Pedal Press

Fast Track Index

Printer Friendly version of the May PedalPress

President's Letter

May is national bike to work month. May 19 is national bike to work day. I encourage folks to make an effort to bike to work at least one time this year. Invest the gas money that you save into something fun. The Kalamazoo Bicycle Club would also like to know of your experiences, good and bad, of riding to work (and around town).

KBC has invested some of your money into assisting with purchasing ?Share the Road? signs around Kalamazoo. The Kalamazoo City Commission has reached out to KBC for ideas regarding bicycling to work. There are several KBC members (Doug Kirk, Zolton Cohen, Marc Irwin, Chris Barnes and others) who are actively involved with raising the profile of bicycles as a means of transportation and with transportation planning for bicycles; without your feedback regarding your experiences it is more challenging to do this.

On a related topic, Bike Camp is coming. (See article below for more complete information). Bike Camp is the Kalamazoo Bicycle Club?s bicycle education program. It is a multi-week program designed to develop bicycle skills and confidence so that upon completion, graduates are prepared to complete one of the Flower Fest rides. Bike Camp is for anyone who would like to learn to ride better. Please let your spouse, significant other, relatives, neighbors, co-workers, Boy Scout troop, Girl Scout troop, church youth group, and any other interested party or organization know about Bike Camp. There is an ample supply of Bike Camp literature available from Victor Van Fleet, Zolton Cohen, Jim Kindle, Renee Mitchell, and Jelania Haile. Please also consider volunteering your time to assist with Bike Camp.

Did you know? The Kalamazoo Bicycle Club has a club membership with Adventure Cycling. Adventure Cycling is an organization which promotes bicycle touring by organizing bicycle tours, and selling route and GPS information for routes throughout the United States, including Michigan. The route and GPS information are similar to the information that AAA provides for automobile trips: there are maps, GPS waypoints, hotel, restaurant, and camping information. Kalamazoo Bicycle Club?s membership means significant discounts to KBC members for this information.

Mike Boersma, KBC President

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Bike Camp Applications Being Accepted

The Kalamazoo Bicycle Club has kicked off its drive to promote Bike Camp ? a multi-session bicycle training and education program ? by printing and distributing informational flyers. There is an extensive overview of Bike Camp on the KBC website, at

Bike Camp is designed for beginning bicyclists, and also for those who have bicycled in the past and would like to get back into the sport; families are welcome. Campers will train for distance goals at KBC?s FlowerFest Bicycle Tour on July 16th.

There are seven Bike Camp sessions scheduled, starting with a general meeting at 7:00 PM on Tuesday, June 6th, at the Oshtemo Campus of KVCC, Room 1510. The subsequent training and educational sessions, starting June 10th, on Saturday mornings at 9:00 AM, in the southwest corner of the Oshtemo Campus KVCC parking lot, each consists of an informative lecture followed by a training ride.

Bike Camp concludes with participants riding to their distance goal at the FlowerFest Bicycle Tour.

The first Saturday training session will focus on ?bike fitting.? Local experts will adjust participant?s bikes so they fit comfortably. After a discussion on bike safety, Campers will go for a ride on Kalamazoo County?s lovely country roads, led by members of the Bike Camp Committee. Riders will be split into several groups to accommodate each individual?s fitness goals and riding expertise.

Subsequent Saturday sessions will include information on bike safety, nutrition, how to ride in groups safely, what to wear to make biking more comfortable, how to make pedaling more efficient, and the best way to train for a distance goal at the FlowerFest Tour. There will also be a session that goes into simple bike maintenance tips and instruction on how to change a flat tire while on the road or trail. After each informational session, Bike Campers and Committee members will go for a ride.

Bike Camp fees are:

Bike Camp is a good way to introduce a friend or spouse to the joys and pleasures of bicycling. If you know anyone who is curious about biking, wants to lose a few pounds, and is interested an exciting adventure this summer, please tell him or her about KBC?s Bike Camp.

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Ride of Silence: May 17th

Please join The Chain Gang Bicycle Club of Kalamazoo, cyclists statewide and thousands of cyclists worldwide in a silent slow-paced ride in honor of fallen cyclists. The route is approximately 12 miles.

Why does this ride exist?

The first Ride of Silence was organized in Dallas in 2003 after endurance cyclist Larry Schwartz was hit and killed by the mirror of a passing bus. 2,500 riders attended the 2005 Dallas ride.

