Monday, June 4, 2018

Potato Diaries, Day Four: Information is Power

Today, I found myself quite tired. There's plenty to do in and around the area I'm staying, but my body is physically tired. I'm not sure if it's just being away from home, the fact that I've been pretty well constantly moving since I arrived last Thursday evening, or if perhaps I'm coming down with some sort of illness, but today my body just wasn't cooperative in the least.

This morning, I awoke feeling as though I hadn't slept, despite having a solid seven hours of rest. I'm not one to give in to the feeling of tiredness regularly, but I was having difficulty getting moving. Taking the dogs for a walk seemed to loosen things up a bit, but I could feel that my body was rejecting movement. I really had wanted to explore Boise today by bike. In reality, I knew that it just wasn't the right day, and so, I decided I would use it instead to get as much information as I could about biking in Boise and the surrounding area.

Several years ago, I purchased my Rivendell Sam Hillborne from one of Rivendell's shop partners. At the time, the shop was called Hyde Park Cycles, but they closed up shop and re-opened in a revamped manner calling themselves Bike Touring News, which is how things stand today. Over the years, I've purchased random parts from the shop online too. From handlebars to bags, they've always been easy to deal with and ship quickly, so when I've needed something, I take a look there to see what's in stock.

As it happens, the physical store is located in Boise, and since my body was rejecting self-powered movement, I thought maybe it would be a good day to stop by the Bike Touring News store and check it out in person.
The view north from outside Bike Touring News. Just to the east of this photo, it looked as though there are some potential trails to investigate.
The shop is located on the north side of the city, right against some dirt climbing that looked interesting. The space for the bike shop is on the small side, but as Ryan shared (the current owner - former owner Jim and Stacy have retired and are happily bike touring, from what I've read), the shop model changed several years ago, making it based more for an online market than a retail, brick and mortar type of store.
Outside Bike Touring News retail establishment (the shop is a bit hidden, but is right behind the tree on the right side of the photo, under the white/yellow striped awning).
I would guess that the retail space is no more than 400 sq ft (possibly even less), but Ryan is making good use of what is available. If one is looking for racks, bags, tires, handlebars, or saddles, there is a decent amount of product to view, especially for a small space. The shop also sells and stocks Surly Bikes, so of course I had fun checking out various models in person. I couldn't help but wonder if Sam would strangle me if I came home with another bicycle. Never fear, Sam, I controlled myself and made no impulse purchases (though there is still time for bicycle indiscretions, I suppose).
Pictured here is about half of the shop space. Certainly, the shop is geared toward dirt riders and tourists, but it also makes a lot of sense, given the location of the shop.
It was quite nice to chat with Ryan, who was forthcoming with the highs and lows of biking in Boise and the area. I found it interesting that the streets of Boise are not owned by the city, but rather by Ada County, which, from the sound of it causes some issues with getting bike lanes and paths integrated into transportation around the city, as those who reside farther out in the county don't see the value in adding biking infrastructure. Ryan did mention that there are some great people who are fighting the fight and attempting to get and keep bike lanes in the city.

As someone who has been riding for the last few days out in slightly more rural areas, Boise roads seem like a paradise by comparison. Most of the roads I saw in the city had bike lanes and/or wider shoulders - nothing remotely close to what I've dealt with farther outside of Boise. I couldn't help but think that if I were going to live in this area, I would definitely want to be in the city so that biking in and around would be more practical. While it is apparent that there is still work to be done, it is a far better situation to deal with than those living a bit farther out in Meridian, Nampa, Caldwell, etc.

As for possible bike routes to investigate, apparently Bogus Basin (a ski resort) is a fun place to ride. I was told that the lift is used to take cyclists up the mountain and then they ride down (As an aside -- Blasphemy! You ride up the mountain first, Idahoans! Then you enjoy the downhill). The resort opens for the summer to cyclists; however, I was told it's typically open only on the weekends. Cyclists are able to ride there any time though, whether or not the lift is operational. I don't know if I'll make it to this spot while here for a couple of reasons - the most important of which is that I own better suited bikes for that type of riding and the one I have with me is probably not ideal - though it might be fun to try and it's not completely ridiculous to consider using it.

There are also about 200 miles of dirt trails to ride in the Boise area, which could make for quite a journey if one desires. I am learning that mountain bikes, touring bikes, and other dirt-type bikes seem to be the most common in the area. Although I have seen a few road bikes out, it's not a terribly common sight. Having ridden some of the roads, I understand why (though, Boise streets do seem better suited to road bikes).
Is it just me, or does the cover of this map seem dated? It was printed a little over a year ago, but it feels older based on the image... but, perhaps that is just my perception - or maybe because it was taken in winter?
While in the shop, I picked up a bike map and was told that it's a little out of date and that some of the suggested cycling routes are actually not the best. I appreciated the heads up, but thought it would be interesting to compare the map of Boise to the one I'd picked up in Nampa a couple of days prior.
Apologies for the poor photo, but I think it illustrates that there are paths to be selected in Boise when riding.
I would say the Boise map is definitely more complete and has more options for bike paths, but I suppose this should be expected from a true city, even if it is among the smaller "big" cities.
The reverse side of the map is full of information too. I particularly took notice of the Idaho Stop Law, of which I was aware but had forgotten about while riding in Idaho, until I saw it again in print. Many cyclists seem to implore this method of "stopping" regardless of location, so I'm surprised more states don't take this on as a legal method for cyclists to proceed through stop signs.

In short, I'm not exactly sure where I'll be exploring in Boise by bicycle, but I have a feeling it will be more street than dirt based for this particular trip. I'm actually considering riding the Boise River greenway system, as it's supposed to have about 30 miles of bikeable pathways. To complicate matters further, I may also be taking the three dogs on a mini-road trip to Montana due to some personal matters that have come up. Nothing like taking a faux-vacation from a faux-vacation. So, there may be a delay in posting about (and riding in) Idaho if that takes place.

I would love to ride into Boise and then explore, but it seems that getting to the city by bicycle from my current location is more than a tad challenging. Not impossible, but also not really practical, particularly given that I have some four-legged friends depending on me to get back in a somewhat reasonable time frame. I have read that there is work being done to attempt to construct a system of trails that would allow users to easily travel through each of the cities and into Boise. It sounds like it could be wonderful if that actually comes to fruition, but for now it's still an idea waiting for action.

**Days 5-7 can be found here.


  1. Haha, interesting to read all of this. I lived in Boise the first 10 years of my life, and then visited relatives around southern Idaho regularly for years after. I still remember my mother taking me to the basement of the police department on "Lost and Found" day, where I purchased my first bike, a late 1950's Schwinn Tiger, for $2.50. In more recent years, we mountain biked extensively the Ketchum-Sun Valley area.

    1. Interesting! And, how cool to get a bike for $2.50. Unheard of today and what a fun memory.


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