Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tax Benefits for Bicycling to Work

Bicycling is a great way to save money and get exercise. Achieving both can be beneficial, especially if you bike to work. Did you know that you (and your employer) can get a tax break and credit for you commuting by bicycle? Former President Bush signed the Bicycle Commuter Benefits Act into law in January 2009. The best information I have found about the Bicycle Commuter Benefit is on the League of American Bicyclists's website. You can reead more about what the tax break for bicycle commuting is on eHow.com

The maximum reimbursement is $20 per month* for expenses such as the purchase of a bicycle, bicycle improvements, repair, and storage. The tax benefit could get better if H.R. 2288: Commuter Parity Act of 2013 is passed. It will amend the Internal Revenue Code to allow up to $35 per month for qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement. I will keep you posted on the status this bill (if only my Issues and Tracking page was working :-P).

If your employer is not participating yet - go talk to the Payroll or Human Resources Department. I made contact today so they will start the ball rolling at my workplace. Here's "How to Bicycle to Work for a Tax Deduction" (eHow.com). There are more references and resources below.

Keep pedaling and have a safe ride!

By the way, I always wear a helmet when I ride any of my bicycles. I was demoing my new bike to my co-workers in a parking lot when this photo was taken.

References and Resources:

Friday, December 13, 2013

Friday Finds

Love these bicycle related gift ideas (wristlet, ID pouch, wine holder and tea towel) -- oh my!
  1. Natural Life Bicycle Vegan Leather Wristlet ($29.99 at Ulta.com)

  2. Natural Life Vegan Leather Bicycle ID Pouch ($15.00 at Ulta.com)

  3. Use coupon code 104660 when you shop online at ulta.com and get $5 off any qualifying purchase of $10 or more. Ulta coupon valid 12/4/2013 - 12/24/2013. Enjoy!

  4. Red Bicycle Wine Holder ($19.99 at World Market)

  5. Green Flower Power Bike Tea Towel ($7.99 at World Market)

  6. Get 10% off everything + free shipping on $50 when you use code VERYMERRY during checkout at WorldMarket.com while supplies last. I am not sure when the code expires.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Night Riding

I just simply needed to ride my bike somewhere...anywhere. So I rode in the freezing morning 2.2 miles to my coworker's house. Most of the route was downhill. At one point, I had reached speeds of 36.8 mi/hr on my commuter! Although it was a short 10 minute cruise, my gloves were no match for the 10°F degree temps--especially with the windchill factor. By the time I reached my co-worker's house, my thumbs were ready to freeze off. Painful but still it was fun to be out there!

What I wore was simple. A 32 Degrees Heat by Weatherproof® base layer (it might still be at your local Costco for $8.99 -- which is a great deal!). Check out this link to the features as posted on Macy's website. I absolutely LOVE them because even though they are thin they retain my body heat, wick away moisture to keep my skin dry, and feel comfortably soft like a second skin. Compared to my Pearl Izumi, Craft, and Nike base layers (as well as others I have seen out there) this one wins for value.

On top of my base layer is my sweater, scarf, and these great off-white stretch riding pants which fit nicely into my boots. Of course I wore a wool jacket which is hanging on the wall behind me.

Never once was I cold - except for my thumbs.
I braid my hair into pig tails for hassle-free and helmet-free hair. When I look outside my office window, it doesn't seem cold out there with the amber clouds but it is still freezing out there!
When evening came, I rode back home. In the dark which is not what I am used to. My husband met me outside to greet me as I pedaled down the snow and ice covered street to our house.

Monday, December 9, 2013

31 Degrees Below Freezing

Now that the snow has stopped, I long to ride my bike to work again. Of course my timing could not be worse since it is clearly too cold outside. Not only that but the roads are icy and poorly plowed in places less traveled. Add to that, bike lanes that are pretty much non-existent or more like they've become temporary parking places for displaced piles of snow.
If I were to ride by bike, the first descent out of the gate would be down this .60 mile, 7% grade stretch of road. It is fun (and hairy) on a road bike in dry conditions but certainly not smart to fly down when it's icy.

