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Commuter Files

commuter Files

Howdo. My name is Zach Magoon and I have been commuting year-round by bike for the last 7 years in both Boston, MA and Portland, ME. Because each day brings new challenges, whether it be changing weather conditions, crappy drivers, sore muscles or mechanicals, I think my ramblings will be, at the very least, moderately amusing.

Bike to Work Day

Bikeman Blogs - Commuter Files

Written by Administrator Friday, 20 May 2011 00:00

So this week has been Bike to Work Week and I have been doing my part this week like a good little bike rider. I thought there might be an influx in riders this week, but my route is a little out of the way so I'm hoping that's the reason I haven't seem more folks. Friday is the official bike to work day, so I have high hopes for some traffic on that day. I think I've convinced 2 people to get on out there, but everyone else had some kind of excuse. As much as I like to encourage people to give it a go, I don't want to annoy them or appear preachy. even though preachy might be the way to go.

So far this week has been great and I'm on tap to hit my average 140 miles over 4 days. I've had a couple of 5 day week, but something always gets in the way--such is life. Pretty much every day on the bike is better than driving, however the wind has been frustrating this spring. It seems like I'm getting it in the face both to and from work this year. Now I can take rain, snow, cold, but wind aggravates the hell out of me. It's really the only thing that can slow the bike commuter down--kind of like traffic! Yelling at it doesn't help, so many times I actually just put my head down and muscle through. Someday I'll get a tailwind and change my mind, but for now, screw you wind.

I have been in physical therapy for my elbow (of all things) for the last few weeks. Sadly it has kept me off the mountain bike this spring, but not off of commuting. It does hurt on the road bike, but not nearly as much as the beating it takes on the MTB. It tends to get stiff and sore if I don't release the bars every now and then and stretch it. One thing that hurts is waving--that action of quickly getting my hand off the bar--kills. But I make damn sure to wave with the other hand. I still don't get the no waving thing from other cyclists--just wave dammit. We really have to stick together and be cordial to each other. It's just one of those niceties that we should keep alive. So even if hurts you to wave (like me--hah) just do it!

Happy bike to work week!



Bike Commuters Christmas Wish List

Bikeman Blogs - Commuter Files

Written by Administrator Tuesday, 07 December 2010 00:00

After many people's riding season has ended, the dedicated bunch who ride all year long are still pedaling in the darkness and cold. I thought I'd put together a list of essentials that will put even the hardest commuter in the holiday mood. I truly believe that the equipment makes the difference in the winter. Having the right clothes, lights and components makes riding through the winter so much more enjoyable. Here are a few great products:

Let's start with a new lid. I am a big Lazer fan and have been using their helmets for a good 5 years now. Although I haven't tried this out, it looks to be a really great concept for any commuter out there. I know it won't replace a solid bike-mounted light system, but it is a great addition for increased visibility. It's the Lazer Urbanize Night Helmet . With an integrated white front LED light that snaps into front vent hole and an integrated red LED light that snaps into rear vent hole, riders are sure to be seen, right? We can only hope. The Rollsys fit system will secure this puppy to rider's heads and because it's so adjustable, it makes it easy to fit a hat underneath without removing pads. If you are like me and have the Lazer Genesis helmet, well they've made some winter pads that will keep those ears frost free. As for hats that fit under helmets, for the winter, I usually go for a wool cycling cap . I have been known to sport the team Bikeman winter version as well. Surly makes a nice looking one. But for those really cold days, I like to use a hat coupled with some Swix earmuffs . They're very low profile and crazy warm.

I have always done well with Craft for a my outer layer. A good, snug jacket that's windproof is a must for any commuter. I like Craft because the arms are nice and long (I have monkey-like arms and legs and a short torso). There are many styles out there, so this is a tough one to buy as a gift, but you might want to start with something like this Pearl Izumi. For anyone out there wanting to make my holiday that much better, I'll take one of Rapha's Bomber Jackets in a small. A pricey endeavor for a gift, but wow.

