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Biking in the ‘Burbs & B Cycle: My Trip Home to Colorado

Summer travel season is upon us, and I recently visited my family in Littleton, CO.  This was the first trip where I brought my folding bike on the plane. Tom, my partner, was the one at the airport who could describe our odd piece of luggage as a “Folding Mobility Device” with out laughing so as to avoid any potential bike fees. We were both excited for a little vacation, go on some bike rides and also check out Denver’s B Cycle bike share program.

I had a few biking goals for this trip, inclphoto(17)uding getting a basket for my mom’s cruiser bike so she could bike to her errands.  As it turned out a variety of bike shops had opened in the past few years in nearby strip malls. I opted to ride the folding bike, while I made Tom ride my Mom’s Schwin Cruiser with the coaster breaks. The neighborhood is flat and the streets are really wide, a bike lane could easily fit with out even adjusting the number of lanes. I was surprised at how quickly we arrived at our first destination. We found a very nice and incredibly huge bike shop. There was a pretty wide selection of bikes and accessories. I ended up getting a helmet for my mom that matched her bike. Speaking of helmets, I learned that my mom never actually had worn a helmet before, but wanted to start so she could set a good example for my six year old niece. My mom actually ended up finding bike basket at Target that was made for the exact model of bike she had. It was cute and pretty cheap, plus it could hold 10lbs. Sure it is not a major hauling bike, but it is enough to get her going. First goal accomplished!

Biking to the store was so easy, Tom and I wanted to keep riding around. We rode on a green belt path (pictured above) that connected to a wide side walk on a major arterial street, Bowles Ave. Even though I am a very confident rider there was no way in hell I was going to take the lane on that street. The sidewalks are wide and there are seldom people walking. Soon we were able to cross the street into Clement Park. It dawned on me for the first time that if I had attended Columbine High School, (yes…that Columbine HS) I could have easily biked to school instead of take that 20 minute bus ride/ or drive. Anyway…we rode around the lake in the park. We ended up stopping at the one and only business that took advantage of neighboring a bike path advertising cheap draft beer to passers by. (See how this Bikeconomics thing works…) We concluded our neighborhood adventure by going to a local fancy market to grab good coffee beans and cheese.

See the thing is I lived in Littleton for the entirety of my adolescence and I biked on some neighborhood trails but I rarely (if ever) took my bike out of the housing development. I don’t think it really occurred to me that I could actually go places. These outings were so enlightening to me because I realized the story I had told myself, it was hard and dangerous to bike in the suburbs, that story was not true. Drivers were respectfully passing us on the street and I noticed more bike racks and other riders than I had in the past. While there are improvements that need to be made along major roads that would go along way to making biking more accessible to people, for the first time it seemed possible to ride a bike for transportation in Littleton.

The next day Tom and I had plans to go to Denver, where we lived together for a year and got into riding bikes for transportation at that time. We set out from my parent’s house again taking the sidewalk on Bowles, because that is what felt safe. We discovered a nice little path that connects the Platte River trail directly to the Light rail station. Tom parked the cruiser bike and we folded the folder so it fit really easily on light rail. I have to say that non-folding bikes are kinda awkward on Denver light rail, you just kinda hang out in the door way with your bike.995828_622101781507_693677770_n Not ideal.

When we got off the train there was the glorious B Cycle waiting for us. For a mere $8 we had access to a bike all day! We spent the day biking all over Denver. We checked out our favorite restaurants, the book store Tom worked at, the MCA where I volunteered, parks and coffee shops. Tom and I switched off with one of us on the folder and the other on B Cycle. It was really easy to use. At times we would bike to our intended destination and then realize we needed to really aim for the docking station closest to where we wanted to go and then walk from there.  I hope to see the program expand. The radius didn’t quite cover our last destination, a Pokey Lafarge show, so we had to take the bus, which just takes a really long time in comparison. Finally at the end of the night we hopped back on light rail that runs all night…how cool is that! We biked the last leg of our long multi-modal journey feeling pretty good about navigating such a large area without using a car.

