Embracing Winter by mark on Jan 20, 2015
In a perfect world I’d never have to spend more than 2 minutes getting dressed for a bike ride; getting frostbite on exposed skin would never cross my mind and the thought of road salt corroding my precious ride would be laughable. But living in Wisconsin these are all things I’ve learned to deal with. Contrary to what warm climate dwellers may think, Midwest winters are extraordinary.
I haven’t always been in love with winter. The cold for days on end can really play with your emotions. I’ve spent many days wishing for warmer weather; questioning my choice to live in Wisconsin. A few years ago I made a conscious effort to make the most of winter. I bought a set of nordic skis and started hitting the corduroy. I dusted off my running shoes for some frosty morning runs. I pulled out my snowshoes and started exploring the wooded areas surrounding my home with my wife. Not only has it made winter bearable but I actually look forward to the snow and cold as fall draws to an end. I love setting out and finding something new (below is a hot spring fed creek I came upon while snowshoeing).
The key for me is to stay active and keep things interesting. Wisconsin winters offer no routine, especially these days. You never know if it’s going to be -5 degrees with sun blazing or 30 degrees and rain. Today is a perfect example. I check the weather this morning to see that the mercury was topping at 31. Too warm to ride my fat bike on trails so I quickly set my road bike up for a morning ride through the countryside. Within the first 5 minutes I nearly crashed two times. 31 degrees and a light drizzle created some hidden ice patches. It was enough to convince me to cut it short and head to work. Rolling with the punches is necessary on days like today. I’m harboring hope that I can squeeze in a ride on the way home but I’ve learned to never count on it.
So long, and thanks for all the lobster by jay on Jan 13, 2015
It is with bitter sweet feelings I share that Jeff Miller has decided to move on from the Alliance for Biking & Walking. You can read the announcement here.
Planet Bike has been a primary supporter of the Alliance for more than a decade. In that time, I have seen Jeff transform the Alliance. Prior to Jeff's tenure, the Alliance struggled to communicate its mission, form partnerships and raise money. Six years later Jeff leaves a healthy and secure organization with some of the strongest partnerships in the bicycle advocacy movement.
I am personally sad to see Jeff go because it means I will get less time with this generous and funny person.
But there is a sweet side. Jeff now has a family. As any parent knows, family changes ones priority and perspective on life and career. And Jeff has personally grown enormously in his skills, capacity and network. Jeff is one of the most highly motivated and productive people I know. I have no doubt he's on to bigger and better things and I can't wait to see what he does next.
I blogged about Jeff's arrival at the Alliance back in 2008. In case you skip it, the famous lobster bike is below.
Hoping to work together again,
Vortex Dress Code by mark on Jan 07, 2015
In the midst of a polar vortex I always like to put out a reminder on biking in brutally cold temperatures. This morning on my 45 minute commute to work, the temperature was hovering around -6F with the wind chill at -25F. However, I was completely comfortable riding in the proper attire.
Hands and feet have always been the biggest challenge for me so I will start there. I’ve taken the easy way and gotten myself a pair of 45NRTH Wolvhammer boots. These have been amazing for me. I ordered a size up and paired them with a mid-weight merino wool sock. I have yet to ride in a temperature cold enough to bother my feet. The only other set-up that has come close in the past is a pair of winter boots, wool socks, and flat pedals. I love my clipless pedals so I went that route.
Keeping my hands comfortable has been a research project in trial and error for me. What I’ve ultimately settled on is a pair of mid-weight fleece gloves underneath a fleece-lined and windproof Outdoor Research mitten. They have high cuffs to keep out the elements and my hands stay toasty warm.
You’ll hear this preached by any winter commuter; layers are the key to staying warm. Layers allow you to add more when you’re cold and remove when you’re too warm. A good rule of thumb to keep your core warm is to start with a wicking baselayer, add an insulation layer on top of that, and finish with a windproof shell. On the bottom I start with my standard biking bib shorts and an insulated/windproof shell pant. If it’s really cold I’ll add an additional layer in between.
I even use layers above the neck. My go-to items are a merino wool balaclava, merino wool gaiter, windproof and thinly insulated hat, a helmet with only a few vent holes and glasses or goggles. I typically wear the cap over the balaclava with the gaiter over it all. Then my helmet on top keeps everything in place. Once it drops below -5 I try not to have any exposed skin.
But even being a seasoned winter commuter I am always experimenting and fine tuning. On today’s ride I tried out a couple of new combinations. I added insulated knee warmers under my pants with gaiters over my boots. That was a winning combo on the bottom.
