Monday, October 26, 2009

The True Commuters

I enjoy riding my bike in Miami, I truly do, and as a rider I wear many hats. I am a roadie, a commuter and a trail rider. As a result, it is possible for me to see my great city from the vantage point of my bike saddle.

Unfortunately, it is not always possible to shun my auto in lieu of the bike, and by the same token I also get to see the city and its cyclists from the point of view of a driver, and herein lies the paradox. In the morning my drive takes me from West to East - from east comes the true commuters and these guys get it !

Their bikes are simply that ... I ride, a mode of transportation that takes them from their home to their jobs, mostly in the service industry in the establishments out west. This are not tricked out bikes, they are those which you pick up at Walmart for less than a hundred bucks. But they get them to and from work reliably and best of all ... for free.

These commuters will not risk life and limb, because well, it's just not worth it. As a result and in the process, they teach us a lesson... or two.

For starters, the majority of them wear reflective vests, they stop at every intersection, look over their shoulder before crossing every street or driveway, lest they get cut off by a careless driver and slowly make their progress towards their final destination to avoid sweating too much before the start of their shift.

As I return from East to West during my evening commute (on my bike) I come across these fellow riders as they they return home as well - I go west, they go east and we are all commuters.

Despite the fundamental differences between our reasons to commute, I feel fortunate to have other options, but by the same token paradoxically I would almost hope that I had no other option but to commute on my bike.

Now, every time I ride by a Burger King, Mac Donald's or any other fine establishment and I see a bike ....or several chained to the street sign in front - I know that they belong to my fellow commuters and as we pass each other in opposite directions we nod in mutual respect and carry on.

These guys are the real thing, and we owe it to them to continue with our plight so that they, even more than us can benefit from a more bike friendly society.

After all, it makes me feel vindicated when my Taco Bell meal is prepared and served by a rider ...just like me.
Ride on !

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mt. Dora Bicycle Festival

I've been wanting to go to this festival for over 6 years and counting, and there was never quite the right time. So this year we decided to make the commitment and so come October 9th, we hit the road with great enthusiasm.

This event totally exceeded our expectations, there is just something really powerful about descending upon a place where hundreds of fellow riders converge. You feel like you belong and the anticipation of long, enjoyable rides is simply overwhelming.

So we wake up really early and ride the 2 and half miles from our hotel to the center of town and as any fellow rider can attest, there is a very cool feeling about riding in a place where you have never been before. Everything looks and feel different and you simply have no idea of what lies ahead but can't wait to travel the miles on your own power to find out.

We arrive in the middle of town with a few minutes to spare before our ride 50 mile ride to the Yalaha Bakery out in Yalaha, Florida. The scene of hundreds of cyclists on super cool bikes, we are ready to join them and ride out to some place we've never been before.

The rides were simply flawless, clearly marked and easy to follow on beautiful country roads and rolling hills with a couple of challenging hills to tackle, life got better by the mile.

The organizers and volunteers are simply the best, great demeanor and always, always, always willing to help and inform. The residents of Lake and Orange County are the most respectful, patient and courteous motorists I have ever encountered.

There are over 10 rides that cover distances from 100 miles to just a couple of miles, so everyone can find a ride to match their abilities and desires. This festival is simply a must for any bicycle enthusiast and must be done many many many times over.

As for me... I am a fan and will definitely return every year.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

My First Commute

For the past few months I have been looking forward to the end of the work day with greater enthusiasm. Not because I want my day to end, on the contrary, I am having a pretty good time and the least thing I wish for is for time to go by any faster than it already is.

The reason for my positive anticipation, is the fact that I no longer brave the traffic on my way home as I have discovered the joys of bicycle commuting. Instead of sitting in idle traffic for almost an hour burning gas and wasting time, I now ride my bicycle through neighborhood and quiet streets that allow me a better view of our wonderful city.

Up until last week, my chosen mode of transportation was my Diamond Back mountain bike which along with a full set of lights and its corresponding rechargeable battery, plus my my laptop and clothes in my backpack made for an additional 15 pounds of weight to carry along. My added weight is simply regarded as increased resistance that provide for a better workout throughout my commute so it is not exactly a negative issue. The reason for riding my mountain bike was because often I jumped curbs, or cut through parking lots or other minor acrobacies required during the route that would be totally unpractical to say the least on my road bike.

Anyway, two weeks ago, our city of Miami was declared Bike Town USA by Bicycling Magazine, as a result 30 bikes were give out to those who submitted essays and were selected. My essay was chosen, and I received a new Jamis Commuter bike -

My commute has become more of a challenge, a bit of workout where I set goals throughout the route and constantly try to improve on my time or hit some mini sprints or intervals in between lights. I enjoy every bit of it all the way home - thus I look forward to it throughout my work day.

I rode my new bike home for the first time last Monday and it was nothing short of a fantastic experience. The new ride has a different feel, one of a touring bike more like a commuting bike- I can still crank it up on the straight aways or race to beat the red lights, but the feel is a somewhat different, one that takes me back to my high school days when I couldn't wait to finish my homework so I could go out and ride my bicycle.

The significance of this event is exactly the parallel I draw between the feel of riding my mountain bike and how my new commuter bike feels now - See, back then BMX was a fledgling sport and all we had was either touring bikes or high performance road bikes - so needless to say, my bike was a breed between a BMX and a touring bike, with a single gear and coaster brakes- but I tore the neighborhood up in that sucker.

Nowadays, as I ride my new commuter bike, I feel once again as if I am riding a mixed breed bike, and it feels good - I visualize myself standing atop the stairs in the second story of my house yelling down to the kitchen asking my mom if I can go out to ride my bike. My mom's response ... "Did you finish your homework?" is barely audible as I am riding away from the house towards the evening neighborhood races.

Ride on ....

Friday, August 28, 2009

Miami named Bike Town USA by Bicycling Magazine

In recognition to the City of Miami's effort to raise awareness in the community and improve cycling conditions - Bicycling Magazine has declared the City of Miami - Bike Town USA -

The City of Miami has been promoting the benefits of cycling for commuting and good health by hosting several Bike Miami Days during which some streets in Miami are closed to vehicular traffic so that they can be safely used by cyclists, skaters, pedestrians and such and create a large block party where the city comes out to play and enjoy our great Florida weather.

In addition the Bike Miami Days, the City of Miami is also scheduling several Bike Summits througout the year so that members of the community can have a voice and also learn about the efforts and programs being done to ensure the success of the program.

Yesterday, August 27, 2009 - Bycling Magazine along with City of Miami and other sponsors including Metlife, Elite Cycle and Fitness presented 30 local cyclists with Jamis Commuter bikes with the purpose of increasing bicycling in the city and following some of these lucky winners to see how cycling will change their lives in the future. Stay tuned for more updates.

For more information and to stay informed on the efforts of our community to improve conditions join the Bike Miami group on Facebook -

Also a huge shoutout to Collin Worth - the City's Bike Coordinator and Kathryn Reid Moore who are both doing great work in bringing these events to the community and making them a huge success.