For the Long Haul: On Carrying Cargo

Cargo Truck

This is the Truck. A magical bike co-owned by Tom (@Seabikeblog) & Danny (@DCfish). It has a cycle truck conversion on the front and an extracycle on the back.

In my day to day life there are moments when I need to carry groceries, garden supplies and other stuff. Recently as a Bicycle Ambassador, I’ve gotten into carrying a tent, a table and tons of bike maps. So I thought it might be fun to show off a variety of set ups that I’ve tried.

First and foremost, I have to say I am super lucky, because I don’t actually own a trailer for my bike, but somehow I seem to have access to a huge variety. Thanks to all the people who have lent me trailers and trucks and to the innovative people who make the best haulin’ bikes.

If you ride your bike a lot and have stuff to carry it is essential to get panniers. Okay, maybe not essential but they’ll make your life a hell of a lot easier. I am a Swift Industries fan because I love color, functionality and rad local businesses. The photo below shows off the packing power of my Roll Top Panniers. I’ve taken them photo(11)camping, to meetings and to the grocery store. I use the one with backpack conversion far more often than the one for errands because it is easier to carry by foot.

The photo above is of me with the much loved Truck after an exciting trip to City People’s Garden Store. The truck was built mostly by my friend Danny who found the frame of the bike by a dumpster. He rescued it and transformed it into a polo bike first. Eventually Tom and Danny decided to go in together to convert the bike into a truck with a conversion done by Haulin’ Colin. The front wheel is small and the front rack is anchored to the frame rather than the fork, making it easy to handle large loads. The bike was cool at that point. One day, not too long ago, Tom and I were walking by 20/20 bike shop and the Extracycle bike dropped in price. It was time to take the truck to the next level by adding the long tail. This bike can haul three adults, or an adult and a bike. The form is versatile, so you can haul just about anything in any shape. To me the most magical part is that I can actually ride it and it is comfortable and fun.

The trailer I am using in the photo on the right is on loan from Cascade Bicycle Club. It is shared between the bike ambassadors. It is easy to hitch up on a variety of bicycles, which is so useful since it is passed between many people and bikes. It fits the table and tent really well, with room to strap down additional things. The Burley trailer is totally functional and handles easily.

One other trailer Iphoto(16) used to haul things around is this big red one that is used by my friends over at Fork & Frame. It is one big trailer that is meant for carrying big awkward shaped loads. This trailer is lent to many friends to help move stuff. It can carry dressers, tables and even a Queen Size Mattress! Whenever I use this trailer though, I put everything I need to haul and it looks small and dwarfed compared to the trailer. I also have a really nice granny gear, so I actually don’t mind hauling big old trailers up hills. But I gotta say, when I made it up from the Olympic sculpture Garden to the very top of Capitol Hill on a hot spring day, I totally let out a big, “fuck yeah!” cause that was a long haul!


Take Yoga on an Adventure Around Capitol Hill Seattle


A life without driving…and more living

For the past two years I have moved throughout the world on my bike without ever stepping behind the steering wheel. I was never really a big fan of driving. Even as a 16 year old in the car oriented suburbs of my adolescence I was reluctant to practice driving and I took my drivers test late. I actually failed the first time, I was so nervous and totally turned right on red, and of course there was an explicit sign forbidding such behavior. It was an automatic failure. Then a week or so later I came back to the take the driving test again and my learner’s permit was expired. I should’ve taken the hint from the Universe that driving was not for me. Eventually I got a car and assimilated to the driving lifestyle, but it never felt very comfortable. I was always on edge, afraid to go to fast and I totally avoided highways whenever possible.

When I moved out to Seattle in 2009, I had already started biking most everywhere I went. I kept my car around for the occasional road trip or adventure outside of the city. By 2010 the only time I drove my car was to attend my herbalism apprenticeship on Whidbey Island. I didn’t like driving my car there either. And since I only took the car out once a month, the stupid battery died on me all the time. I found that all the healing and restorative work I did harvesting plants on my teacher’s farm was moot when I had to merge on to I-5 south. The itch to sell my car was intensifying.

