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Concord-Pacer-SS-06

Concord Pacer S/S – My New Old Bike

I’ve had this vintage Concord Pacer S/S 10-speed road bike for a few years now, but I’m finally getting around to fixing it up. It’s a well crafted steel frame, with paint and emblems in decent shape. As far as I can tell, everything on it is original (except maybe the tires).

The biggest problem was the rear derailleur, which was mangled. So I decided to have some fun and convert it into a single speed. At this point, I’m content with keeping the rear cassette and crankset, shortening the chain and just taking off the derailleurs and cables. I have it on the big ring in front and the middle of 5 cogs in the back. I’m not sure what the tooth count is (haven’y counted), but the ratio is perfect for my commute. I’ve ridden it to work once so far and it felt pretty good, although the frame may be a bit on the small side.

I decided it would be smart to get new tires before I ride it again, given the cracking and separating tread of the old pieces of rubber currently on it (see the picture below!). I should also get new brake pads – again, aged rubber tends to not do too much to stop you when you get to a stop sign at the bottom of a hill going ~25 mph.

Here are some photos I took just after cleaning it up (click on the thumbnails for bigger pictures):

dirty bottom bracket

Dirty Bottom Bracket

I started hearing the metronome-like tick-tick-tick of the bearings down by my feet as I was biking to work the other day. The unmistakable sound of a bottom bracket gone bad. So I removed the bottom bracket to get the part number and measurements (how am I supposed to remember that it’s a Shimano ES25 with a shell width of 68mm and spindle length of 118mm?). Once I got the bottom bracket out, I was surprised the thing still spins at all.

dirty bottom bracket

It took me 10 minutes to clean it enough just so I could read the measurements inscribed on the shell. Lesson learned. Don’t be like me. Replace your bottom bracket before it gets this bad.

BMC-Demo-Day-02

BMC Demo Day at North Park

I’m hooked. I went to the BMC Demo Day put on by the fine folks at Top Gear Bicycle Shop agt North Park today. Instead of riding the trails, which I normally do at North Park, I wanted to try something different – a road ride. I’d only been on a road ride once before, many years ago. And even then it was on my mountain bike.

The fact is, I’ve always considered myself a mountain biker, not a roadie. I love single track, zipping between trees and over rocks and roots. Maybe it’s the adrenaline rush, or maybe it’s the escape into nature, but I’ve never had the urge to take to the road. I guess I thought compared to mountain biking, it would be kinda boring.

I was wrong.

I won’t go into the reasons why I’ve become so obsessed with road riding – I’ll just leave you with a few shots I grabbed after the ride.

Pittsburgh's first bike corral 3

Pittsburgh’s First Bike Corral

Pittsburgh’s first on-street bike corral was officially unveiled today just outside Over the Bar Bicycle Cafe. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl was on hand to give the “bikes are good for the city” speech in front of the overflowing row of bikes.

Pittsburgh's first bike corral 1

Pittsburgh's first bike corral 2

Pittsburgh's first bike corral 3

Pittsburgh's first bike corral 4

Pittsburgh's first bike corral 5

On-street bicycle corrals have proven to increase parking capacity while encouraging people to bike. Bike corrals increase parking capacity from 1-2 cars to 12-24 bikes – significantly raising the customer capacity in neighborhood business districts.

Pittsburgh has been making great strides in an effort to be more bike friendly, thanks to the efforts of organizations like Bike Pittsburgh. In 2010, Pittsburgh earned the Friendly Community Bronze status from the League of American Bicyclists and was named one of “America’s top 50 bike-friendly cities” by Bicycle Magazine, after being derided as one of the nation’s worst only 20 years ago.

By the end of 2012, Pittsburgh will boast 600 new bike racks, 22 miles of scenic riverfront trails and almost 40 miles of on-street bike lanes. Other efforts include the city’s first ever comprehensive transportation plan – MOVEPGH - which will be comprised of three main components, including a bicycle/pedestrian plan.

Endomodo App

The National Bike Challenge 2012

Check out this incredible program – The National Bike Challenge. This free program goes from May 1 to August 31, with the goal of getting 50,000 people nationwide to bike 10 million miles.

I know, that seems audacious. But it is completely doable, and it all starts with you. Go to the website, sign up, and start biking to work. No more excuses – 49,999 other people are going to be right there with you. There’s even an app for your smartphone (iPhone, Android or Blackberry) to help you keep track of your miles.

Endomodo App

Huge thanks to the League of American Bicyclists, Bikes Belong, Kimberly-Clark Corporation and Endomodo for putting the dollars and efforts into this program.

bikes at work

Several less cars this week

Riding to work in the winter (especially in Pittsburgh) can be a lonely journey. Not everyone is crazy dedicated enough to ride through the rain, snow, and single digit temps day in and day out. But Wednesday, I was pleasantly surprised as not one, not two but three of my coworkers joined me in the car-free commute.

bikes at work

This goes to show you that one person can make a difference. And if there are enough one-persons that can encourage their  coworkers to bike to work, then the world would be a better place. Changing the world… check.

