Commuting

Huma's road to commuting

Huma hadn’t ridden a bike since she was seven. Bike commuting was not part of everyday life for women in Pakistan. After moving to DC and making friends in the area she was interested in riding again. In early 2012 she took an adult riding class through WABA and left feeling confident to get out riding on her own. Soon she discovered how fun and convenient riding in the city is by using Capital Bikeshare. In 2014 she got her own bike and began riding everyday!

In addition to the fun factor, bikes help Huma reach parts of the city that aren’t easily accessed with public transit. Being in Bloomingdale, the G8 was a common source of frustration and the Bikeshare station was all too popular, she would often arrive to empty racks. Now with her own bike the city is at her fingertips.

Huma seeks out bikes whe she travels, recently riding in Vancouver, San Francisco, London and Istanbul. Huma is grateful for having bikes in her life and hopes life for bike commuters here in DC will only improve. Given the recent SafeTrack work, Huma hopes more attention can be focused to maintaining and expanding bike infrastructure. Follow Huma's life as commuter @humaimtiaz

What's been your road to commuting? How do bikes enrich your life? Let us know in the comments.

Brompton on the Road

*UPDATE*

Event is sold out, but you can come test ride Bromptons anytime at our shops. Also join us 6pm Mondays at 440 K for #foldingthunder ride with demo Bromptons available. We're planning to do more Brompton overnight demos in the future. Sign up for news about upcoming Brompton events: 

Name *
Name

Brompton is going #OnTheRoad all summer long in the US, and they're coming to DC!

We're offering you the chance to borrow a Brompton for a day so you can see how well it fits into your daily routine. Ride it to work; stow it in your trunk; bring it on mass transit; take it on a lunch ride to run errands. See how easily it folds up and how well it fits in your office, your home, the coffee shop or the pub.

When you come to pick up your bike, Brompton staff will be onsite to answer any questions you may have. Pick ups will run from 1 to 7pm.

It's absolutely free, so come borrow one and see why a Brompton bike is Made For You.

Metro's Massive Repair Plan and Getting Started Bicycling

“Metro estimates unprecedented crush loads unless rail riders find alternative modes.” – Martin DiCaro, WAMU 88.5 News 

 

We applaud Metro’s Safe Track initiative, and are big fans of using public transportation.  Washington DC needs a safe and reliable Metro system, and now the work is getting done to make it that way.  But, according to ABC News, city officials are encouraging the 700,000 daily riders to avoid the Metrorail entirely for stretches at a time, in anticipation of extremely crowded train cars and platforms. 

 

The related shutdowns and closures will affect our regional transportation system, stretching it to its limits.  Many will experiment with starting to use a bicycle to get around town, and to and from work, at least on the nice days.  We, at BicycleSPACE have been getting around by bicycle in DC, some of us for over 30 years, and have some tips to share.  Here is a list of Frequently Asked Questions.

 

Q:  When and where will the Metro system be affected, is there a plan and can I see it?

 

A:  See Metro’s press release here, and Metro Surge Schedule

 

Q:  Do you guys ride right out there in the street?

 

A:  Yes and no, it depends.  A lot of times we see new cyclists riding out on major roads, which we would never ride on.  We choose our routes based on our well-being, and fortunately there are an increasing number of options. 

 

The safest place to ride is on a trail where there is no nearby automobile traffic.  Examples are the W&OD Trail, the Four Mile Run trail, the Mount Vernon Trail, the Capital Crescent and Georgetown Branch Trails, the Metropolitan Branch Trail, and the Anacostia River Trail, soon to be completed.

 

Next down the safety list are physically separated bike lanes, or Cycletracks, such as the one on 15th Street NW, Pennsylvania Ave NW, on L and M streets downtown, and for a couple of blocks on 1st Street NE, right off the Metropolitan Branch Trail in the NoMa neighborhood near Union Station.

 

Then there are the painted lanes and secondary streets, which are better than riding out on the fast, busy thoroughfares.

 

Plan your routes ahead of time, and ask others which routes they use, and get familiar with bike maps.  Be creative.

 

Q:  Is there a place where I can see all this stuff?

 

A:  Yes!  Here is an official DDOT bike map which shows trails, Cycletracks, and lanes.

Here is a more regional map:

And a very good meshing of various regional maps.

 

Q:  Ok, so I’m going to try biking, but I’m not sure I’m going to like it so I don’t want to spend thousands, what are the main things I should look for in a bike?

 

A:  First off, it needs to be comfortable, meaning that it needs to be the right size and configuration for your particular body, and we’re all different.  The best way to do this is to talk with people like us whose goal every day is to match potential riders with the best bikes for them, and then go on a test ride.  We offer plenty of weekly opportunities to go on extended test rides at our shops and you may see a list of them here.

Next, the bike should be able to accommodate fenders and racks so you can arrive cleanly and comfortably to your destination.  Most of the bikes we carry do this, and here is a sampling of  some great bikes we carry for getting around town.

