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Monthly Archives: January 2013

Bike Commute Diaries: Keep America Beautiful

Not being cocooned in car whizzing past the world has changed my perspective. I smell the acrid exhaust and hear the deafening noise of vehicles. I see the unnatural froth in the river after storms and see the plastic caught in its trees when it drains. I didn’t start biking to save the planet, but it’s opened my eyes, ears and nose.

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About the Bike Commute Diaries: Launched in May 2012 for National Bike Month, this series explores the unexpected and surprising things I’ve learned about bicycling for transportation.

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2013 in Commute Diaries

 

Olympic Bronze for Jill Kintner, BMX Victory for Me

Back in 2008, while Jill Kintner was flying toward Bronze in BMX at the Olympics, I was barely edging out the 5-year olds at Calabazas Park. I stumbled upon this post I wrote for my friend Bev’s blog back then, long before I dreamed I would have my own blog. So long ago, but nothing’s really changed. My friends still push me.

Occasionally, I let my curiosity trump my dignity. When I told Beverly and my buddy Jill that yes, I’d try this pump track thing, it seemed like a good idea. So I threw my flat pedals on my mountain bike, grabbed my skate shoes and drove down to Calabazas Park, feeling confident ’cause I knew my friends would be there.

But when I rolled up to the BMX area, filled with guys of all ages and sizes, flying across the jumps and doing acrobatic moves, I almost said it out loud: “There’s NO WAY I’m going in there.” I felt conspicuous enough just riding down the sidewalk looking for the Strong Light and Beautiful (SLaB) gals.

BMX Chicks

I found Beverly and her friend Cindy with the camera. The Channel 11 news truck was just leaving and the young BMXers were out in force, checking out the media attention and checking out the “old ladies” who ventured near their play zone. Before long, Jill and Elizabeth showed up, as did a few other SLaB women. Two saw the scene and immediately turned tail, claiming to be on their way to Fremont Older. But Joann, a 50+ beginner, pushed herself out of her comfort zone and stayed for the ride. You go girl!

After Bev’s friend Shane from Evolution Bike Shop arrived, it was time to ENTER THE PEN. Elizabeth suggested we get away from the crowd and warm up on the berms on the other end of the park. So we rode past the youthful eyes, attempting to find some privacy. We didn’t expect the boys would follow us to watch.

Dropping In

Despite the unwanted attention, the berms were great. You’d come down a tabletop, swoop one way then the other in a series of links. Shane had some suggestions: bend your elbows more, put your weight here, push here, lift there, but I was content just to see if I could get through the series without pedaling too much or having to brake. A good start.

Then it was time to go back to the main area for the rollers. More instruction: bend your arms on the upside, push down with your legs on the backside. Or was it something else? I forget. The idea was to pedal as little as possible, but I was once again content just to not stall out on top of the rollers.

We played until it started to get dark, and then talked until it got really dark. Oh, and we took a photo with all the BMXers for Jill Kintner. I’m sure the good vibes we sent helped her in the race.

Go Jill Go Group

What impressed me most about the BMX park was the healthy, safe environment it provides for the risk-taking that comes with youth (and for some doesn’t end at youth). Every neighborhood should have such a place.

So while I’m not going to buy a BMX bike anytime soon, or seek out time at a pump track, in the end I was glad I came. I got to try something new, I got to support an American female athlete in a sport dominated by males, and I got to visit a new bicycling culture.

Go Jill Kintner. Go BMX. Go Olympics for recognizing this sport. Go Bev and SLaB for organizing a great event.

How do you push yourself outside of your comfort zone? Does it come from within or do you need a nudge?

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Note: Photos in this post courtesy of SLaB.

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2013 in Dirt Trails

 

Fashion Friday: A Little Sizzle for the Drizzle

When the sky is gray, day after day, and rainstorms soften to drizzle, all you need to lift your spirits is an outfit with some sizzle. A trench coat in red, a zebra-print shirtdress and shiny black vinyl boots kept me dry, clean and comfy as I rolled through puddles on the river trail with a chorus of happy ducks as my soundtrack.

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Wearing bold colors and strong patterns on a gray day makes everything a bit brighter.

About Fashion Friday: Inspired by a 2011 Bike to Work Day challenge sponsored by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, this series highlights the broad range of “dress for the destination” bicycling fashions.

