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Sunday, December 31, 2006

Lake Pontchartrain Biking - The Final Ride

What a great ride to end 2006 with! I just returned from an excellent 23 mile sunset ride biking along the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain on the full size Montague MX folding mountain bike.

With the Corps of Engineers project to raise the hurricane protection levees plodding along, access to the lake front bike trail is not currently possible from the Beach Club where I start most rides (in fact, access is difficult if not impossible for about 4 miles along the linear trail from Causeway Blvd to beyond the Elmwood Canal). I had to meander through Country Club Estates, cross the Elmwood Canal on the bike/ped bridge at 37th St. and ride another mile or so Northwest to the trail head near David Dr.

When I did hit the trail, the conditions were heavenly. In contrast to yesterday's constant rain and tornado/flood warnings, today was cooler and less humid. With the temperature averaging 60 degrees F, a 5 mph wind from the West and bright sunshine, the number of other riders and walkers on the trail was surprisingly low, allowing me to make excellent time.

Once I made the end of the trail, I had plenty of daylight left so I crossed the levee and followed the Old Hammond Highway into Orleans Parish. At West End, I turned North onto Lakeshore Parkway, passing 2 roadies, one drafting the other.

The Lake front is still in tatters from Katrina. The old picnic shelters were countless New Orleanians have held family cookouts and ate boiled crawfish or shrimp are empty, roped off shells. Although the seawall is intact, the storm surge ate out the ground from behind it so a huge, gaping ditch follows the length of the seawall. Only at the concrete plaza across from the famous but defunct Mardi Gras fountain did I see more than 10 people gathered. Very sad.

I rode as far as the "high bridge" over Bayou St. John. Looking down in the water, I could still see storm debris. I think it will be a long time before it's ever removed. I made it back to the bike trail with sunlight and enjoyed a beautiful sunset from the trail with the Causeway in silhouette. At that point, I hooked up the intensely powerful Quad star LED headlight from Elektrolumens, and rode the trail West to the detour at Lake Villa. I crossed the incomplete and gooey clay levee carrying the bike so it would not be spitting chunks of clay on me the entire ride home.

I rode Folse Dr. all the way to Al Copeland's to catch Big Al's impressive Christmas light display one last time. This year, Big Al's Christmas light theme was "Under The Big Top"; as usual, there were 2 workers out in front of the mansion handing out fresh cotton candy and popcorn for free. With a huge grin, I asked for a stick of cotton candy and rode home, eating it along the way. Sure am glad that cotton candy washes easily out of a beard :)

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

New Orleans Recovery - The Ongoing Story

Many years ago, to earn money while in college, I took a part time job selling Cutco knives. I learned two valuable lessons from that job: focus on the customer's needs and stay upbeat. Along those lines, I'd like to share some bright spots in the New Orleans recovery after Katrina.

Although some people far from New Orleans think otherwise, the floodwaters caused by the failure of the levees during Hurricane Katrina were pumped out over a year ago. Since the storm, President Bush and a long line of other leaders and dignataries from around the world have toured the devastation and promised help. Billions have been allocated for the reconstruction and many individuals from across the nation have come to New Orleans on their own nickel to volunteer. Additionally, fine people throughout the nation have helped Katrina evacuees find housing, clothing, home furnishings, food and more in their own communities. Indeed, with hundreds of thousands of New Orleanians displaced to this day, those volunteer efforts continue nationwide.

The five story high debris piles that stood in places like the wide, grassy West End median are gone. More stop lights are working, the streetcars are back on a segment of their historic route and the electrical outages are less frequent. Many tourists are coming to town soon for New Years, the Sugar Bowl and Mardi Gras. A movie studio (LIFT) is being built just outside the French Quarter, private investors are proposing new housing developments all over the city and a handful of the 90,000 homeowners that applied for money from the $7.5 billion Road Home program have received checks.

Without a doubt, all this is great news; however, the road to New Orleans' recovery will take years if not a decade. Whole neighborhoods are ghost towns of empty, gutted structures. Major storm related issues such as a much greater cost of living, scaled back city services, continued utility outages, etc. are tying the hands of regular folks that just want to return home.

With so many emergencies to manage, the City of New Orleans has little time to spend on quality of life issues like parks; yet, with few places for kids to burn off energy and so many residents suffering from depression and anxiety, the need for green space is high. There is a group working to create a linear park through several of the most flooded neighborhoods. The group is called FOLC, the Friends of the Lafitte Corridor.