There were 120 US Rides of Silences and 150 Worldwide in 2005. An estimated 15,000 cyclists rode in last year?s Ride of Silence. As of March 21st, there are 110 scheduled worldwide and 22 in Michigan.

There?s no registration, no fees, no t-shirt. Wear a black armband to honor a cyclist who has been killed and/or a red band to honor a cyclist who has been injured while out riding. Bring a headlight and rear flasher we will be riding like a procession.

Helmets Required.

Contact: Mark Rose at for additional details.

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Kal Haven Trailblazer Bike tour

As mentioned in last month?s PedalPress, the Friends of the Kal Haven Trail will sponsor the Kal Haven Trailblazer Bike Tour on May 13th. This ride is a fund-raiser for the Friends.

Registration is from 7:00 AM until noon at either the Third Reformed Church on 10th Street between West Main & H Avenue, or the trail head in South Haven.

The 25, 45, 70, and 100 mile road routes all start from 10th Street trailhead.

Fees for pre-registration are: individual $15; family $32. Same day registration fees are $20 for an individual; $42 for families.

The SAG stop in Bloomingdale will feature Vegetarian Sloppy Joes. The other stops in Kalamazoo, Kendall, Grand Junction and South Haven will provide bananas, cookies, PBJ sandwiches, water and sports drinks.

For more information on the Kal Haven Trailblazer ride, and a downloadable sign-up form, visit:

If you would like to volunteer to help staff the Trailblazer, please call Ron Stolk at (269) 373-9013.

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Birthdays and Expiring Memberships


Kevin Biek * James Buck * Mark Chicoine * Alex De Back * Clayton Gallap * Austin Gippert * Chris Haddock * James Heath * Katy Jackson * Kay Kalkman * Robby Keller * Doug Kirk * Michael Louisell * Mostyn Lumbard * Patricia Machnik * Julie Mathieson * John Meyers * Andrew Mitchell * Mark Nelson * Pamela O'Connor * Terry O'Connor * Teri Olbrot * Randy Putt * Paul Raynes * Erin Rogers * Janice Selby * Kurt Sherwood * Rick Whaley * Rachel Wolf

New Members

Scott Ashford * Nick Goetzinger * Thomas Harvey * Jay Jayanetti

Expiring Memberships

Mike Berry Family * Colin Butts * Suzanne Cooper * Charles Devries * Monica Elfring * John Farrand * Doug Gaff Family * Clayton Gallap * David Hickman * Andy Maxwell * John Meyers * Scott Miller * David Mitchell Family * Jeff Newman Family * John Olbrot Family * John Peterson * Tim Stewart

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Classified Ads

Zipp disc 950, w/ like new 9spd. cassette, continental competition 19 sew-up, all items in great condition. $500.00 call 344-8186 or e-mail

Serotta titanium 48cm road bike - Ultegra 9speed, 650 wheels, very good condition and makes good TT bike.  Sell for $1,500.00   Zipp 404 / 650 wheel set - low usage in excellent condition.  Look great on the Serotta mentioned above....Great value at $400.00   Cateye bike computer - CD 300DW wireless cadence and speed. Value $140.00 never used sell for $75.00   FSA bar stem - OS-115, 84degree rise, 31.8mm clamp, 11/8 headset and 100mm long.  Used partial season and like new. Value $110.00 sell for $60.00   For more info on any item, please call Paul Raynes @ 806-8360 or 629-5456

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Dirt Road Riders Wanted for Epic Ride

Wanted: riding companions for an epic unsupported 150-200 mile single-day ride in June/July, with 80-120+ miles on dirt roads.  Ride to Das Essenhaus in Middlebury for a big lunch after spending 6 hours on mostly dirt roads, with return mostly on pavement. In addition to food, ID, cash and typical tool kit, plan on bringing 4 large water bottles, 2+ spare tubes plus patch kit, bike lock, change of clothes, soap, wash cloth, etc for cleaning up at the restaurant. Not necessary, but 700 x 25-32C kevlar belted tires generally work very well on the dirt roads. No one dropped.  E-mail Steve at

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Meeting Minutes

KBC?s regular monthly meeting was held Tuesday, April 11th, 2006 at 7:00 pm at the Kalamazoo YMCA located on Maple Street. KBC President Mike Boersma led the monthly meeting. Present were Mike Boersma, Jim Kindle, Doug Kirk, Kathy Kirk, Zolton Cohen, Victor Van Fleet, Mike Krischer, Dave Bishop, Dick Nivala, Jelania Haile, Terry O?Connor, Chris Howard, Paul Raynes, Jay Jayanetti, Celine Keizer, Tom Keizer, Ed Micalizzi, Paul Bruneau, Knute Jacobson, Kevin Biek, Stephanie Walbridge and Chris Haddock.

