May 28, 2012

Getting Started Bike Commuting: A Blogspedition inside Bike Style

Barb on a bike wearing a green dress

A typical day on the bike: Dress, pumps, helmet, gloves.

The blog now stands at over 170 posts after a year of writing. Lots of advice is sprinkled throughout every post, along with my ponderings and miscellany on bike policy, infrastructure creation, and other aspects of becoming a bike-friendlier world.

This post serves as a categorized round-up of many of the posts you may find helpful if you’re thinking about bike commuting.

Clothing

Riding and Mechanics

Weather

Hauling Stuff

Getting Started as a Commuter

Route Selection

Bike Parking

Attitude

Rules of the Road

Paying Attention

“Roll” Models

Women featured in our “On a Roll with” series talk about how they ride and other posts about or by individual women riders. Be inspired!

Snapshots of Riding Days and Destinations

These posts are of the “where I rode my bike today” variety to give you an idea of how easy and flexible bike transportation can be, whether it’s for the round trip to and from work or a Saturday full of errands. Many of them also tell you what I was wearing, in my ongoing mission to demystify and de-Spandex everyday biking.

Your Turn

  • Some topics are missing from the list. Helmets and hair, for example–an issue for many women and one I’ll tackle in a future post. What topics would you add?
May 27, 2012

Intro to Bike Commuting (in Style) for Women: Talk & Shop Event at Two Wheel Transit May 30

Mark your calendar with an easy date to remember: 5/30 at 5:30. That’s when I’ll be at Two Wheel Transit at the invitation of owner Geoff Forshag to give an informal talk on how women can get started in bike commuting.

Two Wheel Transit, Spokane WA--logo

I’ve lost track of the number of times people–women in particular–have started a discussion with me along the lines of, “I would bike to work but [insert concern or perceived barrier here].”

Some people carry on this conversation in a quasi-confessional mode, feeling guilty for not riding because I’m standing there demonstrating that it’s possible to show up at a business meeting in professional clothing.

Others who start with this line are looking for the actual answers to the questions or barriers. These range from “I don’t actually remember those hand signals I learned when I was 10” to “What do you do about sweat or hair or carrying stuff?” to “How do I pick the best route?“.

I can whip out a few fast tips but in the middle of a business meeting or networking event I can’t really cover all the nuances. Hence this talk (and if you can’t be there but want me to give it again, let me know with an email to bikestylespokane-at-gmail.com. I love talking about riding and helping more people get started!).

Along with giving the talk I’ll be bringing the cuteness: some of the Nuu-Muus/Ruu-Muus, skirts, bags, gloves, lace-trimmed padded liners and knickers, Pedal Panties, and other adorableness I carry through Bike Style. It’s a great mix to add to all the bikes, gear, and other accessories available from Two Wheel, since my goal is to supplement rather than compete with any of the local bike shops. We all share a common goal: To get you rolling!

Since those of you reading this blog are presumably already riding to some extent, whether for recreation or transportation or the sheer joy of it, you may not need all the tips. Consider this an opportunity to bring your “bike-curious” friend along to get some encouragement.

Tomorrow I’ll post your assigned reading for the class, should you choose to do some prep work: A blogspedition round-up of some of the posts I’ve written so far about how I got started and the clothes I wear and guest blogger posts about their beginnings.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • What questions do/did you have about starting out that I should be sure to answer in this type of talk?
May 25, 2012

Bike to Work. Bike to Eat. Bike to Shop. Bike to Everything.

Spokane Bikes logoThe post title is a theme we’ve used on our posters the past few years for Bike to Work Week and reflects the reason we changed our name from Bike to Work Spokane to Spokane Bikes. The Spokane Bikes philosophy is that we want to encourage people to bike for all kinds of transportation purposes, not just to and from work.

In fact, those short utility trips on a weekend—say, a run to the hardware store, fabric store, or grocery store—can be a great warm-up for transitioning into work-related riding with its greater demands for timely arrival and appropriate appearance at the end of the ride.

Once you’ve gone through that evolution from cautious beginner to full-fledged commuter, riding your bike in various kinds of conditions for different trip purposes, you might get a great week like what I had for this year’s Bike to Work Week.