FOLC is a grass roots, 501 (c)3 non-profit organization cobbled together by regular folks to breathe life back into historic New Orleans neighborhoods like Treme and Mid City via the creation of a linear park through the Lafitte Corridor. Stretching from the French Quarter to Bayou St. John, the Lafitte Corridor was first known as the Carondolet Canal, a ditch dug by the Spanish in the 1600's to enable commercial goods to get to New Orleans without need for sailing 50+ miles up the Mississippi River. Eventually, the canal was covered and a railway was built along the corridor. Decades ago, the railroad stopped using much of the corridor and the tracks were ripped up last year.

The city's master transportation plan calls for the corridor to become a bike trail and over $400,000 is available now for the project. Unfortunately, city officials are busy concentrating on more pressing, major emergencies. City Hall has also been pressured by private investment groups to sell portions of the land. If this occurs, the land will be broken up forever.

Last week, I was elected to serve on FOLC's board of directors (a volunteer/no pay position). I have vowed to do all in my power to see the project to completion. We'll soon be adding a PayPal donation button to the FOLC website and are planning a fundraiser too. If you can donate money or time to this project, great. If not, please tell others that New Orleans is rebuilding and let them know about what "FOLC's" in the Big Easy are doing. We may be known as the City that Care Forgot but New Orleans IS a cultural treasure worth saving for generations to come.

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Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas To All

Merry Christmas! Mateo awoke Robin & I this morning, virtually bouncing off the walls in anticipation of opening presents. We woke up the Doodle, went downstairs & gave the kids their presents. Wrapping paper, plastic & cardboard went flying willy nilly and there was much smiling.

Now that the cat is medicated, daddy's had 2 cups of coffee and 2 slices of cheese cake, and the batteries are in all the toys, we're getting ready for church; however, I wanted to post this photo real quick just to give you a glimpse of what it was like at 8 am this morning.

Hope you have a great Christmas.

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Friends of the Lafitte Corridor

Recently, I was selected to serve on the board of directors for the Friends of the Lafitte Corridor (FOLC), an organization dedicated to turning an abandoned rail line running from the New Orleans French Quarter into public recreation space and linear park.

The Lafitte Corridor played a huge role in the development of New Orleans. First a canal dug by the Spanish as a route for commerce, the city enclosed the canal and allowed the Great Southern Railway to use the right of way for their rail line into the city. The railway ran through historic neighborhoods like Storyville (red light district and birthplace of jazz) Treme (home to Creoles, voodoo & red beans) and Mid City (Bayou Saint John, streetcars & above ground cemeteries), terminating at Canal and Basin Streets. With the building of New Orleans' Union Passenger Terminal in the 1940's, the railway slowly fell into disuse; most of the tracks were ripped up about a year ago.

Although the bike trail along the Lafitte Corridor has been in New Orleans' master transportation plan for years, funds for the project just began to emerge before Hurricane Katrina. Unfortunately, the catastrophic flooding New Orleans endured due to poorly designed federal flood protection barriers have forced city government to operate in crisis mode for an extended time.

Recognizing that a sharply reduced City Hall staff placed the bike trail and greenway corridor in peril of being lost to developers, a citizen's coalition of neighbors, former residents and local cyclists came together to form FOLC. Though new, FOLC has already received a variety of grants including one from the Rails To Trails Conservancy; to date, over $400,000 has been raised for the project. Additionally, a new film studio known as LIFT is building an initial phase of the trail along the edge of their property so the linear park is certainly moving forward.

Help FOLC Railbank The Historic Lafitte Corridor
Railbanking this former right of way of the Great Southern Railway into a bike trail does more than generate green space; it preserves a corridor that played a central role in the birth of Jazz and the development of New Orleans. Also, a blighted and overgrown corridor can become an enduring symbol of hope and place of recreation that will spur redevelopment and growth at a vital time. As a board member of FOLC, I humbly ask for your help. Visit our new website (folc-nola.org), tell your friends what we're doing and, if possible, donate some time or money to see this project through.

Larry Lagarde

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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Welded Magnesium Folding Bike

About a week and a half ago, I had an interesting conversation with Jason Cary, a young bicycle builder on the West coast whose folding bikes are built with frames of welded magnesium tubing. Since I'm featuring a $169 diecast magnesium ultra light folding bike (just 23 lbs) on RideTHISbike.com, Jason suggested that readers may also be interested in a higher end welded magnesium bike that folds and offered to send one for me to review. Unfortunately, the Winter storm that hit the Rockies has kept the bike locked tight in a rail car in Denver.