The other great thing about working with others that ride to work is that going out for lunch is more fun. We biked the ~2 miles from our office to a local eatery (Double Wide Grill). Fortunately, our office and the restaurant are both very close to the Three Rivers Heritage Trail, so no worrying about traffic (just walkers, joggers, dogs and baby strollers).

biking to lunch

bike to lunch

Making Pittsburgh More Livable

MOVEPGH kickoff meetingPittsburgh is taking steps to be even more livable – starting with a comprehensive transportation plan aimed at getting more people walking and biking and less people driving. Go ahead, do your little happy dance.

I just got back from the kickoff meeting for MOVEPGH, which is the transportation portion of PLANPGH. If you haven’t heard about either of these, go to the sites for the full details, or read Bike Pittsburgh’s post about it.

Briefly, the purpose of MOVEPGH is to “provide a transportation network that is safe and efficient while meeting the city’s commercial, residential and recreational needs.  At its essence, MOVEPGH is a vision of the City’s transportation network for 2035.”

A big effort is being put on increasing the transportation options in a way that leads to a healthier, more vibrant and economically thriving community. And although Pittsburgh has already been named the most livable city in America (on several occasions), there is still a huge opportunity to improve. One area in particular that I’d love to see increase is the percentage of the city’s population that bikes to work, which is at 1.4%. That puts Pittsburgh at 53rd out of the 244 biggest US cities (by population). In comparison, Boulder Colorado is tops with 12.3%, followed by Eugene, Oregon at 10.8%. Portland, Oregon, a city that is more comparable to Pittsburgh, is at 5.8%. (2009 American Community Survey Commuter Statistics)

When it comes to pedestrians, Pittsburgh is already #2 in the country, with 14% of the people hoofing it to work.

From the PLANPGH site, “As more people move to Pittsburgh’s urban core, enhanced transit, walking and biking options will be required in order for improvements in safety, capacity and efficiency to be achieved.” There are tremendous opportunities for us to not only improve the cycling conditions and options in the city, but also for walking, transit, and yes – even driving.

It is essential for the success of this plan that you participate. Make your voice heard. Share your ideas, complaints, and opinions with the planning team – this is an opportunity that won’t come again for a very long time, and it will affect the city’s transportation decisions for the next 25 years. There will be additional opportunities for your input during a goal setting workshop (early March) and a series of 4 week-long workshops to be held between April and August. See the PLANPGH outreach events calendar for details, and follow their Facebook Page to stay on top of what’s happening.

Google Maps Biking Directions

Biking Directions in Google Maps

If you live or work in a large city, choosing the right path to take on your commute can be the difference in enjoying your daily ride and getting run over by a car. While there are some streets that are wide enough and maybe even have bike lanes, there are others that are narrow with no shoulders or have parked cars lining the curb. Trying to figure out the quickest, and safest path to work can be difficult, especially if you’re not familiar with the labyrinth of city streets, alleys, bike paths, rail trails, etc.

So how do you choose your route? If you’re in Pittsburgh, you’re lucky – you can download and print the Pittsburgh Bike Map from Bike Pittsburgh. For everyone else who’s not so lucky to live in the new Portland, you can use the biking directions feature of Google Maps.

“Google Maps has biking directions?” Not an uncommon question. The answer is yes. You can go to Google Maps, click on Get Directions, type in your starting and ending points and get driving directions. You probably already knew that. But have you noticed the little biker icon that you can click on? (See below)

Google Maps Biking Directions

Clicking on that biker dude will bring up directions geared for pedaling. They’ve been available since March 2010, but have recently been updated and improved. As of last week, a new legend feature provides better understanding of what the different colors on the bike maps symbolize.

  • Dark green is for dedicated trails and paths
  • Light green is for roads with dedicated lanes
  • Dotted green is for roads that are friendly for cyclists

Now when choosing your route to work (or wherever you’re going) it’s easier to see which roads are more cycling-friendly. That way, you can live to bike another day.

Your Turn

What resources do you use to plan your routes? Are there some great local organizations in your city that provide bike maps or something similar? Let me know in the comments!

I rode my bike today

I don’t know everything, but…

I rode my bike today

Image by BikePortland.org

I don’t know everything there is to know about bike commuting. Far from it – there’s a lot that I’m still finding out everyday (and sharing with you here!). Learning things the hard way isn’t always fun, like the time I forgot to check the radar before heading home when an impending storm was moving in. Now, if there’s even a small chance of rain, I’ll look out the window and check weather.com before leaving.

I much prefer to learn things the easy way. Fortunately, this interwebz thing makes it easy to learn from other people’s mistakes and experiences. As I find some good intel, I’ll be sure to share it here.

The first thing I’d like to share with you is Paul Dorn’s Bike Commuting Tips. This is a well written, entertaining summary of the top things to consider to make bike commuting easier for you. He covers topics like choosing a bike, choosing a route, parking and locks, bike maintenance, safety and more. He also has a blog that, although it hasn’t been updated in a couple months, does have some interesting material.

It’s Your Turn

I’d love to hear your tips – that’s what the comments are for! Let everyone know your top tip on bike commuting and we can all learn from each other.