Posts Tagged 'commute'

Choice-rich riding

Tonight’s bike commute home from Chapel Hill to Saxapahaw was decidedly a perfect summer evening ride, and I found myself prolonging it as long as possible. My bike tires left tracks through the yellow loblolly pine pollen coating the road, sweet wisteria filled the nose, and the growing shadows of evening cooled the air from the afternoon highs of around 90F. It felt so good to be out on a bike, I couldn’t go home slow enough. The area of North Carolina where I live is road-rich: I can take numerous routes of varying length home, and it’s easy to turn down one quiet farm road then another and add on a few more bucolic miles before calling it a day. The farm roads were so empty of car traffic this evening that I barely saw a dozen cars over the course of my last 12 miles. Not long after I got home, the sun set and bats came out to feed on the newly hatched insects over the Haw River.

My tandem partner-cum-bride-to-be had to drive to another city tonight for an evening engagement, leaving me to decide whether to take our other car (which I call the “bachelor wagon” since it’s from the my good old days, and it’s standard transmission makes it undriveable by my fiancee) or whether to ride my bicycle home from work instead. The big decision was which bike to take.

It was wonderful to have the choice to ride my bicycle home tonight – longer days and warmer temps make this a regular part of my life once again. I’m also lucky to have the benefit of so many quiet country roads. North Carolina is known for having just about the highest amount of road miles per capita in the U.S. It helps to know which roads most auto traffic takes, but there are plenty of highways that siffon off most cars, leaving the country roads relatively unmolested, although the lanes on these roads are notoriously narrow at 10ft with no shoulder, and make for a tight squeeze when a couple vehicles need to pass by. In my earlier, more righteous days, I would on occasion take up the cause of anti-road building, and there’s many reasons to follow that discussion. But frankly, as a bicyclist, I’m reaping the benefits of North Carolina’s road building policy: I haven’t researched its history, but what I know is there are vast numbers of short, quiet farm roads lacing the countryside here.

Much is being said in the biking/sustainable living media right now about Americans desiring more options for transportation. The advocacy group Transportation For America released the results of a survey showing a majority of us want to spend less time in cars and want more options for getting around. USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood even seems excited about this, and appears to be driving federal policy away from the traditional exclusive focus on, well, driving.

While this is all good, I have to say that the choice is already there for any of us to make every day. It’s an easier choice for me to make, and if you’re reading this blog, chances are it’s an easier choice for you to make, too. I consciously decided long ago that bicycling would be an integral part of my lifestyle. Experience breeds confidence on the road, mixed with the fitness that regular riding provides makes bicycling not just an easy choice, but a pleasureable, relaxing, and exhilarating one (yes, I think something can be both exhilarating and relaxing at the same time – my ride home tonight was just that). And by now in my early-middle-age/late-adolescence, I have more bicycles to choose from than hours in the day I can ride. But all it takes is one bicycle in the “stable” to have the choice.

Lately, my “steed” of choice has been my 10-year-old indefatigable Co-Motion Americano touring bike. It’s funny what so many options, or choice, can do to how you perceive circumstances and make decisions. In the case of choosing which bicycle to ride, how I view the Americano changed drastically when I acquired my CoMo Espresso, a light, fast racing bike. Where I once had only the Americano as my road bike, and on it I bike-toured across North America fully-loaded a few times – truly, this is a comfortable, capable, do-anything, go-anywhere bicycle, a real road warrior – the Espresso became my default bike for long (unloaded) road rides. The Americano became relegated this past season to my around-town commuter, ferrying me and a pannier full of lunch the three miles from the park-and-ride to my office, and the three miles back. If I was going to take the long ride into town from Saxapahaw, I would automatically choose the Espresso, thinking it to be the more capable long-distance commuter – sportier, faster, more comfortable.

The other week, wanting to ride a bicycle into work the long way but needing to take a bunch of stuff, I grudgingly made the decision to load up the Americano out of necessity and putter my way into town. Grudgingly? Putter? What the hell was I thinking? And, where had all my past experience with the Americano gone when it came to making this decision? Of course the touring bike was more than capable, and probably more comfortable, for the long distance ride. While the Espresso does have sportier handling, and while over many miles I do average slightly higher speeds, it doesn’t really make much difference over 20-25 miles, and is certainly not more comfortable over long distances than the Americano. They’re both undeniably great bikes, and both have unique qualities. Furthermore, their points of difference really only matter to us small minority of people who are bike geeks, own too many bikes (and are willing to pay as much for them as for a good used car), and therefore have to make to make the “tough” decision about which to ride.