In anticipation of the delivery of the bike soon, I wanted to post the information that I have pertaining to it. Once I receive it, I'll shoot some photos and report on how this folding bike rides.

Folding Bike Name: Aerlite-B

16 Inch Magnesium alloy frame, Shimano Nexus 3 Speed Internal Hub, Pro-Max V-Lock Brakes, Front and Rear alloy Fenders

Weight – Bike Only: Overall weight with rack 24 Pounds or 10.9 k Frame weight is 3.3 Pounds or 1.5 k
Max. Size Fully Stretched: 54" from front to rear, 47" from top of handlebars to the ground fully extended, 36.5" from top of seat to ground
Folding Time: Less than 30 seconds
Max Rider Weight with High Pressure Tires: 300 pounds or 136.3 k
Rider Max. Height: 6'5"

Frame: Magnesium Alloy
Seat Post: Aluminum Alloy
Handlebar Stem: Aluminum Alloy
Handlebars: Aluminum Alloy
Saddle:Ergonomically designed Comfort Saddle
Brakes: Pro-Max V lock
Shifter: Shimano (Revo/Grip Shift Style)
Derailleur: Shimano Nexus Internal 3 Speed Hub
Crank set: 46 Teeth Aluminum 150mm arms
Chain: KMC Anti Rust
Spokes: Stainless
Number of Spokes: 20 Front and 28 Rear
Tires: 16x1.75, 35psi
Rims: Aluminum Alloy
Fenders: Aluminum Alloy
Pedals: Resin, Folding
Kick Stand: Stainless Steel

Rustproof, Virtually maintenance free, Available add-ons such as Shimano Nexus Auto-D (computer assisted shifting) 3 speed, 7 or 8 speed nexus hubs, front and rear lights with hub dynamo. Backed by the Betst Limited Lifetime warranty.

MSRP: $359 (with shipping @ $410)

- Bell
- Aluminum Rear Carry Rack (w/45 lbs capacity) $39.99
- Bag $59.99

Buy It Now

More About This Folding Bike...
- photos of the Aerlite B magnesium folding bike (3 January 2007)
- review of the Aerlite B magnesium folding bike (11 January 2007)

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

Living Car Free In Los Angeles

Did you know that in Los Angeles, the average time a driver spends in traffic totals a ridiculous two and a half weeks per year?

Glen Janken is a 55 year old native of Los Angeles that's had it with L.A.'s notorious traffic. He's resolved to use alternate transportation like buses and bikes to get around.

Yesterday, Glen wrote about a recent shopping excursion. He rode his bike 30 miles to the store then rode the bus back, placing the bicycle on the bike rack on the front of the bus.

The most interesting point concerning Glen's journey is that his return journey by bus took as long as the bike ride to the store. Glen believes that the lack of stop signs or traffic signals on the bike trail combined with the bus having to go through traffic is why the travel times were the same.

Following are some useful sites for living without a car in Los Angeles:

Glen Janken's car free L.A. lifestyle blog...

CarFreeLA.com offers a variety of articles about living in Los Angeles without a car.

The LADOT offers info on bikeways and local transit services.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Sinclair Research's A-Bike Folding Bicycle

Ever since I first read about the A-Bike sometime ago, I have been skeptical about the practicality of this folding bike. After watching a YouTube video today showing the A-Bike in action, I can see where some users would benefit by having a bike this light (just 12 lbs) and quick to fold, especially if they commute partly by bike and partly by mass transit bus or subway train.

What concerns me most about the A-Bike are its teeny tiny wheels (hitting a pothole, road debris or crossing a drainage grate could lead to a dangerous spill). Without a doubt, this bike was designed for cycling on smooth pavement but that can be hard to find in many congested, urban areas. With a max load capacity of 187 lbs, many Americans would be too heavy to ride it. Also, the bike is designed to cruise at a max of about 15 mph so I'd be leery of riding this single speed bike in traffic in Manhattan or downtown Chicago; tooling around Central Park on it would be fun though.

Regardless, the A-Bike was conceived by the famous inventor Sir Clive Sinclair and someone thought enough of this bike to provide the financial backing needed to mass produce it so I'll withhold my verdict on the smallest of folding bikes until I get to ride one. In the meantime, here's the video I saw as well as a promo video from Sinclair Research. Watch them and judge for yourself. I'd love to read what you think too.

