Daffodils and Biking

Daffodils are about exuberance and on a good day that’s what biking is about too. My Brompton after exuberantly taking the longer way home after a quick errand, agrees.IMG_0001

Consulting Commute Via Brompton

My commute is very different now, since my transformation from over 30+ years working full-time to becoming my own boss. As in, most days, I walk across the hall. The up side is the huge quality of life gain. That 3+ hours per day commuting is a thing of the past. One down side is that if I don’t prioritize getting out for a ride, the day can slip away with no bike time at all.

This Tuesday was a deviation from my new routine, with a full day meeting in DC. I decided to build a bike ride into the day, doing my old multi-modal commute with a new twist. This time I would use my Brompton, as I no longer have the bikes I used to use at either end of the train ride.

Acting on this decision involved overcoming several fears:

  1. That the Brompton would be too heavy, causing me to fall going up or coming down the train’s steep steps.
  2. That the train would be crowded and I wouldn’t be able to find a spot to sit or stand with bike.
  3. That I’d have trouble making the very steep hills at the end of the home-bound trip.

As it turned out, there were 2 surprises, one pleasant, one unpleasant, two unfounded fears and one that was dead accurate.

The pleasant surprise: there has been progress apace with the Halethorp MARC station renovations. There’s a raised platform! And a ramp! Happy days.

That took care of worry #1 for the southbound trip. As to worry #2, at 6:30 on a June morning, the train wasn’t crowded. No problem finding a suitable spot for me and the bike.

The unpleasant surprise: the 1-hour delay on the trip in. When we finally arrived it was at one of the low platforms (see fear #1). Turned out I am strong enough to carry the bike down the steps from the train. No problem.

I parked in the office building’s great indoor bike parking. The Brompton looks quite happy here, doesn’t it? Though if doing this again, I would bring the bike in with me. That would let me lighten my bag since I wouldn’t need the lock.

As one of the first passengers boarding the express train home, it was easy to find a good spot. This time, there were no delays. So what about fear #3? To my chagrin, I had to hop off the bike and walk for a few minutes. I can’t blame the bike, as it’s got 6 gears and is intended for hillier and longer rides. Was it due to my lingering leg soreness from the previous weekend’s rides? The somewhat heavily-loaded C-bag? Both of these things? No matter, it was the least problematic of the 3 fears.

Bottom line: I would do it again for occasional trips to DC. I can’t see myself commuting this way on a daily basis, but then I don’t have to. Do you do regular multi-modal commutes with a folding bike? What do you find to be the pros and cons of commuting this way?

Brompton Goes to Work

The Brompton and I rode to CCBC today for my Saturday a.m. class. It’s a short yet rather hilly ride, this being Baltimore County. My 6-speed Brompton handled it fine. The ride was the easy part. The challenge was finding an unlocked entrance to the building and then locating the classroom which turned out to be on the gym’s ground level.  It worked out, though. With the help of an early-arriving student, we got the room set up quickly. The 2-hour session flew by

I chose to bring the Brompton, figuring  it into a corner of the classroom with no worries about finding a secure spot to lock up. I had no problems bringing it in — my “cute” bike was much admired by staff and students. It turned out two of the students were cyclists, too. The C-bag nicely held my teaching materials, water bottle, cell phone and wallet with room to spare. It was a sunny, windy cool morning, so I wore my very Brompton-appropriate tweed Sheila Moon jacket, which I scored on sale at an NAHB show a couple of years ago.  Had it warmed up enough, I could have folded it into my bag for the ride home. No need though, as  it was still chilly for the return trip. I believe the Brompton will be my ride of choice for commuting to this class. 

Bringing Brompton to LA

For the next 8 months or so I’ll be travelling pretty regularly to LA for business. This trip I tried out 2 new things: 1) Staying at a B and B that’s in downtown LA, a mile away from the glitter, glitz and glamour part and 2) Bringing my Brompton along.

