Bicycle Tour

I have had the opportunity to enjoy short tours on local trails for just a couple of days, and also the around-the-world adventures. I have thoroughly enjoyed both kinds but there are challenges and thrills associated with both of them. Before you choose, I would recommend looking at different aspects of bicycle touring to decide which approach suits you the most. Either way, I can assure you that you are on an exciting and healthy path to exploring the challenging and scenic terrains of the world.

To start, you definitely need a bike along with some gear. However, the equipment including the clothing largely depends on the nature of the trip you are planning. Once you have planned the tour and purchased the equipment, you need to figure out how much money you want to spend, how much time you have available for the tour and the effort you want to expend. I will try to provide you as much useful information as possible so you could make the right choices when you visit the bike store. Click here to visit website for bike and accessories selection.

Choosing the Tour:

When I first went on a bicycle tour, I didn't pay much attention to the planning part, particularly one that involved exploring all the available types of touring in the UK. Much to my surprise, I later discovered that I could have saved a lot of money had I been more meticulous. Typically, there are four types of tours you can choose from:

  • Credit card touring.
  • Self-supported touring.
  • Vehicle supported touring and organized touring.

Credit card tours are meant for cyclists who can carry their own clothing and cycling gear but pay for accommodations, meals and supplies while they are travelling. These tours involve less hassle but are expensive and offer little preparation for injuries and breakdowns.

Self-supported tours, as the name suggests, require the cyclists to manage everything on their own from carrying equipment and clothing to making stops whenever and wherever for food. You have all the freedom and low expenses, however, you do have to carry a lot of gear and put more effort into planning.

Vehicle support tours involve keeping a supporting vehicle along for storing supplies and equipment. Cyclists don't have to worry about keeping gear with them and they can travel farther. However, it is expensive because somebody has to drive and the vehicle cannot go everywhere the bicycle can.

Lastly, organised tours are managed and run by commercial service. Some provide full services addressing every single detail of the tour, while others provide just basic services which include accommodation assistance and route planning. These tours are convenient, great for beginners and involve less hassle. Additionally, you get to meet new people and make friends.

Deciding on the size of group

I mostly choose short and solo tours, mostly full day rides or just afternoon rides. I also really enjoy overnight solo tours as I get to enjoy the peace and serenity of night. However, I wouldn't recommend overnight rides for novices as safety can be an issue.

Large groups consisting of more than six riders is a lot of fun in my opinion. However, its not very easy to organise such tours and usually only experienced cyclists agree to them. Most of the times you have to organise them yourself and prepare for a number of them to back out at the last hour. For novices, small groups consisting of two to six people are ideal. You don't have to worry about being alone and you have company to help around in case of a breakdown.

While choosing a group, make sure you take into account factors like interests of cyclists such as the kind of terrain they like, scenery, attractions and side trips. Do not forget to consider their cycling skills as well. Depending on the route you select, cycling challenges could be different and you have to make sure the cyclists are capable of handling weather, traffic and terrain.

Challenges

Most of the challenges a cyclist could face cannot be determined until he actually comes across them. My experience has provided me a lot of insight and tours have become more convenient over time. Some of the problems I have faced over the years include:

  • I didn't plan the amount of mileage for each day before I left for a tour. More mileage usually means you have less time for making stops and sightseeing particularly if you already have a stopover point in mind for the day. I think it is very important to calculate the mileage beforehand.
  • Do some research in advance: Before leaving for a particular place, go over the Internet and find out where the closest bike repair shops are located. Also find out the address of general stores and telephone booths. Despite your best planning, there always could be an emergency.
  • When choosing a route, know where each tunnel and bridge is located. You must also know where a busy stretch of road is coming ahead and where a construction zone is located.
  • Know your priority. If you want to practice your riding skill, it is best to stick to the nice tracks and roads. If scenery is your major concern, you may have to stick to secondary roads which are not always well maintained.
  • If your tour is overnight or a multi-day tour, you have to figure out where you will be staying. Don't try to be adventurous since it can back fire after a long hectic day. You must consider your group’s expectations, budget, gear and experiences.
  • Certain times of year are busier than usual, for instance, the holiday season or summer holidays. These times can be potentially more dangerous and you may not be able to get a nice accommodation. Keep this consideration in mind.
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Night Rides in Mexico

