For the Love of Biking

I love riding my bicycle. I think that much is obvious. So when a ride is advertised as “celebrating life on two wheels,” You can probably assume I’m interested.

In 2016 I was. For sure. I was meeting my fiance’s friends for the first time. I was looking forward to having a ride without cars since DC traffic is inSANE. It was the inaugural event. Besides the super-early Sunday start time and a somewhat expensive but still doable entry fee, what was not to love?

2017’s bike ride was a different story. I see those same friends on the regular now with intramural softball, dodgeball, and bocce. While I’ll always feel slightly endangered on some of the streets here, I bike on the regular. The entry fee, while still doable has increased and just seems too pricey for a measly 20 mile bike ride. Granted I’m all for supporting local bike organizations and giving back to that cycling community but this was just out of proportion. And even though the ride organizers had assured everyone they had solved the bottlenecks that plagued last year’s course, I just wasn’t into it.

Then, that fiancé found out if we volunteered for two shifts at packet pick up the day before. Doing 8+ hours of handing out packets didn’t seem worth it to me. I thought sleeping in and riding the trails sounded better but I didn’t want to burst his bubble so of we went…all day.

Packet pickup was definitely improved but the overall day did not. In 2016 it was a party: artwork on display, music blaring, free key chains at REI, snacks. This year it felt dull (then again, last year I wasn’t there quite so long).

After earning our free ride, we woke up early on Sunday. Don’t get me wrong, it is always nice to get out on my bike, even when it’s not, but I was not feeling it. We had a decent bike ride; however, the snacks were sparse, the route still had pointless (and dangerous) bottlenecks just so we could cross a bridge and come back the same way. That was very frustrating. What was also frustrating is how other riders didn’t move to get out of the way until an ambulance was directly behind them. Come on people.

We skedaddled out of the after-party, not wanting to spend money on food and already loaded down with all the free bike lights we could carry. I will say getting to try out my new cycling accessory was terrific: da brim. Yes I’m aware they seem a little dopey but it is perfect for sun and does alright in the rain.

Because biking is free, that’s why I love riding my bike.

Tip of the Day: Don’t Bike with Your Eyes Closed

I consider myself a pretty safe cyclist. I try not to run yellow lights (unless I’m seriously just about to make it). I stop at red lights and stop signs (unless it’s basically totally practically clear). I wear bright clothes, reflective gear, and currently have five different lights on my bike. And I always wear a helmet.

But sometimes things just… happen.

I vaguely remember learning to bike in my parents’ front yard. I don’t remember if it was the first time I was biking or the first time the training wheels were off but I remember falling. A lot. Luckily the grass was soft and I wasn’t deterred.

The next time I wasn’t so lucky. I took my beloved purplish bike with the streamers in the handlebars and spoke beads on the front and back tires (pause for nostalgia) up the driveway to the neighbors’ house. I wanted Katie to come play Barbies with me; she hopped on her bike and followed me to my house…maybe a little too closely because before I knew it I was splayed on the ground with two knees full of gravel. I swear 20 years later there are still some little pieces floating around in there.

Then there was the time I tried to bike in a straight line with my eyes closed. Hello ditch. (Cut me a break, I was only like…11, tops.)

Probably my most embarrassing cycling accident was in 2015. I was living and working in San Francisco for a few months. I proudly rode my bike Boudin to and from work every day. It wasn’t even that far…maybe two miles. Maybe. Probably even less. The morning weather was, per usual, perfect so I was biking in my work clothes with no fear of sweating or being too cold. I’m not going to say it wasn’t stressful because it was. San Francisco is exploding with public transportation and pedestrians so my rides often concluded with prying my white-knuckled grip off the handlebars (and recovering my breath from the last couple of hills).

But there I was, pedaling along quite well, kind of dreading a boring day at the office. All of the sudden, my bike had come to an abrupt halt and I flew over the handlebars and landed in the middle of the intersection! I will forever curse those streetcar tracks! My bike tire had lined up with them just perfectly so it fell in and got stuck. While I don’t have any epic pictures or traffic camera footage to share, I’m sure many people do. I was lucky enough that it was a red light so I didn’t get squished by any oncoming traffic, which also gave people plenty of time to whip out their phones. I picked up my bike and walked to the sidewalk to assess the damage: nothing hurt but my pride and my dress pants.

Of course there have been other terrific moments of bike safety. I was following my oldest sister too closely. When she stopped suddenly I rammed her, fell off my bike, and subsequently made a Band-Aid for my knee out of toilet paper and duct tape so we could keep going and get our miles in for the day. One day a car love-tapped me on the left shoulder/ribcage/thigh. (Don’t worry, the bike was unharmed.)

Biking has its perils; that’s for sure. But because the juice is still worth the squeeze, that’s why I’m going to keep riding my bike.

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I Bike to Work (Even in the Winter)

Look at my options. I don’t know if you know this but I live in Washington, D.C. and parking downtown isn’t cheap. I guess I could take public transit but ANYone who has EVER been to D.C. knows why I’m not doing that. D.C. public transit is one of the main reasons I never wanted to live here. Expensive. Unreliable. Crowded. Stops running at like midnight. How is that even allowed? Top all that with a bunch of people looking 100% miserable on their way to and from work. Sounds like a great way to start and end your work day, right?

Then there’s my commute. Biking to work is amazing. I love the freedom of it. When I’m ready to leave the house, I leave. When my supervisor lets me out of work early, I don’t have a train to wait for. It wakes me up in the morning and clears my head at the end of the day. Some people will say it’s part of their workout but…I’m not exactly doing time trials so I’m not sure it “counts” but whatever.

