The Bicycle Transit Center: Serving the Needs of Commuter Cyclists.

Bicycle Transit Center Utah
Chase Gentry at the Bicycle Transit Center. Photo: Brian Manecke

By Lou Melini

June 2011 – The Bicycle Transit Center (BTC) at the UTA Intermodal Hub has been in existence for just over a year. Its location and services have made a big impact for the bike commuter traveling on FrontRunner, bus or TRAX. Even if you do not use public transportation to assist you with your bike commute, The BTC may still have services for your needs.

The BTC is run by Canyon Sports. Sam Christensen and Chase Gentry will give us a quick tour of the BTC and help you with your commute.

Cycling Utah: Sam, What are some of the unique services that bike commuters will have at the BTC?

Sam Christensen: The BTC will offer several unique services to their members: storage, after-hours access, shower and lockers, tools and a repair stand. The storage is in-doors, heated and even monitored. Even if the shop area is closed, you can still enter between 5 a.m. and midnight to access the storage area. In the storage area there are lockers and a workstand with tools and pressurized air. During the business hours from 7 a.m.-6 p.m., the members will also have access to a shower.

As for rentals, we will offer road bikes, mountain bikes and a commuter style bike. We feel that for those who are looking to come downtown and rent a bike to see Salt Lake City, the commuter will be ideal because it is a hybrid between the relaxed mountain bike positioning and the larger road bike wheel size and slightly bigger tires. The commuters also have an 8-speed internally geared hub and chain guards that will keep your pants or apparel clean.

We will have full size runs available and customers can call ahead to make reservations. As for pricing: the commuter has a 3-hour rental for $8 and full day rental for $25. Road bikes are $35/day and mountain bikes are between $25 and $35/day, hard-tail and full-suspension respectively.

Overall, the BTC will provide access and information to meet everyone’s needs, not just the commuter.

C.U: Chase, how will the BTC change the environment for the downtown bike commuter? The bike commuter using a bus, Trax or Frontrunner?

Chase Gentry: The BTC is a great facility for the downtown commuter or just any commuter. If you live in an apartment and have no room for your bike(s), or come in on Front Runner or Trax, you can park them here for a cheap rate, and pick them up anytime from 5:00AM to midnight. We have a private restroom with a shower if you need to shower before you go to work. Also we open at 7:00 am! No bike shop is open that early. If you’re riding into work in the morning and need a tube, we’ll be open! We also are big in bike rentals. Biking is the only way to get around and really see our city. We are avid cyclists, and we rely on commuting too; we understand the passion behind biking. Our goal is simply just to make the best commuter ‘s bike shop.

C.U.: Will the BTC have a niche market or is it a full service bike shop? Will one be able to drop the bike off in the morning after commuting in and have repairs done for the commute home? Will the BTC be able to help out for those that forget their rain jacket, light, shoe toe-covers, etc?

Sam Christensen: The BTC will offer a full repair services, bicycle rentals, demo bikes and special order bikes. We will also provide essentials such as tubes, lube, tires, locks, lights and other accessories. As for clothing, we’ll be limited to arm warmers, light jackets, and shorts. We will also have some nutrition available. As for repairs, we will offer rush service if necessary but our turnaround time right now is same-day.

Chase Gentry: Although commuting is the theme of our store, we welcome every customer whatever their biking need. We have a full service shop to fix and repair every bike for a great price. If we don’t have a specific part or accessory in the shop, almost always we are able to order it in within a few days.

C.U.: Sam, with your degree in Exercise Physiology and with a background in using that degree in a rehabilitation setting, can a bike commuter apply principles of exercise physiology to their bike commute or as a means of rehabilitation? Do you find yourself doing sprints or intervals to practice your background?

Sam Christensen: When it comes to commuting I like to stay in my aerobic zone, however when there are hills I know that my heart rate will jump up and thus I hammer up the hills with a little more gusto. As for doing sprints or intervals during my commute, I don’t. I just ride to enjoy it.

Riding a bike can definitely be part of a rehabilitation program, however after running stress test for a cardiology clinic I have learned that it is best to discuss your exercise protocol with you physician who is aware of your medical history and conditions. There are some instances in which yes you should ride a bike and others where they may advise a regimen of five to ten minute walks.

C.U.: Would studying of the principles of Exercise Physiology help the average commuter and cyclists in general?

Sam Christensen: Absolutely, I think people who are interested in performance should seek an understanding of the underlying principles that make them go. I can easily recall discussing nutrition and physiology with many amateur and veteran athletes and it was never surprising to find out how many were following incorrect principles and practices. Enrolling into a course may be time constraining and it may be more beneficial to read books or even listen to audiobooks but with that said I do believe it should all be done with critical analysis.

C.U.: From a shop employee point of view, what should one look for in a commuter bike and accessories? There obviously isn’t an ideal commuter bike but do you have any favorites? What do you ride?

Sam Christensen: There are several factors to consider when commuting. From my backpacking days I have learned that light and fast is personally a preferable principle and thus I don’t use panniers or racks. However, if you are packing a laptop, a suit, showering supplies, etc. then things add up and may be advisable.

As for which bikes are my favorites, I am a big fan of the Surly Cross Check. It is setup as a do it all cyclocross bike, with mounting rivets that are usually found on touring bikes. So it pretty much does everything and as a steel bike it can handle most everything. I commute on an older Raleigh bike that allows for bigger tires during the winter. But, I also like to use the Jamis Commuter, which is a more relaxed version of a road bike. The relaxed fit of the bike just makes it a fun bike to zip around town on, but it is not an ideal bike if you have to climb a lot.

