Posts tagged ‘women’

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?
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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.

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?
January 25, 2012

Getting Healthy: The Blogspedition Looks at Biking for Weight Loss

Weight loss may or may not be your personal inspiration for getting on the bike, but plenty of women appreciate the ease of putting a little exercise into each day with bike commuting. Others gut it out on the trainer to attain personal goals in racing. Still others approach it as a chore because they want to lose weight specifically. Any way you slice it, biking burns more calories than sitting on the sofa with a bag o’ chips.

I’m not talking about trying for an unrealistic uber-skinny body, mind you. I’ve already blogged about the notion that a healthy body image isn’t tied to fitting into a specific dress size.

I’m talking about the basic level of activity that’s recommended by the American Heart Association for good health. They specifically mention dividing your moving-around efforts into two or three chunks of 10-15 minutes each, which is almost precisely how my typical bike commuting takes place.

This blogspedition rounds up a few posts and blogs that feature this topic:

For a weight-loss bonus, give blood. Some of you may remember the saying, “A pint’s a pound the world around” as a way of remembering measurements in the kitchen. Turns out it’s true at the blood bank too! Give a pint of blood and lose a pound, then burn some more calories as your body kicks up its production of replacement blood cells–all while you help save a life. What could be healthier than that?

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Is riding a bike part of a weight-control or weight-loss effort for you?
  • How’s it going?
  • Or does a post on weight loss piss you off because it seems to buy into unrealistic body-image issues for women?
January 19, 2012

On Getting From Here to There–A Betsy Post

A guest post by Betsy Lawrence, AKA “yogaprof,” the founder of Belles and Baskets

I have written previously about how I began bike commuting; now here are a few lessons I have discovered along the way.

Lesson one: Be flexible

Once I committed to biking to work, I started the work of fine-tuning my commute. I soon realized one of my favorite things about commuting by bike—it challenges the brain. I am constantly watching, assessing, and switching my plans.

For example, the first time I biked to work, I crossed the Greene Street Bridge by riding in the car lane. I know the rules—ride a bike as though it is a car. That day I learned to sometimes break that rule. This bridge is a very narrow four lanes and packed with trucks and cars.

I was terrified and realized the sidewalk is a much better choice. It is rarely used, and whenever I see pedestrians on the sidewalk, I get off my bike and wait for them to pass.

I often have to tweak my route or wait for an unexpected delay. Flexibility is part of bike commuting and is good for the brain.

Lesson two: Create a route that feels comfortable to you

I have had to rework my route several times due to road construction. While trying to come up with a new route, I learned that following the advice of a male friend who is a hard-core commuter was not the best plan. I ended up cycling along busy streets in industrial areas, surrounded by stinky vehicles and passing endless buildings and parking lots. The only wildlife I saw was an occasional pit bull or dead rat. That is not what I want out of my ride.

Now when I need to change my route because of construction, I choose to go the more picturesque way; an additional five minutes of biking that is pleasant is preferable to saving time but losing my lungs.

Lesson three: Break the commute into several short trips

To keep my ride from feeling daunting, I mentally break it into four segments: a ride to Barb’s house, a ride downtown, a ride to the river, and a ride to work.

Each segment consists of different terrain, neighborhoods and sometimes even temperature. I can mentally high-five myself after each portion and prepare for the next. It’s not an eight-mile ride; it’s four, two-mile rides, each with its own delights.

And most importantly, lesson four: Enjoy the view and say “hello”

I am privileged to have the option to bike commute. I have a nice, economical car, a pre-paid bus pass, and plenty of time. I am allowed the choice to cycle, and I choose to make it pleasurable.

I have the delight of riding along the Spokane River for a few miles when I bike commute. I see geese, ducks, and dog walkers. While that segment is easy to enjoy, even the most urban parts of my ride have their pleasures: the people I see.

I make it a point to say hello to everyone I pass (yes, EVERYONE) from spandexed runners, to street people with their shopping carts, to kids on skateboards, to folks exiting their Hummers. I figure these moments allow my community to see that cyclists are nice people and they give me the lift as well. I keep my eyes up and enjoy the view of nature and my neighbors. I feel immense gratitude when I can bike to work, and I hope to share that joy with everyone I pass.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • What bike commuting lessons have you learned along the way that you share with beginners?
January 14, 2012

Seeing with New Eyes

Sometimes I Would Like New Eyes, by Andrew Coulter Enright. Used under Creative Commons license.

Taking up biking for transportation has given me the same experience that becoming a mother did. No, not endless anxiety, sleepless nights, and sh**—well, at least not too much of the latter—but rather the experience of learning just how much the world was designed not for you, but against you, by people who do not share your particular circumstances.

