March 31, 2012

Another 30 Days of Biking–Can We Do It? Heck Yeah!

Rosie the Riveter. You Can Do It!Last September I recorded my daily path through 30 Days of Biking, making it through the month riding (and blogging) every single day.

April is another 30-Day-er and I’m in again. Are you with me?

April can be the cruelest month, involving as it does a week’s worth of travel to Washington, DC, for me that will make bike time a little more challenging (that and other issues shot down my attempt in April 2011). Good thing DC has a bike share program! (Although it would be even cooler if I could find someone to borrow a bike from.)

I’m not promising 30 blog posts this time; that was tougher than the riding! I’ll do the weekly “accountability” posts because keeping track does make a difference.

Want to sign up? Register at 30 Days of Biking, check them out on Facebook, and if you’re on Twitter be sure to use #30daysofbiking to talk about your rides.

30 Days of Biking has only one rule: Ride your bike every day.And here’s an offer for you: If having a bike buddy to encourage you will help you complete the challenge and email encouragement will fill the bill, send me an email at bikestylespokane-at-gmail-dot-com (fooled you, spammers!).

I’ll send you all a daily email, and if fame is a further incentive and you have stories to share about your adventures I’ll feature them in blog posts here (with whatever identification you want me to use).

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Are you up for it?
  • What will represent the biggest barrier or issue for you (that you can foresee at this point)?
  • How do you plan to get past that?
March 24, 2012

The Skirt Scoot: A Key Maneuver

Skirts can be easier to ride in than pants, but they have their dark side. Read on for a little Twitter discussion I was reminded of the other day. (Note for those who aren’t on Twitter: When someone replies to a tweet the original appears above with the reply below in this format, so you’ll see some tweets duplicated.)

Just the other day I experienced “some alarm” and was reminded yet again of the importance of the skirt scoot maneuver.

What’s that, you ask? My nickname for a little move I’ve adopted, born of a combination of the occasional disastrous skirt fabric/length combo and my fondness/weakness for alliteration.

Cream-colored vintage knit dress from Carousel Vintage, Spokane, WA

Love-love-love this stretchy little number from Carousel Vintage. It’s a soft, nubbly knit and even if I forget my skirt scoot I can easily pull the skirt up and off the saddle just by standing on the pedals. Woven fabrics? Not so forgiving in your nanosecond of need.

This is the maneuver I now try to remember to execute any time I get on the bike, whether it’s as I leave the house in the morning or when the light turns green: Lift up and slide back, making sure the fabric of the skirt is trapped between the saddle and your butt.

It’s just a simple little step, but an easy one to forget. The times I have forgotten it and just plopped onto the saddle led to the “some alarm” tweet above. Those were the times when a skirt with an unforgiving non-stretch fabric happened to be just the right length to get caught over the back of the saddle.

What happens next, as you begin to slow for a stop and plan to step smoothly and gracefully off the saddle, is that you can’t. You are caught on the saddle by the fabric of your skirt and you are starting to tip over.

So far I’ve been lucky. I’ve felt the catch in time to push back on the pedals and unhook the skirt, but not without a nice little adrenalin rush.

I’ve already mostly moved away from straight skirts in my wardrobe as I’ve shifted my shopping toward a bike-friendly mindset. I ride a regular road bike for my commuting as well as for fun and straddling the top bar is just less (ahem) ladylike in a straight skirt that I have to hoist to mid-thigh to get enough leg maneuvering space. (I still have a few I won’t give up, mind you–I’m careful about where I stand when I hoist on so I continue to be the lady my mother raised me to be. Avert your eyes, you creeper.)

The moment of panic when I realize I didn’t skirt-scoot and I am now skirt-stuck is a reinforcement of my fashion move toward skirts with a slightly flippier hemline, and definitely ones with stretchy fabric.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • What clothing-induced moments of panic have you experienced?
  • Any great tips for avoiding said panic in the future, à la skirt scoot?
March 22, 2012

Shop & Swap! Spokane Bike Swap Saturday-Sunday

Close-up of Nuu-Muu and Ruu-Muu fabricsC’mon down! Bike Style Spokane will hold our first shopping event of the season (it is the season, honest! Snow? What snow?) at this weekend’s Spokane Bike Swap.