The Inn at 657

Staying here is like staying at a relative’s comfy old house. There’s a slight musty smell in the sitting room, as if the furnishings have spent time in storage (or maybe a junk shop).  A snack room is outfitted with a fridge and microwave. Upstairs are 5 bedrooms, each with a private bath, complete with tub and shower. My room is clean and smells fresh. The furniture is old and attractive the kind your aunt might have had if she had enough money for quality furniture but not enough for fancy. Extra framed pictures are sitting on the floor , as if that imaginary aunt had more pictures than she knew what to do with and just left them sitting there until she figured it out. After a while she got used to them there and she never did anything more with them.

The B&B comes complete with a chef who fixes a delicious breakfast, made to your preferences. You sit at a dining room table downstairs with any other guests who have chosen the same breakfast time that you selected. Options are 7:30 and 9:30 on weekdays.

Patsy, the owner, accommodates special food requests, and suggested I keep my Brompton and it’s travel case downstairs in the snack room. She also steered me toward some nearby options for neighborhood restaurants, and cautioned me to be careful as LA drivers “aren’t used to cyclists.”

I like this B&B. It is comfortable, quiet, conveniently located and provides individualized service. It’s likely that I will stay here again.

Biking By Brompton in Downtown LA

Travelling

This trip was the first test of my Brompton’s hard sided travel case. I sold the soft B-bag when I found that using it practically dislocated my shoulder. Ok, I am exaggerating. A lot. But it did hurt my shoulder and back.

The hard sided case is more expensive and definitely heavier than the soft bag, two minuses for it.  A third minus: it’s awkward to pick up and has just one handle. Another on one of the sides would be useful. One more to be aware of: it somehow chewed up the back of my Brooks saddle. Lesson: cover the saddle with something protective.  The pluses are 1) it holds the folded bike with a bit of room to spare. You could put clothes or accessories in it; 2) you can roll it comfortably and easily; 3) it meets airline’s checked bag size and weight limits; and 4) I imagine it gives the bike more protection.  So, an equal number of plusses and minuses. For me the most important is the fact its not hurting my shoulder or back.

Knowing I would be commuting on the bike, I used my C-bag as a carry-on. It is surprisingly comfortable to carry and fits well under an airplane seat. I brought lights in case of nighttime riding, which hasn’t happened as I am on Eastern time still and exhausted at night. I didn’t bring a helmet because there was no good way to carry one.

Oh, and I flew Southwest, perhaps the only airline that doesn’t charge when you check a bag. Also the only airline I have flown in recent years that does this astonishingly civilized thing. If your flight is delayed, they hold the connecting flight until you arrive. I ❤ Southwest.

Bicycling

This was my first time to commute by bike while away from home. In a word, it was great. The C-bag easily held what I needed for the day: some papers, a Macbook Air, my small purse, a bottle of water, my phone.  I set out at about 9:15 a.m. for the 2.5 mile ride to the office.  I had chosen not to bring a lock on the trip, reasoning the bike would come inside with me if I stopped anywhere. Had I wanted to pack the lock, it would have fit in the case just fine. I would have padded it carefully to keep it from damaging the bike.

My Brompton got admired twice along the way, once by a woman who walked up to ask me about my “cute little bike” and once by another cyclist who thought my bike was “cool.” I saw all sorts of bikes on my ride but no other folders.

Rush hour was over so traffic was relatively light. At times I had signed bike routes, at others marked lanes just for bikes, or for “Buses only, bikes ok.”  Each of these pieces of bike infrastructure was choppy though and tended to start and stop abruptly.  At the final half mile, my until then flat commute showed some spirit and became quite hilly. Thus I arrived at my destination sweaty and breathing hard.

The ride home at 5 pm was bit harder, as I was in the thick of rush hour. It turned out I couldn’t retrace my route exactly as Figueroa, the street I’d ridden in on was one way in the wrong direction, something I had not even noticed in the morning. Intrepidly I rode to the next street and turned right on it. I have no sense of direction whatsoever and so hoped LA is laid out with its streets perpendicular and parallel. Luckily for me it is, at least in that area. I eventually rejoined Figeuroa, cleverly doing that where the street was most congested. Signed bike route or not, I didn’t feel safe and so for about 1/4 of a mile I rode slowly on the sidewalk.

Later on I walked the short distance (less than half a mile)  to a nearby cafe. Customers had brought their full size bikes inside, so I certainly could have brought the Brompton.