Monday: In our fifth year we continued the “tradition” of having somewhat (ahem) moistish atmospheric conditions for the Kickoff Breakfast. But we didn’t get rained on. Not really.

Mayor David Condon, City Council President, and City Council member Jon Snyder all spoke, Pedals2People ran the bike corral, Spokane Transit had a bus parked for people to practice putting a bike on the rack (first transit agency in the state to have racks on every bus, in fact!), we instituted composting for our paper and food throwaways, and we got the week rolling.

I got to chat with stalwart Marc Mims, who every year leads a contingent of Spokane Valley-ites all the way to downtown for Mountain Gear pancakes and Roast House “Ride the Edge” coffee. This year he rode downtown alone—blame those threatening skies at the hour he had to leave to be downtown before 7 a.m.—but Amy Biviano, candidate for the State House of Representatives in the 4th legislative district who had ridden in separately, rode back with him. Bike-commuting State Rep. Andy Billig, now a candidate for State Senate in the 3rd LD and a volunteer for the event in years past, also attended the festivities.

Tuesday: Incredibly windy! Strong enough that when Belles and Baskets founder Betsy and I met up to have coffee, I have to ‘fess up that we wrestled my bike into the trunk of her little Honda Civic and drove together rather than me fighting my way to our rendezvous.

It was probably an entertaining sight to watch us load up, as my Donkey Boxx—while uber-awesome for hauling stuff—adds to the challenge of working with the hatch configuration of the Civic.

Further confession: I missed the Belles and Baskets group ride on the Fish Lake Trail in the evening and the post-ride chat at the bike-friendly Elk Public House, having gone home early and gotten comfy while I worked on some deadline-driven projects. I know, ladies, I missed out. Another time!

Wednesday: Energizer Stations! My sweetheart and I biked down together and stopped at Rings & Things (designated a Bike-Friendly Business by the League of American Bicyclists), where Polly and Amy served up Roast House coffee and bananas with the help of young Zander. For a good laugh read Marc Mims’ tale of coffee delivery woe, and shed a little tear over the spilled elixir of life.

The forecast for the day had some rain in it and I had quite a few meetings out of the office, but I had one of those lucky days where every time it rained I was inside and by the time I needed to ride the streets were drying out again. Biking has definitely made me far more weather-conscious.

At the end of the day, riding home around 7:45 p.m. from a LaunchPad event at Mobius Science Center (I can’t wait ’til it opens! Our kids are gonna love it), I saw the kinds of sights I’m sure I often missed as a driver, including a young African-American kid with one of the glossiest and most beautiful sets of long braids I’ve ever seen spinning along on a small bike and stopping to talk with his friends, and a double rainbow to the south over the freeway.

Eastbound on Fourth at Stevens I rolled alongside a man on the sidewalk who spun his wheelchair rapidly past Lewis and Clark High School, wearing a crisp white shirt and black dress pants. At the stoplight I wasn’t sure if the driver waiting behind me to turn right saw my wheeled companion since I might be blocking the view, so when the light turned green I moved slowly into the intersection to ride interference for a few yards before accelerating.

Thursday: An early-morning breakfast meeting followed by yet another meeting at Atticus Coffee, a regular stop for me thanks to the bike rack out front and the Roast House coffee served inside. (Yes, this is a recurring theme. I ride caffeinated and Roast House totally rocks the support for local bike events.)

After another busy day at work—busy because I was taking Friday off and had to pound out quite a few things before leaving for a four-day weekend—I headed to the always-rewarding Bike to Work Wrap-Up Party at Steam Plant Grill, one of our founding sponsors who every years throws a bike party for us and pours the beer they brew in-house.

I love that party. There are the regulars who have been there since the beginning, the ones who started riding that first year and have become regulars, the long-time bike advocates who’ve been at this far longer than I like Spokane Bike Buddy Eileen Hyatt, and the newbies who are thrilled with their accomplishments in their first-ever week of riding.