Crazy Thursdays

Many nights I’ve seen people go flying off the handlebars, but I’m the only one of our crew to have been bitten by a dog. They bark from rooftops or behind fences. The thinner strays fearfully watch you fly by. When the barkers do chase you, they are usually easy enough to get away from. But one night, furiously pedaling away from four snarling dogs, I felt the sharpness clamp down on my ankle.

It wasn’t much of a bite but bled into my socks and was enough for my girlfriend to insist that I get a rabies booster (I got bit earlier that year and got the rabies vaccination).

Besides crashes and dogs on our night rides in and around Toluca, Mexico, you also have to contend with bad drivers, potholes and speed bumps. But everything else about these Thursday nights is great. At 8 p.m., just as the sun starts setting in central Mexico, between 5 and 15 of us meet in the zocalo, or center square, where the cathedral and government buildings are. Toluca is a mid-sized Mexican city, the highest in Mexico and the capital of the State of Mexico. Our night rides take us through the surrounding towns and into the mountains.

Right now is the rainy season here, which reminds me a bit of Vancouver, where I commuted every day in the winter rain for five years. But here the rain comes down in sheets, soaking us to the bone and making the cars even more dangerous.

These rides also remind me of Critical Mass, except on a much smaller scale and of course we follow the traffic signals, at least when cars are around.

But more than anything, these bold rides through the Mexican night are a great way to explore the city in a way that wouldn’t be safe alone. We have a great crew of people from many ages and walks of life, but we all have one thing in common – we love cycling enough to meet every Thursday, rain or shine, and ride for two hours into unknown territory.

Why I wear a helmet

Safety and responsibility in a car-dominated city

Why do I wear a helmet on my bike?

The short answer: because I'm rather attached to my skull.

The longer answer: so one of my friends was talking recently about how if he were going to build his own city, he'd design the roads exclusively for bikes. OK, so maybe there'd be infrastructure in place to allow some kind of ambulance to get around (high-powered medical hovercrafts, anyone?), but for the most part, this would be a bikes-only metropolis. No cars, no traffic, no smog, no accidents. Air pumps and patch kits on every corner, the city would throb with the gentle clicks of people pushing pedals.

Unfortunately, the real cities in the real world are designed for cars. No matter how bike-friendly a major city claims to be, automobiles are still its primary infrastructural focus. The car is the primary concern of the city planner. Pedestrians and cyclists are just afterthoughts, vulnerable little commuters that engineers have to try not to endanger. 

In big cities like Chicago, cyclists vie for street space alongside cars, SUVs and 18-wheelers. Sometimes there are designated bike lanes, sometimes there aren't. While cycling has certainly picked up momentum as a trendy mode of transportation, cars still rule the road. Many drivers don't think to look out for the two-wheeled commuters, and cyclists are struck and killed all the time. 

That's why it disturbs me when only about half the cyclists I see on a given day have helmets on. Because biking is still essentially a fashion accessory for many people, they don't see why they should contaminate the look with something as dorky as concern for physical safety. So they cruise along on their fixies, hair flowing free, mowing through red lights and stop signs. Some of them will die that way, some of them won't. It all depends on who's driving near them on any given day.

A free-spirited disregard for longevity has always been en vogue (smoking is far more of a fashion than a vice these days), but city bikers need to consider the effects of their aesthetic on others. Will a newcomer to the city be more reluctant to buy a helmet along with her bike if she sees all her neighbors biking bare-headed? What about a college student or teenager? Lulling the impressionable into a false sense of safety by forsaking the helmet is dangerous--and all it takes is for you to be seen without your helmet on.

