How to get the best fuel efficiency ever AND have fun too!

As you ride your bike, and you enjoy the fact that you are saving so much money I would like to remind you as well that a bike is the most fuel efficient device you will ever own. A bike is better than the best electric car, hybrid bike, even better than some of these wacky solar cars you see pictures out there. How is that you say, let me explain it to you.

Humans are very good at long distance running and we first used running as our method to hunt animals on the Serengeti some 200,000 years ago. We would run them to exhaustion and then just walk up to the exhausted animal and poke a spear in it. Running was our first mode of transportation and if you compare a bike to a runner, both traveling at 16 kmh (or 10 mph) a biker would burn 6x less energy than the runner. We developed a device that makes us 6 times more efficient than before. There is no device which allows us to travel the same distance with such little energy input.

The graph below compares biking with other forms of transportation. Smaller is better.

kcal per hour comparison running biking driving

This graph shows that biking crushes all other forms of exercise and transportation. Even mass transit does not do as well as a bike. Bikes simply rock for efficiency, calorie conservation and conversion into forward momentum.

But wait, that is not all, bikes are super FUN.

I would like to point out that the calories burned by the moped, train and cars are the fuel consumed in combustion and you cannot drink the fuel yourself to power your running and biking.  That would be a bad thing. Only food for you. One thing that gasoline has going for it is its Energy density. There are 31,500 kcal/gallon (or 8290 Kcal/liter) in fuel. This is some dense stuff. Ice cream on the other hand has about 2000 kcal/liter, so gas is 4x as dense as ice cream.  However, ice cream tastes way better.  That is another topic though.

Even if you compare a bike to the most fuel efficient car out there at (128 mpg) you can see on the graph that a bike beats it 4.4 to 1. Put another way the most fuel efficient car out there would have to get to 563 mpg to achieve the efficiency of a bike. This is not happening.

The impressive thing about a bike is that we are able to convert nearly 90% of the energy we put into the pedals into forward moment, compared to a car which is only able to convert about 25% of its energy input into forward momentum. Internal combustion engines simply suck at converting energy into forward momentum.

Biking beats all other transportation hands down without even trying. Even when you approach racing speeds with your bike and cover over 35 km in an hour you still consume significantly fewer calories per km then a moped (the best motorized option).

There are a couple of take aways for me here. First, smaller is better. The bike and the moped are relatively light and allow us to travel with the fewest calories burned. The less mass you have to move the less energy required. Makes sense huh? The other takeaway is when I compare running to biking I see that running consumes a lot of calories and the bike has helped us leverage our calories burned significantly over our human’s first mode of transportation (running).

For me there is one other take away, if you can increase the number of occupants in your vehicle then you can cut your kcal/km per person down. I was in China a couple of years ago and took a picture of a Chinese family on a moped. Here they are able to pack 4 people onto the moped and then they become the most fuel efficient thing out there. I question the safety of doing this with your moped and your family,  but it is possible.

4 people on moped

Alternatively, to be safe I can buy an electric car, and pack my family of 4 in than I can come close to achieving the efficiency of a bike. However, you forget the two for one effect of biking; you get exercise during your transportation.

So, if you want to save money, be nice to the environment and have fun than there is no better option than a bike.

Go have fun on your bike!

 

How to teach your kid to ride a bike with no effort:

There are a couple of ways  to teach your kids to ride a bike.  You have the painful option and the easy option.  Both methods work.

Training wheels Option:

training wheels dad teaching childTraining wheels are how I was taught to ride a bike. I hated the experience. I vividly remember my mom teaching me to ride and me drifting into a metal mailbox post. It hurt, it sucked and I hated it. The training wheels are bolted onto each side of the bike and the bike can stay up without the operator having to balance. Seems like a good idea, but the training wheels teach the kids a lot of bad habits and makes learning to balance doubly difficult. I did not know any better and this is how I trained my first daughter, and the transition away from training wheels was just like I remember it as a child- painful. It was difficult for me to teach her to ride. Neither of us enjoyed the experience.   My first daughter was 5 when she learned to ride a bike without training wheels.

