Tagged: bike commuting

November Cyclist of the Month: Greg Siskind

Hi everyone.  As promised, I am pleased to present to you Mr. November, the cyclist of the month, Greg Siskind.  Greg is an attorney with Siskind Susser, a local law practice that specializes in immigration law.  He’s also a regular bike commuter and a road cyclist, having participated in the recent Bluff City Blues 100 and two Olympic-distance triathlons in the past year.  (That earns a triple “wow” from us here at Biking in Memphis.)  Read on to hear what Greg has to say about being a bike commuter in Memphis.

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1.  I understand that you bike to work.  Tell me a bit about your commute and what it’s been like as a commuter cyclist.

I’ve been wanting to bike commute for a while, but given the distance of my commute and the nature of my work, I knew that without a shower/locker set up, bike commuting wouldn’t work for me. So I decided to add them at our office. The cost was going to run more than $11,000 so I had to wait a while to find the funds, but we did and after six weeks of construction earlier this year, we had what we needed for people to bike commute to the office.

I started riding to work in May and have ridden the 15-mile round-trip nearly every day. I drive to the office once a week each weekend to empty out my locker and swap out my work clothes.

Commuting by bike has really been a treat. First, I’ve designed a route that is through quiet neighborhoods and a sizable portion is painted with bike lanes. There are only three traffic lights and I’ve had no problems with cars. I also ride with my iPhone mounted to my handlebar and use the i.Bicycle GPS app so I can track my speed and distance and see me moving on a map along the route.

I have recently been switching things up for colder weather riding. I’ve been stocking up on fall and winter cycling clothes for the past several months. Last year, I did a fair amount of recreational riding in the winter so had some clothes, but now I’m set for five days a week. It’s a bit confusing right now because it can be cold in the morning and in the 70s in the afternoon. So I sometimes have to ride in with an extra set of clothes in my back pack. For rain, I have a covering for my back pack that keeps everything dry. We’ll see how I do with ice.

I now have less sunlight to work with and I like to get to the office early. So I’ve just mounted a pretty powerful headlight.  It’s a Niterider MiNewt 250 Lumens Cordless Rechargeable LI-ion LED Headlight and it makes it really easy to see what’s ahead of me when it’s dark out. I will be replacing my back light with something similar.  I also ride in the dark with a fluorescent helmet cover that hopefully makes me pretty visible to drivers.

If I do have any gripes, it might be the fact that my back pack is heavy. I ride with my MacBook Pro, an iPad and usually papers I take home for work I may be doing in the evening. I’m thinking about switching back to using my old hybrid bike which as a rack and panniers.

2.  Have you always been a cyclist or, like many people, did you go through a period when you gave up biking in favor of driving a car?  If so, what brought you back to the bike?

Not counting the neighborhood biking I did as a kid, I’ve been occasionally cycling for fitness for more than 20 years. But I only got serious about it three years ago. After law school in 1990, I bought a Bianchi hybrid bike and cycled in western Washington, British Columbia and Alberta for a couple of weeks. And I participated in a couple of triathlons in the early 90s. Then I mainly rode only a few times a year for the better part of two decades.  In 2008, I started riding everyday to get fit and mainly rode on the Germantown Greenway and in Shelby Farms.  Then I joined the Memphis Hightailers, bought a decent road bike and started riding all over Memphis.

3.  Where do you most like to bike around town?  Are there any favorite routes you have?

For my recreational riding, I like to head east and ride out in Lakeland, Rossville, Oakland and the other small towns that surround Memphis. I also like heading north to Shelby Forest. In town, I enjoy Shelby Farms – the Green Line, Greenways, experimental farm area, etc.

4.  On a scale of one to ten, how awesome is the Shelby Farms Greenline?

10. I love the Greenline and am really thankful it has gotten the community interested in cycling. I tend to use it for biking on slower rides and also run on it. Last winter, I enjoyed faster riding when it was cold out and no one was out. I’m looking forward to the connections developing with new bike lanes and better connected suburban greenways.

5.  Madison Avenue is currently being repaved and prepared for the installation of bike lanes.  What are your thoughts on the controversy that surrounded these lanes?

