Tuesday, March 25, 2014

It's been a long while

After a long hiatus I am returning back to this blog. Several new changes. After not having a car for four years, we finally purchased a used station wagon last year. The reason, so my wife can run errands and business related trips between here and the rest of Texas. Of course I bought a three bike trunk rack for it soon after we got it. I still plan on being car lite, using public transit, walking and cycling for the majority of my trips. Might need to rename this blog at some point. In non-car news I just picked up a used Dahon Boardwalk from a local Craigslist ad. I'm quite enamored with it. I have been wanting a folding bike for a while since there have been times when both of the front bus racks are full. No full sized bikes are allowed on the bus. Folding bikes are the exception. So I'll see how this works out.
The new arrival.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Sometimes walking is faster

Not owning a car has its trying days. Like Thursday, when the public transportation gods were not in our favor.

We left the apartment and waited 20 min in 103°. Not only was the bus late, the next bus caught up to us and the driver made us transfer buses so she could drive the rest of her route "out of service" to get back on schedule. Our 30 minute bus ride turned into a frustrating hour and a half waiting game, half of it outdoors. We were meeting up with some of my family for dinner. Luckily the rest of the family was gracious enough to be happy to see us, versus mentioning we were half an hour late.

I normally stay home with the girls but there are times I want to go out and the destination, for me, is just out of biking distance but so cumbersome by bus. A beautiful park that is 6 miles away is almost too far. It's a straight shot by bike, but takes 45 minutes by bus because the bus system travels in a V. I have to head into downtown then board the westbound bus, which stops a couple blocks away. If my battery dies before we make it home, it's easier to get out and walk than to finish out the ride.I once made McKayla get out of the wagon and walk along side me while I towed Taylor the last two blocks to our apartment. She beat me.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Motorless For a While

Sunday night biking home I heard a metallic clang behind me. I stopped to see if I had run over something that would cause a flat tire. Surprisingly, I found that a part had fallen off my bike.

Now the way my e-bike works is that an add-on motor kit attaches to the spokes of the rear wheel to power it. It uses three clamps that are bolted to an adapter that then connects to the motor. What fell off was one of those clamps. Even more disturbing was that two clamps were already missing. Only the clamp used for the adapter itself was keeping everything in place.

I had eventually planned to remove the motor once I felt comfortable pedaling on my own. Seems that time has arrived sooner than I imagined.

Once I safely got home, I took off the battery pack and shudder a bit as I loosened the only clamp remaining only to watch the motor fall off. There is an online retailer that fortunately sells replacements parts for my 12 year old bike. Just have to wait a few days for my next paycheck to order what I need. Until then I AM the motor. I think I am up for the challenge.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Bad Experience Leads to New Commute

This past Saturday seemed like any other day. Got ready for work, biked to the bus stop. Loaded my bike on the bus rack and got on. About halfway to work the bus driver stopped the bus. He told me I had to take my bike off the bus and get off, that it was too heavy for the rack. I have been biking and busing around SA for about two years and this was the first time I had ever heard of weight restrictions on bicycles.

Now my e-bike is no lightweight but it weights in at 50lbs. The racks on Via buses are designed to hold two 55lb bikes while in motion. Rather than argue with the driver, I simply got off and caught the next bus going my way 10 minutes later. Needless to say I was frustrated, Fortunately I had left for work early so I still got there on time.

All that day at work I thought of what I needed to do to bike to work as well as home. I believe have grown too comfortable with my current arrangement. I can deal with the south Texas heat, I just need to overcome my dread of daytime traffic. I see cyclists on the road all the time around here, maybe it's time to start joining them.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Easing Into the Saddle

My name is Jen. I'm the cycling cohort. While Steven sits and writes the history of how we got to this point, I'd like to jump in and just say... this has changed our lives. Not only are we more active, we are also more involved parents and enjoy spending time cycling as a family.

I used to be a reluctant cyclist. I had my first accident a couple years back and found that flipping a bike and landing on concrete is not fun. It took a couple months to coax me back into the saddle. By then we had moved closer to Downtown San Antonio, which is within 1 1/2 miles of my college, a 1/2 mile from our daughters' school, and 4-6 miles from both of our jobs.