The monthly meeting began with Stephanie Walbridge of In the Zone Fitness, demonstrating her company?s fitness testing capabilities. Using KBC Webmaster Kathy Kirk as a test subject, Stephanie demonstrated how In the Zone does metabolic testing, which includes VO2max, anaerobic threshold, fat and carbohydrate utilization, aerobic base conditioning, heart rate training zones, calorie consumption and power. The data gained from an In the Zone Fitness test helps an athlete exercise more efficiently, as well as improve strength and performance. Stephanie would like to offer a clinic for KBC, offering a two for one discount to the participants! For more information on In the Zone?s testing procedures, visit their website,, or contact Walbridge directly at 207-4988.

Next, Dave Bishop and Mike Krischer of the FlowerFest Committee presented several preview examples of graphic designs for FlowerFest T-shirts and brochures. They were created by KVCC students; the design winner will receive a $100 prize from KBC.

Planning is under way for the Western University and Team KBC/Little Caesars Criterium Road Race and Family Ride! The event is scheduled for the last Saturday in September. KBC President Mike Boersma, KBC Race Team Director Greg Lawford and other representatives have met to discuss budget, and other planning needs. WMU will be responsible for the marketing of the event and KBC will provide organization and logistics, which will include a budget, marking routes, organizing food, release forms, and etc.

On request from a KBC member, the group discussed developing a ?bulletin board? feature on KBC?s website. After discussing the pros and cons, the group expressed concern that due to the work involved in monitoring such a site, the effort might prove too involved for KBC?s volunteers at present. Also, it was expressed that the existing Yahoo listserve provides much the same service and perhaps has more benefits. However, KBC database manager Paul Bruneau will contact the interested member to see if he would be willing to do the monitoring of an online bulletin board. Results of this inquiry should be available at the next meeting.

KBC Ride Captain Knute Jacobson led discussion about group rides. He iterated that ride leaders need to communicate with all riders prior to setting out for each ride. It is important, Jacobson said, to review the expectations and ?rules? for riding with our KBC groups. There was also discussion about using a distinctive jersey, arm band, or vest of some sort, as a way to visually identify our ride leaders. The latter discussion was tabled until the next meeting.

KBC newsletter editor and ride leader Zolton Cohen expressed the importance of getting non-KBC members to sign a waiver of liability release each time before they ride with KBC groups. (Active KBC members need sign the release form only once per year). Other members are needed to help with the signup chores before rides, and encouragement of non-members to become KBC members would also be of great benefit. There was discussion about passing on ?rules for riding with KBC? to new members, perhaps in electronic form. Zolton Cohen and Celine Keizer volunteered to put together a ?new member? packet of electronic information concerning KBC?s rules and expectations.

Zolton Cohen and Jim Kindle reported that Bike Camp fliers have been printed and are being distributed in bike shops and local sporting good stores. Bike Camp, KBC?s seven-session informational and training program, is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, June 6th, with an informational meeting at the Oshtemo Campus of KVCC, in room 1510, the ?Tower? entrance. More information on Bike Camp is available at

The last discussion focused on feedback on the ?Safety Meeting? led, and paid for, by Doug Kirk. Members received a lot of positive comments about the information that was presented concerning pacelines and ?rules of the road,? as well as the expectations for riders in the ?fast groups.? There were also suggestions for including information concerning safety in all ride levels that are offered by KBC. Overall it was decided that the meeting was a great idea, a way to get riders together and develop ride norms to promote safety!

The meeting adjourned at 9:00pm. Next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 8th, 2006 at 7:00 PM, at the Kalamazoo YMCA on Maple Street.

Respectfully submitted, Chris Haddock, KBC Secretary

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Ramblings from the Ride Captain

Dear KBC Friends:

I don?t know about you, but I can?t ever remember a Michigan spring quite like this one. It?s not just all the sunshine that?s made it special; the temperatures have been exceptional too. The result, of course, is that our early season rides have been very well attended!

It looks to me as though things have gotten off to a good start. And I?ve really enjoyed being able to talk with so many of you whom I haven?t seen since last fall?riding together helps build good friendships! While not all our different-pace groups are yet running full swing, I know that the Monday and Wednesday night rides each have been offering several different groups, and, hopefully, we may be able to begin to do that on Friday evenings as well.

