Friday, June 3, 2011

Top Bike-Friendly Cities in the World

Have you ever been to a city where one of the main types of transportation was via bike? Many people of all ages around the globe use a bike as their primary source of transportation because it’s cheaper, environmentally-friendly, healthy and easy. When using a road bike it can also be speedier option in many cases.

We’ve compiled a list of cities around the world that have a high bike usage per capita and have a great system in place for urban bikers. These bike-friendly cities strive to keep their biker residents happy and safe.
  1. Copenhagen, Denmark
  2. Copenhagen and its people are a group truly devoted to the bicycle. With a culture that has a third of the population commuting on bike combined with a local government that offers free rentals and dedicated lanes, Copenhagen is our #1 choice as bike-friendly cities.
  3. Amsterdam, Netherlands
  4. If the Dutch know how to do one thing, it’s bike. Amsterdam is known world-wide as the ultimate bike capital of the planet. The city features a massive population of bikers of all ages and professions on the road at any time. The Amsterdam city government also promotes bike use with bike rentals, cyclist-only lanes and bike traffic signals.
  5. Basel, Switzerland
  6. Residents of Basel love biking and who can blame them! With countryside of fruit trees and grapevines complimented by elegant shops and buildings along with a health-focused population, it comes as no surprise that around 25% of Basel’s residents travel on 2 wheels. The city promotes bike use with bike lanes, traffic signals and rentals.
  7. Florence, Italy
  8. As the birthplace of the Renaissance, it is no wonder that Florence embraces biking culture. Adding to their bike culture is the huge population of college students that regularly commute to and around campus by bicycle. Florence has separate bike lanes which are bi-directional and colored for ease of use.
  9. Minneapolis, Minnesota
  10. Minneapolis, Minnesota is a town committed to biking. Even in the winter frigidness, a large population of this city commutes by bike. There are a number of facilities for bikers such as indoor storage, city bike lanes, and trails. Unlike many European countries, bicycle helmets are widely used and highly encouraged in the US.
  11. Bologna, Italy
  12. Whether you’re visiting Bologna or are a permanent resident, riding a bike is the easiest and fastest way to get around. Bologna has a network of cycle paths throughout the city. The city also has various routes that have less motorized traffic creating a safe place for bikers.
  13. Munich, German
  14. Even though Munich is a large metropolis, drivers and bikers seem to coexist very well along the busy lanes and streets of this city. Munich has over 124 miles of bike paths and marked off sides to protect bikers. Just remember, bike theft is common here, so be sure to keep you bike locked.
  15. Salzburg, Austria
  16. Salzburg is a great bike-commuting city; with beautiful green landscapes and Baroque architecture, Salzburg is designed with over 105 miles of bike paths and 23 scenic bike routes. Salzburg also has self-service stations throughout the city with free tools, bike stands, lubricating oil and compressed air. There are also 5,500 parking spaces designated just for bikes.
  17. Bogota, Colombia
  18. Bogota is Latin America’s fastest growing bike-centered city. Bogota has its own bike path networks strategically connecting all regions of the city. This system consists of main, secondary and complimentary networks. These efforts are in place to offer residents a cheaper, healthier and more sustainable way of life that seems to be embraced well.
  19. Portland, Oregon
  20. People of Portland have always prized themselves on their consistent use of bicycles to get around. With the natural beauty and the overall tree-hugger culture, it is no surprise so many chose to bike. With separate bike lanes, bike racks and a community that thoroughly supports biking, Portland is a great city to get around on two wheels. If you’re interested in a cheaper, healthier commuting alternative that will help your community, you should grab a cruiser or road bike and start cruising!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The History of Mountain Biking

Mountain biking as a sport is a relatively young development – especially when compared to other sports such as tennis which has been around since 1871! Mountain biking was born in the 1970s and was an outgrowth of the recent surge in popularity of bicycling.

As with most good things, mountain biking was developed in California, around the time of hippies and anti-Vietnam War rebellions.