This is a short trip. I return home tomorrow afternoon, and since I depart from the office, I will have to take a cab to transport me and my luggage. It was a bit of hassle to bring the bike, but worth it even for just a little riding. Next time I come I will be here for a day longer and will certainly bring the Brompton along. It was a fun way to commute, and it got me a little exercise as well.

 

 

 

Business Trip with Brompton

I’ve been in Chautauqua County for the past four days on a business trip. This is my first time bring my Brompton on an airplane.  It’s come along for some overnight trips that were in driving distance and that went very easily.  After much thought and some worrying, I had previously bought the Brompton B bag to use for air travel.  While part of me feared that it was not enough protection, another part realized it must be ok. Brompton recommends the B bag for this use, with some additional padding. Surely they wouldn’t recommend it if the bikes got destroyed when packed in it, right? I thought the B bag would be lighter and also easier to deal with when empty than a hard-sided case. For those who would rather have a hard-sided case, while Brompton presently does not have one, NYCE does.  Here’s what it was like using the B-bag:

Packing

Sunday I packed the bike, which involved just folding it normally. I also  removed the clamp that holds the stem together and storing it in the bag’s pocket. A video on the NYCE site advises doing this with all the clamps, as they can get bent. I thought just one of them looked vulnerable. I used a combination of bubble wrap and clothes to provide additional padding for the bike.

There’s a lot of extra room in the bag . My cycling clothes fit easily. I probably could have packed all my clothes in it, but didn’t want to take the chance of getting grease on my work clothes, so I also brought a small carry on.

Packed and Ready

Though the packing process is easy, it is  possible to make a mistake, and I did. The bag is asymmetrical as you can see from the photo. Position the folded bike so the saddle is in the taller side. Naturally I did it the wrong way around the first time.

Traveling

Getting the B-bag in the car was no problem. Dragging it around the airport was awkward though. I can easily enough lift the bike for but it’s heavy  to carry for any length of time. I was disappointed to learn that it is  extremely difficult to pull the bike in the B-bag for even a short distance. The bag has just 2 wheels. To pull it, there is a short strap  with which to tilt the bag back on its wheels and the weight just hangs on your arm.  Using the shoulder strap to carry it slung across your back might work for some; it’s not something I can do though.  Would 4 wheels on the bag help? It seems it could be designed to be truly easy to roll. Perhaps that is where the hardsided case is better; I don’t know.

I flew Southwest and so checked the bike for no extra fee. That part was a breeze. So was retrieving it in Buffalo. There was a  hassle again with dragging it around as I searched for the van to pick up my rental car. The obvious solution is to use a luggage cart which I will do on the return trip.

I  held my breath when unpacking the bike. What if it was damaged? I am happy report that it came out of the bag in fine shape. There was just one small issue. The front wheel was not spinning freely. I flipped the bike over and inspected the brakes, which seemed to be positioned correctly. When I looked further, I saw that the little metal connector bars (sorry I have no idea what they are really called) that hold the fender to the frame were a bit bent and touching the tire. I pulled them gently  away from the tire and, voila, all was well. Whew, a “repair” that even I could do.

Cycling in Chautauqua County

Cycling is quite prevalent here, more so than I had expected. Nice! I read in the local paper about a new bike/pedestrian plan being developed in Jamestown, a new bike lane funded for Dunkirk, and a charity ride to benefit Red Cross. This morning’s paper featured a story on 30 young cyclists who came through town on Wednesday. They ride raised funds for cancer research and was going from Baltimore to Seattle.  Despite all this sharing the road here seems to be an emerging concept. Or perhaps what is accepted as ok is different from what I have gotten used to.  No one drove too close to me but at  4-way stop intersections I was treated as invisible by drivers. I am used to taking my turn to go just as car drivers do. Here, my turn came after the drivers were all done.

My hotel is right on NY Bike Route 517 (Route 5 for cars).  I am not sure how far the route goes. I went just about 5 fairly flat miles on it  (back and forth), after pedalling through town doing some sight-seeing for about half an hour.  My first ride on Tuesday was a beautiful, if short one along Lake Erie.

The small towns here are close together and there are highways with bikeable shoulders connecting them, as well as smaller, lightly travelled roads.   I saw several cyclists along Route 60, and many more doing short rides around town.  Bikes seem to be popular for transportation and recreation in the region.