My goal this year is to ride as many of my bikes as possible each week. It’s not like I have that many. Naturally, I ride the tandem as often as possible with my honey. I hit the great mountain bike trails in Chapel Hill each week they’re not too muddy to ride. And that leaves me with the awful struggle, the over-privileged decision, I have between two too-sweet road bikes.

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Where have all the honkers gone?

If I had any regular readers at all, they may have wondered where these tandem bloggers had gone off to. The short answer is we’ve been no where, and no where near writing a blog post. The loss of internet at our house for the past month has contributed to our silence, but we’ve got that sorted out now. My last posts concerned the freak occurrence of a snow storm here in the peidmont that offered three solid days of sledding, and a fellow bicycle-commuter who rides without choice regardless of weather, temperature or light. What’s changed since then? Not a whole lot yet. Just this week, we had another dusting of snow, morning temps are still below freezing, and Cristobal still looks like he’s hating it as he pedals to work along the highway.

But spring is finally arriving. The daffodils are pushing up through the thawing mud, days are longer, and these honkers have gotten the tandem out over the last couple weekends. Despite last weekend’s harsh wind that gave wind burn as red and raw as any the Windy City dishes out, we joined a group of cyclists on a benefit ride from Carrboro to Saxapahaw, raising money for Haiti relief. The promise of 50-degree temps (that never quite got there) and the chance to do some good got a lot of folks out, and we even greeted another couple on a Co-Motion out on the country lanes.

Sadly, this tandem couple is parted for the week while my fiancee lives it up south of the border for spring break, but it means I have more time on my hands to blog, grease chains and dial in my brakes. There’ll be no honking in traffic this week, but lots of getting ready for it.

A post by the writer the Tandem Geek blog, who is the host of the Tandem Link web site, also wonders where have all the honkers, that is tandem riders, have gone. (If you’re a tandem team reading my blog and aren’t aware of his site, you should probably go over there instead!) In the post, he looks at the decline of tandem riding club membership over the past decade. I’m not much of a club rider one way or the other, so I don’t have an opinion about whether it signifies a decline in tandeming or just in club participation. However, the more my partner and I grow into the sport, I’m starting to get excited about joining up with some of the regional tandem. Tandem Geek also has a 2-part winter survey of tandemists and their gear.

So, the honkers haven’t gone away completely – though I’m solo for a week. We’re just winding up. The miles are starting to accumulate, the long commute from Saxapahaw to Chapel Hill will become regular again, our internet is back, and we finally picked a new camera so this blog may become a bit more visually interesting once the camera, along with my partner, gets back from Mexico.

Who’s biking? Choice or necessity

I made contact this week with a fellow bike commuter I’ve seen nearly every day since last summer. His is a rare sight on a bicycle on the rural roads outside of Chapel Hill and Carrboro – an older Latino man that we dubbed Cristobal so that we could talk about him between us. When the temperature and day light permitted the 20-mile ride to town, we’d cross paths with this man going the opposite direction. My partner and I would both wave from our tandem across the busy road, and eventually he started waving back.

As a sort of complement to this story, a new report called “Bicycling and Walking in the United States: 2010 Benchmarking Report” was released today by the Alliance for Biking & Walking, which uses what (limited) available data there is to look at how many people are biking and walking in the U.S., and who they are. Well, there’s us. And there’s Cristobal.

Before we met Cristobal, we speculated that he was Mexican, probably from a certain state where most of the latinos in this part of North Carolina come from. (It helps that my partner works with migrant populations in this area of Mexico). We also figured that he was commuting by bicycle to work at a farm or quarry 12-15 miles out into the countryside because he didn’t have a car. In my head, I was happy for Cristobal, and hoped that he enjoyed the choice of bicycling as much as I do. I thought, he must be one of the most fit guys in his neighborhood.

He rides an older, beat-up blue bike with cruiser handlebars and baskets on his rear rack. Until recently he wore a cap rather than helmet, and still he wears a helmet only occasionally. When we would pass by on our tandem in warmer months, he seemed comfortable on the bike, even a bit amused. We stopped riding for the winter, but we see him every day on our drive. The morning temperatures are in the 20s and 30s. He has a thick coat, mittens, and a helmet sits atop a knit cap. He looks miserable.