Spokane Public Radio, another important sponsor for Bike to Work Week, gave us some goodie bags to give away at the event. We weren’t doing a full-on raffle so co-chair Erika Prins and I hatched an idea: We would give the bags to people who have founded or established something that is making a difference and expanding opportunities and motivation to ride. Our list (and there would have been more had we had more goodies):

  • Bill Bender, founder of SpokeFest, which grew from their first ride the same year we founded Bike to Work Spokane to add Spokane Summer Parkways.
  • Marc Mims, who organizes the Spokane Valley activities for Bike to Work Week, rallied “Spokane Valley Cyclists FOR the Broadway Safety Project” to protect a key bike lane project from the ax, and put together a “Pedal with the Politicians” ride to educate elected officials about the project and the need for infrastructure.
  • Jon Snyder, Spokane City Council member and candidate for the House in the 3rd legislative district, for his leadership in spearheading adoption of the Complete Streets ordinance and all he does as publisher of Out There Monthly to highlight biking in the region.
  • Betsy Lawrence, founder of Belles and Baskets, which now has over 450 fans on Facebook and turns out dozens of women twice a month to ride, chat, and support each other in informal and transportation riding.
  • John Speare, blogger at Cycling Spokane and former member of the Spokane Bicycle Advisory Board who has been a consistent voice for everyday riding and the all-important “bike hang” at various beverage-dispensing establishments.

Friday: Stayed home, attended to the Women’s Bike Blogs list so I can keep highlighting featured blogs and adding to the RSS feed on Twitter and Facebook (from a list that will number over 700 the next time I post an update!), and did other bike-related word work like this post. I wish I’d had time to ride since we had some nice sunshine, but reflecting back on the week is worth the time.

Work to eat. Eat to live. Live to bike. Bike to work (and everything else). Happy biking!

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Pretend we have unlimited goodie bags. What unsung sparkplugs (to mix a metaphor) would you give them to as a thank-you for what they’ve done for biking in Spokane?
  • How much riding did you get in during the week? What kinds of destinations?
  • Did you help anyone get started riding this month? If so, self-high-five! (raise hands over head and jump a little as you slap them together)
May 15, 2012

It’s Time to Bike to Work, Spokane! (Energizing Update)

Ahahahaha! That’s a funny joke Mother Nature played on us. Responding to pleas that we hold the Spokane Bike to Work Week later than the national week because our Kickoff Breakfast always gets rained on, we scheduled this year’s events for Sunday, May 20-Saturday, May 26.

And did you get a load of that weather forecast for this week, which is National Bike to Work Week? Sunny and beautiful. Every. Single. Day. Next week? A little partly cloudy heading our way.

But not on Monday, I hasten to add. We will have a nice morning for the Kickoff Breakfast. This is your warm-up week and next week is the real deal.

So here’s the deal: You need to sign up. We want everyone who bikes to count and be counted and that’s what your registration does.

It’s a simple little form–about 30 seconds of your time–at the Spokane Bikes website. While you’re there you can RSVP for our fun events so the good folks serving up the food know how many riders to expect.

Monday, May 21, 7-9am: Kickoff Breakfast, Riverfront Park Gondola Meadows. Founding sponsor Mountain Gear will be serving up those great pancakes, and Roast House Coffee will pour some Ride the Edge to get you properly caffeinated for the day!

Wednesday, May 23, 6:30-8:30am or thereabouts: Energizer Stations, various locations. Date/time may vary depending on the specific location/sponsor so check the map and plan your route to get a boost on your way to work or whatever your destination may be.

Thursday, May 25, 4:30-6:30pm: Wrap-Up Party, Steam Plant Grill (another founding sponsor and a great bike-friendly restaurant with that rack in their covered parking area). Pay attention, peeps–party is on Thursday! Usually we wrap up on Friday but since the change of date pointed us into Memorial Day Weekend, we thought we’d party early, encourage you to ride one more day in the week, and leave Friday for you and the family.

Commute Challenge: All month long! Use the form to share how many vehicle miles you’ve avoided by riding your bike and help add to the awesomeness.

And did I mention you should sign up?

May 13, 2012

The Ultimate Bikespedition: Support the US Bicycle Route System

May is National Bicycle Month and it’s also the third annual Build It. Bike It. Be a Part of It. fundraising campaign for the U.S. Bicycle Route System (USBRS). The campaign kicked off May 1, 2012 and runs through May 31. What better way to celebrate Bike Month than by supporting the creation of a national system of cycling routes?