I think the lanes are important both for the actual impact they’ll have on bike commuting by opening a route to downtown and also because of the statement the bicycling community made that our concerns are important and we have a right to safe roads. I tried to do my part – writing letters to the Mayor and council members as well as sitting down with a key business owner on Madison Avenue and talking about our concerns. I don’t know if I changed any minds, but participating in the discussion was a valuable experience nonetheless.

6.  If you woke up one morning as the mayor of Memphis, what would you do in that day to further the cause of making Memphis a more bike-friendly town?

I’d love to see a bike share program here. I travel a lot and am in awe of the programs recently introduced in Paris and London. DC now has an impressive program and New York is about to come online. Smaller cities are rolling out similar programs – even Chattanooga.

7.  Do you run any errands on your bike?  If so, how do you handle cargo?  Have you invested in any panniers?

I have not done much in the way of running errands on my bike, but I do have a bike with a rack and panniers (albeit 20 year old panniers). I’m sure the newer ones have more bells and whistles and I’ll probably check out the options soon.

8.  Where do you go for information about bike commuting?  Are there websites you consult?  What about friends in the area who are experienced cyclists?

I use your blog for one. It’s really excellent for finding out about what’s happening in the area and the links are good. I also view a few other sites like www.bikecommuters.com and read Bob Mionske’s columns on bicycling and the law. Bicycling Magazine and the League of American Cyclists Magazine are both helpful.

9.  Have you had any fun cycling adventures, like riding from Shelby Farms to downtown or from midtown to T. O. Fuller State Park?

I enjoy going on the group rides offered by the Hightailers and have ridden just about everywhere in the metro area. When I travel, I like to rent a road bike and explore. This year, I did some nice cycling in Paris, Oklahoma, San Diego, Orlando and Puerto Vallarta. I’m getting ready to buy a Brompton folding bike that is small enough to fit in luggage so I can do more cycling in new places.

10.  What kind of bike do you have?  Are there any biking accessories you can’t live without?

The main bike I ride is a Giant Defy 3. As I noted above, since I sometimes ride in the dark, good lighting is key and I’ve put on a high end front light and am about to add a high end tail light. I have an iPhone bike mount and a new dual water bottle rack behind my saddle that also has a spot to screw in extra CO2 cartridges. And I have a Bento box on the top tube where I keep my sunglasses, dog pepper spray (I haven’t had to use it, fortunately), and a spare battery to recharge my phone if need be. I keep my tools in a cloth case that is shaped like a water bottle and fits in my bottle rack. I also have a Cannondale mountain bike and a Bianchi hybrid if I feel like riding off road.

11.  What about drivers in Memphis?  How friendly are they to commuter cyclists?

Surprisingly friendly. I have only had a few unpleasant encounters after a lot of time on my bike. People seem to respond well when they see you’re trying to obey the laws, be courteous and signal what you’re about to do. A lot of people probably recognize me now given my riding to and from work is usually around the same time each day. I think when people see the backpack and know I’m commuting, they try to cut me some slack.

12.  Any other stories you’d like to share?

The only thing I’d like to add is how impressed I am by the progress Memphis has made in the last few years in cycling. Going from one of the worst places to ride to a community that is bike friendly in a matter of such a short period of time is not easy and it’s a credit to a lot of activists in the community, some forward thinking local organizations and several leaders like Mayor Wharton. Kyle Wagenschutz, Anthony Siracusa, and Mark Hicks are all terrific and deserve a special shout out.

Agreed 100% Greg, especially on that last point.  Memphis is really lucky to have so many people committed to making our fine city more biking-friendly.  Thanks for the props on my blog and for the interview.

 

 

 

Spreading the word

I had a proper biking adventure over the past few days.  The goal: to deliver posters to the four bike shops in in-town Memphis to spread the word about Bike-to-Campus Day, which is next week.  Here’s what happened.

On Saturday I biked from home to campus to pick up the posters.  I then biked to the Peddler on Highland to deliver my first set of posters.  There I ran into Cort and we chatted for a minute before I headed off to my next destination: Outdoors Incorporated on Union.

I caught a lucky light at Belvedere and Union and was able to (hurriedly) bike east on Union for half a block before I turned into the parking lot.  I dropped off another set of posters before heading off again to my next (and final) destination of the day: Otherlands Coffee Bar on Cooper.

