March 4, 2008

A change of scenery, and direction.

Yeah, I know it's not exactly gonna be 70 degrees at the start line, but hey -- It's still a good time, and great riding! This time out, it's the KCK 200K, this Saturday, 3/8, 7AM start -- $10.00 Hope to see you there!

On another note, more to the title of this entry; you may have noticed that a couple of things have changed on this site lately -- that's all by design. Anyone that's been surfing here for a while knows that the old "" URL has slipped into oblivion, and along with it the redirect to this page. I really hope that most of you have found your way back here to this dedicated blog page. The hits have been consistent - and I thank all of you that have continued to read and have updated your links to this new location! I was a little worried, especially locally, as when I show up at local rides – and even when I went down to Texas -- I have people coming up and asking if "I'm the commuterDude". It's humbling, and kinda cool, actually – so I don’t really want to totally shed the whole CommuterDude moniker – the name, and what it stands for, are important and do serve a purpose in the community. My personal comfort level with the whole thing has been a little "off" over the past 18 months. I have had trouble wearing my own jersey, for example. I can't really put my finger on it, and I am not really looking for an outpouring of advice on the subject, but it just seems a little heavy-handed now (I think I’ve used that term before – it’d be like Obama wearing a “vote for me” t-shirt with his picture on it – a little cheesy, at best). A lot of people (at least from my perspective) might get a sort-of "goody-two-shoes" impression about the whole commuter thing, and the whole ride-by-example thing. Personally, as far as that ethos goes, I don't really care what “they” think, because I still contend there IS a right way and a wrong way to ride a bicycle in traffic. Unfortunately, me wearing the jersey, spouting the rhetoric, and using the webpage as a shotgun; I feel like it creates a culture of "us and them", and I don't really want to be a divider. I want to be a unite-r. I want to be clear that this is not a "can't beat em, join em" moment -- certainly NOT. I just think that slapping "rider A" with a big "you're-doing-it-wrong" sticker because they run a stop-sign creates a division - and division creates tension, and tension creates animosity. I don't want to support that. What I'd like to support is a culture of communication between ALL cyclists in Johnson County. A dialogue between racers, weekend riders, cruisers, randonneurs, commuters, utility riders -- a dialogue that supports positive behavior and eradication of actions that hurt the cycling image and culture. Instead of slapping that rider with a bad name, and shunning them, perhaps make it a constructive talking point. If they don’t want to listen, they have that right – but I think it is up to all of us as a body of cyclists, regardless of bike, goals, attire, tire size, to behave in a way that will promote cycling on public roads, help us secure our rights on those roads, and help keep cycling out o the shadows of bad press and unfortunate traffic accidents and loss of life. I think we all owe it to each other to push towards that culture, and stop putting up more barricades between each other. That’s my mission.

Where I have stepped away from organizing short rides and pulling together an MS-150 team, I have taken up organizing longer rides under a national umbrella with RUSA (, and have started to step up my actions with regards to advocacy.

One small victory, owed to everyone that rides to work here at Sprint and our collective efforts over the past two years or more, we now have a discounted fitness center membership available for bicycle commuters that want to use the facilities to clean up and shower in the mornings – one more excuse eliminated, and one more perk gained for those that would rather ride to work!