I’d like to ride the 50 mile route around Lake Chautauqua one day.  I’d have loved to explore more by bike during but I am really here for work, and my free time has been limited. My goal in bringing the bike was to keep up with my miles/week goal and have an opportunity for outdoor exercise. I only got in 2 short rides in the 4 days here. Ideally I would have done more, but two rides are better than none!  I’ve brought the Brompton to 3-4 hotels so far. I have never gotten any objections and the bike has been much admired.

Sunset at Lake Erie

So Was it Worth It?

Yes!

Errands By Bike Day 2012

Most Fridays I don’t work. That’s because I have a 4-long days work week.  Well, really there is usually some work I need to do on Fridays, but my schedule does give me some flexibility. Today was bike to work day in the DC region. Since I couldn’t bike to work today I decided to honor it by doing some errands by bike. This gave me the chance to try out my new Brompton C-bag while getting some outdoor time on such a beautiful day.

 

Ready to Roll

Catonsville’s  old town is compact and easy to negotiate by bike. It was a sunny 75 degrees and doing these errands by bike was fun.

First stop: Catonsville Library

Library Bike Rack

I had time to browse and found a 2011 Laura Lippman book I haven’t read yet, as well as one by someone new to me, Asa Larsson. She’s a Swedish author. I’ve been on a bit of a Swedish mystery author kick the past 6 months or so. They tend to be well written novels that get you very involved. The tone is rather dark, and the stories often situated in the present, weaving in WWII related events. They tend to include themes about violence toward immigrants and women. I am not sure if tall this is typical of Swedish writing in general or just of those authors translated into English.  Obviously this holds some fascination for me as I keep reading them!  I looked all through the library, especially at the sports and travel section, curious to see if they had any bike related books. No, the did not.

Still lots of room in the bag!

Second Stop: Bank

Being down to $1 in cash, I stopped at the ATM. While I waited behind a car, I wondered how often cyclists ride up to the drive through. I rarely see bikes at ATMS, even in DC.

At the ATM

 

I turned right  onto Frederick, heading toward Atwater’s. I noticed a sign for a new store, the Pottery Grove and turned in to investigate. This paint-your-own-pottery place has replaced an odd the import store that seemed to me to be front for some kind of illegal activity. I went into  it one afternoon and the people working there looked astonished to see a customer. They didn’t know what to say or do! The displays were a bit dusty and I could tell there was not much buying and selling, at least not of the baskets and other goods that were on display. A few months later, the import store went out of business.  I can’t say I have been longing for a paint-your-own-pottery store in town. I’d love to have an organic market, a cool coffee shop, or  a bike shop. How about one that combined all 3? But maybe there are a lot of Catonsvilleans thrilled to get to paint pottery. If so, I hope they enjoy it and that the business succeeds. It is a lot less surprising than the new Fetish Beauty store that opened a little ways down the street. Really? In Catonsville? I have yet to see anyone going in or out of that one.

Paint your own pottery, anyone?

Third Stop: Atwater’s

Atwater’s, a great bakery and cafe that offers a 10% discount to those who arrive by bike

My errand here involved picking up some bread and house-made preserves. I unclipped my C-bag, a remarkably fuss free process, and walked the short distance from the bike rack to the shop. With 2 books in the bag, a small water bottle, wallet and keys, the bag was comfortable to carry and still had quite a bit of room. Good thing, because the round loaf of bread took some space. It and the jar of preserves fit in handily and I could have loaded a few more small items.

 

“Music City” aka Catonsville, has a number of these note shaped bike racks in town. Too bad I cut off that part of the image!

Clipping the bag back onto the Brompton’s front carrier was just as easy as removing it.

The bag has lots of  exterior and interior pockets, and attaches to the frame independently of the handlebars, something I hadn’t gotten until I saw the system in action. The bikes’ handling was in no way affected by hauling the loaded bag.  It’s probably meant more for commuting than shopping, but if you’re picking up just a few small things, it works just fine. Inspired by the gorgeous day, I did a little extra riding around just for fun, before heading home. That was it, a great errands by bike day.