There I dropped off my last two sets of posters for the day.  I had hoped to make it downtown to Midtown Bike Company and to Victory Bicycle Studio in my neighborhood that day, but I ran out of time.

I took care of the first of those two errands this morning.  Around 9:30 this morning I headed east on Southern toward downtown, arriving at Midtown Bikes around 10:00 AM.  I left two posters with Daniel, the owner, and then biked to campus for a day at the office.  I was going to leave two posters at Victory this afternoon but forgot that they are closed on Monday.  Boo, my memory.  I’ll hit them up on Wednesday.

Here’s the map of combined rides on Saturday and today.

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Pretty hot, huh?  And here’s a clickable link to the same.

Altogether I logged 28.3 miles on my bike in just over two hours.  Traffic was generally very manageable and I had only one close call.  Yes, cars should yield the right-of-way to bikes when leaving a stop sign.  Otherwise, skidding might happen.  Just sayin’.

Anyway, thanks for reading.  I hope to see you all at Bike-to-Campus day.  Here’s a poster for the event.  Cheers.

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Exciting upcoming event!!!

I have an exciting upcoming event – as the subject line implies – to announce.  Tuesday, 4 October, is Bike-to-Campus Day at U of M!!  Look, we even have a poster!!!

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I’m more-or-less the organizer of this thing.  We had our first bike-to-campus day last year, again in conjunction with Tiger Blue Goes Green Day, and about a dozen people participated.  I’m hoping for more this time, which is where you, dear reader, come in.

I know that most of you reading this blog don’t work at U of M, so it doesn’t make any sense for you to actually participate.  But you likely know someone who does work at the University. So please, take a moment and share this post on your facebook, or forward it to a friend.  Or, better still, send them the link to the official facebook event.

As the poster indicates, we have two group rides that morning.  One leaves from First Congo at 8:00 AM; I’m leading that one.  Brian Janz, a colleague of mine, is leading one from near Shelby Farms down the Greenline.

The rides culminate with a group picture on campus.  I’d really like to have 25+ people there.  Help me spread the word and we’ll make it happen.

And of course, if you do work at U of M, please join us for this day.  You don’t have to do a group ride, just be at the fountain at 8:30 AM.

Yesterday and today

Hi everyone.  I’ve been a bit slack in my writing in the past couple of weeks, but with good reason.  Fall semester began just under two weeks ago and, no matter how much preparation I do, there’s always 1,000,000 tasks that need to be completed in the first days of the term.  That, plus being taken out of commission for a few days due to some weird, random abdominal pains, I haven’t felt like writing much.  This means that I have an ever-growing backlog of daily rides, articles, and special events to write about.  (It’s good to know that I’ll never run out of fodder for posts.)  So I’ll knock out a couple of them right now.

Last night was the third Cycle Memphis group ride.  Last month’s event was ridiculously fun, so I arrived at the gazebo at the intersection of Cooper and Young with high expectations for this month’s ride.  I’ve learned to accept that group bike rides will often start a minute or two later than advertised; this just means more time for socializing.  Once the ride began we set off from Cooper-Young and headed down Young Avenue to Barksdale.  We then biked north to … well, just check out the map.

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And here’s a clickable link.

So basically, we biked through Midtown to the north end of downtown, then down 2nd Street to Court Square Park.  There we rested for moment, took a group picture or two, then headed south again on 2nd Street.  I loved biking past the throngs of people in downtown – hell, I just loved seeing throngs of people in downtown – and waving to them.  It was really great to see the stares and hear the comments from bystanders.

The best part of the ride?  Hands down it was biking on Riverside Drive.  Honestly, I was a little nervous about it at first.  When traffic is heavy on that road there’s not much room to move if things get heavy.  But coming down the bluff and seeing the river and the bridges come into view … it was really amazing.  The fact that Kanye West was playing on the mobile sound system only added to the awesomeness.

After a stop or two to fix a flat tire we headed back to Cooper-Young.  Quite a few people dropped off the ride before the end; the crowd at the gazebo was a bit smaller than last time. And sadly there was no spontaneous dance party.  But that’s OK.  There’s always next time.

