Friday, April 24, 2009

AIA-SFO: Integrating Bikes and Business

Next week I'll be attending the American Institute of Architects (AIA) convention in San Francisco. Architects are (at long last) becoming environmental leaders in the professional communities, and "cycling" and "environmental" fit together nicely for me, so I'll be taking a folding bike to push the envelope of "green consciousness" for architects. I don't want to be unfair here—I've noticed that there exists a large intersection among architects, cyclists, and (even) bike builders, it's just that, when it comes to cycling, and particularly practical, everyday cycling, there's a lot more lip service than action. So I hope to turn that around in a small way.

My company, Nemetschek NA, produces a computer-aided design software called Vectorworks. It's used primarily by architects (as I am), but it has great 3D and solids capabilities, and I want to design bikes with it. (This would be just another integration of life, work, and avocation for me.) I've designed buildings and shoes with it, but not yet bikes. If you've used CAD to design bikes, I want to talk to you, so leave me a comment and a way to get in touch!

San Francisco is a city where I've spent time before. And it has hills that are serious challenges to walk up, much less bike up. I don't think I have a bike set up with the gears needed for all of San Francisco.

That's the bad news. The good news is, I'm going to be spending almost all my time in the "SoMa" (South of Market) area, which is quite flat, by SFO standards. Following one of the guiding principles of Practical Cycling, "Research your Route", I've done some homework on SFO. Here's a nifty topographical map of the city overlaid with bike routes. Below is a Google map of what I'm going to be up to. The aqua-colored destination in the middle of the Castro district is where my friend Scott and his wife Polly reside, and that is at the top of a pretty awesome hill, one I don't think I'd try and tackle unless I had about 22" gears. So Scott and I will have to meet elsewhere (maybe at the "Zeitgeist" bar, which is I'm told a favorite of the local bike couriers), or I'll take the bus to his house.

View SFO AIA Convention 2009 in a larger map

So, I've decided to take my folder for the flat areas. I bought (off my brother, who wasn't using it) a Dahon "Speed D7" folder, (mine being about 8 years old, not quite as nice as the one in the link), and a Samsonite "Oyster" standard-airline-case (SAC) that it fits in for transport. I spent a weekend overhauling it, getting it properly equipped for minimal practical cycling (tool kit, pump, lock, patches, lights,) and learning how to pack it. (I made some breakthroughs in this area. There are websites that state that you can't pack a Dahon folder in an Oyster without removing the stem and handlebars, a major pain since I added a cyclocomputer mount. I found that I need only remove the wheels, and everything else fits neatly. (I'll leave the details of that for another post.)

I was in Seattle at the beginning of April and used the trip out there as a first shake-down trip for the travelling cyclist use-case. Excepting a tangled chain on initial unpacking of the bike, everything went surprisingly well. I found the little Dahon, while a bit short in the leg for my tall frame, to still be an acceptable ride for up to, say, 20 miles. I put about 75-80 miles on the Dahon in 5 days, in Seattle, a city not devoid of hills itself. The gear range is rather limited, at both the top and (somewhat surprisingly, given the 20" wheels) the bottom.

So, if you're in San Francisco next week and see the very tall guy on the clown bicycle wearing the Vectorworks shirt, that will be me. Flag me down and tell me you're a reader of A Practical Cyclist, and I'll be glad to invite you to the Vectorworks "City to Green" party on Thursday night! And if by chance you're attending the AIA convention, please drop by the Vectorworks booth, #1651, and let's talk bicycles, design, and computer-aided design.

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