The event offers plenty of reasons besides our bike stylin’ cuteness to head on out to the Spokane Fairgrounds, and with a forecast of 57 degrees for Saturday and 59 for Sunday you’ll be itching to think about bikes (and what you’ll wear riding, of course).

The deets–

Saturday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Sunday, 9 a.m.-noon

Spokane Fairgrounds, Annex A

Entrance fee: $5 (kids 12/under free)

Proceeds benefit the Friends of the Centennial Trail, who have worked for decades to provide this great community amenity.

Once upon a time I was a volunteer for the North Idaho Centennial Trail Committee as we worked to construct the trail segment on that side of the state line, before I moved back to Spokane to a location that lets me ride along the Spokane River pretty often (but never often enough).

If you’re in the market for a bike for yourself or a kidlet in the family, you’ll have an array to choose from, both new and used–everything from mountain bikes to recumbents. If you’re ready to trade up or get rid of a spare you can sell your bike too ($10 fee to sell).

You’ll find bikes and gear both new and used, the chance to practice getting your bike on and off the bike rack on a Spokane Transit bus, helmet fitting, bike tour info, and more–and of course, the chance to hang out with Spokane’s friendly bike community and talk shop.

Bike Style will be there with a sampling of some of the cute products we carry and a new item or two you haven’t seen yet, with special pricing on a few items just for you.

Pop quiz: What’s one of the distinguishing features of the Spokane Transit system as it relates to bikes? Post your guesses in the comment section below and I’ll post the answer later.

Poster for Pedal Panties: Underwear for extra comfort on your bike saddle that fits under regular clothes. Made in US.

Pedal Panties. You know you want 'em. Or need 'em. More than underwear, less than a bike short.

March 19, 2012

Around the World in 80 Days (and then Some): A Traveling Blogspedition

World map from 1808How would you like to bike around the world, meet people, share food with them, and blog about the connections you create in the process?

Yeah, me too. Amie Thao and partner Olli Tumelius are cycling across Europe and Asia, the world’s largest land mass, to document people, stories, and cuisines at their site, International Supper Club. Amie got in touch to let me know about their Kickstarter campaign to help fund the trip and I wanted to share it with you all.

A couple of notes from their blog:

“Why cycling? Human-powered, environmentally-friendly, cost-effective and fun. On bikes we are fast enough to cross deserts without going insane and slow enough to say hello to everybody along the way.

“Why food? Besides being delicious, food serves as a catalyst for storytelling and grounds the story in a tangible way.”

If you’re not familiar with Kickstarter, it’s a means of crowdsourcing a creative project that lets all of us be little tiny investors (or great big investors) in cool projects that speak to our hearts, not just to our wallets.

Amie and Ollie join a great group of world-traveling people on bikes I’ve gotten to know a bit about through the process of compiling the Women’s Bike Blog list. Thus they inspire this blogspedition:

  • Family on Bikes: The Vogel family biked from Alaska to Argentina; their kids now hold the world record as the youngest ever to cycle the Pan-American Highway.
  • Travelling Two: Friedel & Andrew have cycled in 33 countries.
  • Cycling Silk: Kate and Melissa cycled the Silk Road (again) in 2011.
  • World by Cycle: Kristina and Nic are cycling around the world in 2012.
  • Cycling Gypsies: In 2008 Zoa and Fin quit their jobs and packed their ginormous dogs into bike trailers to head out around the world. They haven’t stopped.
  • Bicycling Around the World: Paul and Grace are photographing their way by bike.

Your Turn

  • Have you ever dreamed of bike travel?
  • What’s holding you back?
  • What are you going to do about that?
Tags: ,
March 14, 2012

Why a Cyclist Needs a Pedometer

StepUp Spokane pedometer

Not nearly enough steps showing on this baby! Take the stairs, take the stairs, take the stairs....

I’m going to blow my cover here. What with being a poster girl for riding a bike in all kinds of clothes and all kinds of weather, I have people reasonably convinced that I’m “active.”

They say that very thing: “Oh, you’re so active!” Like yeast, or yogurt cultures.

The truth is that I bike because I’m lazy. A pedometer proves that in no uncertain terms, which is why I need to wear one.