Last year, this effort raised more than $32,000 for the project—the goal this year is $50,000.

Here are the details:

The U.S. Bicycle Route System is a visionary project similar to the national and international cycling systems blossoming across the globe. Adventure Cycling is working with dozens of state agencies, national organizations, nonprofits, volunteers, and the US Congress to realize this vision.

 Can you give $10 to help build the largest bike route network in the world, encompassing more than 50,000 miles?

You can already see the effects of last year’s USBRS campaign:

  • 6 new routes approved by AASHTO — the first new U.S. Bicycle Routes approved in over 30 years!
  • 11 new states coming on to develop routes. 41 states are now actively working to implement US Bike Routes. In my state of Washington the Bicycle Alliance of Washington is coordinating with Washington State Department of Transportation so you can join “Team Washington” with your donation.
  • The re-release of a Technical Advisory from the Federal Highway Association that advises DOTs on how to implement rumble strips without putting cyclists at risk.
  • 5,000 new fans of the USBRS on Facebook since last year’s campaign, now at more than 19,000 supporters.
  • Adventure Cycling now has a closer relationship with the National Park Service, aimed at improving bike travel and tourism in national parks as well as facilitating designation of US Bike Routes through parks as appropriate.

I have yet to go on any long bike travel but the lure of the open road does beckon. I’d sure love to take that ride on a route that’s signed, supported, and serviced to make it a better experience!

And imagine the benefits for small towns that will get stops from bike visitors who wouldn’t bother with those towns if they were burning carbon instead of calories zipping past on the interstate.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Have you done any touring around the United States?
  • What route(s) did you use?
  • Where would you like to see a bike route for travel?
  • Have you had a small-town experience as a bike tourist you’d like to share?
May 8, 2012

Fat Girl on a Bike

First post by new occasional guest blogger and generally awesome woman Andrea Parrish–Spokane-based co-owner of Savor Sweets and Hydra Creations, photographer, and all-around netgeek.

Bikers

What I generally think when I hear the phrase “bike commuter.” Photo taken in Portland by me.

The image of a bike commuter, especially one with true bike style, is often one of a lithe woman wearing incredibly cute clothes, pedaling easily with cute Po Campo panniers. When I say I am a bike commuter, this is the image I like to think people have. The reality for me, however, is very different, but it is one that I do my best to accept with open arms. I am a fat girl on a bike.

Let me be clear. I don’t consider the term “fat” to be a derogatory term in this context; it is descriptive. I am 6’4″ tall, wear a dress size 28, and at last weigh-in I was at 375 pounds (down 25 pounds from the heaviest I’ve ever been). And I commute by bike.

Biking at this size comes with a variety of interesting challenges, admittedly. I had to send my bike in to the company to be repaired because the metal that holds the seat post ripped in half a few years ago. I’ve had to get my back tire rim replaced, because I kept popping spokes on the pothole-filled streets of Spokane. The internal hub that holds my breaks needs to be re-packed at least once a season. Clothes that easily go pedal-to-office are, at best, difficult to find.

Even with all of that, though, I absolutely adore biking. The feeling of freedom, the sense of accomplishment, and even the stares I get as I pedal by. I am a fat girl on a bike, and I love it. Biking allows me the chance to get in a workout in the time I would normally spend driving. Biking gives me the impetus to pay closer attention to my health. Biking is the one thing that is easy to fit into my (sometimes far too busy) schedule.

Biking Shadows

What I see when I am bike commuting. A bit of a difference.

There are a few things I have learned that make biking easier, no matter how large or small you may be. First of all, leggings, tights and a cotton camisole will become your best friends. Skirts are amazing to bike in, but only with leggings to provide some coverage and comfort. A good camisole can also serve as your base layer. If you are like me and have to switch shirts when you get to work, because biking more than a mile or two means you will sweat, no matter how hard you try not to. A good cotton camisole means you can change shirts easily, no cramped bathroom or private office required.

Second, a good local bike shop is absolutely invaluable. I ride a Kona AfricaBike, which is a three-speed cruiser bike with a basket, a step-through frame, and a covered chain. Over the years, I have ended up replacing the rim, adding a back rack, adding panniers, and switching out the bike seat. Two local bike shops have helped me get the bike adjusted, sized, and repaired time and time again. They never flinch when I bring in my bike with the latest weird problem, they just do their best to fix it. I’ve never once had a local bike shop make me feel “fat.”

