say that even though it was very cold at the start line (I am not the only one who packed light due to the new security restrictions) there is nothing like the City That Never Sleeps when only the cyclists are awake.

It was also exciting to see the construction progress on the Freedom Tower, as well as new, empty bike stations for CitiBikes, the bike share program launching in NYC this summer

I also enjoyed seeing bikes that I don't normally get to otherwise, including the fascinating tandem known to allow both riders to have a clear view of the road ahead from Hase.

I also saw a couple of people on an Elliptigo, which combine the thrill of the gym with the sensation of actually going somewhere while you exercise (when you stop using it make sure you towel it off per gym policy).

I also saw the guy from High Roller that I met at Bike Expo New York riding on his creation - and taking some action shots. He was impossible not to notice as the rumbling sound from the plastic rear wheels did make a distinctive sound, much like the boulder did when Indiana Jones was trying to escape with the golden idol.

Some roads had been repaved and were in better shape than in previous tours I've done (with a short wheelbase recumbent, I notice these things). 

The festival was also noticeably better this year than in the past. Because of the scattered start times, it wasn't packed too much with cyclists by the time I got there, and, even better, featured food trucks and other local places where one could eat. The Bubbas' Barbikyu had a tent with sticks of their outstanding grilled pork and chicken. And service with a smile.

I ate lunch around quarter to eleven in the morning yesterday, and I ate fast, but not before two people - one of them a young and sweaty woman who was looking at me as though she had spotted a cast member of Downton Abbey - asked me where I had gotten what I was eating. My mouth full both times, I could only manage to point vaguely at The Bubbas' tent. 

The festival felt more like a festival atmosphere, and I stayed a lot longer than I normally do.

On the two-plus mile ride to the ferry dock, I noticed, to my dismay, a lot of areas on Staten Island still had significant Hurricane Sandy damage. I could only hope that, just like the Freedom Tower, everything was a work in progress.

The picture above is what the Freedom Tower looked like yesterday. In case you are wondering, the picture below is what the Freedom Tower looked like an hour or so after Five Boro Bike Tour 2012 ended.

There was something else that I noticed differently from the previous times I've ridden the FBBT. Maybe you saw it too: recycled, water-filled 16 ounce Diet Coke bottles jammed in frame cages and similar arrangements. A Poland Spring water bottle dropping loose and skittering across the pavement, with the former owner not noticing or not caring that it had gone. I also noticed not one, but two frame pumps abandoned in the road at two separate locations. A fallen hat on Staten Island. A small box containing a 700c tube sitting in the middle of a curve in Brooklyn. And I was in the Blue Group that started at 7:45, so who knows what hit the ground after the other twenty-thousand or so riders started off. 

I think there was just more fallen personal items this year, and the reason may have to do with the new security restrictions: Unable to use panniers or large-capacity trunk boxes, riders traveled light and used frame pumps (that come loose all the time) and weedy bungee cords to hold their personal stuff. I don't know anything about what caused the two accidents I saw on the tour (only saw the aftermath) but I am willing to call the Freakonomics people to see if they have weighed the odds of what is more likely to happen to a cyclist: to fall victim to a terrorist attack, or to fall on the Deegan because they hit a piece of debris in the road. 

If my law-of-unintended-consequences parable makes any sense, I hope the NYPD and Bike New York has a chance to rethink their security restrictions for 2014 - not just because I want my Even Better Bike Box, but because it may just make everyone safer in the long run (and it may also make more people willing to buy T-shirts and other things at the festival - as they'd have room to put their loot). 

I do thank Bike New York for putting together another winner and hope you share your appreciation with them too, and start planning for May 4, 2014.  Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Hello, Five Boro Bike Tour 2013

I needed to wake up at 4:15 this morning to get on the 5:03 train to Grand Central Terminal, so of course I woke up at 3:00. That did give me extra time to wrap up my Five Boro Bike Tour checklist, so there's that.

I spent a good chunk of yesterday making my bike stand up to the new Bike New York security regulations; put in place after the Boston Marathon bombing. The Even Better Bike Box is on hiatus and has been replaced by a 250 cubic inch aluminum clipboard I found in my basement. The lid has been insulated with rubber feet so it doesn't rattle, and not only does it fit this site name in the normal sized letters but it is roomy enough to accommodate at least one Zaro's oatmeal raisin cookie. And perhaps later, a slice of pizza.

I also obeyed the new restrictions by using frame bags; two of them, actually: one mounted on either side of the frame. That might get a few glances but they are not panniers - they just look like panniers and are a bit small.

Permitted an underseat bag, I have one mounted under my seat as you can see, as well as a small top tube box. It's not in the photo but I also have a new helmet this year, as I bought one to replace the one the watermelon wore in Protect your Melon

If you are riding in the Five Boro Bike Tour today, I hope I see you at the start or during the ride. If you are riding in or out of New York City today, I hope you have a lot of fun. It's Sunday; you don't need to commute and you can ride for its own sake, so log off and do that now...and if you're reading this on a smart phone while cycling, shame on you...and watch out for that wall! 

Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Bike Expo New York 2013 is On

A few hours ago I was standing in line, waiting for Bike Expo New York 2013 to open. I struck up a conversation with a friendly woman waiting near me and quickly learned she was from Guinness World Records, and was attending the expo since Cabot - the great dairy co-op in Vermont - was attempting to create the world's largest smoothie.

You meet the most interesting people at Bike Expo New York.

