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Thursday, February 25, 2016

For cyclists, learning to ride like the wind means knowing more about the wind, air and aerodynamics

For cyclists, learning to ride like the wind means knowing more about the wind, air and aerodynamics 
By:  Michael Lander

This caption pretty much conveys what most
cyclists feel about the wind or any other
resistance that you typically encounter on
a ride, but it really is something that you
must learn to adapt to, minimize the
effects of, and to try to take full advantage
of (with a good tail wind) whenever you
can get it.

Strong
headwinds and crosswinds….. There may be few things that cyclists dislike more.

And, there’s certainly good reason for cyclists to have a well-placed aversion to wind.

Nothing can be more frustrating than running up against a wall of wind, peddling as hard as you can, and feeling as though you just aren’t moving or going anywhere. 

Winds, though, are pretty much an unavoidable part of cycling, whether you are hitting them head on, or if they are coming from either side of you, and catching a nice tailwind can sometimes seem as elusive as winning the lottery.

Even on a relatively calm day, with little or no breeze, you will still come up against some resistance from the air around you on your ride, which only rises as you increase your speed. 

The effects of wind resistance is nothing new to experienced cyclists, and much has been written on the topic, to include that which was written by authors Edmund Burke and Ed Pavelka, in their book “
The Complete Book of Long Distance Cycling.”   

Burke and Pavelka suggest that, in order to determine the effect of wind resistance on you while you ride, you would have to draw an imaginary circle around yourself. 

After doing that,
you can then look around you from any given direction and know that only those winds that are within 160 degrees trailing behind you would provide you with any beneficial push.  Any winds from the remaining 200 degrees only work to push against you and to slow you down. 

The same is also true of crosswinds, which also increases varying levels of resistance or drag on you as you ride.

Wind gusts may never be this bad, but you can sometimes feel
like they are as you try to ride your bike on a windy day.
Knowing what the wind speed and direction is before you ride
can help you to determine how you will need to ride and
what route that you might want to take.

Click on these links to calculate the impact that the resistance of air, and other factors have on you, and your performance, while riding: 
bikecalculator.com and HED Cycling.

Cyclists can take several steps to help reduce and minimize the effects that wind and air can have on you as you ride and anything that can be done to decrease air resistance and improve air flow over you and your bike should improve your speed with less exertion on your part.

When you talk about reducing or minimizing the effects of wind and air while cycling, the first word that you will always hear, is about something being “
aerodynamic.” 

Essentially, if something is designed aerodynamically, it is shaped in such a way as to enhance the flow of air moving around and past it with the least amount of resistance in the process. 

Since nobody wants to ride slower, and with twice the effort, the goal of having something that is aerodynamic is that it will be designed in such a way as to allow air molecules to easily move over and around any given surface with the least amount of friction as possible. 

You can purchase
frames, drop bars, wheels, rims, helmets, and even clothing that have been manufactured and tested to ensure that they are aerodynamic and that they can decrease any air pressure drag and direct fiction.  This is done with streamlined designs that allow the air to move around you while reducing air pressure drag from behind.

Having a bicycle and gear on that are designed with
aerodynamics in mind, as well as properly positioning
yourself while riding, can help you to overcome some
of the resistance that you will come up against as you
ride.

In addition to equipment, you can help reduce the effects of resistance and drag by
drafting behind others.  This helps to create a barrier of sorts for those behind the lead cyclist of any peloton and it is extremely beneficial to do this, especially on long-distance bike rides.

You can also try to lean downward on your drop bars, or
aerobars, and then raising up to take full advantage of a good tailwind, whenever you are fortunate enough to get it.

As Chris Woodford points out, in his article, “
The Science of Bicycles,” 80 percent or more of the resistance that you experience during a bike ride can come from the air, itself, and the only force that is greater than that for you is that of gravity, which you will run across whenever you try to ascend a hill.

Even though not every
road will rise to meet you, and the winds may not always be at your back when you ride, learning more about the wind, air, and aerodynamics, should make your ride just a little bit easier and a much better experience for you, overall.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Memphis' newest attraction in 2016 will be a big draw for cyclists and others for many years to come

Memphis’ newest attraction in 2016 will be a big draw for cyclists and others for many years to come
By:  Michael Lander

This photo is of the Harahan Bridge showing a partially-constructed
portion of - The Big River Crossing that has been installed on this
100-year-old structure.

