Score one for the LBS

This afternoon I converted my single speed 29er karate monkey into a single speed winter commuter. I needed some esoteric parts in order to accomplish this.

After many attempts in the past of trying to get non performance parts at both of our LBS I typically just order from online. I get exactly what I want typically in about 48 hours with no hassle.

Today was no different. I selected everything I needed on the web and was about to hit submit. At that point I decided for some reason to give the LBS another chance. I went to Bike Line on Main Street. They actually had everything I was looking for. Even a very specific headset (wanted interchangeable parts).

Not only was I impressed, but I was able to finish my conversion today. Score one for the LBS.

Posted in Giving up a car, Making Things Better | Leave a comment

56 weeks later, a conclusion to my experiment

It has been almost a year and one month since I started this experiment. My hypothesis on September 30th 2010 was that my family could go down to one car with little to no sacrifice. This turned out to be true. By mid November I had already decided it was going to work out and started preparing for the day I sold my car.

The results:

The big result is that in July of 2011 we officially went down to one car.

My health is significantly improved. I have ridden 2472 miles in this 13 months that I would have not ridden before. I have burned an additional 160,000 calories that I would have not have burned before. This has resulted in the loosing of 41 pounds. I am now just 3 pounds over my weight from 2007 when I was in my best shape ever. I feel more awake when I get to work in the morning. I feel happier.

My wallet is also significantly heavier. First off just by not driving I’ve saved about $2,004. Take on top of that that we actually did sell my car. That puts me way ahead. What I have done to keep track of this is simple. Any money I would have spent on gas, oil changes, insurance and other incidentals I put in a separate savings account. From this account I paid for all of my transportation costs. These include donations to bike advocacy groups, parts for my bikes, clothing to deal with the weather, any Zip Car or rental cars, public transportation passes, etc. I even paid for my Metrofiets cargo bike out of this fund. All this and I’m still way way ahead and the account continues to grow.

I am much more relaxed. I still frequently drive a car when I’m with my wife and daughter. I now find myself driving way slower than I used to. I stick pretty close if not exactly to the speed limit on all non-limited access roads. I didn’t notice this at first. I first became aware of this sometime in the spring. I don’t know if its because I’m more aware of the danger to vulnerable users or if my mind just slowed down. Today I drove up old Baltimore Pike going the speed limit. I noticed that not only was I catching up to every driver like a yoyo when they hit red lights, but I noticed that the red lights are timed exactly for the speed limit. All the people in front of me kept stopping while I was able to catch right back up with them and never had to hit my brakes.

What I learned:

Riding in the winter is way better than the summer. You can always put more clothes on to stay warm, but you can only take so many off to keep cool.

Chains suck! When it gets wet out I’m cleaning/oiling my chain almost every other day. Once I went a week without and links started to seize. Search out for belt drive bikes when looking for a new bike. My Metrofiets is belt drive and I love it.

Simple bikes are best, not expensive ones. Standard derailleurs while good are not the way to go if reliability is key. Go with internal gears if you need gears or single speed if you don’t.

Disc brakes blow rim breaks away in bad weather. When looking for a new bike avoid rim brakes if possible.

Backpacks/messenger bags are ‘OK’ in the winter months, but avoid them in the spring/summer/fall. Try to find a bike mounted option.

A folding bike is the way to go. I believe that most people could do just fine with a folding bike. I upgraded to the Cadillac version before this experiment, but the folders by Dahon are reasonably priced with solid components if the Brompton isn’t worth it to you or if you don’t use it on public transportation much. Either way the bikes ride well, function well, carry loads well and pack small. The Brompton allows me to be flexible. I can take it on the train to work and then ride home. I can take it on the train to work and get a ride home with anybody, because it fits in the trunk. I can ride it to work and take a number of different buses home, even ones that aren’t really close to home. You get the point. It goes anywhere I do.


My family is now Car Lite!

In my opinion and I think my wife’s too, we have not made any sacrifice. There have been about a half dozen times in the last 13 months in which we actually needed two cars at the exact same time. Each of those times we either rented a Zip Car or used Enterprise’s “pick you up” service and rented from them. The expense of those times is tiny compared to the constant savings.