(Yes, that is a stationary bike-powered blender, and even though I was appreciative of the little packets of cheese Cabot was handing out, I believe they should have been selling these things). 

Now I arrived early, determined to get my packet and wander throughout the stands, hoping to find a solution for my Great Cookie Problem (for those of you just tuning in: I need to bring an oatmeal raisin cookie from Zaro's with me on the Five Boro Bike Tour or it just isn't the same, and because of the new security restrictions I needed to find a bag large enough to fit a cookie but small enough not to draw the attention of security). 

I have to say I'm a little disappointed no vendor seemed to have marketed their smaller bags with that angle, but you will be pleased to know that there are some options. Vaya Bags, thankfully, is there again this year, and so is Green Guru (their bag forms the little dot at the end of my question mark; here it is again if you missed it).

It's also a lot of fun to see products, services and rides you never thought existed: Rockin Noggins makes fashionable helmet covers, and if I recalled my wife's helmet size and knew her taste a little better, I'd have picked one up right there. 

I also learned about a cool art project called My explanation won't do it justice, but I will tell you it has to do with photographs of bikes that have been made into painted works of art (none fit in the little backpack I brought with me). 

The 'wow' factor has to belong to High Roller, and they make…well…this is what they make. 

If you remember what it was like to have one of these when you were a kid, you're in luck, because the rear wheels are plastic so you can skid - presumably while making the tire-screeching sound with your teeth.

Also, you can see the new Citi Bikes for the bike share coming soon in NYC; I think these bikes are made by the same company that provides them to London and Boston for their bike shares, but New York City will very soon have one of its own…and not only is Bike 00001 on proud display, but you can test ride the bikes outside. 

Don't leave without food…a bit of a news: Larabar is not giving out their fun little bars during the tour this year; you have to visit the expo to get a taste. Also, Honey Stinger is there with some samples, including caffeinated cherry cola energy chews. 

I also entered a couple of folding bike raffles (unfortunately, not a Brompton) and learned about a new bike from Dahon, but you'll have to wait for Folding Bike Week 2013 for any new info on that…and if their new products are enough to make up for my disappointment in them for discontinuing my beloved Dahon Matrix. 

The Expo runs through today and into tomorrow, so I hope you have a chance to go even if you don't need to make your bike Five Boro Bike Tour 2013 compliant. I'll see you at the tour. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Is Your Bicycle Five Boro Bike Tour 2013 Compliant?

I am riding in Bike New York's TD Five Boro Bike Tour once again this year. But this year is different because it follows a few short weeks after the Boston Marathon bombing (if you want to donate to help the victims, be careful to avoid scam web sites and stick with ones like One Fund Boston which was created with the help of governor of Massachusetts Deval Patrick and Tom Menino, the mayor of Boston who has turned his city into a surprisingly nice place to ride).

As I was expecting, the bombing would affect how large, outdoor events were going to plan security, and since I had been gearing up for the Five Boro Bike Tour 2013, I wasn't surprised when a message was sent out last week, which contained the following:

As part of this security plan, you are not permitted to bring the following:
  • Backpacks
  • Saddlebags/panniers (front and rear)
  • Hydration packs    

You are permitted to bring the following:
  • Water bottles
  • Fanny packs (small waist packs)
  • Small bike frame bags (under seat and handlebar bags) 


That's a picture of the trunk box I had during last year's tour (and I took that picture at the Five Boro Bike Tour 2012 by holding the camera over my shoulder). 

Now this year I was really looking forward to debuting my Even Better Bike Box to the Five Boro Bike Tour community. I even made a special modification to it by substituting a Serfas bike light for the metal knob on the lid.

This new security rule - which I hope isn't around for the Five Boro Bike Tour 2014 - is going to cramp my style. But I do not want to give the police officers and Bike New York volunteers any reason to be worried (or stop my bike to search it) and, frankly, my style could probably use a little cramping. 

Now the issue I have now is I have to remove my Even Better Box and at the moment I have nothing to substitute it. Even the Better Bike Box made from a plastic Plano toolbox is too large. Fanny packs are allowed but if you know what a recumbent looks like the fanny pack is not the right kind of luggage. Underseat bags are permitted (can't mount one of those, either)

When I asked the Five Boro Bike Tour for a clarification on what I could bring (if baskets were allowed, for example) I was sent to the Five Boro Bike Tour 2013 security page. I recommend that you read it - and marvel at the amazing patience of Five Boro Bike Tour's Elizabeth Kiker - but the upshot is you can't have trunk bags, or any other kind of bags, if they are over 420 cubic inches (length times width times depth to figure this out).  You also can't break that rule with bags that are transparent, so you can forget about making a rucksack from a recalled pair of Lululemon yoga pants. 

No baskets are allowed, either, but you can have a rear rack with a little net or small bungee cords to hold your jacket (it will be a beautiful day but it is always cold at the start line). 

Plus - and this is the part that piqued my interest - you can apparently have multiple bags if they meet the size requirements. 

I am heading to Bike Expo New York this weekend to pick up my tour pack, but I'm also going to be on the hunt for possible solutions. For one, I'm hoping that Vaya Bags, which makes bike bags of all sizes from recycled materials in New York City, will be there. After all, one of the Five Things I Can't Live Without on the Five Boro Bike Tour is the tea saucer sized oatmeal raisin cookie from Zaro's. I have to know where to store that cookie or all may be lost. Stay tuned, follow Bike New York's new security rules, and we'll have a great tour this year. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.