As for pants, I can only endorse the Bellwether Windfront Tight as it has been my go to for over ten tears. I've had two pairs of these and have been very happy with them. They're fitted, but not super tight and are very warm. The only down side is that the back is not water proof, so if it gets above freezing, be sure your fenders are on.

Still my pick for a light system is going to be The NiteRider MiNewt. Lights are still in my mind the most important commuting component, so don't screw around. This system is small, lightweight and all-weather. Rechargeable is the way to go as well.

And my last pick, if you really love your commuting friends and relatives, is the Lake Winter Shoe. I switched to this shoe after colossal fails from every pair of cycling booties out there. Stop fooling around. Go with a dedicated winter boot. It has the BOA lacing system, so tightening is so easy with the nice dial. Pearl Izumi also makes one that is waterproof that makes total sense as well.

So there are some of my picks. May your Holidays be safe and fun. Keep up the riding.


Spinning into Spring

Bikeman Blogs - Commuter Files

Written by Administrator Sunday, 18 April 2010 00:00

Well it certainly has been a while. I have had a great late winter/early spring commuting season. I have been rotating between three different bikes this year. Most of the time I'm on the Salsa Casseroll. It has been the perfect commuter for long and short commutes. I've had it for about a year with no mechanical issues (not even a flat). I would say I have somewhere in the 2100 miles range on it. I even used it last summer on some longer road rides with some friends who don't ride as much. It works out nicely for that too. I get a great workout and keep a good pace with them, rather than be a little bored on my slick road bike with its fancy new wheels. Speaking of which, I have been using the road bike on the really nice days to get some fast commute times up to Freeport. I can shave off nearly 10 min by riding my decked out Salsa Campeon with the new Sram Rival drive train and Mavic R-sys wheels. I've never had such a fancy ride. Not sure I'm qualified to ride such a beast, but I am thankful to the team's sponsors for making it happen this year.

So now that my commute is longer, there are some days, I don't have the time to ride the whole way. Normally, a one way trip takes just under an hour to go the 16.5 miles. On days I have to pick up or drop off the kids, I sadly have to drive part of the way and park 5 or so miles away from the office. I see it as cheating, I know I know, but at least I'm riding part of the commute. It saves some gas and gets me out enjoying the fresh air. But, it also got me thinking--if more people who have long commutes by car drove just halfway and rode their bikes the rest of the way, it would be a good thing. I've mentioned this to a couple of folks in the office when they asked how it is I commute that far every day. When I broke my dirty little secret to them, they loved the idea and said they were going to try the same. So something good may come out of it after all.

Speaking of work--they have indoor racks to hang bikes--probably up to 30 bikes! It's quite a site to see all the bikes fill up the lobby now that the good weather has returned. For most of the winter it was just me and one other guy, who I found out by chance one day that I went to school with him. Must've been something in the water down at Wheaton (MA) that made us so resilient and or stubborn. Now, I'm worried if I don't get in on time, I'll loose my parkin spot. Not a bad problem to have if it means that many folks are riding in.

Working a major outdoor retailer now I have been inspired to think of some bike-related gear that would make commuting by bike more comfortable. Well I think I've come up with a clothing product that would really make a difference on rainy/snowy days. I've yet to see any product like it, so if there are any product designers (clothing) out there who are looking to hear about it, I would love to chat. Just drop me a line-- zach at zmagoon dot com.

Happy spring everyone, ride safely. Bike to work week is in May, so dust of those chains and get out there.



Happy New Commute(r)

Bikeman Blogs - Commuter Files

Saturday, 09 January 2010 00:00

Happy New Year everyone! As I posted sometime last Spring, I was laid off which led to a strange time for me--no bike commuting. Now how could I write a blog about commuting when I was really just going out for rides all Summer. I felt a little strange every time I sat down to write something I kinda felt like a poser. But I'm back baby! And back with a longer commute, which is good and bad somedays as many of you know. I mean, yeah, there are days I have no desire to slap on the 3-4 layers of clothing one needs to ride in 10 degree weather, but why do we do it? because every day I'm out there, I'm not sitting in a car burning fossil fuels. Every day I'm out there I get some fresh air, some exercise and a story to tell my daughters of things I saw on my ride. I do it because it gives me a sense of accomplishment even before I set foot in the office, so no matter what goes on during the day, I know I've at least I've got that ride home to forget (or revel) out it.