On top I used a single wicking short sleeve baselayer with built in windstopper front and insulated arm warmers. All this was under my insulated and windproof jacket. I was definitely warm enough, too warm in fact. I think I would have been good if it wasn’t for the backpack trapping heat in.
I’m always an advocate for using what works whether it is made for biking or not. There’s no catchall combination that will work for everyone. Keep riding and keep experimenting with what works, and when you do, share it!
2014 in Review by mark on Jan 05, 2015
For the past nineteen years we have collaborated in many meaningful bicycle advocacy initiatives across North America. This year was no exception as we continued to partner with advocates on key national initiatives as well as many locally-targeted programs that focus on getting more people on bikes.
On the national level, we continued our support of the fourth annual Youth Bike Summit. The three day gathering attracted spirited participation from nearly 500 youth and adults from 25 states and three countries who are at the center of a growing movement to develop and inspire the next generation of bicycle advocates. Collectively, the group explores how kids can create positive social change and how bicycling can be a part of a sustainable future.
Again this year we teamed up with the Adventure Cycling Association to lend a hand with their “Build It. Bike It. Be a Part of It.” Campaign that raised over $147,000 for the U.S. Bicycle Route System (USBRS). The funds will be used to establish a network of interstate routes that connect America’s cities, suburbs and rural areas. When completed, the USBRS will be the largest official cycling route network on the planet!
On the local level, we are energized by the fact that communities across the country are embracing bicycles and building infrastructure to make our cities and towns more livable. In an effort to broaden this progress, we supported fifteen Earn-a-Bike programs across the country helping to empower kids to fix, earn, use and enjoy bicycles. We have continued our support of WE Bike NYC. Their programs have motivated women across the five boroughs to begin biking by educating them on bike safety and maintenance. Additionally, we provided lights to fifteen “Be Bright” initiatives which raise awareness about safe cycling and provide free lights to those in need.
For nearly two decades, we are proud of the part we have played to help make our communities more bicycle-friendly. More importantly, we are continually fueled by the energy, commitment and intelligence of the countless individuals and organizations who work tirelessly to improve conditions for bicyclists and, as a direct result, improve the health of individuals, communities and the planet.
Happy Holidays! by mark on Dec 23, 2014
Happy Holidays from the Planet Bike family to you and yours. We'll have reduced hours over the next two weeks as we take some time to recharge for 2015. Our office and warehouse will be closed December 24-28 and Dec 31-January 4. We'll be back and ready to rock on January 5.
Throwback Thursday by mark on Dec 18, 2014
Planet Bike has long been committed to doing business in a different way. Aside from our mission to help strengthen bike advocacy we also aim to make our business as sustainable as possible.
We utilize the best subcomponents we can find to bring you products that work great, are durable and stand the test of time. We have an extensive list of small parts that are available to refurbish older products. If something does happen to wear out after years of use chances are we sell a piece to make it good as new.
Back in December 2007 we installed a photovoltaic system (solar) on the roof of Planet Bike HQ. The initial expense is the main deterrent for such an undertaking but the payoff over time just makes sense; not to mention we're utilizing a renewable resource to supply nearly 90% of our power needs!
Kid Bike Love by kristin on Dec 02, 2014
I taught my 3 year old to ride a two wheeler this past weekend. He had been zooming around on his run bike for some time and could balance going downhill for more than a block with ease so I figured he’d catch on quickly. To see his determination and excitement about riding a “two wheel pedal bike!” was such a thrill for me. After a couple of topples and figuring out the pedaling I let go of that saddle and lo and behold he kept going forward. It felt a bit surreal to see him off and riding and he laughed with delight that he was riding on his own. The feeling of exhilaration and independence that comes from riding a bike is now his. When you ask people why they like riding a bike you often hear them mention that it makes them feel like a kid again. The speed, the feeling of flying, the freedom; watching a kid learn to ride a bike is a reminder that riding bikes is just plain fun. I can't wait to share more bike adventures with my kids in the years to come.
The Best Way to Carry Cargo by Bike. by mark on Nov 20, 2014
A bicycle is a beautiful thing and to optimize all if its benefits, we all want to be able to carry some stuff with us as we head down the road of life. So, what's the best approach? Is it your trusty backpack, a classic highlighter yellow Ortlieb pannier or are you planning on getting your three kids to school in the morning? There is no one size fits all solution. You'll ultimately need to decide what's best for you but we hope to offer some tips to guide your decision.