 

Q:  I’ve got an old bike in Mom’s garage, or I found one on craigslist or DC Used Bike Marketplace  and I was thinking about using that, is it practical?

 

A:  There are some great classic steel bikes out there from the 1970s and 1980s, which can work great for getting around town, with a couple of caveats.  If it was a low quality bike back when it was originally purchased, it still is.  But if it was mid to better quality, it could be a gem.

 

Most of those bikes came with steel wheels originally, which made them both heavy, and impossible to stop in wet weather because the brakes wouldn’t grab.  We pride ourselves in being able to modernize these bikes with lighter and brake-friendly aluminum wheels, and we are able to find many older parts, where necessary, to make these bikes quick and snappy, and great for the city.

 

Q:  What can or should I carry on a bike?

 

A:  A change of clothes and small towel is nice if you’re riding to work.  Most offices are kept cold in the summer, so when you get in you can wipe down and change in the bathroom and you dry right off with the A/C cranked the way is usually is. 

 

We like to carry a multi-tool as well to make adjustments (for example seat height) as we go, and to quickly fix anything that may have come loose, particularly on older bikes.  Also, a spare tube and a patch kit, and a CO2 inflator can be super handy to fix a flat, should it happen, and we can teach you how.  Avoid broken glass!

 

Q:  How do you carry stuff on a bike?

 

A:  Most people start out with their old school backpack, and the padding and warmth from it can be good on your back in the winter time, but in the warmer weather the extra heat from carrying a bag and the shoulder straps can be a real burden.  For this reason we attach a pannier (French for a bag used to carry bread) or two to a rear rack and carry the weight and bulk on the bike instead of our backs.  You can also get a bag which goes under the seat which can carry your repair kit and mobile device.  We have a selection of these at each of our shops to fit any budget or style sense, including backpacks made specifically for biking by Mission Workshop if you want to keep your bike cargo free.

 

Q:  Is there bike theft in DC?

 

A:  Yes, unfortunately there is.  But the good news is that you can deter theft with a high quality lock.  We went to Germany to see how the best locks in the world are made, and how they stand up to theft attempts of up to 8 tons of force. Watch our ABUS tour on Youtube here.

 

Q:  Got it, my first week was great, and I’m feeling great too!  Now, what can I do to make my ride more comfortable and enjoyable?

 

A:  How does the seat feel?  How are your wrists?  We are big believers in saddles by Brooks England, which can allow you to ride all day, comfortably, and they’ll fit on any bike.  There are also grip options, like those from Ergon which we love, or even some simple cork grips to make it easier on the hands.  Also, and especially on older bikes, you can swap out uncomfortable handlebars for a more appropriate bar.  Replacing racing bars with a Nitto Mustache or Dove bar on an older steel bike can give it a new life.  Also, you will make a bunch of tiny adjustments to the seat height and pitch, distance from the handlebars, you’ll rotate the bars until they feel just right, and attach a water bottle cage and water bottle to carry your favorite refresher with you, and a good multi-tool will help with that.

 

Finally, we do fit consultations with our Guru Fitting Machine and can help you to feel completely at home on your bike, even if it means working around previous injuries or limitations.  Here is a link to our service.

 

 

Q:  Do you guys do this year round?

 

A: Well, Scandinavians say that there’s no bad weather, just bad gear, and it makes sense.  Yes, most of us do ride in the colder months, but with good jackets, gloves, and rain gear at the ready.  The benefits of feeling great and the convenience and low cost, and sense of freedom experienced by getting around on a well-fit bicycle outweigh any slight discomforts of Jack Frost’s nipping.  You actually get to a point where you appreciate being out and taking part in the diversity that Nature has to offer instead of watching it passively from behind a glass screen, and there’s beauty in that.

 

Q:  Is there a place where I can find more local tips to riding safely?

 

A:  Have a look at this blog entry where we’ve listed much of what to watch out for on your journey, and introduce a methodology for staying out of harm’s way. 

 

We hope that the silver lining to the extensive Metro repairs is that a whole new population discovers how great it feels when getting around on a bicycle, and that they stick with it even once disruptions caused by the Metro repairs are a distant memory.  We invite you to any of our shops to discover what we consider the Spirit of Cycling.  

 

 

 

How to Ride All Year

It's one of those grey November days here at 440 , where the damp and the gloom seem to be conspiring to make life just a little more blech than it really needs to be.

We should go for a bike ride!

When the cabin fever strikes, ya gotta get outta the cabin, even if the fair skies and sunshine missed the invite to join in on the ride. Sleet, snow, wind, dark, and the never-ending grey rain that may have it in for us this winter - you can ride through all of them, amazing your friends and preserving your sanity.

"When I saw the weather this morning, I smiled."