You chose these circumstances. You love these circumstances and they bring you joy no matter what. But better design would make it a bit easier to enjoy these circumstances.

Disclaimer: I do not present these thoughts under the assumption that the entire world should be redesigned for new moms and women on bikes (although heavens, what a civilized world that would make).

I ask you only to consider what it might be like for someone whose circumstances differ from yours—to try to look through their eyes a bit and consider whether you can make some adjustments that accommodate more ways of viewing the world. We all wear blinders; can you take yours off?

I have never taken part in one of those days where you take on a particular disability to learn what the world can feel like from that vantage point, the way City Councilman Jon Snyder did when he spent the day in a wheelchair. But wrestling a baby stroller into and out of buildings that lacked automatic doors certainly made me wonder how people in wheelchairs could possibly manage (and probably made me a better Idaho state legislator and later a better grantwriter for a disability rights organization).

When I had my first baby (who’s all grown up now!) I began a voyage of discovery, as Marcel Proust would have it: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” 

Dealing with the needs of a baby or child when surrounded by people who don’t have one, as any parent can tell you, often gives you a new lens through which to view the world.

Riding a bike for transportation has taken me on another voyage and given me new eyes as well. Most parts of this voyage give me great joy. What I get to do on my bike:

  • See my city from a fresh vantage point, without the isolating barrier of over 3,000 pounds of steel, glass, and assorted petroleum products wrapped around me.
  • Make actual eye contact with people out walking, biking, or driving. smile, and connect.
  • Give directions to lost drivers who can’t ask another driver, because how would you?
  • Notice details I never saw in all the years I drove: architectural features on buildings, interesting signage, side streets that offer a different route to my destination.
  • Spot businesses I had no idea even existed that I make a mental note about so I can come back and check them out—or I stop on the spot because I don’t have to search for a parking place so I feel free to make these spontaneous decisions.

If you have never ridden a bike on streets you usually drive, you have no idea what you don’t see.

Then there’s the flip side—the one created by design that leaves you out.

I remember pushing my stroller into a crowded conference room and realizing there was nowhere to stash it—because women with babies were not expected in those particular marble hallways.

Similarly, taking your bike to a destination that has nowhere to lock your bike or store it securely presents you with something you have to figure out. People who don’t have strollers or bikes to deal with don’t see the lack of facilities.

While the vast majority of the time it’s easier to stow my bike than it was to stow my baby stroller (which I could never have left locked to a signpost on the street), I still encounter obstructions, lack of a good fixture to lock to, bike racks installed too close to the wall of the building to be usable, and other design barriers.

That’s just one example.

Then there are the other barriers: The ones not presented by design of things but rather design of events.

If you’re a new mom, is the event held at a location that permits you to step aside and breastfeed discreetly? (Somewhere other than in the bathroom, please—would you want to eat your lunch in the can?) Will the bathroom have a space for diaper changes?

If you’re riding your bike to a destination, did the organizers send out any transportation information other than where to park your (assumed) car? Say, telling you about the availability of bike racks or the transit route and stop that serve the destination? Is the location even served by transit? If there are no bike facilities will you be allowed to bring your bike inside for safe storage?

Is the event meant to go late into the night so you end up with a fussy child or an expensive babysitting tab?

Is the event meant to go late into the night so you’re biking home in the dark? I enjoy riding in the dark but it can present more hazards than daytime riding and not everyone is comfortable with it.

The next time you’re designing something, whether it’s a building or a meeting, take a look at it with new eyes. If you weren’t you­—if you were someone with very different circumstances—how would it work for you?

And if you haven’t gone out to take a look at your world from the saddle of a bicycle, I highly recommend it. That’s a set of lenses you may just never want to take off.

(As for parenthood, that’s a call you’d better make on your own.)

Afterthought: Perhaps this metaphor has particular power for me because I’ve worn glasses since I was five years old. I’m terribly nearsighted–and now have the joy of adding farsightedness to the mix as I get just an eensy-teensy bit older. Being able to see clearly is not something I can afford to take for granted.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • What design issues have you encountered–of places, events, or other things?
  • What parallels between biking and some other activity do you see?
January 7, 2012

Be a Green Dot on a Bike, Part II–The Hard Part

I gave you my “I’m a happy green dot on a bike spreading friendliness!” story in my previous post. This is the rest of the story about why it mattered to me enough to write about it.

I didn’t get the deeper training in the Green Dot approach to violence prevention; I just have the basic idea. But now that I’m aware of the simple concept—that I can make one difference with one interaction, and that all those differences will add up and change what we define as acceptable in the world—I am more apt to do it.

Mind you, I’ve always believed one person’s actions make a difference. But it’s a lot easier to throw newspapers in the recycling bin or remember my cloth bags at the grocery store than it is to deal with violence.