Note: If all you see is an empty box where the movies should be, you probably don't have Flash on your computer. Flash is free and can be downloaded from Adobe.com.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Washington DC Mass Transit Guidelines For Bikes

There was a post this evening on the Washington Area Bicyclist Association weblog about taking bikes on the various transit bus, train and light rail systems in the D.C. area. Happily, it was reported that all D.C. area mass transit operators allow folding bikes aboard (though some require folders to be bagged). Unfortunately, the news is not so good for riders of standard sized bikes.

For the complete details including links to the various transit agencies' info on carrying bicycles, visit...

Larry Lagarde
Urging bicycling for recreation, commuting, health and a better future.

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Novel Folding Bike Stand Up Routine

Now, direct from China, here's a folding bike video where it's standing room only on the carry rack. A pretty girl stands out from the crowd by hitching a ride on the back of a folding bicycle.

Larry Lagarde
Urging bicycling for recreation, commuting, health and a better future.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Ikea Gives 9000 Employees Folding Bikes For Christmas

Attention Corporate America!

Rather than let rising health care costs continue to erode your profits, follow IKEA UK's lead and give your employees something that will let them cut their commuting costs and become healthier in the process.

For years, IKEA (the Scandanavian furnishings giant) has been giving employees Christmas gifts like DVD players, digital cameras and other electronic gadgets. This year, the company gave something far more practical - folding bikes AND subsidies of 15% for commuting by mass transit.

When asked why IKEA UK chose to give employees folding bikes, IKEA's UK manager (Peter Hogsted) responded: "We want to create a better everyday life for the many and do what we can to make greener living possible. This is both for our co-workers, as well as our millions of customers...The bike is a fun present but there is a serious message. We all have a responsibility to do what we can to protect the environment... That is why we are also going to subsidise our employees who will use public transport to get to work... I am encouraged by the fact that a small step such as this has been widely welcomed... Interested parties ranging from government to NGOs have supported this eco-friendly proposal."

Without a doubt, some IKEA employees will be disappointed that they didn't receive yet another electronic toy; however, others will make full use of their new folding bikes and transit subsidies and will be forever grateful to upper management - not only for helping workers save money commuting but also for inspiring them to be more physically fit. Since bike riding also releases endorphins, these Christmas gifts should also result in a happier, more productive workforce (a fact shareholders will appreciate).

For an in depth article that Carlton Reid of BikeBiz.co.uk wrote on this Christmas story, go to ...

Larry Lagarde
Urging bicycling for recreation, commuting, health and a better future.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Website Changes In Progress

After much thought, I'm in the process of making a variety of changes to the website and blog for the benefit of visitors like you. Among other things, I'm making some substantial changes to the look of the site so, hopefully, I won't alarm anyone.

With as many pages as I have online, a revision project like this takes time. Over the next week or so, I hope to have all pages migrated to the new look.

Please email me whether you like the new changes. I love getting feedback from my visitors.


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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Folding Bikes For Touring

When it comes to touring on a folding bike, the undisputed leaders are the Bike Friday and Brompton folding bicycles; however, another great folding bike is the Giatex which uses a patented, telescoping frame concept rather than hinging frame members. The result is like having a custom made bike sized to your specific frame that also rolls when folded. Giatex makes an aluminum framed folder with 20" alloy wheels that weighs 24 lbs. and a 16" wheeled folder weighing 22 lbs but stock in the USA is completely sold out until 2007.

Bike Friday Pilot
26 lbs, 8 speed shimano, alloy seatpost & handlebars, adjustable height seatpost, kickstand, quick release rims $1000

Brompton P6R-X
28 lbs, 6 speed internal hub, hub lighting system, titanium seatpost & folding pedals, fenders/mudflaps, multiposition handlebars, rear carry rack, carry bag, zefal pump $2500

Giatex Chiba 20"
24 lbs, 6 speed shimano, aluminum/alloy frame, seatpost & handlebars, adjustable height seatpost & handlebars, adjustable length frame, folding pedals, fenders, kickstand, bike bell, quick release front rim, rear carry rack & carry bag $570

By the way, either the Brompton or the Giatex will fit in a suitcase that conforms to commercial aircraft baggage size limitations. One last thought: if you're going to remote areas with rough road surfaces, consider a full size mountain bike that folds like the 29lb $650 Montague Paratrooper (it accepts standard panniers & is military tuff).

Larry Lagarde
Urging bicycling for recreation, commuting, health and a better future.

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Folding Bikes For RV's & Airstream Trailers

I was browsing the Net this morning and came across Airstream Life's Tour of America, a blog about a family (Rich, Eleanor & Emma) traveling across America in an Airstream travel trailer.

