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Category Archives: Around Town

Bike Commute Diaries: An Up Close & Personal Look

For over two years I’m shared snippets of my everyday life in the Bike Commute Diaries series. Now, thanks to a local reporter writing a story on the future of bikes on Caltrain, you can follow me on a typical morning commute, hyperlapsed from about 60 minutes into four fast minutes. The video captures everything I love about my commute: relaxing on the train, popping into a coffee shop for a latte to go, cruising down the banks of the Guadalupe River, and chatting with friends I’ve met along the way. Thank you, Caltrain, for making it possible.

For more on the future of bikes on Caltrain, read the full story from the Peninsula Press.

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

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2014 in Commute Diaries

 

Bike Commute Diaries: Soggy Gloves No More

My bike clothing for rain falls into two categories: ones that repel water and ones that stay warm even when soaked. My heavy-duty raincoat and knee-high boots do a stellar job keeping things dry underneath. But I couldn’t find any comfortable water-repelling gloves, so I settled for fleece-lined gloves with a synthetic shell.

How do I avoid putting on clammy, damp gloves at the end of the day? Newspaper. Good old newspaper.

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If I cram wadded up balls of newspaper tightly into my gloves, shoes or anything else I want to dry out, within an hour the moisture is wicked away. Then my hands will be dry and warm for the ride home, at least until the rain comes down again. So when the rain starts coming down, I head for the newspaper rack.

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

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2014 in Commute Diaries

 

A Pedal-Powered Christmas Tree Delivery

Sigh. Why can’t the people who make money on car loans resist putting down bikes? A few years ago, General Motors got an earful for their college discount campaign featuring a guy so embarrassed to be seen on his bike he shields his face from a pretty girl. The slogan was “Reality Sucks. Stop pedaling…start driving.” But before long, the reality of angry public sentiment sucked for GM and they quickly backpedaled to apologize and removed the ad. Now, easyfinancial is promoting car loans with a sad guy dragging a Christmas tree by bike.

easyfinancial Services banner

After I rolled my eyes, I had to chuckle. My husband is nothing like the guy in the ad. On Saturday, when we were getting ready to hop on our bikes to buy our Christmas tree I asked if I could pull the tree this year. After all, he had done it the last two years. It was my turn. “No.” he said, “It’s my thing.” Greedy, isn’t he?

Dick Pulling Tree

I’ll admit that the first year I bike commuted, we didn’t see how we could carry a tree with our bikes so we drove. It didn’t help that the tree lot was on busy El Camino, which isn’t a comfortable place to ride. We only drove two miles to buy the tree, and probably spent more time lashing it on top of the car than we did driving.

By the next year we were better prepared. We had bought a bike trailer and had found a tree lot run by the Sea Scouts that’s further away in Palo Alto, but accessible by quieter streets. Now buying a tree is as simple as pulling up to the front of the lot, picking a tree, paying for it, and having a scout drop it in our trailer and tie it down. Super quick and easy, with no fear that the tree will fly off your car at 35 miles an hour.

I love seeing the surprise on the scout’s face when you say you have a bike, not a car, and the reactions you get on the ride home are just as predictable. From the “Wow!” from a bunch of kids walking to the library, to “Happy Christmas” from a mom pushing a stroller, to a simple smile and nod from an older gent, everyone looks happy to see you roll by. We only get to do it once a year, so no wonder my husband doesn’t want to share.

Have you tried bringing a Christmas tree home by bike? Did you take a photo of your bike in action? If so, share it with the world by emailing it to Chris at Modacity to add to his Pedal Powered Christmas collection.

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Posted by on December 8, 2014 in Around Town

 

Bike Commute Diaries: How to Show You Care

It’s the little things you do that show you care about someone. Like cooking a favorite meal when your sweetie has had a rough day or texting a photo to your sister to make her smile. Or a city installing a wide ramp and wayfinding signs for a path that’s been around at least 30 years. Thank you, City of Mountain View, for showing you care about people who ride bikes (and use wheelchairs and push strollers). It made my morning.

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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 seen and learned while bicycling for transportation.

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2014 in Commute Diaries

 

Extreme Bike Shopping: John & Jenny at Costco

Grocery shopping by bike can be as simple as a college student slipping mac ‘n cheese and instant ramen into a backpack or a retired couple picking up bike baskets full of fruits and veggies at the farmers market. Then there are the heavy-duty bike shoppers, filling grocery carts and big panniers to feed a whole family. You can find them at any grocery store, but to catch the superstars in action, head to big box stores like Costco.