On Oct. 22, 2016, one of the biggest and newest attractions in
Memphis, and in West Memphis, Ark., will occur on top of one of the oldest structures connecting the two to one another.

This attraction will be a bicycle and pedestrian pathway known as “
The Big River Crossing,” and it is being built on the old wagon way of the 100-year-old, 4,973 foot truss, cantilever Harahan Bridge.

Click here to see a preview of what you can expect.

For the better part of a century, the bridge has had trains crossing over it and the turbulent waters of the
Mississippi River flowing beneath it, but in the not-so-distant future, it will also be known for so much more than that to generations of cyclists and pedestrians.

The century-old, rust-colored iron and steel bridge is destined to become a magnet for scores of people who will be drawn to what will inevitably become better known as "The Big River Crossing." 


This is a photo of the Harahan Bridge from a perspective that shows
the bridge supports and the Mississippi River below.

“When completed, the crossing on the Harahan will be a 10 foot wide and 4,827 foot long, a 54 inch (four foot, six inch) tall fence on the river side and an approximately 10 foot tall fence on the rail side of the bridge,”
Greg Maxted said.

Maxted is an advocate, promoter, and was once the executive director for "The Big River Crossing" project.

In addition to providing a safe and fun way for cyclists and pedestrians to get over the Mississippi River, and to get to and from
Tennessee and Arkansas, the crossing will also provide a beautiful and unparalleled view of the Memphis skyline and the river, a river of which helped to make the city what it is today.

This is a view of the Memphis skyline from the Harahan Bridge's
Big River Crossing.  (Photo:  Courtesy of Greg Maxted)

“The Main-to-Main Street project has already built connections on the Memphis side of the river and cyclists and pedestrians will be able to get to and from the Harahan via a sidewalk and bike lanes to Main Street in Memphis.  The riverfront also has an existing river walk, bluff walk, and sidewalk that will connect the bridge to
Tom Lee Park, Beale Street Landing, and over to Bass Pro Shop in the pyramid,” Maxted said.

“In addition to all this, the
City of Memphis has plans for a bicycle track on Jefferson from Third Street to Cleveland, more bike lanes on North Pkwy from McLean to Danny Thomas, and there is discussion of a future extension of a bluff walk, under the bridges, to Crump Park and the National Ornamental Metal Museum.  One of the most intriguing plans is also the Wolf River Conservancy’s Greenway project that is in the design phase,” he said.

This is a view of - The Big River Crossing looking
west toward Arkansas.  (Photo:  Courtesy of
Greg Maxted)

“On the Arkansas side of the river, there will be a 2.5-mile greenway from the bridge over the levee into West Memphis.  We are working with the City of West Memphis to develop an
eco-park on the west bank of the river, directly across from downtown Memphis.  So far, $1.5 million has been raised to create trails leading from the bridge to the river bank, and north, under I-40 to Dacus Lake and back,” Maxted added.

As big as “The Big River Crossing” might be, it is just a part of an even bigger and more ambitious plan for Maxted and others.

View of - The Big River Crossing looking west
with an incomplete portion in the
foreground.  (Photo:  Courtesy of Greg
Maxted)

“The big dream is to create a Big River Parkway Trail on top of the Mississippi River levees that run north to
St. Louis and south to New Orleans.  We are working with the St. Francis Levee Board and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to create a demonstration trail that will run north to Marion and south to Horseshoe Lake and Mariana, Ark.,” Maxted said.

“The number of visitors to the bridge and the creation of the eco-park will lead to new developments in West Memphis and
DeSoto County in Mississippi.  If this project follows the trend of other iconic bike and pedestrian river crossings, West Memphis will be the big winner of this,” Maxted added.

Construction of - The Big River Crossing officially began with
the groundbreaking in November 2014 and it is expected to
be finished by November 2016.

As with any project that is the size and magnitude of “The Big River Crossing,” there are plenty of players involved in the process in helping to bring it from the drawing board to a reality.

“The City of Memphis is building ‘The Big River Crossing’ as part of the Main Street-to-Main Street multi-modal connector project,” Maxted said.