So yes, I value my skull. And until that bike utopia becomes reality, I'm going to play it safe and strap my helmet on. Because it's not just my skull that's at stake--it's the skulls of everyone in the community around me who chooses to get around on two wheels. 

 

The Green Lane Project: Bringing Better Bike Infrastructure to Big Cities

New initiative seeks to improve urban sustainability by building safer bike lanes

I like to bike. A lot. It gets me outside, gets me exercising and enjoying the sunshine, all while letting me move quickly from point A to point B. It's cheaper than any kind of motorized transportation within a certain distance radius and it makes me feel freer than anything else. There's nothing quite like feeling the wind whip your hair as you're cruising down even the smallest hill. You look at cars and you laugh at the enclosed little pollution-spewing boxes. You power your own wheels. It feels great.

It's also terrifying if you live in a city as packed with activity as mine. With cars, pedestrians, other bikes, and poorly-maintained roads, Chicago can be a scary place for a cyclist. And keeping it that way isn't going to encourage more people to quit the gas habit and take to the pedals--something that this automobile-clogged metropolis desperately needs to start doing. 

So what's the solution? Better bike infrastructure. Most of Chicago's bike lanes, if present at all, are narrow, cracked paths that do little to separate different kinds of traffic. The Green Lane Project seeks to change that. It's about to become operational in six cities around the U.S., building wide, protected, highly visible bike lanes. 

The project will implement an entire system of bike transport never before seen in these cities. Instead of faint painted lines on the roads, bike lanes will become bold green pathways. They'll be twice as wide to allow bikers of different speeds to pass each other safely. And there will be physical barriers, where possible, between bike lanes and car lanes.

This is how you build sustainable cities. Hiking gas taxes only does so much; people who prefer the safety and comfort of their own cars will still shell out the extra dollars. But building a culture of bicycling that's reflected in the very infrastructure of the city will change the way people think about transportation. It'll help people think of bikes as an "official" form of traffic. It'll encourage those previously too frightened of traffic to bike to pick up a three-speed and start learning how to move forward on it. This is essential work and I'm so glad it's finally being done in the city I call home.

For more information and to see if your city will be included in the initial round of the Green Lane Project, read the mission statement here.

The Best Bicycle Songs

Riding a bicycle is something that some of us take for granted, but it is a fun privilege and a learned skill. Many singers and songwriters have enjoyed the many pleasures of bike riding and have been so inspired by their rides or observing others ride that they composed some fantastic songs from a wide variety of genres about bikes and bicycle riding. 
 
Perhaps the first song that may come to mind is “Bicycle Built for Two,” an old classic song that was originally released in 1892. It’s charming and will likely bring a big smile to your face. 
Pink Floyd, the psychedelic rock band, recorded a song called “Bike” from their very first album that was titled “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.” It’s both a song with a story and one that’s a bit abstract; the song’s narrator shows a girl his bike as well as a homeless mouse, a cloak, and even some gingerbread men.
 
Queen recorded the fantastic “Bicycle Race.” “Midnight Bicycle Mystery” is a ditty by Deerhoof. “Bike Ride to the Moon” is an especially fun and fantastical song by The Dukes of Stratosphear. An old love ballad that’s called “Les Bicyclettes de Belsize” by Englebert Humperdinck is definitely worth a listen. You may also want to check out “Bicycle” by Livingston Taylor and “Roll Me Away” by Bob Seger. 
 
Now there are also some songs written about riding a motorcycle than many cyclists embrace as their own as well. These songs include “Ride Away” by Roy Orbison; “Bad Motor Scooter” by Montrose; and “Cool Rider” by Michelle Pfeiffer from “Grease 2.” In fact, the last song could most definitely be seen as a biking song. Michelle is enchanting in the scene of the film and sings longingly for “a rider that’s cool.”
 