It’s perfect really. In the fall and spring. Winter and summer can make it downright miiiiiiiiserable.

Winter Woes

  • I layer up so much I start sweating halfway through the ride;
  • When I breathe with my balaclava (facemask) on it fogs up my glasses (which I use to block the wind from my eyes) so I have to choose seeing or a covered nose;
  • I usually have a ring around my face from the balaclava for about an hour;
  • The snow-plowing efforts (or lack thereof) of the city.

Summer Struggles

  • Humidity;
  • Helmet hair;
  • Deciding on whether or not I need shorts on under my skirt, sometimes deciding I can still be ladylike without them, and subsequently flashing oncoming traffic.

I am super lucky that there is a parking garage attached to my office where I can lock up my bike. Not only that, but there are locker rooms on the main floor with showers. I’m not sure how comfortable I would be changing in front of my co-workers but desperate times and all. To be honest though, usually I just throw on some extra deodorant, change, and let it ride for the day. I think there are a lot of my co-workers who don’t even know I bike to work; who knows what they think when they see me coming and going. When they finally figure it out, they’re both incredulous and a little jealous. How could they not be when the words “single-tracking” don’t ruin my day?

Because biking to work is the antidote to zombie-commuting, that’s why I love riding my bike.

 

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Here’s to You, Vacation Home Owners

When someone asks if I want to drive two hours to go on a 30 mile bike ride, obviously I say YES! (In reality I said something like, “Why would I want to drive for a total of four hours to bike for approximately two?” but I ended up saying “YES!”…only it probably came out more like, “…sure.”)

After a quick pit stop for a pizza power-up, we were on our way.

The ferry was about to pull away as my friend whipped the Honda into the last available parking space, and by available I mean the car fit after I moved a rouge bicycle out of the way. I quickly shed my sneakers for clip-ins, snagged my helmet as I shut the car door (very Indiana Jones if you ask me), and skedaddled over to the ferry. We made it.

Moments later andimg_1180 hellllllooooo Shelter Island. I clipped in my right foot and away I went up the first little hill. I still can’t clip in with both feet on the Blackfin; despite being on the loosest setting, those new clips are just too tight. When I make the mistake of clipping both feet, my mind screams, “BROKEN CLAVICLE!!!!!!!!!!!!” No thank you Blackfin. No thank you. Gosh, that would be such a nightmare. I miss my old clips.

We headed to the easternmost point which was, of course, beautiful. Since it was late fall there weren’t many cars on the island. That plus the fact that people who own vacation homes don’t have pothole filled streets which meeeeeeans NO DOWNHILL BRAKING NECESSARY! This is huge. HUGE. I am a country girl who lives in the city which means no matter where I am, there are Grand Canyon level potholes, cracked concrete wide enough to grab my tire (= me over the handlebars and on the street), and the like. Not having to brake  is such a treat. 35mph here I come!

img_1178After using the map and making a couple of wrong turns, we realized there are no wrong turns. We’re on a tiny island. We stuffed the map into a jersey pocket and away we went. Good afternoon French ice cream shop, how do you do?! Yes, I will sit your deck overlooking the water while I eat salted caramel and dark chocolate scoops. Don’t mind if I do. (Do I secretly bike so I can eat tons of ice cream? Maybe.)

We pedaled onward and upward. We never did find the church that allegedly exists at the highest point but I (for once) am loathe to complain about going uphill because of those sweet downhills. Thank you seasonal islanders for your beautiful, pothole-free roads.

Because of that carefree downhill, that’s why I love riding my bike.

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RIP the Fallen

A lot has happened since that magical Puerto Rico bikation (bike + vacation). My fleet has changed pretty drastically since then.

Shiny Schwinn was returned to Amazon due to 100_5839 the fact that it began to show rust within one week of use. I’m grateful for the beast of burden it was in Puerto Rico but after that experience I’ve realized folding bikes aren’t for me. Not only are they heavy but those tiny 20” tires make me feel like a circus clown.

IMG_2066Creamsicle (an orange folder) was also returned. Citizen’s customer service is excellent and they allowed me to return it well past the return date. While it was a cute bike, I couldn’t justify keeping it based on color alone. Taking the wheels on and off to change flats proved to be next to impossible. From now on no quick release = no purchase! I didn’t like that the back fender was riveted on or that after one tire change the nuts and bolts were almost stripped. No thank you!

Since I spend a lot of time in DC now, I purchased the Cereza, IMG_2641a gravel worthy bike with fenders and a back rack already installed. Cereza means “cherry” in Spanish and, while the bike itself is blue and silver, it was purchased around the time of the elusive blossom schedule of the cherry trees around the tidal basin (which I frustratingly KEEP MISSING). Sadly, Cereza was stolen from my friend’s apartment in a burglary. After only a few short rides, Cereza is gone.

After hauling Bow, named for the delicious Boudin Bakery in San Francisco, from San Francisco to Cincinnati to Chicago to Frederick,
MD to DC…it has been sold! It was a good road bike that made being in San Francisco much more fun; I’ll never forget those hills! I had to make some IMG_0583sacrifices and let Bow go for someone else to enjoy out on the open road. I did get one last ride in at the DC Bike Ride: me and thousands of new friends biking through the streets of DC eeeeearly in the morning…I guess that’s the only time of day the police were willing to shut down the streets. All in all, a fun day.

They all served their purpose but in the end, had to go.

Because finding a new bike to ride is a great feeling, that’s why I love riding my bike.