“Terrence Patterson of the
Downtown Memphis Commission is the project lead, and he succeeded Paul Morris, in representing the City of Memphis for the crossing project.  Along with Patterson, Harry Pratt, from Allen & Hoshall, is the project manager, Cory Imhoff, from Henningson, Durham and Richardson (HDR, Inc.) is the engineering firm responsible for the design, and Seth Norment, is the project lead for the construction firm, OCCI, Inc., which is responsible for actually building the crossing,” Maxted added.

This is a close up of the Harahan Bridge with - The Big River Crossing
(to the right of it), which is currently being installed on the old
wagon way.
 
The crossing received considerable support across the spectrum of local, state, and federally elected officials, according to Maxted.

“Our local elected official have been the champions of this project from former Memphis Mayor,
A.C. Wharton, who was on board early and who gave us his full support, to Shelby County Mayor, Mark Luttrell, who helped us to get $1 million from the county, and to Memphis City Councilman Reid Hedgepeth who has been a tremendous supporter throughout the process,” Maxted said.

“Congressman
Steve Cohen was the big hero and he delivered the $14.9 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant,” he said.

“The key donors, on the private side, were
Charlie McVean, the Hyde Foundation, the Plough Foundation, the Boyle Foundation, FedEx, AutoZone, as well as a handful of private individuals,” he added.

This is a view looking west showing the Memphis-Arkansas Bridge
(on the left) and the Harahan Bridge (to the right) with a sidewalk
and a bike lane leading them to the Harahan.

According to Maxted, the total cost of the Main-to-Main project is about $39 million with the bridge work, itself, coming in at about $20 million.  A total of about $39.31 million in funds was provided, he said, with $14.9 million coming from Tiger IV, $4.8 million coming from private contributions, $2.2 million from the Federal Transit Authority, via the Memphis Area Transit Authority (
MATA), $1 million from TDOT, and others.

The idea for the Harahan Bridge Project seems to have begun with a simple bike ride from Memphis to Arkansas and back.

“Everything began with a bike ride with Mark Miesse, my brother, Jim, and me over the Memphis-Arkansas bridge,” Maxted said.

This is a view of the sidewalk and bike lane that goes to and
from the Harahan Bridge and - The Big River Crossing in
Memphis.

After that experience, the three all came to the same conclusion that the wagon way on the Harahan Bridge would be a much better and safer option and that it should be re-opened as a bicycle and pedestrian pathway.

“Mark Miesse and I were board members for the Greater Memphis Greenline so we brought it before the board who voted to promote the idea in the spring of 2010.  I met with Charlie McVean in late 2010 and he had eventually hired me in January 2011 to work full-time advocating this project.  A month later, Charlie McVean brought fourteen business and civic leaders to Omaha, Neb. to meet the CEO of
Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR).  He gave us the greenlight and the search for funding began,” Maxted said.

A sidewalk and bike lane will provide pedestrians and cyclists
easy access from downtown Memphis to West Memphis,
Ark.  It is part of the Main-to-Main Street project, much
of which has already been completed.

“Later, after doing some research, I found out that this idea has been brought up several times after 1950, but it took Charlie McVean to make it happen this time,” Maxted added.

Since the groundbreaking took place in November 10, 2014, the first section of the crossing was put into place in June 2015, and the completion of the sections above the river is expected to be finished in February of this year.  The sections over the Arkansas flood plain should begin in March and the project is currently expected to be fully completed by November 2016.

The only unexpected problems or delays in the project, Maxted said, have involved the first bids in late 2013 that were outside of the budget, which added a year to the completion date when the crossing had to be re-engineered.  Some flooding in August 2015 and again in January 2016 also caused some delays as well.


This is a sign that is mounted on the 100-year-old Harahan Bridge showing what
it is constructed of and when it was completed, which was July 14, 1916.

Despite any setbacks, the overall response and feedback from the general public seems to be overwhelming positive.

“The interest has been great.  Folks I talk to cannot wait to walk, run, skate, ride, and dance across the river.  Early on, people were supportive, but they assured me that the Union Pacific would never allow it to happen.  Now that construction is well underway, and folks see the possibilities, the excitement is building,” Maxted said.