It?s exciting, also, that our Thursday groups are continuing this year, and we are in the process of inaugurating ?Tuesday Nights at the Track??led by Jeff Hamilton. I don?t know how Doug Kirk was able to work out the details?but we have permission to use the Kalamazoo Speedway for track style training on Tuesday nights?at no charge to club members! Yet another benefit of club membership!

Again this year, promoting safety is a big concern. As most of us work to regain our fitness, ride leaders have been encouraging us all to work on spinning relatively low gears, and focus on our paceline skills. It looks to me as though this is helping keep things smooth and safe, as we get used to riding again in close proximity. Spinning low gears at this time of year also helps protect against early season injuries, as joints and muscles rebuild their form. Finally, it?s been encouraging to see really large groups willingly divide in two before the start of their ride, and everyone making concerted efforts to ride no more than two abreast--as our state law requires. Following this law may be the most important single thing we can do to encourage good relations between ourselves and other road users.

As most of you are aware, I?ve just stepped up to this job as Ride Captain, and feel that Randy left some pretty big shoes to fill! (I?ve had an email from him, and am glad that he?s been finding some time to get out on the bike, and is exploring the hilly terrain of southern Ohio.) All this is my way of saying, if I?m forgetting something, or you?ve got an idea you?d like me (or the board) to consider, please drop me an email!

I would also encourage you to let me know if you?d like to be added to our IMPROMTU RIDE LIST. That?s a group mailing that I send out when someone notifies me of an impromptu ride. (No one has notified of such a ride yet!) To be added to the list, click on the Ride Captain link,, and shoot me an email. To advertise a ride, send me the details, including the distance and pace at which you intend to ride! This way we?ll all be able to self-select as to whether the ride meets our needs.

Finally, have you discovered on the Web? You can watch archived coverage of European bike races for free! Or, for about $40 annually, you can get Premium coverage of European races, in real time! It?s amazing! And the commentators will even answer your email questions about the race as you watch!

Or, if touring is more your thing, you might be interested in checking It stands for the National Bicycle Tour Directors? Association. They gather and list information about virtually every touring ride in the country, and you can sort the info by date or geographical region, or both! Two summers ago my son Paul and I did a League of Michigan Bicyclists tour. It was a blast, and the food was great!

Happy Spring, and happy Cycling!

Knute Jacobson, KBC Ride Captain

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May Ride Schedule

Don?t forget! Beginning on Monday, May 1st, all KBC rides ? with the notable exception of the Wednesday night Hammerfest ? will start at 6:15 PM. The Hammerfest will continue to set off at 6:00 PM for the duration of the riding season.

The Monday Ride at Texas Drive Park will consist of 5 ride groups, which should provide a pace to suit riders of all abilities:

The 10-15 miles groups will generally ride the same route and are recommended for new riders. These groups will sometimes combine depending on the number of riders present. The group has gained quite a following, usually 10 ? 15 riders in 2005.

The 25-30 mile groups will typically ride the same route in the early part of the season. KBC recommends the 17 mph group for more experienced riders who are new to the club. This group is very steady and one of the most popular ride groups. The 19 ? 20 mph group is a steady group as well, for riders who want to ride a bit faster. The leaders for the 17 mph and 19 - 20 mph groups plan to keep the groups together and at a steady pace.

All riders who want to push the pace can do so in the 20+mph group. The 18 ? 19 and 20+ mph groups will most likely start riding the more hilly routes after May at the discretion of the riders and leaders.

Plans for the 5th year of the Tuesday Night Time Trial are in the works. The club will use the same route as last year starting at the Pavilion Township Hall at the corner of Q Ave and 28th Street. The time trial will run the first and third Tuesday of the month, starting in May or June.

The Wednesday Ride meets at the Kal-Haven Trail Parking lot. KBC plans to offer 3 ride groups:

The 13-15 mph group decides the route at the ride start.

The 30 mile groups typically ride the same route and the groups may together. The 16-18 mph and 19-21 mph groups will try to be steady at the pace indicated. The 20+ group will likely break up into smaller groups.

The Wednesday Night Hammerfest starts at the Kal-Haven Trailhead Parking lot at 6 PM throughout the summer. The pace of the ride is typically greater than 23+ mph and the route goes to Bloomingdale and back (about 46 miles). Since the route is well known to most of the regular riders, no maps are available for this ride. This group is typically large (more than 15 riders) and consists of racers and other experienced riders. Typically, there is no designated ride leader. The group usually fragments into smaller groups and the riders often times do not finish together. This ride is hard and is not suitable for inexperienced riders. Some riders can expect to be dropped from the main group.