As we were traveling home in the early winter dark, we didn’t see him. Not because he wasn’t there, but because he had no lights or reflectors. I decided to buy him a set of front and rear lights. I was worried for his safety, but I also took this as my opportunity to meet him. There’s a gas station where we often see his bike where he probably stops for a snack on the way to and from work. After weeks of driving by, we finally passed the store while he was there. We stopped and met Cristobal.

First off, his name’s not Cristobal, but it’ll do for this blog. We approached with big awkward grins and the set of lights. Luckily my partner is also fluent in Spanish. While I set to installing the lights on his bike, she was able to get Cristobal’s story. As she guessed, Cristobal is from Guanajuato. He’s a bit older than the typical recent Mexican immigrant, though he’s probably younger than he looks. He moved here two years ago and lives with his son who’s in his 20s. I shook Cristobal’s hand, and it was rough and chalky.

We introduced ourselves as the tandem couple that waved to him when we passed him back in the warmer months – he seemed to remember us. We told him that we were impressed he biked so far out everyday, that he must be strong, and that he’s a better person than us for dealing with the winter. The private bicycle cheerleader in my head was shouting RAH-RAH, but Cristobal’s take on it was different. He said he hates biking. That he only does it because he needs the job, the job is far from town, and he has no car. But he said he was grateful for the lights, shook our hands with genuine warmth, and mounted his bike to ride back home in the dark.

We passed him on our way home today and were glad to see his new lights flashing from the side of the road. It was a warmer afternoon, in the 50s, but tomorrow they are predicting snow, which at least means cold and precipitation. Trucks were spraying “brine” along the road.

Without speculating about Cristobal’s personal circumstances, we know that North Carolina makes it difficult for immigrants to obtain drivers’ licenses now – a reckless conflation of poor immigration policy with public safety, which is what the license process should really be about – but that’s a problematic topic for another post. According to what I can gather from this new “Benchmarks” report from the Alliance for Biking & Walking (ABW), Cristobal’s reasons for bike commuting are at least as common as all of us folks now blogging about our conscious decisions to commute by bike. Mine is a choice, his is not.

As I said at the beginning, Cristobal, the Latino immigrant bike commuting out of necessity, is a rare sight out on the country roads. But it’s not so rare in cities and towns across this country. According to the ABW report, while Hispanics now make up 15% of the U.S. population, they account for 22% of total bike trips. If this data is accurate, then that population is overrepresented among bicyclists, while perhaps underrepresented in the popular media image of who bicyclists are.

The ABW report also attempts to break down bike trips by socioeconomic brackets, but that data seems to come from 2001 numbers, which may or may not be relevant anymore. For what they’re worth, those old numbers indicate that across income levels, the share of bike trips is basically the same. What is even harder to capture is the reason (utility or recreation or some combination of those) for the bike trip. ABW speculates that the lower-income share of bike trips may be more for utility, while higher income classes may bike more for recreation. Given that Hispanics have a very high poverty rate in North Carolina and the rest of the U.S., it’s probably not a wildly irresponsible assumption that among Hispanic bikers, utility trips out of necessity make up a large proportion of their total trips by bike, like Cristobal.

There’s another image of the bicyclist that I don’t see represented in the media and bike blog community that much, but was probably the most prevalent when I was a kid growing up in rural Maine, and may still be the popular image of bicyclists among certain communities, such as low-income communities and rural areas. My childhood mind remembers basically three types of bicyclists: kids like me on their bmx’s; the occasional odd-ball adult in neon lycra; and, more commonly, the slovenly-looking fellow biking against traffic. Bikes in this last category were known as DUI-machines, and I bet their popularity has not waxed or waned one way or the other.

I’m happy, and exceedingly lucky, to have the choice to ride my bike (er… choice of one of many bikes) for utility or for fun. (I’m even luckier to have a partner to ride a tandem with, who has by and large the same motivation as me, plus can speak Spanish…). There’s probably at least as many bicyclists who ride out of necessity, as out of choice. As our society looks at products to market, services and education to offer, and new transportation plans and policies, I hope that a major demographic of the bicyclist population doesn’t get lost on the side streets.

Dogs.

The stoker weighs in about dogs:

I am afraid of dogs, even though we have one. I am not exactly sure where this fear comes from. My mother occasionally recalls an experience I can’t remember when I was two and she rescued me from a German shepherd dragging me down the street by my hair. Or, maybe my fear comes from all the stories my grandfather told about his dog encounters. As a child he was bitten a couple of times and from then on went on all walks with a long wood staff. Maybe my fear of dogs has to do with an interview I heard on NPR about a guy getting eaten alive by a bear—it just seems like something that could also happen with a dog.