Lance Armstrong's Retirement: Biking and Beyond

Lance Armstrong just may be the most famous American cyclist. He has so many accomplishments that they would not fit in one article. Among his accolades are his record wins at the Tour de France. He was a four-time recipient of the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year award and also named four times as the United States Olympic Committee Sportsman of the Year.  
 
According to BBC News, Lance announced his official retirement from competitive cycling almost a year ago on February 16, 2011, but that is his second retirement. He first retired in 2005 before returning to the sport in 2009. Fans hope that he will once again return, but also look forward to his other endeavors. He has a big focus on helping others who face cancer as he once did, and he also is devoted to his family.
 
Outside of cycling, Lance has the Lance Armstrong Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides support to people whose lives are impacted by cancer. He’s the father of five children. He had three with his first wife, Kristin Richard; they are Luke David, Isabelle Rose, and Grace Elisabeth. They divorced in the mid-1990s. He later had two children with his current girlfriend, Anna Hansen, after it was believed Armstrong could no longer have children because of his bout with testicular cancer. Nevertheless, the two conceived and had two children naturally: Maxwell Edward and Olivia Marie. 
 
He stated that his children were the inspiration for his motivation to win the Tour de France a record of seven times in a row. In fact, About.com reported that he stated of his kids, “First and foremost, I think the biggest inspiration in my life now and the biggest inspiration to this decision is my children. They are the ones that make it easier to suffer, but they are the ones who have told me that it's time to come home. And so without them, none of this would be possible."
 

Bike Racing Tips

When a cyclist decides to take on the additional challenge of competing in a race, he takes on a lot of additional responsibilities as well. Whether you are competing as a cyclist as a portion of a triathlon or as a focused cycling race itself, it takes proper preparation and training to safely race the right way. 
 
You need to follow a training program that gets the go-ahead from your doctor. Don’t simply search for a program online, as anyone can place a training schedule on the Internet that may not be healthy or even thorough enough to prepare you for race day. Look in books or blogs from accredited trainers, established cyclists, or fitness professionals for training programs, or you may opt to join a local training group if you prefer not to cycle alone. Just make sure to first get a full physical to make sure you are in proper health for such a huge endeavor, and clear any program with your health care professional.
 
Keep a journal of your progress in order to gauge how prepared you are for the race. There are a few training journals on the market where all you have to do is input miles, speed, and other data points in a new template for each day. Don’t give up on other important exercises to only do cycling. Alternately, you can also just get a cheap notebook or a beautiful writing journal, whichever you prefer, and keep track of your daily progress on your own. Be sure to write how many miles you biked, the speeds you kept, the time of day of your bike ride, the weather, comments on the terrain, and how you felt before, during, and after the workout. 
 

Is Recycling Your Used Bike the Right Thing For You?

If you are an avid cyclist, chances are that you will go through more than a few bikes in your lifetime. When you are ready to retire your bike, you don’t want it to just go to the garbage dump. Instead, be kind to the environment and others; recycle the bike, and you may even get a nice tax break for yourself.
 
Observe the bike that you want to recycle. Does it appear to have any mold or overly dirty areas that make it unusable? Are there any sharp edges on it from wearing and tear or misuse? If those things happen to a bike, it sometimes is unsalvageable. There may be no way to recycle it except perhaps having it sold cheaply for reusable parts.
Consider whether you have any attachment to the bike. If it was a gift or perhaps is otherwise sentimental to you (perhaps you won your first race in it), you may want to hang on to it. If you opt to do that, you can still recycle it in a very cool way: repurpose it. Go to a fabric store and get a good, strong fabric. You may opt to hire a seamstress or simply buy seat cushion replacements to match a decor of a room in your house. Place it on a stand and use it as a stationery bike if it’s still in wheeling condition! 
 
It’s only when a bike is in usable condition that it’s appropriate to recycle it, just as long as you have no extreme emotional attachment to the bicycle in question. 