Tired with the increasing presence of cars in the streets and the clogged lanes, Gary Fisher, a bicycle racer, moved to the country with his partner to avoid the hectic city life. It was there in Marin County that Fisher met Joe Breeze and the ‘Clunkers,’ a group of cycling enthusiasts who regularly organized races using cruiser bikes from the 30s, 40s and 50s with coaster brakes. This group converted cruisers and balloon-tire bicycles into human-powered machines that are capable of passing through all kinds of road conditions, even the notoriously tough Repack, a downhill trail so named because one descent would overheat the hub breaks requiring that they be re-packed.

In 1977, Breeze designed what would become the first mountain bike (called the “Breezer”) featuring lightweight tubing originally used for road bikes, and fatter tires for improved traction and control. The revolution was further propelled in 1979 when Breeze and Otis Guy took one of the early Breezer models to 22 year old bike-frame designer and creator Tom Ritchey, who, upon seeing the bike, noticed the potential and began churning out fat-tire frames.

With a slew of frames and no business plan to speak of, Gary Fisher and fellow cyclist Charlie Kelly strung together a few hundred dollars and opened a bank account for a company called “MountainBikes,” they began to assemble the mountain bikes are Ritchey churned them out and started to market them locally. Eventually, the company names became the name everyone used for all off-road bikes!

Below, the original logo for Kelly-Fisher Mountain Bikes, which later became Fisher Mountain Bikes once Charlie Kelly left the company in 1983:

Necessary Mountain Biking Gear:

Sports Sunglasses: protect your eyes, block out the sun, and keep debris at bay with the right pair of sport sunglasses. We recommend a pair of polarized sunglasses for cycling as they will reduce glare!

Biking Gloves: mountain biking gloves are made of heavy construction and provide all over finger and hand protection.

Replacement Bike Tubes
: mountain biking can be rough on your bike so come prepares with extra bike tubes! Don’t forget to bring a tire pump too.

Also important for hitting the trails? Plenty of water, bike lights for those out at night, GPS tools so you don’t get lost, and sturdy shoes!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Packing for the Mountains

You’ve got your route figured out, you’ve selected one of the toughest, best mountain biking trails in the country, and your car is gassed up and ready to go! Now all you need to do is ensure that you have all the necessary tools and accessories to guarantee that this will be the best mountain biking excursion you’ve taken!

Most mountain biking enthusiasts make day trips of their excursions, although professionals or those going long distances may choose to camp out or stay at a local hotel. For those making the trek to a local state park or natural reserve for a day of mountain biking, certain items are a must to ensure safety, health, and fun!

The Right Bike for You

For those new to this style of biking, the first thing to do is to select the right mountain bike for you. MTBs, as they are known, are designed to handle off-road cycling and the dirt, inclines, bumps, unpaved trails, and other hazards that come with it. To handle these stressors, MTBs usually feature wide rims and wheels to ensure stability, knobby, thicky tires for good traction and shock absorption, and front and rear suspension. Check out the mountain bike selection at Colorado Ski Shop, including women’s MTB models.

Safety First

Mountain biking can be a rough sport with its fair share of scrapes and tumbles. When riding over such rough terrain as rocks, dirt, cliffs, ledges, slickrock, and sand, it is incredibly important to make sure you have ample protective gear to protect yourself against the elements and any potential accidents. At the very least, a bicycle helmet and bike gloves are non-negotiable. In addition to protecting your skin from rough winds and debris, bike gloves also improve your grip on and control of the bicycle by keeping sweat from making the handlebars slippery and adding traction to the handlebars.

Bike Problems

You never know when a flat tired or busted tube is going to happen so make sure you are prepared for any eventuality by bringing along some basic bike tools. There are a multitude of small, lightweight tools available that incorporate a variety of wrenches and screwdrivers so that you have everything you need at your disposal should an accident occur. We also suggest taking a pack of extra bicycle tire tubes (usually 2 per pack) in case you do get a flat tire while riding over loose rocks.

