Saturday, October 27, 2007

Utility Miles

I wrote this article for my bike club a few years ago. Now that fall is here and winter is upon us, I thought it might be a good time to post.

I have been bike riding for 20 years now and before I joined a club I have come to learn that most of my miles were termed utility miles. I had a Mongoose hybrid that I equipped with inexpensive day panniers and fenders. I even added a Zzipper fairing. (Quite a site in those days) Working off shift I had many opportunities to ride. I would go to the mall, run errands and if I bought something I had room to carry it. As time went on I bought a more expensive road bike and later joined my local bike club, but I still used my Mongoose for local errands and took it camping.

Today I have 4 bikes in my stable. 3 recumbents and 1 Dahon folder. All bikes are equipped with racks, fenders, lights, fat tires and panniers. I do not use clipless pedals, as I prefer to wear different shoes. I find the trick to utility miles is to make your bike user friendly.( non-biking clothes if need be). That Dahon folder is quite nifty. Instead of taking my gas guzzling van to the beach, I take my economical Hyundai and throw the bike in the trunk. A few miles around the shore in flip-flops and no shirt really adds to the ambiance. The other day I did a 35 mile round trip to work for a 3-hour class. I new that it would be difficult to find parking, so I took my bike. Yesterday, I went furniture shopping for my son’s new apartment. The couch did not fit in my panniers. Later that day I went to the dentist. I have been known to carry a pizza pie home bungee corded to my rear rack. 1½ miles of slow riding and the cheese was still intact.

You don't have to stop riding when the temperature goes below 50. A 10-mile ride in the mid 30’s is quite exhilarating and a stop at Dunkin Donuts hits the spot. Local discount dept stores have a nice selection of inexpensive synthetic wicking shirts. If you are somewhat height impaired as I am, you can find inexpensive women’s workout wear. (Far more choices and less money than men’s) Sweatpants work well also. Sandals can be quite warm in the winter. You can layer socks, loosen the straps as needed, and your feet won’t sweat. Hard sole hiking shoes on fat BMX pedals grip well. Fleece mittens also work well on cold days. Another reason for panniers is a place to store those layers after you warm up. My trike is my winter ride of choice. No worry of falling over on slippery roads.

Most bike enthusiasts have more than 1 bike. Get that old clunker and dust it off. Change those tires to a fat slick, add fenders and inexpensive panniers, or treat yourself to an Ebay special and your out the door.


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