There is a an easier way, but first a little historical biking background:

I am not sure how many of you know the history of the bike, but the first bike was invented by a German man named Karl Drais in 1817. The bike was called a Draisine named after himself, or later got the name dandy horse. This bike had no pedals and the user would sit on the bike and run along with his weight supported by the bike. The bike was made almost entirely of wood and the tires were wrought iron wrapped around wheels. This was the first device that competed with the horse. These first bikes were considered a young man’s sport, as they were quite dangerous and not comfortable. It took another 78 years before the first modern equivalent bike, called the safety bike, appeared. This bike opened up biking to men, women, young and old and although the materials used have changed, the general design has remained the same.

Balance Bike Option:

balance-bikeThe second option to teach your child to ride a bike is to use a Balance Bike (Laufrad): Once my second child came we had been living in Germany for a few years and I saw a number of the local kids using these Balance bikes. A balance bike is a bike with no pedals and is sized so that the child can sit on the seat with both feet on the ground. It is basically one of these original dandy horse bikes upgraded for modern convenience.  I purchased one of these for my youngest and she loved it. First she would walk using the bike and the next thing I knew she would pick up enough speed and then lift up her feet and coast for about a 100 ft (30 m). One day we were on an errand together and it was a slight downhill slope. She put her feet up and coasted for 300 ft- I was dumbfounded. No training on my part, zero effort and she had mastered the most difficult part of biking. I figured she had the balance down and that day we would try biking. I placed her on a bike that day and pushed her and told her to pedal. First try and she was riding. For me as a parent it was no effort teaching her how to bike. The kicker is she was 3 ¾ years old. The only bad habit she learned from the balance bike was she wanted to put her feet down to stop, but this was a small inconvenience compared to the bad habits training wheels had caused my first daughter.

Wrap up:

In conclusion, I find a balance bike the only solution to teaching a kid to ride a bike as opposed to using the training wheels. Your child learns balance first. Once the balancing is mastered then learning to pedal becomes quite simple. Additionally, I recommend that you buy one of the balance bikes used, as child only uses them 2-3 years before moving to a bike. They make the transition to a bike much easier than the training wheels. Do your part and stomp out training wheel use and teach your kid how to bike through the balance bike!

How I got into bike commuting

I remember asfather-and-son-biking a child my father would take me to school before he went to work. It was always in his car. Then one spring day he told me we will ride our bikes tomorrow. I was excited, as this sounded like an adventure. The first time we rode, the morning air had a good bite to it. We took off and rode many side roads. It was wonderful to sense the outdoors rather than being locked in an enclosed vehicle. The adventure was thrilling and we made it to school in no time. Riding our bikes in the long days of the year was always a treat for me.

Fast forward to adulthood. I am an American and I helped a company start up a plant in the former East Germany. I lived there with my wife and our first daughter. Our house there was fairly close to work and we were able to make it work with only one vehicle. A few years later and the same company moved me to another plant in Germany- this time in Bavaria. We now lived a good distance further away from work and our family had recently grown in size too. A second car or another alternative to get to work was required.

My wife was going to need our car more often than me. When my wife needed the car, she would drive me to work, but that took 30 minutes out of her day and she did not like doing that very often, especially with small kids. The other option was buying a car, and I did not want to have to cover these additional costs, if I could avoid them. The next option was to take the public bus to work. This was time consuming option; it literally took one hour to commute by bus. It was not bad, because I could read or work on the laptop. However, I found I would get car sick on the bus. Definitely not a great situation.

I have been an avid runner since the 1991 and thought instead of running every morning, maybe I could try biking instead of the bus. After using Google maps to find the best route to avoid the freeway and minimize the amount of traffic, I tried out the commute one Sunday afternoon on my old mountain bike. It took me 75 minutes. I was exhausted and I realized this could work. The first year I would ride in the morning and take the bus that evening and on the next day ride the bike back home in the evening. I was getting exercise, loving the experience and learning.

The following spring I bought a commuter bike. It was a Bergamount Alumnimum frame commuter bike and took that for my first ride. Holy cow, it was fast. My commute time went from 75 minutes to 55 minutes one way, and with this bike I was able to start commuting both ways in a day. It took a while, but it was great exercise. I got rained on, I sweated, and I learned about lights, I learned how to change a flat, and how to do simple bike maintenance.