Bike Style has no size. Being a fat girl and a bike commuter at the same time means that I face some interesting challenges, but those challenges are worth solving.

April 21, 2012

Just Capital! The Blogspedition Heads to Washington, DC

This coming week I get to appreciate our nation’s capitol yet again on an annual trip I make as part of a community delegation to meet with our federal elected officials, their staff, and various agencies on behalf of Spokane priorities.

Since these include projects of the university where I head up communications and public affairs I’m working while I’m there, but the schedule does have some gaps that may permit me to check out the Capital Bikeshare program or rent a bike from a local shop and pedal up and down the Mall a bit. I usually walk myself into the ground squeezing in museum visits between meetings–a bike would make it all so much easier and more efficient!

Meanwhile, as with my trip to New York City in February, I’m doing a blogspedition round-up in honor of the trip. I’ll also share some impressions of the biking the way I did for the Big Apple.

Washington, DC, has a number of active bloggers, and without further ado, here they are!

  • A Girl and Her Bike: Kate is keeping up with her 30 Days of Biking riding and posting here and at Tales from the Sharrows too. You can catch up with her via Twitter at @girlonabikedc. What you may not learn unless you dig a bit more is that she’s a DC police officer and once got hit on her bike by a guy who did it deliberately, then tried to get away with it. Bad idea. That particular post has great advice in case you’re involved in a hit and run, by the way. (Hint: The police arrest drivers, not cars; go ahead and memorize the license plate if you can but get a really good look at the driver and passengers first.)
  • Bicycling to Work: Char blogs about her 14-mile daily round trip into DC with stories about chains, reflective vests, and all that good commute stuff.
  • CAWES Cycling: Racers with nicknames like Princess Leah, Raspa, Grizzly, and Lemming blog here about their experiences trying to move up in category, win, or just survive, and their work to support the IM Able Foundation, which works to inspire “all individuals, disabled and able-bodied, realize the potential to go further and push harder than their preconceived limits.” (I’m heading over to post a link about this on the Veterans’ Day post I wrote about groups and efforts like this.)
  • Chasing Mailboxes: She’s @gypsybug on Twitter and she rides some seriously crazy mileage in addition to commuting!
  • Mastering the Uphill Shift: @BloomingCyclist tells it like she sees it, including stories of those times when a ride doesn’t turn out all that great. She also hangs out on Tumblr at The Uphill Shift, where you’ll find a big set of photos of male bike-racing hotties. Enjoy!
  • Pedal ‘n’ Purl: @nikki_d bikes and knits, a combination I run across frequently in these blogs (hey, that would make for a great blogspedition! Coming soon.) and writes about her canning over at Gin and Pickles (getting pickled more than one way?).
  • Sticky Femme: Her Tumblr site mostly consists of very happy photos of dates with her sweetie and mentions of fabulous restaurants. This is a key site for me since I’m going to be eating out a lot this coming week! She’s @stickyfemme on Twitter.
  • Where the Bike Takes Me: It’s defunct (last post in 2009) but I’m capturing it here for posterity. It may symbolize a stat I just got from Andrea (soon to be a guest blogger here!), that 95% of all personal blogs are abandoned. It’s just possible that the final post’s reference to an “ever-growing belly” means that motherhood took over blogging time….
  • Will Bike for Change (or Pie!): My favorite title of all of these! She offers up a great mix of ride reports and passionate advocacy, and who doesn’t love pie? I’m thinking we’re long-lost sisters. She’s @willbikeforchange on Twitter.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Do you have any travel plans coming up?
  • Do they involve riding a bike?
  • Have any special requests for a blogspedition? Doesn’t have to be geographical–could be thematic (like the knitting bikers/biking knitters one mentioned above) or based on anything I might be able to tease out of the list.
Tags: ,
April 11, 2012

30 Days of Biking: Hills and Miles and Darkness, Oh My!

Today’s easy-squeezy 8.4 miles, broken up into nice manageable chunks of 10 minutes or less, nonetheless provided plenty of reminders of yesterday’s butt-burner: over 27 miles total, with a huge chunk of that spent slogging slowly up a hill climb that I thought would never end.

