Monday, 13 February 2017 00:00

In the age of smartphone technology, the key to improving your ride can be right at your fingertips, and best of all, it doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. Check out some great free apps that will help you plan for a smooth ride.

Probably one of the most popular cycling apps out there, Strava not only lets you plan and track your ride lengths and speeds; it also introduces a social component where you can share and compare your results with other bikers in the area.

Strava App



Similar to Strava, Endomondo is Under Armour's route tracking app that also records heart rates and calories. It also works with a huge variety of other activities, from aerobics to kite surfing and yoga.

Endomondo at the Google store
Endomondo at Apple store



Bike Gear Calculator

To really take your cycling to the next level, check out Bike Gear Calculator. This app takes things like cadence, tire size and crank length to determine gear and gain ratio, speed, and pedal rotations.

Bike Gear Calculator Google
Bike Gear Calculator Apple


St John Ambulance First Aid for Cyclists

The name of this one is pretty self-explanatory. While no one wants to find themselves in a situation where they'll need this information, the app provides basic and emergency first aid  for common cycling injuries.

St John on Google
St John on Apple


Rain Alarm

This app really gets to the heart of the most common weather-related issue: rain. Instead of just providing a forecast, this app gives you a warning when precipitation is headed your way.

Rain Alarm Google
Rain Alarm Apple

Bike Unchained

While this Reb Bull app probably isn't going to improve your real-world biking ability, it's definitely a fun little game where you can conquer some mountain biking trails and pull off some sweet tricks.

Bike Unchained Google
Bike Unchained Apple

Tuesday, 06 September 2016 00:00

While traveling, I am often at the mercy of my host's preferred method of travel. Hosts often ask you as the guest what you would like to see in town, but they don't often think to ask what method of transportation you prefer.

Different methods of travel are preferred in different parts of the country, with personal car travel being the most popular method. I happen to live in an ecovillage where most of my neighbors prefer to travel by public transit, bicycling, and walking. I live in Portland, Oregon, where we have excellent transportation options. When I travel to a location where car travel is the norm, I experience a bit of culture shock.

When guests come into town, I usually ask them if they would like to go by streetcar, light rail, bus, or bike, or to walk. I usually end up using the mode of transportation that they find most comfortable. Most of the time, this is by car, but some of them really enjoy our new modern streetcar system. I realize that using public transportation can feel foreign to some people, and that comfort in travel is all a matter of what you are familiar with.

For me, safety is a big factor. So, when I go out of town and start riding on fast freeways, I start to feel anxious. Studies have shown that riding transit is the safest form of travel, but most people have become so accustomed to seeing auto accidents that they are able to overlook them.

For me, going out of town means that I will be riding in cars on highways, which is something I don't do much of at home. What is commonplace for one person is out of the ordinary for another. Just the thought of riding in a car creates stress for me. I know that some people fear riding public transit because of the news stories that they hear, so my need to make my guests comfortable often overrides my own need for comfort. As a result, I often ride in their cars when they are visiting me.

Next time you have a guest come from out of town, consider asking them what form of transportation they prefer, and then dare to go with it to make them feel comfortable. If that won't work for you, then each person taking their own preferred method of transportation is another sensible way to go.

Sunday, 03 July 2016 00:00

Everywhere I go, I seem to experience a different sense of community. On the train, there is an ever-evolving community because of the changing people who ride through the various stops. The unwritten community rules are formed by the train conductors and by riders. One of the common courtesies is to share a table in the dining and snack car in what I call "European style." Sometimes, someone will motion that they want to sit at your table, or will interact with you from another table, whereas in most American restaurants, you would have your own table, and people at nearby tables would keep to themselves. Being an introvert, I am perfectly content to sit by myself and think my own thoughts, but on the train, I just think of it as an unusual adventure.

Here are some adventures from my latest train trip.

I heard some teen girls at a table behind me playing a type of card game where they would challenge each other. Then, suddenly. one gal reached over my right shoulder and placed a card and origami bird on my table. I was delighted at the gesture. After a bit, I decided that I should return the card so they would have a complete deck of cards, and I handed the card back. She said, "Keep it." I figured that I probably was not hip to these new card games, and that I should hang on to it. Then I noticed a URL and tracking number on the card. Perhaps I will take note of the tracking number and fold a new origami creature to share with someone else on the train ride back.