Women?s Morning Ride ? Would you like to meet other women in cycling? Join Renee Mitchell and Jelania Haile for a women?s-only ride on Thursday mornings. Meet at Kalamazoo Valley Community College (KVCC- south-west parking lot by the tennis courts) at 10AM. The pace will be 15-16 mph with a distance of 20-25 miles.

The Thursday Night Ride is a nice and easy social ride night at Texas Drive Park and has a small, loyal group (10 ? 15 riders), which is growing in size. Riders of all riding abilities are welcome. The pace is typically 15-17 mph and distance is 20-25 miles, led by Elaine Naegele.

The Friday Tour de Gull meets at Billy?s Bike Shop in Galesburg and the pace varies depending on who shows up (formerly led by Randy Putt). We did have a 16-17 mph group periodically as well as a large 20+ mph group last year. The fast group typically leads itself. The route for this ride is well established so the ride leader job is easy.

Mark your long-range calendars for some special weekend rides this summer. Several rides are being planned for the summer months.

The dates for some of these rides are not firmly established for 2006 yet. If you have comments about the above-mentioned rides or have suggestions for other rides, contact Ride Captain Knute Jacobson at

Impromptu weekend rides can happen anytime the weather is suitable and someone is willing to organize them. If you?re interested in being informed of these impromptu rides, send KBC Ride Captain Knute Jacobson an email to get on the impromptu ride contact list:

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KBC Does KVCC Wellness Festival

On urging from KBC Safety and Education Chair Victor VanFleet, volunteers from KBC staffed a presentation table at KVCC?s First Wellness Festival on Tuesday, April 18th. Jelania Haile, Renee Mitchell, Jim Kindle, Paul Raynes, Jim Hainen, Marc Irwin, Zolton Cohen, and VanFleet all took turns answering questions about KBC and bicycling in general as the Festival?s attendees strolled by.

Mitchell wrote about her experience, ?The morning session was busier than the afternoon at the Wellness Festival. We talked to quite a number of people. Even though we wish more people would have attended, I feel it was great that the club was represented just to inform the community that a bike club exists and to get the word out about Bike Camp. Hopefully people will pass the word along! We should keep our ears open for other opportunities to be involved in similar events.?

A bonus for KBC?s volunteer staff, and also to several KBC members who stopped by on their bikes on their way hither and yon, was the opportunity presented by the proximity of KBC?s presentation table to the one sponsored by KVCC?s Respiratory Therapy Department. Several KBC?ers got the chance to have their respiratory function tested on a computerized Breathalyzer type device monitored by Respiratory Therapy staffers.

Although ?seasoned? in chronological age, the bikers put up numbers for lung capacity and function that consistently astonished the RT staff. In fact in many cases, the RT people said, the KBC member numbers exceeded those blown by KVCC students half or a third the KBC members? age. Bicycling appears to be good for respiratory health ? as if we need another reason to ride!

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Editor's Letter - a Day of Reckoning

A week or so ago, on my way out to the Monday night ride, I happened to ride past an intersection where a brown mini-van had pulled up to the light on the street perpendicular to the one on which I was riding. The mini-van?s frame sagged to one side ? the driver?s side ? probably because an overweight woman sat behind the steering wheel. As I rode past and glanced at her, making sure she had no intention of pulling out in front of me to make a right turn, I saw her jab a cigarette into the open wound of her mouth. She raised a lighter to the cigarette, our eyes met for an instant and, apropos of nothing, she brandished her middle finger at me and scowled.

It?s impossible to say what was on her mind. Maybe she just ?isn?t a morning person? ? and isn?t an afternoon or evening person either. There are some of those inhabiting this world, making things miserable for everyone else as they drag their troubles around with them. Maybe she is clinically depressed; a condition perhaps exacerbated by being overweight, smoking, and having a generally bad attitude.

At any rate, it occurred to me that she is coming to her day of reckoning. It will probably happen at her doctor?s office, or maybe in an emergency room. Smoking, being overweight, and cultivating a dismal outlook will catch up with her in the form of heart disease, diabetes, arthritis; maybe stroke.