Other coolness from the ride: I finally met Ty from Living Loud in Midtown!  I was waiting at the intersection of Linden and Cleveland for cyclists to pass when another rider stopped with me.  We continued on and chatted and, lo and behold, it was Ty.  He recognized me from my blog.  It was really cool meeting a fellow cyclist and blogger.  Ty: let’s have a beer soon, and thanks for the shout-out.

I arrived home from the ride and promptly went to bed.  (OK fine … I actually sat outside and read for a bit while swatting away mosquitos.  I think I crashed around 2:00 AM.)  But today began sometime this morning, and so I decided to run a few errands on the bike.

Errand #1: take a huge pile of mixed-paper recyclables to the recycling bins at First Congo.  The reason: the pile of magazines on and under our coffee table was getting a little ridiculous.  So I decided to load those magazines into my panniers and dump them.  My best guess is that each pannier weighed about 30 pounds fully loaded.  That made my bike ride to the recycling center quite fun.  Here’s a few pictures.

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Yep, that’s a lotta paper.

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Close-up of pannier #1.  Quite a load, right?

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Feed me, Seymour!

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And a little more for my messenger bag.

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Ahhhh … much better.

Next I headed to the Easy Way on Cooper for a few veggies.  Here’s the scene.

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Nice parking job, if I do say so myself.  Unfortunately, Easy Way doesn’t open until noon on Sunday, so I had to wait for about an hour to complete my shopping.  Hello, Otherlands!

Here’s a map of my ride today.

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Nice and boring, just like I like it.

Memphis, I hope your weekend was as good as mine.  Look for more stories about biking in Memphis soon.  Good night.

September Cyclist of the Month: Joe Wieronski

Everyone, please say hello to the September Cyclist of the Month, Joe Wieronski.  Joe is an architect with Askew Nixon Ferguson and a bike commuter in Memphis.

Joe wieronski with bike

I sent Joe a list of questions about his experiences as a cyclist in Memphis; here’s what he had to say.

1.  Let’s start at the beginning.  I understand that you bike to work?  How long have you been doing that?

I do bike to work when I can; if I have meetings outside the office, I drive my hybrid.  I’ve been biking to work for a few years now.

2.  What were the main concerns or fears you had when you first started cycling?

Falling off when I was a kid; later riding on the road with cars.

How has your actual experience on the road compared to your expectations of what it would be like?

Pretty good, no major problems except when I wasn’t paying attention and ran over a biker who fell off their bike.  I love biking on the road, you experience so much more than driving in a car.

3.  How long is your commute to work?

Very short, it’s just a mile and a half.

What route do you follow?

I follow the back roads through neighborhoods with lots of trees.  That makes it much cooler in the hot summer.

Do you cross or ride on any roads that are particularly well suited for cycling?

I don’t hit the Greenline on my way to work but neighborhood roads are great for cycling.

Any that are not so well suited?

Poplar is not, but I only have to cross it, not travel along it.

4.  On a scale of one to ten, how awesome is the Shelby Farms Greenline?

10+.  Everyone should take advantage of this great amenity we have in our city, we are very lucky.

5.  If you could identify any single road where you would like to see bike lanes installed, which one would it be?

Complete the Greenline to downtown and Madison should be bike friendly too.

How would that make your life as a commuter cyclist better?

It would be easier for me to hit the Greenline from my midtown house and, as far as Madison, I believe it would pump life into that area in many more ways than we can see at present.

6.  Do you run any errands on your bike?

I do from time to time, but mostly just to get frozen yogurt for a biking break.

How do you handle cargo?

I have a pack that attaches to the back of my bike, giving me plenty of cargo room for now.  My iPad (for work) will easily fit along with a change of clothes if needed.

Have you invested in any panniers?

That’s my next investment.

7.  Where do you go for information about bike commuting?

The Memphis Hightailers is a great resource along with Livable Memphis and others.

Are there websites you consult?

Memphishightailers.com and livablememphis.org.

What about friends in the area who are experienced cyclists?

There are so many friends and acquaintances that I make everyday from biking, all who are glad to give you pointers and to be riding partners.  There are many weekly rides, such as the one that leaves every Tuesday from the Peddler Bike Shop.

8.  Have you had any fun cycling adventures, like riding from Shelby Farms to downtown or from midtown to T. O. Fuller State Park?