Getting a road bike provided me with a lot of new reasons to fear dogs. Over the years, some of the more memorable dogs I have encountered on my bike include a chow-cheetah mix that outran our tandem at 26 miles an hour, two chihuahua-pit bull mixes that almost got squashed and wrecked us, the pit bull monster that broke away from his owner and nearly ate us all up, the house of the seven black labs, five snarling curs on a road named “Lamb,” and a great dane whose teeth were as high as my handlebars. Then there have been all the puppies that have chased us along busy roads. I particularly hate going past houses that have life-sized plaster dogs as yard ornaments, because from a distance they look like real dogs poised to get me.

The following video illustrates how we felt today during the one encounter riding home today.

Wolf hunting caribou in BBC's Planet Earth.


See the baby deer – that was us today on our ride.

Cycling on rural roads has taught me some truths about dogs and bikes:
1) Dog owners do not always leash their dogs.
2) Dog owners who live on busy roads do not always leash their dogs.
3) To a dog, there is something irresistible about a human whizzing past a house at about the same speed as a running deer.
4) The best, loveliest rides have the meanest dogs.
5) The worst dogs appear when you are going uphill.
6) Before a bike ride through the country, it is better not to watch that episode of Planet Earth where the wild dogs attack the gazelle.
7) Dogs are less likely to go after groups of riders.

One of my favorite conversations with other cyclists is how to deal with dog encounters. Some of the strategies I have heard include using pepper spray, throwing handfuls of rocks, squirting with the water bottle, shouting “no,” kicking in the face, clubbing with a tire pump, activating dog sonar to hurt their ears, yelling “go faster!” and carrying a gun. While I wouldn’t try all of these, I clearly need a strategy besides yelling “no,” and “go faster!” which didn’t really work today on our ride home from work (I am writing this from the hospital. Just kidding, y’all). On the next ride, I’m going to stuff my jersey pockets with pebbles.

What I really want to know is, does that dog sonar really work? Here’s one of the brands of “sonic” dog repellent:

That’s like Prairie Home Companion’s riff “Duct tape: it’s almost the only thing you need sometimes.”

I have to say that being on a tandem is much better for dog encounters, for a number of reasons. You can go faster and outrun a dog. The stoker, i.e. me, is free to inflict all kinds of self-defense tactics (see above) on canine offenders. You are quieter and sneakier, especially if your tandem is as well-maintained as mine. You can take a picture of the mean dog to display on your tandem blog (one day, folks!) and finally, your hands are free to call the sheriff on the beast’s owners.

Anatomy of a commute

This was a great week for tandem commuting, road rage incident notwithstanding. Tuesday was world car free day. The daylight is holding out for us in the early fall. The weather was widely varied – sun, rain, heat, humidity, still, windy, fall chill, and all the lovely smells of the outdoors that come from these conditions.

Honey and I have now been living together out in the country for three months, and only now does the 20-mile commute into town start to feel like a normal commute, and not a huge bike ride that you have to get amped up for. Heat? We’re used to it. Low light? We have lights and reflective gear. Rain? It doesn’t stop us (well, not always).

The Burley.

The Burley.


Here’s an anatomy of our tandem commute and the bike and gear that make it possible and enjoyable. First, the equipment:

The Burley Duet in all its length. Ortleib panniers that, after nine years of daily commuting and multiple self-supported bike tours, are as functional and waterproof as the day I got them. They’re stuffed with clothes and enough food to get our ravenous selves through the day. Plus we can do a little grocery shopping after work – we hauled home two pie pumpkins last night in the panniers! (Hey, hungry honkers demand fresh food, and you can’t beat fresh pumpkin for pies and soups. Celebrate the slow life – slow transport, slow food…) Note the matchy Brooks saddles. Helmets are a must. As are sunglasses with changeable lenses, because no matter the light, you need to keep debris and bugs out of your eyes.

The pilot's cockpit.

The pilot's cockpit.

My handlebar bag holds lots of necessities – wallet, phone, keys, snacks, camera – and can even accommodate small shopping items, like that pint of yogurt that didn’t quite fit in the pannier yesterday.

"Vintage" Burley rain jacket.
Visibility.

Visibility.