Commuting became an adventure and was fun again like I remember as a child growing up. I hope to share my knowledge that I have accumulated with you here on this blog.

How to get motivated to ride your bike:

possibleSometimes the difference between taking the car and stepping onto your bike is simply the motivation you have. Biking provides a ton of advantages, and we know this intuitively. Still we need motivation sometimes to get on that bike in the morning and ride to work. Here are the things that motivate me to bike to work:

 

  1. Biking gives you energy – I get my exercise and am able to get to work at the same time. Exercise has always been important to me and being able to combine commuting and exercise has actually been a time saver for me.
  2. Biking is a Zen like, calming experience. The beautiful thing about a bike for me is the quietness of the bike, the sound of the wind rushing past, which gives a white noise feel and puts me into a very rewarding state of wellbeing.   This state makes me feel better for hours and is really nice after a stressful day to get on the bike and let the workday stress wash away as soon as I start to peddle.
  3. Wind in your face makes you happy – I love the wind rushing past my head and the pure joy of the bike peddling that simply brings a smile to my face.
  4. Able toThink outside of the box – When I chose to start biking to work it reinforced to me that there is more than one way to do something. It is also kind of neat to see me coworker shake their heads in the kind of weather I ride my bike in. Having the right rain gear and mud flaps totally opens up the possibilities. This frees you up.
  5. Inspiration in $$$$ saved – just remember, if you can cut out one car from your family, you start saving an additional $6000 a year and you do not need a gym membership any longer. A $500 dollar a month after tax raise is a great motivator and you get exercise for free at no extra charge. On top of that no parking fees and expensive maintenance costs.
  6. Sell your car! – the big ballsy move. Cut the apron strings and go sans car! Once you sell your car, you remove the training wheels from this experiment and give yourself no other convenient choice, except to use your bike. That is motivation from the other side.
  7. No more traffic Jams – When I get to traffic lights, I am now always at the front and no longer need to wait for light sequence. I always have the EZ pass and get to cut to the front of the line.
  8. Be prepared – Rain gear, mud flaps, gloves, spare tires.
  9. Track your progress – get something like the app Moves for the iPhone or Android and track your daily progress. Remember, what get measured gets improved.
  10. Document your physical progress – take before pictures, and then monthly update your progress. Moving to a bike will cause you to lose weight as you start burning more calories. On a bike at fast tempo of 18-20 mph (28-32 kph) you burn around 1000 calories an hour.

 

For me, these things are what motivate me to get on my bike every morning and enjoy the freedom bike commuting provides over commuting by car. Hopefully, you can find motivation in this list and keep the bike commuting habit going.

How to Change out a flat tire like a pro in 2 Minutes flat

Hey all, flats do occur and you need to know how to change these out.  This short action list is all you need to fix a flat like a pro.flat tire picture

Hopefully, you are using my tips to prevent flats, but they still occur sometimes.

Actions to change a flat tire:

  1. Disengage the brake
  2. Remove the wheel from the bike. I assume you have quick releases, and if you do not than pull out your crescent wrench and use this to remove wheel
  3. Fully deflate the tire, if not already done through the puncture failure point.
  4. Use the tire lever tool to remove the tire from your rim
  5. Remove the rubber hose from the tire
  6. If possible, take a damp rag or shirt and clean out any rocks and debris from inside the tire
  7. Take the new rubber hose and partially inflate (I recommend a small pump here rather than the CO2 cartridges) just enough to easily snake back into tire
  8. Place partially inflated rubber hose into the tire
  9. Position inflation nipple into hole of rim
  10. Use the tire lever tool to place tire on rim again (you may need to deflate the tire again)
  11. Once tire completely on rim, partially pump up tire and ensure that the rubber hose is completely below the tire (if not deflate and get rubber tube positioned completely below tire)
  12. Complete pumping up the tube
  13. Remount bike wheel
  14. Reengage the brake

That is it- simple and to the point.  Good luck all.