Steven took to riding the bus to work and cycling home. The last bus in his area was usually an hour long wait. Me, I still yearned for a car. I liked how convenient it was to get from A to B in air conditioning, regardless of distance, traffic or pit stops. It felt like freedom. Or at least that's what flashy car commercials immortalize.

It took me a while to be comfortable enough with myself to support using my ezip to go to family functions and commute to school. My dad thought we were crazy when Steven and I showed up for Thanksgiving dinner towing the girls in a 2 seat trailer. First assumption he made was that I lived close by since he didn't know exactly where our new apartment was. When we told him, approx 5 miles away, his look of shock helped me feel better. We ate well, but not too much, since we knew we had 5 miles between there and our doorstep. Biking there helped us pass on seconds and third servings, and on our way home we made a nice detour to a nearby park to let the kids play on the jungle gym before being buckled in for the 30 minute ride.

Since then, I began commuting to and from college. A quick 15 minute ride and I'm awake, ready to tackle the day. I get to smell the food cooking at local restaurants and hear birds serenade each other while the cars next to me have their windows rolled up and music blaring. Biking the 1 1/2 miles to school every morning is almost like my moment of peace, meditation. It helps me appreciate so many things drivers take for granted, or dont get a chance to slow down and witness.

I also favor picking up my kindergartener by bike. I travel the half mile to her school, then enter the car queue lane in the cul de sac, and bypass all the cars and park in the grass next to the loading zone. The teachers instantly know which kid I belong to and my daughter happily dons her helmet. This fall she will be biking to school along side me.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The 2nd E-bike part 1

After about three months commuting from work by e-bike, I figured my wife Jennifer should have a chance to get around in case she had cabin fever. While doing some holiday shopping at a local WalMart, I dropped by the bicycle section and low and behold they had three electric bicycles. They were Ezip Trailz made by Currie Technologies, the same guys who built the motorization kit on my Schwinn. So $450 later, I had a second e-bike, helmet and a bicycling partner to boot!

It did not go so well at first. She loved the motor, because she didn't feel physically fit enough to bike normally. When she tried it out for the first time she heard a buzzing sound. I thought it was the motor so I dismissed it. I discovered it was the rear tire rubbing against the rear mounted battery pack. The battery rack was bent and no matter how much I tried to bend it back, it would not stay.

Sadly, we had to return it. Since it was around Christmas 2009, the other bikes were gone. We did buy a child trailer for me to carry our two children, 2 and 4, as well as a rear child seat.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The first e-bike

Well just after our car accident I needed to find a way to get home from work. Thankfully, I could get there by bus, but the buses around our old home stopped running after about 9:30 at night. Since I tended to get out of work no later than 11:00 I was on my own getting home. At that time I lived about 11 miles away and was not up for a three hour walk every night. A taxi home would cost $30 and that adds up fast.

I figured a bicycle would be faster and cheaper, but i also didn't want to spend a lot of money on something I didn't know would work. So searched the best classified I could find, criagslist. While searching the listings I came across a simplistic post that said "electric bicycle $100" Intrigued, i replied, got some pictures and $100 later and a favor from a friend of the family, I had myself an e-bike. Researching brought more light about my purchase. I had a Schwinn Sierra with electro-drive. Basically it was a 21 speed 26in mountain bike with a 400 watt electric motor attached to the rear wheel. The previous owner said the batteries were dead as they wouldn't hold a charge. So after a trip to "Batteries Plus" and another $120 later I had a functioning e-bike. Gave it a test spin and it was a surprise to say the least.

Up until that point I had not biked in almost 12 years. I was surprised at how fast that little motor could push me about 20mph on flat roads. Satisfied I took my bike with me to work. Another great thing is that this bike fits on the bike racks all the buses have in front. That night i crossed my fingers, knocked on my new bike helmet and started home.

I'll be the first to admit I'm not in shape and I had to pedal up two steep hills that would have overwhelmed me if where not for that little motor. I also found out it was great for moving from a complete stop till i could pedal up to speed. After some daunting traffic and other assorted road hazards I was home. It only took me 45 minutes, and so began my nightly commute home. I later upgraded the home made flashlight bike light with a purpose built one, added a more comfortable seat, changed out the worn tires, added a rear rack to carry stuff and put slime tire sealant in the tire tubes. So much for a stop gap solution, but i started to enjoy my nightly rides home, it let me relax after a sometimes stressful day at work and I no longer had problems falling asleep at night.