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2013 in Cycle Fashions

 

Bike Commute Diaries: A San Francisco Treat

My commute on Tuesday had me waiting on the wrong-way Caltrain platform with a zone upgrade in hand. In 45 minutes I was in San Francisco, pedaling up the Embarcadero for a business meeting at our advertising agency. I locked my bike to a rack on the street in full view of our conference room and walked inside.

During my meeting, three employees in this small shop rolled in on their bikes, and I met the agency president who commutes by skateboard. After the meeting I rode back to Caltrain, and left my heart in San Francisco.

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About the Bike Commute Diaries: Launched in May 2012 for National Bike Month, this series explores the unexpected and surprising things I’ve learned about bicycling for transportation.

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2013 in Commute Diaries

 

Riding the Magical Forest at UC Santa Cruz

I had a co-worker who told me he chose Purdue University not just because of its outstanding engineering program, but because there was nothing to do in small town Indiana. He said if he went to school somewhere like University of California Santa Barbara, he’d spend all his time at the beach instead of studying.

He’d probably say the same thing about UC Santa Cruz, which has awesome surfing just minutes south of campus and amazing mountain bike trails just minutes north of campus. He’d probably never make it to class.

Log Roll 2

The trails on university and state property just uphill from UCSC campus are among the best in the region, in the region where mountain biking was born. Find a local to show you around, perhaps someone who works at Santa Cruz Bicycles or at Giro. It’s a favorite morning or lunchtime ride spot for those lucky folks.

You’ll want a local because the best trails may be named, but they’re not marked. With trails this good you don’t want to advertise them to the teeming masses. I’d offer to show you myself, but I have no clue where we rode. All I can say is that it’s an amazing, magical forest. And it’s a good thing I don’t have to study or work nearby.

Do you have a special riding place in your area that locals keep under wraps? How did you learn about it?

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For more information: Trail maps are here. Organized rides available through Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz.

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2013 in Dirt Trails

 

Fashion Friday: True Navy Blue

Bored with weeks of frosty mornings and wool sweater dresses, I threw caution into the chilly wind and zipped off in this sleek navy blue sheath today. My heavy coat, tights and suede boots kept me comfy on the bike, despite the shorter hemline and sleeves on this versatile three season dress. How many days until Spring?

Basic Blue Sheath
I associate navy blues with spring. This year a soft navy is the official Pantone Color for Spring 2013.

About Fashion Friday: Inspired by a 2011 Bike to Work Day challenge sponsored by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, this series highlights the broad range of “dress for the destination” bicycling fashions.

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2013 in Cycle Fashions

 

Bike Commute Diaries: Road Boulders

When drivers complain about the ways bikes annoy them, “blocking traffic” comes up pretty high on the list. After all, bikes can’t travel as fast as cars, and sometimes cars have to slow down and wait to pass. But in parking lots or on congested streets, I find the road boulders are the vehicles with four wheels, not two.

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About the Bike Commute Diaries: Launched in May 2012 for National Bike Month, this series explores the unexpected and surprising things I’ve learned about bicycling for transportation.

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2013 in Commute Diaries

 

It’s January: Looking Back, Moving Forward

In Roman mythology, Janus is the god of beginnings and transitions, a two-faced god that looks both into the future and back to the past. January was named in his honor, a month when people reflect on the previous year while looking forward to the next. I don’t know about you, but that’s what I’ve been reflecting a lot on this month.

Looking back at 2012, the most significant event was starting a new job with a new train+bike commute. I had lost my job with a perfect commute on tree-lined streets in Palo Alto and was disappointed that my new job was in a more car-centric area of San Jose. But I discovered that riding Caltrain and pedaling the Guadalupe River Trail was far better than expected. My commute went from a solo activity to a social ride on the train and trail.

Plus, it gave us new Bike Date Friday options, from Cirque du Soliel to Oktoberfest at Teske’s. San Jose has much to offer, if you look for its hidden charms and don’t expect it to be like San Francisco or even Palo Alto. I don’t miss my old commute at all, although I still miss my old job and our small and mighty team. We rocked.

In 2011, I made a commitment to stop complaining and start writing letters. In 2012, I not only wrote letters, I spoke up at at City Hall and in the local newspaper. I was really nervous at first and I admit I still get nervous when I speak, but it gets easier each time. I also volunteered on several committees for the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, including a winter party that drew our local bike community together in greater numbers.

In 2012, I launched new short features that lowered the stress of writing longer stories. I kicked off National Bike Month in May with Bike Commute Diaries, 31 days of short posts exploring things I’ve discovered as an everyday bicyclist. In its wake came the Bike Lane FAIL series, the Bike Spotting and A Closer Look bike galleries, a Tumblr called Where’s My Bike Today and a Dear City site for advocacy letters. Phew!

