Thursday, March 13, 2008

Gas prices to hit record highs in Medford

It's finally happening!

Now, a long time ago, I made a resolution to myself that when gas hit $3.00 a gallon, I would start riding my bicycle as much as possible and park the car except when it was absolutely needed. When Katrina hit LA, that's when it pushed it over here in Medford. That's when I started seriously taking up bicycle commuting.

I've learned a lot in that time, and I've managed to put a lot of miles on both my old bike and my new bike. The one thing I couldn't get around was groceries. You can only carry so much on a bicycle with a rack and baskets. Granted, I can carry quite a bit, but just not quite enough to make a full trip to the store.

Solution - a trailer. The problem is that every trailer out there that comes even close to the cargo carrying capability that I want is well over $200, and for a CNA / EMT that's just way too much. So, I found directions for making my own trailer. I just completed the basics of it on Tuesday. It's basically a platform on wheels with screw-eye attachment points for bungee cords and tie-downs, but it's functional.

A couple pieces of advice if you're building this thing -

1) If you're using spare parts from other bicycles, like the wheels, measure the wheel dropouts on the bike before you cut out the metal plates. My first attempt I cut out 1/2" notches in the plates, and I had a horrible time getting the wheels to fit. The second time around, I measured the bike, and found that it only had 3/8" dropouts. Not a lot of difference, but it made a huge difference.

2) Remember that when you put the thing together, the plates on the outside will be about 3/4" higher than the plates on the inside. If the wheel slips up in the plates, it will cause the wheel to turn inward and rub against the frame, so make your notches about 3/4" shallower for the outside plates.

3) Use good old bolt axles, not quick release. The quick release are generally designed for bikes, which have dropouts about 3 times as thick as the plates you're using for the wheel wells. With bolt-on axles, you can tighten the bolt as tight as you need. You can also put a large washer on either side of the plate to help increase contact surface.

I haven't put the sides on yet, but when I do, they'll probably only be 4-6" high, just enough to keep things from sliding off the end when I bring something really long home, like more EMT conduit. I did bolt a cheap, lockable toolbox to the front to hold bungee cords, tie downs, a tarp and tarp clips, and a cable lock to lock it to the bike when I stop at the store.

So, get out there, get on your bikes, and start telling those who make the rules that there's a point where you won't be buying gas. There's always a solution to just about any problems you can come up with for bicycle commuting, you just have to be willing to look.

Be safe, be seen, be assertive!