I’ve biked to Shelby Farms from midtown and midtown to downtown many times but one of my most memorable adventures was a MS 150 I did a while back.  The first day was a great 75 mile ride, the second day started out OK but soon started raining and lightning about 10 miles into the ride, that’s when I caught a ride back to Memphis in the back of a covered truck.

9.  What kind of bike do you have?

I have a Trek 7.2.

Are there any biking accessories you can’t live without?

My helmet and lights for night riding.

10.  What about drivers in Memphis?

I have not had a problem but I’m always looking out for the other guy, cars are much bigger than me and my bike.

How friendly are they to commuter cyclists?

So far so good but I did have a homeless person throw an empty beer can at me once, I think I was on their turf.

11.  Any other stories you’d like to share?

The only other story I have to share is that biking is great and everyone should give it a try if you can.  If you don’t bike, try walking, running, swimming or anything to be active and remember to share the road.

Thanks Joe.  If you’d like to be interviewed for this blog about your cycling adventures in Memphis, just leave me a note in the comments.

 

Beautiful day

I’m not going to lie: today started off a little rough.  My wife and I had stayed up well into the early morning hours last night, talking about this and that (mostly related to her graduate program), and so I’ve learned that 6 hours of interrupted sleep is not sufficient for me to be a functioning human being, at least until I’ve had some coffee.

Said coffee was purchased at Otherlands, where I like to spend my Fridays working away from the office.  Even the barrista on duty recognized that I was still half asleep when I rolled in around 10:30 this morning.  But a few cups of coffee and a wheat bagel with piles of hummus soon set me right.

After spending most of the day working at Otherlands, I biked home to drop off some stuff and then head out to run a few errands.  The first stop was the quickie mart on Cooper for a few toiletries.  It was also there that I forgot to restart the GPS app on my iPhone, so the map of my ride today is a little incomplete.  Here it is.

After biking to the package store on Union for a bottle of vino, I headed home.  It’s been a really busy week here at Biking in Memphis and I was happy to have such nice weather today.  A bit warm but not at all unbearable.  My wife and I spent the evening having dinner and then watching “The American,” which was actually not too shabby.  We are soon headed to bed.

Don’t forget that tomorrow morning is the Rock and Roll Revolution Bike Ride.  Hope to see you there.

(Very delayed) Weekend Wrap-Up

First of all, as I indicated at the end of my next-to-last post, I had planned to participate in a bike polo match for the first time tonight, having been invited by local bike polo aficionado Brett Edmonds.  As it happened, I decided to bow out, instead choosing to spend a day getting stuff done and hanging out with the wife.  It was a day much needed and well spent.  (Even “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” was not as abysmal as I thought it would be.)

But beyond that, I have quite a few links and articles to share with you.  So let’s get started.

First, here’s a great letter to the editors of the Commercial Appeal about the need for improvements to Madison Avenue.  While the letter does not explicitly mention bike lanes, the fact that it was written by a Midtown business owner gives it additional credence.  Let’s hope that the writer’s vision comes to fruition.

Did you ever think that Car and Driver magazine would endorse alternate transportation systems?  Well, they have.  And kudos to them for that.

Some really awesome (and adventurous) people are cycling across the U.S. in super-awesome velomobiles.  While they won’t be stopping in Memphis, I am impressed with their efforts. Especially considering this book, which I finished a few weeks ago.  I will likely complain many times about the state of roads in Memphis (Cooper Street just north of Central, in the far-right southbound lane; Linden Avenue heading into downtown … the list goes on), but I will do so with the understanding that many past cyclists had it far worse than I ever will.

This woman is awesome.  I don’t know that I would have had the guts that she did.

It’s hard to believe that the Shelby Farms Greenline is less than one year old.  Honestly, it feels like it’s been around for years, and I haven’t even biked it that many times.  Whatever the case, there is a half-marathon scheduled for Sunday, 2 October to celebrate the one-year anniversary of its (official) opening, plus a day-long party on the Greenline the day before.  I’ll be at the latter for sure, but probably not the former.

Cort over at Fix Memphis continues his heroic and awesome quest to chronicle every bike rack in the whole damn city.  That’s a lot of pedaling.