And because I didn’t do something when I think I should have, I feel a moral obligation to pay attention.

Now for the story: an example of being aware, not knowing what to do, and going on my way—

I was riding home one day last year up Sherman, somewhere around Ninth or so, and passed a couple on the other side of the street having an argument. One was in a big black SUV with the door open, the other standing beside the vehicle door. They were yelling at each other in a way that made me think this situation was going to escalate.

I honestly couldn’t tell who would hit who first. They were both furious and yelling with that hard, hurtful tone that means you don’t care at all about the other person, except to the extent that “caring” can be defined as “you can still really get under my skin and piss me off.” It sounded like a custody or visitation fight–one of those with lots of sentences involving “You always!” and “You never!”

I slowed as I pedaled toward them, thinking that I didn’t want to read about this in the paper the next day and realize I could have done something. I thought that maybe if they knew they were being observed they might take a breath, maybe get a little embarrassed and realize it had gotten out of hand very publicly.

I went past them, still pedaling more slowly than usual. I went up the hill a little farther, thought, “I can’t just pass this by,” did a slow U-turn, and coasted downhill gently.

As I got closer they continued to yell. I glanced at the situation to assess whether I felt personally safe if I did intervene in some way.

I realized two things.

One, I had no idea what to do. Say something? Pretend I had a flat tire in front of their house and stop to fiddle with it? (still hoping for that “embarrassment intervention”)

Two, the person in the SUV could kill me with the vehicle, even if there were no other weapon immediately available. If I intervened in a domestic violence situation—every police officer’s least favorite call to respond to, right?—I could end up the victim. The dead victim. The “Why was she so stupid?!” dead victim. If I stopped on that sidewalk I was just a few feet away from 4,300 pounds of lethal steel.

I coasted past the house, did another slow U-turn, and rode back up the hill, wondering all the way home what I could have done differently.

I thought about calling the police department. Maybe I shouldn’t have dismissed that, but at the time I honestly figured they’re short-staffed thanks to years of shrinking budgets and two people yelling at each other was going to be pretty far down the list. I hadn’t wanted to actually stare at the yellers so I couldn’t give much of a description. I rationalized my way out of it.

I hope that situation didn’t end in violence. I didn’t read about anything around that address in the paper the next day. I glance toward the houses on that side of the street as I ride by these days, not sure I can even remember exactly which house it was.

I wish I’d done something.

I can be a happy green dot, smiling at you when I ride by and just filling your day full of merry sunshine and rainbows. That’s easy.

It will be tougher to pay that extra bit of attention, to try to decide if I should stop and fiddle with my brakes or take my jacket off or ask for directions, or stop on the next corner, pull out my cell phone, and dial 9-1-1—anything to interrupt the momentum that could be building toward something I don’t want to read about in the paper. Something I don’t want to have happen to my neighbor, or my friend, or my daughters, or anyone.

If you tell me I shouldn’t get involved, I will tell you those two people were somebody’s daughter, somebody’s son, maybe some toddler’s mom and dad. I am involved because I am human, and because I want you to be involved when that’s your kid, or my kid, in that situation or any other that threatens harm.

It doesn’t have to be domestic violence. It could be bullying. It could be racist hate speech. It could be anti-gay words or actions. It could be a parent yanking a kid too hard by the wrist.

I need to act. We need to act. Because if we don’t get involved, the red dots win.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Have you ever been in a situation where you wanted to act but were afraid to or didn’t know what to do?
  • Have you taken action to intervene in a bad situation, or one you suspected might be bad? What happened?

 

January 6, 2012

Be a Green Dot on a Bike, Part I

 

The other day I had the great good fortune to hear a wonderful presentation by Dorothy Edwards on the Green Dot approach to violence prevention.

You’ll recognize the visual analogy she scrawled on the board for us. It’s in every science fiction movie you’ve ever watched about some contagious condition: Outbreak, I Am Legend, the end of the new Planet of the Apes. First there’s one red dot, then another, then another, and at some point the pandemic tips into epidemic mode and the red dots are everywhere.

Think of the red dots as episodes of violence, actual or threatened. Dorothy asks, What if every red dot were surrounded by a bunch of green dots: people who will not condone violence and who will take action in some way, whether it’s handled directly, delegated (for example, by calling the police), or accomplished through distraction of some kind?

The world is full of far more green dots than red dots. We just need to know how to act appropriately and effectively and the red dots won’t reach that break-out point.

She asked us to take at least one action in our personal lives and one in our professional lives to pass on this idea, to be a green dot. Just by acting to increase awareness of possibility you make a difference.

