Living Outside The Box Born-Again Techo-Geek Renaissance Man

24Jun/140

Why I Bike Commute

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

The folks at the Bike Commuter Cabal were kind enough to let me write up some stuff for you to read about why I decided to start Bike Commuting, and how it changed my life.

Have you ever been at a point where you know you need to change, but you just don’t know where to start? Four years ago, I was at that point.

This would have been around 2010. I had recently moved back to my home town, had a beautiful family, and was pretty much happy. Except that I wasn’t happy. I was pretty miserable in fact, but I wasn’t letting on. Why? Some of the reasons (a lot of them) were related to my job, but a lot of it had to do with me being 40 pounds overweight. I was weighing in at 5′ 11″ and 215 pounds.

“That’s not so bad,” you’re probably thinking. Well, no, relatively speaking, there are a lot of people that are a lot heavier than I was. But the reality was that I knew my life, and my weight, were spiraling out of control. I was always tired, having digestion issues, sinus problems, sleep apnea, and I plowed through it, being miserable and pretty much always exhausted.

But I knew there was a better way. Thanks to my friend Mike, I got interested in whole foods (which I knew practically nothing about) and realized how much garbage I was putting into my body. Somewhere in that time, my job started getting very frustrating. I was hating going to work, and I’m ashamed to say it carried over into my home life. I was not being the husband and father my family deserved. I knew I needed a change, but I didn’t know where to start.

So I bought a bike.

Check it out here!
Bike Commuter Cabal Blog (EDIT: Fixed the link. I'm an idiot. But it's fixed now.)

4Mar/140

Cateye Commuter CC-COM10W Review

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

 

If you're like me, and you like to ride your bike to places, then you probably have some sort of device on your bike that lets you track miles, speed, time, and so forth. A lot of these bike computers are focused on tracking data for training rides- heart rate, cadence, power, etc.- so when my old Cateye Velo 2 died after 20 years of service, I was very eager to replace it. Plus, Cateye is very much supportive of Bike Commuters... they even run the website www.worldcommute.com which tracks commuting miles.

Commuter

3Dec/133

Rural Bike Commuting: It’s Not The City?

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

Okay, I'll admit it... every time I hear stories about bike commuters in the city, it fills me with pangs of jealousy, and some days I'll even descend into a mild (non-medical-grade) depression about the non-attainability of city commuting in the country.

The truth is, commuting in rural areas is a completely different affair than city commuting. It requires different equipment, different tactics, and a different mindset. Now, I haven't been commuting for decades, but as a native resident of one of the more culturally backwards areas on Earth, I've been witness to more than my share of rural miles. And as jealous as I am of the city, I think commuting in the country has its own appeal.

For those of you who brave the back roads and highways, I salute you. You can safely tune back into your routine of picking beer bottle glass from your tires, charging your headlight batteries, wiping roadkill off your downtube, and taking a stout swig of whatever it is that gives you the courage to ride the next day.

Those of you readers who live in the city* and commute there, I've decided to give you a brief glimpse into the life of a rural commuter. This is strictly anecdotal, but please remember, this is as accurate as I could make it without scaring the kids.

13May/130

How I turned my life around… and lost it again

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

Life On Hold:

Have you ever been at a point where you know you need to change, but you just don't know where to start? Four years ago, I was at that point.

I had recently moved back to my home town, had a beautiful family, and was pretty much happy. Except that I wasn't happy. I was pretty miserable in fact, but I wasn't letting on. Why? Some of the reasons were related to my job, but a lot of it had to do with me being 40+ pounds overweight. I was weighing in at 5' 11" and 215 pounds.

"That's not so bad," you're probably thinking. Well, no, relatively speaking, there are a lot of people that are a lot heavier than I was. But the reality was that I knew my life, and my weight, were spiraling out of control. I was always tired, having digestion issues, sinus problems, sleep apnea, and I plowed through it, being miserable and pretty much always exhausted.