But it was fun, honest!

The set-up: I did my usual quick little ride to work, sprinting because I was going to be late to a meeting and beating my “race time” by at least 30 seconds.

After work I dressed in one of my cute little Nuu-Muus, a pair of actual (gasp!) bike shorts (couldn’t find the adorable lace-trimmed Sheila Moon lingerie knickers, alas, and decided I’d ride with more padding than Pedal Panties provide), and a white Sheila Moon bolero, along with (another gasp, please) bike shoes that let me clip in.

Just the thing for a nice long ride out to Spokane County Raceway Park, where Sweet Hubs and his compatriots were pitted against each other in the first of the season’s Twilight Series Road Race put on by his club, Baddlands.

Google Maps results list for routes from Riverpoint Campus to Spokane County Raceway ParkRoute selection required some comparisons of Google Maps choices. They offered three, with the kind suggestion, “Or take Public Transit” linked below, in case the idea of a ride of 9-10 miles with hill climbs (no matter what) didn’t appeal.

Their first proposed bike route, West Trails road accessed through the West Central neighborhood and Riverside State Park, involved dropping clear down to the Spokane River Gorge and climbing back up out of it. Beautiful, sure, but can’t we stay on top of the grade?

Route 1: West Trails via West Central neighborhood and a lot of extra climbing.

Route 2, while a mile shorter, carries with it a more hostile traffic setting, taking Sunset Boulevard (not bad) to US-2 (not good, although I’ve ridden it before—the highway is the main route to a correctional facility, a casino, and Fairchild Air Force Base, making it busy and full of people who may or may not want to be making that particular trip). The one thing this route does get almost right is the section from downtown west to the decision point where you have to head toward West Trails or stay on Sunset Boulevard.

Route 3, Government Way and West Trails, again has part of it right. But someone needs to ask Google Maps programmers, “Pretty please could you take terrain into account, by which we mean grade?” This route, too, drops you down into the river gorge, this time via Peaceful Valley, then brings you back up out.

Getting closer, but still some unnecessary concessions to gravity.

The key to my route selection, since I’m not training for the Tour de France, sounds a lot like advice in drawing up battle lines: Hold the high ground for as long as possible.

As soon as you start enjoying one of those exhilarating “Wheeee!” moments down a long hill the back of your brain should remind you that riding a bike is like riding a roller coaster: A down is generally followed by an up that will be a lot slower and not nearly as fun.

So the route I chose is the Barb route, based on feeling comfortable enough to skip the Centennial Trail and stick to streets that are straighter, knowing neighborhoods to cut through to skip some of the streets with more traffic, and eliminating as much climbing as possible for as long as possible.

  • Spokane Falls Boulevard around to where it connects to the short stretch of bike lane on Riverside Avenue, then into Browne’s Addition onto Pacific.
  • Through the roundabout at Cannon by The Elk (a bike-friendly restaurant!) and down to Sunset Boulevard.
  • To Government Way and out past the turn to Spokane Falls Community College. Not long after that stoplight, Government Way becomes West Trails and you start to cliiiiiiiiiiimb.
  • West Trails becomes Hayford Road, you take a quick right on Sprague, and you’re practically there. Or if you’re me, you go past “there” and end up visiting the vicinity of the correctional facility before backtracking and wending in through the construction to the raceway exactly an hour after I set off.

Where—ta-da!—I arrived in time to give Sweet Hubs a good-luck kiss before sending him off with the rest of the B-pack for their criterium (several fast laps around a relatively short, flat track). He won with a nice sprint at the end, which is a great payoff for all those winter nights he spent on the trainer in front of a movie.

We then rode home together through the gathering darkness, shivering a bit (wish I’d had those knickers to cover my knees!) until the ride warmed us.

The downhill “Wheee!” was incredibly fast considering how long it took me to climb going the other way. I couldn’t believe it when we’d already reached the traffic light by SFCC and I knew we had just a few more miles and a bit more climbing, thankfully separated by some straight stretches and downhill rests, and we’d be home.