So as I was saying, my new commute is a bit longer--about 16.5 miles one way. Now it's fine in the morning, it take me about an hour to do it, but at night when it's dark and sometimes snowy or windy, it might take a little longer, but whatever. Because the new commute is so much longer, I tend to ride in a more directroute, which sucks for a couple reasons. The first is that I'm riding along Rt 1-- bleck. It's busy and the cars tend to fly by at near highway speeds, so I get a little windblown from some of the trucks, but I have a reverse commute from most of them so at least I can see them coming. One other good thing about it is that the shoulder is HUGE. So that's a bit more safe at night. As soon as it's lighter out at night I will take another less traveled route on a secondary road, but this time of year there is barely any shoulder with the snow and ice build up.

Speaking of which, by now I would normally have on my studded tires, but I've been running my big-ass Continental Contact 35's and still loving them. These tires came stock on the Salsa Casseroll and I've loved them since the first ride. So smooth and forgiving on the road, but without much rolling resistance and you can jack up the psi to over 100 on them plus they're nearly puncture resistant. So far, an awesome commuter tire. I bet I have well over 1500 miles on them with nary a sign of wear. With that said, I haven't seen the need for the studs yet. They handle nicely in the snow too. The studs really hook up best on ice and not just snow and tar. Studs tend to slide a bit on bare tar as one might expect. 

The bike is still performing beautifully. I hate to see it get slammed with salt and sand, but what's a guy to do? I do try to clean it when I get home if it's wet out, but so far it's been pretty cold so everything is frozen. There were a couple of days that were snowy--too much snow to even ride--yes I do bail on the nasty days for safety reasons-I had a plow-man really lay on the horn during one storm and realized that it's probably not all that safe to be buried under his wake.

I'm also getting use to all the comments from new co-workers again "where are you riding from?" and "don't you know it's too cold for biking?" Mind you my new contract position is at the corporate headquarters of one of Maine's (and the Nation for that matter) premier supplier of outdoor gear and clothing since 1912 ;). I just tell them, "just owning the clothes doesn't warrant the lifestyle, you have to use them." That usually shuts them up. Nice folks though and it's great to be part of a great team again.

That's about it from here. I wanted to pass along some bike related news from LA. Lets hope this indictment doesn't worsen relations between biker and motorists, let's hope it sets a precedent. Ride safely.


Summer Breeze

Bikeman Blogs - Commuter Files

Written by Administrator Wednesday, 19 August 2009 00:00

I have been pretty negligent in posting this summer and for that I apologize. Things on the commuter scene have been going very well for me this year as I have been averaging 4 days a week on the bike. My normal round trip is 35 mi., but when the weather is nice, like it has been all summer long, I add a few scenic miles here and there. I would once again like to praise my single speed Salsa Casseroll . I have had zero mechanical issues with this bike over the 3500+ miles I've ridden it. Not even a flat tire. I bough this really nice Surly Jethro tool in case I needed to wrench off the rear tire, but have never used it. Good thing there's a bottle opener on it! This bike has really proven to be my favorite ride. The stock setup had been perfect, the components have held up and performed swimmingly and I just love the simplicity of this ride. I would strongly recommend this bike to anyone looking to commute. Steel is real and it really does make for the best commuter material. Mellowing out the bumps and potholes with ease. No it's not the lightest, but definitely rolls the smoothest of my bikes. I think I'll add just one accessory this winter--fenders . I'm going with some bamboo versions . I simply like the look of them and I think they'll complement the bike nicely. I just want to keep the salt and sand off the frame as much as I can to prolong my time with it. One thing that I'd like to try out would be a commuter with a belt drive. These just make sense to me. Quiet and maintenance-free, a belt-driven bike just lends itself to be the ultimate commuter. The only down side is having to have a break-away frame. There must be some way to bond the belt so it doesn't break and would allow for easy installation. Someday, I'm sure. Commuter bag. I switched this year to a backpack style commuter bag. The single strap, courier-style bags that I've used for 12 years began to take a toll on my back during the longer commute. I certainly wasn't making deliveries, so there wasn't any need to swing the bag quickly to my chest to take things out. Yeah, the courier bags look cool, but I must say, the backpack style, bike-specific bags like this waterproof version I got really does the trick. Completely waterproof, it has held up on the nastiness of days. RF-welded, PVC-free 600D PU-coated polyester body and scrim-reinforced urethane detailing, makes this utilitarian bag the perfect pack. I never have to worry that my clothes or electronics will get wet. Wish I had a pair of pants that would perform the same way. As the summer winds down, I'm looking forward to cyclocross season. Hopefully the training I get while commuting with prove to be of help out on the courses. Either way, I just enjoy being out there in any weather on the bike. Keep your head up and ride safely.