Reading about (and paying) high gasoline and natural gas prices lately got me thinking about our country?s day of reckoning. It may be closer than anyone realizes. Jane Bryant Quinn, in an article in a recent Newsweek Magazine, spelled out quite clearly what is happening in the world in terms of oil, money, and power - and how we, as a country, have put ourselves in a very bad position because of our addiction to oil.

We?re so dependant on oil that our entire economy is based on its ready and inexpensive supply. Now that the supply has become somewhat uncertain and the price volatile, we?re in a real bind. Other countries ? China and India most notably ? are competing for oil on the world market. Prices are rising. Unstable, corrupt and hostile (to the US) regimes control much of the world?s supply of oil; they raise prices and we have to pay the fee ? or we also have the option of involving ourselves in gunbarrel diplomacy to insure ?our? supply of our economy?s lifeblood. A bumper sticker I read recently, though obviously tongue in cheek, sums up the thinking of many people in this country, ?What?s our oil doing under their sand??

But these aren?t the only problems with oil. The fact is, the world is also running out of the readily extractable supply. Several books and magazine articles explaining the concept of ?peak oil,? have hit bookstores recently, explaining in detail how many of the world?s aging oilfields are beginning to show signs that their maximum production days are behind them. We?re in ? or maybe even past ? ?peak oil? years, and might even be on the downside of the crest of that wave. And because the world?s oil consumption has gone up, and will continue to rise as the rest of the planet?s poorer nations and societies attempt to match the living standard of the USA, the oil will run out faster and its price will continue to rise. Though there might be fluctuations in the prices and supply in the coming decades, the general trend is: supply down, prices up.

What would the USA look like in a world with less low-price oil around? Ideally, something like the Netherlands. I have a friend in Holland, Sander Meurs, who I met on a digital photography forum. We?ve corresponded a few times via email; he sends me photos of his world and I send him photos of mine. In our conversations he often mentioned riding his bike to work each day, so I asked him to send me some photos of his commute into work so I could see the bicycling ?infrastructure? in place in Groningen, his hometown.

What he sent back was eye-opening. Though it was raining on the day he took his commuting photographs, there were people on bikes everywhere. The large bike rack in front of the office building where he works was filled with hundreds of commuter bikes, most with fenders, fat tires, and lighting systems. Groningen?s bike lanes are 12-15 feet wide, sometimes alongside the roadway, other times separated by a strip of grass or concrete from the (few) cars going by. What is striking is that much of what is observable in the photographs is mostly bike-centric; their society and its infrastructure are set up to accommodate bicyclists and walkers. It?s not completely a motorized-vehicle-free culture, but it?s abundantly clear that bicyclists and their needs have been given a lot of thought. And that thought has translated into investment in bike and walking lanes.

Sander said that in Holland it?s understood that bikes pretty much have the right of way, and auto drivers defer to them ? quite the opposite of what usually occurs in this country.

At risk of turning this Editor?s Letter into a manifesto (though I may well be past that point already), my question is this: what do we have to do to get from where we are here in the US ? and more specifically, in Kalamazoo - and where Holland already is in terms of acceptance of bicycles as a form of transportation?

In the last few months I?ve asked this question of many people both in KBC and outside the club. Some of the most interesting answers came from bikers who are themselves hard-core commuters already.

One bike-commuter, who rides to and from work the year around, was cynical about the entire idea. ?The only way people are going to get serious about bike-commuting is if gas hits five bucks a gallon,? he said. Well, it looks as though we?re headed in that direction, so what?s next? Another bike commuter said he thinks that once a ?critical mass? of riders biking into work each day is reached, then traffic engineers and public safety officials will be forced to act, and will build safer, bike-friendly infrastructure.

David Anderson, one of the newly elected Kalamazoo City Commissioners (fair disclosure, my wife and I worked on his campaign this past fall, and I grew up with David on the west side of Kalamazoo), called me one day a few months ago and asked how KBC could help him promote a ?bike to work? day in the City. Since then I?ve tried to think of what we could do to help with that endeavor. I even applied for (and unfortunately was denied) a grant from the League of American Bicyclists to help promote such an event.

Truth to tell, I wasn?t all that enthusiastic about receiving a grant to simply promote one day of, maybe, tee-shirt giveaways and handing out gourmet coffee and doughnuts to bike commuters. I?d have rather used the grant (if we had received one) to leave something permanent in place ? maybe markings for bike lanes on some city streets, signage designating bike routes, or published maps of commuting routes.