A well-cut, rain-proof jacket with reflective strips (alas, Burley cut this line, too) and a bright, reflective safety vest. Essential and ultra-nerdy. But at least the vest is nicely complemented here by the model’s Paperhand Puppet Intervention t-shirt.

pumping

Gotta get those PSI up for fast rolling. I love these fat slick Continental Sportcontacts for their cadillac ride on rough roads.

Rolling out.

Rolling out.

Now we’re ready for the ride to work.

We cycle along lovely country lanes…
country1

barn

We hit Highway 54 for a quicker way to work in the morning when time is more of an issue. There’s more exposure to cars – heavy volume, generally traveling over 55mph – but the car lane is wider than most secondary highways in NC, and there a wide paved shoulder, another rarity in this state. Just look out for road debris, which is usually gravel strewn from driveways that enter onto the road.

Highway 54.

Highway 54.

Of course, the stoker has another great view:

The view from the rear.

The view from the rear.


The end.

A good driver is hard to find

I awoke on this eve of World Car Free day with more that usual sense of foreboding that Monday brings. I’d gone to sleep last night having just finished Flannery O’Connor’s classic, chilling story “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” To say the story would be unsettling for anyone in our society is obvious, but more so for those of us who are generally more hypersensitive to the perils of being exposed on the road. The story concerns a grandmother whose grappling with nostalgia competes for the attention of her son with the incessant whining of his pair of kids, her disrespectful grandchildren, emblematic of what she sees is wrong with modernity, in the back seat of a car during a road-trip through the southeast. These days, grandma feels, a good man is hard to find. And then everything goes haywire, the least horrific event of which concerns a serious car wreck, and concludes with looking the devil in the eye, in the guise of the preternaturally cruel criminal that the sensationalist press has dubbed the Misfit.

He’s not this sort of misfit:

Misfits.

Misfits.


… nor this sort of misfit:
Cool Hand Luke is a misfit.

No, O’Connor’s Misfit is a straight up killa. Without giving the entire plot away, the car trip ends horribly.

I roll out of bed this Monday morning, tired already by dreams stung by O’Connor’s story. But, I am looking forward to the tandem commute – the weather is perfect these days in North Carolina, the days are still just long enough that we’re not riding in the deadly low visibility of twilight, and as I said earlier, this week celebrates world car free day. Then we meet our misfit.

The first four miles of our 20-mile commute are, as a rule, a harsh wake-up in the morning. 3.5 miles of steeply rolling hills, that accumulate to more climbing than descending in the outbound direction. There are vistas of farm fields, stretches of loblolly pine, highland cattle, confederate flags. The traffic is a bit too heavy for the road’s rural narrowness, but is generally forgiving, save for the occasional early morning logging truck going to the mill west of Saxapahaw. It’s gets the blood pumping.

Before we hit the end of this road – a typically lengthy-named NC road Saxapahaw Bethlemhem Church Road – with an on-coming car, we hear a blaring horn behind us, bleeding with malcontent. Without waiting for the on-coming car to move by, the vehicle behind speeds inches from our side, continuing with its honking (not to be confused with our tandem’s “honking”). It’s a close call. We stay calm in handling the tandem, as close, loud cars are nothing new, but this driver’s belligerence is an outlier – much worse than normal.

In my haste and automatic righteousness, I decided he needed to be put on notice. I’ve long since abandoned the divisive flying of the bird. Instead I chose a hand gesture more exemplary of what I intended to do. I gave him the “phone-it-in.” Like, “I see you, man, what you did is reckless, intimidating, and illegal, and I’m gonna let the authorities know.” Mark Cavendish provided me with a good model in one of his stage wins in this year’s Tour de France:

The "You're on notice, phone-it-in" gesture.
Image via bikesnobnyc

This gesture, however un-obscene, struck an extra nerve with our misfit. Fifty yards up the road, he skidded to an angry stop, leaving marks on the pavement. He backed up a few feet and stopped. This is never a good sign. A bit extreme by normal measure, crazy in fact. Nothing we had done – which, to summarize was a) biking on the road, and b) making a phone gesture – could enrage an uncrazy person like this. By this point, I knew better and pulled the tandem off the road, rather than ride up next to him and invite an escalated confrontation. His stopping gave me a chance to mark his description – a white sedan with out-of-state plates. And then he drove off. Of course, it wasn’t just as simple as driving off – he did peel out. But at least he was gone. And we reached for the handy cellphone to notify the Alamance County cops. Alas, we wilted when it came to actually calling 911 to report this.