We heard frogs singing their hearts out, felt the difference in temperature as we entered the urban core and felt the day’s warmth radiating out, and made it home safe and sound with 27-1/2 miles on my cyclometer and 1,392 calories burned according to my heart monitor dealio.

And today, I felt every single mile in my legs when I climbed, whether it was climbing a hill on my bike or a set of stairs at work to help rack up the mileage on my pedometer. It will be a couple of days before I try anything like that long a ride again, but it felt great to be able to do it.

I want to build back up to the mileage I used to accumulate that made it easy to plan a 30-40-mile ride with Sweet Hubs and I have to start somewhere.

Just, maybe . . . somewhere flatter?

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Climbed any really long hills/mountains? (Lately or ever?)
  • What’s the hardest part of it for you and how do you deal with that?
April 8, 2012

30 Days of Biking: Why Week 1 Doesn’t Have 7 Days of Riding in It, and why that’s OK

The ride reports for 30 Days of Biking hold me accountable, but they can’t change what life throws at you, so I’m not going to ride 30 days in April. And you know what? I’m okay with that.

When I set a goal—for the first time ever—of riding a certain number of miles and a certain number of days this year, probably the wisest reaction I got was from Kent Peterson, who writes Kent’s Bike Blog. After providing a link to a mileage tracker that gives you medals, he said, “…in the past few years I’ve gone the complete opposite in terms of mileage and instrumentation. I haven’t had a mileage computer on my bike for a couple of years. I often take pictures and write down stories, however.”

Yes he does, and I enjoy reading those stories. He has chosen mindfulness (one of my three watchwords for 2012 riding) over record-keeping.

I have reflected on that wisdom several times as I’ve had various reasons for not riding. Being really sick was an obvious one, and it took a while to come back from that. While I’m pretty hardcore as far as the weather I’m willing to ride in, preferring fresh air and people-powered movement over other options, the winter that waited until early spring to show up has presented a few days when riding really would have represented misery, not joy. That’s not why I ride.

And then there was this week. After getting off to a start with two very different days I had a “normal” day—riding to work and back.

That was followed by a trainer day on which I chose to throw my bike on the trainer in the evening and pedal far longer than I would have on the road. I’d had to drive to Pullman and back that day in pretty blizzardy conditions—a freakish snowstorm pounded the Palouse so I had three hours of nerve-straining car mileage. All I would have managed on the street would have been another token loop around the block. Since I do ride for health benefits as well as joy and transportation, I decided to burn more calories and work on building endurance for longer rides with Sweet Hubs.

Friday and Saturday I didn’t ride.

I didn’t ride because one of my favorite uncles passed away very unexpectedly and I went to the funeral.

For a brief moment I flirted with the idea of breaking my bike down and packing it into the back of my sister’s car so I could do token rides around the block in Lewiston, Idaho, where we were born and where the service was held.

Really? I really would have put keeping on track with a self-imposed series of checkmarks on a list over and ahead of these things?

  • paying attention to my family
  • celebrating my uncle’s incredible life
  • laughing at funny stories compiled by my aunt about his shenanigans–he was always one for a good laugh and a practical joke
  • mourning his passing, which came just six days after they discovered he had the same kind of silent, insidious cancer that killed Steve Jobs
  • sitting and talking with my siblings and drinking wine
  • catching up with my cousins, including my cousin who looks so much like his now-gone dad that I cried every time I hugged him
  • visiting my parents and holding my mother’s hand while she told me long stories full of gibberish because she has vascular dementia but at least she still laughs and smiles
  • staying up late into the night talking with my younger sister in our shared hotel room and sharing a piece of chocolate cream pie for breakfast (hey, we were hungry and it has dairy, right?)

In another post I mentioned getting a lift home in my husband’s truck and why I don’t think of that as something for which I need to apologize, which I imagine comes as a surprise to people who think I’m “too hardcore” for that.

I’m not. And being with my family and realizing all over again how fragile and short life is, how important it is to make every moment count, for me reflects the reason I ride my bike—the reason I pay attention—at a far deeper level than a calendar ever could.

April 2, 2012

30 Days of Biking: Starting off with Very Different Days

30 Days of Biking has only one rule: Ride your bike every day.Signing up for 30 Days of Biking “forces” riding on you. That isn’t an issue when you love to ride–or it shouldn’t be. But sometimes the day sort of sneaks away from you….