This blog post isn’t done just to fulfill that, though. It arose out of my pondering on the talk as I rode home because it relates directly to an experience I had on my bike, and it taps into my deepest fears as a mother—that something bad will happen to one of my babies and that someone who could have done something to stop it stands by, or worse yet walks away.

I think the mere act of riding a bike in some ways makes me a green dot.

Not necessarily always in the direct intervening mode—story to follow on that. But by riding my bike I remove the steel shell that surrounds so many people. I make myself available. I am open to interaction. I make eye contact with total strangers.

This means I frequently give directions to pedestrians and drivers. I smile at the skateboarders in downtown and the people sitting outside the single-room-occupancy hotel or jaywalking on Division. I once told a guy with long gray hair wearing a leather motorcycle jacket covered with patches that I too was “Born to Ride”–that’s what it said on the big patch on his back.

I have the chance to say “Hi!” to the kids waiting at bus stops. I usually ring my bell for them too, to try to get a smile at the crazy lady in the skirt on the bike, and to get their attention so I can be an object lesson: “Look! Adults ride bikes—you don’t have to stop when you get your driver’s license!”

I recognize people and wave, and because I’m not going very fast they have time to see the wave and maybe even respond.

Riding my bike makes me happy so I’m often smiling. At a stoplight I look up at the blue sky or around at the architecture or the trees (depending on where I am), and by doing so I remind people there is more to life than the asphalt ribbon in front of them.

I chat with pedestrians as we wait together at a red light. I admire babies in strollers. I ask people on bikes stopped alongside the road if they need help. I’ve confessed I even get a little ticked off if I don’t get this kind of friendly interaction from a fellow bike-riding member of humanity.

I am in the world in a way I just don’t get from driving.

Someone in a car can just keep driving if he or she sees something happening. Wouldn’t want to halt traffic, now, would we?

On a bike, though, it’s easy for me to stop and take a minute. Since I try to be mindful, and since I’m not as hassled about time on my bike as I am in a car, I’m more apt to make that extra bit of eye contact with someone that makes me approachable, makes me someone you can ask for help.

I’m going to take advantage of the openness a bike gives me to see what difference I can make.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • How are your interactions with people different because you ride a bike?

 

November 27, 2011

Belles and Baskets: The Beginning

By guest blogger Betsy Lawrence, whose words you’ll see popping up here every so often

Belles and Baskets Spokane women's bike club on a ride in August 2011

A Belles ride, August 2011. Betsy Lawrence front/left, Wilma Flanagan next to her, in matching Ruu-Muus.

I am confident that I am not alone in this admission—I love women’s groups. Coffee groups, dessert groups, yoga groups, study groups—several years ago, when I was searching for the fabulous man who later became my husband, I even created a group with women who were dating on-line. I believe that if something is worth doing, I want my peeps doing it with me!

Therefore, it is no surprise that when I began actively biking, I didn’t want to do it alone. I knew there were cycling groups, but I was never going to become a bike racer or mountain biker. I am a big chicken who high-fives myself every time I get across a busy intersection; what biking group would want me?

I wished there was a group I could join and decided that since there wasn’t one, I would start one. I love alliteration, so I thought the name Belles and Baskets would capture the essence of the cyclists I would bring together.

I really had no idea how to begin, but one Friday morning, I started a Facebook page and registered a Yahoo email address. I sent the page to a few friends, and by that afternoon, it had thirty fans. By the end of the weekend, there were twice that many. I planned a ride a couple weeks later and several women met at The Scoop Ice Cream Shop. A couple were friends of mine, but several others came whom I had never met. We had a nice ride followed by ice cream, and new friendships and a cycling group were formed.

Our "Cranksgiving" ride the day after Thanksgiving 2011. Cold but sunny! Left to right: Michelle, Katherine, Betsy, Barb, Patty, Stephanie. Wilma is behind the camera in this shot.

For the past three years, we have had organized rides twice a month from about April to October (weather permitting), and our membership has grown into the hundreds. We have ridden around all areas of Spokane through neighborhoods, trails, and downtown and always meet where we can relax over treats afterwards. We have members of all ages, those who haven’t ridden a bike for decades, and those who are competitive athletes. Some of us are committed bike commuters and racers, while others have rarely ridden on a busy street. We are a no-drop group, meaning no woman is ever left behind. We will happily ride with slower members and enjoy chatting with newcomers.

With such diverse backgrounds and skills, the Belles come together with common goals: improving biking skills, exploring areas to ride, meeting new friends, and enjoying refreshments together. I am proud of what Belles and Baskets has become and hope to be surrounded by these athletic, courageous, kind women for years to come.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Do you usually ride alone?
  • If you’ve gone on group rides, how does that riding experience differ from solo rides?
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