Airstreams are beautiful, durable trailers with a loyal following (just have a gander at the shiny Airstream photo pictured at right; I found it on Flickr). Growing up, one of the things I enjoyed doing at Mardi Gras time was riding my bike over to City Park and checking out all the gleaming silver Airstreams parked around Tad Gormley Stadium for the Wally Byam Caravan Club International (WBCCI) New Orleans Mardi Gras Rally. But I digress.

This Airstreaming family posted a Christmas gift for Airstreamers wish list to help non-campers understand the needs & desires of those living in travel trailers. Naturally, the list leaned towards light, useful items that took up little space so it was no surprise that the list included a folding bike (which are great for riding around the campground or to the store). What DID surprise me was the list included a specific type of folder - a Birdy. Don't get me wrong; Birdy's are great folding bikes but they start at $1250. Why pay over a grand for a Birdy folding bike when other sturdy yet light folders are available at a fraction of the price?

Here are 3 examples of folding bicycles that fold in seconds without tools (note that the most expensive folding bike in the list below is HALF the cost of the average Birdy).
- $169 23 Lb. / 6 Speed Folder (see how it folds)
- $329 Adjustable Size 6 Spd Folder (fits kids or adults) (see how it folds)
- $699 3 Second / 3 Speed Folding Bike (see how it folds)

Happy Trails,
Larry Lagarde
Urging bicycling for recreation, commuting, health and a better future.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Mississippi River 40 Mile Folding Bike Ride

Today, I had the great pleasure to ride 40 miles through the Western suburbs of New Orleans on the Montague MX suspended, full size, folding mountain bike.

The urge to ride has been building within me since my spill at Spanish Plaza about 2 weeks ago. I had ridden downtown to photograph the QE2 at dock on the Mississippi River. It was night time and the Plaza's polished marble pavement was wet with condensation. I went to make a turn but the bike wanted to go straight... Luckily, the fall resulted only in a nasty oozing knee. I shot some halfway decent night time photos of the QE2 and her guest queueing up for a steamboat jazz cruise on (see the 3 photos in this post), then proceeded to ride the 15 or so miles home.

The scab I earned from the fall kept me off the bike for a few days. Meanwhile, I got busy on a Hurricane Katrina repair project ripping out lots of 2x4's that had to be thrown out a window. Once the job was done, my lower back was sore for almost a week. Fast forward to today.

The weather was gorgeous: brilliant blue skies, temps in the mid 50's and a 5-10 mph breeze from the East. Frankly, I hadn't intended to ride 40 miles; however, once I hit the road, I just didn't want to stop riding.

Along the ride, I encountered a traffic accident scene, cruised past Destrehan Plantation, did some shopping at the new Dollar General in St. Rose (trail mix and sports drink), took a snack break at Rivertown, watched sheriff's deputies in 8 patrol cars meet & prep for a drug raid, watched the oil tanker Ficus sail round a riverbend on it's way to a terminal upriver and passed about 15 or so other cyclists on the Bill Kellor / Mississippi River Levee trail.

If you'd like to see the route of my ride, I charted it on Dave Ploch's 2wheeltech.com bike route mapping website.


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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Reasons People Don't Go Cycling

While browsing some of the up and coming sites on the web this morning (as per Alexa), I came across a site that creates charts from database information provided by users (Swivel).

I noticed a search box on Swivel and decided to see if anyone had submitted data related to cycling. Interestingly, I found this chart featuring the reasons people give for not riding their bicycles. Supposedly, the data comes from the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (sfbike.org) which is a pretty respectable cycling advocacy organization. Unfortunately, when I searched their site to verify the data references, I failed to find any mention of the data. It's a big site so it's possible I just ran the wrong seach keywords...

Anyhow, here's a table that corresponds with the chart above. The table lists each of the complete responses (rather than the abbreviated ones shown above).
Reason Given For Not Cycling
Percent of Responses
15 %
Worried about bike theft
14 %
Worried about safety
13 %
10 %
Street conditions (potholes / tracks / etc.)
9 %
I ride as much as I want
8 %
7 %
Too far to travel where I need to go
6 %
Not enough bike lanes
6 %
Too hilly
5 %
Bike lanes don
4 %
Too busy / no time
3 %


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Cycling for fun, fitness & practicality.

Phone: 504-324-2492
Bike Shop Street Address:
231 Dauphine St
New Orleans, LA. 70112
(1 block from Bourbon St; 2 blocks from Canal St)
In the French Quarter

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