I like keeping track of my healthy activities in a log—seeing all those days when I do something gives me a sense of accomplishment and makes me want to keep the string going. When I started adding steps to the bike mileage, that gave me a reality check on just how little I do some days!

Here’s why: My ride to work is a hair under 2.5 miles, which takes me around 9 minutes of pedaling (under 9 if I “race”). If I don’t run any errands or go to meetings and ride home at the end of the day, I’ve done under 5 miles—around 23 minutes total riding time or thereabouts (hey, it’s uphill on the way home—takes longer).

I don’t ride fast because I don’t particularly want to sweat, so this isn’t vigorous training time.

When I get to work I may think, “I rode my bike to work, didn’t I?” and take the elevator to my fifth-floor office.

If I plug that bit of bike time into a standard activity calculator like the StepUp Spokane one that translates time into steps, it’s around 4,600 steps—less than half of the healthy target of 10,000 steps per day.

If I have a day that doesn’t involve meetings outside the office, it’s probably also a day plugged into my two-monitor set-up so tightly I may as well be physically jacked into the system. I sit-sit-sit, staring at the screen, leaning forward a little in my chair until the backs of my legs go dead.

What I do not do is get up and walk around.

But if I’m wearing the pedometer, that moment of arrival at the building represents a chance to rack up steps climbing the stairs to my office. I get up and walk down the hall to talk to a colleague instead of shooting her an email (crazy, I know!). I may take a stretch break and walk down a couple of flights and back up. I walk down the stairs at the end of the day.

Wearing the pedometer is the first step (walking pun!). But it’s the power of writing it down and looking at patterns that really makes this work. If I wore a pedometer but didn’t log the data I wouldn’t have any sense of how one day compares to another. I wouldn’t be able to recognize that riding my bike gives me the illusion of more activity than is actually occurring.

And I wouldn’t have the sense of satisfaction I get on a “high mileage” day: one that includes lots of walking in addition to biking.

This post originally appeared on StepUp Spokane.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Are you a recordkeeper when it comes to your health and fitness?
  • How does that make a difference in your behavior and choices?
February 28, 2012

The Soundtrack in my Head

Let's Blog Off badge from letsblogoff.com

This post is inspired by #letsblogoff, a blog-writing challenge I stumbled across a while back thanks to Twitter. Every two weeks they throw out a theme and bloggers riff on it, taking it in all kinds of directions. We all link to each other’s posts but I am currently having trouble getting the Javascript to run that would pull the table, so for now go look at this post on Let’s Blog Off.

The current theme is “that song stuck in your head.” Now, earworms are a common malady at our house. Even though you’ll never walk in and find us actually playing a CD, we seem to have plenty of music floating around somehow.

For one thing, I live with a daughter who performs in musical theater, so we often find ourselves humming a snatch of some show tune. I’m currently really stuck on some of the numbers from “Legally Blonde, The Musical”–she played Elle Woods in a production last December and was fantastic.

Sweet Hubs likes to plug in his MP3 player and rock out while he’s working on projects in the garage, which will sometimes entail him coming back and forth into the house to grab a coffee refill or something. When I find myself singing a number from The Police or Queen later on, it’s probably because he sang a bit in the kitchen.

Or we’ll be talking about some story from high school or college years, think of a song it reminds us of, say, “Who was that singer again?”, and go find a clip on YouTube.

These and other sources contribute the soundtrack that sometimes plays in my head as I ride my bike to work, or to errands and meetings during the day.

Sometimes the song is pretty obvious:

Sometimes it’s one that reflects my mood (watch for the bicycle at the very beginning of the video—I hadn’t realized it was there until I went to find this):

It may be something that makes me dance a little on my bike saddle, like this one (I defy you not to dance):

The Thursday Zumba class I go to at work contributed this one:

I rarely find myself in the car driving somewhere, but recently have had to do some Stage Mom duties to ferry Second Daughter home from rehearsals. If I’m not listening to NPR I find a station that plays music I listened to in high school and college, which can plant an earworm or two. I might end up with something like this:

or this:

or this, if I spot a kitty cat along the way:

And then there’s this one, which is now in my head because the Let’s Blog Off had the theme “If you could turn back time” on their list of past topics:

You’re welcome.