Meet Jenny and John. She’s a C-level executive at a global tech company. He’s CEO of a commercial real estate company. Together they have four hungry children, from school-aged to teenagers. All six work up an appetite riding bikes to school or work every day, so weekly grocery shopping is not a lightweight job. But for John and Jenny all it takes is a trailer and overstuffed panniers to bring their SUV-sized load five miles home.

John & Jenny Portrait 2

Truth in reporting here: In June, John rode 3020 miles in 11 days, 21 hours in Race Across America (RAAM) so he’s not your average hardcore rider. He’s an animal. And Jenny? She’s riding the electric-assist Specialized Turbo that she rides every day up the hill to Stanford Research Park so she doesn’t sweat in her work clothes.

But don’t take my word for it when I say you don’t need to be superhuman to be an extreme bike shopper. Check out the bikes in the slideshow, and keep an eye on the bike rack at your local warehouse store.

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Posted by on October 28, 2014 in Around Town

 

Commute Diaries: Hang on Tights Season

In between the two Bay Area seasons loosely divided as “warm and dry” and “cool and damp,” there are days divided by “chilly and overcast” in the morning and “warm and sunny” in the evening. That’s when I turn to tights.

Tights Season

Easy on in the morning, easy off in the evening, and I can keep both goosebumps and sweat out of my day.

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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 seen and learned while bicycling for transportation.

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2014 in Commute Diaries

 

Cowgirls & LadyCats: A New Face for Bike Couriers

If you’ve you ever hopped on a bike after a rough work day and had your bad mood roll away, you’ve probably wondered: “If only I could get paid to ride my bike.” The good news is that you don’t have to be a pro racer to make a living on two wheels. You can coach or instruct like my friend Lorri. You can write about bicycling like my friend Elly. You can work in bike advocacy like my friends at SVBC and CalBike. Or you can work in the bike industry, either at a manufacturer or at your local bike shop like my dear husband did when I met him.

But the purest way to get paid to ride a bike is as a messenger, something I could never see myself doing. Bike messengers are thrill-seeking guys careening around the city on brakeless fixies, hopping curbs and running red lights. You know, like in Premium Rush. But now I have a friend Cain who has launched a new kind of bike delivery service earlier this month called Cowgirl Bike Couriers. They’re not your typical messengers.

Cowgirls 2Photo courtesy of Cowgirl Bike Couriers.

Like other bike courier services, the Cowgirls specialize in delivering legal documents, but that doesn’t stop them from delivering packages, flowers, groceries, and even medical supplies. But what makes Cowgirls stand out is their focus on recruiting women as couriers to help bridge the gender gap in American cycling.

I love their mission and the name Cowgirl, which reminds me of the strong women of Old West who had the daring and strength to ride hard and get sweaty in what’s seen as a man’s job. Cowgirls are ready for anything, and I think their new service is too. Ten women and men have been recruited, some key accounts have been signed, and the Cowgirls are riding from Milpitas to Los Gatos, from Santa Clara to East and South San Jose.

Cowgirls 1cropPhoto courtesy of Cowgirl Bike Couriers.

I’m not in the market to become a courier, but it’s fun to pretend. So when my friend Lorri asked me to race with her in an alley cat the Cowgirls hosted last month, I went for it. I wanted to support Cowgirls in their launch, and their LadyCat race was a fund-raiser for the Silicon Valley Roller Girls who lost their home rink at the last remaining roller skating rink in the South Bay. Besides, how could LadyFleur not race the LadyCat?

Lorri and I made a good team. I arrived early, giving me time to study the manifest and map out a route using my iPhone. Lorri rushed over from another event so she didn’t know the route, but she could read the map without pulling out reading glasses. That led to a couple of “who’s on first” conversations and an overshot checkpoint on Hamilton Ave that gave us the (dis)pleasure of crossing the Hwy 17 freeway interchange twice.

LadyCat Map

We survived, though, and 24 miles and two hours later we had hit all nine checkpoints and were sharing drinks and stories with the other racers. We were far from the first to come in, but not the last either. Best of all, we got to pretend to be bike couriers for a day, something I’ll surely never do in real life.

Have you ever been paid for riding a bike or working in a bike-affiliated job? If not, what job would you want?

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Posted by on October 9, 2014 in Around Town, Women & Bikes

 
 
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