It does force you to think a little bit more about your route, planning, how you are going to get to places on time, etc. I don’t see this as a bad thing. It makes me weigh what I really need to-do where I really need to go, etc. It has helped me sort out my over commitment to various activities, this has also lead to a different improvement on my quality of life. As you can see in my previous post I think the time with Elie is of better quality too. We are more connected on the bike than in the car. We also take more trips as a family, rather than each going our own way.

All in all its been a very positive result all around. I recommend anyone in a similar situation to give it a try to see how it works for them. The key is that you have to make it more difficult to use your car than to not use it. That is the only true way to try it day in and day out. Otherwise its too easy to cheat. 🙂

I challenge you to give it a try. See how it goes for a week, a month, a year. After a while you just loose touch with how long its been, as I did when I missed my year mark. 🙂

Happy riding.

Posted in Giving up a car | 3 Comments

Elie in the Car vs Elie in the Metrofiets

We hadn’t been able to use the Metrofiets much in the recent weeks since we were trying to keep Elie warm and out of the weather to kick the cold/ear infections she has gotten. Now that they seem solidly gone we went back out a bunch this weekend.

What I noticed most was how much more connected we where on the bicycle rather than in the car. On the bicycle I can see her and know immediately if she is happy or not. If she is not I can pick up right away why not. Usually her toy fell in the box to the point she couldn’t reach it. She can also look up at me and instantly know I’m there.

In the car she can’t see me. I can’t see her. There is no connection there. We might as well be in different rooms. If something is bothering her I have to stop and un-belt myself to see what is wrong. There is no way to quickly triage the unhappiness.

I think next year will be the year of the bike. This year we have been limited to trips of about less than 3 miles comfortably. We can and have gone a little farther, but her happiness is touch and go at 3 miles. Next year when she can communicate more it will be awesome. I’m really looking forward to it.

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Pictures of the metrofiets

I’ve had the bike a few days shy of two months. It has seen alot of use in the two months. I’ll write a detailed review within a few weeks. For now please enjoy some pictures and video.

Posted in Giving up a car | 1 Comment

The death of an old friend

The city of Newark Delaware suffered the passing of a long time friend in September.

The last local hardware store in Newark officially closed early in September. I had personally been using this hardware store since 1997. The owner was friendly. The staff was friendly. They recognized my entire family. They had those old school bins that you could pick through and find the exact screw you needed. There was always a helpful staff person there.

Not anymore. The collective residents of this town killed the last local hardware store. The town should be arrested for murder.

When I emailed the owner Rocky he was very appreciative off the kind and sad words I had when I realized the departure. I had not needed to build things or fix things for a few weeks so the store closed in the 3 weeks I had not visited. His response was predictable.

The store was able to survive through the building of a Lowes about 4 miles away. Then a year or so later a Home Depot about 2 miles away. The traffic to the little hardware store had dipped after these two stores. Yet the little hardware store continued to experiment with hours and was able to adapt to this new environment, unfortunately minus the comfort it may have experienced in the past.

This lack of any comfort level is what sank the store once the giant Elkton Road project began. The hardship of this construction to the local car driving community had the drivers steering away from the store. This was just enough to push the little hardware store over the cliff to the abyss.

We should all be ashamed. Now we are forced to not only shop at home depot for even little items, but we’ve lost a place to get screens fixed, knives sharpened, etc. We have lost the store that knew who you were when you walked in. Yes there are other places, but those other places are 10 plus mile drives.

What does this have to-do with biking you ask?

What good does it do to bike for transportation if all the useful local stores that are easy and fun to bike to close up? There is no place in Newark Delaware where you can buy a bolt that is easy to bike to.

Support your local stores. Avoid big box stores when at all possible. Avoid the giant chain restaurants when possible. Support your local community to keep it stronger. Our choices as shoppers to go-to the big box stores have ended up hurting the lively hood of our neighbor Rocky and all the employees that used to greet you with a smile and the kind words of “Can I help you”. Please don’t let it happen again.

Posted in Random Thoughts | 1 Comment