Related Reading

  • Sing It Loud, Sing It Proud: A Fourth of July post on Bike to Work Barb, my personal blog, about sings that for me relate to being an American–some great earworms on this list too

Your Turn

What’s on your mental turntable?

Tags: ,
February 23, 2012

They’re Coming Back! Spring and Health

Reasonably good indicators on both fronts: returning health, and returning spring. Biking keeps me attuned to both conditions–my physical well-being and the turning of the seasons–in ways that driving could never provide.

Health: My uphill ride home is a real indicator of whether I’ve shaken off whatever crud has attacked.

Not good: I sound like someone you’d want beginning nurses and doctors to listen to with a stethoscope for the definition of the word “rales” because I’m still crackling like a bowl of Rice Krispies.

Not good: Still a most unladylike amount of nasal fluids being produced.

Good: On the last couple of climbs toward home I’m no longer in first gear–I’m in third. Woohoo! These are hills that I usually do in the middle ring of my front derailleur, not the little ring, so I still have a way to go, but this is progress.

Spring: Like fall, it’s another shoulder season when I start playing “musical layers”–take off one, take off another one, decide I need that one for a few more days after all….

I also play musical gloves: lobster-claws in the morning, five-fingered in the afternoon because my hands would sweat in the lobsters.

Right now I need to be dressed more warmly for the ride to work because I create more speed and thus more windchill factor going downhill, it’s colder in the morning, and I don’t have the warmth of working to go uphill. In full summer it’s the same morning and afternoon.

Today’s outfit:

  • Black cotton/Lycra leggings
  • Lightweight Helle Hansen long johns–not the thick Hot Chilis I was wearing a few weeks ago
  • Wool socks
  • Tall gray boots (a souvenir of my trip to New York City with Second Daughter)
  • Camisole
  • Microweight cream-colored long-sleeved wool tee from Swrve
  • Gray cable-knit hoodie sweater from REI
  • Cute scarf
  • Morning: Windbreaker, lobster-claw gloves
  • Afternoon: Stopped halfway home to take off the windbreaker; five-finger gloves
  • Long gone: The face mask I was wearing to block windchill and warm my breath; a cap under the helmet; fleece neckwarmer; another layer of wool stockings under the long johns and leggings

Biggest indicators of all that we’re turning toward spring: blue skies, fat, puffy clouds instead of gray overcast dullness, birds chirping, and the sunlight on the road as I headed home around 3:30 (can’t quite hack a whole day yet).

I can’t wait for full spring and full health. Meanwhile, the bike helps me feel more optimistic about both coming back soon!

Ride Report

  • Days ridden: 27/54 (goal is 250 days this year–travel and illness are hurting my percentages right now but I’ll get back on track)
  • Miles: 203.5 (goal for 2012 is 1,200)

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Did you ride today?
February 20, 2012

A Weak Week–Coming Back from the Flu

I had been thinking recently about writing a post on how strong biking makes me feel. Instead, this week being on the bike will force me to acknowledge physical weakness. I got back on the bike this morning after being home on the sofa for a full week, sick with an upper-respiratory flu that I haven’t really shaken yet.

This has become a bit of an unwelcome spring ritual the last few years, this nasty bug. Whether or not I get a flu shot (and I usually do but missed it this year), I seem to come down with a crud that knocks me off my feet and onto the sofa, where I lie doing abs workouts in the form of gut-wrenching coughs and concerto-style nose-blowing. I drink lots of water and herbal tea and take a few symptom-relief meds and wait it out, the way my mother would have handled it.

Every year I go through the same thing coming back. The first day I think I can put in at least a partial day at the office, I go ahead and get on the bike to ride, because that’s my habit. Downhill to work isn’t so bad. My office mates may not have appreciated the “productive” coughs I served up all day (which make me feel so unproductive), but I survived.

It’s the uphill climb coming back that really tells me I’ve been sick. I can listen to the congestion in my chest rattling as I suck wind. I gear way, way down compared to what I’d usually be in to climb. I pedal more slowly. I really, really appreciate “missing” the stoplight because then I can stop and breathe.