But I knew there was a better way. Thanks to my friend Mike, I got interested in whole foods (which I knew practically nothing about) and realized how much garbage I was putting into my body. Somewhere in that time, my job started getting very frustrating. I was hating going to work, and I'm ashamed to say it carried over into my home life. I knew I needed a change, but I didn't know where to start.

So, I bought a bike.

31Jul/110

How Your Life Changes In Two Seconds

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Got up at 5:00 and packed the bike with a day’s change of clothes, lunch, and ate breakfast.

5:50 I jump on the bike and head down my street. I’m wearing reflective ankle bands, a reflective vest, and my bike has reflective tape on the frame, as does my helmet with mirror. I have a 4-watt led headlight in front, a solid and a blinking tail light, the big ones powered by a special front wheel I built using a generator in the hub, never needs changing batteries.

I decide to ride to work through Nicholls State, crossing Bayou Lafourche at the Audubon street bridge. All is quiet, no traffic, making good time. I haven’t been pushing myself hard today because I was trying a new higher handle bar setup, and wanted to see if it was more comfortable.

There’s a short stretch where the shoulder runs out just as you get to Rosedown off of 308. Up to there, you get 20 miles of a huge shoulder, which isn’t bad, until you pass Reienzi and the shoulder narrows down to nothing, essentially forcing bike traffic and pedestrians into 45MPH 2-lane traffic. This is called a “pinch point” and it is very dangerous, so I either go into the lane early to force people to slow down, or I am forced to wait.

Today there is little traffic so I go into the lane, causing a car to have to slow a little to get around me, only for 50 feet or so. I then ride up Rue Loudon to cross Canal street at a “safe” intersection, traffic signal, etc. I wait till the light turns green for me (yes, bikes can trigger most light sensors) and when it changes, I stand and take off across the intersection.

Within the space of about 2 seconds, I get hit by a car, I end up laying in a twisted heap on the side of the road, my bike was thrown into the middle of the intersection. My left leg is pointing in the wrong direction. Time to stop and rethink life.

19Jun/110

My First 200K Rando Report

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

Well, some of you know I’m somewhat of a bike nut. Some of you may even know that I’m a little on the crazy side. That’s why, when I discovered the “sport” of Randonneuring, and I saw how crazy the people are, I had to get in on some of that action.

Randonneuring, or “rando” for short, is basically slower paced long-distance cycling. The official rules have options for 200K, 300K, 400K, 600K, and 1200K rides, all basically without support, and without stopping for any real length of time. You’re basically riding around the clock, and the 1200K rides are known to stretch into 3+ days.

I figured I would hook up with the New Orleans chapter of RUSA and see what the fuss was about. Now, to most people, I’m a pretty accomplished rider. I log about 3000 miles a year commuting, and I’ve done several 75-mile-a-day charity rides. I don’t think twice about knocking out 50 miles. How hard could it be to do 125 miles, right?

Hah.

26Oct/100

Times They Are A’ Changin

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

Okay, first off, I’m not a huge Bob Dylan fan. I just like the name of the song.

Secondly, I’m in a quandry. Most of you know I’ve been commuting to work on my bike (pedal powered, not a motorcycle, it always irritates me when people call their motorcycles “bikes”).  In a word, it’s fantastic. I’ve lost weight, gotten healthier, and I actually enjoy the trip to work and back (being at work is a different story entirely). Most of you also know I’m a huge car nut… I love fast cars. I own a sports compact car, which I love to bring to the track and abuse. It’s somewhat of a drama queen, as nothing on it is cheap to fix, and it is rather fickle. And did I mention it’s ridiculously fun to drive? However, it’s paid for, and I’m not really tempted to sell it.

Except that I am really tempted to sell it. Less than a year ago, I was at the point of almost having to sell it, because we just couldn't afford the cost of owning it for very long… however, we managed to pay it off, and our monthly bills dropped more than $300. I was ecstatic. I didn’t have to sell my fast car. My dream didn’t die.

