Living on two wheels – Part 2
Today we welcome back guest blogger Patrick “Paddy” McCallister, a lifestyle cyclist living in Volusia County. He offers tips for those considering the transition to go carless with the second in the series “Living on two wheels”(Part 1 posted on May 5th):
Weather you’re ready
by Patrick McCallister
When my former employer recently announced that the newspaper was sold and some were being “downsized,” I didn’t panic. I don’t have a major expense to worry about: an automobile. Yes, I was among those who lost their positions. But, I’m a lifestyle cyclist, so my expenses are more manageable than others’.
I dumped the car to live on a fleet of bicycles some time ago. It’s working out well, because of advanced and in-progress planning. Unfortunately much of my planning has been the in-progress kind. You know, not having things I needed when I needed them and vowing to always have them in the future. If you’re considering living on two wheels, here’s a chance to tap my experience to do some advance planning.
In my last blog, I talked about generally preparing for lifestyle cycling. The most important part of the lifestyle choice is having lots of bikes that serve specific functions and fill explicit needs, but can crossover in pinches. Additionally, lifestyle cycling requires other preparations, such as having a repair stand, tools for minor repairs, lots of bright clothing, several helmets, familiarity with the local bus system, and more.
Perhaps the most important consideration when preparing for a life on two wheels in Florida is weather: rain and heat. Firstly, weather.com is the lifestyle cyclist’s best friend. Put it in your browser’s favorites and download the app to your phone.
Today is rainy, so I’m staying home and job hunting online. That’s part of preparing for weather — setting up ways to stay out of it. But, if I had to go out — say to an interview — I’m ready. I have a 1980s Bridgestone City Bike. When I got it, I immediately headed to my local bike shop for new tires. I told the mechanic that the Bridgestone was going to be my primary rain-day bike and bought the tires he recommended for wet roads.
If the Bridgestone is down for repair, I have a Specialized Hard Rock with on/off road tires and a rack for panniers. If that’s also down, I have two more rain-day backups. For shorter distances, I have a Miami Sun trike with a basket and ice chest to store items. For longer distances, I have a Trek touring bike set up with wet-handling treaded tires and a rack with panniers.
Panniers are important to lifestyle cycling for a few reasons. One is avoiding strain from frequently wearing backpacks. Another is lowering the center of gravity for better control of a bicycle especially when riding on wet roads. The other reason is reducing sweat on warm days. Backpacks keep a huge part of the body from evaporating sweat, thus from cooling. If you sweat heavily as I do, a backpack can get saturated quickly on a hot day. When using backpacks on warm days, put wet-sensitive things into waterproof containers.
During the wet months, I keep a rain-day kit handy. It has a reflective rain jacket along with a collection of Ziploc bags of various sizes, including two three-gallon bags to put smaller ones into to ensure electronics and other water-sensitive items stay dry. The three-gallon bag happens to be about the same size as most backpacks’ main compartment. The three-gallon bags work well in panniers, too.
The rain-day kit also has towels, extra lights for added visibility, and a local bus schedule along with fare to add to my traveling options. All I need to add when I’m taking off is appropriate cloths — especially shoes — for changing when I get to where I’m going.
My bikes stay inside the house out of the Florida humidity. When I’m done riding on a rainy day, I dry the wet bike completely and put a fan on it for a couple hours. When I get bikes, I make sure they have or get sealed cartridge bottom brackets.
My hot-day kit also has towels and two sets of extra clothes — a few sets of socks among them — along with travel-size deodorant and body spray. It also has Ziploc bags for putting sweaty clothes into when I get to where I’m going. Many of my shirts are sweat diffusing. This helps keep you cool.
A remarkable number of people are surprised to find out I don’t own a car. One reason they give is I never seem like I’ve just been biking when they’ve seen me out and about. That’s because of preparation and willingness to clean up and change in public bathrooms. Weather is the number one reason people give for not regularly commuting on bicycles. It is an obstacle, but one that can be beat with preparation. It doesn’t have to keep you from regularly communing on bicycles, or living on two wheels.
Ride safe, ride strong.
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