That excitement is certain to only grow as the crossing becomes one of the biggest attractions that will bring cyclists and pedestrians from just about everywhere who will want to see and experience it for themselves for many years to come. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Commuting by bicycle may be an idea whose time has come

Commuting by bicycle may be an idea whose time has come
By:  Michael Lander

Commuting on a bicycle is a viable and inexpensive alternative
for some, especially when people can combine it with mass
transit.  The Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) buses
are equipped with bike racks, which allow cyclists greater
travel flexibility.

Commuting isn’t something that many of us really enjoy doing nowadays, but there may be options available to us that might change how we look at it.

The
University of Sussex/London School of Economics recently conducted a study and found that, at least among those in the British public, commuting is viewed as being one of the absolute worst things that Brits regularly experience in their day-to-day lives.

Regrettably, the same may very well be the said for many of us on this side of the Atlantic.

Even though we have been told about how Americans have always had a love affair with the automobile and how we’ve always loved the convenience and freedom of getting out and hitting the road in our cars,  there doesn’t seem to be as much to love for it as there once was.

With the congested roadways, traffic jams, the bad, reckless, distracted, or impaired drivers, the difficulty in sometimes finding a place to park, and the cost of car notes, maintenance, insurance, and gas, it can make the driving experience in
Memphis, and elsewhere, much less appealing. 

For those who are interested in finding an alternative way of commuting, or just getting around town, however, a bicycle may be one of the better options that people can and should consider.

Bicycle rides have many
benefits, which include being far more economical, more environmentally-friendly, and they are a healthier way (for both the mind and body) than driving a car is.  The U.S. Department of Transportation government also offers a modest reimbursement of $20 per month when a non-motorized bicycle is used for a significant portion of travel to and from work.

Cyclists can find routes on their commute, which can take
them on city streets, bike and pedestrian trails, and
through scenic areas to include our local area
parks.  This can make for a quicker commute than for
those who are in cars and are stuck in traffic.

For those willing to give commuting by bicycle a try, there are a handful of things that one should think about before doing it.

For starters, you should plan out your route to work, and come up with some alternative routes that you can take, if necessary, giving yourself plenty of time in order to get there.  You can also try planning out your route on
MapMyRide, Google Maps, and bikemap.net and you can click here for the most bicycle-friendly routes in Memphis.

One of the next things that you should do is to find something that will enable you to transport things to and from work or on any errands that you make.  For smaller items, a
satchel or saddle bag or cargo rack might do and, for larger items, you might want to go with a basket, a tote or double panniers, a back pack, a rucksack, or even, possibly, a cargo trailer.    

Among the items that you’ll probably want to have with you is a cell phone (with an extra battery or a charging device like a
Mophie), a tire repair kit, a bike maintenance tool set, a spare inner tube, a spare headlamp and tail light (with batteries), and plastic bags to protect anything from getting wet.

In addition to what you carry on your bike, it is also important what you have on you for clothing.  You should always wear clothing that will ensure that you are visible to others and appropriate for the weather conditions, (be it the
rain, the cold of winter, or the extreme, excruciating summer heat that we have in Memphis).

Those who commute, or who run errands, on a bicycle have a
number of options for carrying things to include baskets, bike
racks, and they can wear back packs, satchel or saddle bags.

In order to protect your bike so that it’s there when you go back to it, it’s always a good idea to put a
u-lock and/or a cable lock on it.  You should find a bike rack, or any immovable object and secure your bike frame and wheels to it. 

If it is at all possible, you should always try to bring your bike indoors and store it where it will not be out in the weather.  Always leaving a bike outside in the elements will unnecessarily accelerate the need for maintenance.  Some buildings have storage places and, sometimes, a good place to put them can be up underneath a stairwell. 

It may take longer to commute on a bicycle, but with all things considered, it will pay off in ways that it won’t for you in a car.

The automobile has long been a big part of many of our lives and many of us are nostalgic about them, despite the fact that the magic that they may have held over us has begun to slowly tarnish and fade away.

Today, many of us spend countless hours of our lives riding in cars and it’s time now that we consider breaking out of these cages that separate us from the rest of the world and from each other.

Bicycles give us the chance to break free from the confines of our cars and to reap the benefits that only a bike ride can give us.

The time has now come that we begin to think outside the box and to start commuting on bicycles.