Archive for May, 2012

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.

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