As did Day #1! I spent the day working away at my computer, watching a typical early spring day for Spokane: Snow, rain, wind, sun, rain, snow, wind. May have been sleet, too.

I kept waiting for the break that would entice me out the door but the sunshine always peeked through the clouds right when I had “just one more thing to do and then I’ll ride.” Then the ominous greyness would close in again.

Over the course of the day I tweeted a couple of times about #30daysofbiking. I posted on Facebook. I highlighted the post I wrote on Saturday, which I considered “30 Days of Biking Eve.”

But it wasn’t until 10:30 at night that I said, “I’m doing this!”, pushed back from the dining room table where I had been jacked into my laptop all day, and headed out the door.

Like one of the rides I took last September, this was a “nothing” ride taken only to keep up with the schedule. All of .45 miles long and roughly 3 minutes, the route took me out to the street near our house that has a bike lane, then around a little quiet neighborhood loop and back to the house.

For a nothing ride, though, it had peace and quiet, stars and wind, and the always-joyous feeling of moving myself under my own power. I was reminded all over again that every day with a bike ride is a good day.

Now today was just the opposite: a long, planned ride. I took the day off work for the start of spring break even though the kids weren’t around (grown-ups deserve spring break too!).

Sweet Hubs and I checked the forecast, which predicted the warmest weather (51 degrees F) around 2 p.m. and only a slight chance of rain. We watched the skies and broke out the gear at around noon.

We had discussed a couple of options and settled on an old standby: Ride down to the Riverpoint Campus where I work and from there take the Centennial Trail along Upriver Drive to the Rocket Bakery on Argonne, around 9 miles one way.

Spokane experienced record-setting rain in March and the Spokane River rushed past us, swollen with rain and snowmelt, for most of the route. Parts of the trail where it runs closer to the river were actually underwater but the on-street bike lane on the shoulder was fine.

After a coffee and bagel at the Rocket we walked up to Argonne Cyclery to check out the stock, then took a different route home we’d planned with the help of my smartphone while we sipped.

One of the things I love about riding my bike is the freedom it gives me to take different routes. Something about being in a car puts us all on autopilot (tell me you haven’t found yourself taking the wrong freeway exit because it’s one you always take but this time you were supposed to be going somewhere else). I can’t be on autopilot on my bike because mindfulness matters, and that applies to route selection as well as riding tactics.

This was an awesome route and one we’ll take again. I’d highly recommend it as a way to get from Millwood back to the South Hill on some different streets.

From Argonne we took Empire/Euclid (conveniently located a block south of the Rocket Bakery) west; it’s a quiet residential street alongside the railroad tracks. Heading south on Park we were delighted to find a bike lane that took us almost all the way to Sprague, with just one pinch point under an overpass just north of Sprague.

We headed west again on Eighth, which at some point becomes Hartson. We passed a historical marker indicating we were on the original Captain John Mullan Trail and a creative scarecrow on a bike perched in a field, among other sights.

At Freya you have to take a righthand turn onto the one-way–a bit of traffic at this spot. We headed westbound again on Fifth to Liberty Park, and along the way we passed some little neighborhood businesses and the East Central Community Center

Here we had a choice. We could turn north and get through the weird stretch of Second Avenue at the Hamilton exit to take Arthur southbound. It’s doable but I wouldn’t send a newbie through there–lots of traffic, including encounters with people who have just exited the freeway and haven’t ditched all the speed yet despite the signage (including the fatality statistics sign).

Instead, we climbed a steep set of switchbacks on the paved Ben Burr Trail up out of Liberty Park (look for it at the east end of the park). This brought us out onto a steep gravel street–our old friend Hartson–and from there we hit Perry and rode south to home.

Tomorrow will have me back in the usual commuter routine–no problem getting a day of riding in there. We’ll see how the full 30 days go, but at least I’m off to a rolling start! (Including my second road test of my new Sheila Moon Lingerie Knickers with the lace trim–watch for a review post soon.)

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • How did Day 1 go?
  • Day 2?
  • You can start the 30 days April 3 and go through May 3, if you like–planning to jump in now?
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