My husband drove me to work instead. The temperature gauge in our car read, 1°F -- which was 31 degrees below freezing!
Besides, my bike locker appears to be blocked by hardened snow and I would need to do some shoveling to clear it. I guess whoever plowed this area assumed no one would be crazy enough to ride in this weather anyway.
Still I couldn't resist dressing up like a cute commuter!
 After this, I put on tights, my long wool coat, and boots! There is an positive side to this cold weather.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Percentage of Bicycle Commuters in U.S. Cities Ranking

I was quite surprised when I saw the percentage of bicycle commuters in the large U.S. cities on this survey. Las Vegas, the city my family use to live in made the top 45 list of large U.S. cities ranked by percentage of bicycle commuting, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

If Reno were to be ranked, it would probably fall near Vegas which looks like roughly half of 1% commute by bicycle. Still, I wonder what the percentage equates to in the number of bicycle commuters. Based on the 2010 population census of the Las Vegas metropolitan area of 1,951,269 according to Wikipedia that would mean roughly 9,756 bicycle commuters. In Reno-Sparks, the 2010 census was a total of 315,485 so that would mean 1,577 bicycle commuters (plus two now). That's not a very big bike vote.

I agree with the author in that this shows how big the opportunity is to bring the cities at the bottom of the ranking up to the level of the best biking cities in the nation.
Source Article: http://www.treehugger.com/bikes/45-large-us-cities-ranked-percentage-bicycle-commuting.html

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Once Upon a Bicycle

I remember the first time I rode a bicycle...or rather the first time I tried to learn how to ride a bicycle. I was in grade school and perhaps 12 years old. There was one bicycle in the family, given to us by our sponsor when we immigrated to the United States.

The bike was matte yellow, like an egg yolk. A cruiser with a matching square wire basket in the front.  And even though it was the family's bicycle, my older sister by two years rode it more than any of us six siblings.  It was an unspoken agreement that the bike was actually hers.

My sister would pedal us to the grocery store which was about a mile away from the apartment where we lived. Since I did not yet know how to ride a bike I would sit on the seat and she would stand the whole time, pumping the pedals. One time I made the mistake of wearing this powder blue check skirt like Dorothy's in the Wizard of Oz and on the way home from the grocery store it weaved itself between the spokes of the bicycle until we rolled to a halt. There I was standing off on the side of the road, in my underwear and t-shirt. Fortunately the house we happened to stop in front of was my classmate's. Her mother came to the rescue and cut up one of the few skirts I had to free it from the bike's hub and spokes. Then my classmate gave me a pair of shorts to wear for the remainder of my trip home with my sister. I was lucky that my skirt was the only casualty that day. Losing it was far better than if both of us had crashed into the asphalt from its entanglement.

Me and my skirt (far left) and my older sister (far right)
The day my sister taught me how to ride that yellow bike, we started on a large grass courtyard at the center of our apartment community. There were some boys socializing nearby that apparently my sister had a crush on. She held the saddle steady so that I could get on the bike and pedal. And I pedaled us down a small grassy area--right into a tree. My sister had let go after I started to lose control. Either there was nothing she could've done to prevent me from the collision or seeing the inevitable, she let go because she didn't want to be associated with me for fear of embarrassment. Probably a bit of both.

As I rolled down the hill on that yellow bike and stuck in the saddle, I froze in terror like a deer in a headlight and could only watch as the tree came towards me. What do you mean steer, dear sister?! I was only concerned with keeping my balance and all common sense telling me to turn the handlebars had left me. So I biked right into the tree. Squarely. I heard the sound of the metal fenders, front tire, and basket rattling as it crashed against the tree trunk. And the subsequent laughter that erupted from my sister as she came to check up on me. She was laughing so hard she had to cross her legs to control herself. I guess my mishap must have been a hilarious sight to see (I chuckle now thinking about it). Amazingly I was okay. I didn't fly off or over the handlebars but the tree had definitely put a stop to my bicycle riding lesson that day.