Packing to Go

The final component of planning a safe and fun mountain biking outing is to make sure you have a sturdy and well-designed backpack in which to store everything you need to take with you. We recommend a bicycle backpack, designed specifically to sit comfortably on your shoulder as you bikes, without causing strain or discomfort. Many traditional backpacks or messenger bags have wide straps that do not rest comfortably when one is in a biking position, or that cause strain on specific parts of the body.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Urban Cyclists: Safety on the Roads

Happy spring time, cyclists and bicycle newbies! There’s nothing like spring breezes, soft sunshine and green trees to motivate us off the couch and onto our bicycles, whether it be for a ride around the neighborhood, a quick trip to the coffeeshop, or a new resolution to bike to work!

No matter what your reason for bicycling, we’re here to help you get around your town safely.
  • Know your routes and rules:

    If you plan on biking in your town, make sure to familiarize yourself with bike lanes and routes as outlined by your city. This information, along with maps of the designated paths, is usually available online through your city’s website. Bike lanes can either be a separate lane in the road separated by a slim median, or they may simply be painted into existing car lanes. Some have separate stop lights which will identify when it is safe for cyclists to cross or turn. Make sure you understand local laws concerning cycling so as to avoid getting pulled over (yes, cops can pull you over while biking!). In many cities, biking on the sidewalk is verboten. Similarly, many cities have strict laws regarding helmet and light use.
  • Safety gear for bikes:

    Nothing is more important for cyclists than having the right safety and protective gear. If you plan on riding in the city, a bike helmet is a must and in many parts of the country, it’s required by law. Make sure your helmet fits correctly and provides proper ventilation. Different types of bikes and cycling require different helmets: sports, road bike, or mountain biking helmets. For those biking at night, in low-visibility conditions (rain, fog, etc), or in areas of high traffic, we also recommend a safety vest and ample lights. All bicycles should be equipped with at minimum two bike lights, one in the front, and one at the rear. We also suggest placing a flashing bike light on your person – either attached to a backpack, or clipped to the band of your pants or shorts. With 40% of bicycle fatalities occurring between 6pm and midnight, utilizing a bike light could literally save your life!
  • Road biking:

    Biking in the city requires its own set of guidelines – always signal with your hands when you are about to turn, yield to cars and pedestrians, adhere to all road traffic rules, stop at stop signs, stick to designated lanes, etc. It is also important to remember when biking on roads to give yourself a reasonable distance from the curb. Hugging the curb while biking puts you in a precarious situation should you need to maneuver quickly to avoid a car or pothole.
  • Anti-theft measures:

    Many of the bigger bike metropolises have bike theft issues, but investing in a sturdy and durable bike lock can greatly reduce the chances of your bicycle getting stolen. The highest quality locks will be indestructible by hacksaws or cutters. We recommend U-Locks as they are strong and come in a variety of sizes! Remember to wrap your lock around both the front wheel and frame of your bicycle.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ten Most Bike-Friendly Cities in the U.S

With the price of gas steadily on the rise, more Americans are looking for alternative ways to get around their home cities. For some, this means making the most of local public transportation while for others, investing in a bike is the best option.

In the past few years, bike culture has seen a huge surge in the United States with more people choosing to bike to work than ever before. Local governments, state legislatures and bike activism groups are taking heed and creating new lanes, extending cycling paths, building bike rails and much more!
Why is biking suddenly so popular? In addition to being great exercise, it is cheaper (no insurance, less financial investment) and does not produce one single ounce of pollution for our atmosphere.

Bicycling magazine has rounded up the best biking cities in the United States and we know why:

1. Minneapolis, MN

Although this may seem like a surprising #1 choice, Minneapolis is a great city of cyclists as any resident will tell you. In addition to over 120 miles of bike lanes and facilities, Minneapolis also offers ample indoor bike parking to protect your bicycle from any inclement weather, and many other bike-friendly incentives. Hundreds of citizens ride to work even in the dead of winter and the city’s 5.7 mi Midtown Greenway, an urban loop for cyclists, is helping to make Minneapolis accessible for bike commuters. The Midtown Bike Center has a repair shop with everything you need from new bike tubes to portable bike pumps in addition to showers and bike storage in the city center. Did we mention 34 miles of street bike lanes and over 50 miles of trails?