15Oct/100

New Commuter Build

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

Here’s a shot of the commuter with the new Nishiki frame, which I happily rescued from the trash. I expect many more thousands of miles from this bike.

commuter

30Aug/100

Commuter Report: Week 1 Finished

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

I really enjoyed biking to work last week, even though I had to bail on Thursday and Friday afternoons because of the torrential downpours. Fret not, as I now have fully functional fenders and lights on the BlueBike, and I’m ready for anything. Well, not anything per se, you know, not a tornado or volcanic activity, or a tidal wave or a Cat 5 hurricane. But as for dark and rain, I’ve pretty much got that covered. I’ve got all my stuff in waterproof bags, so even if it rains, I’m ready to go.

Yes, I’m still scared of getting run down, but not as much as I was. In actuality, the rides have been a lot better than I thought they would be. I’m still curious as to if/when I’ll run across local law enforcement, and what they’ll tell me about riding in the street… Thibodaux, LA doesn’t have the greatest track record for bicycle-friendly law enforcement. It would do those guys some good to actually patrol on bikes and see what traffic is like without the protective bubbles of their plush cruisers. Heh, that’s wishful thinking.

Anyway, the ride has gone mostly fine. I had a rough day today, but I am reminded that last week went really well. My lighting system performed perfectly after I realized I had hooked the battery up wrong! The taillight I use only works when the polarity is correct, it’s made of LEDs and doesn’t have a rectifier in it. (Hmm, another project I could do one day) The bike is riding fine, the fenders worked great. Everything seems to be going perfectly.

I still need to get a better tire solution for preventing flats. The Kenda tires I have ride well, but are cheap, and they seem to like to eat up bits of metal like Cookie Monster eats cookies. Maybe I could try some tire liners, like Mr. Tuffy brand.

As I sit here typing this, it’s raining outside. I don’t know if the rain will be done by the time I get off of work, but I’m looking forward to riding home in the rain, to see what that will be like. No, I’m not crazy… I spent money on quality fenders, I want to see how well they work!

24Aug/100

Commuting To Work

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

So I finally decided instead of riding 14 miles every morning, and then driving to work, I’d just ride the 8 miles to work instead.

You’re probably thinking “That’s a no-brainer!” but it’s more complicated than that. On my normal morning ride, there’s no traffic lights, very little traffic, and only one stop sign. To get to work is a shorter distance, but requires navigating a dozen stop signs, busier streets, and at least two traffic lights and a bridge. Also, I will have to carry myself (and my stuff) back home in the heat at 5:00, which I don’t have to deal with on morning-only rides. I also have to figure out how to carry a change of clothes, any food I need, my laptop, and anything else (including lights and a battery) on the bike, while on my regular rides I don’t need any of that stuff.

Don’t forget that buying a bike and everything you need for a commute costs money! It’s healthier to get exercise, yes, but it’s still not free. With recreational cycling, if you get a flat, you don’t have to ride. If something breaks, you can wait to fix it. If it’s too rainy, too dark, or too whatever, you don’t have to ride. With commuting, you pretty much need to ride every day, unless you have a car on standby at all times. I do happen to have a car, so this is less of an issue for me.

So is it worth it? It depends on how dedicated you are to it. Believe it or not, you will save more money by riding when it’s convenient, because you will not need things like lights, fenders, panniers, or specialized clothing. You won’t get as fit, though, if you don’t ride on a regular basis.

So whether or not you will get benefits from cycling to work depends on what kind of retuns you’re looking for. So far, I’ve lost close to 20 pounds just cycling and eating right. Commuting will actually increase my mileage compared to my normal 13.5 mile morning jaunts, up to 16.5 miles total a day. Not a huge difference, but it eliminates the extra time I spent riding in the morning… I can actually get up and leave laterthan I normally would if I had ridden and then drove to work.

Time will tell how things go long-term, but for how good I feel riding my bike, I’m going to stick with it.