The Davis Enterprise: August 28, 2009
Davis Bicycles! column #25
Author: Joe Krovoza
Joe Krovoza, who tunes up and takes care of eight bicycles for his Davis family of four, pumps some air into one of the tires Thursday morning before everyone leaves for work and school. Bike fleet managers like himself have excellent support in Davis, Krovoza says, with plenty of options for equipment and repairs.
FRED GLADDIS/ENTERPRISE PHOTO
There are lots of jobs in every Davis household. There’s Take Out Recycling, Get Mail and usually Rodent Control. One job doesn’t get proper recognition: Fleet Manager.
As family members head back to school and into new fall activities, it’s the manager of the bicycle fleet who needs some recognition. Fleet managers are on the front line of Davis culture, and their performance can be scrutinized. A flat just minutes before school will start? Not good. Junior needs bail due to a failed bike light? Invariably, the fleet manager takes the fall.
I am our fleet manager. This household job supports my engineer-wannabe alter-ego. I use evenings to collect reports from my users and to prepare for the morning rush. I can avoid the dishes if I disappear into the garage to work on a bike. Fixing kickstands, tightening basket brackets and charging battery lights are best done the night before. Making sure each bike has its user’s helmet and lock ready is key. How they get mixed up I’ll never know. An organized area of the garage for bikes is a huge start.
Essentials: Get a good pump and register bikes (see box) to prevent theft and aid recovery.
With locks, I have made my greatest breakthrough. We use only combination locks, and all are set to a family combination. Locks get mixed up and bikes are retrieved by others without any combo confusion. U-locks are essential for bikes locked overnight in public.
My second greatest innovation involves tire tube selection. I gradually replaced standard tubes with thorn-proofs because the thicker rubber holds air much, much longer. Low tire pressure leads to an unhappy clientele and frequent pumping.
Extras keep my fleet users pedaling. We have a few extra locks handy since they seem to end up lent or left behind. We also keep an extra bike ready, or two or three. When there isn’t time for a repair, the extra bike prevents a parent from becoming a chauffeur. This bike has to be pretty universal. A women’s frame, adjustable seat and good basket maximize its “just in time” utility. The extra is great when kids’ friends are over and need a bike.
We also use our extra to indoctrinate I mean “lend to” out-of-towners. Their puzzlement usually converts to an enjoyable ride. Consider offering an extra to a neighboring fleet manager.
Serious inspections are part of the job. I ride my users’ bikes. Brakes OK? Gears shifting? What’s rattling? If you see an adult looking goofy on a child’s bike, assume they are a conscientious fleet manager.
This brings me to an observation. I recommend that parents keep assessing when their offspring are ready for another bike. This isn’t necessarily about size, but rather about style! Would fewer kids stop biking in high school if their bike matched their style? (Not that adults would choose a car based on style!)
Davis fleet managers have excellent support. The most empowering is Bike Forth, our new bike co-op on Fourth Street at L Street. This enterprise moved from gown to town after its first incarnation as the UC Davis Bike Church.
Bring your bikes, make a small donation, and use their tools and recycled parts to tune up your fleet. Bring an apprentice to train so you can start delegating duties. Use Bike Forth to convert a derailleur bike to a sleek single-speed, or to perform a tricky repair that requires guidance.
Also, King High School’s Bike Shop is accepting bike and part donations now, and will start fixing bikes as part of its instruction on Sept. 8. Use our fine bike shops when outsourcing in needed.
Of anywhere in Davis, Davis High School should have a bike shop and class. Supplementing King High’s program, Da Vinci High is following suit. Santa Cruz has a popular high school bike class. Would more than 26 percent of DHS students bike to school if they had a good bike shop? (At DHS, 64 percent drive/are driven, 26 percent bike, 5 percent walk, 4 percent take the bus.)
Keeping the fleet going can feel expensive in time and money. When this strikes me, I think of what we save by avoiding car payments and not buying more gas.
I like my family being more active and independent because our fleet is in service around town.
Joe Krovoza manages a fleet of eight bikes for a family of four, plus one dog, two rabbits and a bird.