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Sunday, December 14, 2008
  Bicycle commuting and international business travel
By Alison Chaiken 
Rented Kona Ute at Bristol terminus of Bristol & Bath Railway Path

On a recent business trip to Bristol, U.K., I decided to stay in the city center and bicycle-commute to the company site on the city outskirts. Local co-workers direly predicted that I would be instantly killed by hostile drivers, demonstrating if nothing else that beliefs of car commuters about cycling transcend international boundaries.

Rob Bushill delivers the Kona Ute to my hotel

Scanning the pages of the wonderful British publication Velo Vision, I saw the advertisment from Really Useful Bikes. I contacted proprietor Rob Bushill, who also runs a dairy and hot tub business, and he agreed to drop off a Kona Ute at my hotel. I flatted out almost right away on the first ride, but Rob graciously returned to the hotel and fixed the tire for me (he hadn't left me any tools previously).

As with so many old cities, Bristol's center city has a truly labyrinthine network of streets. Fortunately the Bristol & Bath Railway Path runs from downtown Bristol all the way to Bath, 13 miles away. I was able to take the Path out into the countryside, where I navigated a much simpler set of rural roads to take me to the workplace. The ride was a lot of fun, and since the weather was cold, I didn't have to worry about getting sweated up. I was pleased to see hundreds of other cyclists commuting on the path even on rainy days.

The Kona Ute is quite heavy and has appropriately low gearing. As a roadie who is used to clipping into pedals and hauling on drop bars, I was taken aback at how difficult riding rollers with an upright posture and flat pedals proved to be. Overall, bicycle commuting in Bristol was surprisingly easy, with drivers showing exceptional courtesy despite the many episodes of clueless behavior I exhibited. Best of all, Megacorp approved my request for reimbursement for the bicycle rental without a quibble, as they should have given how much money I saved over renting a car an buying gas. Thanks again to Rob Bushill for his great customer service!

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