One fellow sat down and wanted to chat, and then he set a drum pad on the table and started drumming. It was a very quiet drum pad, perfect for community travel. It seems to be a nice hobby for him. He couldn't see well, so he was not as entertained by the usual digital entertainment that one usually brings when traveling on a train. We had a nice chat about music, and then I moved on to another location on the train to see what my next adventure would be.


Monday, 12 October 2015 00:00

Fact 1: Public transportation is one of the greenest, cleanest, environmentally friendliest ways to get to work.

Fact 2: It can be better.

Better not just by improving routes, efficiency and overcrowding, but by ditching fuel altogether.

Fact 3: Those black plumes of smoke that buses spew could be a thing of the past.

If a company called Proterra has its way, we could be well on our way to making that third fact a lung-friendly reality.

The company, run by early Tesla employee Ryan Popple, has just revealed a new electric bus that drove 258 miles on a single charge. Granted, it was empty. But the average route of a city bus is only 130 miles, so even with a full load, during a snowstorm and on rough roads, this groundbreaking bus would fare well enough to relieve the “range anxiety” that usually accompanies the words “electric car” (or, in this case, bus).

Fact 4: A diesel bus gets approximately five miles to the gallon.

Fact 5: This bus charges in as few as five minutes.

Those last two facts aren’t just neat and symmetrical; they illustrate just how much better public transportation can be if transit agencies could figure out a way to stop buying diesel buses and invest in clean tech.

And some have. Right now, you can find Proterra’s buses across America—in California, Washington, Texas, Florida and more. But the company has its sights set on, well, everywhere. While Popple understands that there are financial barriers, he also believes “there's no physical reason why you couldn't deploy zero-emission, quiet, high-tech buses."

Yes, it’s a big investment. Yes, it’s a big change. But so is pretty much anything worthwhile that could potentially help us stave off the effects of global warming. Popple and his people had the guts to not just imagine, but to start creating a future where clean tech is for everyone. Now we just need the gumption (and the funding) to hop on their bandwagon … ehrm … bus.


Source: Fast.Co Exist, Proterra

Photo credit: Fasto.Co Exist:

Monday, 24 April 2017 00:00

Spring is finally here. I have waited so long to be able to get outside and enjoy a walk, smell the dirt and grass, and watch the birds and squirrels. But even though the days have grown warm enough and the streets are clear of ice, I find my winter habits hard to break. I sit inside and look out the window, happily enjoying spring from my couch. If you are like me, I encourage you to get outside. Go on a walk. The first step is hard, but every step after is a reward.

Taking a walk each day has numerous health benefits—you can Google it. But walking is also a matter of joy. Going on a walk gives us a perspective change; allows us to breathe in new sights, smells, and sounds; and helps us to observe a world outside of our immediate home or workplace so we can be reminded that ancient, natural processes are still going on. The birds are migrating, the snow is melting, the crocuses are blooming, the bugs are hatching—all while we go about our busy lives.

John Burroughs once wrote, “Herein is no doubt our trouble, and one reason of the decay of the noble art in this country. We are unwilling walkers. We are not innocent and simple-hearted enough to enjoy a walk. We have fallen from that state of grace which capacity to enjoy a walk implies.” Burroughs wrote those words over a hundred years ago. “This is a lesson the American has yet to learn—capability of amusement on a low key,” he wrote. He said Americans expect rapid and extraordinary returns, and we have nothing to invest in a walk because it is too slow and “too cheap.”

Taking a walk slows us down to our own natural pace. Jogging and biking are great for exercise and enjoyment, but a walk is something else. Take a walk as often as you can this spring, and pay attention to what you observe that you may have missed if you were moving too fast. Burroughs wrote, “A man must invest himself near at hand and in common things, and be content with a steady and moderate return, if he would know the blessedness of a cheerful heart and the sweetness of a walk over the round earth.” There are times in my life I get caught up in the rapid and extraordinary. A walk brings me back to the blessedness of a cheerful heart.

“To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter…to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring—these are some of the rewards of the simple life." —John Burroughs, Leaf and Tendril.