The encounter concerned our minds and led our conversation for the rest of the hour-long ride into Chapel Hill. What could have made someone so angry at encountering us? Was it our simple presence? Was it my phone-call gesture? Was it the stress of the situation – that he was coming too fast around a curve behind us, saw oncoming traffic and our tandem in the way, and this led to his momentary aggression? Whatever it was, we were glad that the aggression was momentary, and that he didn’t clip us when he sped by.

One thing that we were glad of was that, at least according to this person’s license plate, he was not one of our neighbors of rural Alamance County. This is a big deal for us. It runs contrary to the supposition that everyone out here are a bunch of hicks who’d run down a cyclist just fer fun, and spit tobacky in his eye just fer the hell of it. No, our neighbors know us, and from what we’ve experienced, are pretty accommodating on our roadways.

And why didn’t we report it? Since no one was hurt, we had to puzzle out in our minds what exactly was illegal about the situation – reckless/ threatening driving, passing too close – and whether we should bother our local sheriff who wouldn’t give a flip anyway. The answer – we should have called immediately. I’m putting myself on notice here to call next time. Anything we can do to get aggression like this off our roads is necessary. It’s for the safety of everyone. Furthermore, to quote the title of another Flannery O’Connor story, “The life you save may be your own.”

One less bike

Before I moved from another state to live with my fiancee three months ago, I started warming her up to the idea of the tandem. I have a great old tandem I got a few years ago from a retired couple, and was excited that I’d finally have a full-time partner to ride it with. She, on the other hand, had just taken a step up in the bike game, purchasing a nice new racing bike for herself a month previous, and was itching to break it in instead.

Bikes already formed one of our mutual interests. We met years ago in Chapel Hill, and I just moved back here to be with her. In those earlier years, I’d helped foster her interest in biking- fixing up her around-the-town bike, setting her up with a road bike to try out, even took her for a ride on the tandem. She was game for anything, and loved it all. Before I moved away initially, I set her up with a speedy steel Allez, and she took it from there herself, becoming a dedicated rider and commuter.

Now I’ve returned, and our bike collections have merged. There’s her two road bikes – the classic steel, and the new-fangled aluminum carbon; and my larger amount of bikes that includes my our 1991 Burley Duet tandem, which will appear regularly in this blog.

Burley Duet

Burley Duet

She was reluctant to look away from the new bike, and we did a couple rides together on the single bikes. One agonizing ride on the Burley in the high heat of the early North Carolina summer after she’d been off the bike for a month while traveling did not bode well for my dreams of tandeming every chance we got. She was hot and tired, as was I, but I pushed hard and pretended we felt better than we did.

Then we started the commute. I had just moved from Chicago, and before that I’d always lived in town. My commute had never been more than three miles, so I could walk and bike everywhere. Now, we’ve decided to live in the country, about 20 miles from our jobs in Chapel Hill. Minimizing car trips is still very important to us, and that means planning in the bike commute. She’d already been doing for a year, which was reassuring.

The first tandem commute to work decided it – we are tandem riders. The tandem commute is right in so many ways: we can talk the whole time, so it’s a great way to ease into a day or decompress from work; we don’t get separated on the road; cars seem to give the tandem a little more respect; and we get to spend the extra time together, which is great since we’re really at the beginning of our relationship. Plus we get a work-out.

After a couple weeks into regular tandem riding, she gave me one of the most flattering comments I’ve ever received – and isn’t that what relationships are all about? We decided to ride our single bikes for a change. She was struggling up a long hill, and then started to chuckle. She’d been wondering why, as she went up the hill, was it just getting harder and harder, and the bike not making it any easier. Then she realized it was because I wasn’t up there shifting, and she had to do it. I know this doesn’t sound good for individual empowerment, but it sure made me feel pretty smooth.

And now it seems like an appropriate time to start a blog about tandem bicycle riding:

My fiancee and I have moved in together. I just started a new job. We have this great rural bike commute that takes the edge off the anxiety of a new job.

There’s a growing population around the country that’s deciding to replace more car trips with biking and walking, and clamor for better policies and infrastructure. And while these people are joining the noisy activists that have been riding their bikes and shouting “One less car” for years, we’ll be saying, “One less bike.”

And we’re planning a wedding. The next task is to convince my fiancee to agree to put a new tandem on the wedding registry.