Cities Stand To Save Billions From A Bike-Friendly Commuter Culture

A new study by University of Wisconsin shows significant health, air quality, and emergency savings in bike-friendliness.

Biking has been held up as the ideal alternative to American commuter culture for decades. European cities that rely much more heavily on bicycle traffic have healthier populations, cleaner air, and more sustainable infrastructure. People that use bicycles to commute to work, or for trips five miles or shorter, have significantly improved cardiovascular health, and are breathing cleaner air from less automobile pollution. However, for municipal leaders around the country, public health and environmental sustainability are often not enough to make large changes to city infrastructure in the midst of a recession. However, a new study linking increases in bike commuters to major decreases in cities’ bottom lines may turn some heads in City Hall.

According to a new study by the University of Wisconsin published in Environmental Health Perspectives, looked at the economic, as well as the health benefits of a public that uses bicycles for short trips and commutes rather than automobiles. This study came on the heels of the statistic that 70% of Americans’ car trips are shorter than two miles. In other words, only one in four times that a person has to go somewhere in a car, the trip is two miles or more. If you’re not shocked by that information (and how incredibly lazy we’ve become as a car culture!) you might be to learn that the study found that simply by switching from cars to bikes, cities can save billions annually. That’s billions of dollars… with a “b”.

The study look at 11 metropolitan cities in the northern Midwest, taking into account data on air pollution, healthcare costs, mortality rates, public fitness, and frequency and severity of car accidents. The study ranked each sampled region based on economic savings from switching from primarily car commuter cultures to ones in which everyone made trips of 5 miles or shorter on a bicycle instead. The results were a net social healthcare benefit from improved air quality of $3.5 billion, and $3.8 billion in savings from reductions in car accidents, mortality rates, and other miscellaneous healthcare issues related to sedentary lifestyle.

To make the study’s findings even more dramatic, it should be mentioned that the authors only considered Midwesterners biking in fair weather, figured to be roughly four months out of the year. One could only imagines the increased savings to cities in more temperate climates where the savings might be projected year round.

If public health benefits, higher air quality, fewer traffic accidents, and a lower mortality rate aren’t enough to convince city leaders and commerce boards to aggressively pursue a bike-friendly city agenda, perhaps the potential to save millions of dollars is.

Bicycle Safety in Seattle

Why are there more accidents now?

 

I once wrote a few weeks ago that bicyclists were a menace to society--the reverse is actually probably more true. A few weeks before that, I wrote that the most offensive bicyclists were the vegan-donut-eating coke-snorting bicyclists. Because they just are. Today, I came across an interesting article discussing how to make the streets safer for all kinds of bicyclists. 

The idea of a “War on Cars” comes from the lack of safe riding spots for Seattleites wanting to ride around town without being fearful for their lives. The portion of the manifesto that centers on bicyclist and pedestrian safety has some fairly staggering statistics regarding the number of fatalities caused by traffic accidents. According to THIS ARTICLE in The Stranger:

 

 Between 2000 and 2009 in King County, 19 cyclists and 238 pedestrians lost their lives to cars, while injuries sent another 423 cyclists and 1,656 pedestrians to our hospital wards for two days or more after being hit by cars.

 

To combat the problem and to make the streets safer, bicycle safety advocates are recommending some changes to the streets in Seattle that already have bicycle lanes. They are proposing, for example, to slow down traffic to below twenty miles an hour on streets with bike lanes. Other ideas are creating bicycle-only streets. 

 

As it stands now, the roads are very crowded with bicycles, cars, and even sometimes pedestrians and parked cars, which leaves very little room for navigation, especially when people are in a hurry. 

 

The number of collisions is increasing at a rapid pace, but again, it’s hard to say exactly why. There are arguments on both sides; some claim that there are too many bicyclists who fail to follow the letter of the law. Others say that the reverse is true and that the vehicles on the road encroach on the space of the bicyclists. The Stranger believes that 

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