My wife and I have no immediate plans to have kids, but if/when we do, I want a cargo bike like this lady has.  How ridiculously awesome/adorable is that?

Charles McVean is also awesome.  The CA agrees.  So does this cyclist.

In other Cort news, here’s a great discussion on bike cargo transportation-solutions.  Makes me want a bike trailer even more.

Yep.

If the Harahan Bridge project should go through, here’s a snapshot of what it might mean for Memphis.  Granted, the mid-south is not the mid-west, but drawing more tourists to the area can only be a good thing.  Here’s more about the project.

I’m glad to see that slow biking is getting some attention.  Granted, I had not heard of this idea before reading that article, but it’s good that some people are recognizing the benefits of biking, in terms of allowing (if not encouraging) us to slow down and take in our surroundings and communities.

The awesome people at Livable Memphis are sponsoring a discussion on Portland, Oregon and it’s livability.  It’s scheduled for Tuesday, 16 August, from 5:30 PM to 7:00 PM at the Benjamin Hooks LIbrary on Poplar.  I don’t know if I will be there, but maybe you should be.

Biking to work keeps getting more awesome.

People, be careful out there.

OK, that’s all for now.  I’m heading out of town on Wednesday so my biking (and blogging) this week will be somewhat limited.  But I’ll be back soon.  Thanks for reading.

Yesterday’s ride

I’ve written before about how much I enjoy summers as an academic – while my work load right now is rather high, I appreciate the freedom to work from if I choose to.  But I do have to go to campus at least once a week for meetings or to run an errand, as was the case yesterday.

I left home around 11:30 AM – not quite the hottest part of the day, but a time well past morning’s relative cool.  I’m pleased to report that the heat wasn’t really that bad.  I must be getting used to the heat, because it was 94ºF when I arrived at work and I wasn’t that uncomfortable on my ride.  That’s one aspect of summer biking that I think many people fail to consider: as long as you are moving, you have a 10-15 M.P.H. breeze washing over you, cooling you down and drying your sweat.  It’s only when you stop, either at a traffic signal or upon arriving at your final destination, that the sweat begins to jet out of you like a lawn sprinkler.  Was that a good visual?  I hope so.

Anyway, here’s a screenshot from my iPhone as proof of the heat.

Hot

And what a lovely forecast we have to look forward to.  I loves me some Memphis, but summers here are rough.

So after my afternoon meeting I biked home.  Again, it was hot, but not that bad.  I then took my second shower of the day and headed to Boscos for some relaxation.

(Note to the interested reader: I am almost always at Boscos on Thursday evenings.  My academic and non-academic buddies and I usually congregate there for beers and such for most of the evening.  Feel free to stop by and say hi if you’re in the neighborhood – I’ll be the guy with the most awesome helmet you’ve ever seen.)

I left Boscos around 10:30 AM and biked home.  I decided to take the long way, west on Madison, then south on McLean to Young Avenue.  By that time in evening, the weather was quite pleasant and my ride was very enjoyable.

MotionX GPS tells me that I biked 10.8 miles that day, but I forgot to reactivate it when I left Boscos, so between there and McLean my mileage was not being recorded.  So we’ll round up and say that I biked 11 miles yesterday.  Not too shabby for just getting around town.

Here’s a screenshot of my ride.

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And here’s that clickable link I know you love.

I’m a bit behind in my blogging so you can expect an extra-long weekend wrap-up this Sunday.  Also, I am ridiculously excited about Saturday’s Cycle Memphis group ride.  I hate that I missed the first installment of what will hopefully become a very regular event – I love biking around downtown at night – but this week’s ride should be just as fun.  Hats off to the organizers, Jason, Adam, and Matthew.  I hope to meet you all at the ride.  I’ll be the guy in the … well, you know.

Alright Memphians, I gotta run and get ready for a meeting.  It’s raining right now, so hopefully the temp outside has dropped a bit.  Be safe out there and I’ll see you around.

Did I ride today?

So, fair readers, you are perhaps wondering if I biked anywhere today.  I mean, given the ridonkulous temps today, could any reasonable human being have biked in this heat?