And since it was chilly this morning I sure wished my lobster-claw gloves had a nose-wiping patch. My nose usually runs like a faucet anyway when I ride, but it’s more fire-hydrant level at this point. (What’s that? Too much information? Sorry about that. Forgot the “style” part of this blog for a minute there….)

So why do I do it? Why not just take the easy way out and pick up the car keys?

Well, apart from all the hassle that driving represents for me, I’d honestly rather be out in the fresh air, even feeling a bit shaky, then stuck inside the car. I feel as if I’m on the road to recovery if I follow my usual habits, rather than giving in. The ride uphill on the way home becomes a barometer for my real recovery. I may be up and walking around and able to go to work, but until I can pedal home breathing normally and not have to granny-gear the last couple of hills, I’m not really well.

I’d really rather ride, even sick, than not ride.

Your Turn

  • When you’re sick do you lay off the riding as part of your recovery?
  • How do you know when you’re ready to start riding again?
Tags: ,
February 13, 2012

Consider Adoption–of a Bike Lane, That Is

Now that our itty-bitty bit of snow has melted, the bike lanes are left with the detritus of road sand, leaf piles some of your neighbors pushed into the lane last fall, and all the rest of the things that accumulate over the winter.

On my way home I occasionally have to take the vehicle lane instead of the bike lane because of the amount of gunk piled up alongside the curb.

Herewith, an idea for something we could get rolling informally with the goal of a more formal program down the road (ha ha—transportation joke!): Adopt-a-Bike-Lane.

Back row: Casey Owens, Carolyn Cooke, Suzanne Richardson, Cory Bone, Linda Hartley, Margaret Mendoza, Lori Morrison, Merritt Riley and Bill Riley Front row: Althea Riley and Mike Bauer Bill Riley Communities Litter Crew has participated in the Adopt-a-Highway program since April 2005. The group adopted SR512 from Canyon Road to 94th Avenue. Mile Post 6 to 8.Many years ago I had a mile of highway adopted (in north Idaho on Hwy. 41). A few times a year I got out and picked up trash. It offered all the entertainment value of an Easter egg hunt except what you find is NOT chocolate and you DON’T want to put it in your mouth….

What I have in mind for bike lanes is kind of along those lines, but made a lot easier since the city already cleans streets every so often. (No one was off in the weeds alongside Hwy. 41 gathering empty generic vodka bottles and crumpled cigarette packs except me.)

What would be utterly fantastic as a starting point would be people adopting the stretch of bike lane (or designated bike route, or heck, even the two or three feet of a regular street closest to the curb) alongside our homes.

It’s essentially a small extension of yard work. When we go out to rake up pine needles or maple leaves in the fall, shovel snow in the winter, or clean off debris in the spring, we just extend our responsibility beyond the sidewalk (which is already our job, in case you didn’t know) and the bike lane. In cold conditions we make sure we’re not rinsing water into the lane where it will freeze and create a hazard. Then we take it a little further and pick up debris: broken glass, lug nuts, stray hubcaps, pieces of wire.

When it goes formal with signage, I can see local bike clubs, service clubs, organizations like the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, and others adopting stretches that aren’t in residential areas.

Part of the inspiration for this is, admittedly, a not-very-good neighbor down the road from me on Southeast Boulevard around Fourteenth. I’ve told a few folks about the encounters I’ve had in front of the house owned by people I have not-so-affectionately nicknamed “The Blockers.”

It hasn’t been bad in recent months. Maybe they moved.

But in the past, in the bike lane there on various occasions I have encountered—I kid you not—a cardboard box full of potted plants, a table full of glassware, and a stove—an electric four-burner stove. Talk about needing to be mindful–I need to be on the lookout for major appliances!

They routinely set their garbage and green waste bins in the lane. They rake their leaves into the lane (which is a violation of city code, by the way). The next step would be to just start throwing things out of the house windows directly into the lane without bothering to containerize first.

They have a perfectly good driveway and lawn that they ignore in favor of the bike lane for all their disposal needs. Those of you who utilize the bike lane going north on Southeast Boulevard probably recognize this description.

Since everyone has something to contribute to this world, I give them full credit for inspiring the adoption idea.

Cruising the Web I’ve found a few places with something called an Adopt-a-Bike-Lane program that’s really a problem reporting program: Bike/Walk Alliance for Missoula and Fort Collins, for example.