What would you like to see Kalamazoo do to promote bike commuting? What would make the difference to you? What would make it possible for you to bike to work from where you live? Please let me know. I?ll pass on any suggestions to David Anderson, and maybe we can at least get a conversation started about this subject.

Zolton Cohen, KBC Newsletter Editor

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Axel Kleat

What's a Gear Inch?

When a group of Hammerheads decided to do the April Club rides in a 75 inch gear a couple of weeks ago, the announcement was met with quite a few quizzical expressions. And when nobody looker any the wiser once the leader of the pack added that this meant using no gear bigger than either a 39 x 14 or a 53 x 19, it was clear that some of us need a remedial lesson in the arithmetic of pedaling.

Recall the ?high wheeler? bikes of a hundred years ago or more?you know, the bikes with enormous front wheels and tiny, almost vestigial rear wheels. The pedals and cranks on those bikes attached directly to the front axle, so the front wheel went around exactly as fast as the rider?s feet. As a result, the larger the diameter of the front wheel, the further you went with each pedal stroke. The strongest riders could pedal bigger wheels and went faster.

High wheelers became obsolete after the invention of the modern double-diamond ?safety frame? that we ride today. And wheel size became pretty much standardized, largely as a result of the shape of the diamond frame. More importantly, the diamond frame allowed locating the crank on its own shaft. Driving the wheel via a chain meant various gear ratios could be employed to alter the speed of the crank relative to the wheel (and also allowed the addition of a freewheel for coasting).

The term ?gear-inch? evolved to describe how far the rear wheel would move the bike forward for one exact revolution of the crank, and assumes the diameter of the driven wheel is 27 inches?which is pretty close to exactly right for standard 700c wheels. For any gear ratio, the number of teeth on a crank gear?or chainwheel?divided by the number of teeth on any rear cog, multiplied by 27, produces the size of the gear?or the ?gear-inches? for that combination of gears.

So a low gear like the small chainring (usually 39 teeth) and the largest rear cog (the one with the most teeth?often 25 teeth) would scale out like this: 39 divided by 25 = 1.56. That?s how many revolutions the rear wheel will turn per one revolution of the crank. Multiplying this ratio (1.56) by 27 yields 42.12 gear-inches. A really big gear is a 53 x 12. 53 divided by 12 is 4.166, and multiplying by 27 nets 119.25 gear-inches.

The 75-inch gear (or seventy-five gear-inches) the Hammerheads were using can be obtained using either of the standard chainwheels found on most modern bicycles?39 or 53 teeth. A 39 x 14 ratio multiplies out to 75.21 inches and a 53 x 19 multiplies out to 75.31 gear-inches, (or just ?inches?).

Now, it?s important to bear in mind that whatever the number of gear-inches for the ratio you?re using, this figure is not how far the bike actually travels. ?Gear-inches? only shows the effective diameter of the driven wheel as a result of the multiplication of rotation produced by the choice of gears, but does not include the fact that the circumference of the wheel?not the diameter?is how far the bicycle will travel for one rotation. So a 75-inch gear actually rolls pi (3.14) multiplied by 75 inches (about 235 inches?nearly 10 feet) for every revolution of the pedals. You can multiply all the figures out for yourself in about 10 minutes with a calculator, or locate a gear-inch chart.

Now, how do you figure out which gears you have? Well, most modern road bikes with two chainwheels have 39 and 53 teeth. Triple cranks are generally around 30 x 42 x 53 teeth. Rear cogs can be as small as 11 teeth or as large as 30 (or more on mountain bikes.) A typical nine-speed cogset is 12 ? 13 ? 14 ? 15 ? 17 ? 19 ? 21 ? 23 - 25. Beyond that, the number is generally stamped on the chainrings up front, but you?ll have to count them out in back.

Or course, if you ride a time-trial bike with 650c wheels, you?d have to change the ?27? in the formula above to ?25? to reflect that these wheels are two inches smaller.

Now that you know all this, go out and impress your buddies with your vast knowledge of cycling gearology, spouting lines like, ?I was hanging with the fast guys, just spinning in an 80-inch gear. Then this triathlete came by on the aerobars cranking a huge gear; maybe 60 rpms. The guy musta been in the 53 - 13. My knees ached just looking at him.?

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Bonus Axel Kleat

Instant Summer

?Spring? is pretty ephemeral around here. Most years we seem to go directly from winter to summer without much actual spring. But a 6-hour drive to Kentucky in mid-April dropped this cyclist directly into the middle of spring busting out all over, especially on the trees and the flowers. Dogwood, tulips, magnolias, and trees with actual, full-blown leaves join temperatures dependably in the 70?s and 80?s to remind a Michigander of what real springtime is like (and why riding down south in the summer would be brutally hot).