Welp, this guy did, but I didn’t.  Not that I didn’t want to … OK, actually, I really didn’t.  But considering that I had three meetings in Germantown today – in the morning, over lunch, and in the late afternoon – plus an 8:00 AM meeting near campus, cycling was basically impossible.  I do plan to ride tomorrow and I’ll let you know how it goes.  In the meantime, I plan to stay very well hydrated.

But check this out: my late-afternoon meeting (an event really) was an economics forum at the Village at Germantown, sponsored by the good people at Veesart Financial.  (Shout out!)  I visited with the residents of the Village for about an hour and talked with them about the current state of the economy, the federal budget, and all manner of other boring things. Surprisingly, no one fell asleep.  As a token of their appreciation, Veesart Financial bought me a one-year subscription to Bicycling Magazine!  How cool is that?!  I’ve long considered subscribing to Bicycling, but never took the initiative to do so.  And now, thanks to their generosity, I don’t have to.  Many thanks.

Presenting August’s Cyclist of the Month: Brett Edmonds

Brett
Hi everyone.  Please join me in welcoming “Mr. August,” Brett Edmonds.  Brett has been biking in Memphis since 2004 and is an avid bike polo player.  Read on to hear about Brett’s adventures on his bike and his favorite biking blog.  (Brett: the check is in the mail, bro.)  By the way, the credit for the above photo goes to Jason Sheesly.  Mighty fine shooting there Jason.

1.  Let’s start at the beginning.  Tell me about your experiences as a cyclist in Memphis.  Do you bike to work?  To the store?

Although I rode a bike when I was younger, I wouldn’t say I really took any steps towards being a cyclist until 2004.  I returned home from college in Massachusetts full of environmental zeal and bought a used Trek mountain bike for commuting to work, determined to cut down on my car use.  I was only able to keep this up for about a year though before my front wheel got stolen.  I had to learn one of my first commuting lessons the hard way: use a cable lock to lock up your wheels!  Even if you’re just in Walgreens for five minutes.  After that, cycling fell by the wayside until about 2007, when my girlfriend Cara and I started borrowing my room-mate’s bikes for midnight rides all over town.  Soon, we had to have bikes of our own and ended up going to Revolutions, and I haven’t looked back since.  I now make the trek up to Whole Foods for work 5 times a week, and there’s not a day that I’m not on a bike in some capacity.

2.  Tell me about bike polo.  I’ve cycled past the sporting goods store’s parking lot on Cooper several times and seen people playing bike polo there.  Why is this sport so much fun? What do you recommend for someone who is interested in bike polo but perhaps a bit wary of giving it a try?

First and foremost, Bike Polo is FUN – fun in all the ways that any team sport is.  But beyond that, I’m helplessly drawn to it simply because I’m a bit of a bike freak, and it’s something new and different.  Because it’s so new, there’s a real feeling of being in on the ground floor of something big.  Bike polo is blowing up all over the US and Europe, and it just feels great to be even a small part of that.  There’s also a DIY aspect to bike polo that most sports lack.  Bikes are heavily customized to match personal styles, the mallets are made of ski poles and gas piping (or whatever you can get your hands on that’s light and won’t shatter), and wheel covers are made from old campaign signs.  Polo just happens to combine a bunch of things I love.  As far as newbies are concerned, the biggest thing is just getting out there!  We’re always looking for new players, and we tone it down so people don’t get scared away by the pace.  If you’re nervous about your first time, bring a friend or two (or three!).  I had the luxury of starting with a bunch of other friends and we all sucked together.  Making a fool of yourself isn’t so bad when you’re not alone.  And you can always practice a little bit beforehand – the balls are street hockey, and a croquet mallet will work fine for just shuffling the ball around by yourself.

3.  On a scale of one to ten, how awesome is the Shelby Farms Greenline?

I actually have a beef with the Greenline … just kidding!  It definitely goes to 11.

4.  If you could identify any single road where you would like to see bike lanes installed, which one would it be?  How would that make your life as a Memphis cyclist better?

Maybe this is crazy, but I’d love to see bike lanes on Poplar.  Now, I’m not denying it would take a lot of resources as well as a VERY hard sell.  The street would have to be widened, I’d imagine, and I think it’d probably need to be separated for some people to feel comfortable.  But Poplar is like the aorta of Memphis.  On top of its utilitarian value as THE major east-west street, its symbolic value would be through the roof.  Buuuuuut, realistically, I’ll say Central.  It’s nice and shady, not too crowded, and is a pretty good connector.