Cool iPhone App for commuters

Bikeman Blogs - Commuter Files

Tuesday, 04 August 2009 01:00

I know it's been a while. It's actually been a while since I have actually commuted. I was laid off from my full-time job a bout a month or so ago. But today I took out the Casseroll to ride to a meeting downtown. Man it felt good. Yeah I have been getting in some miles on the road bike, but commuting is different. There is more of a sense of purpose. Going out for a 40 mile road ride is just for enjoyment, you would never go out for a 40 mile loop in the car every day for fun (if you do, stop it, just stop it). But while on these rides, I have been been using a app for my iPhone that is meant to be used to calculate ones carbon offset. It's put out by REI of all companies called Bike My Drive and does a great job of measuring the offset of carbon in lbs, trip calories burned (seems a bit on the high side) and $$ saved from biking rather than driving. You set the price of gas and your car's mpg. But that's just the start of the coolness. The app uses GPS technology to track your mph, miles, average speed and elapsed time. When users finish the ride it is uploaded to EveryTrail where it syncs to Google Maps, plots the ride and gives more data like vertical up and down, speed and elevation. Nice! I've been trying to use this on some longer rides too, but it's a major battery suck and only lasts a couple of hours. Users can adjust a distance filter that determines the distance traveled before a new location update is generated--more space between each update=longer battery life.

Here is one of my recent rides to check out. Another cool feature that I don't use that often because it means stopping to take out the iPhone, is users can take photos along the way and the images will appear on the map--very cool. So until I get another full-time gig, which may be soon, I'll have to settle for cool apps like this to remide me of better days to come.


New Salsa Casseroll

Bikeman Blogs - Commuter Files

Friday, 19 June 2009 01:00

The new ride came in and was it ever worth the wait. Now I'm not just saying this because I love my Salsa bikes. This Salsa Casseroll Single Speed is a dream to ride. When I picked it up, I was a little thrown back by the size of the tires on this thing. They are ginormously wide--Continental Contact 37 !! Wickid huge pal. But those things can take some serious pressure and I've got them jacked up to 115psi and they roll like nobody's business. And they roll over everything--cracks, bumps, small rodents (no not yet, but close) potholes, you name it these things plow over it with ease and comfort. I mean it's a commuter bike right? Small racing slicks would be a jarring, jittery experience around town and on the bike paths. I think these tires may be one of the best components on the bike. Let's talk abou tsome of the others. 