Spring in Kentucky will definitely test the spring in your legs, for very little of this state is flat. In fact, most of Kentucky is lots hillier than the hilliest parts of Michigan. What?s more, when the land is as corrugated as it is anywhere near the Appalachian Mountains, shifting gears is almost a constant activity and the roads curve constantly.

One result of the terrain is that you rarely see more than a quarter-mile of the road ahead since a dip, rise, curve or corner takes the tarmac out of view. When conditions allow a little speed, the result is akin to a roller coaster, and one result is risky riding since flowers, valleys, and mountain streams burbling right next to the road can distract an enthralled rider.

The best roads are really country lanes, which are generally about a lane and a half wide and have virtually no traffic. One suspects most of these lanes, or licks, as many are called (my favorite was Gum Bottom Lick Road) were just dirt until the Great Depression. These side roads just follow the terrain with little or no filling of low spots or topping of hills. The result here in the foothills of the Appalachians is a non-stop roller coaster unless one happens across a road that follows a river or a railroad line for awhile.

A really low gear, at least a 39 x 27, is a must. One rider in our group had a bike computer that tracks altitude gain. Our first day we did 3000 vertical feet in 55 miles. The second included 4000 vertical feet in 70 miles. For reference, the standard Kalamazoo-to-Bloomingdale-and-back Hammerfest route climbs just 600 feet in 45 miles. So far no climb here is more than 400 feet high, and most of them are under 200. But oftentimes the terrain is just SO choppy, and some of the climbs are ferociously steep.

What goes up must come down, and rip-roaring descents are definitely part of the experience, usually with sweeping, well-paved corners, many of which can be taken with no brakes at speeds over 35 mph.

After two days of all this, we were all ready for a bit of a break, so we did two hours easy on what passes for flat roads here, 30 miles and maybe 1000 vertical feet. The plan was for a full century the next morning.

Our host, Wayne, pulled out a truly gorgeous route up into the bigger hills on day four (we?re still a ways yet from the biggest mountains) and we rolled out into a perfect, crisp, sunny 55 degree morning at nine o?clock. Seven and a half hours, 106 miles and just over 6000 vertical feet later, we rolled back up the driveway, smiling and truly exhausted. And I?m actually quite proud of our 16 mph average speed. What scenery! Lilacs, redbuds, dogwoods, all set against mountains and valleys busting out with that fresh, bright green of springtime. What?s more, it seems that every valley has a beautiful, burbling stream running down the bottom.

Our route included one five or six mile set of great big rollers running along the top of a ridge. But to get there we ended up riding up a total brute of a climb?fifteen minutes of muscling our 39 x 27 tooth gears just as hard as we could after already doing 60 really challenging miles. I hasten to add that besides the great rollers, we were rewarded with a 50 mph gently weaving, flat-out drop that flattened out into a long, gentle, tail-wind aided blast.

But the climbs just kept on coming, and by the end we were pretty well toasted. Tomorrow?s our last day, and I think maybe another really easy 2-hour cruise just might be what the doctor ordered. And then maybe a day or two to recuperate and let my grin uncurl.

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KBC Contact Information

2006 KBC Board of Directors

President Mike Boersma
  Phone: 269-720-1409
Vice President Jim Kindle
  Phone: 269-382-8053
Secretary Chris Haddock
  Phone: 269-624-5418
Treasurer Tom Keizer
  Phone: 269-382-4737
Database Manager Paul Bruneau
  Phone: 269-343-6016
Newsletter Editor Zolton Cohen
  Phone: 269-344-0200
Ride Captain Knute Jacobson
  Phone: 269-629-0093
Social Director Jelania Haile
  Phone: 269-345-1274
Social Director Renee Mitchell
Safety and Education Chair Victor VanFleet
  Phone: 269-375-7691
Webmaster Kathy Kirk
  Phone: 269-388-5045
Flowerfest Director Michael Krischer
Flowerfest Director "Super" Dave Bishop
  Phone: 269-679-4522

KBC Membership Fees

Monthly club meetings are held on the second Tuesday of each month February through December at the YMCA on Maple Street in Kalamazoo. Time is 7:00 PM. All members are encouraged to attend.

Please go to our website at to sign up for membership and for more information about KBC.

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