Friday, April 24, 2009

My "new" Wheels

I mentioned earlier that I've been commuting by bicycle lately. Here's some photos on my ride.

The bike is my dad's old Schwinn Crosscut, a hybrid (700c wheels like a road racing bike, but flat mountain bike handlebars, for those of you who don't know). Since my commute is fairly long, about 20 miles each way, I outfitted it with 700x23c road slicks (ie, skinny, go-fast tires) and put a set of fenders on it to keep me reasonably muck free on soggy days. I'm also experimenting with the best combination of small bags to hold lights and tools. I can bungee a change of clothes or duffel bag to the rack. All in all, it works well.
And it's got a bell.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day for the Realist

It's Earth Day and... well, a lot of people just don't care. I could go on about how important it would be to make changes and renew our vows to be dedicated stewards of the Earth and all that, but I think I'd be preaching to the choir. If you're green-minded, you already know what to do, if you're not, my blog isn't going to change your mind.
So instead of ranting about the importance of going green, I thought I'd try to suggest a few really easy things you can do to be just a tiny bit more environmentally-minded. These aren't giant, world-changing steps, but they're relatively pain-free.

1. Put your gadgets on a power strip, then turn it off. For example, if you have a computer, a cell phone charger and a lamp on your desk, you can hook them all up to the same strip, then shut off the power when you leave the house. This saves a little electricity (especially if you have a laptop that is constantly recharging its battery while plugged in)

2. Buy local produce when you can. There are a million good reasons to buy local vegetables, ranging from supporting local farmers to helping national security (decentralizing the food supply... never a bad thing), but from the eco-angle it's simple: the fewer miles your tomato travels, the less fuel is burned to get it to your sandwich. Speaking of tomatoes, the tastiest heirloom tomatoes tend not to travel well, so they're best bought local anyway. It's too early to get them now, but keep that in mind later in the year, especially if you live here in New Jersey. If you focus on local produce, and shop in season, you'll also tend to be exposed to a wider variety of edible plants than you would otherwise, which can also be fun.

3. Let that lawn get a little shaggy. I'm not talking waist-high wildlands, but lawn grasses do better when they're around 3 inches high. No need to keep it too closely cropped, you'll only burn more fuel. Consider a muscle-powered reel mower or electric mower if you've got a smaller lawn.

4. Run some errands on a bicycle. Again, no need to turn into a hard-core bike commuter, but chances are you've got someplace you need to go that's within a mile of home. If you don't live atop Mount Washington or on a freeway, you can probably take a bicycle when the weather's nice. Don't push yourself to ride too far or too fast, just cruise. It's fun. Oh, bonus bicycle tip: make sure you have the right size bike and it's adjusted to fit you, it will make the riding experience more fun and less uncomfortable. Just ask me if you need some advice.

5. Fix that drip. It's annoying and it's wasteful. A leaky faucet or toilet tank are often (not always, look closely before you touch that wrench) fairly easy fixes. Fifteen minutes could save you money on your water bill (hey, that could be a commercial!).

6. Open the blinds. It's on-and-off rainy here in the Northeast, but there's still enough sunlight for most of what I have to do today. If you're in a spot where you can use natural light, go for it. It's more pleasant anyway, nobody looks good under flourescents.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Accidentally Green

I've been having some car trouble of late... which is nothing new, although this looks to be an expensive fix. In the mean time, I'm working part time about 20 miles from home, a few days a week. So I'm commuting by bicycle.
I didn't exactly plan it, but I started on Saturday, and will be bicycle commuting at least for this week, which happens to be "Earth Week" (Earth Day is Wednesday). I've always tried to be at least somewhat environmentally conscious, I drink from re-usable bottles, try to limit my trash, turn off lights, etc., for the time being I'm driving a lot less, too. I expect to save around 160 miles of driving over the course of this week by bicycling. Not too shabby, I suppose.
I rode Saturday on my fixed gear, which is, I was reminded, not ideal for extended commutes with a backpack. The handlebars are too low and it's hard work to keep going over rolling hills. It's a lot of fun for short (under 20 miles total) faster rides, but for slogging to work and back... I'm not in good enough shape.
It turns out running keeps your legs in shape, they were not too tired, but my hands, shoulders back and bum were a little upset with me.
So I fixed up my dad's old Schwinn hybrid with skinny road tires, new shifters, fenders and a bell (what's the fun of a commuter bike without a bell, I ask you?) and will be trying that out tomorrow. I'm hoping between the wide gearing range, upright riding position and rack to stow my stuff, rather than a backpack or messenger bag, I'll have a more relaxed commute, although I'll still be burning some decent calories.
I'll get a pic of the new commuter rig up soon. With the rack and fenders it's got a bit of Euro style to it. I'm looking forward to it.
A good question, though, is that if an active-but-chubby guy like myself can manage a 40 mile round trip to work on a bicycle, what can the rest of us do?