Chase: For me less is definitely more. My bike is a bare bones 1×9 set up with friction shifters. It is very easy to maintain, it’s lighter, and it works whenever I want to ride it. I carry with me a small multi-tool, tube, pump, and detachable fender. I’ve noticed that if I keep my bike tuned and repaired, then I almost never run into problems on my actual commute.

Commuting set ups are very different for each person. Some like a road racing bike that puts them in an aggressive, fast riding position. Some like more of a cruiser/hybrid type bike that puts them in a much more comfortable upright position. Some are in between. As far as bikes go, cyclocross and touring bikes are the bikes I suggest the most. These types of bikes are versatile, can be built to be a more aggressive/racing bike or into a more upright/comfortable bike. They have larger 700c road sized wheels, but have space to put fenders, and wider tires with treads on them. These are bikes you can use in any season, and still be an efficient commuter.

C.U.: A few technical questions: Do you like full shoe covers or toe-covers? Are fenders worth the investment? Why should one have their chain wear checked periodically and replaced when wear is evident? Do you have a favorite commuter tire?

Sam Christensen: Shoe covers: This is pretty subjective, personally I wear toe covers, even in warm rain or snow I just need something to protect my toes a little more and in really low temps less than 30 degrees, I would consider throwing on a neoprene booty. The neoprene booty will do more for people who get cold feet quickly by retaining heat. Also, people who use highly ventilated carbon fiber soles (e.g. triathlon shoes) should switch their insole and use a full cover shoe. So the key factors are weather, shoe design, personal preference.

Fenders: If you are purchasing a bike specifically for commuting/year-round riding, then I would recommend a bike with eyelets. If you are looking for a more serious bike, for example a road bike, then I would just buy a road bike. The perk to having eyelets is having the ability to mount racks and fenders to your bike. With that said, when considering a bike you should also ask yourself, how often does it rain or snow? If not much or you don’t intend to ride in such conditions then eyelets are not necessary. There are plenty of options available that don’t require eyelets.

Chains: The number one reason to take care of you chain is to increase the life of your components. I’ve seen many people frustrated because their shifting isn’t perfect as it once was. One reason for this can be due to the chain. When a new chain is put onto a new crank and cassette, the spacing is as close to perfect as possible. The chain fits into each groove as designed. Now when a chain stretches, the pins are strained and stretched and will slowly start to enlarge the grooves of the crank rings or cassette. Thus, cogs start engaging at undesired intervals and wear out the cogs to the point that your shifting suffers. If you let it get to this point, then your $45 chain will now cost you a new cassette and maybe new rings for your crank.

Tires: The problem with declaring a favorite is that tomorrow it will change. So I will say this, I really like Schwalbe tires. The Marathon series comes with reflective strips on the sidewalls, puncture protection and roll well. During the winter, I like cyclocross tires that can handle everything except ice, which can be handled with studded tires.

Chase Gentry: I’ll add just a few thoughts. I like booties because they cover my entire shoe. Usually when its dry and above freezing I don’t wear them, but when it isn’t the extra coverage keeps me dry/warm and happy.

I’m not a huge fan of full fenders. I just carry some lightweight waterproof pants, and a jacket. If it’s wet I just throw them on and ride. But I do have a small detachable fender that clamps to my seatpost. I keep it in my bag and use it too. It’s great for bikes like mine that have no eyelets.

Sam’s comment about chains is perfect. The fastest way to wear out your gears is to never change your chain. If you periodically change your chain it WILL save you from spending hundreds of dollars at once having to put on an all new cassette and chainrings.

My favorite commuter tires are the Continental Gator-Skins. When it’s dry, they have a durable flat/pinch resistant casing that is very strong, lightweight and long lasting. I also have been riding Kenda Kross tires and although they have a 60tpi they have been awesome, they are cheap, and roll great.

C.U.: Talk about your commute, when did you start? When did you realize that bike commuting was more fun than driving? How far is the commute? If someone came in to the BTC and wanted to start bike commuting, what would you tell them?

Sam Christensen: I started commuting in college, I didn’t have a car and campus was only a few blocks away. Even in my junior year when I bought a car I quickly found that it was quicker and easier bike to class and park my bike near my classes. When I commuted to work nearby, sometimes the commute was quicker than driving. Now, I commute over ten miles to the down town area.

When people want to start commuting, I would tell them first to analyze their needs and then work out how to accommodate them. For example, will your commute require you to shower? If so, do I have a bag or do I need invest in panniers? Will my bike accommodate panniers? What is the best route to commute on and what is traffic like during the time frame I would be commuting?

Chase Gentry: My commute recently changed to a very short commute to work and school. But whether it’s five miles a day or almost thirty I love just being outside of my car, getting around, and getting the exercise. I originally started commuting the summer of 2008 because gas was like 4+ dollars at one point, and I was literally spending more money on gas for my car than any other monthly expense. So I picked up an old steel Centurion road bike at the thrift store, and still ride it to this day.

I always get excited when people want to start commuting. Like Sam I would suggest taking a good look at what equipment they have, and what equipment they’ll need to make their commute most efficient. But above all else my biggest suggestion for them is to find a safe route. As much as you wish cars would see you, most of the time they won’t. There’s no sense in riding on a busy road with little to no room for bikers jam-packed with cars. Find a wider road that’s less busy, even if it may extend you’re commute a little longer.

C.U.: Thanks guys for your help. Sam, congratulations on your acceptance to the Physician Assistant program at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook NY. I’m sure the BTC will miss your expertise.

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