Tag Archives: commuting

Daily commute at the ORM

I am back again on La Palma at the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos (ORM) – for the 4th time already. I have 11 nights of work at the Mercator Telescope, then I will fly to Tenerife to continue there with another instrument. As always, I can only say that this island is amazing. Every time I take the taxi from the airport to the observatory, I can not stop staring out the window to look at the landscape. This is the first time I am here during summer, and I have to admit that the temperature is much nicer up here at 2300 meter, than it is in e.g. October. I don’t need my winter coat anymore, and I don’t need to put a kilogram of warm clothes (knee warmers, arm warmers, neck warmer, wind coat, rain jacket, etc.) on when I roll down with the bike on the morning, a simple jacket is enough. So during the day it is typically ~20°C (but it feels much more thanks to the Sun), while on the morning it is around ~15°C. Now again I took my racing bike with me (and I will have a week of cycling after my observing run on Tenerife), so already here I use it every day to commute between the Residencia and the Mercator Telescope.

I need to ride up once before dinner to start the calibrations (~5 PM), then I roll down to eat (~7 PM), and after a small nap I ride up to catch the sunset (which is around 9 PM) and start the observing night. Then I work till the Sun rises, and go down to sleep around 7:30 AM (and sleep from 8 AM to 4-4:30 PM). The ride itself is 2.65 km @ 6.9% with a maximum over 100 meters of 10.3% (a hard 3rd category climb in Tour de France terms), so it is not extremely difficult, but riding above 2000 m makes every climb a bit more challenging (click on the climb-plot and it will be bigger). But it is very good high-altitude training, and 3 times faster than walking! (I don’t even think about driving up with a car, that’s not my thing :D)

On the last afternoon I rode a new personal best up to the telescope, reaching the ‘summit’ in 11m 09s, which corresponds to a VAM of ~1000 Vm/h (yeah, I know it is not really a pro value, but who cares :D)! My previous bests from last October and this May were 12m 05s and 11m 36s, respectively, so the improvement is very clear. Oh, and these were ridden while carrying a backpack… After this record ride, I took the evening ride a bit easier and recorded the scenery (turn the volume down, if you don’t want to listen to my still quite hard breathing…). It is a nice place to work at ;)

I had a fixed gear bike for two days…

As the title says, I turned my rear wheel around (’cause I have a flip-flop hub there with a fixed track cog on one side and a freewheel on the another), to try out the “fixie-feeling” – recently so famous and trendy on the streets (not yet in Belgium), but basically useful on track (during races in velodromes). Of course I left the brakes on, for safety reasons… So what is a fixie bike? Wikipedia has a nice summary here, please go there for further information. Now back to my story. After two days on a fixie I have to say that I see the reason why people like riding fixed gear bikes; it’s like a different religion, and I have to admit, skidding is cool – but you will need new tires every month… But there is something I can also tell you, that being unsafe is not an urban legend, but a fact. Even if you use the front brake, you won’t be able to stop as fast as with a normal bike, and when you are riding completely brakeless, I think then you are completely brainless. And it’s not good for your joints too, so without any further discussion, I say my conclusion right now: If you do not want to have a long life, just ride a fixed gear bike on the streets. Anyway, I have turned back my wheel to the “normal” position (“work in progress” picture below) – and I have also installed new brake shoe sets, because the old rear one was completely worn. A single-speed bike is still cool (and safe – 2 in 1). For the rest of the story you will have to learn Hungarian, sorry :D