Soon I felt ready to let the car go, so I sold it to my housemate with permission to use the car if I ever needed it. (I converted my housemate to the bus/bike/walk lifestyle shortly after…) I started researching all these other options, like how to bike all the way to Whidbey and in colder weather how to make the bus/ bike combo work for me. I found an affordable place to stay on the island turning my herbalism studies into a once a month mini-retreat on an island, which cost way less than the car insurance and offered a lot more peace of mind. And so the last time I needed the car was two years ago. I had a class on the Island and show to perform that same evening. It was an uneventful drive. I had no idea that would be my last time time driving. But I am certainly thankful that it was.

There is nothing I miss about having a car. I do not miss car insurance, gas, parking tickets or the ridiculous high cost of fixing up those loud, stinky machines. Now car ownership seems sillier than ever with car sharing services like zip car and car2go all over the city. I actually have a Car2go membership, but have been avoiding using it because I don’t want to break my…”I haven’t driven in years streak.” Yeah, it is a bit of an ego thing at this point. But mostly it is because when push comes to shove, I’d rather pedal up a hill than drive up it.

My time on my bike is precious. I see it as time to connect with my body, my breath and the world that surrounds me. Instead of driving far to seek out “Nature” I realize I am very much the manifestation of nature and to seek it out I only have to open my eyes. I have an eye for the wildness that creeps into our urban life. I love the small weeds resilient enough to grow through small cracks in cement. When I need a dose of adventure I hope on my bike and pedal to a park, to a ferry or to someplace where the trees grow tall. If I need to get far, I throw my bike on the bus and go wherever I need to go.

I think if we all drive a little bit less, we can live a lot more!

Invisible Labor & The Commute Challenge

Along with many other Seattle folks, I’ve been enjoying the commute challenge through Cascade Bike Club. It is interesting what I am learning through this experience. I also have the unique lens of a bicycle ambassador, where I get to interact with many of the people participating in the commute challenge at various Energizer Stations around the city. Perhaps you chatted with me at Beacon Hill, UW or by the Sculpture Park… I wanted to share with you some of my observations and thoughts.

As a bike ambassador I have had the chance to ask a lot of people about biking to work in celebration of bike month. For awhile I was asking people “Do you bike to work?” This turned out to be not the most productive conversation starter. If you bike to work you might just say “Yes.” But if you don’t bike to work there wasn’t much room to expand the conversation about bike riding. Several people also reminded me that not everyone works. Some people are unemployed, stay at home parents or retired. I have become more aware of is how the focus on commuting, while very important, leaves out a particular populations of bike riders.

Since I am logging specifically work miles, I’ve started to pay attention to when I am riding for work, when I am riding for fun and when I am running an errand. Something about this struck me. Biking errands, sounds kinda like work to me. It is unpaid, but it needs to get done. Someone needs to pick up groceries or drop packages off at the Post office. This kind of work is often called invisible labor. It is often these kind of chores that can easily be done on a bike, but do take time and often require hphoto(10)auling stuff. As Elly Blue explains in this column in this great article:

If you only need to go to work and come home again, with little to carry and no stops along the way, then riding fast on fast roads is fine — maybe even a welcome release from the stresses of the day. But whether you’re male or female, when you add a kid or two and a stop for groceries and the need to arrive at the other end smelling okay, you’d better believe you’re going to take a mellower route if there is one, and the car if there isn’t.

How can we offer more incentives to bike everywhere? As we start to see bikes shift from a niche, recreational market to an everyday means of getting around we need to encourage biking anywhere you go, not just to work. Bike month is not all about commuting, there are ways to get involved and support bike riding in many forms. It also includes biking to school, and just in case you haven’t seen this Bike to School Revolution video check it out. No matter how many miles you ride, where you ride or even why you ride, we have something to celebrate at the Ballard Street Party at the end of the month. See you on the bike path soon!