I don't remember what happened to that bike. Perhaps the crash bent the fenders enough that it wasn't rideable or the same after that. I also don't remember ever riding a bicycle again as a young adult or how I eventually learned how to ride one. It was not until years later as an adult and married woman, when I got my first bike - a mountain bike, that I rode again.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Let it Snow - Winter Bicycle Riding

I had planned to commute by bicycle today but it is snowing in Reno-Tahoe and Sparks. This is our fist heavy snow of the season and my bike and I are not yet prepared to ride in the snow. It is not that I am afraid of the weather--snow or cold. However, the elements can add a degree of negative risks and raises some concerns for me:
  • sliding or losing control of my bike when descending the several hills I encounter during my route. I might try these Eight Solutions for Riding a Bike in the Snow posted by Bike Hacks.com 
  • loosing footing when coming to a stop and having my feet slide out from under me 
  • cars have less control and trusting motorists to use caution and their best judgement on the roads when driving them
  • having less of the bike lanes (in some cases, none) and a margin to ride at a safe distance. The major streets are plowed but shoulders of side streets are not. 
Most motorists around here are prepared in the winter living near the ski territories of Reno and Lake Tahoe with chains or snow tires or have an all-wheel drive vehicle. It just doesn't snow that much or that often at the lower elevation where most of Reno and Sparks sits and usually snows only during one season so motorists tend to fall out of practice driving in inclement weather.

Since I am new to bicycling in the snow, I thought I would do a little research into winter bicycle riding. Below are some links to helpful articles I have found and a summary. If you have any tips to share, I would really like to hear from you!!

1) REI Expert Advice on Winter Bicycling: How to Enjoy It

2) AllWeatherSports.com Winter Riding Tips

3) BikeWinter.org (all-volunteer bicycling group in Chicago)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

My Commuter - the Electra Ticino 20D

This is my new bike. The 2013 Electra Ticino 20D is a handmade beauty and rides like being on a cloud. Do you see the front fork? Instead of going straight down to the front wheel hub like my road bike, it curves forward which softens the jarring kick back from the road for a smoother ride.

Even with the handcrafted, butted aluminum frame it still weighs in at 29 pounds. Hefty compared to my 17-pound Felt Z5 road bike. Still, a few reasons below for why I chose this bike over other commuter/touring bicycles and why I "needed" another bike ;-):

  • Purpose: For commuting and running errands as opposed to flying fast on weekend rides
  • Style: I love the way it looks. The style is more relaxed as opposed to my racy road bike.
  • Attire: I can wear nearly anything such as semi-professional attire and ride it instead of needing to get into a cycling kit and then change upon arriving at the office.
  • Comfort: I can sit in a more upright and comfortable position on the relaxed touring geometry frame instead of being hunched over on my road bike.
  • Utilitarian: It has a lightweight polished alloy rear rack on which I can hang panniers. I no longer need to carry a backpack and the weight of it on my back because my road bike doesn't have a rear rack. It also has fenders over the front and rear wheel to keep mud, water and road debris from splashing off my wheels onto me.
  • Tires: The 700c are faster-rolling road tires just like those on my road bike.
  • Gears: The Shimano 20-speed gearing can handle most of the hills in Reno-Sparks. It is rare to find a flat stretch of road for any length of distance around this town.

That said, it does not come with a kickstand or have a chainguard to protect the legs of my pants from getting snagged by the chain rings or getting grease on them. Since this bike has a derailer for shifting gears, the chainguard would interfere with the derailer when it shifts the chain between chain rings. Therefore, I will need to wear tights, boots, a skirt or anything that wouldn't snag or drag...or I can wear a strap around the bottom of my slacks to keep my pant legs from flopping around.

Also, I stuck with the platform pedals which means I am free from clipless pedals and needing to wear special cycling shoes to ride this bike. There are pros and cons which I can discuss in another post.

Bottom line. I love this Electra Ticino and it works great for me!!

Here it is, pretty much stock except for a brass bell gifted from my husband for my new bike. I took these photos BEFORE he wiped the bike down so that it was all shiny and bright.

Electra Ticino 20D

Electra Ticino 20D

Electra logo

Brass bell gift from my husband.




Hand-stiched leather saddle

Platform pedal
Hammered fender has leather spacers between the rack support to cushion potential rattling.

Hammered Alloy Fenders

Rear rack with one of my panniers hung on it.
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