The frame is beautifully painted in a Guildens brown mustard with some nice sparkly flecks that glimmer in the sun--beauty. It is responsive when standing and smooth and stiff when seated. Stiff and responsive--yeah sounds strangely sexual, but hey it's a nice ride. The welds are beautiful and the matching fork dampers whatever else the tires don't absorb. The straight blades look like a tuning fork and are painted in the same lovely mustard color. Another really nice detail is a custom chain guard--it's sleek and has some nice die cuts that make it look super aerodynamic. Definitely not like the chain guard on that blue Shwinn we all had as kids. The rest of the bike is rounded out with a few nice Salsa parts--Moto Ace Short and Shallow bars and Delgato Cross rims laced up with Surly Flip Flop hubs . The saddle is pretty sweet too--a WTB Silverado Race with custom Salsa embroidery--I mean come on, too cool. The Tektro brakes do an adequate job in stopping. These brakes seem to be the standard in meduim quality, cost-cutting performance. What I do like about the calipers is that they are extra long and tall to accomodate the large tires. This means riders can easily use studs in the winter or a slightly smaller slick with a fender. Bonus points for that. 

I've decided to keep the freewheel on and use it until it starts to deteriorate, which should be in a month or so. It's one of those cheapo Shimano jobs. They are meant for really dry conditions--like desert conditions. I was going through about one a month with my MTB. Granted that was pretty wet an mucky most of the time, but so is commuting. About 5 years ago I made the switch to the White Industries and never worried about again. These things are bomb proof and if for some reason the leave them submerged in water for like 3 years and you need to rebuild them, you can. I have never had to. I use them on my MTB and my commuters. But for the ultimate in no worries/maintenace, just go fixed, which I plan to do this winter? Not sure what I'm going to do with my Redline as it's still in running order (and a fixed). I may just keep that for my foul weather bike. That is if I get another job...

What? Yeah this commuter was laid off last week. What does this mean for a guy who prides himself  a daily commuter? I don't know. It's sad really. Not only will I miss my job, but I'm going to miss the ride everyday. Yes I will still go for rides to the store and downtown for cookie and coffee runs, but it won't be the same. The urgency is just not there. I have started to line up some freelance work (I'm an art director and designer by trade) but look forward to the day I have a full-time reason to bike to work again. I did have a very proud moment this week as my daughter's teacher asked what a certain article of clothing was (she was holding up a tie) and said that some dads wear these to work. My lovely 3 year old said, "my daddy wears bike shorts to work." Thanks Pheebs.

Ride safe.




Bike to Work Week

Bikeman Blogs - Commuter Files

Tuesday, 12 May 2009 01:00

Nothing marks the passage of Spring like the annual Bike to Work Week . In a strange twist of fate, it happens to fall on my birthday week this year. So in lieu of all the hundreds of gifts and well-wishes, please just get out on your bikes, ride to work and leave those cars garaged. I have been trying to recruit a few more people to ride this week, but so far the regular excuses keep coming up. One of them actually said it was too cold. Oh dear lord. 

In early Spring, I like to recall those horrible sleeting and snowy days with 30mph winds we endure in the winter to rememeber why it is I ride to work-- the warm sun, fresh ocean air, birds chirping and not a care in the world. Then you get to work, do whatever it is you do and repeat. Not sure it can get any better than that. These sunny days of early Spring are why I ride all winter long. 

I would love to see some more folks out on the roads of Portland this week. I'm a little late getting out there today. I think I'm gonna take the long way in today, work can wait. 


New Ride on the Way

Bikeman Blogs - Commuter Files

Monday, 02 March 2009 01:00

Well I did it again. I just couldn't resist. I may have a problem saying no to bikes. But an offer came up that I couldn't refuse. Just look at the new Salsa Casserole and tell me that I did the wrong thing. Ok then. Here's my reasoning: The Redline 925 has been a great bike and will continue t be one. However, I will need to get another set of wheels after this season. They've taken a beating in the wet, salt and sand of the winter. So I would probably drop a good chunck of change on that. It also needs some new tires, drivetrain and potentially bottom bracket. All of these upgrades would put me in the $400-500 range. Now wouldn't it make sense to use the discount that I get from one of our best team sponsors (Salsa) to get a complete bike instead? Well that's the reasoning I used to sort of convince my wife. I'm still not sure it worked, but I was able to order the bike anyway.