 - Lars Boom, winner of the rain-soaked stage 5 of 2014's Tour de France

Making it through the rain, the mist, the drizzle, the sleet, the snow, and the occasional thunderstorm requires a bit of preparation. Rain jackets and fenders are nice. So is knowing, accepting, and embracing the fact that it's gonna be Fun out there. Grippy tires help, but not as much as ridiculous multicolored striped socks that defy the pervading grey and gloom.

 
 

There's a reason I wear cycling caps with butterflies and kittens on them, along with tasteless socks, a bright white raincoat, and those obnoxious blue shoes. Whoever decided that black was the best color for winter cycling gear...well, it may keep the cold and damp away, but not the dreary. The existential gloom is your worst enemy; it keeps you inside, off the bike, going a bit more stir crazy every day.

Embrace the absurdity. You only get wet once, you're not made of sugar, it's not cold but refreshing, and it'll make for a great story when it's done.

Rule 9: if you are out riding in bad weather, it means you are a badass. Period.

 - The Rules

I once worked with a mechanic who counted it as a personal victory for the cause of reason and good sense each time someone put fenders on their bike. Fenders are your friend. They keep the skunk stripe off your back, your gear dry from the spray, and your legs from getting coated in road groad the day after a good rain. They're your bike's friend too, keeping frames clean, drivetrains free of grit, and corrosive salt away from everything.

If you don't have fenders, you'll be wanting them something fierce soon. Trust me on this one.

Planet Bike's Cascadia and Hardcore fenders are the standard - light, durable, and effective. Of course, nothing looks as sharp as classic metal fenders - hammered Handsome Mud Butlers, smooth and shiny Tankas, or Art Deco fluted VeloOrange from our friends in Annapolis. Heck, you can even put PDW's Full Metal Fenders on your road bike, no mounting eyelets required.

Another option for clip-on fenders are Topeak's iGlow X, featuring red LED stripes running down the center. You get 50 to 100 hours on replaceable CR2032 batteries. 

 

 

Tires? Nothing's worse than fixing a flat in the rain, except when it's also cold. Frozen, fumbling fingers and tire levers don't mix - especially as your body temperature crashes once you stop moving. Keep the thin and skinny race tires at home - the cold's going to make them less supple anyway - and try something wider, stronger, and grippier. 

Continental Gatorskin

Continental Gatorskin

Schwalbe Marathon Plus

Schwalbe Marathon Plus

Clement Strada LGG

Clement Strada LGG

For instance, on my Commuterschwinn, I use a Gatorskin on the front and bombproof Schwalbe Marathon in the back; while the Gator is a better handling tire, I hate changing rear flats. I've seen people pull half-inch shards of glass out of Marathons and keep riding. The road bike gets 700x25 Clement Strada LGG's - which I think I may keep year-round. They corner better, are more comfortable, and hold their grip on questionable or wet surfaces better than any other tire I've used - and that's before we mention the puncture resistance.

Now that it gets dark at 4:30 or so, you'll be needing lights. Lots of lights. Those of us who live out in PG County on the Anacostia Tributaries all have deer-related horror stories...and really good lights so we don't wind up with more. Light & Motion makes the best and the brightest out in California. You and the deer will both appreciate them.

As for keeping the human half warm, dry, and happy: protect the extremities. Gloves, bike caps, shoe covers, bike caps, arm and leg warmers, bike caps, helmet covers, and bike caps are all good ideas. Most "general" cycling kit (especially shoes and helmets!) is made for summer riding, with good ventilation; either cover the holes, put something under them, or try something cool-specific. Shoe covers keep the breeze off your otherwise-soon-to-be-frostbitten toes, arm warmers give your usual shirt or jersey easily removable sleeves, and caps keep your head warm, your hair unmussed, your glasses dry, and your face out of the stinging sleet.

Of course, the other half of the challenge is keeping warm without ever getting too warm. Overheat, sweat through your gear, and it'll be a miserable time all around. There's a reason why I like knee-high socks (roll 'em down), arm warmers (stick 'em in a pocket or pannier), Mad Alchemy embrocation (feels warm, keeps the rain off, and smells great!), and that bright white and super reflective Showers Pass jacket that can be vented and adjusted fifteen ways from Sunday to keep the airflow juuuust right.

Anything else? If you're looking for fellow crazies to ride with - of course you are - join Bike Arlington's Freezing Saddles "competition." Sure, there's a challenge to see which riders and teams can ride the most miles over the most days between 1 January and the last day of winter, but there are also all the random side bets, pointless prizes, random quests, and general absurdity that really make it worthwhile. Going out to get ice cream from the Maryland Dairy in a sleetstorm (Midnight Madness won't melt if it's below freezing - and it's half off if the weather's truly abysmal!) to rack up a few extra points for the Unexpected Maryland Inquisition was only one of many, many memorable moments from last year's challenge.

Remember: the looks of astonishment mingled with admiration you get from baristas when you come in from something truly gross and grey are so worth the ride.