Why RUSA? RUSA lends itself towards long-distance cycling, yes, but they are an internationally recognized cycling body that has a clear rule-book for their riders, and it stands right alongside what I’ve be preaching for years as good tips for commuting. I am a proud member, since 2001. My goal, locally, is to get a few other routes put together, called Populaires: these rides are LESS than 200K, can be as short as a metric century in some cases, and are a great way to introduce people to randonneuring. The way to ride in traffic, the way to prepare for commuting to work, can all be found in the RUSA rules and I think it’s a great way to help mold that kind of behavior into second-nature. Populaires are a great way to grow the sport of randonneuring and a great way for those unfamiliar with it to see how the events are run and what goes into them, without having to ride 125 miles right off the bat. To bring back some of the flavor of this whole thing, some of them will indeed be held AT NIGHT. I tell you what, the night ride thing is something I’d like to hold onto – and I’m gonna put a few out there, for sure, this summer. I won’t be able to hold them on a regular, monthly basis like my original plans from last year entailed, but I’ll do what I can. I’d love to have the old crowd consider coming out for some good miles in the warm summer nights, so stay tuned, and I’ll be putting it out there for the JCBC calendar as well --- the routes WILL be RUSA Populaires, but you will not necessarily have to be a RUSA member to ride with us – but, I strongly encourage it: it’s only $20 a year, and you will gain the opportunity to participate in mileage competitions, will be eligible to receive medals for your efforts, and gain a unique member number that will stay with you for life (I’m RUSA #1445, nice to meet ya!), as well as a terrific bi-monthly newsletter with great information and well-written stories and photos from big rides, and great deals on RUSA-logo products at a deep club discount. It’s a terrific deal – but don’t join on a whim: come try a populaire, come try a permanent or brevet – see if it’s for you, then decide. As you can tell, my big push is to grow the sport of long-distance riding, and grow the randonneuring mentality in the greater KC area. Yes, I have a lot of personal interest there, but I also think that the more exposure people have to the type of preparedness and the behaviors that the RUSA rulebook suggests, the closer we’ll be to a cycling culture that will grow and thrive safely, instead of a culture that is stunted by shortcomings, miscommunication and mishap.

Gas prices are getting RIDICULOUS, as you know. My fire was lit when we broke $1.50…. got hotter when we broke $2.00…. and now, not too much later, here we are…. $3.00 and up has been solid on the gas station price boards for weeks now. Once it goes up, I don’t think it’s coming back down. While it was a scary prospect last summer, with $2.99 showing up everywhere, now the reality of $3.50 per gallon gas THIS summer may be very real. I’ve already seen $3.16 in Olathe, and it’s gone down since then to $3.07 – but that little spike is a harbinger of things to come, and it ain’t pretty. If you were thinking about commuting to work last year, this year the case is even stronger. The winter weather has been tough this season, and it’s kept a lot of us off the bike far longer than we’d like – but spring is coming. Time to finish up that beater project, grab a WalMart or Target hybrid for cheap, ANYTHING – just get out of the dang car!
I don’t know about you, but part of my motivation for getting rid of the webpage hosting and such was simple economics – I’m trying to reduce family expenses wherever I can, and extra stuff like a web-hosting bill in the mail just wasn’t on the “must-have” list. It’s getting REAL out there. My gas bill went up, my electric bill went up – my usage has gone DOWN. Energy costs are going to get worse. It’s fact. Again, I urge all of you to push the notion, encourage your friends, make them believe it CAN be done. For your health, for your personal economy – the time to ride to work, even if it’s only a couple times a week, is NOW. The next five years will see a dramatic shift in the costs of everything that uses, is delivered by something that consumes, or burns fossil fuels. There’s just no way around it. Make your plans now… every employer will ask you, “where do you wanna be in five years?” – this is a question I have started to ask myself on a personal level, and I suggest you do, too: I used to look at things like, my car will be paid off in “xx” years, wonder what I wanna get? Do I wanna keep it, or trade up? Man, I tell you… I don’t honestly know if I’ll have a 2nd car in five years. I can’t even imagine, doing the simple math, what a barrel of oil will cost in five years, what a car tire (or a BICYCLE tire) will cost in five years, how much a quart of oil, a gallon of anti-freeze will cost. Windshield wiper blades, for cryin’ out loud – anything that has rubber, plastics… man, it’s gonna get rough! More drivers, more cars, more traffic, more gas.... yes, bicycles benefit from all of this technology, too -- but cars use far more of it for one person's needs than a bicycle does. It's a difference that could matter.

I’ll be on a bike in five years, that’s for certain – maybe in a bus, maybe on a light-rail line… But in a car, alone??? Ask yourself…. Your answer will dictate your next move.

More than ever, riding a bicycle to work makes sense!

1 comment:

Todd Simchuk said...

A bit different, but still check out for a growing community centered around using anything BUT a car on Fridays.

It's just an idea.