Now I have a fleet of Salsas. I can't say enough good things about these frames. They're responsive, light, durable and downright pretty. Every year they whip up some awesome new paint/graphic combination that bikers lust for every year. I currently have two full scanduim frames and one scanduim/carbon.  This new Casserole will round out the frame materials because it is steel! I think steel is the way to go on a commuter. It sucks up the little bumps, cracks and chatter that crappy city roads dish out. An aluminum bike would just be a little too stiff. I like to have a little bit of flex to the frame for a commuter. Plus, most other frame material, like carbon, ti, or even scandium, would be too cost prohibitive. And I would worry that it would get stolen or crapped on by seagulls.One thing though with the steel is that it it tends to be a bit more corrosive than the other materials. So it was suggested I put on a frame protector spray to prolong the life of it. Might be a good idea. 

 So the Casserole is set up with some stock parts--so I just can't go wrong. I'm thinking of selling the Redline to offset some of the cost of the new bike, but I'm also thinking it would make a great foul-weather ride. That way I could just keep the studs on it for winter and use it exclusively in winter. Hey, people have a set of snow tires for their cars--probably paid more for them then I paid for that bike, so what the hell.

Speaking of cars,  I did some calculations last month of how many times I drove to work last year. 11 times. That was a record for me--on the low end. This year I don't see that happening, I've already had to drive 6 times because of weather, sickness or picking up kids. And as the kids get older, I wcan only imagine my drive days will increase--it's a sad reality, but one I hope to curtail for as long as I can through the use of a trailer! Yes! Now both my kids are big enough to ride in the trailer, so that will help out on those days I have to drop them off or pick them up (in the warmer weather of course). I haven;t strung this idea on my wife yet, but I'm sure it will go over really well--the kids will like it. 

An update on my lighting system. I got it back in the mail a few weeks ago after sending it back to Nite Rider. They said it was water damage to the battery that caused it to die. Didn't they test these things in rain? I certainly did not submerge the thing by any means. Yeah it was probably some hard rain, but these lights should be made to withstand that at the very least. But they got it back to me fairly quickly, so I can't complain too much. And the new battery still holds a great charge for almost a week (using it for just the ride home--30-35 min), even in the cold weather. Speaking of which, I'm officially done with winter. I just finished shoveling our latest dump of 8-10 inches which puts the snowbank at the end of my driveway at about 7 ft. Enough is enough. Get out there when you can, ride safely.




Retired old bag

Bikeman Blogs - Commuter Files

Monday, 16 February 2009 01:00

I originally purchased my first Patagonia Critical Mass bag in 1999. A lively
bright blue beauty with one large main compartment, one inner
compartment and a smaller outside compartment. At the time, I thought I
could get into bike commuting in Boston (perhaps riding a couple of
times a week to save on my lengthy walk from the commuter boat to my
office), so I needed a sturdy bag to haul my clothes, dress shoes and
showering items.

I slowly began to bike more and more--every day in fact--and became a
full-time-in-any-weather-core-bike-commuter. I've depended on my
Critical Mass bag nearly every day for 10 years and not once has it
failed me (or been washed, geh). Recently I noticed that the main
shoulder strap was coming un-stitched and I began to think nostalgically
about my blue beauty--here's what I came up with:

Roughly 39,000 commuter miles
5 different jobs
One honeymoon to Hawaii
7 foreign countries
Hundreds of overnights to in-laws (ok more wear on me)
4 Massachusetts winters (salt, salt salt)
6 Maine winters (sand, sand, sand)
5 Commuter bikes

One commuter bag

I thought inaguration day would be a fitting day (and a 30%
sale at the Freeport outlet was pretty convincing) to retire the old
bag, clean it up and give it a rest until my next vacation. So, I bought
one of the newer Critical Mass bags and I must say the improvements are
astounding in functionality and comfort. I hope to write you in another
ten years to say how much I've enjoyed this bag. One minor improvement
for the next incarnation--a lanyard on the keyring to make it easier
to get the keys out when the bag is shouldered.

As always I will continue to enjoy all of my clothes and gear from
Patagonia, if I can only wear them out. Unfortunately, Bikeman doesn't sell
Patagonia products, but I thought I should at least mention how well this
product held up for me.

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