In 2012, I started using Twitter to meet and communicate with other bicycle advocates and enthusiasts. Twitter makes it easy to share news and ideas and get community support when facing bike-related challenges.

Through Twitter I now have new friends, both locally and worldwide. Richard of Cyclelicious was kind enough to model for a Fashion Friday shoot. Emily the Bakfiets Babe invited me to hang with her Portland friends at the fashion show at the Women’s Bicycling Summit. What a RIOT! I really value the mommy biking friends I’ve made. They let me vicariously experience parenthood on bikes, without all the tantrums and spit up.

In 2012, I moved forward with my “car-lite” lifestyle, riding my bike to places I had only driven to before, like San Jose airport (and San Francisco airport too). Reducing my driving wasn’t a goal per se, but by the end of the year I racked up only 2,000 miles on my car. I called my insurance company and they reduced my rates.

My friends and I trained for and completed the Solvang Century, the first 100 mile ride I’d done in four years. We followed it with a new challenge: the Peak of the Month Club. We climbed four Bay Area peaks (Diablo, Tamalpais, Twin Peaks, San Bruno) in four counties and still have a few more to finish up in 2013.

Looking back at 2012, I’m glad that some things didn’t change. I made three trips back home to visit family and got to ride all over town with my dad who’s now 82. He hasn’t slowed down much and he rocks the pasture trail with ease. My husband and I still managed to find new restaurants for our long-running Bike Date Friday tradition. I don’t write about it much anymore, but you can follow me on Instagram to catch the food photos.

Moving forward into 2013, I’m not really sure the year will bring. I want to travel overseas again, like we did in 2011 with trips to Amsterdam, Paris and London. I want to do more long road rides and gain back some technical skills I’ve lost on the dirt. I want to do a longer, multi-day bike+train tour.

I want to push myself to write to a broader audience than this blog. Last year several people nudge me that direction, but I haven’t put myself out there. I also see myself speaking out more for women’s issues in cycling. I’ve written about it some and gotten into a few Twitter fights. But I’ve been biting my tongue a lot.

It’s scary to write this. I don’t like the pressure that comes with setting goals. Besides, the most significant things I’ve done in life were not planned. I’ve always believed in the Third Commandment of Frisbee: Never precede any maneuver by a comment more predictive than “Watch this.” So all I will say now is “Watch this!”

Are there things you achieved in 2012 that you never expected? Do you have any goals for 2013?

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2013 in Other Stuff

 

Fashion Friday: Snakeskin & Suede

Who says winter boots can’t be flashy AND practical? These fair beauties in snakeskin and suede bring cheer to a grey winter morning. They mix with a variety of palettes–browns, blacks, tans, bolds–but today it’s cream and gray all the way with a velveteen jacket and a double knit skirt. These boots will go far, just not in the rain.

Buff & Grey for Winter BIG
Flashy new boots brought new excitement to an skirt and jacket purchased seasons ago.

About Fashion Friday: Inspired by a 2011 Bike to Work Day challenge sponsored by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, this series highlights the broad range of “dress for the destination” bicycling fashions.

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2013 in Cycle Fashions

 

Think Snow! (and Mountain Biking)

A cold front came down from Alaska today. The weather forecasters gave a warning of midday rain and snowfall as low as 1500 feet. So I bundled up a little more than usual, grabbed my raincoat, left my new suede boots safely at home, and made a little “think snow” wish as I rolled in to work.

I was hoping for big fat snowfall in our local hills, like the one that gave Katie and me our first snow biking experience two years ago. We were planning a road ride and no sooner than I said to Katie, “We need to stay out of the hills so we don’t hit ice,” I realized that on our mountain bikes the snow might be really fun.

Snow on Bella Vista Trail

We threw our bikes on my car and drove up Page Mill Road to Montebello Preserve and had a blast. The snow was much easier to ride in than I expected and certainly a lot easier than riding icy roads on skinny road tires.

So the sun is setting now and it didn’t rain here today. The camera on top of Mt Hamilton (elev. 4360′) shows only a trace of snow and there’s no rain in the forecast. So I don’t think we’ll be snow biking this weekend. :(

Do you ride regularly in the snow? Are there any special skills you need to handle all conditions?

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Posted by on January 10, 2013 in Dirt Trails

 
 
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