Tapas ~ Heat, Fire and Hills

The hills might not be as steep as Mt. Rainer...but some days they feel that way.

The hills might not be as steep as Mt. Rainer…but some days they feel that way.

Throughout Spring I have been writing about the Yamas & Niyamas, the guiding principles of yoga and how you can apply them to bike riding. I started in order with Ahimsa and Satya, but inspired by the heat and the hill climbs of this past weekend, Tapas seemed the perfect fit for today. You will be able to find the whole collection of Yamas and Niyamas in the second edition of Pedal, Stretch, Breathe, if you fund the project on Kickstarter.

“It’s about 1% physical and 99% spiritual”
~ Rider of the Fargo Street Hill Climb in LA

Hills. They are a cyclists tapas, or inner fire. I certainly know that the best way to warm up in Winter is find the hilliest route to work and charge up that hill until the warmth spreads to fingers and toes.

We have all faced that one really big hill. The one that scared us. It looked too steep to even exist, let alone ride a bike up it. I faced one of those hills right after getting a cast removed from my right hand. It was a lovely Summer’s day and a group of friends wanted to bike to Discovery Park, a forested park that has lovely beach by the Puget Sound. I was ready to get back into my regular riding routine and let go of my fear of falling again. When we arrived at the park we were at the top of a giant hill and wanted to get down by the water. I felt weak and out of shape, nervous to ride down such a large hill knowing that eventually I will have to bike back up it. But I longed to put my feet in the cold salt water, so I rode down anyway.

The tide was low, revealing a variety of hidden treasures and unique little creatures that live in the shallow tide pools. The sun was shining and I drank in all of the beauty of this wonderful place. After awhile it was time to leave the sand and make our way home. I had to make it. This hill was the process of reclaiming my power and letting go of my fear. I knew if I could make it up this hill I could keep riding.

The hill was relentless. My heart pounded, my legs burned and I wanted to stop. But I kept breathing and pedaling. I felt the heat in body, the sweat dripping down my brow. I was going to make it. I had to keep going, keep pedaling and breathing. I was determined to do it…to make it up and ride the rest of the way home.

May is Bike Month: See You On the Bike Path Soon!

May is Bike Month

Bike Ambassador Team

Bike Ambassador Team

I will be participating in the Commute Challenge on the Cascade Bicycle Ambassador team. Brian is a our team leader and will motivate me to actually track my mileage, which in all my years of commuting I have never actually done. I usually care more about the flowers that I ride by than I care about how far I go. But I’ve always been curious on how many miles I actually ride in a given week…I will keep you posted! Also, I’ve been really getting a kick out of learning people’s commute team names. My friend Ellie, who works over at Adobe is the captain of Ridin’ Nerdy! Please share your team names in the comments. Commute Challenge Card

Along with the commute challenge there will be events on Bike to School & Bike to Work day plus variety of Energizer Stations throughout the Puget Sound Region. An Energizer Station is a pop-up bike resource center, that the bike ambassadors fuel…sometimes we even have snacks! For the month of May we will be giving away special prizes for folks who are participating in the commute challenge. All you need is your flashy spoke card that I have pictured. Either attach the card to the back of the saddle or place in spokes! On the back are instructions on how to fix a flat tire.

Adventure Flow: Saturday May 25th, 1:30-3pm
The Grinning Yogi

To celebrate bike to work month, this unique workshop explores the connections between yoga and bike riding.

We will begin with a short warm-up at The Grinning Yogi. Then we will go an adventure out of the studio for a 4 mile bike ride, on the most scenic roads in Capitol Hill. After returning from our ride we will take a cue from the Chilling flow class and practice restorative postures that balance your body after bike riding.

Yoga + biking = bliss

*Your own bike helmet required
Please wear clothing that is comfortable for yoga, biking and the weather of the day.

Investment: $20
Saturday May 25th 1:30 – 3pm
Class will not be cancelled due to rain!