Szóval a bejegyzés első fele arról szólt, hogy visszaszereltem fixiről szimplán egysebességesre a biciklimet (és felraktam az új, “ropogós” fékpofákat), mivel az elmúlt két napban kipróbáltam, milyen fixivel közlekedni, de várakozásaimnak megfelelően nem jött be. Eleve csak azért csináltam, hogy ne mondhassa senki azt, hogy azért nem szeretem a fixiseket, mert nem tudom az milyen érzés… Na de hogy legyen egy kis érdekesség is mára: este kebabot ettünk, én bringával mentem, a többiek Valery kocsijával. A táv nem lehet több 3 km-nél, és kíváncsi voltam melyikünk a gyorsabb :) Szóval ahogy kiléptünk az Intézet ajtaján, nem indultam el azonnal (ahogy az normális lenne), hanem elsétáltam velük a parkolóig, megvártam amíg beülnek és elindulnak, és csak akkor pattantam fel a bringára és indultam neki én is (szóval adtam egy jó másfél perc hátrányt magamnak). A kampusz területét lezáró sorompóig a szélárnyékukban tekertem, ott lehagytam őket, aztán az emelkedőn persze leelőztek, viszont aznnak a szakasznak a végén pirosat kaptak, én meg zöldet, szóval megint én kerültem az élre. Pár utcával később bevártam őket, de persze Valery elhúzott mellettem, szóval tekerhettem utánuk… Természetesen megint megfogta őket egy piros lámpa, ráadásul nem egy várakozó autóval, szóval még pofátlanul be is álltam pont eléjük :D Aztán a lejtőn persze nem tudtak megelőzni, a következő lámpánál megint előttük álltam, és végül együtt értünk a kebaboshoz. A többiek elég elismerő szavakkal illették eme tettemet :) Mindezt úgy, hogy megvártam őket indulásnál és bevártam őket az út felénél. Szóval a biciklim és a combjaim kombinációja városban szignifikánsan gyorsabb az autónál. Q.E.D.

Commuting in Leuven

About 90% of students (including me) in Leuven are regular cyclists. Not athletes nor sportspersons, but commuters on two wheels. As the bike is the fastest (if you do not count small motorcycles) and cheapest way to get from A to B, this is an evident choice for young people. But older businessmen (and women) are not a rare sight riding their bikes in suits (or costumes), either. And bad weather is not an excuse. Raincoats are not futuristic equipment, they are available for a long time…

I was already a hardcore bike commuter back in Hungary, where life on two wheels is not as easy as it is here in Belgium. The infrastructure for cyclists in the city of Budapest is – to be honest – close to being non-existent. Bike lanes are almost unknown, separated bike paths are badly designed and built (usually starting in the middle of nowhere and ending in the middle of nowhere), the number of parking spaces for bikes is too low, car drivers are aggressive (of course, when they are sitting in the endless traffic-jams all day), etc. So the background and support for bike commuters is generally vary bad, hence riding your bike among the cars in Budapest can be considered as an extreme sport, where survival is the main goal, and reaching the destination is only a bonus point… (Bike messengers are the champions of this “sport”. I have a single speed messenger bike and I carry my stuff in a special messenger bag – both for practical reasons – but I am still far from them. If you want to be fast, you have to ride among the cars, and I have learned how to do that in a safe way. This is a skill, which you have to learn and practice a lot, or you can use the terrible and unsafe bike paths with a speed of 15 km/h, because there are always pedestrians who are unaware of the fact, that they are walking on the bike path… The choice is yours.) But something has started in the last two years. There are more and more cyclists on the road every day. The numbers are “so high” (around 5%, but that was 1% two years ago), that the city will have to do something… It is also proven, that the number of potential bike commuters is high, but they won’t hit the road until they feel safe. That’s the reason why it is so urgent to develop the sufficient infrastructure for cyclists. This is inevitable if Budapest would like to be a viable city again, as it was a 100 years ago.

These are nearly unimaginable problems for Belgian people, because the infrastructure here – at least (but not only if) compared to the Hungarian – is almost perfect. You see bike lanes, bike paths and parking places everywhere. One-way streets are usually open for cyclist from both directions, etc (I will write a separate post about this subject later). So the number of bike commuters is not a surprise at all…

Now – in the 2nd part of this post – I will present my everyday commuting route. On the morning, I usually ride through the center to stop for breakfast at a store of the bakery chain called Panos. On the evening (or late afternoon) I am taking the shortest and fastest route back (or in case I have to buy some stuff at the supermarket, it can be a bit different). So here is my commute:

View Larger Map

The elevation profile of the morning ride:


The elevation profile of the afternoon ride:


And there are also two videos showing these routes, but they may be a bit boring (they are) even at double speed, and the quality is not that good (blame YouTube for that). If you are still interested, check them out clicking here (from home to the University) and here (back to home).

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