2. Portland, OR

This city has been a cycling Mecca for decades due to its interconnected bike lanes and paths through various neighborhoods that allow commuters to bypass automobile commuting entirely, as well as innovative programs that install bike-only areas at traffic signals and give out free bike lights. The city also initiated the Create-a-Commuter program which makes low-cost commuter bicycles available to less wealthy residents of the city. These bikes come with a cycling helmet, bike lock, pump, and maps. With about 10% of the city regularly commuting by bike (quite a feat in our car-dependent nation), Portland also boasts over 250 miles of trails, paths, and lanes. In the past 20 years, biking has quadrupled with no increase in the number of crashes!

3. Boulder, CO

This city strives to educate its citizens about the safety and benefits of bicycling, as well as bike maintenance. Boulder has a variety of public programs available that teach people about sharing the road with cars, equipping one’s bike with lights and other necessary equipment, and more. This city has long been a popular destination for the health-oriented because of its great mountain biking culture, fresh air, and outdoor sports activities. The city also invests 15% of its transportation budget to creating bikes lanes and other bicycle-friendly infrastructure.

4. Seattle, WA

Each day thousands of Seattle residents bike to work despite the incessant drizzle the city is known for. In addition to bike trails leading to light rail stations to make commuting and public transport use easier and more streamlined, the city has a 10 year, $240 million master plan that hopes to add 450 miles of bike paths in addition to improving overall biking conditions in the city.

5. Eugene, OR

Much like Portland, Eugene has been at the forefront of the car-free movement as more and more of the city’s residents opt to bike on the Emerald City’s three main urban trails instead of driving around. The city also offers ample bicycle parking, extensive bike paths that are lit for improved visibility, and the Smart Ways to School program.

6. San Francisco, CA

The Golden Gate city boasts about 40,000 bicycle commuters and over 60 miles of lanes and paths throughout the city. The BART allows bicycles onboard allowing easier access to public transport for cyclists, and streamlining cross-town transportation. The city also offers a bike shuttle across the Bay Bridge during rush hour. The city’s Board of Supervisors has many elected officials that were backed by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, ensuring that cyclist’s needs will continue to be a top priority. Designated street lanes and traffic signals make this city one of the safest large cities to bike in.

7. Madison, WI

Since 1975, Madison has continually developed bike plans and paths. Currently, Madison has over 30 miles of off-street bike paths in addition to 30 miles of street lanes and a 120 mile networked of bike routes with ample signs!

8. NYC, NY

In the past NYC was considered a city unfriendly to cyclists and dangerous to bike in, but in recent years new developments have turned NYC into a more welcoming place for cyclists. Greenways throughout the city and car-free Central Park offer pleasant bike rides through the bustling metropolis and boroughs such as Brooklyn and Queens offer plenty of biking opportunities. April’s Five Borough Bike Tour involves 30,000 cyclists and 42 miles of car-free riding!

9. Tucson, AZ

Year-round sunshine and warm weather makes Tucson the perfect biking location. Add to that 700 miles of designated bikeways and new rules that state that all new street construction and reconstruction must include bike lanes and Tucson is quickly becoming a biking haven. The Tucson area has almost 500 miles of bikes lanes and routes and have just completed their fourth bike-pedestrian bridge.

10. Chicago, IL

By 2015, Chicago will the most bike friendly in the U.S according to Mayor Richard M. Daley. The Mayor is putting his money where his mouth is by regularly biking himself! Chicago currently boasts over 300 miles of bike lanes and paths and also hosts an annual “Bike the Drive” car-free ride that ends with a free concert!

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