5.  Do you run any errands on your bike?  If so, how do you handle cargo?  Have you invested in any panniers?

I definitely run the occasional errand on my bike, but I tend to rely on backpacks and bungees.  You’d be surprised how much you can bungee to your frame if you really have to.  I’d really like a cargo bike and pined for one for a while, but really, do I need another bike just for hauling stuff around?  I already have four bikes for specialized things, do I HAVE to have another?  Of course not.  It’d be really cool, and I haven’t abandoned the idea of welding one together out of old frames, but it’s on the back burner for now.

6.  Where do you go for information about bike commuting?  Are there websites you consult?  What about friends in the area who are experienced cyclists?

Without trying to suck up too much, let’s just say I peruse a local commuting-specific blog.  I also look at a few other local blogs (fixmemphis, brickhouse racing) and check out Urban Velo often, but there’s only one commuting-specific site I go to (wink wink).  Of course, Google Maps, as always, is your friend.  Group rides are great ways to meet up with experienced locals, along with Revolutions and local shops.  It’s through them that I’ve met people like Kyle Wagenschutz, Anthony Siracusa, Kermit, Cort Percer and a bunch of other awesome commuters.

7.  Tell me about the cycling adventures you’ve had, like riding from Shelby Farms to downtown or from midtown to T. O. Fuller State Park.  What’s the most adventurous day you’ve had on your bike?

My cycling adventures all tend to take place late at night, when the cars are mostly gone and red lights are mere suggestions.  The golf courses are all a ton of fun, especially Galloway with it’s crazy steep little bridges.  Even more exhilarating is going over the I-55 bridge and winding through gravel roads to get to West Memphis.  And the Wolf River Conservancy and the Greenline at night are a blast.  Some of my best ride memories are just going and going and going with a group of friends, till you end up nearly in Collierville or Olive Branch on streets you’ve never heard of before.  Of course some adventures have been a little more harrowing, like having Cara put into the back of a squad car and getting ticketed for “obstructing traffic” at 2 am on an empty 2nd Street, but even these I look back fondly on with enough time.

8.  What kind of bike do you have?  Are there any biking accessories you can’t live without?

I have four bikes right now, and I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t always have my eye out for another one.  First, my commuter: an early 80′s Schwinn World Sport 10-speed – this is the bike I cut my teeth on at Revolutions, first learning how to fix my own problems instead of going to the shop.  Then there’s my polo bike, a fixed-gear, super-spinny Charge Scissor.  Finally, my fast bike (Mercier Kilo TT) and mountain bike (Surly 1×1).  No matter what bike I’m riding, I’ve gotta have my Knog lights – they’re just so easy to take on and off and you can put ‘em pretty much anywhere.  My other favorite accessory is the road morph frame pump – there are times I use this even when I have access to a regular floor pump.  It’s THAT good.

9.  What about drivers in Memphis?  How friendly are they to cyclists?

I know that most drivers really aren’t all that bad, it’s just that I only remember the ones that really make me see red.  Rarely do people roll down their window and yell words of encouragement (although this has happened and it makes my millennium), but it seems weekly at least I have someone tell me to get off the road.  Many people still have the attitude that cyclists shouldn’t be on the road at all, or, if they do concede your right to it, they simply think you’re crazy for risking your life by doing so.  That said, with as many cars that pass me and give me the required three feet, or even change lanes to avoid getting close to me, I hafta say the haters are vastly outnumbered.  They’re just way louder.

10.  Any other stories you’d like to share?

I can’t finish this up without pimping bike polo!  We play every Wednesday and Sunday from around 7pm to 10:30ish (or whenever people need to leave) at Bluff City Sports on Cooper and we want you to play with us!  Bring yourself and a bike – mountain bikes are usually the best for beginners, but when there’s enough people there, someone can probably lend you their bike for a game or two.  You can check out the website at memphisbikepolo.com.

And there you have it, my people.  Yet another testimonial from a local bike commuter and cycling enthusiast.  I hope to interview many more local cyclists in the coming month; in fact, I’m booked up all the way though December!  So if you want to be interviewed, leave a note in the comments, and as always, thanks for reading.