Since when did adopting something mean you only call others to deal with the problems instead of dealing with it yourself? Sure doesn’t mean that for kids or pets!

I’m looking for more hands-on solutions in which we don’t just complain about this–we do something about it–and am hoping to see links to examples of working civic or government programs posted in the comments.

So what do you think? Would you take this on right now without the fanfare and hoopla? Would you be more likely to do so if you got a nice sign with your individual or group name for acknowledgement of your effort and commitment?

Your Turn

  • What weirdness have you encountered in the bike lane?
February 11, 2012

Unmindful Biking by Yours Truly

At times I try to approach biking as a genuine mindfulness meditation. The immersion of self into the experience feels really wonderful when I get there.

At times, though, I’m immersed in something more like dumb-ass-ness. Herewith, three stories of times I was not 100% mindful on the bike (all of which took place some time ago and believe me, I learn from each one):

Dumb #1

I’m 3rd in line (taking the lane) behind a car and a pick-up truck at a red light (westbound on Spokane Falls at Bernard, for you Spokanites–in front of FedEx Kinko’s).

Light turns green. Car goes. Pick-up goes. I go.

I look down to check what gear I’m in or some such.

Car stops for unknown reason. Pick-up stops. I am looking down so….

I run into back of pick-up, fall over, and scrape myself up badly enough that I’m still bleeding when I arrive at the meeting I’m going to.

Good news: The driver stopped to ask if I was okay and if I needed any help.

Dumb #2 (although I give myself lots of latitude on this one because of the cause)

I’m turning left onto the Southeast Boulevard bike lane from our street. As is our ritual whenever one of us leaves and the other is still at home, Sweetest Husband is on the front porch waving to me.

I make sure it’s safe to make the left turn but…. in my love for my sweetheart and my desire to wave back, I manage to take the turn a little too wide, clip the curb, and fall over, scraping my knee. (There is a theme here.)

Good news: Sweet Hubs didn’t see my fall so he didn’t have to be all alarmed and rush to my rescue. However, I may hear about this now that it has been confessed to the Gods of Google.

Dumb #3 (could have been life-ending)

Sometimes–for some deeply masochistic reason–I ride at least part of the way up Stevens on the South Hill. It’s a heart attack hill with four lanes that split into two two-lane roads, one climbing farther up the hill as Bernard, one swinging left and dropping down to join Grand Boulevard.

As I go more and more slowly up the hill I eventually give up and move to the sidewalk to push my bike up. Someday I’ll climb the whole thing again–I used to ride up Bernard on a heavy old big-box special I called the Iron Maiden.

For the record it’s a 6.8 percent climb for this particular stretch, from Fourth Avenue up to Ninth. If you search for a Google Maps route on this stretch with the Bike option they don’t put you on Washington at all; they quite wisely send you up the much quieter side street Bernard, where your huffing and puffing aren’t slowing people on a four-lane arterial.

As the lefthand lanes swing left they also top out. This is a relatively blind corner for drivers who are accelerating up the hill on a major arterial.

Map of a portion of South Stevens Street, Spokane, WA

You don't want to climb this unless you're in training. Besides being steep, it carries a sometimes scary volume of traffic around blind corners and drivers don't expect cyclists here.

Like an idiot–and I have done this more than once and lived to tell the tale–instead of continuing to push my bike on the sidewalk at this point I get into the lane, clip in and start riding again.

I do always check to make sure no cars are coming. Since there’s a traffic light a couple of blocks down it’s relatively easy to recognize a burst of traffic and wait for it to pass so you’re in a clear zone. But that’s no guarantee, as traffic can come from side streets out of sight around the corner.

On one particular occasion–the last time I ever did this maneuver–I had trouble getting started pedaling after I’d clipped in and almost fell over before I could get my foot free to catch myself.

My pulse raced beyond anything I’ve achieved on a hill climb as I realized how easily I could have died if a driver had come whipping uphill around that blind corner just then.

Good news: I learned the lesson without paying the ultimate price. Never again.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • I’ve confessed some of my dumb-ass-ness. What near-miss did you have that shook you out of some of your less mindful or more careless/complacent biking habits?
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